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Pitching a TV Show

pitchI’ve been fortunate over the past year to shadow an established television writer as he works on various pitches for his own shows. He works predominately in procedurals and political dramas, while I’m mainly a comedy guy.  But I knew the fundamentals I was learning were universal.

He always starts with a brief, but catchy biography about himself and why that makes him the best person to write what he’s pitching. His origin story has become like folklore.  He was a Washington DC speech writer, but some of the details change a little bit here and there.  Most importantly, the drama amps up in a way that always hooks you right out of the gate.

From there he goes into the teaser for his show. If you don’t know, that’s basically the thing you see before the first commercial that, if done right, keeps you from changing the channel for the next thirty or sixty minutes.  My mentor is great a teasers.  Political drama and procedurals are pretty much at the bottom of the list of things I like to watch, but more often than not, his teasers grab me.

Then he talks about the pilot episode while giving pertinent information about all of the key characters. He gives you enough of their backstories to get you to really know who they are as people.  Sometimes if the teaser doesn’t grab me, his ability to create interesting characters does.  His characters are always flawed.  They feel real.  Most importantly, they’re interesting.  We always know what their needs are and why they need it.

After he gives a pretty detailed beat by beat run down of the pilot episode, he goes over story beats for the entire first season of his show up to the cliffhanger ending. He wraps up by touching on the themes of further seasons so that whoever he’s pitching to knows he’s thought through this entire world.

Off the top of my head, I’ve sat through seven very detailed pitches in the past year from him. He’s a work horse.  In addition to learning how to pitch, I learned how to manage time and projects.  I’ll write more about that in the future.

So that brings me to our pitch.

Along with comedian DJ Dangler and artist Axel Ortiz, I created an animated show. My friend Joe Apel has been working in animation for the past ten years and directed me to someone at a network who might be looking for something maybe along the lines of what we created.  I sent an email and a meeting was set up pretty quickly.

DJ spends most of his time on the road making his living off of stand up, while I’m currently choosing to take a little break from the road and focus my attention on California right now. When the meeting was set, DJ decided to fly back to not only be there for the meeting, but to make sure we were prepared.

Axel is just as much of a work horse as the aforementioned television writer. He’s a veteran of the pitch meeting, but pointed out earlier that if we had a star attached to our show, that would give us an advantage.  Over the past six months, I’ve been working on getting the biggest name I know attached to it.  The week before our pitch, we got him.  He looked at what we were going in with and said that he was happy to be part of it and if it lands, we can hammer out the details then.

I researched the person we were pitching to. She was a guest on a comedy podcast and spent an entire hour talking about the pitching process.  In that interview, I also found out that she, like DJ, is from Indiana and her wife, like me, is from Michigan.  She and I both nerd out over character actors too.  So I knew we had a conversation opener and I wasn’t going to have to overly explain things like if I said, “Oh this character is a little bit like Miller from the movie Repo Man, played by Tracey Walter”, she was going to know who Tracey Walter is.  For the record, many of the scripts I’ve written have characters that I imagine Tracey Walter playing.  I know why Jonathan Demme puts him in every movie, because Tracey Walter is a national treasure!  I once told DJ that I would be more excited about meeting Tracey Walter than I would be about meeting George Lucas or Harrison Ford.  I think Tracey Walter lives within a mile of me too.  And if you think every time my girlfriend and I walk around the neighborhood, I’m not on a constant look out for Tracey Walter watering his plants, then you’re wrong!

Axel went in to pitch on another show three weeks prior to our meeting and told us what the executive asked from them. DJ and I wanted to make sure we were over prepared.  We had a pilot script.  We had ideas for story beats for our first season and I knew what I wanted to happen in the final episode of the entire series.  But DJ and I detailed out episode by episode the entire first season of our show.  We knew the story beats and what themes each episode would explore.   A friend of mine who works in printing made us a really nice pitch packet too.

The idea of writing stories with an overall point of view or theme is something that I would accidentally sometimes hit, but other times missed completely. DJ and I have a mutual friend in comedian turned television writer Nick Anthony who really hammered into us the idea that we sometimes missed that.  So when DJ and I started the conversation about each episode of our show, we started with what was the theme for that episode.  It really helped us figure out where the other characters were going to be in their individual arcs.

The night before our pitch, DJ and I walked home around five miles from West Hollywood to the far eastern side of Hollywood really exploring every character we created. We knew their strengths, their weaknesses, their desires, their backgrounds, and their secrets.

So going into our pitch I knew we created something cool, timely, we have a big name attached and we were prepared.

