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  • The Network TV BloodBath Analysis (Part 3 of 3)

    May 21st, 2014

    FOX –

    Total Cancelled Shows – 7

    Almost Human, Surviving Jack, Rake, Enlisted, Raising Hope, Dads, X-Factor

    The Breakdown

    Some were happily put out of their misery, but there are 2 that could have been saved and salvaged…

    Surviving Jack – Fox never gave this show its proper chance. Chris Meloni and Rachel Harris were hilarious. This show had some of the nostalgia factor of The Goldbergs, some of the harshness of Married with Children, and some of the hilarity of…watching Christopher Meloni be a dad. I wasn’t convinced by the first episode, but I stuck with it and ended up really enjoying it. If it had a better lead-in and time slot, this show could’ve connected. Meloni deserved better after the courtship Fox and the producers went through to get him on the show.  Jack, I hardly knew ye. Chris Meloni and J.K. Simmons should be in a comedy together.

    Almost Human – Loved the first 2 episodes, but it quickly got stale for me. I didn’t care enough to keep watching, though I know it had a loyal fan base. It wasn’t as big a hit as Sleepy Hollow so they cancelled it, but they could’ve given it another shot – probably would’ve worked better on Friday nights than Mondays.

    Rake – Great pilot if you live in LA. Totally lost me (and about 4 million other people) in episode 2.

    Raising Hope – Consistently one of the funniest shows on TV, but after a while I guess it was time to go. They should be proud of their run and I was happy to watch most of it.

    X-Factor – I based my company on Simon Cowell but I am SO happy to see this go away. They never had more than 2 talented acts in 3 seasons, Simon Cowell wasn’t mean enough and seemed truly bored, and Britney, LA Reid, Kelly Rowland  and whoever that Shakira-wannabe was were all painful to watch. Not to mention the awful hosts. I’m sorry, but Mario Lopez is no Seacrest. The only saving grace to this show for me was Demi Lovato.  Good riddance to bad talent.

    Should’ve Been Cancelled InsteadGlee, The Following, The Mindy Project.

    Glee – This season should have been the end. Once Cory died, the heart of the show died too. Ryan Murphy brought in this whole new cast of wannabe stars, one more awful than the next – and the audience HATED them. So then he changed the show back to the original cast and mixed it up. Now, it’s like the newbies never existed (a waste of 13 awful episodes) and it’s no longer about a glee club – it’s about making it NY. Hello, why don’t you just call it FAME! This show doesn’t HAVE another 22 episodes in it, it’s painful these days and if the rumors are true and Naya Rivera was fired, I’m officially Gleeked Out. Done. This series could have had a GREAT wrap-up and send-off this season. Instead, it’s staying past its welcome.

    The Mindy Project – This show never knew what it wanted to be. I like Mindy Kaling, but I honestly don’t like watching her in a lead role. I find her funny, but annoying. She’s not pretty, but she’s not ugly. The supporting cast has changed more times than the host of the Oscars. And even though some say it’s gotten better, I just don’t see what the network sees in this show.

    The Following – I don’t know how or why I got through this season, but it wasn’t even close to the first season. It was awful. There’s not really anywhere else to go with it, and if you counted the body count of the first two seasons, it would easily be the most murderous show in the history of network TV. Hundreds killed. The first season was really good, the second season was ridiculous, the third season – it shouldn’t happen.

    New HitsSleepy Hollow, Brooklyn Nine Nine. Sleepy Hollow isn’t my type of show, so I’ve never seen it but I LOVE Brooklyn Nine Nine. What a great new comedy – consistently hilarious and a great ensemble. I love that this show connected, though with its new move to Sunday nights next season, I worry about it a little bit. Fox, please PLEASE don’t fuck it up.

    Summary – Fox needs some MAJOR new hits and quick. With X-Factor gone, American Idol more of a utility player than star attraction, and The New Girl taking a huge (and painful) hit both creatively and in its ratings, Fox needs a win. They only have 7 live-action shows left (plus 3 animated, plus Idol) and Glee is already set to end next season. Plus Bones, The Following, and Mindy Project probably won’t make it past one more season.  But they have some huge new shows and “events” coming next season. So, I’m crossing my fingers for them.



