With May sweeps about to begin, here are a few things I'd like to see:
PRISON BREAK -- break out already for Chrissakes.
24 -- Let Chloe become head of CTU.
WILL & GRACE -- It's your last chance to get in every bad penis joke there is.
GREY'S ANATOMY -- Now that everyone has slept with everyone else, start sleeping with all the patients.
MY NAME IS EARL -- Transgression #18 Solve the Middle East problem.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES -- Go back to the first year when it was better.
LAW & ORDER -- replace Dennis Farina with Gallagher.
GILMORE GIRLS -- Since it's the last episode series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino will run, move the characters to Macon, Ga. and let the new show runner have to make that work.
The AMAZING RACE -- For the final challenge make both teams have to get through security at LAX in less than an hour.
HOUSE -- Let him get laid already. Have him guest on GREY'S ANATOMY.
LOST -- Find out that the missing characters were just in jail for DUI's in Hawaii.
AMERICAN IDOL -- Make the final original song that both finalists must sing even worse than the last few, if that's humanly possible.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
With May sweeps about to begin, here are a few things I'd like to see:
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Hello from Chicago,
On the flight over I noticed a lot of passengers watching mini-DVD's. Who needs that crappy CBS Eye on America with STILL STANDING reruns when you can watch, well, anything else? But what I saw were people watching LORD OF THE RINGS and WAR OF THE WORLDS and TITANIC on their five inch screens. Maybe it's me but don't you lose a little scope?
So my suggestion for you busy travelers with portable DVD players is the British version of COUPLING. All seasons are available. This is the funniest, sharpist sitcom to come along since the British version of the OFFICE. Yes, there was an American version but the one without the benefit of network "improvements" was an exploration of relationships not sex. And cast with endearing goofy FUNNY actors not J Crew models. Sex was just part of the mix. And as an added bonus, you can understand the accents.
With all the talk about comedy being dead these days, check out COUPLING and see that, when done right, the form is very much alive. On a five or fifty inch screen.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
...as it would say in TV GUIDE.
I’m heading to Chicago for the weekend to see my daughter at Northwestern. Travelogue will follow sometime next week. Not sure how often I’ll be able to post this weekend but I’ll do my best to check in. Meanwhile, today I’m reprising a very popular post from five months ago dealing with spec scripts. Staffing season is right around the corner and I’ve got a lot of new readers so I figured this article is even timelier now than when I first posted it. I’ve also updated it a little because no one remembers OUT OF PRACTICE or KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL. I hope this is helpful.
I’m often asked “what’s the best spec script to submit?” I can only speak for comedies. For dramas I say cover all your bases and do a CSI: DEADWOOD. There is no hard and fast rule but I, and most sitcom producers I know, prefer scripts of existing shows over pilots. We want to see how well you can write other people’s characters and fit into other people’s styles. That’s what you’ll be faced with if you get an assignment.
So then the question is “what show do I pick?” Not EMILY’S REASONS WHY NOT. Select a current show you like and think you know the best. “Current” is the key word here. Once a show is cancelled the shelf life for your spec is about six months. You’ve got five minutes left for your ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. And I hope you didn’t pour a lot of time and effort into a spec TEACHERS. When RAYMOND went off the air everyone was sad but showrunners. No more reading fifty RAYMONDS a day when trying to staff! Same for this year’s departing WILL & GRACE! (although in that case I always found it hard to tell a good W&G from a bad one).
Of course you never have to worry with a SIMPSONS because they will go on making new episodes forever.
You do not have to write an episode of the show you’re submitting to. STILL STANDING will read KING OF QUEENS and vice versa. In fact, it’s tougher to sell a spec of the show you’re submitting to because they know that show so well. On the other hand, you could make up the names of the YES, DEAR characters and most show runners wouldn’t know the difference. But be careful. The show runners need to at least have heard of the show. For that reason I wouldn’t recommend specing a RODNEY or anything on the WB.
Here are a few other things to consider: The SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY might really show off your funny but they’re cartoons. They don’t show your ability to write real people and emotions. So unless your specific goal is to write for a cartoon or the GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW, I’d say stick to live-action sitcoms. CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM allows you to push the envelope but the dialogue is improvised. There is no such thing as a real CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM script. So your spec might feel a little artificial. Of course you could always just write “Larry does something funny here” but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of great shows out there at the moment. What I think we’ll see this year is everybody writing a MY NAME IS EARL. It’s clearly the best of the new crop. The only caution I give you is that EVERYBODY will be writing one. If that doesn’t concern you (or you’ve written it already) I say go for it. If it does then some suitable alternates might be THE OFFICE, SCRUBS (rumors suggest it’s coming back next year), TWO AND A HALF MEN, EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (although the bloom is definitely off that rose), or HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (a far cry from the CHEERS, TAXI, MASH, COSBY days).
Then there are the hour sorta-comedies. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, BOSTON LEGAL, HOUSE (they did a black basketball player big-dick anal sex joke last week, thus qualifying them as a legitimate comedy). These all have very specific tones. Hard to nail but if you do it could be a home run.
But at the end of the day it still is which show best fits your voice and sensibility? Good luck, and just so you know – the characters on YES, DEAR are Greg, Kim, Christine, and Jimmy. And the main character on RODNEY is Rodney (I think).
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
When putting a writing staff together I always think of the great line from either Bob Schiller or Bob Weiskopf – what six people would you like to be stuck in a Volkswagon with driving across the country? Besides talent, so much depends on chemistry because you spend so much time together in close quarters under enormous pressure. By the end of the season even the closest staff starts getting on each other’s nerves. It’s like, take a fifty year marriage and compress it into eight months.
Here are some of the obvious annoying things staff writers do that drive me nuts. And every staff has them.
There’s “Captain Grammar” – he’s the guy who never contributes jokes or story fixes, just corrects grammar. And thinks he’s saving the show. If you can be replaced by a Microsoft Word tool you should not be on staff.
Every staff has that one infuriating person who always wants to go back four pages. You’re now on page 24, he wants to return to page 19.
“Mr. Back in a second” is in and out of the room fifty times a day for phone calls. The entire state of Rhode Island doesn’t get as many calls in one day as this guy. And when he returns you have to spend five minutes getting him up to speed. If he is also the “Can we go back to Page 17?” guy you fire him after thirteen weeks even if he’s funnier than Mel Brooks and Larry Gelbart combined.
Of course there’s the person who never shuts the fuck up. Even if they pitch something good you don’t hear it because it’s lodged in the middle of a story about her friend who has Crohn’s disease and her upcoming trip to Japan.
There’s the “PA Killer”. This guy terrorizes production assistants by sending them out for food sixteen times a day. And usually with specific requests. No eighteen year old blonde Reese Witherspoon lookalike wants to go to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles at 1 AM to pick up a snack.
Bi-polar people just seem to gravitate naturally to comedy writing rooms. The more depressed or angry the better.
Finally, there’s “Dr. No”, the guy who hates everything but never has any suggestions or alternatives. This person is either found dead in the parking lot or becomes the President of a network.
Fortunately, I have none of these bad traits, and I’m sure you don’t either. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a phone call.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Is it just me or is FINAL DRAFT the worst script program out there? For reasons that astound me it seems to be the industry favorite, at least in the sit com world – or the Paramount sit com world. I’ve used both FINAL DRAFT and MOVIE MAGIC and greatly prefer MOVIE MAGIC.
They’re similar except I haven’t wanted to fling my computer through a window while using MOVIE MAGIC. Both have their quirks but FINAL DRAFT was obviously conceived by some crazed disgruntled programmer who once wrote a spec PUNKY BREWSTER that I rejected 30 years ago. He’s been trying to destroy me ever since. Or, maybe it’s not him. Maybe it’s somebody else…
For years I used SCRIPTWARE, which I just assumed was designed and run by a major company. Turns out it was some lady in the San Fernando Valley. Did I once date her? Is that why the importing feature never worked?
And now I think back to all the loony secretaries my partner and I have had over the years. One was a spinster who drove a stolen Porsche. Another showed us nude photos of herself (her we liked). One asked for an extra hour at lunch because she was going to get an abortion. When we said she could take the rest of the day off she said, “That’s all right, I’ve done this before. No biggie.” We had a secretary taking script dictation who would put her head down and nap every time there was so much as one minute of silence in the writers room. She was saving her energy because she and a few others in the typing pool had a bet to see who could sleep with the highest ranking movie executive at that studio. (For the record, ours came in second, and fourth, and fifth, and ninth) Could any of these fruitcakes now be designing script programs? (The nude modeler quit. Even our offer to make her co-executive producer wasn’t enough to change her mind.)
One assistant we had would routinely stand on her head in the reception area. She got hit in the head by a tree branch in the commissary patio but I don’t think we were named in the lawsuit. Only the studio and “Hawkeye Pierce” for some reason. Another of our charming former assistants was stalking a burned out former rock icon of the 60’s who she insisted was in love with her. This is the same assistant whose cat once went up a tree so instead of calling the Fire Department she called the Special Effects department to send a stuntman out to her apartment. You fire these people for cause but you always wonder…could any one of them be using their technical computer skills to boil my rabbit? I think back to the disgruntled FRIENDS writers assistant who sued the writers for sexual harassment. Did those writers get off easy? At least their script program will let them make page breaks.
