My TV Review Part One

by Robin Reed

I was asked recently if I want to review TV shows for this site. I thought about it for a while and got a crazy idea. I want to review TV. Not shows, but all of television. At least my experience of it. At this point, many of you have already gone on to read other posts, thinking I am nuts. If you are still with me, I promise not to take up too much of your time.

My first TV memory is of my brothers and I trying to get my parents to let us watch “The Flintstones.” It was a prime time show, not a Saturday morning cartoon. It was hot. Celebrities did guest voices. It was “The Simpsons” of its day. But it was shown on a school night, and the absolute rule in my house was that there was no TV on school nights.

My second TV memory (which may have taken place before the first, the timeline is a little fuzzy in my mind) was a weekend in November, 1963. I was really mad because there were no cartoons on. Instead of cartoons every channel was showing what I called “some dumb funeral.” The funeral was for President Kennedy. Hey, I was six.

Third, I was watching the Mickey Mouse Show some afternoon, and it was showing kids visiting a submarine. I can’t verify that that ever happened but that is my memory. The TV went dark and never worked again. This is an important memory because my father, who always thought TV was a bad influence on children, refused to get a new one. We didn’t own another TV after that day in the early sixties until we lived in another city and I was a freshman in high school, which was 1974.

My father was born in 1911. His entire childhood went by before commercial radio existed. I never heard any stories about sitting around the Philco and listening to The Shadow or Fred Allen. His stories were about working on his father’s apple orchard and going to college during the depression with no money to live on. I suspect he was as doubtful about radio as he later would be about TV.

In the gap, we sometimes rented a TV on special occasions. Thanksgiving was one such occasion, and we usually watched “The Wizard of Oz.” We rented black and white TVs so I never saw the transition to color when Dorothy arrives in Munchkinland until I saw the film in a movie theater when I was in college.

On another occasion I enjoyed an evening of TV while my parents were out. When they got home they asked what I thought of the educational show about Queen Elizabeth I on public TV. They got mad when I said I didn’t watch it. I swear to this day that no one told me I was supposed to watch the Queen Liz show.

Because we didn’t have a TV in those years, I missed a lot of shows that other people of my generation consider treasured memories. I still haven’t seen all the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. I know they show them again every year but it seems silly to watch them now. 

I was a voracious book reader in those years. I suspect I would have read fewer books if there was a TV in the house. If my father thought I would expand my education with books, as he did in the apple orchard, allowing him to get a degree and become a professor of anthropology, he was disappointed. I read a lot, but almost all science fiction and fantasy.

Our first TV after the gap was banished to the basement. My father wouldn’t have it in the living room. It is cold in the basement in winter in Chicago, but that didn’t stop us kids from watching. That’s when I started seriously catching up. Reruns of “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie” after school. Whatever Quinn Martin was producing at the time. “Happy Days,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda,” and on and on.

Cartoons. I have always been able to watch cartoons, even ones that are aimed at little kids. (Though the Japanese shows that are on now, based on card games, where the characters endlessly explain the rules of the game, are instant remote-clicks.)

So much TV has passed in front of my eyes that I should get an Emmy for Best Audience Member. I remember watching “The Match Game” almost every day for a while. Gotta love Gene Rayburn.

One day I read that the Public TV station in Chicago, WTTW, was going to play an odd English comedy show called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” I had to stay up late to see it. I didn’t think much of the first episode, but after a few shows I was hooked. WTTW also had “Doctor Who” with Tom Baker, and then they went back to the beginning, grumpy old Doctor and all the others. That started at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday nights, and they played an entire adventure edited together, not the original half-hour episodes. So I was up until 1:00 a.m. or later.