The meeting was great. I told her that I enjoyed the podcast she was on and we found out her dad and sister both went to Purdue, same as DJ.  Her wife and my girlfriend are from the same small suburb of Detroit.  She asked how DJ, Axel and I knew each other.  DJ and I have a fun origin story where we both showed up early at Nick Anthony’s home to go do a show in San Diego.  Nick wasn’t there yet.  I was parked on the street waiting.  A guy pulled up on the other side of the street, got out of his car, put a large pizza on the roof and just ate the entire thing in front of me.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  He was so full of unadulterated and gluttonous joy.  From that moment I wish I could be that guy’s friend.  That guy turned out to be DJ.  We hit it off that night and have been friends ever since.  Axel and I met at San Diego Comic Con last year and our origin story gave me a chance to really talk about how much I love his work and why he was the perfect person to design our show.

Then she wanted to know about our characters. DJ and I were able to speak passionately and deeply about each of them.  I like writing female characters.  This show features two really strong female characters.  The main character is, in some ways, man boy with arrested development not completely unlike DJ or myself.  One of the women in the show is his daughter, the other is basically his boss.  Both are strong.  Neither of them are bitchy.  Both of them are just as cool and quick as he is.  They’re strong women, but they’re perfect.  They’re deep and rich characters.  I can see how it would be an easy trap for a guy writing a woman to over compensate by trying to make her too perfect.  Ours aren’t at all.  They both have real human foibles.  Also, I’m hoping I just used the word “foibles” correctly.

At the end of our meeting she asked us what our roles would be if the show were picked up. I explained that when Garth Ennis created the comic book Preacher he gave artist Steve Dillon co-creator credit because he felt the look of it was just as important as the story.  I believe in that.  When I asked Axel to draw the characters, I told him very little.  And aside from changing the hair color on one of them, I didn’t have any changed.  I love his art.  DJ and I are great at writing jokes and character, but we still struggle with story and conflict.  An analogy a script reader gave us of a screenplay that we wrote was that there’s “a lot of icing, but not much cake”.  That’s fair.  So I said DJ and I care a lot about our characters, but if the show were picked up, it would probably be best if we were teamed with a producer who was better at breaking stories.  So I think that showed that we were flexible and going to be easy to work with.

There’s another show, which I can’t name, where the creators were fired because they were way too difficult and had very unrealistic expectations of what they were entitled to. Hollywood is a city built on collaborative art.  Nothing here is a single vision.  You have to be willing to trust others to help you create the best product possible.

According to the podcast our executive was on, because she sees so many people, her pitch meetings rarely go more than thirty minutes. Ours went 45.  She laughed a lot and seemed engaged. There’s nothing I would have done differently about our meeting.  We gave her our book with the character art and descriptions as well as additional information about the show.  We’ll know more in a couple weeks.

Yes, at this stage a hundred things would have to happen for this to be a show any of us would ever get to see. We’re going to move forward and continue pitching to other places too.  But on the flipside of this meeting, I thought it would be nice to share some of the tips that I learned.

  1. Know as much about the person you’re pitching as you can. As they say, “knowledge is power”.
  2. Be prepared to explain why what you’re pitching is important to you personally and why you’re the best person to write it.
  3. Television is a medium based on characters. Make sure you have interesting ones and you can talk about them.
  4. As with any speech writing, pepper in a joke or two if it suits the mood. I don’t think I’d try to make anyone laugh if I were pitching Schindler’s List: The Series.
  5. Keep it pithy, punk. Metallica songs are like three hours long and feel like they include every idea that everyone in the band had. In the time it takes to listen to two Metallica songs, you could listen to seventeen Ramones songs. Be a Ramone. Leave them wanting more.
  6. Don’t just talk. Listen. We were prepared to talk nonstop for 15-20 minutes, but were totally able to let our exec lead the pitch in a much more conversational and informal manner.
  7. Television is a flexible art. We didn’t get any notes in this first meeting, but my mentor has. He digests them all and if he has complaints, he does it later to his manager, not in the room.
  8. Know what you’re talking about inside and out. DJ and I know every in and out of our show where it stands right now. And if you had a question for us that we didn’t know the answer to, we’d make something up. We have an alien character who is the last of his kind. What planet is he from? Zaphodbrock. He’s a Zaphoid from the planet Zaphodbrock. I just made that up. It’s one part Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and one part late singer of Gwar. If you wanted me to talk about Zaphodbrock, I could. And DJ could jump in and we’d piggy back on each other’s ideas. Executives want to feel safe. The words, “I don’t know”, has never instilled security in anyone.
  9. If you can’t come up with ten items, don’t just make stuff up to fill time or space. See #5.

So there you go. I’m far from an expert, but I know a week or two ago I’d love to have this information compiled in one place.  I hope this helps or at least makes for some interesting reading.

