Friday, January 30, 2009

Flashing Red Light Means Go

Sorry for missing last week, gentle readers, but I had company and sadly, rooms don't vacuum themselves. Not yet, anyway.

There's been a lot of news in PilotLand in the past few weeks, and some of it is actually worth mentioning because the networks are taking another stab at genre and shows that don't fit so neatly into the cop/lawyer/doctor box. So far, we've gotten Flash Forward (David Goyer and Brannon Braga for ABC, based on Robert Sawyer's novel), a re-boot of V (Scott Peters for ABC), The Gates (Richard Hatem for ABC), The Return (Rene Echevarria for ABC), Happy Town (Andre Nemec & Josh Applebaum for ABC), Witches of Eastwick (Maggie Friedman for ABC, based on John Updike's novel), Human Target (Jon Steinberg for Fox, based on the comic book by Peter Milligan), Masterwork (Paul Scheuring for Fox, based on every pitch that everybody I know has ever had rejected by a network because they did not create Prison Break), Reincarnationist (David Hudgins for Fox), Virtuality (Ron Moore & Mike Taylor for Fox), Day One (Jesse Alexander for NBC).

These all sound promising to me, and only three of them are ideas that we've pitched before. But really, that's to be expected. I know it can get depressing when you're working your ass off on something, a pitch or a script, and then some asshat swoops in and sells the very same idea. I don't think I'd be as bitter about Heroes if the show that's on right now was actually good.

But let's look at it in all seriousness. Masterwork, for example, the Paul Scheuring pilot for Fox, which is about people who travel the world and collect artifacts. We pitch this show every year, and we're not the only ones. But if you're a Fox executive and Paul Scheuring and Jane Writer pitch the same idea, who do you buy it from? Jane, who's never gotten a pilot shot no matter how much staff experience she has, or Paul, who had a show on the air on your same network? The choice is clear. And the executives can't really be taken to task for that. It would be wonderful if the idea were the only thing that mattered, but that's not how it works. Of course a network's going to buy from people who've produced for them.

Besides, you have to look at the bright side. If there's the slightest chance of a staff job on the show, we've got two perfect samples. Because yes, we sold this show already. Bright side, people! It exists!!!

What's most interesting is that two of the ABC pilots -- V and Happy Town -- were written on spec. I don't know if Scott Peters has an ABC deal, but Applebaum and Nemec do, and they wrote their pilot on spec. Very interesting. There's something I like about networks buying spec material, and also about writers believing so much in their idea that they'll write a script to prove the veracity of said idea. It's also selfishness on my part. I'd rather write a pilot than pitch one. We'll see what happens with all of these pilots. I'm certainly looking forward to reading them.

Just like almost all movies are remakes, TV show reboots or based on previously existing material, so is the way of TeeVee. This year we have remakes (V, Streets of San Francisco & Hawaii 5-0, Parenthood), pilots based on existing material (Witches of Eastwick, Flash Forward, Human Target) and spinoffs (Gossip Girl and NCIS). Honestly, based on what I've heard so far about the pilots, I don't find these any more inventive or promising than the original ideas. The Gates, for example, which is a slightly supernatural take on a suburban neighborhood, is a terrific idea, and it comes from Richard Hatem, who created Miracles. If you didn't see the pilot, it's one of the best pilots ever made. And Happy Town, which is a small-town mystery, sounds promising as well. The genre ideas, like The Return and Virtuality, are very cool ideas. And Masterwork goes without saying.

It's obvious that the networks would rather buy what they see as "proven" ideas. But just because an idea already exists, does that mean it's been proven? In another medium, maybe, but as we've seen (Knight Rider, Bionic Woman, etc), that's no sure path to success.

There are also two shows set in the 80s -- the Gossip Girl spinoff (Lily Van Der Woodsen as a teen having to go to public school in the Valley -- for the love of Cobra Kai, please let it be Reseda. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!) and Lost in the 80s. And lemme just say, there better be credit for bona-fides on these two. I don't want to get beaten out for a staff job by some kid who wasn't even born when Star Wars was in the theater.

So. Fox seems to know what works for them, and ABC's in the position of being able to try some shit out. CBS has ordered the same old thing which I kind of appreciate, because whenever CBS tries anything different, a faerie dies. With NBC, however, well... we all know what's going on over there. Reported stress between Silverman and Angela Bromstad, the mass firings, and their drama pilots, which go David Kelley-Dick Wolf-medical-medical, etc. What's hilarious is this:

NBC's solution? Bring in the branding guys. The network's president of entertainment marketing, Adam Stotsky (who'd previously dealt with a similar problem at the SciFi Channel), has spearheaded a new initiative that has brought in outside consultants Naked Communications to decide what kind of channel NBC will become.