Yes, I may be paranoid. Yes, I may be over-reacting. But when I want an action line and FINAL DRAFT just keeps sending me to the dialogue tab over and over and over and over, well come on, I’m not an idiot. I KNOW IT’S PERSONAL.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Continuing my look at the summer movies headed your way…
CLICK – Adam Sandler has a remote control and can pause the world. Sight gags, special effects, life lessons, and every other formula studio comedy trick ensues. If successful Adam’s character could join the next X-MEN movie as the mutant “Tivo”.
POSEIDON – Titanic meets Love Boat. The luxury liner capsizes. Glug glug. People drown. Still has to be better than taking a Carnival Cruise
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – The Apprentice meets Hilary Clinton. The only reason Meryl Streep won’t get an Oscar nomination for her role is because she’s also in…
A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION – and does an accent. Shoo-in to win. Unless Rene Zellwegger is in a movie later this year and does a thicker accent.
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT – Yeah, a sequel in Japan really worked for BAD NEWS BEARS.
THE OMEN –Remake of 1976 EXORCIST knock off. Since the EXORCIST was recently remade, this one had to be too. (For the record OMEN II is a remake of EXORCIST II).
THE REAPING – Yet another thriller about religious phenomena, this one starring Hilary Swank as a boxer who must go ten rounds against Satan. Between this and the DA VINCI CODE, and THE OMEN the Church is really taking it in the shorts this summer.
MIAMI VICE – Michael Mann updates his stylish 80’s TV series by removing all 80’s style. Original cast member Don Johnson cameos as Elvis the alligator.
LADY IN THE WATER – M. Night Shyamalan’s attempt to show he’s not a one-trick pony by doing a family friendly bedtime story. Unless advance screenings don’t test well. Then Bryce Dallas Howard’s lovable “Sea Narf” character will turn children into zombies and feed them to aliens.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – The big Sundance winner getting all the hype. Could be this year’s HAPPY, TEXAS.
A SCANNER DARKLY – Richard Linklater’s live action turned into animation-for-no-reason look at the drug culture. Keanu Reeves finally has an excuse for his two dimensional performance. If I want to see people turned into cartoons I’ll watch the A-ha music video.
WORLD TRADE CENTER – Is it too soon to see a movie about 9-11? Is it too soon to see anything again from Oliver Stone? If WTC does well its opening weekend will the headline in VARIETY be “Ground Zero Boxoffice Hero”?
SNAKES ON A PLANE – I submit we have fellow blogger Josh Friedman to thank for creating so much buzz about the studio wussying-out and changing this title that it got reinstated. Three guesses what the movie’s about.
CLERKS II – After JERSEY GIRL Kevin Smith must go back to the beginning and re-trace his career. Up next: CATCHING AMY.
And the overall good news about this summer’s crop of films – there’s not one by Nora Ephron!! See ya at the Cineplex.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Everyone’s doing their big Summer Movie Preview. Here’s mine.
DA VINCI CODE – Raiders of the Lost Holy Grail. I imagine it will reduce the lengthy obscure history discourses into action sequences. In keeping with the theme, Tom Hanks has the same hair style as Mona Lisa.
SUPERMAN RETURNS – The big question in Superman movies was always would the flying look fake? With Bryan Singer directing the big question is will Superman be gay? Will we be saying “Great Caesar’s Ghost” when we see his package? This movie will feature unused footage of Marlon Brando, hopefully from the last Superman series and not APOCOLYSE NOW. Let’s not hear the atrocities Vietnamese children are subject to on Krypton. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor should be fun…unless he breaks into Mack the Knife.
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND – New mutant this year. “Bouncer”. Can remove all static electricity and wrinkles. Big climax is Hugh Jackman as Wolverine trying to put in a contact lens.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST – Johnny Depp reprises his most fun role and Keira Knightley is in danger – Throw in some pillaging and I’m there. To better simulate the ride, two loud giggling annoying teenagers will be yammering in the seats in front of you.
THE BREAK UP – Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. Either it will be a big hit or next year Jennifer will be starring in a sitcom with Tony Danza on the CW.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3: Phillip Seymour Hoffman wins an Oscar yet his name is not even mentioned in the trailer. We get it. It’s a Tom Cruise movie. Big whoop. Tom Cruise reprises the two expressions he’s played in every movie since RISKY BUSINESS. They can spend $300 million to make this stunt fest and the best thing will still be the theme song.
MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND – Luke Wilson breaks up with his girlfriend, Uma Thurman only to learn she has super powers and uses them for revenge. I’m hoping she doesn’t have more masculine qualities than the guy playing Superman.
CARS – Pixar’s big screen version of the Chevron Oil cars. Unless the cute little autos break into song I predict huge boxoffice. I wonder if there will be a Pixar short first. Sorry, but I always hate them.
OVER THE HEDGE – Shrek with hamsters. Garry Shandlings’ voice. The first big screen whining cartoon character.
JUST MY LUCK – Lindsay Lohan (‘nuff said). Luckiest girl in the world meets unluckiest guy. They kiss and their luck is reversed. Gee, if that’s not the most formula high concept studio idea of the summer I don’t know what is. I bet they learn something along the way and fall in love too. And they sing a popular song from the 60’s in the middle of the movie and over closing credits there are hilarious outtakes.
TALLEDEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY – Will Ferrell’s NASCAR spoof. Could be more of a cartoon than CARS.
DOWN IN THE VALLEY – Sounds like the sequel to BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Ed Norton is a cowboy in the San Fernando Valley. He’s in for a big shock when he learns that the Warner Ranch is really a series of office buildings and a Marriott.
Just saw LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN. Don’t make that mistake. Artsy-fartsy Tarentino wannabe directing and story starring Josh Hartnett (this generation’s Matthew Modine) and Bruce Willis whose current style of acting can only be described as “Botox”.
Quick cuts of a telephone ringing, random people getting graphically blown away, process shots of New York, a horse race – remind you of anything? Right. College. All those pretentious student films you had to suffer through. Only thing missing was an insufferable Q&A with the director afterwards where he told you how LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN was really a retelling of the story of Christ and an homage to the Jerry Lewis movies he saw as a kid.
The film (and it is a “film”) is all about the old bait and switch and the only one director Paul McGuigan pulled off successfully was convincing Sir Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman that this was a good career choice. (It’s hard to watch Morgan Freeman in a bad movie without thinking, “Where is Ashley Judd?”)
One performance of note: Lucy Lui. Probably only hired because she was in KILL BILL. A lot of Quentin-Envy going on here.
When you go to a movie and the commercials are better you know you’re in for a bomb. Avoid LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN.
Tomorrow: my Summer Movie Preview. Don’t buy your tickets just yet.
Friday, April 21, 2006
I see that CNN.com now has a “Worst song” article. Gee, I wonder where they got the idea?
For my weekend post:
LOVE LETTERS by AR Gurney is an enormously successful play. Ingenious in its design, an actor and actress sit at tables or stand at podiums and just read love letters. So no blocking or rehearsal or memorization is ever really needed. Actors can easily rotate in and out of the piece and frequently do. This can result in prestigious A-level actor pairings but there have also been productions by Charlton and Lydia Heston and Shirley Jones & Marty Ingells. Since I couldn’t attend either of those I shall wait to see LOVE LETTERS until one of the following pairings is announced:
Ann Coulter & Al Franken
Woody Allen & Mia Farrow
24’s Chloe & Gore Vidal
Kellie Pickler & Bucky Covington
Michael Jackson & Elizabeth Taylor
Billy Bob Thornton & Angelina Jolie
Tom Cruise & Brooke Shields
Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown
Mary Tyler Moore & Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
Regis Philbin & Kelly Rippa
Dr. Laura & Dr. Phil
Liza Minelli & David Gest
Jack Klugman & Lauren Becall
Barry Bonds & his mistress Kimberly
Donnie & Marie
Bill Clinton & (the voice of) Monica Lewinsky
Paula Abdul & Simon Cowell
President Bush & a mannequin
Lou Ferrigno & Marlie Matlin
Andrew Dice Clay & Amy Grant
Bjork & Bob Dylan
Katie Couric & Walter Cronkite
Jennifer Aniston & Brad Pitt
Richard Hatch & Tonya Harding
The President of Iran & Rene Taylor
Bonnie Bernstein & Coach Roy Williams
And of course, Broadway’s latest stunt casting duo, whether they fit the roles or not….
Nathan Lane & Matthew Broderick
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Thanks to the California Supreme Court we comedy writers can continue to be vulgar and crass and sexist and infantile and crude…and do our jobs. With a vote of 7-0 the judges threw out the ridiculous sexual harassment lawsuit against certain FRIENDS writers and Warner Brothers filed by a disgruntled incompetent writers’ assistant who was fired for cause. The sexually explicit remarks made by the FRIENDS writers were not even aimed at her (although now they will be). They were directed at the actors.
