Genre: TV Pilot – Drama
Premise: A look at the people who created the world’s first atomic bomb, within the top secret 1944 program known as, “The Manhattan Project.”
About: Sam Shaw was a writer on Showtime’s Masters of Sex. When WGN America read his pilot script for “Manhattan,” they dropped everything and immediately ordered 13 episodes. This is another reason why writers are falling in love with TV. Even the old pilot paradigm is changing, leading to more “straight-to-series” orders, which can turn a “nobody” writer into a somebody overnight. That’s the kind of thing that used to happen back in the feature world in the 90s.
Writer: Sam Shaw
Details: 69 pages (really? From a Masters of Sex writer?)

manhattan

I don’t know what I should feel about the movie business currently. On the one hand, global box office is heating up which would imply a healthy future for cinema. On the other, it’s looking more creatively bankrupt every week. Godzilla looked like a movie desperate to bust out of a committee-driven narrative. Besides a few fun flourishes, it was about as assembly-line as it gets.

It’s almost every week these days that a new writer or director or actor comes out and says, “TV is sooooo much better than movies.” In one of John Favreau’s recent “Chef” interviews, he claimed to be bored when he goes to the movies these days because “I know everything that’s going to happen.” Watching stuff like Game of Thrones, now, is enthralling to him, because he has no idea where the story’s going next. That’s becoming less and less true at the theater.

Halle Berry, promoting her new CBS show, Extant, says all the actors are talking about how the exciting stuff is in television now, and more and more are coming over as a result. Is it true that Brad Pitt is being signed up for the next season of HBO’s True Detective? Cause if Brad Pitt is coming over to TV, you know something’s missing on the film end.

I’m not saying that movies are boring audiences out of the theater. Hollywood’s proven that even with subpar scripts, they can get audiences to show up. What Hollywood needs to worry about is all their talent fleeing. If more and more writers move to television, that means worse and worse scripts, and there will come a point where even Middle America says, “Dude, that is stupid.” And when that moment comes, it might be too late to right the ship.

So if Hollywood wants to continue to thrive, they might want to entice writers back with more creative freedom. Maybe not giving them free reign on a blockbuster or anything ridiculous like that. But giving them free reign on something.

Which brings us to Manhattan, a prestige period show that’ll allow WGN America to play more dress-up. Let’s see if it takes full advantage of its creative freedom and gives us something great.

It’s spring 1944, towards the end of World War 2. We’re in the middle of the Los Alamos desert, where an impromptu city has been created. Geniuses are coming in from all over the country to participate in an exciting endeavor, despite none of them knowing what that mysterious endeavor is.

Although it’s hard to pinpoint a protagonist in this somewhat choppy pilot, there are two men who share the majority of the screen time. 42 year-old Frank Winter, one of the more prominent scientists in the city, and Charlie Bell, a young Jewish man with a 180 IQ and a photographic memory. Charlie just showed up yesterday and, like many others, is trying to figure out what this is all about.

What follows is a lot of West Wing-type scenes where we speed through halls of the facility, catching glimpses of bomb diagrams and meeting new scientists and soldiers. We meet so many people in Manhattan (sometimes four at a time), that unless you’re keeping score with a notepad, chances are you won’t remember any of them.

Eventually there’s an indication that someone may be a spy for the Germans, with the military police believing it might be Frank, but there’s zero evidence to indicate that this is even remotely true and the thread dies out quickly.

Meanwhile, back at his new homestead (a military style pre-fabricated home in the desert), Charlie must fight his wife, who’s flabbergasted as to why he would ever want to be here. Her father has a cushy job for him back in New York, where they can raise their twins in a normal environment like everyone else. Charlie wants to be part of something bigger though, and the Manhattan Project is just that.

Eventually Frank gets Charlie and five others together and lets them know that the bomb they’re making is unstable, and if they don’t figure out how to stabilize it soon, the Germans are going to beat them in the race, and bye-bye goes freedom forever. These 7 men are the smartest in the United States. So if anyone’s going to figure out how to put this bomb together, it’s going to be them.

Manhattan-Cast-Image_Final__140515163404-575x430

Manhattan, sadly, just isn’t very interesting. The big issue is that there’s zero drama. What I mean is that there’s no attempt to create problems that de-stabilize the characters’ world and force them to act. Look at Lost. A plane crashes (problem). They need to find everyone who’s still alive then figure out a way off the island.

Breaking Bad. Walter White gets cancer (problem). He must figure out how to support his family after he’s gone. Walking Dead. A zombie apocalypse breaks out (problem). Everyone must figure out how to survive.

I kept waiting for some problem in Manhattan so that the drama could begin, so that the characters could start acting, but it never happened. This was more of a straight-forward setup of the project and all the characters involved. And you know what happens when you give the audience a straight-forward setup? Boredom.

There were some tiny attempts at drama. The military police think Frank might be a spy, but that notion is squashed so quickly they might as well have not even included it. If I’m going to invest in a show, I don’t want people who MIGHT be spies. I want people who ARE spies! I might even want one of my leads to be a spy. Now we have some dramatic irony, some suspense. Some drama!

