JOHN OSTRANDER: TV WEEK GEEK

Constantine-TV-showby John Ostrander

Once upon a time, when I was a boy, TV consisted of the three networks, one independent channel, and before long, one “education” channel. (“They actually had TV when you were a boy, Uncle John?” Yes. Quiet, you.) Every fall, each of the networks took a week to trot out their new and returning shows and they each took turns. And, if memory serves, that pretty much was it for the season.

If you were into superhero comics (and I was despite my mother), there were damn slim pickings. There was The Adventures of Superman, of course, and that was played pretty straight albeit it was considered a children’s show. Later on, there was the Batman series that was fun and interesting to me at start but got old real fast. Something along the superhero lines was Zorro. I loved that show. Guy Williams was my Zorro. Dressed all in black, masked, fighting injustice – yeah, I’d group him in with the superheroes.

But that was essentially it.

Not so today. Comics rule the cinema and they are taking over the small screen. Never so much as in the coming year and I thought I’d survey the new and returning shows and see what attracts my eye.

First up is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I started off last year with a lot of anticipation for Phil Coulson and his section of the Mighty Marvel Marching Society. That was quickly dissipated. Halfway through the season, I would not have bet you real money that the show would get a second season but it really picked up in the last third once they were able to tie in and elaborate on elements from the second Captain America movie. The people they’re adding to the cast and what I’ve heard of the projected storylines has me eagerly anticipating the series’ return. Please, don’t let it dissipate.

The other returning show is Arrow. To be honest, I like the show without loving it. It gets a little too sudsy for me at times and it can stretch my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point – but they also have a version of Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad in it. I loves me some Amanda Waller showing up, whatever her size, because she generates money for me every time she does.

Arrow is also generating a spin off with The Flash and I think I’m looking forward to it more than its parent. It seems lighter and brighter and that’s appropriate given the subject matter. I like the look of the costume although it seems a little dark; he’s more the Maroon Speeder than the Scarlet Speeder. One small touch, however, really appeals to me; they cast John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allan’s father. For those who don’t know, Shipp played the Flash the last time they tried to make a TV series out of the comic. It was a good show but ahead of its time and so lasted only a season. Bringing back Shipp is, IMO, a class act. That speaks well of the producers and makes me hopeful for the series.

The show with a lot of expectations on it is Gotham, the long prequel to Batman. Like Smallville, the series that told Clark Kent’s story before he became Superman, Gotham will presumably end when Batman actually shows up. However, at the start, Bruce is ten years old and his parents have just been murdered. The producers have a lot of hope for the show’s longevity.

I’m not so sure. Smallville at least had Clark Kent as its center. The city itself appears to be the center. Gotham has always been a major character in the Batman mythos, but the central character? We’ll see; I intend to tune in. I hope its great.

The show I’m most interested in, however, is Constantine. John Constantine is a great character, a charismatic anti-hero, a magician in a trench coat who drinks too much, smokes too much, a conman who is going to hell unless he can figure how to trick his way out. Yeah, that sounds like a show right up my alley. I think it’s also a good premise for an ongoing TV show. If it does nothing else but eradicate the stink Keanu Reeves made of the character, it will be a great thing.

That’s my list; tune in next summer and we’ll see which shows made it and which did not. I’m betting on Constantine.

An Argument Against the “Copyright Monopoly”

Soapbox time, gang! Lissun up!

And, yeah, we find a lot of good points in this argument. And a few we think fall flat. Let us know what you think in the comments:

mahler_letters_5_33

“THE LETTER” IS STILL THE BEST STORY TO EXPLAIN WHY COPYRIGHT MONOPOLY MUST BE REDUCED
by Rick Falkvinge

People are still getting distracted by the silly question of “how somebody will get paid” if the copyright monopoly is reduced. It’s irrelevant, it’s a red herring. What this debate is about is bringing vital civil liberties along from the analog environment into the digital – and that requires allowing file-sharing all out.

As I travel the world and speak to people from all professions and walks of life about the copyright monopoly, “the letter” is still the story that causes the most pennies to drop about why the copyright monopoly must be reduced. It’s by far the angle that makes the message come across to the most people.

“How will the artists make money” is basically just a distraction from the real and important issues at hand, and this story helps bring them there.

The story of “the letter” deals with just how big and vital civil liberties have been sacrificed in the transition from analog to digital at the tenacious insistence of the copyright industry for the sake of their bottom line. The analog letter was the message sent the way our parents sent them: written onto a physical piece of paper, put into an envelope, postaged with an old-fashioned stamp and put into a mailbox for physical delivery to the intended recipient.

That letter had four important characteristics that each embodied vital civil liberties.

That letter, first of all, was anonymous. Everybody had the right to send an anonymous message to somebody. You could identify yourself on the inside of the message, for only the recipient to know, on the envelope, for the postal services to know, or not at all. Or you could write a totally bogus name, organization, and address as the sender of your message, and that was okay, too. Not just okay, it was even fairly common.

Second, it was secret in transit. When we talk of letters being opened and inspected routinely, the thoughts go to scenes of the East German Stasi – the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, the East German National Security Agency (yes, that’s how Stasi’s name translates). Letters being opened and inspected? Seriously? You had to be theprimary suspect of an extremely grave crime for that to take place.

