Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Wolf At the Door

Two days till potential doom and counting.

Boring old ratings became suddenly interesting with the addition of a Live +7 DVR timeshifting number. I love that it's called timeshifting, by the way, instead of just, y'know, RECORDING. But whatevs.

The CW learned, for example, that a show like "Reaper" gained 29% 18-34 women and 34% 18-34 adults. And even the old people who watch CBS figured out how to use their DVRs, with shows on that network gaining as well. Although interestingly enough, half as much as the CW's numbers. Maybe this ancient Nielsen thing will finally go away, hmm? Because seriously. With all the technology, cable and other things to watch, how stupid that it's remained the same old antiquated system. Makes you think the people it benefits have worked very hard to keep it in place, right?

As everyone knows, one of the truly awful things about the internet is that anyone can throw up a website and act like they know what they're talking about. This used to happen in the old AOL days all the time, when some know-nothing would wander in and bleat about screenwriting like their opinion was just as valid as a professional's. If one of the pros told them that their opinion was uninformed, the shit would inevitably hit the fan. It was almost a weekly event. Because they could type, the fact that they'd written a novel/screenplay/pilot meant they were writers.

Not so, we would decree. But now that people can have websites, any one of them can create his own little world of "BOB SMITH, PROFESSIONAL WRITER-THING." They don't need the pros to ever see what they're doing. But sometimes, fortune smiles upon us, gentle readers. Let me introduce you to the wise and wonderful world of Paul William Tenny, the self-proclaimed (is there any other kind?) media pundit. Firstly, LOVE that he uses all three of his given Christian names. There's something lovably awkward about that. Anyhoo, PWT (by his own admission) is a "freelance screenwriter living in North Carolina." On AOL, we used to CONSTANTLY tell people that, with very few exceptions, you HAVE to live in L.A. to make it as a film or TeeVee writer. If you call yourself a freelance screenwriter but you live in North Carolina, you aren't very serious about writing as a career. Which is rather annoying to those of us who actually committed. And you're not really freelance if you've never sold anything. The use of the term indicates that you have, at some point, sold something. No, you're just an aspiring, PWT.

What he does, apparently, is comment on film and TeeVee news that he finds on the internet. He comments on the negotiations, which I find rather frightening. I think HE thinks that because he fancies himself a writer, he has to think the WGA negotiating committee is totally rockin' this thing. And he has a post about the ratings for "Bionic Woman," where he only takes into account the household ratings to prove it's a disaster. While the show is sliding in the ratings (thanks, America!), it's the demographics that really interest NBC, not to mention the politics that are probably going to keep the fucking thing on the air all year. He's trying to comment on the behind-the-scenes debacle, the showrunner parade that's happened over there, but he doesn't even get that right.

But that's not the point of this little item. He has a rather brilliant post on writing partners. Some choice bits:

Cinematical has an actual employed (and probably about to be unemployed due to the coming strike) writer on staff writing about..well, writing. What else would he write about? If you're interested in this story of thing, he has five in-depth tips for collaborating on scripts when you don't physically meet with your writing partner, which I found terribly odd. Then again I find the entire notion of collaborative writing odd. If you're supposed to write the second act of a telescript and your partner is in the process of writing the first act, how do you know where to start when you don't know where he or she is going to end?

Hey, at least the Cinematical guy doesn't call himself the media pundit! But how hilarious is this? It's a total mystery to him how two writers could possibly write something together. Although I am unfamiliar with the term "telescript," maybe PWT's really, really old. I dunno. But it gets better:

I guess you'd have to heavily rely on writing from an outline (I despise them like evil leprechauns) which will only hobble you, should a TV show want to hire you onto their staff. I've never heard of a writing team being hired on a staff and they won't function at all once they do because it's a massive waste of resources. I can pretty much promise you that I can write a single script in the time it takes any single writing team to bang out the outline and for two simple reasons: I won't need an outline since I am writing alone, and I can write extremely fast.

An outline -- actually knowing where the story is going -- will hobble you? Hey, fellow writers -- has this been your experience? And if you're hired on staff, not only will you have to "heavily" rely on the outline, that's all it's about, baby. Because the outline has to be approved by the showrunner, the production company (if there is one), the studio and the network. If it is approved, you'd better not deviate from it without an exceptional reason. The real beauty of the paragraph, though, is that PWT, the media pundit/freelance screenwriter-who-has-never-sold-anything from North Carolina, has NEVER -- in all his born days -- heard about a writing team being hired to write for TeeVee. EVER! His claim that it's a waste of resources indicates that he thinks each member of a team makes a full salary, which isn't true. You split a salary. So basically, you make HALF of what a single writer makes. It's two for one, which is the opposite of a massive waste of resources. It's like recycling!

But PWT doesn't stop there, folks! He goes on to promise -- PROMISE! -- that he can write a script faster than a writing team can. Look, PWT. Anybody can shit out sixty pages of crap. I could type sixty pages of something today. That doesn't mean it's a STORY. And I would LOVE to know how long he thinks it takes us to break a story. Because if this were a contest, we wouldn't have to actually write an outline. We'd take a day to break a story and we could write a first draft in another few days or, if pressed, THE NEXT FUCKING DAY. Don't test me, son.

Then again, two of the most successful and highly paid writers in the biz right now happen to be career-long writing partners. Of course I'm speaking of Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, the duo responsible most recently for the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, amongst many other very successful films.

Didn't one of the greatest writers in the history of film write with several writing partners? Hey, media pundit? You wouldn't happen to know who that is, would you?

It's people like PWT who make me effing crazy because somewhere, somebody's reading his posts with the notion that he knows what he's talking about, JUST because he has a website.

Not everybody should write with a partner, and it's easier to work well with someone if you haven't established your own style and method of writing. But for the love of God, DO YOUR GODDAM HOMEWORK if you're going to bleat about it on the internets.

I have liberated quite a bit of my TeeVee viewing of late. No more "Bionic Woman." I just can't do it anymore. There is literally NOTHING of any value on the show. It's a total disaster, and they're wasting Katee Sackhoff. She's so much better than that show. It's clear that nobody on the show has any idea who she's working for, who they're working for, what kind of an "operative" she is, or any of that. All they've trained her to do is kickbox, but they're sending her out on generic missions? How is a former bartender going to be able to be a spy if you don't train her? It's totally retarded. So that show's gone. I've also excised "Chuck." The strain of trying to fit Chuck into each episode is tiresome. "Journeyman" lasted an episode and a half. I can't stomach "Pushing Daisies."

