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UPDATED: Dave Dumps Trump For Robin; Jay Says “Huck You!” By Booking Mike

By | Monday December 31, 2007 @ 12:44pm PST

UPDATED: David Letterman’s Late Show writers go back to work tomorrow. An insider tells me, “Believe me, we understand this is the beginning of a real wga-side-deals.JPGopportunity to call attention to what has had almost no television coverage in the last two months. So, it’s pretty simple. Get the message out, be hysterically funny in the execution, and in so doing, embarrass the AMPTP into full capitulation no later than January 7th. Okay, the 8th.”

robinwilliams.jpgPrevious: There’s no doubt now that the writers strike will be Topic A when David Letterman returns to The Late Show. Not just because his writers will be with him. (“You better believe we’re going to bring attention to the strike as long as it lasts,” Justin Stangel, head writer along with his brother Eric, said on LateShowWritersOnStrike.com which will continue.) But because Robin Williams will be the first guest. I, for one, can’t wait to see the film comedian spoof the Hollywood moguls. Thursday will spotlight comedian Bill Maher, who’ll also dump on the Big Media CEOs, I bet. Donald Trump, who’d been previously booked, has now been relegated to Friday’s Late Show. Also, Howard Stern has repeatedly said that he would be one of Dave’s first guests when Letterman went back to work.

huckabee2.jpgMike Huckabee will be Leno’s first guest on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, even though the GOP presidential frontrunner … Read More »

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NBC Insists Golden Globes Are Still A Go

By | Monday December 31, 2007 @ 11:39am PST

globe1.jpgWell, NBC keeps insisting that it won’t cancel the telecast of Hollywood’s most bogus awards show in spite of the certainty there’ll be WGA picketing and some nominated stars staying home in solidarity with the striking writers. The Peacock confirmed today it will air the 65th annual Golden Globes live from Los Angeles as planned on January 13. Since the show itself is put on by the ethically challenged Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it makes sense that neither that organization nor the network is worried about hurting the ceremony’s credibility because it has none. Still, people watch it because they don’t know any better and NBC likes those high ratings that result from the mixing of TV and movie stars. The WGA has refused to grant the Globes a strike waiver and will position strikers along the sidewalks around the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible for Hollywood’s A-list stars to show up without looking like jerks. And NBC won’t want to present pre-taped segments with the celebs, which is what CBS’ Peoples Choice Awards is doing. So I still say, as I’ve been saying all along, that the Globes are screwed.

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Fans To “Skywrite” Scribe Strike During Rose Parade: But Will Big Media Show It?

By | Sunday December 30, 2007 @ 2:52pm PST

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Fans4writers.com, a website where fans show support for striking Hollywood writers, has made plans to use the occasion of the Tournament Of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day to have five planes “skytype” in support of the writers. In addition, a street team of fans will hand out flyers at the parade. To fund the effort, a silent auction and fundraising event is being held featuring some items donated by WGA members including scripts from the TV series Battlestar Galactica.

The plan is to have five separate “sky signs” bearing pro-WGA messages 10,000 feet above the Rose Parade beginning at 9 AM Pacific Time — each five miles long, and every letter the size of the Empire State Building. In essence, it’s skywriting but done like LED signs which can be seen for 15 miles in any direction or nearly 400 square miles. The content of these ads will be kept secret until they are revealed at the event.

Given that the parade will be broadcast on ABC, NBC, Univision, HGTV, Travel Channel, Discovery HD as well as KWHY and KTLA in the Los Angeles area, as well as more than 150 international territories, millions of people could see the messages. But it’s a big “if” whether the commentators and cameras for all these Big Media outlets, some of whom belong to the AMPTP which recently walked away from contract talks with the WGA, look up in the sky or even make reference to the messages. Still, it’s going to … Read More »

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“Why We Don’t Write”: The AMPTP

