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  • Creating Set Pieces for Script Success

    April 15th, 2017

    By Danny Manus

    Ever wonder what it takes to create truly memorable movie moments? Those scenes that just stay with you long after you leave the theater? Those scenes that, when someone mentions a movie title, immediately rush back into your mind? Those scenes that allow you to picture the trailer?

    These scenes are usually the major set piece sequences of a film. They’re what writers look for in a concept to know it CAN be a movie. And I want to share with you how to create them to make your script more commercial and cinematic.

    You hear the phrase “building set pieces for your script” but it wasn’t until I spoke with A-List comedy writer Tim Dowling (Office Christmas Party, Just Go With It, Role Models) and writer/filmmaker Joe Nussbaum (Just Add Magic, The Late Bloomer, Sydney White) about the topic that I started to look at set pieces differently.

    Set pieces are not just locations – they are scenes or a consecutive, connected sequence of scenes that build in a way that not only makes for a memorable and trailer-worthy moment, but also develops your characters, plot, increases emotion, and exploits the hook of your story.  One of the keys to building great set pieces is building layers into your scene.  If your scene is not accomplishing all of the aforementioned things, then it is not a set piece – it’s just a scene.

    Nussbaum and Dowling said that it’s their ability to brainstorm and picture these 3-6 major set pieces that tells them if their concept has potential.  If you cannot think of 3-6 scenes that do all the things mentioned above, that you can exploit your hook through, then you may not have a strong enough concept to write about. This was confirmed by comedy giant John Hamburg (Meet the Parents, Zoolander, I Love You Man, Why Him) when I interviewed him here.

    And this is NOT only for comedy – action, horror, thrillers, sci-fi, and even drama – ALL should have some version of set pieces. When you come up with a concept and a hook, you need to brainstorm and ask yourself what kind of big set piece scenes could EXPLOIT this idea – where are the big moments within this concept?  What are the scenes that are going to get this hook across, connect an audience with my main character, and create big cinematic, iconic moments?

    The difference between a scene and a set piece is in how it builds. Your set piece should build so that you’re not JUST writing or building a scene to hit that ONE joke line or have that ONE visual gag moment, but instead the comedy is constantly and continuously building and hitting throughout the scene. So there are at least a handful of big laugh (or action, scare, suspenseful) moments within each set piece.

    To help you, I’ve come up with a basic formula for creating a set piece Though sometimes the steps are not exactly in this order and not every set piece is alike, this is a basic guideline:

    1. Set-Up – This includes your location, setting up what your character wants to get out of the scene (so we know why it’s funny when it all goes wrong), and the situation your character has walked into.
    2. Bring out the conflict of the scene.
    3. First big funny moment/visual (or action, scare, suspenseful moment).
    4. Payoff for first funny moment/visual which causes or increases an uncomfortable situation, tension, anxiousness, or other funny emotion. Changes your character or the way others view your character.
    5. Regroup and try again hoping for different results – but unsuccessful.
    6. Second big funny moment/visual that raises the comedic stakes.
    7. Payoff for second funny moment/visual.
    8. REPEAT steps until you have exhausted the hilarious moments and visuals of the scene and exploited your hook.
    9. Last button on the scene which is the final, if not funniest moment or visual of the scene that makes it clear how the scene affected or progressed the story.

    I want to give you a few examples which will help illustrate this perfectly;

    • The Zipper scene in There’s Something About Mary – Stiller gets to the house, is already nervous and wants badly to impress her and her family and seem like a suave guy. He sees Diaz in the window (first funny moment), her father isn’t too happy with him (conflict), Father goes into the bathroom to help – doesn’t work, raises humiliation (second funny moment), they regroup and wife comes in (third funny moment/line/reaction), cop comes to the window (fourth funny moment/reaction), then the memorable visual of what’s stuck in the zipper (fifth funny moment), then the button final action and reaction (fixing the zipper and Stiller’s hilarious scream). Then he’s taken by the paramedics – prom is ruined and he’s lost his chance with his dream girl.
    • The Dinner/Urn scene in Meet the Parents – the set up of the conflict was set up previously but increases in this scene as Stiller tries to impress and win over DeNiro’s character (his motivation). The scene builds with the “milking” dialogue (first funny line), the VISUAL of Stiller milking the invisible cat (first funny visual), DeNiro’s reply (the payoff and second funny line), Stiller regrouping and trying again unsuccessfully which makes him even more nervous and anxious, the revelation that Stiller’s girlfriend was engaged before (creates more conflict and affects the story later on), champagne cork hits the urn and smashes it (third funny moment), the cat takes a shit on the ashes (the button on the scene).

    And a few scenes I thought of which also exemplify creating great set pieces – you can watch them and do the breakdown yourself:

    • The Bridal Shoppe scene in Bridesmaids
    • The Beauty Pageant scene in Little Miss Sunshine
    • The opening scene of Scream
    • Every action scene in every Fast & Furious

    Each of the above-mentioned scenes USE and EXPLOIT the hook of their story piece, and they build from that hook with a visual, a set up, an action and/or dialogue, and a payoff – then another visual/dialogue and a payoff that builds the moment even more – then repeat and repeat until that scene leaves you in stitches, or crying, or scared, or on the edge of your seat, depending on the genre.

