The Sweeney Gets Nicked

 The big-screen remake of the cult UK TV series THE SWEENEY (one of my favorites) has been shut down just a few weeks before it was scheduled to go into production.  Variety reports that backer Fox Searchlight got cold-feet , worried that the $16 million movie from writer-director Nick Love wouldn't make money outside of England without a big-name star attached (bigger than Ray Winstone and Michael Fassbinder, who were taking over the roles originated by John Thaw and Dennis Waterman). But the producers insist the movie  isn't dead:

Rather than continue with pre-production in the hopes of nabbing a big
name at the last minute, Fox and DNA mutually agreed to step back and
wait. They are still hoping to go into production next year. Cult
writer-director Nick Love remains attached to direct.
[…]"We're confident we'll get the film made next year," DNA production chief Allon Reich told DailyVariety.

Frank Sinatra Dies Hard, Baby

One of Frank Sinatra's best dramatic performances was as NYPD Detective JoeDie_hard_dvd_bruce_willis__large_
Leland in the gritty cop thriller THE DETECTIVE, which was based on the Roderick Thorpe novel of the same name (the movie also starred Lee Remick, Jaqueline Bisset and Robert Duvall). Thorpe wrote a sequel called NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, again featuring Det. Leland…only this time, most of the story unfolds in a Los Angeles skyscraper taken over by terrorists. Sound familiar? It should. The book was adapted into the movie DIE HARD. So, in other words, Bruce Willis took over the role originally played by Frank Sinatra (can you imagine him swinging from the Fox Tower screaming "Yippee Ka-yaa Motherf****r"?). This is old news, but news to me nonetheless… I only just stumbled on it today, going through some old books of mine. It was like discovering that Sean Connery wasn't the first actor to play James Bond on screen (Barry Nelson was) or that Peter Falk wasn't the first Columbo on TV (Bert Freed was)…

Who Is The Short Bald Stranger There, Maverick is the Name…?

John McCain's claim of being "the original Maverick" prompted Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown to recall fond memories of the TV series MAVERICK…and to seek out the sage advice of my Uncle Burl Barer, the author of THE MAKING OF MAVERICK :

I mentioned to Barer how McCain was using "The Original Maverick" as
a campaign slogan, causing my initial confusion with Garner having
played, Bret, the first Maverick, which I cleared up when I remembered
his brother Bart, the other Maverick.

"Yes, you mean Jack Kelly," Barer said.

Jack Kelly?

"Jack Kelly played Bart Maverick," Barer said.

It wasn't John McCain?


Then which of the Maverick brothers did McCain play?

[…] he
patiently explained that at various times Maverick starred Garner as
Bret, Kelly as Bart, Roger Moore as Beau and Robert Colbert as Brent —
the poker-playing Maverick brothers. But never McCain.

"It wasn't, 'Who was the short bald stranger there?' " Barer said,
playing off the opening stanza from the theme song about a tall, dark

MAVERICK was a great show back in the 1950s and holds the unusual distinction of being the only vintage TV series revived three times on three networks in three years…ABC's THE NEW MAVERICK, CBS' YOUNG MAVERICK, and NBC's BRET MAVERICK…all in the early 1980s.

It Was Hard Enough Writing The Book, Do I Have to Sign It, Too?

Margaret Atwood took the high-tech approach to avoiding the book tour — she created a machine that would allow her to sign books in distant locations from the comfort of her living room. Now a publisher is taking a decidedly low-tech approach — they are hiring people to sign books for the authors. The Guardian reports:

They have posted an advert on the listing site, Craig's List,
inviting a team of part-time workers to fake the signatures and get
paid in cash for the privilege.

The advert says it is looking for
14 people who can do a blitz of false autograph signing on behalf of
two unnamed co-authors of a newly released, and equally anonymous,
book. "You will need to be able to copy the look and style of both
author's signatures," it says.

[…]The advert says the fake signing, to be held in Los Angeles, will run
over two days at eight hours a day. Each signing will take 15 seconds
or less, and at that rate the team of 14 could sign up to 53,760 copies.

People Are Raving About Axel’s New Dick

My buddy Axel Brand just got a rave review from Library Journal for his debut novel THE HOTEL DICK:

With a narrative voice reminiscent of
Dragnet's Joe Friday and a spot-on 1940s style that subtly slips
modernisms into the smooth, often humorous telling, Brand has written a sound
period piece featuring Lt. Joe Sonntag. Sonntag maintains a cool approach when
movie star Spencer Tracy appears to be the only viable suspect in the murder of
a hotel detective. The plot is as devious as any of Donald Westlake's and
hard-boiled enough to please Bill Pronzini fans. The end result is pure

Axel also got a rave from Kirkus, who said, in part:

Brand's debut unfolds in leisurely fashion, with many detours. His noir
style effectively combines muscle and cheek, and Sonntag is an
appealingly laconic sleuth.

I haven't read the book yet myself but I am sure, knowing Axel, that it deserves all the acclaim it has been getting.

Signings A-Go Go

My Brother Tod and I had a great time signing MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY and BURN NOTICE: THE FIX at Mysteries to Die For and Mystery Bookstore today. It was a real boost to Tod's ego to see the big crowds (our Mom actually arrived 25 minutes early to our MTDF signing to make sure she got a seat…even though she brought her own)  .Guys like me and Joel Osteen are used to it, but it was a new experience for my younger brother.  Some of the familiar faces in attendance at the signings included authors Leslie Lehr, Mary Yakuri Waters, John Saul, Eric Garcia, and Mark Sarvas, as well as our sisters Karen Dinino and Linda Woods, our niece Emily and our cousin Danny. There were even a couple of Light Sword survivors who showed up to introduce themselves and a lady who came just to tell Tod she hated the new season of BURN NOTICE (and wanted to him to pass along her comments to the producers). Linda took that picture to the left and is promising me some more. I'll post them when they come in..

