LIFE is HOUSE but set on the streets instead of a hospital...unusual Bones-like crimes instead of obscure medical mysteries...both a form of procedural with a quirky British actor playing the American lead. I mean, Damian Lewis (Detective Crews) could be Hugh Laurie's brother for crying out loud...
But I still like Life...a lot.
Last night was the season two premiere, and although it wasn't a standout episode (so many new and returning shows this fall seem hung up on revisiting all the 'setup elements' of the series as if viewers have been away for years!) it was still a solid effort that effectively drew me back in. Life continued its two parallel storylines: solving new crimes in the present while zen-spouting Crews tries to find out why he was framed back in 1995. A nifty spin on the cop detective genre, Life feels oh so 'been there done that', and yet...somethingsdifferent.
And that's all a TV show really needs to do to fit in yet stand out in today's crowded television major network landscape. So what's different?
The characters mostly...smartly drawn and armed with clever dialogue, especially the seemingly mismatched partners Crews (Damian Lewis) and Reese (Sarah Shahi).
Okay she's not that bad, but still, mmmmmm....bad cop.
"They say I'm crazy but I have a good time I'm just looking for clues at the scene of the crime Life's been good to me so far."
Check this show out. Like the Joe Walsh song, once it gets in your head you'll be humming it all day. If you like 'familiar TV' which is also smart, funny, and original in its own unique way, that's Life.
One other thing to know about the series is it's wonky schedule over the next couple weeks. To try to capitalize on Heroes as a lead in it'll air a new episode on Mondays and another new episode on Fridays before settling into its regular Friday evening slot on NBC.
Far Away Scriptwriter thinks I have great musical taste (sometimes), and so tagged me with the following meme:
Find a song that sums up what you think it means to be a writer and post the lyrics on your blog and why you've chosen it. NB: It doesn't have to be your favourite song, it just has to express how you feel about writing and/or being a writer. It can be literal, metaphorical, about a particular form or aspect of writing - whatever you want. Then tag 5 others to do the same.
Well this will be NSFW, but I have to go there. NIN. Trent Reznor. The dark auteur of industrial excellence. A song not surprisingly from his The Downward Spiral release, 'Closer'.
you let me violate you you let me desecrate you you let me penetrate you you let me complicate you
help me i broke apart my insides help me i've got no soul to sell help me the only thing that works for me help me get away from myself i want to fuck you like an animal i want to feel you from the inside i want to fuck you like an animal my whole existence is flawed you get me closer to god
you can have my isolation you can have the hate that it brings you can have my absence of faith you can have my everything
help me you tear down my reason help me it's your sex i can smell help me you make me perfect help me become somebody else i want to fuck you like an animal i want to feel you from the inside i want to fuck you like an animal my whole existence is flawed you get me closer to god
all through every forest above the trees within my stomach scraped off my knees i drink the honey inside your hive you are the reason i stay alive
Reznor’s 1994 album The Downward Spiral told the story of one man’s descent to near self-destruction. He describes this album as having “a brutality and an iciness that is a way to prevent you from getting inside. It’s an armor.” This reflection on the artist and the album from BlogCritics Jaime Nichols is well worth reading, and I liked this bit:
By the end of the last song, on The Downward Spiral, one had the unmistakable sense of teetering on the brink of the nihilist void with Reznor's narrative "i", now reduced to a stripped down, elemental consciousness that had eviscerated itself of moral and emotional certainty, but whose mind was still terrifyingly and unflinchingly engaged. It was a dreadful prospect, but one which felt like a kind of extreme, if uneasy, virtue.
'Closer', with all its ferocious intensity, was the highpoint of The Downward Spiral. And for me it's less a song about raw uninhibited sex, and more about achieving purity through sin, freedom through expression, unbridled passion through purging. Letting it all out and holding nothing back, as painful and soul-baring as it will be, can allow for 'pure' creativity. Giving yourself wholly and completely will make it an experience unlike any other...usually resulting in what we call 'writing in the zone'.
You are the reason I stay alive....that more or less says to me all there is to say about writing or being a writer.
Friday Fun! Jon Stewart smacks a line drive home run with this faux bank loan interview last night, enhanced by props...big glasses! Watch and enjoy HERE. Colbert Report and The Daily Show...best TV all week.
Please consider this letter my small token of appreciation for your new cdDear Science. Your original blend of funk, soul, jazz, and new wave/punk rock is a juxtaposition worth listening to, not to mention it makes me wanna dance.
I heard some of the new release HERE, and more of it OVER HERE...and then I purchased the cd when it hit the stores yesterday. Plus you put out trippyWebisodes like THIS, and a new video for 'Golden Age' on the Youtubes.
