AXE COP Animated Series Coming to Fox in July


One of the joys of working here at TVWriter™ has been bopping around the web discovering things like AXE COP, a web comic created by Malachai Nicolle, who at the time was a 5 year old boy living in Washington state, and illustrated by his almost-a-quarter-century-older brother Ethan.

AXE COP is a delightful celebration of well-intended mayhem, and it’s also become very, very popular. So popular, in fact, that Fox Network bought the rights, did the usual development thing, and, voila! at the riope old age of7, Malachai Nicolle is now the creator of a TV series. AXE COP, the TV series debuts July 27, featuring the voices of Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally (aha!), Patton Oswalt, and even COMMUNITY creator Dan Harmon.

Will it work? We smell a cult classic here at the very least. Stay tuned, doods. And, while you’re waiting, watch the damn clip:

Oh, and don’t forget: This could’ve been an article about you. Still could be if you get off your duff and write/draw/shoot that project you’ve been daydreaming about for years!

SUITS and the Unsustainable Premise

This should be required reading for everybody who ever wants to be involved with creating a television series. Which should mean, yeppers, everybody who comes to TVWriter™:


by John Perich

I’ve been catching up on Seasons 1 and 2 of Suits, USA’s slick new legal drama. It plays like a quippier, faster, and more shallow version of Mad Men. It’s just clever enough for my taste, but it doesn’t wallow in its cleverness the way geekier shows do – one of my pet peeves. All that said, however, there are two things I struggle with.

(1) The catchy yet incomprehensible theme song. I’ve resorted to making up my own lyrics rather than guessing at what’s really being sung. “Gonna have a pizza pie / in your eye / Gonna split an onion bomb / with your mom …”

(2) The perilously unsustainable premise.

For those who haven’t indulged yet: Harvey Spector (played by Gabriel Macht, having emerged from the doghouse that the title role in Frank Miller’s The Spirit earned him) is a hotshot closer at the prestigious NYC law firm of Pearson Hardman. He’s been told to select a protege out of a pool of interviewing associates, but none of them impress him – except one kid, a scruffy blond with an encyclopedic knowledge of basic law and the photographic memory to prove it. It turns out that this kid, Mike Ross (Patrick Adams), isn’t actually a lawyer. In fact, not only has he never been to law school, he only stumbled into this interview as a way to hide from a drug deal gone bad. Intrigued by Mike’s quick wits and prodigious memory, Harvey hires him anyway.

Neat, right? It tells us something about Harvey right off – he’s a game-player, he values genius and improvisation more than experience, he’s willing to bend the rules to get the job done. It also binds Mike to him in an interesting way – Mike could get in trouble if caught, sure, but Harvey’s career will also be over. So you’ve got two loose cannons on the 50th floor, bending the law in order to serve it.

The only question: how long can they keep this up?

Practicing law without being admitted to the bar, for those who don’t have Mike Ross’s photographic memory, is uniformly illegal. The penalties vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in New York it’s a misdemeanor. But even without the legal threat, there’s the damage to the reputation of Pearson Hardman. Every time Mike fraudulently represents himself as a lawyer adds another scar to the Dorian Gray-like portrait that must, inevitably, be unveiled. He’s already appeared in court at least twice – most recently in “Break Point” (S2E5), representing a tennis phenom.

Not only has Mike not been admitted to the bar, he hasn’t even been to Harvard – and Pearson Hardman makes a point of only hiring Harvard graduates. So that’s at least two lies that Mike has to keep straight. Mike doesn’t even bother covering his tracks until “Dirty Little Secrets” (S1E4), and that’s with the unsolicited help of a computer hacker. And even when his record is (fraudulently) updated to create a Harvard law degree, he still has an awfully empty past – no college diploma, no prior legal work experience. If any other lawyer invested the amount of effort in checking out Mike’s past that Mike and Harvey invest in checking out their clients and opponents, Mike’s secret would be outed in a heartbeat.

So someone must eventually discover Mike’s secret. And someone, in fact, does – Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), managing partner of the firm (S2E1). The only reason she doesn’t can him and Harvey immediately is because a bigger threat rears its head. But how much damage could such a discovery do in the hands of Harvey’s intra-firm rival Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman)? Or the Boston lawyer who’s gunning for Harvey, Travis Tanner?

How long can this go on?

Read it all (lots more)


Silicon Valley conquers Hollywood 2013 — Setting the scene

We at TVWriter™ have been big fans of geek writer Robert X. Cringely since the days when that name first appeared in InfoWorld magazine, and we currently follow Cringely.Com avidly.

Several writers have written under this pseudonym, and we have a sneaking suspicion that our favorite user of that name wasn’t the man currently using it. (That would be whomever gave delighted nerd readers “Pammy.”) We know we’re being a bit opaque here, but a thorough discussion of the Robert X. Cringely monicker would take pages and, most likely, have nothing to do with television or television writing.