Now, maybe that makes sense. NBC has turned into Must-Skip TV. And it's not like they can pinpoint exactly who was hired when that started to happen. What? They can? Oh. Anyway, the point remains that NBC is no longer a brand. So they would have to hand money over to a company that knows how to turn nothing into something. After all, this company was able to help brand the Sci-Fi Channel. And what a trial that must've been. The Sci-Fi Channel. The SCIENCE FICTION Channel needed help BRANDING itself. SERIOUSLY?!?!?

I think I'm going to start a branding company.

But wait. There's more.

And they're not just talking about advertising, as Stotsky explains:

"There's an inextricable link between marketing and programming... These two things define the brand. We're all aligned against the same goals."

Specifically, Stotsky went on to say, what Naked defines as the NBC brand will help executives decide on what pilots and series to greenlight for next fall and beyond...

Can you really brand something that doesn't exist? You can't call it Must-See TV if every show you have on is execrable. But I get it. They're looking for a formula. What they really want is to not be held responsible for the pilots they shoot and the shows they order. They want an admittedly expensive fall guy. "Hey, we paid this branding company millions. It's not our fault our shows fail." Here's how I see it. ABC was in free-fall a few years back, so they took chances. Here came Lost, and Grey's Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives. And suddenly, presto-chango, ABC had a BRAND. In other words, the shows they had on were shows people wanted to watch. THEN you can brand your network. But shit, get some product first!

Of course, it's a little more complicated than that. A crucial element to any network schedule is the ability to cross-promote, which means being able to promote your shows all week, to a receptive audience. If you have a hit show, for example, you can promote lesser-watched shows during that hit show. While you can promote a comedy during a crime show, the audiences for both are probably going to be quite a bit different. What that means is, you're wasting your time. This is why CBS's shows are generally hits. They can promote Cold Case during Criminal Minds, The Mentalist and CSI. Because CSI's such a whomping big hit, they can promote their whole schedule during CSI.

This was always a huge issue with UPN, because the network wound up having three different audiences. When we were on Haunted, the only show during which you could really promote Haunted was Buffy, which was on before Haunted. Like, right before. The rest of the week was a wasteland for promotion. People weren't reminded, so they didn't watch. Millennium had a similar problem. It was on Friday, and the only show during which it could be promoted was X-Files, on Sunday. So the show went almost a whole week without promotion. It was isolated on the schedule. I see Fox rectifying this a bit, and although it looks like they're dumping Sarah Connor and Dollhouse on Friday, Sarah Connor's a quality show and Dollhouse has the highest profile of any new midseason show. So until I see otherwise, I think Fox is trying to regain Friday. If they can do that, they're going to be able to do a lot more promotion. Although genre, both shows can still be promoted during 24, Lie To Me, Bones and especially Fringe. And Fox promotes everything during American Idol. That's almost an entire week of promotion. I do wish they'd take another runner at Sunday, though. I think they're in a good position to do so.

Maybe DVRs are changing the idea of cross-promotion, but I don't see the networks taking advantage of it. And maybe the Internet is changing it too, but the networks don't yet seem to be grasping the importance of the Internet. It's one thing to have a website for the show, but it's entirely something different to do the research and find out which Internet audiences should be targeted for promotion. This seems like a no-brainer to me, and maybe networks are doing it, but I'm not seeing it.

Yes, it's another fucking long post, but I'm making up for last week. Comments next time!

np - The Boxer Rebellion, "Union"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturation Wanderers

From now on, every title will be a Soundtrack Of Our Lives song, because they just stick random words together. It's awesome. Maybe I'll start naming pilots that way, too: "Saturation Wanderers" is an off-the-grid version of Route 66, where two friends who are sick of the rat race drive their VW Rabbit, powered by Canola oil, across the U.S., visiting communes and cults, where they solve crimes.

So we're a mere three days away from what looks to be the biggest inauguration in the history of everything, George Bush is going through the couch cushions at Camp David, and the heroic efforts of everybody involved with that US Air water landing are being dismissed as "miracles." Bleargh. Really? Can we just stop using that stupid word to denigrate actions? It's not a miracle. And Rachel Maddow had a terrific rant on this, too, where she talked about the training and preparedness of the pilot, flight crew and rescue workers. I say that as of Tuesday, we no longer use the word "miracle" to define things that happen because people are good at what they do.


