Tag Archives: TV

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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The Summer TV Season

(Answering the question: Why what I watch is better than what you are watching. So watch what I do!)

Summer’s here! And that means running around outside, enjoying the sun, and being active. Oh, yeah, and to set your DVR so you can have something to watch after your pollen allergies hit, you’ve gotten a second degree sunburn, and you have a pile of ice on that pulled hamstring!

While the traditional Fall TV season won’t begin until after Labor Day for most networks, they are kind enough to shovel out the horse stables to give us what you’d expect over the summer (“Survivor: Office Bromance!”, “Singing Hits in The Shower!”) rather than “reruns.” But, it does NOT mean that there isn’t anything with which to soften your brain over the summer. You see, every major network is owned by a conglomerate that has cable entities as well. And yes, they have suckered me in! These are just a few of the show that I like, and in some cases, have turned others into fans as well (some shows have already started their summer seasons, so get on board):

NOTE: I don’t have access to HBO, etc., so yes, I do know that “True Blood” is coming back!

USA Network

The USA Network (a division of NBC/Universal) has carved out quite a lineup of shows, spread out across the calendar year.  It DOES have a great lineup in winter and spring (and often splits its shows’ season runs into two blocks), with shows like “Psych.” But, it’s in summer where the shows really shine.

White Collar

Matt Bomer plays the charming con man turned FBI consultant, Neal Caffrey.

This show is really fun and a great escape. Who doesn’t like the idea of watching Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a former high-end criminal and con man working alongside the FBI Agent who caught him, Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). While these two are fun together, and always manage to solve a case with much larger issues hanging over their heads every episode (i.e. distrust, secrets, etc.), it’s the secondary characters that are really fun to watch. Willie Garson plays “Mozzie,” Neal’s longtime confidant and ally. His secrets have secrets, he’s connected and only the surface of who Mozzie really is has been scratched so far. Also, Tiffany Thiesen plays the most understanding wife of an FBI Agent every portrayed, “Mrs. Suit” as Mozzie calls her.

Burn Notice

Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar, oh my!

One of my favorite guilty pleasures outside of the SyFy network and “Supernatural” on the CW, this show is equal parts “MacGyver” and “Miami Vice.” Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is a “burned” spy that has been dumped back into his home town of Miami. Through the first few seasons, his only objective was to find out who burned him and get revenge. He enlisted his old flame, Fiona Glenanne (the exquisite Gabrielle Anwar), a “trigger happy ex-girlfriend,” and his old FBI buddy Sam Axe (played with over-the-top brilliance by Bruce Campbell) to help him find the truth. But, now that he has been partially accepted back into the CIA, he has to pick up the pieces he has left in his wake on his quest for the truth. Plus, each episode tells you more and more about how to make bombs and weapons out of nothing and how to storm a compound! Fan-tastic!

Suits

Two lawyers, one viewer: still one degree!

I really, really like this show, and the idea of a “lawyer” who can remember anything while being mentored by one of the toughest lawyers in NYC never ceases to amaze me. The writing is fantastic with crisp dialogue and great humor. The character of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) is every bit like his name; the kind of guy you want to meet but only if he’s on your side! He’s taken a new young hot-shot “lawyer,” Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) under his wing. The one catch, Mike isn’t a lawyer, he’s just taken the test hundreds of times for others to make money using his photographic memory. This adds a constant tension to the entire show as we ask each week, “Will someone learn Mike’s secret?” The show makes the law seem fun, and it certainly is a highly entertaining show to watch!

Also on this summer are “Covert Affairs” and “Royal Pains” which I like, but both have drifted from their original charm and intent on the show.

AMC

AMC has a great stable of hit shows like “The Walking Dead,” “Hell on Wheels,” and “Rubicon” which was only given one season, but was fantastic.

Breaking Bad

All Hail the King! Indeed...

As “The Killing” and “Mad Men” wrap up their season finales, we get to look forward to one of the best shows on TV, “Breaking Bad.” There is a reason why Bryan Cranston has won two Emmies for his portrayal of Walt White, cancer survivor and high school chemistry teacher turned meth maker and now ______. (if you haven’t seen the season finale of season 4, then I won’t spoil it here and will urge you wholeheartedly to watch this series!)

Last September, Aaron Paul, who plays Jessee Pinkman, the tormented partner of Walt, was finally also rewarded with an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor! The show is hard hitting, violent and is definitely NOT for kids. BUT, if you want to witness a normal “every man” travel down a dark path and come out the other side a dark, changed man, then start with the previous four seasons, which coincidentally can be seen on AMC as they start running a few every Sunday until the July 15th season 5 premiere.

SYFY

Ah, the channel where my inner nerd can be set free!  Besides the series below, I just want to point out that SyFy has some of the best (“worst?”) movies that can be made on their “SyFy Original Saturday Night Movie.” Some titles of upcoming movies: “Jersey Shore Shark Attack,” “Piranhaconda,” and “Arachnoquake.” Enjoy!

Alphas

I like “Alphas” because it isn’t just about people with superhero abilities. Well, it is. But, each one of these Alphas has a drawback to his/her power. For example, Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), is a former FBI agent who has the power of a hyperadrenal gland that makes him strong and almost resistant to pain. However, this leaves him debilitated if he activates it for too long. And Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright) is a transducer, meaning he can see and read the signals from electronic devices such as phones, WiFi and everything else with an electronic wavelength. But, it can overpower him and he does this in spite of his severe autism.  This is a great show, with David Straithairn as Dr. Lee Rosen, the “normal” leader of this group.

Warehouse 13

Pete and Myka: "secret" service agents

More nerd fun! If you ever saw the 1980’s/early 1990’s series “Friday the 13th: The Series,” then this is kind of like that. A group of government investigators (part of the Secret Service – a VERY secret part of it, actually) travels around the world in order to retrieve “artifacts,” which are items that have unique powers attached to them and bring them back to the strange Warehouse 13, in South Dakota. Think what you could do with Marilyn Monroe’s hairbrush, or Edgar Allen Poe’s pen, or Annette Funicello’s beach ball… What makes this show fun is the great humor that is pitch perfect for an oddball show and perfectly in line with the characters of Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly), Artie (the always great and funny Saul Rubinek) and Claudia (the fun Alison Scagliotti).

Defiance

What? Huh?

I have no ideas what this is, but apparently it is being produced as both a series and a video game at the same time. I’ll get back to you on how this all works out.

 

 

 

F/X

Wilfred

Oh Wilfred, how you amuse me so. Were I a complete stoner, or a dog owner, I probably would know of what you speak so much more. As it is, this show, originally an Australian show now made for the U.S. network F/X, stars Elijah Wood as the down and out Ryan, who after a failed suicide attempt becomes friends with his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred (played, as he did in the original show down under, by Jason Gann). It’s at times very surreal and spectacularly funny. Especially if you own a dog.

 

 

 

Comedy Central

Workaholics

Do you have these three in YOUR office?

Basically what I did every day for seven years for a company that I “existed” in.  Except for all the smoking of pot, taking of ‘shrooms and drinking at my desk.  If you’re under the age of 40 and are also not in a position of authority at work, then you can relate and maybe learn something here.  The three leads, Blake, Adam and “Ders” (Anders) are also the creators, writers and producers of the show.  Hilarity!

 

P.S. I don’t deal in reality or competition shows! Don’t tell me about them. I know they are on and I don’t care.

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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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