Due to the high interest he had in our episode that included the 6 core questions for Season 1 and 2 of Killing Eve, we’ve decided to change our format for this podcast.
The Podcast will now have two episodes a month:
An intro to a new series that will introduce the series and talk about expectations from seeing the trailer and reading series descriptions.
Then we’ll give our listeners 2 weeks to watch the series and the second monthly recording will cover the 6 core questions, what made the series good/ bad/ innovative and how the series could have been improved. We focus on genre, global story and obligatory moments.
All are TV series are gonna be action/thriller stories. So at the end of the year, we have analysed 12 TV series in that genre and will be able to compare them looking at innovations in genre conventions, obligatory moments and the global story’s five commandments. So that you can learn how stories are broken down globally.
This season we, the Story Grid Showrunners, will dissect the hit Netflix television series The Umbrella Academy.
Here is the Wikipedia Description
On October 1, 1989, 43 women around the world give birth simultaneously, despite none of them showing any sign of pregnancy until labor began. Seven of the children are adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves, and turned into a superhero team through what he calls “The Umbrella Academy”. Hargreeves gives the children numbers rather than names but they eventually are named by their nanny robot mother, Grace, as: Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Number Five (his only name), Ben and Vanya. While putting six of his children to work fighting crime, Reginald keeps Vanya apart from her siblings’ activities, as she demonstrates no powers of her own.
In the present day, Luther is a part-animal astronaut, Allison is a famous actress, Vanya is a violinist, Klaus has a drug addiction, Ben is a ghost only able to converse with Klaus, and Diego has become a vigilante with a penchant for trouble. The estranged siblings learn that Reginald has died and gather for his funeral. Number Five returns from the future, revealing that a global apocalypse is imminent. Meanwhile, the reunited siblings try to uncover the secret of their dysfunctional family while beginning to come apart due to their divergent personalities and abilities.
I read the Comic book series of the first three volumes that’s why my expectations are influenced by what I already know about the world of The Umbrella Academy.
Lots of comics are adapted and put into movies or TV series.
I’ve just finished watching the Amazon Original Series of Preacher and I gotta confess how the writers changed the ending, as well as the characters, was not working for me.
So with that worry in mind, I hope that Umbrella Academy stays the innovative masterwork as I’ve enjoyed it in the comic book series.
What I loved the most about The Umbrella Academy was how well the internal and interpersonal struggles of the characters pushed the story forward.
They are so troubled.
Damaged and fractured by their strange childhood as being test subjects of a rich space alien and scientist Sir Reginald Hargreeves, and a robot mom.
How’s that preparing them for life?
It’s gonna be really great to see how the universe, the characters and the story itself, of The Umbrella Academy is expanded in the TV series, and to see what kind of weird ideas the screenwriters came up with to keep the essence of The Umbrella Academy world.
I don’t think there will be an Eiffel Tower spaceship or flying terminauts that kill children on a merry-go-round, but I hope that the story stays true to its core question:
Like how can messed-up kids and now estranged grown-ups who’ve gone through so much take up the responsibility to fight together for what’s right and be able to trust each other?
And the pressure will be high by keeping that end of the world scenario as the inciting incident for the show that might or not be caused by Number Seven. I still wonder about how they might have adapted her character.
After seeing the trailer, I expect a British X-Men type of scenario – a rich guy (but unlike Profesor X, Hargreeves doesn’t have any powers) raises children with special powers in his academy.
So, I anticipate the group is confronted with a world-ending catastrophe or a bad guy intent on mass death, and the team getting together, despite some personality differences, and saving the world. I expect someone will have to sacrifice themselves in the end.
After reading the Wikipedia description, I anticipate a hidden power that Vanya has to manifest at some point (maybe at the end), I expect an explanation as to why they no longer fight crime, some falling out (since this seems to be a buddy movie, a ‘breakup’ of sorts) or mission that went wrong and possibly ended in loss of innocent lives.
All in all, I expect cool powers and lots of action and a dysfunctional family vibe.
Let’s talk about Genre.
This is an Action story, and I always think about the Core Event in an Action story. We know the background we know the inciting incident (that the old man died) – that there are 8 days left until the end of the world (TPC).
Everything that leads up to this Core Event should make the Core Event satisfying. They’ve taken the tone of the story – humor
They introduce the genre by starting with an inciting incident: Birth of the extraordinary children and that puts us right on the global value scale of the action story: Life and Death.
Then we have a speech in praise of the supposed heroes: gifted and extraordinary kids.
And then there’s the turning point for the audience by having one of the grown-up kids (Diego) saying: He was a monster. This is taking away the entire picture of the family that was just painted. And then highlighting that new impression by saying: Everything is insane about this family.
After introducing the characters, they let the audience know about the plot of the story: the end of the world happens in 8 days. That’s another turning point.
After knowing what’s at stake, they introduce the villain by saying that there’s indeed someone who wants the members of the Umbrella Academy to not accomplish that mission.
So we have established the hero, the victim and the villain – the most important convention of the action genre, as well as the global value: Life and Death.