That’s the problem with Manhattan. I kept waiting for drama to show up but all I got was setup. Setup of the location, setup of the facility, setup of the characters. Yes, you have to set up your characters in your pilot, but if that’s ALL you’re doing – if you’re not telling a story while you’re doing it – it’s snooze-central.

In Breaking Bad, we meet Walter and his family. Then he gets cancer. Then he has to start acting. Now we have shit happening! We never had “shit happening” in Manhattan.

Now keep in mind, this is coming from someone who said that nothing happened in the pilot for True Detective. One of the big differences between movies and TV that sometimes trips me up is that TV is more about the characters. Hitting plot points or throwing in plot twists isn’t as important. So maybe that’s playing into my assessment here.

Then again, I’ve been watching Walking Dead this past week and even though it’s character-driven, there’s a hell of a lot going on between those characters. I mean in the pilot, we find out that Shane and Rick’s wife have hooked up after assuming Rick was dead, leading to all sorts of drama once he makes it back to the group. There’s none of that in Manhattan. It’s all very dry and ordered and “this is our world and these are the people in our world and that’s all we’re going to tell you.”

This probably would’ve worked better if new scientists showed up to the project and were told in the teaser or the end of Act 1 that “everything the project has worked on for the past six months has been proven wrong.” They need to start over. They’re now 6 months behind the Germans. These 7 men are in charge of pulling off a miracle. What upset me was that something similar to this happens towards the end of the script, but it’s such a subtle scene that there’s no importance attached to it. This needs to be the show! Thing are falling apart and these men were brought in to be the saviors.

Regardless of that, Manhattan needs a lot more drama and a lot more personality. It felt too much like the History Channel version of this idea.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Remember that a PROBLEM injects PURPOSE into the characters – like I pointed out with Lost, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Even in WGN’s other show, Salem, a problem is introduced into the city – witches. Now our characters must deal with it. The best way to go about writing a TV show, in my opinion, is to find some situation/world/idea that excites you, and then introduce a problem into that world that forces your characters to act. Without that, I don’t think you can write an exciting pilot.

  • astranger2

    So, you found it to be a dry Manhattan.

    • BSBurton

      great point. I don’t see how this will be much more than TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY but without the awesome talent. I smell a bomb like “low winter sun.”

      • astranger2

        They pumped that series up so much, but I never watched it since they sort of tried to cram it down your throat riding on BB’s coat tails. I take it from that comment, I didn’t miss much. Do you like/watch “Fargo?” Not great — but after Carson’s review, I thought I’d try it. Like I said, not great — but I can always watch Billy Bob making sociopathic behavior seem normal; it’s what he does best.

        • BSBurton

          have dvr’d (is that a term?) the episodes so far. Saving up.. I binge watched true detective in 2 days. 4 episodes a day. it helped to keep the names and the cases fresh. i loved it lol

  • Gregory Mandarano

    ATTN screenwriters,

    I have a friend who, knowing I’m a writer, approached me because he wants to make short movies and upload them to youtube, but isn’t a writer himself and wants decent material, whether its comedy or lightsaber duels he’ll do it. Not talking special fx here or amazing editing
    Just willing actors and a camera. I can’t do it cause I just finished my book and am already working on my next script. I don’t have the time or mental energy to divert from my work to start experimenting with short scripts.

    If anyone out there is interested in writing stuff that ppl with minimal budget can film then let me know. Theres no money in it, but you’ll have the pleasure of seeing stuff appear onscreen and get a writing credit in everything made

    If interested email me at GregoryMandarano@aol.com and ill connect you to him. There’s a chance more than one person will contact me, so try to provide some reason why you should be the guy (or girl) that should write this guys stuff. :-)

    • Gregory Mandarano

      No takers. I guess everybody’s writing features!

  • JakeBarnes12

    Sounds like “Manhattan” needs long scenes featuring an uglied-up movie star bending beer cans and spouting cod philosophy to get the hype machine rolling.

    • BSBurton

      too damn cruel lol

  • ripleyy

    Orphan Black is a great show to watch to see how it’s done. The obstacles the writers throw at the writers is a really good lesson that the more obstacles you throw, the bigger the problems are the characters have to face, that it basically writes the script itself.

    This script just seems to move at a glacial pacing.

  • Magga

    I have an article suggestion: review The Wire. Most critics see it as the greatest TV show in history, it’s one of the go-to examples whenever people praise the depth of TV (along with Mad Men, Deadwood, Sopranos and Breaking Bad) and it would be interesting to see what is made of it here. To me it took a long time to get going, but the opening scene was so brilliant that it was impossible to believe the show wouldn’t reach for something great

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      Breaking Bad wipes the floor with The Wire.

      *grabs popcorn*

      • Magga

        They’re both incredible, but my point is that all these reviews are about learning, and there is confusion expressed here about why TV shows get produced while not following the rules we associate with spec-sales. Getting to the bottom of the most celebrated show, the symbol of “TV is better than movies”, would be very interesting. And unlike Breaking Bad it has a lot fewer conventional “hooks” than a crime movie. The main asset of the show is that it digs into a large number of institutions and uncovers the systemic failures in the way of meaningful social improvement, and does so in a way that a movie would never have the time to do.