Mmmm. Cool musical goodness.
We have some history together. You got my attention with 'Wolf Like Me' from Return To Cookie Mountain. You sunk your hooks deeper into me with 'Staring At The Sun' off Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. And you hail from Brooklyn...my brother lives in Brooklyn.
Your bizarre sonic stylings inspired by diverse musical influences seems like it shouldn't work, but it does. I am, once again, impressed and entranced.
Some day I'm going to start to act my age...put away the music that my eldest daughter listens to and wants to tell me about but then is almost disappointed when she learns I'm already all over it --- and start being all about the classical and opera.
But until that day comes, I still want my TV on the Radio.
"What made you want to be a TV writer? Was there a defining moment? Was it an awakening? Did you always know?"
And not wanting to be a poop, here's what I can say...
I enjoy writing, but since I'm not much of a journalist, a really lousy novelist, a mediocre blogger, a bad playwright, an 'only occasionally' feature film writer, and a lame poet (not to mention a rather slow 'plinkplink' typist), where does that leave me?
I still like to tell stories, even seem to have a bit of a knack for it...so why TV? Well, in the immortal words of Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) in An Officer And A Gentlemen...
So much is being made of how the pilot for the new Fox series Fringe wasn't very original. Or that it didn't blow the competition out of the water ratings-wise. Or that it isn't Lost. Or that it ripped off Lost because the teaser was set on a airliner. Or that the two leads (Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson) seemed a little wooden.
Get over it, people...it's the friggin pilot for crying out loud! Go back and watch the pilots of Buffy or The X Files or Alias even if you want to witness some less than stellar plotlines or actors still finding the comfort zone of their characters.
In fact, I did just that.
Little green men, alien abductions, and government conspiracy proliferated the beginning of The X Files TV series...in fact, it almost became a little repetitive. And David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson weren't embarrassing but definitely struggled to find the voices of Mulder and Scully. And then 'Squeeze' aired...a dark unnerving story about a hibernating man-boy creature who awoke every 30 years to extract and eat livers from five random targets. And the kicker was this...he could squuuuueeeeze through any small opening to get at his victims.
Cool. And creepy. I was hooked.
But my point is this...the first X Files I watched was entitled 'Fire', episode 11 of Season One. I just happened upon it...didn't love it, but enjoyed it enough to continue watching. Then Fox reran the pilot and the first couple of eps that I'd missed, and it was then that I saw 'Squeeze' (ep 3). So this was like halfway through Season One, and nobody else I knew was watching.
But that's because 'The X Files' didn't really hit its stride and start to approach what might be considered a hit until the end of the second season. Think about that...40+ shows to get your formula working and stories cooking and your actors and crew firing on all cylinders? Seems unthinkable now.
I feel sorry for TV producers and showrunners today (even if they are JJ Abrams). Though the networks so desperately want another X Files or Buffy or Alias, they won't allow audiences the time to find or discover them for themselves as it were. There is such relenting pressure to deliver 'a hit' right out of the gate...but as we've recently seen with Back To You or Bionic Woman or even already with 90210, expecting hit ot touting something a hit before it airs is usually a surefire way to strip it of all its potential 'hitness'.
House was solid out of the gate, but grew into a hit. Same can be said for Criminal Minds. In genre turf similar to Fringe, both Supernatural and Smallville were allowed to play in the sand for a bit before settling into their groove. And people still found them. And stuck with them.
Don't get me wrong, I had some complaints about Fringe...I didn't quite buy Joshua Jackson's 'sweetheart' take on the character of Peter - he's no Mulder/Duchovny. And the 3D titles establishing location were a cool at first, but they quickly became a tiresome and intrusive gimmick, taking me out of the story and reminding me I was only watching a TV show (with a big budget).
Another common complaint was that the pace of the pilot was sluggish, but I'd actually prefer if it all slows down even more. Because that creates tension. Tension and suspense is good. Ick factor is also good. We could use a show on air now that makes us wanna look away from the screen and go "ewwwww"...and in a scripted show, as opposed to a Wipeout or being part of a Survivor challenge. Not mention it's really hard (and expensive) to make an bang up action 'rock video-like' TV series every week. When are networks going to get this through their heads...? fasta pace lotsa action all-the-time does not keep people (much less 'the kids') watching the tee-vee. Good drama and intriguing engaging characters combined with suspense, tension, and some cool twists, punctuated with some running and jumping....that's what keeps 'em coming back for more.