I love how there were Harry Potter fans who commented on the last post, but no Twilight fans. Interesting. Speaking of which, I just do not find Harry an interesting character. He's passive and colorless, yet every other character in the series is obsessed with him. They don't exist unless he exists.

About light detective shows, Lee Goldberg sez:
You are so right. Even the one network that IS doing those shows...USA...doesn't want to hear those pitches. The other non-starter it seems, despite LEVERAGE, are shows about con men.

I really don't understand that. I'm not completely sure where TNT is as a network right now because they're still kinda new at it. I don't see their identity yet. It seems like they're trying to straddle the line between FX and USA, but I'm not sure there's a real line to straddle there. But with USA... isn't their tagline "Characters welcome?" And their shows support that. So why wouldn't you be mining the crap out of that genre? USA has a real opportunity to grow and with the apparent demise of NBC, well... why not, right?

I wish there was a way we could all get together and decide that, to a writer, we were going to go pitch super-fun detective shows. What would the networks do then? What would an exec do if ten people came in and pitched an art theft show? How many times CAN they say "What are the stakes" IN ONE DAY?? Would they go insane? Would they die??

And Stephen Gallagher remarks:
I think your point about BONES could apply equally to CHUCK and THE MENTALIST - high-concept shows where the premise quickly fades into the background and the audience stays around for other reasons.

That's probably true, and I wish the studios and networks could figure this out. TeeVee isn't like movies. The whole point of the light detective shows was character anyway. Procedural-only shows like CSI have kinda wrecked the genre, but even the folks who watch CSI watch, in part, for the characters. And I think it's pretty safe to say that people who watch The Mentalist are really just tuning in to watch Simon Baker. And Chuck... is there a higher concept show out there that's also just an impossible premise? But the characters are really appealing.

I also don't think it's a coincidence that the networks are casting their shows with much different actors than they used to. They're choosing character actors to lead these shows, and then casting pretty people around them. Well. Except for Simon Baker, who is fortunate enough to be pretty AND really, really good. I think Hugh Laurie was the harbinger of this because he IS that show. Rufus Sewell's on Eleventh Hour, and now Robert Carlyle is the star of the new Stargate series, and Tim Roth is in that new Fox show that starts this week. Which I will faithfully watch, because I friggin adore Tim Roth. And it's about time he went to TeeVee. I'm now on Gary Oldman watch because where one goes, the other soon follows.

But that doesn't help you sell a show, does it? Sure, I could go into a network and say, "Okay, so it's Sam Neill with synesthesia." But I don't have Sam Neill. Just the idea that he would be sensational in the show. Which does me no good at all. I wonder how the creators of Magnum PI, Rockford Files and Simon & Simon pitched their shows. I don't know if they had James Garner already for Rockford, or Tom Selleck for Magnum. I get how Remington Steele was sold because that's a high-concept premise, but even still, the actors were crucial to the success of that show. I can see the pitch behind Leverage or Psych.

But how do you distinguish your pitch if it's completely based on character, and you don't have the actor when you go in to pitch? Oh -- and you're not a giant ape or a feature writer? I'm not sure. They really do want to hear high-concept shows and I can't blame them for that. The execs have to pitch these shows to their bosses, and a high-concept premise is a much easier, snappier pitch than something that's built purely on character. But still. It's TeeVee. It SHOULD be based on characters, CSIs be damned.

Alex goes,
Really? A light detective series?

You couldn't pay me enough to... well, okay. You could.

But I thought what writers all want is to write an intensely serialized drama with a set end date. You know, a BATTLESTAR, a MAD MEN.

Well, sure. But a light detective show too, please! I think when you're coming up with pitches you tend to react against whatever you just worked on. So if you were working on a straight-forward procedural, you want to go lighter. And if you were working on something that was fluffier, then you want to go darker. But really, I think it's even harder to sell a serialized drama like that. I mean, that's clearly the high water mark for most writers. But good luck trying to sell one.

What's weird is, I think it's equally tough to sell a light detective show as it is a serialized drama. And I'm not really sure why. I'd love to do something serialized and every year, we come up with some good ones. We have a super one this year and the producers we've pitched it to love it. But the automatic response is to find a way to make the episodes closed-ended before we pitch it. What I find amusing about this is that the majority of the pilots that get ordered don't seem like shows. But getting pilots ordered is a whole other psychological mash-up. It's not so amusing when you're in the writer's room that first month trying to figure out the show, however.

np -- Bunny Berigan, "Candlelight." Which is on the Sirius right now.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Twilight of the Innocents

I'm still ruminating over light detective shows, but this caught my eye and thus, a rant was formed.

