Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 6/14/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are

  • Jeff Astrof (GROUNDED FOR LIFE) is the new showrunner of TBS’ upcoming sitcom GROUND FLOOR, described as “a workplace comedy with a romantic twist.” (And Jeff also has signed a development deal with Warner TV, so if you know him you’ll be doing yourself a favor by making nice.)
  • Mark Goffman (WHITE COLLAR) has been hired to rewrite his NBC drama pilot I AM VICTOR, changing the focus from the title character’s HOUSE-like personal life to his cases. (Which, considering that the star is John Stamos doesn’t seem to us to move the needle on the “Can this possibly be interesting?” meter one whit to the plus side. But that’s probably just us, right?)
  • Bridget Carpenter (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) has made a deal to be the showrunner of Sundance Channel’s drama series THE DESCENDANTS, a “hard-hitting drama” about a sheriff and the forces that, well, we’d say they stress him out, y’know? (We don’t know anybody who can tell us much about Bridget, which means that she must be quite a powerhouse. Why do we say that? Cuz if she had any weaknesses everybody, and we mean everybody, would be falling all over themselves trying to expose them. Our hats are off to you, Bridget. All our best.)
  • Sam Katlin (BREAKING BAD) has re-upped on his Sony TV development deal and will continue as an EP on Fox’s upcoming drama RAKE.  (Another guy to keep making nice to, baby writers cuz that’s the name of the game.)
  • Diallo Riddle & Bashir Salahuddin (LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON) just got a production green light from HBO for their sitcom pilot about “a couple of rep;orters trying to make it big in the burgeoning black mecca of contemporary Atlanta.” (Yes, the press release said “black mecca,” not “Black mecca” or “African-American mecca.” Is that a genuine and current retro cool usage, or is HBO just hopelessly fucked up? Can someone let us know?)

Hate-Watching “Revolution”: An Economic Analysis

Are you a REVOLUTION fan? After reading what’s below, all we can say to that is, “Why?”

By which we mean, “Don’t you realize the cost, man?! Don’t you know?!”

revolution-bannerby Mark Lee

As the first season of NBC’s post-apocalyptic drama Revolution came to an end, I really wanted to write a post about how the show reflects Hobbesian social theory and demonstrates the fragility of our modern, technology-dependent society.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to write that post. After a few promising moments early in its run, the show abandoned the exploration of big ideas and became a messy collection of bad plot devices and even worse acting. I’ll spare you from the details; read the AV Club episode reviews if you want a blow-by-blow recount of the inane pendant-chasing, gunfighting, and Charlie-whining that came to define the second half of the season. All this is to say, there’s just not much “there” there when it comes to analyzing Revolution.

And yet. I stuck with the show to the bitter end, partly to see if the show could possibly redeem itself, partly out of curiosity as to how the flimsy plot would play out, but mostly because I started to enjoy mocking the show’s flaws.

In other words, I was full-on hate-watching Revolution.

In case you haven’t heard of “hate-watching” TV, here’s a brief primer: to “hate-watch” a TV show is to watch a TV show in spite of (or perhaps, because of) one’s hatred of it. It seems to have been coined in the context of another NBC drama, Smash (about a Broadway musical, not the Incredible Hulk, sadly), though it’s been applied to other shows across a broad range of critical derision: everything from Newsroom to Two and Half Men.

It seems strange that such a phenomenon would exist, given the embarrassment of TV riches we have access to and the vanishing amounts of free time we have to watch TV. Fortunately for us, we have a framework for analyzing and evaluating this seemingly irrational decision-making: economics. Specifically, we’ll ask and answer the following questions: what are the costs associated with hate-watching Revolution? What are the benefits? And perhaps most importantly, what’s the opportunity cost? What else could I have done with the time I’d spent watching this crappy show, and how much utility would that have given me compared to watching Revolution?

