Monday, April 30, 2007

Welcome to Specville (or What to Spec, Part III)

It's that time again. Time to knuckle down and hammer out a new spec. Based on a number of sources, I present to you a partial list of what shows are "specable". Also, since most people assume a show not on the list should never be spec'ed, I include a list of the shows you should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES condsider a spec for. Anything which isn't on either list could be considered, but probably didn't make the 'hot' list for one reason or another. Most likely, because no one mentioned it.

UPDATE: The Riches and Dirt on FX have been renewed. I think there *may* be a case for a spec of 'The Riches' -- but I am skeptical about 'Dirt'. I also think 'Psych' is a borderline choice. Stick with shows which actually get some ink in the trades or online...

Hot Specs (Drama):

Ugly Betty
Shark (likely to be picked up next season)
The Closer
Criminal Minds
Desperate Housewives
Boston Legal
Men In Trees
The Wire (one season left -- get in while you can)
Big Love (I'm personally skeptical, but I know someone who mentioned it, so it's on the list)

Losing Ground, but still viable (Drama):

Cold Case
The Unit
Rescue Me
Veronica Mars (until it gets cancelled)

Forget it; Spec only if you enjoy rejection:

Las Vegas
CSI: Miami
The Ghost Whisperer
Prison Break
Crossing Jordan (likely cancellation)
Close to Home (possible cancellation)
What About Brian (possible cancellation)

Hot Specs (Comedy):

The Office
How I Met Your Mother
My Name is Earl
The New Adventures of Old Christine
30 Rock

Fading, but still viable:

Everybody Hates Chris
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Don't Bother (Comedy):

The Class (likely cancellation)
The War at Home
The George Lopez Show

Thursday, April 26, 2007

She's alive!

I pronounced her dead two days ago, but she started blogging again yesterday. I like getting fast results like that.

Things They Won't Tell You in Film School.

And all was put right in the world. Except Nathan Fillion still doesn't have a TV show. Dammit.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Please hire Nathan Fillion

...because he's unemployed again.

Fox has cancelled 'Drive' after 3 airings (the 2 hour pilot and two episodes). In its place Fox will air repeats of 'House' on Monday nights.

I weep for Tim and Nathan. And everyone else. This makes me very sad.

Time Bandits

Time-shifting. It's all the rage. Many refer to the practice as 'TiVoing' or 'DVRing' or heck, even the antiquated and totally inaccurate 'taping'. What it is is digitally recording a program and replaying it at a later time (and if you are like me, gleefully skipping through the commercials).

For the networks, it's an interesting trend and a dilemma.

Read this USA Today article for details, but I'll pull out one bit:

For some shows, time-shifting accounts for most of the falloff. Last year at this time, only 5% of the homes in Nielsen's sample had the recording devices; now 15.8% do. That has sparked a wider gap between ratings for shows watched live — the only yardstick used by Nielsen last year — and those watched within seven days of their initial airing.

"If you look at live plus seven-day viewing, those declines for several shows start to vanish," says Fox's Preston Beckman. Lost lost 14% of its live viewing this season, but when time-shifting is factored in, the show is down only 1%. The Office, down 10%, is actually up 2% with delayed viewing included.

"We can't really examine things in the same mind-set that we did a year ago," ABC research chief Larry Hyams says.

You ask "what does this have to do with writing for TV?" EVERYTHING. The networks are still the primary source for scripted series, drama and comedy. While there is certainly a gain in the number of cable shows, most people are still going to be looking to the networks for signs of where the jobs will be. The DVR revolution is coming. To go from 5% to 15% of households using DVRs is enormous. If this pace continues, Nielsen will have better luck measuring the viewership of test patterns.

Already Nielsen has reacted to this new trend and is attempting to develop new ways to measure ratings for shows, based on timeshifting. The problem is with the advertisers, not the networks.

The advertisers believe (mostly rightly) that people who record shows to watch later are skipping through the commercials to watch the program. If you aren't watching commercials, there's no reason to advertise. If there's no reason to advertise, networks lose money. If networks lose money...well, I think you see where this is going.

Keep an eye on this. Some people are considering this the 'tipping point' for networks focusing more on content for the internet or VOD. We'll only know by looking back on this time, but for now, we must all be aware of the changes to the status quo.

Bring out Your Dead

I'm not the only one watching the networks and reading the tea leaves of what will be spared execution and given new life, and which shows are being sent to the gallows.

Read this article in the Olympian for other thoughts. You'll notice most of them line up with my previous musings and Watch List predictions.

(Hat tip: a poster at the Programming Insider Forum.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"October Road" actors get an upgrade

This news bodes well for "October Road" getting a pick up for next year. The article states that two of the actors on the show have been upgraded to regular cast status for next season...we'll keep an eye on this. I expect we won't hear confirmation until after the last episode airs on Thursday this week.

Link: "October Road" actors get an upgrade

By the way, in case you haven't noticed, I've been a busy blogger bee today. The watch list and blog list are updated, and I posted an Obit for blogs which are departing my blogroll (and hello to those I've added recently).

More to come tomorrow -- I have two more posts in draft status!

