Sunday, 30 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #522: The Hobbit Hobbled?

Welcome to the show folks...

Director Guillermo Del Toro has ankled The Hobbit, the prequel adventure of the epic
Lord of the Rings Trilogy. At the time of this writing I'm not sure if he left because he didn't want to commit to a 6 year shooting schedule (WTF?) or got forced out for not wanting to shoot it in the flavor of the month digital 3D.

It doesn't really matter. What really matters is who will take over the troubled project, or if the film will ever be made. So let's look at the usual suspects.
1. PETER JACKSON: Directed the original LOTR trilogy, is co-writing the script, and actually lives in the country where the film will be shot. But he's denying any possibility of him making The Hobbit, possibly feeling pissy that his last film, The Lovely Bones, didn't win him the Oscars it was supposed to, and that if he wins again for another Tolkien film he might doubt if he won for his own talent, or Tolkien's.

2. SAM RAIMI: He's been linked to the film before, and since he's recently been shit-canned from the Spider-Man trilogy, he's available. However, there are these questions: Will he do it? and Can he do it in a way that MGM can possibly afford?

3. NEILL BLOMKAMP: His breakout film District 9 made him a hot property, he's a protege of Jackson's, but the problem is that his dance card is pretty full for the foreseeable future, and he can't find any Apartheid metaphors in Tolkien's work.

4. STEVEN SPIELBERG: He's got Oscars, he's got a background in genre movies, and he's reportedly on good terms with Jackson, with whom he's developing a TinTin franchise. However, The Hobbit is owned by MGM, not Dreamworks, and Stevie doesn't do movies he don't own no more.

5. MICHAEL BAY: Despite the opinion of many that he's the spawn of perdition's flames, his movies usually make shitloads of money. But he's used to running his own ship, and generally driving his supposed studio masters around the twist with his antics and attitude. In other words, he's too uppity, and most likely to go completely his own way, and make a movie called BAD HOBBITS starring Will Smith and Nicholas Cage as Bilbo and Dildo Baggins, two gun toting hobbits blasting their way across Middle Earth and shagging Elf babes.

Not that I've got anything against some pointy-eared elf-babe action, it just wouldn't be a faithful adaptation of the book loved by millions.

6. BRETT RATNER: One of the few commercially successful filmmakers with even more haters than Bay, many of them genre film fans. I fear the he'll end up being the studio's choice, because he'll do what he's told, and is the default go-to guy when you absolutely positively have to sink a franchise overnight.

Let me know who you think will most likely take over The Hobbit.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Saturday Silliness Cinema: The Art of Self Defense

Welcome to the show folks...

It's been a while since I've done a "Saturday Silliness Cinema" post, so here's one for you. Today's theme is the Self-Defense Class. First up:

Alexei Sayle's Noble Art of Verbal Abuse:



I'm not sure, but I swear I saw the guy playing the "Thug" hosting a show on the History Channel the other day.

Then there's the daddy of them all:


Friday, 28 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #521: Gary Coleman is Dead

Welcome to the show folks.

Gary Coleman is dead, and that news made me think of a piece I wrote about 2 years ago about child actors. Here's an excerpt. (Because I'm too lazy /tired to write anything new tonight)
Hollywood is notoriously rough on their young stars. You'd be hard pressed to look over the tabloid rack at the supermarket check-out or a "Where are they now" segment on TV and not see some story about how some former child-star is now broke, on drugs, overweight, unemployed, nuttier than a squirrel turd, doing porn, or all of the above.

But it's not the fate shared by all kids in show-business.

A good example is Jodie Foster, who won an Oscar and became a pretty respectable box office player as an adult. And a few others managed to survive puberty with their careers and sanity intact.

But they're stories are considered the exception instead of the rule, because the child stars that crash and burn get all the attention.

And that's the key word here: "Star."

Jodie Foster's early career was based on a reputation for quality over stardom. She wasn't necessarily a household word, but she was known as a reliable and professional player within Hollywood, and that meant that she worked steadily in a variety of roles from family fare to edgier work.

She didn't appear to have parents trying to saddle her with fame at any cost, especially her personal privacy. In fact, to this day people know very little about her private life, and most people don't care about her private life. It's her life, it's nobody's business, and since she doesn't cram it down people's throats and lets her work stand for her, her privacy is respected.

We don't hear about a messy divorce and fights over her money by her parents like what happened Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone.

Such tabloid coverage of family dysfunction, coupled with the almost inevitable pot arrest, badly damaged his transition to an adult career. He was lucky to have escaped with some of his Home Alone money unlooted and has been working hard to reinvent himself as an adult actor in theatre and indie films.

Plus, she dodged what I consider the ultimate bullet for a child star's career: The Catchphrase.

You know what I mean, a phrase, a bit of slang, or facial expression that becomes the first thing you think of when that actor's name appears.

I'm sure Gary Coleman would be a happy man if he never gets to hear: "Whatchoo talkin bout Willis?" ever again.

It's a double edged sword. Such a punchy image or phrase can make a child a household name overnight, but it can also make them unemployable because no one wants to cast an actor who comes with an old part casting a long shadow over everything.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #520: Glee Three?

Welcome to the show folks...

It's old news by now, but I thought I should bring up my thoughts about
Glee.

Now I'm no expert on the show, I've only seen a couple of episodes, but I do know that it's going great guns in the ratings right now and is considered a very hot property.

However, despite the show's success I'm not sure it was a smart move for the Fox Network to renew it for a third season before it even finished its first.

Here's why:

When you literally explode on the TV scene the way Glee did the real test comes not in the first season, but in the second season. That's the real test to see if a show has legs. Because those who religiously watched the show in the first season, may tune out completely in the second.

That's because there's nothing as dangerous to a showbiz career as instant fame, and it gets worse when that fame is as hype heavy as Glee's. It's like a fad, one minute you're considered the essential core of popular culture. The next minute you're considered a joke, and only talked about in snarky cable shows with titles like "Those Wacky 2010s."

You don't want to be the equivalent of acid washed jeans, or one of the actors from Twilight once the franchise is finished.

Then there's the show's other little landmine, a dangerous booby trap that lies at the heart of Glee, and threatens to blast it to smithereens.

It's a high school show.

Not only that, the high school setting is essential to the show. It's about a high school teacher running a high school club. What are they going to do when the student characters graduate? Somehow contrive a college teaching position for their teacher?

