Showrunners! Take the Ken Levine Challenge

We, um, dare ya.

Yeah, you heard us.


Open Letter to Current Showrunners
by Ken Levine

This is a serious request. I would love a current showrunner to challenge me. I would love to hear an opposing view. If you care to write I will post your response without touching a word. I make this offer not to be argumentative or stir up controversy. It’s that I really would like to understand your take.

Here’s my point: After a fairly long dry spell situation comedy has had a recent resurgence. Thanks in part to THE BIG BANG THEORY and MODERN FAMILY, networks have once again embraced the genre. Unfortunately, the new comedies are all doing horribly. Some are already cancelled. Others have had their production orders reduced drastically. Every week we read that this sitcom or that sitcom has hit all-time lows. A few have even dipped below a one share. A oneshare!  That is almost unimaginable.   Clearly, the audience is rejecting sitcoms in the form they’re currently in. Fox continues to cling to NEW GIRL and THE MINDY PROJECT despite dreadful ratings. CBS has the most success programming comedies but even their moderate hit shows plummet when removed from cushy time slots.

A hit comedy is a) a cash cow, and b) a rating juggernaut. You can seemingly rerun them forever because audiences will cheerfully watch episodes they’ve seen before, even multiple times. But if year after year everything fails, at some point the networks are going to say, “How long can we keep making Edsels?”

My point of view: Not only are most of these shows not funny. They don’t even try to be funny. I’ve heard showrunners say they don’t wantjokes or they don’t want the audience to suspect a joke is coming.

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/21/14


Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Gregg Mettler (BACK IN THE GAME) is writing the pilot for an untitled ABC comedy based on – surprise! – his childhood. (But wait, there’s actually something cool about his childhood. Gregg’s father was an aspiring blues player – okay, so was everybody’s father in my generation, still – and his mother was a “locally famous” puppeteer. And, das munchkind’s gotta level with ya: I %^$! lurve puppets!)
  • Amanda Knox (newbie famous for being convicted, then acquitted, then convicted again of murdering her roommate in Italy – something many of us who’ve spent any time in college in Italy have often wanted to do) has landed a job as “a freelance writer for the West Seattle Herald. (Giving new currency to the old expression, “Who do I have to kill to get hired around here?” Aw, c’mon, that was funny. You know it was.)
  • Marlene King (PRETTY LITTLE LIARS) is adapting Sara Shepard‘s new Young Adult book series into an ABC Family murder mystery about…oh, wait, that would give away the mystery, wouldn’t it? (Truth in journalism confession: Hey, it’s ABC Family, right? What the hell do I care about any show on that bottom feeding network? I mean, it’s gonna be awful, right?)
  • Sheldon Turner (Oscar nominated writer of UP IN THE AIR) is writing Fox’s DIRTY DEEDS pilot. The series is based on a GQ article called “Oops, You Just Hired the Wrong Hitman” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, who obviously has a penchant for smart and funny titles that could all by itself give her a huge career. (Actually, the hitman is really an undercover ATF agent and…well, danger and hilarity are sure to ensue.)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

Angelo J. Bell: Pitching and Planning


by Angelo J. Bell

November has begun with a bang and I’m scrambling to keep up with the momentum to close out the year and check-off every item from the 2014 To Do list. Earlier this year I decided to “turn up” and work overtime to get something — anything — in gear before the end of the year. I wanted to be able to look at 2015 with even more positivism and hope than the last few years.

Efforts resulted in four pitch meetings in the final quarter of 2014. Two were scripted shows geared for E! and Bravo. The third originated out of North Carolina where, XO5 compadre Paul, networked with author Kim Wiley over the adaptation of her self-published thriller books. NBC Drama liked the written pitch and invited us in to talk about the project. The fourth meeting resulted from an unscripted pitch I heard at The Great American Pitchfest (GAPF) by Dionna Bolarof Atlanta. I remember hearing her pitch and thinking, “This is perfect for Oxygen.” Lo and behold, Oxygen Network felt the same way. Dionna is flying in and we’re heading out on November 24th.

But it’s not over. Still on the go, there are other projects in development, namely an insanely cool and mysterious crime thriller, two contemporary sci-fi dramas and continued efforts to branch out with other unscripted producers and other networks, ie Virgin Produced and Joke Productions.

For January 2015 I’m happy to say that the quest for expansion continues with plans for a formal production partnership outreach to the CW Network and FX Network.

But for now, I simply continue to write and develop ideas for TV… oh, and there’s a cool action thriller feature film I’m working to put together too. It’s called A Perfect Weapon. Stay tuned for more info on that project…

Is Every Film Ever Made Becoming a TV Series This Year? Yikes!

Time now for all of us to get up to date so we can properly castigate one of the absolutely dumbest trends in current TV programming:


by Oliver Lyttleton

Network TV is reaching the point of critical mass similar to the one that shook the music industry a few years ago: a crucible of absolute, sheer panic. Ratings plummet every year, very few shows work or connect on a big level, and even the biggest flagship series are watching their ratings matched or superseded by upstarts from cable TV and streaming services. The result is that executives are floundering desperately, and the next development season indicates that extant hysteria, with a slew of projects that aim to translate brand-name movies to TV.