The Two Goldbergs You Meet in Heaven

 I was going to leave a post about the MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY booksignings I am doing tomorrow with my brother Tod, author of BURN NOTICE: THE FIX. But his post about the  signings is so good, I am just going to steal it:

As I
think everyone knows, I'm a huge, huge Mitch Albom fan, so imagine how
happy I was to learn that his next book, after The Four Chinese
Gymnasts You Meet In Pre-School, would be called The Two Goldberg
Brothers You Meet In Heaven! And keep an eye out for the Hallmark Hall
of Fame movie based on the book, starring Lou Diamond Phillips as me
and Levar Burton as Lee, with special guest appearances by Rosie O'Donnell as our sister Linda and Illeana Douglas as our sister Karen

Hackett55In celebration of this exciting honor, my brother Lee and I have
decided to go out on the road to meet the people who will be so
inspired by us next year at this time. This weekend we'll be making two
appearances and, just for kicks, thought it might be fun to sign some
of our own books, too. I'll be signing The Fix and Lee will be signing
his 145,032nd Monk novel.

Here are the details:Clive_owen_01

First, this Saturday at 1pm, we'll be at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks.
If you happen to be one of the many people who've threatened to kill us
over the years, this would be a good one to attend as our sisters will
be there, too, and you can take out the whole family.

Then, three hours later, at 4pm, we'll be at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. My understanding is that for this event they are anticipating over 150,000 people, but my numbers could be slightly off.

My brother got a few facts wrong. Clive Owen will be playing me in the movie and Buddy Hackett will be playing Tod. I eat a lot at The Habit in Woodland Hills, so if you can't make the signings, you can always hang out there with your MONK books and I am bound to show up eventually.

UPDATE 8-17-2008: You're not going to believe this, but my brother Tod actually got emails from some furious Mitch Albom fans who thought he was serious about the new book ("The Four Chinese
Gymnasts You Meet In Pre-School") and the movie…and warned him that Albom and Rosie O'Donnell weren't going to be amused by his hoax. It's astonishing that people that dumb actually survive into adulthood. 

How to Throw the Pitch

I'm going in to a major studio next week to pitch a TV series.  In advance of the meeting, the studio wants you to send them a very short log line of the concept, sort of the equivalent of a TV Guide listing. Assuming that they like the log-line, a few days before the meeting they will send you the "Drama Series Pitch" format that they expect you to follow for your verbal presentation. Here it is:

THE TEASER—Pitch out a tease that grabs your audience, that is visual, gives a sense of the world, tone and set up of our show.

THE WORLD—After you have grabbed our listener, tell us what the world is and why you want to do a show about it.

our characters in order of importance, allowing what makes each one distinct to
shine through (quirks, traits, backstory). Also discuss character dynamics, how each character relates to each other and what their point of views are about each other. Tell us about triangles, rivals, love interests, etc.

THE PILOT—Broad stroke the rest of the pilot. Do not go beat by beat or act by act. This should really just be broad strokes and key plot points which help establish character and set up. Also, your pilot needs to serve as an example of what a typical episode would look like (i.e. an example of a closed-ended story and examples of character conflicts).

THE SERIES—discuss what an episode of your show looks like, where you want to go in series, potential storylines and character arcs and entanglements.

THE TONE—You want to make sure you have clearly established the tone of your show and may want to hit it again in the wrap up at the end. It is often helpful to use shows that people are familiar with.

I've been in the TV business for a while, and I have done hundreds of pitches, but this is the first time anyone has ever given me a required format.  I guess that the studio has been hearing a lot of meandering, unfocused, boring pitches lately.

In general, I have no problem with their format, and would certainly have included most of what they want in my pitch anyway, though perhaps not in that order. 

Doing it their way is fine for me and has actually helped us focus our pitch and tighten it up. But I think there are some cases where rigid adherence to their format could kill a pitch. Not all series ideas are best told with a teaser and the pilot story…nor do all ideas lend themselves to comparisons to previous series ("It's HANNAH MONTANA meets THE SHIELD with a touch of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA").

Also some writers just have a natural, entertaining way of  pitching that suits their personality and thinking that might not follow a template…but still gets the key points across that the studio is looking or. Asking those writers to adjust to a particular template might throw them off and undermine what otherwise would have been a great pitch.

It’s 1970 All Over Again

CBS may have canceled SWINGTOWN, but their love affair with the 1970s is just getting started. Hot on the heels of the news that CBS is remaking THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO comes word from the Hollywood Reporter that the network is also developing a new HAWAII FIVE-O. They've hired CRIMINAL MINDS showrunner Ed
Bernero to craft this new take. The last time CBS tried to revive HAWAII FIVE-O, back in the late 90s, they turned to writer/producer Stephen J. Cannell, who wrote the script with former network chief Kim LeMasters and cast Gary Busey and Russell Wong as the stars.  James MacArthur reprised his role as Danny "Dano" Williams, who'd bec0me Governor of Hawaii. Several other HAWAII FIVE-O cast members, including Chin-Ho (who was killed off in season 10), returned in cameos.  Mike Post even updated the FIVE O theme. The pilot was shot and never aired…but I have a copy.