What It’s Like to Be Delusional

Lori Jareo has finally been unseated as the dumbest fanficcer ever. Some idiot has sent out a press release touting the fall release of her self-published, fanfiction sequel to Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT:

This September 2009, a new controversial book hits stores. It is called Russet Noon and it is a tribute sequel to the Twilight Saga. Written by Gothic webmistress and author LadySybilla, Russet Noon is an unofficial continuation to the last book in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn. Russet Noon is told from Jacob Black's perspective and it explores the questions left unanswered at the end of the last installment in the Twilight Saga.

This delusional fanficcer doesn't care that she is violating Stephenie Meyer's copyright because she doesn't think Meyer has one. Honest.

We'd like to thank all the buyers who pre-ordered Russet Noon. The promotional offer to purchase the novel early is now over and will resume in August 2009. Please contact our sales department to find out more about the release of Russet Noon this September 2009. Beware of half-truth accusations and find out about the actual facts on copyright laws.

She elaborated on her view on copyright law in a second press release.

When fictional characters become such an intricate part of the popular psyche, as is the case with the Twilight Saga, legal boundaries become blurred, and copyright laws become increasingly difficult to define. This is especially the case when actual cities like Forks and Volterra are used as the novel's settings. Such settings are not copyrightable, as they are considered public domain. Similarly, the Quileute Nation is also not copyrightable, and neither are vampire or werewolf legends. Copyright laws protect writers from unauthorized reproductions of their work, but such reproductions only include verbatim copying. Characters are only copyrightable if their creator draws them or hires an artist to draw them. Stephenie Meyer herself borrowed a great deal from previous works dealing with these mythologies.
Russet Noon is an original story inspired not only by the Twilight Saga, but also by many classic Gothic novels from the Romantic and Victorian Periods of Literature. If anything, the publication of Russet Noon will only strengthen the popularity of the Twilight franchise, since it will serve to further establish its already legendary status.

This dimwit's rationale for violating Stephenie Meyer's copyright is so inane that I bet even  the Organization for Transformational Works won't defend her… 

UPDATE 3-26-09:  Ebay has pulled Russet Noon off their site, prompting the author to issue another press release:

Author Lady Sybilla met with her publishing partners at AV Paranormal today to discuss the fate of her upcoming novel Russet Noon. One of the main issues discussed at the meeting was the hate campaign that some message boards and forums have instigated […]As for the September release of Russet Noon, the AV Paranormal team is considering one of two options. Either the novel will be published in weekly installments on the website for free, or the plug will be pulled on the project altogether. The final decision will be announced in early or mid April. Only one thing is for sure at this point: No more Russet Noon on eBay. Let the detractors have their victory on this one.
But, regardless of what the final outcome may be, everyone who preordered a copy of Russet Noon will receive a full refund.

It should be noted that the "AV Paranormal team" behind Russet Noon is the author, Ms. Potato Head herself.

Farmers Market

I am having a bite at Farmers Market before attending a Writers Guild seminar. It looks like half the membership of the Screen Actors Guild is here…lots of charactor actors, has-beens (Steven Bauer, for example), and wanna-bes (what is it about some people that just screams ACTOR?) hanging around. I see a few that I’ve hired over the years but I don’t feel like saying hello. I am getting back to the crime novel I was writing before my last Monk book and am re-reading my work to get back in the groove…but I can feel the rust. The first few days of writing will be hard…. Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Variety Slams Bloggers

Today, Variety is taking potshots at the industry bloggers who, over the last year or two, have made the daily trade magazine irrelevant and, worse, revealed how beholden it is to the studios and networks it fails to objectively cover.

Sadly, all Variety is showing with their pitiful whining, and their desperate plea to still be taken seriously, is how right the bloggers are. They are particularly bitter about how Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily frequently breaks stories that Variety either didn't notice, failed to cover, got wrong, or completely hushed-up. Variety is trying to make the case that bloggers are reckless and mean, Finke in particular. Cynthia Littleton reports about one dust-up as an example:

Nothing is too minor or petty to spark a verbal fusillade. And next to bashing their own kind, there's nothing Web newsies likes better than hammering the veracity and integrity of the traditional media. Variety has certainly found itself in the crosshairs, as have the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, among others.

On March 11, Finke posted an item saying Summit Entertainment was eyeing Juan Antonio Bayona to direct "Eclipse," the third installment of its "Twilight" vampire pics.Variety got an off the record confirmation of the deal, and reported it in a story that ran only online.

March 12: Goldstein, in the L.A. Times' Big Picture blog, debunked the Bayona hiring. Goldstein quoted his lunch partner of that day, Summit president of production Erik Feig, as denying that anyone had been hired to direct "Eclipse."

Goldstein's post took Finke and Variety to task, alleging the stories ran without getting confirmation the story.

Finke's response to Goldstein was swift, even demanding an apology from Feig. Shortly before 10 p.m. that night, her update featured Feig claiming to have been misquoted by Goldstein, at least according to Finke. 

