John Ostrander: Woo Who!

by John Ostrander

Last week TV fandom was set on its ear by the announcement of the newest person to play the Doctor on BBC’s venerable sci/fi TV show, Doctor Who. (If you don’t already know, the Doctor is a time-traveling alien with the ability to regenerate himself into an entirely new body and persona when his current body is on the point of dying.) There have been 12 such regenerations so far; Jodie Whittaker will be the 13th and the first woman to play the part. Joanna Lumley was a female Doctor for a sketch some years back – written by Steven Moffet, no less – but that is not considered canon.

Predictably, there has been some negative fan reaction, although the bulk that I have seen has been overwhelmingly positive. This kind of change often provokes this kind of reaction. When it was announced that the captain on the next Star Trek series coming out (Star Trek: Discovery) was going to be a woman, there was similar booing and hooing.

I can sort of understand. Fans can be conservative; they want what they like to be the same but different only not too different. There have been times when, as a fan, I was somewhat resistant to change. A prime complaint has been that young boys are losing a role model and there aren’t that many heroes who depend on their wits and smarts rather than their fists. Even one of the actors who played an earlier Doctor, Peter Davison, has voiced this objection. However, my feeling is that these young boys have 12 other incarnations to use as a role model. Young girls have been expected to use the male Doctor as a role model; giving them one who looks like them after fifty years of the show being broadcast doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable.

My late wife, Kim Yale, was a huge Doctor Who fan (as am I) and she used to dress as Tom Baker’s Doctor to cosplay at conventions before cosplay was a big thing. She would have been over the moon about this. My partner, Mary Mitchell, certainly is and has pointed out that having the 13th Doctor be a female is very appropriate since 13 is a “female number” as there are 13 moon cycles in a year.

To me, what ultimately matters is what character do they create and how good are the stories that they tell. When you’ve worked for a long time on a given project, as a writer you look for ways to shake things up and make them fresh. On my book GrimJack, I once killed off the main character and then brought him back and later on, replaced him with an entirely different incarnation (yes, I was a big Doctor Who fan at the time and, yes, that influenced the change a lot). I intended to keep doing that from time to time. And one of the later incarnations I had planned was a female GrimJack. That probably would have incited some comment as well. We just never got to it.

So I’m very pleased with the selection of the new Doctor and hopefully the stories that will come of it. I hope the new showrunner will explore the change and what it means.

One last interesting note: I read that Ms. Whittaker will be paid the same salary as the actor who preceded her, Peter Capaldi. No wage disparity in the time vortex.

Way to go, Beeb.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Indie Video: ‘The Trouble with Transporters’

by TVWriter™

Breathes there a soul so dead that s/he has never watched any version of Star Trek on any media and thought, “Waitaminnit! The transporter thingie can’t really work like that…can it?”

Hell, even Our Beloved Leader, LB, once pitched an episode about transporter problems to the producers of Star Trek: Voyager way back in the day.

But this TVWriter™ minion is pretty darn sure that nobody’s ever analyzed the transporter situation as well – and as entertainingly – as the folks who’ve brought us this:

by CGP Grey

The Hudsonian Welcomes SPIDER-MAN (‘s) HOMECOMING

Now this is a villain! Much better than in the comics.

by Joshua Hudson

(This article contains spoilers!)

So I’m totally just now getting around to reviewing Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s been a crazy last couple of weeks. But the good news is that most everyone has seen it by now so, yeah, all the spoilers ahead shouldn’t bother you, right?

As far as I’m concerned, Homecoming was absolutely fantastic. I’ve seen it a couple of times, and the comedy holds up beautifully. Sure, we’ve seen every kind of incarnation with Spider-Man already – he’s been in high school and in college and his Uncle Ben died and had a profound effect on his life – but the writers still found a way to make this different.

They skipped over the origin story (thank GOD!) and just focused on Peter as a sophomore in high school, learning how to be a hero. What Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films did was gloss over a lot of this. Parker was done with high school before the midpoint of Raimi’s first movie, and all we saw was a series of shots of him learning how to be a hero.