    All of these scenes don’t just have ONE payoff moment or line or visual – but a constant build of big moments/visuals and creates those trailer moments. Memorable moments.

    Even smaller personal private journey movies often employ this technique. For example, in Call of the Wild, each of the important characters that help the lead character on his journey is a different set piece.

    Another key to set pieces is that they must feel natural to the story and concept you are writing – they are not forced moments. They fit naturally within your story and structure and character arcs. So, take a look at your scripts and stories and see if you are creating set pieces for success.

  • The Network TV BloodBath Analysis (Part 1 of 3)

    May 21st, 2014

    by Danny Manus (TV Whore)

    The last two weeks have made the network TV landscape ironically resemble an episode of Game of Thrones. The blood and guts of writer’s hard work spewed everywhere as we say quite a few shocking goodbyes while a little person bangs a hooker in the corner. Okay, well maybe not that last part.

    As the networks plan for the upcoming 2014-2015 season, hard choices and painful decisions must be made. There’s only so much time and so much money, and so much attention span viewers have. Because of that, over 40 shows were cancelled from the big four networks with 22 cancellations coming in the last two weeks. Some deservedly so, some somewhat expected, and some utterly unfortunate and disappointing.

    I will address the network’s new offerings in a different article. But as someone who wastes far too much time getting hooked to network shows just to see them disappear 3, 8, 13 or 22 episodes later, the least I could do is tell the networks why they are wrong and how they could have saved the shows they seemed so high on a year ago. Or why they never should have been on in the first place. Or what should’ve been cancelled instead. As always, I don’t write about the CW because I don’t watch anything on the network and, well, who gives a shit?

    NBC –

    Total Cancelled Shows: 12

    Community, Revolution, Dracula, Crisis, Believe, Ironside, Camp, Growing Up Fisher, Welcome to the Family, Sean Saves the World, Michael J. Fox Show, Million Dollar Quiz

    The Breakdown:

    Perhaps their fates were written on the wall, but there were a few winners in this pile that could have been saved…ya know, if I were running the world. Then again, I didn’t want them to cancel Smash.

    Community – I get the reasons for and against, and yes it’s a cult show. But basically everything on networks these days survive with smaller but rabid cult followings. And this past season, for the most part, was pretty brilliant and back to its glory days. If you didn’t see their GI Joe episode, you’re missing one of the best 30 minutes of comedy all year. We will miss you, Greendale. I would’ve given it another 13 episode season to go along with Parks & Rec.

    Revolution – I DVR this show and find myself begrudgingly binge-watching it and fast-forwarding through half of it. The concept got too tedious and it felt like even the writers weren’t sure what it was about anymore. But it was the time slot change that killed it.

    Crisis – This show could’ve worked. Should have worked. The problem? They made Gillian Anderson play 4th banana behind TV Show Killer Rachael Taylor. This is her 4th show and 4th cancellation in 4 seasons. Why do people keep casting her? If Gillian Anderson had been the lead, people would have cared. And if Dermot Mulroney wasn’t billed as the lead yet so awkward to watch as a bad guy, the show could’ve connected more. A great cast wasted; a decent concept that didn’t have enough legs.

    Believe – It just wasn’t as good or interesting as Resurrection and they went head to head with similar themes. I never made it past the pilot.

    Welcome to the Family – Of the THREE shows about stupid teenagers who get pregnant, this was the most schmaltzy. I loved Mike O’Malley and Mary McCormick, but a Latina teenager getting pregnant and keeping it is hardly earth-shattering original TV.

    Sean Saves the World – I like Sean Hayes. I really do. But as the sidekick. And I love Megan Hilty. I really do. But I love her more when she sings and gets to be sexy instead of playing off someone who is clearly not going to find her sexy. It was painful to watch. Glad it’s gone.

    Michael J. Fox Show – This should have been given more of a chance. A funny show with an obvious hook, it didn’t know exactly what it wanted to be about. It tried to make it less about MJF’s disability, but those were the jokes that were the funniest.  NBC paid a hefty price for cancelling it. Literally I am surprised this didn’t last longer. So was Michael.

    Growing Up Fisher – There was only ONE problem with this show and her name is Jenna Elfman. This show was cute and funny at times, but the promos were vague, the posters told us nothing about the hook, and Jenna Elfman being married to a blind J.K. Simmons is about as believable as… Jenna Elfman being married to a blind J.K. Simmons. Plus the little Asian kid had the worst teeth on TV and was really hard to watch. If they had cast it better, this could have been a hit. But seriously – give J.K. Simmons something else, cause I’ll watch it.

    Should’ve Been Cancelled Instead: Is there anything left?  Parks and Rec and Parenthood each have one more 13-episode season and then they’re gone. How many hours of Hollywood Game Night can you possibly show?

    New Hits: The Blacklist, About A Boy, Chicago PD. Big fan of all these shows. Glad they’re giving About A Boy another shot. It’s not a hit at all, but it’s good enough to try again.

