Crais Pilot a No-Go

A few months back, author Robert Crais announced that a TV series pilot based on an old script of his was being dusted off and reworked for CBS…

CBS is now filming the pilot WANTED which is based on RC’s original pilot script, DECOY. As conceived by RC, DECOY follows rookie plainclothes officer Jacki Haber, the newest member of LAPD’s elite Fugitive Apprehensive Section, and her struggles to find a place within the dangerous, hyper-male world of professional manhunters.

The cast includes Scott Glenn (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, URBAN COWBOY), Louise Lombard (HIDALGO), and Jason Gedrick (BACKDRAFT, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY). The pilot is being helmed by director Gregory Hoblit (NYPD BLUE, HILL STREET BLUES)

It sounded very intriguing… but it was not among the series CBS picked up this week for its fall schedule.

Best Laugh of the Day

From Sarah Weinman’s wonderful blog, where she does a wrap-up of mystery news across the web…

Dean Koontz, the horror-meister who has never publicly answered for the mysterious reappearance of his hair, answers questions at

Speaking of Koontz… when I wrote my novel MY GUN HAS BULLETS, a spoof of network television, one of the fake TV series that figured prominently in the book was FRANKENCOP.. the best parts of a dozen dead cops put together to make one incredible crimefighter.

It was a joke. Silly me, I should have tried to sell it.

Koontz has teamed up with Martin Scorcese to do a cop show for USA Network. The cop is Frankenstein.

Steven Bochco apparently is smarter than me. In his novel, DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD, there’s a fake TV series about a blind cop called (what else?) BLIND JUSTICE that figures prominently in the plot. He must have really liked the idea… because BLIND JUSTICE just made it on ABC’s new fall schedule.

Not Quite Back from the Dead

Several high-profile, big-buzz revivals of long-dead series failed to make it on the network schedules…among them:

Director John Woo’s LOST IN SPACE. Producer John Wells’ DARK SHADOWS. WB’s MR. ED. And ABC’s new take on CHARLIE’S ANGELS.

Both LOST IN SPACE and DARK SHADOWS were shot… I don’t know if MR. ED and CHARLIES ANGELS got past the script stage.

Fortune Cookie Dreams

You want to know how desperate people are to break into television? You don’t have to look any further than the fortune cookies at LA’s chinese restaurants.

I’ve gone to three different Chinese restaurants… and one Mongolian Barbeque… that serve fortune cookies with two sided fortunes. One side tells you your fortune (“You are destined for a life of luxury”) and the other side has an advertisement:

Hollywood “Pitch N’ Win” @ Do you have the next “Millionaire” hit? Pitch your TV show idea to 3 TV execs in Hollywood. Enter @….

Naturally, I checked it out. The contest is over, but the idea was that their two judges (an agent and a manager… they apparently couldn’t find a third sap) would pick the best reality show ideas and a production company would pitch the idea around town. If the show sells, the winner agrees to sign over all rights for a one-time $50,000 payment. What a deal. I’m sure this is how Mark Burnett got his start.

Only in LA would someone think they can get their big TV break by answering an ad in a fortune cookie…

Branding and Franchises

CBS announced today that it is scheduling CSI: NEW YORK up against NBC’s LAW AND ORDER. I guess it was inevitable, with so much of each network’s schedule given over to branded franchises, that a CSI would go up against a L&O… which is launching a fourth L&O spin-off in January

There’s a lot of talk today about the CSIing of CBS and the LAW AND ORDERing of NBC. But Dick Wolf and Jerry Bruckheimer aren’t the first to discover branding…nor is it the first time networks given huge chunks of their schedules to one franchise… though they weren’t called franchises back then, simply “spin-offs.”

During the 1976-77 season, CBS had MTM’s MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, PHYLLIS and RHODA….all spin-offs from one show… as well as Norman Lear’s ALL IN THE FAMILY, MAUDE, THE JEFFERSONS, and GOOD TIMES, all spin-offs from one show. (Beyond that, CBS had other shows from the same producers. ALLS FAIR and ONE DAY AT A TIME from Norman Lear, BOB NEWHART from MTM). Two seasons later, ABC had Garry Marshall’s HAPPY DAYS, LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY, MORK AND MINDY and JOANNIE LOVES CHACHI, all spun-off from one show…

The new wrinkle . and Dick Wolf’s brilliant innovation, is tagging on the name of the “birth show” to the spin-off (ie “ALL IN THE FAMILY: THE JEFFERSONS) and using reworkings of the same theme music and main title graphics on each show.

Then again, it’s not so new… Paramount was doing it in syndication with STAR TREK… and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE, STAR TREK VOYAGER and now, STAR TREK ENTERPRISE.

Note of the Day

A friend of mine is writing an action movie for a studio. He turned in his first draft and the “big, overall note” from the development exec was: “If all these people are trying to kill the hero, why isn’t he dead? We need to address this.”

It reminds me of a note we got on a script we wrote that took place in a high school. We were going through the notes, page by page, with the studio exec and her minions when, about a third of the way through, she pointed to a page and said: “This would be an excellent spot for a teen suicide.” It almost became an excellent spot for a screenwriter suicide.

Some Things Never Change

I’m in the midst of writing my fourth DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel, which is based, of course, on the TV series that starred Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan. There were a lot of creative choices made on the show, for the convenience of production, that I’ve carried over into the books (like Mark Sloan and his adult son Steve living together in the same house). I’ve wondered just how much I should begin deviating from the show to accomodate the broader opportunities of a novel.