The following article, however, is the first of a 3 part discussion of how showbiz and the tech biz work, both together and apart, and is as insightful as all get-out. So our thanks to Cringe as we urge everyone interested in knowing more about how Hollywood works to dig in:


by Robert X. Cringely

I wrote here nearly a year ago that there would be no more annual lists of predictions and I’m sticking to that. I’m trying to retire, remember? The ads are gone, you might notice, and with them my income. But I’m not out the door quite yet and have time for a series of columns on what I think will be an important trend in 2013 — the battle for Hollywood and home entertainment.

The players here, with some of them coming and some of them going, are Amazon and Apple and Cisco and Google and Intel and Microsoft and maybe a few more. The battleground comes down to platforms and content and will, by 2015 at the latest, determine where home entertainment is headed in America and the world for the rest of the century. The winners and losers are not at all clear to me yet, though I have a strong sense of what the battle will be like.

Why fight for Hollywood? Because making our spreadsheets recalculate faster is no longer enough to inspire new generations of computer hardware. Because Silicon Valley has come to appreciate continuing income streams from subscription services. Because there are legacy players in the TV industry who are easily seen as vulnerable.

Notice I didn’t include Facebook in my list of combatants. Facebook will need the next two years to consolidate its existing businesses before it can even begin to think about Hollywood. Facebook will miss this cycle completely.

Another company I didn’t mention is Netflix. Though this pioneer of video streaming has been around since the 1990s it feels to me more like a acquisition candidate in this battle than a conqueror. Same for TiVO and even Roku: too small.

Still, it’s in Netflix-style Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming content where we’ll see lots of action that will eventually come at some expense to the incumbent cable companies. Some of these will choose sides, like Comcast isapparently doing with Intel, while others may be acquired or just fade away.

Look at both Motorola Mobility (Google) and Cisco trying to get out of their cable box businesses. This does not bode well for their customers, the cable systems.

Content comes down to TV, sports, and movies, with the big attraction of 2012 being sports because of its resistance to piracy.  Sports means large live audiences that are unwilling to wait for a torrent to deliver the Big Game two days later. CNN always does well with advertisers when there is a war or a disaster, but sports figuratively is a pre-scheduled war or disaster complete with cheerleaders and good lighting, which is why ESPN is worth more than CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews put together.

Video games have peaked as a business. It was a great ride but the days of the $60 video game title are limited as mobile, casual, and social gaming take over. This has Microsoft, for one, scrambling hard to make its xBox game console into something like a TV network. Nintendo and Sony are not significant players in this space even though Sony thinks it is.  They, too, have peaked, which is surprising given Sony owns a major movie studio.

The dominant video platform or platforms will be determined by the content they carry, so we are going to be seeing lots of money going to Hollywood from Seattle and Silicon Valley, enriching networks and studios alike. Alas, I doubt that this effort, which is well underway, will show any clear winners simply because the major tech companies are going about it so stupidly.

I’ll explain tomorrow or the next day the right way for technology companies to conquer Hollywood.

Don’t worry. TVWriter™ will bring you “tomorrow’s” column, um, tomorrow. Hang tight!

30 Problem Words and Phrases

DailyWritingTips.Com strikes again. We discovered that TVWriter™ writers regularly make 15 out of these 30 errors. How about you?


by Mark Nicol

Tried-and-true words and phrases are convenient, but they are also truly trying — as with clichés, when a writer relies too heavily on stock usage, the resulting prose is tired and uninspired. Watch out for the following deadly usages.

1. After having: “After looking around, I chose a seat” is fine, and so is “Having looked around, I chose a seat,” but “After having looked around, I chose a seat” is redundant. “Having” means that the action has already been performed, so the context is clear that the writer is writing after the fact.

2. Aged: Identifying the age or age range of a person or a group with this word puts the subject(s) in a category with cheese or wine. Write “50 years old,” for example, instead of “aged 50 years,” or “ages 21–34” rather than “aged 21–34.”

3. Aggravate: To aggravate is to make something worse, not to bother, annoy, or irritate.

4. And alsoAnd and also are redundant; use one or the other.

5. Anticipate: To anticipate is to foresee (and perhaps act on that foresight), not to expect.

6. Anxious: To be anxious is to feel distressed or worried, not eager.

7. Approximately: How about using about instead? Save three syllables. For scientific or technical references, approximately is fine, but it’s a bit much in most other contexts.

8. As to whether: “As to” is extraneous; use whether only.

9. At this point in time: Omit this meaningless filler.

10. Basically, essentially, totally: Basically, these words are essentially nonessential, and you can totally dispense with them.

11. Being as/being that: Replace these phrases with because.

12. Considered to be: “To be” is extraneous; write considered only, or consider deleting it as well.

13. Could care less: No, you couldn’t. You want to convey that it’s not possible for you to care
less, so you couldn’t care less.