    Summary: With a little help from The Voice, Blacklist, Sunday Night Football and the Olympics, NBC landed at the #1 spot again. Amazing, considering they cancelled more shows this year than any other network. But they have strong branded, tested shows like SVU and Chicago Fire still burning strong and a nice crossover companion show with Chicago PD. Basically, after 25 years, NBC traded in NY for Chi-town and it seems to be working. Going 1/10 in the hit department isn’t something to be proud of. But at the end of the day, the only show cancelled that will be missed for more than 10 minutes is Community.

    Next, in Part 2, I cover CBS….

  • The Network TV BloodBath Analysis (Part 2 of 3)

    May 21st, 2014

    By Danny Manus (TV Whore)

    CBS –

    Total Cancelled Shows: 7

    The Crazy Ones, Hostages, Intelligence, Friends with Better Lives, We Are Men, Bad Teacher, and How I Met Your Mother (ended run)

    The Breakdown:

    CBS knows its audience, and while they attempt to try new things, it rarely works for them. I’ll be honest – the only CBS shows I watch are The Good Wife, Amazing Race, Survivor (though I skipped this season), Blue Bloods, Mom (which I’ll discuss in a moment), and the now defunct HIMYM. But with the success of Elementary and their CSI/NCIS world, they don’t need to change much. And they’re not going to.

    There’s only one show that was cancelled that I really take issue with –

    The Crazy Ones – Robin Williams led a pitch-perfect (no pun intended) cast that had one of the best chemistries in comedy. Their gag reels at the end of the episode were worth watching the whole show for. And they truly seemed like they were having fun, which translated onto the screen into each episode. I think it was far too heavy on the promotional tie-ins and obvious corporate sponsorship, but the writing was really strong and the improv was even stronger. I will miss this show and hope its cast find new comedies quickly, especially James Wolk and Hamish Linklater.

    As for the others…

    Hostages – Wonderful pilot, strong second episode. But man did it go down the shitter from there. If it was any longer than 15 episodes, I would have hurt someone. This was an 8 episode show stretched to 15 that wishes it could have been like 24, but really wasn’t. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!

    Friends With Better Lives – After James Van Der Beek’s HILARIOUS turn on Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23, he proved his comedic chops. But this show wasted every single one of them. Kevin Connolly looked uncomfortable, Zoe Lister-Jones is quickly becoming the Rachael Taylor of sitcoms, and Brooklyn Decker…well, who cares? She’s Brooklyn friggin’ Decker and I’ll watch her do anything. But these friends didn’t seem to actually have better lives. Hope to find the Beek on a better sitcom very soon!

    How I Met Your Mother – I want to stroke its head and tell it, “You weren’t cancelled, little baby, you just ended. And we’ll always love you. Even if some nasty people hated your last episode.” This is a show that will be missed by viewers, by the network, and by its producers especially now that their spinoff has not been picked up (possibly the biggest CBS shocker of the year). So long, Robin Sparkles. So long, Barney!

    Should’ve Been Cancelled Instead – Nothing jumps out, but I could do with one less NCIS.

    New Hits – One of my favorite new comedies – MOM. It’s not full-on comedy – it has a lot of drama and heart mixed in with raunchy fun and inappropriateness. But man, I love the way they do it. I will watch anything with Allison Janney, and I love that they are bringing this show back. I also love that the daughter actually gave away the baby. We’re The Millers has also become a hit, though I stopped watching a few episodes in. Lucky for them, they are owned by CBS. It’s not bad, it’s just very….CBS. It’s the same reason I don’t watch any of their other comedies anymore. Under the Dome is a big summer hit, though I didn’t think it was as strong in the end as it was in the beginning.

    Summary – Unlike the other networks, CBS has strong 10pm shows that anchor their nights better than any other. Hawaii 5-0, Elementary, The Mentalist, Person of Interest, Blue Bloods, NCIS, CSI, etc. They know their audience. None of these shows are Emmy-worthy (though The Good Wife deserves one for this season’s shocker), but they get the job done. The execs have it pretty easy over at CBS, where their biggest change is going to be losing Letterman. Though I’m sure next year will be the end for Mike & Molly since Melissa McCarthy has grown too big for her britches. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

    Stay tuned for Part 3 – FOX AND ABC!

  • Creating Set Pieces for Success

    December 19th, 2011

    By Danny Manus

    Ever wonder what it takes to create truly memorable movie moments? Those scenes that just stay with you long after you leave the theater? Those scenes that, when someone mentions a movie title, immediately rush back into your mind? Those scenes that allow you to picture the trailer?

    These scenes are often called set pieces. And this week, I want to share with your how to create them and automatically make your script more commercial.

    While I had heard the phrase “building set pieces for your script” hundreds of times, I never truly thought about it until the recent panel/interview I moderated with A-List comedy writers Tim Dowling and Joe Nussbaum. Dowling has written Just Go With It, Role Models, the upcoming This Means War, and more. Nussbaum has directed Sydney White, Prom, American Pie: Naked Mile and has written some very hot scripts around town, two of which landed on the Black List.