Chris Weitz flat-out lies to the fans of Twilight:

In the past few days, I have been involved in a whirlwind romance with Stephanie Meyer's extraordinary books...

...For the last decade of my career as a director, I have chosen to make adaptations of complex and involved works of literature. This has always begun with a love of a book and its characters, story, and theme; and it has always involved a respect of and a responsiveness to the feelings of other people who love those books.

When I saw the film of Twilight, I was alternately entranced and hungry for more.

Regardless of how you felt about his film of The Golden Compass, those books are fucking great. They're masterpieces. Twilight is a social phenomenon, fan fiction with a fifty million dollar budget. Weitz can pretend to the fans of Twilight because they don't know any better. But it would be nice if he could be allowed to be honest, if he could really say, "Look, times being what they are, I needed the job and really, this isn't gonna take much out of me." But it's not okay to just need the money. Like it's not okay for NBC to say about the Jay Leno thing, "We don't care if we have good scripted dramas. It's easier for us to just put Jay on, because he's cheaper than the money we've been tossing into the furnace to make scripted shows. All we care about is saving money. Ratings don't mean anything to us anymore."

But man, wouldn't honesty be a refreshing change?

I saw the Twilight movie, but the only parts of the books I've read have been excerpts and such. The books don't strike me as great literature, or literature at all. But hey, they're popular, and Stephanie Meyer actually sat down and wrote them, so good for her. I feel the same way about the Harry Potter books, although I think the writing's better there. It's odd that both genres -- fantasy and vampire -- have much better books in them that aren't over-the-moon popular. But the popularity of Harry Potter and Twilight isn't hard to figure. Both Bella and Harry are Mary Sues.

If you've never heard of Mary Sue, you're lucky. Really, really lucky. Like, "Furries? What are those?" lucky. Wikipedia will catch you up.

To a certain degree, all characters have a Mary Sue quality. Writers create characters and if we don't necessarily identify with them, we at least understand them. There's a connection between writer and character. But Mary Sues go far beyond that. Think about Bella and Harry Potter. Bella is a typical angst-driven teenager. Her angst is universal, even as it is unspecific. Completely unspecific. Monumentally unspecific. The point of this is, any angst-driven teenage girl can graft her own specific angst onto Bella. Bella, for all of her angst and alone-ness, is also awesome. You know this, because a vampire and a werewolf are totally in love with her. She has cool friends. Her dad becomes awesome. As much as Bella talks about Edward being so beautiful, his attention to her makes her the most special angsty girl in all the land. This is pure wish fulfillment. When the readers can impose their own selves onto the main character, it's easier to suck fleets of readers in.

Harry Potter's the same thing. Everybody talks about how special he is, how he must be protected, how he'll save the world or the fifth term or whatever. His friends are devoted to him at the expense of their own lives. Even the teachers are devoted, either to him or to destroy him. But Harry is, essentially, a blank slate. He's not an individual, he's a cipher. It's easy for a reader to see themselves in Harry, because there's nothing there to get in the way.

Now imagine the fanfic crossover, where Bella and Harry Potter meet, then stand there and stare blankly at each other for a hundred pages. Great, huh?

To me, this is what most procedurals are about. Being plot-driven, a really compelling character would just get in the way. You want characters who will deliver the information that will move the plot forward. You want them to be super-smart, to not be tricked or fooled, to go up against the villains. Because this, too, is wish fulfillment. While there are quirky characters in procedurals, they are quirky in acceptable, blank-slatey ways. Quirky procedural characters have overcome something in their past. Think about House, or The Mentalist. Their quirks also serve to combat what they really are -- Mary Sue superheroes.

It's not that it's wrong. And Bella and Harry Potter aren't wrong, either. It just happens to be a choice that I find less interesting. But it's just a choice. And that choice either speaks to you, or it doesn't. And it's fairly obvious that if you create characters that are this universal, you stand a better chance of being a widespread hit than if you create, say, a Don Draper or a Walter White. Everything has a degree of wish fulfillment to it. But I think it's what you do with it that makes it interesting.

