Speaking of Pitch Meetings…

by Larry Brody


Doug Molitor workin’ that webcam

My friend Doug Molitor is:

  1. One of the most honest, decent human beings I know
  2. One of the most talented people I know
  3. One of the funniest people I know

So if you ever get the chance to work with him, well, you’ll be very glad you did.

Among Doug’s many fascinating ventures is a video column at Funny Or Die.Com. And The 12 Worst Things You Can Say In a Pitch Meeting is one of his best:

 Thanks to Doug Molitor

The New, Improved, New Improved NIKITA

Nikita – Season 2, Episode 1 – by The Hudsonian

 **This episode originally aired in September 2011. If you are unfamiliar with the series, turn away to avoid spoilers, or bleeding corneas.**

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, you’re right. This is the 2nd review we’ve published of this episode. Not 1 but 2 of our contributors have fearlessly leapt into this series, and although the right thing would have been to only run 1 of the reviews we’re just so stunned by this kind of lovin’ that we going with them both. What does this say about NIKITA? What does it say about us?

I’ll spare you the catching up section of the Season One finale, and simply refer you to The Thinking Man’s post on the episode.

And now, for another love-fest about this kick ass TV show:

The intro leads Nikita into an underground craps game, where she’s assisted by Michael in looting the place to pay for their next operation. What we may not have seen coming? Alex traces her every move.

Alex now works with Division (not for) in an exchange of assets. Alex offers her skills to help retrieve one of the missing black boxes, and Amanda – the new head of Division – will help Alex in taking down Semak, the man who now leads her father’s company, Zetrov.

The main operation is to free Tony Merrick from federal prison who has information that could expose a dirty operation Division covered up. Michael frees Merrick, only to find out that he didn’t want to be freed, and never said anything because the life of his now adult son was threatened.

Blows are exchanged in the Nikita and Michael crusade against Division, going as far as Nikita breaking Alex’s arm and shooting her in the leg – some would call that tough love – and ultimately leading to Merrick’s exoneration, and a member of the Oversight team taking his own life instead of facing charges of treason.

But where are some of the supporting characters that dazzled us from Season One?

Percy’s greed and need to exert his power over everyone put him in a peculiar position – on the outside looking in. He’s being contained in a Division holding cell, complete with open glass and even visitation. Granted, those visits are from Amanda, who still feels the need to pick his identic memory for hints on how Nikita will proceed, but hey, it’s human contact, right?

Birkhoff makes for the grandest of reentrances, sending attack drones to rescue his trapped friends as Michael and Nikita are surrounded by Division agents, led by new face, Sean (more on him later). Once secured, he lets them know that he’s in this to make sure Division doesn’t get ahold of his riches, since he spent years pilfering accounts to load up.

A couple of new faces emerge here. Sean is sent from Oversight, the governing body responsible for creating Division, to oversee the transition from Percy to Amanda, and to ensure that there won’t be a similar situation. Sonya plays the new Birkhoff, Division’s personal computer hacker. She mainly just takes orders from Amanda, but will soon have a bigger role in this uber-awesome spy saga.

Nikita picks up where it left off, with action out of the gate, coupled with great storytelling and exploring how relationships are affected in this line of work. It pulls it off brilliantly, and if you don’t find it as riveting as I do, Nikita may just kick your ass.

And that’s one chick you do NOT want to mess with.

J. Michael Straczynski Gives Great Interview

Next time you see him show everyone that you’re really cool by calling him “Joe.”

J. Michael Straczynski Talks Studio JMS, Joe’s Comics, EPIDEMIC, VLAD DRACULA, His Desire To Work With Neil Gaiman, and More – by Bill Graham

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to sit down with creator J. Michael Straczynski, widely known as JMS, to talk about his past, present, and future.  JMS has had long tenures as the creator and head writer for Babylon 5, a long and well-received run on Thor and Spider-Man, time spent as a journalist, script writer, and much more.  Straczynski was a willing participant as he fielded all manner of questions about him being a control freak, how he tried to hide from the crossover events that he clashed with in The Amazing Spider-Man by taking over Thor, and how he plans to utilize the Joe’s Comics imprint at Image Comics.  Hit the jump for a full transcript of my interview.

Collider: You’ve had a hell of a career… and it’s ongoing.

Joe Michael Straczynski: To everyone’s amazement. [Both laugh]

You’ve worked on my side of the fence where you’re interviewing people.  You’ve worked on the other side of the fence where you’re being interviewed.  You’ve worked in television, film…

Straczynski: So the fence is obviously the problem.

I can imagine you’ve had a lot of projects where you were interested—and creative people talk about it all the time where they may have a project and it falls apart and it hurts—do you have any that have really stuck in your gut?  Maybe even some you wish to get back to?

You had this very famous run on Babylon 5 where you wrote over 90 of the 110 episodes.  How would you characterize working with yourself?  To outsiders, that would seem like you are a control freak.  Would you say that that was just your baby?

