Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wendy Wasserstein 1950-2006

Wendy Wasserstein was a trailblazer in American theatre. She represented a group that has long been considered second class citizens, that rarely gets respect or is even taken seriously. That group of course, is comedy writers.

You thought I was going to say women, didn’t you? Well yeah, she did all that too. And you can throw in a voice of our generation. But she did more. She made her mark using comedy.

There is no more haughty self-important community than the New York thea-tah scene. For a play to be important it had to be a “drahhhma”. It had to challenge, elevate, disturb, enlighten (confuse?...bore?). Comedies were crowd pleasing little trifles. Wendy Wasserstein changed that. She wrote thought provoking, challenging, enlightening plays that were real and FUNNY. She won Tonys and Pulitzers and proved that comedy writers could eat at the grown up table too.

I hope they name a theatre after her or an honorary Tony in her name or whatever these people do to pay tribute to their own. A sandwich, a drink at Sardis even. I mean, there are streets on Broadway for Cousin Brucie and Senor Wences for godsakes. Wendy Wasserstein will be greatly missed – by comedy writers, by women, by her generation, by anyone who loves to be transported by the magic and power of the theatre. She deserved a happier ending…and a much longer run.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Falling stars

Big article in the LA Times CALENDAR section Monday bemoaning the fact that today we have so few legitimate “movie stars” (Hollywood’s version of the Great Depression). Don’t tell that to the actors themselves. As far as they’re concerned they’re bigger and shine brighter than ever. 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, both Sheens …. The list goes on and on.

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.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Celebrity Fit Club

I have a new favorite show – CELEBRITY FIT CLUB on VH1. Ohmygod! Reality television at its most absurd...for now. Overweight quasi-celebrities form teams, compete in grueling physical challenges like rolling a big ball 200 yards, and weigh-in before a stern three member board consisting of a doctor, psychologist, and drill sergeant.

I know. It sounds like a sketch.

At the end of the show the teams climb onto the world’s sturdiest balance scale and the squad that has lost the most weight wins. It is the same scale that determined that Los Angeles is heavier than San Francisco.

The host is America’s game show master – Ant. He delighted the audience by doing a dick joke two minutes into the show. Somewhere Wink Martindale is crying.

The weigh-in is a riot. The celebrities (?) get on the scale fully clothed. In the case of jumbo rapper, Bizarre that meant a heavy letterman jacket and enough jewelry around his neck to break a horse. When told he weighed 300 pounds he said, “Yeah, but I feel slimmer”.

Big dramatic moment: Jeff Conaway had a complete meltdown and was tossed off the show. The strain of not being able to eat whole cakes must’ve been too much for him. He was replaced by Gunner Nelson (whose big talent is that he’s Ricky Nelson’s son). Too bad Nelson didn’t replace Conaway on TAXI too.

Nice touch breaking for commercial and showing the trailer for BIG MAMA’S HOUSE 2.

Bruce Villanch was another of the celebrities (?). He is enormous now, weighing well over 315 pounds (although to be fair, the camera does add ten pounds). He’s so fat and so out of shape that instead of participating in physical challenges he sits off to the side wearing a heart monitor. Bizarre has asthma so he’s on the bench too. It’s not exactly the Marines.

Then there’s Kelly LeBrock. I gasped. Gravity and middle age is a bitch. I don’t think the WEIRD SCIENCE nerds would be making a robot of her today. Kelly’s target weight loss this week is three pounds. She could achieve that easily by not getting another collagen injection.

Among the other celebrities (?):

Chastity Bono (Chris Farley lives). Growing up she must’ve eaten her meals and mom’s. That explains why both of them look the way they do today.

Countess Vaughn…who I guess is an actress. She’s lost a lot more parts than weight lately.

And former Cosby kid, Tempestt Bledsoe. They should rename the show CELEBRITY CAREER AUTOPSIES.

And of course the psychologist they hired, Dr. Linda -- there to make them feel better about themselves -- is slim and smoking hot. (And by the way, good job with Jeff Conaway, Dr. L.)

For sheer guilty pleasure this show can’t be beat. Grab a bag of Oreo Double-Stuffs and tune in next week when they all participate in life guard drills.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Anna of a thousand quotes

Having broadcast major league baseball for seven years I got the chance to meet quite a few “players’ wives”. Usually attractive in that charming “I’m a former prom queen so fuck you” way, they’d go to the games decked to the nines in every piece of jewelry they owned. Every night was prom night, even if it was 100 degrees and “Beer Night” in Kansas City. Most were very sweet, all were very cliquey (starting pitchers wives wouldn’t sit with catchers wives, infielders spouses avoided outfielders spouses, and of course no one sat with relievers wives), and very few were rocket scientists. When I was with the Orioles my wife preferred to sit with Cal Ripken’s mother.

In short, most players wives are a piece of work. But nothing compared to Kris Benson’s better half, Anna.

Kris is a grossly overpaid pitcher recently traded to the Orioles from the Mets for a bag of donuts. The Mets PR director can be taken off of suicide watch now.

This is typical Anna: She always bends over whenever photographers are around - like posing in a low-cut Mrs. Claus outfit, with kids, at the Mets' Christmas party - and she’ll do whatever it takes to grab the spotlight: "How are they going to sit there and say it's so controversial when they sign someone like (Carlos) Delgado, who turns his back on our flag?"

Her publicist quickly called a press conference. Yes, she has a publicist. She employs the same firm that handles Israel's Likud Party. Here was her idea of damage control -- she showed up chewing gum, wearing wicked-witch red shoes, an Orioles jersey over jeans, and when she stood up, for one golden moment, the jersey magically opened to reveal white stitches on a baseball bra.

About the Christmas photo op she told the stunned room, "You guys loved it. Say it, you loved it. One picture. I'm kind of miffed about that. Besides, don't these kids' moms not have breasts?"


There was talk she was going to pose nude for Playboy and the Mets, surprisingly, wouldn’t let her do it.

But my favorite Anna sound byte was her earlier shot at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): "I wear fur. I wear dead rabbits and dead minks and dead anything that will keep me warm. I love it. I don't like to be cold, and nothing keeps me warmer than my dead animals. Between my furs and my shoes, I have a whole zoo in my closet. I also love to eat meat. I eat meat twice a day because I need the protein and soy gives me painful gas."

Ohhh Lucy, you got some 'splain' to do!

I think New York is going to miss her. Because for the $22 million that the Mets were paying Kris Benson, these insane quotes are the best thing to come out of the deal. I look forward to her stomach's reaction to crab cakes.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why we fight

After yesterday’s post someone wondered why my partner and I still continue to write pilots despite the state of the industry. The facetious but partly true answer lies in a speech I wrote in my play, UPFRONTS AND PERSONAL. It’s about the network upfronts process as played out in a New York hotel suite one of the studios has claimed as its war room. I had a reading of the play last summer and was fortunate enough to put together a sensational cast that included Jason Alexander, Wendie Malick, Ed Asner, Kurtwood Smith, Jennifer Tilly, and Matt Letscher.

At one point Gary (Jason Alexander), a grizzled veteran, is asked the same question by a young writer (Matt Letscher) whose first upfronts has been a nightmare.

You do it my friend, because more people will see one episode of television you write, even if it finishes dead last in the ratings, than have ever seen all the productions of "Thousand Clowns" put together. And among those millions and millions of viewers there have to be at least one or two of the girls from high school who wouldn't sleep with you. That's why we do it. That's why we'll continue to do it.


Touching words I know. Truthfully, writers in television still have way more influence and creative say than screenwriters. And if you’re lucky enough to somehow catch the brass ring, create a show that works – it can be a spectacular (and lucrative) experience.


With UPN merging with the Frog this week -- a further example of how huge conglomerates, swallow up, own, and control everything in their path -- I thought I’d post another excerpt from my play,

Here is Walter, the network president’s justification for this new corporate model. Picture Kurtwood Smith as Walter, Jason Alexander as writer Gary and Wendie Malick as writer Beth.

(to Walter)
So you guys merge with Haleburton and Enron yet?

You worried about it?

No. I just see the trend and worry that someday I'll be living in the "United States of Google".

Yeah, yeah. Corporate America, the ultimate evil. Ruining this great country of ours. Here's the story I like to tell. Let's say there's this small town -- real Americana -- Hooterville or Pixley or one of them. They got a nice little Main Street with all these ma and pop businesses. And everyone is real friendly. The owners all know everyone by name. "Becky's getting so big", "I heard little Skip got a telescope", that sort of shit. And then Wal-Mart opens on the edge of town. And everyone goes "who needs Wal-Mart with their big city ways? We're just fine." Well, let me tell you, the first thing Wal-Mart better stock is two-by-fours because that's what the Main Street merchants are going to need to board up their shops. Because the minute Wal-Mart opens people are going to discover that hey, there's more jobs, a much better selection, and at cheaper prices. So what if they don't know my kid's name? I'm saving money!" And what do they do with that extra money? Well it's their choice but they can build better schools, and parks, and roads. So at the end of the day, you look back, and Wal-Mart didn't destroy Hooterville, it saved it.

That's beautiful. It's like if Michael Milken wrote a children's book.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

If you have a pilot...

If you have a comedy pilot in development with one of the major networks here’s probably where you are today.

You sold the idea in September. It used to be you would then construct a story, go in and pitch it to the network two weeks later, work out any kinks with them and then go write your draft.