    I learned something so valuable from our chat about the importance of set pieces that it has changed the way I look at scripts. And maybe it will have the same affect on you. 

    Set pieces are not just locations – they are a scene or a short, connected sequence of scenes that builds in a way that not only makes for a memorable and trailer-worthy moment, but also develops your characters, plot, increases emotion, and exploits and explores the hook of your story.  One of the keys to building great set pieces is building layers into your scene.  If your scene is not accomplishing all of the aforementioned things, then it is not a set piece – it’s just a scene.

    Nussbaum and Dowling said that it’s their ability to brainstorm and picture these 3-6 major set pieces that tells them if their concept has potential.  If you cannot think of 3-6 scenes and moments that do all the things mentioned above, then you may not have a strong enough concept to write about. All the big comedy giants – the Farrelly Brothers, Judd Apatow, Weitz Brothers, etc – use these types of set pieces in their scripts.

    And this is NOT only for comedy – action, horror, thrillers, sci-fi, and even drama – ALL should have some version of set pieces. When you come up with a concept and a hook, you need to brainstorm and ask yourself what kind of big set piece scenes could EXPLOIT this idea – where are the big moments within this concept?  What are the scenes that are going to get this hook across, connect an audience with my main character, and create big cinematic, iconic moments?

    The difference between a scene and a set piece is in how it builds. Your set piece should build so that you’re not JUST writing or building a scene to hit that ONE joke line or have that ONE visual gag moment, but instead the comedy is constantly and continuously building and hitting throughout the scene. So basically, there are at least a handful of big laugh (or action, scare, suspenseful) moments within each set piece.

    To create a set piece, I’ve come up with a basic formula for the scene. Though sometimes the steps are not exactly in this order and not every set piece is alike, this is a basic guideline:

    1. Set-Up – This includes your location, setting up what your character wants to get out of the scene (so we know why it’s funny when it all goes wrong), and the situation your character has walked into.
    2. Bring out the conflict of the scene.
    3. First big funny moment/visual (or action, scare, suspenseful moment)
    4. Payoff for first funny moment/visual which causes or increases an uncomfortable situation, tension, anxiousness, or other funny emotion. Changes your character or the way others view your character.
    5. Regroup and try again hoping for different results – but unsuccessful.
    6. Second big funny moment/visual that raises the comedic stakes.
    7. Payoff for second funny moment/visual.
    8. REPEAT steps until you have exhausted the hilarious moments and visuals of the scene and exploited your hook.
    9. Last button on the scene which is the final, if not funniest moment or visual of the scene that makes it clear how the scene affected or progressed the story.

    And just so you can see exactly what I’m talking about, I want to give you a few of the examples Dowling and Nussbaum used, which will help illustrate this perfectly;

    –        The Zipper scene in There’s Something About Mary – Stiller gets to the house, is already nervous and wants badly to impress her and her family and seem like a suave guy. He sees Diaz in the window (first funny moment), her father isn’t too happy with him (conflict), Father goes into the bathroom to help – doesn’t work, raises humiliation (second funny moment), they regroup and wife comes in (third funny moment/line/reaction), cop comes to the window (fourth funny moment/reaction), then the memorable visual of what’s stuck in the zipper (fifth funny moment), then the button final action and reaction (fixing the zipper and Stiller’s hilarious scream). Then he’s taken by the paramedics – prom is ruined and he’s lost his chance with his dream girl.

    –        The Dinner/Urn scene in Meet the Parents – the set up of the conflict was set up previously but increases in this scene as Stiller tries to impress and win over DeNiro’s character (his motivation). The scene builds with the “milking” dialogue (first funny line), the VISUAL of Stiller milking the invisible cat (first funny visual), DeNiro’s reply (the payoff and second funny line), Stiller regrouping and trying again unsuccessfully which makes him even more nervous and anxious, the revelation that Stiller’s girlfriend was engaged before (creates more conflict and affects the story later on), champagne cork hits the urn and smashes it (third funny moment),  the cat takes a shit on the ashes (the button on the scene).

    –        The opening Masturbation/Sock scene in American Pie – it’s clear what Jason Biggs’ character wants. We have the scrambled porn and porn dialogue (first funny visual and line), mom comes into room and he scrambles to hide and excuse away what he’s doing (second funny moment, causes uncomfortable situation), more porn dialogue (third funny moment), father comes in (fourth funny moment, raises stakes of comedy), Biggs tries to regroup without success, reveal of the penis sock (fifth big funny moment/visual), and the father’s dialogue and look at Biggs’ humiliated face (button on scene).

    And a few scenes I thought of which also exemplify creating great set pieces – you can watch them and do the breakdown yourself:

    –        The Bridal Shoppe scene in Bridesmaids where they all get sick

    –        The Beauty Pageant scene at the end of Little Miss Sunshine

    –        The chase scene in The Departed that leads to Martin Sheen’s death (spoiler, sorry)

    –        The opening scene of Scream.

