Category Archives: TV

All things TV.

Why you need to Raise YOUR Bar

It’s time to raise YOUR bar! Starting now! Get on it and stop the continual slide toward human idiocy.

How do you raise your bar? It’s not easy. If it were easy, we’d all be speaking coherently, talking about real issues, standing up straight while dressed professionally. But, like all things that need fixing, it will take more time to fix it than it has to have broken it. This is the Catch-22 inherent to the problem. People want things immediately regardless of the cost, and scoff at the effort and resources it takes to change them. Grown lazy by years of getting things when and how they wanted them, any effort required is met with resistance. So, people tended to give up and compromise in order to avoid a fight. How then, do you raise your bar? Continue reading

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The Fall TV Schedule – Who Gets The Hook First?


 

Fall TV: The TV schedule is not just baseball and “reality” on the networks anymore.

Fall TV schedule for the networks

Network schedule. Or where the vanilla go to play.

My TV schedule is about to get a lot more cluttered. It’s nearing the beginning of the traditional fall TV season. You know, the time of year that Americans huddle around their TV’s and begin to pack on the winter insulation. As my summer favorites – “Suits,” “Burn Notice,” “Breaking Bad,” “Wilfred” and “Falling Skies,” (all of which are NOT on network TV, by the way) for example – finish up their summer seasons, and Labor Day comes and goes, it’s time to reset the DVR. Some of my favorite shows were renewed (“Community” and “30 Rock” among them) for short seasons this year. A few of my old favorites are unfortunately clinging to life (“The Office”). And, there are some new shows that I am looking forward to checking out. Continue reading

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What America Needs to Learn From “The Walking Dead.”

Government leaders, please take note…

AMC is thankfully running a marathon of “The Walking Dead” this weekend, and I believe that there is a lot that America and its leaders can learn from this show. All Americans and their lawmakers would be well served watching the complete first and second seasons in order to learn how to better prepare for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. (Later this week, I’ll also take a look at how we, as a planet, can better protect ourselves from space disasters and alien invasions.)

The need to be prepared from The Walking Dead

Walking Dead Zombie Prep

No way does Ben Franklin become a zombie! Prevention, people!

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Benjamin Franklin once said. At the time, he was referring to the transportation of hot coals from the fireplace to smaller stoves throughout one’s house in other rooms to keep them warm in winter. But had he been alive today, I am sure that he would be referring instead to the rise of zombies, be it from a diseased animal, biological weapons or just crazy psychos jonesin’ for the main ingredient of Soylent Green. He would have suggested guns, water, diet and exercise, better building codes and the need for a alternative fuel source infrastructure.

Guns, guns, guns (oh, and bows, axes and samurai swords)

The best walking dead zombie defense is a good offense

Sure, it seems like you don’t really NEED it. Now. But, when the zombies lurch toward your compound, you can thank the 2nd Amendment that you have it.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned from “The Walking Dead,” and other zombie films, it’s that you need to be weapons proficient. The current growth in popularity of archery, thanks to movies like “The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, is fueling a resurgence in sales of bows and arrows. This is a good thing. Not only do you look cool with a bow in your hand and a quiver of arrows slung across your back, but if you get good at it you can peg lurching zombies from 50 yards away. A comfortable distance if you don’t want to get bitten.

But, people, we HAVE the 2nd Amendment to the constitution. Sure, it was added to keep a well armed militia in case we are ever invaded. But, except for movies like “Red Dawn” and the Chuck Norris film, “Invasion U.S.A.,” we haven’t had to rely on this amendment. It is instead used by a well funded Washington lobby group to keep large caliber rifles and hand guns in the hands of terrified wildlife hunters. But, if there is a zombie attack, you can send your donation checks to the NRA with a special thank-you note and a picture with you and the latest zombie you killed with your Arma-Lite AR-15 semi-automatic. (Hopefully it’s that disrespectful little shit on the skateboard that uses your driveway every night at midnight as a skate ramp…)

I would also suggest learning how to handle a basic fire axe, a machete, and the most badass of all blade weapons: the samurai sword.

Health, especially cardio

If you haven’t seen “Zombieland,” then you’re missing a really funny and informative movie. Jessie Eisenberg’s “rules” are a fantastic how-to in surviving the zombigeddon. Rule #1 is cardio!! A zombie apocalypse will be the ultimate evolutionary step for humanity. The current obesity epidemic in the United States means that 33% of Americans are ripe for the picking. While this will surely keep them full for a time, you can bet that they will be looking to continue eating. You don’t have to be the fastest in your group, just not the slowest. Think Will Smith’s workout regimen in “I am Legend.” If you haven’t held on to your New Year’s resolution of working out and losing weight, now would be a good time to start working on it.