    Total Cancelled Shows – 12

    Trophy Wife, Suburgatory, Mixology, Super Fun Night, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, Mind Games, Lucky 7, Killer Women, Betrayal, Back in the Game, The Assets, The Neighbors

    The Breakdown

    I’m not sure if you can call them cancelled if they only lasted 2 episodes. They barely qualify as “aired,” which is the case with 4 of these shows. There are some wonderful comedies in the above list that should have been kept and given more of a shot. There were some awful time slot choices and some awful promotions involved. But also some awful shows. But if any network made me mad this season, it’s ABC! Now feel my vengeance.

    I’ll be honest – at least 9 of these shows deserved what they got.

    Super Fun Night – If I wanted to watch an obnoxious fat girl try to get laid, I’d go back on JDate.  I don’t get Rebel Wilson’s appeal. She’s mildly funny but she’s a cheap Melissa McCarthy knock-off. There, I said it. Not because there can’t be two funny fat chicks on TV, but because Rebel’s slapstick shtick gets stale after 2 episodes. In this case, it was old after 10 minutes. I feel bad for Liza Lapira who is also on her 4th cancelled sitcom in 4 years.

    Suburgatory – This show was great, then less great, then good again, then not so much. Perhaps it is its inconsistency that was its downfall. It had a strong voice at first, but that faded into weekly wacky sitcom situations. It had a decent run, but The Goldbergs needs its time slot and there is nowhere else to put it.

    Mixology – I really enjoyed this show. Maybe I’m alone, but I thought it was different, it had potential, I laughed out loud every episode and the cast was really interesting and funny. The casting directors did a great job finding NEW talent! Were there a couple lamer episodes? Maybe. But I really liked the structure of the show. Of course, I’m not sure where the second season would take it, but this show deserved a better shot and another chance.  I hope to see the cast in other shows very soon. The writers were the original writers of The Hangover – the ones who actually SOLD the script – and don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve.

    Trophy Wife – I may miss you most of all, scarecrow. I thought I’d hate this show. And at first, I didn’t love it. But it really grew on me. Malin Ackerman was actually funny, Bradley Whitford is always wonderful, and even the horribly annoying Michaela Watkins started to warm my heart. But the funniest members of the cast were the two kids, Warren and Bert. As the season went on, they got better and better. This show SHOULD have aired after Modern Family – it was the perfect fit. But for some ungodly reason, they never put it there. This show was on the bubble in the truest sense, and looking at some of ABC’s new comedic offerings next season, they are going to regret cancelling this show. Fare thee well, Bert.

    Should’ve Been Cancelled – All of ABCs remaining shows are pretty strong, and I’m really glad they gave Nashville another shot. I’m not sure why it’s not connecting as well as it should.

    New HitsMarvel Agents of Shield, The Goldbergs, Resurrection and Scandal. ABC landed in 4th place, but had the most successful new shows. Scandal isn’t a NEW hit, but man has it taken off even more – and I love it. The Goldbergs is hilarious nostalgic fun and it really hits home. I’m so glad it’s coming back. Agents of Shield lost me. I watched the first 6 or 7, then kinda realized I was watching it for the wrong reasons and not because I liked it. Resurrection had one of the best pilots of the year and it’s still interesting enough to keep my attention. If you’re writing a show with religious elements, that’s the pilot to watch to learn how to do it right.  And all of ABCs other shows are solid – Grey’s (yes, I still watch it!), Revenge, Castle, and Modern Family, though the latter two have not been nearly as strong as previous seasons. But to have 3 breakout hits and the #1 social media-obsessed show on the air is a pretty solid distinction ABC can take to the bank.

    Summary – The problem with ABC is either they launch massive hits or truly awful bombs. There is no middle with ABC. Their shows either last many years or 3 episodes. ABC is going through a new regime and they are swinging big next season, but they’ve done pretty well despite being #4. Their shows are well-liked, they just get watched more in DVR+7 than live. Let’s be honest, if the NFL didn’t exist, ABC would not be #4.

  • The Tenants of Tentpole Movies

    June 11th, 2013

    By Danny Manus

    It’s summertime at the box office, which means big effects, big budgets, and even bigger stakes for the studios. Because it’s tentpole movie season.

    You’ve probably heard the terms four-quadrant and tentpole movie, but what do they mean exactly? Should you be writing one? And what makes them work?