I went to a college in Boston, and saw the first “Saturday Night” episode in the hallway outside my room, my little TV sitting on a stool, because my roommate didn’t want the noise in the room. (No, it was not called “Saturday Night Live.” No one remembers that Howard Cosell, of all people, was host of a variety show that debuted the very same night and was named Saturday Night Live. I assume it was on CBS because it was shot at the same theater as the Ed Sullivan Show, now home of David Letterman.) The late night show didn’t reclaim the word “Live” until years later.)

Okay, so what’s the point of all this? Anyone can recite his or her history of TV watching. Well, I haven’t gotten to the review part. I have some things to say about TV, but I will give you a chance to tell me “Dear God, STOP!!” If you don’t, I will post Part Two in a few days.

A Great Writing Lesson…

…from Ken Levine’s blog, …by Ken Levine:

Ken Levine? Not Ken Levine? Damned if we know

“New Choice!”
by Ken Levine

There was another great exercise for comedy writers in Andy Goldberg’s improv class last Wednesday. This one was called “New Choice!” Two people would do a scene and periodically someone would say something and Andy would interrupt with “New Choice!” The performer then had to devise an alternate line. If Andy wasn’t satisfied he’d again bark “New Choice!” Sometimes it would take two or three lines before the scene was allowed to proceed.

Example:

Me and Fred are in a Costco.

Fred: What are you here to buy?
Me: Cheerios.
Andy: New choice!
Me: 300 rolls of toilet paper.
Andy: New choice!
Me: A case of Trojans and a dozen oysters.

Read it all

All you have to do is read the full article and you’ll see that KL is a master of comic construction.

 

Whatie Looks at Amazon Studios (PART 3)

by Whatie

Amazon Studios offers television writers a different approach to selling their original series ideas. In parts 1 and 2, I looked at what Amazon Studios is. Here in part 3, I am looking at the practical aspects of working with Amazon Studios: namely, how to submit and what they pay.

Amazon Studios wants what any other studio would want: a pilot script and a concise description of the show. For the pilot script, they ask for standard television script format, just the same as you would prepare for any other purpose. For the description of the show, they essentially want a short document that they call a mini-bible, which is nearly identical to the document we in Tvwriterland call the leavebehind. They want a concise description of the premise and characters, a logline, and a list of possible episodes, just like a leavebehind. In effect, submitting to Amazon Studios is a lot like submitting to the People’s Pilot contest.

Of course, there’s the question of money. How much does Amazon Studios pay? We all want to know whether we’ll get a good deal or be screwed if they accept our work! So, here’s the deal: If Amazon Studios likes your series, the first step is promoting it to the Development Slate. That means they have decided to actively pursue your series as a possibility, and their story department gets involved. (This is where you’ll get story notes and the like from the people at the top.) You get $10,000 when they promote you to the Development Slate. Once the story department has done its thing and Amazon Studios has definitely decided to shoot your pilot, you get $55,000 for the series idea and the pilot script. This is in addition to your earlier payment, so your running total is now $65,000.

At this point, Amazon Studios is buying the rights from you and the project becomes theirs. In addition, for every episode they produce other than your pilot, you will receive a one-time creator royalty of either $3,500 if your show is initially distributed via broadcast or cable television channels, or $2,500 if your show is initially distributed as webisodes or goes direct to DVD. You will receive one payment per episode that anyone creates and airs, and no further royalties after that. Of course, if you personally write additional episodes, serve on the staff, or otherwise contribute to the making of the show beyond your initial project submission, you will get paid for your work, but that’s a separate contract negotiation.

You are also entitled to a percentage of any merchandise sold. This percentage starts at 5%, but they reserve the right to reduce your percentage to as low as 2.5% if they should choose to grant any third party a percentage of the merchandise, in effect giving away your percentage without asking so that they can keep their own profit margins intact.

All in all, the money isn’t a bad deal. Sure, the traditional big studios typically do much better. However, Amazon Studios may well give your project life that no other studio will ever offer. Whether you suffer from un-agented obscurity or you just have a special script that regular networks don’t want but which the people may like, the new paradigm here may well be the answer.

