Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tom Waits For No One...

...and I'm getting older. Time to start admitting it.

Tom Waits has a new 3 cd set out called 'Orphans'. It's a wonderful collection of rarities, covers, rerecordings, and new songs. And he's even out and about promoting it. The past two evenings he's appeared on Letterman and then the Daily Show. Jon Stewart didn't interview as much as fawn. Waits took it in stride. He seems unflappable.
"There ain't no devil, there's just god when he's drunk."

Waits is an American singer songwriter who's voice was described by one critic as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourban, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months and then taken outside and run over with a car." His music is a unique blend of jazz and blues that's evolved into an almost industrial sound of late.

I first heard Tom Waits when I was in high school. I was in the basement of a friend of mine who's older brother dee-jayed for the university radio station. He used to get a stack of free vinyl every week from the labels. Mostly it was new bands looking to get discovered, but one was Waits 'Blue Valentine'. A single spin and I was hooked.

Especially the song 'Romeo Is Bleeding'.
"And Romeo says hey man gimme a cigarette
And they all reach for their pack
And Frankie lights it for him and pats him on the back
And throws a bottle at a milk truck
As it breaks he grabs his nuts
And they all know they could've been just like Romeo
If they only had the guts..."
These weren't just songs. They were stories and pictures set to music. You don't just listen to his tunes, you experience them...feel them...see them. Waits has a marvelous way with words.

I soaked up his next several albums.....actually traveled to watch Coppola's film 'One From The Heart' to hear Waits' soundtrack with Crystal Gayle.... got off on his acting roles like Benny in Coppola's 'Rumble Fish' and Zack in Jim Jarmusch's 'Down By Law'...I grew to love this artist with the gravelly voice.
"And I hope that I don't fall in love with you"
In 1987 I was living in Toronto and caught the Waits concert at Massey Hall on his 'Big Time' tour. It was a beautiful thing...a brilliant juxtaposition of energetic percussion-based Stomp-like new songs and the slow sad ballads he was already famous for. But my fav moment was when the band left the stage and Waits plunked down behind the piano for three solo unplugged tunes. When he murmured through 'I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You', I felt tears running down my face.

That still seems like yesterday, yet was a lifetime ago. And the remarkable thing about Waits is that he's always seemed 'older'. Even when he started out, his appearance and voice and demeanor paired with the ache and melancholy of his lyrics depicted a well-traveled man looking back on a long, eventful life. But he was just living it. And singing about it.

Waits has continued to put out great music for the last fifteen years or so. Experimenting with his style and but always true to himself, he's remained a 'go to' artist for me. Great writing music.

'Downtown Train' is a classic.

"I don't care who I have to step on on my way down"
Last night on the Daily Show he performed 'Day After Tomorrow', a song about a soldier writing a letter home. And though I've never thought of Waits as a political artist, it posed some interesting questions:
"You can't deny
The other side
Don't want to die
Any more than we do
What I'm trying to say,
Is don't they pray
To the same God that we do?
Tell me, how does God choose?
Whose prayers does he refuse?
Who turns the wheel?
And who throws the dice
On the day after tomorrow?"

And I felt another tear trickle down. Thanks Tom. I may be getting older, but I'm better and wiser for your words and music.

SONG&ARTIST? - "Men, they build towers to their passing...
Yes, to their fame everlasting
Here he comes chopping and reaping,
Hear him laugh at their cheating
And time waits for no man, and it won't wait for me
Yes, time waits for no one, and it won't wait for me..."

For the record: Thanks to Callaghan for inspiring

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The End...Please?

...I like the take of this Variety article that the category of maxi-series should be created for serialized mystery programs like 'Lost', 'The Nine', 'Prison Break', and 'Jericho' and I'm going to include 'Day Break'.

It's basically defining them as a long limited series where a 'date certain' is set when the mystery will be answered and the story will come to a resolution. And this date may well be deemed as five years/100 episodes...but let's face it, if the story works best to tell in 2 or 3 years/seasons, why stretch it out? Oh one wants to kill a cash cow if its still drawing viewers and good ad revenue.
The maxi-series concept reflects a push away from the traditional "Run five years and cash in on syndication" model, but so what? The old road to riches is increasingly irrelevant for the aforementioned series, which cash in on DVD and ancillary sales at their peak but whose shelf life is far more limited than repeatable franchises such as "Law & Order" or "CSI."
That's a nice counterpoint. And I agree with the article that setting a date certain will 'build' viewers to a big finale as opposed to watching them slowly drift away as they get bored or frustrated.

UK series like 'The Office' or 'Life On Mars' seemed to execute this to some success. Canada also seems to be trying the model out (Across The River In Motor City?). But are these UK and Canadian examples a product of steadfast storytellers? Or producers trying to make the most of small budgets?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rumours and Smart Woman Survival Guide Revisited...

...a month or so after the first time I watched them.

'Rumours' should be put out of its misery. It's not only still terrible, I think its gotten worse. Painful. Perfect example of why shows should be still shooting when they are airing so changes and modifications can happen on the fly after the audience reacts to it.

On the otherhand, 'Smart Woman's Survival Guide' seems to have found its stride. Fast paced and relatively entertaining without being campy - sort of 'The Office'-like. Good job Al Magee and Stephen Hall and the troops.

