munchman: Some Observations at the Start of the Fall 2016 Season

love & money

Yeppers, kids, muncho likes this pic from his old Love & $$$ column that here it is again. Waste not, want not. Hugs!

by munchman

Hold onto your valuables, gang, its trenchant observation time!

  1. Have you watched Fox’s new drama, Pitch, yet? Yer Friendly Neighborhood muncharino asks because he has – and has to tell you that this probably is the best bad TV show he’s ever seen. The premise is pure corn, the structure is solid soap, and absolutely nothing unexpected happens anywhere (although, lordy! how they try for that in the pilot), but the dialog is absolutely the best possible talk of any new series anywhere this season. A perfect example of good writers massaging the hell out of network-abused narrative. munchito suggest you all watch it – once.
  2. How about this for a stopper? NBC has announced that it’s going to bring us a “sexy” contemporary version of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, featuring a young female lead who “finally finds a true sense of family in a strange group of talented outcasts who use their unique skills to take down wealthy criminals.” Jesus Fucking Christ, NBC, we know Dickens wrote for the masses, but this concept is pure messiness. Please, please, give el munchero the answer to the key question your announcement brings to mind: What the fuck are you smoking, dudes? (Which brings up a second query: Hope ya saved some for me.
  3. Just watched the premiere ep of something called This is Us, a sample of what NBC is sending out into the galaxy right now. Sorry, Executive Sweeters, but this ain’t about any “us” munchikins knows. And if this show does in fact reflect your own pasts, presents, and futures, well, now methinks I understand why you think your new take on Oliver Twist sounds okay.
  4. And then there’s Fox’s new TV version of Lethal Weapon. Did anybody involved in the development of this actually watch the original Shane Black-written film? Did I just hear somebody say, “Yes?” Okay – didja watch it with your eyes open and your ears unplugged? Didn’t think so.
  5.  So far, the munchman Cheesy TV Award for the new season goes to – Notorious. Hey, stars and crew of this botched bit of plastic script and production surgery, how does it feel to be so totally and irredeemably betrayed by whatever moron writes your checks?

Ah, nuthin’ like spreadin’ the joy. Seeya next week with more TV joy!

munchmanavatarsm

Posts TVWriter™ Wishes We’d Published (We mean it!)

This week’s collection of recent articles from other websites about TV, TV writing, etc., etc., etc. The plan here is for you to click on their headlines and visit the sites and read the posts in full…and is anybody asks, tell ’em TVWriter™ sentcha, okay?

Stories vs. Situations: How to Know Your Story Will Work
by Jeff Lyons

tell your story phrase handwritten on the school blackboard

To appreciate the power of what I am about to describe, we must first begin with two obvious questions: what do I mean when I use the term ‘a story’ and if something is not a story, then what is that ‘something else?’

When I ask groups of writers (novelists or screenwriters) to define this most basic storytelling idea, ‘what is a story?’ I get as many definitions as there are people in the room. The responses are always generic and canned….

 

TV Writers Get Canceled
by Libby Coleman

cool-tv

While much of the world’s population might be worried about losing jobs to The Robots! in the next decade, television writers appear calm and collected. After all, who could replace their creativity, their humor and their know-how about three-act structure and establishing shots? But that doesn’t mean your TV writer of 20 years ago is like your TV writer of today….

Writer’s Career: From Beverly Hills 90210 To New LSD Play
by Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll

writer Larry Mollin.

writer Larry Mollin.

After three decades of writing and producing television dramas, including “Beverly Hills 90210,” Larry Mollin was ready to do a different kind of writing. His first choice was his first love: theater.

That he’s been able to do that in the last several years, and on the island where he first pursued acting, still surprises him.

On Friday night, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse will open its summer season with the world premiere of Mollin’s “High Time” – the final play in what has turned out to be a trilogy of “narrative non-fiction” based on little-known people or incidents from the 1960s. And all have some connection to drugs, particularly LSD….

Unicorns, Ogres, and Fart Jokes
by Jessica Gentile

img_rs_survivalskills_image

…While there are millions of floundering young people scraping by in their parents’ basements, you wouldn’t know it from the depiction of twentysomethings on TV. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, in 2012, over a third of 18-31-year-olds were living with their parents. But on the small screen, even the title characters of Two Broke Girls get a chic-boho loft….