As we've started to see during awards season, popular hits and critical hits are two totally different beasts, both in film and on TeeVee. The movies America sees are not the movies that win awards. And a lot of the time, that's not America's fault. A small town theater is going to show The Dark Knight, but not Doubt. Of course, the award shunning of a "comic book movie" in favor of anything Meryl Streep's in is a whole other discussion.

np - Soundtrack of Our Lives, "Communion." It's a double album, peoples!!!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

21st Century Rip-off

Happy New Year, gentle readers!! 2009's already working its magic, huh? Wars breaking out everywhere, a possible 600,000-year-old volcano that could erupt and destroy North America, not to mention a possible actors' strike and a thousand hours of Jay Leno to look forward to... way to tee it up, 2009.

A few comments to start out the new year.

John Rogers sez about Leverage,
It's nowhere near as expensive as it looks. Which unfortunately only convinces people you can do it for even cheaper next time.

Well, it's your fault for being so responsible. Which for some reason always winds up screwing showrunners. Yes, you get no credit for actually doing the job right. But keep doing it. Just in case it starts to count. Fingers crossed for a renewal!

Lee Goldberg goes,
My God, that brings back some memories. That Gharlane guy and his acolytes loathed me. I was writing/producing SEAQUEST at the time and he didn't much like what I was doing. His tirades inspired me to name a character after him in my 1995 novel BEYOND THE BEYOND...which was about homicidal, crazed fans who terrorize the producers of an SF TV show.

I had just been talking to someone SeaQuest-affiliated about Gharlane. I had a very small run-in with the guy, one of those, "Ahem... actually..." things that inspired him and his minions to disproportionately torture me for several weeks. I can only imagine what it was like to be a regular Gharlane target. I love that book, BTW. Much fun.

I thought I should do some typical end-of-the-year stuff, just because everyone's doing it. Of course, I waited until all the lists were already out before I did mine.

Best records, in no particular order, keeping it strictly to ten even though it's painful:
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
The Courteeners - St. Jude
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop and Roll
Frank Turner - Love, Ire & Song
Glasvegas - Glasvegas
The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement
Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
Razorlight - Slipway Fires
Yeti - The Legend of Gonzales

And movies, then a rant:
In Bruges
The Wrestler
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire
Speed Racer
The Signal
Ghost Town
The Dark Knight
The First Saturday In May

Here's the rant. WTF is wrong with the Speed Racer haters? Seriously, this movie showed up on almost every Worst Of list. Are you fucking high?? Speed Racer is a GREAT film. Easily one of the best of the year. And just because y'all hated the last two Matrix movies and think Joel Silver needs a comeuppance, you arbitrarily decided that this thing had to suck. It's really easy to dismiss something while being part of the herd. But if you actually WATCH Speed Racer, you'll see how good it is. But hey, critics, maybe it's just a little too subtle and subversive for all y'all. Which is ironic, considering that much of the criticism goes, "IT'S SO COLORFUL! AND FRENETIC! AND LOUD!" Why don't you try watching it again, and pay attention to the fucking story, huh? Ghost Town, an absolutely charming, lovely film, was similarly dismissed, although not with quite the derision and misplaced hatred that accompanied the Speed Racer reviews. If people didn't read movie reviews and base their filmgoing on them, this wouldn't be quite so irritating. Hopefully, both Speed Racer and Ghost Town will find new life on DVD. Oh, and Wall-E isn't the genius film y'all make it out to be, either. Rant over.

I don't want to make predictions because at the end of 2009, someone will be able to look back at this post and see how wrong I was. So instead, a few TeeVee hopes.

1. That Leno fails.
Not that I have anything against Jay. He did what he had to do, and he can't be faulted for that. Now, his show will probably succeed on the level Zucker and Silverman are aiming for -- it won't lose them as much money as a drama -- but my hope is that the industry and the GE shareholders and board of directors or whatever the fuck won't be satisfied with that. Along the same lines...

2. That producers and writers take their projects everywhere else first before going to NBC.
It's not a boycott, it's common sense. Why would you take your project to the NBC Universal studio-network multiverse first? You pitch it there, you have no other options. Why waste your time and hang your project up?

3. That Sci-Fi becomes an actual channel that shows science fiction.
They develop it all the time. They just don't air it. Although Galactica's coming up to its last season, they will have Caprica. And Warehouse 13, while not truly science fiction, is at least a step in the right direction. Hopefully. But Sci-Fi has a real opportunity here to carve out a niche, and they haven't done it yet. Here's hoping they do.

