Thursday, February 22, 2007

Frakkin' RAIN!

It's almost-raining here! Geez, what is this, winter?? Everybody's got their light jackets out. Brrrr!

Nothing exciting is happening in TeeVee now. The pilots are all being cast, getting directors, yadda yadda yadda. And soon, agents will start submitting clients and the pilot lottery will begin. For whatever reason, we keep losing this lottery. In other words, we meet on shows that don't get picked up. We get OFFERS on shows that don't get picked up. It's very annoying, and we'd like it if that could change this year. Staffing season sucks. There's nothing good about it. The worst thing about it is when you have a meeting on a pilot you didn't like. That is NO fun. I mean, really, let's just call it the way it is -- I'm a whore. Put the money on the dresser, and no kissing. But I'll PRETEND that I'm NOT a whore. Well, that's not entirely true. In a perfect world, you would get to write exactly the show you want to write. But we don't live in a perfect world. Well. Some of us don't. So you make the best of it. You look at the pilot and find the interesting stuff. As a staff writer on a TeeVee show, it's your job to write that show as best you can. We've been on some, shall we say, "unsuccessful" shows but we've always tried to do our best. We were on one show that everybody on staff badmouthed and that was NO fun. People just gave up and the show was, surprise!, cancelled. Yeah, you want to write for Galactica or Veronica Mars. But the odds are, you won't get to. That's why you do pilots, my friends. You wanna do your own thing? It's gotta come in a pilot. But if you're going to be on staff, love the show you're on. Do the best you can. And that starts with the initial meeting. The showrunner wants to know that you're enthusiastic about their show. That doesn't mean you can't be critical, but don't say the show sucks ass, 'kay?

I'm moving in a week and a half (NOT looking forward to it!) and I think I'm dumping cable and getting Dish. The scariest thing is, I think I'm dumping TiVo and going with the Dish DVR. And I'm terrified. I adore TiVo but it isn't keeping up with the times, and I currently have two TiVos hooked up to one TV. I can't do that with the Dish. So... scary. A million more channels, but scary nonetheless.

There were a few fun comments. I love it when people comment! The latest Duckie comment was intriguing, because it's true. Yeah, Duckies tend to talk to mutual friends and say things they oughtn't. It's just all so junior high, or -- what do they call it now? Middle school? I dunno; I can't imagine Marcia chanting "Fillmore Middle School!" Stephen snarked about rare Bolivian toxins. WORD. What's even more annoying is the photo coincidence. You know the one -- the cops don't notice the incriminating photo of the killer with the victim until they go back to the apartment later. Or, the note in the trash can. That's a fun one. CSI has totally poisoned crime fiction. All it's about now is tech talk and just hanging out until it's time to find the incriminating photo/drycleaning bill/e-mail/dirt. Whatever. I also had a question about our freelance scripts. While we've written four, only three were produced. The fourth was for The Others and it never got made because they cancelled the friggin' show! It's generally irritating to be ahead of the curve. Trust me on that -- it is NOT a good thing. At all.

Speaking of Heroes (heh), it seems that they believe that they're doing stuff that's never been done in the genre before. I find that intriguing.

And Steve from the Irish band Ice Core Scientist was sent here by Nick Sagan. Glad you liked Millennium. I was one of the writers on seasons two and three. And yes, rants are cleansing, aren't they? And Steve, dude... that song? Awesome. You guys are great, like an Irish Kula Shaker! I'm posting the link to your MySpace page here. I hope that worked. Go check it out, Gentle Readers!