TV Show Blogs 2006-07

UPDATE: 4/24/07 - Poked around again and found some more show blogs and podcasts. When in doubt, check the home page for the network/cable channel which airs the show.

I particularly like blogs that aren't 'character blogs' but rather blogs written by the writers about the show. I've scoured the web to find these blogs and bring them to you.

'Behind the Scenes' Blogs

  • Brothers and Sisters (ABC)
  • CSI:Miami (CBS) The Executive Story Editor, Corey Miller blogs.
  • The Closer (TNT) Written by show creator James Duff
  • Friday Night Lights (NBC)
  • Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
  • Heroes (NBC)
  • Men In Trees (ABC) Written by Creator/Showrunner Jenny Bicks
  • Monk (USA) So far, only one post, but hopefully this will continue forward. Also a couple of fun character blogs on the site.
  • Criminal Minds (CBS) Okay, it's an actress's blog, but every once in awhile there are some insights into the process of making a TV show.
  • Prison Break (FOX) Huh, this one is new -- written by Wade Williams who plays Bellick on the show. In fact, there are several blogs at TV Guide written by actors on shows such as 'The Office' (Jenna Fisher) and several others...
  • Standoff (FOX)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC)
I'll add to the list as more pop up. I think it is a good trend as it gives us insight into what makes these shows tick.

Character blogs

These are blogs written in the 'voice' of a character on the show. Sometimes they are maintained by the actors, other times a writer on the show writes the blog. For the 'Lost' diary last year, the writer's assistant maintained it (not sure who is doing it this year). I have listed these by show in alphabetical order.



In Memoriam

Normally the loss of a screenwriting blog in the scribosphere is a time of mourning. I'm finding more and more of the links in my blogroll lead to a 'file not found' type error, or a blog that hasn't been updated in months.

So I thought I'd present an obituary of "dead" scribe blogs.

First up, Sal Calleros's Blog, "Let us in!" provided us a great wealth of information on the ABC Fellowship Program, what with him having been in it. I actually rejoice at this blog death since he got an agent who advised him to shut the blog. Hmm, keep blogging, get a writing job...yeah, I'd close up shop too.

Shawn at "Agents are Evil" closed very recently. He said he lost interest in blogging. All I know was that he could rant with the best. His blog will be missed.

Reaching Above the Line was a fairly recent add to the blogroll, by virtue of linking me. Sadly, he seems to have been MIA since November. I've given him 5 months to return, with no signs of life. It's time his link was laid to rest.

Things they Won't Tell you in Film School -- a classic blog. Julie was detailing her many attempts to break into the industry long before I was. Fortunately, she too is a victim of success. Best of luck to you Julie! At least you left the blog up so that we could look back at your journey fondly.

ScreenwriterBones - Philip Morton, one of the few pros who blogs has been gone since September. He's pulled this disappearing trick before, so I hold out hope he will one day return. In the meantime, his blog is still there, and has a wealth of advice and information for aspiring screenwriters.

Writergurl's blog was always a fascinating read. I met her once at the Screenwriting Expo, and I am sad that's been gone from the scribosphere for more than six months. Come back to us!

New Yorker in Hollywood has also vanished as of the end of October. Now, I happen to know this blogger, and it is possible that work has kept her from updating. Again, I hope she returns.

Scriptweaver has an excuse for the demise of his blog -- he got a writing job! Good luck to you!

How to Write Screenplays, Badly at least tells us it is dead. Thanks for the heads up.

52 Screenplays seems to have turned into a search page with popups.

Todd A. has left us archives and a link to published articles.

Chained to the Keyboard may be the oldest corpse I'm burying. He hasn't updated since July last year.

I Want to Write has completely vanished. No trace...perhaps Google can find some old relic.

Finally, Cathy Seipp was one of those writers I really admired. She was funny, smart and could hold her own in a debate. Sadly, she died last month of lung cancer, having never smoked in her life. My condolences to her daughter, the rest of her family and friends.

But where there is death, there is also life, and I am happy to add new blogs to the blogroll:

12 Months
Screenwriter Guy
The Good, the Bad, and the Whatever
Day Al-Mohamed
Ancient Wisdom from a Young Man
The Rouge Wave
The Working Screenwriter

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pilot dirt

Oh I love a good rumor mill story. Especially if it is in the Reporter.

Read it and feel enlightened as to which pilots may make the cut next month.

Too lazy to click the link at the top of this post? Fine, here's a summary:

ABC: "Dirty Sexy Money" appears to be a frontrunner for a spot on the schedule. "Marlowe", "Suspect", "Pushing Daisies" and "Football Wives" are also looking good.

CBS: "Viva Laughlin", "Babylon Fields", "Swingtown", "Protect and Serve" and "The Man" are said to be favorites.

Apparently "Demons" got leaked last week accidentally...anyone got a copy?

Fox: "Action News" and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" look to be making the grade. "The Return of Jezebel James" and "The Life and Times of Tim" are also "heating up" in Reporter-speak.

NBC: "Lipstick Jungle", "Life", "Winters" and "Chuck" seem to be early front-runners.

