Clueless Morons

Yesterday in Variety, a bunch of clueless morons calling themselves The Colonial Fan Force ran a full-page, color advertisement clamoring for a “Battlestar Galactica” movie starring the original cast.

Millions of fans still dream of seeing the Battlestar Galactica roam the heavens once more in a big screen continuations of the epic story that began in 1978 with the original cast and characters leading a new generation of warriors

Yeah, right… there are millions, no TENS of millions, of fans clamoring for the return of Herb Jefferson, Laurette Sprang, Dirk Benedict, and Richard Hatch (who is not nearly as powerful an actor as the nude guy of the same name on “Survivor”… nor as successful). I suspect the real audience is about 100 fat guys in their 40s, who at this very moment are busily duping all their Heather Thomas videos onto DVD…
That said, I am always amused by the losers who spend their comic book money on pointless ads like this (or, worse, the ones who publish a synopsis of, or excerpt from, their unsold screenplays). The advertising guys at Variety and the Hollywood Reporter must laugh themselves silly with glee every time one of these suckers comes in.

In the case of the “Battlestar Galactica,” the folks at “The Colonial Fan Force” urge the readers of Variety (most of whom are entertainment industry professionals) to write writer/producer Glen A. Larson and Tom DeSanto, a guy who once tried to launch a movie version of the TV show. This shows just how little the people who paid for this ad understand about how the business works…and even sillier when you consider the SciFi Channel is already in the midst of shooting a new “Battlestar Galactica” TV series from NBC/Universal Studios with an all-new cast led by Edward James Olmos.

I suppose we have Gene Roddenberry to blame for this, ever since he cleverly engineered the so-called “viewer campaign” to save “Star Trek” from cancellation. So now we get ads demanding the return of dull supporting characters axed from TV shows (the “Save Marina” campaign on “The L Word” comes to mind) and from the millions of fans still crying over the demise of “Manimal.” I’m looking forward to the “Bring Gloria Reuben back to MISSING” ads… maybe the Colonial Fan Force can take up the cause.

I’m sorry, I shouldn’t joke. This “Battlestar Galactica” stuff is serious business, as is clear from the Colonial Fan Force website:

We’ve got to buckle down, and get to work. It’s going to be up to each member of fandom to make sure our efforts come to fruition. The CFF and its leadership will remain active in coordinating fan efforts as much as possible, but everyone reading this page has got to accept individual responsibility for making sure that we, as a group, rise together and speak with one voice. None of us can afford to think that “someone else will do it.” We’ve all got to find some time (and some stamps), and make it happen. We’ve got to make some collective noise.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Think of all the truly worthy causes that could benefit from the same time, effort and money these morons are devoting with such earnestness to this idiotic pursuit…

UPDATE (10-22-04)

As you can see, the above post listed many comments, prompting me to explain the reasoning behind my opinion about the advertisement in more detail. For the benefit of those who don’t feel like slogging through all the comments to find that post, here it is:

You’ll notice that, with the exception of the STAR TREK and NAKED GUN movies, that none of the many other movies-based-on-TV series that have followed have starred the original cast, nor have any that have been announced for development

But that’s not the issue that makes the VARIETY ad so stupid or the people behind it so…how to put this nicely?…naive and wrong-headed.

These theatrical remakings of TV series are basically trading on the name identification of a hit series to create a new movie franchise, which is why they keep the name but cast movie stars in the roles. The original franchise is the selling point, not the actors. (Which is why I SPY didn’t have Bill Cosby, it had Eddie Murphy, and why WILD WILD WEST had Will Smith and not Robert Conrad. And why the new MIAMI VICE isn’t going to star Don Johnson or Philip Michael Thomas…but Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, instead).

These movies are intended to be blockbusters. And the blockbuster imperative doesn’t extend to nostalgia-friendly casting, with the exception of cameos (ie Patrick MacNee as invisible ghost in AVENGERS or Mark Goddard with one line in LOST IN SPACE) as a sop to the fans.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA has been done…as miniseries. The franchise value is already being mined. And it’s highly doubtful that people will flock to the theatres just to see Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and company.

On a whole different level, the ad itself was wronghead, directed at an audience of writers, producers, directors, and studio heads who aren’t about to write letters to Glen Larson or Tom DeSanto.

