Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mockingbird Lane


I’m surprised how much I enjoyed the pilot Halloween Special, because it sounded like such a crummy idea on paper. From the casting of Jerry O’Connell as Herman Munster, the name change, and making it an hour-long dramedy, I was absolutely dreading the final product. But I’m happy to be wrong on all counts.


Although Mockingbird Lane has far more in common with The Addams Family (which was more my thing) than the Munsters, Bryan Fuller still manages to capture its spirit: a family that cares about each other. He skillfully balances the characters trying to preserve their humanity with a healthy dose of dark humor. Writing comedy is hard, but horror-comedy is even harder. While the original series was mostly sight gags and tame one-liners, Fuller's version has Boy Scouts attacked by a werewolf and jokes about a serial killer stuffing bodies into the walls of the Munsters' new home, it definitely takes a pair of stones to write stuff like that for a family-oriented show.


The ratings were a respectable but unspectacular 5.4 million viewers -- especially when you consider the hefty 10 million dollar production budget. Seems unlikely that NBC would order more episodes and it’s too costly for the SyFy Channel. A shame it probably won't find a home...


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Black Listed


The Black List has started a spin-off service looking to help aspiring screenwriters get their scripts into the hands of the right people. For a monthly fee, scripts can be uploaded, hosted and evaluated.

As a brand, The Black List has an excellent reputation in the screenwriting community. You’d be crazy not to want their stamp of approval, but I don’t think this service is going to be a game changer.

“The great hope is that...some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film.” - Francis Ford Coppola, 1991

Screenwriters have more resources at their fingertips than ever before, but are we better storytellers as a result? Nope. While there might be a few gems buried deep, deep, deep in the slush pile, most amateur scripts just aren’t very good. A lot of folks would be better served joining a writing group or free workshoppping sites like Trigger Street and American Zoetrope, before signing up for these pay services.

Secondly, getting reads is tough, but hardly to the point where your ONLY option is to plunk down cash in order to get someone to crack the first page. All it takes is a good logline, persistence and a bit of luck. Heck, I’ve gotten opportunities off the strength of my very average blog. The real challenge is crafting a script that’s worth reading -- still working on that part. This Black List service is probably best for writers with a few scripts under their belts; not the desperate noob gambling with rent money and his first script.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

#goodreads - An American Werewolf in London


After all these years, with all our newfangled, CG techno-whatchamacallit, this is still one of the best transformation scenes ever.


The meat and potatoes of the transformation is just three blocks of description, and not as detailed as you might expect. Some newbie writers would be tempted to overwrite the hell out of a scene like this, describing every wolf hair as it sprouts out of his skin.

You can read John Landis' script here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Anne Rice on Werewolves


Stumbled across an insightful podcast from Wired Magazine with Anne Rice about her recent novel, The Wolf Gift. Interesting to hear how she tries to put a fresh spin on the werewolf genre. Nothing revolutionary, but I'm curious enough to check out a few chapters.

You can listen to the mp3 here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

666 Park Avenue (Series Premiere)


With only 6.97 million viewers tuning in for the premiere, ABC has to be incredibly disappointed. But I’ll bet the marketing folks probably wish it had been a little lower. Imagine all the possibilities with 6.66 million viewers. Maybe the show causes Nielsen boxes to malfunction! Then followed by stories from the cast about spooky incidents occurring on set. Maybe a priest has to come in and -- Ah, well....

All in all, I thought the pilot was solid. Naive couple (Rachael Tayler and Dave Annable) unwittingly sign their souls away to creepy power couple Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa L. Williams, and move into the swank Drake apartment building. Meanwhile, one resident gets attacked by an elevator, and another must kill in order to keep his wife alive.

Seems like a mix of Fantasy Island, and to a lesser extent, The Devil’s Advocate. The setting reminds me of another Manhattan apartment building with a dark history, the Shandor Building (aka Spook Central) from Ghostbusters.

The other obvious comparison would be American Horror Story, but I don’t think that’s a fair one. Cable shows have far more freedom and smaller expectations when it comes to ratings. But networks do seem genuinely surprised when they try to emulate a popular cable show and it fizzles.

While I liked the cast and setting, I thought the jump scares were all too familiar and lacking in creativity. The only thing missing was a black cat jumping out of a cupboard at an especially tense moment. For a show involving Faustian pacts, ghosts, death and whatnot, it was rather tame -- especially for the 10pm slot. I’m not advocating decapitations and ritualistic sex, just for more suspense and more interesting twists than a character’s nightmare turning out to be real.


In case you missed it, watch the pilot here.

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