Water

Water is the source of life. You can go weeks without food, but only seven days without water. As the bodies pile up and the nuclear reactors go nuclear unleashing fallout and pestilence, which will be going directly down the proverbial drain and into the ground water sources, you’re sources of fresh water are going to be pretty limited, my friend. So, start stocking up on bottled water. Buy that extra case of Arrowhead or Kroger’s bottled water and stock it in your pantry. Even better: if you have the property, you can build a 10,000 gallon stainless steel water tank buried in a bunker somewhere. Be careful, though. As soon as someone finds out you have it, you are going to be very popular… Then you need to refer back to the guns portion of this blog.

Stronger building codes

zombie proof house

If you’re human, come on in, stay a while!

zombie proof house

Not you, zombies!

Depending on what you film or show you watch, zombies are either really, really puzzled by glass or find it easily to plunge right through on their way to munching on your calves and forearms for lunch and dinner. What you really want to do is start building your compound in a remote area with limited access. A place that you can control with very few people, who are bound to come unglued while the world falls apart around them and “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” stop production. You’ll want watch towers and turrets, high walls, a moat if you can build it, and very few windows. Although if you DO have the money, then you can afford three-inch thick “bankers” glass to watch and laugh at the zombies as their frustration grows, clawing at the windows. Hell, build your whole house out of it, if you want. Or you can build a house like the one above. Whatever you do, have a plan to hold off the undead. And have one to get out. It kills me every time that people think that they are safe in their house.

Alternative power sources

Last, but certainly not least, American’s need to start investing in alternative fuel sources and a power grid that could conceivably keep itself powered with very little supervision. Certainly, Americans should add these inexpensive items to their homes today! Solar power panels on your roof are an excellent source of power if you live in the Southwest. And if you live in the East, you can count on the wind to power your multiple windmills around your property. The point here is that nuclear power plants are going to go Fukishima around the world and make a big mess of the place and really cut your power supply. Coal will no longer be mined and gas will no longer be refined, limiting other electric plants. So, learn how to light a candle or build your fortified compound near a river or stream for hydroelectric power. And FOR GOD’S SAKE, make sure the extension cords are buried, lest the zombies trip over them and your power goes out while reading this valuable how-to guide from inside the comfort of your impregnable fortress.

What to take away from this

Movie makers that make zombie movies are your friends. They are training you in the how-to’s of keeping your sorry asses alive when the time comes. By watching and studying these “learning documentaries,” better educated people will survive and thrive in the wreckage of society. You can thank me later.

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When to “Give Up on the Baby” (A “Cold Void” Update)

(Sometimes, you just have to realize your “baby” isn’t going turn out like you wanted. Then sign them up for plastic surgery and all sorts of classes and sports to make yourself feel better…)

One of my favorite scenes in "Cold Void."

There’s an adage in writing, especially when writing for the big (or little) screen that says that you “must not be afraid to give up your baby.” Mostly, it refers to giving up the rights to your project that you’ve been working on forever in exchange for selling it for a large sum of money with more zeros than an Internet gaming convention. You won’t ever see it again. It gets ushered out the back door as you are handed a check and ushered back out the front door. And, if you do see your baby again, it’s going to appear to you that right after you let it go, it hit the Greyhound terminal at the Port Authority, was picked up by a “kind looking” studio VP and then forced to turn tricks, having fallen into a life of rewrite drugs and prostitution test screenings until it no longer resembles the beautiful little baby you raised from nothing but a drunk musing written on a cocktail napkin.

But even before that, there can be a time when mysterious strangers (call script coverage personnel) look over your “baby” and say, “This von is too strange and I don’t think ve vill vant to read anymore of it. Now go!” As opposed to the dream-like, “Oh my God! This is great! It’s fantastic! What can we give you for it? We want to take it from you and make your baby a star! And, of course, we want you to be there every step of the way.”

THAT, by the way, never happens. This town is all about the classic undersell. If you think you are a great salesperson and can haggle like the cock of the walk at an Arab bazaar, then come on out. I could use a good agent.

And, that’s where I find myself today. As expected, I received some great (and scathing) feedback from a professional acquaintance on our project “Cold Void” and our attempt to turn this script into a TV series. The details are not important enough to mention for this exercise today, but to me they were spot on. Now comes the hard part: telling my partner, Al, WHAT we need to do in order to make our “baby” better. Sure, it’s really young, just a baby. So are the kids on “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Damn if our child doesn’t need a nose job and a stronger jawline. It might need some of that baby fat trimmed and absolutneeds to get into the writers’ weight room. Maybe some pec and calf implants. Then there is the education classes, the violin lessons, and the tap dance classes. But, it’s hard to cut up your child and then insert non bio-degradeable materials and push them into every conceivable talent class available. But, you need to keep telling yourself that it’s only to make your child better and happier. It’s not about you. It’s about your “baby.”

And who doesn’t want a better baby?