And let's not forget that the actors playing the students are all in their mid-20s. The window of passing as a high school student is closing fast for them, and no one wants it ending up like past TV shows with casts that are closer to senior citizen than senior class.

So unless the producers plan to start recruiting replacement characters in the second season, and graduate the current favorites, the show could break that suspension of disbelief that makes their position as a musical show work. But even that has its risks, as those who were fans of the original students may leave the show with their faves.

If the worst happens then Fox is stuck with a show that they either have to buy out in order to cancel, which can be costly, or leave on the air to run out the clock, which could cost just as much.

Which is why I would have held off on green-lighting Season 3 until I knew it had survived the hump of Season 2.

But that's just me.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #519: Buy / Selling / Begging / Choosing

Welcome to the show folks...

BUDDY CAN YOU SPARE ENOUGH FOR A MOVIE STUDIO?

Usually, in Hollywood, the movie company is the buyer / chooser, and the people trying to do business with them is the seller/beggar. Lately though the world has turned upside down, and now the movie companies are the sellers/beggars, and the folks who normally have to squirm to do Hollywood business are now the buyers/choosers. Only the buyers don't seem to be biting the way they movie companies think they should.

The auction for MGM fizzled, leaving the debt-addled former giant in a state of limbo, unable to do much of anything without some sort of outside partnership.

The sale of Miramax by Disney to billionaire Ron Burkle with the Weinstein Bros. at the helm crashed and burned. Even though the inevitable chaos caused by that sale could have been in Disney's best interests.

The hostile take-over of Lionsgate by corporate raider/shareholder activist Carl Icahn seems to have stalled with shareholders feeling the offer too low.

Right now the Gores Bros. are looking into buying Overture Films and its home video arm Anchor Bay, but they're playing it cool, offering $200 million in response to the reported opening price of $225 million.

So why are people no longer as eager to get into movies, well I've thought of two reasons:

1. Movie companies are money pits. This is especially true of MGM which has so much debt piled on it after being passed around like the corporate equivalent of a doobie at a party it can no longer practically function. Even with the more secure companies the risk/reward ratios are really badly skewed because despite the technology of movie-making becoming cheaper, the actual act of making a movie has become exponentially expensive. With the majors charging over the 3D cliff like meth-amped lemmings those costs are going to go even higher just to compete.

2. The movie business isn't as glamorous as it used to be. There was a time, even when the studios were going nipples to the sky that major corporations were interested in buying them. That was because the movie/TV business was glamorous. It had larger than life stars, it had style, it had mystique, and the bland multi-nationals wanted some of that for themselves, and could forgive its many failings.

All that is gone, washed away in waves of 25/7/365 entertainment coverage showing every sin, mortal, venal and fashion of every celebrity whether they did it or not. Then there's Reality TV bestowing fame on people for having low self-esteem and lower standards of behavior, and the very notion of fame loses its luster.

Now there is still one reason why someone might want to get into the movie business:
MONEY

And lots of it.

If you know what you're doing, have the capital, and the sheer stainless steel testicular fortitude, you can make some pretty decent coin in the movie biz.

But to do that, you can't spend too much getting your foot in the door, because if you do, then you're going to lose that foot before you get the rest of you inside.

BRITS WANT BBC TO GO BRITISH

The alliance of independent British producers (called PACT) is asking, nay,
demanding that public broadcaster BBC stop buying American reruns and use that money to buy more independent British productions.

This could be a double edged sword.

Now I normally don't think that a privately owned network should have what they aired dictated by anyone but the audience. However, the BBC is a public broadcaster. It is commercial free and supported by a TV/radio license fee collected by the British government. So its mandate is to be British, so I can understand PACT's frustration at being blocked by the venerable Auntie-Beeb in favor of Yankee imports.

But it can be a trap.

Canada has the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and while it does carry commercials, the bulk of its financial backing comes from the tax-payers via the Canadian government. A few years ago they declared that they were going to go 100% Canadian with their prime-time programming and stop buying American shows.

The problem was that the CBC didn't spend the money they normally spent on importing shows on Canadian productions, they cut that money out of the budget completely, and outside of an elite few producers connected to the CBC management in Toronto, you were shit out of luck getting anything accomplished. They also saddled these shows with rules stating that their shows must promote Canadian identity. That means the very least entertainment value outside of a few select comedies, all quality dramas getting canned prematurely, cheap "Canadianized" imitations of American programs, and no science-fiction, fantasy, or horror, for fear that it may not be "Canadian" enough.

And the few shows to do get to air, usually get repeated over and over again until the tape literally wears out. There are times where the same show can be repeated 2-3 times in prime-time slots.

Let's not forget that BBC programs make their nut from foreign sales. In Canada, everything has to be so, well, provincial, they have little outside sales potential, and the shows that do, are either canceled, or condemned to poor time slots, and cruddy promotion until they die.

No one wants that to happen to the BBC.

Maybe I'm just still angry at CBC for canceling Intelligence.

Bastards.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #518: DISNEY, THIS IS NOT HOW YOU PLAY HARDBALL....

Welcome to the show folks...

I thought Disney's "concerns" over the deal to sell moribund Miramax to the Weinsteins via their money-buddy Ron Burkle was just an attempt to squeeze some more money, but it looks like they were serious, and the deal is off.

Personally, I think this is a mistake on Disney's part.
I know they want more money for the company, but they're not going to get a better offer than 625,000,000 Burkle-bux. This is especially true if the other potential bidders follow my advice and stay away to force Disney to sell to the Weinstein/Burkle partnership in order to feast upon its corporate entrails when it inevitably tears itself apart.

They should have just taken what they were offered, it was still more than what the experts value the library and the name, and like I said, if the others follow my advice they shouldn't offer anything better. If that happens then the Weinsteins may try to low-ball the next time around.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #517: Just Admit It

Welcome to the show folks...

Tonight, three stories where I'd just like to get people to admit the truth.

DIVINE PERSPIRATION

Actor Sam Rockwell, fresh from the critical acclaim of
Moon, and the commercial success of Iron Man 2, is considering starring in a movie that is guaranteed to bomb.

That film is
Sweet Baby Jesus, an updated parody of the Nativity story. Rockwell will play Joe, a modernized doofus version of Joseph of the Bible, and British pop-tart Pixie Lott as Mary, a role originally written for Britney Spears.

