Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New TV season! or A Post for Post-erity

I's the funny.

I've been ever-so-slowly working on several posts over the last few weeks, Constant Readers, but for some reason can't seem to actually finish any of them. (Luckily the same cannot be said of the Chuck and Pushing Daisies specs Jul and I are working on, which are written through acts III and IV, respectively.)

And I intended to unashamedly copy The Futon Critic's fall/spring schedule and put it up here (sorry Futon Critic!), but I had to shrink it so much that it was nigh-unreadable.

So here, in place of that, is a list of the shows that Jul and I will at least give a few episodes of valuable DVR space to this fall/winter. Read that again carefully - fall/winter. Dollhouse, Lost and the like aren't on this because they're considered part of the spring schedule and this post is already long-ish.

The days of the week don't reflect the actual times we'll be watching them (um, duh, DVR), just the airing dates.

Enjoy!

FALL

Monday (same old mostly same old)

8-9pm
is super-busy with Chuck, Sarah Connor and Gossip Girl. I sense a disturbance in DVR recording options...
9-10pm belongs to Heroes...but they have to earn my continuing viewership this year.
10-11pm brings the first newbie we'll be watching, Christian Slater's My Own Worst Enemy.

Tuesday (all new doesn't necessarily mean all good)

8-9pm brings a show I have some serious doubts we'll be watching after the first few weeks - Jennie Garth or no Jennie Garth: 90210. Though Rob Thomas is involved, so...
9-10pm offers a choice between X-Files Lite (aka Fringe) and what's sure to be some saucy teenage fun on Surviving the Filthy Rich (aka Dirty Sexy Money...except not really this time).
10-11pm is a no man's land where we will A) sleep [5 percent probability], B) write [10 percent probability], C) play video games [10 percent probability], D) be at the Bok for trivia [25 percent probability], or E) watch DVRed stuff from Monday we didn't get to yet [50 percent probability].

Wednesday (ABCness and at least the car's cool)

8-9pm will see us making the sarcastically difficult choice between Pushing Daisies and Knight Rider.
9-10pm is empty as far as we're concerned, which might mean "I'm really bored so fine we'll watch Private Practice" or "Well, we did already record Knight Rider, so..."
10-11pm is reserved for a show I'm surprised I like as much as I do: Dirty Sexy Money.

Thursday (good, but doesn't interest me as much as Monday)

8-9pm Ugly Betty still owns us, but the DVR will be working at 8:30 for 30 Rock.
9-10pm is for lovers...of depressing comedy-dramas of all kinds - Grey's Anatomy and The Office.
10-11pm is something borrowed and something new with Life On Mars and The Eleventh Hour.

Friday (might not suck)
8-9pm is literary hour! Who knew? We'll at least give Crusoe a winter tryout.
9-10pm brings The Ex List, which sounds like Earl but with dating and possibly bitterness.
10-11pm serves up another of my unlikely faves from last year, Life. Glad it's back for another go-round.

Saturday (barren wasteland alert!)

8-11pm ... (no, seriously)

Sunday (Desperate for another hit)

8-9pm is for stuff we DVRed but didn't watch yet.
9-10pm hasn't found anything better than Desperate Housewives...unless there's a really good football game on...and I can convince Jul.
10-11pm has two shows that we probably should watch in Brothers & Sisters and The Unit, but sadly we've never gotten into them. More DVRed stuff we haven't gotten to.

That's 21 shows! Not bad...except maybe on our social life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jane Espenson - clothes swap '08

Anyone who reads this blog has undoubtedly already seen this, but Jane actually made me LOL (really actually, not just web actually) with this post.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes, I'm a dork

Aren't you?

Yes this is simply a copy and paste from their website and no, there's still nothing (grr!) specific, but... I am embarrassingly psyched for Comic-Con this year.

One note: Joss, when you preview the Dollhouse pilot this year (and you'd better - hear me, Fox?), please don't do it until at least Friday. Thanks.

Anyone else out there dorkily excited? I mean, I'm not gonna dress up or anything, but...

Programming at Comic-Con 2008

With close to 400 events over all four days, Comic-Con's program slate is the largest in the nation. Programs include major comics publisher presentations, Spotlight panels on all the special guests, and the greatest number of events geared toward the entire spectrum of comics of any convention. Hall H features major movie studio programs (judging from this issue's cover and feature interview, you can bet one of them will include Frank Miller and The Spirit!), and the TV networks give presentations that showcase favorite and new shows. (Comic-Con has a tradition of premiering network shows months before they air, with past examples including Lost, Heroes, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, Reaper, and many more.)