14. Due to the fact that: Replace this phrase with because.

15. Each and every: Write “Each item is unique,” or “Every item is unique,” but not “Each and every item is unique.”

16. Equally as: As is superfluous; write equally only.

17. Was a factor, is a factor, will be a factor: If your writing includes one of these phrases, its presence is a sign that you’re not done revising yet; rewrite “The vehicle’s condition is a factor in performance,” for example, to “The vehicle’s condition affects its performance.”

18. Had oughtHad is redundant; use ought only.

19. Have gotGot is suitable for informal writing only; if you’re referring to necessity, consider must rather than “have got,” and if the reference is to simple possession, delete got from the phrase “have got.”

20. In many cases/it has often been the case: Reduce the word count in statements containing these verbose phrases by replacing “in many cases” with often, for example.

21. In the process of: This extraneous phrasing is acceptable in extemporaneous speaking but unnecessarily verbose in prepared oration and in writing.

22. Is a . . . which/who: If you find yourself writing a phrase like this, step back and determine how to write it more succinctly; “Smith is a man who knows how to haggle,” for example, can be abbreviated to “Smith knows how to haggle.”

23. Kind of/sort of: In formal writing, if you must qualify a statement, use a more stately qualifier such as ratherslightly, or somewhat.

24. Lots/lots of: In formal writing, employ many or much in place of one of these colloquialisms.

25. Of a . . . character: If you use character as a synonym for quality, make the reference concise. “The wine has a musty character” is better rendered “The wine tasted musty, and “He was a man with a refined character” can be revised to the more concise statement “The man was refined,” but better yet, describe how the man is refined.

26. Of a . . . nature: Just as with character, when you use nature as a synonym for quality, pare the phrasing down: Reduce “She had a philosophical nature,” for example, to “She was philosophical.”

27. Oftentimes: An outdated, unnecessary complication of often.

28. On account of: Replace this awkward phrase with because.

29. Renown: Renown is the noun (as well as a rarely used verb); renowned is the adjective. Avoid the like of “the renown statesman.”

30. Thankfully: In formal usage, this word is not considered a synonym for fortunately.

LB: “The Only Writers Who Haven’t Sold Out are the Ones Who Haven’t Been Asked”

Nope, I’m not quoting myself. The above are just a few words spoken to me by Norman Mailer back in the day. (I.e., when he was alive and holding court in Manhattan and I, as a young writer, had just been introduced to him by – I kid you not – an NYPD detective. (No, not one who’d ever arrested him…yet.)

Mailer’s words to me come to mind because of this invigorating article from one of my favorite sites, io9.Com. I like io9 a lot. (Mostly because from time to time they mention me and seem to like me too. Just call me the Sally Field of TV writing.)

what does this have to do with selling out

How to Write for Money Without Selling Out Too Much by Charlie Jane Anders

This past weekend, it seemed like all of the Twitter conversations were about fiction writing, and selling out. It’s a weird conundrum: Most advice for writers assumes that you’re doing this as a business, and you want to make money at it. But you shouldn’t want to make money too badly.

Is there a line between trying to sell your fiction, and just plain selling out? And what’s so bad about being a sell-out, anyway?

So like I said, there were multiple Twitter conversations about art and commerce this weekend, that I noticed. One of them was on Friday, when Wind-Up Girl author Paolo Bacigalupi tweeted:

What’s the point in writing, if you don’t get to write whatever the fuck you feel like writing?

— Paolo Bacigalupi (@paolobacigalupi) January 4, 2013

And Tim Pratt and John Scalzi, among others, responded that sometimes they need to buy cat food, and sometimes people want to pay you lots of money to write something, and that works out well. This turned into a really interesting back and forth about art and commerce, and how the two aren’t really a dichotomy but feed off each other. In particular, Bacigalupi clarified that “I tend to think of it as a formula of Fun + Learning + Cash + Politics + Creative = Whatever-the-Fuck-I-Want-to-Write.” And Scott Westerfeld chimed in, saying: “Writing for a big audience can mean more than $$. Some lit experiments improve when put in front of more readers.”

(Seriously, you should read the whole thread, which you can probably see here. It won’t take that long to read.)

Read it all

FWIW, I love the way Charlie Jane writes, and Mailer and I agree wholeheartedly with much of what she says, including these little nuggets:

Everyone’s a sellout

At least, if you write creative stuff for money, and hope to get an audience for it, you’re a sellout to some degree. There’s no getting around it….

this stuff is hard to talk about, in large part because artistic choices are often indistinguishable from commercial ones….

How do you know if you’ve compromised too much? Maybe if you get a sick feeling in your stomach. Or maybe if people come up to you and say your last book sucked, and they liked it better when your characters were more flawed and less sympathetic. Maybe you’ll never know, for sure. There’s a reason writers don’t always sleep that well.