Archive for the ‘Outlaw on TV’ Category

Last week I talked about television shows. And I felt bad about that, because this is a blog about independent film. But I realized I am being a false purist. Fundamentally, both mediums tell stories through moving images and sound. Outlaws like me are out there making independent television shows same as the outlaws making independent movies. Some of them just keep switching back and forth.

Ever since TV came along, movies have focused on distinguishing themselves from the competition. How do you set yourself apart from something that comes right into a person’s house for free? How do you make someone pay you for water when there is a faucet right next to them? It turns out you can. They didn’t know that in the 1950’s.

So movies focused on spectacle. Bigger screens and bigger explosions.

Fast forward to today, where now TVs are huge and hi def (blech), and the second 3D looked to be a theater moneymaker, here come the 3D TVs.

So what is the difference?

Delivery. Theater versus the house. The theater is more of an experience, with the big screen and the popcorn, but also the other people talking and the ticket prices always going up. And if you wait a few months, that movie is on DVD or playing on TV. And if anybody talks while you watch a movie at home, you can pause it while you kick them out. We all know this, because we all have mothers who keep asking, “Who is that? What is happening?” during the entirety of Bourne Identity, and we’d rather not pay for that, thank you.

Making a movie that can be shown in a theater requires a different kind of effort than something that will only show on a TV. Resolution is a problem, and coloring for the varying brightness of projector bulbs.  So it’s harder.

Money. Yeah, we can say that the most expensive movies are much more expensive than the most expensive TV shows. But TV’s catching up. Can anyone say 24?

Movies are short stories. Maybe novellas. This is so true that when they make novels into movies, they have to cut out a bunch of stuff, and then people are all,”That wasn’t like the novel.” Really? You are surprised by this? TV is more spacious. TV is novels. Case in point, the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Eight hours long. The novel, word for word.

Time. Here it is, the kicker. A movie takes six months to a year to make ninety minutes. A TV show will, in the same amount of time, make 800 minutes of content. So if there is a difference in how a TV show looks compared to a movie, it is all about the time it takes.

Prestige. Yeah, but really good writers and actors and whatevers choose to work in TV, where there is a steady paycheck instead of constant second guessing.

For me, what it ultimately comes down to is, who is trying to tell me what to do? I hate being told what to do.

Cause I’m an outlaw, baby.


Wanted: Decent Comedy

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Outlaw on TV

I have a special place in my heart for comedies. I spent some very happy times doing improv comedy in Las Vegas and Chicago, and wrote an essay about humor that appeared in the Crab Orchard Review. And other braggy things.

So I make a point every year of watching the first few episodes of all the new comedies. Why the first few episodes? Because pilots are generally always awful, and a good show needs some time to recover from the pilot.

Why am I talking about TV on a filmmaking blog? Cause I feel like it. Also because film and television constantly inform one another. And cause I feel like it.

$#*! My Dad Says

This is supposed the be a show about an old guy who says wild, stunning things worth making a whole twitter account about. Yeah. Not so much. William Shatner is not offensive or shocking. He is curmudgeon that gardens. There are two fabulous comedians, Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan, who are underutilized, of course, but the worst part of the show is the son who lives with William Shatner, played by the super crappy Jonathan Sadowski. He delivers his lines like he’s beating a drum with a baseball bat. I suppose he’s supposed to be the good looking character, but what he is is a sinkhole of comedic energy. Skip this. It will be canceled soon.

Better With You

Ah, another show with people I like. Joanna Garcia from Reba, the mom from That 70’s Show and Kurt Fuller, a totally awesome Supernatural angel. They have a great bit where they show each of the three couples doing a task, and really nail the progression. It isn’t ground breaking, but it is actually a pretty consistent amusing.

But this show isn’t showing up on hulu’s popular episode page, which is a bad sign, and the ratings are mediocre. It’s too bad. Unless ABC finds a better way to position this show, it will be cancelled soon.

Mike & Molly

Mike and Molly is essentially fat people fall in love, too. It is a premise I have thought about tackling myself, based on the theory/knowledge that what makes an actor endearing is a well written part, not their physical appearance. Come on, who is pulling Julia Roberts out of the pretty girl line up? It is a pretty standard comedy, with self-depreciating good humor, but nothing ground breaking. It is a show with a good heart, and I hope it gets an According to Jim run, meaning longer than it deserves.


Didn’t see it. Not gonna see it. This show has broken two of my personal laws, and I am rooting for immediate cancelation.

Rule 1: Don’t make jokes at the expense of people’s pain or weakness. I am not talking about the Indian people, here. Much has been made of the racism in this show, and I say, who cares?> Racial stereotypes are the fertilizer of comedy. Comedy must grow there, because it is the ideal place for comedy and because good comedy breaks down that manure and transforms it. Without comedy, the world would fill up with this manure.

So sorry, Indians, you do not qualify as weak.

No, the weak people in this scenario are the Americans who have lost their jobs to outsourcing, and are part of the—I’m sorry, what is the latest estimate? 10% of the population unemployed, which doesn’t take into account the millions of people out of work so long they have given up looking and run out of jobless benefits. NBC, you are tone deaf, as shown by many of your other programming decisions, but who do you think is going to laugh at this? Fat cats who increased their profit margins by exploiting cheaper labor abroad? I am not friends with any of those people, but they don’t strike me as sitcom watchers.

Rule 2: Don’t shelve Parks and Recreation for substandard dreck.

But Outlaw, how do you know it is substandard if you’ve never seen it?

First, because I know everything. Second, because Parks and Recreation is the best show nobody watches. It’s a subtle, hilarious Picasso of a sitcom. Something would have to be pretty terrific to equal it, much less be worthy of it’s time slot. Also I saw the previews, which is where people collect their best material, and—meh.

So cancel Outsourced. Cancel it now.

Raising Hope

I like it. Poor people who are kinda dumb but really good people at heart and occasionally endearing. Everyone is comparing it to My Name is Earl, and that’s pretty accurate. I dig it. It should get Earl’s audience and stick around a while.

Running Wilde

The pilot for this was especially awful, but it’s finding its legs as it goes forward. A lot of Arrested Development people, which was the standard by which all sitcoms should be judged.  It needs time to develop a following, but I doubt it will get it.

It deserves to stay on the air. Bacation. That’s all I’m going to say.

Melissa & Joey

Even though this premiered a little bit early, I have to add this, because it is Joey Lawrence from Blossom and Melissa Joan Hart from the Disney machine and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. This is a special pedigree, a pedigree of a particular brand of cheezy that occasionally hits just the right balance and becomes “something I love cause it is so awful.”

It’s on ABCFamily, so the standards are WAAAAAYYYY lower, and it will probably survive.