Binge Viewing is Forcing Showrunners to Evolve

June 25th, 2014 by

Is “binge-viewing” changing the way writers approach TV series? That is the focus of a recent Variety article. Some observations in it from a handful of notable showrunners:

D.B. Weiss, partnered with David Benioff on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” says: “From the outset, the goal with ‘Game’ was to tell a single, coherent, 70-plus-hour story, with a beginning, middle and end.”

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“Exposition is the writer’s enemy,” says Simon Blackwell, co-exec-prod of HBO’s “Veep,” which posts all old episodes on HBO Go. “It would be wonderful if we could guarantee everyone would binge-watch it, because you have to keep bringing back a plot point for episode 6, which, if people were watching in a three- or four-hour swoop, they would remember from episode 4.”

“Veep” seeks to satisfy sipper and big gulper alike. “We have a story arc for the entire season, but we also try to make each episode make sense in itself and its story to wrap up, yet still pull you into the next episode.”

“Game of Thrones,” with its multiple story arcs, raises transition concerns. “Discontinuities between episodes that used to be minor issues stand out a lot more when you’re rolling right from one episode into another,” Weiss says. “The knowledge that many people will be watching them back to back informs those choices.”

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In the end, Blackwell’s bullishness on binging — “I think it could possibly be a richer experience” — is applicable to all these series. “You’d be attuned to the characters more acutely than if you were watching on a weekly basis,” he says. “You’d be immersed in the world more. Like a bath of ‘Veep,’ instead of a series of showers.”

A 70-plus-hour story, with a beginning, middle and end. How’d you like to have that on your creative plate! More background on this phenomenon:

Are you a ‘bing-er’? If so, you’re not alone. An estimated 70% of Americans are. Is this you?

What TV series do you binge-view and why? How do you see this changing how writers approach TV series? Any residual impact on movies?

For the rest of the Variety article, go here.

“Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery”

June 11th, 2014 by

I was a huge “Twin Peaks” fan, a mystery mixed with a soap opera filtered through the twisted imaginations of series creators Mark Frost and David Lynch. And I still contend that the last act of Season 1, Episode 2 is some of the best 7 minutes of TV… ever.

I mean, we are talking 1990… on ABC, one of the major broadcast networks… prime time… with freaking forward-backward talking midgets.

Nowadays it probably feels pretty tame, but I can’t help but think “Twin Peaks” helped lay the groundwork for other series that stretched what was possible on TV. So yesterday when my Twitter feed blew up with this news, I knew it was blog post bound.

On July 29, “Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery” will be released, the complete series, a 10 DVD high definition collection in Blu-Ray format. Here are a few excerpts from the bonus tracks.

In “Between Two Worlds,” David Lynch interviews the Palmer Family — Leland, Sarah and daughter Laura — about their current existence, 25 years after Laura’s murder.

Locating original picture negative that was thought to be lost, CBS was able to upgrade image quality on numerous shots throughout the TV series for the new Blu-ray release. Notice the enhanced detail, improved color and overall superior quality in these examples.

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s groundbreaking cult phenomenon, TWIN PEAKS — THE ENTIRE MYSTERY, arrives on Blu-ray July 29th with the debut of nearly 90 minutes of deleted/alternate scenes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The long-awaited missing pieces from the original version of the film is often referred to as the “holy grail” of Twin Peaks fandom, and can only be found as part of this collection.

Presented as a feature-length experience, “The Missing Pieces” has been directed and edited by Lynch exclusively for this release. Capping off more than 30 deleted/alternate scenes is an epilogue providing a fascinating glimpse beyond the cliffhanger finale of the TV series.

Any “Twin Peaks” fans out there? What are your favorite memories of the series?

Trailer for Spanish version of “Breaking Bad”

June 10th, 2014 by

Via Indiewire:

Just when you thought “Breaking Bad” was all wrapped up (other than the Emmys), here comes a Spanish-language version of AMC’s hit drama. Instead of Walter White we have Walter Blanco. Instead of an RV we get a school bus. Instead of Albuquerque, New Mexico, we’re in Bogota, Colombia.

Yet the pork pie hat remains. So does the shaved head, slo-mo shot of explosive crystal, and tighty-whiteys. It’s all the “Breaking Bad” you’ve come to know and love, just in a new language, with new actors, and on a new channel.

