Troy DeVolld: “I Think… (Not)”

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Troy loves remotes!

by Troy DeVolld

Working on Dancing With the Stars again has been a real treat, thought it’s certainly keeping me away from the blog.

Just wanted to pop by today and share a neat little thought on interviews courtesy of my pal Dan, another producer on the show.

We were having a conversation about good interview technique this week, and he offered up a great bit of advice that hadn’t occurred to me after a decade and a half of working on interview questions and conducting more than my share of “look at me, not at the camera” sit-downs.

“You know, I really don’t like it when people start a response with I think,” said Dan. He explained that he felt it diluted the certainty and oomph of the statement that followed.

The more I thought about it, the more I agreed.

Look at these two responses:

“I think Carol was at least twenty minutes late.”

“Carol was at least twenty minutes late.”

The second one’s undoubtedly more impactful, because it sounds so darn certain.  The wishy-washy first statement sounds a little unsure, as if it was maybe fifteen or twenty-five minutes.

The only time that “I think” could be useful is if you had some legally hairy content and your subject said something controversial, stating their opinion.  Then “I think” clarifies that it’s their position and not a statement of absolute fact. I’m no attorney, but I imagine that it could help get your powerful personal statement through legal/S&P.

Thanks, Dan!

Peer Production: BAG MAN is Crazy Powerful

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Real drama. Real impact. In less than 15 minutes. Not a moment of self-indulgence. Awesome film making is all:

BAG MAN

Written and Directed by: JONATHAN & JOSH BAKER
Produced by: SHELBY ROSS
Executive Producers: ERIC FILLER & DOUGLAS HOWELL
Editing by: BEN SUENAGA
Production Design by: PETE ZUMBA
Cinematographer: NICOLAS KARAKATSANIS
Sound Design by: JOSEPH FRAIOLI
Original Music by: BIRD COURAGE
Casting by: NORA BRENNAN C.S.A.

CAST
Boy: JUDAH BELLAMY
Mother: RAUSHANAH SIMMONS
Street Hustler: PABLO GONZALES
Man On Train: MICHAEL FREDERIC
Boss: PJ SOSKO
Shotgun: TUFFY QUESTELL
Colt 45: MATTY BLAKE
Bagman: THEO RUBINSTEIN

HBO and CBS Just Blew Up TV

For your enlightenment: A pretty damn accurate look at what HBO and CBS just did to the TV business paradigm. Just by making themselves available by subscription on the web:

walking dead to me

Cool Hand Luke or The Walking Dead?

by Jason Anderson

HBO and CBS just blew up TV, or at least how we define it. Whether you’re just a happy viewer, an advertiser or you’re in the entertainment biz, it’s time to rethink what you know about TV.

This week HBO and CBS announced new video services available without pricey cable subscriptions or even a TV. While CBS and HBO are making entirely different plays to address audiences now online everywhere, these moves demand an answer to the $64,000 question: what is TV?

Is TV the big box in my living room? Does TV = content that’s good enough to be “on TV”? Does TV = shows made by “TV networks”? For that matter, what are we supposed to call a TV network that’s available live and on demand here, there and beyond?

And what about OTT? If you’ve heard much of anything about the TV business, you know the term OTT. Strictly speaking, OTT refers to any programming offered outside of a typical pay TV lineup (over-the-top). If you’re a “cord-shaver”, “cord-cutter”, or “cord-never”, OTT is your new best friend. But even OTT’s definition changes by the day. Netflix has been the OTT standard-bearer for years but now pay TV operators are adding Netflix to millions of set-top boxes and Netflix series spark just as much water cooler talk as anything on cable networks like HBO.

While we’re at it, what in the world constitues a pay TV lineup? If you pay for TV-like content from a number of different “channels” not offered by Comcast and friends, why wouldn’t we call that a pay TV package?

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 10/22/14

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

  • Mike & Julie Scully (THE SIMPSONS) have sold their spec sitcom, RAISING ADULTS to ABC. (And guess what? This one has a terrific logline about “a married couple hwo, over the course of 20 years of parenting three children, have gone from saying, “They grow up so fast” to “Will they ever grow up?” Stay-at-home kids have been done before, yes, but this time it’s actually about the parents, making this show if not “new and different” at least, “different,” and in TV these days I think that’s close enough.)
  • Neil Goldman & Garrett Donovan (THE IT CROWD) are re-booting the English hit series THE IT CROWD for the U.S., on NBC, no less. (Yes, my children, if you’re thinking, “Didn’t NBC already try this in the U.S. a few years ago?” you’re absolutely right. But creative bankruptcy is its own currency, which, evidently, Neil and Garrett are happy to take, so here the puke-cock network goes again. Sigh.)
  • David Israel (ABOUT A BOY) is writing a comedy about the sex life of bad actor Armie Hammer of THE LONE RANGER infamy for NBC. (Cuz Armie turns out to be really funny in bed, yer friendly neighborhood munchkin supposes. Or maybe it’s cuz he’s the great grandson of rich old dood Armand Hammer and Armand refused to pay the blackmail money. Who the &!%$ knows?)
  • Peter Huyck & Alex Gregory (FRASIER) are an NBC comedy pilot about “a worldly, adventurous, and newly sober narcissist…back in his hometown making amends to his kids, his ex-wife, her second ex-husband and their younger son,” none of whom is too crazy about the idea. (Sounds to moi like this should’ve been written for my man Charlie Sheen, but it’s got Rob Lowe attached. Oh well, close enough!)

