Check Twitter Before Meetings

Twitter-logo Last Tuesday, I had a meeting with a showrunner about filling an open writer/producer position on his new series. I learned yesterday, a week later, that he was going with somebody else. That's no big deal, it happens all the time. But here's the twist… it turns out that an hour before my meeting last week, the showrunner tweeted that he'd just made an offer to a guy I'll call "Producer X" and that he was "crossing his fingers" that the offer would be accepted. So when I had my meeting, the showrunner had already decided to go with someone else…and had announced it to the world…but not to me. He was seeing me as, at best, a back-up in the case the other guy passed…which would be fine, if he hadn't already announced publicly that he really wanted somebody else.

But wait, there's more. Last Wednesday morning, the day after our meeting, the showrunner tweeted that he'd just hired Producer X.  But he didn't get around to telling my agent it was a pass until yesterday…a full week later. He couldn't wait to tell the world his decision…but blew off my agent for a week.

The moral of this story? I'll be checking Twitter before and especially after my meetings…and so will my agent. 

Deep Dudu

Let's hope frustrated U.S. writers, producers and actors don't follow Israeli TV star Dudu Topaz's example when it comes to dealing with rejection and bad reviews. The LA Times reports that the once top-rated TV host hired thugs to beat up two network execs who rejected his pitches for new shows and an agent who gave up on his comeback bid.

Topaz is accused of hiring three former security guards involved in the beatings over the last seven months of Shira Margalit, a vice president at Israel's Channel 2 TV; Avi Nir, a Channel 2 director; and talent agent Boaz Ben-Zion in Tel Aviv. Margalit, the most recent victim, was hospitalized a few days last month with a broken nose and fractured bones in her face.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the four suspects, all in custody, were identified through telephone wiretaps, witness testimony and surveillance video.

At least two other media executives were on the entertainer's hit list, police said: a newspaper editor who had turned down his offer to write a regular column and a Channel 2 producer who once worked with Topaz and now produces the unscripted show "Big Brother.[…]He once attacked a TV critic for a scathing review and broke his glasses, famously declaring, "He doesn't understand what he sees anyway."

Three Ways to Die

Three Ways to DieI've only written and published three short stories in my career — "Jack Webb's Star," "Remaindered," and "Bumsickle" — and just for fun I've bundled them all into THREE WAYS TO DIE, a collection that's now available for a mere 99 cents on the Kindle.  

"Jack Webb's Star" originally appeared in the anthology Hollywood and Crime. "Bumsickle" originally appeared in the anthology Fedora III. And "Remaindered" originally appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and was a Reader's Choice Award finalist (It's also been available as a download on Amazon for a few years now).  

Here's what some critics had to say about one of the stories…

"Lee Goldberg's 'Jack Webb's Star' is a riotous caper crime with a nasty twist that starts in a traffic school class in the Taft building, where among the offenders is a hapless man ticketed for drunk driving in his wheelchair…"
Los Angeles Times 

"Editor Robert Randisi solicited more than a dozen familiar crime-fictionists to contribute their own Tinseltown tales to this volume. Among the best are Lee Goldberg’s clever 'Jack Webb’s Star'” – January Magazine 

"Veteran television screenwriter Lee Goldberg has some fun with a small screen legend in 'Jack Webb's Star'" – Booklist

 "Top billing should go to Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch story, 'Suicide Run,' and to Lee Goldberg's 'Jack Webb's Star'—the former for the detection and the latter for biggest laughs," Publisher's Weekly 

Two Great Books

Dboling-390-Guernica_cover I've read two great books in the last couple of weeks but never got around to reviewing them here… Sara Gruen's WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and Dave Boling's GUERNICA. Of the two, I'd say it's GUERNICA that has stuck with me the most. I really loved it, even if I did see the big plot twist coming hundreds of pages away. 

I was lured to GUERNICA by the ads in the London subway that featured blurbs comparing it to CORELLI'S MANDOLIN and BIRDSONG, two other books that I really liked. So I ran out to buy it, thinking I'll never find the book at home…of course, it turns out to be a UK reprint of a U.S. book by a Washington state sports writer. No matter, I devoured it on the flight home. So I guess the lesson here is that subway ads actually work.

My Mom recommended WATER FOR ELEPHANTS to me, and it was my sister Karen who recommended it to her. So I figured it had to be good. It was. 

Both books are historical epics of a sort. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is set in the present-day, with an elderly man remembering his youth in a low-end, traveling circus in the early part of the last century.

GUERNICA follows the history of the town, from the mid-1800s through its devastation during the Spanish Civil War, from the perspectives of several colorful characters. Both books are filled with their fair share of melodrama, humor, and tragedy…and are utterly compelling, highly entertaining reads.

Listen But Don’t Watch?

The NBC series THE LISTENER, the latest Canadian-produced import on a major American network, isn't getting a warm critical reception so far. Variety savaged it, saying…

There's nothing wrong with U.S. networks picking up the occasional Canadian import, but to have a chance at working, such a show can't be as bland and colorless as "The Listener," which NBC is throwing onto Thursdays with a back-to-back episode launch. Built around a young paramedic with the telepathic ability to hear thoughts, the show looks chintzy, isn't particularly well acted and feels plucked from the 1970s. […]Canada remains a favorite destination for U.S. filming, but in terms of programs flowing in this direction, they ought to have more going for them than simply being in English, eh? "

The Chicago Sun Times was equally unkind.