Writers Rooms are not for the faint of heart. It is not the Queen’s Tea in there. Sitcom writers on multi-camera shows like FRIENDS work under enormous pressure. The writers see a runthrough at 4:00 and must fix the entire script that night, even if it means throwing out the script and writing a new one. They must identify the problems, come up with the solutions, and have the new draft ready first thing in the morning. Tough luck if the muse doesn’t come, or you’ve got the flu, or worse, had Laker tickets. And you face this daunting task essentially every night for 22 weeks.
To relieve that pressure and kick start the creative process, comedy writers need to be free to say ANYTHING. And considering we’re all neurotic, self loathing, insecure, still pining for that girl from Junior High, and funny our escape valve tends to be material that makes “The Aristocrats” joke seem PG. The only rule is everything and everyone is fair game…even YOU. The best way to prevent others from taking a shot at you is taking the shot yourself. A writers room is the only place in the world where the winner of a dick measuring contest is the one who has the smallest.
And if a favorite target is the cast, well who do you think had all the objections or tanked the material that resulted in this grueling rewrite anyway? You’re in a stuffy room eating bad Chinese food or El Pollo Loco while Courtney Cox is out for a lovely evening. Sure you’re going to talk about her genitals…for twelve hours.
Had the writers’ assistant won this absurd lawsuit the result would not be more genteel writers rooms. It would be fewer woman writers and assistants being hired. And no one would benefit from that.
One last point. If you were ever to be in one of these rooms you would likely be appalled, offended, even outraged…but you would never laugh so much and so hard in your life.
And maybe some of the Courtney Cox genital jokes were true.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Yesterday I shared my best home run call. This was my worst. With a close second to follow.
It was my first year in the majors, with Baltimore. Now that I was in the “bigs” I figured I needed a signature home run call. So I came up “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building!” I did it a couple of times the first week and it seemed to go well. Week two we were in Milwaukee. Late in the game. An Oriole swings and this is my home run call:
“Long drive to deep right. Yount goes back and ladies and gentlemen, Elvis is…off the top of the wall.”
My partner, the great Jon Miller, just put his head down on the console. I’m sure he was wondering “how did they ever hire THIS idiot?”
I wrote a book about my year in Baltimore and called it “It’s Gone!…No, wait a minute!” which unfortunately was my signature home run call in the minors. Often times in those bandbox ballparks with triple deck signage (most of it white and touting such prestigious concerns as “Rent-a-Wreck and Melman’s Mortuary) and bad lighting it was next to impossible to accurately call home runs. If the ball cleared the first level it was gone, below it was still in play. Even the players and umpires didn’t know half the time. I started playing it safe by saying “there’s a long drive to deep left field, it’s high, it’s deep, it’s time for station identification!” Fifteen seconds later when I was back I knew the outcome…usually.
One time doing a game in Rochester, there was a long drive to the wall. The outfielder leaped for it. I said, “He makes the catch!” My partner shook his head no and started twirling his finger. That’s the home run signal, but he didn’t know that. He thought he was signaling that the ball was still in the play and the runners were circling. So this was my call: “He makes the catch. No, wait, it’s a home run. No, wait, it’s a double.” This time I banged my head on the console.
Happy to say I did much better in the majors although to play it safe my home run call was and still remains “It’s Gone, I hope to God!”
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
For three years in the minors and seven in the majors I did baseball play-by-play. Someday I hope to do it again. The staple of a baseball announcer is his home run call. I thought today I’d share my best home run call ever and then tomorrow my worst.
I was broadcasting for the Syracuse Chiefs, the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Our station had a weaker signal than my home Wifi transmitter. At night you couldn’t hear it at the ballpark. When people complained I used to say that this was just the flagship station of the “Worldwide Syracuse Chiefs Radio Network”. I would pause for station identification every half hour and make up all this crap about how popular the Chiefs were in Norway and Bhutan.
We had a third baseman named Norm Tonucci. Sweet kid from Connecticut who was on a year long slump. He came to bat once and I said we had many listeners from Borneo because Norm was a folk hero over there. I then created some story that his father had parachuted behind enemy lines in World War II and single handedly saved the country. I said the currency of Borneo is “Tonuches”, that 90% of male babies and 70% of female babies were named Norm. Every time he came to bat I would reprieve this Borneo connection and night after night he would go 0-3, 0-4, 0-8 (doubleheader).
One night we’re in Oklahoma City and Norm hits a triple. When he came to bat the next time up I talked about how excited the people of Borneo were over the triple. The next pitch he just crushed. And this was my home run call:
“Tonucci swings and there’s a long drive to deep left field. Steve Kemp goes back…to the track…to the wall….NO SCHOOL TOMORROW IN BORNEO!”
Monday, April 17, 2006
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY did a big article on AMERICAN IDOL this week. Included was a section on “where are they now” featuring past contestants. I will now be the first to tell you where the current crop of contestants will be in a few years from now.
CHRIS DAUGHTRY – Will win AMERICAN IDOL. Have a nice career but not great career because true rock fans will know he sold out by doing AI. The “Broadway” theme week won’t help either.
KELLIE PICKLER – Will have a modest career as a C/W singer. Her father will get out of jail and want to manage her. She will refuse. Her father will then kill the manager. There will be a movie of the week. Carrie Underwood will play Kellie.
PARIS BENNETT – Will play Gary Coleman in the touring company of AVENUE Q.
KATHERINE MCPHEE – Will join the Johnny Mann Singers and be heard on KRTH jingles. Will try to make a niche for herself in the standards market. Will discover there is no standards market. Will marry, have kids, and be forever bitter that Linda Eder has her career.
ACE YOUNG – Will star in a sitcom on the DISNEY CHANNEL. Will marry three times, have six kids, and be forever bitter that Scott Baio has his career.
ELLIOTT YAMIN – Will become a cantor. To mothers of the congregation with eligible daughters he will be viewed as George Clooney.
TAYLOR HICKS – Will become the President of the United States.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
First off, thanks to everyone who contributed their votes for worst song over the weekend. They were deliciously frightening and more suggestions are welcome. And if I may just add one of my own – Dang Me by Roger Miller (Roses are red and violets are purple, sugar’s sweet and so is maple surple.) Now for today’s rant.
I think it started in the early 70’s. Even though Mary Richards only had an entry level job at WJM she still had this amazing wardrobe and never wore the same designer outfit twice. How did she pull that off on her paltry salary? Rhoda made more money and wore the same two schmatahs.
It’s called creative license and TV has gone to that card liberally and frequently ever since. Not that I’m not guilty of it myself. Audiences are supposed to believe that all eleven years of MASH actually took place over a one year time span. It was an especially hard buy during the many Christmas episodes. (There was also an episode that took place over one year but that wasn’t on our watch.)
Here are some more recent examples:
The Las Vegas CSI department must have a budget of $37 billion. They have every piece of equipment imaginable (even high tech contraptions that haven’t been invented yet). You need to determine what brand of gum was found on a shoe at the murder scene? They have a machine that can tell you the brand, flavor, and how many bubbles were blown. I bet if you saw the real Vegas CSI department it would look like your Uncle Bob’s garage. And the detectives would have to spring for their own goggles.
On NUMB3RS the math geek can do the most elaborate math problems in half a day and not the six months it would really take a computer to solve. Recently he charted the path of every student in a high school and was able to determine which class they were to attend if they hadn’t been gunned down. Amazing! Then, when he briefs the FBI he has found the time to create a whole animated computer graphic presentation. And even all that I could let slide. But now they have hot FBI agent, Diane Farr seemingly attracted to uber nerd Peter McNichol. Come on math whizzes, the probability of that can not even be calculated.
The O.C. – everything about it.
PRISON BREAK – Michael hasn’t been violated by every prison mate and six of the guards. Not believable.
HOUSE – Has a patient ever been to that hospital without going into seizures? Has a patient ever been correctly diagnosed without having to take four expensive tests that proved to be unnecessary? Blue Cross must go into conniptions when they get a bill from that hospital. Malpractice lawyers should set up card tables in the lobby.
LOST – One of the friends or relatives of the survivors couldn’t Google Map that island? Mark Burnett hasn’t scouted it yet for SURVIVOR?
24 – the granddaddy of them all. See several previous posts. I’ll just add that Jack’s cellphone always gets great reception, and how bad are our country’s intelligence agencies when the bad guys all have armies and compounds and guards aplenty yet no one in Homeland Security has any inkling of these world domination plots? And how do the bad guys recruit all these guards and soldiers? Do they put ads in LA WEEKLY? “Help Wanted: Guards for plot to take over America. Must have experience in firearms and be discreet. Contact: Mr. X, 187 E. Secret Compound Dr., Simi Valley, Ca. 91537.”
And finally, the topper -- WEST WING depicts the President of the United States as an intelligent learned compassion man. Everyone knows that couldn’t be further from what really exists in real life.
Two quick movie suggestions for your Easter evening:
INSIDE MAN: It really should be called DAWG DAY AFTERNOON. Some ice box logic problems but worth seeing for Denzel Washington and Clive Owens (who should be the new James Bond). After a half hour I got so into the movie that I stopped thinking “What would Jack Bauer do”? I guess that’s high praise these days for a hostage movie.