I like that they're doing a bit of mythology on "Reaper." I think the show needs it. And this week's vampire double feature, "Moonlight" and "Blood Ties," were pretty effing good. I totally forgot to TiVo "Dirty Sexy Money," dammit. But that's about it. That's all I'm watching.

Is there anything else on?

AJ asks if I've seen "Californication." I have not. Just didn't have an interest, and it sounded like a show (sort of like "Tell Me You Love Me") that's pushing the envelope for the sake of it. I'm not interested in that.

And Josh (thanks, BTW) wants me to piss even MORE people off and get quoted and junk. Heh. It's funny, because it's been fairly recent that all this WGA shit has started to piss me off. Maybe it has something to do with the upcoming presidential election as well. I see the candidates doing the same fucking thing the WGA does. They're out there gladhanding like furious marmosets, looking into the eyes of the "common man" and nodding along, like "I dig it, Bob Smith. I feel your pain." Yeah, well, you fucking do not. You want Bob's vote and you'll do anything to get it. It's all disingenuous bullshit, isn't it? And we've set ourselves up as a culture that buys into it. They want to be on the pedestal and we put them there. Then they start believing in the bullshit and they forget where they came from. Well, unless they come from wealthy, elite families. That, they remember very well.

I'm sure that at some point, public figures DID have something to say. They wanted to do things that would matter in the lives of the rest of us. But then they get into the system and it all goes to hell, because you can't function like that in the system. You're a slave to it.

The WGA is a slightly different animal. I wonder how many people who run for office are really that invested in bringing about change. Or is it all about making better contacts? It's hard to fault someone for that, because contacts make our world go around. But again, that's the system dictating behavior. There's a huge disconnect between the desire to do good and actually being able to do it. The issues being negotiated are crucial and couldn't be more important. We have health care and residuals because other people went on strike before us. If we have to go on strike to stop these rollbacks, then that's what we have to do and if the WGA will put regular Joes on the picket line, I'll gladly picket (but close to home, please; gas is expensive!). I am curious as to why I was not contacted about being on a strike team (and don't you want that t-shirt?). I'm reserving judgment on that one, but they DID contact some name writers, so I dunno.

As Josh says, this strike is going to affect many people who are dependent on this industry for their livelihood. Crew people. All the assistants -- writer, executive, agent, producer. Union and freelance readers. PAs. Agents' assistants. Restaurants. Messengers. Anyone struggling to make ends meet who needs a flourishing entertainment industry in order to do that.

I wish people like Verrone understood what all of this posturing has done to the rest of us. I don't think he or his ilk ever will, because their reality is substantially different from mine. But then our world, especially now with the internets, our technological advances, and a mindless press, is all about changing the nature of reality. The Bush folk know that well. They do nothing BUT alter reality. When you think about it, nobody sees the world the same way as you do. Each person on this planet sees the world differently. That's a LOT of different realities.

Which leads me to one of my favorite speeches, one that I steal from often. Philip K. Dick, speaking in Anaheim in 1978. PKD was one of those writers who was spookily prescient about a lot of things and in this speech, he pretty much nails it.

Take a look.

How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later.

np -- The Raveonettes, "Lust Lust Lust"

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Town Called Malice

Or Hollywood.

The strike is upon us. The sky is falling. The dust covers are removed from the furniture in the fifth vacation homes.

And TeeVee is an unmitigated disaster of suckage.

With the exception of the strike, it's business as usual.

Finally, writers are the talk of the town, but do we really care if the connotation is negative? Apparently not. The producers took residuals off the table (as any thinking person knew they would), and painted the WGA as militant fucks (as any thinking person knew they would). Strike groups are apparently being organized, although I'm not in one yet so maybe they don't want me out there with my sign. That would figure. The producers and the WGA are in talks again. And they have "notable" writers like Carlton Cuse and Stephen Gaghan calling all of us. That pisses me off. Why do they have to get high-profile writers to do this? If member Bob Smith called me, I'd listen. But Stephen Gaghan? Fuck you. It just reinforces the elitism.

Josh takes me to task on all of this:
Jesus. You're turning me into a class defender... I think you're being a bit harsh on some of the more well-to-do members. I see just as much blinkered self-interest among the middle class of the Guild, as well, ya know.

Noted. But the self-interest among the rest of us has more to do with actually paying the rent and buying groceries than it does with things that, I gotta say, seem more abstract when you can't pay the bills.

The reason I'm sensitive to the issue is this - the bad media coverage has already begun, and it's gonna get worse. We're NOT gonna get a fair shake in the press, because they know which side their bread is buttered on. They'll portray the entire Guild membership as a bunch of super rich, greedy Hollywood cocksuckers. They do it every time. And while there are obviously plenty of rich, smug, selfish assholes in the Guild, there are also important issues at stake.

And the reason they can do that is because it's the super rich, greedy cocksuckers who are running the show. If the leadership wasn't all those guys, if they weren't playing into that stereotype, it would be harder for the press to do that. I mean, wouldn't it be better if we David-and-Goliath'ed it? Let's have the working-class writer (for lack of a way better term) represent us against the corporate monoliths. But no, it's rich vs. rich and whenever titans go at each other, those self-interests are gonna be a little different.

I definitely think there are serious issues at stake but the dirty little secret is that essentially, we've already been on strike all year, especially in TeeVee. If you aren't on staff or don't have a deal, chances are very good that you didn't sell a pilot this year. And if you were lucky enough to sell one after the SAV e-mail went out, the networks won't commence you until the strike is over. So the lock-out began, actually, months ago. The WGA's militant stance is directly responsible for fucking people out of work. This doesn't affect Gaghan and Cuse and all those guys, so they don't even know it happened. But if you had Bob Smith on the negotiating committee, he would understand. What the WGA needed to do was to be able to hold a press conference where they went, "We've bent over backwards for the producers, but they are killing us." We needed to be able to generate some sympathy. And they didn't do that.

This may not sound like much to you, but if this strike goes on too long, I'll have to give up caviar and hookers. So, you know... you're not the only one suffering.

I admire your bravery. I would give up the hookers first.

I will say, though, it's refreshing to read a blog on the strike in which there's no question of where the blogger's loyalties are, or who's actually footing the bill. There's some dastardly shit going on at that OTHER place.

It sounds freakin' INSANE over there! I mean, seriously. Vote, you asshat. WTF's wrong with you????