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Entering the Long, Slow March of “Cold Void” and Coming out with New Purpose

(Good morning, sports fans. In case you didn’t notice, and judging by the lack of traffic yesterday, you didn’t, there was no post yesterday. No reason, I just flaked…)

I am, at times, a good writer, and once in a while a great writer. Those instances are usually left to rare times of complete inebriation where my brain is in the “off mode” or inundation of heavy clouds of pot smoke emanating from my neighbor’s open doorway which push both my brain and hunger into maximum overdrive…

There is no doubt that like great writers throughout history (of which I am NOT), I suffer from some sort of depression. Sometimes I am aware of it and it is little more than a nuisance, a pesky gnat that I can easily swat away. Other times, it lurks menacingly behind me like a dark cloud, shouting things in my head, confusing me and telling me, “No, you can’t do that. It’s better for you to stay inside and concentrate on seemingly nothing, while you doubt yourself.” Then, he knocks on the door all day long, inviting me outside, only to go back to step 1.

(I will address the double-edged nature of the word “no” in an upcoming post)

But, last summer, a friend of mine name Al Burgos came to me during a Friday night BBQ and told me he had an idea for a movie or TV series, and asked if I might be interested in working with him on writing it. I was skeptical to say the least. While I don’t have a super strong background in TV or film, I DO have some experience in TV production and ancillary experience in product placement and brand integrations at Hollywood Branded, a great boutique product placement agency here in LA, which allowed me to read a lot of script. Having read some of the movies that are being “green lit” these days, it led me to believe that Al’s idea, “Cold Void,” could be a great TV series, even with Al’s background in accounting and DEVOID of any TV production experience.

(If you want to know more about “Cold Void,” a sci-fi/family drama with global implications, you can visit the “Cold Void” page here at “OffTopicTim.com” or email me and I’ll send you more info.)

What Al had written, in a Jack Kerouac style, was a solid idea drawing on the thousands and thousands of UFO sightings and abduction stories from pre human history to the Phoenix lights in 1997 and stories this last April from Russia, Sao Paolo and New Mexico. There was work to do, of course; “Cold Void” was raw, like an incomplete set of board games. We had to throw out the Lincoln Logs and Lego’s that mistakenly found their way in, and add cards from Monopoly, Clue and playing pieces from Candy-Land. Sure, it didn’t make sense at first, but creation rarely does. It’s messy.

So, with a new purpose and of course unemployed with lots of time on my hands, I pushed aside the large skulking dark cloud and waded in with both feet not knowing where I would end up.

Al Burgos is a great guy, and will make a great production accountant for a film or even “Cold Void” should we find ourselves making a pilot and getting picked up and going to series and spinning off movies and merchandising…

Sorry, got carried away there!

As I was saying, Al Burgos is great with numbers, and although great with a story, not particular good with spelling and grammar. Come on, guys, he’s an accountant! However, thanks to Larry Barley, my dear old Dad, I am a stickler for grammar and spelling. Together Al and I plunged through the 25 page treatment that he had written and cleaned it up into a small polished piece of coal of a scripted 42 page 1-hour TV pilot. Unfortunately, small pieces of coal aren’t even looked at in Hollywood and are more often used as coal to keep their offices warm while the Bob Cratchet’s of the world shiver while rolling calls in the outer office.

What Hollywood agents are looking for is large, shiny diamonds ready to set in a beautiful setting which they can give to their other clients. But, how were Al and I going to take the “Cold Void” TV pilot (aka small piece of coal) and turn it into “Cold Void,” the 2-hour back door pilot to a series?

With momentum briefly halted, this is where the dark cloud began knocking at my door, but like a lot of things he’s better left ignored…

Realizing that we had something, we needed to find out what we were missing. By now, we had been working together on this project from August through October. By November, we had come up with more back story, greater character development and enough mystery to keep the audience asking for more (aka “a series”). By December, we had crafted a good, not great, 2-hour TV back door pilot, which is basically a 2-hour made-for-TV movie. I feel that it needs a professional coverage person to read it and give notes to us on what WILL make it great… Opinions between the creators of “Cold Void” differ…

In January, we made our first attempts to secure representation for our project. Of the first batch of agencies we solicited, AFTER researching which ones would take unsolicited material(s), “Cold Void” was rejected by one agency, and unheard from by nine. What we failed to realize is that agents want that big, shiny diamond from KNOWN writers, not the small piece of coal that COULD be a diamond with a little help. For that, we need managers, who will guide us in our project and help our careers. And, well, here we are.

The problem with not having forward momentum is that it allows things to catch up to you, including that dark cloud, who knocks at my door; not only throughout the day, but at night when all I want to do is sleep.

Writing “Cold Void” with Al Burgos HAS given me purpose and led me to rewrite an old script from the late 90’s, called “The Turn” about kids, racism and golf in small town Michigan. (Yes, I KNOW. THAT old story…). It’s actually quite good, but needs work even after I took out all the dated Coolio and car phone references.  I’ve also come up with some great ideas for films called “Storyline,” “The Arms” and have even begun to rewrite my “eternally being written” novel The Summer of Blue Drinks.

Someday, I’ll get them all done.

But, right now, I need to answer the door…

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