March 13: Goldstein responds with a post saying that he and Feig had been "bludgeoned" by Finke, and he even linked to another blogger's take on the Finke vs. Goldstein spat.
March 15: Goldstein added a "Sunday update" that quoted Feig giving a mea culpa to Finke, after which Goldstein took yet another swipe at Variety for supposed journalistic recklessness.

So, in other words, Finke was right, the LA Times was wrong. So what point, exactly, was Variety trying to make?
In another Variety story, Michael Fleming recounts this anecdote:

A little over a year ago, I found out Brad Pitt might fall out of Universal's "State of Play." The studio's toppers argued that a Variety story would cement his exit. They asked for a couple of days to let it play out, a request that seemed reasonable. Days later, Variety.com broke Pitt's exit. (Later that day, Deadline Hollywood Daily wrote about my sitting on the story and cited it as proof Variety was in the pockets of the studios.)

In other words, Finke was right. Fleming sat on the story because the studio asked him to. He put their business/PR interests above his responsibility to report news. He cow-towed to an advertiser. The only point Fleming is making here is how compromised Variety's reporting has truly become (which was obvious to anyone who read the trades during the Writers Strike).

I think the Daily Beast sums it up best:

This weekend, Variety launched an extraordinary three-part attack that was ostensibly aimed at blogging in general but clearly was aimed at one influential online journalist in particular.[…]Thanks in part to a loyal cadre of sources and to the enormous vacuum she filled during the writers’ strike, Finke’s column has become a must-read in Hollywood. And clearly, Variety’s Bart cannot take it anymore.[…]The fact is Variety—like the Los Angeles Times (which has also taken an increasing number of shots at Finke lately)—too often lags behind the news. How is it possible, to pick just two easy examples, that both well-staffed institutions missed the Silverman-to-NBC story and the Chernin-is-out story? Perhaps, as they claim, they’re handicapped by their desire to verify information before slapping it up on the web. But maintaining a high journalistic standard hardly explains the type of anemic coverage too-often found, or not found, on the pages of either Variety or the Times. Bart’s attack—indeed the whole whiny Variety package—sounds too much like the enraged cry of an old-media dinosaur trying to defend what’s left of its terrain.

(Hat-tip to Denis McGrath for leading me to the Daily Beast post)

UPDATE:  Nikki Finke is reporting today that Daily Variety's publisher Neil Stiles made overtures to buy her out on February 27 and bring her into their fold. The deal didn't happen. 

Stiles admitted that his company had done a survey only to find that DHD was a bigger showbiz destination site on the Internet than Variety. He also noted that Variety was embarrassed when the trade publication missed the Peter-Chernin-resigning-from-News Corp story which I had broken a few days earlier. (It took Variety several hours to get online with a matching story…) Stiles' idea was that I would remain independent, but Variety would own DHD and link to my scoops, etc.[…]

She reports that Bart wasn't consulted about the offer and was furious when he found out, immediately ordering not one, but three articles trashing her. How embarrassing…for Variety.

TelevisionWeek folding?

Nikke Finke reports that Crain Communications' mag TelevisionWeek, formerly known as Electronic Media, may be folding. This is sad news for me. I was a reporter for Electronic Media twenty years ago. Even then, the weekly occupied a strange niche, primarily serving station programming executives. It was certainly the most informative publication out there when it came to syndication news (I was the first to break the news about Paramount reviving "Star Trek" in first-run with a whole new cast, an item that was picked up by newspapers around the country). In the mid-to-late eighties, first-run and off-network syndication was still very big-business and there were plenty of glossy, full-page, full-color ads to justify the magazine's existence and support its editorial offices in LA, Chicago, NY and DC. The magazine could never successfully compete with Daily Variety or the Hollywood Reporter when it came to "breaking news," so what they offered was more indepth business reporting…offering the story behind the news. And, for the most part, they did it very well…and got very little credit for it, though their stories were often poached by the other trades and newspapers. I didn't read TV Week much over the last few years, but whenever I did stumble on a copy, I was impressed with the detail and depth of their coverage…even if they were clearly stumbling for relevancy in a TV landscape that has changed massively since the magazine's inception.

A Man with True Grit

Variety reports that the Coen Brothers next movie will be an adaptation of Charles Portis' western novel TRUE GRIT, which became a classic movie starring John Wayne, who won an Oscar as the ornery bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn.

Not a traditional remake, the Paramount film will be more faithful to the Charles Portis book than the 1969 pic […]Portis' novel is about a 14-year-old girl who, along with an aging U.S. marshal and another lawman, tracks her father's killer in hostile Indian territory.
But while the original film was a showcase for Wayne, the Coens' version will tell the tale from the girl's p.o.v.