I live in hope, though. The eternal cynical optimist, if that's possible. If the strike happens, let's see who shows up for the picket lines. THEN let's excoriate the fuckers who don't.

That's something I can agree with.

>I can't write a Mad Men spec. That would be insane (although maybe a little insanity is good).

Indeed. I seem to recall a couple of insanely great writers I know writing a Buffy spec after the show had been on the air maybe three weeks. Everyone called them insane, too. But it worked out okay....

Hmm.... excellent point...

Ian sez:
I'll tell you this, the more I watch this season's TV the more I'm disappointed. It all seems to be written by the same people and looking at the list of names that scrolls across my screen every week I'm not surprised to find that some people are producing or creating 3 or 4 shows which are currently on. There needs to be a lot more variety!

When you've been hired in TeeVee, it's accepted that you've reached a certain level. There are a sad number of people who don't know how to read and judge a script, so they have to rely on the resume and the in-crowd-ness of it all. This makes it easier for them. They don't HAVE to know if a script is good, or if a writer can do the job. The writer's already been vetted by someone else, right? Now think about the number of hit shows on the air. Not that many. But writers who are fortunate enough to get on one of those shows are magically elevated to another level. It's as if they were solely responsible for the success of that show.

The amount of bullshit a writer has to go through just to get the meeting is infuriating enough, but what's happening now is that they basically want you to beg for the job. Moreover, they want you to somehow be able to READ THEIR MINDS. You have to be "on the same page" as the showrunner in order to get the job. But let's back up. First, you have to be on the approved list at the studio and at the network (and at the POD, if there is one). If you ARE on these lists, your material will be sent to the showrunner. The showrunner is inundated with scripts. Literally buried under piles of specs. He can't possibly read all of them. So he'll read scripts sent by his own agency first.

After that comes the real hell. The showrunner has to hire his number two and number three first. These people command A BUTTLOAD OF MONEY. So after that, the showrunner looks at his dwindling budget and goes, "Well, shit. I can afford a story editor and a staff writer." If the showrunner can afford someone at midlevel, he's either going to hire someone he's worked with before (you can't blame anyone for that), or he's going to go resume shopping.

Remember, the showrunner was buried under mounds of specs and resumes. He can cherry-pick from those resumes. And if you're a mid or lower level writer, having people make calls for you about how great you are doesn't make a damned bit of difference. Writing the best spec ever isn't going to matter. Having an amazing meeting means nothing. You are at the mercy of that resume, unless you meet a sane person who really doesn't give a shit. I don't think there are any of them left. Showrunners are hiring the same writers because those writers are going from known show to known show. The other writers, the ones with the crap resumes, aren't getting any opportunities because there are so many of the top resume writers that shows which would have given people a chance get the good resume cast-offs.

This is why you're seeing the same names over and over. Just breaking into TeeVee doesn't mean you're in the club. You're in the vestibule.

Then when you get into making pilots and getting shows on the air, the world gets even smaller. Just because everybody loved the pilot you wrote, if it didn't get shot or on the air, that doesn't give you any cache. On the one hand, that makes a certain amount of sense. It's like being in Vegas, and the guy throwing the dice at the craps table has a remarkable string of luck. Naturally, you'll stay there and bet on the guy, even though he could be Charles Manson, right? Same thing in TeeVee. You have to get lucky about six times in a row to get a show on the air. Why take a chance on someone who hasn't gotten that lucky? You wouldn't do that in Vegas, and Hollywood is as much a gambling town as Vegas is.

The problem comes when you want to equate talent with luck. Talent gets you in that initial door, but you need luck to carry you. I wish I could say luck and hard work, but there are successful lazy people so that doesn't always hold.

But because luck is such a major component, what can you do if you don't have it? Luck is what it is. The point is, you have to be completely ready when it comes, at any level. Don't take any of it for granted. You may be at a lower level and have been lucky to get on good shows but if you take it for granted, it will catch up with you as you move up the ladder. Because eventually, you're going to be expensive enough that people are going to start calling other showrunners you've worked with. There in an infuriatingly large number of people who seem to think getting jobs in TeeVee is their God-given right. Don't worry. They'll be faced with reality around supervising producer level.

Anyway, that was a long-ass tangent. Things in Teevee aren't going to change, not in the traditional sense. The same people are going to be making pilots, and the same people are going to be on staff. Every once in awhile, someone's gonna break through. But it's not going to radically change TeeVee. The system's in place to reward people for certain reasons and that's the way it's gonna stay. It's a business with capricious rules.

Homefront Radio has a GREAT comment about "Pushing Daisies." GO READ IT. I feel your fury and frustration. I haven't seen episode three yet but I'm going to get really drunk before I watch it. Maybe that will help. I should have been really drunk to watch the last episode of "Bionic Woman." Christ on a pony, that show's awful. It really is everything that's bad about TeeVee. It's so generic there isn't anything of substance to it. And apparently, the way to lighten the show up is to cram in some wistful girl singer with her droopy guitar over Jaime's sad face at the end of every episode.

The sister stuff is particularly annoying. Isn't there any other note they can play? "Jaime, tell me what's going on!" Enough already. Every episode so far has revolved around (as much as a plotless episode could) Jaime's bionics/the bionic program/Will/Sarah. EVERY EFFING EPISODE! It's apparent that nobody figured out exactly what this "program" is, what the bionics can or cannot do, what the hell Miguel Ferrer and his underground buddies DO or who they answer to, what the arc of the mythology will be, what Jaime is really for, the relationship between Jaime and her FOUR MENTORS, what Sarah's attitude and goals are... the beat goes on. The show is just tepid and horrible. The plots don't make any sense. Most egregiously, there's no voice or vision. Where's the point of view with this show? Where's the point of view with the characters? What Jaime wants varies from scene to scene and is dependent on the action. It's the same with her and her sister's relationship. It's either fantastic, her sister's a teen rebel, or her sister's yelling at her for lying.

In this past episode Jaime tells her sister she's going to Napa with a friend. The friend shows up and the sister is, understandably, freaked. WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF SPY AGENCY IS THIS? How is Jaime allowed to make up her own legend? Did these writers do ANY research or put ANY thought into it? Did they even watch one episode of Alias? This is emblematic of the central problem with the show -- no forethought. There was no effort made to sit down and THINK about any of this stuff. They don't have any rules. I was going to keep watching the show so I'd have something to complain about in the blog, but I just can't do it anymore. Not even for you, gentle readers. The show's just too awful. But know this -- EVERY SINGLE WRITER will get a job off this show because they've got a high profile NBC show on their resumes.