The latest baffling announcement (via The Hollywood Reporter) is a TV series version of Gregory Holbit‘s 2000 sci-fi drama “Frequency” will be developed for some reason.  And with that project being revealed in the last couple of days, we thought it was a good excuse to round up all the similar productions in development; it’s an insanely long list that indicates a desire to take (semi-well-known) name properties that worked on the big screen and mine those ideas for long form narrative storytelling. At first, some of the ideas felt inspired; some of these basic movie ideas could flourish in a setting that can marinate on character and a slow build. But it’s starting to feel like the blind leading the blind, with execs simply trying to mimic what everyone else is doing. The TV process being what it is, it’s likely that a majority of these won’t make it to series (or even to the pilot stage), but it’s a pretty good indication of the creative bankruptcy that’s sinking the networks right now. Take a look below, let us know what you’re most dreading in the comments.

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Is Television Sacrificing Its Golden Age

Actually, the full title of this article is, “Is Television Sacrificing Its Golden Age to the Closed Loop of Pop Culture?” And know what? It’s a question that needs to be asked. So, appropos of our oh-so-recent previous post:


by Jason Bailey

Let us begin with three seemingly unrelated entertainment news items.

1. Starz Television has announced a new, ten-episode series titled Ash vs. Evil Dead. Director/producer Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell will reunite for the series, which is a spin-off/continuation of their long-dormant original iteration of the Evil Dead movie series.

2. The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Films will re-team director Peter Berg with his Lone Survivor star Mark Wahlberg for a feature film adaptation of the ‘70s television series The Six Million Dollar Man — retitled The Six Billion Dollar Man, because inflation.

3. Showtime has ordered a nine-episode continuation of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s influential Twin Peaks, a full 25 years after the series finale aired on ABC.

Armed with these facts (and related forthcoming films and television shows, of which there are many), we can come to three increasingly alarming and generally depressing conclusions about film, television, and pop culture in general:

Conclusion #1: Pop culture is a closed loop.

Movies based on comic books. Movies based on other movies. Movies based on Broadway musicals. Broadway musicals based on movies. Movies based on television shows. Television shows based on movies. Television shows based on other television shows. Popular culture has always, to some extent, existed within its own echo chamber, but in the current climate, it’s hard to find anything that’s genuinely original, that’s not based, to some extent, on some other thing.

It’s particularly bad in movies; the list of the top ten highest-grossing movies of the year thus far includes one sequel, two new installments of long-running movie series, a film based on a fairy tale, a film based on a toy line, a sequel to a film based on a toy line, a movie based on a comic book, and three sequels to movies based on comic books.

Next year promises more of the same, with sequels to Taken, Hot Tub Time Machine, Divergent, Paranormal Activity, The Fast and the Furious, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Avengers, Pitch Perfect, Insidious, The Terminator, Ted, Magic Mike, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Maze Runner, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Hotel Transylvania, The Hunger Games, Sinister, Kung Fu Panda, Mission: Impossible, Bond, and (of course) Star Wars. There will be remake/reboots of The Jungle Book, Frankenstein, The Fantastic Four, Point Break, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park, and Mad Max.

And aside from the aforementioned Six Billion Dollar Man, we’ll have big-screen versions of television shows like Entourage, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Jem and the Holograms. But the loop also flows from film back to television, with the surprise success of Fargo, Hannibal,and About a Boy prompting a new rash of movie-based TV shows, including the Ash vs. Evil Dead, 12 Monkeys, Uncle Buck (again),Marley & Me (what?), and Big (noooooo).

Everything is based on another thing, in other words, which prompts the pessimist in me to wonder when we’ll reach “peak pop culture,” and simply run out of preexisting things to adapt and remake. I guess we’ll just have to start re-adapting and re-remaking.

So, how did we end up here?

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/20/14


Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Corinne Brinkerhoff (THE GOOD WIFE) is developing a creepy CBS drama about “a prominent Boston family who…struggles to redefine itself” while under suspicion that one of its members is a murderer. (Wow, the spirit of Shonda Rimes is everywhere, no? Where do they find these clones?)
  • Joe Caren (playwright and TV newbie) is writing a Fox drama series called The SYSTEM, about an ensemble of 20-somethings trying to survive their dealings with the criminal justice system. (Did I ever tell you guys about my close call with the criminal justice system? For reals. I was thisclose to a part as a “funny D.A.’s assistant” on LAW & ORDER back in my even younger youth. But then somebody saw my attempt at stand-up and they knew I was all wrong for the funny part. Sigh….)
  • Ali Wentworth & Jackie Clarke (stand-ups, the both of them) are writing the pilot for a semi-autobiographical comedy series based on Ali (cuz nobody knows Jackie or cares about his life, I reluctantly suppose.)
  • Chris Levinson (LAW & ORDER) has a new overall deal with Fox TV. (Which this particular munchacho figures must be exciting as all hell for her, but man does it bum me out. Cuz Chris hates me, you see, since that time when I…oh, right, TMI. You’ll have to wait for my autobiographical comedy series, gang. Wonder if I can get Jackie Clarke to co-write. I hear he’s hot right now.)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)