Hey, ARCHER Fans – How’re Ya Liking the Reboot?

The best action-comedy series on TV just got better. How could anybody not love ARCHER now that it’s – MIAMI VICE?

Whoa!

new-archer-miamiby Andy Greenwald

For a long time The Simpsons was the fastest show on television. A combination of highly caffeinated, Harvard-educated show-offs in the writers’ room and the complete creative freedom afforded by animation transformed what was originally intended to be a straight (if yellow) family sitcom into an ADD-explosion of satire, asides, cutaways, and jokes so in you’d need Professor Frink’s Hoax-a-Scope to locate them.

These days, nearly every beloved (if poorly rated) single-camera sitcom is a cartoon, even if flesh-and-blood actors are involved. The rhythms and possibilities of animation are everywhere: Parks and Recreation has a rogue’s gallery that rivals Springfield’s, and the gleeful 30 Rock andArrested Development treat reality the way bungee jumpers treat bridges. The only thing that separates Community from full-on toon town is a couple of SAG cards — and even that’s not always enough. In response to such wholesale borrowing, actual cartoons had but one recourse: to get dirtier and a whole lot weirder.

Leading the charge on that score for the past four years has been Archer, FX’s martini-dry exercise in spy jinks. Created by Adult Swim veteran Adam Reed, Archer chronicles the willfully anachronistic adventures of the debonair, deeply dumb Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), an American James Bond type whose unflappable commitment to egotistical hedonism suggests a childhood in which he was shaken, never stirred. (This theory is only reinforced by the behavior of his mother, Malory, a gin-dependent ego monster voiced by Jessica Walter who also happens to be the chief of the International Secret Intelligence Service — or ISIS.) Weekly attacks from KGB agents, Cuban agents, and Burt Reynolds are interspersed with deep dives into drug- and sex-fueled strangeness: Secretary Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer), a secret billionaire, huffs rubber cement; HR chief Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) is into tentacle porn.

I watch Archer semi-regularly — along with fellow FX bro-com The League, it’s part of a rotation of entertaining, low-impact shows I tend to fire up on Netflix after a few drinks; it’s more of a chug-watch than a binge. But, until now, I’ve never written about it. The reason being, I rarely had much to say beyond “this is funny.” (Occasionally I would find it “very, very funny.”) This is not meant to be damning with faint praise. Rather, it’s praising with faint verbiage. Some shows are so good at what they do (and what they do is so hugely specific) that it’s hard to find an entry point for a review. For four seasons, Archer ran more smoothly than the break in Sterling’s best tuxedo pants. It could easily have run for four more. But a funny thing happened, something that’s all too common among TV showrunners but all too rarely acted upon: Adam Reed got bored. And because his show is a cartoon, he could grab the eraser and start all over again.

After the status quo–exploding season premiere…, Archer as we knew it is no more. For reasons I won’t spoil, ISIS is gone along with all the show’s go-go trappings of international espionage. Stripped of their mandate and their machine guns, the gang is left with nothing but their lingering resentments, their petty grievances, and each other. Oh, and a gigantic pile of cocaine. Thus, next week, Archerbecomes Archer Vice as Sterling and a very pregnant Lana (Aisha Tyler) begin the unglamorous dirty work of unloading the drugs in an attempt to reclaim their lost money and power. (They’ll form a cartel because, as Malory puts it, “if Mexicans do it,” how hard can it be?)

Read it all

Peer Production: HELLA is Better than Its Title

HELL-A still Capture.tvwriter.com

…Which ain’t bad at all, really.

Know how we keep telling you to move to L.A. if you want to write for TV? Well, here’s a show about people who’ve done just that. Yeppers, gang, the lid is off, the truth is out: It’s hell.

Oh well…

Check out HellA’s website now!

Peggy Bechko: Writers Drawing The Line For Their Characters

drawtheline

by Peggy Bechko

We, as people, have all kinds of values and codes we live by whether we’re fully aware of how we define them or not. There are things that just stick in our craws or rub us the wrong way. There are lines that can’t or won’t be crossed and places we don’t want to go. Beliefs we hold dear and of course reactions to those held by others.

So, how can we use all this in writing.

Simple.

Make your characters draw their lines in the sand. Think about the big issues in life and how your characters feel/react to them. How they can be integrated into your story and your characters to draw tension and create action.

For example. Where is the line drawn between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? Thinking of Snowden, just exactly who is a traitor or who is a whistle blower patriot? How do you decide when a character is out and out greedy or just very ambitious? At times how does your character determine the difference between murder and justice? Confronting a black-hearted, cold-blooded killer who’s just murdered one the hero loves is it murder to kill that person or is it justice?

There are many lines to be drawn, many strongly held beliefs. An assassin kills without a second thought – but he/she won’t harm a child – no matter what.

Life is full of dichotomies; give some to your characters. Force the issues in their lives. Put them up against their own strongly held beliefs and moral codes. Let the freedom fighter teeter dangerously close to becoming no more than a terrorist and find himself again. Is all great ambition no more than cloaked greed? Let your character sort that out.

