I was unaware this was national turn off your TV week until Bob Sassone told me. They need a better publicist. Or maybe a good TV commercial. Anyway, the idea is you should stop watching TV and spend more time with your family and read more books. I’m all for those things naturally, but I think both are overrated. The last conversation I had with my wife and daughter involved my daughter musing about what colors the uniforms might be on her soccer team. And my daughter isn’t even on a soccer team yet. The last book I read was a mystery, that shall go nameless, and that was no better than an average TV show. So was I really better off having that conversation and reading that book than watching the latest episode of “law and order?” I don’t think it’s an either or question really. Turn off your TV week is just stupid. I’m not just saying that as someone who makes his living in TV and writes a lot of TV. The fact is television viewing is at an all-time low — at least among the major networks. I wonder if people are really watching as much TV is the anti-TV people think they are. And even if they are so what? Is TV worse for you than a bad book? Is TV worse for you than a video game, computer game, playing with your PDA, your blackberry, or your cell phone? There are a thousand things keeping us from wonderful wholesome family conversations and classic novels. Why single 0ut tv? I say let’s have a no Game Boy week, a no cell phone week, or no Internet week. Let’s see how that would fly!
I was reading about the exec shakeup at ABC this morning…
One of the sad things about the ABC situation is that they actually put some good shows on the air that probably would have been hits on other networks — like LINE OF FIRE, DRAGNET (SEASON 1) and KAREN SISCO. If any of these three shows had been on NBC, they might still be on the air now. Though, to be fair, the last three episodes of SISCO felt like the fifth year of a very tired show (they did the heros-are-hostages in bank heist episode for God’s sake). Still, there is a good reason ABC is mired at #4. Their dramas sucked. I dont think anybody is going to miss KINGDOM HOSPITAL, THREAT MATRIX, THE DA, or 10-8. Remember VERITAS, MDs, THIEVES, Push Nevada, miracles, that was then, the court, snoops, the beast, Dinotopia anyone? Plus, they never aired my special THE BEST TV SHOWS THAT NEVER WERE, making the show an ironic joke in and of itself. If they’d aired my show, they’d probably be at least #3 now.
Before starting a pitch, I like to ask the execs what they are looking for. At a recent meeting at a network, the exec said:
“We’re wide open,” she said. “The only things we don’t want to hear are cop shows, science fiction shows, anything set in the past, military shows, buddy detectives or stuff with monsters.”
I could think of only one genre she left out. “What about a medical show?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “We don’t want those, either.”
I was in middle of pitching three TV series ideas when the newly minted network exec – formerly a lawyer, rock musician, accountant and personal trainer—interrupted me.
“You have no clue what makes a good TV series concept,” the exec said. “And your pitches suck.”
I smiled. “But does the rest work for you?”
“You want to hear a pitch? This is the perfect pitch, I just bought it.” the exec continued. “There’s a cop. He’s a rebel. He’s a rogue. He doesn’t play by the rules. He’s also an incredible slob. He’s teamed up with a new partner who’s a stickler for the rules, a team player, and a neat freak. His new partner is…a dog.”
I stared at him. “A dog?”
“A dog,” he said proudly.
“Does the dog talk?” I asked.
The exec’s eyes lighted up. “Now you’re getting the hang of it.”
A good friend of mine, Terry Winter, writes for the Sopranos. He’s a very funny writer, and not surprisingly, writes the funniest episodes of the show. Despite best-known for running the Pines Barrens episode last season. Anyway tonight he wrote episode that was pure Terry. Besides being damn funny, it was full of TV references. Including nods to that’s life, which was written and produced by former Sopranos writer Frank Renzuli, as well as Nash Bridges, which was written by John Wirth, who Terry also worked with. There were also some sly references to law and order, Dick Wolf, and Rene Balcer. There was also a clip on the TV in one of the flashbacks to episode of Cannon — and it wouldn’t surprise me if David Chase worked on it at one point in his early career. In an episode a season or two ago, Terry had junior watching diagnosis murder. I still can’t figure out why Terry didn’t use a clip from the episode he wrote for us!
This is a true story…
I was in the offices of a major movie producer who had just read a manuscript version of my new novel The Walk (Five Star, January 2004) and wanted to talk about a possible screen version. The story is about a TV producer who is stuck in downtown Los Angeles when a major earthquake decimates the city and has to walk back home to the suburbs.
The executive loved the book, the human drama, and the action-adventure elements. He only had a few thoughts and concerns.
“Does the guy have to be a TV producer?” he asked.