Craig Olejnik, the Canadian who plays Toby, is down to earth and likably mumbly. His light blue eyes are so piercing you may forget that his special skill isn't X-ray vision. But he's supported by writing and characters that may induce eye-rolling. Take this line, delivered by Colm Feore as Toby's mentor: "You don't have to read my mind to know that I'm worried about you."

Newsday called it "listless" while taking a jab at Canadian TV as a whole:

One does not come to summer TV on a major network to have one's world rocked, and one most certainly does not come to Canadian TV for the same. The Canadians make nice TV – pleasant, intelligent TV, where people, even the bad guys, are civil and fundamentally decent. In a word, "The Listener" is boring.

Despite all the negative reviews here, the show has reportedly been a big hit overseas, so whether or not THE LISTENER does well for NBC this summer, it's likely to continue into a second season.

UPDATE 6-3-07: Even the Canadians are lukewarm on the show. For example, The Globe & Mail says it's "unbelievably bland."

This is a pity, because it's the second Canadian-made series in recent times to make the breakthrough and land on a U.S. network in prime time. Like Flashpoint before it, The Listener is set in Toronto, and Toronto features prominently, like an extra character. But The Listener is no Flashpoint . It lacks anything approaching gripping drama, for a start.

Tom Shales at the Washington Post says:

Near the hour's end, Toby laments of his gift that "all my life I told myself . . . 'Make it go away,' " and many a viewer will be wishing the same thing for the series.

The Boston Globe was even more brutal:

NBC gives us another excuse to close our borders: the Canadian import “The Listener."

UPDATE 6-5-07: The Listener did great in the ratings in its Canadian premiere but according to MediaWeek, it didn't fare too well in the U.S. in its NBC, double-episode debut:

There weren’t many viewers watching, or hearing, the debut of NBC’s “The Listener” last night, which aired against tough competition from the NBA finals on ABC and the night’s top-rated non-sports show, Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“Listener” averaged a 1.4 adults 18-49 rating from 9 to 11 p.m., according to Nielsen overnights, finishing last in its timeslot among the Big Four networks.
The show sank slightly, from a 1.5 to a 1.4, from its first to its second hour, and it lost a good chunk of its 8 p.m. lead-in, “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!,” which averaged a 1.9 rating.

Beeb Cuts U.S. Fare

A few days ago, I pointed out that U.S. shows aren't being embraced as warmly as they once were over-seas, mostly because foreign nets don't have the cash to spend. Now the BBC is saying they are cutting back on U.S. fare…but for creative and cultural reasons.

Jay Hunt, who took over as controller of BBC1 around a year ago, will instead continue to invest the bulk of her drama budget in locally produced fare such as "Doctor Who" and high concept hits like "Life on Mars."

 "Part of what the Charter (the BBC's constitution) commits us to is to find the best of world television and showcase it…but my main job in drama is to spearhead real innovation and creativity in original British production. This is something we do day in and day out. We have an incredible drama story on BBC1, with high-concept pieces and period drama."

Take a Walk on the Kindle

WalkCoverMy 2004 novel THE WALK is now available on the Kindle for a mere $1.40. I hope you'll download it for your next airplane trip, subway ride, or visit to the bathroom. 

Here's what the book is about…

It's one minute after the Big One. Marty Slack, a TV network executive, crawls out from under his Mercedes, parked outside what once was a downtown Los Angeles warehouse, the location for a new TV show. Downtown LA is in ruins. The sky is thick with black smoke. His cell phone is dead. The freeways are rubble. The airport is demolished. Buildings lay across streets like fallen trees. It will be days before help can arrive.
Marty has been expecting this day all his life. He's prepared. In his car are a pair of sturdy walking shoes and a backpack of food, water, and supplies. He knows there is only one thing he can do … that he must do: get home to his wife Beth, go back to their gated community on the far edge of the San Fernando Valley.
All he has to do is walk. But he will quickly learn that it's not that easy. His dangerous, unpredictable journey home will take him through the different worlds of what was once Los Angeles. Wildfires rage out of control. Flood waters burst through collapsed dams. Natural gas explosions consume neighborhoods. Sinkholes swallow entire buildings. After-shocks rip apart the ground. Looters rampage through the streets.
There's no power. No running water. No order.
Marty Slack thinks he's prepared. He's wrong. Nothing can prepare him for this ordeal, a quest for his family and for his soul, a journey that will test the limits of his endurance and his humanity, a trek from the man he was to the man he can be … if he can survive The Walk

Here's what some of the critics had to say…

 "Harrowing and funny…"
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 

 "Lee Goldberg's hard-to-classify but not-be-missed The Walk, set in the aftermath of a major Los Angeles earthquake, pokes fun at the TV industry in the midst of disaster…"
Jon Breen, The Year In Mystery and Crime Fiction 2004

Mr. Monk News

Two things — first off, I'd like to announce the winners of the MR. MONK AND THE DIRTY COP galley giveaway. I wrote  all the names of the entrants on slips of paper, put them in a MONK baseball cap, and randomly plucked out two winners. They are:

M. Pezzella of Lincolnshire, Illinois
Andrea Mesich of Muskego, WI

Congratulations to you both! The other news is that the paperback edition of MR. MONK IS MISERABLE, the best-selling title so far in the MONK book series, is coming to your favorite bookstore this week. If you missed the hardcover, now is your chance t0 catch-up on Adrian Monk's latest adventure before MR. MONK AND THE DIRTY COP comes out in July.