Agent 007, eh?

My friend David Breckman wrote and produced a hilarious pilot for USA Network called UNDERFUNDED, about a spy for the Canadian Secret Service (yes, they have one).  He’s still waiting to hear if USA is going to pick it up. But in the mean time, the Canadian Broadcasting Company (yes, they have TV networks up there) has announced that production has begun on INTELLIGENCE, a Canadian drama series (yes, they still have a couple shows of their own up there) about, you guessed it, Canadian spies (yes, they have them). The show is from Chris Haddock, the Canadian Steven Bochco, with financial help from every Canadian government entity except, it seems, the Department of Fish & Game.

“Intelligence takes place in the underworld where crime and
government meet. Part mystery, part thriller, all character and
conspiracy,” says Haddock. “It’s a new and volatile mix of gangster and
spy genres that should be pretty addictive. It’s gonna be a lot of fun
to watch.”

Intelligence is a Haddock Entertainment production produced with the
financial participation of CBC, Telefilm Canada, the CTF – License Fee
Program, the Canadian Western Independent Program Fund, the Canadian
and British Columbian Production Tax Credit Programs and CBC
International Sales.

Mr. Monk and the Signings

I started my day out at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks, where I signed copies of MR. MONK GOES TO HAWAII. I was joined by my old friends Terry Erdman & Paula Block, who were signing their book, MONK: THE OFFICIAL EPISODE GUIDE. A lot of friendly and enthusiastic folks showed up, including the shockingly bald Mark Baker, Monk Superfan-of-the-Week Tami and Monk Fun Page Mistress Teresa, who schlepped all the way down from San Francisco with her dashing boyfriend, photographer, driver, and nurse in tow. We talked about all the usual things — Monk, BREASTS, Diagnosis Murder,  bowel movements, publishing, bowel movements, TV production,  BREASTS, studio licensing  and mid-western cheerleaders (which is really just another way of saying BREASTS).

All the talk of BREASTS at the signing actually came up because of an
Amazon review. The reader was upset that BREASTS were mentioned in MR.
MONK GOES TO HAWAII. I think she may be the same reader who was upset
that BREASTS were mentioned in MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE, too.  I have a
feeling she’s really not going to like my next Monk book, MR. MONK AND
where I am sure to mention BREASTS more than once. Maybe twice.

From there, we hurried across the valley and over the Sepulveda Pass to The Mystery Book Store in Westwood, where we did more of the same. We were hosted by Linda, Bobby, and Ken Levine’s lovely daughter Annie, all of whom, unlike the Naked Bookseller of Quartzsite, were clothed. However, I believe they are rethinking this policy and exploring the competitive possibilities of becoming LA’s first clothing-optional mystery bookstore.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Well

Chris Well has given MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE a warm review. Here’s an excerpt:

Novelist (and TV writer) Lee Goldberg does a remarkable job of
capturing the wit and spark of the series, while exploring the
possibilities that come with a different medium. The story is told from
the point of view of Natalie, adding more layers to the narrative than
possible in a regular episode.

Thanks, Chris!

My Ending is Beautiful, too

During a Q&A at Lincoln Center, Jane reports that author T.C. Boyle took on book critic NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani for not liking his new novel TALK, TALK.

On Talk, Talk‘s ending and Michiko Kakutani’s recent attack on it in the New York Times:
"The ending is beautiful, no matter what you might have heard from one
bitter, acerbic individual who’s miserable with her bleak reviewer’s
life.  She wanted a more shoot-’em-up ending.  But I think you’ll find
the book’s ending is a lot subtler, and a lot more beautiful, than
that.  Here, I’ll read it for you so you can judge for yourself. I’ll
read the last sentence backwards because I don’t want to spoil it: "Her
behind in crowding universe the in sky blue the all with, ascendant,
him to next right, there her put he and too smile a her gave he." Now
you tell me, isn’t that beautiful?

(To be fair to Boyle, the Jane poster acknowledges that the quote is not verbatim, he relied on notes, not a recording).

