A 4th of July Message from (gulp) M-my G-generation

by Larry Brody

…Except that it’s really by John Ostrander, one of my favorite writers of comic books and other wondrous things:

John Ostrander: Displaced
by John Ostrander 

One of the brilliant moves that Stan Lee made in the early issues of The Avengers was to bring Captain America from the 40s into what was then the modern day. He had Cap frozen in ice from the end of WWII until he was thawed out. Cap hadn’t aged, Stan didn’t bring a new guy into the costume, this was the same Steve Rogers and he became a man out of time. A hero of one era moved to a time when just about everyone he knew was dead. And the world as he knew it was gone…

Most of America is celebrating the Fourth of July this weekend, even though the real Fourth isn’t for a few days. We celebrate the birth of our nation that was, as Abraham Lincoln said, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal.” That was the United States I believed in when I was young. Now? These days I find myself identifying more and more with that Steve Rogers who came out of hibernation to a whole new nation.

Maybe it’s just creeping old cootism; I’m 63, I grew up in the Fifties and came of age in the 60s. Maybe it’s just this election cycle with its hideous negativism and polarization. Maybe it’s the rise of this new era of Robber Barons. Maybe it’s this continuing recession (depression?) that drags on and on. Maybe it’s just me, where I am and how I feel right now, as I write this…

John’s thoughts, with which I, as (maybe) another old coot, agree, have been expressed by others before him, but never with such clarity and earnestness. If you’re an old fart who’s feeling like you just thawed out of the iceberg, or a brand-new millennial trying to figure out the generational warfare you so often feel embroiled in, you owe it to yourself to:

Read it all

This is the original art from John’s column, which refused to fit properly at the top of this page

Ken Levine: When Actors Have Notes…

Coach!

Actors: How to give notes to writers
by Ken Levine 

Actors, here are some tips on how to convey your script concerns to writers in a way that might result in them addressing your problems without hating you, slashing your tires, or making you the butt of room jokes for seven continuous months.

One ground rule though: This is predicated on your note being a legitimate concern with the sole purpose of improving the show. There’s no hidden agenda…

[S]o, it’s just a matter of communicating your concerns in a way that will make us receptive to you and here’s the key – WANT to make those changes.

Quite simply, it’s all about showing us respect…

Read it all

Back in the day, our Laughin’ Leader, LB, was story editor of a drama series called GIBBSVILLE, starring (in this order, which should have been reversed) John Savage and Gig Young.

Shooting the first episode was, according to Brody, a disaster. “Gig couldn’t get any of his dialog right. Couldn’t wrap his mouth around all the lines we had carefully crafted to present him as the typical cool, breezy, clever Gig Young character. I mean, we’re talking 20 takes for each scene.”

LB and the executive staff didn’t know what to do, but, fortunately, Gig did. He asked for a meeting with LB. Asked, not demanded, and even went to LB’s little office. There, he explained that he knew he had a problem, and that his – Gig’s – problem was that LB was trying too hard. “Don’t worry about making me sound like Gig Young,” he told our lad. “Just please give me simple, declarative dialog and I’ll take care of the rest.”

Being that the show couldn’t continue as it was – time is money, after all – LB followed Gig’s advice, starting with the next day’s pages. And the result was that from that point on Gig was a 1 Take Wonder, with the real wonder of the situation being that he did indeed take the straightforward dialog he was being given and, “because he was one hell of an actor, he made it sound cooler, breezier, and more clever than anything I and any of the other writers had ever written before.”

The situation was saved. But as Our Friend Who’s Never Heard of Us, Ken Levine, points out, it wouldn’t have happened if a very talented star hadn’t known how to give notes to writers while “showing us respect.”

munchman Sees ANGER MANAGEMENT

The Pilot:

Charlie Sheen on downers? Not pretty, kids. Downright ugh.

Episode 2:

Less reverence, more assholery. Much better.

Conclusion:

Goddamn laugh track pissed me off so much I tried to kick the TV screen in. My roommate tackled me and sat on my chest till I stopped swinging. Who knew she was so strong?

Now that’s goddamn anger goddamn management!

munchman

Robin Reed: Anger Management Towels?

What Writers Can Learn from Saving Hope (Part II)

Kathy Fuller returns with more about the good that can come from a bad TV show. Talk about an optimist!

by Kathy Fuller

Mistake #2: Don’t just stand there, do something!

One of the main characters on Saving Hope is Charlie, played by Michael Shanks. He’s the charming, confident chief of surgery. In the pilot episode he and his fiancée (another surgeon) are heading for their wedding when wham! Car accident. After saving the driver of the other car with an emergency procedure I’ve already forgotten about, Charlie passes out from his head wound and is in a coma. The twist is that he’s suspended between the conscious and unconscious and roams the hospital still wearing his tux and dangling bow tie.

So far so good. Conscious Charlie is a hero. We’re sympathetic to him because he’s comatose and trapped, unable to bridge the gap between life and death. Not to mention he could probably use a change of underwear. Then—

Then nothing. Seriously. NOTHING. Charlie barely tries to communicate with the living. He intersects with the mostly dead and the deader-than-dead, but he doesn’t have anything but fleeting interaction with them. The most emotion we get is Shanks’ furrowed brow and his tepid voice-overs, loaded with forty-ton platitudes that do nothing but drag the show down. The only glimpses into his character are in flashbacks, which really have more to do with his fiancée, Alex. than with him.

Questions abound—questions Charlie should be posing to himself, to the ethereal beings around him, even to his comatose body. Why won’t I wake up? Why haven’t I died? Why am I stuck roaming around the hospital? How do I FIX this? 

Charlie is a prime example of a passive character. Passive characters are awkward, pointless, and above all, snooze-inducing. All the characters in a story need to be doing something—saving the day, solving a problem, being an obstacle to another character’s goal, providing important advice and insight, serving as comic relief, and in Charlie’s case, maybe helping the deader-than dead pass over and the mostly dead start living again. Even if he’s unable to do any of those things, he should be frustrated, confused, angry. Instead, he’s bored, thus I’m bored and searching for my remote.

Characters should always be active. They’re doing things, not having things done to them. Their reactions to environments and predicaments should be visceral to the point where the audience is right there with them, feeling both their pain and their triumph. When that doesn’t happen you have a character like Charlie—pathetic and forgettable.

Next: Mistake #3: Get real, already.