And no, life isn't fair.

The show almost makes me want to fix it with a spec, but fuck them.

Kristen remembers the Shaun Cassidy pilot -- it was called "Wilder." I think that today, it would be on the air. But that's Shaun for you... usually a bit ahead of the curve.

np - Shack, "Time Machine." Man, I love Shack and this greatest hits collection showcases one of England's most influential bands.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mapped By What Surrounded Them

Got a little busy doing... nothing, apparently, last week. Seriously, what did I do?

Must rectify that.

I think my post on the strike was a little unclear, since several gentle readers wondered about why I wouldn't vote to give the WGA authorization to call a strike. I absolutely DID vote for it. And if there is a strike, I will be on the picket line. Because I do think the writers are getting screwed. We've never really gotten respect, and for the most part we're treated like a necessary evil. I believe that getting what we deserve monetarily is tied to respect. But do you think these guys, the ones who call me with the recorded messages about voting for strike authorization, are going to be down on the picket line for anything other than a photo op?

Which was kinda my point.

Josh sez:
I appreciate that it's a potential financial disaster for a lot of people - the majority of the guild, I'd wager. But there are issues here that fucking MATTER, and the studios are relying on people voting based on their immediate, short-term financial interest, rather than their long term interest. Residuals matter. Power for writers matters. This is easy for me to say, but Kay knows me, knows it's true - if I were skint, I'd vote for the long term good of all of us. Not being skint only makes it easier to stand up for principles.

Ha! My skint principles trump your, erm, non-skint principles! Ever since I joined the Guild, I've heard the grumbling about the non-working writers who always want to vote for a strike because, hell, they're not working anyway. What's interesting this go-round is that it's the vacation-home people who are all gung-ho about it. Maybe it's because everything I touch lately hasn't been turning to gold or any other semi-precious metal, but Josh aside, I'm not seeing a lot of sensitivity anywhere else in the WGA. People seem to think that if they're doing great, then you are, too. Which simply isn't true.

And this was sweet:
Speaking as "Evil Josh," I need to let folks know, I can't be as entertaining here as I am on "that other site," because Kay's not an evil, lying, no-ethics having scumwad who doesn't give a shit about the quality of the work or the plight of real writers. It's much easier to be entertaining when you're verbally abusing a mindless, mediocre hack then when you're agreeing with a brilliant, high-verbal chick of stellar character.

Awww...! Heh.

By the way, if you haven't read Josh's story in the L.A. Weekly, go do that. It's a true story, Josh exists, and he actually wrote it (Metafilter comments aside).

An anonymous comment:
Now, I want to ask you about writing for other venues. What are you thinking about? Like you, I make a living as WGAw writer. Mostly features, but some TV. But this strike is going to kill me. So I need to take my skills and market them elsewhere. But where? Blogging doesn't pay. Does anything on the Internet pay? What about writing a novel? I understand that a mid-level author gets paid way less than a mid-level screenwriter or TV writer. What about a graphic novel? I don't know. What are you thinking?

I feel your pain. I really do. I don't know that I can make a living writing if the strike goes on for very long and as you may know, the leadership has decided that we can't do internet work, either. While writing a novel isn't gonna make you a living (and NOBODY should decide to be a novelist if they want to make a ton of money), for me it's about the principle of the thing. I think this can be seen as an opportunity to expand our horizons. We can get locked into the TeeVee and feature business bullshit and our writing suffers. We need to write for the sake of it, for US, and if there's one thing a strike makes imperative, it's that. I think you can make some money writing comics and graphic novels and that's certainly an avenue to pursue. You don't make much money writing books or short stories, but wouldn't it feel nice to get something published that's just YOURS? That doesn't have the qualifier of a thousand network or studio notes? I wish there was some magical arena that we could all drift towards but there isn't.

It's lovely if you can make a living writing what is YOURS. Most people can't. I was lucky early on to be able to do just that and ironically, when I've been able to do that, it's the material people have liked the most. But usually, you're a factory worker churning out somebody else's vision. So I know it'll be hard to survive if there's a strike. We might all have to go get other jobs in the meantime. But we can write, too, and we can write what we really want to for once.

And Bill sez:
We live in an incredible time when people can do just about anything online for free.

There's a lot of opportunity out there - writing a novel and serializing it, podcasting a radio play, photography, short subject movies - you just have to go out there and bootstrap it yourself. You have to create the audience instead of depending on the publisher or network to do it for you.

But the cool thing is - you own it all and can merchandise the hell out of it yourself. It may not be a huge multi-million movie, but you can get paid.

I look at it this way - if Will Ferrell is doing it, there's a reason. It is the future and you can be the CEO from your kitchen table.

It's going to get harder and harder to sell a spec, or obtain a position in the writer's room, but having a developed property with an audience opens doors.

Obviously, Will Ferrell isn't make money off Funnyordie.com, and it's the purview of the already wealthy to lay out the capital for a site like that. However, I love what Bill has to say because it IS about new media. This is a chance for writers to get creative. There have been several stories about writers who've serialized novels and created their own properties, only to have networks and studios begin sniffing around. The point is, YOU OWN IT. And we need to own something, yes? Maybe, if there is a strike, all us writers who can't just treat it like a vacation can figure out how to market ourselves and our work, so that we can come out of the strike with how it feels to really be our own bosses. And Bill's right; it IS going to get harder to sell. It's already impossible to get on staff because of the small sizes of staffs. But if you, the writer, go find your own audience however you can, the powers that be will sit up and take notice. And who knows? Maybe when they do come calling, you'll be in a position to go, "No thanks. I don't need you."

We don't do this because we WANT to need the studios and networks, right? So maybe we can all try this stuff, try to do comics and graphic novels and short stories and novels, and see if we can figure out a way to make a goddammed living at it.

Here's an article from Variety about the strike rules. Take a look at the comments. There's a blistering one in particular that highlights how pissed off I am at the leadership.

The WGA is getting screwed, thanks to the lack of foresight with the last contract. My issue with the leadership is with the way they went about negotiating. They acted like the producers were already on the warpath. They weren't. It's the Guild that put them there.

But let's look at what else the Guild did this year.

Because they went on the offensive far before it was necessary, the studios and networks absolutely freaked. Early on in development season, they were only buying projects from writers they had deals with. Which makes sense; these writers don't have to go through PODs so they can go directly to studios, and obviously the studios are anxious to make use of writers they have to pay anyway. However, this never seemed to change. Once those projects were bought, networks realized they hadn't bought enough high-profile projects, so feature writers like Zach Helm began to sell.

