munchman: Anyone Remember Bob Cringely?

What feels like centuries ago, the Robert X. Cringely byline went with a couple of books/films and many columns in an otherwise obscure IT weekly whose name we forget. Cringely was kind of famous, even though he wasn’t real and  was “played” by several different writers, the best of whom spent much more time talking about Cringely’s supposed relationship with a hot young babe (fun!) than about IT (not fun).

Somewhere along the line there was an intellectual property war over the byline, and the winner has a sometimes interesting blog that we sometimes get something interesting out of. Case in point:

Why YouTube isn’t the future of TV
by Robert X. Cringely 

In a few weeks I’ll be launching a YouTube channel where you’ll be able to see lots of shows readers have been asking about including Startup America and even that lost second season of NerdTV. YouTube, as the largest video streaming service anywhere, is the absolute best place for me. But YouTube isn’t the future of TV.

I know this because TV is a business and this channel I’m launching is a business and I’ve spent the last several weeks talking to investors and running the numbers every which way. I’ve spent many hours with my friend Bob Peck looking at the economics of YouTube and my unequivocal conclusion is that while YouTube is great, it isn’t TV.

Read it all

What’s interesting  to me about the above is that it’s sooo not interesting. Everyone’s known YouTube wasn’t going to pre-empt television since the TubeThing first appeared, around the time most of us were born. (Well, that’s how it felt anyway.) But we hoped it would be a meaningful outlet for newbies/indies/truly creative peeps. On that level, I think it’s succeeded.

Which brings me to my question? Bob, what’s happened to you? Where’s the insight? Where’s Pammy? Did the wrong Cringely win?

munchman

munchman: The Kardashians Are Writing an S-F Novel

Kendall and Kylie Jenner Reveal Latest Project: They’re Writing a Book!
by Ken Baker and Natalie Finn

Kendall and Kylie Jenner could be penning the next Twilight.

The Keeping Up With the Kardashians stars have exclusively revealed to E! News that they are working on a novel together, aimed at the young-adult audience that can’t get enough of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and the aforementioned pretty successful vampire series.

So, what genre has captured the sisters’ imagination? And when do we get to read the thing?!

Kendall says they’re aiming to have their as-yet untitled book ready to go by next summer.

“I think we will definitely get it done with how fast [the process] is going,” Kylie added. First, they brainstormed with mom and Kris Jenner…and All Things Kardashian author Kris Jenner, who then sent their notes to her daughters’ other manager.

And now, they’re collaborating with cowriter Maya Sloane on a science-fiction story “set 200 years in the future”—the first in a possible series, which is why they aren’t putting all of their ideas in one book—for publisher Karen Hunter at Simon & Schuster.

Yes, the model siblings may be more known for their fashion sense and posing prowess—but don’t count them out in the literature department.

“We want to do something so different, something that we really love,” Kendall told us. Both she and Kylie are huge fans of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series (they dig Katniss Everdeen’s girl power message, of course)—and it turns out English is their favorite subject.

But while Katniss likes her alone time, Kendall and Kylie’s debut novel will feature two sisters.

Read it all

OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD…

Mercy, please, I swear if they do this I’ll pluck out my eyes– throw away my Kindle sell my Kindle talk real bad about, um, everything. Everything in the universe, you’ll see. Yeah, that’s it. I will.

Eww.

munchman

Ken Levine on THE NEWSROOM

Our favorite comedy writer who writes about comedy writing and who has no idea TVWriter™ or Larry Brody or any of us here exist proves his genius by actually “getting” THE NEWSROOM.

We think.

If Aaron Sorkin wrote THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW

Aaron Sorkin is back!  I loved THE NEWSROOM.  It’s the perfect vehicle for his whip-smart dialogue.  (It was also nice to see the wonderful Emily Mortimer finally not in a thankless role.)
But essentially THE NEWSROOM was BROADCAST NEWS as written by Aaron Sorkin.  James L. Brooks wrote that terrific movie along with co-creating THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.  So that got me thinking — what if Aaron Sorkin wrote THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW?   Here, with great affection for Mr. Sorkin, is how I envision what a scene might look like:INT. W.J.M NEWSROOM – DAYMARY AND MURRAY ARE WORKING AT THEIR DESKS. SUE ANN ENTERS.

SUE ANN: Hello, union mules. I’m in a wonderful mood. Care to guess why?

MURRAY: You just learned you’re not part of the 17.8% of the population that has a venereal disease?

 

The Rules of Joke Court

Our not-so-tame Saskatchewanian, Anil, has spent his entire L.A. lifetime in the local comedy club scene. Time now for a short report on  what he’s learned:

by Anil

To save aspiring comedians and comedy writers a lifetime of awkward silence from their sensitive comedy brethren, TVWriter.Com presents the simple rules for navigating the minefield of Joke Court. Take these rules to work-out rooms, smokey patios and dive restaurants full of funny people assured justice will always be served.