Friday, February 16, 2007

All Your Blog Are Belong to Us

I have to start reading other blogs so I can post nifty links on my site! I have no links. It's sort of sad. I'm the Unabomber of bloggers. And I suppose the ranting doesn't help with that. Today is a very special day -- it's the first day of spring training. Pitchers and catchers have reported! Yay! I'm a big Dodger fan, and to see the starting rotation already being cool is almost too exciting for words. Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Jason Schmidt (formerly known as THE ENEMY), Randy Wolf and that elusive fifth starter, either Kuo or Billingsley. An actual ROTATION! Hurray! No power hitter, but yay for the rotation! Back when we were with our other agent, that CBS show Clubhouse got ordered. We wanted to be submitted but according to our agent, they wouldn't read us because girls don't know anything about baseball. Well, according to what I saw on the show, neither did the boys working on it. It wasn't nearly as inaccurate as ABC Family's horse-racing show Wildfire, though. As a writer, sometimes you have to forego total accuracy for the sake of drama. I think we all understand that. But the Wildfire pendulum swings WAY too far that way. Because NOTHING is accurate on that show. I accidentally saw five minutes of it the other night and boy howdy! Nobody on that show knows a goddam thing about horse racing. We have been submitted for the show before. The first time, the producers didn't think we were "right" for it. That was after we'd written a horse racing pilot for UPN. And when we went in to meet on Dead Zone (same producers, and even though we did a freelance episode of DZ, we apparently weren't right for THAT, either) they said vaguely that we just must've not been available for Wildfire.

Um. WHAT? We were available. But I think they would regret hiring us, because we would constantly be telling them that things don't WORK that way. And it won't lessen the drama of the show, because WHO SHOULD SHE CHOOSE? isn't that compelling. Or gramatically correct, for that matter. If the show is set in the world of horse racing, DO something with it. And don't just cull shit from a Brady Bunch episode. No, Wildfire writers, racehorse trainers do NOT have "playbooks." Honestly. That's the dumbest thing ever, in a long, shameless string of dumb things. It's sheer laziness. They don't CARE at all about being accurate, because they don't give a shit about the setting of their show. That's APPALLING. And it's insulting to the audience, because it assumes that the audience either doesn't care or won't understand it. And people wonder why the TeeVee audience doesn't care anymore. It just isn't more work to do something right. But people act like it is.

Conversely, "Lost" has gone the other way. I don't know WHAT the hell is going on with that show. One episode rarely leads to another. But MAN, every week they do a new TeeVee pilot! Last week's episode was fan-freaking-tastic and could totally be the pilot for a show. What it had to do with "Lost" is hard to say. I wonder how much longer the network and the studio will let them get away with this type of insular, enigmatic storytelling. I appreciate how smart it is, but just throwing shit in there isn't going to make for compelling drama. Well. Not ALL the time. I think my favorite bit of the episode was Charlie busking "Wonderwall." LOL, "Lost." You're not even pretending he's not a Gallagher. I applaud that, because we did the exact same thing on "Haunted." Which was prior to "Lost." Ahem.

I thought of another Ducky -- George, from "Grey's Anatomy." I mean, shit, when was that charming?? And the way George initially reacted to Meredith is the way Duckys react -- he got furious and stopped speaking to her. But from his point of view, he was the righteous one and she wronged him. See, this is just NOT a warm and fuzzy character type. Duckys are egocentric and passive aggressive. But they just never see that. They'll always be right, and their pain will always be fresh. What's most annoying about Duckys is that they'll make their other friends choose between them, the victim, and the asshole/bitch who wronged them. And that sucks.

I'm still reading pilots, albeit slowly because we've been writing a lot, finishing up new samples for staffing season. We should have two pilots, three if we can pound through another one. So I'm halfway through the "Bionic Woman" pilot and I'm liking it so far. It does seem dependent on production, though. So we'll see.