Now networks want a detailed outline. That means you spend two weeks constructing the story, a week to write the detailed outline, three weeks getting notes from your non-writing producers (“pods”), studio, and network, revising the outline, re-submitting it, waiting another week for everyone’s reaction, and finally getting it approved.

Two months.

You write the first draft. Takes about a month. It always takes longer writing a pilot. You have to discover the characters, feel your way along, and try to jam in story turns that really don’t work but the network/studio/pod wants.

Once you finish the draft I suggest you read it over and enjoy. It might be the last time you recognize it. You submit it to the studio and your pod. Before they even read it a notes call is arranged. There will be notes, that’s a given. Three days go by, you’re lucky if you hear from anyone with at least a reaction. Then comes the conference call. You’re on with seven people -- four execs named David and three junior execs named Stacy.

You get your notes and do another draft. Either the process repeats, or you’re given just a few “polish” notes (one pod started giving us stage direction notes at this time – yeah, he really saved the show), and then your script is submitted to the network. A notes call is immediately arranged. You may think the script is perfect and your studio/pod may think it’s perfect but sight unseen the network knows they will have some problems.

If you’re lucky your agent gets a reaction call. Or the studio or pod. On super rare occasions the network will actually call you, the writer and creator of the show. Usually they dialed by mistake.

This conference call features eleven people – one more David and three Katies. These are the network notes but the lower tier (development department) notes. Once these are done to all eleven peoples’ satisfaction it goes up the ladder, usually to the middle tier VP’s. Writing a pilot is like playing Super Mario Brothers.

Another call. More notes. The script goes back in to the network where it finally is kicked upstairs to the man who will be making the ultimate greenlight decision. All you've accomplished with these previous notes is perhaps this middle tier will send it along with their “recommendation”. Sometimes the man making the decision is only vaguely aware that this project exists. Sometimes he doesn't put a lot of stock in his staff's recommendations. Your future is in his hands.

And that brings us to today. The script is in. You wait. Fox, for example, commissioned 110 scripts this season. They may make thirty pilots (comedy and drama). There may be commitments and penalties attached to certain projects which give them a leg up. Projects from the studio owned by the network have an advantage. Sometimes networks double and triple develop – there may be two other pilots with the exact same arena as yours. One network last year even had two pilots with the same title. Other considerations: their needs, where can your show go, what could they pair it with, do they owe anyone favors, how expensive would the show be, and oh yeah – do they like it?

Suddenly you are in the cone of silence. You call your agent, you call the studio, you call your pod, the studio calls your agent, the agent calls another agent, your pod calls his wife, you call another studio, the studio calls your pod’s wife. You hear rumors. They like it. You gave them just what they ordered (that’s usually the kiss of death). “He” still hasn’t read it. They want to talk to casting. They’re waiting for a few more things to come in. It’s his nephew’s bar mitzah.

And eventually word comes down that a few projects have gotten picked up. Uh oh. Fewer slots. Why haven’t they called you yet? What does this mean? The mind games begin. The phone calls continue.

Hopefully you’ll hear Monday morning. Or maybe not. Which generally means bad news, horrible news. But it could not mean anything at all.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Diss 'n dat 2

I think Kobe’s 81 points in one game is a greater achievement than Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. Wilt scored most of his underneath the basket. Kobe was making shots from the popcorn machine with five guys hanging on him.

Wilt’s record of sleeping with 20,000 women is pretty safe however. At least while Kobe remains married.

I still find it hard to believe that Chamberlain had sex with 20,000 women. Harder to believe if more than six of them were Jewish.

COURTING ALEX should be called DHARMA BECOMES GREG. I don’t get it. Jenna Elfman’s gift is playing wonderfully goofy free spirits. Why make her an uptight unfunny prig? And let’s see, in the show there’s a down to earth bartender and a rigid super bright blond. Hmmm? Where have we seen that before?

I understand playing against type but not when it robs you of what you do best. Imagine Shelley Long as Dharma Finklestein and Jenna Elfman as Diane Chambers. Two superb comediennes but it just wouldn’t work.

If you haven’t seen FOUR KINGS don’t worry. You HAVE seen FOUR KINGS.

24 – So Jack’s cover has been blown. No longer any need to pretend he’s dead. Wouldn’t he call his daughter to let her know? Although maybe he did and got her machine. “Hi, this is Kim. I’m being kidnapped so can’t come to the phone right now. Leave a message and I’ll call you back when I escape.”

MUNICH is taking a lot of heat. Producers are concerned because it’s not a shoo-in for Oscar nominations. They’re upset that the controversy is getting in the way of possible accolades. Damn, Hollywood is a cruel town!

I’d have a lot more respect for Steven Spielberg if just once he’d say, “I don’t care about awards or box office. This is the movie I wanted to make, this is the story I wanted to tell. I’m proud of the results and that’s all that matters.” I’m not holding my breath.

Big article in the LA Times CALENDAR section about this earlier in the week. It mentions that the movie was available for Golden Globe consideration only on the last day. A screening was arranged and only half of the 86 members of the Foreign Press saw it. Yet it still received a writing and directing nomination. Meaning what, it takes like 35 votes to get a nomination? The Golden Globes are a JOKE!!

How come the movies that are big sensations at SUNDANCE and make record deals never seem to be that good or successful when they hit the local Cineplex? Remember when HAPPY, TEXAS was going to be the next great American comedy? And HUSTLE AND FLOW was sure to redefine drama?

This has been floating around the internet lately. You may have seen it. If not, I feel it’s my duty as an American and someone with an IQ of over 50 to show it to you. From a recent President Bush press conference:


'I don't really understand. How is it the new plan going to fix the problem?'

Verbatim response (PRESIDENT BUSH):

'Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.'

Me: Holy shit!!!! HOLY SHIT!!!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

UPN/WB we hadly knew ya...or watched ya

First off -- Happy Anniversary to my parents. 58 years on January 25th. There’s been some talk of divorce the last couple of days but I think they’re going to make it. I love you both and wish you many many more.

And speaking of marriages: UPN and the WB are merging.

1 + 1 now = 1

Thank God because here in LA maybe KCOP can go back to showing PERRY MASON reruns like did for thirty years (and got better numbers).

Not since Packard merged with Studebaker has there been anything this exciting. Both were out of the car business within a decade but still. (thanks to Mike McCann for that heads up.)

The name of this new network will be CW. Not great but better than WC which is the British nickname for toilet.

“See FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN followed by GILMORE GIRLS tonight on CW. “

It’s like combining the best of Taco Bell and Popeye’s menus.

Does this mean that GIRLFRIENDS will no longer be on THREE times a week?

What happens to UPN news? Do they sell the three police scanners?

Now what’ll their excuse be when shows get a ,01?

Will the UPN online store have a big closing sale on AMERICA’S TOP MODEL hot shorts with logo?

Garth Ancier is the Reggie Sanders of TV executives.


What this really means is….

…you no longer have to Tivo CUTS when WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU is on.

…Lil’ Kim has a harder time getting that sitcom.

…one less major buyer, fewer shows, fewer choices, fewer jobs. And no one’s getting fat ‘cept Mama Cass.

…if you have a midseason show about to premiere on the WB you are fucked.

…if you have a pilot at UPN you’re in trouble, if you have a pilot at the WB you’re fucked.

…the merger of BET and the Hallmark channel can not be far behind.

…there will not be a sequel to “Decade of the WB”, the DVD you can purchase with highlights from the network’s first ten years. (I hope it includes clips from SIMON and CLEGHORNE! and GREETINGS FROM TUCSON.)

…Hollywood can still keep a secret when it wants to.

…we’re getting closer to the day when one giant conglomeration controls the entire entertainment industry. Let’s hope Eisner doesn’t come out of retirement.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What's Howard Stern doing right this minute?

I love satellite radio. I can blissfully listen for hours without ever hearing “You’re mattress is freeeeeeee”, Skip & Steve, and “this is a Clear Channel station”. Terrestrial stations boast “12 in a row”. Well how about “12,000 in a row”? All for the monthly cost of one ticket to a Queen Latifah movie.

I have XM. Sirius is pretty much the same except Howard Stern will bankrupt them. XM has Major League Baseball which is the big draw for me. Vin Scully vs. Robin Quivers? Talk about a no brainer. (of course so is pneumatic drill vs. Robin Quivers).

To get the most from their big investments, XM and Sirius both are devoting a lot of time and channels to these premiere attractions.

In addition to all the MLB play-by-play, XM also offers a 24/7 baseball talk station. Fine during the season but what the hell do you talk about the other five months…24 hours a day?

“Curt Schilling update: his ankle is still healing. The lines are open. Let’s talk about it…for the next seven hours.”

Forget the players, the hosts need steroids just to get through those shifts.

But their job is cake compared to the team of eight (yes, EIGHT) poor newscasters who have to anchor…

HOWARD 100 NEWS on Sirius.

These former actual journalists must fill four hours a DAY with news about (and only about) Howard Stern.

“Curt Schilling’s ankle is still healing. How will it affect Howard? Let’s go to Julie for this live report.”


I’ve always liked and admired Howard Stern. Even way back in Detroit when we were jocks on competing stations (He on W4 and me on WDRQ – “W-Dreck” as I used to aptly call it). I haven’t heard the show but I have to assume it’s a goof. It is a goof, right? Please? Still, those newscasters have to see GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK and want to kill themselves.

And this news (?) show follows a post-game wrap up of Howard’s show and precedes more analysis of the day’s program by (are you ready?)…his parents. (What, Ryan Seacrest didn’t apply?)