An aside -- I mention Helm as an example of a big-time feature writer who sold a pilot. It may be the best pilot ever written. I dunno. I like his writing a lot so this isn't a slam against him.

Back to topic. So the networks then had to shell out a ton of money for these guys (they don't make Guild minimum for a pilot!). It's October. The networks closed. So who gets left out of this equation? Those of us who decided to freakin' develop this year, who've sold pilots in the past but aren't on staff, don't have deals and don't write features.

I checked; we're not alone. PODs and producers were frustrated, too, as they had a difficult time getting into studios and networks. The atmosphere was just completely different. Even pitches that went well, you could tell the exec wasn't going to be able to buy. Word had come down from on high that the studios and networks (which wound up buying about a quarter less than they usually do) shouldn't waste any money, because we're going on strike, baby!!!!

So by beating the war drums before it was necessary and for having a tin ear when it comes to negotiating tactics, the WGA fucked me out of making a living this year. Way to go, asshats.

My contention is this -- if the massively rich and well-off weren't the ones doing the negotiating, more sensitivity would be applied. Because these guys, the ones who were fortunate enough to move up the ladder, can sit there and go, "Well, fuck it, then. We'll just strike." Because they're coming at it from their point of view, which means they don't have to worry about where their next meal is coming from (Del Taco, by the way, although they got rid of my favorite taco). They can afford this ludicrous position of strength. As an example of why I believe this, the Guild has decided that if we do go on strike, we can't write for new media. So we can't even pick up a few bucks writing for the internet. Is this the action of responsible people who are thinking of the membership, or of people who are so distanced from what it's like to struggle that all they care about is showing how fucking strong they are?

I'm not alone in thinking that the WGA has cocked up these negotiations. There's been a lot written lately about how outside parties are now getting involved, hoping to avert a strike or at least minimize it. The leadership's actions are partly responsible for the current crisis -- rollbacks. The producers called their bluff. And as a bluff, it was ham-fisted and obvious. We're writers. Shouldn't we be a little more attuned to human nature?

The Guild is supposed to represent its members, like the government is supposed to represent its citizens. Neither is true, because "ordinary people" can only go so far in this country. That's why people become actors and rock stars, right? It's the only avenue available for a regular guy to have an impact. Which says something about the nature of celebrity and our willingness -- eagerness, I guess -- to tear celebrities down. But that's another post.

More comments, this from BooM:
Great post. Sadly, I found myself charmed by PUSHING DAISIES in a way that I wasn't with the Pie-Lette. As for writing spec pilots with High Concepts -- which wasn't your point, but is something some of us wannabes are forced to do -- I miss the old days of speccing existing shows. That said, there aren't a lot of shows I'd be dying to spec, so maybe writing spec pilots is the lesser of the two evils (joys?).

Oh, BooM! At least you know you aren't supposed to like Pushing Daisies. But seriously, everybody should watch this week's episode because it's the first non-Sonnenfeld episode. I'm curious to see how the show looks when they can't build freakin' CARS. I have a lot of issues with the show but the primary issue is, if you are going to include a procedural element, learn how to tell that kind of a story. Or just give up. Because ugh.

As for specs, I know we're supposed to be living in the "golden age of drama," but I'm not feeling it. The only new show that's really grabbing me is Dirty Sexy Money, which is far, far better than its title or poster. I can't bring myself to write a spec of anything that's on TeeVee because I don't love any of it. I can't write a Mad Men spec. That would be insane (although maybe a little insanity is good). I would always go for the spec pilot, unless there's a show you're really loving. Don't write a CSI because your agent tells you to!

Rhys sez:
I am so totally on board with the frustration of all these promising shows just...dwindling. It was all 'POW!' out of the starting gate and now they're just...wilting. Everything I was so excited about seems to get less interesting each week.

I've given up on Chuck and Journeymay. Gossip Girl amost lost me last night. Pushing Daisies...argh. I'm especially dismayed by Reaper, which I had picked out to be THE best new show of the season, from the very first time I heard the concept. Great first ep and then...wilt.

I am officially dubbing this "TV's Year of Premature Ejaculation."

This has been getting worse every year. The problem is this. When you, the writer, pitch a show to a studio, you need to make your show stand out. And that starts with the pilot. The pilot is what the studio uses as a selling tool to the networks, and the networks use it as a selling tool to the advertisers. So everybody has a say in a pilot. A lot of money is spent. Big-name feature directors and writers are hired. Weeks are spent on production. And then, when the thing is ordered, the real per-episode and pattern budgets are set. And they are far, far below what you've already spent on the pilot. Then, a production schedule is made. And suddenly, you're on a train and you can't get off.

What's been happening lately is, the pilot is the ONLY selling tool. What a studio and a network want to hear is that high concept, and it doesn't matter at all if the concept is translatable to a series. Because you're not selling the series. You're selling the pilot. High concept is being confused with simple. TeeVee needs to be simple to work, because if you have myriad elements to juggle, that makes it almost impossible to do 22 times in a row. While Pushing Daisies is high concept, it isn't simple. And I agree with you about Reaper. The pilot was, I thought, splendid. But then you realize there's nothing beyond it. It's like a sitcom premise, where the show is literally the same every week. A procedural is the same every week, but the crimes are different. You can get into the stories in different ways. But Reaper? IS EXACTLY THE SAME EVERY WEEK.

Chuck, which had a disastrous second episode, came back with a much better third episode. But the show does have issues. This is another pilot that turned out great. But you start to see the problem when the show goes to series. The show is a spy show, but Chuck's essentially the computer nerd they go to in act one. How the hell do you include him in every episode? They're already struggling with that in episode three. Imagine what episode 22 will be like. And Journeyman, whatevs. That show bores the stuffing out of me. Bionic Woman, interestingly enough, has the opposite problem. It HAS no premise. Aside from Jaime being turned into the bionic woman in the pilot, WTF is going on? The show's a complete disaster. They're clearly trying to lighten it up in the third episode, but that's like painting a house that hasn't been built yet. Build your fucking house, bionic peoples.

All of these shows are premise pilots, which I find very interesting. Which new shows aren't? Women's Murder Club, to a degree. Moonlight, a little bit. Even Gossip Girl has a premise pilot, but that's a familiar genre and structure. Premise pilots are exciting. It's easier to use a premise pilot to pitch a show. And when a premise pilot is done well, it can really work. But there are non-premise shows that have worked beautifully, too. The detective shows of the 80s, like Riptide, Magnum P.I. and Simon and Simon, were non-premise pilots. And they were also SIMPLE, and based in character. We could really use some of that now. It's time for substance to trump style again.