By | Sunday December 30, 2007 @ 1:35pm PST

Needless to say, the following is a parody of the “Why We Write” campaign. This spoof was created by WGA members Lissa Kapstrom & Will Schifrin:
“Why We Don’t Write”: The AMPTP
(because,“Hey, we got stuff to say too”)
“I had a typical childhood, growing up in a modest, six thousand square foot house in Connecticut. My father was a hard working investment banker who liked to unwind by sleeping with my nannies, and my mother had a special talent for hiding her Librium addiction. Every night, after our icy silent dinners, I would retire to the great room to watch TV – classic shows like MASH, Cheers, Taxi and St. Elsewhere. I laughed, cried and was moved by the incredible story telling, and I knew that when I grew up I had to be a part of the magic that is the entertainment industry. parody.JPGNot as a writer – because who wants to be some pasty nerd who gets no respect, toils endlessly without fair compensation and doesn’t get laid?  Hell no. I would become a member of the AMPTP. I make my own hours, drive a Ferrari and am dating a Czech supermodel. So, to paraphrase that writer guy Jimmy Brooks, ‘If you want your life to exceed your dreams, don’t write.’” – Richard W.

“Writing requires sitting at a Read More »

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“Why We Write” #5: Greg Berlanti

By | Saturday December 29, 2007 @ 7:27pm PST

Installment #5

Today’s piece is written by Greg Berlanti, Executive Producer of Dirty Sexy Money and Brothers and Sisters.

I’ve never considered myself much of a writer. I’m not particularly great at it. On my best day I don’t have half the talent of many people I’ve been lucky enough to hire and to work with. berlanti3.jpgAnd this is not false humility. Ask any writer who works with me, they’ll tell you how much I rely on their abilities, how often I struggle to craft the simplest of scenes. I know a lot of other writers feel like they suck too, but that doesn’t make it easier (I know this because a large part of my day is convincing other writers they don’t suck. Once finished, I go back into my office and convince myself I do suck all over again). The problem is, regardless of my limited writing talent, I love telling stories. Creating a character, a world, a whole universe out of nothing. That part I can’t get enough of.  I think about myself and storytelling the way Bill Clinton described himself and the Presidency, and I’m paraphrasing here, “There are guys who have done it better, but there’s no one who’s enjoyed it more.”

As a kid, the first storyteller I wanted to be was Jim Henson. I designed and built puppets and had a business performing for Read More »

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Behind The Scenes: WGA Agrees To Allow Dave’s Late Night Shows To Return With Writers Jan. 2; Will This Divide The Guild?

By | Friday December 28, 2007 @ 4:27pm PST

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UPDATED: All along the issue, the really big issue, was whether the striking writers would still feel united if some of them went back to work and others stayed on the picket lines. I’ve learned that was just one of the many worries voiced by the WGA to the posse repping Worldwide Pants when it applied for an interim agreement allowing the two late night shows it owns, The Late Show With David Letterman and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, to return to the air on January 2nd fully staffed with scribes. ”It was a tough decision,” a source close to Letterman acknowledged to me just now. “This happened by the slimmest of all possible margins.” So tough that Dave’s negotiating team didn’t know whether the pact would be approved by the WGA until the very last minute today.

It was, finally, at midday following several meetings and a lot of phone calls, sources say. The Letterman camp — which included Worldwide Pants CEO and longtime Late Show exec producer Rob Burnett, ex-CAA partner and now Worldwide Pants exec Lee Gabler, and the Hollywood entertainment law firm of Jackoway Tyerman and Wertheimer — was sworn to secrecy until the WGA could first talk to Jay Leno and his writers and then produce a press release. But the news leaked out early, reputedly from Leno’s side.

“I am grateful to the WGA for granting us this agreement. We’re happy to be going back to work, and particularly pleased to be doing it with … Read More »

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“Why We Write” #4: Carol Mendelsohn

By | Thursday December 27, 2007 @ 10:21am PST

Installment #4

Today’s piece is written by Carol Mendelsohn, member of the WGA Negotiating Committee as well as showrunner and executive producer of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and co-creator and executive producer of CSI: Miami and CSI: New York.

mendelsohn1.jpgOnce, a long time ago in Upstate New York, far above Cayuga’s waters, on a cold winter’s night in a rundown cockroach infested dump that passed for a house in Collegetown, one of my roommates drew a picture of me. She did this because it was Saturday night and she wanted me to go out and I wanted to stay in and watch TV.  (Footnote: back in the seventies, Saturday night was the best night of television. ALL IN THE FAMILYMASHMARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. CAROL BURNETT SHOWLOVE BOAT. Imagine that).