    A four-quadrant movie is one that will attract all four of the general quadrants of movie goers – male, female, old and young (or over 35 and under 35 more specifically).

    A tentpole movie is called such for two reasons; One, because everyone can fit under the tent – it attracts all four quadrants. And two, because it’s these huge money makers that basically fund and allow all their other, smaller movies to be made throughout the year. It’s the big flagship movies, franchises, remakes, sequels, and blockbusters that bring in a billion+ dollars that give the studios the ability to take chances on other projects.

    And when a tentpole fails, the whole tent comes caving in and everyone inside goes running for safer grounds… aka other studios.

    These days, not every tentpole movie has to be four-quadrant, especially if you’re writing a comedy. Look at Hangover 3 and the upcoming movies The Heat and This is The End.   But Hangover of course is a three-quel and a proven entity, and the other two star some of Hollywood’s biggest and most popular stars, so they were no brainers.  Almost every other big blockbuster film this summer, however, is rated PG-13 to maximize possible viewership. If animation, it needs to be PG.

    So what makes for a successful tentpole film? How do you know it’s going to hit it big?

    Well, on a business/studio level it’s really all about tracking and data and marketing and promotion and publicity and word of mouth and great reviews and having a great trailer and poster and huge stars making the rounds. It has almost ZERO to do with story.

    But on a story level, there are many things that a great tentpole needs to include or be in order to work.

    1. The SINGLE biggest thing that a tentpole movie must be – is sellable overseas. Doing well domestically is nice frosting on the cake, but studios make their money overseas. If it’s not a story with big visuals (whether it be action, visual effects, scares, etc.) and big name stars (with the exception of animation), it won’t work in other territories. If it isn’t a story with a universal premise and universal themes that EVERYONE can understand and connect with, it won’t work. Aliens, Robots, Vampires, Superheroes – these are universal things.
    2. It must be super high concept and have a visual hook. You need a BIG idea. If you can’t pitch a tentpole project in one sentence and make us see the poster, trailer, what’s new about it, why people will get it, and its opportunity for success – it’s dead in the water.
    3. A Hero and Villain that people will love, and that huge name actors that sell overseas will love to play. Tentpoles cannot work with no-name actors, unless the writers and directors are huge names (like Nolan, Spielberg, Michael Bay, etc.) Don’t believe me? Look at John Carter and Jack the Giant Slayer.
    4. A big tentpole movie requires a larger cast. An ensemble. A team. A group.  There may be one main protagonist, but there are almost always 2-5 OTHER very castable team members on the journey. Transformers, Star Trek, X-Men, The Avengers, Armageddon, etc.  The exception for this is if it’s a solo superhero movie with a titular character we all know and love already like Wolverine, Spider-Man or Iron Man.
    5. Every tentpole movie – in fact EVERY movie – needs an Iconic Image. It’s that one thing – that one moment, scene, visual, etc. – that you will always have in your head when you think of that movie. What is YOUR script’s iconic image?
    6. If you have big action and big effects, make them friggin’ HUGE. Not every movie needs big explosions and VFX to work, but if you’re making a big VFX movie, it needs to have action sequences and moments we’ve never seen before on film.
    7. An already established and proven audience. It’s easier to fund a project when you know there’s at least an already-proven core audience that will go see the project. This is why most tentpole movies these days are based on popular books, comics, graphic novels, remakes, TV shows, video games, sequels, etc. It lessens the risk. And when you’re writing a check for $150 Million dollars, less risk is a good thing.

    Now the big question for you as a screenwriter – should you be writing these movies?

    Well, you should definitely NOT write something you don’t own the rights to. That means, do not adapt a book series just because you love it. Do not write a sequel to a movie, or a reunion movie for a TV show, just because you love it and have an idea. This is a horrible waste of time.

    Studios like proven track records – which is why they don’t buy huge epic blockbusters from new writers. They just don’t. Unless that writer has an amazing agent at a major agency that can package the hell out of the project and there’s already an A-List producer attached, studios will not buy tentpole big budget movies from new writers. So, should you write it? Sure, if you want. But just know that you’re going to have to write something ELSE that gets made first before anyone will think about making your tentpole movie. But if you follow and include most of the points above in your script, at least it will have a better shot when the time comes.

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