Suck Ups

There was an essay in the LA Times magazine this weekend by Sharon Bordas, an aspiring sitcom writer talking about "staffing season," that hectic period after the series pick-ups in May when shows hire all their writers. But the essay wasn’t really about that. It was about sucking up. Her first interview didn’t go well, so she lavished praise  on the next showrunner she met with.

I prostrated myself before him, calling him the best writer
of his generation. Without a trace of irony. It worked. My agent called
to give me the good news: Boy Wonder Two (BW2) loved me.

She didn’t get hired as a writer, though. She got hired as a writer’s assistant. Not surprisingly, she lost the job on her first day when she pitched story ideas to the co-exec producer.

The next day I was fired. "It’s not going to happen," my agent told me,
explaining that showrunner-for-a-day had found me presumptuous and

She’s at a loss to understand why they got this impression of her and goes on and on blaming her career troubles on the inflated egos and duplicity of the showrunners she meets.

I didn’t even try to eat the day of my meeting with my third Boy
Wonder. I complimented everything from his writing to his shoes. Soon,
an offer was on its way, and my agent was thrilled…
The next day, one of the show’s producers announced that he had promised my job to the son of a friend. I was out. Again.

It never occurs to her that maybe the third Boy Wonder called around about her and didn’t like what he heard — so came up with a lame excuse for backing out before compounding his mistake. The whole point of the essay is that TV shows are run by assholes and talented, good-hearted people like her don’t get a break.  (She clearly thinks she’s coming off as lovable, funny, and sympathetic in her essay. She’s not).

She looked down her nose at each showrunner before she even stepped in the door for her  interviews. Each prospective employer was a "Boy Wonder," implying she thinks they got their show on the air not because of any talent or smarts,  but because they kissed the right asses and sold out. They don’t deserve her respect, honesty, or good-will. They are frauds. She is the real deal. (Even the co-exec producer is shrugged off as "showrunner for the day" when he should have prostrated himself in front of her awesome talent).

What was her interview strategy? To be a manipulative, lying little weasel, lavishing false praise on showrunners to hide her contempt for them. And when she finally snares an assistant position,  she has the gall on her first day to suggest story ideas to the co-exec producer when, in fact, her job is to answer the phones, type scripts, and get everybody lunch.

And she wonders why she was fired? Hollywood isn’t the problem, lady. It’s you.

The Joys of Pitching…again

I had a pitch yesterday, and for some reason, it’s got me thinking of all the bad pitching experiences I’ve had (not that the pitch yesterday went badly, it didn’t, but that’s not to say he leaped out of his seat, kissed me on both cheeks, and said "My only goal in life now is to make this project happen!").

Okay, so here’s my story, which I’ve told here before. This goes back a few years. 

I was in middle of pitching three TV
series ideas when the newly minted network exec – formerly a lawyer,
rock musician, accountant and personal trainer—interrupted me.

“You have no clue what makes a good TV series concept,” the exec said. “And your pitches suck.”

I smiled. “But does the rest work for you?”

want to hear a pitch? This is the perfect pitch, I just bought it.” the
exec continued. “There’s a cop. He’s a rebel. He’s a rogue. He doesn’t
play by the rules. He’s also an incredible slob. He’s teamed up with a
new partner who’s a stickler for the rules, a team player, and a neat
freak. His new partner is…a dog.”

I stared at him. “A dog?”

“A dog,” he said proudly.

“Does the dog talk?” I asked.

The exec’s eyes lighted up. “Now you’re getting the hang of it.”

Cowboys and Indians

I told this story a while back, when I first started this blog — but most of you weren’t around then, so it’s going to seem fresh and new.

We were writing an episode of a series for a Major Television
Producer who had dozens of hit shows to his credit. This particular
series, however, was not destined to be one of them.

For this
episode, he wanted to do a “modern take” on a “cowboys and indians”
story. He wanted to see “indians on the warpath” only with “a
contemporary sensibility.”

“Call’em Native Americans instead of
injuns,” the Major Television Producer instructed us, “that’ll make the
story instantly relevant.”

He also wanted it hip, sexy, and edgy. And he wanted women, lots of beautiful women.

joked that we could have seven super-models lost in the desert. His
eyes lit up. “Yes,” he said. “That’s perfect. That would give the show…

Unfortunately, he wasn’t kidding around. We
were stuck with seven super-models. I learned an important lesson. I
never joke about the story in a meeting… or the joke could become the

We went off and worked on the outline for our script.
We came up with a scene in which some bad guys destroy some sacred
Navajo ruins, upsetting the Native Americans, causing them to go “on
the warpath” and attack the bad guy’s camp. But when the Major
Television Producer read our scene, he was outraged.

“You can’t
have the bad guys destroy Navajo ruins,” he bellowed. “It’s
unthinkable. Those ruins are priceless, historical artifacts. The
American public will never stand for it. You’ll offend our entire

We apologized, explaining all we wanted to do in the scene was provoke the Native Americans into attacking the bad guys.

“Why not have the bad guys rape the seven supermodels,” the Major Television Producer said.

“Sure,” I replied. “That won’t offend anybody.”

“Exactly,” the Major Television Producer said. “Now you’re learning how to write television.”

We Are Writers, Hear Us Roar

Writer Nathan Long has designed a logo for the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers (I AM a Tie-in Writer).  Cool, huh? The logo will soon be up on the IAMTW site…where you can find lots of interesting articles about the craft and business behind novelizations and original tie-in novels.

I’m Collectible

There’s a guy on Amazon selling my slim, 1993 reference book TELEVISION SERIES REVIVALS for $125.00, plus shipping.  All I can figure is that it must be a typo…surely he meant $12.50, right? Then again, there’s someone else on Amazon selling the original library edition of my 1990 book UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS for $125. Why would anyone pay that much when they could get the same book for $45 or in a two volume, trade paperback edition for $26 each?

Reader Love

My friend Paul Levine, the notorious novelist and screenwriter,  got this delightful email today from a reader of his widely acclaimed new book A DEEP BLUE ALIBI:

Mr. Levine,

Please either do some actual research before
you write your next book, or get a publisher that has proof readers
with a TINY bit of technical and/or scientific
expertise. A Glock has no safety lever…… the only
safety on a Glock is built into the trigger
itself.  After I finally got past that error….. I
get to a FIVE FOOT CORAL SNAKE?!?!?!?

cannot even give you an opinion as to the writing of the rest of the book, as it has been converted into carbon in my fireplace.

The thoughtful writer of the email also copied Paul’s agent and publicist, whose addresses are on his site. It’s a good thing, Paul says, that his Mom’s address wasn’t on the site, too. Paul took this email in stride, replying good-naturedly:

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful note
pointing out the errors in  "The Deep Blue Alibi."

are quite correct, of course, about the Glock.  It has the built-in trigger safety, not the little lever.  I own a 9 mm Beretta  with the lever, and I was picturing that gun while my fingers typed "Glock."  My mistake. You could have pointed out also that the sheriff of Monroe County 
doesn’t actually carry a Glock, and he never smuggled pot.  Just made
that stuff up, which is what we do in fiction.  I also had the mayor of
Key West growing marijuana, and to the b