The CW: They like "Gossip Girl" and "Reaper" and the untitled South Africa wildlife preserve show.

I won't speculate on the comedies until they are all shot. I'm sure they'll follow up with those later.

New York State of Mind

I know, I know...a whole week. You hate me, right? Well, consider this: Upfronts are fast approaching. And you know how I am about upfronts. That's right, make predictions, follow the announcements, praise and snark. So, stop whining, you know there's lots of content to come in the next month. In fact, if you are new here and have an interest in TV shows that get picked up/cancelled (and I know you are out there -- you googling people you) bookmark my site (shameless promotion) and come back at least once a week leading up to the big shew in NYC -- THE UPFRONTS. I'll do a primer on the upfronts next week to prepare you.

But today, I thought I'd recount my trip to New York City this weekend. Now, a lot of you have been to New York or lived in New York. You might be thinking, 'why do I care about YOUR trip to New York?' Answer: I don't know, but you're at my friggin blog, so you might as well read it. (Yeah, I'll update the watch list later...sheesh, no pleasing you people).

This was a milestone event for me. While a trip to New York on its own is exciting, and a first trip to New York is even more anticipated, there was something very special about this trip.

September 11, 2001. I was standing in the boarding line of a Delta flight, waiting to board a plane at the Orlando airport, headed to LaGuardia. I noted after a few minutes that our line wasn't moving. It was 8:30 AM.

Then an attendant announces that our flight is delayed. There had been the remains of a hurricane on the northeast coast in previous days, and I mused that perhaps the weather was still bad in New York.

If it weren't for the TVs in the terminal, we might never have known what was happening.

I was supposed to attend the wedding of a friend at Block Island. Going to New York was a treat I was giving myself. I had asked a friend to accompany me, a friend who had been to New York a couple of times and could serve as my guide. The events of the day made that trip impossible.

April 19, 2007 - Redeye: I finally breathe a sigh of relief as my life comes full circle. The trip, so long ago postponed would now come to pass. 9/11 marked a turning point in my life. In the wake of the tragedy, my sister got laid off and broke up with her long time boyfriend, our family dog died, and four months later my grandmother died. It was a dark time. From the darkness came new hope, however. My sister and I vowed to jumpstart our lives -- pick up and move to Los Angeles. I didn't know how I was going to get here 5 years ago, I just knew I had to do it. By the one year anniversary of that fateful day, I had a ticket in hand to visit Los Angeles. In January 2003, I was transferred by my job to L.A. And the rest you can deduce from my journey the last few years.

I was haunted by the aborted trip over the years. Yearning to close the book on that chapter of my life. I know that 'getting closure' is a cliche' worthy of an eyeroll, but I'll tolerate your looks of disdain to tell you that I really needed closure on this.

I was only there for two days. I met up with new friends who had never been there either. We wandered around like lost lambs for most of one day. But I didn't care. I was in New York...finally.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Medium and Friday Night Lights -- picked up?

I haven't seen this tidbit in any of the usual places, so let's hope CNN International knows what they're talking about.

Medium and Friday Night Lights (according to this source) have received script orders for next year. Not full-fledged pick ups but it is encouraging.

I'll keep an eye out for confirmation on this...

Monday, April 09, 2007

I saw "Hot Fuzz" this weekend.

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It's good. Really really good.

Shaun of the Dead is one of my new favorite films. In fact, it may be the only film not starring Will Ferrell produced in the last five years which is quoted by me often. I can watch the film any number of times and it never gets old.

I think Hot Fuzz will be the same way.

I'm for serious here, peeps. I don't "do" movie recommendations much, but when this one comes out (on April 20th)... Go. See. It.

For serious.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's done

Well, it took almost a year. It went through 3 (official) and an untold number of unofficial rewrites. It's possible it will get one more, depending on the readers it is going to now. But my first pilot spec is done.

I'm working on the bible now, and very soon it will go out to a few readers outside of my usual suspects (congrats, you all are now free!!) Once I feel that it is getting a passing grade there, it goes to the top of the portfolio, with the two show specs.

I see the light, and it is neon, blinking...


30 Rock gets another year

Futon Critic reports the news this morning. 30 Rock will live!

As a side note, I know many people have speculated that it would be an either/or situation with 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights -- both critically loved but low rated shows. Well, Friday Night Lights is getting a Peabody award. While this doesn't mean NBC MUST keep it, I do think it helps make their case that the show is worth saving. (Ugly Betty and Showtime's Brotherhood also received Peabody recognition this year).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More fallout from the schedule

This Variety article gives the details, but the basics are clear:

Six Degrees - gone.

Black Donnelly's - yanked from the schedule, probably never to return.

Notes from the Underbelly - so bad they keep moving the timeslot (now it's scheduled for Wednesdays at 8:30, behind According to Jim)

7th Heaven is dead...again.

Watch List needs a lot of updating today.

The Wedding Bells gets pulled

Looks like a couple of episodes will still air on 4/6 and 4/20, but then it's done.

In its last airing, it pulled a 1.5 rating. WWE Smackdown ranked higher. Ouch.