Getcher BULLET IN THE FACE Here

by Larry Brody

Run, do not walk to what I predict will be the best-written comedy series on U.S. TV this season. Yes, I’m plugging buddy Alan Spencer’s BULLET IN THE FACE. With a title like that, plus its pedigree, missing it will be the same as getting your own bullet-face thingie.

Bullet in the Face — Photos, press release, première date and controversy !
by Bunky Bunk

When Evan Shapiro (IFC & Sundance Channel president) departed his post in April, the forthcoming IFC original comedy Bullet in the Face lost its biggest champion. And champions are exactly what a show like Bullet needs considering that the broad, over-the-top half-hour may be the most violent comedy in television history. According to sources, when IFC execs screened the 6-episode series, there was shock and nervousness in the room. And now the controversial Bullet, which was not mentioned during IFC’s upfront presentation in March, is being scheduled in a very odd pattern : 3 episodes back-to-back on 2 consecutive nights : August 16 and August 17, from 10 PM-11:30 PM…

Bullet in the Face comes from the mind of creator-exec producer Alan Spencer, the mastermind behind the 1980s ABC classic Sledge Hammer. In announcing the project last year, IFC hinted at its unusual nature. When they ordered the series, Debbie DeMontreux, SVP Original Programming, said : “Bullet in the Face melds the best of the action/thriller genre with IFC’s comedic sensibility. This is television like viewers have never seen before”. The last statement, usually a PR cliché, may prove to be exactly right this time.

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Bottom line: If you see only one “outrageous bloodfest” this year, this definitely should be the one.

Okay, Alan? Now put down the gun…slowly…carefully…please…put it down…?

Happy 4th of July

by Larry Brody

Traditionally, today’s a day for relaxing with family, and while I usually suck at that kind of thing, a good portion of the L.A. contingent of the Brody Family is here in town so I’ll be doing my best to be a regular guy:

Fabulous Farmers Market, just 2 blocks from the house!
Barbecue on our rooftop deck, looking out at the Sound!
Fireworks at the old Fort!
Kids!
Grandkids!
Terrified dogs!

TVWriter™ and our Usual Gang of Not Idiots will be back opining, snarking, reporting, and maybe even educating and entertaining tomorrow. Meanwhile, enjoy the day off and try to keep all your fingers. Writers need them, you know. (No, not just to type. To flip off authority. Because flipping off authority is what good writers do.)

Viva La Revolución and LYMI,

LB

Bill Cosby & Other Famous Monsters of TV Land

by Larry Brody

My hero who doesn’t know I’m alive strikes again:

Bill Cosby: mentor?
by Ken Levine

I’ve always been a big fan of Bill Cosby. Loved his comedy albums as a kid, took my wife to Las Vegas to see his stand-up act…and admired THE COSBY SHOW (at least when it started). He was a true original and his comedy came out of reality. You laughed because you related. He was also a damn good spokesman for Jello. So I respect his work. We’re clear on that, right?

Recently, WRITTEN BY, the WGA’s monthly magazine did an article where they referred to Bill Cosby as a writer’s mentor. I think they were being a little overly generous. I wouldn’t call him a mentor.

I’d call him an egotist who worked his writers as if they were pack mules.

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In this blog post based on the Written By article he cites, Ken Levine translates the facts, which the magazine presents in the same light Doris Day used to be photographed in once upon a time, into hard truth. Bill Cosby’s work habits make him into a classic example of a boss who had absolutely no respect for the writers he worked with. None. Zero. Zilch.

But I think it’s important to know that Cos isn’t standing alone in his Vile Boss costume. Nor is this kind of behavior limited to powerful actors. Although throughout my career I’ve had many mentors, none of them were the guys who ran the shows. The showrunners – who in those days were called simply Executive Producers or, in one case, Studio Heads – were for the most part monsters, pure and simple.

David Gerber, who ran Columbia Pictures Television back in the day, was a bully who not only yelled but physically threatened writers. I had to hit the gym and build up my body just so I could withstand the cross body blocks he threw at me in the halls everyday.

