Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The State Of The TV Nation

So tomorrow I leave my home of six years to - I'm not sure what. Separation /Divorce is a messy business no matter how good the intentions. Anyway as a result I may or may not be off the blog for a while.

So with that in mind I thought I'd have a general rumination on the state of the Industry.

My prognosis isn't good. The proliferation of new channels in the last few years has in general backed up the old adage that 'more means worse'.

The introduction of short term contracts for most execs has led to a climate of fear where risk is avoided at all costs.

The BBC Writer's Academy is I think one of the worst ideas ever to be hatched. I don't say that just because it is costing me and all other freelancers dearly as spots on long running shows [ the only way a writer can make a living] dry up as the most favoured nation status afforded to Academy writers sucks them out of the system. I say it for creative reasons.

John Yorke has never written a produced script in his life. Yet his 'teachings ' His 'five act structure or 'Grid' or whatever the hell he calls it is being flogged as some kind of template for BBC shows. No wonder they all look the same.

It is also my understanding, I may be wrong, that Academy writers don't get a script fee for the episodes they write, but a salary which is way below the script fee. Way to circumvent the hard fought for minimums!

And finally, when I were a lad, writers got gigs by showing great original specs. Yorkie has touted the Academy as a place where writers can fail in safety. Whoop de doo. Then they get to meet the real world. Being trained to write for 4 specific BBC shows is not the same as being a writer. Meanwhile I know for certain that several real world writers of my acquaintance are seriously considering giving up TV writing. The Academy nonsense being the final straw.

Does that sound harsh? It was meant to be.

If there were some element in the Academy course that meant ''you will be encouraged to produce original work and ideas in addition to the usual bollocks'' then I might change my mind about it. Might.

Okay call me a curmudgeonly old git, but that's how I feel. And call me what you like. I'm never less than honest.

Training writers to write for Holby, Casualty, EastEnders and Doctors is like programming Robots to perform brain surgery. The Robot is only as good as the programmer. I'm far from convinced the programmers are up to snuff.

And yes if any Academy writers are reading this I may well come across as a malcontent luddite. Perhaps that comes with the territory of dealing with the shifting sands of those in executive positions over a number of years. But a word of advice. If Yorkie is sacked in the next few years the 'Academy' will be a dirty word. So to Academy writers. Be nice. Make contacts. Do a great job. But don't rely on Yorkie to watch your back. And for God's sake don't boast about being an Academy writer to any old salts who came through the trenches. It's the surest way to oblivion.

Writing is hard. What is harder is making contact with people who love your work and have the resolve and resources to do something about it. It's a symbiotic relationship. Apparatchik execs come and go. The passionate and creative execs are the ones who stay the course. Much like writers.

This one size fits all mentality is what is killing TV. Too much emphasis on what is safe and not enough on what is good. Subjective, I know, but the most memorable shows are always the most risky ones.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

But I digress

I'm going through a few domestic crisis at the moment so I promised myself I won't write about the strike or writing in general. Gets me too worked up.

I thought for a change I'd choose something less contentious.

This whole 'Teddy bear' business in Sudan? Wtf??????

Now if a Muslim teacher at a Christian school for instance had decided to name a teddy bear Jesus Whoremonger then I can see certain elements getting upset.

But here's the thing. Gillian didn't name it. Her pupils named it. 20 out of 23 of them chose the name Mohammed. The most popular boys' name in Sudan.

Then she circulated a letter to parents informing them of this. And not one of those parents complained. Why would they? They have no political agenda.

Nope, two months later a ''staff'' member informed the authorities.

Yeah right.

In Friday prayers the Imams whip it up a storm and send a few hundred rent a looneys out demanding death. The cameras are, of course, there.

It's called PR.

In essence what this means is that a handful of people suddenly have the power to besmirch a nation and a religion. For what? To put pressure on the West not to send peacekeepers to Darfur? Possibly. If so it's a tactic that has badly misfired. Unless it is a tactic to alienate moderates everywhere by the use of extreme measures intended to cause resentment and division which they can then exploit for their own political ends .

Much like the purpose of terrorism?

A big thank you to those British Muslims protesting outside the Sudanese embassy today voicing their displeasure. The way to counteract terrorism is for right minded people to actually stand up and do the right thing.

Anyway I have no doubt Gillian will be released to the British authorities shortly 'for her own protection' The Kuwait news agency have muted this ''might'' happen. Kuwait being one of the biggest aid donors to Sudan. 'Nuff said. But thank you.

I have no time for fundamentalists of any persuasion or conviction. I don't have a lot of time for organised religion in general. I'm of the live and let live persuasion.

But as a human being I've got to try to understand the motivations behind such actions rather than take a knee jerk reaction stance. More importantly - as a writer I've got to take a .............. dammit. I promised myself!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Creation Of Memories

Is what good writers do. That's why I get kinda annoyed when cruising the blogs during this time of the WGA strike and see the shills coming on to every site and spewing their [ironically]scripted mantra about overpaid writers.

The creation of memories is why the AMPTP are barking up the wrong tree with their version of what makes the best bottom line.

The AMPTP business model is take a film out wide, hope the theatrical release goes someway to cover costs, especially the heavy marketing needed to get any bums on seats, then make a profit on the dvd sales and TV sell through. On which they make a vast margin.

As a numbers game that works. In the short term. But in 'entertainment' if that is all you have in the short term then you are little better than the travelling circus with a bearded lady showing up at the small village. After the initial buzz, pretty soon the villagers are saying 'Is that all you got?'

I don't care whether the method of delivery is internet, movie theatre, TV or dvd. The important thing is it has to connect with an audience on a deep level. Much deeper than the bottom line expectations of the money men. Because without that deeper level of connection there will be no meaningful bottom line.

That's why they need writers. Writers are vital to that bottom line. In fact, without writers that bottom line wouldn't exist. Which is maybe why writers are treated like shit? When money and art get together, money generally doesn't want art calling the shots. And I can see their point. Money is about risk. Minimising risk in this business can easily be about keeping the creatives on a leash. A lot of us are so nuts we don't give a shit about bottom line. And neither should we if it makes us slaves rather than creators. You can go so far then that is the choice you have to make. The best money men know how to work that. The Studios and Networks are owned by money men very far removed from scripted entertainment .

But what we do, they just can't. One of the biggest B.O and more importantly DVD sellers in recent years was Pirates Of The Caribbean. Yeah it was a movie based on a theme park ride and blah blah blah. But to me, it was an almost perfect movie. And they are very rare. That's why it did huge numbers.

The Bourne Ultimatum. Again in my opinion an almost perfect movie. And the opposite of Pirates Of the Caribbean because in this case the franchise got better as it went on.

And in my opinion these movies were huge successes because they said something to the audience that was much deeper than the superficial story. Questions about who we are? Why do we do what we do? The nature of authority? And even just creating something that really entertained us enough to remember them after leaving the cinema.

Which is why DVD's are so important. I've seen a lot of traffic on the blogs from people saying the WGA should forget about the dvd formula. That is water under the bridge and they should focus on internet residuals.

Personally I think that is bollocks put forward by AMPT vested interests. Yes, internet delivery will be the prime pipeline in the near future. But that is just the initial pipeline. Because I don't think the long term thoughts of the consumer are being taken into account.


That's why people download from I- tunes and still buy the CD. That's why people stream Family Guy and still buy the box set. Not all. But the real fans of the show or movie.

Create something people really like. And I don't mean along the likes of American Idol or Deal or No Deal. They are a hand job in a dark alley with a $10 hooker as opposed to a night with a very drunk and randy Famke Janssen.

Create something that means something to a lot of people. Dollars will follow. Providing you have a strong union fighting for those dollars. Remember that in this business writers are regarded as the flint in the zippo. The current crop of execs can trade on the zippo name for so long but sooner or later the buyers will decide that zippos are shit. Because they were too 'cheapskate' to have decent flints.

They are the English F.A of the entertainment world. People with no grounding or experience or training in football. But they control the cash.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Internet, Stars and Marketing

I'm an Internet moron as anyone reading this blog knows. I just about have the technical ability to write a blog page and that is it. Leave aside the quality of the content.

But even I can see that it will be the viewing medium of choice for a vast audience in the very near future.

And I think that opens up a lot of opportunity for creative people to get together and ...well ....create.

In the UK there are probably less than a dozen gatekeepers who determine everything you see on TV. A yes or no from them means your project either gets green lit or languishes in the ever growing pile of spec scripts that didn't make it.

But the Internet? If you can make something you can get it on. Unfortunately that requires 3 very important other factors. Money to make something with decent production values. An audience. A revenue stream.

But say for instance you managed to attract a STAR with a good script? And say that star attachment attracts finance for production? And say you hook up with a top notch media booker and marketing department? Then all things are possible.

I don't think it will be long before this happens. Okay you could argue it already has with Quarterlife and others, but I'm talking about A list stars. Because at this point in the process I think that is what you need to generate sufficient viewing numbers to be attractive to financiers. I don't think that will always be the case by any means. But right here and now you need a hook.

So you see, I'm not thinking in terms of 'Let's shoot the thing right here, kids' I'm thinking about an actual business model, with finance and distribution.

Most A listers already have their own prodcos, and some aren't just vanity titles. They know how to get product made.

The audience is changing rapidly. People are getting more and more used to segmented payment for entertainment. Be it downloads on their phones, I tunes, Sky or Virgin Media pay per view. You name it.
The internet market is young but it is going to be huge. The distribution bottle neck is going to be broken by producers, writers and actors creating content and arranging strategic alliancies with advertisers and marketers. Or heaven forfend - even financiers who believe top class entertainment will produce profits.