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….)

Herbie J Pilato: The “Doors” on TV – and the importance of creative consistency

BEWITCHED front-door1by Herbie J Pilato

No, I’m not talking about Jim Morrison and his legendary rock band.

But what I am addressing are the physical front door props, on the exterior and interior, of certain television shows, and how their consistency or inconsistency is pertinent, representative and conducive to the true success of any given series – and the creative process in general.

For example, Bewitched.  And I know what you’re thinking:  “Really?  Did he reference Bewitched…AGAIN?”

It’s true:  I have.  But with good reason.

The front door on Bewitched always remained the same.  The semi-oval glass design at the top of a nice welcoming front door to the home of Samantha and Darrin Stephens (who lived on Morning Glory Circle somewhere in Connecticut).

That door never changed, at least from the outside.  And from the interior, it was painted white (from some kind of dark brown or so) in the sixth and seventh season.

But having that door ultimately never change in style what such a wonderful representation of the consistency of that series.

The actual interior sets of the show were destroyed in a horrific fire that transpired after the sixth season, but once the sets were rebuilt, everything else on the set was updated with somewhat new styles.  But the design of that front door stayed the same; again, changing only the color of its paint.

And this was consistent with the creative presentation of the scripts and stories on Bewitched.  Whatever transpired within the magical realm of that show’s premise, made sense.  There was a logic to the illogic of it all, and the showrunners of its day (led by the genius of William Asher, then married to Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery) really road the series to keep things consistent.

On the other hand, in more recent years, a sitcom like The King of Queens, which also just happens to be one of my personal favorite sitcoms of all time, did not exactly remain consistently representative when it came to the front doors on its main set (that housed the characters of Doug and Carrie Heffernan, as brilliantly played by Kevin James and Leah Remini).

Ironically, Doug and Carrie’s front door was the same style of Samantha and Darrin’s front door on Bewitched, but only from the inside.

Whenever The King of Queens would display the exterior opening shots to Doug and Carrie’s house, the door was different from the interior design that was used on the show.

And in many ways, this represented the inconsistency that took place on this series over the years.   The characters of Doug and Carrie were more affectionate with other, and more realistically portrayed in the early seasons of this long-running sitcom; and later, the characters simply became caricatures (as did most of the others on the show, as well).

It just wasn’t the same.  Somehow, the showrunners on the series decided it was more fun just to make jokes, and have Doug and Carrie do and say things just to be and sound funny, instead of remaining consistent with their original and (quite likable) performances in the roles.

All that said, and as strange as it may be, there is one other TV show that has the “Samantha door” that was first displayed on Bewitched; and that show is Who’s the Boss? – the Tony Danza sitcom that ran on ABC in the 80s and early 90s.

Not only did Tony’s on-screen house feature a Samantha door, but other Bewitched-connections to the Boss are as follows:

Judith Light’s character, Angela, worked in advertising, just like Darrin (as played by Dick York and Dick Sargent) on Bewitched.

Angela referred to her feisty, red-haired mother, as played by Katherine Helmond, as “Mother!” in much the same way that Samantha referred to her feisty, red-haired mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead) on Bewitched.

And Tony’s on-screen daughter, played by Alisa Milano, was named Samantha!

Point being:  Bewitched and Who’s the Boss, while ironically similar in very small, yet significant ways, were also consistently written and likable series – with the same front door.

Certainly, these shows – like ALL television programs that are on the air for any lengthy amount of time – still had their inconsistencies over the years.  But the truly successful shows keep their inconsistencies to a minimum.

The King of Queens, although I adore the show to this day, was generally and somewhat consistently inconsistent in quality over the years, and was at times presented somewhat lazily; a happenstance that was so perfectly, if unfortunately, represented by not having the same door design featured on both the interior (Samantha-designed) and exterior (non-Samantha-door-design) shots on the show.

Whew!

So, anyway – what does all this really mean in the realm of writing for television and beyond?

There ain’t nothing wrong with being consistent – in every little way (right down to door designs!) with every endeavor, creative (TV writing) wise, or not.

It keeps everything comprehensible – for everybody.


Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.

 

Network Notes and the Reason They Exist

Speaking of an audience learning to love ambiguity, welcome to those who are, well, terrified of it, actually:

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My Latest Rant
by Ken Levine

Even though I know I’m just howling at the moon…

Most network notes come out of fear. Networks are deathly afraid viewers are going to tune out if they’re not captivated every second. Go four lines without a joke and networks believe half your audience will bail. Take a minute in your storytelling to breathe and have two characters just relate to each other and networks are certain it’s the same as the Great East Coast Blackout.

One thing the networks have always believed is that you must explain every moment and every little thing that is going on. And then, to be certain, explain it again. Today, more than ever, that is their mantra (because today, more than ever, they’re gripped with fear).

If a viewer is confused he will tune out, is their reasoning. But there is a difference between confusion and just asking the audience to work a little to figure out what is going on. If viewers are lost because they don’t know why a character is so upset or where a scene is taking place then I’m the first one to say that has to be addressed.

But does a character have to tell us he’s sad? Can’t we tell by his behavior? Does Jack Bauer have to remind Chloe six times that if she doesn’t get him the coordinates the Grand Canyon will blow up?

The bottom line is networks think we’re so stupid that we need to be spoon-fed every detail. It’s more than mildly insulting….

Read it all