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wwJoss Whedon has announced that he is no longer helming the Wonder Woman movie. I’m feeling a sense of deep loss, over something I never had. Like I felt when Gwen Stefani got married.

Studio 60 on it’s Sunset Trip?

Studio 60The Hollywood Reporter says NBC announced plans to air The Black Donnellys starting March 5th, Mondays at 10. For those of you keeping score, that’s the time slot currently held by Studio 60. For those of you really, really keeping score, I’m pretty sure Donnellys was intended, back in the fall, to jump into E.R.‘s slot on Thursdays, to avoid airing reruns.

S60 has faced rumors of cancellation almost since it came on the air, but NBC has always stood behind the show. The scary part of this latest report, for all the Sorkiphiles out there, is that S60 will be going on hiatus with no specific return date planned. The other SNL-inspired NBC darling, 30 Rock, is also going on break to launch something new, but that show has a definite return planned.

Network programming is more and more liquid every day, so maybe they’re just keeping S60 in reserve. Then again, unspecified hiatus could mean that the show, like a one-night stand or a Mars satellite, just sorta goes away, never to be heard from again. I for one have dug the the romantic comedy retooling of the last couple of weeks, and would hate to see a channel closed to one of TV’s strongest writers. Here’s hoping sweeps is kind to Matt and Danny.

When film actually means something

is not yet ratedIt’s impressive to think about the effect some important documentary films have had lately. Following Morgan Spurloch’s Super Size Me, McDonald’s and other fast food chains started offering healthy menus. (A decision they will of course tell you was in no way influenced by the movie.) After 8 years as Vice-President, purportedly working behind the scenes to do whatever he might for the environment, it was with An Inconvenient Truth that Al Gore brought global warming to the front burner. It’s insane to think that public opinion might have swayed more by an obscure film than by actual policymaking, but it sure feels like that has been the case. And Gore the Filmmaker has a much higher approval rating than he ever did as a politician. (Just watch him declare his presidential candidacy from the podium as he accepts the Oscar. You heard it predicted here at screenwriterguy.)

I was greatly impressed as I just watched This Film Is Not Yet Rated. This doc will make you think a little deeper about the hows and whys of the little letter that gets tagged at the bottom of a movie poster, and what filmmakers must compromise to get a market-friendly letter. I have always suspected that America was somewhat alone in the world in its tolerance of violence yet restriction of sexuality in media, but here’s a film that puts concrete support behind that idea. It’s interesting to note that the MPAA is instituting a round of changes. Much like McDonald’s, their decision had nothing to do with a film that was critical of them.

Side note: This film managed to avoid using one of my biggest movie pet peeves. Have you ever looked through a pair of binoculars? Inside, you’ll see a single circle. This is because the human brain is used to taking images through each of two sensory organs, our eyes, and combining them. So does the brain take the information from each barrel of the binoculars and combine them. But studio movies love to put a silly mask on binocular POV shots, as if two connected circles of visibility are afforded. Kudos to TFINYR for getting it right. Now that’s truth in filmmaking.

Score a couple for the good guys

I got sunshineIt’s fair to say there has been a shortage of good news for the comedy writer, pretty much since the debut of Survivor. So I think it’s only fair we all take a moment in celebration of a few news items today that favor the humorist scribe.

1. In the 9 p.m. time slot, Two and a Half Men was victorious over both Heroes and 24 by a million viewers. Granted, the prurient and often scatological TaaHM isn’t the thinking writer’s choice of champions. Still, the fact that it can knock out NBC’s freshman hit and the power of Bauer has to send a message that the sitcom ain’t dead yet.

2. ABC picked up 5 comedy pilots today, plus one at FOX.

3. That dramatic is not the same as good is something we all understand. The Academy’s record, however, implies that they do not. So please consider my cockles warmed by the nomination of the tiny gem Little Miss Sunshine for Best Picture. Granted, this, the only comedy in the race is not going to be a favorite to beat Babel or Iwo Jima. Still, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

Anyway, that’s my little glimpse at the silver lining, nay, a banner day for scripted comedy. You may now go back to watching American Idol.

A good episode of Scrubs? Pretty much!

my musicalThe musical episode of Scrubs proved to be something much better than a really, really horrible idea. How’s that for praise? But seriously, this was the best episode of the season so far.While it was overall a decent episode of a sitcom, it was quite a solid example of a 20-minute musical. There were several good singers in the cast, and worthy selling of their songs by everyone else (hint: Don’t look for J.D., Elliot, or Cox belting to the rafters in the group sing that closes ep 2.13, “My Philosophy.”) I didn’t even mind the ridiculously contrived reason everyone was singing.