Straczynski: Well, I am a control freak.  I will admit that freely.  It didn’t start out that way.  It was going to be more of a freelance oriented show.  But I did half the first year scripts, did half the second year scripts, and by the third year it go so interwoven that I couldn’t say to a writer, ‘Start it here, end it there.’  It all started to blend.  So I told Warners [Bros.] I’d just write it myself.  And they said, ‘Shit, we’re not sure about letting you do this, but take a shot at it.’  So I did it and Warners [Bros.] was very, very happy and said, ‘Can you do that again?’  Sure, so I did the fourth season on my own.  I had been chasing Neil Gaiman for years to do a script for me.  And just to make me shut the fuck up he finally said, ‘I’ll do one for you.’  I did all but one of the fifth [season], which was Neil’s script, and then I wrote the TV movies we produced.  I like writing.  It’s partly control freak, and partly I really like what I do for a living.  I have the luckiest job in the world.  I can get up every day and do what I love for a living.

Read it all

See? Great interview indeed. Such a good guy! Wonder if he’ll read our next script…

Secrets of TV Series Negotiating

Ken Levine explains (even though he still can’t explain, erm, us):

The MODERN FAMILY cast holdout – by Ken Levine

This is a Friday Question I’ve received so often this week that I want to devote the entire post to it…

“It sounds like the cast (at least the adults) on Modern Family are working together (well, actually NOT working together) in an effort to renegotiate their contracts (and did I use enough parentheses in this sentence?).

 “What are your thoughts? As a showrunner, what effect does this have on planning? Do they get support from the writers?”

First off, I have no dog in this race. I feel bad for the producers and writers because of the inconvenience. Under the best of conditions, when things are going swimmingly, it’s still a bitch to knock out a good product every week, much less Emmy-winning quality. If this holdout stretches, then showrunners will have to scramble.   There’s the possibility of missing air-dates.  Some scripts might have to be rewritten.  It sucks.

But in this case, that’s not going to happen.  This will be settled soon, maybe even by the time you read this.

Some backstory: When an actor signs on for a pilot he agrees to a seven-year contract. There are salary increases built in but they’re usually 4-6%. In a previous post I explained just how hard it is to evenget hired in a pilot. (You can find that post here.) And if you are the lucky one, you have to sign your life away.

Two questions you might be asking:

“Why seven years?” So actors can’t do what the MODERN FAMILY cast is doing.
“Isn’t signing a seven year contract a good thing because it means security?” No because it’s not a guaranteed seven years. If the show gets cancelled that’s it. If the studio, producers, or network wants to replace you, or kill you (a favorite of TV dramas) they can. You however, can’t just say after year three you want a big raise because the show is making billions or you’re tired of being a Klingon.

Not so fair, is it? And this is on top of committing seven years to producers you don’t know in most cases. They could be assholes. They could be insane. Or they could be great guys but they’re replaced in two years and the new producers are assholes.

There’s also the danger that playing one role for seven years could typecast you and ten years from now your career consists of appearing at the Nostalgia Show at the Burbank Marriott signing pictures of yourself next to the table where the robot from LOST IN SPACE is signing way more photos than you are.

So I’m torn…

Read it all

We like this post – especially the rest of it – because it goes on to reveal one of the more ruthless sides of showbiz, which might in fact make some writing hopefuls rethink their career choice. Not that we want you to quit. But this can be such a tough haul that we do want you to be sure.

EDITED TO ADD: Ken was right on the money (and we mean $$$) about the outcome of the MODERN FAMILY Feud. Variety (which is a pay site so we aren’t linking because why should you, our beloved visitors, have to pay?) announced just a few hours ago that the dispute had been resolved and the show is continuing as scheduled. We doff our baseball caps to you, dood.

Nikita Season 2 Episode 1 – Recap and Review


**This episode originally aired in September 2011. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Remember this, I did this because I care.”  Nikita

Season two of Nikita dives back into the game one month after last season’s explosive finale and all the players are back for more. But the lines have been blurred and the aptly titled “Game Change” sets off to pin our heroes against each other in a flurry of pretty people and kung-fu awesomeness.

We open on our new crime fighting duo Michael (Shane West) and Nikita (Maggie Q.) securing some funds for their continuing campaign of destruction against Division. And the key to taking them down, is the Blackbox, which contains all the naughty secrets of the rogue government agency.

However, hot on their trail is Nikita’s former partner Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), who has switched sides and is now helping Division track her down. Alex has made a deal with Division’s new leader, the ice queen herself, Amanda (Melinda Clarke). They will offer all their resources to Alex as she pursues the men who ordered her father’s death and in exchange she will use her unique insight into Nikita to help them recover the Blackbox.

Adding an extra layer of prettyboy to the equation is Sean Pierce (Dillon Casey), an Oversight representative assigned to Division to keep them in line. After all they don’t want a repeat of Percy’s (Xander Berkeley) attempted coup d’etat.

When Alex finally tracks down Nikita, Pierce sends in the troops and our heroes are pinned down with no hope of escape…

After they escape, with the help off Birkhoff’s (Aaron Stanford) remote control next level fighter drones, they enlist the help of their old friend and continue their crusade of justice.

Magneto Percy makes an appearance and we learn that he is now being held in a plastic prison in the basement of Division. From the ever present smirk on his face as he speaks to both Amanda and Alex, it’s clear he has his own plans in motion and won’t be a prisoner for long.

As the episode concludes we get a final showdown between Alex and Nikita. The two sexy spies go at it in a bare-knuckle brawl and Nikita takes the young blood to school, leaving her with a broken arm and a bullet hole in her leg. Nikita ain’t nothing to f**k with.

A great start to season two. It’s going to be interesting watching these characters in their new roles. And from the looks of it so far, season two should be filled with much of the same creative storytelling and intense action that season one brought to the table.

Thinking Man Rating: 16 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**