The Mail I Get

As an on-going feature of my blog, I share some of the strange emails I get from complete strangers. Most of these strangers want to sell me their script, book, or TV show ideas…even though I’m not a network, studio, or publishing company… but a writer/producer with his own scripts, books and TV show ideas to sell.

This particular pitch is for a reality show. The teacher who sent this didn’t even bother to address it to me personally or to take the time to find out whether this is even the kind of show I do — which it isn’t.

Someone should teach this teacher that spamming complete strangers with her ideas is an inane way to sell a show…

Then again, I think I just did.

Diane Bancroft
Special Education Teacher
Potter-Thomas Elementary School
Philadelphia, PA 19446

Mailing Address:
415 Acorn Street
Lansdale, PA 19446

August 10, 2004

Dear Producer:

This letter seeks to promote my concept for a reality based television show. I am writing to you specifically because I believe that you favor diverse and minority centered programming that helps me connect with minorities outside of my anglo-suburbanite experience.

To provide a brief description of my unique qualifications and experience, I would like you to know that I have been a teacher for five years. This will be my third year in a bilingual school in North Philadelphia. I work in a section of the city that may or may not still be known as the Badlands. Steve Lopez wrote a book about our neighborhood entitled Third and Indiana. I work on Sixth and Indiana and often have situations in the classroom and in the neighborhood that would make a Vietnam Vet revert to infancy. Since
the last administration failed to fund the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND law and it is time for an election, I feel that a reality based tv show focusing on the specific needs of new teachers within the nation’s most dangerous schools would highlight the issues that we deal with when teaching in an urban
setting that most people would not otherwise consider. We teachers who chose to teach in the nation’s public schools are unsung soldiers in a forgotten war that is taking place amidst the smouldering ashes of the War on Drugs.

Consider this outline:

In The Front Row: Staying Ahead with America’s Most Courageous Teachers In the Badlands of the School District of Philadelphia


Cigar Factory Condominiums in Northern Liberties ($369,000)
Sometimes in the classroom (minimum of 4 teaching evaluations per
Sometimes on SEPTA
Sometimes at the Boriquen Bella or otherwise in the neighborhood
Sometimes in the teachers lounge, principal’s office, police station, etc.
Sometimes on the recess yard.
Sometimes professionally handling a really difficult behavioral situation.
Sometimes in church???? You don’t think we would survive without prayer!


Five willing, new, young teachers, diverse and at least semi-bilingual.


1. To expose the difficulties and dramas of a profession considered to be
2. To showcase Philadelphia, it’s pros and cons, and it‘s beauty and
3. To influence public opinion towards educational legislation
4. To help five new teachers improve and develop as teachers
5. To recruit potential teachers to the city of Philadelphia
6. To improve conditions for the school children of Potter-Thomas
7. To heighten awareness towards urban education


Being a teacher in North Philadelphia is an experience that shapes every aspect of my life. I have always wanted to be an educator. Probably since I was eight years old. The teacher let me teach part of a class. I was instantly hooked. In North Philadelphia, it is not unusual to see millions of crack vials. Sometimes people leave their works right in front of the school. I’ve seen a razor blade in the playground outside of the kindergarten classroom. Sometimes I go to student’s homes because phones are disconnected, or mom is watching several young children and can not get away. Once I almost got carjacked right in front of the school. I want people to see these images in this day of terrorism. I want them to see school aged-children hanging upside down from the handle of a moving ice cream truck and then justify to me why Philadelphia has slashed funding for rec centers. I want people to know that my colleague was hit with a board with nails sticking out of it as he tried to teach an emergency coverage when no substitute could be
provided. People need to see what a crack baby looks like when he flips out. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

The public will fall in love with our young educators who are so fresh, street tough, idealistic, and bilingual!! We have a formidable administrative team comprised of minority women I respect and adore and I
really want to see us all succeed. I believe this project will get us there!

Please help me by forwarding my ideas to an able bodied producer who can really sink his or her teeth into this sort of project. I expect that it will take us a little over a year to shoot and produce. There will
certainly be nor shortage of drama, humor, or material!

Sincerely yours,

Diane Bancroft Thomson

Cats in the Cradle

My father, Alan Goldberg, died unexpectedly last week. We weren’t close, but I was the only one of his five children and two step children to attend his funeral up in Portland Oregon on Thursday…which says more about him as a father, and more eloquently, than I ever could.I struggled over whether or not to go and finally decided I had to — for me, not for him. I said a few words… and although my sister Linda and brother Tod didn’t attend, they also offered their thoughts… Linda on her blog and Tod in his weekly newspaper column . My comments weren’t much different than what they had to say…

Missing Isn’t

missingyr2titlesLifetime has picked up “Missing,” starring Vivica Fox and Caterina Scorsone, for five more episodes, bringing the second-season order to eighteen episodes (the same number as last season). The show has been doing great in the ratings and winning praise from critics nationwide…even those who weren’t so fond of season one, which starred Gloria Reuben. Having worked as a writer/producer on both seasons, I can say that Vivica has certainly “vivified” the show, inspiring everyone with her incredible energy and enthusiasm. It has been a terrific season that is getting better and better… even many fans who were criticizing the second season on the Lifetime discussion board have changed their minds. If you haven’t watched the show yet, which airs Saturdays at 10 pm, what are you waiting for?