Come on! There has to be SOMETHING better Sirius could program. Something not trivial. Something substantial, important, relevant, informative, entertaining -- something the public would really want to hear the remaining sixteen hours a day. Something like….


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bring back TV theme songs!!

There is an meme going around asking us bloggermeisters to list our favorite TV theme songs. And that got me thinking – I MISS TV THEME SONGS.

Networks today, so deathly afraid of tune out, have all but eliminated theme songs and opening credits. They go by so fast you can’t tell the difference between opening titles and vanity production cards. And I think it does a disservice to the shows and the viewers. A good opening title sequence can really set the tone for the show. CHEERS wasn’t just a bar, it was the place where everyone knows your name. If it premiered today you’d see the logo, an animated glass of beer being filled, and ten seconds of “Sweet Caroline”.

It would be a little hard to sell that the Monkees were this goofy playful rock band if the extent of their theme was “Hey hey, we’re the Monkees!” America would be saying “Hey hey, so what?”

Networks complain that sitcoms are all the same then take away their signature feature.

And here’s what they don’t understand -- a good theme and opening title sequence ATTRACTS viewers. Some people tune in specifically because they LIKE the title sequence. That was me with the Drew Carey “Cleveland Rocks” opening. If only the show was that good.

An added benefit in this day of synergy and cross promotion is that they can become hit records on their own. (HAWAII 5-0, WELCOME BACK KOTTER, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) Think of all the free three minute plugs your show will get when KIIS-FM is playing the shit out of your theme. (I’m not being local here. Every city in America, Canada, Australia, and Yemen has a KIIS-FM).

These themes can become part of pop culture. I bet more Americans know the words to GILLIGAN’S ISLAND than the Star Spangled Banner. Hell, more people can sing the lyrics to CHARLES IN CHARGE. These ditties are burned into our brains. When we’re 90 and can’t remember if we put our pants on we’ll still be able to sing the MASH theme and the JEFFERSONS. (A year ago I would have put BEWITCHED in that category but I think Nora Ephron has permanently killed it. When are they going to stop letting her make movies?)

And ultimately here’s what we’re talking about – twenty more seconds. That’s all. Twenty more seconds. Maybe thirty. God forbid thirty-five. The same amount of time it takes to run a promo for LOVE MONKEY. What would YOU rather watch?


Okay, so in no particular order – my ten favorite TV themes.


One final thought, if you have opening titles then maybe the credits won’t extend so far into the show. Considering how large some of these casts and staffs are it’s not inconceivable that someday on a comedy credits will roll all the way through the tag.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

How many kids send letters home from college that are entertaining enough to share? My daughter Annie (who you six regular readers have met) is a sophomore at Northwestern and I live for those days I receive emails with the subject heading “Another Annie Rant”. Here’s a recent one. I can’t figure out where she gets this attitude.


Today’s Rant: Whole Foods

I must admit that I’m not sure what I hate more: the institution of Whole Foods itself or the religious Whole Foods shoppers. Thus I feel it necessary to examine each.

Despite the fact that I single-handedly keep “Splenda” in business, I am in no way opposed to organic, natural products. What I am opposed to is (a) the idea that everything at whole foods is in some way healthier, and (b) charging an arm and a leg because they’ve written eight lines of BS about all the oh-so-healthy things in their products. This stuff isn’t that damn good for you! I understand that there are no preservatives in pure sugar, but it is still sugar! I could drink a bag of all natural sugar-cane, and I’d still develop diabetes. Oooooh, its oh-so natural. Well I got news for you Whole Foods, I’ll take a couple preservatives if it means that I’ll still have enough money to buy groceries in two weeks.

And there are the idiots, the former hippies. The ones who pick up a $20 loaf of bread because it has fibers from the Hicabutusism tree in West Africa, where little magical all-natural fairies plow the soil until the perfect grain is achieved. Get a grip, people. Wonderbread has little magical fairies too, they’re call sweat-shop workers!

Plus, there are the people who will subscribe to anything with “free” written somewhere on the package, and by that I’m obviously not referring to the price. Gluton-free, Carb-free, Nutrion-free. Didn’t Billy Preston teach you that “nothing from nothing leaves nothing?” I believe that these “free” packages should really mention what is going into the product so that you can lose a little bit of Extiohydrosis, or whatever the hell they come up with. If it were up to me, the labels would read a little more like this: “Organic, wheat-free, TONS OF FAT” Though I think that beating the delusional shoppers over the head with the item itself might be a better option.

And for hippies, these people are pretty aggressive with their carts. Knocking people off at the pass to make sure they get their “extra squishy tofu” and their Extihydrosis-free crackers. Weren’t you people fighting against capitalism or was that just a figment of my imagination?


Friday, January 20, 2006

In honor of Sundance

Okay, I wasn’t there DURING Sundance. I was there in October.


Here’s a travelogue you thought you’d never see – me in Utah. Along with my partner David, and Peter Casey (one of the creators of FRASIER) I am writing a spec holiday movie. Peter has a condo in Park City, Utah and graciously suggested it would be a great place to sequester ourselves and really get some work done. So for four days I was in the land of the Osmonds and Gary Gilmore.

A stewardess was once fired for saying over the PA to passengers “Welcome to Salt Lake City. Please turn your clocks back one hundred years”. Landed in Salt Lake, did just that, then headed up the mountains to Park City, one of America’s premiere posh ski towns. I have never been to any ski towns because I do not ski. I know for many people skiing is an absolute passion but it’s cold, requires a lot of bulky equipment, is costly, and let’s face it: no one ever broke a leg sitting in a movie theatre.

That said, the panoramas were positively breathtaking. I can just see a Park City man coming home from a hard day, stepping out onto his balcony, gazing at the magnificent vista and saying to his wives “Hey, Trixie, Jane, Gloria, you gotta get out here and see this!”

There’s no snow yet so there are no tourists. Peter’s condo is part of a gorgeous lodge. You walk down the deserted hallways, past the cavernous vacant dining room, through the expansive empty lobby and realize…

You’re living THE SHINING.

All that’s missing is the maze. But the quiet was most welcomed and allowed us to get a lot of work done on the script. Thought you’d enjoy a preview. Here’s one of many scenes we wrote.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

I think we have a good chance of selling this one.

Took a tour of nearby Deer Valley. Peter pointed out the chair lift pole that an expert skier crashed into splitting open his skull. He also showed us the spot on the road where trucks spin off if there’s a little ice on the ground. Later I learned that skiers on certain runs must carry beacons so if they’re buried in an avalanche they can be found.

Charles Gibson of GOOD MORNING AMERICA owns a huge house on one of the hills. Circular and all in glass and chrome, it looks the Cat in the Hat’s hat. Jeffrey Katzenberg also owns an impressive chalet. So I guess when he’s not in Hawaii taking my lounge chair he’s up here.

Elayne Boosler says this about Utah: “My favorite store here is maternity gowns for Mother of the Bride”.

Girls in Park City all look like pioneer women.

REDRUM. I don’t know why I just wrote that.

David and I walked down Main Street in Park City (picture Knotts Berry Farm for rich people) and got a number of stares. I’m sure we were the first two Jews of the season. Kinda like the first robin of spring. Soon more Jews would follow and it would be ski season.


Favorite Main Store establishment: Bad Ass Coffee.

Moose sighting. No, wait, that’s just Merlin Olsen.

During the winter, reservations at most restaurants and emergency rooms are recommended.

Park City is the home of the Sundance Film Festival every January. So for two weeks any rustic or quaint charm is completely obliterated as Hollywood agents, deal makers, opportunists, sharks, managers, hucksters, lawyers, carnies, boot lickers, snake oil salesmen, and Katzenberg invade the area as if it were their personal Baghdad. But if you’re a skier that’s the time to come because no one is on the slopes. Which begs the question: why not hold the film festival in summer when it’s warm and there’s no skiing anyway?


During Sundance every theatre screens cutting edge independent films. The other 50 weeks they show DODGEBALL.

Not a lot of Sonny Bono records played on the local radio station here.

There are almost as many SUV’s here as in the parking lot of the Encino Gelson’s.

Events I unfortunately will be missing: “Howl-a-Ween Dog Parade” down Main Street featuring a whole pack of costumed canines. And the “Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair”. I’m upset about missing that one because who writes better poetry than Gabby Hayes and Chill Wills? Plus they’re going to have a colt starting clinic.

I can’t afford a place here but my agent has one. Hmmmmm?

Thanks again to Peter for being the perfect host.

It stays dark every morning till eight make Jack a dull boy.
The ski lifts carry nobody make Jack a dull boy.
Most restaurants are closed and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

Ken Levine

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Diss 'n dat

Thanks to SHOWTIME for sending their academy consideration package so early (five months early). Since I and most people I know don’t subscribe to SHOWTIME (HBO has better shows, CINEMAX has better porn) it gave me a chance to sample some of their series.

WEEDS and HUFF are both pretty good shows. Mary Louise Parker plays the most real mom on TV…even when she’s conducting a dope deal. Glad she won the Golden Globe. There’s no greater validation of your work than to be honored by the waiters of Los Angeles who call themselves the Foreign Press.

Elizabeth Perkins also deserved a Golden Globe. She must have a testicle collection at home because she plays that part sooooo well. I guess she lost ‘cause she’s not a big tipper.

Thanks to my remote I really enjoyed THE L WORD. That show really comes alive when you can fast forward, pause, and hit slow-mo at the appropriate moments.

