What Happens When Your New Show is in Trouble?

Brothers-From-Another-Mother Dept: The ever-popular, ever-funny, ever-wise Ken Levine explains to newbies the hard truth that our Beloved Leader, LB himself (who doesn’t know Ken, nor does Ken know him), has learned all too well over the years:


Soon to be late and, possibly, lamented. Too bad. We liked this one.

by Ken Levine

We’re at the time of year when networks are beginning to cancel new shows. No matter how successful you are, at one time or another you will find yourself in this position. My heart goes out to all of you showrunners currently going through this.

I don’t mean to discourage anybody, and when new shows go well then life is golden.  But for people going through a struggling newcomer, or anyone who wants a look behind the curtain of how high-stakes television really works, here’s what it’s like:

Everything was so great at the start. You flew to New York for the upfronts. Lavish parties, the network president lauding your show as the next huge hit. Drinks with your stars. A total lovefest.

Then you went to work. That network that praised you to the heavens now questions every decision you make. Story notions are thrown out. Outlines are rejected. First drafts are met with voluminous notes. One of the stars you had drinks with you now have to fire because she didn’t test to the network’s liking.

Production begins and the notes increase. Network approval now extends to all casting and editing decisions.

You start falling behind. You realize you wasted several weeks of pre-production preparing an outline that ultimately got rejected. You wasted more time just waiting to hear back on stories and scripts you sent them.

But everybody on the cast and crew is still relatively happy. Everyone likes everyone else. It’s exciting. Hope burns eternal that indeed this will become the next big thing. And everyone has steady employment (at least for the moment). On-air promos have begun. Ads appear in magazines. One of your cast members goes on Conan. It’s all good.

Then the reviews come out. You focus on the good ones, but the cast focuses on the bad ones. You now have shaky actors you have to talk off the ledge.

Meanwhile, the network gets instantly nervous and decides the direction of the show is the problem. So they begin rejecting scripts that had already been approved. Now you’re really scrambling – trying to make a midcourse correction based on a consensus of executives.

The show premiers. The ratings are disappointing. You look for any positive sign. It finished in only 3rd place in Houston. The DVR numbers will surely propel you to the top 10. But those numbers are underwhelming too. The cast is understandably panicked. You spend a lot of time on the stage putting out fires. But it’s time you can ill afford because you’re practically starting from scratch on scripts. All lead time has evaporated – most of it spent futilely on scripts that are scrapped. You’re working around the clock, seven days a week. You haven’t had a day off since August. You haven’t eaten a decent meal since July. You haven’t had a good night’s sleep since June.

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Cargo 3120: The Making of a Sci-Fi Franchise #7

CARGO3120Entry 7 On to the Advanced Class

by Aaron Walker Sr.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Story So Far starts HERE)

One thing the writing class experience taught me was the importance of planning before you write. A little preparation in the beginning helps to prevent writer’s block later. But as I mentioned last week, my failure to plan made the revision process difficult.

The first task Daymond, Lloyd Walker Jr. (our artist! and an outstanding one!), and I embarked upon was to go through the script and get rid of any extraneous scenes. You know, those scenes that are kind of just there, but don’t really propel the story forward. And believe me, there were a lot of unnecessary scenes to remove.

The next task, was to reduce the wordy dialogue and action descriptions. You would be surprised how much space we eat up due to “over wording” the things that we write. The name of the game is telling as much story in as few words as possible… after all, we’re not writing novels here; but you still have to make the script interesting to read, and most of all, it has to make sense.

To any writer out there I say: embrace the rewriting process. Don’t view rewriting as something we do because we failed, but view it as the process by which we refine our great ideas.  Though we were able to reduce the page count significantly, there was still a lot of work to be done. So we knew there would be a round two in the advanced class for us!

Next Week: Round 2: The Pains of Cutting…

The Real Link Between the Psychopathology Spectrum and the Creativity Spectrum

Years ago, our Beloved Leader, Larry Brody’s writing mentor at Northwestern University, E.B. Hungerford, told him, “I don’t think you can make it as a writer. You’re not crazy enough.” So LB bore down and made himself totally nutso. But is that kind of thing still necessary?


by Scott Barry Kaufman

Plato once noted that “creativity is a divine madness, a gift from gods.” Romantic notions of the link between mental illness and creativity still appear prominently in popular culture. But ever since scientists started formally investigating the link, there has been intense debate. Some of the most highly cited studies on the topic have been criticized on the grounds that they involve highly specialized samples with weak and inconsistent methodologies and a strong dependence on subjective and anecdotal accounts.

What has become much clearer, however, is that there is a real link between creativity and a number of traits and characteristics that are associated with mental illness. Once we leave the narrowed confines of the clinical setting and enter the larger general population, we see that mental disorders are far from categorical. Every single healthy human being lies somewhere on every psychopathology spectrum (e.g., schizophrenia, autism, mood disorders). What’s more, we each show substantial fluctuations on each of these dimensions each day, and across our lifespan.

A major issue in attempting to scientifically study the link between the various dimensions of psychopathology and creativity is the outcome measure. What should we be predicting? Because here’s the thing: Creativity also lies on a spectrum, ranging from the everyday creative cognition that allows us to generate new ideas, possibilities, and solutions to a problem, to the real-world creative achievement seen in publicly recognized domains across the arts, humanities, and sciences. Therefore, the link to psychopathology spectrum disorders may differ depending on the outcome.