But overall, I liked the Fringe pilot a lot. It unfolded well, had some good twists, and most importantly, effectively set up the characters and the world of the show. From that, I really like the arena and the potential for stories in the series. I'm looking forward to episode 3.
Here's hoping the networks' 'out of the gate' expectations for the series weren't too high, so they, and we, can eventually reap the benefits of Fringe.
Fringe airs Tuesdays (tonight) after House on Fox.
(and unlike other 'fancy' blogs...Fox didn't send me any Fringe screeners to convince me to bat for their team)
I'll wrap up 'plug week' with a shout-out for a post...a MONSTER post over at Henshaw's house. The Big Jim doesn't exactly support the Harper governments' recent cuts to Canadian arts and culture programs, but he doesn't exactly knock the notion of cuts either. Instead, he uses them as a springboard to do what we ALL need to start doing...seriously question whether our over-subsidized, under-nourished entertainment industry is really working.
Just a taste:
Folks, our subsidy system is broken because it serves neither the artists of the country nor the audience while allowing and encouraging the money to be siphoned off by those who are mostly hanging around for the wine and cheese party.
We need to start considering a system that works for the rest of us. Because if we don't, things are only going to get worse.
In the 1990's, I had the opportunity of shooting a couple of films in Hungary, shortly after the fall of the Communist system. There had been a strong, state-funded Arts system there and we had a number of very talented local artists working on the films. But working with them wasn't that easy. A system that had looked after all their needs had also robbed them of all initiative and accountability. Many sleep-walked through their tasks, their artistic flame smothered by living too long in a welfare state.
And you can see the same thing happening in this country. The more Government has subsidized (and thereby controlled) our ventures, the less we produce in terms of both final production numbers and work that inspires our audience. Our television drama is a shadow of what it was 20 years ago and our feature film industry has gone from one of the busiest in the world to one of the least productive.
Telefilm spends hundreds of thousands of dollars developing scripts no local production company even deigns to read. Writers, directors and actors stick with series none of them would be caught dead watching because it pays the rent. And the phrases you most hear at industry soirees are "what're you gonna do" and "it's what they're making".
It makes you wonder if what we've got is really worth preserving. Surely there must be some way to kick-start a new financing formula that would attract venture capital or reward private contribution instead of hanging on to one that isn't creating anything we're really proud of.
Read all of it HERE. And I mean read it...with attention. And then think about it. And then start talking about it and discussing it with your colleagues.
I wish we could all have a town hall meeting afterwards...
This is turning into 'plug week' for some of my old friends and colleagues.
I've known filmmaker Brian Stockton for about 25 years. We met in film school at UofR, and while there scratched each others back several times, so to speak...him acting in my graduating project "Heartline", and me acting in at least one of his videos ("9 1/2 Minutes" I think). Then we went in different directions...me choosing to pursue the more commercial and mainstream world of television, whereas Brian wanted to keep it personal yet go bigger...you know, make feature films.
His collaboration with Gerald Saul resulted in the darkly amusing post-apocalypse road movie "Wheat Soup", critically acclaimed and regarded by many as Saskatchewan's first indigenous independent feature. Brian followed up that effort with "The 24 Store" (I think I had a role in it...it all kinda blurs together after a while), a precursor of sorts to Kevin Smith's "Clerks" about the proprietors of an old convenience store coping with a new 7/11 setting up shop across the street.
Well, as we all know, it's a bitch to finance and produce theatrical features in this country. And so while Brian toiled to try to get his next longform movie off the ground, he ended up making a bit of a name for himself with several successful short films...most notably "The Blob Thing" and "The Weight of the World" (the latter produced during his stint at the CFC).
That led to The Saskatchewan Trilogy... three short 35mm films tracking his childhood growing up on the prairies and in Regina... all very personal and done with a unique blend of documentary, drama, and animation (think the opening scenes of Annie Hall and Alfie remembering his youth).
I've always enjoyed Brian's sensibility and unique take on things...sort of a Woody Allen meets Guy Madden, if that's even possible. And so I am pleased to direct you to screenings of his latest effort, "Whitmore Park".
It's playing this week at TIFF (that's the Toronto International Film Festival y'all) as part of the Short Cuts Canada Program, and is the fourth and latest installment in what he ultimately hopes to be a 8 part series of short films entitled The Epic Story Of My Life.
Here's the where and when (in Toronto of course):
September 10, 7PM - Jackman Hall - AGO September 11, 5PM - AMC 3
I know McGrath posted about this the other day, but felt it was worth another mention.