I was prepared for that question. I knew the character might be “too inside,” meaning too much a part of the entertainment industry, to connect with a wider audience.
“No,” I said, “Of course not. We can give him a different profession.”
“How about if the TV producer was a team of cheerleaders instead?” the executive asked.
I laughed, thinking he was joking. He wasn’t. But he wasn’t done with me yet.
“And what if the earthquake was a tidal wave?”
The book remains unfilmed.
An article in Variety about westerns got me thinking about this sadly overlooked genre.
Let’s face it westerns are basicly dead. They don’t command anywhere near the audience they used to at the box office, in bookstores or on television. I’ve only recently come to enjoy and appreciate westerns. It was Larry Mcmurtry’s “lonesome dove” that got me hooked — then I discovered Elmer kelton, Frederick Manfred, AB Guthrie, Edwin Shrake, Tom Eidson, Robert Randisi, Loren Estelman and fell in love with the genre. I even joined the Western Writers of America to learn more about it and discover more authors. I thought “the missing” an “open range” were terrific, and was sad to see them tank at the box office. During my recovery in the hospital, TNT or some other network reran a couple of Tom Selleck’s TV westerns — and I thought they were well-made, well-written. well-acted, and very entertaining (or maybe I was just high on painkillers). Selleck is very convincing as a western hero, and clearly loves the genre. I guess he’s the TV equivalent of Kevin Costner in that regard. I’ve even come to appreciate Gunsmoke — I never realized what an intelligent and adult series it was. Of course, it also had a period when it was awful – in the late 60s — but I’m enjoyimg rediscovering the show. It’s actually possible now, if you have tivo, to watch the black-and-white half-hour episodes on the Hallmark channel from the fifties, the the black-and-white hourlong episodes from the sixties on the Western channel, and the hourlong color episodes from the late sixties occur seventies on TV. I’ve even come to enjoy some classic radio westerns on my morning and evening commutes — particularly James Stewart as the six shooter. Westerns deserve a comeback — in the same way cop shows and mysteries are today. Perhaps hbo’s deadwood will reignite interest in the genre.
From the Evening Post
Rebus show killed off by ITV bosses
EDINBURGH’S most famous fictional crime fighter, Inspector Rebus, has been axed by television bosses after just four episodes.
The show – starring Scottish actor John Hannah – has been dumped by ITV despite proving a hit with viewers. But producers hope the show will get a new lease of life in the United States after being snapped up by BBC America.
Four books about the fictional detective, who was created by award-winning city-based author Ian Rankin, were adapted for television by Clerkenwell Films, Hannah’s own production company, and Scottish TV.
Feature-length film Black and Blue pulled in nine million viewers when it was aired in 2000.
A spokeswoman for ITV said: “Four episodes were commissioned and they did very well. But we are not obliged to make any more.”
In other words, she’s saying the show sucked. I don’t disagree. I’m a huge rebus fan and I was really looking forward to the series. But John Hannah was miscast, the direction was flat and the scripts didn’t capture the feel of Ian Rankin’s wonderful books at all (it reminded me of the lousy Blood Work adaptation…it, too, sounded so good on paper and was so bad in execution). It wasn’t the Inspector Morse/Nero Wolfe sort of adaptation all of us rebus fans were waiting for. I hope they try again — with new writers and a new star .
I’m writing this using Dragon naturally speaking dictation software. isn’t technology grand? I just got home from three days in the hospital where my shattered right elbow was replaced with a brand-new titanium one. I asked the surgeon to install a laser cannon and a tivo remote while they were at it, but they wouldn’t do it. It’s no fun having two broken arms. You can’t do anything for yourself. You can’t eat. You can’t pee. You can’t button your shirt. You can’t scratch your…well, you get the point. I find myself being far more intimate with my wife than I ever imagined. I’m sure shes as thrilled about it as i am. my daughter is getting a big kick out of feeding me, though. I just wish she’d stop speaking to me in baby talk.
I will try to keep this blog up-and-running…I’ll share with you my efforts to continue writing and producing "Missing"….and making the july1 deadline on my next Diagnosis Murder book… while dealing with my two broken arms. And I might even find a few Other Things to Rant about. So stick around… and forgive the typos!
UPDATE: I will be attending the LA Times festival of books this weekend. I don’t know if I’ll actually be signing my books — but I will be showing up at all of my scheduled panels and signings.
Lee is doing fine — he’ll be having surgery to reconstruct his right elbow on Thursday. He’s in very good spirits and wants to start writing as soon as possible. I’m gettinghim dictation software tomorrow. Thank you for all your good wishes and kind words! Valerie