The fans threw $12,000 away on an ad targeted at the wrong audience for their message (the message itself was wrong-headed, but I will get to that later, too). They humiliated their cause in the eyes of the very Industry that the fans were hoping to impress. Industry professionals who see ads like that in Variety aren’t impressed (any more than they are buy the struggling screenwriter who spends the money on a full-page ad to reprint pages of his unsold screenplay). The ad simply reinforced every preconception Hollywood has about fandom. It certainly did for me.

(On a side note, even if Glen Larson was dying to do a BSG movie, he does not have the clout to get a $100 million feature off the ground. You will notice he is only tangentially involved in the features in works based on his other TV series. So writing letters to him isn’t going to persuade a studio to dump money into the revival of a franchise that is already being mined on television, if in a “re-imagined version).

The ad in Cinescape, however, was also money poorly spent, though less obviously so. I’ll get to the reasons why in a moment.

You want to revive BSG? I think it’s a lost cause, especially since the valuable aspect of the franchise is already being mined on TV, but here’s some constructive advice:

Investing money in trade ads is useless. It’s better to use that money to organize a grass-roots campaign to make people aware of the BSG DVD and get them to buy it. On your website, make it look more businesslike and less fannish.

The trick is not to convince the powers that be that there are 100,000 absolute diehard fans who will do anything to get BSG back as a feature. You need to convince them there are actually tens of millions who have at least a passing interest in seeing BSG brought back. You want to spend money? Spend it on raising awareness among non-devotees of BSG. Get a groundswell of interest in the show itself. Try to push the DVD on people who aren’t familiar with the series. This is how it worked with THE NAKED GUN (on video) and later THE FAMILY GUY and FIREFLY, which were revived after cancellation because a lot of people saw the shows on home video and fell in love with them. Those video sales convinced the studios there was a lucrative market still out there.

The only thing that will convince a studio (or financiers) to make a movie is to be persuaded by hard facts and hard cash that there is still MORE money to be made Slavish devotion by a handful of fans… even if there are 100,000 of them… won’t bring in nearly enough money to justify a film.

Bottom line: Expose people to the show, not to your fandom. Expose studios to sales, not examples that some diehard devotees exist.

Which brings me to the website the advertisement directs readers to. The design and writing on the website only serves to confirm every Industry professional and non-fan’s immediate assumptions from the ad: This isn’t about the quality and merits of a TV show… it’s about a handful of diehard fans who can’t let go and have no real-world perspective.

The more you can do to NOT make this about the fans— and about THE SHOW, the better chance your campaign has of succeeding. But you’ve sabotaged yourself, and your campaign, from the outset… by crafting the wrong message and sending that wrong message to the wrong people. You need to rethink your image (the name “Colonial Fan Force,” for example), your message, and the best way to present it to the people you need to reach…

Which isn’t the studios.

It’s the viewers.

Anonymous Thoughts

I accidentally stumbled on a fascinating and compelling blog apparently written by a single mother raising two kids. Her entries have simple headings….Honesty. Church. Broke. My Ex. Teenage Daughter. Tears… but are surprisingly candid and powerful. I found myself reading every one…as if she was a character in a novel.

Yesterday was a pretty eventful day in a bad way. I have a 16 year old daughter who recently informed me that she had sex with her boyfried for the first time. I handled the situation fairly well inspite of the dreaded feelings that were inside me. I asked her if she was ok with what happened and explained to her that she should not do it again for awhile as she really needed to let what happen sink in. I told her that sometimes we do things that seem ok at first but then after thinking about it we are sorry. I asked her to give it a month before she does it again. It seems weird to tell her this as it is almost like giving her permission but where there is a will there is a way and I am not stupid enough to believe that she will stop it now. Then I asked her if he wore a condom and explained the health risks to her.

The things that upset me most about what she did is that she didn’t appear to care about what she did. She really had no compassion whatsoever considering the level of intimacy that she allowed herself to experience with this boy. It was like it didn’t even really matter to her that she gave up the one thing she can never get back. Maybe she is to young to understand and she is looking at it as only a physical act.

I have had sex without loving the person I was with but I still hold a very serious level of compassion towards it. Each experience that we have had in our lives is different and when you have sex with someone you learn something and experience something with that person that most people have not. Whether you want that bond or not its there. In most cases if you are not in love the bond is not a strong one but it still remains. I guess it just makes me sad that being her first time she didn’t hold it higher than she did. She will remember that experience for the rest of her life and it makes me sad that she is too young to understand what she did.