But the fact that this was the best episode in memory had nothing to do with singing. In the end, I feel there are two reasons contributing to Scrubs‘s excellence that sometimes cause it to collapse under its own weight:
Continue reading “A good episode of Scrubs? Pretty much!” »

A good Scrubs episode?

stephI love Scrubs.But I love it the way you love your old elementary school, or your great aunt who used to bring you the best Christmas presents, but who now corners you at the family party to discuss the virtues of fiber in one’s diet. That is, it was great once, but I don’t find nearly the enjoyment there I once did.Tomorrow night’s episode is going to be a musical. OK, half of you are already done, I know. A whole lot of folks out there have no interest in people spontaneously breaking out into song and choreographed dance, and if there’s anything worse than a musical, it’s a TV musical.

But before you run screaming, know this: Continue reading “A good Scrubs episode?” »

ScreenwriterGuy’s meta-awards

I like the Golden Globes best of all award shows. The ceremony is informal, there’s less cutting off of people’s speeches, and they don’t try to pretend comedy should be in the same category as drama.

My fast take on the winners last night?

  • Most obvious award of the evening: Meryl Streep.
    She was the very best part of two otherwise decent but unspectacular movies this year.
  • Worst pick of the evening: Ugly Betty.
    Better than Weeds, Entourage, AND The Office? Um… no.
  • Best acceptance speech: America Ferrera.
    While Ugly Betty has all the character depth and overall writing complexity of an Archie cartoon, Ferrara is talented and deserving. And she managed to do the crazy-shocked-emotional-sincere thing all while being very eloquent.

How is The Office so good?

dwightIs it too early to declare that The Office is revolutionary? On more than one occasion have I listened to industry professionals declare emphatically that the sitcom is dead. Yet, here’s a show that has reinvented the art form, first in the British series, and now in the (I’m officially willing to say) even better American version.

The last several installments have been consistently excellent (I still laugh when I think of Michael putting an ‘X’ on his date’s arm), and tonight’s episode managed to move several characters and many of the relationships in fantastic new directions. I am in awe.


Continue reading “How is The Office so good?” »

Wait, I can write a movie for you AND not have all the unnecessary hassle of cashing a paycheck?

quillI was out this weekend with a small group.  One of our number is a producer for a straight-to-DVD production company.  Upon learning that I am a writer, he enthusiastically invited me to give him a call some time, as his group needed writers, and they had several projects they wanted to make happen.

OK, I thought.  Finally a break from knowing someone who knows someone.  To prepare myself for a meeting with this fellow, I consulted with some friends who had written or been offered similar deals: non-union writing on assignment for a project that producers never intend for screen distribution.  The consensus was that if the movie budget is about $1 million, the writer could expect about $20K.

This is not an amazing amount of money for writing a quality screenplay, but neither is it pocket change.  In my head, I was already imagining paying some bills, and finally buying a car in which my friends aren’t embarrassed and/or scared to ride.

Continue reading “Wait, I can write a movie for you AND not have all the unnecessary hassle of cashing a paycheck?” »

The Best TV You’re Not Watching.

A friend of mine has a theory that Nickelodeon serves as the incubator for tomorrow’s best talent. I’ve been watching a show lately that convinces me that the “for kids” network is in fact the home of TODAY’s best.

AangAvatar: the Last Airbender is quality. It’s a cartoon, yes. But this show demonstrates the kind of writing I wish I could find more often in “grown-up” programming. The dialogue is sharp, and the story arcs are extremely well structured across each episode, each season, and the series.

AtLA takes place on “Earth” in what seems to be generic medieval-ish Asia. However, with fauna including a huge, six-legged flying bison, turtle-ducks, rabbaroos, poodle-monkeys, and lemurs that fly with their ears, we’re clearly in another world. The nations of the world are divided by their ties to the four elements, and certain of their populations are “benders,” born with the magical ability to influence earth or fire or water in martial arts-like displays. The Avatar is the one special individual (strongly influenced by the concept of the Dalai Lama) reincarnated into each generation with the ability to control all four elements, and through their mastery bring peace and balance to the land.

I tried to ask myself why this show comes across as so consistently entertaining. Much could be said for its sharp dialogue, modern enough to be accessible while not betraying the tone of its world. There’s a humor to many of the conversations that is funny to any age group. Another strong feature is the original world. Like the Harry Potter series, Continue reading “The Best TV You’re Not Watching.” »