Now you don't need to be particularly religious to know that this film is going to crash and burn. Let's look at the reasons:

1. The premise is too thin. The whole film can be summarized as white trash acting out Bible scenes. That's not going to carry enough for a 90 minute movie. When the Canadian comedy show CODCO did a skit called "The Scottish Life of Jesus," which was the New Testament rewritten so that all the miracles were about saving money, they made sure to keep it under a minute.

2. The premise is an audience repellent. The only people who would pay money to see this film are the Hollywood people who would already get in for free at the premiere. The religious, 0ver 75% of Americans, will avoid it because they consider it offensive, the irreligious will avoid it for fear that it won't be disrespectful enough, or worse, turn preachy, and everyone else will take one look at the log-line and say: "Is that all you got?"

3. Britney Spears was first cast as Mary. If that's not a warning bell so loud it can be heard in the vacuum of space by deaf mute Martians living in sealed off caves over a mile beneath the surface of the red planet, then you need either therapy for self-destructive tendencies, or a full brain transplant.

But those problems aren't the main point of this post. The main thrust of my bloggy pelvis comes from the insistence of the producer, Philippe Rebboah, that this film is going to somehow be the greatest thing to ever grace the silver screen.
“I really loved Steve Blair’s screenplay,” the former MGM exec tells me. “It made me laugh out loud. The script has such fun subverting the treasured details of the Nativity – posing the question, ‘What would we do if it all happened again?’”
The term "former MGM exec" should also be a warning bell, but let me get to my point.

The film is doomed to fail. It has no other option. So I'd like a little more honesty, something like:
"Look, I got a lot of tax credits, shelters, and other deals to get this film made, and I know it's going to stink like Jonah after leaving the whale from the back door. However, my fees are covered by talking this pop-tart to be in this movie and telling the pre-sale buyers that there's a chance of a nude scene, and after it bombs folks in Hollywood are going to call me 'courageous' for making something deliberately offensive, and that will help me land deals to make real movies that someone might actually see."
That's the sort of honesty I might actually respect.

WAS THE LAST SHREK MOVIE TOO EXPENSIVE?

No, I'm not talking about its budget, which was probably too large anyway, but the ticket prices. Patrick Goldstein thinks there's a case to be made that the ever rising 3D ticket prices are one of the main reasons the big green ogre under-performed on its opening weekend. I sort of thought they'd eventually kill the golden goose of 3D with what I called stupid greed.

Smart greed is basically ambition, it's where you create a product or service, and sell it at a price the market will bear for maximum profitability. Stupid greed is where you are literally given something of value, but your demands for too much too soon drives away customers and eventually kills your business.

The theaters owners should have seen this coming. Think about it, simply getting to a theater, finding parking, getting a ticket, drinks and snacks is expensive for one person, so just imagine a minivan full of mewling brats? The average family will need to get a second mortgage just to see
Shrek in 3D.

I'd like to see the theater owners admit that they were stupid greedy, and aim for either a price the market will bear, or face the fact that they've probably killed the 3D fad prematurely.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #516: What Are We Going To Do With Miramax?

Welcome to the show folks...

There's a lot of confusing talk and speculation going on about Disney selling their moribund Miramax label and library to the Weinstein Brothers via billionaire Ron Burkle. Disney is saying the deal is dead, the Weinstein Brothers are saying they're still in the game, and so on and so forth...

Personally, I just think Disney is jerking the Weinsteins' chain in the hope of shaking some more cash from Burkle's money tree. I believe this because I think Disney believes that the Weinsteins taking back Miramax, is, in the long run, best in the eyes of Disney.

The Disney people know that the brothers can't really do much of anything with the company/library, that their relationship with Burkle will eventually sour, and the whole thing will crash and burn, which is exactly what Disney wants. This is because Disney is an old school monopolist that doesn't like anyone turning an asset they failed with into a viable entity that might someday compete with them.

However, people can do crazy things, and someone in a position of power at Disney might forget that the Weinstein/Burkle offer is more than what the experts have valued Miramax, and that it so sweetly fits their pre-mentioned corporate-philosophical criteria, and take that "no" from a tactical move into a outright end of the deal.

That would mean that Miramax would be back on the market, and putting it again between the Weinstein/Burkle faction to try again, as well as the Gores Bros. Platinum Investments, and ThinkFilm/David Bergstein's latest big money lawsuit in the making.

Well, I have some advice for the non-Weinstein potential bidders.

WALK AWAY.

Don't make any fresh offers. In fact, rescind any previously made offers, and move on.

Why?

Because with the way things are right now Miramax, no matter who buys the company, will come with two things no business wants:
Harvey and Bob Weinstein.

You see, when they sold Miramax to Disney they made a deal retaining an important piece of many of the films in the company's library. That means that if whoever buys that library has to involve Harvey and Bob in every decision that has anything to do with that library. This makes remakes, reboots, re-releases, sequels, or even home-video releases an incredibly expensive and aggravating proposition.

So here's the plan for anyone who wants to buy Miramax.

1. Leave Disney no other option. If the Weinstein/Burkle partnership is the only still interested, Disney will have to sell them Miramax. They need to get rid of that dead weight, make some cash off of it, and quick. Then you must...

2. Bide your time. It's inevitable that the Weinstein Bros' relationship with Ron Burkle will go south. It's only a matter of time and how much money Burkle is willing to burn in the name of his friendship with the Weinstein Bros. When that happens, when the lawsuits start flying, and the whole thing crashes and burns you then...

3. Strike down the weak and the wounded. Make sure that you wait until the Weinsteins' upcoming feud with Burkle reaches a point when Harvey and Bob's personal fortunes are at stake. Then you move in, buy out any decision-making claim on that library, and wrap the whole damn thing up, lock, stock, and barrel sans the brothers.

It may take longer, but it will avoid a lot of headaches in the future.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #515: Two Movie Musings

Welcome to the show folks...

AN OPEN LETTER TO MIKE MYERS

Dear Mike.

You don't know me, but I'm one of those smug know it all types that live on the internet dispensing their opinions and advice to people way more wealthy and successful than they are.

I just saw a piece at Movieline that says that, in between cashing
Shrek checks, you've been spending a lot of time painting portraits of Colonel Sanders. By Xenu's left testicle, I hope that was a joke, because that's delving into Nicholas Cage territory, and right now no one outside of the IRS wants to go there.