Alan sent me a really funny Andy Borowitz article about how he used to work on "Facts of Life," which he calls the worst TeeVee show of all time. That's not actually true; "Small Wonder" is a real contender, and don't forget "Charles In Charge" and "Galactica 1980." On second thought, "Galactica 1980" wins. Anyway, Borowitz talks about how he was told that he didn't get the voices of the girls. He was blamed when the scripts were bad. Obviously, he took the job for the money and he says that the only thing worse than being a whore is being a whore and sucking at it. Word to that. For whatever reason, you always tend to work even harder on bad shows than good ones. I think that deep down, writers have a great sense of optimism. We believe we can make anything work, even the worst crap ever committed to screen. We are ALWAYS wrong, but still we try, crap show after crap show. This is probably why we get taken advantage of, because we're worried that we'll be found out, that somebody will point a finger and say "YOU'RE A FAKE!" So we endeavor to try and prove them wrong, even with "Facts of Life." Bummer for us.

There's been some really great music out so far, and some of it is even going to come out in the U.S.! The new Kings of Leon sounds pretty good. So does the Silverlake band The Little Ones. But my favorite album so far this year is from The View. The British mags are touting them pretty heavily, but they're worth it anyway.

That's the story for President's Day weekend. I guess I'll go buy a mattress or a huge TV this weekend. Because you're either with America, or the terrorists.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pleasant Valley Thursday

Ah, Monkees, you inspire me.

I don't blog regularly (duh), and the hardest thing for me as someone who doesn't have a staff job is how to keep busy and motivated. I like to have about six things in various stages of completion, because there's something new to look forward to every day. We've been pretty busy the last six months or so, but now we've got one finished spec pilot and another one that will be finished this week. We have a feature script that's proobably going to go out next week, and it isn't time yet to work on pilot pitches for next season.

What's a writer to do?

I think we need to be like sharks. You stop swimming, you die. So there should always be something to work on. As I mentioned in the previous blog, we're thinking of writing another spec pilot to fill a hole (girly chick stuff). We've also been talking about writing a short film, so I've been thinking about that. And once the feature goes out, we'll start figuring out what we want to write next. That is predicated on how the feature is received. If it rocks, we'll look for something similar. If it doesn't, we'll look elsewhere. I know writers who've been on staff on shows for literally YEARS, and they've never had to write a spec. I wonder what that's like. If you're in our position (which would be the majority of TeeVee writers), I think it's important to always be generating material. It's a good habit to get into, because writers shouldn't be complacent. If you're on a gravy train, you never know when it's going to stop and the last thing you want is to be surprised when it does. Because unless you're Akiva Goldsman, I guess, it will stop. As writers, you have very little control over the business and the one thing you CAN control is your own output. I used to post on the AOL screenwriting boards before the bad things happened and there was nothing that pissed aspiring writers off more than to be told that while it was cute that they had written an entire script, that was only the beginning and they needed to write ten more.

So this time of year, when we're going into staffing season, is important. You have to stay motivated. It'll also stop you from obsessing about the hell that is staffing season. Somebody asked what our time frame is for spec pilots. That all depends on where you are in the process of TeeVee. We've been on a bunch of shows, so we've met practically every executive on the planet. We don't need to be introduced to that many people, so we have a little more time to finish up our samples. But generally, I would say to get your material done as quickly as possible and to look at your samples and see what you're missing. You need to learn to write quickly in TeeVee, and writing specs is good practice for that. The networks are casting their pilots now and they'll be shooting them in March and April. That's when they'll be at their busiest. But the executives will still have to read and meet writers. So make sure you've got your samples finished as quickly as you possibly can, so that when your agent has lunch with an NBC exec, he can pitch you and talk up your sample. Your agent can't work for you if you don't have anything he can send out. Agents HATE lazy writers. Don't be a lazy writer!

Edouard (hi, Edouard!) asked if we'd thought about writing a freelance Galactica and what the process was for a freelance script. Each show is obligated to give two scripts a year to freelance writers. But mostly, those scripts go to friends of the showrunners. And by friends, I don't mean just some dude you have coffee with every day. Although sometimes THAT happens. The freelance business is relationship-driven and if you don't have relationships with showrunners, you usually don't get a freelance. We've done four freelance scripts and all of them have come because we knew the showrunners, or someone on staff. And while we do know people on staff at Galactica, we don't know the showrunners and my inclination is that they fill their freelance scripts pretty quickly, as they both have a wealth of writers they know from past shows. I'd love to do a freelance Galactica. It's the best show on TeeVee. But it's tough to get in there.