Producer/director/writer Larry Raskin is an old pal....from swinging clubs in the old old days in the Atlantis golf tourney at the Banff TV Festival, to the not so old days, burning the late night oil churning out final season Psi Factor's on next to zero budget and six day shooting schedules...and his latest effort is Make Or Break TV. He gave me a screener episode a couple months ago which went behind the scenes of the short-lived series Blade, and it was pretty swell.
There was some confusion about when exactly Make Or Break TV airs...the following release should clear things up.
The premiere episode of this insightful, encyclopedic look at the process of television production, will air on Monday, September 8th at 9:00 pm ET/PT on TVtropolis.
Hear the back-story of various television series as told by the writers, actors, directors and studio executives that were involved in their development, trajectory and demise.
Each television series featured in MAKE OR BREAK TV has had an impact on the pop culture landscape - Max Headroom, EZ Streets, Blade: The Series, Quark, Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years and Grosse Pointe. MAKE OR BREAK TV features interviews with such award-winning actors as Eric McCormack, Kurtwood Smith and Joe Pantoliano, as well as candid commentary from some of television’s greatest players including Paul Haggis, Chris Carter, Darren Star and David Frankel.
MAKE OR BREAK TV will premiere Mondays at 9:00 pm with encore presentations on Thursdays at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm and Sundays at 7:30 pm. (NOTE: ALL TIMES ET/PT)
So tonight at 9pm (ET) here in Canada...check it out.
The American fall TV season kicks into gear this week, and Bones begins Season 4 on Wednesday night with a 'very special' two hour episode set over in the UK. The following is just a cut and paste of an email exchange me and old pal/Bones showrunner Hart Hanson had over the weekend, so don't take it all too seriously.
WD: So big Brit two part season opener this week, how did it turn out?
HH: It turned out very well. It was a bear to shoot, lots of budget considerations to take into account, not to mention cultural differences with crews, etc., but I think it might have been the most fun I’ve had on a shoot. It didn’t hurt that the hotel was great.
WD: Did you write a story that ended up being a two-parter, or did it have to be at least two eps to make it worthwhile to even go over there?
HH: It’s a seamless two hour extravaganza with a gigantic seam in the middle that should be invisible. HAHAHAHA! We were given an impossible task. The network wanted a seamless two hour movie version that could nonetheless be split into two separate episodes. Insane! We did a pretty good job, I think. You’ll tell me after you see it. Tonight it’s showing at the IMAX. I may slip down and see how a crowd in a theatre likes what we did.
WD: How did you get Bones gang over there, story-wise. Does it track or at end of the day, was it just a stunt move? (man, what a dickish question!)
HH: Nah, that’s not a dickish question. That’s a question involving reality. The whole gang didn’t go over, just Booth and Brennan. The squints stayed home and worked on the lab stuff – we gave up trying to adjust to the time change REAL fast. Also, there’s a huge story for the squints, biggest we’ve ever had. I expect to hear hollering on the level of when Zack turned out to be the Gormogon’s apprentice.
WD: Are the cast all behaving after the 'demise'(sort of) of Zack last season? Or have they gotten paranoid and bothersome? Or all wanting to direct now?
HH: The cast is mostly behaving. I would prefer that they simply blindly do what I ask them to do but if they did that then they wouldn’t be actors. Though David Boreanaz will be directing this season – most likely episode 11.
WD: And what are the message boards saying...are you still on probation?
HH: On the Zack thing? The fans have not calmed down. I think I’m definitely on probation. We just finished shooting an episode in which Zack is featured again. Here's a pic from a scene where Zack and Hodgins confab at the loony bin. It's from the third episode of the new season called "Pieces in the Purple Pond" or something.
It was lovely to see him for the actors and for the crew. Millegan is a sweetie-pie. It’s possible that some of the fans may rethink their ire as Zack’s story unfolds but the fact is he’s not a regular on the show any more. Zack was some peoples’ favourite character and they will never forgive me.
WD: Do you still like writing for the cast, or is the 'thrill gone'? And is the network happy with how the stories and relationships are playing out, or are they constantly asking you to spice it up?
HH: I like writing for them still, a lot. And for the rest of the ensemble. And John Francis Daley is new to the cast and we have these new interns to write for and they've been a blast. The tricky thing is not to move too fast on Booth and Brennan's relationship but not to let it grow stale. The network tends to want to rush things too much. ADD as a corporation. But it's actually a good dynamic: they push for stuff, I resist, and we find equilibrium.
We should be getting reviews on the season opener any minute and then we'll know whether Bones still has it or not.
WD: Fourth seasons always seem to be a bitch and can be the beginning of the end for a lot of shows. You know, coming up with new stories...remaining familiar but not predictable --- any plans for how Bones will combat the 4th season curse?