Just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to use them right out of the gate. From beginning to end, Homecoming showed that as great as Peter was, he was flawed as a hero – as a teenaged hero. But that was okay because he was still having fun and enjoyed helping people, which pulled us as the audience along for the ride.

After watching all of the trailers and seeing a heavy dose of Tony Stark, I was happy to see he had only a few scenes in the movie. They were just enough for us to know Parker is firmly a part of the MCU as a whole, but, yeah, essentially they replaced Uncle Ben with Stark. As a fanboy, this irked me, but it worked for this film and I wasn’t totally upset because we’ve already seen the Uncle Ben thing play out anyway.

This time around we get Parker looking at Stark as a father figure and learning how to be a hero. And Aunt May definitely makes her presence known as played by Marisa Tomei. I’ve heard of a deleted scene which I thought would’ve been great, but without knowing where it fitted in, I’m not sure how I would’ve felt seeing it. In a nutshell, the scene shows May doing something heroic in front of Peter, which could’ve easily served as fuel to his heroic fire.

Michael Keaton as The Vulture was arguably one of the better villains in the MCU, right up there with Loki in my opinion. In terms of previous Spider-Man only film villains, I’d rank him second behind Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. What makes both so great is their relationship with Parker. Vulture’s connection is shown late (and even I didn’t see that coming), but his attitude throughout the film really made you feel for him. The Vulture wasn’t someone that wanted to be a bad guy. Circumstances dictated it, and he had a family to look after. That’s the type of baddie that plays really well.

The fight scenes were done well. I’ve heard some of my friends say there wasn’t enough. I disagree. It’s easy for a director or storyteller to want to put a lot of action into a script simply because it’s an action movie. But this is also a coming of age story for Parker. The writing here gave us action that moved Parker’s journey along, and the final scene was an exclamation point on his ascension to respected hero. Could the action have been better shot and edited? Yes, but I’ve never seen a film where that couldn’t be said.

Parker’s high school classmates were great. Some longtime fans may be mad about casting choices because in the comics, everyone is white and there’s no ethnicity. Did you know that in today’s New York City over 60% of the population is black, brown, or Asian?

This film added diversity to just about EVERYONE. Liz is half Black, Ned looks hispanic, Flash IS Hispanic. I don’t think it took away from any of their comic book origins. Personality-wise, Flash was still a bully, just not a football jock bully, so I was okay with it. And if they ever decide to make him Venom, that’ll be really interesting. My only beef was with Zendaya’s character, Michelle because…

!!!SPOILER!!!

At the very end, it’s revealed that Michell’s “friends” call her M.J. This was a complete cop out by the writers (there seem to be about a dozen of them so forgive me for not naming them here) and director Jon Watts. Michelle Jones, or whatever her last name is, is NOT the M.J. we all know and love. If you wanted ditch the red haired Anglo girl look, fine. But why not at least keep Mary Jane’s name? Nothing against Zendaya. I thought she was great actually. I just felt that as a comic book fan, I’d kind of been  insulted

The introduction of Aaron Davis (The Ultimate Universe Prowler), Mac Gargon (The Scorpion), Herman Schultz (The Shocker) and Mason (The Tinkerer) all fitted well in the story. Each villain served a purpose. This as a case where “too many villains” worked because Spidey didn’t have to fight them all. And that’s okay. What we have now is a great set-up for future Spider-Man movies, and I’m curious to see their next move.

Bottomline: Go see Spider-Man Homecoming. It’s terrific, and a much needed refresher on the MCU as a whole. As long as Sony doesn’t screw up their side of the Spider-Man mythos (Black & Silver featuring Black Cat and Silver Sable, Venom, et al), I think there’s a lot of potential here for great stories.


Joshua Hudson is a producer, writer, and actor. Find out more about him at Hudsonian Productions. Thanks, Josh!