So we know we can expect an action story with multiple POV-characters.
So the trailer is done very well. And sets the expectations high.
And how cool is that you have the writer of the original story sing the background music? Cheers to Gerard Way and the song ‘Hazy shade of winter‘.
The Umbrella Academy created and written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá is a comic book series published by one of the largest independent comic companies Dark Horse Comics.
The first volume was released between 2007 and 2008. It won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series/Limited Series and the Harvey Award for best new series in 2008, best colorist in 2009 and best artist or penciler.
Since then two more volumes ›Dallas‹ and ›Hotel Oblivion‹ were published.
In 2019 the TV series was released on Netflix.
Interesting to know, the writer Gerard way is the singer of my, Melanie’s, favorite band My Chemical Romance. And he’s basically created the characters and the story of The Umbrella Academy when he was still touring with My Chem over a decade ago.
He said there was lots of downtime when you’re traveling from city to city, so he got to work to write this great postmodern superhero comic.
Since I’ve followed some interviews with the writer as well as the showrunner Steve Blackman, I know that Gerard Way trusted the showrunner’s vision in how Blackman would interpret the world and the characters of The Umbrella Academy.
Gerard Way continues to focus on creating great comic book stories as being the curator of DC’s imprint Young Animal, while Blackman creates his own version of The Umbrella Academy.
So there will be changes.
But what kind of changes can we expect?
Well, we see that when we analyze the TV series.
What I can say so far plays all into the expectations I have set from reading the comics.
What I loved about the comic was how the writer played with the forces of destruction and creation and turned it all around. Music is creative work, but in the comic book, it’s the means for destruction.
Furthermore, I wanna see if in the TV series Number 5 stays the main protagonist because in the comic book series itself, it becomes more and more obvious, even in volume One, that Number 5 is the one who has the most to lose and the most to gain.
As I read the first comic book volume of Apocalypse Suite it hooked me straight from the beginning.
What a coincidental beginning – 43 children born under mysterious circumstances.
But that inciting incident was the only time the writer Gerard Way used coincidence to move the plot forward.
And I’m not even sure if that beginning really was a coincidence. I doubt it. Everything’s connected in the story.
It all follows a cause and effect trajectory and even though there are so many questions left unanswered (I counted over 40 in the first volume, only about a quarter were answered in that first volume), the story doesn’t leave you unhappy or confused.
It’s a true masterwork of telling a mini-plot action story wherein every scene each of the characters always faces a dilemma. It’s done so great.
Mike Richardson, the founder of Dark Horse Comics, compared UA to a mystery box that keeps opening and unfolding. And I love that comparison. Because too much exposition takes the mystery away and makes a story boring. We wanna read or watch something to find out more about the world, the character, and their relations as well as their history. And that’s what does UA so well and I wanna see that in the TV series as well.
Seeing the trailer I am very eager to find out how they have changed the character of Vanya.
She seems much more connected to her siblings in the TV series than in the comics where she’s literally an outsider. In the comics, she wants validation from others because she needs esteem and self-respect after being told all her life that she’s extra ordinary but not extraordinary.
Her internal genre is all about status and reaching a higher social standing even though she has to sell out as she tries to gain it by joining the Orchestra Verdammten. Another troubled kid.
So as we go through the series expect me to be the nerd pointing out the changes between TV series and comic book. You can call me the Besserwisser or Klugscheißer, as we say in Germany, the annoying smartass
So far The Umbrella Academy TV Series is among the most popular on Netflix.
It was nominated 13 times for awards like the primetime Emmy, the dragon awards or the people’s choice awards.
It took home the Winner of the Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Streaming Series or Film: Teen Actor by Cameron Brodeur as well as the Joey Award for Best Television or Web series Ensemble.
The Umbrella Academy Season 1 stars Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, Cameron Britton, Mary J. Blige, and Colm Feore. It is available for streaming on Netflix.
Our show notes about the beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff will be released on the 13th of February, 2020, on our website: sgshowrunners.com/the-umbrella-academy/
Our next episode in which we answer the Six Core Questions will be also released on that date.
Parul: The Incredibles, X men, Ghostbusters,
Melanie: Closest to this dysfunctional family is probably Doom Patrol. Other action groups are Watchmen, The Invisibles, X-Men, Akira, S.H.I.E.L.D, Defenders.
If you want to see more applications of the Story Grid methodology, below are links to my analysis of various novels and television shows in blog posts and podcasts:
Story Grid Showrunners Podcast – Parul, Melanie, and I analyze hit TV series using the Story Grid methodology.
My blog posts analyzing other Television series – my person take using the Story grid 5 Commandments to look at my favorite TV series – Jack Ryan, Batgirl, For All Mankind, Hanna, and more.
Novel analysis – I analyze some of my favorite books using the Story Grid 5 Commandments and 6 core questions – First Blood, Old Man’s War, Waylander, and more to come!
With 25+ years of military experience, let me help you make your action characters and scenes more authentic. Contact me and tell me about your writing project.
© 2020 Randall R. Surles