Friday, March 28, 2008

It's Zombie Week at Pink Raygun!

Want to know how many zombies it takes to change out a lightbulb? Why the zombie crossed the road? What's currently the height of zombie fashion? Me too!

Unfortunately I don't think anyone answers any of those questions, but they do chew on a lot of other fun topics.

Clicky below for some shameless self promotion:

8 Habits of Highly Effective Zombies - Because no one thinks about the good qualities a zombie has to possess.

Just Add Zombies - In which zombies are added to some of your favorite TV shows with hopefully interesting and amusing results.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck (3)

This should be fun...

Everything here is wholly based on skipping through Chuck episodes on NBC.com. Five acts plus a teaser; this is what you should be aiming for in minutes if you're doing a Chuck spec...and since generally 1 page = 1 minute of screen time...

Episodes 104, 105, 106, 107

Teaser in minutes - 6, 4, 7, 8:10 range 4-8:10
Act I in minutes - 12, 10:45, 5:20, 8:45 range 5:20-12
Act II in minutes - 8:50, 5:15, 9:20, 3:55 range 3:55-9:20
Act III in minutes - 6:15, 8:20, 6:20, 8:30 range 6:15-8:30
Act IV in minutes - 5:50, 7, 6:40, 3:50 range 3:50-7
Act V in minutes - 4:15, 5:20, 6, 7:45 range 4:15-7:45

The timing is likely off by a few seconds here and there, but in general it's correct. So...what the heck is happening here? Holy outliers, Batman, there's a lot of range in those times. The only segment of the show that seems relatively stable is Act III, though I think it's mostly safe to say Chuck employs a "longer" teaser. Probably somewhere between 5-8 minutes is the safe zone. Act I...is a bit of a question, though I'd say 8-11 minutes seems okay. Act II scares me, because there's a big difference to me in a 5-ish minute Act and one that's closer to 9 minutes. Maybe split the difference and say 7? Act III seems a safe bet at 6-8 minutes. Act IV should probably be in the 6 minute range and Act V probably about that long too.

In terms of tone, here's how the show generally leaves the audience before going to commercial (dra=dramatic act out and com=comedic act out).

Episodes 104 105 106 107

Teaser out - dra, dra, com, dra
Act I out - dra, dra, dra, dra
Act II out - dra, dra, dra, com
Act III out - dra, dra, com, dra
Act IV out - com, dra, dra, com

I'm not sure what to draw from this other than most of their acts end on drama (by which I really mean "hero in danger"), and Act I seems to never end on a comedic beat. In terms of having comedy beats end the teaser and other acts...sometimes that's okay, but generally they don't do it. And the Act V out (or end of show) I didn't even touch, because with rare exceptions the show ends on character beats where everyone comes together in happiness...or not. Either way, it doesn't really fit the definition of drama or comedy I'm using for the other act outs.

Hope this is useful - it's at least made me rethink a few things.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Break It Down - Grey's Anatomy

Before I get into this episode of Grey's, I'd like to make an offer/solicit suggestions. If any of you have shows or scripts you'd like me to do a breakdown for, let me know and I'll see what I can do. Know in advance that I make no promises as my ability to break down the script for a show depends almost entirely on my being able to acquire it...which is sometimes easier said than done. Beyond that, I have a few caveats:

1. I'm not doing half hour shows...with a few exceptions. For example, I might consider an In Treatment...because I think that would be really interesting...and short...but you're out of luck if you're hoping for a Two and a Half Men. Sorry, but I just don't think it would be useful for me.

2. I will only break down shows that are currently on the air. So no Buffy, 90210 or Rockford Files. I know how much you were looking forward to it, James Garner fans, but you'll have to look somewhere else.

Beyond that, I'm game to at least consider any suggestions. Anyway...on with the show.

If you'd like to catch up on other breakdowns I've done, look here, here, here and here.

Today's Grey's Anatomy breakdown is an oldie but a goodie:

Episode 108 - Who's Zoomin' Who?

Short Description

In which George (and half the hospital, it seems) gets syphilis from Alex, Richard's eyesight starts to go, Izzy and Cristina perform an illegal autopsy, and Meredith first meets Mrs. McDreamy. Yup, that's right, it's jam-packed full of stuff. (Oh, and by the way, I know IMDB says this is episode 109, which may be true in terms of when it aired, but the actual script in my hand says 108, so I'm going with that.)

Story Threads

Hmm. Well, friends, this one's a doozy. Like Gossip Girl, each character kind of has at least a few beats of a story here, which already means we've got multiple threads to follow. But wait, there's more. This episode contains not one, but two patient storylines. I'm sure that not all of these would really be considered a "story" in the room, but in order to break this down as much as possible, here's what we've got:

A-story - George learns he has syphilis and feels betrayed by his new sort-of girlfriend.

B-story - Meredith keeps avoiding calls from the home (mental? retirement? I don't watch the show that much) where they're keeping her mother.