The Programming Department is currently talking to comics publishers, the major Hollywood movie studios, and television networks, anime/manga, action figure, and gaming companies to again offer the most comprehensive - and mind-blowing! - roster of events at any pop culture show. The Comic Arts Conference will return for four big days of academic study of the wonderful world of comics. And remember - at Comic-Con, that world includes all aspects of comics: superhero comics from the Golden Age to the Silver Age to now, independent and alternative titles, graphic novels of all types, manga, European comics, webcomics, editorial cartoons, comic strips, and more!

In addition, the Programming schedule will feature panels and events devoted to some of this year's special themes. And Comic-Con doesn't end when the Exhibit Hall closes at 7:00 each night! Programming, anime, gaming, film screenings, and other events continue well into the night, with several big events planned for the weekend. On Thursday night, it's the return of the Star Wars Fan Film Awards; on Friday night, it's the comic book industry's version of the Oscars: the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards; and on Saturday night, it's the gala Comic-Con Masquerade. Check back for complete details!

The complete Programming schedule will be posted on here, approximately ten days to two weeks prior to the show. It's a good idea to print that schedule out so you can highlight your must-see panels and events. The complete schedule is also provided in the onsite Events Guide, and updated daily on signs outside of all the Programming rooms.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's a Dollhouse-aganza!

I thought long and hard about what I should post since it's been almost a week, and decided it should be a stunningly interesting and articulate review of something designed to bring traffic to this site.

Then I thought about how long that would take. This is the result of that - Links!

A Pink Raygun Dollhouse "article" that I had absolutely nothing to do with and totally didn't write really I promise.

A Joss interview in the LA Times. This one I did write. (Okay, no I didn't.)

The Dollhouse trailer....ooooohh.

UPDATE: Click on the Pink Raygun link above. They've embedded the trailer on the page.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Time to visit Shawna again

Because a new Watch List is up.

Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck (7)

The great thing about these posts is that, the more of them I write, the more I can copy what was in the last post!

Case in point:

Previous forays into Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck are here. The page lists them in reverse order for some reason, so be a rebel - go to the bottom of the page and scroll up.

When last we left our heroes, they were moving toward having a story, but not quite there:

In our A-story, Chuck flashed, saw Awesome doing bad spy stuff in that flash and needed to flash on him again to prove his innocence - and then, inexplicably, his flashes STOPPED WORKING. WTF?

Now with two problems, he tries to figure out what's wrong with him that's stopping his flashes while sneaking around and doing real spy stuff to prove Awesome's innocence - naturally failing miserably at both.

Eventually he realizes that he's been going about things wrong and needs to be himself - he thinks of the bad flashes as a computer issue and solves that problem; and he decides to trust Awesome and simply ask him about the spying stuff (obviously not mentioning spying) and Awesome gives evidence to prove his innocence. Xanadu plays.

In our B-story, Chuck asks Sarah and Casey to give him time to flash and prove Awesome's innocence before they take him in - Sarah agrees; Casey doesn't. Eventually he gives in, but Sarah doesn't quite trust him.

As Chuck spies on Awesome to prove his innocence, Sarah spies on Casey and thwarts his attempts to take Awesome in, seriously pissing Casey off. Ultimately they end up in a knock-down, drag-out fight that keeps them from helping Chuck when he's put in danger.

When they learn about Chuck being in danger, they have to put aside their differences and work together to save him.

Seems a little wobbly, no? More on that later...


Now to the new stuff.

Since last week I focused on the B-story...with, I'd say, less-than-stellar results...this week it's all A-story, baby. I'm going to give you all of the original beats Jul and I came up with for Chuck getting his mojo back (
read: flashes) and proving Awesome's innocence.

What are beats? (
Feel free to skip ahead if you already know...) Beats are extremely simplified one-line descriptions of what happens in your script from moment to moment. To paraphrase our instructor, your beats should help you string your story together one moment at a time. They should be clear and concrete enough to allow you to come back and build on them. They should show you the parts of the story that you don't already know.

What's an example of how beats can force you to answer things you don't know? Okay, say you've got a generic Beginning, Middle and End: someone is murdered; the hero tries to solve it and fails; the hero realizes something that allows him/her to catch the murderer.

Let's just look at the end. We'll skip past the part of realization and pretend our hero is being told where to find the murderer. Your earliest idea for this might simply be, "John Doe gives our hero the murderer's address. Our hero catches the murderer." Seems pretty straightforward, but how exactly does he/she catch the murderer? What steps are taken?