The snark dumper in me wanted to say: "Good, at least he's not doing another Love Guru," but then another part of me smacks that snarky part of me on the back of the head. That other part, located somewhere by my spleen, remembers the great sketch work you did on SNL, and those funny movies like the first Wayne's World, and the first two Austin Powers films (the 3rd one just seemed like a rehash.)

You are capable of doing good work, but it's been a while since you've delivered the sort of quality that made your name in the 90s.

So here's some advice:

1. Don't feel that you must be the total center of
everything. I know you want the sort of creative freedom you didn't have during the making of Wayne's World 2, or the Dieter/Sprockets lawsuit.

I know you like to write your own stuff, but when you write your own stuff from the position of dominance that someone like you has, there's no real editor willing to tell you that your piece sucks ass harder than fusion powered Hoover. Do a couple of just acting gigs for others. Find good people to work with and just do the job. Contribute with an open mind, but don't dominate. Working well with others is a good way to keep your face, and not just your voice, in the public eye, and get your mojo back in alignment.

2. Leave the 60s British pop culture stuff alone. I know it was a big influence when you were a kid, but you did it to death with
Austin Powers 1-2-3, and flogged that dead horse with The Love Guru. It's done, dusted, move on.

3. Don't go the Eddie Murphy/Steve Martin route and start doing childish comedies for the sake of maintaining a posh lifestyle. Because if you don't follow steps 1 & 2, that will be the only work you'll be getting 10 years from now.

So follow that advice, and you should be fine.

Sincerely
Furious D

NOW WHAT?

There's a rumor going around that the deal for the Weinstein Brothers to regain control of their former baby Miramax is in serious jeopardy. According to The Wrap, Disney is concerned about the "structure of the Weinstein Co."

Which begs the question: Why does Disney care?

I mean the only thing that the House of Mouse should be concerned with is if TWC money-man Ron Burkle's check clears.

In fact, the more poorly structured TWC is the better, for Disney. This is because the last thing Disney wants is a viable competitor being successful with something that failed with them. If TWC crashes, burns, and sinks, all the better for Disney.

So I'm going to take these reports with a grain of salt. As long as Disney gets their money up front and in full, they really shouldn't give a rat's patootie about how badly structured, run, or financed TWC really is.

If Disney wanted anyone to actually do anything with Miramax they'd have made a deal with someone, anyone, else, and not the crumbling Weinstein empire.

So I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one, unless those concerns are coming from Ron Burkle. Then it's a whole different story.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #514: Take The Money & Run

Welcome to the show folks...

Today we have two stories of times when people are either thinking of their financial future, or failing to think of their financial future.

1. FULL MOON-FULL PAYCHECK

There are rare moments when I have to publicly disagree with Nikki Finke. She recently wrote a piece about the supporting players in the Twilight Saga getting a $4+ million payday for the final movie(s) Eclipse. She literally called them brats for asking for the money and ruminated on how easily they could be replaced.

Now I beg to differ.

It's not bratty to show some concern about your future.

One the most dangerous positions to be in is to be at the mercy of angst addled tweens and teens, especially in a franchise that generates as much hysteria as the
Twilight franchise. The usual ending to such a franchise is for the careers of the stars to be completely dead in the water within 5 minutes of the final movie's conclusion. Their fans don't really care about the actors or their careers, they only care about the sense of belonging they get from conforming to that sort of hysterical fad alongside their friends and schoolmates.

No one been able to prove if any of the franchise's headlining stars can carry a non-
Twilight movie, so you have to plan for worst but hope for the best when you're one of the second bananas.

And don't talk about residuals and royalties. This is Hollywood we're talking about, not the magical land of make believe where unicorns frolic among rainbow topped fields of golden pixie-grass.

My advice, get cash, then stash cash, because no one wants to go from a #1 movie franchise to working in a convenience store.

2. YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO HOLD THEM...

...know when to hold them, know when to walk away, know when to shut the fuck up.

My apologies to Kenny Rogers, but I had to bastardize his sage poetry to make a point.

When you're a young actor in Hollywood you need the wisdom to know when to shut the hell up.

Case #1: Actress Megan Fox compared Michael Bay, the director of the Transformers movies, which literally made and practically carry her career to Hitler. Now that Transformers 3 is on the way, Bay has announced that Fox will be nowhere near it.

OUCH!

Case #2: Involves her former Transformer costar Shia Laboeuf, and his recent admission that Indy 4 kinda sucked.

Oops.

Well, in the case of Megan Fox she'll have the glorious success of
Jennifer's Body to fall back on.

Oh, wait, no that's not quite right.

Of the two cases LaBoeuf is in slightly better shape. He's actually had some films sell tickets outside of the
Transformers franchise, and there's no deodorant in Hollywood that works better than cold hard cash. However, as film critic Christian Toto pointed out, he's just a couple of bombs from being in pretty hard career shape.

Also it's shrewd to note that the bulk of his starring roles have been in Dreamworks productions or co-productions, and that Dreamworks mogul Steven Spielberg, the director of the kinda sucky Indy 4, has been his biggest advocate since the beginning of young Shia's career. Spielberg's always viewed Shia as a 10% less spaz version of himself at that age, and has literally crammed him down the throat of the movie-going public.

Fox, on the other hand, is known for Transformers, posing for every red carpet photograph like she's been interrupted mid-coitus, fostering a slutty image that she then denies, and a starring role that sank faster than The Nautilus after Captain Nemo realized he left the back hatch open.

Sure, she's in the upcoming Jonah Hex, but it seems that her role is to fill out a corset, and not much else. That doesn't sell tickets, in fact, it has the opposite effect, because the people who used to pay to see a certain starlet in a corset in a movie, are now just staying home, downloading the pics off the internet and ... well, we don't have to get into any more details.

If she's going to save her fledgling career she's going to need a new image where she doesn't say stupid things to the world press about the people who sign her checks, and rack up some actual hits. Because if she doesn't... well, we don't have to get into any details.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #513: Take Me To The Pilot

Welcome to the show folks...

I got a question off of Twitter today:
@thierryattard Well, I would like to know your thoughts about the pilot season and the Upfronts. Thanks in advance.
Well, I can't offer judgment on specific shows, because reports of the quality of specific pilots are suspicious at least with people deliberately building up and tearing down these shows. What I can do is explain how the system works and what to look for, and beware of, when looking at pilots.

In the beginning....

There are networks, but without shows to put on these networks that attract viewers to see the commercials that make money for them, they are a void.

So the network CEO tells his executives to go forth and find programming for the network. Which creates another problem: How will they find shows that will attract viewers?