Here is an extended trailer:

The series is called “Metastasis” and will air on Univision, Unimas, and Galavision.

Jon Oliver explains “net neutrality”

June 4th, 2014 by

It’s the best new show on TV: “Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver” on HBO. I’ve watched every episode and after a so-so first few weeks, the show has completely hit its stride, and never more so than with this segment on “net neutrality”.

Why is that so great? It’s informative. It explains the idea of “net neutrality” in a way even I can understand. It’s funny as hell. And it sustains its energy for 13 minutes. Think of that: A news segment for 13 minutes? In this day and age of Short Attention Span Syndrome, that is the equivalent of watching the entire 216 minutes of Lawrence of Arabia back when people did have actual attention spans.

The segment is all wrapped up by a call to action: “Seize this moment my lovely trolls; turn on your caps lock and fly, my pretties! Fly, fly, fly!”

Go here: http://www.fcc.gov/comments.

Let the FCC know: Do not allow cable company fuckery!

And if you want to be entertained and informed, watch Jon Oliver’s show. Airs at 10PM, Sundays on HBO.

7 in 10 U.S. TV watchers are ‘binge viewers’

May 1st, 2014 by

Via Worldscreen:

NEW YORK: In a new survey conducted by Miner & Co. Studios, seven out of ten U.S. TV watchers identified themselves as “binge viewers,” defined as those who watch three or more episodes of one series in a single sitting.

The survey found that 17 percent of binge viewers do so on a daily basis, 63 percent weekly and 90 percent on a monthly basis. Of the respondents, 71 percent said binge viewing is “totally normal,” and 59 percent considered it to be a harmless habit. Frequent binge viewers are more likely to associate positive qualities to binge viewing than infrequent viewers, seeing binge viewing as something that makes them the “life of the party” (260-percent more likely), “in the know” (77 percent) and “culture vultures” (58 percent).

Huh. So consumers will watch 3 or more half-hours of a comedy series. Or 2 or 3 episodes of a 1-hour drama. Like they’re watching something as long as a 2 to 2 1/2 hour movie.

Yet another sign that TV is becoming more like movies.

What are your thoughts on binge viewing? Is this something you typically do? If so, why?

For the rest of the article, go here.

Update: “True Detective” primer

March 7th, 2014 by

So I’ve caught the “True Detective” bug. Created and written by , starring and , and directed by Cary Fukunaga, it is some eye-popping, dialogue-rich, mind-blowing, crazy-ass shit. As I’ve been chasing down every article and interview I could find on the HBO series, I thought I’d aggregate them into a sort of primer for readers. NOTE: This is an revised reprint of a post that originally ran February 19, so you can trace the history will all of the updates from that date.

SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT CLICK ‘MORE’ UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO LEARN SOME KEY PLOT DEVELOPMENTS.

(more…)

“True Detective” primer

February 19th, 2014 by

So I’ve caught the “True Detective” bug. Created and written by , starring  and , and directed by Cary Fukunaga, it is some eye-popping, dialogue-rich, mind-blowing, crazy-ass shit. As I’ve been chasing down every article and interview I could find on the HBO series, I thought I’d aggregate them into a sort of primer for readers.

SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT CLICK ‘MORE’ UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO LEARN SOME KEY PLOT DEVELOPMENTS.

(more…)

“The Simpsons” Miyazaki tribute

January 10th, 2014 by

Via Vulture, “The Simpsons” with an homage to famed Japanese animation writer-director Hayao Miyazaki:

An annotated version via Slate:

The episode airs this Sunday.

Emmy Awards for writers

September 22nd, 2013 by

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series: Henry Bromell, Homeland • Q&A

George Mastras, Breaking Bad • Dead Freight
Thomas Schnauz, Breaking Bad • Say My Name
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey • Episode 4
D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, Game Of Thrones • The Rains Of Castamere

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series: Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock

Jeffrey Klarik and David Crane, Episodes • Episode 209
Louis C.K and Pamela Adlon, Louie • Daddy’s Girlfriend (Part 1)
Greg Daniels, The Office • Finale
Robert Carlock and Jack Burditt, 30 Rock • Hogcock!

Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Abi Morgan, The Hour

Richard LaGravenese Behind The Candelabra
Tom Stoppard, Parade’s End
David Mamet, Phil Spector
Gerard Lee and Jane Campion, Top Of The Lake

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series: The Colbert Report

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Portlandia
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

“Inside the Breaking Bad writers’ room: how Vince Gilligan runs the show”

September 22nd, 2013 by

The world according to Vince Gilligan:

“The worst thing the French ever gave us is the auteur theory,” he said flatly. “It’s a load of horseshit. You don’t make a movie by yourself, you certainly don’t make a TV show by yourself. You invest people in their work. You make people feel comfortable in their jobs; you keep people talking.”

With the success of the TV series “Breaking Bad,” who are we mere mortals to argue Monsieur Gilligan?

As the groundbreaking show winds its way to a conclusion, there have been — rightfully so — a bunch of articles and features written about it. This one from The Guardian is one of the best, providing an inside look at how Gilligan and crew produced the show. Some excerpts:

In his room, he said, all writers were equal, an approach that he insisted had less to do with being a Pollyanna than with pure, selfish practicality. “There’s nothing more powerful to a showrunner than a truly invested writer,” he said. “That writer will fight the good fight.”

On this day, a Monday, he sat at the head of a conference table as his writers gathered for work after the weekend, chattering about the heat. Forty-three years old, he wore light jeans, an orange T-shirt and silver sneakers; his face, with its goatee and glasses, was poised at a precise fulcrum between relaxed southern gentleman – a young Colonel Sanders, maybe – and eager fantasy geek. Gilligan started his path to TV with a semi-successful career in feature films. His TV break came with The X-Files, where he rose to executive producer and penned some 30 episodes before returning to the frustrations and snail’s pace of feature-film making, working on Hancock, a movie about a surly, alcoholic superhero. In the midst of the endless rewrites, in 2005, Gilligan was on the phone with an old friend and fellow X-Files writer Thomas Schnauz. The two were complaining about the state of the movie business and wondering what they might be qualified to do instead.

“Maybe we can be greeters at Walmart,” Gilligan said.

“Maybe we can buy an RV and put a meth lab in the back,” said Schnauz.

“As he said that, an image popped into my head of a character doing exactly that: an Everyman character who decides to ‘break bad’ and become a criminal,” Gilligan recalled. It was a powerful enough image that he got off the phone and began jotting down notes. The heart of the show came together in a hurry. The main character, Walter White, is a mild and beaten-down high school chemistry teacher who finds himself diagnosed with lung cancer. Inadequately insured, with a baby on the way, he is desperate to provide for his family when he’s gone and hits on the idea of going into the meth business with a junkie ex-student named Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul. Thanks to White’s chemistry expertise and relative (by the standard of meth dealers) discipline and devotion to quality, Walt and Jesse’s product becomes much in demand. Legal, familial, and moral complications ensue.

There you go, the inspiration for the show.

Nearly every discussion in every writers’ room, Gilligan explained, boils down to one of two questions: “Where’s a character’s head at?” and “What happens next?” Ideas v action. Text v subtext. This, as it happened, was a “What happens next?” day, in which the details of a relatively banal plot point need to be worked out.

To borrow a handy acronym, the question was this: WWJD? What will Jesse do?

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With lunchtime approaching, there was a marked increase in shifting in the writers’ office chairs. In the centre of the table, there were three categories of items. In ascending order of importance: things to play with (magnets, puzzles, paper clips, a lump of clay) things to write with (stacks of legal pads and index cards, a pretzel jar filled with pens and Sharpies), things to eat (candy and snacks of every description). There were more and more bathroom breaks and a brief conversational detour into quotes from The Big Lebowski. A small faction of the writers took a quick trip downstairs to see how extreme the temperature had become.

Throughout it all, Gilligan kept up a stream of talk about the problem at hand, sometimes as if to himself. “Fuck,” he finally said, spinning around in his chair. “Why is this so hard?”

Money quote for me. If Vince Gilligan can be reduced to uttering, “Fuck, why is this so hard,” then all of us who have the same experience should take comfort. ‘Coz you know what? Writing is hard.

For the rest of the feature, go here.

Special treat: A glimpse of their writers room:

Hey, Breaking Bad fans: What’s your single favorite moment in the history of the series? See you in comments.