C-story - Derek keeps avoiding calls from...someone *cough*Addison, his wife*cough*

D-story - Cristina and Burke deal...eventually...with their new relationship.

E-story - Richard starts to lose his eyesight and has to have secret emergency surgery.

F-story - Burke's patient and old college buddy has two revelations - 1) he has internal female organs and 2) the baby his wife's carrying isn't his. Dude is not having a good day.

G-story - Cristina and Izzy lose a patient and then perform an illegal autopsy on him.

No, you didn't count wrong - seven frigging stories. Holy crap.

(Note: The above designations of A-story, B-story and so on are based entirely on when that story thread first appears in the script. This will become quite apparent later when you realize how few beats the B, C and D "stories" get.)


Length and Breakdown

Teaser - 8 pages, 6 scenes
Act I - 10 pages, 9 scenes
Act II - 17 pages, 13 scenes
Act III - 9 pages, 7 scenes
Act IV - 6 pages, 5 scenes
Act V - 6 pages, 5 scenes

45 scenes in 56 pages, with a teaser and five acts. Pagewise, Act II is the longest and Acts IV & V are shortest. 8 pages is a decently long teaser--it's longer than Acts IV & V and just a page shorter than Act III. You can also see--based on the number of pages vs. the number of scenes--that in general we're talking about roughly a page for each scene.

The scenes are organized as follows:

A-story - George has syphilis (11 beats/scenes)
B-story - Meredith's mom (3 beats/scenes)
C-story - Derek avoiding calls (3 beats/scenes)
D-story - Cristina and Burke (3 beats/scenes)
E-story - Richard's eyesight (12 beats/scenes)
F-story - Burke's patient/friend (7 beats/scenes)
G-story - Cristina and Izzy's patient (12 beats/scenes)

Teaser - A, B, A/C, D/E, A, A
Act I - F, E, G, A, E, G, A, E, F
Act II - G, A, E, A/D, F, A, B, E, A/E, D, G, E, G
Act III - G, E/C, F, G, F, G, E
Act IV - G, F, E, B, G
Act V - G, F, E, G, A, C

(Note: where beats include a / mark, this means that the scene has elements of both stories. When this happens, I'm putting the story that the beat gives preference to as the first story. In the scene/beat count above, every appearance of A, B, C and so on is counted as one full beat rather than a half, even if there is a slash mark.)

Looking at the beats tells us a lot about the way a typical Grey's looks. The teaser is entirely about the main characters, and by the time it ends we've just gotten to the hospital and are starting the day there. Right away, we can see that this show cares more about character than weekly medical mysteries...or so we think. Really, the teaser is just kind of a set up to remind us where the characters are right now in their lives so that we can see how what's about to follow will impact them in a way that reflects this. And once we get into the episode proper, there are fewer and fewer beats that only serve to move the character's storylines forward. In fact, starting with Act I, every time we go to commercial or come back, the first thing we see is what's happening in the medical stories. The closest we get to leaving on a character beat until the end of the episode is when Richard's in surgery at the end of Act III. But... Richard's in surgery. Again, leaving on the drama of a medical story. Still, the reason we come back is the characters, and the show smartly ends on Meredith's revelation that her new McDreamy boyfriend has an even McDreamier wife.

So...if you're considering writing a Grey's spec at this somewhat late date, begin and end on where the characters are, but realize that there's got to be a lot of episodic medical drama going on in the meat of the episode between the teaser and Act V.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wanna know what David Simon is up to next?

From Baltimore to Iraq.

Click do find out how your TV future will be owned.

Oh, man, I am sooooo there.

*Update*

She didn't call me on it, but I stole this link from Elana.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Anyone writing a Pushing Daisies spec?

Don't give Ned and Chuck a baby, stay away from Emerson's daughter...and read this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One word: AAAAAAAAAGGGRRRH!

So, how are your weeks going?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Brake for Snacks!

Today on my annoyingly long drive to work via the 405, I spent a lot of time thinking about character.

This was due in no small part to the fact that for most of the trip I was trapped behind an otherwise average looking Honda Civic that had one small piece of flair: a bumper sticker with a drawing of what looked like a fortune cookie and the copy "I Brake for Snacks!"

Which raised a series of interesting questions for me: What kind of person would actually display this bumper sticker on their car? Was the sticker meant to be jokingly serious or satirize "funny" bumper stickers? If it was meant to be serious, why would a person choose to display that particular piece of information about themselves, especially in the absence of any other information?

It didn't feel like a real bumper sticker that a real person would use. More like something John Candy would have had in Uncle Buck, or that we would have seen on Wayne Knight's car in Jurassic Park as he reverses out of a parking space "into" the camera. You know, because they're the fat guys and it's funny that they like food. All fat guys enjoy pointing out that they like food, right? Right.

Have you ever noticed things like this in real life that felt so ridiculous they seemed surreal?

The Best Love Letter Ever

Via Jill Golick, via HuffPo.

I want in, dammit!