And '72 Hours: True Crime' at least had it's dialogue track tonight (CBC did email me before and apologize that the program had been delivered to them missing that audio, but still...), but what is CBC doing making this kind of Court TV programming? Just doesn't make sense.

What I'm Thinking About... we in the west hunker down and try to survive this frakin cold.

AeonFlux vs. The Matrix...

Both scifi action movies are set in the future in similar story arenas with similar themes...they both even end with a similar VO from their respective heroes:

Now we can move forward, to live once, for real. And then give way, to people that might do it better. To live only once, but with hope.

But now I see another world. A different world where all things are possible. A world of hope. And peace. I can't tell you how to get there, but I know if you free your mind, you'll find the way.

So why is it that AeonFlux sucks, and The Matrix kicks(ass)?

I just watched AeonFlux. Before it I watched the Matrix, again. Now I'm about to watch V For Vendetta. It's similar scifi day at Dix's house.

Ugh...I Don't Be-lieve You!

So I started a post about achieving what I like to call The 80% Solution when swept up in the insanity that can be filming a tv series....but it was feeling too much like work, so I stopped. Then I began another post about ways to try to manage the notes and potential endless rewrites that can come from tv networks, exec producers, etc. when you're working on a tv series...but it felt dry and technical and who cares, so I stopped. Then I went back to a post I started a while back about creating turns and twists in your story entitled: What is It? What is It Really?...but it felt unfocused and meandering, and I didn't feel up to focusing it, so I saved it to draft again. How about what did I do this weekend?...boring...or 'bo-ring'.

It was then I remembered the words of great stage acting teacher Stanislavsky..."From the moment of the appearance of if the actor passes from the plane of actual reality into the plane of another life, created and imagined by himself. Believing in this life, the actor can begin to create."

Lee Strasberg took the Stanislavsky method and adapted it for two generations of American actors. Strasberg said one important thing about acting: "it must seem that this has never taken place before, that no one has seen this actress before, that this actress has never done this before, and that in fact she's not an actress."

The story goes an actress was supposed to come on the stage and find a letter hidden in a desk drawer. She flutters onto the stage, glances around a few times and then walks straight to the desk and opens the drawer.

From the back of the theatre, cloaked in darkness, Strasberg (or Stanislavsky, I can't remember) bellows: "I don't be-lieve you!"

The way we need to 'believe' the actors playing the characters on stage or screen, we as writers we need to believe what we're writing. I'm not talking true or false, or fantasy or reality - but to believe what is being written is fresh and real and true and honest and engaging and entertaining.

I wasn't believing my writing tonight.

Should it be this difficult? Blogging is supposed to be the fun part. But I guess sometimes we get tired of our own voice and need some inspiration from others.

So feel free to suggest something interesting to write about in the comments and I'll do my best to comply in a 'believable' post.

This is otherwise known as pulling a DMc

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I Want My WiiTV?

I suppose it's just another option, but the new Nintendo Wii gaming console allows players to surf the internet as they play the latest verison of Legend of Zelda. This article in the Washington Post tells us more.

What it doesn't really go into is the 'why'. Why would that be something you'd want to do? What game would you be playing that would give you the time or need to be also...checking news? sports scores? watching Youtube? I have no idea...

Gaming is something I know a little about from watching my son play, but isn't really a thing I do. But this does cause me some concern. Kids today are assaulted by so much more information and media than when we were children, do we really need to give them the ability to access even more?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Doc + McFly = Heart

When they go on the fritz, computers can really suck, can't they. Let's just say my laptop has been making me a little :P. So some Friday Fun with the 'Brokeback To The Future' spoof trailer, still one of the funniest things I saw this past year.

Because it makes me smile.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"But Would You F*ck Him?"

First off, happy birthday NYBro. The old boys club welcomes you.

Next, It can't all be industry updates and writing tips and tales from the trenches...there needs to be some cake or candy sometimes to go with the meat and vegetables. And I'm more than happy to provide the sweets every now and then...I know my place in blogland.

So continuing on the theme of the week, likeabilty and hotness and yum factor, I remembered a movie from the mid-90's called 'I'll Do Anything' by James L Brooks. It told the story of a fading actor trying to get back in the Hollywood game while learning to raise his nine year old daughter who'd recently reentered his life. And it was also a musical...that ultimately had the songs edited out. So it was a bit of a mess, but had some brilliant scenes - what you'd expect from the maker of 'Broadcast News' and 'Terms of Endearment' and 'As Good As It Gets'....(oh yeah, and The Simpsons).

One scene in particular came to mind - the 'would you f*ck him scene'. The setup is simple: Cathy (played by Joely Richardson) is a Studio Exec sleeping with Matt the Actor (Nick Nolte). Casting is underway on a BIG movie and Matt reads for the lead role across from hot young actress. Various exec's, including Cathy, are watching screen test and about to discuss. Albert Brooks plays Burke the studio boss...a real 'cut to chase' kind of guy.

Here's the scene:


The staff of Popcorn Pictures is gathered in the boss' office watching Matt's screentest on projection TV. Burke sits next to Nan on a sofa -- Cathy sits in front of him -- others in chairs or on the floor. Burke talks sotto to Nan.

So how do you think 'Ground Zero' will do tonight?

She ignores him, continuing to watch the screen. He leans into her.


