Not Enough Hurtin’

A DM fan clued me in to this amusing post about my book "The Waking Nightmare"  from the Diagnosis Murder message board on PAX, which I no longer frequent.  I think after reading this you’ll understand why.

I’ve come across others who feel that
the reason Lee Goldberg portrays Steve so horribly is a personal attack
on Barry Van Dyke.

friend of mine bought the Waking Nightmare. I don’t know if she plans
on buying another one. Lee Goldberg has Mark performing a feat that
would be impossible at Mark Sloan’s age. Steve could have probably done
it with his training.

What also gets me mad is that Lee Goldberg
has no problem having Mark get hurt numerous times, Jack and Jesse
once, but when I asked him to hurt Steve. He said that was stupid!

heard Steve gets slightly hurt in this one. But the damage is done.
More and more I’m finding people who are fed up with the way Steve is
treated in Lee Goldberg’s DM books.

Steve Hurt/Comfort Fan
Steve Angst Fan
Steve and Mark Relationship Fan
Steve and Ellen Fan

In deference to Betty, I’m going to hurt Steve in the next book. Any suggestions, folks,  on how he should be injured or maimed? 

Bibles II

I got a response from the guy I talked about in the previous post.

Excellent Mr. Lee! Excellent!
That was the reponse I was looking for the first time. Thank you for your
passionate and highly intelligent response.
I definitely want to talk to you again when the time comes—I hate
dispassionate writers and you are not one of them! Kudos! You earned a shot when
the time comes.
Take Care! -ZB

Can someone translate this for me? It appears to be in English, but I can’t understand what the hell he’s talking about. And why does he keep calling me Mr. Lee??


I had this email exchange yesterday.  First, I received this note (all I’ve done is replace the names with XYZ):

How are you Mr. Lee?

WGA writer XYZ and myself are looking for a great series bible to use as a study example. He will teach with it, I will use it as a template for my own work. I am a writer turned producer and preparing a bible for a new series and our exhaustive searches via books and Net have still proven fruitless. We need to get our hands on a comprehensive bible, preferranbly one that was used  successfully to obtain network approval/and or private funding, if at all  possible. As writer with many series credits, I thought perhaps you might care to assist, if it’s within your means? Also, if you’re interested, down the line (if we get greenlighted) we will need some good writers like yourself to pitch in—I’ll let you know when we get that far.

I love it when inexperienced writers ask me a basic question about how TV works…and then as an incentive, they offer me the tantalizing possibility that if things work out for them, they might give me a job. Wow.

I replied that I had the bibles, aka "Writers Guidelines," for DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MARTIAL LAW in my book SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION WRITING and that they were also available to download for free on my website.  This is how he replied, under the subject heading "Series Bibles**** Wrong Type"

FYI–The bibles on your Web site are "writer’s guidelines" and are not entire bibles that  can be used for network submissions of a new series, etc. by a producer (which is what we need).

Here’s how I responded:

Thanks for clearing up my confusion… I guess I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.

As someone who has been a professional TV writer for fifteen years, written many network pilots, and produced dozens of TV series, let me tell you what you need.
What you need is an idea… and then you pitch that idea to a network, which will then hire you to write a pilot script. If they decide to shoot your pilot, and if your pilot is picked up as a series, the network may ask you for a  bible, also known as "writers guidelines," examples of which are in my book. In
the case of a soap opera, they may ask you for a more detailed  document explaining the
relationships between the characters and the general direction of the storylines they are involved in. A bible is not what you use to sell a series. In fact, I  have been on MANY series, and I know of many series, that have never had a bible. The most important thing is the idea… the most important document is the pilot script.

Let me go back and comment on a few things in your first email that I let slip by… you mentioned that your "WGA writer" partner is going to use whatever TV series bible you find as a teaching tool. If you don’t know what a bible looks like, or how to write one, how can you possibly teach the craft of writing one to others?

