Serial Killers

The big media story lately is the death of all the new serialized dramas the networks have launched over the past two years in an attempt to captue the success of LOST, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and 24.  Basically, nobody seems to have the time, energy, or trust to commit to a deep, lasting and meantingful relationship with more than one or two of these series. After the death of shows like SURFACE, KIDNAPPED, REUNION, THIEF, INVASION, SMITH, and the anemic ratings of VANISHED, THREE DEGREES and THE NINE, The New York Times reports that the networks are finally getting the hint:

In every television season
some new lesson about the American audience is imparted. This season’s
lesson was clear within the first weeks of the fall: you can ask people
to commit only so many hours to intense, dark, intricately constructed
serialized dramas, to sign huge chunks of their lives away to follow
every minuscule plot development and character tic both on the air and
on Internet sites crowded with similarly addicted fanatics.

“The message we received was that people have strains on their
lives,” said Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment. “People
are saying, ‘I’ve got my handful of shows like this, and I don’t want
more.’ ”

[…]Dana Walden, president of the 20th Century Fox Television studio,
said: “What the audience seems to be saying is: ‘Enough. We can’t get
involved with more of these.’ ”

Logically this result should have been expected. But logic often
runs aground in the offices of television executives who endlessly try
to anticipate the future by repeating the past. Or, as Preston Beckman,
executive vice president for entertainment for the Fox network, put it,
“In this business we always overcompensate.”


Even LOST is feeling the heat. The Los Angeles Times notes that CRIMINAL MINDS, which is in the same time slot, is drawing almost as may viewers these days.

…conventional wisdom would dictate that "Criminal Minds," now in its
second season, should be moldering on TV’s rubbish heap.  So why
is the series growing into a bona-fide hit that last week delivered its
most-watched episode ever, with 16.8 million total viewers, just a
shade behind the still-formidable "Lost" (17.1 million), according to
Nielsen Media Research?

"This was the year of serialized dramas trying to recapture lightning in a bottle the way
that ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Lost,’ ’24’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ did,"
said John Rash, director of broadcast negotiations for
Minneapolis-based ad firm Campbell-Mithun. "But almost all of them were
rejected by the audience."

The growth of "Criminal Minds" is
maybe the most convincing proof that not everyone wants to be chained
to a dense, character-packed drama that unspools like a Dickensian
novel. And even those who do have their limits. There is a reason why
formula sells, why genres become generic in the first place.

Baywatch Confusion

All 22 episodes of the original, first season of BAYWATCH, which aired on NBC, is coming out on DVD on Monday  in England. A first season boxed set of BAYWATCH episodes is also coming out on the same day on these shores… only they are entirely different episodes. Confused? I know I was.

The first season that’s coming out on DVD here is actually season two, the firstB000gdh8j201_ss500_sclzzzzzzz_v60051065_
syndicated season of the show. The U.S. boxed set reportedly has two episodes from the real first season, which they are calling "the lost pilot season." If that wasn’t bad enough, the episodes in the U.S. are also missing the original score. What were they thinking? The only reason I care at all about this debacle is because I wrote a bunch of first season BAYWATCH episodes on NBC and, as bad as they were, I wouldn’t mind having them on DVD… so I had to shell out $65 to get the Brit version which, by the way, will only work on a multi-standard player or on your computer.

Persuaders still Persuasive

Way back in June 2005, it was announced that Ben Stiller and British comic Steve Coogan were teaming up for a feature film revival of the flop 70s TV series THE PERSUADERS. Apparently, that project has dissolved, because this week Variety reports that the project is now being developed by producer Ashok Amritraj and ANGER MANAGEMENT screenwriter David Dorfman. There was no mention of either Stiller or Coogan’s involvement. If they are gone, it makes the reasoning behind mounting this TV revival a real head-scratcher.

THE PERSUADERS starred Roger Moore and Tony Curtis as two fun-loving playboys in Europe who were drafted by a retired judge to solve crimes. The series was produced in England and only lasted a season. But the reruns have a cult following in the UK and France which, apparently, Amritraj thinks is enough to prop up a "tent pole action comedy."  But does anyone besides me and a handful of other TV geek still remember the show?

I Should Kill More Critics

I killed Chadwick Saxelid in the latest DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel, but that didn’t stop him from giving THE DOUBLE LIFE a great review.

For the seventh book in his series of Diagnosis Murder tie-ins, author Lee Goldberg has concocted a mystery concept so unnerving, it would even give veteran medical thriller writer Robin Cook the willies.

[…] mixing an emotionally nuanced character
study (of Steve Sloan, this time around) with an intricate puzzle of a
mystery, where finding out howdunit is just as essential, and
entertaining, as finding out whodunit.  Like the best of series
fiction, The Double Life both satisfies and leaves the reader hungry for more.


What would happen if Aaron  Sorkin wrote a series about baseball? Emmy-winning writer  Ken Levine gives you a brilliant example.



You can’t get a good lobster in this town.

Last I checked we were in Kansas City.

4.6 billion pork ribs sold every year and 18.9 tons of beef consumed annually since 1997 –

They like their beef, what can I tell ya?

But you’d think just for variety’s sake.

I can still throw my curve.

For strikes?

I’m not throwing enough?

I’ve seen more lobsters.

There’s more… much much more…and it’s hilarious.

Greetings from Germany

I’m sorry you haven’t seen me much around here, but I am currently in Cologne, where I am writing, teaching, pitching and going on helicopter rides (my friends at Action Concept love their helicopters). Over the weekend,  I was taken out by an experienced race car driver to Nurburgring,  where we drove a BMW M5 on a winding track that’s  considered one of the most demanding in the world.  When I say "we drove," I mean I sat in the passenger seat while he sped at 240+ km around unbelievably tight turns.  I loved it. I thought it was incredibly exhiliratiing. Unfortunately, before I got my turn at the wheel, the car completely crapped out.  Somehow we managed to blow the transmission. We had to push the car into a parking spot, where we waited three hours for a tow truck to take us back to the nearest BMW dealership. It was great fun anyway and I got to see a lot of cool cars. Speaking of cars, I also visited the Daimler-Chrysler HQ in Stuttgart, which was fun, too.

But the best part of my trip so far has been all the conversations I’ve had with German writer/producers and network executives. I think I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me. The exchange of ideas, methods, and philosophies about writing, showrunning,  and the television business has been every bit as exhilirating for me as my high-speed race around the track.