How do you think my movie will do tonight?

I'm not going to talk to you during Matt's screentest.

Cathy turns in her chair and mouths "thank you" to Nan.

BURKE(to himself)
How bad can it be? We've got to have at least a two million dollar Friday. There's nothing else out there.

CATHY (turning to him)

I'm watching...

ON SCREEN A VERY ATTRACTIVE ACTRESS is crying...Matt very close to her...

C'mon, Deeds, tell me about the meeting.

What's wrong?

Don't worry about my crying. As a matter of fact, crying turns me on.

Well, in that case, your dog died.

There is laughter in the screening room.

The actress smiles through her tears--pats Matt for being wonderful.

What happened at the meeting?

I can't remember. You're too pretty.
(on her look)
Oh, I told them I'd keep on being Chairman.
(then explaining)
I'm Chairman, you know.

ACTRESS (smiling)
I know.

Told them I'd keep on being Chairman if they hired everybody back.

What did they say?

Oh, that I was crazy. You always wear your hair back like that?

She kisses him. We HEAR the director say, "Cut. Terrific, guys." The girl and Matt hug, no longer in character, as others come in to congratulate them.


Ad-libbed enthusiasm... mostly about the girl...

ON CATHY - as the conversation about the girl grows more pointed... Cathy, impassive outwardly, recoiling inwardly.

Okay, come on... let's have our creative meeting right here.

Well, I'd sure go to bed with her.

BURKE(professionally concurring)
Very fuckable.

I'd sure fuck her.

Okay... that's her... What about him?

I think he's a very good to excellent actor--I do... (puzzled) But there's something...

You wouldn't want to fuck him?

Well, six years ago, maybe.

I think he's talented and attractive.

So you'd want to fuck him?

He might be light in that area.

The man is talented. If you get one of those directors who like actors, I think...

A director can't make you hot if you're not hot. You'll end up with warm which is death.

CATHY(defending Matt slightly)
We laughed.

Let me ask you something... Would you fuck him?

Everything doesn't boil down to...

Let me stop you before you embarrass yourself.

Burke rises and addresses his staff...

We all can do our little lectures on what things boil down to. Everybody else here was professional enough to come out and say... I'd fuck her...I wouldn't fuck him... and you're ducking it... I want you to forget the acting stuff and totally focus on the issue.
We do have some kind of responsibility to the audience... You just saw his screentest... so, if this is the first time you saw the guy, do you come out thinking to yourself and your girl friends, 'I'd sure go to bed with him; oh God, would he be something.' Would you, Cathy?... I'm being real here.


Okay, so let's keep looking.

They file out. Cathy gets up several beats later than the others... and follows them out, avoiding Nan's look.

Remember, Cathy is sleeping with Matt in real life at this point in the movie.


"You wouldn't want to fuck him?"
"Well six years ago maybe."

Who among us hasn't heard that said about them lately? Um...(cough)...anybody?

But that's the harsh reality of this biz. No matter how clever the dialogue or twisty the plot or brilliantly drawn the characters, all can be won or lost on whether you (the audience) would 'do' the star(s).

SONG & ARTIST? - " so sad since you've been gone
Way back to New York City
where you do belong...
Honey, I missed your two tongue kisses,
legs wrapped around me tight
If I ever get back to Fun City, girl
I'm gonna make you scream all night..."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hottie Be Thy Name... as the film world mourns Altman's passing and the rest worry about Michael Richards SNAFU or wonder about Tom and Katie's wedding - Dix comes in from the opposite direction and puts out a followup to the Likeability post...

What tv shows do you watch for a particular actor or actresses' likeabilty...or more blatantly, the 'hotness' factor?

For a long time, it was Sarah M. Gellar for me - even though I enjoyed and admired the Buffy series, there was also her kickass yum factor me likey.

And on the male side, I can admit now had an unexplainable thing for David Duchovny on the X File's...

More recently, House's Hugh Laurie most definitely turns my cranky with his handsome irritability factor.

And as for the ladies, Earle's Jaime Pressley is belle-iscious and Huff's Paget Brewster encouraged me to tune in...and watch. And I like to watch (now she's on Criminal Minds, much to Jutratest's chagrin - unattractive?).

Now it hasn't hurt that a lot of these series are also good shows. But is it a coincidence?

Let's not be shy. Who do you like to 'watch'?

Monday, November 20, 2006

"It’s The Likability, Stupid."

That's a quote from one of our fav TV reviewer/critics, Aaron Barnhart, courtesy the Kansas City Star and his TV Barn blog. And he serves up two good articles this week: one about the hits and turkeys from this fall's tv season offerings; and the other about the chances he gives 'Day Break' succeed, in his opinion.

'Day Break' was okay. It's a slick, fast-paced variation on '24' as I see it. And I will watch again this week, if anything to gaze upon the fineness that is the character of Taye Diggs girlfriend in the actress with the coolest name that didn't come from a Bond flick or Austin Powers movie: Moon Bloodgood. likability.

EDIT: for the ladies, some Taye (plus Meta Golding and more Moon ...yum)

Let it be said, I listen to the audience.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


..nice weekend story from Jim about John Candy and the Grey Cup.

I read somewhere recently (Levine?) that Candy still doesn't have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. What's up with that?

p.s. has anyone else's blog subscriptions been wonky lately. For the past week I've received little or no notifications and then clicked to a site and found a new post. Is it that people have switched to Beta thing?