You also mention that you’re a writer-turned producer and that you  need a bible to "successfully to obtain network approval/and or private funding, if at all
possible,"  which suggests to me that you are unfamiliar with the business behind American network television. Most networks  now are producing their own series…or in co-production with major studios… you don’t have to get "private funding." A TV series isn’t a independant feature film, which appears to be the model you are working from.

I suggest that before you start thinking about "bibles" you do some more research into how the TV business works.

Adult Material

I received this email today from a DIAGNOSIS MURDER Fan.

I’ve heard some rumors of you (in you Diagnosis Murder Books )making Steve to be less than Mark , is any of this true? I also heard a rumor of ADULT MATERIAL in your third book , is that true ?

For those of you unfamiliar with DIAGNOSIS MURDER,  Steve is a homicide detective and the  son of deductive genius Dr. Mark Sloan. Conveniently, Steve is portrayed by Barry Van Dyke, who is the real life son of TV legend Dick Van Dyke, who played Dr. Mark Sloan. In the pilot episode, Mark Sloan was a widower with no children, but when DIAGNOSIS MURDER went to series, that changed (it changed again when, later in the series’ run, Dick Van Dyke’s daughter wanted to do a guest appearance as Mark Sloan’s daughter, so suddenly he had another child that was never heard of, mentioned, or seen before. You gotta love TV).

Dick Van Dyke’s photo is on the cover of the DIAGNOSIS MURDER books.
There are some fans who believe Barry’s photo should be on there, too. There are some fans who believe the books focus too heavily on Dr. Mark Sloan to the detriment of Steve Sloan. My feeling in the books, as it was when we produced the series, is that Dr. Mark Sloan is the star and everyone else is a supporting character.  Dr. Mark Sloan is the brilliant detective who solves the crimes… that was true in the series and now in the books.  If that makes Steve "less than Mark," I suppose the answer to the fan’s first question is yes…as it was in the TV show, too.

As for adult material, the books are no racier than the TV
series was. There’s no sex, profanity, or graphic violence. However, like the TV series, there is implied sex and implied violence…but the details are left to the reader’s imagination.   

Two Great Reads

While I was in El Paso, I read two books… Richard Vaughan’s  HAWKE and Dominic Stansberry’s THE CONFESSION. I like them both…they were throwbacks, in a good way, to books of another era.

HAWKE is a formula western with a decidedly unformulatic hero… a world-class concert pianist and a veteran Confederate soldier who now roams aimlessly, a haunted lost soul, scraping together money here and there playing piano in saloons.  He’s quick with a gun and often finds himself in middle of trouble.  It was the perfect airplane read… I didn’t even notice the terrible turbulence that kept the waitresses buckled into their seats and the passengers parched from lack of beverage service. Vaughan has won the Spur Award before… I can see him snagging another one for this fine example of the modern western.

THE CONFESSION is a dark, tawdry, noir tale that harkens back… intentionally so… to the great Gold Medal paperbacks of the 50s and 60s. Stansberry perfectly captures the forboding, the sensuality, the violence, and the wickedness of the best of those tales… and yet, it feels contemporary and hip at the same time. The story is told from the first-person point-of-view of Jake Danser, a forensic psychologist who might be a sexual predator and a serial killer… or not. Even he’s not entirely sure. Stansberry’s prose is confident and slick, his eye for detail sharp and surprising. The book has been nominated for an Edgar and I can see why. It’s a damn good book. I’m eager now to read Stansberry’s new one, CHASING THE DRAGON.

Diagnosis Murder: The Past Tense

Dm5I just got my first peek at the cover of my fifth "Diagnosis Murder" novel. It’s called THE PAST TENSE and may be my favorite book in the series.  It comes out in August. Here’s what some nice folks are saying about the book…

"What a great book! I enjoyed it tremendously. It’s a clever, twisting
tale that leaves you guessing right up to the heart-stopping ending."
Lisa Gardner, bestselling author of Alone.