4. That everybody wises up about show budgets.
Maybe, if all the other networks and studios decide to do what NBC Universal did and merge, the whole idea of PODs will then be somewhat necessary. Because if you don't have to go through two sets of executives at both the studio and the network, then producers make more sense. But not yet. The only people who should be paid out of TeeVee budgets are the people who actually, you know, MAKE THE FUCKING SHOW. If they started cracking down on executive producers, we would see budgets become slightly more manageable. Now, the whole issue of what things really cost is another matter, but this is a good place to start.

5. That writing staffs get bigger.
If you deal with the top-heaviness of budgets, then maybe the money can go back into the production, and increasing writing staffs is a good investment. Part of this is selfishness on my part. We are, after all, still stuck at the fucking midlevel, even though (I say modestly) we have far more experience than most people do at our level. Yes, staff writers are cheap but there's a reason for that. It's great to have staff writers and lower level writers on a staff that's actually populated with mid and upper level writers. But if all you've got are staff writers and executive producers, that puts a strain on everyone. Bring back the midlevel writers. They can contribute, too.

6. That somebody manages to finally get a light detective show on the air.
Talk to almost any TeeVee writer about what show they wish they could sell and they'd invariably say a light detective show. Remington Steele, Magnum PI, Hart To Hart, Simon & Simon, hell, even Riptide. We all want to do this show! But it's virtually impossible to sell. And believe me, we've all fucking tried. But executives turn a deaf ear to these pitches. They do NOT want to hear the word "detective." I think you have to sneak it in, like they did with Bones. Because Bones is basically Remington Steele with, well, bones instead of cat burglary. Although I do still want to do that art theft show which, if you pitch THAT, will kill you even deader than a detective show. Seriously, go pitch an art theft show and see how far you get. So here's wishing and hoping that we all figure out how to fool the execs with our light detective show pitches.

7. That TeeVee veterans get more respect.
I think an awful lot of our best showrunners get taken for granted. Their experience doesn't just stop at production. They aren't always given the opportunities to create shows, but they're asked to save shows. I think you could solve a lot of TeeVee's money problems by not handing a fifty million dollar corporation to someone who's unprepared. Yes, an experienced showrunner is necessary to any show and an inexperienced writer can certainly sell a fantastic, viable show that runs forever. But a TeeVee veteran who's been around and has run shows and writers' rooms, they might be able to come up with a long-running show, don't you think? So this year, let's allow the unsung heroes of TeeVee a shot.

8. That the Cartoon Network experiment works.
They're moving into live action, and they're buying science fiction. Yes, REAL science fiction. I don't care where innovation starts, let's just get it going. A few years ago, who would have thought that AMC would become a force in drama? Although one network taking chances doesn't result in others trying new things, I like to think that the more good shows we have on the air, the better it is for our business. Call me foolish.

9. That Fox's Friday night fools everyone.
They're dumping Sarah Connor and Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse, on Friday night. Remember when Fox Friday used to be the X-Files? Now the network is too big for such things, with their American Idols and their Houses, and they don't have much use for what they call underperforming shows. But Sarah Connor's been one of the best shows on TeeVee. And Fringe, though not without its problems, has really started to find its feet over the past few episodes. If Sarah Connor and Dollhouse can perform respectably on Friday, and Fringe continues to be thought of as an interesting show that, while expensive, is valuable to the network, then maybe Fox will be buying to complement those shows, and genre will become re-born. A girl can hope.

10. That something we haven't seen in awhile hits big.
Not a procedural. No more of that, thanks very much. CBS can have its niche, but the other networks can and should be searching for their identities. We can probably write NBC off for the moment, until we see what's going to happen there. Although wouldn't it be funny if Kings hits big? But ABC and Fox should be taking some chances. The CW, well... I don't know what's going to happen with it. Will it even be a network? Who knows? I love the idea of the CW, and I just wish they had a bit more money. Because if any network had a real opportunity at reinvention, it's the CW. I do think it's important that something hit on a network, but if cable continues to explore the innovative (Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica) and reinvents what we're used to (Mad Men, Leverage), then at least that'll keep people in clover. Unfortunately, though, our industry's happiness is dependent on the happiness of the big three -- four, with Fox. And one of the big networks is going to be feeling quite a bit of pain for awhile. So, other networks, here's your chance. Don't follow NBC's "we're scared shitless" model. Be responsible, but have fun.

Here's to a great 2009, where I will be watching more CSPAN just to see Al Franken.

np - Count Basie, "Midgets." There's a jazz flute in it. Seriously.