Not since THE EQUALIZER (whose star had heart problems and needed a stunt double for the walking scenes) has there been a cop show with less action than NUMB3RS. After 45 minutes of studying equations they realize who the killer is, find him, ask him to give up, and he does. Wow! The genius was scheduling the show Fridays at 10 – “Date Night” if you know what I mean.

I love THE DAILY SHOW. The COLBERT REPORT is one joke.

KOST radio got big numbers playing all Christmas music during the holiday season. I’m waiting for the first station to see that and go all Christmas music all year long.

Rhino Records is going out of business. So is Aron Records. This is REALLY the day the music died.

For Boomers who want to remember the good old days when television stations gave a shit about you, Lloyd Thaxton has a blog. (See links) Lloyd was the Ernie Kovacs of teen dance party hosts back in the 60’s. Learn what he and his finger puppets have been up to. Log on.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY beat me to it. I was going to suggest that Jennifer Aniston is not a movie star.

Last word on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: Like the show or don’t like it – America has VOTED.

If any show can knock off LOST its SKATING WITH CELEBRITIES.

I don’t care if Jillian Barberie was falling out of her dress. I’m still rooting for Deborah Gibson.

As co-writer of MANNEQUIN 2 starring Kristy Swanson I hope this show revitalizes the career I myself helped kill.


Forrest Whittaker is a great addition to THE SHIELD.

Now that HOSTEL is out I bet reservations for spring break in Slovakia have gone way down.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Red carpetbagging

I missed the Golden Globes this year and the astonishing TEN hour pre-show show on E! How do you fill TEN hours with nothing??? I also hear the red carpet interviewer was bad. Gee, knock me over with a feather.

For the past seven years I have reviewed the Oscars for my friends (this year will be for my blog). Included is always a paragraph or two on the pre game, usually focused on local channel 5, KTLA. Here are some highlights:


I miss Tawny Little. God help me, I do. (Tawny was the number one news anchor at local station KABC ). No one was as stupid hosting the pre Oscar show as Tawny (this hard hitting journalist and former Miss America), although Sam Rubin and his co-host, Mindy Burbano came pretty damn close. These were my favorites: Mindy (to Michael Caine): "Hey, your accent is back!" Sam: "There's the back of Tom Cruise's head!" Mindy to Samuel L. Jackson's wife after noticing that Samuel was wearing a purple tux: "Yes, purple is back, but do you really think it's ever gone away?" And finally, Mindy to 80 year old best actor nominee, Robert Fansworth: "Very nice cane!"


Best part of the show is before the show -- the red carpet celebrity arrivals. Once again Channel 5 featured Hollywood footstool jester Sam Rubin and dim bulb sidekick Mindy Burbano. Sam to composer Hans Zimmer: "You've been nominated LITERALLY 4,000 times." Mindy to Anthony Hopkins (nominated for SILENCE OF THE LAMBS): "Gee, you're not chilling in person."

Mindy to Lena Olin: "Did you have to eat a lot of chocolate while making CHOCOLAT?" Lena: "Yes." Mindy: "So are you tired of chocolate now?" Lena: "Yes." Mindy: "That's sooo sad."

Sam said there were more stars there than are in the heavens (never heard THAT one before) and proved it by interviewing Coco Lee, Nancy O'Dell, and Mary Hart.

Hard to believe every star didn't stop by. After all, they were giving away Altoid tins. Class-eeee.

The ABC pre-show wasn't much better. Host Julie Moran (not exactly Edward R. Murrow in a wig) asked Chow Yung Fat: "How hard was it to learn to fly?"

I don't bother to watch even a second of Joan Rivers and her equally obnoxious and otherwise unemployable daughter, Melissa. I venture to say they reinforce more anti-semitism than the Chabad Telethon.


Always a highlight for me is the pre-Oscar show with Channel 5's dashboard bobblehead, Sam Rubin and new co-host this year, somebody named Emily Frances. Picture any Hooters waitress in a gown. But she fit right in asking questions stupid enough to rival Sam's. Emily to Phil Collins: "Was winning an Oscar an out-of-body experience?" followed by "When you present an award are you allowed to have a favorite?"

Sam made a searing observation: "Maybe the calmer people arrive earlier." You're the George Will of Puff, Sam.

His "ditz de jour" Emily kept hitting the celebrities in the nose with her microphone. I guess they don't teach that in beautician's school.

Sam had some incisive celebrity questions himself. To performer Alison Kraus: "Did you rehearse your song?" To Owen Wilson: "Next year is STARSKY & HUTCH going to win a lot of awards?"

In order to lure the celebs to Hooter and Tooter KTLA was again offering packets of M&M's. Sam Rubin's big question to Robin Williams: "Do you like the plain, peanut, or mints better?" Sam majored in journalism at Crossroads.

Channel 5 did not employ a 5 second delay as was evident when Robin Williams said "shit" on the air. In truth, it was the only moment of the show that wasn't shit.

Sam to Will Ferrell's wife: "Do you think Marcia Gaye Hardin is stealing your thunder because she's also pregnant?"

Marcia Gaye Hardin is eight months along with twins and looks huge. So why wear a bright blue dayglow dress? She looked like the Pacific Design Center.

Staying on the "baby" theme, Sam wondered what Holly Hunter would do if she won her second Oscar. "I'll put them together in a dark room and see what happens" to which the lightening quick Sam responded: "Maybe you'll have a Golden Globe".


Sam Rubin, 'Entertainment Groveling Jester to the Stars' for Channel 5, again co-hosted the Oscar arrival show. He said it was "particularly emotional going back to Hollywood." Oh yes, to now be only a block away from the Fredericks of Hollywood "Museum of Bras" and Popeye's chicken restores the event to the luster and dignity it deserves. Sam's co-host this year was Lynda Lopez, who we were told is Jennifer's sister. I guess following in the Joan & Melissa Rivers tradition, you need an untalented family member to co-host one of these shindigs. Bring back Mindy Burbano. At least she asked stupid questions. Ly-lo just stood with her back to the camera blocking every celebrity Sam fawned all over.

Okay, that's not fair. She did ask some stupid questions. To Robert Altman: "Does it get less exciting to go to the Academy Awards?" Or to Hugh Jackman: "Are we over run by Australians tonight?" To Will Smith she made the observation: "You're a little bit smaller than when I saw you last."

But for sheer idiocy it's hard to beat Sam. "And that's the exciting thing about today," Sam gushed, "Some people have been here before and some have never been here before." I wondered why today was exciting. To Sting he asked: "What's distinctive about singing to a BILLION people?" Helen Mirran was queried this by slathering Sam: "How did you make your role so vivid" to which she replied: "It's called acting, darling."

Suck-up Sam's best question of the night was directed towards the lovely Jennifer "I had any trace of humor or personality removed" Connelly. "I hear John and Alicia Nash are here. How are they feeling? And how are you feeling about the way they're feeling?"


The pre-Oscar coverage is always amusing. Most inane (as always) was Hollywood fool/footstool/bootlicker Sam Rubin and his co-host this year, the brainless Toni Senecal (who I assume is Sam’s gushy sycophant counterpart in New York) on KTLA. Sam to Catalina Sandino Moreno: “Did you spend a lot of time getting ready?” Has he ever actually talked to a woman?? Toni then asked her: “It’s your first movie, you’re the first Columbian to ever be nominated – call me crazy – how do you feel?” Toni asked Sophie Okonedo what was the best gift she had received.

Nominees I never heard of or recognized were blowing them off. Maybe if they weren't trying to lure them with Tic Tacs.

The KTLA fashion expert said about Hilary Swank; “It’s a surprise to everyone. She looks fantastic.”

Sam to P. Diddy: “People watching at home, having an Oscar party, what can they learn from you?”

There should be a spam blocker on my TV to save me from ever seeing Joan and Melissa Rivers. This year they’ve been relegated to the TV Guide channel which answers the question “what could possibly be less entertaining than a 24 hour program guide crawl?”

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How do you guys write?

I’ve been lucky enough to be in the same partnership for 33 years. Some time ago I got a letter from a young writer named Ken Levine saying, since we had the same name, could I give him any advice? I said, “Yes, find a partner named David Isaacs.”

Writing teams all work differently. Here’s how we work and it’s a tad unusual. A lot of teams will split up the script – one takes one scene or act and the other takes the other. Then they switch. We write head to head and we dictate the script to a secretary who takes great shorthand. We never actually see the script while we’re writing it. This forces us not to obsess over a line. It frees us to pitch out a whole run knowing we can just go back and clean it up. We can juggle beats, move things around more easily. This process also allows us to volley lines back and forth. When people ask if a particular joke was mine and I say I don’t remember I’m not being coy. We shape practically every line together.

It now takes us four or five days to write a half hour. Two or three if we have to. When we started it took two weeks. That’s where 33 years of experience comes in handy.

We work off of an outline, talk out what we’re going to do then just take a shot at it. Next day we see the typed version of what we wrote, proof it, blame the medication, and keep going. After the rough draft is finished we each take a copy, make notes, joke suggestions, cuts, etc. and reconvene for one more pass. Once that’s completed, more often than not we turn it in.

Do we have arguments? Sure. But we never let them get personal. And if we ever have a disagreement over a particular joke and can’t reach a consensus quickly we just toss it out and write something else. It takes less time to come up with a new line than to argue and have one of us ultimately pissed.

And you can't be defensive. The best idea wins even if its the other guy's.