Anyway, yesterday I went over to my ex-husbands house and I saw her boyfriends car parked on the side of the street. I looked in the window and I guess she heard my ex coming in the house so when I saw her she was running half naked up to her room. She was caught. I was infuriated. I am not even sure why because I knew she had been doing him already. I guess it was because it was in that house and in my old bed. When I finally got into the house I screamed at her about the disrespect and grounded her. I told her boyfriend to get the fuck out of the house.

Then I went to her job and asked her manager for her work schedule as I want to know where she is at all times now. Then I went to her boyfriends house and bitched him out. I made sure he knew that he was a minor and if he gets her pregnant I will without a doubt sue his parents for child support. He must have called my daughter because later she sent me a text message telling me she hates me because her boyfriend broke up with her because of me. I feel bad but I guess he didn’t really love her like she thought. She knew the rules……… boys in the house………she got caught………she doesn’t care about anything but him……….I am going to make her live with me full time. She will hate me even more. Am I over reacting?

Why Nick Hornby Doesn’t Read Series Novels

Nick Hornby wrote about Dennis Lehane’s PRAYERS FOR RAIN in the latest issue of The Believer… and explained why he doesn’t like series novels:

I have a need to believe that the events described therein are definitive, that they really matter to the characters. In other words, if 1987 turned out to be a real bitch of a year for Winston Smith, then I don’t want to be wasting my time reading about what happened to him back in 1984…

…Angie Gennaro, who is involved both professionally and romantically with Patrick Kenzie, asks whether she can shave off his stubble — stubble that he has grown to cover scars. “I considered it,” Kenzie tells us. “Three years with protective facial hair. Three years hiding the damage delivered on the worst night of my life…” Hang on a moment. The worst night of your life was three years ago? So what am I reading now? The fourth worst night of your life?

Mystery Novelists Writing for TV

The third season of THE WIRE is premiering tonight and some folks, like the New York Times, are making a big deal out of the fact that mystery novelists George Pelecanos, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane are writing episodes of the show as if it was something, well, novel. It’s not.

Lots of mystery novelists have written for television. Lorenzo Carcatera and Matt Witten wrote for LAW AND ORDER. Peter Lefcourt wrote for BEGGARS AND CHOOSERS and KAREN SISCO. Other novelists who have written episodes, pilots and TV movies include Eric Garcia, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, Robert Crais, Ian Rankin, Thomas Perry, James Crumley, Walter Mosley, Ross Thomas, Gar Anthony Haywood, Stephen King, Stuart Kaminsky, Dave Barry, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly, to name just a few.

And that doesn’t count all the novelists who started out as TV writers, among them Sue Grafton, Robert Crais, Lee Child, and Stephen J. Cannell.

Back when I was doing Diagnosis Murder, we hired Paul Bishop and John Sandford to write episodes. Paul wrote three or four for us… but John’s was never shot. He turned in his script shortly before I left the show and the new execs chose to shelve his teleplay.

Men of Mystery

I spent yesterday down in Irvine at the annual MEN OF MYSTERY event… which draws 500+ women to meet 60 male mystery authors. It’s a banquet style setting. Ten “readers/fans” get to sit with an author at each table for the day. There are usually two keynote speakers and a big mass signing session at mid-day. The keynote speakers in past years have included James Patterson, T. Jefferson Parker, Robert Crais, John Lescroart, Joseph Wambaugh, Michael Connelly and yours truly. It’s always a great opportunity to meet enthusiastic readers and catch-up with old friends. For readers, the “table talks” with the author they happen to be sitting with is a great opportunity to learn about writing and breaking into the business. Among the authors there this year were Gregg Hurwitz, Matt Witten, DP Lyle, Tod Goldberg, Rick Copp, Thomas Perry, Bill Fitzhugh, Alan Russell, Nathan Walpow, Bob Levinson, Steve Brewer, Christopher Rice, John Morgan Wilson, and Steve Martini.

As usual, I had a terrific time and I highly recommend the event to any mystery fans who happen to be in the area for next year’s event (you don’t have to be a woman to attend).

But now I’m gonna say something that’s probably going to get me in a lot of trouble. Among the 60 authors were a number of “self-published” mystery writers. To be honest, I think it was a mistake to invite them as “authors” and a disservice to the people at their table. The only advice those authors could give about writing was describing how to write a check to iUniverse or PublishAmerica. And in most cases, their novels are excreble (at least the few pages I read of each wandering through the book room)… so any advice they could give on crafting a novel is, well, best ignored. I can understand inviting those authors if the point of the conference was navigating the world of self-publishing and vanity presses…but otherwise, I think the ten readers/fans at each of their tables got cheated.