If you write out a beat sheet, these are the kind of holes that will start to become apparent. And oftentimes these little things may seem obvious or stupid to worry about now, but usually it's a lot easier to figure them out now than after you're writing actual scenes.

Anyway, my hope with posting all of this is not that you'll see how great Jul and I are at crafting a story -- I want to show you how things change and evolve. And how, even knowing the steps you should take and trying to be as careful as possible to plan things out, you'll still find holes and make changes.

Are you ready? Do you care? Don't answer. Here you go:

Beats

A-Story

Sarah & Casey chase Russian Super Spy through warehouse.
Chuck waits in the car.
Super Spy escapes; S&C pissed, blame each other.
As Super Spy runs past, Chuck flashes:
Capt. Awesome working w/Super Spy in Russia; Chuck can't believe it.
Chuck tells S&C about the flash, learns Capt. will be taken away and interrogated.
Chuck convinces them not to tell bosses; let him flash, prove Capt's innocence.
Casey lays low while Sarah goes home w/Chuck to help (and protect him).
At dinner, she slyly tests Capt.'s physical spy skills, results inconclusive.
While playing Catch Phrase! Chuck flashes:
But it's a BAD FLASH - images are blurry/static-y and it's painful.
Group expresses concerns, and he shrugs it off, "it's just a headache."
Capt. & Ellie reveal they're leaving on anniversary vacation -- camping -- in 2 days.
Sarah: Capt. can't travel; prove his innocence in two days or they'll take him away.
As Sara leaves, Chuck has another BAD FLASH - pain, static and all that, but no info.
Sarah notices, asks what he saw.
Afraid they'll take Capt. now, Chuck says "the headache came back."
Next day, Chuck sees doctor re: flash problem.
Doc finds nothing physical; Chuck relieved and bummed at same time.
Chuck paces and panics in Buy More break room.
Morgan enters, asks what's up; Chuck realizes he needs help.
Lies to Morgan and says he suspects Capt. of cheating on Ellie.
Morgan will help spy on Capt. to protect Ellie.
In separate cars, Chuck/Morgan spy on Capt., communicate w/walkie-talkies.
Follow Capt. as he leaves the apartment, both lose him in Chinatown.
Chuck/Morgan go to hospital where Capt. & Ellie work.
Use excuse to go through his work locker; find road maps of China.
Chuck: Oh, shit; Morgan: There's nothing here!
Ellie catches them and Morgan bails; Chuck hides maps from her.
Chuck has another BAD FLASH "headache"; Ellie suggests de-stressing exercises.
Chuck goes home and tries de-stressing exercises; they're not helpful.
Sarah interrupts, angry he's not doing anything; reminds him Capt. will be taken away.
Chuck asks if spy has Chinese ties; Yes, she says: French, Chinese, Japanese, everywhere.
Chuck goes through Capt.'s room, searches closet, drawers, etc.
Capt. comes home and Chuck hides, still in room.
Chuck has another BAD FLASH, which reveals his hiding spot to Capt. - awkward.
Chuck covers: big problem, getting headaches from it; Capt.: You'll solve it. Be yourself.
Chuck realizes he's a computer tech, thinks of BAD FLASHES as a computer problem.
Chuck does tech mumbo jumbo research; learns of devices that could jam his flashes.
Rigs machine that will take him to jamming device.
Follows beacon back to original Super Spy warehouse; Chuck hesitates.
Has another BAD FLASH outside; resolves himself and goes inside.
Finds jamming device and shuts it down.
Finally has a good flash: jamming device helps locate Intersect; Chuck: Uh-oh.
A gun cocks by Chuck's head; it's Super Spy, who has his own homing beacon device.
Casey and Sarah arrive, see Chuck w/Super Spy.
Working together, they capture Super Spy and rescue Chuck.
Chuck fesses up re: BAD FLASHES, says he should have trusted them.
Sarah happy he can now flash to prove Capt.'s innocence; Chuck agrees.
At home, to Sarah's dismay/shock, Chuck instead confronts Capt. w/evidence.
Capt. freaks out, asks if Ellie knows.
Ellie appears, asks what's going on.
Capt. explains camping trip was a cover -- romantic trip to
China; Ellie thrilled.
Chuck asks, "Have you ever been to Russia?" Ellie: "He worked for a non-profit there."
Flash: Non-profit was legit business, used to cover Spy's drug trafficking; all is well.

So there you have it; a pretty comprehensive beat sheet for the A-story.

Next week:

Beats! (B-story)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quick, free our slaves...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck (6)

Negative: You had to wait two days longer for this post since I'm trying to send the weekly Chuck updates out every Thursday.