Saturday, November 18, 2006


One of my fav flicks of all time is 'Diner' - Barry Levinson's directorial debut in 1982. He also wrote it.

It told the story of a group of college-age buddies who struggle with their imminent passage into adulthood in 1959 Baltimore. Funny yet heart-warming (I'm sure even I teared up a bit at the end), it was filled with memorable dialogue like:

"We all know most marriages depend on a firm grasp of football trivia."

"It just pushed the flaps open?"
"Ripley's...I know."

"Carol Heathrow. She... is death!"

"Do you ever get the feeling that there's something going on that we don't know about?"

"I'll hit you so hard, I'll kill your whole family."

And of course:

"If you want to talk, you always have the guys at the diner. You don't need a girl if you wanna talk."

And these lines were delivered by a great collection of characters. With great names, and nicknames.

Steve Guttenberg was 'Eddie'....Daniel Stern went by 'Shrevie'...Mickey Rourke hit it out of the park as 'Boogie'....Kevin Bacon scored as 'Fenwick'....Timothy Daly was the straight man and thus just 'Billy'....Ellen Barkin as 'Beth'...Michael Tucker as 'Bagel'....and of course, 'Modell', played by Paul Reiser.

'Bagel'. Sweet.

Part of what made that movie, in my mind, was those names or nicknames. They all fit, and added shading and nuance to the characters and their relationships with each other simply with just one simple word and how it was delivered.

Which got me thinking about some of the nicknames I've had over the years.

Pickle (grew out of Dill)
Snake (don't ask)
Coyote (as in Wile E.)

But the most popular two by far have been Dix (right from high school to the present), pretty self evident .... and what yesterdays post reminded me of, and that is the nickname DCD, short for Dark Cloud Dixon. That one evolved from me generally being the mutterer around film sets and writers rooms about 'whether this scene will work' or 'how do we shoot that' or 'are we done yet?' I was a little surprised how quickly it stuck when someone called me that...but it must have seemed appropriate. And I didn't protest too much.

What nickname you give a character can paint them in so many different ways. 'Dill' or 'Pickle' suggests one type of person; 'Dix' or 'Snake' another; and 'DCD' or 'Dark Cloud' someone else altogether - 'Sauve' and 'Wang' something else altogether. Interesting. I'm sure there's a writing tip in there somewhere but I'm too pooped right now to suss it out.

Since most people don't post/comment with their real names this seems a little pointless, but anyone care to share the origin story of their nickname(s)?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tears In Your Eyes?

So what's my problem. Am I cold-hearted bastard? Or just a even-tempered realist? I ask only because have received big-time thumbs up for my latest script for this TV series. Very nice. And encouraging to hear because I also thought it was pretty good, if I don't say so myself (still have to wait to hear from the network though - all could change).

But have had a couple of readers say things like: "I got tears in my eyes when I read the scene where X's family learns mom is going to recover from her illness." Tears in their eyes? Whaaaa? I can't ever remember reading a screenplay and choking up. I'll do it the movie theatre or while watching the tv episode (I am human, contrary to the opinion of some), but reading it? Sorry. Nada.

I might chuckle at some clever dialogue, but that's about it. Even reading a scene that plays funny, I don't find myself laughing outloud while reading it. But I have been in the presence of people putting down a script of mine they were reading because they were howling at a funny situation in the story(and it was supposed to be smartass comments). Whaaaaa?

Watching it play out on screen and getting an emotional response, that I understand. Reading it? Don't understand. Or at least, can't relate.

Are we talking about different kinds of personalities here? Or just different types of readers?

I've always been of the mind if it reads really sad or emotional or comical, it's going to play too big on screen. That probably was born out of Film Directing 101 when I was taught if a scene is being performed and everyone behind the camera is cracking up or holding back the tears, it's probably playing too big...and will read as over the top when it gets to the finished program.

But part of the job of a script is to 'sell' the story to the reader. Presumably, a producer, director, network exec, actor, studio head, etc. will be more interested in a screenplay that evoked some feelings or emotions in them over a screenplay that didn't. But how much of that is in the writing, and how much of that is out of your control because its going on in a specific type of readers head? I'm thinking it's the latter because I didn't write it any different than I usually do.

Reading a script vs. watching a show, and the emotional responses that can occur. That's the topic.

SONG & ARTIST? - "4 the tears in your eyes
And the tears of sorrow
4 cents may be all that they're worth (All they're worth)
For the rising sun each day assures us
The meek shall inherit the earth..."

"I Play Them...

...and I cherish them."

Some Friday Fun with Nigel's guitar collection and amplifiers that go to "11".

Because it makes me smile.

p.s. got my last script finished and delivered today...notes and revisions to come fer sure, but happiness. Freed me up last night to watch this weeks episode of 'House' - most excellent television I must say. 'Daybreak'? Not so sure - kinda repetitive. What? That was the point? Ohhhh...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blog Of The Year...Redux

Okay, when I threw out the notion a few weeks back of DeadThingsOnSticks as Blog of the Year, I had no idea such a thing actually existed. The Canadian Blog Awards announced their 'nominees' today...but no DeadThings for Blog of the Year. That seemed like a travesty. And I got snarky.