Edouard wants to know my take on Carnivale and Invasion. Erm, I don't have one! I didn't see Carnivale and I only saw the pilot for Invasion, which did not impress me. Seriously, introducing your show during a hurricane? How the hell am I supposed to figure out who everybody is? If it had been my show, I would've used the pilot to set the characters and then blow everything up later. We did indeed work with Shaun for a very small period of time. Hollyweird, which was a Fox pilot that they kept raping, was going to be a TeeVee movie. It ended up not happening, much to my eternal dismay. I do think the show had a terrific voice and was way ahead of its time, which has been Shaun's curse since American Gothic. He also did this totally fun pilot -- I can't remember the name -- about a former teen star turned detective. Geez, I wish I had it somewhere. I really liked it.

And AJ has a music question:
You reminded me that I had not yet downloaded the new Radiohead "In Rainbows" CD, which I just did.

I'm curious to know the following:
1.) How much you paid.
2.) Did you/will you pony up the $80 bucks (U.S.) to get the complete package?
3.) What do you think of RH's efforts to market and control their work in such an unconventional way?
4.) Could you see this as a possible wave of the future for selling and distributing say, TeeVee and/or movies? If not, why?

I haven't actually bought it yet. I just heard it. I am skint! I'm not sure I want to buy the download because compressed Radiohead isn't something that floats my boat. I may just wait for the CD release. As for buying the box set, gotta see where the money is then. I personally love the fact that Radiohead did this. They have admitted that they still need the record company for distribution, but I think this is an interesting experiment. Ash is doing something similar. Their plan is to record and release singles on their website. I love that. I think it's helping to break the monopoly the record companies have on these bands. Bands that couldn't get heard before can now record their own material and put it up on their MySpace pages. And TeeVee helps these bands, too. Music supervisors on shows like One Tree Hill (best use of music EVER on TeeVee, and the showrunner seriously knows his shit) are breaking these bands. So it's a rich avenue to explore.

I'm not sure this is ever gonna work for TeeVee and film because of the overhead and expense. A band can buy a MacBook Pro and Pro Tools and record an album. But making a TeeVee show or a movie, that's a lot more expensive. I don't think we're there yet but I appreciate the attempt to get there. Obviously, it's easier and easier for people to film things digitally. I think the Second Life machinima stuff is intriguing and hey, maybe that's the future, right? Because filmmakers are going there and they're selling ideas to studios based on their Second Life machinimas.

That's a discussion we should probably have...

Lastly, and I really mean it because this post is my version of "Wonder Boys," a shout-out to the Colorado Rockies, who made their first World Series by creaming the Diamondbacks (asshats) last night. Rocktober, indeed!!! I'm a lifelong Dodger fan but it was nice to see two NL West teams fighting it out for the league title. Makes the Dodgers a touch less pathetic. And watching Todd Helton, who's NEVER been in the playoffs, heft the trophy... I dunno. It was really emotional and definitely cool. And it allows me to end this post on a positive note. I know. Shocker. But the positive note is this -- Todd Helton waited nine years for this. He played in fucking Colorado, with a sorry-ass, bringing-up-the-rear team, for NINE YEARS. And he finally made it. He's in the World Series.

So keep playing, y'all. The World Series is never out of our grasp.

np -- Soft, "Gone Faded." Intriguing shoegaze!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Last Day of the Miner's Strike

Yes, I am stretching it for titles. Sue me.

But several people have wondered how I feel about the upcoming WGA strike. You will all be surprised to learn that I have an opinion.

Basically, it's this -- Fuck the WGA leadership. Fuck the producers. Fuck all y'all. The saber-rattling, on both sides, has completely raped TeeVee this year. Everybody closed ranks but they didn't tell us peasants. It started to become a little clearer when we finally got to go in and pitch pilots, though. Networks and studios couldn't care less about our ideas. They were focused on three things -- people with whom they had deals, people on shows, feature writers. If you weren't one of those things, you didn't sell to a network. This is not how things have been in the past, and there have been several articles commenting on this ludicrous phenomenon. So if you, the viewing audience, thought that the circle of writers who sell pilots was small before, baby, it's even smaller now. Writers couldn't staff if they didn't have the right credits. If you didn't staff or if you decided to just develop and you didn't already have a deal in place or weren't Zack Helm, you were totally fucked.

TeeVee shut out everybody they didn't consider a star, which means they shut out everybody who didn't have an ounce of luck this year. I was happy to learn that this didn't only happen to us. A lot of writers are in the same boat. And it's not like a memo went out. I don't know how they make these decisions but that's what happened. And it's all because of the fucking strike.

See, the WGA leadership doesn't really give a shit about people like me. Nor do the producers. It's exactly like the government, where that middle class they're trying to eradicate doesn't exist unless the politicians want to get elected. The people doing the negotiating, on both sides, are rich and lucky as hell. They're way higher on Maslow's hierarchy of needs than the rest of us. So anything below their standard of living simply doesn't exist. And then they want us to rally along with them? Right. Like John Wells or Carlton Cuse is gonna be out there on the picket line. They'll be at their third vacation homes. They don't care. The producers don't care, either, about the people in the industry, the support staff, freelancers, people who are just scraping by. You think these people are going to be protected? They'll be shitcanned. The producers don't care about individuals. Not anymore. They answer to a higher god -- the shareholders. And all they care about is the bottom line.

When articles mention the Guild membership, they're not talking about me. These cats are rich and secure. They can move up the Maslow hierarchy without worrying about how to pay their phone bill. And, of course, these asshats have sold pilots and have secured work to help them make it through the strike (i.e., pay for their Italian vacations). They've taken work that I wasn't allowed to get. So the circle remains unbroken -- the haves continue to prosper, and the have-nots continue to suffer. Hey... just like the real world, huh?

On the one hand, we can't let the producers roll back our residuals and fuck with new media and DVD. But on the other hand, maybe if we had a leadership that wasn't part of the elite, we wouldn't be heading towards what seems to be the inevitable. I wish, sometimes, that they'd just admit we don't matter. A little honesty in the face of all this bullshit would be nice.

Today, in LOLCat, I cann haz socialism.