We’re also not afraid to throw stuff out – a line, a run, a whole scene. And scripts can ALWAYS be trimmed. No matter how long our rough draft is we always look for and find cuts.

Although the head to head process works well for us (which isn’t to say it works for everybody) early on in our career we began a practice whereby once a year we took an assignment and divided it up. The purpose was to feel confident that we could write on our own if we had to. We’re partners out of choice not dependency. And it’s amazing – we’ve been writing together so long that when we do split up a script I defy anyone to tell who wrote which act. They’re equally in need of major work.

There are many advantages to having a partner. The obvious ones you know. It’s more social, you have someone to share the burden/blame with, and it’s nice to get feedback (especially in comedy) – in our case not only from each other but our secretary, Lana. On more than one occasion we’ll laugh uproariously at a pitch, I’ll say to Lana, proudly, “Put that in” and she’ll say “Really???”

But here’s the biggest advantage to being in a team -- when you have to bring your car into the shop you know you can always get a ride.

A good partnership is like a marriage except you give up half your money before you get divorced.

ADDED THOUGHT based on the first comment:

Maybe I should start my own match.com on this comment page. If you're looking for a partner leave your contact info, a little about yourself, what you're looking for and who knows? A few of you might hook up.

You must thank me if you ever win an Emmy however. And I mean before your spouses and certainly agents.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Join me at the water cooler

In the past I’ve reviewed the Golden Globes. But this year (a) I just don’t give a shit, and (b) 24 was on. I’m more concerned with what happens to Jack Bauer than Jake Gyllenhall.

Didn’t you love the 4 hour premiere explosion-fest? I hope President Palmer had Allstate life insurance. And Michelle had car and life insurance.

Now they’ve just stopped TRYING to approximate how long it takes to get anywhere. Mojave to downtown LA in twenty minutes – during 7 AM rush hour? And LA to Ontario Airport in 12 minutes? You can’t fly there that fast. Why not just “beam” Jack from place to place now?

Could they have found a President who looks more like Nixon? And acts more like Bush? Who needs a mole in the White House when the President is that vain and petulant and stupid?

And it’s great to see every family’s embarrassing “Aunt Carol” as the First Lady. Or was she modeled after Martha Mitchell?

What a break for the Channel 11 newscasters. John Beard, Steve Edwards, the weather guy – they all got to play parts. I was expecting Dorothy Lucey to report on the “lighter side of terrorism”.

So much for my theory that Chloe would be a lot less uptight if she ever got laid.

Sean Astin has gotten big. He COULD play football for Notre Dame these days.

Now Michelle can appear as a patient on HOUSE. “Teri”, Jack’s slain ex appeared as a bag lady that died in that show too. And evil “Nina” was a patient shortly thereafter. At the end of that episode she asked House why he had risked his career to save her. What I wanted him to say was “Because you and I have something in common. We both killed Jack’s wife.”

And I know as a TV writer I’m nailing my own coffin but I admit it, I love AMERICAN IDOL. I’m looking forward to the new season. Especially the auditions. It helps me understand Bush being President when I can see the people who elected him.

I’m starting an office pool. Which contestant will Paula sleep with this year? “Congratulations. You’re going to Paula-wood.”

Re last season: So much for my theory that Paula would be a lot less stupid if she ever got laid.

Ryan Seacrest is taking on so many gigs (including hosting an unfathomable ten hours of Golden Globes pre-show nonsense on E!) that I’m surprised he didn’t star in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN too.

Quick aside: E! TELEVISION should change their name to the GET A LIFE channel.

Quick aside #2: Going around the internet – alternate titles for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. My favorite: YOU HAD ME AT HOWDY.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

2006 Movie Sneaks

The L.A. Times CALENDAR section on Sunday had their annual sneak peak edition of all the upcoming movies for the year. This is always fun to read…unless you’re writing a spec. Then it’s terrifying. Like walking in a mine field. God forbid the movie you’ve spent a year writing and are only ten pages away from finishing has the same premise as the July Owen Wilson/Mandy Moore release. And what a relief when there’s nothing scheduled even remotely similar to yours.


But for most writers I suspect you’re in that dreaded “middle ground” – there are movies with “areas” that touch upon yours. Hard to tell from the one sentence logline just how close to yours they are. You see there’s a “threesome”. Your comedy is about a threesome. But theirs could be two guys and a girl and yours is two girls and a guy so it’s completely different. You start playing those games with yourself. Will Ferrell runs a restaurant. Your lead character runs a restaurant. Shit! But wait -- they’re two entirely different restaurants. His takes reservations, yours doesn’t.


Unless…there’s a scene where Will Ferrell decides to stop taking reservations? Shit! You’re dead.

Now before you jump off the Hollywood sign or toast yourself on your good fortune let me screw with your head.

If there is not one premise in the entire Sneak Peak section that smacks of yours then maybe your idea sucks or is not commercial.

And if your spec does touch on an “area” then maybe you’re on the right track. Do you think studios really give a shit about “original” ideas? If they did why would they make and release CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 and YOURS, MINE, AND OURS at the same time? (A better question is why release these two stinkburgers at all?)

Why would they make two Iwo Jima pictures? Why did we have both the X-MEN and FABULOUS FOUR? Is there a comic book character short of Little Lulu that they’re not developing?

Why would they make GARDEN STATE and ELIZABETHTOWN? And I see this year there are two or three more “young guys go home to Midwest towns” projects. Isn’t that GARDEN STATE and ELIZABETHTOWN?

Just write the best script you can. Do what’s in your heart, tell the story you want to tell (making sure there’s a part for Vince Vaughn). And if you haven’t read the CALENDAR already then do yourself a favor and toss it in the garbage with the equally infuriating Real Estate section. You’re shooting at a moving target anyway. If your script itself is good (and has a part for Vince Vaughn) it will open doors for you, whether you sell it or not. Many writers get assignments off of specs. So who knows? Next year YOU could have a movie in Sneak Peaks – YOURS, MINE, AND OURS 2.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tag, I'm it

Here’s the meme that’s going around all the screenwriters' blogs. I’m the latest to be tagged.

ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:

Seeing TEN COMMANDMENTS as a mere tyke and being scared shitless. Not by the special effects or torture to the Jews but by the bad over-acting. Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner in the same movie? Even Cinemascope couldn’t contain them. Both had me diving under the seat. And incredibly, they weren’t the worst offenders. That dishonor would go to Ms. Anne Baxter. She gave maybe the single worst most overblown performance in the history of film…rivaling Butty Hutton in THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. Even Nathan Lane would say, “Whoa, bring it down.” I still haven’t recovered.

TWO (2) favorite lines from movies:

Edward G. Robinson in TEN COMMANDMENTS: “Nnnyyeah, Moses, where’s your God now?”

And any line from TOOTSIE.

THREE (3) jobs you’d do if you could not work in the “biz”:

Morning man at W.O.L.D.

FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside the industry:

Amway salesman (Hey, that detergent really works)
Record store clerk
Comic strip artist
Teaching broadcasting

THREE (3) book authors I like:

Philip Roth
John Kennedy Toole
Kurt Vonnegut

TWO (2) movies you’d like to remake or properties you’d like to adapt:

VOLUNTEERS. They never did justice to our script. When the movie came out I wanted to stand in the lobby and just hand out screenplays.

The other movie that I’d like to remake is THE PRODUCERS. Come on. It’s time.

ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated:

Steve Gordon. Wrote ARTHUR then tragically died. No one wrote better funnier witty dialogue than Steve.

He also wrote a movie starring Henry Winkler and Kim Darby called THE ONE AND ONLY about a TV wrestler, directed by Carl Reiner. It shows up frequently on HBO. Since most of you with Tivo have Kim Darby on your wish list anyway, check it out when it pops up on your menu.

And TV freaks might vaguely remember a show in the late 70’s called THE PRACTICE starring Danny Thomas as a crusty neighborhood doctor in the Bronx (Becker meets Uncle Tanoose). Steve created and wrote that show and it just crackled. I’m hoping that someday it will resurface on DVD or at least on the Lebanese channel.

Steve Gordon was…and is…an inspiration to me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Your guide to 24

For everybody who says “I hear 24 is great but I don’t want to join it in the middle” Sunday night is your chance to start fresh with a whole new day and season.

And if you’re not familiar with the characters, let me quickly get you up to speed.

JACK BAUER (Keifer Sutherland) – Has personally saved the world from nuclear war, a killer virus, deadly terrorist attacks, the destruction of Los Angeles, and a presidential assassination yet has not received so much as a holiday ham from this grateful nation. Now presumed dead he’s living in Mexico under an assumed alias (Rafael Palmiero). Never shown was the most grueling and harrowing 24 hour adventure he has ever had to endure -- the one that occurred after he drank a glass of unfiltered water.

CHLOE -- CTU agent, computer whiz, and my favorite character on television even though I often want to slap her. Could not be more snotty, could not have worse people skills. She’s the template for every US postal employee.

TONY -- CTU agent who fell in love with fellow agent MICHELLE, went to prison for saving her life and then forgot to send her a card for their anniversary or something so she divorced him. They’re now back together. I’m not sure if they’re returning this year. They may go straight to JUDGE JUDY.

NINA, GEORGE, SHERRY, TERI – dead so don’t worry about them.

EDGAR – CTU computer nerd. Overweight although he seems to go 24 hour periods without eating. His mother was contaminated by radiation and had only a few hours to live but he had to get off the phone for “an emergency”.