But then I read through the rules and regulations and it appears someone nominates your blog for whatever category is appropriate. And it says every blog is eligible for Blog of the Year. Yet I must be missing something because then why isn't Dmc up for best o' the year? Or Post of the Year (just pick one)?

Anyway, DeadThingsOnSticks is on the list of contenders for Entertainment Blog of the Year, so go vote for Denis (and to spread the love, give your other vote to Alex Epstein at Complications Ensue for Blog of the Year) - let's support our own and everyone will be happy.

Canadian Blog Awards

Congrats guys...and good luck.

A Day In The Life...(Sha-doobie)

"Love and hope and sex and dreams
Are still surviving on the street
Look at me, I'm in tatters!"

It's the home stretch...shooting episodes 7 and 8 as the final three episodes are being written. It's at this point that a day off on a TV series is a bit of a misnomer. You get one...but really, you don't.

Case in point (and probably too much information)...

Maybe you get to sleep in if you can, but generally you're running on adrenaline... and the eyes tend to pop open anyway.

Putter. Coffee. Feed cat. Putter some more. Watch KTLA Morning News (always do since living in LA - no idea why, it's has no bearing on my life now). Get kids up and off to school.

"Friends are so alarming
And my lover's never charming
Life's just a cocktail party on the street"

Come home. Check emails and blogroll. Read some posts. Make a few comments. Finally look over at computer bag, knowing what's inside.

The next script that's due.

That's what your day off means when writing on a tv series - more time than usual to catch up on your writing. It means the crew isn't shooting or the production office staff isn't around, which means fewer distractions or no immediate fires to put out. But it doesn't really mean 'a day off'.

"Work and work for love and sex
Ain't you hungry for success, success, success, success
Does it matter?"

Start writing. Watch with one eye a bad romance mystery on the Movie Channel. More for the noise than anything. Writing a script about a teen that goes emo so do some research on what emo means today and listen to samples of the music. Check emails and blogs again. Make more coffee. Write a bit more.

Head into office. Read another writers new draft and make notes. Write some more. Watch a cut of the first two episodes to get a sense if stories worked and how the actors are gelling this season. Jot down some notes if anyone's interested (if you were running a show, this would be a lot more important...just being on staff is only me trying to contribute).

"Pride and joy and greed and sex
That's what makes our town the best
Pride and joy and dirty dreams and still surviving on the street
And look at me, I'm in tatters, yeah
I've been battered, what does it matter!"

Head out to pick up tickets for middle daughters dance concert. Why the high school wouldn't just let the students purchase them for their parent is a question I can't get answered. Drop off some DVD rentals that were due yesterday (but there's no late fees anymore..yay!). Get gas for the car.

Decide some more research is necessary so stop in at Best Buy and check out the 'emo' music scene. Buy a few cd's (Death Cab For Cutie; AlexisOnFire; My Chemical Romance; Dashboard Confessional). Run by the grocery for some essentials. Talk to eldest daughter - find out that I've purchased either lame 'indie' or more 'screamo' than 'emo'. Feeling older by the minute.

"Don't you know the crime rate is going up, up, up, up, upppppp!
To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough
You got rats on the west side
Bed bugs uptown
What a mess this town's in tatters"

Schools over. Pick up younger kids from my mom's. Make supper. Help with homework. They settle in front of tv for some 'Kim Possible' and 'That's So Raven'. I sit with them with laptop on...uh 'lap', check blogs and emails - then write quickly for a bit. Next get kids to bed - do our pre-sleep routine of me asking them some brainteasers (don't know why they dig them but they do).

Clean up kitchen. Make some tea. Settle in behind computer again. Write a bit more. VCR whirls away taping 'Dexter' or 'Heroes' or 'Studio 60' depending on what night it is. Hit target of twelve pages. Fatigue settling in. Decide to pack it in. Oops - Daily Show is coming on, followed by Colbert Report. Generally fall asleep to one or the other.

"My brain's been battered
My friends they come around they
Flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter
Pile it up, pile it high on the platter"

And that's a TV series so-called day off. Glamorous, no?


Which leads to the all important question - Beatles? Or Stones? (I believe I've italisized my preference)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Let's Mix It Up...

...shall we?

I'm of the mind as of tonight that 'Dexter' and 'Heroes', two of my most watched new tv shows, haven't necessarily 'jumped the shark' but are 'stuck at the dock' or are 'spinning their wheels' or some other catch phrase for starting to feel repetitive. My other realization is that their initial 'series arc mystery' is a limited one trick pony, and thus got me wondering - where do they go from here?

Heroes - Save the the world!

Okay - let's preume they save the cheerleader, thus save the world (or there ain't no more show). Then what?

As for Dexter, I'm not saying I'm no longer entertained. But I think I know who the ice truck killer is - and the little knowing look into the camera by Dexter at the end of last nights episode felt a little 'Dr. Evil' over the top. Okay, minor complaints - and I will let them stretch this out for a season...but then what?

Now I'm happy to be proven wrong. I admit I thought '24' and 'Prison Break' and even 'Lost' had no legs based on their premise, and look at them now.

And I realize this discussion may prove to be fruitless because viewers aren't up to speed plus I'm not advocating to give up a lot of 'spoilers', but I'm putting it out there anyway.

Your Favourite Thing...