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What’s It Like to be a TV Writer in the UK?

This profile from The Guardian does a good job of convincing some of us here at TVWriter™ that we ought to be in, oh, London, or Cardiff than the smouldering bowels of LA:

Jack Thorne

BAFTA winning writer Jack Thorne

Jack Thorne: the hardest-working writer in Britain?
by Mark Lawson

Despite having been up late last Monday night at a party marking the transmission of his latest TV drama, Jack Thorne was back next morning at the north London library where he writes seven days a week. He aims to work from 10am to 8pm, shifting to a coffee bar when the library closes early.

Thorne, 35, needs to put in those shifts because his scripts are in such demand, having achieved the rare double of winning two Bafta awards at the same ceremony (in 2012): best mini-series for Channel 4’s This is England ’88 (part of a longrunning recent-historical project with director Shane Meadows) and best drama series for BBC3’s supernatural show The Fades.

Glue, the eight-part Berkshire murder mystery, which continues on Monday night at 10pm, is one of nine television projects he has in various stages of creation. Hope, a drama about local government budget cuts, opens at the Royal Court in November, marking his return to theatre, where Thorne is also highly prized after the West End success of Let the Right One In, his adaptation of a Swedish novel and film. “I like working,” he says. “But now I have a deal with my wife that I take a half-day off each week.”

Until he met his wife, Rachel Mason, an agent who represents comedy acts, on a train to the Cornish film festival, he was living alone in Luton and would often write through the night.

Thorne is very tall and strikingly thin, probably from a combination of nervous energy and keen cycling. But, though a formidable writer of dialogue, he is less keen on speaking himself; though warm and friendly, he punctuates his conversation with the compound word “dyknowwhatImeanyknow?” Talking in a cafe near his library-office, he apologises: “I’m not very articulate. I don’t have that skill.”

His friend and frequent colleague Josie Rourke – artistic director of the DonmarTheatre in London, where she staged Thorne’s adaptation of the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s atomic comedy The Physicists – says: “He is shy but that is not unusual in a writer, and it is a winning quality in Jack because it stems from his modesty.

“In rehearsals, he is always incredibly fluent in answering actors’ questions and contributing to the room. At his wedding, he actually gave the funniest and most moving groom speech I have ever heard. I think that his modesty comes from his fascination with people. He is deeply compassionate and fascinated by human behaviour.”

It speaks well of Thorne that collaborators speak so well of him. Shane Meadows, who this week started shooting their third collaboration, This is England ’90, says: “He is the hardest-working man I have ever met, he is at least twice as insane as myself and he is allergic to heat. It was love at first sight!”

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 10/1/14

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

  • Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan (IN AMERICA) are adapting their Best Screenplay nominated feature film (that would be, you know, IN AMERICA) into an HBO series to be called – oh, you guessed – IN AMERICA. (Hey, it’s drama! It’s indie! It’s got art cred! And a tale of the struggle of a family of 21st century Irish immigrants to adapt, survive, maybe even thrive in the good ole USA is contemporary storytelling at its– Oh, wait, did munchero say “contemporary?” Gulp.)
  • Howard Gordon (24) just agreed to accept another ton of $$$ to stay at 20th Telly for a few more years. (Dude is so damn successful I keep waiting for him to buy an ABA team. But if he did, would there still be one left for me to shell out for when my ship comes in? Damn you, Howard Gordon, you’ve stolen my career and my basketball franchise and, and…oh, who the hell cares?)
  • Brian Balasco (DirecTV’s upcoming series KINGDOM) has a new overall deal with Endemol Studio. (Cuz you never know, DirecTV shows may turn out to be hot. And if not, well overalls are absolutely the most security you can expect in this biz. 2 years of guaranteed income…sad as it sounds, that’s genuinely huge. Congrats, Brian!)
  • Rick Eid (DARK BLUE) is writing the pilot for CBS’s ACQUITTAL, based on the nonfiction book, Acquittal: An Insider Reveals The Stories and Strategies Behind Today’s Most Infamous Verdicts by Richard Gabriel. (And if there’s anything I want to see every week more than a dastardly criminal getting off be cause of some despicable defense strategy or strange behind-the-scenes stuff going down, I dunno what that would be.)

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….)

How I’m using my writing gig on TRANSPARENT to make sure the T in LGBT isn’t edited out of tv

TV series writers can have a huge effect on not only their shows but also our culture. But it takes courage. You’ve got to take a stand:

shot-from-transparent1

by Ali Liebegott

I was born in 1971, and came of age watching soap operas. This was pre-internet, before gay marriage was even a thought, when homosexuality was still a mental disorder in the DSM. When I remember back, the only images I can recall of LGBT people on TV involved people who were white and showed up only to hang themselves, or be runaway hustlers, or die slowly of AIDS, with their mothers crying at their bedside and their fathers brooding silently in hospital hallways.

I’ve been writing and publishing for over 25 years and many moons ago I bitterly “accepted” I’d never make a living solely as a writer. I hadn’t even made one-hundredth of my living as a writer, yet I trudged on with my little stories, all but sewing them into booklets in my bedroom a la Emily Dickinson.