HH: I’ve already had one tantrum in the writer’s room. I was waving two scripts in my hands. Both were good. Unfortunately, both were stories that were far too familiar. I actually hollered. Since then, the room has been more careful about generating stories that I might find too similar to earlier stories. Alas for everyone (especially me) it means that I have to be involved in story generation earlier in the process than I’d like.
We face all the typical problems of Season IV, which I, in my simplistic way, always think of as the "Desire to Be Sympathetic". I don’t know what it is exactly, but on every series I’ve ever worked on around Seasons III or IV everybody wants the audience to love them even more so they resist everything that might make them less sympathetic.
WD: Any spoiler scoops for the upcoming season? Or is all the good stuff already out there on the internets...
HH: Booth and Brennan will be in bed together naked. One of Angela’s ex-lovers, a woman, returns to complicate her love life with Hodgins. How’s that? Not exactly scoops because I said these things at Comic-Con. Lemme think of something no one else knows...how about we are currently working on a story revisiting “The Gravedigger” serial-kidnapper. He comes after one of our own. Also, we are looking for someone to play Booth’s brother.
WD: Any more behind the scenes pics you can share?
Here's David, me, and Emily in front of the monitors. We are at Greenwich England, pretending to be at the side of Buckingham Palace, a scene where Booth and Brennan confront one of the Queen's Guard.
WD: Are you really listening to Emily, or just wondering what's for lunch? And is Boreanaz texting??
HH: Hmmm, good question. I know that later in the day I got ice-cream for the crew and it cost a fortune. This was a fairly simple scene so I very much doubt there was any meaningful discussion. The dark haired woman next to Emily is Indira Varma, who played "Inspector Cate Pritchard" ... she was INCREDIBLE. Very beautiful and talented woman.
Lunch was something called a "Banksey Chop" -- that's phonetic. And I'm sure my bladder is full of tea. Oh, and David and Emily are both WILD texters between scenes.
WD: You're starting to look old. I recently touched on the issue of ageism in the TV/move biz... what's your take?
HH: I think it’s massively complicated. Yes, ageism exists. But then so do entitled writers who need an excuse to explain a career dip. As someone who thinks real writers peak in their fifties, I think TV is all too anxious to turn to writers in their twenties. Also, in the last couple years I’ve been privy to young writers being asked to run shows and being BROKEN by the experience. Also, again in my opinion only, there is this seething need by the networks to appeal to younger audiences and it ain’t happening. Perhaps TV isn’t a young person’s medium? Who knows? I certainly don’t. If I did, I’d offer to run a network. My own network seems fixated on bringing “film like” premises to TV when I personally think that TV should be as far from films as possible in conception. “Lost” would never be a film, for example, and it’s a lovely, lovely TV show. But what do I know? I’m old.
WD: You and me both. Speaking of old, will there be a Led Zeppelin reunion album?
HH: Jimmy Page played at the Olympics. He wore a ponytail. A PONYTAIL. Now, no offense Will, I remember when you had your wacky samurai type haircut, but I think that pretty much suggests that a Led Zeppelin reunion is only weeks away, if you follow my reasoning.
WD: I do...sort of (what was wrong with my tail??). So what new music is 'must listen' on your cd player/ipod(?) these days?
HH: I’m not sure what counts as “new” these days. I’m listening to Madrugada, Jim White, Pedestrian, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Phutureprimitive, Alejandro Escovedo, Patrick Wolf, Antony and the Johnsons, Bardo Pond, VAST, Tomasz Stanko, Smog, Skalpel, Pedestrian, the New Mastersounds, Jazzhole...is that enough?
WD: Man, I feel so mainstream and uncool now. Okay, what new TV series do you hear good things/bad things? about for this fall? Are you looking forward to anything in particular?
HH: I’m woefully out of touch. One of my writers, Noah Hawley, got a series pickup off his pilot “The Unusuals” so I’m pulling hard for that one and it has good buzz. Another bud, Dave Hemmingson, has an hourlong in limbo, untitled. “Fringe” looks massive. I’m a Joss Whedon fan so “Dollhouse” looks good in the winter though I’ve seen and heard nothing. But let’s face it, the guy’s a genius. But I’m really not paying attention so your guess is better than mine.
WD: Okay, and most importantly...when's the House/Bones crossover?
HH: David Shore and I talk about this once a week. So far, it’s much more to "Bones" advantage than it is to “House’s” -- although we are now beating “House” in reruns. Like anyone cares. Aside from us.
Ugh...what a bunch of lame questions, but thanks to Hart for playing.
Bones Season 4 premieres Wednesday September 3 on Fox.