So what's a writer to do? What happens when TeeVee is bitch-slapping you? We do the only thing we can do -- we fucking write. We get that "I'm going to show you mofos" mindset. We go on, like it's all business as usual. Because eventually, it has to be. The strike will end. And like always, shit's gonna fail. Writers are gonna piss people off, and some of them will prove they aren't the cat's meow. That means the rest of us need to be waiting in the wings, ready to pounce. And by "waiting," I do not mean sitting on our collective asses, people! We all need to find other outlets. The TeeVee basket is a lot smaller than it was even a few years ago. Yep, even WITH cable. So the strike, while a big pain in the ass, is also an opportunity to try and make a living as a writer in another medium.

I'm gonna see what happens.

BooM had a question about how to go about finding a new agent while already represented. The rule of thumb is that you should leave your current agent first. I think this is utter bullshit, especially if your agent isn't working for you. Why should you give your agent the consideration they wouldn't give you? Everybody knows that's a loose rule, and everybody breaks it. Let yourself be poached. As for what to say to a prospective new agent, tell them you need a change. You need someone with a fresh point of view. Because really, if you're thinking about leaving your agent, that's what you DO need. And when you've decided to move on, don't make it official until you've told your current agent. When you do, break up with them on the phone. Seriously. Trust me on this one.

John from Philly -- you think the Phillies are underwhelming? Dude, I'm a Dodger fan. I got bigger problems. Sorry about the Rockies, though. I feel THAT pain. John wanted to know if I listen to music when I write. HELL yeah! I've got several go-to albums -- Pure Reason Revolution, HAL, Heist, Radiohead, Kula Shaker, Boxer Rebellion, the Veils, Hope of the States, Obi, to name a few. I also like listening to lounge, like Hugo Montenegro and the Ultra-Lounge compilations.

Chris recommends MI-5 -- I second the recommendation. This show ROCKS. I'm two blasted seasons behind, but I swear I'm gonna catch up. I just miss Tom so much!!

And Matt (hi Matt!) has a hilarious comment about the fall shows. I especially like his synopsis of Bionic Woman. WORD. I thought the second episode was interesting because suddenly, Jaime had an attitude. That part of it smacked of Glen Morgan making the attempt to deepen the character. But Glen's name wasn't on the episode. It was written by Jason Smilovic. So he gets to take the hit for the rest of it, which was APPALLING. It felt like the worst X-Files ripoff one could possibly imagine. It came from the planet Generia, where nobody has a name and conspiracies consist of bunches of Canadian extras running around in fatigues. WTF was that??? What was going on? HOW DO YOU WRITE A FUCKING SCRIPT WHERE NOTHING HAPPENS? How do you do that? I have no idea. None of it made any Goddam sense. The Isaiah Washington character is stupid. Jaime now has THREE MENTORS. Four, if you count Bionic Woman 1.0. HOW DID THEY FUCK THIS UP? Are they all just massive hacks? This show is a no-brainer. Seriously. I used to play this game, where I'd say how many episodes it would take to fix a show. But you can't fix this show, because it was broken to begin with. I'm sure it can't get much worse. Really. How could it?

Matt says he's tired of ordinary people being given special abilities with which to change the world. WORD. It's out of effing control. But see, that's what the executives think YOU want to watch! Shows can't be "relatable," you see, unless the main character is how the execs view the audience -- some schlub working at a Buy More/Work Bench/gigantic dark bar, who's unwittingly bound to a computer program/devil/nanobot. Because the stupid audience, they think, won't understand anything else. Besides, that's what the audience wants. They want to turn their drab little lives into something special and meaningful. Yes, they think you're all as unhappy as THEY are. They think the audience watches TeeVee so their lives will be completely changed. And they want to be the ones doing the changing.

But it's not about that, is it? You just want some fucking entertainment. And there are writers who want to give that to you, but they really aren't allowed. So those writers go, "Okay, networks, fuck you," and head to cable. There, you get "Battlestar Galactica." You get "Mad Men." You get "Burn Notice." But still, the networks don't get it. Well, most of the executives don't. The ones who make decisions don't understand. I know several networks are looking to air some of these cable shows, so we'll see how that works. Does anyone who would watch "Mad Men" NOT have cable? I don't know.

See, I did not watch "Simon and Simon" in the hopes that it would change my life. Get it?

I've now seen all three episodes of "Reaper" and Chuck" and see an interesting thing happening. Both shows are struggling with their premises. I didn't think they would, actually, so I was totally wrong on that. Maybe it's a function of the high concept-ness of it all. Maybe a show with a truly high concept can't work. Maybe we should all rethink this idea and stop confusing a high concept with a simple premise. Simple premises work beautifully on TeeVee. I'm gonna give this more thought.

With "Chuck," the obvious problem is how to incorporate Chuck into the stories. He's not a CIA officer (they say agent, but whatever -- learn the fucking terminology). So when they're doing spy stuff, he HAS to fade into the background. The attempts to bring him to the forefront feel forced. It's just not working, no matter how utterly charming Zachary Levi is. And with "Reaper," the problem seems to be one of plot. The devil won't tell Sam how to find the escaped soul. Why? We don't know (unless I missed that justification). The vessel is always screwed up. ALWAYS. All of this delays the finding of the soul, which it has to. Otherwise, the episodes are five minutes long.

As for "Pushing Daisies," I know a lot of people fell for the charm of the production design and the truly winning cast. This show's high concept premise had the biggest problems. Let's see how they struggle in episode two. Actually, I'd like to leap ahead and see how they struggle with episode six!!

Speaking of pilots that MUST be watched, do not miss "Viva Laughlin," which premieres on Sunday. I don't want to say anymore than that, but it's something we'll all want to discuss. Mark my words on that. I'll tell you what my take would have been.

And lastly, I warned y'all that I'd talk about horse racing when TeeVee went bad. The Breeder's Cup is coming up and it's going to be an exciting one. All the races look tough and so far, it's the three-year-olds who have beaten the crap out of the older horses. This hasn't happened in YEARS. Normally, all the three-year-olds are retired by now but the top three finishers in the Derby -- Street Sense, Hard Spun and Curlin, as well as Derby also-ran Any Given Saturday -- are all running in the Classic.

But the big racing news this week is the death of John Henry, the last of the durable geldings. RIP, John Henry. As one headline said, "A Champion Becomes A Legend."

np -- Radiohead, "In Rainbows." It's only the first listen. I'll have an opinion about a hundred listens from now.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes

Yeah, it's a song. Look it up.