Herbie J Pilato Remembers Martin Landau

Martin Landau & his missus, Barbara Bain, with some other guys you may recall

by Herbie J Pilato

The consummate actor and the consummate professional, terms seemingly created for actor Martin Landau, who passed away on July 15, 2017 at age 89 after a brief hospitalization at the UCLA Medical Center.

With a refined manner and eloquent style and speech, the multi-award-winning and nominated Landau brought significant realism to each of his roles for television, film and the stage.  Landau ignited his acting career in the 1950s, after he worked as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News.

The theatrically-trained actor was best known to TV viewers for three years as the lead master-of-disguise spy Rollin Hand on the original Mission:Impossible weekly espionage show (CBS, 1966-1973), in which he teamed with his then wife Barbara Bain (wed from 1957 to 1993).

Accepted into the prestigious Lee Strasberg Actors Studio from among two thousand applicants (with classmates such as Steve McQueen and James Dean), Landau premiered on Broadway in Middle of the Night in 1957, and was later Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s first choice before Leonard Nimoy to play Mr. Spock on that classic series (NBC, 1966-1969).

In the ultimate irony, Nimoy later replaced Landau on Mission, when he and Bain exited that series in the spring of 1969.

He and Bain later re-partnered for the syndicated, UK-produced sci-fi seriesSpace:1999 (1975-1977) on which he portrayed Commander John Koenig.  “I’m very proud of Space:1999,” he once said.  “It’s success paved the way for other shows to follow.”

Emmy-nominated three times for each of the consecutive years he appeared on Mission, Landau won the Golden Globe in 1968 for the same leading dramatic role, and in 1994 collected the Academy Award for his Best-Supporting Actor performance as Bela Logasi in the feature film, Ed Wood.

Before, during and after his most famous performances, Landau (born June 28, 1928 in Brooklyn) made hundreds of small-screen, motion picture and live-theatre performances.  His TV guest-spots are the stuff of legends, everything from the ground-breaking initial Goldbergs series (of 1953), to The Untouchables, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, I Spy, Checkmate, and countless more.

Besides Ed Wood, Landau’s cinematic prowess remains evident in movies like Tucker(1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989, both for which he was Oscar-nominated, as well as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and Alfred Hitchock’s North by Northwest (1959), in which he made his feature film debut, among others.

Landau in more recent years appeared in drama TV shows such as Without A Trace(CBS, 2004 and 2005), and the comedy Entourage (HBO, 2007), earning an Emmy nomination for each of these.

According to his good friend, television writer and historian Frankie Montiforte, Landau “abhorred ignorance.  He believed it was your job to know absolutely everything you were talking about and in great detail, whether it was about acting, journalism, or politics.  And if you didn’t know it, he schooled you on it.  He was always the teacher.”

Of his work as an actor, Landau himself once said, “Everyone can walk and talk.  But your job is to make magic.”  Another time, he said, “Everything that has happened to me is of value.”

It’s that kind of integrity and nobility that will forever remain Martin Landau’s legacy.


Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several classic TV companion books.  He is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and is a Contributing Editor Emeritus. This article first appeared at Emmys.Com. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.

Cartoon: Doonesbury Meets ‘Reality’ TV

We admit it: We don’t know a single writer who doesn’t agree with Mr. Trudeau about this. (Of course, we don’t know a single writer who doesn’t agree with him about Trump too, but that’s different.)

Attn LA Writers: Opportunity is a’Knockin’ at ‘theOffice’

Announcing the 2017 Fellowship to theOffice
by TVWriter™ Press Service

Know how we’re always saying that if you want to be in the Biz you should live in L.A.? Well, here’s an example of what we’re talking about.

If you’re looking for the perfect place to leave the distractions of life behind and kick your productivity into overdrive, enter now to win a FREE 6-Month Premium Membership to theOffice. (Yep, that’s the name. We’d put a (sic) after it, but that just makes us feel pompous.)

theOffice is a quiet, communal workspace on 26th Street in Santa Monica. It’s one of the country’s premiere co-working spaces, fostering creativity and productivity in a zen, distraction-free environment for over 13 years.