Miami Hell

Kim Masters at Slate Magazine looks at the troubled production of the MIAMI VICE movie.

on Miami Vice things went so wrong that Foxx ended up
leaving in the middle of production, after a shooting (and we don’t
mean the kind with a camera) took place during filming in the Dominican
Republic. Foxx refused to return for any more work outside the United
States, meaning that Mann had to rewrite the ending, eliminating a
version that was to have been shot in Paraguay.

"The whole of
making this movie was filled with adversity," Mann says. But he adds
that whatever the crew might have endured, it was all in the service of
making a great film. "Sometimes folks are going to join this unit and
they may have a tough time," he says. "Guess what? They’re on the wrong

Superman Returns

SUPERMAN RETURNS reminded me of THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE —  I couldn’t get past Brandon Routh’s irritating and pointless Christopher Reeve impersonation. It struck me as a particularly stupid idea… it would be like doing a James Bond movie and hiring someone to do a Sean Connery impersonation. The imitation works for satire…but for a drama? I don’t understand the thinking behind it. Why couldn’t they just let Routh create his own, unique portrayal? At least Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth weren’t forced into imitating Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder (though the performances by Spacey and Bosworth are surprisingly bland). 

By attempting to xerox the original SUPERMAN movie, all director Bryan Singer managed to do was force comparisons at every turn… and SUPERMAN RETURNS simply didn’t measure up on any level.  I was constantly reminded how much better the first two movies were…and how genuine and charming Christopher Reeve’s portrayal was.

Typepad Crash

Typepad, the service I use to host this blog, had a major database crash yesterday. As a result, some of the comments you left here in the last 24 hours have been lost (along with a couple of my posts). Sorry for the inconvenience.

New Destruction

Warren Murphy’s THE DESTROYER series is going to have a new home. After a long, tumultuous relationship with Gold Eagle, Murphy is taking the hugely popular series to Tor Books, which will bring out THE DESTROYER in hardcover and mass market paperback, along with reissuing some classic titles in trade editions. Murphy will write the new books with James Mullaney, who has written 20 books in the series already. The news was announced in the Destroyer Newsletter, of which I am a proud subscriber.

"it’s something new for us and for the Destroyer series.  But it’s
a far different publishing world out there than the one we started out
with and you either grow or go away.  We’ve decided to grow.  That’ll
no doubt entail startup pains and getting used to a whole new set of
systems and procedures but Jim Mullaney are I are looking forward to
the challenge."

Destroyer series was begun by Richard Sapir and Murphy back in 1971.
Its first publisher was Pinnacle Books, followed by N.A.L. Signet and
then, for the last ten years, by Harlequin Gold Eagle of Canada.  […]Gold Eagle sought a
book contract renewal from Murphy but he declined because, he said, "I
didn’t like the direction the books were taking."
final Gold Eagle Destroyer, #145, is due out in October.  The first Tor
book is scheduled for release in April 2007. 

Jumping into the Frying Pan

Bryce Zabel gives readers an inside look at the development and production of M.A.N.T.I.S., the first TV series about a black superhero.

Anyway, the deal was, "M.A.N.T.I.S."
had started as a two-hour pilot, written by Sam Hamm (“Batman”) and
directed by Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man”). The two Sams had a disagreement
with Fox about how the series should go, and walked away from their own
project. Fox still wanted to do the series, but somebody needed to make
the changes and run the show. Both Hamm and Raimi were extremely
gracious and understanding in the transition, nothing was made
personal, and the series lived.

For me, that’s a pure TV moment. Bryce mentions it casually…but it’s outrageous and insane. And yet, this kind of thing happens so often in TV, we take it as normal. But think about it: Two guys create, produce and direct a pilot, praying that it will sell…and when it does, they end up walking away from the show. And Fox, who ordered the pilot and bought the show based on their vision, lets them go.  Now the studio and network have to scramble to find someone else… who wasn’t involved with the show before… to take it over and supply a new, creative vision. Fast.  It’s a thankless, no-win situation for the new showrunner but Bryce took it on and made the show his own.  Because he’s a pro.  I’ve been in a similar position two or three times myself (SHE-WOLF OF LONDON, MARTIAL LAW, etc.) and you just dive in, do your best with as much enthusiasm as possible, and try not to think about all the landmines in your path.