Positive: Your wait this week will be two days shorter! (Breathless with anticipation, aren't you?)

Previous forays into Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck are here. The page lists them in reverse order for some reason, so be a rebel - go to the bottom of the page and scroll up.

When last we left our heroes, they were moving toward having a story, but not quite there:

In our A-story, Chuck flashed, saw Awesome doing bad spy stuff in that flash and needed to flash on him again to prove his innocence - and then, inexplicably, his flashes STOPPED WORKING. WTF?

Now with two problems, he tries to figure out what's wrong with him that's stopping his flashes while sneaking around and doing real spy stuff to prove Awesome's innocence - naturally failing miserably at both.

Eventually he realizes that he's been going about things wrong and needs to be himself - he thinks of the bad flashes as a computer issue and solves that problem; and he decides to trust Awesome and simply ask him about the spying stuff (obviously not mentioning spying) and Awesome gives evidence to prove his innocence. Xanadu plays.

In our B-story, there was something about Sarah and Casey fighting with each other because Sarah wants to give Chuck time to flash and Casey would rather just take Chuck in.

Yes, it's safe to say the A-story is a little more fleshed out. So let's get to it.

Ideas Further Refined/Beginning, Middle and End

(Since the A-story seemed relatively solid, I concentrated on the B-story)

Chuck asks Sarah and Casey to give him time to flash and prove Awesome's innocence before they take him in - Sarah agrees; Casey doesn't. Eventually he gives in, but Sarah doesn't quite trust him.

As Chuck spies on Awesome to prove his innocence, Sarah spies on Casey and thwarts his attempts to take Awesome in, seriously pissing Casey off. Ultimately they end up in a knock-down, drag-out fight that keeps them from helping Chuck when he's put in danger.

When they learn about Chuck being in danger, they have to put aside their differences and work together to save him.

Seems a little wobbly, no? More on that later...

Next week:

Beats!

Friday, May 2, 2008

More questions than answers

A few questions from reader Adam:

I was wondering if you could put write a post about your Extension course experience. I've wanted to take one of their courses for a while now, but they're so expensive. I'd be curious to hear what you thought, you felt you got out of it. If you're learning a lot, or if it's mainly about the networking. If it's worth the cost, etc.

Also, if you care to shed more light on the shine of the Dollhouse pilot script, that'd be awesome.
(Note: the above image is not an actual photograph of my class at UCLA, merely a dramatization.)

I have posted quite a bit on my Extension experiences, although not always directly. However, having said that, here's a direct one. I've also referenced what I've learned in everything from the ongoing Chuck posts about breaking the story for our spec to my review of Babylon 5 season one.

What I don't want to do is give a specific course syllabus or do a week-by-week review of what I'm learning. First off, I think that's kind of cheating UCLA, those who pay for the class and the instructor. Second...I know people at UCLA read this (hi, UCLA people!) so even if I did want to do those things it doesn't seem wise.

But here's what I will say: For Jul and I, taking the courses has thus far very much been worth the money.

Part of it is that, yes, we have made contacts. We're being taught by professional movie and television writers and most of our classmates are in the industry in one way or another. In short, you could do worse for meeting people.

Another part is that we are being forced to write in a structured environment and should have two finished, vetted and (theoretically) good specs ready to send out in a few months. If you're a person who needs this kind of structured environment, it can be quite helpful.

Yet another bonus is that you are getting ongoing notes from the instructor, who as mentioned above is a professional feature or television writer. As with all notes, it's your job as the writer to process them and decide for yourself what works and what doesn't, but how many people get largely unfettered access to a professional writer who is willing and ready to help you? I work with writers and they're great guys, but also fantastically busy. There's often just no good time to ask them for anything.

But even beyond these benefits, Jul and I actually learn stuff. Kind of cool in a class, no? As a writing team that's worked together for a few years now and churned out several specs and a pilot, we're not new to the TV writing game. And (shameless plug), since we've done moderately well in a few contests, I at least feel confident in saying that we don't suck, and more or less know what we're doing. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that we had quite a bit to learn about the step-by-step process of outlining that was the focus of our last course. Some of the things we went over in class Jul and I were already doing, but several were new to us. And for all of them, it was valuable to learn the system of a professional writer who has worked on shows. I'm sure that our current course where we're finally writing the actual scripts will be just as valuable, and probably in ways that I don't expect.

Now, as for Dollhouse...if you want a standard (very good) review, you could do worse than popping over and reading Michael's reaction on Red Right Hand. If you're looking for something a little more spoiler-y, stay tuned. Sometime soon I'll have something interesting for you...