I'm already looking forward to it.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

William Rabkin talks on his blog about the animated and the live episodes of DIAGNOSIS MURDER that we almost did…and the reasons why we didn't end up producing them. Here's an excerpt from his discussion of our animated episode idea:

Then someone had the idea — and I’m pretty sure it was me, because I’d been watching a lot of Dennis Potter at the time — that we should team Dick up with the greatest sleuth ever to grace a television set… Scooby Doo.
After a long bout of giggles, the story fell into place almost immediately. Dick’s character, Dr. Mark Sloan, would witness a crime, but before he could get away the criminal would attack and leave him in a coma. While the rest of the team searched for his attackers, Dick would be solving the crime in a series of hallucinations… with the help of Scooby Doo. There was one little problem, of course — we didn’t really have a lot of money in our budget for animated sequences. Fortunately, Lee can pull up TV trivia faster than Google, and he remembered that an animated version of Dick had “guest starred” in a Scooby Doo episode back in the 70s. All we’d have to do was get the rights to the footage, then write new dialogue, with our supporting cast doing the voices for Shaggy and the rest.

I don't know whether the episode was Bill's idea or mine…but my memory of how we were going to use the cartoon in an episode is a bit different than his.  At first we considered having Dr. Sloan imagine himself in the cartoon…but realized he was too old to be a fan of SCOOBY DO.  It made no sense for his character. So we decided instead that his young protege Dr. Jesse Travis (Charlie Schlatter), while doing some sleuthing for Mark, would get bonked on the head and tossed of the Santa Monica Pier…and while unconscious, and fighting for his life in the hospital, that he'd imagine Dr. Sloan, himself, and the rest of the gang investigating a similar crime with Scooby-Doo (with Jesse as Shaggy, Steve as Fred, Amanda as Velma, and Jesse's girlfriend Susan as Daphne). Once Jesse awoke, he'd tell Mark the story and unknowingly give him the vital clue he needed to solve the real murder mystery.

It would have been ridiculously cheap and easy for us to simply revoice the cartoon with our own actors and dialog…and come out of it with an episode that was 50% animated and far less than our usual episodic budget (we could have used it in place of one of our dreaded six day shows — episodes shot over six days instead of seven — that we did each season to save money). As I recall, even Dick was excited about the idea…in retrospect, maybe it wasn't so much the idea, but rather the notion of having so many days off that he liked. Charlie was already doing lots of voice-over and cartoon work at the time, so he was also game for the idea. 

I still remember Bill & I writing the letter to Warner Brothers, trying to convince them to let us use the footage. As I recall, Fred Silverman signed the letter, too, and even made a few calls trying to convince the studio to grant us the rights.

Warner Brothers asked us for an outline, so we even went so far as to pick the clips we wanted to use and sketch out the story in broad strokes…but we weren't about to plot out the whole thing until we got the rights. Alas, it didn't happen, for all the reasons Bill goes into on his blog.

Here's a clip from the Dick Van Dyke episode of SCOOBY DOO…

The Best Finales

All this talk about the final episode of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA got me thinking about the best, and worst, series finales.  Off the top of my head, the best ones were, in no particular order:

The Fugitive
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Larry Sanders 
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Boston Legal
The West Wing
The Paper Chase
Inspector Morse

Among the worst series enders were:

Magnum PI (both the original, intended finale and the one they did when they unexpectedly returned for one more season)
St. Elsewhere 
Hawaii Five-O (one of the all-time worst)
Miami Vice
Star Trek Enterprise 
Mad About You
Quantum Leap
X Files
The Prisoner 

My list of series finales that were simply fine, but not outstanding, would include:

Battlestar Galactica
Hill Street Blues
The Sopranos
The Odd Couple
Star Trek Voyager
L.A. Law
Deep Space Nine
Who's the Boss
Family Ties
Barney Miller
Everybody Loves Raymond
Will & Grace

And finally, my list of the best final episodes that were undone because the series unexpectedly came back for another season…

St. Elsewhere
Crime Story

I haven't seen the final episodes of THE SHIELD or THE WIRE (I am several seasons behind on both of them) or BUFFY (I lost interest in the show after a season or two), though I hear that all three of them were great. And there are a number of other finales I never saw simply because they were series I didn't watch. All that said, I am sure am leaving out a bunch. That said, in my opinion most episodic series aren't really designed to have final episodes and don't really need them. It's shows like GALACTICA, LOST, QUANTUM LEAP, MASH, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, THE FUGITIVE, THE PRISONER, LOST IN SPACE, etc. that are built around a quest, a pursuit, a war or the solution of a central mystery that merit, if not demand, the closure if a final episode. But I think that for the majority of dramas and sitcoms, it's not necessary to concoct a finale…and perhaps even a mistake. 

The Truth Hurts

I am ashamed to admit it, but everything my brother Tod is saying today on his blog about me and my sister Karen and our musical childhoods is true.

Helen Reddy, You and Me Against The World. Good christ, Karen played this song like she was earning royalties from it. The odd thing is that it’s actually one of two songs Karen played constantly that contained a lyric about going to the circus. There was a lot of Helen Reddy played in the Goldberg home back in the day, which might make one think that I’d be enlightened into the ways of women and not, you know, as I am.