Monday, July 20, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Imagine Lesser?

The Sci-Fi channel has changed their name to SyFy. The reason is to attract more women in the 18-49 year-old range by softening the name and the content. Their once much desired 18-25 year-old male demographic has fled for the greener pastures of Spike TV (boobs) and video games (killing without character development). This shift is evident in their new marketing campaign, a Skittles-on-LSD commercial which feature no robots, monsters or space ships, only paper unicorns, magic carousels and hip young people (I’m not making that up). The message is clear: leave your hardcore nerd at the door, we wanna go mainstream!

And you know what? I’m okay with that to a certain degree. The name is ridiculous to be certain and I will never, ever write the phrase SciFi (SyFy) channel without the appropriate parenthetical demarcation. SciFi stood for Science Fiction at one point in time and I’ll not bastardize it further so that that it one day becomes a question in some future etymological trivia game. But back to the point, SciFi (SyFy) needs to sell ads to make money and if they think that puppies wings and magic kittens lure in the ladies, who am I to argue?

But I am going to take issue with lazy storytelling and borrowed premises. I’m desperately trying to work my way through Warehouse 13, one of the new shows to debut on the network that’s now heavily relying upon the “And sometimes ‘y’ is a vowel” rule to rebrand itself. It’s a difficult prospect and like a hiker ascending Everest, I need to take slow steps and pause often lest I suffer from episodic hypoxia.

What’s this show about? No clue. That’s not to say that it’s so nuanced, subtle and mysterious that I can’t fathom it. Rather, I submit that Warehouse 13 has lifted from so many other sources that I can’t plumb the depths of plagiarism to find an original idea.

Let’s use the ol’ SciFi (Syfy) subterfuge and see if we can’t separate the parts into their individual stolen components…
* our leads are two attractive government agents. They crack wise with each other and feign indifference when in fact there’s a spark between them that may lead to something else. AS SEEN IN X-FILES and FRINGE.
* A strange warehouse in the middle of nowhere houses unusual artifacts. AS SEEN IN RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
* A ‘Crazy’ lead scientist who oversees the project. He’s both brilliant and a little off, providing comic relief. AS SEEN IN FRINGE, EUREKA and BACK TO THE FUTURE.
* Mysterious benefactor/boss who speaks in cryptic sentences and hints of larger conspiracies (yet to be fleshed out by producers). AS SEEN IN X-FILES, LOST.
* Monster of the week AS SEEN IN…EVERYTHING.

I could go on and list the Men-in-black, Friday the 13th (the Series), even The Invisible Man connections (boo-yah!), but why bother? The creators obviously pitched this show to the network (whose name I shall not invoke!) using those very series as direct references. They promised a Frankenstein patch-work of a series and they don’t care if people recognize that they dug up their loved ones for spare parts. This is a shambling ‘mediocrity monster’, stunning everyone in it’s path with a ‘meh’ or a ‘it’s not so bad’. The only thing that can kill it is counter programming as it hypnotizes those that watch it with just enough promise to warrant another episode. That will never come, of course and once he show has run out of ideas to drain, it will flee from the schedule to haunt Hulu for the rest of its days.

Look, I get that all ideas are modifications with enhancements on the other ideas. But I gotta take a stand on this. If someone is gonna take the time to change their name and be all trendy (Of “Trendi”?), they can’t just be the same old person. SciFi ditched their name, created a pretty ad campaign and then serves up something that they claim to be indicative of their new direction. It’s only on inspection that inside the shiny box is the same old feldercarb.

Sorry SyFy, bring us compelling stories, interesting characters and bend our imagination or don’t show up at all. Your tagline is “Imagine Greater”, and you need to heed your own advice. Take a chance and greenlight a series that will truly let our imaginations soar to new places and times with magic and science that seems like magic. You take the leap and we’ll be there to catch you. You trot out derivative shows like Warehouse 13, and we’ll box them up an store them in our own warehouse of lesser Science Fiction/Fantasy works, never to be thought of again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Path a New Series

I've lazily created a new series that turns over most of the control to YOU!
Vote in the comments section below. Voting ends Wednesday night.
Control my destiny! Be show-runner! 