...was a song from the 'File Under Easy Listening' cd by Sugar, a 90's band that was basically Bob Mould, formerly of Husker Du. Great artist. Great cd.

The first verse went something like:

"Tell me I'm your favorite thing
You can tell me anything
I wouldn't mind
Dream about you every night
Something tells me that's not right
I wouldn't mind, I wouldn't mind
Not at all..."

One of my favourite things about this here blogging thing is waking up to posts and comments not just from fellow Canucks (you know who you are), but from all over the world.

Greg checks in from China as he travels back and forth from Indiana to Beijing putting together a shoot for Discovery Channel; Good Dog, Riddley, and English Dave take a break from their work on a variety of TV/DVD projects in the U.K. to poke their heads in, sometimes joined by Lee and Pynchon (I know there are more of you but these boys leave comments and therefore identify themselves); Crashdummie/Ruby and Hart have nothing to do with this silly entertainment business but still make regular stops from Sweden.

Meanwhile Scott and Emily and Diva and Cunningham and Portnoy and Martell are swimming with sharks in Los Angeles but always make time for Uninflected Images; LoveStrong and Agnax and Savage Art peek in from east coast of the U.S. (not sure where exactly since Sitemeter and Statcounter give each two different locations)...Unk and Mystery Man could be anywhere and everywhere, sometimes I think they actually are....and whenever I am so fortunate to get a shout out link from one of the 'real bloggers' (you know who you are) - the visits and comments can come from darn near the world.

I find that fascinating.

This exposure to different lifestyles, viewpoints, attitudes, perspectives, and opinions outside of one's own small life's not only fascinating, it's entertaining and enlightening. I also find it remarkable that a little experiment in self-motivation that began just 6 months ago has resulted in over 2100 profile views and nearly 10,000 visits. Amazing actually.

That said, I wanted to take this opportunity to put out the question of whether there are some topics or areas of interest that readers might want to hear more about...otherwise I'll just stay the course.

So a tip of the hat but no wag of the finger - thanks for giving me the impetus to share everything from tales from the tv trenches to music I enjoy, like Bob Mould and Sugar, and everything inbetween. It's been a fun hobby to date.

File Under: Easy Listening

p.s. a special shout out to Oklahoma's MovieQuill and the U.K.'s lovely Optimistic Reader (though she don't show up on Technorati, same as a lot of UK links...odd) who were two of the first to link me up...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Prime Time Fun And Games...

Remember when 'The Price Is Right' was the mothership of gameshows? And when Bob Barker spewed forth: "....a new car!", the crowd went wild? And you went wild in your living room or family room or wherever the tv was? Good times...good times... But 'a new car' then seems to be nothing less than '1 million dollars!' today.

This article in the Wall Street Journal tells of a return to prime time game shows like we haven't seen since the days of 'The Weakest Link' and 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire'. You know ' love 'em, you can't live without 'em - "Deal Or No Deal" and "1 vs. 100" - and now, people get ready for...

"Walt Disney Co.'s ABC unveils "Show Me the Money," a splashy series hosted by William Shatner. Contestants win money by answering trivia questions and then choosing among 13 female dancers, who carry scrolls containing secret dollar amounts."
Gee, I wonder what the catchphrase of that series will be? As if we weren't already sick of it...

What's fascinating is that networks see this new wave of shows as PVR or TiVo beaters. People tend watch these shows like live nail biting sporting events, and so viewers are more likely to watch the commercials.

Live nail biting sporting events? Heaven help us...

"You want to build a show where people at home are playing along, screaming at the set," says David Goldberg, president of Endemol USA, a reality TV production company behind "Deal or No Deal" and several other game shows. "That kind of engagement is immediately going to be attractive to advertisers." It is also relatively easy to outfit game shows with text messaging and Internet elements, which boost audience involvement while adding to profitability, says Mr. Goldberg. "It encourages people to watch live if you give them a way to play along at home," he says. "That's the bonus the digital age has added."

NBC's "Deal or No Deal," for instance, operates an at-home version of the game where viewers can send text messages on their cellphones to pick a "lucky" suitcase to win cash and prizes. Since the show's debut, viewers have sent about 25 million messages at a cost of 99 cents each. NBC splits the revenue with its partners, which include cell phone companies and production companies.

Okay...25 million 99 cents each....25 million...99 cents... Holy crap! (for the record, I believe the 'lucky' suitcase contains $100,000 dollars)

Apparently, the recent lack of new reality hits has put financial pressure on networks, which have come to rely on the cheap programming to offset poorly performing reruns and the spiraling cost of making dramas.

Game shows are helping ease the load: programs such as "1 vs. 100" and "The Rich List" cost less than $1 million an hour to produce, or 60% less than the average drama. (The cost of paying out cash to contestants is amortized over the run of the series or covered by insurance.)
Holy crap again! I haven't worked on a Canadian drama series approaching a million dollar an episode budget (and that's Canuck bucks remember) in nearly 8 years. How the hell are we supposed to compete? Oh right, we can't...

Anyhow, Saget, Shatner, and Mandell host these puppies - too bad Mr. Captain Kirk didn't appear in "The Aristocrats"...then the lesson of the day might be you need to tell an ultra foul mouthed dirty joke in order to host a prime time game show in 2006.