I'm gearing up to rant about how much I hate studios but I wanted to get to some comments first. I will have even more time to blog when we go on strike, but maybe not as much to talk about. You may be reading a lot about horse racing. Just fair warning.

Tim W: Regarding Mr. Ivy League smartest guy, that's an excellent guess.

Dan Coyle sez:
Pushing Daisies was so twee and pleased with itself I wanted to kick the TV in. I'll give it a second chance, though, because of the actors.

This is exactly what the studios and networks are overlooking. The mindset of TeeVee is different than that of film. TeeVee is a much more intimate medium. When people watch a TeeVee show, they're inviting the characters into their living rooms. Although you can guess which actors are going to hit in that way, it's not an exact science. So the flood of film actors going to TeeVee isn't exactly a slam dunk and actually, I think it's hurting TeeVee because then you wind up with shows like "Smith" -- slick, beautifully produced, expensive shows that feel and look like movies. But see, people don't turn on the TeeVee to watch a movie. They may use their TeeVee to watch movies, but it's a totally different mindset. That's one of the myriad reasons I hate focus-group testing. It's not an accurate representation of how somebody is going to watch TeeVee. But for networks and studios, it's an easy way to point the finger at someone else -- the focus groups -- if a show doesn't work.

Shows stay on the air because people like the actors and the characters. That's it. It doesn't matter what kind of a show it is. It doesn't matter which big-time feature director makes the pilot, or which big-time feature writer creates the show. It doesn't matter how many tens of millions of dollars you throw at the pilot. If America doesn't like the actors and the characters, you may as well pack it in.

I think this season is much better cast than previous seasons. I've seen some really likeable actors onscreen this year. That counts for a lot. And I wish the studios and networks paid more attention to this. Of course, if they did, "Haunted" would still be on the air and someone else would be playing Jack on "Lost." One problem is, the actors have to go through as many layers to get the role as the script has to go through executives and producers. Too many people have casting approval now, and that means they're going to make more mistakes. If you make an actor read five times for a part, he's probably going to give five good readings. But if you make him read ten times, you raise the chances that he's going to blow one. And it could be the most important reading, which means he doesn't get the part, even if he's perfect for it. Casting's a nebulous science but it can also be obvious. I think the execs need to WATCH TeeVee more. They need to just sit back and go, "I like that actor. He's appealing." Because really, that's all that matters.

David has a question about how to divide up the work with his writing partner. I'm assuming this is the first thing you're writing together? When we started writing together, we sat in front of the computer together and wrote. That way, we developed a voice. You probably have different voices right now so I'd advise against splitting the script up. I think you should both sit in the room and switch off typing. One of you type one act, the other types the next act, and so on. That way, you'll get to know how the other thinks and you'll start to develop your voice as a partnership. Do all the work together at first.

Regarding the splitting up of material... when you are able to do it, divide by acts. You don't want to fragment the script any more than you have to. I know that on "Heroes," a writer is assigned to write a specific character and then the scripts are put together. This shit drives me crazy. I don't know how you can get anything cohesive out of that.

Cgeye: I'd love to take a look at your Parsons paper!

Will Shetterly (hi Will!) says:
When someone claims to be the smartest guy in the room, the room they're talking about is the smallest room in the house. FYI.

Indeed. Gotta love the irony. And the fact that if people continue to get what they want, they won't change at all. That's a major problem with this business. People are rewarded for their bad behavior.

And everybody should listen to what Josh Olson has to say, so here's his take on getting an agent:
Most of the time I read your blog, marvel at your wit and sagacity, and nothing to add. It's TeeVee. I mean, I barely even watch it (Although you HAVE to give Life another chance. It's pretty damn spiffy. And quit knocking Heroes, bitch!) But I just wanted to emphasize how right you are about how hard it is to get an agent.

I got my first real agent more than a decade ago, and it was ridiculous. The head of development for a major - I mean HUGE - producer had taken a shine to my work, and my previous agent (not so much a real one) had just died. Really.

So this woman comes up with a list of four or five agents she has relationships with, and who she thinks will respond to my material, and she sends them each a letter explaining that this Olson kid is the shiznit. Let me stress again - head of development for a HUGE producer. And the letters go out, and I eagerly wait for my ship to take off, and here's what happens:


For six fucking months. And the first response I get is a pass.

That's with a serious recommendation letter behind me. It was ridiculous. Worked out in the end, as I was found by a fantastic agent who repped me for a decade until he retired, but it was a ridiculous lesson in the difficulty of finding an agent.

Josh, if you don't know, is a brilliant fucking writer. So if HE couldn't find an agent, don't feel bad if you can't navigate those waters. The system is set up to keep people out, not to invite people in. And when that door finally opens it will feel rather disingenuous, but just know that this is the way this retarded business works.

Read his funny shit on Eli Roth, and then there's this:
Still, Roth whining that nobody gets him is only about half as funny as that spree Ted Elliot went on last year, complaining that the critics were missing the deep, existentialist themes of Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

This is no joke, gentle readers! He did such a thing. And it is twice as funny as Eli Roth's rant because of the legitimacy factor. The whole "Pirates" nonsense mirrors how craptastic "Bionic Woman" is. Here's the problem -- "Pirates" is based on a ride. A RIDE. AT A THEME PARK. The movies, therefore, should take me on a ride, not lecture me on some obscure philosophical principles or a dice game I still don't understand. The writers shouldn't use the screenplay as a forum for their genius. I don't care if they're geniuses. I just want some fun summer entertainment. And for the record, I have enjoyed their work in the past, so this was obviously an attempt to elevate the genre... of theme-park rides, I guess. But how silly! Same thing with "Bionic Woman." It's based on a fucking spinoff of a 70s show. Don't elevate it. Just give me my Jamie Sommers ripping a fucking phone book in half and playing some tennis, for fuck's sake! As soon as people decide they're gonna make their mark with something, no matter how slight and silly the material, disaster ensues.

Chris says that the mythology for "Lost" still feels "Emperor's new clothes"-like. Oh, I totally agree with that! But I'm entertained by it regardless of how pointless the mythology is. I think they did some excellent work this past year, that they focused more on the characters, which is what works on TeeVee. The mythology was there, but it wasn't leading the parade like it did during season two. With "Bionic Woman," the mythology is right at the forefront, it's not interesting, I've seen it before, and it completely subsumes the characters. Even though I'm a whore for money (tell your friends!), I'm glad I'm not on that show.

np -- Proud Mary, "The Same Old Blues." Fuck off, I like it!