The membership roster consists of A-list screenwriters, authors, journalists and other creatives. Current and charter members include JJ Abrams, Paul Feig, Chris Weitz, Matthew Carnahan, Clark Gregg, Gigi Levangie Grazer, Jen Celotta and many more.

Dozens of screenplays and novels have been written there. No conference rooms. No phone calls. No conversation. It’s where serious writers go to get it done.

Wade Gasque, manager at theOffice, says:

As a writer myself, I’ve done the coffee shop shuffle. I know how hard it is to find somewhere dependable to work, somewhere without the distractions of home, somewhere quiet and inspiring where I can quickly get into the zone and get words on the page. That’s precisely what we offer here at theOffice. But because many up-and-coming writers might not have the dedicated funds for a monthly writing space like theOffice, we started offering a free fellowship a few years back. The fellowship is essentially a 6-month Premium Membership to theOffice. You get your own door code to access the space at all hours so you can get as much done as you can for the next six months. We’re looking for up-and-coming writers of talent who are dedicated to their craft.

This fellowship is completely free to enter, but the deadline is drawing near. Apply by August 8th or you’re out of luck. All of the details are at www.theOfficeFellowship.com including info on this year’s judges – Mark Cullen, Nicole LaPorte and David Scarpa.

Send submissions and inquiries to: theOfficeFellowship@gmail.com

Website: www.theOfficeOnline.com
Twitter: @theOffice_LA
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theOfficeinLA/

Peggy Bechko’s Tips on Character Descriptions

OMG! Writers have to do all this too – but with words!?

by Peggy Bechko

Writing descriptions for characters in TV and film scripts can be very tricky. We’re writing tight and yet want to transmit something about that character, something that will make an “A” list actor or actress salivate at the thought of playing that character. At the same time it has to be very visual. Unlike novelists, script writers can’t get inside the heads of their characters – at least not when it comes to descriptions. It’s a little like someone off-stage whispering instructions.

If you’ve read a lot of scripts, and if you’re writing them I assume you have, then you’re no doubt all too familiar with a description like: Carmen Smith (20s), slender and graceful, waits impatiently at the bus stop.

Okay, it paints a picture of sorts and we’re told time and again not to over describe, but is that the sort of description that would grab a star? I mean all we’ve said here is that Carmen is thin, impatient woman in her 20s. And, of course your script has to make it past the hurdles and pitfalls of a myriad of other folks who read your script such as readers, agents, maybe producers and others unless you personally know an “A” list movie star. Few of us do. And even if we do, would that person welcome reading your script…and then would that description captivate that person?

Okay, so no, no and no.

Now, presuming your script is otherwise worth reading and it get into the hands of a star’s agent, that agent is going to be looking to see if there’s a plum part in the script for their client. Is the character interesting with a personality, a background; a role that’s multi-faceted to stretch the star’s acting ability.

Isn’t that what you’d be doing if you were a rep for a high-powered star?

So we come back to that original (well, not really so original) description I came up with above. What if the description in your script was more like: The bus driver opened the door to where Carmen, an aristocratic woman more accustomed to limos than city buses, raised her steely gaze to his, then rose and strolled onto the steps plainly intending the bus could just wait a bit longer.

Now that’s a little more like it. What the heck is going on with Carmen? Steely gaze? Causing the bus to wait on her leisurely stroll? There’s a tone here, no? Are things like age important? Not really, unless it really has a bearing on the direction of the story.

Read through your script. Think about the descriptions. If you find one that seems a little flat, play with it. Think about who your character is and consider, can I bring the character through with action and movement, maybe a look or a certain attitude. Don’t depend on age, clothes, height or color of hair (ye gads!). What would make a star want to play that role?


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.