CON MAN: THE GAME

This video about Con Man: The Game, based on Alan Tudyk’s crowdfunded TV series of almost the same name (except, you know, without the “The Game” thing) is irresistible.

Unless you don’t like Con Man and Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion. But feeling that way isn’t something you can admit to in the current social clime. So best to buy the game, stay with the in-crowd and live happily ever after, right?

Right?

CHECK IT OUT, SUPER NERDS!

Dennis O’Neil: Defy! We Dare Ya!

cw-dare-to-defy

by Dennis O’Neil

Done any daring to defy lately?

If you’re a fan of the television versions of superheroes, you know what I’m talking/typing about. The network that calls itself The CW has, for a while now, been advocating such daring and this is the very same the go-to corporate entity that has made itself the go-to bandwidth for costumed do-gooders. They already have, in Arrow and The Flash, a couple of established hits (provided your definition of “hit” is modest) and in Legends of Tomorrow a show that has at least enough watchers to warrant renewal for another season. And the biggie…Supergirl has, with much hype, migrated from the kind of old-folkish CBS to the youthier CW and we Maid of Might mavens are allowed a happy sigh.

But about that youthiness and that “daring to defy” business: Really? Can they possibly mean it? Since they don’t specify exactly what they want us to defy, I have to guess that what we’re asked to defy is what we children of the Sixties might refer to as “the Man.” You know – the Establishment. The necktie wearers. Wall Street. Politics. Corporate America. The military-industrial complex (a term coined by no less an Establishment icon than President Dwight D. Eisenhower.)

Well, okay, but…where to begin? A logical answer: Consumerism. A denial of, or least a vigorous questioning of, t shirt wisdom, something like Whoever Has the Most Toys When He Dies Wins. So, all you wannabe defiers, stop buying stuff you don’t need. Stop discarding clothing just because some Seventh Avenue pooh-bah has declared it unfashionable which, I think, means whatever the pooh-bahs say it means. (And rest in peace, Noah Webster.) And if this means buying clothing that’s durable instead of merely new, amen. While you’re at it, extend that policy to motor vehicles, appliances, furniture, housing, vacation sites, playthings. If you’re killing time waiting for Supergirlto come on, you can make your own list.

But whoa. Subtract the money wasted on the unnecessary and suddenly those bandwidth-borne heroes aren’t there anymore. The money we spend (waste?) on frivolities pays for the programs we enjoy. No wasted cash = noSupergirl (who, it might be said, is herself a frivolity, but we could be flirting with blasphemy here, so let’s not.)

Okay, we exempt consumerism from the list of things we defy. What else? School? Hey, I am the husband of a teacher and the father of a professor and have been known to stand at the front of classrooms myself, so you aren’t going to catch me knocking education, though some varieties of it might deserve a knock or two. Besides – big secret a’comin’ – it’s fun to know stuff.

Now, a true story. At my high school graduation the school’s principal told my mother that the good Christian Brothers never wanted to see me again. Maybe if you wore a funny collar you could spot a defier from a mile away and if they said Joe O’Neil’s offspring was a defier, well, they were the authorities. But that offspring didn’t knowhe was a defier.

You don’t believe me?


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.
http://comicmix.com/

John Ostrander: For What It’s Worth

captain-america-civil-war

by John Ostrander

 “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” – For What It’s Worth, 1967, written by Stephen Stills, performed by Buffalo Springfield

SPOILERS! Warning! Danger! I’m going to discuss some questions raised in Captain America: Civil War, which means some plot points will get spilled. If you haven’t yet seen the film – it’s just out on Blu-Ray – you may not want to proceed.

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Captain America: Civil War but what I liked best was the question that was at the center of the narrative. During an action in Legos involving Cap and some members of the Avengers, there is a mistake and an explosion and innocent bystanders get killed. This, coupled with the human collateral damage witnessed in previous Marvel films, causes members of the United Nations to create The Slovenia Accords – named after the site of the massive destruction in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now the Avengers must submit to an oversight panel. If they don’t, they will be disbanded.

