Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

August 2022

September 2022

November 2022

February 2023

March 2023

April 2023

May 2023

July 2023

September 2023

November 2023

January 2024

February 2024


Friday, February 11, 2005

Well thank you, Commodore Crafty.

One of my favorite movies ever is Goodfellas. I just think it's a crackerjack of a movie. It's a black hole for me every time it's on tv. If I flip by it, I have to watch it, no matter how far in it is. It's Scorsese at the top of his game and I'm powerless to resist it. I've seen Goodfellas probably as many times as I've seen Casablanca.

And it's never taught me a damn thing.

I'm not the first person to suggest that you learn more from failures than from successes. But it's my contention that it's actually very hard as a Tv or Film writer to learn how to be better from reading great screenplays or scripts. If you're a budding director, maybe -- although even then it's more likely that it will just teach you how to ape that director's style. Good if you're talking Goodfellas Scorsese. Kundun Scorsese, ehh...

But in various incarnations as script reader for CBC and teacher at Ryerson, and story editor for this and for that I've had occasion to read a lot of bad scripts. And the process of spotting why they're bad, or why lots of scripts are bad -- well, it teaches me something new every time.

I've found the same thing applies to the wonderful new found resource that is the TV series on DVD.

Now that studios have seen the dollar signs we're starting to see some real quirky choices crop up as they empty their back catalogues. Again, other than as a resource, I'm not sure what one can really learn from watching a show like Friends. But the short run series, brilliant or flaws, the ones that never catch on...well...those can be a goldmine.

I first noticed this phenomenon with FAMILY GUY. I watched this show regularly when it was on FOX and enjoyed it. But like everybody else I was intrigued when the Cartoon Network airing and DVD sales revived the dead series -- made it more popular than it ever had been before. It's easy to say that Fox screwed up in things like scheduling and promotion. But unlike Futurama, a show I really did give up on, my recollection is that promo for Family Guy was always fairly abundant.

So why did it take DVD to boost the series' popularity -- to the point even where it's back in production?

Well watching the DVD's gave me a clue.


Family Guy is a remarkably chaotic piece of work. Both The Simpsons and South Park will go some distance for the joke, but not nearly as far as Family Guy. What I mean by that is Family Guy will regularly derail plot in exhaustingly paced gags that go further and further off the beam. it truly is an animated series for those with ADHD. And I think that, and not Fox chicanery, is why it took so long to catch on. It needed the Cartoon Network strip constant exposure, and multiple viewings, and later, DVD's ability to pause and rewind and watch again immediately, to hook and keep most viewers. The show simply moves too fast, and engages in too many comic non sequitirs, for most to cotton onto it on the first viewing. So it makes perfect sense to me that people would discover its hit and miss anarchic charms after market, off air, on DVD. It will be interesting to see if comedies speed up in a world where everyone can just Tivo back five seconds and catch up on a joke you missed.


Lateline is a show I remember seeing on its original run, in 1997. Ah, 1997. Bill Clinton was in power but I don't think...nope...we didn't care about the blue dress yet, did we? Budget surplus. No war. The power to care about malfeasance in real estate deals. God, we were so much younger then, we're older than that now...anyway...Lateline was, I'm guessing, Al Franken's pre-Air America days' attempt to sock it to late night news pomposity. It was probably also NBC's attempt to counter Sports Night, which was a critical if not a ratings darling for ABC at the time.

Lateline's 13 episodes are now out on DVD. I've only watched a few of them back, but I've seen several of the episodes that I never saw when they first aired. They may have never aired for all I know.

Lateline starts out as a very anemic standard office sitcom. Megyn Price (pre-Grounded For Life) is suitably sexy as Gail, the Mary Richards stand in...The always entertaining Miguel Ferrer is her boss and sparring partner. Al Franken is Freundlich, who is probably the worst part of himself, and a lite version of the Albert Brooks character from Broadcast News. Robert Foxworth is spot on as the vain anchor. There is a horrendous laugh track. And watching the first two episodes of this sitcom, it's easy to see why it went for the high jump.

But the great thing about DVD is that you don't have to wait a week and really, who's going to wait a week for a show they were lukewarm about? But on DVD you can see as Lateline makes the most of its stunt casting. You have G. Gordon Liddy as himself. You have Conan and Andy Richter in a hilarious subplot. But the piece de resistance is a half hour episode where they break the format completely.

it's presented as a "Lateline" piece on the Hollywood blockbuster that never was. Franken's character gets a bit part on a major Hollywood summer picture shooting in Washington DC, playing a reporter. The Lateline crew gets to shoot a behind the scenes. Anybody who's read Julie Salomon's Devil's Candy on the making of Bonfire of the Vanities knows what happens next. Franken's character ingratiates himself with the actors, and under the guise of being 'realistic' and wanting greater 'realism' -- slowly sinks the entire picture. The great thing about it is that the actor playing the President of the USA in this movie is Martin Sheen -- a full two years or so before West Wing. And he's the evil Martin Sheen -- the worst, actor-y version of himself. The director is Rob Reiner. I laughed so hard I nearly cried. I'm going to enjoy watching the rest of Lateline. G. Gordon Liddy getting shot is pretty fun, too.


Soft spot for me. Toronto shot - this is the show that amazingly covers the exact same ground as Joan of Arcadia. One hit, one bombed. I'm still trying to figure out why. Any guesses? I think they've got a crack cast. You've got Tim Minnear and Bryan Fuller and Todd Holland. Funny, literate scripts and a very believable and compact world, in and around Niagara Falls. This is selling really well right now, so it may just be that this is next series that people discover and say, "why was that cancelled?" It's nice to know that one part of the corporate behemoth - that drives the profits, just may call attention to how often the network emperors have no clothes.

Oh but wait. That's what bloggers always say--blame the man. The fact is that no one watched Wonderfalls. Or Family Guy. Hmm. Could DVD really change everything?

Next couple of weeks sees the DVD debut of the first season of Murphy Brown. I loved this show more than cheese. I wonder if it will hold up?


Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.