Anyway, upon seeing the drawing, my other roommates heartily nodded their approval, for Ilene Greenberg had captured the true essence of me with her number two pencil and a sheet of plain white paper. (INSERT CSI SHOT HERE).

Okay, I’ll give you a clue, which is what I mostly do when I’m not walking the picket line for a fair deal in new media. My head was square. And protruding from the top of my pancake flat skull were two rabbit ears. Not the plushy, furry kind. Ilene had drawn a human television set. (Second Footnote: This Read More »

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Strike-Wise, What Should Happen Next?

By | Thursday December 27, 2007 @ 9:51am PST

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I’d like to hear your theories/predictions/suggestions in the Comments section of this post about what positive (repeat, positive) steps can be taken starting January 1st to end this strike in a way that’s perceived as fair to both sides since it’s abundantly clear that neither the WGA nor the AMPTP is going to surrender anytime soon. (I won’t be able to monitor comments until tonight so your musings won’t post right away. Please don’t email your comments, only post them here.)

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DHD Update: Posting Resumes On Wkd

By | Thursday December 27, 2007 @ 9:37am PST

Trying to take a breather. You should, too. Let’s meet up tomorrow this weekend. And, again, please keep those emails, tips and photos coming. I read them and follow up.

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“Why We Write” #3: Howard Gordon

By | Wednesday December 26, 2007 @ 2:14pm PST

Installment #3

Today’s piece is written by Howard Gordon, Executive Producer of 24.

gordon2.jpgI remember being in a writers’ room a few years ago, and someone – a brilliant and famous writer whose name I’ll keep to myself for now – rhapsodized about the exquisite ecstasy of the writing process. “Don’t you love it when you get lost inside the story, and the characters start speaking for themselves, and you look up and realize eight hours have passed?” I nodded dumbly, and smiled. Because I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about.

I’ve never had that experience. Never. Me, I’m a grinder. And a second-guesser. Since I can remember, I have suffered from some undiagnosed combination of OCD and ADD which causes me to spend hours on a preposition. Which is a long-winded way to describe this simple truth: I hate writing. I really do. Even writing this short essay is excruciating. Every word weighs on me like a millstone. Every. Single. Word.

What makes the process even more excruciating is that I am my own worst critic. No one has more contempt for my work than me. So studio and network notes are usually a cakewalk. Whatever they dish out, chances are I’ve already dished out for myself and come back for seconds.

So why do I write? Because as much as I hate writing, I Read More »

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Winners: Santa Photo Caption Contest

By | Tuesday December 25, 2007 @ 3:35pm PST

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2nd.gif“Speechless #360 – Santa Claus”

3rd.jpg“Well, the list was done by the deadline, but my agent says if I check it even once, it’s crossing the line.”

ribbon.jpg“I’ll give you animation and reality, I get to keep cookies and milk.”

“Well, technically I’m a teamster.”

“Next year in Jerusalem.”

Sixty years later and I have yet to see dollar one in Miracle on 34th Street residuals!

AND THE REST OF THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY:

“Now Meyer, now Moonves, now Iger, now Chernin!
On Grey, on Sloan, Zucker and Lynton!
Back to the table, stop trying to stall,
Let’s make a deal now that benefits all!”

“Now, Counter! now, Chernin! now both of the Jeffreys!
On, Redstone! on, Murdoch! on, Iger and Leslie!
Jump to petty name-calling! To back channels and bribes!
To keep cash away! cash away! from union scribes!”

“Chernin’s chimney? Sure, it’s OK. Personally, I find platinum a bit cold.”

“Thomas Nast made me what I am today, and all he got was a one-time payment from Harper’s.”

“Blank blank blank
blank blank blank
blank blank blank blank blank
blank blank blank blank blank blank
blank blank blank blank blank.”

“You think I came up with ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ on my own?”

“You think I answer all those letters myself?”

“This looked better on paper.”

“This worked better on the page.”