I read another pilot that I liked. Don't be too surprised; I usually read the ones I'm looking forward to reading first. This one is a sci-fi pilot for Fox, written by a very experienced TeeVee writer. VERY well written and it would be lovely to see something like this on TeeVee. But it may be just a touch too smart for Fox to pick it up. I hope not.

I keep forgetting to do the "now playing" thing at the end of each blog. Bad blogger! But here's what I've been listening to in 2007: Electric Soft Parade, IV Thieves, Black Angels, The Broken West, GoodBooks (along with Yeti, my pick for 2007), The Coral Sea, The Good Bad and the Queen, The View, the Little Ones, Kelly Jones. Now I'm listening to The Klaxons. My, they think highly of themselves, don't they? I can't decide if they're going to be The Kaiser Chiefs, or The Kooks. Hmm.

An addendum to my complaining about moronic T.J. Simers -- Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens totally smacked Simers across the mouth. Simers then whined about how all the unhappy readers who e-mailed him about Barbaro wanted him to get cancer and die. It makes me wonder how Simers did in school. To me, it feels like his boss went, "Uhm... Teej? I think it's lovely that you singled out all the supportive e-mails from the manly men who only care about the football, but this Gary Stevens fella is PISSED. Perhaps you should show your readers that not everyone supports you." So Simers Fox News'd his column by singling out the most extreme e-mails. I guess he figures that his Loyal Readers will go, "Shit. Those horse people are insane." God forbid the asshat would single out the people who didn't send him death threats, but disagreed with him nonetheless. Because if he did that, how could he continue to castigate those of us who think he's a complete jackhole? All Simers cares about is his own ego. NOT a good quality for a so-called journalist.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's a Blog, Blog, Blog, Blog World

Greetings, gentle readers! I think Comments was messed up. It should be fixed now. I did get an interesting follow-up on my Ducky post: Check out The Whimpster. It's hilarious, but oh so true; an entirely new (ish) breed of guy. And I apologize to Lloyd Dobler for the omission. He definitely qualifies. I love Peter Gabriel as much as the next person, but if some dude -- no matter how Cusackish -- showed up on my lawn in the middle of the night, I'd be calling the Stalker Squad.

In TeeVee news, most of the pilot pickups have been made. This is Phase Two of the TeeVee pilot season. Those writers fortunate enough to have their pilots picked up now have to find a director (if they don't already have one attached), cast their pilot, find a crew, and basically get a mini-corporation off the ground. As they're doing this, agents will be flooding them with sample scripts to read. I don't know what it's like to be in the middle of making your pilot; I imagine it's euphoric, but it's probably just as stressful as any other stage of television. Although as one of those writers who will be submitted to these new shows, I can't imagine anything more stressful than THAT! Meetings probably won't happen until April, but all TeeVee writers will begin reading pilots, looking for shows they want to meet on, figuring out if they've got the perfect writing sample to send and/or writing that perfect writing sample. My writing partner and I will have two new pilot samples but we're thinking of adding a third. Just to see if we can.

In the past few years, having a sample that reflects the show you're being submitted to has become more and more important. I'm not exactly sure why; I don't think it's impossible to read a sample and deduce whether or not the person can write. Maybe it has something to do with the feature writers who are jumping into TeeVee; I don't really know. But that makes it more stressful for us writers. If you don't have EXACTLY THE RIGHT SAMPLE, you won't get the meeting. So a lot of writers will be going into panic mode to make sure they're covering all their bases.

The next few months are gonna suck.

I did want to talk about the pilots a little bit. I've only read two so far, but I liked both of them. I'm not sure I want to post any specifics but when I've read everything, maybe I'll just talk about a few of my favorites. Overall, it's the usual suspects -- cops, lawyers (a LOT of lawyers), soapy medical stuff, genre pilots, and (oddly) high-powered New York women.