"Just what the doctor ordered, a sure cure after a rash  of blah mysteries.  Diagnosis Murder: The Past Tense has more plot twists than a strand of DNA." Elaine Viets, author of
Dying to Call You

"With a devilish plot sense, sophisticated humor, and smooth writing style, Lee Goldberg’s DIAGNOSIS MURDER series never fails to please. He’s as good as anyone writing in the genre today." Donald Bain, co-author of the Murder She Wrote novels

"Diagnosis Murder: The Past Tense.  Seldom has a title been more appropriate. Lee Goldberg takes the utterly familiar Dr. Mark Sloan and surprises us with heartbreaking glimpses of the past that allow the  good doctor to step off the television screen and into a flesh-and-blood  reality. Well-plotted and beautifully rendered." — Margaret Maron, Edgar,
Agatha, and Macavity Award-winning author of the Deborah Knott mysteries.

"Lee Goldberg takes you on a streamlined ride
through 40 years of LA history with a busload of suspicious characters. The
Past Tense
will quicken the pulses of longtime
Diagnosis Murder fans and newcomers alike while Dr.
Mark Sloan’s
quest for justice is sure to
warm hearts."
– Denise Hamilton, author of the Eve Diamond crime novels,
including Last Lullaby, an L.A. Times "Best Book of 2004"

"Lee Goldberg’s DIAGNOSIS MURDER books are
fast-paced, tightly constructed mysteries that are even better than the TV show.
You’ll read them in great big gulps!" Gregg Hurwitz, author of The


Those Who Can Do Teach

Bill Rabkin and I will be teaching an online, four-week  screenwriting course entitled "Writing Dramatic Television"  (punchy title, huh?)  beginning on April 4th for the Writers University. Here’s the course listing:

In this four week course, two established executive producers/showrunners
will give you an inside look at the world of episodic television. You will
learn—and practice— the actual process involved in successfully writing a spec
episodic script that will open doors across Hollywood. You will learn how to
analyze a TV show and develop “franchise”-friendly story ideas. You will develop
and write a story under the direction of the instructors, who will be acting as
showrunners… and then, after incorporating their notes, you will be sent off to
write your outline. Finally, you will develop and refine your outline with the
instructors, leaving you at the end of the course ready to write your episodic
spec script…the first step in getting a job on a TV series.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up!

An Enterprising Director

I wrote ENTERPRISE off a long time ago… so imagine my surprise when I watched Friday’s episode and I was riveted. Not by the plot (which was flat) or the acting (which was flatter), but the inventive, energetic, and fast-moving camera work and creative staging by director David Barrett. I wasn’t familiar with Barrett, but after watching the episode, I immediately looked him up. His credits include WITHOUT A TRACE, COLD CASE,  THE OC, and VERONICA MARS.  It’s a shame they didn’t bring him in much earlier… he certainly livened things up. I hope Ron Moore was watching…Barrett could do a hell of a job on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. I’m going to remember this guy.

The C Word on the L Word

In all the press about THE L WORD, Ilene Chaiken is always credited as the creator of the series, and the story of how she fought to get her passion project on the air has been retold many times.

So imagine my surprise when I tuned into the first episode of the second season and found out there are two other writers listed in the "Created By" credits with her: Kathy Greenberg & Michelle Abbott. How come these two writers are never mentioned when she talks about the development of the show? Who are they? How come none of the reporters who interviewed Chaiken never thought to ask her about them? What is the real  story behind the creation of the show?

Speaking of THE L WORD, it’s a lot better this season. I sure don’t miss whatshername as whosits.


I watched the final episode of NYPD Blue last night… could the show have gone out with a duller episode? Compare the pilot to the final episode and it’s like two different shows… one that was edgy, risky, and exciting… and one that could have starred Buddy Ebsen.

The highly-touted NYPD Blue finale was everything the series, at its best, never was…ordinary, unremarkable television.  The finale was so bland, it could have aired on PAX… unedited.