“Jeff Zucker … Read More »

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127 Striking Writers With Pilots Pending Write Xmas Letter To Hollywood Bigshots

By | Monday December 24, 2007 @ 4:34pm PST

santa2.jpgTonight on Christmas eve, the following letter signed by 127 striking writers with pilots pending was emailed to the Hollywood CEOs and almost 200 studio and network TV development execs. ”These execs are our partners in these projects,” say the two people who initiated this letter and wish to remain anonymous (although I have confirmed their identities), “so we wanted to reach out in an effort to get the AMPTP back to the table while there is still a chance of getting pilot season back on track. We did our best to contact all the writers with pilots, but some were out of town or out of reach, so this does not represent ALL the writers with pilots — only those we were able to reach who agreed to be included. This was done with the blessing and support of the WGA, but not through the WGA.”

Dear (studio/network exec),

‘Tis the season. Pilot season. We, the pilot writers, feel the loss of our ongoing creative partnership, and in the spirit of the holidays, we wanted to offer our help in getting the ’08-’09 crop of television shows back on track. We’re willing to write silent night after silent night to make up for lost time if your company will only finalize a fair deal with the WGA. To do that, talks must resume. Our guild is ready and eager. We feel that what our guild is asking is more than reasonable, and we believe that you, as our

Read More »

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“Why We Write” #2: Steven Levitan

By | Monday December 24, 2007 @ 2:48pm PST

Installment #2

Today’s piece is written by Steven Levitan, creator of Just Shoot Me and co-creator of Back To You.

levitan2.jpgI swear to God this is true.  A couple of years ago I had lunch with a network president who asked me the following question:

“If I offered you a billion dollars, but you could never write again, would you take it?”

I tried to keep a straight face and act snooty because I knew he assumed my answer would be “no” and was paying me a compliment, but, let’s face it, he had me at “billi…” Hell, he didn’t even make it hard. I mean, if he had added, “But you have to cut off your fingers,” well, then now we’re talking a much tougher decision. I play golf. I play guitar. I have an iPhone. What the hell am I going to do all day now that I have a billion dollars and no fingers?

The truth is the strike has given me the chance to experience life without a creative outlet like writing. Here’s something amusing I’ve started doing the past six weeks: I have two teenaged daughters who have just gotten to that age when they’re ashamed of me. So, whenever I drop them off outside a party and there are other kids standing around, Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Attempt Fails To Restart WGA-AMPTP Talks; Outlook Very Grim

By | Monday December 24, 2007 @ 8:56am PST

wga-wb2.JPGHere is what is clear to me based on new reporting about the entrenched positions of both sides: hopes for any kind of settlement have dimmed. I have learned that last week Jeffrey Katzenberg tried and failed to backchannel a compromise that would have brought both the WGA and the AMPTP back to the bargaining table. It was an effort that was laudable. But the fact that it was unsuccessful dramatically points up disturbing realities, I have learned: that the CEOs are deeply entrenched in their desire to punish the WGA for daring to defy them by striking and to bully the writers into submission on every issue, and that the moguls consider the writers are sadly misguided to believe they have any leverage left. I’m told the CEOs are determined to write off not just the rest of this TV season (including the Back 9 of scripted series), but also pilot season and the 2008/2009 schedule as well. Indeed, network orders for reality TV shows are pouring into the agencies right now. The studios and networks also are intent on changing the way they do TV development so they can stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars in order to see just a few new shows succeed. As for advertising, the CEOs seem determined to do away with the upfront business and instead make their money from the scatter market. I’m sorry to break this disappointing development right before Christmas, but I pledged to stay objective in my reporting and I can’t ignore this major news development. … Read More »

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Here’s Striking WGAE Xmas Statement (I’m Sure AMPTP’s Isn’t Far Behind…)

By | Sunday December 23, 2007 @ 6:43pm PST

Dear Fellow Members of the Writers Guild, East:I write this to you two nights before Christmas. It’s tough as hell to be on strike during the holiday season. Not only are we staging outdoor pickets and other events in the throes of winter’s cold, we’re without work and paychecks at a moment when gift giving and good times are very much on the minds of everyone around us, especially our friends and loved ones.

Yet we know that what we’re fighting for is worth it, that we’re exchanging our temporary stress and discomfort for future gain and security, not only for ourselves but those who will follow us as wordsmiths and storytellers.

