Dennis O’Neil: The Return of Doodyville!

NOTE FROM LB: The Howdy Doody Show was my absolute favorite when I was a kid. So much a favorite that I remember sitting on the floor and watching it one day when I was four years old and praying to you-know-Who that I would never get any older because I knew that when I did I wouldn’t love Howdy and the gang anymore. Some people say I never did get any older. Maybe there really is a God.

That's Howdy in the middle, for those who are not of a certain age

That’s Howdy in the middle, for those who are not of a certain age

by Dennis O’Neil

Our man Thunderthud was called a “chief,” but he wore only a single feather on his head instead of the fully-feathered bonnet we were used to seeing perched atop guys who answered to “chief” in the cowboy pictures I saw before you were born. The (if I may) chief is most notable, not for something he wore, but for something he said. This was “Kowabunga,” sometimes spelled “Cowabunga” and used mostly, if memory serves, as an expletive you could say freely in front of your church-going grandma. Some of you – most of you? – thought that Kowa/Cowabunga originated with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of movie and comic book fame. Sorry, but no.

Beginning in 1947, Chief Thunderthud dwelt in Doodyville which, in turn, was located in midtown Manhattan in a studio owned and operated by The National Broadcasting Company.

He wasn’t necessarily lonely, there is Studio 3B. Doodyville had other inhabitants, some of them marionettes, such the town mayor, Mr. Bluster, a strange beastie known as Flubadub who seemed to be a mashup of eight different animals and, of course, Howdy himself. Human beings also called Doodyville home. There was the chief, and another member of Thunderthud’s tribe, Princess Summerfall Winterspring who was sometimes called Judy Tyler and who later made a movie with Elvis Presley. (Presley wasn’t a puppet, either.)

And there was Clarabell the Clown, who spoke only three words in the show’s entire run and who communicated by blowing a horn and whose favorite prank was squirting seltzer into somebody’s face. That Clarabell! What a hoot! Though maybe I should mention that he was amale hoot, despite the name.)

We’ve saved the best for last. I refer to none other than Buffalo Bob Smith, who did a lot of things including but not limited to emceeing the proceedings, interacting with the studio audience, and – here comes a surprise – supplying Howdy’s voice. Bob wasn’t a ventriloquist the way, say, Jeff Dunham is a ventriloquist, but who cared if his lips moved when Howdy talked? As long as a camera wasn’t aimed at him during Howdy’s chat, nobody except the kids and other performers and technical people knew exactly where the words were coming from. And did they care?

Why all this Howdy stuff now? Well, Howdy’s coming back! He’ll star in a Fourth of July video marathon that will incorporate old shows and new material, and maybe serve as a pilot for similar excursions into Doodyville. Which prompts us to ask: If Chief Thunderthud and the lovely princess were debuting today, would they run afoul of the defenders of political correctness? Will the antics of the Chief and princess, which could be seen as racist lampoons, be shown on July Fourth? Should they be seen as racist? I don’t know.

Final question: why? Has the world been yearning for a return to Doodyville?

Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

Inside NICOLIFE, the Web Series LB luvs!

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NOTE FROM LB: A couple of weeks ago, we featured a new web series called NicoLife here on TVWriter™ and, yes, it’s true, grumpy old me kinda fell in love with it. I think this is an exceptionally well done series which would work just as well on TV (whatever that is these days) and the interwebs (whatever they are these days.

Recently I talked to Robin Nystom, the show’s multiple hyphenate Writer-Director-Producer, to ask the two questions that always comes to mind the first time I see or read anything, anywhere, from any creator: “What is it you want NICOLIFE to accomplish, artistically and personally/professionally? How does it fit into your dream future?”

Here’s Robin’s answer:

NicoLife Behind the Scenes Capture

by Robin Nystrom

On the one hand, my goals with Nicolife were ambitious. I set out to elevate the web series format with a satirical and dark and compelling story that twists and turns in unexpected ways across six episodes. On the other hand, Nicolife has been a passion project more than anything else, born out of a desire to create. It was never driven by a wish to make money. I simply wanted to create something in the world that wasn’t there when we started—in my opinion, that’s one of the most beautiful things you can do.