Well, they need to see a pilot.

Not a guy that operates an airplane. In the magical land of television a pilot is a prototype episode of a show. It introduces the characters, the premise, and a taste of what the writing and acting will be like.

These pilots are made by studios and production companies, and are made by the dozens, if not hundreds, every year. These companies literally take a gamble on this, because more than 80% of pilots fail to make it to air, and of those that make it to air, even fewer survive as a series for any length of time.

So why do they take this gamble?

Because when you win, the winnings are huge.

When you sell a show to a network, they pay you a "license fee" that covers the financing of the show, and salaries of the staff. In exchange, the network usually keeps all of the ad revenue generated by these shows. The studio/production companies that make the shows get to keep the revenues made from reruns, foreign sales rights, and now sales of DVD box sets. So if you get a show that accumulates enough audience and episodes to make it worthwhile to rerun, sell overseas, and shill DVDs, you can get really, really rich.

But that's if you make it past pilot season.

Pilot season is the time of year, basically the last six months, where producers cast and film their pilot episodes. It's a brutal time of year, because producers can stand lose a couple of million bucks on an unsold pilot, and it's rough for actors too. Sure it's a time when people are getting hired, but it's also a time when you can get fired on a whim, and ride an emotional roller-coaster where you can come close, but no cigar to, if not TV success, a regular paycheck.

Once a pilot is written, cast, shot, it is often rewritten, re-cast, and re-shot all according to the whimsy of network executives who look at them and offer notes of wisdom like: "This science-fiction show needs a sass-talking gay robot." Even though the show in question is a domestic drama about family life in the 1930s.

These sorts of things happen because no one really knows what will become a hit show. For a long time the conventional wisdom that everything had to imitate CSI. Basically lots of forensic gore, story-lines dripping with sex and violence, and flashy FX heavy cinematography. Then along came The Mentalist, a positively quaint and old fashioned mystery show that has more in common with Agatha Christie than Jerry Bruckheimer. It immediately shot to the Top 10 and stayed there.

It shouldn't have hit it so big. It had no sex, very little violence, and plots that didn't deal with a different sexual fetish every week. So there is no way of knowing what will hit. It's all guesswork, and guess work by idiots, all with their own personal agendas, is even worse.

Anyway, the shows that survive these devastating tsunamis of executive whimsy, are deemed worthy of a space on the network schedule. Then come the "Upfronts."

The Upfronts are basically live shows put on by the networks to impress the media outlets that cover TV. Here they announce who has come back, what new shows are joining the ranks, and hope to get the kind of coverage that present these new shows as worthy of an audience's time and trouble.

Now that I've explained the system, I will tell you what to beware when it comes to a TV pilot:

1. The Too Good Pilot: Every once in a while you will see a TV Pilot that blows your mind. It is so wonderfully entertaining, you think you've seen TV finally achieve perfection. This is a bad sign. It usually means that the people behind the show have blown their load on the first episode, and are then unlikely to keep that sort of quality going. What's actually better, in my opinion, is a pilot that's not perfect, but shows great potential for improvement. Because if a show can't top the pilot, it's not going to be worth your time.

2. The Limited Premise Pilot: When watching a pilot you have to ask yourself, could this premise go for a minimum seven seasons and at least 150 episodes. Could it become repetitive, or confusing, or does it look like some forethought was put into it? If the answer is no, then move on. Basically my model for the limited premise was the 90s era Spielberg show SeaQuest DSV. A spaceship, like the Enterprise or the Tardis, has unlimited potential, a submarine, extremely limited potential. You can only find Atlantis so many times. A more recent example was NBC's Kings, which was a little too obvious in its source material, basically blowing the ending by the midpoint of the pilot. Which is a shame, because I love alternate history stuff.

3. The Annoying Pilot: If a pilot seems like its trying to hard to be trendy and hip, then it's not going to work as a series. TV needs effort put into characters and stories, not catchphrases and trend watching. That sort of show is designed to sell to executives, not audiences.

Well, I hope this post has helped you understand the un-understandable.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #512: No Miracle At Morgan Creek

Welcome to the show folks...

Ya gotta love Nikki Finke, she calls'em as she sees'em, and when she sees producer James G. Robinson she doesn't like what she sees, and he probably doesn't like what she calls him.

Her dander is up over Robinson's arrival at the Cannes Film Festival to shill his next movie, starring Keanu Reeves, while 3 major guilds, Screen Actors (SAG), Directors (DGA), and Writers (WGA) launch a joint investigation into his mini-studio Morgan Creek for unpaid royalties and residuals.

Here's what I think:

1 pissed off guild could possibly be explained as a misunderstanding.

2 pissed off guilds could possibly be explained as incompetence.

3 pissed off guilds can only be explained as a sign that your company is going to crash and burn. (But not the only one)

When you're a movie producer you are bound to make enemies, it's inevitable. However, turning the three biggest guilds in the industry into those enemies is a sign that
you Mr. Producer are the problem.

If the guilds find evidence of chicanery on the part of Morgan Creek, the company is looking at a whopping 18% penalty for failure to pay the money owed. That's harsh, and if the guilds are using a decent forensic accountant, they
will find something to nail Morgan Creek to the wall with. Even if you're clean, the rules of accounting, especially in Hollywood, are so Byzantine, arcane, and convoluted, that even the most honest businessman probably commits three felonies on a daily basis without even knowing it.

That's why you have to not only be clean when you're an independent producer, you have to
appear to be clean at all times. That means that bills must be paid, on time, and as in full as you can possibly do. The reason is because if you don't, you're going down, and going down hard. That's why I include the involvement of unions in my 8 Stages of Corporate Grief. (A must read if you want to see how a company collapses.)

You give the unions an excuse to go after you, that's seen as a sign of weakness, and wrongdoing, there's blood in the water, and the sharks (and by that I mean lawyers) will start swimming in. Next thing you know you're getting sued every which way but loose by everyone you've ever done business with, then the IRS and the SEC start sniffing around, and then you're royally screwed.

Now I said that having the top 3 guilds on your tail is not the only sign you're going down, and it isn't. Check out the Morgan Creek filmography, when the company first started, it was literally everywhere. In the company's golden age its then distributor 20th Century Fox couldn't fart without releasing a Morgan Creek production. Yet in the last 10 years the numbers of productions per year have been shrinking. Morgan Creek's films are now more famous for Robinson scolding starlets, as he did with Lindsay Lohan, or making the same movie twice because of a personal pissing match with the film's original director as in the Exorcist prequel than actually getting bums in theater seats.

This could be attributed to bad luck at the box office, but it can also be attributed to simple frustration. A filmmaker with the slightest amount of commercial cachet is not going to waste their precious time dealing with a company that has a reputation for being bad to do business with whether that reputation is deserved or not.

This leads to a downturn in quality, a downturn in returns, a downturn in production, and ultimately the downturn of the whole company.

Can Morgan Creek be saved?

Unlikely. To do that you would have to transform the image of the entire company into one where accusations of unpaid bills get laughed off as sour grapes from cranks instead of evidence of bad business. At this stage, it would take a miracle at Morgan Creek.

However, it does have the potential to get very ugly very quickly.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #511: Take The Blue Pill

Welcome to the show folks...

The internet is all abuzz over something that doesn't involve Betty White, at least not yet. The Wachowksi siblings, Andy and Lana/Larry, have announced that their next project will be a "Hard-R" gay love story between an American GI and an Iraqi civilian. Now they say that the film will be a "cinema verite" project meaning that it will only cost $100 million to make, and they're looking for financing. So let's look at the facts of the case...

1. The sibs have handled gay related themes before. Their debut film
Bound was a lesbians do a heist thriller.

2.
Bound had a total box office take of $3 million.

3. The Wachowskis had enormous success with
The Matrix, an explosion of visual and narrative daring, that was done on the now relatively tight budget of $63 million, and earned $463 million worldwide.

4. Denied their dream of doing a direct sequel to
The Matrix, and a prequel with none of the original cast and a story centered on the machines turning people into batteries, they followed up their success by splitting their 1 planned sequel into the Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions.

5. Both films became famous for their increasing narrative incoherence and ballooning budgets. While they sold a lot of tickets, their sky-high production and marketing costs meant that any profits made, were minuscule.

6. Their follow up to
The Matrix trilogy was Speed Racer, which crashed and burned with critics and audiences as an incoherent mess of candy-colored visuals and cost over $130 million to make, not counting the mega-millions spent on marketing the film.

7. While some gay themed films have made money,
Brokeback Mountain being the biggest that I know of, with a total global take of $173 million, most haven't. Those that did make money haven't made the sort of profits that would justify the kind of budgets the Wachowskis are used to working with.

8. Iraq War themed movies are pure box office poison. While
The Hurt Locker did win the Oscar for Best Picture, it only made $16 million domestic, and $25 million internationally, and it's considered a relative success story. (In the realm of indie financing the odds of the producers seeing any of that foreign B.O. cash are pretty slim.)

9. Despite the hoary old maxim of "sex sells," overtly sexually themed movies don't really sell, at least not in theaters. R-Rated movies don't do as well as PG or G Rated movies, and the "harder" the R, the lower the take. This holds true regardless of the sexual orientation of the characters. People don't want to go to theaters to see sexual topics, not when they have the internet ready to provide all they want in the comfort, a privacy, of their own homes.

Which brings me to my theory. The Wachowski Siblings aren't stupid, but they know that after the stink up of
Speed Racer, they're going to need to do something drastic to get their careers back on track. However, doing a movie that's pretty much guaranteed to lose money is not the way to do it. What I think is that they are not really looking to make this movie.

They want all the attention that announcing the intent to make the movie will get them, but what I think they're really looking for is that question that people making pitches normally fear:
"What else have you got?"

Then they shrug, and offer something a little less drastic, a little more commercial, but still something that a studio/financier normally may not be too eager to back, but in comparison with their first project, seems downright commercial. They'll go on like it's a sacrifice to the demands of commerce, and get to make their real intended project.

This is a common tactic in the civil service. When a government department has to put forth an unpopular policy, they would purposely leak info about doing an even more unpopular policy. Once the outrage over the leaked policy dies down, their real policy plan would seem relatively tame. It's all about perception, and in Hollywood, a business that is all perception, this is the sort of plan that might actually work.

That's my theory, I might be wrong, but if I am, I'll turn in my smug know-it-all union card.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #510: Canned & Canceled

Welcome to the show folks...

ROCKFORD FILES CLOSED BEFORE THEY'RE EVEN OPENED

Word has come down the pipeline that NBC has passed on the remake of The Rockford Files with Dermot Mulroney in the title role.


Personally, while I thought it was a bad idea, a really terrible idea, I had bet that NBC would have gone for it because it was the sort of bad idea that networks love.

It was a remake of a show that had been custom tailored to the persona and style of a specific actor, namely James Garner. A remake that was guaranteed to turn off fans of the original and people who hadn't really watched the original, writing it off as "just another remake."

The ironic thing is, if they had made a new character with a similar premise: low rent private eye, surrounded by eccentric friends and relatives, working complex cases in a laid back style, they probably could have sold it. The Mentalist is living proof that an even more old fashioned mystery show can be a modern hit. But putting the name
Rockford on the project was probably what killed it. The name just carried too much weight for a pilot to carry.

SYKES SUNK

The word is that the Fox Network is going to drop the axe on their Saturday night late night Wanda Sykes Show. Despite its relatively big opening, the ratings just wouldn't hold on, and it ended up doing worse than its predecessor
Mad TV.

So why did the show fail? Two reasons:

1. APPEAL: The show and its host Wanda Sykes were based on appealing to their media colleagues, not the general audience. Coming across as shrill, self-righteous, and smug. Her background and strength was as a stand-up comedian and sitcom supporting player, and her attempt to become a network version of Bill Maher just didn't work.

Critics defended her and her show because she shared the same prejudices as them, but the audience, at first attracted by curiosity, were driven away by the severe lack of charm.

2. HYPOCRISY: Wanda Sykes loves to present herself as a "fearless" comedian, one willing to speak "truth to power," cross dangerous lines, and all that usual stuff. Yet at last year's White House Correspondent's dinner, which is traditionally a roast of the sitting President, all she did was lob a few softballs at the current president, and took shots at the previous president.

With that performance she told audiences that there are lines she wouldn't cross, and pretty weak lines at that. How can anyone be judged as a "fearless" and "edgy" political comedian when there are powerful politicians right in front of them, and they publicly refuse to take the shot given to them. No one expects a comedian to be objective or unbiased, but there is a duty a comedian has to their audience in respect to their image.

You can't go around saying that you will go after any sacred cow because you're a rebel that's mad, bad, and dangerous to know, and then publicly go vegan to curry favor with the people in power. That makes the audience express their power, by staying away.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #509: Flaw & Odor

In the network television system, the audience is frustrated by two very important groups. The network executives who green-light and cancel shows, and the TV producers who make those shows.

These are their stories....

DONK DONK!!

EXT. OUTSIDE 30 ROCK --DAY

CRIME SCENE TECHS are milling around taking pictures of the scene around a body that covered with a sheet.

SEASONED COP and his partner EAGER ROOKIE come out of their car.

SEASONED COP- What's the exposition Coroner guy?

CORONER GUY- A poor bastard got tossed out a high window, just a few months before his 21st birthday in the Fall.

SEASONED COP- Let's take a look.

Coroner Guy raises a corner of the sheet.

The Eager Rookie recoils in horror and projectile vomits all over a nearby policeman.

EAGER ROOKIE- Sorry Seasoned Cop. It just came as a bit of a shock. He's all so messed up.

SEASONED COP- It happens to all of us at some time.

EAGER ROOKIE- It's just that I know that guy, I mean, I knew him.

SEASONED COP- You knew the victim.

EAGER ROOKIE- His name's Law & Order. We go back a long way. I was there when he was born.

SEASONED COP- Back to Paul Sorvino?

EAGER ROOKIE- Back all the way to George Dzundza.

SEASONED COP- That is a long way.

EAGER ROOKIE- We were close. Especially during the Jill Hennessey years.

SEASONED COP- Did you keep in touch?The Eager Rookie shakes his head.

EAGER ROOKIE- We drifted apart. I loved the guy, but I just couldn't stand him anymore.


SEASONED COP- What happened?

EAGER ROOKIE- It wasn't like we hadn't already been through a lot. I forgave him the occasional lapse in logic, the use of the same dozen or so guest stars in every episode, but things changed.


SEASONED COP- What changed?

EAGER ROOKIE- He got all preachy, and predictable. If it looked like a character was someone executive producer Rene Balcer wouldn't vote for, then I knew that guy was either guilty of hypocrisy at best, murder at worst. Usually it was both.

SEASONED COP- Predictability can ruin a TV show.

EAGER ROOKIE- (Choking back a tear) The complicated legal arguments, the unpredictable plot twists, they were all gone. It was like the show
I had loved was gone and something else had taken its place. In the end, I just had to move on. I hadn't seen him in at least five years, maybe more.

The Seasoned Cop puts his hand on the Eager Rookie's shoulder.

SEASONED COP- We have to go up to the office, and see if this show jumped or was pushed.

The Eager Rookie reluctantly nods.

EAGER ROOKIE- I know, we have a job to do.

DONK! DONK!

INT. LAW & ORDER OFFICE --MOMENTS LATER

Enter Seasoned Cop and Eager Rookie. The room is a mess. Scripts are lying all over the place, torn apart and shredded to tiny pieces.

JEFF ZUCKER is handcuffed and sitting in a chair guarded by a CYNICAL IRISH STEREOTYPE COP.

SEASONED COP- Who's this?

CYNICAL IRISH STEREOTYPE COP - Oh faith and begorrah, I caught this piece of gob-shite trying to sneak out like a Protestant in Belfast without his gun. He was in this office when the show took the plunge.

JEFF ZUCKER- I didn't do it! I tried to save him! I really did!

SEASONED COP- Then spill the beans. Tell us what really happened?

JEFF ZUCKER- Things used to be so good. He was so reliable when it came to getting praise and audiences. Sure we had a rough start, but for a long time, it was all good.

The Eager Rookie grabs Zucker by the collar.

EAGER ROOKIE- Then why did you push him out the window?

Zucker bursts out crying.

ZUCKER- I swear I didn't push him! I just... nudged him a little.

SEASONED COP- How do you nudge someone out a window.

ZUCKER- He was already out on the ledge. Making long winded speeches about some silly political issue of the day and how those who disagreed with him were guilty of murder, all that sort of stuff. I tried to bring him in. I suggested some sexy camera work, maybe casting Jay Leno as the new D.A., but he wouldn't have any of it. I just had to do something. He went from being a reliable earner to a ratings black hole. It was either him or me.

SEASONED COP- Get him out of here.

EAGER ROOKIE- So what's next?

SEASONED COP- Probably some courtroom scenes, but first we've got to notify the next of kin.

EAGER ROOKIE- There's a sister named SVU, but she's a real drama queen. Overreacts to everything, and there's a brother named Criminal Intent, but he's in exile on the USA Network, and there's another sibling due, but not until the fall.

SEASONED COP- I guess this is where I make some sort of pithy comment in the style of Jerry Orbach as Lenny Briscoe.

EAGER ROOKIE- Let's not ruin the last good memory I have of the show.

DONK! DONK!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #508: A Critical Question!

Welcome to the show folks...

Reader Judy asks:
Furious D , I am going off topic here. You have been good about answering my questions and so I have another one for you,this time the topic is film critics on the internet. Re: Rotten Tomatoes and posted film ratings and who does the posting. What sort of credentials does a film critic have to have? These poster critics seem to vary from film to film, you know a different crowd each time.So what about the quality of criticism?I am not impressed with their analysis overall.
As for Rotten Tomatoes, I believe the Rotten Tomatoes staff goes through the hundreds, if not thousands of TV, newspaper, and internet film critics to put together their own coagulated ratings. Exactly how they do it probably involves hundreds of elves and a very fast internet service.

As for your main questions about film critics the answers are:

1. People don't need any sort of formal credentials to be a film critic. All they need is an opinion, and a newspaper, magazine, TV show, website, blog, or street-corner to shout it from.

2. The Simpsons were right: Leonard Maltin really is the best looking of the bunch.

3. The majority of critics found on movie posters either work for publications/shows/websites owned by the studios parent company, or they are culled from a rotating roster of local/syndicated TV and newspaper entertainment reporters in exchange for spots on those junkets where they get 5 minutes to interview Megan Fox about if she'll be doing any nude scenes soon.

4. And if those safe critics don't drop a nugget to put on a poster: there was once a case, so far, of a critic who was literally made up by the studio's publicity department. His name was David Manning, and he was made up by someone at the studio to drop quotes for their movies.

5. There is no way to measure the quality of critics, their criticism, or even if they have a background or knowledge of film, film theory, or film history, and it usually takes some investigation to see if they're a real person, and not just a made up name on an article... or blog.

Now I actually knew one of Canada's first full-time professional film critics when I was in film school. His name was Gerald Pratley, and when he came to Canada from England in the 1940s, he loved movies & started doing reviews and started getting paid for them. He once told me that the man who previously had the film critic job with CBC Radio was a sports reporter who did little reviews of what he saw that week for extra money. Mr. Pratley decided that he needed more than just an opinion, he needed knowledge, and educated himself on how films are made, their history, and the visual/audio language that makes films art instead of just pictures and sounds slapped together.

That education made him an excellent critic, and teacher, and a standard by which I tend to judge all film critics. Very few meet that standard.

But, like film criticism itself, my opinion is just that, an opinion, and, also like film criticism, extremely subjective.

I hope I answered your question.

Hollywood Babble On & On #507: Pointless Gestures Day

Welcome to the show folks...

Just a couple of quick notes for now:

NO GLEE FOR NEWSWEEK!

Ryan Murphy, the creator of the show Glee, has asked people to boycott Newsweek over their strangely nasty piece on gay actors playing straight.

Considering that Newsweek is currently looking for a buyer to stave off bankruptcy, my question is how can a boycott make anything worse for the folks at Newsweek?

It's the equivalent of boycotting sailing on the Titanic as it slowly sinks into the North Atlantic.

My advice to Mr. Murphy: He should have reveled in Newsweek's stinking and sinking with with pithy-bitchy comments like:

"I would have been upset over the Newsweek article, but like everyone else on the planet, I don't read Newsweek."

or

"It's a good thing such crackpot theories only exist in barely read fringe publications like Newsweek."

or

"I'd get people to boycott Newsweek, but I can't find anyone who actually buys Newsweek."

or

You could just write an episode where an idiot sinks the school paper, and tries to revive it by causing an inane and illogical controversy about a gay kid singing a love song to a straight girl in a performance.

That would be pointed, and spare you the effort of trying to flog a dead horse.

2. THE FANTASY POISON PILL WINS....SORT OF...

The Management Faction in the ongoing war for Lionsgate won a victory when shareholders voted to approve their "Shareholders Rights Plan" otherwise known as the poison pill.

But there's a catch.


Like boycotting the dying Newsweek, it's a pointless gesture.

The Canadian court has ruled the poison pill unusable.

The poison pill is not pinin'! Its passed on! This poison pill is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet it's maker! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If Lionsgate management hadn't nailed it to the perch it'd be pushing up the daisies! It's metabolic processes are now history! It's off the twig! It's kicked the bucket, it's shuffled off it's mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-POISON PILL!!


So why have the vote?

The Lionsgate Management faction desperately want a public relations win against Icahn in the midst of his bid for the company and released this statement:
“Today’s outcome demonstrates that Lionsgate shareholders are serious about protecting the value of their investment in the Company from financially inadequate, opportunistic and coercive offers such as the one made by the Icahn Group. We urge shareholders to continue to reject the Icahn Group’s offer by NOT tendering their shares, and for those who have, to withdraw them.”
First- Will the Management faction stop using the catchphrase "financially inadequate, opportunistic and coercive" in every public statement? It's annoying. As I've explained before, it may be inadequate in the eyes of management, but it's still more than what the company's been trading for lately. Of course it's opportunistic, all business is opportunistic, and Icahn is saying that management's mishandling is the opportunity he using. And since Icahn's not kidnapping relatives and holding them at gunpoint, and sending severed digits to shareholders, it can't really be called "coercive." The only real threat in this fight is if it leads to a costly proxy battle, and Icahn can claim that it would be the fault of management because of their poison pill games.

Second- This is not, I repeat not, proof positive that the shareholders are 100% behind management. Remember, this is just a pointless, and ultimately harmless gesture, and could be used by some, if not many shareholders, as a ploy to get Icahn to up his bid.

So neither side should count their shareholders before their hatched, this is just the beginning.

Wait a second, my phone's ringing.

What?

I'm being sued by the estates of Graham Chapman and John Cleese!

Isn't John Cleese still alive?

What do you mean that's just a detail?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #506: Sometimes A Series Shouldn't Be A Series

Welcome to the show folks...

In TV, history has a habit of repeating itself. ABC's
Happy Town, a murder mystery has been yanked from the schedule, and may return as summer filler material. Meanwhile the sci-fi shows FlashForward is probably going to be flash erased and is going through show-runners like Kevin Smith goes through toilets, and I'm not holding much hope for V getting a victory.

Now the main problem shared by these shows, and others before them, (remember The Sarah Conner Chronicles) are attempts by networks to create long form storytelling that goes beyond the "plot of the week" format found on most network dramas. They're basically trying to do what has been so critically, and even commercially successful on cable.

Unless you're a soap opera that is founded on a formula of constant sex, sin, and scandal the odds of making it as what I call a long form television series are pretty damn slim. The main reason for the odds being against these shows can be found in the fundamental model of being a network TV show.

When you're a network TV show the model of success is pumping out 22-25+ episodes a season, and doing that for as many seasons as possible. Nothing is allowed to end, no loose ends wrapped up, and no popular characters allowed to exit unless the show is canceled with some warning, or the actor asks for too much money.

This means that the audience is wary of committing themselves to such dramas, because they don't want to end up left not knowing who shot Lord Autumnbottom, because the network dropped the show before Inspector Stenchwad unmasks the killer, or wait all summer for the conclusion of the plot if the show does get renewed.

Now 24 beat this trap, because it promised 1 story over 24 episodes, then that crisis would be done and dusted. You got an intense beginning, a slightly saggy middle, and a whopper ending, and that's what sold the show. Even the title told you that it had a locked in ending.

Cable channels do a continuing drama they only order 10-13 episodes, and usually ask that those behind the show do something that might be construed as an ending, because they might not renew the show and let those 10-13 episodes stand alone.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

If the networks want these kinds of shows to succeed, they should declare that a show of this kind will not be a typical series, but instead a limited series, or a TV Novel. (Try to separate it from the soapy image of the "telenovellas" popular in Latin America) Promise viewers that there will be some sort of closure, and that closure will be a whopper, and if it's popular, sell it in a DVD box set, and start working on a sequel. But only work if the stories meet a proper level of quality that will make viewers trust the people that make them, and the networks that air them.

It's so stupidly simple an idea, it just might work.