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING: A lot of fun if you don’t mind that the story is utterly absurd. No one plays sleazeballs better than Aaron Eckhart, especially when he’s been given some great lines to say. William Macy and Maria Bello are there too (the COOLER all-stars) as well as the always-fun-to-watch Robert Duvall. But the actor who steals the movie is Rob Lowe. His depiction of a Hollywood agent is so funny you think it's a spoof. But it's NOT. That’s the way they ARE.
Next post: suspension of belief in television.
Friday, April 14, 2006
My post for the weekend is an audience participation project. This is a compiled list of some of the worst songs of all time. Cringe then suggest what else needs to be on this list. Thanks and Happy Easter.
Good Morning Starshine....Oliver
The Night Chicago Died....Paper Lace
Billy Don't be a Hero....Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
One Tin Soldier....Coven
My Boy Lollipop.....Little Millie Small
Mule Skinner Blues....Fendermen
He Hit me and it Felt like a Kiss....Crystals
Ballad of the Green Beret....Sgt. Barry Sandler
Deck of Cards....Wink Martindale
Hooray for Hazel....Bobby Roe
Yummy Yummy Yummy....1919 Fruit Gum Co.
My Dad...Paul Peterson
Unicorn Song...Irish Rovers
Watching Scotty Grow...Bobby Goldsboro
I've Never Been to Me...Charlene
Paper Tiger...Sue Thompson
Indiana Wants Me...R.Dean Taylor
Letter From Elena...Tom Clay
Little Black Egg....Nightcrawlers
Disco Duck...Rick Dees
Baby I'm a want you....Bread
Past, Present, Future…the Shangri Las
Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald....Gordon Lightfoot
Girls girls girls are made to Love...Eddie Hodges
Seasons in the Sun...Terry Jacks
Love Jones....Brighter Shade of Darkness
Heartbeat is a Love beat -- Delfranco Family
The Streaker...Ray Stevens
She Can't Find Her Keys...Paul Peterson
I Sold My Heart to the Junkman....Bluebells
Gallant Men....Senator Everett Dirkson
Which Way you Goin Billy....Poppy Family
Torn Between Two Lovers....Mary McGregor
Happiest Girl in the USA ...Donna Fargo
Open Letter to my Teenage Son...Victor Lundberg
The Men in my Little Girl's Life....Mike Douglas
Johnny Loves Me...Shelley Fabares
I Put a Spell on You...Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Walk like an Egyptian…the Bangles
Today is Cindy's Birthday....Johnny Crawford
Close to Cathy....Mike Clifford
MacArthur Park...Richard Harris
Locomotion...Grand Funk Railroad
The Americans...Byron McGregor
Haunted House...Gene Simmons
Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town....Kenny Rogers
Bottle of Wine....Fireballs
Wait For Me...the Playmates
How am I supposed to live without you…Michael Bolton
Sad Movies make me cry…Sue Thompson
Skinny Legs and All....Joe Tex
Hello Hello....Claudine Longet
Tutti Fruitti....Pat Boone
Mrs. Robinson....Frank Sinatra
We are the World…USA for Africa
Do the Clam....Elvis Presley
I Remember You…Frank Eifield
Sometimes when we touch…Dan Hill
Uh oh (part II)….the Nutty Squirrels
Wam Bam (Shang-a-Ling)….the Silvers
Laugh at Me...Sonny & Cher
Little Green Apples....O.C. Smith
I Wish I were a Princess...Little Peggy March
You Really turn me on...Ian Whitcomb
I'm Henry the Eighth....Herman's Hermits
Muscrat Love...Capt. & Tanille
Sit on my face, Stevie Nicks...the Rotters
Jingle Bells...the Barking Dogs
Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady...Helen Reddy
Candy Man...Sammy Davis Jr.
Puppy Love...Donny Osmond
Touch me in the Morning...Diana Ross
Another Somebody done somebody wrong song...B.J. Thomas
Float On…the Floaters
Dominique…the Singing Nun
Lovin' You...Minnie Riperton
How does that grab ya, darling….Nancy Sinatra
Chick a Boom...Daddy Dew Drops
You Light up my Life…Debby Boone
Call Collect...Art Linkletter
Karma Chameleon…Culture Club
Please Mr. Please...Olivia Newton John
Old Rivers...Walter Brennan
You Better Sit Down Kids...Cher
Ding dong the witch is dead....Fifth Estate
Master Jack...Four Jacks and a Jill
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep...Mac & Katie Kissoon
Wild Thing...Senator Bobby
Dreams of the Everyday Housewife…Glen Campbell
Roses are Red…Bobby Vinton
Stayin’ In…Bobby Vee
Chevy Van…Sammy Johns
England Swings…Roger Miller
Popsickle…Jan & Dean
I am Woman…Helen Reddy
Playground in my mind…Clint Holmes
Wind Beneath my Wings…Bette Midler
Trying to stop the feeling…Barry Manilow
The Doggone Girl is Mine…Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney
Ain’t Gonna Bump with no Big Fat Woman…Joe Tex
Speedy Gonzales….Pat Boone
I'm Not a Juvinile Delinquent...Frankie Lyman & the Teenagers
Dead Skunk...Louden Wainwright III
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Back by popular demand – another segment from the failed pilot David Isaacs and I wrote a few years ago called ODDS. The setting is an all-night diner off the Vegas strip, catering exclusively to locals and hotel employees.
Chris is the owner. He’s also the chef. Tara is the Britney Spears impersonator. Jeff is the bad comic who is always “on”. And Dave is the disgruntled blackjack dealer-minister.
INT. DINER – NIGHT
DAVE IS MARRYING A YOUNG COUPLE IN THE B.G. CHRIS IS BEHIND THE COUNTER. JEFF SIPS COFFEE. TARA (IN REVEALING TRASHY COSTUME) ENTERS.
Congratulate me. I just completed my one-thousandth performance as “the legend” Britney Spears.
Congratulations, Tara. What would you like?
A gun. (THEN) Do you know how hard it is to impersonate someone you know you’re better than?
I had the same problem with my act. I went through my Jay Leno period, my Jerry Seinfeld, my Judy Tenuta. In the end you’ve got to be yourself… But if I don’t make it in the next three years I’m getting a sledgehammer and a friggin’ watermelon and I’m “Gallagher II”.
Where did I go wrong? I was always the most talented, the “can’t miss girl”. Now I’m Britney Spears every night and I’ve totally compromised my career. (THEN, BRIGHTENING) Oh. Oh. I’ve found a townhouse out by Lake Las Vegas. View, patio. If I play Britney at conventions and bar mitzvahs I can make the down payment.
If you and the girl who plays Madonna put out an underground video you could own the whole complex.
THE WEDDING CONCLUDES AND DAVE JOINS THEM AT THE COUNTER.
Well, I’ve just sent two more people to their doom. Thanks, Chris, I’ll have the chapel back tomorrow.
Aw, you know, the usual. Jealous ex-boyfriend drove his pickup through the stained glass window. I’m thinking of getting one of those terrorist barriers.
How many of your couples do you think make it?
It’s hard to tell. I do find that alcoholics seem to last. But it could be that I’m just a romantic.
You marry people all night. You deal blackjack all day. When do you sleep?
Never. But I drive a Jag. Thank God for Vegas. Imagine being an insomniac in Salt Lake City?
I don’t think there are any. That town would put anyone to sleep.
HE LAUGHS. NO ONE ELSE DOES. NO ONE ELSE EVER DOES.
One of these days someone’s going to storm the stage and beat you to death with your microphone.
(SMUG) That’s why I wear a wireless, my friend.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Face it, the television industry has feature-envy. Forget for a moment that television is producing BETTER dramas and in general better product than features (PHAT GIRLZ notwithstanding), TV still has the mindset that they’re a second class citizen. The latest example is this mad frenzy to hire movie directors to helm TV pilots. Big article in Wednesday’s Hollywood Reporter on it. Spike Lee, F. Gary Gray, Jon Turtletaub, Andy Tenant, Simon West, Barry Sonnenfeld, and others are happily feeding off the television trough.
Not to take anything away from these directors and not to say that I wouldn’t be thrilled to be thrown off of any set by any one of them, but really, for the heavy money they’re making, are they THAT much better than experienced television directors? If someone is capable is of turning out great episodes of LOST and THE SOPRANOS and HOUSE, isn’t he as good as the guy who gave us PHENOMENON?
In the article several of these feature directors say they were attracted to the little screen (even the expression denotes inferiority) because of the “character driven” challenging nature of these pilots. Oh get real! It’s a big fat payday for six weeks work. They can squeeze these pilots in between film projects, and if the pilots go they can receive producer credit and royalties for never having to do another thing for the series including watching it. If I were a feature director I’d jump at that. I’d lie and say I WAS a feature director to get that deal. (“I did the remake of HOWARD THE DUCK. It’s not been released here but did win the prestigious audience award at the Antarctica film festival.”)
A studio exec rationalizes this hiring practice by saying: “There’s a lot of brilliant TV directors, but sometimes the mentality of, ‘Well, it’s good enough’, can creep in with TV guys.”
First of all, don’t hire those guys. But the exec continues:
“The really strong feature directors don’t accept that. They approach the job saying, ‘No, I’m here to make this spectacular and blow people’s minds.’”