Kinda like what happens now. Except it's not us that does it. It's the networks and cable outlets. But it ain't rocket science. Even for me.!

I'm going to start looking out for possible alliances now. Be back later.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Talking Turkey

So the AMPTP and WGA resume talks on the 26th. Good news. Providing it's not a cynical ploy by the AMPTP because they know they are losing the PR battle. Once again they propose a deal which is completely unacceptable and then use their media outlets to blame the WGA. I hope not. But I am optimistic because I don't think the WGA are going to take any crap. And I think the majority of the members will support that.

Having said that, I am not a smart guy. I just got a statement saying something I wrote a couple of years ago, on a one hour prime time drama series , has aired in Canada. There are two figures on the statement and I'm so dumb I can't work out if the payment is for one episode or two. The total is about £130. No great shakes but keeps me in beer and pizza for the week so no complaints.

But it set me thinking about how much admiration I have for the negotiating committee of the WGA in terms of how much detail they have to know. They don't just have to negotiate in broad terms for a fair deal. They have to wrap it up airtight, I mean duck's arse airtight, so that the AMPTP can't wriggle out of it.

See, what set me thinking was the payment I received was my share of the BBC licensing the episode[s?] to the Canadian outlet. The Canadian outlet was BBC Canada. Okay I didn't even know there was a BBC Canada but there you go. To be honest I rarely look at the source of the cash on these statements unless it is a big enough figure for me to say a silent prayer of thanks.

But I thought I would in this instance. Maybe because the whole residual thing is so high profile right now.

Now I'm not saying the BEEB are up to any shenanigans by for instance licensing the episode for a paltry fee to a subsiduary company in order to bypass meaningful royalty payments. Far from it. They have no need to. But think about the vertical integration and sprawling media empire of the AMPTP?

Studios are already well known for dubious licensing deals on film properties with a view to minimising revenue and therefore gross and net profit participation of talent. Just a small part of the notorious smoke and mirrors of studio accounting. Made easy by the incestuous and tangled associations between provider and pipeline.

It is this that the WGA negotiators are up against. Especially difficult when they don't have access to the AMPTP figures on internet revenue. I don't envy them, but I do admire them and wish them well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Turning Worms

Being a writer, especially for film and TV has it's moments of triumph. The joy of working through a script, the .......... okay I'll come back to that.

But there is also a lot of insecurity both financially and emotionally. Most peoples jobs don't entail baring their emotions on the page, spending hours living and breathing other characters, and being told it needs a rewrite. lol

Yes it's not chopping wood. But then a job chopping wood doesn't rely on how great was the last log you chopped. I mean no disrespect to wood choppers you understand? I'm getting at the level of insecurity the job engenders on a day to day basis.

It is this insecurity that the 'bosses' trade on. Writing is a precarious occupation, with poverty around every corner. Ignore the headlines about the millionaire writers. They are the lottery winners. In fact there are probably more lottery winners than millionaire writers.

Writers will generally bend over backwards to keep a job. If they make waves they are in danger of not only getting fired from the show they are on, but no doubt a reputation for being 'difficult' will soon percolate through the industry.

I think this state of affairs has become so endemic that the AMPTP figured the WGA would cave easily. But I don't think they understand a writers psychology.

The worst fear a writer has is being out of a job. That is the power the employers have over them. And why we eat so much shit.

But Lo and Behold! The worst has happened. And you know what? I think the writers have a new sense of empowerment because of it. They don't have to eat shit. This is their golden opportunity to get together in force and show writer solidarity against all that's wrong with the business.

I think that sense of empowerment is what is keeping morale so high. And it is something the AMPTP probably haven't come across before. Without the threat of being fired, a pissed off writer is someone you don't want to be fighting. Because they are crazy enough to take it to the death. Something the AMPTP cartel should factor into their thinking.

Cartel? Did you know that the AMPTP have a 'secret' establishment in Encino where figures for worldwide sales of product in every possible revenue stream are collated and distributed to every member? I mean ALL the figures to EVERY member. Now forgive my muddle headed thinking, but is that not heading towards a Cartel rather than an Association?

What do I know, I'm just a crazy writer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More thoughts on the strike

God bless the Showrunners.

Despite threats to sue them for the entire budget of the shows, they have walked out. And that is something I don't think the AMPTP expected.

To me I don't believe this strike is so much a battle over residuals and internet and more a fight to the death over the very existance of the WGA. Given the AMPTPs stance on negotiation I can see no other logical reason for their position other than seeking the obliteration of the Guild. Something that would be disasterous for writers everywhere.

But the showrunners? Now it is a different ball game. The AMPTP were full of bluster about how many scripts they had stockpiled and they would essentially starve the writers back to work.

But with the showrunners walking out that threat is meaningless. The stockpiled scripts will lie there unfilmed.

The AMPTP argue they have deep pockets and will wait out the writers. Guess what? The showruners have deep pockets too. And without them it doesn't matter how many starving writers want to return to work. No showruner, no show.

Without them it doesn't matter how many veiled threats the AMPTP leak to mouthpieces like Variety indicating writers from Canada and the UK are being approached to scab. Without the showrunners that doesn't mean a thing.

The conglomorates who make up the AMPTP are only interested in one thing. The bottom line. I doubt if they have any understanding of the creative process whatsoever, and certainly don't seem to realise that without the writer there is no industry.

The showrunners walkout will quickly dispel the notion that writers are unimporant. The advertisers will be screaming very soon. It's been reported that there has already been a 30% drop in late night ratings. The networks 'give backs'' i.e free advertising given because ratings didn't hit targets, will be colossal.

And that is the major effect the showruners walkout will have. Instead of months of product the networks have weeks at most. And the advertisers know this. And will be going ape shit. The only way to get the AMPTP back to the table is to hit the bottom line.

And the showrunners are doing just that. I hope they keep their resolve.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Questions Questions

Okay so the Dev Ex has read your script, likes it and calls you in for a meeting. The breeze is shot, and then come the questions. The ones that for me, bluff mode is required to answer.


Which network do you see this on?

Truthful answer.

I haven't got a scooby. I just write. People like it or they don't. I don't give a monkey's which network. Isn't that someone elses job to figure out?

Actual answer.

BBC 2 - 9pm. {If in doubt always say BBC2 - 9pm.}


Where do you see the story and lead character in series three?

Truthful answer

How the hell do I know? I've done enough free work without blocking out three series. Put some cash on the table and I'll figure it out.

Actual answer

There's going to be a major twist at the end of series two that propells the lead and story right through series three. I'm still working on the fine detail.


Who do you see in the lead?

Truthful answer

Anyone you do.

Actual answer.

I think there are a number of young sexy leads who could play this. It wasn't written with anyone specific in mind.

Then it is your turn.

Truthful question

So are you serious about this or just spinning your wheels taking meetings to justify your job?

Actual question

I'm really glad you like this. Where do we go from here?

The truthful answer to that would be -if we were that interested we would already be speaking to your agent.

The actual answer will be -I have to run it past the boss and see what he says.

Three weeks later comes the email that you chased for saying they already have something similar in development.

I kid. It's not always as bad as that. Just enough to make it a cliche.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Finger Of fate

So Josh Friedman is posting again. He has an interesting take on the studio execs driving past the pickets and flipping them the finger.

Essentially saying it's refreshing to get a full frontal Fuck You rather than the earnest butt fuck they normally engage in .

Personaly I hope the writers are making note of who these assholes are, and come payback time, which will come, when these same finger flippers are blowing smoke up writers' asses, and claiming mistaken identity, the writer gives a long slow finger and takes the project down the street.

But at least it shows the writer what some of these execs actually think about them. I say some, because there are also execs who are very supportive of writers, and if had any say in the matter would offer a fair deal.

But for those execs for whom it is all about the deal, and all about the money you can see why they are pissed off at writers. Writers and actors are the two elements that they have least control over. They don't like that. It is a variable that is difficult to quantify. Talent always is. They understand balance sheets and budgets okay, it is the marker they cling to, and this strike is screwing that up for them. Advertisers are getting ansty. Distribution companies are wondering about standard of product. Foreign TV networks who have shelled out for Lost, and Heroes and CSI are saying WTF?

Writers and actors are the difficult kids, the nut jobs of the industry. If they could do away with them that would be fantastic.

But they can't. So HA!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fade Out. What now?

So I've just finished a spec. I mean literally, just finished. Or to be more precise, I've just finished the first draft.

Any excuse for a celebration so I'm going to........oh wait, I'm on the waggon at the mo. Dammit. I'll blog instead.

I tend to revise as I write, so I don't expect huge changes to the draft when I revisit it. Which I'll do in a day or two. Because I like a bit of distance before I dive into rewriting. Or polishing. Because assuming I haven't screwed up the concept [not always safe to assume] that polishing can make all the difference.

Here's one thing it is safe to assume, execs will look for reasons to NOT do a spec rather than find ways to make it work. That isn't a complaint. That is the nature of the business when faced with shelves full of spec scripts.

So my polish will be a 'reader' polish. Specifically geared to make it shine off the page as an interesting and exciting READ.

Heresy! I hear some say. Show don't tell. You can't film adjectives. And the rest of those ''rules''


The name of the game in a spec is getting the idea, story and characters across to the reader in the clearest, fastest, and most interesting way possible.

I've read a few scripts recently that were technically perfect. Format was spot on. Very professional looking in every regard.

And the dullest read imaginable. You could feel the writers looking at their 'How To Write A Blockbuster ' self help tome on every page.
There is economical writing and there is stark to the point of anal. Stark to the point of anal is not what you want in a spec script. Help the reader out. Don't sacrifice clarity on the alter of format. Most of which seems to be propogated by people who don't actually make a living as professional writers.

If it is capable of being acted you can write it.

''Josh smiles, but in his heart of hearts knows it's bullshit.

Yeah. Sounds good.''


Yeah. Sounds good.

Ignore the literary merits of my dashed-off example. If I were a reader or an actor or a director I know which one I'd prefer to see. Obviously, assuming the spade work has been done previously then you can do the [falsely] example. But , what if it is at the start of the script? Why risk the meaning of the scene in a paranthetical that may or may not be the best use of the 3 words you can fit in? Why not tell what you are going for in clear concise terms? Again, if it can be filmed or acted, you can write it.

A lot of the best moments you seen on screen are implied in the script. Not written as such. But definitely implied.
The first example allows the actor and director to get exactly what they are supposed to be doing at this point. With a confident actor and director, magic might happen.

But most importantly of all for a spec. The reader gets exactly what is going on.

Friday, November 02, 2007

For anyone wondering

........what all the strike fuss is about, this post, from the WA board by way of Artful Writer comments kinda says it all.

''Some of us have been screwed for a while now, and not in the pleasant sense. The below is an email post from Micah Wright, posted on the WriterAction (WGA-only board). I requested and have his written permission to spread it like the plague. ~ Tina

(FYI, to set the scene, the tone of Micah’s intro is in response to another WA poster unhappy with our leadership).

Well this is ONE angry Horad that’s confused about your stance. The AMPTP clearly never intends to pay us one single cent for internet delivery. The music business model clearly indicates that internet delivery for most, if not all content is the future. What then were we supposed to do when faced with rollbacks and refusals to bargain in good faith? Pray? Or just swallow the bullshit they were trying to shove down our throats, and forget about not only what we’re making, but also what every person who ever follows us into this union will ever make?

People like you keep bitching about the DVD negotiating point, and yeah, you’re right: DVD was lost 20 years ago, but there’s no magic rule which says we can’t reopen that topic. More importantly, though, DVD didn’t take off for almost a decade after the ‘88 strike… the Internet is here NOW, and it’s here FOREVER, and if we give in and allow them to pay us ZERO on Internet delivery, we can just kiss the idea of ever getting paid residuals goodbye forever.

It’s not self-righteousness which is driving this negotiation… it’s quite simply the greed of the AMPTP, which clearly sees this as the year in which they intend to break the WGA on the rack once and for all. But you don’t see that… you seem unable to get it through your head that the AMPTP doesn’t want to ever pay us anything. If you think these people are so reasonable and that they deal in good faith, then try talking to writers who work in Animation and Reality… THAT is the future that the AMPTP has in store for EVERY WRITER IN THE WGA. Because if they don’t have to pay residuals to the woman who wrote The Lion King, then why should they ever have to pay one to YOU? Or anyone else?

Oh, and before you give me some fucking sob story about the disastrous strike of 1988, let me bring you up to date with a more RECENT story: mine.
I came to this guild having had a “successful” career writing Animation for $1400/week for five years. During that time, I wrote on several of Nickelodeon’s highest-rated shows. My writing partner wrote and directed 1/4 of the episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” and I was responsible for 1/5 of the episodes of “The Angry Beavers.” The current value that those shows have generated for Viacom? $12 Billion dollars. My writing partner topped out at $2100/week. In the year 2001, tired of not receiving residuals for my endlessly- repeating work (even though the actors and composers for my episodes do), I joined with 28 other writers and we signed our WGA cards.
So, Nickelodeon quickly filed suit against our petition for an election, and set about trying to ferret out who the “ringleaders” were. In the meantime, they canceled the show that I had created 4 episodes into an order of 26. Then they fired the 3 writers who’d been working on my show. Then they fired 20 more of my fellow writers and shut down three more shows, kicking almost their entire primetime lineup for 2002 to the curb, and laying off 250 artists.

Then, once the WGA’s petition for election was tied up in court over our illegal firings, Nickelodeon called in the IATSE Local 839 “Cartoonists Guild” — a racket union which exists only the screw the WGA and its own members — and they signed a deal which forever locks the WGA out of Nickelodeon, even though we were there first. Neato!
Then Nickelodeon’s brass decided —out of thin fucking air— that myself and two other writers had been “the ringleaders” of this organizing effort, so they called around to Warner Bros. Animation, the Cartoon Network, Disney Animation, and Fox Kids, effectively blacklisting the three of us out of animation permanently.

And why did Nickelodeon do this? Why were they so eager to decimate their own 2002 schedule, fire 24 writers, break multiple federal labor laws, sign a union deal, and to even bring back the fucking blacklist? They did all of that to prevent us from getting the same whopping $5 residual that the actors & composers of our shows get.
For five lousy fucking bucks, they destroyed three people’s careers and put 250 artists out of work and fucked up their own channel for a year.

Ahh, but my episodes run about 400 times a year worldwide, though, so obviously Sumner Redstone (Salary in 2001: $65 million dollars) and Tom Freston (2001 salary: $55 million) were right to do what they did… myself and those other 23 writers might have broken the bank, what with each of us going to cost them another TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS each! OH NO! That… that’s… FORTY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS!

So don’t come crying to those of us who have EXPERIENCED what the AMPTP plans for all of the rest of you, that people who are deciding to stand up to bully-boy tactics like that are the crazy bunch of “horads” lustily marching “throught” the streets searching for blood. The AMPTP are the barbarians sacking Rome in this scenario.

The AMPTP and their glittering-eyed weasel lawyers are a bunch of lying, blacklisting, law-breaking scumbags, and the fact that they haven’t budged off of ANY of their proposals in the last three months proves that what they have in store for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU is exactly what they did to us at Nickelodeon, and what they can do any day of the week in daytime animation. Or reality.

Strike or no strike. That’s their plan: to winnow down your membership, to snip away at your MBA, to chew away at your health & pension plans until there’s just nothing left of the WGA. Why? Because they’ve had a good strong drink of how much money they make off of animation when they don’t have to cut the creators in for any of the cash, and now they want to extend that free ride to all of live action as well. THAT is why they have pushed for this strike at every step, with their insulting press releases, with their refusals to negotiate, etc. — because they’re HOPING we go on strike, and that enough cowards and Quislings come crawling out of the woodwork after six weeks that they can force us to accept the same deal that Reality TV show writers have.
If you doubt me, go read their contract proposals again… there’s not ONE of them which isn’t an insult and a deal-breaking non-starter.
So can we PLEASE stop hearing about how it’s the current WGA management which is the fucking problem here? Because, frankly, that canard is getting a little stale.
Or perhaps you prefer presidents like the President of the Guild back in 2001 who just threw up her hands when we were fired and blacklisted out of our careers and said, and I quote, “oh well, it was a good try”?''

A screwing is a screwing is a screwing. The WGGB have indicated their full support for the WGA strike and while that means fuck all in real terms for the vast majority of us, at least I hope our American brothers know they have it.

For those of us it does affect, I refer you to the words of pastor Martin Niemoller. ''When they came for me there was no one left to defend me''

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Good Luck WGA

Just a word of support for the American readers. I know no one wanted this strike but if it has to happen then it has to.

From this side of the pond it seems the AMPTP has taken a belligerent stance from the outset forcing the WGA into a corner. For a long time, almost since the inception of movies and TV, writers have tended to be the least well paid and least regarded of the creative forces. Odd when without a script everyone else would be sitting around doing nothing. But there you go.

I've been on various websites and there always seems to be a screed of ''so called' writers almost apologising for being writers and saying things like ' a screenplay is worth nothing without a director and actors because without them you just have a script.

Horseshit. I think they are AMPTP aggitators.

If a studio is willing to spend a million dollars buying a spec script, then that screenplay is worth a million dollars. I don't see any visible director or actor making it worth that at the point of sale?

If the studios are making 80% of their revenue from DVD and TV sell through then the writers of that content deserve a fair share of that.

If a formula for payment of download and streaming content has to be negotiated it shouldn't be tied to rollbacks of existing payments for non downloaded content.

Nick Counter's days are numbered. He will be the AMPTP sacrificial lamb. More power to you WGA and the brave members willing to take a stand.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Meh Factor

Heroes is on tonight. And I'm ....meh? Can't be bothered. I haven't seen it in a couple of weeks, and to be quite honest the novelty wore off after about 3 eps.

'LOST' think I managed to last til about half way through season 2.

'The West Wing' End of season 4 I think.

In fact my only real appointment viewing at the moment is Studio 60. I'm begining to think that is because I know it's going to end. A few more eps then bang. Finito. That appeals to me.

Okay, most American programmes are not set up like that. Studio 60 obviously wasn't though I think I read somewhere that Sorkin only ever intended 2 seasons max.
Long runs are manna from heaven to the networks, especially the commercial networks. But are they really doing the audience any favours when they go down that route?

This is a purely personal opinion and it would be good to hear others. But I like short run series. Another of my favourites is Firefly. Another casualty of the ratings. But hey, what a great one season show. And it made mega bucks on DVD and got a movie made. [I think the series was better]

Our version of The Office. Two series and out leaving nothing but a rose smelling fart joke in the anals of British sitcom. Oooohhh er missus.

I don't think this has got anything to do with my short attention span. There is just so goddam much to do that I really don't want to get invested in something that is padded out for 8 or 9 series when a couple or three would do the job better. And yes I know there were those who were heartbroken when Sex in The City ended or Deep Space 9 or whatever but I'm just not wired that way.

Again syndication in the US demands 72 eps or whatever. I know Micky Grade has made it known he is looking for long running series for ITV. But will I be watching? Maybe to half way through season two and then cursing him roundly.

By the way I very belatedly caught The Soprano's finale last night. There are only two words to describe it.

Absolute .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Teamsters Rule!

So the news from across the pond is that the Teamsters are throwing their weight behind the WGA in the proposed strike action. Kinda.

I think this is excellent news. Studios are far more terrified of the Teamsters than they are of the WGA.

But really I just like writing Teamsters! Americans always have such great names for things. Teamsters Local 389. I mean doesn't it just evoke smoke filled rooms, sharp suits, dodgy deals and the faint whiff of mafia?

What do we have? The South Croydon branch of the Transport and General Worker's Union. Just doesn't have the same ring does it? And possibly why prior to the Guy Ritchie inspired boom in Sarf Lundin gangster flicks you'd likely be met with a '' Brits don't do Gangsters, we have red telephone boxes and Bobbies with pointy hats'' if you tried to pitch one.

Probably why I can only think of three gangster flicks prior to the ''boom'' Get Carter, The Long Good Friday and The Krays.

Oh crap is that the time? I need to work!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lies and Damned Lies

Yes I'm avoiding!

But still........

Heads must roll at ITV. According to Broadcast they were beaten into 4th place behind a Welsh Channel in a poll on best Drama channels. Don't believe me?

Channel 4

Beaten by a Welsh language channel? Yes there is apparently such a thing. I now realise that was the multi vowelled thing on my Sky box that I thought was an electrical blip.

It also shows you what a heap of crap you can make out of statistics if you want to. If you look further down you will see Shed Productions listed in the top independent production companies for Bad Girls and Waterloo Road.

Jeez, c'mon Broadcast. I'm a devoted reader. But when you start publishing 'polls' which consist of the opinions of your contributors then you are on a sticky wicket. Especially as you must have a large Welsh contingent.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

It shouldn't be. I've got a ton of work to do but it's raining. For some perverse reason I always use that as an excuse not to write, whenever possible. Maybe I'm a massochist who enjoys suffering at the keyboard when the sun is shining.

Anyway, as yet another diversion I've just been looking at the BARB figures for w/e 14th Oct. I always look at these figures with a mixture of incredulity, acceptance and depression.

In that week BBC 1 had only five non soap dramas in the top thirty watched programmes. FIVE! And you had to get to 12 and 13 to find the first two. Casualty and Holby.

And that's the good news believe it or not.

ITV only had 3. Admittedly Doc Martin split the soaps with a highly creditable 8 million, but way down the list were The Bill and Rebus.

C4 had none. No non soap drama in the top thirty. Nada. Zilch. Bupkiss.

C5 had loads. But is was all North American.

BBC2 had The Tudors way up there, but at 2 and a half mill it is hardly setting the world on fire. Shame, because dodgy fx's aside I quite like it. Sam Neil is always watchable and I have fun thinking back to my 'A' level history trying to work out that the Cromwell guy isn't Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Moore isn't Thomas A'Becket. Though at least one of them is definitely for the chop if my memory serves me right.

Fanny Hill is now doing well on the BBC4 I believe, which just goes to show that sex sells. Gonna get me that Andrew Davies to write a porn flick. Can't lose. I kid, he is extraordinarly good at adapting literary material. Didn't he also do Moll Flanders [okay and just about every other period piece on TV] but it had the genius marketing tag of 18th Century Fox! Fanny Hill pretty much says what it does on the tin.

Maybe The Tudors needs some similar marketing tag to kick start an audience. My own humble submission would be The Tudors - How to Get Ahead in Marriage.
Or for the younger set - Henry had six and two gave head!

[Note to BBC publicity dept. I am available every second Tuesday. Wait til you hear my ideas for Strictly Come Dancing]

I digress. The Winter schedules are upon us. And while nothing is as yet is firing it's way on to my screen, I am ever optimistic that the Beeb can do better than Casualty and Holby at 12 and 13. I've got to be.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Trend Chasing

We've all had it. The meeting with the prodco who say ''The networks are looking for Cops, or Docs, or Legal or - I believe the new buzz word is ''Shouty''.

It's understandable why prodcos hang on to the networks' every word on what they are looking for. But should a writer, especially a newer one pay too much attention and chase the trend? I don't think they should, for a couple of reasons.

Number one, get on the end of a very long queue of already established writers who have a fistfull of relevent specs. The TV business being what it is, the networks are always far more likely to go with an established writer. It's got a lot more to do with arse covering than the merits of the individual projects.

Number two, if you are a newer writer, you want to stand out from the crowd, not join the herd. You'll do that by showing originality.

Number Two and a half, now I think about it - true story. I was in a pitch meeting with a big prodco a few months back. I had about 4 projects to pitch, two of them procedural. Before I could even open my mouth the producer said '' We're not interested in procedurals, the networks don't want them''

You've probably guessed the rest. A couple of months later I got a call from the same producer. 'You got any procedurals, the networks are looking for them?'

I don't actually think the networks know what they want until they see it. Sure, they can say they want loud, in your face, contempory drama til they're blue in the face. But does anyone know what that is? Not until you see it.

When I write a spec my only concern is 'Would I want to see this'' Narcisstic perhaps, but a writer has to be. If you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one. In my view the best TV has always been that which bucked the trend not chased it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Creative crisis?

Don't really have much to add to this excellent piece, apart from good luck with the Controller BBC1 application. lol

I kid. PBJ is way too rich to bother with the paltry £250k on offer.

Funnily enough though I've just been speaking to a mate who recently had a spec out to about 17 prodcos. Guess which one out of seventeen didn't even aknowledge receipt, much less get back with a yes or no?

Not disagreeing with anything PBJ is saying. But just....saying, you know? Take the pole out of the rich man's camel ....or something like that.


I'm watching the WGA malarky across the pond with interest. Mainly because the issues at stake affect TV writers everywhere. The top ones being DVD sales and Internet streaming.

I say TV more than features because, as discussed with a mate the other day, many feature writers in the WGA make a good living writing stuff that never makes it to the screen so those issuses are largely moot other than for the 30 or 40 regularly employed screenwriters getting films made.

I can't remember when the last PACT agreement was ratified, but I know it was several years ago, and certainly before the advent of Broadband for the masses. So, whatever is finally negotiated over there could and perhaps should be the benchmark our own sweet WGGB should be aiming for.

Of course without the benefit of a closed shop, whether the WGGB can negotiate anything worthwhile is open for debate. Having said that, the BBC's minimum 5.4% or whatever [it's a long time since I've seen a contract] on DVD sales seems pretty good in comparison to the WGA 2% of 80% or whatever it is. See how up on detail I am?

In a week where TV-Links was raided and closed, this shows how seriously the big boys are taking the issue. That means there must be money involved. And I'm not just talking about potential lost sales of DVD's. For example, Channel 4 have a system where you 'buy' a progamme for 50p or a quid, get to down load and keep it for a week, then it wipes? So I guess you don't actually buy it, you rent it. Sites like TV-Links are potentially depriving them of that revenue if you can watch for free anytime on your browser.

I don't know how much, or if at all, the writer sees of that fee, but I'd be interested to know.

I think it is obvious that the potential audience for a show are not nowadays all willing to sit down at the same time every week to watch it. Many like to watch it when and where they choose, and even better on sites like TV -Links where there are no adbreaks.

I think this is being realised and the networks know this is the way much of their output will be watched in the future. Witness the vast sums the BBC are spending on researching internet platforms. The major problem the networks have is policing the internet. It is human nature that if you can get something for free then why pay for it? It is up to the networks to come up with a solution for this, so I don't intend to give it any more thought. Largely because I am an ignorant technophobe.

But though this particular battle for a share of the cake is currently being fought several time zones away, this writer global village of ours will reverberate with the result.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Two bits I couldn't resist sharing. No names no packdrill.

A mate of a mate has a series just commissioned by the BBC. Jane Tranter's ''alleged''comment. ''It's okay but it's not a Spooks.''

An ITV exec's complaint about the 8 million viewers of Doc Martin? ''It's the wrong 8 million''

Both of those ''alleged'' comments shed a lot of light on the mentality of network execs. The first shows how prodcos can jump to entirely the wrong conclusions when a network exec utters an ill thought out or unclear statement. Guess how many are now telling each other that the BBC are looking for a Spooks knockoff? I don't think the BBC are. I think they are looking for something that attracts the buzz of Spooks. An entirely different proposition. But what a crap thing to say? Especially as it got back to the writer. Nice team building exercise.

The second comment to me, shows a lack of understanding of the dynamics of building an audience. Yes the current average age of the Doc Martin viewer is probably bus pass or over, but, any show which gets those numbers has to have something going for it. And eventually those numbers attain their own momentum, word spreads round and younger people start watching it.

But it is a bizarre business. Today I heard of someone who I came across on a show a couple of years ago in a fairly junior capacity. I was less than inspired by either the dramatical knowledge on display or the drive and enthusiasm. That person is now employed by a Government funded agency and seems to have magically acquired the title of Executive Producer in charge of a multi million pound budget.

One thing you have to get used to in this business is the near miraculous ability of many to fail upwards. I can only think it is because actual talent isn't a prerequisite for a lot of these positions.

Off-hand I can think of at least 3 or 4 highly placed individuals at both networks and prodcos who I and a good number of other writers wouldn't dream of sending work to. They don't know who they are, but we do! They are some of the dogmatic ''I'm right and you're wrong'' brigade. The ones who believe, with little justification, that they know better than the writer. Believe me, when you meet an exec who does know better than the writer, and there are some, you will know it. And you'd better listen to them or you'll be pissing blood for a week after the encounter.

The thing to remember is that these people have their own issues and agendas to deal with. Very few of which are to do with your script. Climbing the greasy pole without the aid of any discernable talent is having thought about it, actually a talent in itself. I remember Paul Abbott in an acceptance speech for one of his numerous awards saying there were some in the industry that having worked with them he won't touch with a barge pole in the future.

Probably talking about much the same people here. At least in attitude.


I got a call from a mate the other day. He's been trying to break into pro writing for a couple of years with not a lot of success. No agent and not a sniff of a commission. The constant rejection, or even worse, being completely ignored, was getting to him to the point he wanted to quit.

You know what? That happens to pros too. A lot. But a pro won't quit. Because they know that comes with the territory. When a new writer breaks, they have a flash of heat that will probably last a couple of years. They are the new kid on the block and everyone is interested in taking a meeting, handing out a commission and generaly having some face time.

A couple of years after that, unless they go stratospheric, they are part of a large group of middle ranking writers all after the same jobs, all sending specs out and all competing for face time.

Last week I got a response to an idea I sent to a prodco in February! I had actually forgotten I'd sent it. And that is the best way to handle it. Don't hang around waiting for phonecalls or responses. Move on. Get the next thing out. Don't think for one moment that what you have out there could be life changing [which it could] because the chances are stacked against it.

But keep writing. Keep getting your work out there. Because eventually, if you are talented, something will stick. It might be the third or fourth spec you've sent to a prodco and they seemed to have no interest in the previous submissions. But...... they will remember the name, the style, and the fact that you keep producing the goods. You don't just call yourself a writer - you are one. There are many who are in love with the idea of being a writer more than sitting down and cranking out the pages.

And don't think on it as rejection. You know those little quarter sized pieces of furniture that apprentices would turn out before being let loose on the full scale models? Think of your specs like that. You are proving what you can do. And eventually you will get the nod to move on to the big stuff. It's not about rejection, It's about saying look at me, I'm here, and I'm getting better and better.

I think I've posted before that I got an agent with my first script. I'd been writing for about 4 months.

Worst thing that could have happened to me. It was the wrong agent for me and I was so green I couldn't see it. I was also one of those writers who decided they only wanted to write movies.

My second agents, who I moved to after about 6 months were based in Los Angeles. Worst thing that could happen to me. Again I was so green that I had no clue how the industry worked. Heck they even had to tell me what a slug line was. I think I was calling them Locations. They told me I'd be a millionaire in a year. That should have sounded warning bells right there.

Result? I think it was a couple of years later before I got my first commission. Which was for UK TV after I'd gotten off my high horse and decided it was a medium that I might be interested in.

Best thing that could happen.

Suddenly I had to learn, and learn quickly what being a pro writer is about. That means doing the best job possible given production restraints and deadlines. It also gives you some credibility with some prodcos because they know you can produce the goods. I say some because nowadays even the likes of Hollyoaks are asking for trial scripts [unpaid] from pro writers looking for a gig.

But the most imporant thing I did was never give up. I'm not saying every writer has the talent to become a pro. But I think a lot do if they apply themselves. Try to get in at the ground level on a show like Doctors. Pretty much the only show willing to take a punt on a new writer. You'll learn a lot, and if you get in and produce good work you will move on.

Don't take anything personally. A mate of mine recently had a spec rejected because the producer felt '' the networks will want Ross Kemp in the lead'' Huh???????

The weird and wonderful vagueries of why someone doesn't go for your spec are too many to worry about. They go for it or they don't. If they don't move on. Yes it can be tough because a little piece of your soul should go into everything you write. But your soul isn't finite. It regenerates with every project.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

So here's the BBC skinny

From 'Broadcast''
BBC cuts: how the new budgets shape up
£1.5bn saved by ditching investment proposals such as local radio stations
£155m saving on BBC news over 5 years, with the ability to invest a further £75m
3% efficiency target across corporation
10% less output over 6 years
£100m a year off the BBC commissioning budget
£10m reduction in combined budget for BBC3 and Switch
£7bn investment in content over 6 years
£30m to be spent on multiplatform and on-demand over next 3 years
£4m to be spent on retraining and re-skilling
£300m to be spent on MyNow (local services)now over 6 years
£2m extra investment in films

This just serves to confuse me even further.

1.5 Billion saved on not doing something that was proposed? Isn't that called ''not doing something we might have done but won't'?' How does that affect current levels of staffing at news and factual in such a way that it becomes a slaughter house all of a sudden?

I'm much more concerned about the 100 million a year off the commissioning budget. That is a disaster.

What the hell is MyNow and does anyone outside the BBC give a damn but it costs 300 million?

The good news is an extra 2 million investment in films. That could mean extra sprinkles on the doughnuts, people!

The more I look at this the more it seems like a crock of shit.


'Major shows such as Watchdog, EastEnders and Gardeners' World are normally renewed on an annual basis. But they, along with the likes of Horizon, Holby City, Songs of Praise and Natural World have all been safeguarded for the next three years.''

Whew, what a relief!

Not kicking again

It's just that this whole BBC cuts malarky gets to me like a bad rash. The headline story is that there will be 1800 job losses, mostly in news and factual and the BBC is facing a £2 Billion shortfall.

Looking a little closer there will actually be something like 2800 job losses from news and factual, with 1000 being retrained to go into 'new media' and the £2 Billion shortfall is actually over 6 years.

A couple of things spring to mind. If 2800 jobs can go from news and factual without significantly damaging the quality of output then something was well rotten in the State of Denmark beforehand. Overstaffing and empire building perhaps? Given the percentage of BBC Governors whose Kith and Kin appear to be hanging around news and factual that may not be far from the truth.

But something really irks me when a public service broadcaster reknowned for it's news gathering service and documentaries slashes away at that service for the sake of budget, but leaves utter dross like Homes Under The Hammer, Beat The Bailliff, and just about every programme on BBC3 untouched. Not to mention all those digital radio stations who get about 5 listeners a day.

Here's a tip to save the news service millions of pounds a year. Stop the Empty Building interview. How many times do we see a reporter at ten at night standing outside the EMPTY Department of Transport or Home Office or Labour headquarters? There is no one there! Except the reporter and a very expensive outside broadcast team. For a thirty second spot where the reporter could impart all he has to say face to face with the news reader in the studio? Does the audience somehow feel the story isn't true unless the reporter is standing outside the blacked out building? I think not.

So, on the basis that the BBC hasn't actually had a cut in budget, it just didn't get as much as it had hoped for, why the sudden swinging cuts? Are they saying that they staffed up to levels they hoped they would be able to afford at a later date? Surely not?

Personally I think this smacks of Mark Thompson latching on to the opportunity to do some long overdue housekeeping. The spin that the BBC is in financial crisis just doesn't wash with me. It sounds more like the opening gambit to put to the Unions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Alcs and Alkies

Okay that's enough BBC bashing. I don't like kicking a man when he's down.

On the back cover of the current ALCS magazine are a couple of interesting quotes from an interview with Alan Plater. Why it's on the back cover I don't know.

''Writers are essentially the court jesters. This is of course the best job in the court, which is why so many people (including pretenders) want to do it.''

I think these are very carefully chosen words. The court jester was one of the most precarious positions in the court. While it was going well the jester was a powerful figure with the ear of the king. Keep performing and life was rosy.

BUT ..... fall out of favour and it could be a one way ticket to obscurity, or teaching.

''Corporations have no interest in writing, only in the market, which by definition has no real integrity''

Amen. The counter argument goes that the market will find it's level and if an audience wants thoughtful intelligent progamming then the market will eventually provide it. But that doesn't work. The market is controlled by corporations who have a vested interest in mass appeal. Even if that means creating that 'appeal'' by mass marketing. How does MacDonalds manage to sell so much crap?

''But if all we want to be is rich then we shouldn't be writing in the first place. Radio and theatre, for me, remain the oases of sanity''

Heck I've got no beef about getting rich. And I think if writers were properly rewarded for what they do then getting rich and writing quality material don't have to be mutually exclusive. But I can see where he's coming from. Radio and Theatre are probably the place where the writers voice is given the most respect. It is also relatively poorly paid compared to TV and film. I guess that's the trade off.

And Alkies? It's all over the news this morning that booze is the curse of the middle classes.

It always was. You just don't see them staggering outside a nightclub at 3 in the morning. At least I don't when I'm there.

But for a writer especially, spending long hours alone in front of a computer, wrestling with various emotions, there is a temptation to have a glass of wine or 3. When that urge hits me, I stop writing. Because I know I won't be writing in the same voice or tone after a few drinks.

That's just me. Some prefer to have a few to loosen up before they even start writing. Either way, my tip for healthy drinking? Always use a clean glass.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This is funny

Especially if you know some of the personalities involved. Kudos whoever you are.

You know, I'm getting a bit fed up of all the holier than thou falling on swords that's going round at the moment.

It started with Greg Dyke and a few others over the WMD sexed up document. The effing Blue Peter cat naming scandal. The GMTV holiday phone in scam. The late night 'weirdo's phone in trying to win money' scam. The Comedy Awards phone in scam, the Yentob plagiarism accusations and Queensgate or Crowngate or whatever you want to call it.

Enough already! It's becoming the medias own sexed up WMD. Rap a few knuckles and move on. Nobody cares! Yes there seems to have been an endemic culture of using phone in's to boost revenue, and not always above board. We get it.

But no more of the sack cloth and ashes and finger pointing. Please? Fire who needs to be fired quietly and quickly and move on.

A couple of interesting points arose during my perusual of the 2006 BBC accounts. Yes I am that anal!

The BBC make almost as much from selling magazines as they do from selling programmes abroad. That's got to tell you something right there.

The average pay increase for BBC staff was 4.9%. Nice work if you can get it.

From a 3 Billion income, 2 Billion went on transmitted programming. By my calculations that leaves 1 Billion which didn't go on transmitted programming. I wonder what it went on? I would look but I'm not THAT anal!

But it seems to me that if Mark Thompson is looking for drastic cuts, eating into that 1 Billion would be a good place to start.

BBC - a family business?

Perusing the BBC financial statements for 2006, as is my want I was struck by how family orientated the business is. That's so nice to see.

For example Baroness Deech, a Governor? Well..... her daughter is a journalist with BBC News.

Merfyn Jones, a Governor? Well..... his son is employed as a researcher with BBC News.

Ranjit Sondhi, a Governor?Well.... his wife is employed as Head of Political Community Affairs, whatever that is.

Richard Tait, a Governor? Well.....his wife is a commissioning editor with Radio 4.

Mena Richards, controller of BBC Wales? She is very family orientated, doing the double with payments to her sister's company Torpedo totalling £325, 000 for programmes and £56,000 to her husband for artistic rights.

Now I don't want to come across like Private Eye here. There ain't no law against members of a family working for the same company. I just find it interesting how the media blood obviously courses through the veins in some. Could be something in the water?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

That's not funny

So the British Comedy Awards won't be screened this year due to an ongoing 'phone in' scandal report due on last year's show?


So a whole bunch of talented, dedicated people miss out on their day in the sun because the untalented suits screwed up yet again? The ones whose main dedication is to preserving their jobs at all costs? Because that can be the only purpose in cancelling the show.

So there was some kind of phone in scandal last year? So what? Don't have a phone in. Problem solved.

Do they really think the vast majority of the audience gives a toss? They tune in to see Jonothan Ross rip the piss out of people and view some great comedy clips. Well.....maybe not great clips this year given the output. I doubt if any of the current crop will go down as vintage.
But that's not the point.
This is the show that gave us Julian Clary talking about getting fisted by Norman Lamont and a clearly drunk or drugged Michael Barrymore destroying the set!

But because a few rubes phoned in after the winner of some ''peoples choice'' category was already chosen the show gets yanked.

This has got nothing to do with integrity or ethics and everything to do with timing. The report is due soon, and ITV would like to bury it along with the show. This year! Next year is a whole 'nuther ball game.

But as far as they are concerned, screw the audience and screw the talent. Plus ca change......

Wouldn't it be great to have someone with some balls in there making these decisions. Just once.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday Night Lights?

Crap! When did Thursday nights become so good? I have to be up at 4.30 tomorrow for a flight but I'm glued. Scrubs and my Name is Earl on E4. Studio 60 on More Four. Californication and 30 Rock on 5.

I'm like a whore working two beds! I'm writing this in the fricking ad break. Throw in internet watching of Reaper, Chuck, Pushing Daises, Entourage Corner Gas and Aliens In America and there just ain't enough hours in the day,TiVo or not.

God help me if I find a UK programme I actually want to watch as well.


Is what I believe the latest BBC debacle is being named. You know the one, when Her Maj grumpy face was made out to be storming out of a photo shoot instead of storming into one?

I couldn't care less is my first thought because frankly I can't. Not about the subject matter. But heads have roled and rightly so. Because while of course documentary makers legitimately use dramatic techniques to enhance the experience, you've got to draw the line at manipulating timing of events to portray a completely different picture than what actually happened.

Did the right heads roll? Dunno. But I think the documentary maker should be tarred and feathered. You expect a degree of subjectivity in any documentary, but the least you should expect is that the facts are correctly presented.

Except from what I understand the documentary maker was innocent.

It was RDF, the producers, who sexed up the original tape in order to try to boost foreign sales. Well that kinda backfired as it promoted a commission bar from BBC and ITV and a 30% drop in their share price. Damn good thing too. Maybe it will wipe the smile off some of those cocky marketers faces.

I spoke to an irate dev exec. A programme she had loved and nurtured, and also loved the title, was bemoaning the fact that the marketing department had changed the title so that it would fit in the SKY menu box!!

Another had a name changed by marketing to make it a very unsubtle double entendre, when there was nothing at all sexy about the programme.

There is definitely a place for the marketers, but sometimes the tail not only wags the dog, it curls round it's neck and chokes it to death.

Hopefully this is a salutory reminder to them that in both fact and fiction, truth is the most important aspect.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


It never rains but it pours. I've a deadline Wednesday. On Friday my computer packed up, dead, zilch. Lost half the script. Spent the rest of Friday buying a new computer, getting it set up and generally playing with it. Had Saturday off thinking I still had plenty of time.


Sunday I got hit with a bug which meant losing half my body weight from both ends. For two days I did nothing but crawl to the toilet and sleep. Occasionaly at the same time.

The moral of the story is you have no such thing as free time until AFTER the script is done!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Kid Stays In The Picture

For those of you who haven't read Robert Evan's ''autobiography'' ( I use itallics because I suspect given the subject there is a lot of hyperbole involved!) I really do recommend it. I first read it a couple of years ago and have recently started again. It is THAT good.

A passage I was reading early this morning struck a chord. Bear in mind Evans was referring to Paramount in the seventies, when Paramount was rapidly going down the toilet. He had a stand up/knock down fight with the distribution arm, because he reckoned the problem was that distribution was telling production what to make when in his opinion production should be making what they thought was great, then tell distribution to go out and sell it. He won.

The result was Chinatown, The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, Goodbye Columbus, Marathon Man and a host of others. True or not it's a great story. But the situation has become much worse since then.

With the cost of movies spiralling the studios are only willing to greenlight what they think are sure fire winners. They've been vetted by marketing and distribution long before the cameras start rolling. No exec is willing to put their head above the parapet and take a risk.

In this industry the corporate culture and creative culture have to rub along in an uneasy alliance for the best work to reach the screen. In the last 20 years I feel corporate culture has annexed the Sudetenland. Marched in. Declared Marshall law. Okay my own hyperbole there, but you know what I mean.

10 years ago do you think a writer had any idea what ''4 quadrant'' meant? This ''marketers'' speak is now on the lips of every newbie trying for a shot with a studio. It's a cultural change but the prize is so great it is very difficult not to fall in with the buzz words and statistics and demongraphics that the marketers throw around. That's fine if you can do that and feel it doesn't actually harm the story you want to tell.

But when that story then has to become the one the marketers believe they can sell then you have a dilemma.

And it's not quite the same dilemma as a director or producer asking for artistic or production based changes. This is about a pre-emtive strike solely based on what the marketing department ''think'' they can sell. Emotional beats changed to suit a predicted audience whim long before sneaks and previews. Give a girl a chance will you, before you give her a pre-prom makeover so she'll make it big with the jocks? Assuming she's not a swamp monster maybe the jocks will like her just as she is?

Yes, film making is a business, and for studios, anticipating the market is essential, but it's not like making kettles. It's about emotion and zeitgeist. And I defy anyone to anticipate what that will be 2 or 3 years down the line when a greenlit film is actually finally released.

A film should be made on gut instinct more than statistics, but bravery has gone out the window thanks to the quick and high price of executive failure. The sack!

This defensive production culture has also permeated through Uk TV to some extent. Witness the bland load of bollocks littering the schedules. Though truth be told, and I may be way off base, I am detecting a sea change. I think it is a sea change born out of desperation as ratings stagnate or dwindle, but I am beginning to hear what I think are encouraging noises. Michael Grade's assertion that content is king sounds very much like Robert Evans' plea to Paramount. It apparently worked for him? And saved Paramount if not the movie industry.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sod's Law

I had a couple of hours to kill yesterday and must have read just about every TV review in every paper. Almost without exception they heaped praise on Murphy's Law.

Imagine my surprise when I read it garnered just 4.1 million viewers and was soundly spanked by gentle comedy/drama Doc Martin with 8.1 million viewers.

Or is it surprising? Murphy's Law might be the critic's darling. But the critics aren't the average ''over 50'' TV viewer, who when given the straight choice between a dark gritty drama and a gentle romp with nice scenery, well, I think I know which they'd choose.

It's those ageing demongraphics again. Murphy's Law might be a good show, but it will continue to be soundly spanked when pitted against Doc Martin. I think it would add a million or two at least if it were in a different time slot.

I don't think that the BBC will panic about those figures. The critical acclaim will see it through. But it's a sobering thought that if not for the critical acclaim, on those figures and on another channel, that show might be in trouble.

Monday, October 01, 2007

What were they like?

I've missed so many shows recently for one reason or another. Mostly apathy. But some I wanted to see and missed. I'll list them below and if anyone has seen them I'd be grateful if they could post their thoughts in a sentence or two.

It's A Free World

Coming Down The Mountain


I'm not joking by the way. I'd like a vox pop on what seems to be a current fad, at least with commissioners, and I missed them.

This is a random musings post so please bear with me if you got this far!

Aaron Sorkin. I loved The West Wing. First four seasons especially. Though I will never forgive that series finale. Toby gets pardoned and never appears in the ep? I really like Studio Sixty. I watched episodes of each back to back the other night. They are both smart and sassy but I realised why I love one and like the other. I can believe a liberal President.