The Rules of Joke Court

  1. Make sure you’re in court. Even if it seems like a fellow comedian is asking for help, s/he may not be. Sure, s/he just said, “I really need help fixing this joke” out loud, but the subtext was “I’m dying on stage and the universal panic move of all comedians is to narrate their own act. I know I’m in the toilet, but I’m thinking out loud. Don’t interrupt me.” Always ask if you can make a suggestion, and only when the performer seems ready and receptive.
  2. Listen. Nothing helps less than notes on material no one heard but you.
  3. Don’t confuse style with mechanics. Sometimes a joke falls flat because it doesn’t fit a comedian’s POV, or has meandered structure. Don’t offer your version of the joke. Focus on the mechanics, and help shape their version of the joke. It will help your writing immensely.
  4. All records are sealed. A spitballing session can quickly turn into a heated, explicit debate about politics, sexual deviancy, criminal behaviour or religious beliefs. Don’t get offended. Don’t judge. Don’t take the transcript out in public. Some of the best material comes in the worst mess, but you’ll never find it without a safe place to do the digging.
  5. Everything is on the record. If you want to use something funny that came up in conversation, ask. Let it be known you’re interested in developing the gag. If there’s a dispute over who’s ‘brilliant idea’ it is, drop it. There’s no shortage of funny in the world. Something else will come along.
  6. Don’t hold grudges. The people who give you the best notes are the ones who genuinely want you to be your funniest. Consider all options.
  7. The judge’s ruling is final. Even if the jury hates it, the comedian who wrote the bit passes the final sentence. If s/he wants to stick with it, don’t push prosecution after the gavel’s been dropped.

Anil

EDITED BY TVWriter™ TO ADD THE FOLLOWING 2nd THOUGHT: Okay, so you might not want to use these rules in this particular workout room/club:

LB: ROUTE 66 and NAKED CITY, Si. Bert Leonard? Nah

by Larry Brody

By the time I managed to locate Bert Leonard, all that was left of him fit into a small unit in a self-storage facility in Los Angeles that was hemmed in by concertina wire and a row of spindly palm trees.

– Susan Orlean

All that was left of him was not a storage unit.  That wasn’t all that was left of his life.  He had all of his children around him, and he got to understand that he was leaving us behind.  He didn’t die alone.

– Gina Leonard

Read it all

In the late ’50s, Herbert Leonard, known to all as Bert, was a force to be reckoned with. He had a ton of series on the air, including two dramas that could be considered the best series of that decade: ROUTE 66 and NAKED CITY.

For me, they’re way up there. Only thing that keeps ’em from being at the top of my list is all the great live drama anthology series of that same era. You know, little things like PLAYHOUSE 90, STUDIO ONE, GE THEATER.

Today, on one of my favorite sites, The Classic TV History Blog, I learned two interesting things.

  1. The complete ROUTE 66 is out on DVD
  2. Bert Leonard is dead

I love blogster Stephen Bowie’s love for all things that have to do with that period in TV, and usually I agree with everything he says. This time around, though, I’m not sure of what he’s saying. By which I mean that he presents quite the balanced view of a man who’s been described not only as a brilliant visionary but also as an obnoxious con man. And much as I love the concept of balanced news, I feel obligated to stick my 2 cents in on this matter.

In either ’86 or ’88 – one of those years the WGA went on strike – my then partner and I were hired as Executive Producers of a version of RIN TIN TIN (one of my favorite shows when I was kid, and produced/owned by Bert Leonard) to be called KATTS AND DOG in Canada, where it was being made, and RIN TIN TIN: K-9 COP in the U.S. Bert was totally out of it then, as far as the business was concerned. But I was, you know, a fan.

My partner and I were action/drama writers, and Bert said that’s what he wanted this show to be. When we asked for more details, he gave us a short synopsis. Characters, setting, potential stories, you know the drill. He brought us to Toronto to meet everyone involved (where I met a terrific guy named Sam Manners, the legendary production manager who’d kept ROUTE 66 going on the road back in the day), then sent us back to L.A. to write what would be the second script. (Another writer, whose name I don’t recall, was already working on Episode One.)

When we were halfway through the script, Bert called to apologize for what he said was a “slight hold-up” in the deal. “I can’t give you screen credit as Executive Producers because you’re not Canadian. That’s got to go to someone here in Toronto. But you can still do all the work. Meanwhile, start packing. I’ve found a great place for you to live while we shoot.”

A couple of days later, we finished the first draft, messengered it to him, and started packing ourselves and a couple of kids.

And a few days after that I came home from an evening out to find a message on my answering machine in which Bert said. “Hey, read your script. I was wrong about drama. This show should be a sitcom. You’re fired.”

Never heard from him again.

Neither did my agent. Or business manager.

No matter how many times we called.

And, no, never got paid.

I did hear from Sam Manners, though, who called to apologize for his old friend. And to say he was quitting the show.

Bottom line: I don’t know what Bert was really up to during that Chinese Fire Drill. I do know that he didn’t seem to care about anything but sex with his current lady love, who, according to Stephen Bowie, he later married…twice. If he’d ever been a visionary, he sure wasn’t now. It was all con man, all the time.

Still, though, after all these years. I find myself hoping that Gina Leonard’s comments, above, are at least as true as those of Susan Orlean. And maybe even a tad more.

And wondering if I’m responding to him as a visionary legend, a typical flawed human being…or as a con man who even in death just worked his magic on me again.