Journalist Integrity, Again…

William Rabkin reports…

That paragon of journalism, the New York Post, which only last month ran a full page headline proclaiming Gephardt to be Kerry’s veep pick, yesterday ran a gossip item in which they said Sylvester Stallone was spotted at a restaurant chatting with Bob Wright and his wife, and Brandon and Lily Tartikoff.

Yup, that Brandon Tartikoff.

Remember when there used to be such a thing as an editor?

Today, the NY Post printed this correction:

A BIG thank-you to all the readers who called and e-mailed to point out a mistake we made on Saturday, when we identified the man sitting with Lily Tartikoff at Mr. Chow in Los Angeles as Brandon Tartikoff, her late husband. The brilliant NBC programmer died of cancer in 1997. We regret the error.

And press wonders why the public doesn’t trust the media any more…

Writing a Book

I’ve just been offered a contract for four more DIAGNOSIS MURDER books… and the next one is due in November. I have the broad strokes of the story….but that’s it. The broad strokes. The equivalent of book jacket copy. I’ve still got to come up with the actual story. Since this one takes place in 1962, I’ve been able to procrastinate by doing research on the period… which has given me some plot ideas… but I’ve still goto figure out the murders, the clues, the characters and, oh yes, the story.

This is the hardest part of writing… the sitting around, staring into space, and thinking. This is writing, even if you aren’t physically writing. A lot of non-writers have a hard time understanding this. Yes, just sitting in a chair doing nothing is writing. A crucial part, in fact.

It can be hell… especially when you are on as short a deadline as I am. Everyone has their own method… this is mine:

Once all the thinking is done, I sit down and work out a rough outline… one or two lines on each "scene," with the vital clues or story points in bold. It’s what I call "a living outline," because it changes as I write the book, staying a few chapters ahead of me (and, some times, requiring me to go back and revise earlier chapters to jibe with the new changes I’ve made… like characters who were supposed to die in the story but don’t). I keep revising the outline right up to the end of the novel. I finish both the book and the living outline almost simultaneously.

While I’m still thinking, and while I’m outling, and while I’m writing, I compile and maintain what I call "my Murder Book," a thick binder that contains my outline, my working manuscript, and notes, emails, articles, clips, photographs, post-its…anything and everything relating to my story. By the time the book is done, the binder is bulging with stuff… including my notes on what my next book might be.

Now I’m in the thinking stage, which is why you might have noticed a sudden uptick in blog entries. I don’t have time to write… but I have plenty of time to procrastinate.

And think…

Wil Wheaton is Still Alive

My brother Tod recommended Wil Wheaton’s blog to me a while back and I finally got around to reading it (in fact, Tod even wrote a Las Vegas Mercury column about the blog). Wheaton, you may recall, was the kid in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION… and his blog is surprisingly sharp, witty, and candid. It starts with his explanation of why he started blogging in the first place…an epiphany at Hooters (hey, if you’re gonna have one, there are worse places it could happen).

We walked in ahead of the lunchtime rush, so we could sit wherever we liked. We stood in the doorway, Bob Seger blaring above our heads that he was workin’ on a night move, and chose the section with the hottest waitress in the joint. As we were taking our seats, she came over to our table: a cute-but-not-beautiful girl in her early 20s. Bleached-blond, fake tan, long legs. Hooters. Her name tag said “Destiny.” She flirted with us as she took our order, all smiles and giggles. We ordered wings. Super Fire Hot, baby.

She stood up, and left to put in our order. Darin and I stared at each other. We still had it, and it felt good.

She’d only walked a few steps, when she stopped suddenly, turned around, and came back to our table. She looked at me, lustily. “Can I ask you something?”

“Oh, hell, yeah, Willie,” I thought to myself, “The ladies still want your sweet action!”

My throat went dry. My face flushed and my pulse quickened.

“Sure,” I croaked.

She screwed up her courage and leaned close to me, her full, pouting lips just inches from mine. Her perfume embraced me. Her ample cleavage seductively longed to bust out from beneath her thin cotton T-shirt. She drew a nervous breath, bit down on the corner of her mouth, and asked, breathlessly,”Didn’t you used to be an actor?”

“WHAT?! USED TO BE?! I STILL AM!” I hollered, as images of a hot Hooters threesome were replaced with images of myself on Celebrity Boxing.

She immediately knew that she made a mistake. She thought quickly, licked her lips, self-consciously fussed with her over-processed hair and tried again:”Oh, I mean, weren’t you an actor when you were a kid?”

All I could do was numbly answer,”Yeah, when I was a kid,” as I hung my head and ordered the first of many pints of Guinness.

Funny story, right? Yeah, funny like when you watch another guy get kicked in the nuts.

In the days that followed, I tried to write it off. Tried to bolster my wounded self-esteem by telling myself that she was just a Hooters waitress, so she didn’t matter.

But the truth was, this simple, scantily clad waitress had driven home with painful acuity my deepest fear: I was a has-been. I “used to be” an actor, when I was a kid. That weekend, my wife was out of town and I found myself in front of my computer, surfing the Internet, playing Diablo II, doing anything I could to get that Hooters waitress out of my mind.

Yes, that’s how badly it hurt me: I was actively trying to get a Hooters waitress out of my mind. While my wife was out of town.

Somewhere in that day, while I was battling the forces of polygonal evil on Battle.Net, I was hit with an inspiration: I would make a website and let the world know that I was still alive and still working.

I know from personal experience that he’s worked since his days on the Enterprise… I hired him in an episode of DIAGNOSIS MURDER and he did a great job.