Feature directors are used to huge budgets. Feature directors are used to shooting maybe two pages a day. What happens when that brilliant perfectionist is told he has to slam through six to eight pages a day and can’t have that crane and instead of Hawaii he must shoot in Oxnard? And his star is a former American Idol contestant who has a high TVQ.
In truth, it is often the TV veteran who is used to such schedules and restrictions (and semi-actors) and knows how to weave the straw into gold.
What film directors bring to the party is their names and cachet. Television gets to play with the big boys. And that’s fine. The names are impressive. But television isn’t slumming it. And television isn’t drive-by art.
It’s time that the feature industry started turning to television people. Who knows? Maybe the movies would be better.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
It’s the Jewish Passover season again. As with most Jewish holidays the theme is “they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat”. For eight days we don’t eat leavened bread or we light candles each night, I can never remember which.
This year ABC celebrates by premiering a new version of the TEN COMMANDMENTS (which prompts the question: WHY????). Similar to the original DeMille overblown spectacular except they slip in as Commandment #8: Thou shalt watch us instead of AMERICAN IDOL.
On the first two nights family and friends gather together for sedars, which are dinners preceded by a service that can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to August. For over 25 years now on the second night my wife and I have held a “comedy sedar”. It may be the first religious service to receive a hard R rating. Imagine a bunch of comedy writers and wine.
Highlights include my partner welcoming in Elijah as if he were a guest on the Jerry Lewis telethon and my father re-telling the story of Passover which is usually the last sword & sandal movie he saw so sometimes its THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, a few years ago it was GLADIATOR, last year it was TROY.
We go around the room reading portions of the service and I try to work it so that if there's a non Jewish person they get the part with all the hard-to-pronounce rabbis.
Then there’s the tradition where the “Afikomen” (piece of matzo) is hidden and the person who finds it can negotiate with the leader of the service for its return. That’s why I’m paying some little girl’s tuition at Harvard-Westlake.
And jokes abound. Topics last year included: mold, Paris Hilton, FOX News, Mary Tyler Moore, Nazis, American Idol, Yul Brynner, Ann Baxter (worst acting performance in the history of cinema), colononscopies, Mad Dog wine, “Two buck Chuck”,CAA (we wish it was located in the middle of the Red Sea), contractors, biblical characters' ages and the feasibility of having children at 90 (and subsequent Tony Randall references), Scientology and Celebrity Scientology (two separate religions), Bush, (representing the first five plagues), Jerry’s Deli (representing the next), Trader Joe’s, sending out a search party for Joe Millionaire’s career, the Dodgers, artificial sweeteners, Cadillacs (the official car of the Promised Land), Robin Quivers, film school, Viagra, J-Date, TV pilots, Diana Ross, the plausibility of Jewish slave labor, Party rental people, Halvah, heart disease, restricted golf courses, Matt Lauer’s new hair, Larry David, what happens if you get sick on the Amazing Race, Christ, Easter, kugel, Jewish hookers, Florida, Marie Calendars, Harry Belafante, college applications, the WGA, and those rat bastards at Target. And that was just in the service.
Hope your sedars are half as fun, even if you are Jewish.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Yesterday I talked about the need for showrunners to hold down the budget. What I didn’t mention was how difficult that can sometimes be. Hollywood is notorious for huge mark ups. Studios charging their own shows outrageous rent for their stages and facilities, etc. And if God forbid you need a special effect look out. In writing rooms whenever we propose even the smallest stunt we turn to my partner, David Isaacs, who has created a great character – Mr. Special Effects. He will then describe what is required to pull the stunt off and how much it will cost.
Here is an example, in the form of a memo. And believe me when I say this is TYPICAL.
Report from TV Special Effects Department:
Situation: In a dream sequence, Frasier is on the air and his board explodes.
Proposal---If I'm to understand correctly from our conversation you all want the entire radio board to explode in Frasier's (Mr. Gramner's) face. filling the studio room with smoke. It's quite a coincidence since my dad created the same effect for Mr. Al Ruddy for an episode of 'The Monkee's. (For your reference it's the one where the Monkees try to outfox a Russian agent played by Mr. Lloyd Bochner). The good news is that with all the advancements in explosive delivery it's a much easier effect. (The real reason you never saw Mr. Mike Nesmith at any Monkees reunion is that he had four fingers of his left hand blown off. It's certainly not true that he was sick of being a part of a third rate Beatles knockoff. That and feeling responsible for Yakima Canutt losing a testicle on "How the West was Won" haunted my father till he fell to his death rigging Mr. Demetrious 'George' Savalas for a jump off the Brooklyn Bridge in 'Kojack.)
Anyway, the effect is fairly simple, but of course we want it foolproof and safe. (within reason) First of all we will rig a series of explosive charges across the board. That will control the blast as oppossed to one big blast which is harder to control. I will set off the charges in sequence from a specially designed phaser. That should supply our explosion and still create the effect. We also set a charge inside the board so that in the case of a fire breaking out from the initial explosion (small possibility) I'll blow that charge which in turn would smother the flames. That, of course, would also preclude a second take.
Now I'm to understand that Mr. Gramner would like to do the stunt himself (concurrent with an 'Entertainment Tonight' segment profiling sitcom actors who do their own stunts.) That's fine but we will take the precaution of covering his body in an inch to an inch and a half of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly under a flame retardant herringbone suit. (It's uncomfortable but the guy works, what, twelve hours a week?) That will protect him vis a vis a mistake in explosion deployment. (Just to warn you in spite of caution it can happen---Sometimes to a serendipitous result. My dad worked for Mr. George Roy Hill on 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KId." Liitle known fact, the boxcar being blown to smithereens was not in the script. It was what we call in the S.E. business a happy accident. Thankfully the only injury was a prosthetic arm that was mangaled up pretty good. It belonged to my dad's assistant 'Spider' who had lost his real arm and half a foot working with my dad on 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. Long story)
So we will protect Mr. Gramner. Safety for the cameramen and crew are at your discretion. Should be a do it every day, piece of cake effect. Still it's S.O.P. for me to ask you one question that's in the order of a final safeguard. Was there originally an actor you really felt could have played Frasier in the event that Mr. Gramner was unavailable or... "a handful"? Have to ask. It many times makes a tougher call but I will remind you of 'happy accidents'.
I'm going to ball park a cost for you then come up with a final tally later. I know you have budget concerns but it's a heck of a stunt. Figuring explosives , equipment rented from the studio electrical dept., special costuming from the studio costume dept., crew, overtime, dummy board and console from studio props, studio fire chief standing by, and I figure you'll want to throw in pizza for a hard working S.E. bunch, I think I can bring the whole thing off for you, on the cheap, for about 110 thousand dollars. Again that's if we're not figuring on another take.
Loved the script by the way.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
The WGA recently held a seminar on “How to be a Good Showrunner”. (Okay, only .00001% of the membership will get the opportunity to be a showrunner but it’s our dues put to good use. ) The answer: stay within budget, even if the budget is smaller than Napoleon Dynamite’s clothing allowance. You may think “shouldn’t the course be more about how best to realize your creative vision?” That would be NO. Because if you can’t keep the budget down you’re fired (even if you’re Aaron Sorkin) and then there is no creative vision. Networks only give you creative freedom if you’re a runaway hit or they feel they can trust you to not give away the store. Abuse either of those and you’re back to getting memos questioning why the actors playing Klingons can’t bring their own wardrobe from home.
People ask me what’s it like to be a showrunner. I tell them “did you see the end of BONNIE & CLYDE?” It is a constant barrage of problems coming at you from all directions. It can be overwhelming…which is why I’d take the show runner from any well run series and replace Bush with him immediately.
Showrunners are responsible for the writing, casting, hiring, post production, promotion, dealing with network, censors, studio, non-writing pod producers, and the other 90% of time dealing with the actors.
You need to be a psychiatrist, an accountant, a CEO, a personnel manager, a Drill Sergeant, a Jewish mother, and work well under heavy medication. Once you’ve satisfied those requirements then you can add talent…but that’s optional.
To first time show runners I would say this:
Don’t pay for seminars when you can get this information on my blog for free. You have already taken the first step in the right direction.
Hire the best possible support staff. Leave your ego at the door. Joe Torre is a great manager but it sure helped having Don Zimmer as his bench coach for years. Surround yourself with experienced people. You don’t have time to make rookie mistakes.
Be willing to delegate authority…unless it’s to Dick Cheney. You can’t do it all. You can’t be in four places at the same time. As Garry Marshall once said, “What good is all the money when you’re in Cedars?”
Be organized. You can’t plan far enough in advance. When you look at most TV show budgets, the overages come from indecision, midstream changes, scrambling last second to meet deadlines (double and triple overtime time), and confusion. Again, see: our government.
Be a cheerleader. With tight budgets you’re asking everybody to work harder, give more, eat less craft services. That only comes with good morale and that starts with you. Know everyone’s name and that includes the actors.
And this next point I can’t stress enough: DON’T TAKE CREDIT FOR EVERYTHING. Nothing will kill morale faster and nothing is more untrue than that. You’ll realize it bigtime when your staff has fled and you really DO have to do everything. Can you say “implode” boys and girls?