Enter a new study by Darya ZabelinaDavid Condon, and Mark Beeman. They examined whether levels of psychopathology in a healthy non-clinical sample are associated with creative cognition and real-world creative achievement among a group of 100 participants, aged 18-30. None had been hospitalized for psychiatric or neurological reasons, and none abused alcohol or drugs.

The researchers measured creative cognition by having participants imagine hypothetical scenarios (e.g., “What problems may arise from being able to walk on air?”) and having them create pictures out of incomplete figures. They measured real-life creative achievement by having participants catalogue their prior creative achievements across ten creative domains (visual art, music, dance, architectural design, creative writing, humor, inventions, scientific discovery, theater and film, and culinary arts). For example, in the music domain, questions ranged from “I have no training or recognized talent in this area” to “My compositions have been critiqued in a national publication”.

They found that both real-world creative achievement and creative cognition (as rated by four independent judges) were significantly associated with two personality traits: psychoticism and hypomania. These findings remained even after taking into account prior academic achievement test scores.

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Happy Thanksgiving Y’All!


Welcome to our slightly abbreviated Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend Edition. We’ll be running fewer posts than usual cuz…well, cuz LB’s outta town and we’re ready to boogie in the name of National Gratitude! Yeah, baby!

Have fun counting your blessings! Remember, every time you eat a bite of Thanksgiving turkey, a member of the Tyson family of fine foods gets one step closer to that new Ferrari s/he needs so badly. (And don’t forget the bonus if you try to eat the dark meat: You lose a pound!)

Our full article count returns Monday, December 1st. (The same day at the end of which our wonderful, a thing truly-to-be-thankful-for Spec Scriptacular Contest closes. So get yerselves over there – NOW!

So Wait, Why Aren’t There More Women Writers In Late Night Again?

Time now for a Thanksgiving complaint. Cuz no matter how hard we try everything can’t be a blessing to be thankful for:

Late night writer wimmins - oops, wait, we don't see any....

Late night writer wimmins – oops, wait, there’s only one….?

by Katla McGlynn

The 2014 New York Comedy Festival had a lot of incredible shows featuring women. A panel discussion called “Women Aren’t Funny” brought together hilarious stand-ups, the (female) executive producer of “Louie” and “Orange Is the New Black” star Lea Delaria — the first openly gay woman to break into late night on the original “Arsenio Hall Show” — to speak frankly about the state of women in comedy.

In addition to the panel, this year’s NYCF celebrated women with two more sold-out discussions led by the “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Broad City” creators, an all-femaleTime Out New York cover story and showcase, an incredibly brave stand-up set by the inimitable Tig Notaro and a Carnegie Hall performance by Amy Schumer, among others.

Impressive, considering that just five years ago, the 2009 New York Comedy Festivalhad no female headliners at all.

But one of this year’s panels provided a stark reminder that not that much has changed since 2009, when former “Late Show” writer Nell Scovell penned her Vanity Fair essayto call out David Letterman’s lack of female hires and hostile work environment.

That panel happened to be An Evening with the “Late Show with David Letterman” Writers, in which the show’s 13 male writers (Letterman not included) and its one female writer, Jill Goodwin, answered questions from moderator Keith Olbermann about their process.

Although there are almost twice as many men on the current “Late Show” staff than there have been female writers in Letterman’s entire 30-plus year tenure — if you count both “Late Night” and “Late Show,” there have been only eight female writers: Merrill Markoe, Scovell, Jill Davis, Maria Pope, Beth Sherman, Meredith Scardino, Jena Friedman and Goodwin — Olbermann didn’t ask any questions about the gender divide. It wasn’t until over an hour into the panel that an audience member asked about diversity, a question which head writer Matt Roberts answered:

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/27/14


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

  • Rob Armstrong & Andrew Orenstein (MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE) are joining forces to adapt Rob’s comic strip Jump Start into a comedy for Fox. (I don’t read the script, so I don’t have much to say here except – another comic adaptation? I hope it’ll be awesome, but still….)
  • Ron Bass (RAIN MAN) and Vince Gerardis (GAME OF THRONES) are co-writing the pilot for ICE, a DirecTV drama pilot about “the treacherous and colorful world of diamond traders in downtown L.A.” (Ooh, downtown L.A.! Dudes in an office, stealing and shooting each other. Yer Obedient munchhausen can hardly wait!)
  • Charlie Grandy (THE MINDY PROJECT) is writing the pilot for 48 HOURS UNTIL MONDAY, a Fox comedy about “one husband’s desperate struggle to not let every weekend go completely to hell. (Yeppers, I’m totally hooked by this premise even though I’m not married. Cuz…married friends – who’ve  taught me more about desperation than I ever dreamed a human being had to know.)
  • Leslye Headland (BACHELORETTE) is writing the pilot for an untitled NBC comedy about “a failed political blogger who restarts her life in New York as the ‘sex’ editor for” a Cosmo style print magazine. (To which I can add nothing except the absolute, honest truth – I guarantee that after I finish writing today’s column and rush to my turkey dinner I’m never ever going to think about this premise again. Just ain’t feelin’ it, y’know? Did I sound like a TV development exec turning down a pitch there? Huh? I don’t really feel that way, but I’m practicing just in case a gig I interviewed for comes to be.)

That’s it for now. Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to 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….)