Costs

Oh, the heavy price I’ve paid across these 20 episodes. Some of these are more straightforward than others, but let’s run through them all for the sake of thorough accounting:

Time. Including commercials, I spent a little less than 20 hours watching all of the first season of Revolution. I watched it on Hulu, so I can’t be certain how long the ads were, but let’s just assume it took one hour to get through each episode.

Anger. As the show’s problems mounted, I found ourselves yelling at the TV with increasing frequency:

“CAN CHARLIE POSSIBLY WHINE ANY MORE? OH, YES SHE CAN.”

“WHY ARE THERE SO MANY GUNFIGHTS? WHAT HAPPEND TO THE BIG DEAL THEY MADE ABOUT BULLETS BEING SO SCARCE? AND WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SWORDS?”

“SERIOUSLY? NANO BOTS?”

Disappointment. I had high hopes for this show and its potential to explore the big ideas I mentioned above, so when those high expectations gave way to weekly “escape from gunfight and capture” adventures and mind-numbingly stupid pseudo-science, the loss was far worse than if I were watching a less ambitious show with weekly “escape from gunfight and capture” adventures and mind-numbingly stupid pseudo-science.

Money? There’s actually very little monetary cost associated with watching a season of TV. Granted, I pay for a Hulu+ subscription, but I’d still pay for it even if I weren’t watching Revolution. If I weren’t paying for Hulu+, I could still watch it on Hulu or NBC.com for free. So let’s assume that the monetary cost of watching Revolution is de minimis.

Benefits

Yes, there are real benefits to hate-watching a TV show. These are the reasons why I kept watching, in spite of the costs listed above:

Reinforcement of superiority complex. I think most instances of hate-watching can be traced to this perceived benefit of watching a bad TV show. Being aware of a show’s badness while watching it reinforces one’s status as discerning consumer of pop culture. Simply put, knowing what’s good requires also knowing what’s bad.

Having a shared experience. In this case, my girlfriend and I hate-watched Revolution together. Like cooking, walking in the park, and zip-lining, this shared experience helps reinforce a couple’s bond, but even if I weren’t going for the domestic benefits of a shared experience, I’d still be connecting with others who were similarly hate-watching this show–and similarly reinforcing their pop culture superiority complexes–in communities of like-minded individuals.

Read it all

John Ostrander: Quo Vadis the TARDIS

hugh-laurie-houseby John Ostrander

The Beeb announced this week that Matt Smith, the current actor playing the Doctor on Doctor Who, its long running (50 years!) SF series, will be leaving the show with the Christmas Special this year. For those of you living outside the Whovian time-space continuum, the Doctor is a time traveling alien who can regenerate entirely at points of mortality. Different face, different body, largely different personality, completely different actor in the role. They’ve done this eleven times so far so, in general, they have the procedure down pat.

I’ve seen some interesting speculations as to who will be the next Doctor. While usually the actor cast as the Doctor is not so well known, a names of a lot of well known actors are being currently tossed around by that mysterious series of tubes running underground known as the Internet. Hugh Laurie, best known as Doctor House here in America was one name mentioned and I think he would be very highly entertaining. I’ve seen Mr. Laurie in any number of different roles and he was marvelous in all of them. I don’t think the Beeb can afford his salary but it’s still interesting to think what might happen.

I read an interview where Helen Mirren had voiced a desire to the play the Doctor. Could the Doctor change into a woman? In the first episode that Neil Gaiman wrote for Doctor Who, “The Doctor’s Wife”, the Doctor mentions in passing a fellow time-lord who did regenerate into a woman so we have to take it as a possibility. Dame Helen Mirren has done a switched character before when she played Prospera, a female version of the character Prospero, in Julie Taymor’s movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If she could do that, I have a feeling she could do the Doctor with no problem.Mirren2

At one point before Matt Smith was cast as the current Doctor, Idris Elba’s name was bounced around as a candidate for the role. Elba is a fine actor who happens to be black; some Americans will know him as the title character on the BBC series Luther while others might know him as the character Heimdall in 2011’s Thor, a fact that cheesed off some Aryan neo-Nazi types who whined that Heimdall was supposed to be white. Mr. Elba has tremendous strengths as an actor and incredible charisma; I would love to see what he would do rattling around in the TARDIS.