The widespread pain and hardship of this strike would cease instantly if the studio and networks heads simply would realize the need to have their representatives return to the table and bargain a contract fairly and respectfully. We’re ready any time, any place, to sit down to negotiate — even as AMPTP members take off on holiday jaunts to Vail or Aspen or wherever it is moguls mogul.

Until then, the Guilds, East and West, continue to take actions that make our strength and position in the entertainment industry clear. This week, for example, a waiver was denied for writers to work on the Golden Globe Awards, as was a waiver for the use of film clips on the upcoming Oscars (the Oscars have not yet requested a waiver for writers). However, an interim agreement for writing services was granted for

Read More »

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Weinraub Play To Be Performed In LA

By | Sunday December 23, 2007 @ 6:31pm PST

The Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles will present the West Coast premiere of The Accomplices, the first play written by former New York Times Hollywood correspondent (and my close pal) Bernie Weinraub. Previews begin March 27th, then the play runs April 4th through May 18th. It will also be performed this spring in Coral Gables, Fla. It was previously produced off-Broadway this year by the New Group and nominated for a prestigious Drama Desk Award.

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RIP: Irv Letofsky

By | Sunday December 23, 2007 @ 6:22pm PST

Irv Letofsky, former Calendar editor of the Los Angeles Times, died this morning shortly before 11 AM at his home surrounded by family and listening to ragtime. A memorial service will be held this Friday December 28th at 2 PM at Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles (6001 W. Centinela Avenue). A reception will follow.

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MOVIES CROWD THE CHRISTMAS MALLS: Nic’s ‘National Treasure 2′ Tops $45.5M; ‘Charlie Wilson’ #4, ‘Sweeney Todd’ #5

By | Friday December 21, 2007 @ 11:46pm PST

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SUNDAY AM: Not only were the shopping malls crowded this pre-Christmas weekend, but even more so the domestic box office which scored the biggest December weekend in Hollywood history. Disney / Buena Vista’s mystery thriller National Treasure 2 opened extremely wide to at least $16.5 million Friday and $15.5 million Saturday and an estimated $13.5 million Sunday from 3,832 theaters for a $45.5 million start. cage.jpgThat’s right in line with predictions for this sequel Book Of Secrets which jumped into the No. 1 spot. It’s a much bigger haul than the $35.1 mil debut of the 2004 original National Treasure (which went on to make $173M domestic gross and $347M worldwide total and snag Oren Aviv his promotion to president of production for the Walt Disney Pictures Group).

Jerry Bruckheimer’s NT2 proved to be a four-quadrant flick with males and females, young and older, families and teen girls and boys. ”That’s the holy grail of marketing, when a film has this kind of broad appeal,” a thrilled Disney exec told me. ”I think we should really cha-ching through the holidays, into New Year’s weekend, and roll through January, MLK weekend, etc.” juno1.jpgWhat with this Friday through Monday period taken over by last-minute shopping and present-wrapping and holiday travel and stormy weather, Disney execs were trying to lower expectations to around $40 mil for … Read More »

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“We Want The Awards” Really? Truly? No!

By | Friday December 21, 2007 @ 5:40pm PST

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The AMPTP set up a new website tonight labeled WeWantTheAwards.com. Its mission? “Please urge the Writers Guild to allow the awards shows to go on as planned.” This is what happens when the WGA hits a nerve among the entertainment establishment and when an out-of-town PR firm hired by the AMPTP gets something terribly wrong. Because the truth as we all know it is that most of Hollywood dreads every awards show, hates all the hassle involved, and would love nothing better than to not attend.

globe.jpgOnly people who don’t know anything about showbiz could think this town would go into withdrawal if, say, the Golden Globes show wasn’t held. True, that phony baloney spectacle in the past has proven a valuable marketing tool for the studios and networks pushing their movies and TV series (even if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association behind it is bogus and ethically challenged). But last time I looked, scripted TV will be off the air any day now for the forseeable future. And the films already can boast Globes nominations in their advertisements so it can’t really matter which won or which lost because now every pic looks like a potential winner. Besides, I’ll gladly take talent and producers and even writers at their word that all this competition is meaningless. So what’s the problem?

I’m sure the owners of the fashion labels, and the limo companies, and the hotel ballrooms, and all the other ancillary businesses that depend on … Read More »

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