If rumors are to be believed, Lost and Fringe co-creator JJ Abrams may be about to become an even bigger deal than he already is, with people suggesting that his production company Bad Robot might find itself growing into a brand itself, with comics, toys and more. How did this happen? And is it a good thing?
The rumor about Abrams “being the geek Oprah” comes from New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, which reports that Abrams’ agent, John Fogelman, is leaving the WME agency immediately to “open a strategic advisory company with major Wall Street backing” aimed at turning Bad Robot into something much larger and more ambitious than the production company already is. If this turns out to be true, then it’ll be interesting to see what Fogelman’s plans are; he is, after all, the man who turned Hasbro into the multi-media company that it is today, shepherding the deal with Discovery for the Hub channel into reality as well as multiple movie deals. Vulture suggests that he may also be looking at creating a channel for Bad Robot, amongst other plans.
It’s an impressive turn of events in a career full of impressive turns of events. From scripting Regarding Henry and working on Armageddon – Yes, there’s really an Abrams/Michael Bay collaboration out there, everyone – Abrams’ career has shown the value of both the high concept and choosing your collaborators well. In fact, many of his most well-known projects – Lost and Fringe, especially – are as much the work of other people as they are Abrams’ doing (Lost, especially – Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof did the majority of the heavy lifting on that one – but the same is true on Star Trek and Cloverfield, both of which are often credited to Abrams). I made the case, a long time ago, that Abrams was the new Joss Whedon, and looking back, I think I was more right than I knew – but not in the way that I suspected.
Abrams’ career is similar to Whedon’s, but (fittingly for someone so in love with stage magicians) much more about misdirection. His production company has a broader range than Whedon’s Mutant Enemy, but with the exception of Undercovers, most of the flops go unnoticed by geek media for some reason – in fact, most everything that isn’t genre-based goes unnoticed, and in that area, Abrams’ audience is exceptionally loyal. Both Whedon and Abrams have made “flops,” but for some reason, Abrams’ flops don’t seem to have the same impact as Whedon’s – perhaps because Whedon’s heights defined a generation, and so more is expected of him? – and so the Bad Robot Success mythology continues to grow.
I’m curious as to what a Bad Robot Corporation would be like, if it happens. Would it focus on the geek-centric projects and build that branding out, or would it continue to have the occasional What About Brian and Morning Glory in there as well? And if so, will the increased profile of such projects make them more successful… or break the Bad Robot success story at last?
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