When I did get the rare opportunity to be paid well for my writing, I had to completely edit out my life as a butch dyke to make it palatable/publishable to the outside world—or so was the expectation of nervous editors. And after so many years of just doing my own thing—I just trudged on, writing my novels and hosting an annual writers’ retreat in Mexico with RADAR Productions, a San Francisco literary non-profit. I met Transparent creator Jill Soloway when she attended one year.

I’d seen Jill a few times at readings after that but I had no idea she was even familiar with my work. So I was surprised and excited when she wrote to me and said, “Have you ever thought of writing for TV?”

Why, no I hadn’t. I was entering my seventh year as a cashier at a grocery co-op because after many different jobs and life configurations the co-op best suited my life as a writer. It gave my girlfriend and me health insurance and allowed me the most freedom to travel when I needed to.

“There’s like four shows coming out with trans content this year,” Jill said, when she first contacted me. One of those shows was her creation,Transparent, a dramedy that centers around an affluent Los Angeles family and their lives following the discovery that their father, whom they’d known as Mort, is a transgender woman named Maura.

I wanted to get it right, and recognized the dangers of a bad representation. I’ve lived a good part of my life in a gender non-conforming body. As a butch who is constantly misgendered and regendered throughout the day by strangers, I have some crossover with a trans experience especially when it comes to using public restrooms, navigating airports, getting wanded by security detail on entering a sporting event, so I felt like I could use my experience to add to the conversation.

I’d never counted how many of my friends were trans, because why would I, they were just my friends. And my friends’ histories were as diverse as the breadth of genderqueer and trans’ characters on the show: trans men, trans women. On hormones. Not on hormones. Electing surgeries or not. Early, middle and late transitioners. Concerned with passing  or not passing. And while Jill is not trans herself, I knew she was personally invested in trans visibility, as her parent had recently come out to her as transgender. Plus, the time was right: Laverne Cox’s character, Sophia Burset, on Orange Is the New Black had set a new precedent for respectable depictions of transgender characters on TV.

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14 Showrunners Reveal How They Named Their New for 2014 Series

Okay, so maybe this isn’t as exciting as yesterday’s foray into how these new shows were pitched. But it’s just as important. Maybe even more:

by Lesley Goldberg & Bryn Elise Sandberg

HARG2927Another year, another batch of potential breakouts looking to lure the mix of viewers and buzz that NBC’s The Blacklistgenerated a season earlier. Garnering early attention among the 2014-15 season’s two dozen new offerings is theShonda Rhimes-producedHow to Get Away With Murder(ABC), telenovela Jane the Virgin (The CW) and genre plays Gotham (Fox) and The Flash (The CW).

There are recognizable works — comic adaptations, romantic comedies and, in the case of ABC, diversity — and a new cadre of film stars, led by Viola Davis (Murder) and OctaviaSpencer (Red Band Society) making the leap to TV. “I’ve never been the show before and with this, I wasthe show … what was there to refuse?” Davis says of TV’s appeal.

But if history is any indication, stars don’t guarantee viewers — and second-season renewals are hard to come by. Not that cancellation scars have stopped talent from attempting new hits — the fastest rebounder of late being Dylan McDermott, who is returning to CBS with psychological thriller Stalkeronly a few months after the same network axed his 2013 starrer Hostages.

The Hollywood Reporter quizzed the producers behind several of the new fall offerings to find out how they pitched their series — as well as the stories behind the show titles and how they netted their stars.

Jeff Lowell, Manhattan Love Story (ABC)

The original title was My Thoughts Exactly. ABC never loved the title, so during pilot production it was “Untitled Jeff Lowell Project.” It was great for my ego to walk around for weeks hearing everyone say my name, until one day I saw them towing away cars on a street we were shooting on, and I realized there were a dozen fliers with my name on them that some very angry drivers were about to find. ABC came up with Manhattan Love Story, and it was one of three finalists. … The thing that put it over the top was them commissioning artwork showing how they’d use the title to sell the show. It was tonally perfect — I immediately signed off, and that artwork is the main title card for our show.

Peter Nowalk, How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

A show that takes place in law school doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise, so I knew the name Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) gave to her class had to be sexy and attention-grabbing. How to Get Away With Murder worked on all levels. It gives you a great first impression of Annalise as a character — that she’s bold, irreverent and controversial — and also describes the fun, dark, twisted tone of the show.

Jennie Snyder Urman, Jane the Virgin (CW)

Jane the Virgin came with the show when I was asked to adapt the format from the Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen. I didn’t think too much about the title at the time; I was focused more on the question: “How on Earth does a virgin get accidentally inseminated?!” Then, once the show was picked up, I started to hear that the title was a little controversial, which honestly I didn’t get at first — especially because Jane, as a character, is such a role model. Then, my 4-year-old son asked me what my new show was called. I started to answer: “Jane the …” I hesitated. Sucked it up. “Jane the Virgin.” He looked at me, confused, and asked me what a “vermin” was. So, I told him the truth. It’s a small pest.

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