I'm always interested to see what the networks have picked up. I'm not a programming exec, but I think that as a writer, you need to try and understand what the networks are thinking. ABC generally makes a lot of sense to me. I see their pilot pickups and understand why they made those choices. ABC tends to pick up pilots with mainstream premises, but the execution is usually a little off-center... which is a good thing. Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, even shows like The Nine, which didn't work... they all sound like ABC shows. And just going off the loglines this year, ABC's basically doing the same thing again. They're looking for companion pieces for their tentpole shows, hoping to launch new series with the help of their hits.

CBS is another network that knows its audience -- I mean, it's not too hard to figure that if you find something in CSI-land, you're doing okay. A number of years ago, Morrgan & Wong did a CBS pilot called "Skip Tracers" that didn't get on. This year, CBS has a pilot from another writing team called "Skip Tracer." Hmm. But every year, CBS decides they're going to try genre again. While their genre pilots sound very interesting, I wouldn't want to have a genre pilot at CBS. They haven't supported these shows in the past.

NBC is sorta all over the place again this year. The network doesn't really have a brand anymore and it feels like they're still searching for something to click. They have a few that sound interesting and one that sounds exactly like "Quantum Leap." Fox also seems to be searching, because their hits are all over the place. I mean, how do you develop a companion piece for "Prison Break" or "24?" But they do have several that sound interesting -- "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," "Them" (based on the graphic novel)... so we'll see. As for the CW, I'm not sure what they're going to be doing. I thought they might develop an entire new schedule but it doesn't look like they're doing that, so expect some of this year's schedule to reappear.

All in all, I'm reserving judgment on the pilots until I read them. I hope they'll all be great.

And lastly for today, most people have at least heard of Barbaro, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby last year and broke down in the Preakness. Barbaro was sadly euthanized on Monday after eight months of hope and despair. Most of the press coverage has been lovely. But some of it has not. I don't understand why people who don't know a damned thing about horse racing feel that they're suddenly qualified to take shots at it. Just because you can have an instant opinion on the internet doesn't make you a valid critic. There's a big difference between an informed opinion, and an uninformed one. You are not ENTITLED to your opinion -- you're entitled to your INFORMED opinion. I wish people would figure that out. What really galls me, though, is when a purported professional -- a sports columnist -- doesn't get it. I understand that, as a sports columnist, a dude can't know the intricacies of every sport. And that's fine -- then don't talk about the sports you don't get. But conversely, SHUT THE HELL UP IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. Your press credentials don't make your opinion valid.

I'm talking specifically about TJ Simers, the boneheaded rant specialist for the Los Angeles Times. As everyone in L.A. knows, this guy's no better than an internet troll. He's the court jester, there for our amusement. But Simers believes his own bullshit and thinks that WE'RE there for HIS amusement. Not so, asshat. Not only does Simers prove he knows nothing about racing, he also shows his misogynistic streak when he talks about women. So I e-mailed this jackhole... and I was a LOT nicer than I'm being here. His response? "Hey, and I just got a raise." Gee, Teej... I'm sure your bosses would LOVE to hear how you respond to e-mails. I've had nicer conversations with ACTUAL internet trolls. Want a horse racing discussion, Teej? I would go toe to toe with this idiot any day of the friggin' week.

I know he's been getting outraged e-mails because yesterday, he posted supportive e-mails he'd received. Hmm. Now WHY would he feel the need to do that? If you loathe this moron or think he was out of line, drop him an e-mail so he can tell you about his raise, too: t.j.simers@latimes.com. If, like me, you'd love to let his bosses know what you think of him: sports@latimes.com, editor@latimes.com.

Dude was totally out of line, on SO many levels. Maybe that's his genius, but I don't think so. I hope no self-respecting woman married him, and I pray he doesn't have daughters. What a PROUD way to make a living!

Okay, rant over.

For now.