Finally, learn the fine art of bending over. You’re going to have to compromise. Pick your battles, prioritize what in the budget you really need and what is a luxury. On CHEERS one year we thought of a great gag that would require levitating Norm. The cost turned out more than the license fee of three episodes combined. We did a beer joke instead. And think in terms of the whole season not just one episode. If you’re using a lot of outside sets or special effects one week, plan on doing little or none the next. A few weeks ago on 24 there was toxic gas released at CTU (R.I.P. Edgar). What it meant was they were pretty much able to do two entire episodes on an existing set while not blowing up even one refinery. Much easier to ask for a helicopter the following week when they’ve done that.
This is ultimately what I learned. At the beginning of the season the network and studio is wary of every showrunner. Be fiscally responsible right from the get-go. Because other shows won’t. And soon the suits and bean counters will leave you alone because the three page tag in this week’s STILL STANDING takes place at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
Just remember, creative freedom comes not at a high price but a low one.
One other thing I would say to first time show runners – I’m available to do punch up one night a week.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
First off I must share a great line I heard from my fabulous writer friend, Treva Silverman.
“What a strange few days it's been. Bush is guilty and Judas isn't.”
Now to today’s post. It’s somewhat geared locally to Los Angeles but a lot of the names should be familiar to everyone. I was asked by the Los Angeles Radio People website (see my links section) to list my picks for the top ten LA radio personalities over the last fifteen years. The piece ran Friday on LARP and I thought I’d share it here.
1. Renan Almendarez-Coelo (El Cucuy) – It’s hard to say just what it is about him that is so great because I’ve never heard him. I don’t speak Spanish. But he must be doing something right. Everywhere he goes he gets runaway number one ratings regardless of station or timeslot. Maybe translated into English we’d discover he’s really doing Dr. Laura's act.
2. Bill Handel – You have to love a morning man with no censor. He’s been on the air for years and yet every morning sounds like it’s his first show. In other words, he sounds like a real guy and not a “radio” announcer. And he rules the mornings.
3. Howard Stern – It pains me to put him so high up because he wasn’t local, but there’s no denying his impact, innovation, and consistency. Too bad that today he’s on satellite and the weekend all-night guy on the WAVE has a larger audience.
4. Vin Scully – He would’ve been higher but he only simulcasts three innings on the radio these days. But if there were an all-time list of LA radio personalities he would be number one for now and evermore. There are some records that will never be broken.
5. Phil Hendrie – Has created the most unique and entertaining talk show since the format began. And he proves each and every night that there will never be a shortage of utter morons out there in radioland.
6. Kevin & Bean – Best, funniest, most original morning show in Los Angeles. And they’re local. (Well, at least one of them is). Extra points for discovering Jimmy Kimmell, Adam Carolla, and the best of all – Ralph Garman.
7. John & Ken – They do the impossible – make an issues oriented show compelling. And they’re always in the news getting sued so you have to admire their show prep.
8. Robert W. Morgan – Even though he’s been gone ten of the last fifteen years his impact is so great that KRTH still has been unable to replace him, despite try after try. Morgan was the perfect morning man – quick, topical, funny, warm, real, and so relatable. Never did I hear him when he wasn’t talking just to me.
9. Tom Leykis – Yes, he’s the current president of the “Hee Man Woman Haters Club” but you have to admit he’s a superb showman. It’s talk radio as theatre and no one does it better. Or louder.
10. Ryan Seacrest – He’s host of AMERICAN IDOL and fifteen E! shows and yet he wants to get up at 4:00 every morning to be on local radio. He must either really love radio, or be so desperate for acceptance that it’s pathetic. Replaced Rick Dees without losing a listener which says to me that either he’s the real deal or all those years the ratings weren’t for Dees they were for Ellen K.
Friday, April 07, 2006
From the shameless self promotion file comes this info on the musical I’m co-writing, THE 60’s PROJECT. See you in Connecticut this summer.
Further shameless self promotion: For you new to this blog, I've been writing goofy travelogues to those in my address book for the last eight/nine years. I share them occasionally here because hopefully they're entertaining, they allow me to take some days off, and most important, I'd like to scare up a book deal.
Today I decided on my 2004 trip to Boston. There’s a big section about Fenway Park and since the Red Sox home opener is only days away I thought how perfect! (Actually, I was looking for any flimsy tie-in to post it…and this one actually sorta kinda sounds legit.) Enjoy what I fantasize will someday become Chapter 15.
Back from Boston and our son, Matt’s graduation from Tufts. He finished Summa Cum Laude (Latin for “I need a job”), which is astounding...considering he's in a frat. My wife, daughter, parents, and wife's sister's family all converged for this. (My daughter, Annie, was only half there. The night before we left was also her high school grad night. She went right from that to the airport. Like you, she's learning all the things we did on this trip through this travelogue.)
With so many universities in Boston the town was packed. It's a preview of the Democratic National Convention in July except these people spend money.
We decided instead of taking two carry on's we'd free up some precious overhead compartment space and check in one bag. American Airlines thanked us by charging us an extra $25 because the bag weighed six pounds too much. My parents were in first class. We were in coach. But they had to sit through an episode of YES, DEAR just like we did so what's the point of first class?
Checked into the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. Very deluxe. Quilts on display everywhere. Except on the beds. We reserved a suite but discovered there was no door between the bedroom and sitting room (which sort of defeats the purpose). So they sent up a screen from the banquet hall and a rollaway bed for Annie both of which took up the entire room. Instead of a suite in Cambridge we had an efficiency in Tokyo.
Hooked up with the graduate and headed straight for Fenway Park to catch a Red Sox game. If you've never been to Fenway imagine the Vatican but they can sell beer. It is a baseball cathedral. I'll be doing some work for NESN this season (the New England Sports Network) so I was able to get four spectacular seats between first and home, lower level, not behind a post. The only two drawbacks to the park -- Fenway Franks are the worst hot dogs on the planet and the seats and rows are very tiny. And since everyone in Boston looks like Norm Peterson of CHEERS you see these people just wedged into these chairs. Standing for the National Anthem requires the jaws of life. It was a very exciting game. The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays and Annie, after you fell asleep, they scored five runs in the eighth inning.
A Fenway tradition is everyone singing "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of the 8th inning. I don't know why. 32,000 drunk New Englanders singing Neil Diamond. Annie, you were lucky.
Walked to the T (subway) after the game past all the guys selling anti-Yankee and pro-Boston t-shirts. "Hey, anyone can have a bad century", "Posada is a Little Bitch", "Jeter Sucks A Rod", "A Rod is an A Hole", "Wake Up the Bambino and I'll drill a few into his Ass -- Pedro Martinez", etc. Boy, let another team beat you for the championship 26 times and you never let it go.
There is a block long banner along the highway near Fenway that says: IS YOUR NEIGHBOR'S GUN LOCKED? ASK! I'm not sure the point of that other than to scare to hell out of me. I wonder if you can see it from the Freedom Trail. I hope you can.
Woke up the next morning. The temperature had gone from 70 to 40. It would stay in the 40's and 50's, raw, overcast, and rainy the rest of the weekend. Meanwhile (and this is true), a few hundred miles south in New York it was 80 degrees and sunny. You can print your "I hate A Rod" t-shirts all you want -- New York IS better!
The big front page story in the Boston Globe was Red Sox centerfielder, Johnny Damon, shaving his beard. On page three we learned that Senator Kerry would be in town all weekend. It's bad enough Kerry has to follow Triumph, the insult comic dog puppet on the TONIGHT SHOW, but he takes a back seat to Johnny Damon in his own "crib"?
Went out to Somerville (near Tufts) for a brunch at Matt's girlfriend's. It was like the Dean Stockwell apartment scene in BLUE VELVET. Back to Cambridge for lunch with my parents and Debby's sister's family. Nine people including a three year old and a waiter who screwed up every single order. Fortunately I was sitting next to my mom. It's true what they say, no one can comfort you like your mommy. She gave me four Ativans.
Why does the inside of every Boston taxicab smell like fruitcake?
Sunday was the big day. The Tufts commencement ceremony was lovely even though we all froze our asses off. I couldn't see the stage but I could see my breath. It's practically June!!
I do love all the pomp and circumstance. Especially the big processional into this hundred year old quad surrounded by stately brick buildings, dignitaries and school officials standing on stage looking like the Dutch Masters. Every parent with a camcorder recording jiggly partially blocked shots of mortarboards going by, and students in caps and gowns marching in talking on cellphones.
Honorary Degrees were given to Neil Armstrong and Tracy Chapman. The girl who sang the National Anthem was awful. Why didn’t they have Tracy Chapman do it? Or even Neil Armstrong?
The commencement speaker was Walter Isaacson, a renowned journalist who wrote a book on Benjamin Franklin. The universities all try to one-up each other with their commencement speaker. Harvard's was Jesus Christ.
Next the various schools split off for the actual awarding of diplomas. The school of Engineering held their ceremony in the school gym. Annie noted the irony that not one of these engineers probably ever set foot in this gym in their entire four year stint. Neil Armstrong spoke, which was pretty cool. I was disappointed he didn't wear his helmet. He gave a "Go Nerds!" speech then left. First diplomas were awarded to PHD candidates. As they received their certificate the names of their theses were read off. Catchy titles like: "Micro-organism DNA research using Laplacian transistors for use in signal process for audio applications". In other words: these were the dateless.