Nerd Comic Rising 19: Allyson Hood


It’s podcast XIX!  And this episode is with the ever amazing Allyson Hood.  We argue about Star Trek, talk about the wonders of marriage, and discuss the realities of being a female comedian. Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to ncrpodcast@gmail.com


Doctor Who – Season 6 – Episode 8 – Let’s Kill Hitler Review

DOCTOR WHO SEASON 6 REVIEWS- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Doctor Who is back!  It’s a good thing too, since I was starting to go through serious withdraws.  The 8000 episodes of Star Trek added to Netflix helped the pain a bit, but it was still a long summer.  So did Let’s Kill Hitler deliver?  In a word: yes.  In two words: F&$* yes!  In three words: Yes and No.

Confused?  Me too. Although I think this is my second favorite episode this season ( the first being The Doctor’s Wife )  it took several watchings to get me to that conclusion.  At first I was just spent by the whole thing emotionally.  I bought every red herring hook, line, and sinker, and because of that I couldn’t properly gauge how I felt till at least watch-through number 2.

At any rate, look below for my spoil-filled review.

“You named your Spoilers after your Spoilers.”

THE GOOD

* HITLER IN A CUPBOARD – Although many people cheered and giggled at the announced title “Let’s Kill Hitler” when it appeared in epic bravado at the end of Episode 7 I cringed.  I held out hope that the follow up to AGMGTW would be more River/Melody focused, and when the first 10 minutes of this episode seemed to be a standard historical romp with robot Nazi justice soldier I cringed even more.  Then Hitler got put in a cupboard, Mels was revealed to be Melody (how did I not see that coming?), and the whole episode become beyond what I was looking for.

* Melody/River – I read somewhere that Russel T. Davies, who got the honor of casting River for her first appearance in the 4th season, originally wanted to cash in a favor to cast Kate Winslet in the part.  I doubt the Oscar Winning Winslet would have ever returned had she been cast, and I wonder what the show would even look like now had that been the case.  Alex Kingston was brilliant in this episode.  It sort of reminded me of watching Buffy the Vampire after Angel lost his soul.  We are forced to watch one of our favorite characters as evil, but unlike evil Angel, Melody/River has a certain innocence that comes with the sociopathic tenancies.  Plus, she has the greatest line I think I’ve ever heard on Doctor Who “Well, I was on my way to this gay Gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly thought, “Gosh, the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish. I think I’ll kill the Fuhrer.” Who’s with me?”

* ANTIBODYS – It’s hard not to like an entity that kills you so politely.  “Your death will now be implemented.  Please enjoy the music while you death party is being reached…”

* TIED UP LIKE A BOW – We get to find out why River didn’t regenerate when she dies in the library.  We get to see her first given the diary by the doctor.  We get to (I think) see where she hears the Doctor’s name (if that is what he whispers to her as he is dying.  We even get the first ever “Hello Sweetie!”

THE BAD

* CONFUSING EMOTIONS – So I am confused, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way.  I still want Rory and Amy to get their baby back.  It’s really weird to see Rory and Amy doing so well after there baby was kidnapped so traumatically in AGMGTW, and I hope as we go back into standalone episodes next week that it isn’t just brushed under the rug.  At the same time, do I really want them to find the baby?  Because if they do then the River Song we know and love might never have existed, Mels wouldn’t have pushed Amy and Rory together, or given them the name to name herself.  Again, it is confusing.

THE UGLY

It took the Super Justice Robot Squad that long to check there instruments and find out they were in the wrong year?  This seems pretty careless seeing as they had already spent a lot of time and resources killing a dude and assuming his identity.  I guess I shouldn’t expect much of the group that thought it was a good idea to make a security system that would kill them if they forgot to wear their WWJD bracelets, but someone is paying a lot of dough for this.  Transformers can’t be cheap.  Otherwise, we’d all have our own Optimus Prime.

BOLD PREDICTIONS

* You Accept and Know this to be true? So Silence will fall when the big, bold, first question will be asked.  The question is said to be in plain sight.  So our big question is what is that question?  Moffat likes to mess with mistaken dialogue a lot.  It’s not outside the realm of possibility that when Robot Amy confronts River/Melody by saying “You killed the Doctor by order of the Silence, the Academy of the Question.  You accept and know this to be true?” That it actually meant “the Academy of the Question: You accept and know this to be true?” As in You accept and know this to be true is the question in question, and the “this” refers to all of life.

FINAL SUMMARY

This was River’s episode, and after I knew that, I loved it.  When the red car came darting through the corn field I expected River to come out.  I was surprised when she didn’t, then surprised when I found out that she really did.  We had a lot explained, and next week we get to some creepy stand alone romps, which honest-to-science I am kind of glad for.  I have some plot fatigue.

Reality Show Rundown 2: Storage Boogaloo

As I have stated in a previous post, I am totally into reality shows about real people doing their jobs. This summer I have become a bit obsessed with them. The latest two my wife and I are watching revolve around the people who attend storage unit auctions. When storage unit renters default and stop paying their monthly fees, the owners of the facilities will put the contents up for auction to try and recoup their losses. These two shows follow the auctions, auctioneers and the regular buyers of said units.