AUDREY – Jack’s weepy sometimes girlfriend. Issues in the relationship: Jack’s torturing people, Jack letting her ex-husband die, Jack leaving the toilet seat up.

KIMBERLY – Jack’s annoying daughter. Been kidnapped so many times she now brings her own rope and gag. Can not ride in a car unless she’s in the trunk.

DAVID PALMER – Former President of the United States now selling Allstate Insurance.

Let the shootings, explosions, mayhem, suspense, and uninterrupted cellphone service no matter where Jack is begin!!

The value of a fine education

Harvard and Yale are two esteemed institutions that groom young men and women to become rich. For years that meant banking, Wall Street, the law, church treasurer. But sometime in the 80’s they discovered there were big bucks to be had in Hollywood writing comedy.

Thar’s gold in them thar’ jokes! Forget Milton Friedman. Hello Budd Friedman.

So out they came, the best and the brightest, America’s future leaders, turning sitcom writing staffs into ZBT chapters.

But does an Ivy League education really make a difference?

When my partner, David and I were writing for the SIMPSONS, one day during a story conference David took a poll. He asked where everyone went to school. You can guess their answers. David nodded then recapped, “So you went to Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Yale, Harvard, Harvard. Well I went to the University of Miami and I’m doing the same job as YOU.”

Write funny. Harvard and Yale can’t win at football either.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ken's reasons why not to watch

I see that EMILY’S REASONS WHY NOT (worst title since MANIMAL) and JAKE IN PROGRESS bombed in the ratings Monday. Gee. Wonder why? Could it be that no one gives a shit about the dating woes of incredibly good looking people? Poor Heather Graham can’t find the right man. Poor John Stamos has commitment problems. He has to juggle three beautiful women. Oh the humanity!!

You don’t feel sympathy for these people. You don’t root for these people. You want to KILL them.

They’re the ones who scarred you for life in high school. They’re the reason for Ben & Jerry’s.

And I’m sure the Jenna Elfman vehicle will be more of the same.

Jenna at least is funny. Heather Graham, although yummy to look at, is an enemy of comedy. And I know one of the contributing writers of the pilot who is the best there is so if she can’t make Heather funny then it’s time to start to thinking about playing a cop.

As for John Stamos, (who is very charming and handsome in that TV “safe” way) I’m not even sure he was trying to be funny this year. JAKE IN PROGRESS is just…pleasant. Too bad there’s no such thing as canned smiles. And Wendie Malick, one of TV’s great funny ladies is wasted. It’s like asking Vladimir Horowitz to just play “Chopsticks”,

The one thing I did find heartening about Monday night’s ratings was this: maybe for the first time Heather Graham and John Stamos will really know what it’s like to be rejected.

Heather gulping down ice cream, John sitting home the night of the prom playing “Kingdom Hearts II” with the other losers who couldn’t get a date – THOSE shows I’d watch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Free form rambling...

It’s the second week of January. TAKE DOWN YOUR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!!!

Gee, life goes on without Howard Stern. Who knew???

Queen Latifah was on INSIDE THE ACTORS ASSHOLE with James Lipton this week. Hardly one of the premiere thespians of American cinema. (“A hundred years from now your work in LIVING SINGLE will be delighting and inspiring audiences. And let me just say three words -- HOUSE PARTY 2.”)

Future guest on the show (and this is no joke): Barbara Walters.

Here’s a credit I don’t understand. For the new Queen Latifah movie LAST HOLIDAY the writing credit is…

Screenplay by Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman
Based on a SCREENPLAY by J.B. Priestley

Huh?? I understand based on a play or book or even earlier version of the film, but another script?

And then there’s the movie of THE PRODUCERS based on a musical that’s based on a movie. I saw it over the weekend. There were certainly laughs but whatever magic there was on the stage sure didn’t transfer to this film. Instead it just made you appreciate how much better the original was and how far superior Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were to Lou Costello and Jerry Lewis…I mean Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

Nathan is a gifted performer. I had the pleasure of directing him several times. But when he finally passes on I’m sure the cause of death will be “choking on scenery”.

And to ensure that Matthew Broderick’s character was a complete cartoon they even gave him the Inspector Gadget trench coat.

If you haven’t already, see the 1968 version of THE PRODUCERS. It’s one of those very rare perfect films that never needs to be remade.

Same for the WIZARD OF OZ. Please Hollywood, don’t make a white version of THE WIZ.

Adapting movies into Broadway musicals seems to be the rage. A few years ago there was a musical based on SMILE, the hilarious1974 beauty pageant comedy by Jerry Belson. In the Playbill for the musical Jerry said this:

“SMILE fulfills a lifelong dream for Mr. Belson – to get paid twice for the same script”.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Writing questions & the singing bird

From Alex Epstein of Complicationsensue (see link right column) comes these questions based on my post listing all the goofy credits of the SOPRANOS writers:

Alex: Obviously these writers didn't suddenly become good writers. They were either good writers writing crap on those other shows, or they were crap writers and David Chase taught them all how to write, or he has a Magic Singing Bird that sings the good stories.

Ken: The Singing Bird.

Seriously, I suspect they were good writers who just had to make a living. Comedy scribe Darrel Vickers once observed “you can either write what you want or eat what you want”.

And because a show isn’t listed among the elite (i.e. EW likes it) doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad gig. The show could be fun to write, the environment pleasant, nice people on staff, free action figures, etc.

And you can always write your way out. Alan Ball was on staff of CYBILL (finding ways to justify Ms. Shepherd’s insistence that she sing). He wanted to write something more personal, so at night he would go home, probaby drink a big Scotch, and peck away at a spec screenplay called AMERICAN BEAUTY.

Alex: I thought maybe you could blog a bit about what went right in the Sopranos writing room that makes the show so good. Is it all David Chase? Or was it chemistry? Was it HBO letting them alone to do their work? Etc.

Ken: Hard to really say since I’m not on staff of the SOPRANOS. I don’t believe that any one writer is solely responsible for the success of a series although I will grant you a creator with a strong vision is probably the single biggest factor. The SOPRANOS is clearly David Chase’s baby. He’s set the template for every facet of that show.

But he’s also put together a terrific staff and given them a lot of creative say. Unlike sitcoms that often get group rewritten (there’s a reason the expression for that is “gang banged”), if you write an episode for the SOPRANOS most of your script is what’s filmed. Additionally you do the casting and are on the stage supervising the week your script is in production.

Among David Chase’s many gifts is trust.

How important is a good writing staff? Just look at ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. After two inspired seasons the writing staff (save for the creator) left. And the show was awful this season. Same creator, same vision, sucky results.

HBO leaving Chase alone is also a big factor. Do you think in a million years a network would let him cast James Gandolfini and Edie Falco as the leads? No way. It would be Dennis Farina and Paula Marshall.

And the SOPRANOS also benefits greatly from not getting network notes. “We don’t like it when Tony kills people, cheats on his wife, smokes cigars, runs a strip joint, eats over the sink. It makes him unlikable”, “Does he have to keep the money he steals? Couldn’t he donate it to some charity?“ And the inevitable: “Please change the name of the character Pussy. We feel Russy or Gussy works just as well.”

The SOPRANOS was originally developed for a network. Lucky for all of us they passed…probably for a show starring Paula Marshall.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Match Point

I know I’m spitting on the cross but I didn’t love MATCH POINT. I liked it…parts of it…and this was the first Woody Allen movie in five years that wasn’t lame, pathetic, and embarrassing so that’s a good thing – but it sure wasn’t CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. And it was easy to compare because….


…it was the same movie!!! Only with prettier younger actors, less sympathetic characters, and London instead of New York so although it looked just like every other Woody Allen movie people were saying “Bob’s your uncle” in this one.

Why are the critics fawning? Great filmmakers reach. They try to do something new. This film is just Woody Allen resorting to old tricks (albeit some of his best old tricks). All that’s missing is Tony Roberts.

I will say that Scarlet Johansson was spectacular. Best I’ve ever seen her. But the Irish early-Elvis-looking lead could not have been more boring. Martin Landau he ain’t. Martin Milner he ain’t. Emily Mortimer was fine in her 37th thankless role.

There were some clever moments and turns along the way but I just didn’t care about any of these upper crust fops, and the end was soooo ridiculous. Those must be the stupidest detectives in the history of the world. I thought I was in a PINK PANTHER movie.

But more than anything else I resented the message – it’s okay to be despicable because often times you get away with it and are even rewarded for it. Of course, who wants to believe that more than Woody Allen? And thanks to the critics he may be right.

Sopranos' low notes

In a follow up to my last post I thought for fun I’d check out some of the actual previous credits for the SOPRANOS writers. They include:

Kolchak: the Night Stalker
the Magician
2 Stupid Dogs
Batman (the animated series)
Cover Me
Swat Kats
the In-Laws
Baby Blues
American Gothic
the New Flipper
the Naked Truth
Living in Captivity
Sister Sister
..... and of course – the Secret Squirrel Show.

So dive into that “Coconut Fred’s Fruit Salad Island” episode you’re writing with renewed gusto.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The man who wrote for kings

Edward Anhalt was one of the great screenwriters of all-time. A multi-Oscar winner he amassed a tremendous body of impressive work.

In the early 60’s he learned that producer Hal B. Wallis was planning to make a movie of the play BECKET. That subject matter was Anhalt’s absolute passion. He considered himself an expert on the era. No one knew the period as well. He went to Wallis with an impassioned plea that he and he alone was right for this assignment. Wallis made him a deal. Anhalt could write BECKET but he had another project that also needed a writer. If Anhalt would do that first he could have his coveted assignment. Anhalt happily agreed.