The comedy web series Nicolife tells the story of Nicolai and Phil, two attention-starved nobodies who desire fame and fortune above everything else. Unfortunately, their social ineptitude lead them down a path of tragedy and death. The show is a satirical look at the egocentrism of our YouTube generation.

Season 1 of Nicolife was produced on location in San Luis Obispo, California by a group of film lovers. What we lacked in monetary resources, we made up for in passion and creativity.

Zero-budget film making means that you film first and ask questions later. This was certainly the case for the Nicolife team. We took over the homes of friends and family members (with or without their permission).

We convinced a local business owner to let us shoot inside his laundromat. We got kicked out of a grocery store when we tried to film a short scene guerrilla style.

We were hit by a harsh rain storm on a mountaintop, during the longest drought in California history, and had to carry our camera equipment down a mudslide.

We were almost arrested by two cops when we shot a scene outside an ATM and were accused of using “suspicious equipment.”

We inflicted plenty of scrapes and bruises on our poor actors (sorry, couldn’t afford stunt doubles).

And last but not least, we made two fake DIY corpses and became well-versed in the art of making large amounts of fake and edible blood.

Even with all the challenges that we had to face, the production team had a blast…which is why my dream future is to share my stories with people from all walks of life, all over the world.

Nicolife will always be a part of my storytelling repertoire, even as I move on to other creative endeavors. We just hope that people will enjoy watching the show as much as we enjoyed making it…which is why my dream future is to share my stories with people from all walks of life, all over the world.

Thank you, LB!

YouTube Channel:
Twitter: @NicolaiTravis

Productivity for Writers and Other People

Meredith Allard is a successful novelist who actually shares the “secrets” of her success. We at TVWriter™ dig her. You will too:

by Meredith Allard

It’s interesting to me to see how conversations change over time. Not so long ago everyone was praising multi-tasking as the best thing ever. Hey, I can write the world’s greatest novel while reading blogs while checking every new email the moment it pops into my inbox while keeping track of every ping on Facebook and Twitter while walking the dog while doing my taxes while binge watching Netflix while juggling watermelons while yodeling to the tune of “O Solo Mio.” At the end of the day I’d wonder why I hadn’t written more. Had I really lost an entire day watching cat videos on YouTube? Then I realized that I didn’t want to spend more time working. I wanted to get more done.

Around this time, I started seeing articles about how multi-tasking may not be all it was cracked up to be. We weren’t putting all our attention and talent into any one task; as a result, we weren’t working to the best of our abilities because our attention was too scattered. Enter the discussion about productivity.

I think the reason there are so many articles about productivity is because so many of us are struggling with the same issue—how do we work more efficiently so that we’re getting more and better work done in less time? Here are a few tricks I’ve learned lately that have helped me stay focused while I’m working. I wrote this post from the point of view of a writer hoping to steal back some of her precious time to get more writing done, but I hope anyone who is having some concerns about their productivity will find these tips useful.

  1. I changed my homepage for the Internet.

Since I’ve had the Internet in the mid 1990s I’ve used AOL as my homepage. My email address is through AOL, so by using AOL as my homepage I could check my email as soon as I logged online. But you know how it goes…there are the news links, the entertainment links, the books links, along with any other links that might catch my eye. Once AOL and The Huffington Post joined hands, I was done for. I’d spend an hour reading blog posts and getting no work done in the process. Was it fun? For sure, though there were definitely times when I was wondering why I was reading about celebrities I didn’t even care about. I had just wasted an hour I could have spent getting my work done.

About three months ago I changed my Internet homepage to my own website. That might sound a little self-serving, but it helps me in two ways. First, I can do a quick glance at my site to see if there are comments I need to respond to, which I can often do in under five minutes. Second, there are no news feeds to distract me so I’m able to get right to whatever it is I need on the Internet. Yes, I have to click on one or two more links to get to my email, but it’s worth it to me to skip over the distractions.

  1. I check my email twice a day.

I check my email in the morning to see if there’s anything imperative that needs seeing to, and then I check my email at the end of my work day to see if there’s something that came in since the morning. That’s it.