Ah, who am I kidding...we all know what clip Shatner used for his audition...

He's a!

With dramatic television finally beginning to crawl from the carnage caused by the recent reality tv boom, let's hope this crop of prime time game shows doesn't take off...

...though I would like to see Bob Barker do his rendition of 'The Aristocrats'...and the crowd goes wild!

Saturday, November 11, 2006


"We could never be proud of what we'd done, just thankful we had survived the doing."

Jim at Legion of Decency has a very nice post this morning about his memories of Remembrance Day.

Lest we forget indeed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Calculator Jello... much as I loved the to and fro between Tim (..yer a cock..yer a cock..yer a cock) and Gareth (...Two lesbians probably...sisters. I'm just watching...) in the original 'The Office', the American 'Office' more than holds its own. Some Friday Fun as the Yankie Tim tries to pull the jello gag over at his new place of employment...

...because it makes me smile.

SONG&ARTIST? - "So what becomes of you my love
When they have finally stripped you of
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you..."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Rainbow Of Colours...

Golden Rod
Double White
Double Pink

As you go through preproduction or prep (the 5-7 days leading up to the shooting of a tv episode), changes come up that warrant a revision. A line of dialogue. A character name. All of act three. Some will be big changes. But most will be little. Whatever the extent of the damage, those revised pages are published with an asterix marked at the end of each changed line. They are then put out or distributed as coloured pages.

The order of those colours varies from tv series to tv series, but the list above is the one with which I am the most familar.

It all starts with the Shooting Script or White Script. Whatever it's titled, it generally means prep or preproduction is about to begin and the script is 'locked'. That means that from that point on all the pages and scene numbers stay the same. Scenes are numbered for easy reference, and page-locking allows everyone to keep the same copy of the script even if the script changes. For example, if you insert a new scene after scene 10, it becomes scene 10A. If scene 12 gets cut, it stays in the script but just says OMITTED beside it. If you add half a page to scene 8 that was on page 6, that extra half a page becomes page 6A. I'm sure it sounds retarded to an outsider but it's just the way it is.

Which brings me to Series TV Tip#5

The script is the map for the crew and cast. It's their guide...and bible. It's got all their notes in the margins. Once revisions start to come out, everyone has to go through their White or Locked Script in their master binder and take out all the pages that have been revised, and put in the pink page revisions. Then they (hair/makeup/costume/sound/camera/ director/actors, etc. etc.) have to transfer all their handwritten notes from the old white page to the new revised coloured page. If they have to do this over and over throughout a prep period, they begin to grumble...a lot...about the writing department.

I remember the first series I was on was with a hyperactive exec who would decide that the character Jake should say Hi instead of Hello and then make the change and order loudly: "Let's get that page out right away!"

So we would. And that one change would go to the story coordinator who would implement the change on a master script in their computer which would create pink version of that same page except the word Hi was changed to Hello and there was a little asterix beside it.

Then the office staff has to run at least a hundred copies of the pink (or whatever color we were up to) page for the crew and cast and then coordinate delivering that page to cast and crew in the production office or on set shooting the current episode, and then the crew and cast have to insert new page where old page was...hey, it was a big deal.

It didn't really register with me, but we were getting into double blue pages and double yellow pages for the first half a dozen episodes or so. Mostly due to HEP (hyper exec producer). This went along for about a month until my crafty line producer (LP) friend calls me into the office. Boots on the desk again. Waving around this one pink page.

LP: "Excuse me? We just published pinks to change Hi to Hello? Is this a joke?"

I look at my feet again (I did that a lot with him): "Uh yeah well HEP wanted to get it out right away."

LP: "What was he worried about? That nobody would understand the story if this wasn't changed? Is he nuts?" (I heard that a lot too)

Me: "Hey man, I'm just doing what I'm told."

He motions me over closer to his desk. I slowly inch forward.

LP: "Let me give you a bit of advice. Cuz you'll actually listen. Take each of these little changes and compile them in some kind of master - and then about halfway through prep (3-4 days in), put out a set of coloured revisions (i.e. Pinks). Then after the last production meeting, put out the next revised coloured draft (Blue). Do this and the crew and cast will start talking to you again, trust me."

Me: "Uh, yes sir."

As long as it's not a major change that affects story in a big way, or locations, or casting, or special effects, etc. - and the key personnel (1st A.D.'s, Director, Production Managers, Producers) are aware of the little bits and pieces, just keep track of them and then put them out in the middle of and then the end of prep. And generally the rule is if 50% or more of the pages have changes on them, you publish the entire script in the next colour. And everyone tends to prefer to see a 'Full Blue' script say, than individual pages. Again, it's just the way it is.

Your cast and crew will LOVE you for this one. (not to mention the save on paper)

SONG&ARTIST? - "She comes in colors everywhere;
She combs her hair
She's like a rainbow
Coming colors in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colors..."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Make Your Vote Count...

...I'm not one much for politics - never really have been. I tend to get most of my political 'news' from the Daily Show and The Colbert Report. And I'm not saying it's not something to take's just never been my cup of tea.

But I've spent many an hour talking with (well, mostly listening to) those that do. And it can be pretty intense. Like the topic of religion or faith, politics can take people over...make them rabid crazy committed so to speak, to 'their team'. And just dare to disagree, or suggest looking at it from the other side...well, it can lead to an earful. Much like sports fans, I suppose. There that same kind of overwhelming passion and fervor exists - be it blind or justified. And I find "Go Leafs Go" can have the same kind of ring to it as "Four More Years" or "Praise The Lord".