Especially interesting to me is that the last two candidates are very non-traditional approaches to the character of the Doctor. I think that would invigorate the show. For example, I would love to see Helen Mirren’s Doctor meeting River Song or, for that matter, Captain Jack Harkness. You could argue that  a show that’s hit 50 can use some fresh air and a dusting away of the cobwebs.

One person who will not be playing the Doctor, I can predict with some certainty, is – me. Not for want of trying. Years ago, during my acting days, the part I most wanted to play was the Doctor. I realized back then that the odds of an unknown American actor living in Chicago would ever be cast in the part were in the infinity range.

However, I was part of a vibrant Chicago theater scene – I was not only an actor but I had been a writer, a director, and a producer. What about the odds of my putting on an all-new Doctor Who play in Chicago? I could cast myself in the part and I knew the mythos well enough, I felt, to write a convincing new adventure.

Long and short, I did try and I very nearly succeeded – although I couldn’t get the part of the Doctor which explains part of the reason why I left acting far behind. I mean, if I couldn’t even get the part I wanted in a play that I has written and was producing, that was the epitome of futility, wasn’t it?

The play never got produced although we got close but all that will have to be a column for another day. One lasting thing did happen as a result of all that – I met and got to know Kimberly Ann Yale, my late wife.

And the Doctor was partially to thank for that. Thanks, Doc.

Bobby Goren is Back! Loud Sing Hallelloo…

Okay, so maybe it isn’t our beloved Detective Goren, but after way too long an absence, the guy who brought him to life, a certain Vincent D’Onofrio is back as part of the star-studded cast of a film called PAWN SHOP CHRONICLES:

Our former pal Bobby is one of these guys. Reckon he's undercover?
Our former pal Bobby is one of these guys. Reckon he’s undercover?

We say “star-studded’ cuz, yeppers, we sure have heard of the other members of the cast, like: Elijah Wood, Brendan Fraser, Thomas Jane, Matt Dillon, Lukas Haas, Chi McBride, and – gulp – Ashlee Simpson.

Not too familiar with the writer-producer, Adam Minarovich or the director, Wayne Kramer, but good golly Ms. Molly…Vincent D’Onofrio! Anything else is just window dressing.

And that, friends and neighbors, is why stars get films greenlighted and get all the money while writers just kinda grovel at their feet and say, “Choose me…choose me….” What does it say about the true nature of showbiz that even we at TVWriter™ are all agog about one actor and haven’t even bothered to google Mr. Minarovich?

Tell ya what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep track of how many hits this article gets from people searching the names of all the players we’ve noted above. And then we’ll let the whole world know who’s the bigger draw, Vincent or Adam. Or, who knows, it could turn out to be Ms.Simpson, no?

Stay tuned.

Why You Need to Make & Post Your Own Videos

R'ha CaptureWe’ve captured a moment of “R’ha”

It’s called peer production, which simply means that you’re not a pro film/video maker – yet – creating your videos for your own pleasure and that of others and/or as calling cards so you can become a pro.

A lot of people pooh-pooh the idea because “who wants to give away something for nothing,” but having your work out there can pay off in many ways – especially if the right person sees what you’ve done and falls in love with it.

5 months ago, back in January, 2013,  Kaleb Lechowski posted his 6 minute short, R’HA, on Vimeo. A few days ago, Rick McCallum, former chief of Lucasfilm and one of the producers of STAR WARS, announced that he’s going to turn R’HA into a film that in our eyes is going to be a major one. As in how can it not be a major motion picture when Steve Tzirlin of STAR WARS: CLONE WARS is also aboard as another producer and Matthew Graham of LIFE ON MARS is going to write the expanded script?

Big congrats from TVWriter™ to Kaleb Lechowski and, from us to all our visitors, here’s a sample of the kind of work that can lead to the career you’ve been wanting all your life: