Thursday, October 02, 2008

Au revoir

I'm calling time on the blog, at least for a few weeks. I'm knee deep in something not connected with TV and as such don't have much to say. I may be back and may not. If not, thanks to you all for reading and for your comments. I hope some of the less ranting posts have been helpful. And I hope some of the more ranting ones have struck a chord with pro's and given a different view to non-pro's.

Keep doing the do, people. Write on. We are story tellers. Keep telling them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

String theory

Like most people, because the second act is a bit dull, I only skim Stephen Hawking's ' A Brief History Of Time. But second act apart, it's a great education on how puny your mind is.

However, his central theme of the search for a unifying theory of EVERYTHING makes him one of the world's most important contributors to written, and /or filmed entertainment. And that's not just because he appeared in The Simpsons.

For entertainment to be successful, EVERYTHING has to come together. The writer does what he/she can and throws it out there. Blood, sweat and tears should have gone into it, but that guarantees nothing. You then need a talented producer, a talented director , a talented cast and good scheduling and publicity. And if that's not enough, you need a whole hell of a lot more.

You need the audience to like it. They don't have to love it. There are very few shows or movies I love, but there are a good number I like. These are the ones when that 'chemistry' comes together and actually makes me care about what's going on.

That's the string theory of entertainment.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fingers Crossed

My mate's first novel went to publishers over the weekend. His top flight agent reckons by the middle of this week he'll know if it's champagne or diet coke. I'm guessing the former. My mate is an excellent writer and this agent knows his onions. He recently got an 800k advance on a three book deal for a first time writer.

As some might have read in an earlier post, my mate is a dyed in the wool TV writer and I've found his comments on the switch to novels both enlightening and encouraging. So much so that if he weren't such a good mate I'd poke his eyes out with a sharp stick.

The creative satisfaction is greater.
The people are nicer to deal with.
The writer is looked on as undoubtedly the most important element in the process.


Having said that, he still wants to write for the screen. I guess it's the screenwriter's bug. More deadly than a NHS hospital. The need to see your words transformed from the page to the moving picture, with living breathing characters.

I'm praying his book takes off in a big way for two reasons. Firstly he's a good mate who has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous execs, took a stand and suffered financial hardship as a result. Stand up guys are few and far between in this biz.
Secondly, as a best selling author, he won't have to toe the line like most jobbing writers, and as execs will be falling over themselves to commission something we might see his last spec get made, which having read it, I would watch in a heartbeat.

So, no names, no pack-drill, but a collective crossing of fingers would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's not me - honest

Okay so I posted about The Secret Millionaire and lo and behold it beats BBC drama 'Mutual Friends' in the 9pm ratings this week.

I don't think that's down to my 10 regular readers perhaps changing their viewing habits because of my review. It's down to the audience watching something that connects with them. It's a piece of hokum. But it's hokum that people actually care about.

I decide which Programme I'm going to watch the same way I decide which movie I'm going to see. A combination of the talent involved and the trailers. Mostly the former. But I can be put off by the trailers and PR crap. I didn't watch Bonekickers because I just didn't connect with the trail highlighting 'A group of maverick archaeologists......' I could tell it wasn't for me from that alone.

Use oxymorons only when they don't sound like they were concocted by someone in sixth form media studies.

Never seen an ep of Mutual Friends. But it lost a million viewers and got butt fucked by a reality show on a minority channel in the prime time slot.

That should tell us something? But what? David Hare's 'My Zinc Bed' on BBC2 didn't exactly set the ratings alight either, despite starring Uma Thurman. Well I guess it tells us nothing. My view is that TV has been dumbed down to the extent that Soap, Reality and Gameshows have become the audiences expectation. Hence part of the reason for the dwindling audiences. Gripping drama has become the exception.

As a teenager I remember watching The Singing Detective, Edge Of Darkness, GBH, Boys from The Blackstuff, Auf Weidershein Pet and on and on. I didn't need or want yoof TV. Network attempts to provide yoof TV generally pissed me off as patronizing twaddle.

Nowadays, unfortunately Network attempts to provide adult drama hit that same spot.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Plug

I always read Robin's blog over at Writing for Performance. [If I were more computer literate I'd have a link here, but he's on my blog roll thingy.

Always interesting articles pulled from the press, reviews, interviews, music. Very nice. Another one I read regularly is Dead Things On Sticks, Dennis McGrath's Canadian blog.

Don't get me wrong, I read and enjoy a heck of a lot more blogs, but it is interesting to see how sometimes a degree of synchronisity occurs.

Dennis has recently posted about the fear factor in blogging and how he feels people don't comment on his, sometimes shoot from the hip, blog, because they perhaps fear repercussions within the industry.

Lucy Gannon recently gave a scathing interview attacking the BBC and their commissioning policies. Robin has pulled a recent interview from the press where she plugs her latest project, The Children - a three parter for ITV.

When I read her initial attack I admired her bollocks. I knew about the 3 parter for ITV, but for a long term pro, that doesn't make a twinkle in the eye of daddy swallow in Africa, never mind a summer, career wise. So for a pro writer to openly come out and dis the Beeb, that was high cotton.

In Robin's Blog I notice the tag line that Lucy has recently become a writer on Coronation Street. Corrie writers have probably just about the longest shelf life of any soap. Tough to get on the show, but stable once you're in. Aha! The coming over the parapet to take a pop at the BBC makes sense. Or so you'd think.

But you know what, I respect her bollocks even more now. TV land doesn't like boat rockers. So yes she can give a rollicking to the BEEB knowing she's okay financially for the next few years. But someone of her experience also knows that some people have long memories. So it was a brave stand, because nothing lasts forever. She knew her position, she had a 3 parter and a spot on the premier soap for ITV and as such her criticisms could be spun by the BEEB as being a disgruntled writer whom they didn't want to hire. She knew that, and she still said it.

It's a bit like when Jimmy McGovern said everything on ITV at 9pm is shit. Okay he had his 'The Street' series coming out on BBC at the time, but he also had his one off 'Cracker' coming out on ITV at 9pm. Something ITV were keen to point out in their defence.

Not much was made of it at the time. But the more that established and talented writers come out and say something is rotten in the state of TV then the more the dunderheads might listen.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gender - Benders

I see Jeremy Paxman has been putting the cat amongst the pigeons again. First it's the dumbing down of the BBC, then it's Marks and Spencer underwear, and now he claims there is no place for the middle aged white man working in TV.

On the first point - agree. On the second point - agree. The best underwear I have found is Petroleum [the make not the liquid]. Doesn't fade and keeps the crown jewels safe. [The worst is Calvin Klein btw]

On the third point - well I'm not sure if he was talking about TV in general or the news department. And I'm not sure he's right in either case. It depends on what level he's talking about. The REAL big bosses are still predominantly male. But the commissioners and gatekeepers tend to be female.

Apparently 60% of the TV audience is female. But I've never been a fan of statistics, they tend to say whatever the proponent wants them to. Soaps are the biggest weekly ratings performer in any schedule, and soaps tend to be predominantly female orientated. Ergo I'm not surprised at that statistic. But does that mean that females are given preferential treatment over males when it comes to script editing, producing , development and commissioning jobs? I very much doubt it.

Here's a theory I have just thunk. It won't win me any fans with the PC brigade but hey ho. Men tend to fall into three camps.

The Ruthlessly Ambitious - climbing the corporate ladder or starting businesses for whom the deal is better than [or at least as good as] sex.

The Steady Eddie's - the salts of the earth who want a decent job with enough satisfaction and money to be content and look after their family.

The Wasters - Drink, drugs, violence and meaningless sex.

I reckon the split is about 1o - 85 - 3 [the other 2% want to be writers and so are beyond hope]

With females I reckon the split is more like 5- 93 -1 [only 1% want to be writers because they are way more sensible than males, equally only 5% want to be ruthlessly ambitious for the same reason]

So there you go. Using these irrefutable statistics it is easy to see why executive positions in TV are more favoured by females. Also, as any married man knows, women are both far more self convinced and more comfortable at telling you what you have done is wrong.

But to get serious. I don't think their is any gender conspiracy. Good grief, get a grip Jezza. What I do think is that I don't have a lot of faith in the current network regimes that they actually know their audience. I don't care if they are male or female.

Good drama transcends gender. The paucity of good drama on TV right now isn't a male/female issue . It's about executives of whichever gender being more concerned with media politics than the audience. They are so far up their own arses with talk of multi platforms and digital media and 360 degrees, and the rest of the jargon that they forget what their primary function is, if they ever knew it in the first place.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Bullshit Detector

I've had two sets of notes on my new spec from two different prodcos. One said they didn't think the twist to a classic genre was big enough and the other would prefer not to have the twist at all.

What's a girl to do?

Well, nothing for the moment. When faced with two opposing views of a major part of the script I tend to wait for a few more notes and then see which way the wind is blowing. It also goes without saying that if either of these prodcos REALLY REALLY liked the basic script concept, then they'd be on the blower asking if I'd be amenable to changing it to suit their wants. Phone is not ringing off the hook.

So I have good reason for not doing anything at the moment. But had either of them come back saying they would like it to be more x, y and z and could I do that? Well, that's when the Bullshit detector has to come in to force. It's a two way detector, picking up your bullshit and theirs and is one of the most vital tools in the writers.... . toolbox.

No one likes to work for free, but it happens all the time. Heck the spec was free work to begin with. But interest is interest, and if you figure you can do it and not harm your original concept and reason for writing it in the first place and if you have the time then why the hell not? It's a tough old world out there and at the very least you're showing willing.

But first your Bullshit detector has to come into force. On one level, who are these people, what's their track record? Are you just going to be throwing good time after bad? On another, do you actually think the notes won't harm your belief in the script or is it a bag over the head and write for old glory?

It's usually quite easy to tell the two extremes when someone is either blowing smoke up your ass or is just way off base with their take on the script. Much more tricky is to recognise difficult but constructive notes. And again that's when your own Bullshit detector has to kick in. Are you clinging on to the script as is, because you like it so much and how dare anyone say it isn't fantastic?

When I get notes on a spec I give them the once over then set them aside for a few days. It's very easy to get defensive at first blush, and you want to be open to whatever is being suggested. A couple of days takes the edge off.

William Goldman said that 'when you start believing all the hype, you're finished as a writer.' It works the other way too. Start believing all the criticisms and you might as well break the pencil.

Writing is always subjective to the reader. Sometimes you'll be right and sometimes you wont be. Hopefully your Bullshit detector will kick in and point the way.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Secret Millionaire

I'm watching it right now. Lovely altruistic idea. A millionaire goes undercover in a deprived area and at the end of the show gives a large wad of dosh to deserving recipients.

The voice over after every ad break reminds us that the millionaire is undercover. This weeks millionaire is posing as a street warden.

How many street wardens have a fucking camera crew following them around? Completely nuts. But I like it. I know it's a huge fake but I don't care. Would I watch it again? Possibly. It's life affirming TV and that's rare enough to make me forgive the fakery.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's about The Audience, stupid

This seems to be a recurring theme in my recent posts. I guess it's weighing heavy on my mind at the moment. I read some of Armando Iannuci's Alternative McTaggert Lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival. Iannuci is responsible for some of the best comedy shows on TV including Alan Partridge and The Thick Of It, so whatever he says is worth taking account of.

He advocates the BBC creating a HBO pay per view type channel.
I had to think hard about that. My first reaction is that there is no way in hell the BBC should be involved in pay per view. Not while the licence is in force.

Ostensibly his argument is that given the budget restraints he's found lately and restrictions on what he'd like to do, the BBC should be maximising foreign sales in order to plough more into content that will sell world wide and therefore generate income, and when this happens there has to be a sales vehicle to capitalise on it.

There appears to be two different arguments here. By having a dedicated pay per view channel that doesn't go through the usual commissioning process of one size fits all they have more chance of the break out hit that will sell world wide. And secondly the current commissioners on the main BBC channels are a bunch of tossers and BBC Worldwide don't know their arse from their elbow.

Okay, it's actually the same argument but I gave the political spin and the actual meaning.

Iannucci is a writer/producer, so I can see where he is coming from. Look at The Office. A huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic and sold to loads of other 'territories' [as the sales people have it]

It must be doubly frustrating for a writer/producer/writer to see genius fucked up rather than just the one hyphenate writer/writer.

But let's not get carried away here. Do we really want a two tier BBC? One that produces crap and one that makes money? Not while I'm spending how ever many squids on a licence fee.

If they can't make good TV with the billions they get then you have to look at who's in charge. Simple as that. At the same festival/jolly boy's outing, esteemed Director Of Vision Jana Bennet defended the accusation that digital channels BBC3 and 4 were denuding BBC 2 of it's status by saying 'that is an old argument and I don't buy it'

Well, old doesn't mean wrong, especially as the age of the argument probably dates to the time when the entire BBC2 drama budget was shifted to BBC3 and ....who the fuck are you Jana?

The AUDIENCE don't care about channel loyalty. The AUDIENCE care about entertainment. Mindless entertainment has it's place. Hey I love it on occasion. But like too much scrumpy, it's a yoofs drink that makes you regret it in the morning. The eternal dichotomy between entertainment, money and audience is that there has to be a tri-partite contract between them.

But the most important element in the trifecta is Audience. We are not stupid. I say that as the audience because that's how I watch TV.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What a tangled web we weave

I guess it's wading through the Gruniad media blog thanks to anons links that has set me off on a political bent [media politics] But make no mistake, media politics play a great part in what gets commissioned and what doesn't.

Take the news that the BBC have just greenlit a remake of The 39 Steps, to be produced by BBC Scotland.

I know, the first question is WHY? Several films and a series have already been made. But hey ho, I happen to love the story. So I thought about it some more. It really makes a lot of sense. Jane Tranter prodigy Ann Mensah, head of drama at BBC Scotland has been coming under fire in the Scottish press for a complete lack of Scottish based commissions. Relying on such Scottish fare as Waterloo Road and Film 2008 wasn't cutting it. A large swathe of the drama budget going on a Scandanavian based detective show didn't help matters.

There is Hope Springs in the offing. A Shed Productions effort already being dubbed by insiders as Hopeless Springs. But on the even more down side I hear the flagship soap River City is in deep doo-doo. The geniuses have decided that rather than be a two half hour a week soap they are going to get rid of many of the characters and sets and turn it into a one hour drama with self contained stories. By the way I'm also informed that the geniuses set about demolishing and rebuilding exterior sets without applying for planning permission and after it was pointed out to them that is a 'little on hold' shall we say.
So....... Fuck the audience then? Change the format and nature of the programme after 6 years? Better to dump it now and start afresh. The audience is going to be spitting feathers so the new format is on a losing wicket from the off. More fodder for the Scottish press.

So with that in mind it makes perfect sense to commission yet another remake of a well known and loved tale. It's Scottish [mainly] It's branded. It's almost guaranteed ratings and even BBC Scotland would have a job screwing it up.

So there you go. If you were in the political know, you could have pitched Brigadoon.

The drama crunch

This blog might seem to be the Cassandra of the scribeosphere. But bear with it. I am a glass half full guy really.

C4 has slumped to it's lowest ratings since 2001. ITV has slumped to it's lowest ratings ....ever? The BBC are on top only because their shit is less shittier than the others and it's the first channel on the remote.

The X Factor is ITV's biggest non soap ratings winner. Without it they would be toast. You can say the same for C4 and Big Brother.

I hear rumours that Julie Gardner is to replace Jane Tranter at the BBC. I'm sticking to my glass half full. Say what you like about Doc Who, she had the balls to let a writer be the showrunner, and made it plain for all to see that Stephen Moffat is going to be a great one. And all credit to Russel T Davies for bringing him on board.

But essentially what all the channels are missing is 'must see drama'. That's obvious. Why are they missing it? Not so obvious. There are various factors. but I think number one is a generation gap. A two fold generation gap. A 'Thatcherite' legacy has given us a bunch of middle ager execs who hold the purse strings and believe the market is King coupled with a brash know it all Blairite brigade who believe if they talk convincingly enough about 'new media' they should be listened to.
Neither really know what the fuck they're doing so you end up with the camel. The horse designed by committee.

And what they forget in the scramash for ideological domination is the most important factor.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who put the ass in classic?

I just got feedback on a spec from a well known prodco. Please bear in mind the following is in no way a reflection on the prodco. They are doing what needs to be done.

So they loved the script, but didn't feel they could do anything with it as thanks to Life On Mars [meant ironically] the Broadcasters were only looking at classic genres if they had a massive L.O.M type twist.

Nothing wrong with that. Well, okay one major thing wrong with that. Apparently the perceived wisdom percolating down from the broadcasters is that they will 'only' look at classic genres if they have a massive Life On Mars type twist. That 'only' is the rub.

Now, whether that perception is erroneous or not, it is still there. And if that perception is true, then the Broadcasters are just plain wrong. I'm in no way suggesting my spec is shatteringly brilliant and these fools can't see it, by the way. Way too long in the tooth for that kind of thought process. And I know the person at the prodco enough to know that if my script sucked they would tell me. It's the reasoning that irks.

A huge twist is simply a bait and switch trick. A non recurring phenomenon. You can't build a drama schedule on it. Life On Mars worked, even though the concept of 'is it real or is he in a coma' is a hoary old drama chestnut. It just hadn't been seen on TV for a while and certainly not in series format.
But that was then, and this is now, and if you keep trying to emulate the success of something you end up with a load of pale imitations. The big twist series works if used sparingly. If not you get with what I call the 'Brookside'

A well loved soap garnered a few column inches and ratings with a sensational plotline. Instead of letting it rest, it was decided to try and emulate it in ever more frequent bizarre stories. As a result the audience grew tired as the characters they tuned in for were subjected to more and more unbelievable scenarios. Ratings began to dive and the soap was cancelled. Entertainment is a fickle son'bitch. The audience can smell a stinker quicker than you can write it.

Take a look at 3 of the biggest rating shows on TV. New Tricks, Foyle's War and Doc Martin. None have huge twists. Okay Foyle's War is [was] set in the Forties, but a twist on a classic genre in the vein of Life On Mars? Hardly. High Concept doesn't mean huge twist. New Tricks, Foyle's War and Doc Martin all have High Concepts.

But equally as important, they are well written, well acted dramas. And that is why they are and were ratings hits. Like Inspector Morse or Traffic. The 'let's have the same as the last hit but different' mentality may be okay for the film producer huckster out to make a quick buck. But TV has to be in it for the long term and that 'different and that's it' dog don't hunt with the mainstream TV audience.

It's also telling that a 3 year old series is being referenced as the bar to aim for. That mentality clearly hasn't produced much of note in the intervening years.

But hey, I remember when torture porn was the flavour of the month. This will pass, same as that did. Meanwhile it's hunker down and write. Hopefully what YOU like rather than just what you think MIGHT sell. Chasing an audience rarely works. Chasing what a Broadcaster says it wants is generally even less fruitful.

The spec has just gone to a few more prodcos. It'll be interesting to hear their take.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Two to be precise. I've just realised that the preceding post was my 300th, I know, it seems a lot more to you who have to wade through them, but it is also 10 years this month when I began writing for a living.

Been rich, been poor. Rich is better. But I wouldn't change a second. Well okay there are about 25 vital minutes spread out over 10 years when an ounce of shut up would have made a pound of gold, but hey ho.

So at the risk of being more pompous than usual here's my take on the state of play right now.

We're fucked.

At the BBC all I can see are the 'Tranterites' And by necessity that means the Indies pitching to the BBC. 'Will Jane like it' seems to be the catchphrase. Well I've got to say that the Tranterite taste doesn't really bear up to scrutiny. A glance at the schedules as you try to find something worth watching tells you that.

At ITV I see will and effort but no direction as they desperately throw shit against the wall hoping some of it will stick.

5, well I'm not sure they even do original drama.

Channel 4 - Used to be THE place for worthwhile drama. Now they seem to be capitulating to the yoof syndrome a bit too much.

Multi- channel - Sky make some attempts at original drama but it still is primarily the place to watch big budget high concept US shows bought in for a fraction of the production costs.

I could write an essay here as to why this has happened and my suggestions for fixing it , but 10 years of TV writing have sapped that particular skill. Instead I'll try to nutshell it, and there's nothing wrong with that by the way! So here it is. The answer to everything.


Monday, August 11, 2008

The spin off

So, we have the 'legendary' Holby franchise, Dr Who and Torchwood, Saving Grace and Doc Martin, Spooks and Spooks Code 9 [watch out for the upcoming Spooks- the kindergarten years] Echo Beach and Moving Wallpaper.

This set me thinking that maybe the wind is blowing in the direction of the spin off. Not as a result of fear, lack of imagination and reliance on branding to fool an audience of course, perish the thought. No, perhaps there are actually some genuinely great spin off ideas out there akin to Frazier - Cheers. I've listed some of my ideas below. Please feel free to add.

Will Scarlett medieval Rock God - the rise and fall of a Plantagenet poseur

The Bill After Hours - a drama surrounding the lives and loves of the Sun Hill cleaners who come in at night and solve crimes using only the white-boards and litter.

Spoks - Vulcans are recruited by MI5, writes itself!

Homes Under The Hammer House Of Horror - House flipper TV presenters are smeared with raw meat then given a hundred yard start before a pack of ravenous dogs are set after them. Winner takes all.

American Idle - Paula Abdul shags all the winners and they never work again. Oh wait a minute ....... been done.

Rose and Clone and Low Esteem are Wed - Dr Who's assistant finds living with his clone isn't as easy as she thought. Complications ensue. [ may change the title, bit of a reach]

Piece of piss this, I should be a producer!

Ears open

Bear with me, this starts off as an NHS story. I finally decided to do something about my ankle. It's been 8 weeks and the recovery seems to have plateaued. First I had to register with a doctor, as being a bloke, I haven't been for about 3 years and have since moved. Then I had to make an appointment which meant waiting 3 days for my details to go on line and then phoning up at 8.30 in the morning with all the other hopefuls.

Job done. My GP diagnosed a classic ruptured or torn Achilles tendon and gave me a letter to take to the fracture unit at my local hospital at 8.30 this morning to have an X ray and ultrasound. Perhaps I should have been a little wary when the letter started off ''Dear Doctor at fracture unit'

I tipped up at the fracture unit at 8.30 am having paid the 4 quid parking fee, only to be told by the doctor there to basically piss off he was busy and make an appointment. I went to the desk to make an appointment to be told that I couldn't make one there as I had never been to that hospital before.
Say what?
I was directed to make an appointment through Central appointments, which was located at a hospital 10 miles away. I phoned the place to be told that I would have to get a letter from my Doctor, which 5 days later would go to a consultant who within the next week or so after that would fix an appointment.

So it could be another 2 weeks before I got an x-ray? Yup. As I'm on the limit for surgical intervention as it is I thought 'bollocks to this' and went to casualty instead. They diagnosed a ruptured Achilles tendon and made an appointment for me at the fracture unit tomorrow. A complete waste of time today for me and hard-pressed casualty and another 4 quid parking tomorrow. However I gave my unexpired day parking ticket to an old dear on the way out so perhaps karma will operate and someone will do the same for me tomorrow.

Anyhoooooooooo, during the interminable wait in casualty an old guy came in and plonked himself down beside a young guy.
Old guy then launched into a moaning diatribe about the weather, the government, immigrants, and being old. He finished off with -
''They don't care about old people, when we reach 70 they should just take us out and shoot us''

The young guy replied ' Give me a gun and I'll do it now.'

Ears open all the time. You never know when you might hear a bit of dialogue gold.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What you talking about Willis?

Holby Blue has been axed - from Broadcast

'A source close to BBC drama said senior executives were concerned that the series could undermine the Holby brand.'

Say what?

Couple of things here. The Holby brand? You mean Casualty and Holby? Two medical dramas losing ratings as fast as the audience dies off. Whose bright fucking idea was it to call a cop show Holby Blue anyway? The little I watched had no connection with Holby or Casualty whatsoever. And whose bright idea was it to put it up against The Bill, a 20 year old ratings staple?

I'd guess it was the marketing bright sparks. The same ones now wittering on about brands. While we're on about bright sparks, can anyone tell me who or what a Director of Vision is meant to be? And if the BBC must have one can we have one a little more impressive than the current incumbent? She comes across like a startled deer apologising for crapping in a field.

Grump over. Normal programming is now resumed.

Suspension of Disbelief

In all the morass of character and story and rhythm and arc and structure, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the primary job of the dramatist is to have the audience lose themselves in what they are watching.

All of the above list, and more, go towards that. But here's what I think is the best 'assist' to that suspension of disbelief. Recognisable moments.

I don't know if that phrase has already been coined, or is even proper English, but by it, I mean those actions or dialogue which the audience can relate to and ground them in the story.

You have a wedding scene in an action movie? Have a shot of a six year old page boy picking his nose. No matter what happens next, the audience is with you. They believe this 'could' be a wedding.

Pulp Fiction is perhaps a good example, assuming you can write dialogue like early Tarrentino. The famous 'Royale with cheese' exchange both grounds the audience and serves as a great juxtaposition when they grab shooters out of the trunk. The audience is already with them, even to the extent that they can happily accept Uma Thurman drawing an imaginary square on screen.
Less is more is a very good and useful adage. But less can sometimes be less when it comes to immersing your audience. A shot here and a line there can make all the difference, especially if tied in to character. The audience MUST accept what they are seeing. Not believe, but accept.

I have a crap memory, but there are countless examples where a line or a shot is there just to ground the audience. And never forget the importance of 'background'. I tend to watch things like an audience and so don't specifically pay attention to what William Goldman called the 'shit-work' I.e the work that no one notices but without it the whole thing would fall apart. Take a staple 'great' movie like Casablanca. Shit work had already been done with the singer who went with the German to spite Rick and the guitar playing female, so that when Lazlo had them all singing the French national anthem, when we cut to them it really means something. Brought tears to the eyes, even.

'Moments' elevate a script. Tie them to theme, character and story and you've struck gold.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The most valuable hour you'll spend this year

Go to Jim Henshaws blog at and watch the Head Fake lecture given by Randy Pausch.

It's ennobling, life affirming and other adjectives not yet invented. As my son would say - I cried like a little bitch at the end.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Writers are crazy

You hear that a lot. Not to your face so much, but that tends to be the perceived wisdom in the industry. Not just in the industry, try telling a doctor or an accountant what you do for a living and be truthful about the insecurity and just how far you are out on a limb as far as a career and and a pay-cheque are concerned and you can see the crazy-meter hitting red in their eyes.

But define crazy? Writers don't live within those parameters. I'm considering becoming Bi-polar. It works for Paul Abbot. Talent will always be viewed as 'suspicious' by those with the money in this industry. They can't quantify it and reduce it to a formula of the sure hit, which is what every fibre in their being is aching to do.

We are in the ENTERTAINMENT industry. Define entertain? It's impossible to do on a subjective level. You can be a producer who says ' I'll put this actor in this project with this writer and director, and they are all big names so I can't go wrong.
Oh dear
Check out Eddie Murphy's last three films. If you're a glutton for punishment.

In meetings it never ceases to amaze me the disrespect the money people have for the audience. 'Will it play in Preoria' was the famous HW litmus test, and to my mind yet another of those damaging out of context sayings that are taken as gospel.

Good drama will always play. Anywhere. It doesn't matter what the subject matter is. It just needs to resonate I.E say SOMETHING to a big enough audience. To do that you have to step out of the conventions of life. Take a hard look at something that most people don't think about until you highlight it. Then they do. I'm not talking about being 'preachy' I'm talking about being 'meaningful' in a truthful way. Not patronising, not egotistical, just honest.

That's what writers should always strive to do. I've been as guilty as anyone for writing crap. I've got mouths to feed. But I tried to make it as truthful as possible.

If that makes writers crazy then more power to us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pet hates

We all have them. Here's one of mine.

Lovely to see you again, Karen

You too, John.

hate it hate it hate it. Why the names? And I can guarantee exchanges like that will be peppered through the script.

NO ONE SPEAKS LIKE THAT. Not in normal conversation. Yep it's an easy way of introducing your characters' names to the audience. But it's lazy and dull and grating. It's also an indicator that the script as a whole will be over written.

Overwriting usually takes place when the writer forgets they are creating a template for a visual medium. A look or an action or a carefully chosen phrase can easily replace half a page of over- expositional dialogue.

As far as character's names are concerned, trust the audience that they won't get confused if they don't know from the opening dialogue who is speaking to who or whom. Good writing will make it clear, and a lot more subtly than 'Could you pass the salt, Sir Lancelot?'

Monday, July 21, 2008

Executives Academy

I have spotted a niche in the market. The Holby Academy For Commissioning Executives is now open for business.

It's aim is to help create the future masters of the commissioning universe with an exciting and wide ranging curriculum, including -

How to recognize shit from shinola

How to pity writers more than scold them

How not to dumb down a great idea

There are more than six actors out there

Quality is better than ..... well just about anything

Redundancy isn't the end of the world.

The course will consist of an evening in the pub where invited special guests such as those that brought you Rock Rivals and Harley Street will attend then shut the fuck up and listen.

To take advantage of this fabulous opportunity at the low low cost of 5 grand a head [including open bar - there will be writers present hence the cost.] please make cheques payable to English Dave [Liberia] Inc - together with a photo, c.v and a statement of how you see the future of television in relation to your pension.

If anyone has any other ideas for the curriculum please feel free to add them. It is a very fluid course.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In revenge for standing on it my computer has thrown a wobbly. I'm hoping some of you boffins can supply the remedy. As you know, I'm useless.

Here's the problem. When I try to run internet explorer it comes up with a problem with an add-on.- namely google toolbar. I just about managed to find all the add ons and disabled the google toolbar.

Internet explorer now opens but won't let me publish anything on blogger. There is an error on the page and the 'publish' button doesn't appear.

I don't know if this is related or not, but I can't access my email. I have a yahoo account and when I try to open it I get a brief message saying my browser won't allow me to go to the url.

This happens whether the google add on is disabled or not.
It's obviously got me stumped. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Oh Crap!

This morning I stood on my laptop. Yep how dumb can you get. Now my screen looks like a bullet hole in a windscreen with spiders webs shafting out.

I don't know about you but I get very attatched to my laptop. Using another one is like sleeping with someone elses wife. The same things are pretty much there but somehow different.
Johnny Computer is my link to the outside world. It's how I make my living. It's my best buddy through those long solitary hours searching for the perfect scene.

I know prices have come down dramatically and you can get a super duper dual core processor for less than 300 quid, and if I raided my piggy bank I could probably get one. But I'm not sure I want to. While Johnny is still breathing I think I'll stick with him. The bullet hole is near the top right corner and the spider webs aren't too bad if you squint. No, I think I'll wait til he's terminal, then [whispers] I might get a shiny new mac! I hear they're very good.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Balls Of Summer

Apologies to Don Henley for the title.

I thought with the advent of multi channel tv the networks would stop using the Summer months to shove on any old crap, be it repeats or second rate shows that even they were too embarrassed to slot into the autumn and winter schedules. Apparently I was wrong.

Perusing the Radio Times I can find absolutely no drama I want to make an appointment to sit down and watch. Nada. Zilch. If anyone has a recommend I'd be happy to hear it.

The staples like Casualty, The Bill and Holby just don't do it for me. There seems to be an 'homogenisation' of Tv right now where whatever you watch seems to have been constructed on the same template. Heck half the programmes even seem to have the same actors. Not surprising really, I know for a fact that a previous controller of drama on a network had a list of about 10 actors and no matter what the project always insisted they were used. Nothing wrong with that per se, it's all marketing, but personally I thought at least half of those on the list were pretty damn diabolical in the acting stakes.

It occurs to me that maybe this homoginisation is the result of an over reliance by the powers that be on the idea that writing is a science and not an art. It can be constructed, taught and controlled, like making widgits. Bear in mind that that there isn't one solitary writer amongst the powers that be. So you can understand how that fallacy gains weight.

I recall a couple of years ago some well meaning bod at a network sent some missive to all writers they knew. It was about how to construct a character and was penned by some guru who hadn't had a thing produced in their lives. But this was the Holy Grail of the moment to the commissioners and editors. I read the first sentence and it was along the lines of ''If the character was a tree, which tree would he be?''

Utter bollocks. The delete button was hit. If I were in a meeting and some eejit asked me that I'd be tempted to lamp them. Scary to think that was doing the rounds as perceived wisdom.
But writing is scary. Certainly to a lot of execs. They don't understand it so they feel the need to create some kind of formula to give them comfort. Hell, I don't understand writing but I know there is no formula. Rather there is no formula for good writing.

Anyway, so much for the summer schedule. I was going to give Bonekickers a try, but having read the reviews, [including Good Dog's 'Cock Knockers' lol] perhaps I'll have to watch 'The World at War' on the History Channel yet again.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Failing Upwards

Time I had a rant.

Brought on by the BBC deciding their top execs deserved up to £100k bonuses. Massive budget cuts in programming but the execs deserve bonuses?
Mmmmmmmm. let's investigate.

Am I wrong here? Aren't bonuses supposed to be paid for some kind of achievement? But a quick perusal of the figures don't point to much in the way of achievement.

Total average weekly viewing hours per person for BBC1 and 2 for Feb to May 2008 - 29.65
For the same period 2007 - 30.37
Doesn't seem to be an achievement in my book. Seems to be going backwards if anything.
Let's have a look at BBC flagship shows EastEnders and Holby City.
Week ending 25th May 2008 [to avoid Euro 2008 distortions] EastEnders 9.2 million viewers. Holby City 5.1 million.
Week ending 27th May 2007 - EastEnders 9.91 million Holby City 5.16 million.
Sooooooooooooo? In a year where they appear to have lost both viewing time per person per week and close on a million viewers from top rated shows, they get a bonus? Not to mention the decimation of news and current affairs, documentaries and the world renowned BBC Wildlife Unit.
What do they get when they really cock up? A knighthood?
A show I was on had close on half a million quid shaved off it's budget. No rhyme or reason for it other than that was the proportion of budget cuts it had to bear. The powers that be [marketing] then decided to spend at least that amount and more on an advertising push for the show.
That budget cut caused massive problems for the quality of the show. Core actors couldn't be held on contract and became restless. Extras were kept to the barest minimum and restrictions placed on the stories we could tell because of the non availability of cast. But what the heck, so long as you can fool enough of the people enough of the time with a fancy ad campaign.
Get these people out and get people in there who know what the hell they are doing other than the ability to line their pockets .

Top Of The World, Ma

Yep that's the initial reaction to FADE OUT. The Beast is slain. The Mountain climbed. The Maiden wooed. The Dog neutered, whatever.

That lasts for about an hour with me. Then the standard doubts, fears and paranoia beloved of the writer begin to seep in. Not much, the rosey glow keeps most at bay, but enough to wake me in the middle of the night with a few 'should'aves'
But in my experience the best thing to do is just leave the beast to sleep for a couple of days. I've sent the first blush to a good mate to read as I'd like his impressions before I dive in to any re-write.
Unfortunately the fucker actually has a life, and writing commitments, which means he won't get to it til next week. But that's perfect. It can marinate away as little idea bubbles pop up in the sauce.

It also makes accepting criticism easier. No parents like being told their newely arrived mewling baby looks like Winston Churchill as the nurse hands it over. Give 'em some time and they'd probably agree with you.

But the spec is done, long live the spec. Now I just have to figure out where the next actual paid work is coming from. Ah the joys of pro writing!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Very Bendy Writing

So I'm about 10 pages away from finishing the script. It's an hour long part one of two that can then be spun into a series.

And I realise that the end of this part, which involves the death of the main suspect, kinda inadvertently leads a little too much to the identity of the actual killer in the audience's mind. That gives me a couple of choices. I either muddy the waters a little more in the build up to the death, or horror of horrors, I change the identity of the killer to another character entirely. One even less likely.

I've decided on the horror of horrors route. Because the more I thought about it the more I thought not only can I make it work, but I can make it work better than the original idea. It's going to set me back a few days but as an old time HW writer told an exec when pressed for the script, 'You can have it Wednesday or you can have it good '

Embrace the bendy writing. Nothing should be set in stone. Not even the plot. It took me almost the whole script to realise I was selling it short. It happens.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Well lookit!

Finally blogger has come up with a way for even idiots like me to link to other blogs I read and do loads of other stuff we technophobes were terrified of. You can check out some of my regular reads on the left. I guess most of us read pretty much the same ones. The list is by no means exhaustive and I'll add more when I'm no longer bored of doing it.

But hey I'm loving this. For me it's like when DOS got replaced by Windows. I kid you not! I'm going for a play with the whole shebang. Who knows what might happen to the layout!

[but if everything goes black or disappears you'll know it's my bad]

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Back In The Zone

Monday's events resolved themselves in a satisfactory manner. At least as far as I was concerned, and let's face it, that's all that really matters. lol

The script is back on track and after a full 6 hours today [I find more than that is counter productive, your mileage may vary] the end is in sight.

Without trying to sound too arsey, I'm more of a touch writer. Yes I have a rough outline before I get into script but I rely on inspiration while in the scene to create those moments that lift the script from the ordinary to the .... less ordinary?
That's why I prefer to be in the mental comfort zone when I'm writing. I need all the focus I can get and that means focus to let my mind absorb the scene, the story and the characters. As David Mamet puts it - 'What do they want?' What happens if they don't get it?' 'Why now?'
The three questions that constitute the movement from one scene to another in a true story progression and the ones all writers are most prone to gloss over. A filler scene is always just a filler scene no matter how much you might like it.

Tennis is finished. I might manage another half hour writing. Though the current scene involves naked gorgeous women so I might leave it until tomorrow. Always give yourself something to look forward to!

A shandy and lime later and I feel like musing further. I read a great quote the other day. I'm paraphrasing but it was along the lines of '' A guy returns home to find his uncle shtooping his mum and a ghost running round the place. Write it good, it's Hamlet. Write it bad it's Gilligan's Island''
That creased me, because it's so true. There's a lot of pressure put on the writer to come up with a 'commercial' concept. Commercial nowadays basically means the marketers can flog it on the side of a bus. Not like the old days of yore when commercial meant a trailer at least. Take Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Broken Hip. Very commercial. A 'marketer's wet dream' commercial. Took a tonne of money. Possibly killed off the franchise. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice then sell me the trilogy box set special edition. But the fourth time? well that better be good!
See, I kinda look at movies and Tv like the dear old NHS. They do some shit, but so long as we feel deep down they are trying to give us what we want rather than what they want we'll forgive them. There has to be an element of heart in it.
When it is just about the hope of cash registers jingling that's when things go bad. Movie audiences down 11% this year? How many really good films so far? Tv audiences dropping faster than house prices? 'Nuff said.

No more shandys for me. I've got my naked women to wake up to!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Comfort Zone

A long time ago when I was starting out in this business I had agents in LA. I knew nothing. Nada. I could tell stories and that was about it. One of the best pieces of advice they ever gave me was that in order to write properly I had to make my personal life as comfortable as possible.

Forget the stories of the tortured poet. Writing takes focus. Focus is achieved when you haven't got 5 million other things pressing on you. Being comfortable means being in a place and time and circumstances where 5 million things aren't pressing on you. Nothing to do with being financially comfortable, except it's difficult to write properly while hiding behind the sofa from the bailiffs.

It's a strange dichotomy, because I believe that experiences in life, good and bad, heck, excellent and horrible are the building blocks of a writer's voice. But writing during one of the horrible experiences? You may get something down on paper, but I doubt if it is germain to the script you are writing.
This is perhaps why when writers are in script they tend to shut out everything they can. Focus. Always focus.
Today my life is like a bag of blind monkeys with light sabres. Nothing very serious, but big decisions to be made. If I were on a deadline, I'd suck it up, find my comfort zone as best I could and crank out the pages. But I'm not on a deadline. So I'm going to kick back, enjoy the sun and wait for the monkeys to tire themselves out. It will all be resolved by tomorrow. Maybe.
I'm not advocating procrastination, but some days you know it just ain't happening. I try to average about 6 pages a day when I'm writing a spec. A few days of extra focus and I'm back on track. Without the agony of deleting 6 pages of crap.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Completely off topic

Hands up all those who survived the petrol tanker strike a couple of weeks ago? All of you. Excellent. I know it got a little hairy in Scotland where the main/only refinery is run by Shell. [the only drivers on strike] but otherwise I think we survived the earth shattering crisis quite well.
Crisis? Well only according to the media. I saw one newspaper front page with a picture of empty supermarket shelves. IN SPAIN. But you had to read the copy to find that out and that the story was 'will this happen here'?
What????? The usual feeble exortations not to panic buy were included but were obviated by quotes from hard sought out dickheads who were doing just that. When the media tries to create a story out of nothing you know things are going wrong with their editorial policy.
Fortunately most of us saw through that. Only 10% of forecourts were likely to be affected in the slightest yet the story was punted in YK2 proportions.
The real story should be why the hell we are paying £1.20 a litre. Yeah I know 80% of that is tax and the poor petrol companies make about 2p profit. Bollocks!!!!!!!!!
The money in petrol is in the production and refining, not the retailing. And those companies are so vertically integrated that massaging of pre-retail pricing is a doddle.

The main reason petrol prices are so high is of course the price of crude oil. Except it's not. The main reason is the lack of refinery capacity. Forget all the talk of OPEC conspiring to raise prices. It's the oil companies cartel who are conspiring to choke supply. Sure they could build more refineries, but a cost benefit analysis probably shows that the massive profits being made - Shell posted a record $28 Billion profit in 2007 and made $8 Billion in the first quarter this year- outweigh the cost of building new refineries for what is a quickly disappearing raw material. So they are making money while the sun shines. Simple as. And they know that 9 out of 10 of us will blame the Government or greedy Opec for the debacle and not them. So their PR remains intact.
I'm no eco-warrior, and no communist. But this is the unnacceptable face of capitalism. Joe Public being squeezed til they squeak to provide fat salaries and bonuses for execs and dividends for shareholders.
Well I'm going to do a little digging and write a script. Not much in the way of direct action I agree, but it'll make me feel better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dem Bones Dem Bones

Part Two.
After a desperate phone call last night at 10 pm I found myself on the set of Bones again. And I got to drive a Chrysler 300 and an Audi TT Convertible. The sun was shining, the location was beautiful [The Royal Naval College at Greenwich] and on the way home at rush hour the M25 was clear. Joy of joys. It was one of those Karmic days.

I had another quick word with Hart Hanson. The old showbiz adage that 'the bigger they are the nicer they are' is most definitely true in this case. When I came across him he was looking for a peppermint tea bag for the director. Umpteen runners about and him up to his eyeballs but he took it on himself to do it. Just a nice guy. And I think that kind of leadership percolates down. That was a very happy set. Calm, relaxed, efficient. In my limited experience on set they are not all like that.
I was also chatting to a 78 year old extra [ with the fantastic name of Doris] She's been doing it for 9 years. A new career at the age of 69. No wonder that she seemed 20 years younger.

It struck me how much people love movies and tv. Not necessarily to watch, but the whole mystique. On my way to the set, in convoy with a couple of other cars, the dear old Met Police had set up a 'census' AKA let's catch a few tax and insurance dodgers. The traffic had been horrendous and we were fighting to meet our call time. The last thing I needed was to be waved in to the 'census' area. But of course that's what happened. The officer took one look at the pimp mobile I was driving and gave the 'big point'. I rolled down the window and said ' It's an action vehicle for a film set, and the two cars behind and we're late'
He said ' Oh right' and waved us through.
Movies! I tells ya, they are better than a 'midwife on emergency' badge.

And just to add to the small world motif , what with the Will Dixon/Hart Hanson connection, one of the stunt men and I used to go to the same Gym. We'd seen each other there on several occasions but had never spoken, until today when there was one of those 'Do I know you?' moments. Another good guy with some great tales to tell.

A Karmic day indeed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Love This Job

I hesitate to even call it a job. And I think all you guys feel exactly the same way. It's a compulsion. Yes there are more worthy occupations, like saving lives and teaching and looking after the elderly and all that stuff. Heck, with some people it's a compulsion to shave 2 points off the Yen interbank rate and make a million or some such.

This is my compulsion. I'm fit for nothing else. I'm a teller of tales. My brain is a sponge, even when I'm just walking down the street, I observe human behaviour and secrete it away for future use even though I don't know I'm doing it at the time.
I like to think that I cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of 'why'. I may not succeed but so long as that is my mantra I figure at least I'm on the right track.

What set that off? I woke at 4am with good idea for my current script. I had a couple of secondary characters who were in the script as plot devices. Now though, after the good idea, they will become metaphors for the theme.
Only writers think of crap like that. At the most inopportune times. I guess I'm stuck with it. As are you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dem Bones

I've been a pro writer for close on 10 years now. I've been on set about 6 times. See, my view was that I had no interest in the nuts and bolts of film making. If anything, getting too close to it would destroy the magic - I thought. So I avoided it. Plus once you are on set, you are the proverbial spare prick at a whore's wedding.

Then I was on the set of Bones. Here's the story. A mate of mine got an emergency call to drive an action vehicle on a set the next day. No idea where what or when, that's the way it works. But he was off to France on holiday that day. This is 8 0'clock the night before.
He calls me. Am I free? Would I fill in? Good scoff and I might get to drive a Ferrari.

Well bearing in mind my lack of 'set' time and guilt over the same I said yes. It was then I found out I had to pick up a vehicle in Windsor at I tipped up at the place to find an ocean of mercs and BMW's, all top of the range stuff. Then picked up the paperwork and found that I was on the set of Bones in central London. Being an avid reader of Will Dixon's blog this more than made up for my recent discovery of two 5am's in one day.
It more than made up for the fact that the mercs and BMW's were for Midsommer Murders and that I was driving a mortuary van.

So there I was on set. And if you are a big fan of standing around doing nothing for hours at a time it was brilliant. I think they shot maybe 3 minutes worth at that location and for most there, that ran from 6am to 8pm. A huge logistical achievement, maybe 50 people at least, but nonetheless, of no interest to me whatsoever. I did get to buttonhole Hart Hanson, just to pass on my regards to Will. I know enough to know the last thing he wants is to be buttonholed for anything more than 10 seconds. He was very good about it btw. And I even had a word with David Borealez [sic?] Nice to see a star over 5'6. We were both lounging against my mortuary van and it seemed rude not to say something. Spoke to Michael Brandon too. Another nice guy.

But did I learn anything? Not really. Only that my original misgivings about being on set were correct. I don't want to know how difficult, or how costly or how complicated it is to film what I write. I want people to find a way to do it. Okay the experience was fun and different, but something I'll shut out from my writer's mindset. No, I'm not going to write about 300 camels coming over Tower Bridge but equally I'm not going to let logistics sway me too much at the writing stage.
I think I'll keep my distance. Deep down, I'm the audience. I don't want to know how the fairy dust gets there. It might stop me from being the audience. And that's something that worries me. When I'm writing a script I write story and character. I'm immersed in that. I don't want to be thinking 'oh wow, that's 50 people for one scene, maybe I can leave that out.'
I'd rather write it and leave it for others to cut. I wouldn't write it if I didn't think it was worthwhile. Others involved in production may have a more objective view. And that's fine. Me? I'll concentrate on inventing the fairy dust, the sprinkling I'll leave to others.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bendy writing

I'm in the middle of a script right now. A spec. So I can do bendy writing. It started off as a one hour pilot. I did my usual beat sheet, and after all this time I can tell to within half a dozen pages how long the script will be from the number and content of the beats.

But it never pans out that way. Not in a spec. See on a commission the page count is paramount. Maybe not so much in the early drafts but at shooting script most definitely. And you really don't want to be chopping 10 pages for the shooting script.

But as I'm writing the spec, well....... things occur to me. Scenes I had down as two pages can become four. Characters dictate different choices as you get to know them. The story becomes bigger or more twisty. Lots of reasons. And as this is a spec I'm just running with it. Because I don't think it hurts the story I'm writing. On the contrary. the story is dictating the length.

So with my bendy writing hat on, I'm nixing the idea of a one hour pilot and making it either a stand alone Two Parter or a two hour pilot.

Don't be afraid to be flexible. The story will tell you what the length should be and that isn't always apparent from the outset. For spec TV, Bendy writing is your friend! Because note that any producer now has two bites of the cherry when trying to sell to the networks. The pilot or the stand alone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Book him Danno

A few years ago I told my agents I wanted to write a novel. They nixed the idea. 'You're a script writer, stick to what you know' I listened to them.
A good mate of mine, a dyed in the wool script writer, has just signed with the biggest and best book agent in the country - with his first novel. He finaly got fed up with the worst aspects of the TV world. The numpty execs, the incoherent notes, the plethora of D girls with attitude, the numbing blandness that seems to be the order of the day and the pointless meetings.
He took a break and sat down and wrote a novel. Here's a snippet of the conversaton between Big Time Book Agent and Mate.

This is fantastic writing. The pacing is tremendous. How many novels have you written?

Counting this one? One.

You're joking.

Nope. Never had time. I've been writing TV for the last 8 years.

Ah! That explains it.

And it does. See I think that if you are a good writer, that means you are a natural storyteller. Books, Tv, Films, all the same. Storytelling. I've been on websites where novelists and screenwriters, largely unpublished or unproduced, talk about how different the script is from the novel and how they are completely disparate skills. Bollocks. They are different platforms. A platform is easy to master. That's not a skill. Good writing is a skill and a transferrable one. Pick up just about any thriller and you will see that structurally it's just like a very long treatment for a movie.
If anything I'd say that being a scriptwriter is a major qualification to write thrillers. David Balducci only wrote Absolute Power as a novel because no one wanted to buy the script, saying there was no appetite for political thrillers. Several months at the top of the NY Times best seller list disabused them of that notion.
The novel isn't for everyone, but here's a couple of points. The shit pile in the novel world is many times greater than that in the script world [which is plenty big enough] So if you have any talent at all you will stand out. And secondly, an author is treated with a lot more respect in the TV world than 'just' a scriptwriter!
I'm dusting off a few old movie scripts and digging out a thesaurus.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

aaaaaagh time flies

I've just realised I was supposed to be reading a script for someone. Sorry Ben! Going to a wedding this weekend but will def get to it next week.

And that can happen just as easily with scripts you send to prodcos or agents. Don't be afraid to politely chase up reads. There's nothing worse than waiting in anticipation of a read and weeks later finding out the script's tucked in someones drawer gathering dust.

I don't have any excuse except a terrible memory and a few domestic contretemps and physical injuries [not connected] distracting me. And these people are only human too. If you are not given a time scale I'd get on to them after about 4 weeks. Again at 7 and again at 10. If they keep saying they will get right on it but still haven't then after that it's pretty much a dead duck as far as reminders are concerned so give it up.

But you can still hold out hope. I once got a job after a BBC show had my spec script for six months. The producer kept putting off the read because she didn't like the title! After that, I changed the title.

Time flies for everyone in this business apart from the writer waiting for feedback. The only way to get round this is to get stuck in to your next script. If you are trying to break in you really need to be getting at least 3 specs a year out there. And to be honest it doesn't change much after you break in. Okay you may get away more with proposals rather than specs, but given the musical chairs execs play it's very likely that after a 12 month period expires it could be that no one at an indy prodco will have actually read your work before and would prefer to see a new script rather than the one their predecessors read.

Yes it's free work. But architects do it all the time. I'm not saying it's right. It's just the way it is. Given the timidity of the networks right now, unless you are a golden ticket with a cast iron project, they are not going to be happy with just a proposal. They'll make noises about how they really would like to see a script to get the tone, and you'll trot off and write it. That's because the vast majority of cost, and therefore risk of any project is production. They want anything they can get to show the networks how minimal the risk is. The real answer is of course 'who the fuck knows?' Great ideas can be ruined by bad scripts, acting, directing, marketing, you name it.

I think the emphasis on showbusiness used to be on 'show' Nowadays I fear it's definitely more on 'business'. Entertainment shouldn't be about minimising risk. It should be about taking chances. Gut instinct not focus groups.

Go into any meeting with just about any exec and they'll bleat on about how the 18-24 age group is the key demographic they are chasing. Why? Well they'll waffle about how that age group doesn't watch tv nowadays and we have to hook them back into it blah blah blah.
Guess what? They never did watch much! They were too busy out drinking and shagging and playing football. Now it's facebook and second life. [it's not really, but because the marketing nerds are never off the internet they think all they hear there is gospel. Most yoofs are still out drinking, shagging and playing football. ]
The real reason is that the marketers have got it into their heads that the 18-24 demographic are some kind of advertisers pliant wet dream. And as usual in this business the tail wags the dog.
But it doesn't have to be that way. I know I bang on to the point of boredom. But let's get back to gut instinct. Let's have execs more concerned with producing quality than saving their arses. And let's have writers stop pandering to a system that's going to kill the medium.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lunatics and asylums

I guess I'm what's called a 'middle ranking writer' I generally make a good living but I'm far from a household name. Even in my own household.
But I have a feeling that middle ranking writers are like the middle classes, or silent majority or Mr Average, call it what you will. When they get pissed off and militant you know something is badly wrong.

I have a busted ankle right now, which let me relax today and watch a lot of tv. Or would have until I surfed the channel guide and saw there was absolutely nothing I wanted to watch. So I went to 'on demand' and luxuriated on about 6 episodes of 'Band of Brothers' back to back, an ep of 'Two And A Half Men' and the DVD of 'Flags Of Our Fathers'
All good.
Why would I want to watch the school dinner regurgitated rice pudding that is served up on Monday night TV when I can watch something good? Where's the heart? Where's the thought? Where's the connection to real people?
Maybe it's lost in a sea of no talent careerists who have forgotten or never knew that ultimately the audience will spot a fake. I speak of both producers and writers here.
In the stock market you have 'day traders'. A bunch of people who have no regard for anything other than their own short term enrichment but who can severely distort the market to the detriment of what is good for everyone else. Too many of those types are in the entertainment industry. They don't know the difference between rape and seduction. All you can do is point it out. Diplomatically if you want a career.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Are You Irish?

I want to know because I might be a BBC recruiter.

Okay I'm not. But I recently found out that you can apply for production jobs with the beeb online. Just to see what questions were asked I thought I'd go through the process. It was for a trainee producer for radio comedy. Pretty much as far from what I do as you can get.

I have to admit, up to a point the questions were concise and pertinent. Then it got weird. It came to the subject of religion. When I tried to answer ' Don't give a fuck' [aka don't have one] the form asked if I was Northern or Southern Irish???

Huh? Seriously? It's important to know whether I'm a Pape or a Proddy? Maybe it's just part of that whole comedy ethos. An irony test? Or it could be indicative of the BBC. So fucking out of touch it's not true.

I'll let you know if I get the interview lol

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The insanity of writing

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of meeting Big Bill Martell in person, get to know him a little on his blog

His latest on 10 reasons not to be a screenwriter is, as usual, bang on the money.
Most writers write because they love to. That is both their curse and their saviour. Yes we can get dicked around by people who have less talent than Jordan. Yes, we can be looked upon as happless chicks who have to be pushed and prodded into being money making machines {for someone else usually} But we can write. And we love doing it. And we'll always have Paris. 'Nuff said.

The 'Business' can be depressing. Okay, soul destroying. Unless you keep it in your head at all times that you write because you are a writer. That's it. No more, no less. Success isn't so much about money or ratings as being proud of what you wrote. Hell, an episode of Casualty I scribed got 10 million viewers. Was I proud? Yes and no. Proud I survived a dickhead script editor [another writer refused to work with him] Proud that the episode was a great achievement in the art of drama and the reason I began writing? Not really. Okay not at all. It paid the bills and gave me another opportunity to excercise my writing muscles to the best of my ability. Do I want that to be a lasting reminder of my writing? Fuck no!

But I gave it my best. And that's what a writer does. Every time. Now, THAT I'm proud of. And in the world of pro writing that's the anchor in the storm.

Friday, May 23, 2008

3 is the new 6

Last night's main channel offerings in the 9pm slot - Midnight Man ITV and The Invisibles BBC, both attracted a shade over 3 million viewers.

Seriously. I kid you not. 3 million. Now, if I was a network exec I'd be crapping my pants at those figures. Maybe they are, But I don't really think so. Because I also just read that The Fixer has got a second series. Okay this show started strongly with 6 million viewers, but by the end of the run had dropped to .... guess what? Yep 3 million.

So why has it been recommissioned? Don't know really. Maybe because Kudos are major players and have about 15 shows in development for the networks right now, and ITV, still miles behind the BEEB in the drama stakes don't want to piss them off? Maybe like with the awful New Street Law a deal was done so there had to be two series? Maybe they really do have plans to make the second series ''bigger and better'' No idea. Unless 3 really is the new 6 and if that's the case then God help us.

I say that because the last bastion of the embattled Tv exec is 'market share'. It matters more to them what their share of the audience is rather than how big the overall TV audience is. Both the producers of Midnight Man and The Invisibles can claim that their shows had a 28% share or whatever. It's a bit like John Terry being happy that only 50% of his feet slipped when he took that penalty.
It's a dangerous mentality because it embodies the 'bald men fighting over a comb' scenario. Short term survival is more important than analysing why and doing something about the fact that the audience are staying away in droves.

I know why they are staying away in droves. It's because there are too many people in the Entertainment industry who know nothing about entertainment.
Simple as that. And as difficult.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ultimate Farce

I notice Ultimate Force returned to ITV on Sunday, helping it to it's lowest Sunday audience in two years, as noted in Broadcast. I didn't see it. And I only mention it for a couple of reasons.

I've only seen a couple of episodes of this. The concept seemed like my cup of tea. Nothing wrong with the concept. Concept is great. Took me two episodes to realise it didn't have the courage or the budget of it's convictions. And that Ross Kemp is much better at documentaries.

Watching Ultimate Force and The Unit back to back is like watching Casualty and E.R back to back. You feel you want to fast forward Casualty to make it keep up. Okay that was my impression given the limited episodes I saw. It may have changed and if anyone did see the new series maybe they could enlighten me?

It seems to me it's just another example where the money isn't on screen. And by that I mean not only the production values but the writing. pay the writers double and give them more time and that show could be really good.

I guess I'm a little ticked off because of a tale told to me recently. A friend was recently on location with Primeval. He was talking about how fantastic the catering was. 5 types of starters, 4 main courses, grapes, cheeses, you name it. Most of which was chucked away at the end of the day's shooting.
That might sound petty, of course people have to eat, but to me it is indicative of the state of the industry. That day's catering probably cost more than the writer was paid for the episode.

And that's where I feel TV is going wrong. Good writing takes time. Time costs money. Money spent prior to production is always money well spent. But it doesn't seem to me that the vast majority in this industry hold that view. 'Get it on, and get it on fast' seems to be the motto. Forgetting of course that the audience aren't stupid. They don't need stuffing and sprouts to spot a turkey.

Many people in the industry know how to produce a show. Few actually know how to make it entertaining. Or if they do they cow tow to the marketers and bureaucrats and dumb it down to the bland broth that passes for entertainment nowadays. Invalid food for an invalid industry. These people are the MRSA of entertainment. Killing the already sick patient. And it's full of them. The 'hold on to what we've got' mentality is not going to work. A director friend of a friend said that in 5 years, TV execs will be like bald men fighting over a comb.
Unless things change drastically, I think he's probably right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More LA Stories

By popular request, and I mean request in the singular, thank you Jaded, another tale from the boulevard of broken dreams.

There are still some characters in Hollywood. Bob Kosberg is one of them. I first met him at a Pitch fest in the Hollywood Roosevelt. It was one of those that stank of desperation from the would be writer and a quick buck for the organisers, but I didn't know this. I was so green then that Carls Jnr could have stuck me in a bun and called me salad.

The guest role looked pretty juicy with some big name prodco's represented. I wasn't aware that mostly they were actually the relative prodco's assistant to the assistant's assistant. The Nodders of Wodehouse lore.

But Bob Kosberg was there in person. A legend in town as the super-salesman. He didn't really sell scripts, mind. He sold ideas. If you had a great idea, He could sell it. In fact even if your idea sucked farts from swans and he had a mind to he could probably sell that too.

The first thing I noticed about him was that he was a dead ringer for Ted Danson in his Cheers years. The second thing I noticed was he gave off a vibe of being a straight down the line guy. He said what he meant and meant what he said. A rarity in Tinsel Town.

He opened up his spiel by saying that if we had a good script or good idea he could sell it.
There's something to warm the old cockles as I grasped my page of log lines. But he then quickly added that if he did sell it we should be under no illusions. Our connection to the project would probably end then and there. No way would a studio trust a newbie to write a draft. The upside was that we could cry all the way to the bank with our 100k 'story by' fee and have a screen credit.

He told us how after years in Hollywood he was still struggling for his first 'producer' credit. The studios took the same line with him. Happy to buy his pitch, but no way were they going to trust him to produce the project. He got his first 'producer' credit by the following means:-

If you want this project I want to be the producer.

Studio Head
Bob, you don't know how to produce.

Ok, I'll settle for co-producer. I know how to co-.

And he got it. Chutzpah!

He once sold an idea called Meter Maids, a story about , well, traffic wardens. Here's how:-

It's called Meter Maids. Barbara Streisand and Goldie Hawn are giving out parking tickets when.....

Studio head

Anyway, if you have a high concept script or idea, check him out. He's one of the good guys.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Hollywood Years

I love P.G Wodehouse. I love all the Jeeves and Wooster stuff. I love his towering metaphors and similies. I love his easy style.
Most of all I like his rabid social comment disguised as comedy. Some of my favourite stories are from his time as a screenwriter in Hollywood. If you want to know what's it's like to be a writer then read 'The Old Reliable' or 'Laughing Gas' because although they were written decades ago, not much has changed.

His description of the nodder in a studio meeting. Two steps below the yes man. The nodder has to wait for the yes man and the assistant yes man to say yes. Then he can nod. Classic. A producer with the brevet rank of brother in law? Pure Wodehouse.
Read him. You'll like him.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mighty de Fine

Seems to me the best writing defines an era or mood or zeitgeist, call it what you will. The best movies always do this, from Casablanca to Easy Rider to Wall Street . The best TV should hang its head in shame if it doesn't.
It set me thinking as to what defines the current era. It was a pretty depressing thunk. No talent eejits like Paris Hilton are lauded in the media. Someone flashes their tits on Big Brother and becomes a star? The BBC news gleefuly reports on the shennanagins of Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse?

Now I know that's always happened to some extent, since the days of Al Jolson, Twiggy, Simon Le Bon and the aforementioned [except Amy Winehouse has talent]. But now it seems like the only important thing is to be famous. The golden ring being held out for everyone is Warhol's famous for fifteen minutes. Fuck that! It's more like Orwell's 1984. Pop culture to keep the masses happy while they are screwed by those in control.

I'm not a political being but as a writer to me that defines this era. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What would Jesus do?

My thanks to Ben for this, which I missed.

and this

I pissed myself laughing.

It's not too hard to read between the lines.

Gotto love the 12 year old commissioning exec defending his alleged notes to Frank Deasy on The Passion, at the the cruxifiction scene ''is there enough at stake'. Untrue apparently. His defence is that the actual note was ''if the audience didn't know the story of Jesus would they know what was going on?'

You can only shake your head in wonder.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Ugly Factor

Here it is folks. The secret of sit - com writing. It came to my son and me while waiting for a Pizza. wait for it.......

Unless the male is supposed to be a ladies man never have your leads too good looking.

There it is. Think about it. Friends [including Joey] King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Not Going Out, Men Behaving Badly, The Office, Only Fools And Horses, The Green Green Grass, Terry and June, Spaced, The Big Bang Theory, My Name Is Earl, and on and on and on.

This came to my attention when I happened to see and episode of 'Freddie' starring Freddie Prinze Junior [ cancelled] The guy is good looking. But not a womaniser. Result? Ratings death.
On the other hand of course the female leads should generally be as attractive as possible in a ''girl next door scrubbed up nicely'' kinda way.

Lines that might get a belly laugh from a geeky Ross or a gawkey Rodney just don't get the same reaction from young chisel face Freddie. Women might want to be with him but men want to punch his lights out. There's half your demographics gone right there.

Seems to me that if casting is important for drama it is vital for comedy.

Moral of the story - cast ugly for better line appreciation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying any of the above males fell out the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. But they ain't the Elle McPherson of Friends [or any one of those dork's girlfiends with the possible exception of Janice] or the Pamela Anderson of Stacked.

I'm not a comedy writer so take the above with a pinch of salt. But to me comedy is usually about the underdog. Save the pretty boys for the Byronic heroes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Life in the internet lane

Everything, all the time.

When I were a lad, there weren't no t'internet. The only real avenues for any novice writer to get any kind of information on the nature and practice of screenwriting was to go to a seminar buy a book, or find a willing mentor.

Those days have long gone, thank the jebus. There are now any number of great sites with excellent writers giving free advice on everything from how to construct a pitch document to what to wear at a meeting!

Great news for the novice. But also great news for the hoary old salt. Writers tend to be a solitary breed. Especially in this country where we don't really have the writers room. Meetings between writers tend to be few and far between. Prior to the internet and email, information would be slow to disseminate. A 'bitch' [collective noun] of writers might gather occassionaly to bemoan this prodco or that exec or the PACT agreement, but it would pretty much end there. A few like minded souls shouting in the wind to each other, never knowing how many, if any of their fellow writers felt exactly the same way.

Take the recent WGA strike. I have a suspicion that a major reason this one was 'succesful' when the last one certainly wasn't, was down to the internet. The writers case was put out there, often, cohesively and entertainingly. Given that the conglomorates who own the studios also own most of the media it was pretty much the only way the message could get out. Ironic really as one of the main issues was internet residuals.

But I think even more importantly the internet enables a creative community to come out of their bunkers and realise we are all going through the same shit. Be it wrestling with a script or dealing with some dingbat exec who wouldn't know if they had an arse and an elbow, never mind the difference.

And maybe, just maybe, that level of communication will give that creative community a greater sense of empowerment. I do hope so. I mentioned in a previous comment that I might post my thoughts on why writers are generally kept out of the spotlight. Still mulling the whole scenario over. But I've most certainly come across the 'divide and rule' mentality. The internet goes some way to overcoming that. Hell, I may start naming and shaming! lol

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Writer? Who's that?

I'm in script at the moment so just a quick post while I mop up the blood.
Following on from the theme in the comments about the writer's anonymity - true story happening now.

A friend of a friend had a single drama on BBC1. An indy got the rights to turn it into a series with him as lead writer of course. A few weeks in they attempted to screw him over royally on both money and episodes. That's another story. The Beeb eventually got pissed off and pulled the plug.

The writer then read in Broadcast that said Indy had sold the format rights to America! Potentially huge bucks. He had to read it in Broadcast??? 3 months behind the times if you're lucky. He informed his agents, who attempted to find out what was going on and was told by the Indy that they had no contractual obligation to tell him anything until it was time to pay out.

Ahhhhh, the business of show.
Who cares about the creator, we're talking product!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Something for the weekend?

I thought this was an apt title as a) it's the weekend and b) the last two posts have covered female ejaculation, cunts and arseholes. Clearly there is a recurring theme going on.

I'm writing a script just now, and one of the characters says there are only 2 motives for any crime. Sex or money.

Okay not very original as lines go, but hey. I think it's a truism and writers deal in truisims. As any Freudian analyist will tell you, boil any action down to it's true motive and sex will be behind it somewhere. I don't agree btw, tonight I tipped a waiter 20% because the service was great. I got what I wanted, when I wanted it, efficiently and pleasantly. oh.......wait a minute..... lol

That doesn't make me gay. [not that there's anything wrong with that. ahhh Seinfeld] And I was with my son so not trying to impress a bird.

But as a writer, the Freudian approach is a useful tool when approaching character motivation. It adds another layer to your view of why a character chooses a course of action, be that over a script or a single scene and helps humanise them in your mind rather than making them simply plot enablers.

A character has to have a self-perception of who they really are if they are to work on paper and on screen. That's what a real character biography is. Not what colour of socks they wear. Where they eat or what Cd's they buy. Those are just examples of how they'd like the world to perceive them. What really makes them tick is their attitude towards sex and money. Get to the bottom of that and you have a very real character.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Harsh Realities

An old writer salt once told me 'Most execs are cunts and the ones who aren't are arseholes' he was pretty drunk at the time and in fairness, he had been at this a loooooong time so was probably coming off yet another meeting where the heart was ripped out of what he'd just written.

I don't agree with the above. Most execs are just trying to do their job. Unfortunately a lot of the time that might be something that is in contradiction to what the writer is trying to achieve.

Consider the advert in Broadcast I've just read for a Script Editor on The Bill. Now, The Bill goes through Script Ed's like a hooker through condoms, but the job description reads 'Must have the ability to take control over a creative project'

There's nothing about 'be able to get the best out of writers and help them to create fantastic stories, gripping characters and must see TV'

It's about control. Because episodic tv is an expensive sausage machine where on time and on budget tend to be the watchwords.

That's the eternal dichotomy that exists between execs and writers. They aren't cunts and arseholes. They just have different Gods to worship.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Female Ejaculation

Yep strange title. But writers have to be students of human nature I guess, so this tickled me.

I came across female ejaculation recently, if you'll pardon the pun. Being naturally curious, and never to my knowledge having previously induced it I decided a google was in order. Luckily my computer was by the bed and she seemed too drained to notice.
Anyhoo, the facts and figures are in dispute to some extent and I don't want to spoil the romance by talking about skene glands and urethas. But having read up on the medical guff I happened upon this.

It's a letter from Feminists Against Censorship [Do they know it sounds like Fuck?] to the BBFC. It sets out all the medical proof for female ejaculation because the BBFC don't believe it exists and class it as , well, pissing, which means any film it contains can't recieve an R18 rating because of the Obscene Publications Act. Apparently urine isn't allowed. The FAC's case is that it isn't urine.

Does anyone really care? I mean anyone who cares if female ejaculatory fluid is an important part of the entertainment?

As far as censorship is concerned, personaly I'm of the school that finds it odd that torture porn like Hostel and the like get manstream certificates but good old porno has a list of what can get shown and what can't.

Okay, there has to be some form of censorship. If there wasn't someone would without question try to show a snuff movie. Although I'm all for Celebrity Big Brother - The Death Match!

I don't write a lot of sex in what I do. It slows up the action and rarely adds to character development, unless it is beautifully done like between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now. I don't have any interest in seeing on screen ejaculation, male or female. Unless it is Cameron Diaz's hair gel.

But I do find it hypocritical that murders, rape, and gratuitous violence are ''socially acceptable'' as far as the BBFC are concerned. But they have to debate the existance of the female ejaculation?

Maybe I've been reading too many Canadian Blogs and the whole censorship rammy going on over there. Maybe I'm just trying to say that no matter how liberal you think the media appears, it is actually very conservative.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lions In The Wild

Shamefully stolen post from Alex Epstein

''Paul Graham has another insightful essay entitled You Weren't Meant to Have a Boss. It's about the difference he's observed between programmers who work for Google and Microsoft, and programmers who work for their own startups.

He compares them to lions in the wild versus lions in the zoo. The lions in the zoo seem "both more worried and happier."I think that's why I like show people. The ones who don't seem happier are executives. They have big salaries and regular paychecks, and here in Canada, they're not in constant danger of being fired. (Though, I suspect, they also don't have absurdly lucrative "golden parachute" clauses.) But they have to work within a structure and a specific mandate. My network executive friends may like my show, but they already have one in the same territory, or it's not in their mandate, or they can't sell it to their boss. And they're always in meetings. Ack.

I don't know anyone who's left a network job who didn't seem happier afterwards. My producer and writer friends are worried all the time. They don't know where their next paycheck is coming from. They don't know if the industry will collapse due to moralistic Conservative government intervention. They have no idea what they'd do for a living if people stopped hiring them, or paying them. But their frustrations are the frustrations of lions in the wild. They are always stalking the next antelope, or trying to keep the hyenas off of one they've already caught.

They all seem so alive.''

Kinda says it all. A writer can never be a zoo lion, unless it is for research and even then they'll probably fuck a zebra and eat a keeper.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Internet Hype?

Lots of interesting comments on the last post thanks. I'm about to commit heresy. For the next twenty years at least, unless a HUGE player gets involved, TV will still be the primary method of delivering scripted entertainment. Forget all the 'let's do the show right here' bollocks.

There, I said it. Only small stones please and not the face!

Why do I think that? Because despite all the marketing hype, most people still like to sit down in their favourite armchair, watch their big screen HDD with dolby and tune out to their favourite programme.

Yep, to marketers the internet is cool and hip and trendy. But marketers deal in product, not entertainment or the reason why we like certain types of entertainment. With the marketers it's all about trends and statistics. They see a huge explosion in the use of the internet, a huge decrease in the TV viewer numbers on network primetime, put 2 and 2 together and get 17.

The internet is not the future of delivering scripted entertainment. It is the future of 'catch up' tv, 'dang I missed that' tv and 'I wonder what that's like' tv.

Watching TV is part of our social and cultural fabric. Prime time network ratings have gone down because people now have better things to do than sit down and make an appointment to watch shit. Pure and simple. Putting that same shit on the internet isn't going to make a whole heck of a lot of difference.

That's not to say that a ratings success purely on the internet isn't possible. Or internet streamed direct to the TV. And if someone has the balls to put up the cash for decent production values and promotion it might happen. But I think it will be the exception rather than the rule.

Sure, the networks can make a good deal of incremental income from the internet, but TV will still rule. Mass Entertaimnent has a lot more to do with why we view it than how we view it. But apart from porn and Youtube most of us don't want it huddled over our computers. So the Tv will still rule. The internet will be another way of feeding the TV, like another one million channels to surf. More fragmentation, more crap.

It's going to take a hell of a show to persuade the money men that a network level production value show on the internet can attract the same or more viewers.