There’s one particularly irritating and astonishingly talentless self-published writer who has inexplicably managed to worm his way onto a few panels at mystery conferences in recent years… and there are more than a few of us who can’t stand being in the same room with him. There’s one major author who has had the unfortunate experience of having to sit next to this blowhard at mass signings because of where their last names fall in alphabetical order. This major author would rather flee the room and not sign books… and has done just that … than sit next to this guy. We, of course, love ribbing the major author about his misfortune.

More Viewer Mail

I get a half-a-dozen emails like this a week (the typos are his own):

Good day Sir.,

I don’t know if this is the right medium for this, but I am trying to submit a Television series idea to see a posibility of it being shot.

The series story is one which has affected millions around the world, and millions alone in the United states, and I want to use a TV medium to sort of educate the people. It might even help curb the crime which is presently rampant.

Enclosed as a word document is the synopsies of the intended series. I know the story behind it all and I believe it will be very interesting.

Thanks for your time and would be honored if it’s giving a due consideration.

Tony A

This is how I replied.. and how I usually reply to such requests:

No offense, but I’ve deleted your document without reading it. For legal and personal reasons, I don’t read TV series pitches. I am not in the business of selling other people’s ideas… I’m in the business of selling my own!

We Are Family

My sisters Linda Woods and Karen Dinino have sold their book on journaling and art to North Light Books… and it will be out next year. But for a peek at the kind of creative, unusual, and clever work that they do, check out their website.

Now all four of us Goldberg kids are published authors (my brother Tod is the author of "Living Dead Girl" and "Fake Liar Cheat"). I’m looking forward to all of us getting together for a group signing… maybe we ought to form a rock band, too.

The Mail I Get…

I am not a reviewer. I am not a chiropractor. And yet I get mail like this…The typos, by the way, are his own.

Subject: Book pn chiropractic
Date: 9/17/2004 4:16:24 PM Pacific Daylight Time


I would appeciate a review of my book 2nd edition ,See www, Will be happy to send a copy or two. THe book addresses what is a national fraud expending huge sums of money on unscientific care best spent on prescription drugs and medical research Thank you L.A.Chotkowski MD FACP New EnGland Books.

Why do I get this stuff???

Scam of the Month 2

Edwin Bush reports on DorothyL that even the critics at a respected publication like Kirkus can be bought…

He plucked this incredible offer from the Kirkus website:

Looking for Exposure? Need Credibility? Want to get Discovered?Market your book or e-publication to the publishing world’s decision makers!  Since our inception in 1933, premium subscribers have turned to Kirkus to market books, purchase paperback and foreign rights, and option and buy film rights-all based on the trusted and independent voice of our reviews.

"Now, for the first time in 71 years, Kirkus is offering a new review service-an opportunity for rights and acquisition agents to pick up your self-published, e-published and Print-On-Demand book.

Welcome to Kirkus Discoveries, from the publication that, for seven decades, has lent its brand’s credibility, integrity, and pedigree to nearly 5,000 books a year. Kirkus is now offering the same service to self-published, e-published and POD authors. Any publisher seeking greater exposure for a
title can gain awareness through our network of influential readers and buyers.

What you get:
The prestige of a Kirkus review [Lee’s Note: Prestige they will soon be losing once word gets around that their "prestige" can be bought], which will appear on, in your marketing materials and everywhere else you’d like to reprint it.

An audience of rights agents, booksellers, publishers, book distributors and Hollywood producers.

The opportunity to be included in Kirkus Discoveries-a monthly newsletter highlighting the best submissions-which will go to subscribers looking for the rights to undiscovered books, whether for print or film.

Here’s how it works:
You commission a review from us. [Lee’s Note: Bold-facing is mine, to underscore their utter lack of ethics] The Kirkus Discoveries team will provide a report on it to publishers, agents and producers, who can then pursue a rights relationship with you.

The Kirkus brand has long been trusted by the publishing industry as an indispensable tool to promote and build awareness of deserving books. Now it’s your turn: Let Kirkus help ensure your books are Discoveries.

What they don’t say is what their price schedule is for a rave review, a good review, or gentle appraisal. I can’t wait to hear what Publisher’s Weekly is charging authors and publishers for a review these days…