Debby's family headed back to New York. My parents also went to Gotham for a visit. They asked me what shows to see. I recommended Neil Sedaka singing Yiddish favorites June 3rd at Carnegie Hall or the Blue Man Group.
All in all this was a memorable experience. And I'm sure Annie's graduation from Northwestern in four years will be just as fabulous. And hopefully warmer.
"Sweet Caroline....good times never felt so good...."
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Seems like the latest trend in television at the moment is Oceans 11 type caper series. HEIST and THIEF both premiered the same week. A couple of years ago my writing partner David and I wrote a pilot for Fox called ODDS about an all-night diner just off the Vegas strip that catered exclusively to the locals. One of our running bits was that they were always cooking up schemes to knock off the Bellagio themselves. Here’s an example. And no, the pilot didn’t get made, and yes, it should have.
AT THE COUNTER, TARA (THE BRITTNEY SPEARS IMPERSONATOR), DAVE (THE BLACKJACK DEALER WHO ALSO MARRIES COUPLES) AND JEFF (THE BAD COMIC) ARE IN MID-CONVERSATION.
Y’know, I was on stage tonight and it hit me how we could knock over the Bellagio. We break into the surveillance system, then send subliminal messages to the guards. We hypnotize them. And here’s the genius of it – the GUARDS then take out the money. We wait at the side entrance in a Brinks truck and then off we go.
So you need an electronics expert to break into the system, a Brinks truck and a hypnotist?
There’s one at the Stardust who’s great. He can get people down to their underwear.
What about when they’re not drunk?
Come on, you gotta get real. Here’s what we do: We get an impersonator to pose as a rich Arab Sheik. He lands in a helicopter on the roof of the hotel. They put him up in the Presidential suite. We have somebody go through the ventilation system with sleeping gas, knock everybody out. Then we bring the money up and hide it in the room. While everybody’s running around town looking for it, we just check out, carry it into the helicopter and away we go.
Where we gonna get a helicopter?
Maybe we can just talk a pilot into doing us a favor.
Or…you hypnotize him.
ROSIE (THE AFRO BORN AGAIN WAITRESS-BOXER WANNA BE) HAS OVERHEARD.
Every night I listen to these nitwit schemes. As if getting all that money would actually make you happy.
You’ve taken a few blows to the head, haven’t you, Rosie?
I’m just saying, there are more meaningful ways of finding satisfaction and happiness in this world.
Let me guess. Jesus?
Yes, “minister”. Jesus.
(indignant) Hey, don’t use that tone. I’m licensed.
You need to believe in something that’s bigger and more powerful than you that will show you the path to the true meaning of life.
You say “Jesus”. I say “The Bellagio”.
Yesterday’s Superman post sparked a lot of conversation so I thought I’d spend one more day on the Man of Steele.
Thanks to those of you who actually tried to justify how Superman could fly a little girl around the world without incinerating her. As far fetched as those theories are I buy them over Bush’s explanation of why we need to be at war with Iraq. If you haven’t read those comments please do so. Another reader explains how he can walk through walls by rearranging his atoms, but then again, who can’t?
Here’s what else I’d like to know. Where does Superman store his Clark Kent clothes when he’s Superman? One theory is that the logo on the back of his cape is a pouch, and he stores them in that. But still, a suit, his glasses, and shoes? And he must keep an iron in there too because when he changes back his suit is never wrinkled. Help me out physics professors.
Bud Collyer played Superman on the radio. He’s the wiry guy with the goofy bowtie who used to host TO TELL THE TRUTH (Game Show Network every moment they’re not showing old CARD SHARK episodes). When he played Clark he even gave him a different voice. Some of those old radio shows from the 30’s and 40’s are available and they’re a riot. Because it’s the radio Superman must talk to himself and describe everything he’s doing. “Alright, I’ll just twist this steel bar, there we go, then crash through this brick wall…that’s done. Now I’ll fly to Paris. Up up and away! Alright, I’m in the air now. A skydiver is yelling at me. No, sorry, I don’t have a camera!…etc.
People don’t realize but the whole Superman legend, (Krypton blows up, the baby is sent to earth, his rocket lands in Kansas instead of Nazi Germany thank God) was originated by the radio show not the comic book. Same for the character of Jimmy Olsen.
Phyllis Coates or Noel Neill? Who was the best Lois Lane? For fifty years now people have been debating this issue. Very sad people. Personally, I’d have to go with Noel. The deciding factor for any true fan is which one would you like to see kidnapped in your basement? I think Phyllis would scream and threaten that Superman will get me. Noel would compliment me on the new fake wood paneling.
To this day I can’t drive by the Los Angeles City Hall without thinking this is really the Daily Planet building.
I’m hoping the new movie will be good. For awhile Nick Cage was supposed to play Superman. On what planet including Krypton did that make sense? Kevin Spacey is playing Lex Luthor, a Bobby Darin impersonator who got bad reviews and wants to take it out on the world.
Since Superman seems to reside in Metropolis, why would any criminal want to rob banks there? Get in the car. Go to Cleveland. It’s a lot cheaper than lead helmets or commissioning machines that turn things upside down.
Another great thing about Superman is that he can go anywhere. Imagine if Spiderman moves to Phoenix. He can maybe swing from the Wal Mart to the Tastee Freeze.
Just as Sean Connery is THE James Bond, George Reeves IS Superman. There will never be another. Even though every other actor playing Superman can fit into the suit.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Some sources say that George Reeves’ birthday is one day this week. Others say it’s in January. How fitting that mystery should shroud even that. George Reeves played Superman in the 1950’s TV series ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. The circumstances surrounding his death are also cloudy but will soon be cleared up because Hollywood has a movie coming out on the subject. (Murder? Suicide? Kryptonite?)
I must admit I have always loved that show. I know it dates me but I was the target audience when it first came out. I still watch it in reruns (it’s now on cable channels so obscure they don’t even have names) and bought the first season DVD the day it came out. I’ve since given up running around the neighborhood employing a towel as a cape. My wife finds it humiliating.
When I watch the episodes now I am filled with a warm sense of nostalgia. I also am struck by how incredibly STUPID I was as a kid. There are moments in that show that are so preposterous that even as a seven year old I should have said, “Heyyyy, wait a minute.”
Okay, forget that no one can tell the difference between Clark Kent and Superman just from the glasses even though they look alike, have the same voice, and build. (Teri Hatcher had the same problem in the later series although in her case she was probably just too distracted terrorizing the crew because her Perrier was three degrees too cold.) I’m talking about these little gems (and I bet some of you have a few too):
In one episode Superman flies a little girl around the world. In three hours. At that speed with the g-forces I’d guess she’s be vaporized just outside the Metropolis city limits. And she’s just wearing a little sun dress and flimsy sweater. In one scene they’re flying over Mount Everest. He asks if she’s cold and she assures him she’s not. That must be some sweater because at that altitude it must be minus 300 degrees. But I bought it.
Remember the episode in which Superman was frozen? Oh no! How will he pass for Clark Kent? Simple, with some shoe polish and Lois Lane’s make up. Son of a gun, it worked!! No one noticed there was anything different between a normal person and a man wearing pancake makeup on his face and hands and jet black shoe polish in his hair. It worked for me.
The Daily Planet was a great metropolitan newspaper with a staff of three reporters. Yeah, that sounded about right at the time.
They were always quite liberal on their definition of X-Ray vision. Instead of just looking through objects, this Superman was able to see things from miles away. The one catch was that he couldn’t see through lead. There’s no lead anywhere in a straight line between the Daily Planet building and India?
Which brings me to my favorite moment of all. In one episode the bad guys got the brilliant idea that if they wore lead helmets that fitted completely over their heads that Superman could never identify them. Okay, forget fingerprints, they went to so much trouble to have these helmets made. And wasn’t it hot in those things? I guess not.
So in one scene two of these lead heads are going up to Perry White’s office in the Daily Planet. We see them walking down the hall. Picture this: Two men in suits, lead helmets, with fedoras. Two extras (“staff members”) pass them in the hall AND DON’T EVEN NOTICE THEM. Ho hum. Nothing unusual. Just two businessmen in helmets and hats. Now I fall off my chair. Then I thought “those helmets look good with those suits”.
Coming out this summer will be a new movie version of Superman. I’m sure the effects will be dazzling, you won’t even see the strings when he’s flying. The logic holes will not be as large as the galaxy and all seven year olds will buy it. But the issue will still remain – what can Clark Kent do to better disguise himself? I have the answer. Play him gay.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Sorry that my beloved UCLA Bruins didn’t win the NCAA championship (I blame it on that one bad call) but couldn’t be more proud of them for getting that far. When I went to UCLA we won the national championship all four years and truthfully, I never fully appreciated just what a monumental feat that was. We got so used to winning that I almost took it for granted. You learn later, often too late, that that’s not the case. So in that spirit, here are some other things we may be taking for granted.
Vin Scully will always broadcast for the Dodgers.
Katie Couric will always co-host THE TODAY SHOW.
Email will be free.
That Twinkie you ate in 1993 will leave your system.
Major airlines will provide pillows and blankets for free.
Ryan Seacrest is straight.
Time won’t run out on Jack Bauer.
The Yankees will win because they have a higher payroll than General Motors.
Major sporting events will be on free TV.
You’ll be able to hear the Beatles on the radio.
There will be three new Woody Allen movies a year.
The Lakers will always finish higher than the Clippers.
Sharon Stone will think you want to see her naked in a movie.
Splenda is good for you.
There will always be one or two groups on tour calling themselves “the Beach Boys”.
There will be Marlins in Florida and Pirates in Pittsburgh.
You’ll love it at Levitz.
There will be a SAW III.
There will be a ROCKY XXVI.
There will be rainforests.
There will be a New Orleans.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
You never forget your first. I’ve now directed over 50 episodes of television but none stand out like that maiden voyage. It was an episode of WINGS in 1995 called “Portrait of a Con Artist as a Young Man” (written by Jeff Richmond & Joyce Gittlin). The premise was that addled mechanic Lowell (Thomas Hayden Church) makes these large twisted pieces of metal that a museum director considers art. Comedy ensues (despite my efforts). Tommy is a gifted comedian (the fact that the rest of the WINGS cast was on suicide watch when he was nominated for an Oscar notwithstanding). But he never reads a line the same way twice. Nor does he move the same way twice. Forget matching problems, I had no idea what the star of the show was going to say or do the entire week. Kind of hard to interject the patented “Levine Touch” when that’s the case.
The rest of the cast was nice (and by that I mean “tolerant”). I had been a consultant and writer on the show since the pilot so we knew each other very well. But there comes a point in the run of a series where the cast feels they’ve got their characters down, they no longer need to rehearse that long, and well…they want to go home. This usually happens around season four. (On one show I directed it happened episode four). We were in season six. The cast didn’t want to just go home, they left their engines running. So we’d do a scene once. They’d walk through it. I’d be ready to say let’s go again and they would say, “We got it, let’s move on”. I, the director, the floor general, the man in control of the stage, would be thinking “you have WHAT?” My first scene was in the airport terminal. Casey (Amy Yasbech) was celebrating her birthday. All of the other characters came in, one at a time, from different directions with presents. And they all gathered around a table where a birthday cake was perched. Nine characters, all stacked up, each with props, torn wrapping everywhere, delivering lines to each other in every possible combination. Time taken to rehearse that scene: a half an hour. “We got it. Let’s move on.” I had visions of adding little bits of comic business, working out any rough spots, fine tuning the pace so the script just crackled. No. By noon we had a runthrough. One of the cast members had to buy something at Adrays before going out to hit a bucket of balls so we had to move it along. Needless to say it was ragged. I didn’t win any points with the producers when cast members would come up to me and ask “I forget. Am I in this scene?”
The next two days were more of the same. But now the Oscar nominee got bored saying the same lines over and over (i.e. twice) so he started changing them…which is a nice way of saying KILLING them. My mantra became, “Please say the lines as written”.
Day four was camera blocking. First scene up, the party. Nine characters, ten pages. And you can plan your camera assignments in advance but if one assignment changes, let’s say Camera B can get a better single of Tim Daly than Camera C as you had envisioned, then the rest of your roadmap goes right out the window. That happened to me the second line of the show. Little wonder I was taking FOREVER to do this. The cast was getting antsy. The first AD kept pointing to his watch. Every crew member I spotted was rolling his eyes. The camera coordinator started giving me suggestions to speed up the process. Then the DP started giving me suggestions. But often they were opposing suggestions, thus confusing me more. The camera coordinator told the DP to butt out, it was none of his business. The DP took exception with that. They almost came to blows. Yeah, I really ruled that stage with an iron hand. I think it took ten hours to complete camera blocking.
Show day. We rehearsed all afternoon, had a dress rehearsal at about 3:00 that lasted an hour. Then we were free until the filming began at 7:00. At 6:30 the audience was let in. At 6:35 I’m handed pages, the rewrite following the dress rehearsal. They had written a BRAND NEW SCENE. What the fuck?!! We couldn’t rehearse on the stage, the audience was now there. I ran backstage, gathered the actors and walked them through it. Then I went to the camera operators, told them there was a new scene, gave them assignments off the top of my head, said just do the best you can and after the audience goes home I’ll block and shoot it properly. All the while I’m sweating through my suit.
Filming begins. It starts with a thirty second pause then Tim Daly calling out, “Say ‘action’, Kenny!” Helen (Crystal Bernard) brings the birthday cake with lit candles to the table for Casey. It slips out of her hands and she drops it. Cut! Fire marshals run out to the set. It’s a twenty minute delay. Then Tommy decides to really improvise. I go out into the stage and tell him nicely to do the line as written. Take two. He does another line. I repeat my request. Take three. Yet a third line. I go out to the Oscar nominee and tell him I will punch his fucking face in if he doesn’t say the line as written. He does the line right. No one can say I’m not an “actor’s director”.
Eventually we get to the new scene. I’m at the quad split, watching all four cameras. Huddled around me are the producers, studio executives, and network people. I call “action”, the scene begins, the cameras start moving and fishing and on the monitors it is utter chaos. People out of focus, shots of the wall, a close up of a nose. (like the last real of AFTER THE FOX) And to make matters worse two cameras collide into each other. Now the network guy must be thinking this director is INSANE.
We finish the show. I spend the next two weeks in a fetal position. I get a call from the producers. They edited the show together (a Herculean task since nothing matched) and discovered it was short. So they wrote a new scene to be filmed after they get done filming this week’s show. That means I start rehearsing and blocking at around midnight. You can imagine the happy cast I had.
And the scene is a dream sequence…with effects. And props that need to be smashed. But there are only two breakaway props so we only have two chances to get it. The first take the actor smashed it at the wrong time – blaming of course, ME. Mercifully, we got the shot the next take, I finally yell “Wrap!” at about 2:00, and drive home muttering to myself that Steven Spielberg had it EASY directing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC.
To this day I thank the cast and the producers for their patience. Especially Crystal Bernard who called me at home to say what a great job she thought I had done. Likewise for Tony Shaloub taking me aside, giving me a pep talk. That meant a lot.
Over the years I’ve gotten a lot a better, I’ve gotten a LOT faster but 70% of what I know about directing I learned from that first assignment. And 60% of it was what not to do.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Monday for me will be the greatest sports day of the year. My UCLA Bruins are in the NCAA Championship Game and it’s the Opening Day of Major League Baseball. Even though it’s supposed to pour in Los Angeles and there will be six angry letters to the LA Times saying “why isn’t there a dome over Dodger Stadium?” I can’t wait. (There will also be one moronic article by a certain sports columnist saying, “Yeah, UCLA is winning but they’re not flashy enough”.) As I hold my breath for Monday night, I turn to my first love – baseball.
Is there anything better than the unbridled optimism of Opening Day? Sure, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have no shot. From the first pitch they’re just playing out the string. But most other teams do have a chance. The Colorado Rockies could hang in there until May.
This is the time of year when all baseball fans make their predictions. Here are mine. But these are not the usual. Anyone can predict the Yankees and Braves and Cardinals. I’ll give you my longshot picks. A couple of years ago if you had put down a hundred bucks in Vegas for the Florida Marlins to win the World Series you would have made a LOT of money. You’d have done okay picking a Fall Classic of the White Sox and Astros last season, too. Considering the odds, it seems to me a better bet to take a shot at some under the radar teams that might surprise instead of the Yankees where the payoff is so small.
So here are my division winner picks for 2006.
NLW – Giants
NLC -- Houston
NLE -- Phillies
ALW – Rangers
ALC – Indians
ALE – Blue Jays.
Laugh now. Talk to me in October.
The Real Don Steele would have been 70 today. He passed away on August 5, 1997. For thirty years The Real Don Steele ruled the Los Angeles airwaves, most notably on 93/KHJ “Boss Radio” in the 60’s and 70’s. Outrageous, electrifying, thrilling – that was Real on…and OFF the air. Reelradio.com has quite a few samples of his work. If you want to hear the greatest cookin’ jock to ever crack a mike in the heyday of top 40, check him out.
Real also appeared in some highly prestigious films such as EATING RAOUL, DEATH RACE 2000 (starring Sylvester Stallone), ROCK N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, and Ron Howard’s first directing effort, GRAND THEFT AUTO. Television credits are equally as impressive: TALES FROM THE CRYPT and HERE COMES THE BRIDES.
I had the pleasure of working with him at two radio stations, K100 and TenQ in LA in the 70’s. He also fell off my couch stinking drunk one night and my wife still invited him to dinner again.
His catch phrase was “Tina Delgado is alive, ALIVE!” shouted by some unknown frenzied girl. No one ever knew the story behind it. Who Tina Degado was. How he came to use it. Even what the hell it meant. But it didn’t matter. It was all part of the excitement this larger-than-life personality created for “the magnificent megalopolis of Boss Angeles” three hours every day…and especially on “Fractious Fridays”.
Every year on his birthday, April 1st, I wish that maybe his passing is just an April’s Fool joke. That would be so like him. And at 3:00 I could turn on the radio, “Devil with a Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder would come blazing out of my speaker and I would hear “The Real Don Steele is alive, ALIVE!”
He is in my heart. And always will be.