So in the same year Mr. Edward Anhalt wrote BECKET and GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS starring Elvis Presley and Stella Stevens.

Moral of this story: If you’re lucky enough to get an assignment on some horrible cheesy Disney Channel show about kids in leprechaun jr. high take heart. Next year you could be on the SOPRANOS.

(I had to do an Elvis story on his birthday weekend.)

Friday, January 06, 2006

That toddlin' town

First off, a note from my daughter to those of you who graciously offered suggestions re: the worst songs in musicals.

"Dear Bloggers Galore,

Thank you so much for your incredibly useful thoughts and comments. I was enormously impressed (and somewhat concerned) with your expansive knowledge of bad musicals and songs. Thanks again.


P.S. I don't care what some of you have said. I will continue to hate Shipoopi, and I'll misspell it if I want to...it's not a real word..."

Lovely. Thank you. Moving on.

Yesterday was the New York portion of my October, 2004 travelogue. The adventures continue….


On Friday we zipped out to Sopranos International Airport (Newark) for our flight to Chicago. Visiting our daughter, Annie for Parents Weekend.

Back to the Omni hotel where this time the books in our room included Illinois court cases of 1954 and “the Toothache Tree”. There’s no real reason to ever leave the room.

Parents Weekend at Northwestern featured many lively seminars with professors, receptions with faculty and administration – all of which we skipped, of course. We did however go to the Northwestern-Indiana football game which proved to be the highlight of the trip. Nothing like a Big Ten game on a crisp autumn afternoon. Okay, so Northwestern usually loses (on the stadium they have listed all their bowl appearances since 1949 – there are five) but last week they upset mighty Ohio State (the Dick Cheney of universities) and this week they beat the Hoosiers in double overtime! Too bad my wife and daughter left after the third quarter to go shopping.

One thing I noticed – this was the whitest crowd I’ve ever seen at a football game. It should have been broadcast on the Hallmark Channel. And everyone was so polite. No one yelling “sodomite” (even though the quarterback was very close to the center). I’m used to “Yankees suck” and “FU-SC”. After the game a Hoosier rooter called out to a Wildcat fan “You guys were lucky”. Withering.

There’s a watchtower at Northwestern they light up whenever the Wildcats win. (They haven’t had to replace the bulb for fifty years). It’s supposed to glow purple but it looks pink. You’d think that Julliard won.

The Chicago Marathon was held on Sunday. 40,000 entries – or every thin person in the entire Midwest. As I watched -- Starbucks crumb cake in hand -- I thought to myself: “SOME of these people have to die before me.”

A lot of the marathoners were staying at our hotel. Several got on the elevator with me and I offered my support by yelling, “Take the stairs!”

Those marathoners registered at the Omni had to be good. The race started at 8 and check-out time is noon.

On Monday we grabbed a cab to O’Hare at 5 A.M. A couple of straggler marathon runners jogged by then we took off for our 7 A.M. flight back home. Why so early? Winter is coming.

All in all, Annie is fine and looks great. The freshman transition is a tough one but I have every confidence that Northwestern will eventually adjust to her.

So after ten days it’s good to be home. Yes, this is a special time in the East and Midwest with the colors changing and all but there’s nothing like being in Southern California for the first cancellations of the new Fall shows.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

If I can make it there...

For those relatively new to this blog, in addition to reckless writing advice and my sagacious opinions on anything, I also post travelogue from trips I’ve taken over the last few years. They were originally written just for those in my address book but now I share them with the world…hoping to provide mirth for you, dear reader, and attract a book publisher.

Where were you in October, 2004?


We had to be in Chicago on Oct. 9th (Parents weekend at Northwestern) and since I consider anything east of Denver the East Coast, Debby and I decided to go to New York for a week first, since it was right next door. Stayed at the LeParker-Meridien -- the preferred choice of Eurotrash. You couldn't tell the snooty concierges from the guests.

Best feature: the hotel elevators have monitors showing cartoons. Give the French Tom & Jerry and they'll go anywhere. “Zeee cat eez so mean, I adore heeem.”

Overheard on 6th Avenue: A Caucasian street vendor and a Middle Eastern street vendor. The M.E. vendor shouted to customers "Don't buy from him. He has a fake license." The C. vendor countered with "His money goes to the Taliban. They cut peoples' heads off." All this over $2 "I Love NY" t-shirtrs.

No such territorial squabbles for the guy selling Xeroxed "Becker" scripts for $15 on the corner of 6th and 54th. If there were customers to be had he would have them all.

Best panhandler in New York -- the guy who said to us "You can yell at me for a dollar."

Runner up: a big black man with a sign that said, “My parents were killed by Ninjas. Need money for Kung Fu lessons”.

Debby was on the 7th avenue express train where a guy was going from car to car peddling his novel. I wonder if commuters would be interested in humorous travelogues???

Walking around Manhattan I was forever aware that at any moment one of those Apprentice Sammy Glicks could jump out of a doorway and force me to buy lemonade or a high rise condo. New York is no longer safe.

On Saturday I stood in line at TKTS to get half price tickets for "12 Angry Men". The young couple behind me was from Oxford, Mississippi. They asked what the play was about. I told them it was a brilliant courtroom drama set in the jury room in the 50's. Mr. Mississippi then said, "Oh, so it's a gumshoe thing, right?" "Yes", I said, "That's exactly what it is. What are you guys hoping to see?" "Whatever the one is with Brooke Shields.”

Our play was at the American Airlines Theatre. I tried to see if they'd give me mileage when I bought the tickets. No deal.

Our seats were in the balcony. What we really saw was "12 Angry Ants".

One thing you notice when reading any Playbill -- Every single actor has among his TV credits "Law & Order".

Scott Ellis, who directed the play also directed our last “Frasier”. How come he got more laughs out of this?

New police drill in New York – “the swarm”. Everyday a different neighborhood or street corner is selected and fifty cop cars swarm in and officers take positions with guns drawn. I bet it’ll scare the shit out of the vendor selling illegal “Becker” scripts should they ever target 6th and 54th.

There's a lovely plaque honoring Eugene O'Neill in Times Square. It's on a Starbucks.

Stopped by the "NBC Experience Store". Asked what merchandise I could buy from "Father of the Pride"? Amazingly, nothing. I guess they were just sold out. I then asked if they had a "Fear Factor" snack bar? Nope. Just "Friends" crap and enough tickets to the "Jane Pauley Show" to wallpaper your den.

Donald Trump is speaking at the Learning Annex. I think the topic is "How to communicate with your departed pets". What everyone assumes is his hair is really his former dog, Rex.

Oh no! An American Girl Place has come to Rockefeller Center. I wonder if they have dolls that look like the Shangri-La's. (joke for baby boomers only)

In a counter move, the new Disney Store on 5th Avenue offers courses for little girls and their mothers to learn how to become Cinderella type princesses...for $80 ($75 if you register on line). This is not a joke. This is the end of feminism as we know it.

The Polish Parade was Sunday down Fifth Avenue. It started at 57th St. and 32nd St. and met in the middle. A lot of crashing accordions.

Saw "Reckless" starring the wondrous Mary-Louise Parker. For my money she's Meryl Streep with a funny mouth.

D.J.’s in local strip clubs pitch voter registration twice an hour. "Show these lovely ladies you appreciate them by getting a nude lap dance and signing up to vote."

A Brinks truck got into an accident in New Jersey and for hours people were picking coins off the highway. Trump had to leave after a few minutes to get to his Learning Annex class.

At Grand Central Station the restrooms are marked “Men Only” and “Women Only”. I hope Boy George can hold his water.

The weather was primarily gorgeous and Fall-like. On Wednesday the temperature dropped ten degrees and within eleven seconds I caught a cold… although I feel the two are unrelated. Official cause of cold: Jew having too good a time.

I LOVED “Avenue Q”. Hilarious, clever, and charming. At one point two of the puppets have sex on stage and the guy sitting next to me (a Bob Marley lookalike) shouts out “sodomite!” So of course everyone within earshot looks to me. I wanted to say to the guy, “What’s your problem? The puppets are okay with it. Where do you think the puppeteer puts his hand?”

The big trend on Broadway these days is to fill the shows with recognizable TV stars to attract the tourists. (a la Brooke Shields). It’s only a matter of time before Alf goes into “Avenue Q”.

(Tomorrow: the Chicago leg of the trip. I wish I were you and didn’t know how it ends.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Writing your script for Chloe

From the morning mailbag comes this from Garrett Whelan:

I've learned from countless books, web sites and talking heads that when writing a screenplay you don't give acting and camera directions unless absolutely necessary. I've also heard that with 4 camera sitcoms this is thrown out the window and you do detail the camera angles and the actors delivery of dialogue. My questions would be 1) is this true and 2) if so, what about one camera sitcoms like "Arrested Development" and "My Name is Earl"? Is there a reasoning behind this difference?


1) Some of it is true, a lot of it is not.
2) There is no difference.

Here’s the key. You’re writing your screenplay to be READ not shot. Anything you can do to make the reader’s job easier will be in your best interest. Once you sell the script, a director ruins it and they’re ready to film, then they reformat it for production.