As a general rule, I tend to try to avoid those kind of people. I'm suppose I'm just not that passionate or committed to any of those areas of interest to want to get into the ring all the time...because that's what it's like - getting into the ring. That said, I've also been envious of those with that wildly enthusiastic conviction or belief in something - like I'm missing out on an exciting part of the life experience. Who knows.

Anyway, watch Keith Olbermann from MSNBC and his most recent commentary. I'm a Canadian but was born in the United States., and so do tend to pay at least as much attention to the dealings south of the border. Yes Olbermann's anti-Bush but he's just so damn deliberate and precise and for the most part 'correct', I find him a real pleasure to listen to.

Mid-term elections are taking place in the U.S. today...and if you can vote, try to do so. For all my apparent indifference, I do vote...stick my ballot in the box with some care and attention. Your one vote may seem insignificant, but it doesn't cost you anything, and hopefully you'll feel good about participating - which ever team you're supporting.

And that's about as political as I get.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Universal Question...Redux

...English Dave has a nice post about 'why does it work?' ... (it being a movie or tv show). It working can mean on a broad level, if it was a hit...or on an individual level - that it worked for you specifically. But it's good to ask why. To try to understand why.

Relating to the material - the characters and the situations/dilemma's they face and how they deal with them seems to be the most obvious answer. But it is never that simple. My 'Matrix' may be your 'Star Wars'. My 'Seinfeld' may be your 'Two And A Half Men'. My 'Old School' may be your 'Scary Movie pick a number'. And my 'Dexter' may be your 'Criminal Minds'. And there are so many intangibles. Not to mention your mood or frame of mind when you view a program can affect your opinion of it. And when it's scheduled. Yeesh - the's mindbending.

Taste is such a subjective thing, isn't it. No wonder it's so difficult to create a hit...a hit 'anything'. But it's still good to ask why, even if about something successful that doesn't necessarily appeal to you. The audience is a BIG audience out there. It's not just about you and your tastes, although I remember reading an interview with David Fincher after 'Alien 3' that said otherwise...

In response to the hellish shoot he apparently created, asking for take after take of dripping alien goo, or making actors run down corridors a hundred times, his response went something like: "I'm making this movie for me and my three friends to watch and enjoy - I really don't care about anybody else."

My first reaction was...what arrogance - he's sure lucky he made 'Se7en'. Oh yeah, and 'Fight Club'.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Baby's On Fire (Eno...Baby!)

Denis McGrath over at DeadThingsOnSticks is just smokin' hot today...firing off this post about changes in tv comedy, this one about the CBC and tv as software business, and this hilarious peek at riling messageboarders.

That last post reminded me of my short stint of secret missions into messageboardland of a show I worked on...met me some crazies indeed. But it was pretty funny also...I'll try to write it up soon.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nobody Knows (Anything)... of these days I'll do a real post again, but until then check out these two good articles from the Washington Post discussing winners and losers and analyzing what's working and why from the fall tv season. Generally speaking, nobody has a clue.

'Criminal Minds' now in the top ten "Jutratest smirks"

'Dexter' renewed for another season "Dmc bites his lip-draws blood"

'House' cancelled "Diane screams" (just kidding)

Caroline has a pinot grigio buzz going...don't matter what's on the tube

Callaghan is rewatching 'Rockstar: Supernova'...again

And for Portnoy (who is working on a Chris Rock movie and got the star to plug his Reel Hollywood blog cool is that! )...

...more from the Victoria Secret Fashion Show.

Its Friday evening and I must get back to work...enjoy your lives.

"Well What Did You Expect...

...they're Canadian."

Heart's half in it right now but some Friday Fun nevertheless from Terrance and Phillip in the South Park Movie.

Because when I'm in the mood for smiling, it makes me smile...

Language Warning: Viewer Discretion is Advised

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sorry 'Bout That...

...lost my mind for a couple of hours. Funny the things we do or say sometimes to get through it all. Some people can turn those funny things into a career. Aaron Barnhart at the Kansas City Star gives a big thumbs up for Everybody Loves Raymond' creator Phillip Rosenthal's new book "You're Lucky You're Funny: How Life Becomes A Sitcom."

Sounds like a fun read. Maybe even a laugh or two.

When I get some time, I think I'll check it out.

SONG&ARTIST? - "The light in the window is a crack in the sky
A stairway to darkness in the blink of an eye
A levee of tears to learn she'll never be coming back
The man in the dark will bring another attack
Your momma told you that you're not supposed to talk to strangers
Look in the mirror tell me do you think your life's in danger
Here ya..."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

: |

One of the toughest things about tv writing is getting the shit kicked out of your script, only to have to come back the next morning with the same script, only better...

How was your day?

EDIT: Okay, thanks mates...pouting behind me - 8 pages in...22 more to go. Just have to keep saying: "It will be better for it." And it will.

Sweeps Peeps...

An article from the Detroit News with a helpful heads up to some 'very special episodes' or 'very special specials' to look out for during the upcoming November sweeps month.

Unfortunately, the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" has been pushed to December so I have no idea what I'll be watching.