    Each of the above-mentioned scenes USE and EXPLOIT the hook of their story piece – a guy who can’t get laid, a guy meeting his fiancée’s family, a woman dealing with her friends’ wedding arrangements, etc. And they build from that hook with a visual, a set up, an action and/or dialogue, and a payoff – then another visual/dialogue and a payoff that builds the moment even more – then repeat and repeat until that scene leaves you in stitches, or crying, or scared, or on the edge of your seat, depending on the genre.

    All of these scenes don’t just have ONE payoff moment or line or visual – but a constant build of big moments/visuals and creates those trailer moments. Memorable moments.

    Even smaller personal private journey movies often employ this technique. For example, in Into the Wild, each of the important characters that help the lead character on his journey is a different set piece. 

    Sometimes the first big set piece is in the first act, but if not, it could serve as a great scene to begin your second act. Just as your characters are starting their adventure, this is a great time for a big set piece because normally your set pieces also serve as OBSTACLES for your characters (look at all the examples above).

    Another key to set pieces is that they must feel incredibly natural to the story and concept you are writing – they are not forced moments. They fit naturally within your story and structure and character arcs. Do not force a set piece – it will throw your story off completely.

    So, take a look at your scripts and stories and see if you are creating set pieces for success. Good luck and keep writing!

  • 2011 Emmy Noms & Reaction from the TV Whore

    July 14th, 2011

    By Danny Manus (the TV Whore)

    Emmy nominations were announced this morning and holy crap is it a mixed bag of awesome and shitty! Cant’ decide if I’m happy or pissed because there’s an equal number of really glaring snubs and deserved nominations! So let’s bitch about it shall we?

    Best Drama Series –

    The Good Wife – The only network show to get nom’d and deservedly so. I think the final episodes of this season were fantastic and really let its actors shine. I actually hope it wins (which it won’t) only because network dramas need a win!

    Game of Thrones – Just watched this whole season a few weeks ago and it did win me over. Glad to see it noticed.

    Friday Night Lights – Final season goodbye nom, should have happened years ago.

    Boardwalk Empire – I don’t get it. I know people WANT me to watch this, but I don’t think it’s very good. I give shows 3 episodes to win me over – and this didn’t.  If Scorcese wasn’t involved in this, no one would like it.

    Mad Men – Again, I know I should watch it and like it…but I don’t really. I think the best days of this show are behind it.

    Dexter – I love Dexter, and despite sometimes poor, repetitive writing, the show keeps you going. It’s getting long in the tooth though…and won’t win.

    Biggest Snubs – There were some HUGE snubs here, most notably Justified, Shameless, and The Walking Dead. I LOVE all of these shows and any of them could have replaced Boardwalk for me.  I know critics like Treme – but it’s boring to me. The two series I love that I knew wouldn’t be nom’d but maybe one day in another world – Rizzoli & Isles and Castle. They are good fun, engaging, well-acted TV series. 

    Comedy Series –

    Modern Family – Had some fantastic moments this season, and some bad episodes. Will probably win unless Parks and Rec takes it…

    Parks and Recreation – I JUST started watching and liking this show (again, I hated the first 4 episodes so stopped watching but now it’s great). It deserves its nomination and could actually win.

    Big Bang Theory – Eh, um…ok…

    Glee – It’s jumped the shark and I’m so pissed at Ryan Murphy right now, I hope it loses.

    The Office – This is the only season I actually watched all the way through. It’s got a good shot at winning for its final “Michael” episode.

    30 Rock – Love the show, but this season was OFF.

    Biggest Snubs – Hands down the biggest snubs were 2 of my favorite comedies – Community (which is so original and brilliant and should have been nom’d over ANY of the shows that were), and Raising Hope, which I think is just as original and funny as any of the shows nom’d.  Thankfully Weeds, Nurse Jackie, Tara, and Big C were not nom’d in this category – cause they’re not comedies! Poor Family Guy….

    Drama Actor – Kyle Chandler, Steve Buscemi, Hugh Laurie (for the love of god give him an Emmy), Jon Hamm (will probably win since Cranston’s out), Michael C Hall (was really good this season), and Timothy Olyphant (fantastic, but this was his first season).

    Snubs – He only had one shot, so I was hoping Sean Bean would get one for Game of Thrones or Holt McCallany for the cancelled FX show, Lights Out.

    Drama Actress – Julianna Margulies (she deserves to win this year), Connie Britton (love her), Mariska Hargitay (over it), Mareille Enos (on The Killing – I’ve never seen it), Elisabeth Moss (she’ll always be Zooey Bartlett to me! She could win and I’ll be happy), and new nominee Kathy Bates for Harry’s Law (Seriously?? This is a joke, right?) I think it’s Margulies vs. Moss!

    Snubs – HUGE snub category for me. How about instead of Mariska and fucking Kathy Bates, you give deserved noms to Emmy Rossum on Shameless (who truly, truly deserved it!), Katey Sagal, who won the fucking golden globe and is a powerhouse on Sons of Anarchy, Kyra Sedgwick – who fucking WON last year, and Angie Harmon for Rizzoli & Isles. Love her hardcore. Bad choices this year, voters!