        • Panos Tsapanidis

          Agreed. But the pacing is a torture (at least to me.)

  • Wheatman

    The City That Puts You to Sleep?

  • RO

    Does anyone have WGN America’s contact info? If they’re making these period piece shows I’ve got two pilots ready to go. If they’re looking for any shows I’ve got more.

  • fragglewriter

    I don’t know if drama injected in this series would change anything.

    A TV show based in 1944 about scientists creating the first atomic bomb interesting? No.
    OR

    A TV show based in 1944 about the government’s intention/reasoning for the need for an atomic bomb and should they detonate it? Now that’s interesting.

    After seeing pictures and videos of the affects of the atomic bomb, I always wondered why a government felt that was a necesary action. Everyone has their opinion about it, and those differing opinions would make an interesting story.

  • Craig Mack

    Off Topic: Took it down. Thanks everyone for the support. C

    • MaliboJackk

      Cool.
      Want a T-shirt just like it.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Yay ! Congrats ! :)

    • Casper Chris

      Congrats Craig. Exciting :)

  • cjob3

    I always thought ‘big stars’ were slightly over-valued in Hollywood movies anyway.

  • Paul Clarke

    A movie is about solving a problem.

    Rewriting your script is problem solving.

    Life is problem solving.

    • MaliboJackk

      Writing is problem solving.

      • Nicholas J

        Solving writing is life problem.

  • mulesandmud

    It seems to me that as television moves deeper and deeper into long-form drama and away from sitcom-style repetition, there’s this growing question of how quickly a show’s central drama should kick in, and how much audiences can gauge by that first episode.

    Traditionally, a pilot would establish the hook of the show in a huge way right from the get-go. Even gutsy shows like Breaking Bad, which gave us whole seasons of patient, simmering suspense, sprinted through that first episode to establish its premise in capital letters.

    Now, with so many shows privileging season-length story arcs over individual episode arcs, those first episodes are often presented in a slow burn style that takes its time getting to the real meat of the conflict. This can be a risky but effective move in a feature-length film, but spread across thirteen episodes it can be very dangerous indeed.

    ‘True Detective’ is a relevant example. Structurally, that show followed the eight-sequence story approach pretty much to the letter, with each episode corresponding to a sequence. That felt impressive and satisfying in the macro-view, but in real time, the first episode seemed aimless and generic, as though it were the first twelve minutes of a police movie inflated into an hour. McConologues aside, that series really only came into its own distinct personality in the third episode or so, which might make sense in a feature film structure, but felt like eternity in television terms. I know there are strong defended of TD out there, but it’s worth noting that the show lost droves of people right out of the gate (even if they came crawling back a few episodes later).

    I’m still sorting out exactly what film can best teach television, and vice versa, but one thing’s for sure: it’s almost never a one-to-one translation, no matter how deceptively similar or weirdly inverted the formats are beginning to look.

    • MaliboJackk

      Have had an idea for some time now that I think could cause quit a stir.
      (Including the opening scenes and the pilot itself.)

      Don’t know whether 8 or 13 would work best. Will need to plot that out
      as well as make decisions of possibly adding more characters and subplots (Dexter comes to mind).

      So far I know the plots of four seasons. But will need to get up to speed on the format, the process (networks have commercials, cable doesn’t), and the business. And juggle all this with the feature scripts I’m writing, work, and jogging.

      (I think it was Susan Grant who mentioned that she likes to type on her computer while jogging on the treadmill in a dark room. And every once in a while, her husband would peek in and say — ‘You know this is weird, don’t you?’)

    • Nicholas J

      The general idea seems to be to just get your inciting incident and/or first plot point into the pilot so that we know where the story is headed by the end of it.

      BREAKING BAD – Walt gets cancer/decides to cook meth.
      GAME OF THRONES – Ned Stark is asked to become Hand/Bran Stark is pushed from a window by the Lannisters.
      LOST – plane crashes on an island/set out to find radio and get off the island.
      HOMELAND – Carrie is told an American POW has been turned/Carrie investigates a recently rescued POW.
      WALKING DEAD – Rick wakes up from his coma into the apocalypse/sets out to find his family.
      TRUE DETECTIVE – Dora Lange is murdered/her killer strikes again 17 years later.

      • BSBurton

        great post N J. Makes it very clear. which show is your favorite on the list?

        • astranger2

          Those are all great shows. Breaking Bad is almost universally lauded, and deservedly so. True Detective, for me anyway, is almost incomparable in the depth of its bizarre characterization… but, there is something so psychologically arresting about Homeland, and the relationship between Carrie and Brody. Homeland will haunt me forever…

          • BSBurton

            i would have to choose true detective. So good. I think breaking bad can easily match the “high points” that true detective reaches, but I don’t think true detective ever gets as “low” (dull, slow, whatever you wanna call it) as breaking bad at times did. So because of that, I choose true detective. I hope that doesn’t make people think i think bad of breaking bad, I’ve spent a lot of money to own the damn series only to find out it’s on netflix hahaha.