Roy Huggins, whose characters (remember Maverick, anyone?) were known for their relaxed, easy charm, was a martinet who would summon in a writer and then go quickly (so quickly it was impossible to follow what he was saying) word by word through a script he’d covered with scribbled notes and throw each page on the floor when he finished it. Well, not just on the floor, all over the floor. And at the end of the meeting he would order the writer to scramble around on hands and knees and pick up the pages and take them home so he or she didn’t miss any of the criticisms.

Jay Bernstein, known more for his explosive temper and expertise as a P.R. man and personal manager than for his writer-producer skills, couldn’t read. When he ran MIKE HAMMER, he would have various actors and actresses act out the writers’ drafts for him in his office, promising them parts in the episode as payment. And then making the writers write in new characters and scenes for his helpers to perform in. Characters and scenes that later were cut out.

Even My Favorite Boss Who Shall Be Anonymous Because I’ve Always Had A Great  (and perverse) Affection For Him, did his best to humble the writers we worked with. A favorite trick was to read only the first and last 5 pages of a writer’s script and use everything he could find there to demonstrate how utterly inadequate the whole draft was. At the end of that meeting, he’d come up with an entirely different story – I mean so different you couldn’t even use the same characters – and demand a new, fully completed draft the first thing the next morning, although he wouldn’t be in the office until later in the day.

I’ve always envied the writers I knew who missed most of the egotists and tyrants who kept me fit and trim, and wished I had their luck in the draw. But whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, I let the memories flood me, and instead of drowning I inevitably start to laugh. Mentors are wonderful. We need all the help we can get. But for great mind-bending, hair-raising stories, you can’t beat a good monster. They’ll make you the life of the party every time.

News Corp Goes to China

by Larry Brody

My experience working in China tells me this is going to be interesting. No predictions here. I think all of us should sit back and watch and learn:

News Corp. Joint Venture in China, Partner to Invest in International TV Content
by George Szalai

Star China Media, a joint venture of Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp and state-backed China Media Capital, on Tuesday unveiled a partnership with investment firm Puji Capital to finance and develop international TV content for the Star pay TV platform.

The partners will make the investments via Puji Star Media Co., a venture that will be based in Shanghai.

The company will invest “in internationally inspired TV content and advertising with particular interest in the Americas/Hollywood, Europe, Japan, Korea, and, among others, tailored for the local Chinese viewers onto the Star TV platform,” the partners said.

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Before You Dedicate Your Life to Facing the Blank Page…

by Larry Brody

…Take a look at this:

Writers Guild of America Inc., West Annual Financial Report
June 29, 2012

Dear Fellow Members:
we are please to present the Guild’s annual financial report. this year’s report reflects that, as the
economy continues its slow recovery from a deep recession, the Guild remains financially sound
and strong.

In this booklet, you will find the wGAw’s financial statements and a summary of industry and
employment data for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012. these are the headlines:

• the Guild ended the fiscal year with total net assets of $34.4 million. the Guild owns its
headquarters free of mortgage debt and our investments stand at $19.6 million, including a
total of $12.2 million in our strike and Good & welfare Funds.

• the Guild had an operating surplus for the fiscal year of $2.8 million based on total revenues
of $26.1 million, up from $25.3 million last year. the increased revenues were the product
of a 3.1% increase in total revenue and investment gains generated by a recovering equities
market.

• Annual expenditures of $23.3 million were lower than FY 2011’s total of $24.6 million. the
biggest contributor to this decrease was lower legal expenses in FY 2012.

• this year’s financial statement contains a new feature: a supplemental schedule, prepared by
the Guild’s auditors, summarizing the financial activities of the Guild’s Foreign Levies Program
during the fiscal year just ended. this annual review is also posted on the Foreign Levies page
of the Guild’s website, www.wga.org/foreignlevies, along with other information about the
program, which has distributed more than $121 million to writers and heirs since 1993…

So far so good, but, unfortunately, the following pages aren’t so rosy:

 

Bottom line: Writer income for TV and films was down last year.

Bottomer line: If you’re only going into it for the money you’re in the wrong place. You’ve got to love writing, and showbiz, and all the ups and downs they entail.

That’s right. So let me say it again, with a bullet:

  • Like everything else worthwhile in the world, television and film writing are all about LOVE.

You’re welcome.