This creates a split within the Avengers themselves. Tony Stark (Iron Man) believes they must accept the accords and some restrictions on how they use their powers or they would be no better than the foes they oppose. Steve Rogers (Captain America) does not, cannot, and will not agree. This compromises their freedom including the freedom to act when they see a situation calling for it. They can’t wait for bureaucratic paper rustling. Lives are in the balance. The Avengers split into Team Cap and Team Iron Man (along with some guest stars) and they will, of course, fight it out.

So… which team do we, the audience, ally with? The film is clever in that neither side is set to be absolutely right or absolutely wrong. There are arguments for both but the question at the center of the film is – can society allow masked, super-powered individuals to act without some check?

There is no right answer. Oh, my inclinations is to go with Cap; I’m a stinkin’ leftist liberal progressive pinko commie after all. FreeeeeeeDOM!

Except. . .

All these superheroes are basically vigilantes. They operate outside of the law; for the most part, the heroes are not deputized by any government or law enforcement organization (Green Lantern is an exception but that was a lousy movie). They don’t really have any authority to do what they are doing.

I do take exception to one trope in the movie. “Thunderbolt” Ross from The Incredible Hulk film returns, now as the U.S. Secretary of State and evidently liaison to the Avengers from the U.N. He cites all the collateral destruction suffered by society in both Avengers films and the previous Captain America film. He lays the blame for this on the Avengers, noting that there are others in society that feel the same way.

Except. . .

Neither Cap nor the Avengers initiated the situations in those films. Because of their actions, humanity was not enslaved or outright destroyed as would have been the case otherwise. I would have liked to have that mentioned in the film by the heroes.

However, that doesn’t change the root question in Captain America: Civil War. Can any society allow such masked, perhaps super-powered, individuals to act unilaterally? Some of them are masked and the authorities don’t know their true names. Can a society of law survive in such circumstances? It is not a simple question and, to its credit, I don’t think Captain America: Civil War presents it that way.

My heart remains with Cap but I think my brain may agree more with Iron Man. I think I have my own civil war, one that most of us have at one time or another – heart versus head. I don’t think that one is going to be resolved any time soon.

At the start of the column, I quoted a line from Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth.” Despite being fifty years old, the piece is remarkably suited for today. Check it out on YouTube or some such place for yourself and see.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix.

Introducing All-Creative Consultants (aka Herbie J Pilato Himself)!

creativeservices

The creative world can be cold and harsh, but TVWriter™ bud is doing his best to change that for all of us. Here’s the scoop on Herbie J Pilato’s new biz, in his own write:

All-Creative Consultants is your one-stop shop!

Seeking editorial services for your TV or film script?  Your fiction or nonfiction book? Your business proposal?  Your website?

Is your production company, film studio, or television network remaking a classic TV show for the big screen or small?

Do you need to verify particular character or story mythology for any project?

Are you working on a classic TV documentary or any media-geared film or production?

Do you require pop-culture research, writing assistance, or editorial services in general for any particular project for any creative genre or business genre?

Then All-Creative Consultants is for you.

All-Creative Consultants is an entertainment consulting firm established by writer/producer Herbie J Pilato (author of top-selling media tie-in books, such asDashing, Daring and DebonairGlamour, Gidgets and the Girl Next Door, and Twitch Upon A Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery, and more).

All-Creative Consultants works with film studios, TV networks, production companies and independent producers, writers and actors, and individuals of every vocation.

All-Creative Consultants partners with entertainment professionals, organizations, and companies to develop and produce scripted films and TV shows, documentaries for the big-screen or small, and “extras” on various DVD releases of classic TV shows or classic films, and more.

Our clients include film studios such as Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, as well as TV networks including Bravo, TLC, Syfy, and A&E, among other media organizations.

Whether for the big-screen or small, the live stage or the printed page…with original ideas or reimaginings – of music, performance or the written word…in whichever creative venue you choose, All-Creative Consultants will help you celebrate your vision.

Call or email today:  (310) 480-0067  –  hjpilato@yahoo.com.

And there you have it, kids. One less reason for not getting out there and, you know, conquering the Death Star we call The Industry!

Break a leg, Herbie J!