And TVWriter™s Most Popular Feature is…

by Larry Brody

So there I was this morning, excited because our TVWriter™ site stats showed that we’re gaining visitors daily, constantly reaching new highs.

“Way to go, Brode,” I said to myself. “The revamp’s a big success. Looks like we’re doing it right.”

Then I took a closer look at the numbers. Here’s what I saw:

The post that had put us over the top was this one, and the “Got ya!” is the post isn’t really what did it. It was people searching for and then clicking on the pic above. One-third of our visitors have been coming here just to look at Brad Pitt’s bod.

Let me say that number again: $#@! one – $#@! third!

We love all our visitors, don’t get me wrong, but this is, you know, a site about television writing in particular and the television biz in general. And I was kind of hoping that our enhanced traffic had, well, something to do with the topic.

Oh, LB, so young, so pure, so delusional…

Don’t worry. I won’t let this get to me. TVWriter™ will continue to present the most information about TV writing and the TV biz we can in the most entertaining way it can. But I’m thinking that now that I have this new insight into what attracts eyeballs there must be some way to make it work even better for us.

Maybe we should insert this pic into every article. What do you think? In a corner, like this:

Look, ma! Brad Pitt! In Fight Club! Half nekkid!

Nah. There’s something about this that’s just not quite right.

Still. Increased traffic = increased potential for actually attracting advertising which means that we could eventually make the site and its classes and contests better than over. Should ethics get in the way of that? Isn’t there some virtue – just a little – to the idea that “the end justifies the means?”

Hmm…

Aha! I’ve got it!

If Brad packs ’em in, what’ll Angelina do?

Hart of Dixie Season 1 Finale – Recap and Review

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in May 2012. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Believe me, a storm is coming.” – Lavon Hayes

Well, it was quite the year for Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson), and the town of Blue Bell. But at long last “The Big Day” is finally here. The town has been transformed and everyone is lining up to watch George Tucker (Scott Porter) and Lemon Breeland (Jamie King) finally tie the knot. But Tom Long’s knee is tingling which can only mean one thing, the storm is coming…

So here’s what you have to know going into the season finale:

Wade loves Zoe, Zoe loves George, George loves Lemon, and Lemon loves Lavon. But Lavon also loves Lemon, and Lemon loves George, and George loves Zoe, and as it turns out Zoe loves Wade too. Oh, what a tangled web we weave. AND this all takes place in Alabama, so I assume season 2 will reveal half these people are related (Zing!).

With this love pentagon in play the question we’re all/none of us are wondering is who Zoe will choose. Will she go with her first choice option A:

“The Golden Boy” George Tucker, town lawyer and overall nice guy (hate this guy)

Or her backup option B:

“The Badboy” Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel), town bartender and overall slacker (hate this guy)

The choice is nearly taken from her since George is getting married to another woman. Even with the storm hitting the town, George does everything he can to salvage the wedding by moving it indoors. Unfortunately, he moves everything into an old fire station with a leaky and collapsing roof. Despite his best efforts he knows it’s not going to happen. And the truth is, he really doesn’t want it too. He finds Lemon and calls off the wedding once and for all telling her he’s in love with Zoe Hart. Lemon gives him a well earned punch in the face (which I enjoyed) and off he goes to tell Zoe they can finally be together.

But Zoe has been going through her own little crisis. As the storm hits she gets trapped in a barn with Wade for hours. And as we all know, there’s nothing more erotic then the smell wet goats and farm equipment. So naturally they end up together at her place just in time for George to knock on the door and confess his love for Zoe.

Despite my jaded and cynical view of humanity, I have soft spot in my heart for this little bit of CW fluff. As I’ve said in the past, Rachel Bilson is far too cute to hate. So if you like watching southern folk fight over which pretty gal gets to be with which pretty guy, this show is for you.

Season 1

Thinking Man Rating: 5 Thumbs Up

Finale

Thinking Man Rating: 4 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.**