ITV productions are beefing up their drama production arm with three recent appointments. Micky Grade walks the walk . But can these appointments walk and talk? I don't know them personally but I think it bodes well.

Apparently Jane Tranter in a recent interview said we should move to the American system of creating lots of pilots and seeing what sticks. There are some serious flaws in that system as documented elsewhere, notably SERIOCITY's blog. But overall I'm fer it. But for the BBC to go that route is going to take a sea change of tsunami proportions. Though perhaps they should think back and recognise that for better or worse, shows like The Bill and Last Of The Summer Wine came about that way 20 something years ago.

I'd also argue that creating lots of pilots is one thing but moving to the writer's room system is something else entirely and one that I personally would jump at in an instant, mainly because it takes swathes of non-writing management out of the equation and gives precedence to a room full of creativity. Bliss. Okay it still has to get past the suits. But it's coming from a good place.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

They fuck you up

'.... your prod and ed.
They may not mean to but they do.'

Apologies to P Larkin lol. Full poem below.

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself

One of the most ironic poems of all time. Because everything a writer does should be a kid to them. Something that means the world to you. If it doesn't then get off the fucking bus.

The poem itself? meh. Love the first act.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Who's inda house?

I've been thinking over the writer implications of ITV or rather Michael Grade's aim to take 75% or production in-house with a view to how it might affect commissions.

And the more I think about it, the less sure I am of the implications. Obviously there are potentially huge implications for indie prodcos, but the writer? I mean we the jobbing writer, not the 'A' list prodco owning ones. I'm not all that sure it affects us much at all.

Unless those at ITV productions are a bunch of twats in which case it definitely does. I've never really dealt directly with them, not the London ones, Manchester yes and they are great.

Okay the temptation will be to submit directly to ITV for an ITV skewed project rather than go to indies. Because the corporate world being what it is, aims become targets, and targets are the watchword of industry. There is a danger that you option a project to an indie, who take it to ITV and ITV say - sorry not interested in a co production - we're only running at 65% in house at the moment, I'm getting heat from above to get that up and my job is on the line.

That is a very viable scenario.

But I would still submit to the indies anyway, a calling card is always a calling card. If ITV and an indie want to slug it out over one of my projects then great. That can only be good for me. I might just not be so quick to take an option with an indie on an ITV skewed project, if I knew what that was, unless they really made it worth my while.

The down side is that there are some indies I'd like to work with, because I think they do good quality work and are writer friendly. The two often go hand in hand. ITV is an unknown quantity, and judging by their recent output they have a lot of people to convince.

The indies are bullish at the moment, saying this move won't really affect them. But they would wouldn't they? ITV in house production is currently running at 54%. It's a heck of a hike to 75% and a heck of a bite out of indie producers bottom line. Okay, that's just one network, but most of these indies are already barely scratching a living.

So will more ITV in-house production be a good or a bad thing for writers as far as commissioning is concerned?

I'm still not sure. I guess it depends who's inda house.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Life is sweet

I've just handed in the draft I was on deadline for. I've got a spec going that I really like. My bank account has been significantly bolstered this month. Gorgeous blonde phoned to arrange a steamy weekend and I've just cracked open a cold one mid-afternoon.

Does it get any better than this?

Pretty sweet. No wonder writing appeals to so many people.

Now before too many people say 'Fuck off you smug git' let me paint a slightly different picture.

I call it 'What the hell do I do now?' Oil on canvass. Note the brush strokes tinged with a hint of desperation. The artist is clearly staring into that singular inferno known as the valley of commissions.

In a nut shell, I have no idea where my next commission is coming from. That happens on a fairly regular basis. Okay thus far I've survived for 10 years or so, made a good living even, but is this the time when the work suddenly dries up? When those big cheques you were used to disappear leaving you with a mountain of commitment and a teaspoon full of cash?

It can happen. So, so easily. And perversely, it seems the longer you are in this game, the more you think about it. At least until you make the 'A' list where you can actually make 'fuck you' money.

I've heard would be writers say stuff like ''I want to write cos I hate my job and want to be my own boss''

Then seriously, I'd say write novels. That's possibly the nearest you'll get to it. Screenwriters always have bosses. The guys with the power and cash who dictate what gets made. Films and TV are incredibly more expensive than book publishing.

or ' I love the idea of working from home'

Ain't all it's cracked up to be. And I refer to ''I hate my job'' above.

This job, for the VAST majority of writers tends to be feast or famine. If you are someone who wants or needs a regular paycheque then you really should think about doing something else for a living.

Sweetness in life is all relative. Writing has it's great moments. But also involves a lot of self doubt, financial uncertainty and possibly a degree of insanity.

But after all that, what is actually foremost in my mind right now is a promised scenario involving gorgeous blonde and a couple of silk ties. Because to me, for a writer it's not about the money, or success, or fame [fame?] Though I'm not daft enough to crap on how to get there. Deep down, where it really matters, it's about taking the infinite experiences of life and trying to make some sense out of them.

Those may involve silk ties.

Or the death of a loved one.

Or a conversation on a bus.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Shomebody Shtop Me

So I've been belting out a new spec without the aid of a safety net. No outline. Unusual for me, but great fun.
Now I have to take a step back. I know roughly where it's going but I'm not sure I've done the prep work in the first 40 pages to justify the proposed ending. Mostly from a tonal point of view.

I have a feeling I've been so interested in the characters I've lost sight of the goal. Maybe I haven't, but I think I need time away to decide.

Fortunately I'm being forced away by notes on a draft due for Friday. That and a weekend away will let it all filter through for a while.

I always try to listen to these instinctive doubts. Usually there is a reason, though perhaps not the reason I first thought. And sometimes it takes time for those to come to the fore.

All writers have doubts. Is this a piece of crap? Am I so into it I can't see the faults? This is compounded when you get feed back.

A mate of mine has what I think is a great spec he's just put out. It's an ensemble piece along the lines of Auf Weidersein Pet. Completely different subject matter, but in that vein.

He's had a couple of comments back along the lines of 'Who is the protagonist, who do we root for?

I guess there are three answers to that.

1. It's an ensemble piece. There is no protagonist.
2. Oh shit I need a protagonist.
3. The audience will have their favourites to root for depending on the story of the week.

It's odd that the writers having read the spec think it is great. They see it for what it is. The editors/producers who have read it so far, only 2 I hasten to add, had the protagonist comment.

Now if you were really paranoid you'd at this stage think 'hell, 100% of producer response is that I need to change this to have a main protag. Clearly they are all looking for 3 act structure, protag and antag.'

I know that is not what this project is about. So does the writer. But at what stage does the writer then try to reshape the project to fit the percieved market? Should they even try?

Well certainly not after 2 responses. And in my view only at all if it doesn't rip the heart out of the piece.

I had a meeting with a big independent. They wanted to do a project of mine providing I didn't have the same premise. Same characters but in a different work environment. I didn't do it. The characters were to me, the embodiment of the original premise. Taking them out of that environment would take the heart out as far as I was concerned. Sometimes you have to make those difficult choices.

'Love nothing' is an old pro writer's adage. Meaning don't get so attatched to something that you pass up a sale because you won't agree changes. But it's not quite as simple as that. You have to love what you do to make it work. The rest comes down to the state of your bank balance at the time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What do they want?

I was chatting to a writer mate earlier and Michael Grade came up in conversation. I've stated previously that I have a lot of time for this bloke. A very media savvy guy.

He gave an interview recently, I believe it's on the ITV corporate site, where he said something like ''Over the last 5 years or so ITV has played it safe, and made some 'orrible programmes as a result.


He went on to say it's all about content and they have to take more risks.


Do I believe that ITV are going to become THE cutting edge risk taking channel? Not for a minute. The economics of advertising don't stack up for a megolith like ITV to take too many risks.

Do I believe they are going to be more approachable with more risky non-cop, Doc, Legal, Relationship drama. Absolutely.

Here's why. It's not because of words, it's because of deeds. I've heard the words many times.

But ITV recently announced that they plan to take 75% of production in house. The stated intent was so that they retained a greater share of ancilillary rights.

But there is another bonus in there too. Instead of having to commit to Indies for a series, if they make it in house, while that show is in production, or even pre-production, if it's not working they can pull the plug a lot quicker.

And that is a good thing. Too much of TV is underperforming, and should and would have been cancelled if it weren't for the ongoing contractual commitments. Witness the BBC gaff with 'New Street Law'' where they committed to 2 series without a shot being filmed. I think it scraped along at about 3 million. Piss poor for a prime time drama.

Leaving these programmes on screen, eeking out a meagre audience is bad for the general health of TV. Too many nights of tuning in and thinking'there's nothing on' means audiences tuning out in droves.

No writer worth their salt should complain if the show is zipped because the audience stay away. There may be many reasons why the audience stay away - The premise, the characters, the writing, the scheduling - some fixable, some not. But there is always a reason. Sometimes things just don't work, and much better for everyone if the death is swift rather than lingering. This move by ITV gives them that ability and the ability to take more risks with more control.

So what do they want? I haven't got a scooby. But I think it bodes well when deeds as well as words point to execs realising that content is the last word.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Best Laid Plans

One of the immutable truths of being a writer is that deadline is king. Obviously not for the writer, where story, character and theme get together and form a Government. But for the rest of the industry, especially TV, deadlines rule.

It is something you have to get used to. It doesn't matter that you waited two weeks for notes and get them at 8 o'clock on a Friday night when you were planning a weekend away. If they are shooting next week, then tough titty. Suck it up, find a way to get it done. And done well.

In UK TV there is no job more precarious than the writer. Even on soaps. Directors are hired for blocks of a series. Actors on fixed term contracts. Writers? With a few exceptions, those on guarantees, not many writers know where the next job is coming from. If the phone stops ringing that means you have no work.

So how do you break out of that cycle other than sleeping with the producer? Talent and perseverence. The same things that got you in to begin with. Other than sleeping with the producer of course.
A writing career and a careerist writer can be two very different things. I know a few writers who have done nothing but The Bill or Coronation Street for the last 10 years or more. That is a career. A very hard thing to do. Involving political skills, love of the show, adapatibility to new characters. A whole skill set in itself.

I know other writers who eschew serial drama and plough their own furrow. Some succesful some not. But that is a career too.

If all you want to do is to be paid to write then that is a careerist writer. If you want to write and still get paid for it, when it hits, then that is a writing career. Both are equally valid and equally difficult.

But the most important thing to remember is that after you have broken in, that is when the real hard work starts.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Law Of Cynics

Every pro reader of whatever persuasion with a blog will post that they open every script with a sense of optimism. Searching, ever searching for that blow me out the water script.

And they do.

But by page 5 they realise it is another heap of crap in an ever growing mountain of crappiness. You have got to understand how bad most scripts are before before you start blaming readers for losing interest after the first few pages.

You can whine about how you never got a chance and the second act was brilliant. But if the reader never got there then the second act brilliance is most likely in your own mind.
I generally don't have a lot of time for readers. I was one and I didn't know shit from shinola. Thought I did. Didn't.
Instinctively I knew a dud from a hit. And could waffle. Maybe the best attributes a reader can have. There are some excellent readers. Probably. I thought I was one. I was shit. Because though I could tell a dud from a hit, my advice to the companies and therefore writers, was deeply flawed and mired in my own ignorant preconceptions.

Good learning process though. I just hope out of the scripts I read at the time I haven't discouraged anyone.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Has anyone noticed the number of movie trailers recently showing scenes that aren't in the movie? It's a bit like those adverts for computer games with the small print at the bottom saying ''not actual gameplay'' So what is the frickin point????

The latest I noticed was in the trailer for ''Knocked Up'' In the trailer the girl tells the guy she is pregnant. He asks 'why are you here hitting on me then?''

I thought that was really funny. It isn't in the movie. They play it pretty much straight with a ''You're what??? moment.

I liked the movie, don't get me wrong. But surely that is false advertising.... or something? Still there may be an upside. Next time I see a trailer for a movie featuring a WWF wrestler they might not be in it.

Just to prove my geekiness, in an nice ironic twist did anyone recognise the cheerleader in Heroes as being the main cheerleader in Bring It On 3, All Or Nothing? Wait a minute...I recognised her on the cover, I didn't rent it, honestly! My son reliably informs me that in another ironic twist she also played an adopted daughter who found out her real mother was Ally McBeal. Obviously she has that perfect, adopted cheerleader look that casting directors hunger for.

On a tangent. I forgot I had something on TV this week. I was reminded when the tape arrived a day after broadcast. Having watched the tape I remember why I forgot the episode was on. It was an EEEEK nightmare of a script and to some extent that was reflected in the episode. They happen for a number of reasons. And they will happen. When they do - bury them. Forget about them. You know the reasons and learn from them. Move on. Like scandal, they are yesterday's fish and chip wrappers.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A newbie writer

There are different kinds of newbie writer. And believe me, I don't use newbie in a perjorative sense. Because I know many ''newbie'' writers have much more talent than some of the old hacks dotting about. Myself very much included.

But back to the different kinds of newbie. There are those with talent and business savvy. There are those with raw talent and no business savvy, there are those with business savvy but not so much talent, and there are those with no talent. There are a few more catagories but that about covers it.

Here's one of the junk mails I recently received.

Bill & Exchange ManagerMR SALAM YUSUF & DR AHMED KARIMAUDITING AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER. FOREIGN REMITTANCE DEPT. (BIB) BANK OF AFRICAN OUAGADOUGOU BURKINA FASO. My private telephone number 00226-70-39-86-89 My private email ( ) All the pleasure is for me to write this message to you in order to request your invaluable partnership for the realization of a very important business which must be treated in greatest discretion. I consequently ask you to take note, without you to astonish by the choice which I carry on your person by seizing this happy opportunity to make contact of you. I ask you from the start to excuse yourselves for all the nuisances which my mail could have caused you. But same if we do not know each other personally and that we never meet, I believe firmly that a true confidence can be born from our communication and this support a true partnership between you and me. I am officer in-charge of auditing and accounting in bank of Africa in the foreign remittance department here in Burkina Faso, I have be working in this banking institution for more than 11years. The late customer MR ANDREAS SCHRAMMER was appointed ambassador to New York in 1993 to 1999; and a Minister for businesses and foreign affair in its country. He was a member influencing in the mediation of the relations between the United States and Iraq in the years 1980. It found death on Friday July 5, 2003 at New York in the centre commemorative of cancer of Sloan-Kettering of the continuation of a crisis cardiac. During my investigation in the bank I discover that the deceased customer deposited the sum of $49,850,000 dollar (forty nine million eight hundred an fifty thousand dollars) And I notice in the file that during the deposition of this money with the bank he did not indicate is true next of kin to the board of directors in is paper work with the bank of Africa, after all intensive routing investigation I find out that no body have ever come to put claim for the released of this money. It is upon this I am now seizing the privilege and opportunity to contact you as to apply to the bank as a relative to the deceased customer. As a foreign partner which this money will be transfer into you account, you are entitle to 40% of the total money why 55% will be for me as the moderator of this transaction and 5% is been mapped out for measeallanouse expenditure that may be incur during the course of this transaction. I will urge you to go through this proposal properly and let me know if you are willing to accord me this assistance for us to achieved this golden opportunity for the betterment of our life, I also want to let you know that this transaction is 100% risk free there is nothing for you to be afraid off, all loophole have been properly taking care before contacting you. Anxiously waiting for your prompt response ro your call TEL 00226 -70-39-86-89 . My private email ( )Thanks and God bless .Bill & Exchange ManagerMR SALAM YUSUF & DR AHMED KARIM

This guy is a newbie in the worst possible way. Everything he writes shows an incredible lack of understanding of motivation and story and scene building. He has one hook. Which is if you are really stupid your greed will make you respond. He may hit on some Alzheimers sufferers and make a few bucks. But long term? As a career? Nah. Opportunists make a quick buck, careerists care about what they do.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Why We Care

Some shows we care about, some we don't. It's a subjective decision. But here are some of the shows I care about and why. And it's all to do with character.


Love Hiro. Love Peter Petrelli. Love the cop who I can never remember the name of but reads minds. Love Mohindher. Kinda okay with the cheerleader because of her backstory. Only interested in the black dude who walks through walls and the blond with the split personality because of the kid. Lots of dramatic tension with him. The rest, meh not so much. Isaac well I can tell he dies. He jumped the shark when he took the drugs again. Peter's brother? Don't give a monkey's. Four loves and an okay? I'll watch.

Studio 60

My heart laid bare with much more talent. Okay so it's an in joke series but it works for me. Honest characters saying honest things about network tv. Why do you think it was cancelled?

Everybody Loves Raymond

A flawed central character who reflects the flaws in us all. As said in 'Knocked Up'' This show is about real life without the one liners and everyone still hates each other.

Two And A Half Men

Charlie Sheen is the Joey of Friends without having to do Joey. He's got big issues. But rather than sit down, gaze at his navel and analyse them he lives the dream in a largely unrepentent fashion. The male fantasy.

I love those characters and that's why I watch.

Some people might sniff derisively at my choices. Some people might sniff at yours.

Sniffing is good. If no one sniffs then you are in trouble.

Pavarotti RIP

Sad news. Though I must confess I've never been to an Opera in my life. Having thought about it that's not quite true. I was actually in one! I was sixteen or seventeen and a touring Opera company arrived to put on productions in schools using any pupils who didn't set dogs howling when they warbled.

I think I played a Pearl Fisherman and doubled up as one of the ten pairs of legs in a dragon costume. Where I grew up the only things to do were fishing, fucking and drinking, and in the winter there was no fishing. So, of course 4 or 5 of us did what any shanghied teenager expected to make a twat of themselves on stage in front of their peers would do. Went on a pre-show pub crawl of all the hostelries in town known to serve underage drinkers. You know the ones. Where a gin and tonic is classed as a cocktail.

My abiding memory is that Big Richard, who was the head of the dragon, might have been large in stature but was not reknowned for his ability to hold his ale. The resulting drunken weavings meaning the lead tenor having to sing while frantically dodging a kamikaze dragon intent on putting us all out of our misery. Happy days!

As the years went by I learned to appreciate it more. Okay, I admit, Nessun Dorma was the lead in. And yes I bought The Three Tenors. Though I still think they should have called it 30 quid.

And yes, I only discovered arias. I like all killer, no filler! And that is a regret.

But my biggest regret is that I will never get the chance to see Pavorotti perform in a full blown operatic production. I don't know enough to know if he was the greatest tenor of our times, but those who do say so. They talk about his amazing vocal power and range and stage presence.

Now THAT'S entertainment no matter what the medium. You know what? Before the year is out I'm going to the Opera. My own personal tribute to an immense talent. I may really enjoy it. And if he has that effect on a lot of people then what better legacy?