    Comedy Actor – Steve Carrell (should win this year), Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki (his first nom), Alec Baldwin, Matt LeBlanc (back from the dead and deservedly so), and Louis CK (Fucking awesome, but he’s not an actor). Give it to Carrell – he deserves it.

    Snubs – JOEL FUCKING MCHALE! I’m okay with Matthew Morrison being snubbed on Glee cause I think he’s an awful actor.

    Comedy Actress – Tina Fey (love you, read your book, but you don’t deserve this one), Laura Linney (deserved and voters love her), Amy Poehler (will probably win this year), Edie Falco (ugh, NOT funny), Martha Plimpton (awesome!), and Melissa McCarthy (so hot right now, so happy for her, but won’t win this year). It’s Linney vs Poehler.

    Snubbed – Lea Michele on Glee. Again, I love her, but she’s not the best actress on the show and not even close to the funniest.

    Supporting Actor, Drama – A great category with a lot of strong actors and every one of them feels rightly deserved! I didn’t think there were any snubs in this category really. Josh Charles, Alan Cumming, Walton Goggins on Justified (AWESOME!), Andre Braugher, John Slattery, and Peter Dinklage on Game of Thrones (YAY!!!). I’m picking Peter Dinklage or Walton Goggins.

    Supporting Actress, Drama – This was a very competitive category this year and there were THREE huge snubs in my opinion! SARA RAMIREZ for her awesome and powerful musical episode on Grey’s and the fantastic KADEE STRICKLAND, who was so amazing in her rape storyline on Private Practice (and the only good thing about the show) – it’s sad she wasn’t recognized.  And KHANDI ALEXANDER, the only really good thing about Treme for me, and who also had a rape storyline.

    The noms were Archie Panjabi (love her), Christine Baranski, Christina Hendricks (I don’t get her), Michelle Forbes for The Killing (been a huge fan of hers since “Homicide”), Kelly MacDonald (hate Boardwalk), and the FANTASTIC Margo Martindale for Justified – I hope she wins! I think it’s Archie vs. Margo – and I give it to Margo this year!

    Supporting Actor, Comedy – All the Modern Family Men (YAY Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell who both really deserve to win), plus Jon Cryer (ugh), and Chris Colfer again.

    Snubbed from this category – and horribly so – is Nick Offerman from Parks & Rec, Danny Pudi from Community, and Neil Patrick Harris on HIMYM.

    Supporting Actress, Comedy – The Modern Family gals (please give it to Julie Bowen and not that annoying bag of tits Sofia Vergara), Jane Lynch (who will probably win again and is hosting the Emmy’s), Betty White, Kristen Wiig for SNL (who I love, but wasn’t very active this season), and Jane Krakowski.

    Snubbed –Alison Brie for Community? Yes, please. Or Pamela Adlon on Californication. Or Heather Morrison or Naya Rivera on Glee, who make the show for me!

    Reality Series – Amazing Race, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway, Top Chef, and newcomer (YAY!) So You Think You Can Dance. It’s about time this show got noticed! Gordon Ramsay has 6 shows on TV and none of them were noticed.

    Reality Hosts – It’s all the same noms as usual except for MY GIRL, Cat Deeley. I don’t know why my friends don’t like her – I find her delightful and I think she’s a fantastic and caring host! Very happy for her! But I think it may be Tom Bergeron’s year.

    Variety/Music Show – Daily Show, Colbert, Conan, SNL, Bill Maher (27 noms, no wins – fucking give him one already!), and newcomer Jimmy Fallon! All well-deserved.

    I want to make some happy shout outs to Guest Actor nominees Gwenyth Paltrow, Kristin Chenoweth, Dot-Marie Jones (all from Glee) and Elizabeth Banks (30 Rock) for comedy – expect Gwenyth to win. And Julia Stiles (Dexter), Mary McDonnell (Closer), Loretta Devine (Grey’s), and the fantastic Joan Cusack (Shameless). I think it’s between Stiles and Cusack – rough call!

    All in all, a very interesting year with some brand new entrants and some shows put out to pasture. Eventually, the Academy is going to have to wake up and notice ALL of TV and not just the political choices (like Boardwalk, Mad Men and Glee) and realize that it’s OK to NOT notice a great show (like 30 Rock) when it has a bad season but bring it back when it has another great one. I hate that once you’re not nominated ONE year, you never get nom’d again – why? You can be good one year, bad the next, and good again after that – let’s recognize that.  Thanks all and enjoy the Emmy’s September 18th – I’ll blog again about the winners afterwards!

  • Great Cast but Mr. Sunshine is Mostly Cloudy

    February 11th, 2011

    By Danny Manus (the TV Whore)

    This week I watched the premiere of two new comedies on ABC. Matthew Perry and Allison Janney’s “Mr. Sunshine,” and the relationship comedy with the oddest title ever, “Traffic Light.” First up – Mr. Sunshine.

    How can a comedy with favorite “Friends” star Matthew Perry, the insanely talented and watchable Emmy Award winner Allison Janney, the hilarious Andrea Anders (Joey, Better Off Ted), and the affable Nate Torrence (Studio 60) that’s directed by Tommy Schlamme (West Wing) go wrong?