Remember, your script will more than likely be in a pile – some D Girl’s weekend read. Most readers I know will pick up a script and do two things – check the number of pages and skim through it to see if it’s dense. If they see 104 pages, a lot of open pages with single speeches and minimal stage direction you’ve got a fighting chance. If they see John Updike, you’re dead.

Only indicate shots and camera moves when absolutely necessary. And even then try to find alternative ways of saying them. Example: Instead of P.O.V, then BACK TO SCENE just say “Kathryn sees Bob approaching”. The less technical and more reader-friendly the better. Your D Girl may still be hung over from Karaoke Friday.

Never include scene numbers. It’s a rookie mistake.

Be sparing in your descriptions. Give the bare minimum to convey the visual. Example: You could take a full page describing the Cheers bar. I might say, “If T.G.I. Fridays were a sports bar” and leave it at that. And as the script barrels on describe even less. Nothing kills suspense like a half page description of a train station. If you’re writing an action script I suggest you check out any Shane Black screenplay. His scripts read even better than his movies play.

One trick I use is to sprinkle little jokes in the stage direction. Not enough to be annoying but just a few for incentive.

The goal is to create a flow. Be a good read.

As for acting directions, you are usually advised not to include them because they insult actors. I say “fuck the actors”. Again, your script is for someone named “Chloe” not an actor, and if an occasional indicator clarifies a possible ambiguous speech than do it. Chloe will thank you. “Margaritaville” is still pounding in her head.

But obviously, be judicious. When a character says “I hate you, I’m going to kill you!” you don’t need (murderous).

These rules apply to any single-camera formatted script, be it a feature or TV show. When I write a multi-camera show I rarely if ever suggest a camera angle. It’s pointless. Four cameras are filming at once. The editor/producer/director/studio/network will decide later which of the many shots they want.

In general, a good idea is to read your script aloud. If you lose your voice or fall asleep by page 60 get out the red pencil and start slashing.

Thanks, Garrett. I’m also available for dating advice if anyone has questions.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Syriana...I think

Saw SYRIANA. It was CRASH in the desert.

No spoiler alert necessary. I saw the movie and don’t know what happened.

I wonder how many pregnant women are going to see the print ads, not know what the movie is about, and decide to name their baby Syriana because it sounds like a pretty name.

Not since THE BIG SLEEP have I enjoyed a movie more that I understood less. Yet, I found it compelling and even appreciated that the plot catered to smart people not exit poll results. Let the dimwits who stood in the pouring rain at the Rose Parade for nine hours see CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN II.

Still, there were many unanswered questions. What was Clooney hoping to achieve? How much did David Clennon know? Who made what deal with the Chinese? Whose car did Bogart find fished out of Lido Pier?

My daughter observed that it’s one thing to have trouble differentiating between the Arabs, they all dressed the same. But she was confused by all the old white guys who all looked alike.

Great ensemble cast. George Clooney was so good I even forgive him for ONE FINE DAY. Matt Damon is the young Robert Redford.

I wonder how many idiots leave the theatre after the movie saying “Hey, this wasn’t OCEANS THIRTEEN”.

Jeffrey Wright almost steals the movie. Give him awards, I don’t care which ones.

William Hurt is starting to look like Bill Nighy.

Chris Cooper is becoming the next Michael Caine. The only movie he’s not in this year is CHICKEN LITTLE and he probably does a voice in that one.

Stephen Gaghan redeemed himself. I recently screened the DVD of another movie he wrote, HAVOC. Luscious Anne Hathaway as a Palisades High rich girl who, like all Pali High girls, winds up in an East LA gang. CRASH in Los Angeles. Wait a minute…CRASH was in Los Angeles.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Ken Levine Comedy Writer Camp

I always thought a great scam would be the “Ken Levine Comedy Writer Camp” – like those Dodger fantasy camps where refugees from a fat man’s picnic get to wear actual Dodger uniforms, play catch with Tom Niedenfeur, and blow out their hamstrings on the real field in Vero Beach, Florida (hurricane permitting).

My spin on it would be to sign up twenty “campers”. They would meet at a studio, watch a horrendous runthrough then march off to a tiny office with no air conditioning, eat congealed Chinese food, and rewrite until 5 in the morning. The next day they see a runthrough of their rewrite, get network notes, studio notes, director notes, non writing producer notes, standards and practice notes, actor notes, actors’ managers notes, and notes from me that contradict all of the other notes. Back to the room, take out from Dr. Hoaglie Woaglie’s Tyler Texas BBQ (hot links, kick ass chili, beans, and all the fixin’s), another 5 A.M. rewrite with added fun features like the computer crashing, the lead actress coming up to the room and having a complete breakdown, and the showrunner getting called out for a phone call and being gone for two hours.

$2000 and I’ll throw in a T-shirt.

I bet there’d be a line waiting to sign up. You may be saying “Come on, writers aren’t that gullible.” Oh no? Are you familiar with “the Office”? (not the brilliant BBC show or the occasionally amusing NBC show). The Office is a storefront on 26th St. across from the Brentwood Country Mart. It offers carrels for writers, a quiet environment, coffee, reference material, and internet access. And charges HUNDREDS of dollars. Meanwhile, you can tote your laptop to any Starbucks, library, picnic table, hotel lobby, cigar lounge, food court, student union, Borders, Jamba Juice, even Gelsons and enjoy the same features FOR FREE. And yet, the Office is somehow still in business.

“The Ken Levine Comedy Writer Camp” – If you sign up by midnight I’ll even throw in a copy of Vicky King’s “How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days”.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I've been tagged

Frank Murphy from http://www.frankmurphy.com (I still haven’t figured out how to include links in posts) has tagged me with a meme. Like Frank, I had to look up the word “meme”. I’m challenged to list five of my weird habits. The real challenge is to hold it down to five.

1) In a restaurant, theatre, or any public place I can’t be seated anywhere near a child. This made it very difficult when I had my own small children. It’s not that I don’t love kids. I just love them more when they’re locked away in your home.

2) I don’t like anyone looking over my shoulder when I’m writing, be it a script, email, or love letters to Keira Knightly or Sandy Koufax.

3) I listen to 60’s music when I write. And this includes radio station jingles from the era and Joanie Sommers Pepsi commercials. I love Joanie Sommers.

4) I can’t watch an old black and white movie from the 30’s or 40’s without thinking “everyone I’m looking at is dead”. Not that this spoils my enjoyment.

5) I go through breakfast phases. I eat the same thing every day for a couple of years and then switch. Currently it’s macadamia nuts and raisins. If I ever switch to Lucky Charms get “old Betsy” off the wall and shoot me.

6) I have no blood so I always dress warm. Stop making fun of Cosby for wearing those sweaters. They look cool.

7) I check my site counter waaaaay more than I should.

8) As a former disc jockey, I still talk-up records in my car. Right up to the vocal. I’m a master at this. It’s maybe my greatest skill…which is unfortunate since it’s also utterly useless. KHJ Boss Radio is not coming back anytime soon.

9) I try to read “Confederacy of Dunces” once a year for inspiration. And finally:

10) I feel compelled to post every day. (which ties into #7)

Now it’s my turn to tag five blogging friends/victims. I choose Howard Hoffman (Hoffmania), Lloyd Thaxton, the Tabloid Whore, MK from Popbytes, and Kelditty from People We Love to Hate. (links are listed on the right)

Oh, I forgot, when I’m having trouble with internet service (like I’m having right now) I turn into Daffy Duck. My family finds it very amusing. That does not help.

New Tears Rockin' Eve

I gasped. I just gasped. I bet you did too. Wasn’t it sad and horrifying to see Dick Clark? I sure give him credit for gamely pushing forward, he’s the ultimate pro, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless. And sure hard to celebrate after that.

It reminded me of Ali lighting the torch at the Olympics.

America thanks you for so many years of ringing in the new year for us, standing out in the freezing cold, and reassuring us that everything was going to be okay. We wish you the best for a speedy and complete recovery.

Other Rockin’ Eve thoughts:

What was bigger, the ball in Times Square or one of Mariah Carey’s breasts? Jesus. She went for the complete va-va-voom, Russ Meyer, supersize, jumbo, hungry man, DDD+, Diamond Jim, Jayne Mansfield, I-can’t-see-my-feet tits. I was watching on HD and could swear I saw the surgery scar.

I was also quite surprised by how chunky Ms Carey has gotten. Instead of wearing that formal Peter Pan dress which showed off legs that could have been a linebacker’s, a tasteful long gown and parka might’ve been a better fashion call.

And Mariah – never speak. It’s a shame that Dick Clark can’t talk but you can.

Ryan Seacrest darkened his eyebrows thus dispelling any rumors that he’s gay.

Meanwhile, on Fox, there was Regis Philbin interviewing Lou Holtz on his bowl game predictions. That’s the Fox attitude? I wonder if anyone who watches Fox knows who Regis Philbin even is, much less Lou Holtz.

NBC had Carson Daly. Why?

ABC said Mariah Carey had the number one hit of the year. NBC said their guest Mary J. Blige had the number one hit of the year. Fox said Notre Dame should beat Ohio State.

Judging by the promos, all the networks are carting out their single guy/girl dating SEX IN THE CITY ripoff comedies this January. JAKE IN PROGRESS. LOVE MONKEY. EMILY SAYS WHY NOT? JENNA SAYS CAUSE I SAID SO.

Talk about vamping. By 12:15 all three networks were interviewing sanitation workers on clean up schedules.

Once again, happy New Year. And welcome back, Dick Clark. Hopefully by next year you’ll be all the way back.