I’m not fooling myself… most people who are buying my DM book are doing it because they loved the show and want to repeat the experience…not because they are looking for a clever whodunit. The books will always be seen as TV tie-ins, no matter how well-reviewed they might be in their own right. But how much can I tinker with the characters, format and situations without alienating that core audience? And how much should I in order to keep the series fresh and engaging for the readers?

I don’t have answer… but my gut tells me to take the NERO WOLFE approach. Over the decades that Rex Stout wrote the books, virtually nothing changed in the lives of the characters… except, every now and then, he’d shock you with an unexpected situation (Wolfe has left the country!) or revelation (Wolfe has a daughter! A trusted operative is a killer!). But things would always return to the status quo… Wolfe and Archie back in the brownstone, solving crimes.

Maybe I should have Steve move out of Mark’s house… and then move right back in.

Is This How To Sell Books?

A week or so ago, I posted a note here saying how glad I was that my broken right arm, the one with the titanium elbow, was finally out of a cast and I could more-or-less resume most of my normal activities. Naturally, somebody saw this post as the perfect opportunity to plug his upcoming book.

I am pleased to announce the signing and acceptance of a contract for the publication and upcoming release of “Dreams-The Gateway.” Follow the research professor who dares to venture into a world of dreams. New technology truly becomes a nightmare for those who transverse into “Dreams-The Gateway.” A novel by Louis Poessel.

Curious, I checked out Louis Poessel’s site to see how his book was related to broken arms, casts, titanium elbows, physical therapy or me. There I found a picture of a middle-aged man with a white beard sitting in front of an American flag like Wally George. A few clicks later, I discovered that Louis decided to pursue writing after retiring from a “lengthy career in the agricultural seed industry.”

His unique blend of science fiction combined with snippets from his personal experiences take the reader into a world of fantasy, yet possible scenario. Possessing a broad background in the agric-business industry he often uses it as the backdrop for his vivid imagination.

I also learned his first novel is:

A vivid account of a research professor that has broken the bonds of reality and entered the world of dreams. Follow the professor from his safe and protected college research laboratory to a secret government base where new technology truly becomes a nightmare…

I’m assuming the new technology isn’t titanium elbows. Still, I’m sure everyone interested in my arm will want to buy the book.

Final Finale

They should stop doing finales for TV series for one, simple reason.

They suck.

Okay, not ALL of them. Just the vast majority. And the fact is, most TV series are created, by design, to be open-ended. They aren’t meant to have finales (with the exception of shows like “Lost in Space” or “Gilligans Island” which, by the way, DIDN’T have finales). For decades, they simply didn’t do them. Did “Gunsmoke” have a finale? Did “The Dick Van Dyke Show”? “All in the Family?” “Bonanza?” “Rockford Files?” “Green Acres?” “Murder She Wrote?” “Wild Wild West?” “Man From UNCLE?” You get the point.

Sure, there have been some great finales… The Fugitive, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, Newhart, Star Trek: The Next Generation, St. Elsewhere, Cheers, Barney Miller…to name a few (and there are only a few).

But there have been many, many more finales that were truly awful, well below the quality of the most mediocre episode of the respective shows… Hill Street Blues, Magnum, Dallas, Miami Vice, Quantum Leap, Homicide, Seinfeld, Moonlighting, Roseanne, Mad About You, Murphy Brown, Deep Space Nine…

Couldn’t we have lived without those final episodes? Wouldn’t it have been better to be left with our fond memories? There are fans of “Married With Children” who are still peeved the Bundys didn’t get a finale.
They should consider themselves lucky.

Usually, the finale is the weakest, most melodramatic episode in the series’ entire run. Like the dull finales of “Friends” and “Frasier” (which was, at least, occasionally funny in its final hour).

It’s reached the point that the producers of any series that lasts longer than 13 episodes feel entitled to a finale for “the sake of the fans,” to give the show “closure.” I’m still aching for the “Birds of Prey” finale, aren’t you?

Wouldn’t we rather believe the characters live on forever? Do we really need to “wrap things up?” Why can’t we go on thinking the characters are continuing on their endless, episodic loop… having one adventure or comedic situation after another? We can… and should. For the most part, finales are only a ratings stunts.

The only thing less necessary that the series finale is the reunion. Can you say “Mary & Rhoda?” Or “The Dick Van Dyke Show Reunion?” But that’s another rant for another day.

Law & Order: National Broadcasting Company

NBC has struck a rich deal (ching-ching!) with Dick Wolf will keep his three LAW AND ORDER shows on the air for at least two more seasons… and bring a fourth LAW AND ORDER show to the network by midseason. Dick Wolf owns so much NBC real estate, pretty soon the network itself will become part of his franchise (ching-ching!). From

It didn’t take new conglom NBC Universal long to lock up its most valuable employee: Dick Wolf has sealed a deal that keeps the “Law & Order” bossman firmly entrenched there through June 2008.
As part of the deal, NBC has also picked up Wolf’s “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” through the 2005-06 season. And the fourth installment of the “Law & Order” franchise, “Trial by Jury,” is now officially on the boards and will likely premiere sometime next midseason.

All told, the Wolf pact — which the Peacock had been anxious to finalize prior to next week’s upfront presentations — could be worth well north of $1 billion (Daily Variety, May 4). That includes Wolf’s fees, as well as the license deals for all four shows.

CBS seems headed in the same direction. CSI: CBS has ordered CSI: NEW YORK for next season. The pilot airs next month as an episode of CSI: MIAMI.

Can CSI: YES DEAR be far behind?