    I don’t know…but it did.  Badly. And here’s the awful part…I don’t care. I’m going to keep watching.

    I take that back – I know why it doesn’t work. It’s just a really, really bad concept and setting. Matthew Perry’s character, a 40 year old island of a man who doesn’t remember people’s names and doesn’t care about anyone but himself (in other words – ME in 10 years) and runs a rundown stadium. It’s just not a very interesting set up or location. There are only so many concert jokes or sporting event jokes available.

    His relationship with Andrea Anders character is sweet and we get it – they are going to try to be friends for a while but eventually wind up together. And she is so pitch-perfect funny, it’s hard not to like her. I do appreciate the odd incestuous Hollywood connection that she used to play Matt LeBlanc’s friend/love interest on “Joey” and now she’s traded him in for a different “Friend.”

    My friend pointed out that Matthew Perry can’t act if his hands are in his pants. He has to constantly be moving his hands. I watched every single episode of Friends probably 10 times over, but I never noticed it…until now. His gesticulations make what he’s saying funnier and help his comic timing, but man is it distracting now for some reason. I’ve never seen someone use their hands as actual punctuation marks – but he does.

    James Lesure – I don’t get him. I didn’t like his smarmy too-cool-for-the-room shtick on Vegas and I don’t really like it here, especially since it’s a much less cool room he’s in. And Nate Torrence – I feel like I’m just as funny (and fat) and therefore could have played this role and probably better.

    But allow me to take a moment to kiss the feet of Allison Janney, one of my favorite actresses. And as a West Wing superfanatic, and someone who has followed her career even before West Wing (and most certainly after), it’s nice to see her on TV again. And she does play this over-the-top, in-her-own-reality character of Crystal with reckless abandon and clueless perfection. But I’m not sure for how long that character will continue to seem funny even with her wide-eyed, sharp-tongued portrayal.

    Allison Janney guest starred on an episode of Studio 60 with Matthew Perry (and he guested on several episodes of West Wing) and they had great chemistry on both shows. And I would normally have killed to see them together again, especially on a sitcom. And their relationship in Sunshine seems to be the most interesting of all, but I don’t think it’s enough to keep the show fresh and funny for more than a few weeks. There was only one good laugh in this pilot – and that came from Janney’s character launching a child at an ax-wielding clown. A physical gag to say the least, but her reaction made it work. But other than that…it was pretty bad.

    But as I said, I will stick with it. Why? Because actors like Perry, Janney and Anders deserve our support and have made us laugh enough that we owe it to them to give them a shot. Plus, I really do feel like Matthew Perry’s character might be a foreshadowing of my life to come (minus the elephants and clowns), so is suppose I should keep watching to see how I turn out.

    Overall Grade: C – (would be a D without the cast)

  • The Emmys 2010: Winners, Losers, Upsets and Analysis

    August 31st, 2010

    By Danny Manus

     

    As I said before, the Emmys are like my Christmas…if I wasn’t Jewish. And they are even better now that they are LIVE on the West Coast, which wasn’t the case until 2 years ago. This year, since the show aired on NBC, Jimmy Fallon was the host. And the network was counting on big ratings this year with new popular shows Glee, Modern Family and True Blood up for big awards.

     

    But alas, even the Gleeks couldn’t save the Emmys, which posted basically the same ratings as last year, and even went DOWN 2% in the young demo. After watching the telecast I honestly don’t know what more the show could do to get people to tune in besides fill it with musical numbers – oh wait, they did that. Well perhaps they could get big stars like George Clooney to – oh wait, they did that too.  Hmm…maybe they should have just built a boxing ring and let Conan and Jay go at it. Eh, maybe not. Hey, maybe we can just make Justin Bieber the star of every fucking show on Earth…and then watch me kill myself. Or maybe they should just take out some of the miniseries and TV Movie awards which are so utterly boring – and no one in the targeted demo watches them anyway. And instead, put in more comedy.

     

    The first 90 minutes of the show were possibly the best Emmys I have seen in years. I know some people didn’t like the graphics flashing in the background, and maybe purple wasn’t the BEST color palette choice, but I think it was better than the Oscars bland white design. Besides, this was a big year for gays on TV, and the biggest demo to watch awards shows like the Emmys are the gays, so perhaps purple was the perfect choice.

     

    Speaking of which, I loved Neil Patrick Harris last year and would love to see him again, but Jimmy Fallon did his thing and his musical interludes and opening were fantastic. His ode to the shows that have passed on – 24, Law & Order and Lost – was great. If the second half of the show gave him more to do, perhaps the fun could have lasted. But alas, as soon as HBO started winning things, the air was sucked out of the show like a hoover was attached to the roof. 