And what about responsibility for our own actions? The hero or heroine’s actions? When is it a ‘child’ committing a crime (cold blooded murder by a twelve-year-old) and when should that ‘child’ be considered an adult? By his or her age? By his or her actions? By his or her understanding of right and wrong?

How about a criminal who performed a violent act that cost the lives of many? If he is a great person in prison, helping others find their way out of a life of crime and then proceeds to save the warden’s life during a prison break out does that make up for the past? Is he reformed ~ or not? Should he be granted his freedom? What about those he harmed so grievously in the past? Is one of them going to come after him with revenge in mind?

Yep, it’s worth thinking about. You can see it in many movie plots and novel threads and you see it every day around you. Just read the paper or listen to the news, or your friends chat.

Take those lines drawn, those beliefs and force your characters to make hard choices. Draw some lines and see where it leads.

Why Shakespeare’s Contemporaries Hated Him

He made up his own words! Broke all the #@!ing rules! Of course other writers at the time thought he was crap. Mucho food for thought here, especially if you consider yourself a language purist:

n-SHAKESPEARE-WORDS-large57013 Words Invented by Shakespeare
from Huffington Post
(which should credit the writer but we can’t find it)

Like Precalculus and Newton’s laws, Shakespeare’s plays are among the most groaned-about high school topics, begetting the complaint: “When will I ever need to know about this in real life?” Turns out, pretty often. Shakespeare can be credited for the invention of thousands of words that are now an everyday part of the English language (including, but not limited to, “eyeball,” “fashionable,” and “manager.”)

In addition to his being a particularly clever wordsmith, Shakespeare’s word invention can be credited to the fact that the English language as a whole was in a major state of flux during the time that he was writing. Colonization and wars meant that English speakers were borrowing more and more words from other languages.

So before you dismiss Shakespeare as a stodgy, boring alternative to more contemporary writers, remember that you have him to thank for the following words… and around 1,700 in total!

Gloomy
Definition: Somewhat dark: not bright or sunny
Origin: “To gloom” was a verb that existed before Shakespeare converted the word into an adjective in a number of his plays.
Quote: “Forced in the ruthless, vast, and gloomy woods?” – Titus Andronicus

Laughable
Definition: Bad in a way that seems foolish or silly
Origin: Derived from the verb “laugh.”
Quote: “Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.” – The Merchent of Venice

Majestic
Definition: Large and impressively beautiful
Origin: From “majesty,” which appeared in the 1300s, meaning “greatness.” “Majestical” was first used in the 1570s.
Quote: “This is a most majestic vision” – The Tempest

Lonely
Definition: Sad from being apart from other people
Origin: “Alone” was first shortened to “lone” in the 1400s.
Quote: “Believe’t not lightly – though I go alone / Like to a lonely dragon that his fen –Coriolanus

Radiance
Definition: A quality of brightness and happiness that can be seen on a person’s face
Origin: Derived from the Latin “radiantem,” meaning “beaming.”
Quote: “For by the sacred radiance of the sun” – King Lear

Hurry
Definition: Move or act with haste; rush
Origin: Likely derived from the verb “harry”
Quote: “Lives, honors, lands, and all hurry to loss.” – Henry VI Part 1

Read it all

Ken Levine on why the little screen is now better than the big screen

Not debatable. This is, simply, Da Truth:

by Ken Levine

Kevin-Spacey-House-of-Cards-NetflixHere’s one of those Friday Questions that became an entire post.

It’s from reader Joseph Scarbrough: 

There was once a time when movie actors were considered, “Too big”, “Too important”, and/or, “Too expensive” to even remotely consider lowering themselves to do TV work (or at least, that’s why none aside from Gary Burghoff reprised their M*A*S*H roles for the series), however, nowadays, Maria Bello, Kevin Spacey, Dennis Quaid, Ashley Judd, James Caan, even Samuel L. Jackson are all doing TV now. What’s your personal opinion on this shift in movie actors migrating to TV? Are the actors trying to broaden and expand their own repertoire, or are networks still in the mindset that a show will only sell if it has star power?

Yes, we lowly television producers used to say, “They’ll all come to us eventually.” Actors who were once insulted that you offered them a multi-million dollar starring role in a television series are now actively campaigning to get on the little screen.

Why? A number of factors.

They age. Meg Ryan can no longer get starring romantic leads no matter how much collagen she uses.

Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, and Tom Cruise are still taking all the good roles.

They can make all the GODFATHER sequels they want – James Caan was killed in the first one.

There are fewer studio movies being made. If movie stars want to still work exclusively in movies they might have to go the independent route. But there’s rarely big money in those. TV pays way better.

They learn the dirty little secret. Being on a series is a good life for an actor. Especially if he’s on a multi-camera show. Very few nights, regular hours, no extended location shooting, week long hiatuses once a month, more exposure, only 22 weeks of work a year, and great salary. That sure beats toiling for a year in Siberia for a film that bombs and winds up only being shown at 35,000 feet.

(Samuel L. Jackson should know this dirty little secret. Before he became a star he was Bill Cosby’s stand-in on THE COSBY SHOW.)

Read it all