Monday, February 16, 2009

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Acting Schmacting 2/5

Here's what I do and what I think.

* Had an audition for a lead in a new series today. Let me correct that, I was chum in the water for a "Name Actor". See, while I'm pretty damn good at what I do, my name is not bandied about to lead a new series created by prestigious writers.

Rather, I'm the guy who about four lines into my resume they might say "Hey, I remember you from show _". We'll chat about it, I'll relate a cute story about the experience and then I'll continue the audition. I'm recurring neighbor material right now, not lead actor in a series, comedy or not.

So why call me in? we'll there's always the chance that they might truly find exactly what they're looking for. More likely, it's an exercise to churn up interest with the more established actors. If Fred Savage hears that they're looking for the lead in a new series that he's perfect for, it gets his competitive blood going. they could just offer him the role, but why not make it a little more interesting.

It also helps if they already know exactly who they want and are already negotiating with them. Sure, the pilot won't get made without said actor, but if you're still looking /just in case/, said actor might sign on the dotted line a little quicker and without the need for the big trailer with Direct TV.

Having come to grips with my non-audition, I actually had a good time. I went in, did exactly the audition I wanted to do, thanked the casting director and left. We both knew the drill so the agreed upon activity went smoothly. Fred Savage will get the role, but I played it better. ha!

* Christian Bale. People are surprised by Bale flipping out. And yet, this occurs more than most people realize or care to discuss. Why? Two reasons.

One, if you're dealing with an intense actor, you're gonna get this. They are deep, deep, DEEEEEP in their process (think of all the work he had to do be Batman...oh wait, he just lowered his voice a lot...) and so anything can set them off. This is like a drunk elephant in a minefield - eventually something's gonna blow. Movie sets are hives of constant activity and sometimes the crew forgets the cardinal rule...

Two, nothing else matters except what's on the camera between action and cut. Bale knows this because they're paying him 20 billion dollars to bring credibility to a wavering series. Acting on camera is a game of millimeters and if something distracts you...even a little, it will show when your face is 80 feet high. In Michael Caine's book he talked about not having any movement behind the camera because your eye tracks that. When Bale steps in front of the camera, every person who is on that set needs to stop whatever they're doing. When McG (and that name is gonna haunt him as he gets older, huh?) calls "Action!", that's when things start to matter because Bale's eyes and his eyes alone are the only thing powerful enough to convince us that it's the future, robots rule and mankind's only hope rests in him. Not the camera work or the CGI or the sets or make-up or wardrobe or really cool Stan Winston animatronic robots. Christian Bale, solamente.

So did he go overboard with his tirade? In one respect yes, by about 150 seconds. The guy shouldn't have been there and that was unprofessional. A thirty second hiss-fit followed by a "I'm gonna take minute" would have got the point across and let the DP's superiors do his dirty work.

In another respect, the one where $200 million dollars hinge on his performance and not a light behind his face, no, he was spot on. Blow up and blow up BIG TIME so that you'll never have to do it in your career again. And don't think for a minute that if he wanted too, he couldn't have the entire crew fired that day. That's because the studio heads know his name opens the film, not the crew's.

That sounds cynical and negative, huh? Still, it also sounds about right, too. Art and money merge painfully in this business and every once in a while it gets exposed
Neither of these guys know how to light a scene.

* What the hell is going on with SAG? SAG president Alan Rosenberg has completely lost his mind. The majority of the SAG board wants to oust the current negotiator because we've been in limbo, without a contract or leverage for a year now and so he filibusters to stop it. When they take a written vote and still oust the guy, he files a lawsuit AGAINST HIS OWN UNION to prevent it from happening? The judge rejects the lawsuit TWICE and yet Rosenberg is going to appeal it.

So what does he do now? He composes and sings a song about the union.
So I give up on SAG for a little while. we look like idiots and rather than defend this, I'm just gonna pull up a chair and watch it. Train wrecks and be exciting if you're far enough away.