Wednesday, July 31, 2019

More about bingeing

Recently I got an email from my friend Alicia McLachlan in response to my post on TV bingeing. It was meant to be a comment, but for some reason Blogger wouldn’t let her post it. It’s big enough to be a post all its own, though, so since I kinda owe her one, I’m reproducing it here, with her permission. She’s studying to be a screenwriter, so her perspective on the subject is especially relevant.

Very insightful article! I was curious to see how this experiment went after first seeing your tweets about it. As an aspiring TV writer and avid viewer, I have mixed and evolving feelings on the subject. 

As a viewer, I have of course binge watched and enjoyed it. I don't know what the most ever was in one sitting, but I've definitely been through entire seasons in a day. More recently, I tend to stick to two episodes at a time, maybe three if I'm at a "really good part."

Looking at it from a writer's perspective, particularly with the business part of television in mind, I'm not so much a fan of a binge release for any show I may one day be lucky enough to have produced. Alongside the "communal experience," I feel like week-to-week distribution is better for a show's longevity. It allows for word-of-mouth publicity, which is free, which producers and marketing departments love! Whether that be at the old-school water cooler or on social media, the communal experience draws viewership out long term and allowing a chance for the audience to build (if the show is good of course). This in turn has the potential to drive more web traffic to support sites and side projects, including traditional media coverage like recaps and reviews, blogs and fan pages like this one, and even "in between" webisodes or post-show deep dive analysis podcasts. And it generates long-term interest that can turn into another season, and then another … 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

How much is too much with streaming?

CBS All Access entices the Trekkies with
new original series like Picard.
Sandi and I were talking about the new Star Trek series, Picard. If you haven’t seen the new trailer, straight outta Comic-Con, behold. She had thought it was a movie, and I certainly couldn’t blame her; it looks like one in comparison to TNG or any of the older series, except Discovery, of course. (I really, really, REALLY hope this won’t be about the Borg again. Seven of Nine’s presence makes me think it might be—and there was that great big cube right there in the trailer. And that has to be B-4 from the movie Nemesis, with Data’s memories, perhaps?)

When I told her it was part of CBS’ streaming channel, All Access, she complained about how much she was already paying for the cable channels she has (extra for TCM) and how she doesn’t wanna have to pay even more. It’s an all-too-familiar argument, one I had made two years ago against Discovery, and it hasn’t changed now—and they have the nerve to call it “all access,” when it’s anything but.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Is a romantic subplot always necessary?

Patel and James in Yesterday 
Recently I had a burst of inspiration regarding my novel. Those of you who have been following WSW for a long time know this book has frustrated and challenged me in almost equal measure, but I had believed in the vision for my story, a baseball tale with a romantic subplot. One day, after reading a post about the need to declutter one’s manuscript, I asked myself: do I need the romance? I like it, I think it’s compelling, and it ties directly into the baseball stuff, but the more I’ve developed it, the more I’ve had the feeling it competed for attention with the baseball plot—and because it doesn’t have a happy ending, I can’t really call it a traditional romance (the romance book market has very strict guidelines for this sort of thing).

And here’s the kicker: when I first plotted this novel, I never thought twice about including a love story. My attitude came down to nothing more than “why not?” I think I even believed it was the sort of thing an audience expected. But is it really? And if so, why?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

I have a friend named Joan who’s plenty old enough to remember the Beatles, but she never liked them. She’s no sourpuss who hates everything modern and gripes about the way things used to be; she’s quite nice, in fact. Now I don’t know her that well, so I’m fuzzy on what kind of music she prefers; I just remember being gobsmacked when she first told me that... though it is difficult to imagine her as a screaming teenager with a poster of Paul or John on her bedroom wall.

At the other extreme, the summer I worked at a sleepaway camp in Massachusetts was the summer The Beatles Anthology came out. I’m sure you remember the massive hype surrounding that event. Well, there were little kids at camp—six, seven, eight years old—who were as familiar with the most popular Beatles’ songs as they were with their times tables. That amazed me too.

Fifty years after they broke up, the greatest rock and roll band of all time remains a highly influential and polarizing cultural force in the world. In the digital age, experiencing their music as a young person is plenty different, but the devotion, from what I can tell, is the same.

I was born after they broke up, but not by much. When I grew up, I could still hear Paul and George on Top 40 radio. I have vague memories of when John died, though I didn’t completely grok what it all meant at the time. The Millennial Generation doesn’t even have any of that—but it doesn’t matter. The Beatles are eternal in an industry whose product is ephemeral and has always been easily disposable.

But what if everyone, young and old people alike, woke up one day and completely forgot who they were?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
seen @ Film Forum, New York NY

So it was Virginia’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and I was gonna take her rowboating in Central Park. There were thunderstorms in the morning, but then it cleared up and got warmer. Still, she changed her mind about going and suggested a movie instead. I was like, we can go to a movie anytime, but this was what she wanted. Couldn’t refuse her on her birthday—and as it turned out, the film she picked was a winner.

I’ve read some Toni Morrison: I own a copy of The Bluest Eye, and I used to have Beloved. I forget what happened to it. (The Jonathan Demme film version was good, though I remember at the time it kinda freaked me out a bit.) I admit, when it comes to classic black literature, I tend to gravitate more towards the guys: Baldwin, Ellison, Hughes, Wright. The books by black women authors I have are more modern—though now that I think of it, couldn’t Morrison qualify as modern? Not sure. (Also—sorry, sports fans—sometimes I confuse Morrison with Maya Angelou.

Regardless, I’ve always respected Morrison as an Author of Note, but this new documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am made me much more aware of her as a person. According to this Vanity Fair piece, she had known the director, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, since 1981, so it’s quite possible he was the only one who could’ve made this film. A photographer, he has Morrison face the camera directly while all his other interviewees are off-center, a visual distinction that feels more intimate—although he does a ton of jump-cutting in the talking head sections, something I see a lot of in interviews of this sort. I don’t like it.

Morrison discusses her childhood family; her years as an editor at the book publisher Random House and how she attracted a number of black authors; her novels; and her later, hard-won recognition by her wider (whiter, male-r) audience, including her Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes. Other interviewees include Fran Leibowitz, Angela Davis, and of course, the Big O: Oprah Winfrey. In addition, we see a number of beautiful illustrations of black life made specifically for this film, including a series of collages of Morrison in the opening credits.

As a writer, I dug hearing her speak about her craft. I wish she had talked more about it, though I understand why more emphasis was placed on other things, like her career and her place in the black literary canon. I read her work when I was younger, and while I found the florid, intricate writing style a struggle, I could still tell there was something substantial there, something unlike other authors.

Virginia said she had read some of Morrison’s stuff too, though she didn’t think of herself as a huge fan. I think she was more drawn to this film as an example of a powerful and influential woman artist. I wasn’t aware of this film at all, but I am glad I saw it. I still hope I can take Virginia rowboating this summer, though.