Writers write, even when they are on strike. We can’t help ourselves. We just don’t do it for television or film. And that includes big time celebs Jay Leno. He’s apparently using his free time to write newspaper reviews of cars. In the December 16th issue of London’s Sunday Times, he calls the new Jaguar XKR “a gorgeous machine” with “muscular haunches” and “a perfect rear.” And he can’t resist sneaking in a joke about automaker Tata’s purchase of Jaguar from Ford: “I guess instead of complimenting a lady on her rather nice Jaguar you’ll compliment her on her nice Tatas.”
I caught up with the last four JOURNEYMAN episodes. After getting off to a limp start, the show is actually beginning to find itself and go beyond being TOUCHED BY A TIME TRAVELLER. Unfortunately, rumor has it the show has been cancelled, a victim of bad ratings and the strike.
The American networks aren’t the only ones feeling the heat from the WGA Strike. I’ve been in Europe for the last three weeks doing some consulting and spending lots of time with producer, writers, and network execs. The networks are terrified that the flow of American shows is going to dry up and leave them without any programming in 2008. I can understand their fear. American series like HOUSE, MONK and CSI MIAMI dominate the ratings in France and Germany…and the home-grown shows are bombing. The writers and producers see this as fantastic opportunity for local producers to get more of their shows on the air. But it’s not working out that way. The financial reality in Germany, for example, is that they can buy three American shows for what it costs to make one German show. They simply can’t afford to replace their American programming with home-grown fare. And even if they could, they fear the audiences wouldn’t watch anyway. So where are the European networks looking? The same place the U.S. is – to reality shows and to series bought from the U.K.
While I was in Munich, I used the subway a lot to get around. One day, the train was mobbed and I got pressed up against a woman. I haven’t been that close to a woman who wasn’t my wife in 20 years. I felt like I was committing adultery. But I looked around and I seemed to be the only one on the train who was embarrassed and uncomfortable about being in that the situation. She certainly wasn’t. She made no effort to move away, not that she could. Nor could I. When I told my German friends about this they just shrugged it off. The only question they had, men and women alike, was whether the woman I was pressed against was young and attractive. She was. They said then I should consider myself lucky. I still get embarrassed thinking about it.
I went to Paris for a weekend to research my next MONK novel, MR. MONK IS MISERABLE. My wife is French, so I have been to Paris many times, but I have never looked at it from Monk’s point-of-view. I revisited the Sewer Museum and the Catacombs, and I ate dinner at Dans le Noir, where you dine in the dark and all the waiters are blind. That was cool, but I doubt anyone goes there for the food. There are more free, public toilets in Paris than in any city I have ever been to and yet I saw more men urinating on the streets than dogs. Paris isn’t the City of Light. It’s the City of Pee. I suppose it could be worse. I only saw dogs pooping on the sidewalks.
At the Virgin Megastore on the Champs Elysee, a guy stood on the grand staircase soaking wet from the rain and asking everybody in English where he could find the virgins. I thought he was just a jerk trying to be funny but our eyes met and I realized he was actually crazy. But by acknowledging him, I’d started something.
“They are at McDonalds,” I said.
“Thanks man,” he said and left.