            #loyalbutstupid

          • astranger2

            Even great shows have their lapses. I used to miss a lot of plot points in Game of Thrones because I DVR everything so I can FF through parts that look insipid. Then I rewind to catch up and defeat the whole purpose.

            And that’s the thing about True Detective. Because as many here have pointed out, it’s plot deficient in many ways. But the characters are so rich in their dialogue, and actions it doesn’t matter if they’re just going to the 7/11 for a hot dog.

            The looks Woody Harrelson’s character gives McConaughey’s when he’s spouting his existential amorality are priceless.

            Marty: “Is your mother alive?”
            Rust (nonchalantly): “I’m not sure.”

            Marty can never get a normal answer to a simple question. It’s alway thrown up into the air like some Cartesian-like beach ball at Dodger stadium. ; v )

          • BSBurton

            great ending to the series too, that dude can write. Loved the dialogue and surprising bits of comedy in it.

        • Nicholas J

          Game of Thrones, but that’s mostly due to GRRM. I love great character work and every single important character is deep and complex and subtle and so perfectly written. Oh, and did I mention there are 30+ of them?

          Breaking Bad has a handful of great characters, Walking Dead a few, True Detective a couple. LOST is close behind, but some of its characters aren’t the most interesting or complex.

          • BSBurton

            Did you read where he writes on like a DOS System or something? GRRM is so unique lol

          • Nicholas J

            Yeah he is, the late 90’s-ness of his blog is amazing.

  • Franchise Blueprints

    Going by that group shot there should be level 10 Drama. Why would a east Asian scientist agree to help build a bomb to drop on Japan. That’s an EXTREME conflict of interest. But looking at it in a real world context the United States convinced Albert Einstein to come to America. In return instead of bombing Germany they bomb its ally Japan. But Germany was the bigger technological and military threat. Hmmmm????

    • klmn

      “Going by that group shot there should be level 10 Drama. Why would a east Asian scientist agree to help build a bomb to drop on Japan”

      From what I’ve read, I don’t believe any Asian scientists were involved in the Manhattan Project. Maybe the producers created this character to be politically correct?

      “But looking at it in a real world context the United States convinced Albert Einstein to come to America. In return instead of bombing Germany they bomb its ally Japan. But Germany was the bigger technological and military threat. Hmmmm????”

      By the time the bomb was ready, Germany had been defeated.

    • astranger2

      As klmn pointed out, Germany was already defeated. And the way the Japanese were defending the home islands to the last man, and preparing women and children with bamboo spears to ward off the coming invasion — in retrospect, and horrifically, it could be reasoned the bombs actually saved many lives on both sides of the conflict. A very difficult idea to assimilate, however…

  • Poe_Serling

    The ’89 feature Fat Man and Little Boy starring Paul Newman is also about the people involved with the Manhattan Project. I remember that film being quite slow and uneventful, too.

    A bit of interesting casting: Dwight Schultz (Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock from the TV show The A-Team) played J. Robert Oppenheimer in the above project.

    >>An excellent documentary on the same topic/events is The Day After Trinity.

    • Mallet

      I loved that movie. The first (and unfortunately only time we got to see how great an actor Dwight Schultz can be if he wasn’t regulated to comedy roles most of the time).

      Also Paul Newman was great in that film.

      • Poe_Serling

        I really enjoyed a lot of Newman’s film output during that time period (the ’80s), especially Fort Apache the Bronx, The Verdict, and Blaze.

        • gazrow

          I’ve never even heard of Blaze! Gonna have to put it on my watch list. :)

          • Poe_Serling

            You won’t be disappointed.

            http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/blaze-1989

          • Citizen M

            Blaze features the sexiest watermelon eating scene ever between Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovitch.

          • GoIrish

            Sure, to the viewer, watermelon eating can be a sexy experience, but to a select few, it can be an absolute curse. Every time I sit down to eat a watermelon, women just ogle me. They size me up and down. They salivate. Literally, it’s like an Axe commercial gone bad.

          • gazrow

            Blaze just jumped to the top of my watch list! Lol :)

    • BSBurton

      great post! you know all the goods, poe! give me some lotto numbers

      • Poe_Serling

        If you’re playing the Daily Number… I might go with: Se7en, Saturn 3, Jennifer 8. ;-)

        • BSBurton

          clever, i’ll put them down! Thanks Poe, appreciate it

  • Logic Ninja

    In the 60’s, studios worried TV would siphon off too much viewership from the theaters, so they gave the creatives a bit more rein. Perhaps one causal factor in the Golden Age of the 70’s.
    Point is, before we predict the collapse of structure and the Death of an Art Form, we might consider that competition between TV and film is probably a good thing. All competition is cyclical; one side (TV) gets a momentary upper hand, so the other side (film) works extra hard to catch up. Hopefully “working extra hard” doesn’t translate to “making nothing but existing IP”–and in the long run, I don’t think it will.
    Actually, when you think about it, film has some pretty major advantages over TV in its creative potential. Moviegoers are a captive audience, minds untainted by commercials. Most TV programming, on the other hand, must structure itself to be a minute-by-minute, desperate appeal for viewers’ attention. Film can burn as slow as it wants, as long as the payoff is awesome.
    In other news, I ran a regression on 100 random films’ return on investment (ROI) and correlated that regression with a number of factors: 1. Whether a film is existing IP, 2. Budget, 3. Rottentomatoes score (an approximation of creative quality), and 4. Pre-release ROI projections. I found that of these four factors, the rottentomatoes score is most highly correlated with ROI.
    In other words, creativity matters. Mathematically, statistically, empirically, dollar-for-dollar, it matters. Good movies make good money. Puts a smile on my face and a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart.

    • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismulligan/lunch-meat?ref=live Chris Mulligan

      Show your work please.

      • Logic Ninja

        I’ve got the Excel sheets if you’d like me to email them! They are at home, but I’ll send ‘em over this evening!

      • Logic Ninja

        Actually, I’ll attach them here so everyone can have a look (just figured out how to do that). I’m sure similar data exists elsewhere, but this was at least a fun project for me!

    • klmn

      Both the ROI and the Rotten Tomatoes score are determined after the film is made (and released). It has no value for predicting a film’s success.

      • Logic Ninja

        Not as a predictive measure, but as a prescriptive measure. Rottentomatoes provides at least a reasonable approximation of a film’s artistic value (obviously RT isn’t perfect, but close enough for our purposes). It’s up to the studio to give creatives enough rein to imbue a project with that artistic value.

      • BSBurton

        good point

  • Nicholas J

    The advantage movies will always have over television is size. Big money, big screen, big sound. People don’t flock to the cinema to see great stories anymore, because we can get them much better and cheaper from television. But we can’t get superheroes saving the world and gigantic nuclear dinosaurs attacking large cities from television the way we can in a theater.

    This is why TV is sucking up all the good writing and acting. Film doesn’t need a great story to succeed. Great film actors like Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, and Matty McC, are slowly moving to television where their talents are better utilized than they can be in Generic Marvel Superhero Movie #123, leaving us with eyecandy like the Hemsworth statues.

    The divide has been happening for years now. TV = great story, FILM = eye candy. And I see it continuing down that path until everyone can afford to install an IMAX in their basement.

  • SandbaggerOne

    Carson – When you get ahold of these scripts do you ever get the lookbook/series bible with them? If you do, any chance you could “review” those as well when discussing the pilots?

    From my experience those seem to really help sell the concept of the series and give a better understanding how the writer envisions the series unfolding. Producers know they can fix a mediocre pilot script if the core concept and outline for the series is solid as the pilot script is only one part of the overall plan for the show.

    With a movie the single script is everything, the complete story, 100%, you see everything in those 110 pages. With a tv series one script of 60 pages, is literally only 1/13th to 1/22nd of the whole first season story, let alone a multi-season arc.

    For example, with Manhattan it could be that the series bible lays out a really cool multi-episode arc that was the big selling point to the studio/producers.

  • Midnight Luck

    Ok, so, Carson, if we listen to what you have to say after reading the Pilot for Manhattan, and we take into account what you said about how this thing sold, What exactly is going on?

    According to you this is a boring, nothingville story.
    According to WGN they loved the Pilot, dropped everything and Immediately ordered 13 episodes.

    Huh?

    So, what is soooo exciting that a company will jump on board immediately? Where is the “it” thing about the script?

    From our perspective (writers perpetually looking for ways to break in) how are we supposed to take this? What information do we take away from it?

    Should we find a story about an interesting time or subject matter, write a bunch of people into it, don’t really have to have anything of importance going on between the characters, but lordy, it is about the Atomic Bomb, so that’s good enough to sell our script, get 13 episodes set out of it, and we are off to the races?

    Something doesn’t add up. It seems like the Prod Co would have a reason for believing this is a hot property. So what exactly is it? That is the kind of info I am always looking for, but from this review, it doesn’t seem to be there. This script didn’t have it? Thoughts?

    • MGE3

      This is a hot property, but the script isn’t why. It’s the attachments. When you get people like Tommy Schlamme and Skydance (the TV studio) attached to a project, it’s going to sell.

      Assuming this wasn’t developed in-house at Skydance, if this writer knocked it out of the park with an amazing pilot, this project would be setup at a premium cable network. I would further venture, that if the script was Emmy material, it would be at HBO with Playtone producing, to round out Band of Brothers and The Pacific.

      Projects are about heat. As unknown writers, the only thing we can do is write something that’s going to blow people away. That’s the only currency we have. And until we build a brand or have a team of agents hustling to package a project, that’s the only thing we can do.

      • Midnight Luck

        That was my point though. It doesn’t sound like this is blowing anyone away except the people at WGN for some reason, but it isn’t apparent on the page.

        So, if it doesn’t blow people away reading it, we all just hope we get lucky and someone (actor, director, producer) lights to it and gets behind it, and then Everyone else jumps in, because now it has Heat! That isn’t a good way to approach trying to get something bought or made. It is already a one in a billion chance we will sell a script, but to have a high profile person who can get it made on board also? Odds are just about Zero.

        I am hoping there is something else to this story / pilot / script that Carson and all of us can’t see.

    • SinclareRose

      I’m not sure, but what you wrote makes sense. All I can think is that it’s WGN.
      Won’t this be only their second primetime original program? Was it shopped around to other networks?
      WGN has to compete with all of this other great programming (hey, there’s some out there!) to stay in business. The pilot sounds interesting enough – it has period drama and impending doom. Maybe it was good enough for them to pick up as their sophomore original program.

      • Midnight Luck

        Who is WGN? I don’t even know. It looks like a Chicago based TV network. Sounds like a local station. Weird.

        The problem I see with the impending doom is, we all know what happens. Yes they may be able to build a lot of drama and interest with HOW it comes about in terms of the eventual dropping of the bomb, but if that is the impending doom, well, we know the outcome. To me that lessens the doom.

        It does sound like there is something in it that makes them feel it could be a long term show that keeps people intrigued. Just funny that Carson doesn’t see it from what he read, and my impression (based on his coverage) is the same. Doesn’t sound interesting. Who knows though? Maybe they have ideas how to spice it up, modify it from what the writer originally wrote?

        • SinclareRose

          Sorry, I forgot you are overseas. WGN is a Chicago based network. But it’s been around for as long as I can remember. The non-cable local/national networks over here, that have been around for eons, are ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. They play all the big 1/2 hour comedies and dramas. Then you have The CW and PBS who have also been around for decades and are still playing catch-up to get the hits, although they’re catching up fast lately. Then there’s WGN, who, until recently relied heavily on syndicated shows. Now they’ve got Salem and it looks like they’re trying to make a move into the big time. With cable networks like, AMC, HBO, and Showtime cashing in, why not? But WGN is the baby in this arena and it trying hard to make something happen.
          If I royally messed up on that description, or anyone has anything else to add, please do so. That was just from the top of my head being a TV watcher.

          • Midnight Luck

            Actually I am local. I had heard of WGN, but didn’t realize they were considered a larger Cable station, I thought they were only a local.

            I know many of the stations are getting larger, but for some reason didn’t realize small local ones could become bigger players. Thought they were confined to a local network. Then again, I don’t know much about TV or Cable. Always been a Film fan, never a TV fan. Until very recently. The advent of killer programming on Cable has begun to finally swing me. Prior to these last few years I didn’t watch TV (except Seinfeld which is the greatest TV show ever, and did get into Arrested Development, the Original one, the new one? not so much). Now TV is the new risk takers, the ones trying new things. So, I am finally a TV watcher. But very selective.

            Thanks for filling me in on some of the Cable TV stuff. Appreciate it.

          • astranger2

            WGN has been around forever at the advent of cable, and for most, only became well-known because for sports fans they telecast CUB games. TBS did the Braves, and WOR? — I think the Mets. Obviously TBS grew into other areas.

          • Midnight Luck

            thanks.
            yeah I knew I had heard of it, just didn’t realize stations like that could some how become contenders. But, what do I know about TV? Little.
            Weird to think some local station from where I grew up could suddenly buy some script and become a big Cable network.

            I think I’ll write a Cable show of The Wrestler (2008) with Mickey Rourke and peddle it to local Cable stations. Bring back all the names and giants of the old school wrestling era. My city was one of the innovators of this old wrestling movement. Names like Hulk and Andre the Giant (I wish), The Sheik and The Butcher, etc. Back when it was ridiculous late night stuff on a weird channel. I think there could be drama there. I thought The Wrestler was going to be odd, and it turned out to be one of the best movies that year. Loved it. Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei, it was great in my book.

          • klmn

            My favorite wrestling show was G.L.O.W. Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling.

            And the best match – The Gestapo Match!

            All Gestapo tactics are legal.

            Part one:

            Part two:

          • astranger2

            LOL… you revive some of the craziest shit… just need some Andy Kaufman against Jerry Lawler as the cherry on the sundae. I wondered, actually, if you weren’t the “Vampire Rabbits” author as outrageous as it was. Funny stuff!

          • klmn

            No, I can’t take credit for the vampire rabbit.

          • Poe_Serling

            Kinda odd for someone to take the time and effort to write a project of any kind and submit it for AOW and then not take credit for it… even if it was done in jest.

            Chalk it up as a SS mystery.

          • klmn

            Maybe it really is Carson and LaurJeff’s work?

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I should’ve scrolled down before I posted, oh well.

          • Brainiac138

            It is a local station, but also one that many cable providers make available, like TBS and TNT.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            Bring back all the names and giants of the old school wrestling era.

            Funny you said that. I watched G.L.O.W (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) documentary on Netflix recently.

            Be careful about saying those trademarked names or Vince McMahon will issue a cease and desist order. He might even take it one step further and put you in a figure four leg lock.

          • klmn

            Maybe six months ago I saw the Hulkster on a reality show, trying to turn some midgets into wrestlers. Don’t know if the show is still on, can’t even remember what network it was on.

          • SinclareRose

            I could have sworn I read in one of your posts that you were in Europe somewhere. Show’s how much I pay attention. Sorry.
            I love TV. I watch way too much of it all the time. It’s a sickness (but SS is an obsession!). All except Seinfeld or Raymond. I was always extremely annoyed by the Italian high-pitched nasalness of their voices.
            So, guess who I’ve been married to for the last ten years? An annoying Italian. At least he’s not high-pitched and nasally, but his uncles are!

    • BSBurton

      i think it comes down to hype/expectations at some point. i mean, how many folks complained about this year’s blacklist?

  • J_Stuart

    In 2011, I started working on a TV project about Los Alamos. After thousands of pages of research, I put together a storyline for the first four seasons. Bryan Cranston was interested. The president of one of the big cable networks was interested. And then one of the collaborators decided to take it in another direction, start over with another writer… with all my ideas.

    Lawyered up. Nothing was resolved. Got mired in depression. Finally started working on new scripts. Regained a little sense of self-worth. Moving to L.A. this summer.

    So my point is, I survived. Hopefully gained some wisdom (SIGN CONTRACTS!!!)… and hopefully some of my hair will grow back.

    But I can’t help but seethe with anger about my collaborators bungling this project, because I knew this subject could easily become a TV show about boring smart guys. So I put every effort into creating conflict and suspense… and doing this subject justice. There’s such incredible drama that actually went down, it was ripe for the picking.

    I hope they can turn this show around. This ends my rant.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      If you wrote the series bible or treatment or whatever all of that is copy-writable regardless if you registered with the WGAW or the federal government copy right office. The only catch-22 is can you prove they used your ideas. Honestly if they’re creating the series off of your work I would keep pursuing your case.

      Few people know the The Wachowski Brothers stole the idea of The Matrix from Sophia Stewart. She won her case and is receiving residuals from the entire franchise. She also gets residuals from The Terminator franchise.

      The bottom line is fight for what’s rightfully yours.

      So my point is, I survived. Hopefully gained some wisdom (SIGN CONTRACTS!!!)… and hopefully some of my hair will grow back.

      A handshake is a legal binding contract.

      The manner in which you state your case sounds like you have all your ducks in a row. The game that’s being played right now is exhausting your legal funds and attrition.

  • Nicholas J

    Slightly OT, but I wonder how much RottenTomatoes is getting contaminated. People are more likely to go see movies with better reviews, and RT is the place to go to find that out. I’d bet for every 100 people that visit the site, less than 5 actually read through reviews. The rest just look at that %. Hell, that’s what I do.

    I remember when it first started it seemed like anything higher than 80% was a rarity. Now it happens regularly. Was ANCHORMAN 2 really liked by 75% of the critics that watched it? I doubt it. Or here’s an excerpt from a “fresh” aka “positive” review for NEIGHBORS:

    “A mildly funny script made tolerable by a fun cast, “Neighbors” tries to be a cross between “Animal House” and “Old School” but, sadly, is more like a second-rate “Van Wilder” sequel.”

    That gets a positive rating? And I searched for a total of 5 seconds to find a review that didn’t match it’s tomato, it happens all the time.

    Anybody that’s looked at popular video game review sites should know what I’m talking about.

    • Casper Chris

      Yea, I’ve noticed a lot of that too. Tomatoes not matching the content of the reviews.

    • Midnight Luck

      I was trying to make a similar point with a post yesterday.
      The rating system of Tomato makes no sense. Invariably the most gawd awful movies that people slam and give bad reviews get high 70%+ marks.
      I have followed it for quite a while analyzing the Dollar amount movies have made and the % likability score. They are right in line with each other. The more the movie makes (especially the first weekend) out of the gate, the HIGHER the approval rating.

      Which is why I was baffled as to how MILLION DOLLAR ARM could get such a low rating compared to GODZILLA for likability. There is no way that many people disliked Arm over Zilla. Or liked Zilla over Arm. All I have heard is how bad Zilla was.

      Another popularity contest it seems.
      No one can leave high school.
      Stats are Stacked.

  • Magga

    The new season of Mad Men is about this very thing, replacing creatives with stats in a computer system (literally replacing the creative lounge with a giant computer!) and the suits are represented by the hilarious, loathsome Lou. The episode that just made a number of critics shout “best episode of the series!” had at it’s core telling YOUR story instead of the story people want to hear, and the point was always to show the sixties from the point of view of the losers that were sidelined. This has nothing to do with your overall point, but you really should appreciate this fantastic half-season, and last year was as inventive as moving images get. It’s a real treasure, that show

  • mulesandmud

    ON GRENDL: It’s just plain stupid that you don’t have your own website. Or maybe you do and I’m just plain stupid for not having the link.

    ON SEQUELS: the corporate shift in Hollywood and its effect on movie quality is a lot like the shift in soft drink formulas (maybe I got this idea from someone in this comment section?). They tweak it subtly every year, either to refresh the patents or to create distance from competitors or just to justify their R&D budget. No one’s intentionally racing to the bottom of the quality barrel, but before long all that incremental, cynical tweaking has transformed the product into something wholly different and completely without its original personality. If someone came out of a screening of Terminator 2 twenty plus years ago and took a time machine to the present, they’d be completely baffled by the modern sequel landscape. Concepts like franchise, reboot, and IP, while lurking in the margins, were simply not part of the conversation back then. Not as shamelessly, anyway; at least then we had shame.

  • Midnight Luck

    Maybe Manhattan will be rewritten as a show about a middle aged neurotic guy who has troubles in love and with death. He suffers from bouts of anxiety and panic. Bumbles around Manhattan talking in voice over about his weird fetishes and his neuroses.

    Just a thought.
    oh, maybe that has been done before…

    • astranger2

      If you really want to have a network pick this show up, have him do something crazy like marry his ex-wife’s adopted daughter… Bet that would make this show pop.

      • Midnight Luck

        I don’t know. That seems too out there. Stuff like that doesn’t happen in real life. Who would believe it?

  • Franchise Blueprints

    I’ll go on record and actually admit I liked Matrix Reloaded. Matrix Reloaded was the story of Neo discovering the FULL extent of his powers and realizing he wasn’t the first. Matrix Revolutions is the weak link.

    I stopped faithfully watching the Simpsons after the 100th episode.

    I completely forgot about Roseanne winning the lottery.

    All good shows either get prematurely cancelled or prolong past their prime.

  • BSBurton

    great post. didn’t have to read past your simpsons point to up vote, but i finished it anyway. :)

  • BSBurton

    Thanks for commenting on this. I actually loved the movie the second time but i saw a lot of parallels between it and life, how things fall apart. how they always cut back to the christmas party. loved that.

    i also liked the love story that is very subtle and the overall tension of the film. It’s definitely a “Mood” film. You can’t come in and watch it after a work out at the gym and some One Republic on the stereo. But… maybe some California grass and low lights would create the atmosphere. I don’t know, I’m not in cali and I don’t have grass but i would say that has a lot to making this film better lol.

  • maxi1981

    I was talking to a fellow screenwriter the other day about the terrible state of play of the movie industry is in today and we couldn’t come up with one truly memorable movie that has come out in the last five or so years. I cant remember, for example, i last watched a movie that me feel what Shawshank Redemption did, or how Fight Club made me look at the world in a different way. One of my favourite genres is the Sci-Fi/Horror genre and its sad to see that these two movie genres have churned out so many movies without any “soul”. I just finished watching the BBC documentary ‘A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss’, and it was incredible to see how many great horror movies came out in the 60s, 70s, and 80s (The Omen, The Shining, Psycho, The Hammer Studio movies, The Exorcist, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc… and then it all became about torture porn, sequels, lame re makes etc. Don’t get me wrong there have been some decent efforts over the last 10 or so years but nothing that reached the heights that some of these movies did. The best in sci-fi/horror horror has appeared on TV; The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Masters of Horror. Hoping that the new M Night Shyamalan show Wayward Pines is M Night’s path back to redemption.

    • Casper Chris

      Inception? That’s one.

      • maxi1981

        Inception was great, Nolan is great, but can you put it up there with some of the classics in horror and Sci-Fi, i doubt it. I still think his best movie is Memento, lets hope Interstellar is as good as it being hyped up to be.

        • Casper Chris

          I consider Inception to be in the same league as Fight Club, Se7en, Memento, The Matrix et al. And yea, I’d say it’s a sci-fi classic already.

          I do agree with your overarching point though. The good ones are few and far between nowadays.

    • Midnight Luck

      I am right there with you.
      What happened to movies that shocked you (in a surprising and good way) that have the ability to go down in history forever? And no I am not talking about AVENGERS. Sorry, but that was a forgettable piece of garbage. Yes it made money, but honestly, couldn’t tell you anything about it or what the story was anymore.

      I mean Big, Fun, Memorable, Interesting and Exciting movies.
      We no longer have Shawshank’s, When Harry Met Sally’s, Se7en, Fight Club, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Memento, or even Reservoir Dogs or Alien / Aliens or 12 Monkeys or Terminator, or even a movie like American Beauty. We have nothing anymore that can reach these kinds of long lasting, forever memorable movies.

      I think a few of the better ones that do stick in the mind, but are nowhere near as good as those I listed are: The Dark Knight (but only Heath Ledger’s part, the end of the movie was just bad), Slumdog Millionaire, UP, Wall-E, maybe The Blind Side and Crash and District 9.

      Again though, none of them really are as memorable and impactful as the others I listed.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    “…TV is more about the characters.”

    Regarding True Detective, at least for me, it was all about the ambience. The colors, the places, the pacing. It took me someplace else. I didn’t even care if something was going to happen.

    That’s why TV shows are a whole different kind of beast. You sit in your living room and relax. In the theater, you sit and you expect things to happen, because dammit you drove all the way from your house to the theater and you expect to be entertained in a different way than when you lounge across your TV.

    The expectations are of a different nature, I think which demands for a different version of the same product.

    • MaliboJackk

      Different expectations.
      You’re sitting in front of the tv with a beer can in your hand.

  • Magga

    Birdemic and Sharknado are like Marvel movies with charm.