Fantagraphics Books reported one of the more curious potential TV pilots in recent years:
Our own Peter Bagge has a development deal with FOX for THE BRADLEYS and the network has just ordered a pilot.
For folks not familiar with Peter Bagge or The Bradleys, well, suffice to say the man is a legend in the underground comics world. His longest-running comic book series, the now-defunct Hate, is the quintessential read on the Seattle grunge scene. Hate revolved around the life of Buddy Bradley, a 20-something forever stuck in an adolescent apathetic state in Seattle before moving back home to New Jersey in the later part of the series.
The Bradleys came before Buddy turned wise enough to leave home, and that’s what the action of the potential TV series will be all about. The A.V. Club‘s Noel Murray reported that Bagge tried to turn the comic book into a series on other occasions, so I’m not entirely convinced the show is in the bag.
Sure, Buddy Bradley and his family are a precursor to The Simpsons and just about every other Seth MacFarlane cartoon imaginable. But, there might be a reason Bagge could never get his work on TV. Sure, The Bradleys are dysfunctional, but they make the Simpsons look like a mundanely bland family. Grab a copy of Hate to see Buddy in action on his own: it ain’t quite network TV.
One of the more endearing aspects of Bagge’s storytelling is that he doesn’t try to give his characters a nice sheen. When they do something bad, it’s terrible. Buddy does some things that even he finds morally objectionable, and he’s forced to live with his actions. (There’s a reason these comics are called “underground.”) For some reason, it works, at least in print. And Bagge’s thoroughly expressive renditions of emotions on the (usually angry) young Buddy somehow allows one to distance themselves from some pretty unspeakable events that happen throughout many incarnations.
Suffice it to say, I’d be worried that a Fox version of The Bradleys would really make it hard for Bagge to explore certain aspects of society through the Bradleys. It’s not even necessarily (a lack of) obscenity that I’m referring to: much of Buddy’s existence is purely mundane, filled with nothing but days wasted away drinking or complaining about who knows what. Considering Fox’s big night of prime-time animation is jam packed with pop culture references in every nook and crannie, I wonder if there is a place for Bagge’s style of storytelling on that network.
While the methods of Bagge’s expression will be interesting to look for if a pilot does live to see the light of prime-time, I’m more interested in what the potential set up for the show will be. While The Bradleys will take place when Buddy is still in school, will Bagge stay true to the time period within which he wrote the original series, or will he try and update it?
Throughout the series, Buddy is something of a quintessential hipster, but one who’s genuinely not interested in the cool factor and becomes begrudgingly so during the height of grunge. So, what would happen if Bagge decides to update his story to the present? Will Buddy spend hours and days locked in his bedroom, listening to the latest Titus Andronicus and Ted Leo? Or could he potentially get sucked into the Jersey ska scene that seems to take hold of countless Jersey teenagers these days? Would he rep Gaslight Anthem or Lifetime? Or would he be so cool he’d know everything about all the Our Band Could Be Your Life musicians while kids his age are stuck listening to My Chemical Romance? Only time and television will tell…
Peter Bagge interview: