Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Murphy Brown's Law

Every year around Oscar time there are articles bemoaning the fact that today we have so few legitimate “movie stars”. Don’t tell that to the actors themselves. As far as they’re concerned they’re bigger and shine brighter than ever (even while in rehab). They’re also under the delusion that their stardom will last. Approach one of these thesps to star in a television series and they will take it as an insult.

Well, guess what – sooner or later you’re all coming to us little people of the little screen. That’s right. You may have your Oscar and religion and entourage. You may have your vanity production company, a little yapping dog that you always carry in your purse, and star on Hollywood Blvd in front of the Museum of Bras – but sometime in the future you’re ours.

If there’s such a thing as “Murphy’s Law” I call this “Murphy Brown’s Law”. Candice Bergan, Whoopi, Bette, Geena, Spader, Spade, Field, Close,Sutherland, Caruso,both Sheens …. The list goes on and on.

This pilot season Parker Posey and Carrie-Ann Moss have joined the club.

Movie people consider television the Fredo Corleone of entertainment even though most movie stars today made names for themselves by originally being on TV.

What usually happens is this: their career starts going south. Three straight flops, age catches up (29), a new Flavor-of-the-Month arrives, having a kid by Billy Bob Thornton – these are just the common reasons.

Your agent starts getting inquiries. Instead of laughing in your face he says “she’s not ready yet but maybe in a year”. This means the only offer she’s received in the last few months is the PROJECT GREENLIGHT movie and they want her to read for the 14 year old director. Check back in a week.

The next step is the agent informing the networks that their client “might” be available for someone to build a show around them. This list is distributed to studios and producers. I’m always amused that on this list are always two or three who include the condition “will only meet with A-level writers”. Invariably, these are actors who have never received higher than seventh billing.

A year later they’re in – starring in pilots, reading for pilots, doing a four show guest arc on a prestigious series, joining the cast of an established hit. At first it’s hard, a come down. But then they discover something – television is a great life! Big money, major recognition, steady work, three to six months off – all the things that were there the first time they were in TV and couldn’t wait to leave.

It turns out Fredo’s not so bad after all.

Jack Black – see you in five years. Jennifer Aniston – welcome back in three.

Turning to another subject:

THE PERFECT P.S. TO THE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT PARTY

This news release:

Officials say the employee helped prepare food at four events between February 14th and February 20th, including the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue party at the Pacific Design Center on Valentine's Day.

Anyone who ate uncooked food at that event is advised to get an immune globulin shot by Wednesday to prevent development of acute hepatis A.

As if being shunned by supermodels wasn't enough.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

If there’s such a thing as “Murphy’s Law” I call this “Murphy Brown’s Law”. Candice Bergan,

And thank goodness for it in the case of Candice Bergan. I hate most sitcoms. Never liked Friends, Cheers (I'm ducking :),Seinfeld, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond...the list goes on. I can count four memorable comedy's that I loved. Mash, Murphy Brown and Designing Woman. The English thankfully gave us Black Adder.

I know your post was a slam to actors who think they are to good for TV. I've never understood it either, except that it must be hard. Witness how many shows die in the first season. That's almost more humiliating than a bad movie because it can be on life support coming out in dribs and drabs making you look like a fool for several months not just disappear to video like a bad movie.

I guess if you get a real hit it can be a heck of a cash cow if it's milked right. Witness the mostly talentless friends cast.

Robinz

Anonymous said...

If I was an actor starring in a show.
I'd want to to be in a mid-season show.
These seem to have a better record of lasting....

la guy said...

Ironic too because without question most of the best writing is being done for cable and television shows.

At the current pace many of these "stars" won't have a place to return to unless they want to become dancing circus monkeys for whatever the latest reality show is.

One more writers strike and network television may more closely resemble You Tube than the proud tradition represented by shows like MASH, Cheers, The West Wing, Law & Order, etc...

Massif said...

We also gave you "The Office" as well as Blackadder, sorry about that.

I'm guessing Nicole Kidman will never have to appear on TV though, but she probably wants to.

This is why you should always be nice to people on the way up.

tpraja said...

Official Burt Young Website Launch!
The official website of Burt Young has been launched. Burt Young, the Academy

Award nominated actor and maverick artist, has launched a wonderful display of

paintings. The website is a literal library describing milestones, film and art.

He can be browsed at: http://burtyoungartandfilm.com/

tpraja said...

Official Burt Young Website Launch!
The official website of Burt Young has been launched. Burt Young, the Academy

Award nominated actor and maverick artist, has launched a wonderful display of

paintings. The website is a literal library describing milestones, film and art.

He can be browsed at: http://burtyoungartandfilm.com/

Mary Stella said...

If there’s such a thing as “Murphy’s Law” I call this “Murphy Brown’s Law”. Candice Bergan, Whoopi, Bette, Geena, Spader, Spade, Field, Close,Sutherland, Caruso,both Sheens

Can we really count Caruso or Spade in this list since I don't remember either of them tearing up the box office with their movies? Instead of movie has-beens, aren't they more "never-weres"?

I actually give Sally Field a lot of credit for going from Flying Nun to two-time Oscar winner. Take the Boniva money and bank it, Sally.

Anonymous said...

One more writers strike and network television may more closely resemble You Tube than the proud tradition represented by shows like MASH, Cheers, The West Wing, Law & Order, etc...

I'm very very curious about something and maybe someone can explain it to me. I was under the impression that part of the real money a show made was in reruns. For a show to be really viable it had to go X number of years, say 4 to have enough episodes to go into syndication. So....if that is the case how many years are they actually going to get in Dancing With the Stars or The Bachelor?

Do people watch reality show reruns? If they don't, aren't the networks killing their own gooses in the long term? I realize they pay little or nothing to writers, you have far less in sets and probably nothing in special effects but is that enough to not have those reruns going on and on....Bonanza....Mash....L&O..

VP19 said...

I saw the report about the hepatitis and the SI swimsuit party and my first thought was, "gee, poor Ken." (Hope the vaccine doesn't hurt too much.) However, I take it that employee wasn't Pamela Anderson.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken, I've heard those instant tanning creams do wonders for a jaundiced complexion....

Blarneyman said...

Okay, you're starting to lose me now, that stupid attitude is so old fashioned. The best writing is on TV now and has been for a few years, and the money is there for the taking for the "movie people".

Paul Duca said...

Dear Anonymous before VP19...there IS a Fox Reality Channel, airing repeats of reality shows (as well as ones from foreign countries). In addition, SURVIVOR is rebroadcast on the Vs channel (formerly Outdoor Life) and THE AMAZING RACE on GSN (Game Show Network).

Glenn said...

The difference between the Oscars and the Emmys: At the Oscars the winners all thank God. At the Emmys, none of the winners thank God, because they believe that if there really was a God, they’d be in movies.

Joe P. said...

I was under the impression that this stigma against TV had almost completely lifted. Sure, Oscar is a bigger party than Emmy. But the overall media coverage seems to be all about the ever-increasing quality of writing on TV, the better roles for women on TV, etc. Am I just reading the wrong articles?

Anonymous said...

"including the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue party at the Pacific Design Center on Valentine's Day. Anyone who ate uncooked food at that event is advised to get an immune globulin shot by Wednesday to prevent development of acute hepatis A."

Who knows, skinny and yellow may turn out to be the new "in" look.

Alaskaray

Anonymous said...

Do you think that Parker Posey and Carrie Ann Moss were holding out? Neither one will make much of a dent in regards to ratings (see Ray Liotta)

TCinLA said...

Actually, most of the best writing's being done for cable, the one place where it isn't all "product" like it is for the movies and network TV (well, as long as you aren't including the Histerical Channel and all those).

The truth is, most TV *is* the Fredo Corleone of creativity. Followed closely by 98% of what gets released in movie theaters.

And I say that having written (and writing) in both fields.

la guy said...

"I was under the impression that part of the real money a show made was in reruns... if that is the case how many years are they actually going to get in Dancing With the Stars or The Bachelor? ...aren't the networks killing their own gooses in the long term?"

Historically it's true that for the owners of serial television shows the real money was in syndication. Generally the shows are owned by major studios like Fox, Warner Bros, Universal, etc. (There were some mini-majors for a while-- Castlerock, Stephen J. Canell, Carsey-Warner... but they are largely gone)

If a network picks-up a series then they negotiate with the studio for the right to air X number of episodes of the show in exchange for a per episode license fee. (I believe typically the license fee is for the right to show it twice on the network.) Once the network has exhausted its airings the episode is the sole property of the studio who owns it. When the studio has enough episodes, or it becomes clear there will be enough episodes, (usually 100+) then they will attempt to syndicate it around the world.

With episodic comedies and dramas it is not unusual for the Studio to lose money on the initial production, meaning the license fee won't cover the cost of production, (or at least not according to the studios accountants) so they are making a big bet that the show will run long enough to generate enough episodes so they can get the big pay day when they syndicate. (Which is why it has become difficult for small companies to compete in series television-- you need deep pockets to survive long enough for the payoff)

For many years Networks were prohibited from owning the TV shows under the terms of the Fin-Syn Rules, but those were largely repealed in the 90's opening the door for more network owned content.

Reality shows do indeed present a different challenge for making money since the syndication rights are of limited value compared to Cheers for example. Mark Burnett was one of the first people to figure out how to generate money through product placements in Survivor and more recently American Idol has been able to generate big money through revenue sharing on the fees generated from those text message votes.

So to answer your question, the Networks aren't really cutting their own throats because they survive based upon attracting eye balls and they don't really care how as long as they can sell ad time. For the studios it has changed the traditional model for making money, but the good news for them is that reality shows are much cheaper to produce than sit-coms or dramas, so a series can actually be profitable from just the revenue supplied by the network.

Sorry if that's more than you wanted to know. I'm sure someone will correct me if I got any of that wrong.

Anonymous said...

How long does Jennifer Garner have before returning to TV?

Anonymous said...

Historically it's true

Thank you la guy. It at least explains why they would continue with the reality TV experience. I loath them with a passion and am convinced they will be the downfall of Western civilization such that it is. :)

Good grief, reality sucks why on earth would I invite it into my home. :)

Robinz

Mary Stella said...

Mark Burnett was one of the first people to figure out how to generate money through product placements in Survivor and more recently American Idol has been able to generate big money through revenue sharing on the fees generated from those text message votes.

Coca Cola must pay out the wazoo to have those three red plastic drinking cups on the judges' table every week on AI.

I'm waiting to see engraved plastic signs on the microphone like the ones with station IDs on news mics.

Maybe Nike can pay to outfit the singers as if they were tennis pros. Spiff up Chris Sligh with a swoosh on his jacket pocket.

Eventually, of course, they can sell the rights to the grand finale program like they have with all the football bowl games. Then it will be the Doritos or KFC American Idol Grand Finale.

tb said...

Okay Ken, that's twice now that you've insinuated that my future girlfriend will be returning to TV. Let Jen win her oscars first.