  1. I removed the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone and iPad.

Now the only way I can access Facebook and Twitter is to log in on my computer. This extra step helps to scratch the itch that used to lead me to check my social media pages every five minutes to see if someone posted a new cute cat photo. I check Facebook and Twitter twice a day, quick scans to see what others are up to and if there’s anything I need to respond to, which, again, I can usually do in less than five minutes….

Read it all at Meredith Allard’s helpful and entertaining blog

How many ways can you not say “Very?”

This is either a very important vital public service or very much total bullshit. But we at TVWriter™ are very interested in dedicated to letting our various and sundry visitors decide:



Whoa, a bestseller, stamped and certified. But can you, the writer, really make that happen?

Whoa, a bestseller, stamped and certified. But can you, the writer, really make that happen?

by Robert Gregory Browne

I’ll say this right up front:

The title of this post is complete nonsense

I could have used similar words on the cover of my book on craft to attract those who believe there’s some secret ingredient to bestselling fiction, but I didn’t.


Because, first, I like to think I have a little integrity. And second, the truth is, nobody can tell you how to write a bestseller.


I don’t care if they’ve sold a gazillion books themselves, there is no person on this planet who can tell you how to write something that will rocket to the bestseller lists.

Not even the big New York publishers know how to get their books on the bestseller lists. If they did, every book they published would be there.

I decided to write this post because I was searching the Internet one day and stumbled across a writer’s website that had an article with a title very similar to the one above. So I took a look at the post and, yes, the author had included some good advice, but none of it really had anything to do with writing a bestseller. He had simply used that word to get your eyes on the page.

So I used the same trick here to make a point.

And I’ll bet your adrenalin rose just a little when you saw it, right?

But here’s the thing…


Because it’s completely out of your control.

If you sit down to write a “bestseller,” you are taking a wrong-headed approach to writing. Writing great fiction has nothing to do with writing bestsellers. Bestsellers are, by and large, flukes. Right place, right time. And not all bestsellers are created equal.

I can name a dozen of my friends who do everything right and should be on the bestseller lists, and authors who are and don’t belong there.

When I wrote Trial Junkies, I just wanted to write a great book. I had no idea it would go on to be an indie bestseller. Sure, it was something I hoped for, but I certainly wasn’t rubbing my hands together in anticipation of mega-sales. I just wrote the book I wanted to read and decided to let fate take care of the rest.

So don’t put all your energy into trying to write a bestseller. You should simply write the best book you can possibly write. A book you’re so excited about that you don’t care if you ever make a dime off of it.

I spent many years writing stuff that I knew would never sell. In fact, I didn’t even try to sell it, because I knew it wasn’t good enough. But I kept at it for several years. I wrote story fragments and screenplays and teleplays and partial novels and while I knew what I was producing was not quite there yet, I also knew, with great certainty, that it would be one day.

Sure, I had dreams of being Stephen King or Dean Koontz. We all do. But the reality is that most writers never make it to the lists, yet they still manage to have wonderful careers.
Should you forget about your dreams?

No. Sometimes they’re all you have.

But any thoughts of bestsellerdom should be relegated to the back part of the brain. You have a story to write. And that’s all you should be thinking about.

If you publish it and it manages to reach one of the bestseller lists, that’s just gravy.

So there is no How to write a bestseller.

And don’t ever be fooled by anyone who claims to know the secret. That particular brand of fairy dust just doesn’t exist.

Larry Brody has been the proud friend of Robert Gregory Browne since they partnered in the writing of about a trillion scripts back in LB’s animation writing days. And RGB has, in fact, been a bestselling mystery writer since those days ended. You can find out all about that HERE and find some of the best reading material available in any genre HERE

Indie Video: The Rock’s New YouTube Channel

Our ever-changing entertainment structure often is a most wonderful thing to behold. Great ideas coming from out of nowhere and captivating thousands – sometimes hundreds of thousands – of viewers.

In this short promo for his new YouTube Channel, a certain Dwayne Johnson shows what you can do with talent, a great sense of humor, and what looks like one whole gobsmacking bunch of dinero. (But really isn’t because talent.)

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We admit it. We minions at TVWriter™ are already hooked.