     

    But let’s rewind. First up was comedy and Modern Family ruled the night with wins for Best Comedy and Eric Stonestreet (I called it!) for best supporting. While he wasn’t the favorite to win (and personally I would have voted for Ty Burrell), he is a straight man playing lovably flamingly homosexual and he does it so hysterically that he deserved the win. Sorry, Chris Colfer, you’re just as gay but slightly less huggable. But if 3 years from now, you’re still on Glee, I think you’ll win. I say that because next year, it’s Ty Burrell’s to win and the year after it will be Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Much like West Wing, they will award a different star every year til they all have one!

     

    Voters went for Modern Family rather than fellow newcomer and odds-on favorite Glee because, well, Glee isn’t a straight comedy. The only 60 minute dramedy to ever win the award is Ally McBeal, but something tells me Glee will see gold in the next two years.  Jane Lynch did win for her role in Glee (also called it!), and she deserved it! I know Kristin Wiig IS SNL these days and Julie Bowen is fantastic on Modern Fam, but Jane Lynch is just pure comic gold on Glee. Kudos! It was obviously the end of the line for 30 Rock. Partially because voters didn’t want to award NBC anything (they only won ONE for their shows this year), but also because it’s time to bring in the new blood.

     

    Jim Parsons picked up his first trophy for Big Bang (I was right again!). All I can say is thank God Tony Shaloub didn’t win. Sorry, Alec but there’s a new kid in town. Bazinga! And Edie Falco (an upset which I predicted!) picked up an awkward statue for Nurse Jackie, which is even less of a comedy than Glee. Voters just like her and perhaps this will give the show some much-due notoriety and press. But I don’t think she’ll win again.

     

    Then came the reality portion. WOOHOO TOP CHEF! In what was the best season in years (100 times better than the current DC season), Top Chef FINALLY de-throned Amazing Race. The upset was that if a show was going to beat Race, people thought it would be American Idol, but the last 2 seasons of Idol have clearly gone downhill and were the weakest musically and in overall entertainment since Cowell mentally checked out and Paula physically checked out. And I am thrilled that Top Chef took the gold. Can we all agree now that Amazing Race is no longer as interesting or casted as well as it used to be? They just take OTHER reality stars and send them on an all expenses paid trip around the world. BORING.

     

    But the real acting surprises were saved for the Drama category, where I have to say…I was wrong. I was SURE that Julianna Margulies would win for The Good Wife and she had all the momentum, but in her 5th year as star and producer, Kyra Sedgwick got the gold. Now, I LOVE The Closer and she was great last season on it, so I’m actually very happy with this upset. Don’t worry, Julianna, you’ll win it next year!  And I’m pretty sure January Jones’ dress this year will stop her from being nominated again. Same for Lauren Graham – what the hell was she thinking?

     

    But I digress…Bryan Cranston won (3 times in a row now) for his leading role in Breaking Bad, beating out heavy favorite Michael C Hall, who had an incredible season and beat cancer in his spare time. And for me, Hugh Laurie is the biggest continual snub in all of TV other than Bill Maher, who after 12 nominations is still coming up goose eggs. Hugh had an emotionally powerful year, even though the show itself was not up to snuff. And hello – he’s BRITISH and does a pitch perfect accent! At least next year, because of the scheduling of his show, Bryan Cranston won’t be eligible, so it will be up for grabs.

     

    The supporting awards went to 2 first timers – Aaron Paul for Breaking Bad and Archie Panjabi for Good Wife. I am thrilled about Archie’s win – she’s a revelation on that show. And while I don’t watch Breaking Bad, I know Aaron is good. But seriously…how do you not give the award to Terry O’Quinn for playing TWO very different and difficult characters at ONCE on the last season of Lost? Come on, voters! That was disappointing. And perhaps if Martin Short’s wife had died 2 months earlier, he would have gotten the sympathy vote. What, too soon?

     

    And of course Mad Men won the big award…whoopee. Look, I’m sure it’s a great show, and no, I don’t watch it. But I already want to punch Matthew Weiner in the face and his “assistant writer” whom he put up for the Emmy and WON (that lucky bitch isn’t even 30!). I was really disappointed that Lost (in its final season), Good Wife, Dexter and True Blood all lost to an overrated show that no one watches.  Look, I’m a TV whore, but I never said I was a TV snob. Please, let this be the last year it wins.

     

    In other news, Conan didn’t win. But on the upside, neither did NBC. This year’s voting really shined the light on two things – what wonderful shows there are on cable and what hatred the industry has for NBC and those that run it. And after seeing the comedies they have coming up in their new season, I don’t think they will be garnering any more love anytime soon. I’ll cover TV Premiere Week in a couple weeks…stay tuned!

     

    For mini-series and TV Movies…eh…who cares? I didn’t see any of them except “You Don’t Know Jack,” which was OK. The Pacific won, as predicted. Though I could have thought of a better way to spend $200M! In a slight surprise, Temple of Grandine won all the MOW categories. I’m happy for Claire Danes, who deserved it, but could someone tell that retarded lesbian cowboy to please sit down?

     

    Okay, so those were the Emmys. I laughed, I cried, I screamed in frustration. This year, I was 6/7 for comedy (I guessed Glee would win), but the TV Movies and Drama category screwed me. Damn you, AMC! Damn you!!!

     

    Until next time, keep watching! It’s good for you!

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