Just a Love Interest – Compulsory Heterosexuality on Screen Part 2

alice

by Anansi

As mentioned in my previous post, relentlessly hammering every show we watch with some tale of love and sex between ‘opposite sexes’ claims this as the natural way of things, and all of the baggage that carries with it, without ever examining the validity of the concept of heterosexuality or its power dynamics.

Heterosexuality as we know it today comes with built-in sexism. It comes in the form of societal expectations that pigeon-hole men and women into specific roles when in relationships with one another. Some examples include: the assumption that a man should be the one to buy a diamond and propose to a woman. It is the assumption that a woman will take a man’s last name when they marry. The idea that a man must be the primary breadwinner or he’s failed or been ’emasculated’. These, at least on the surface, are some of the more benign examples. The list is endless.

All of this is built into heterosexuality even if specific individuals eschew it. It’s a part of our collective agreement of how these relationships work. There are people who still vehemently defend this way of life. Although some may find that this works best for them, it’s the unquestioning acceptance of heterosexuality as ‘normal’ and ‘right’ that produces problems.

On television, this often results in female characters who are cast in roles where their sole purpose is ‘love interest’, even if they are initially presented otherwise. It seems like this used to be a largely acceptable role for women (or at the very least no one could hear anyone complain about it), but now that we expect a little more out of our female characters, we have to dress them up as if they are more. This means that characters who appear to be deep, powerful characters are really not. They lose their identity as soon as they enter a relationship with a male character.

Take Alice Quinn from The Magicians. (Spoilers ahead)

Alice begins the story as a student at Brakebills University: a school for studying magic. She’s the head of the class. She is legions ahead of her peers. She possesses a beautiful intellect, and she doesn’t even care about magic. She’s there to find out what happened to her deceased brother and bring him back if she can. If she were not destined to be a love interest, this would be a solid foundation for any character to progress.

Then the male lead, Quentin, arrives. It’s immediately obvious that Alice will be his love interest. She’s a nerd, like our hero, and despite her awkward wardrobe, she is gorgeous. It’s not hard to pick her out as Quentin’s objet d’amour.

After Alice and Quentin inevitably get together, she has no identity outside of her relationship with him. Her primary goal is resolved early on, leaving her without a driving force or room for growth. As the love interest, she is largely relegated to the role of hoping and wishing her boyfriend will be okay, helping him do what he needs to do, sexual scenes that are abundant and sometimes awkwardly contrived, and causing jealousies with other male characters.

aliceflannel

Has anyone seen my storyline? I misplaced it somewhere.

This is the same character that was initially portrayed as the most badass magician in the entire school. They even make it a point to have her say that as good as they know she is – she’s actually holding back. Good thing she can channel all of that talent into ill-fated sexcapades.

Portraying women as love interests is part of a long-standing tradition of eclipsing women’s presences and noting their value only in the context of sex or romance. In order for better roles for women and better television to evolve, we need to be able to recognize how often this happens. Beyond robbing what should be good female characters of any depth, it’s also predictable and boring. Characters with stories independent of their love interests are more compelling and well-rounded.

Not only is this more engaging on screen, but actresses regularly lament the lack of good female roles. It’s about time they were given the same number of varied roles men have historically held. It’s about time women can see themselves on screen as multi-faceted and important characters independent of their relationship with any of the male characters. It is changing, but, as always, not unilaterally across the board, and not nearly fast enough.

The Magicians is by no means alone in this. It’s the rule, rather than the exception. It’s just a recent and clear example of it.

To be fair, other female characters like Julia Wicker do have meaningful storylines. However, it should be noted that Julia is not a love interest. Regardless, this doesn’t change anything about how Alice is portrayed.

I know this seems like I hate this show and this character, but Alice was my favorite. I kept hoping she would do something, anything, that would break her out of the mold. I wanted her to live up to the potential she supposedly has, even though I knew she wouldn’t. Here’s hoping this changes in season two.

Next Up: Science Fiction & Compulsory Heterosexuality


Anansi is the pseudonym of a writer who knows that if she uses her real name to talk about subjects like this he’ll get his head handed to him faster than Vito Corleone put the horse’s head in that idiot pervert producer’s bed.