Storage Hunters

This show mainly follows a couple of jerks and the other jerks they run into. The couple the show revolves around, Brandon and Lori Bernier,  don’t shut up about how much research they do about who owned the units they are bidding on, and constantly get into bickering fights with the other regular bidder on the show. Seriously, check out the hair cut on the lady. What the shit? We watch it to hate them and root for them to overpay for garbage. It gives me great joy every time the open a box to find out it’s empty.  We watch this show if we stumble on to it, but don’t much care if we miss it.

Find Storage Hunters on Tru TV: http://www.trutv.com/shows/storage-hunters/index.html

Storage Wars

Storage wars is a much more entertaining show, which follows a whole cast of characters as they try to outbid each other for storage units all over California. The cast includes Jarrod “The Young Gun” and his wife Brandi, a couple who run a resale shop, and are always trying to one-up each other, Barry “The Collector,” an older hipster who is out looking for valuable collectibles, Dave “The Mogul,”, the owner of a larger consignment business, and Darrell “The Gambler,” a home-based buyer and seller looking for his next big score. The bickering and posturing between the different buyers is the fun on this show, as they each try to outdo the others. There is no real villain on this one, each buyer is likable in their own way, and easy to root for or against. This show has a season pass on my DVR.

Catch Storage Wars on A&E: http://www.aetv.com/storage-wars/

Reality(?) Show Rundown

Is it a dirty word? “Reality” show. I hate them. The manufactured, bullshit scripted dating, people in a house who stop being polite, singing contest shows. I hate the spoiled 20-something “Contestants” on them. My wife watches the worst of them, including the Real World and the Real World Road Rules Challenge shows, and I can’t even be in the room with her while she does. They make me sick.

I have discovered that while I hate those type of shows, I can’t get enough of shows about people doing their jobs. It started with Dirty Jobs, on which Mike Rowe is a delight to watch slog through the worst occupations on the planet. It grew from there.

Here I give you, my favorite “Reality” shows about people doing their jobs:

Parking Wars

Parking Wars follows the parking enforcement officers of the cities of Philadelphia and Detroit as they ticket, tow, boot and impound the vehicles of law breaking citizens. The officers are amusing characters, I will watch Ponytail ticket in Detroit, and Garfield boot all over Philly any day. The best parts are, of course, the reactions of the ticketed, booted or impounded car owners. They flip the fuck out, trash their cars trying to escape, and just do not understand the laws of the cities they live in. It’s pretty awesome. Check it out on A&E. Full epsisodes are available  on their website: http://www.aetv.com/parking-wars/

Hardcore Pawn

I just recently discovered this jem of a show, which follows the happenings at American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit, Michigan. Les Gold and his son and daughter run the shop, along with a colorful cast of characters. The family fights constantly, battling for each others’ respect. The best part, is of course, the ridiculous customers who come in trying to sell things, and get upset that they can’t get a thousand dollars for a piece of junk. they flip out even more than the Parking wars people. I guess it helps that the store is at 8 Mile and Greenfield roads, right on the edge of Detroit. This show is the only one of the three I have added a series recording of to my DVR, it’s great. watch it on Tru TV. They also have full episodes online: http://www.trutv.com/shows/hardcore-pawn/index.html

Mounted In Alaska

This is another recent discovery. After seeing it on The Soup, I have become an avid viewer of Mounted in Alaska. This show isn’t as crazy as the others I’ve mentioned, but it’s still a fun watch. The show follows the happenings at Knight’s Taxidermy in Anchorage, Alaska. The owner, Russ Knight and his staff of cantankerous taxidermists goof around and build some pretty neat things out of dead stuff. It’s a funny show to watch on a quiet evening. Check it out on the History Channel. This one only has one full episode available online currently: http://www.history.com/shows/mounted-in-alaska

Doctor Who – Season 6 – Episode 7 – A Good Man Goes to War Review

DOCTOR WHO SEASON 6 REVIEWS- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Since I have no good reason or excuse to explain my month long absence from doing anything productive on the internet, let’s just say I fell through a crack in space and time. (The sad truth was more along the lines of me sitting around in boxer shorts with my wife saying “Hey, don’t you have Doctor Who reviews to write and Podcasts to do” and me saying “I don’t wanna, these swiss cake rolls and Blu Rays won’t eat and watch themselves!” and her saying, “But isn’t this the exact rubbish you’d like to get paid for someday?” and me saying…..well nothing constructive with a mouth full of swiss cake roll.

On any account, the mid-season episode was pretty awesome. We even had an end of mid season soiree where my wife made delicious Doctor Who Cookies. Yes Gentlemen: Get Jealous.

I’ve had a lot more time than usual to reflect on “A Good Man Goes to War, which I think has been really helpful to the cause of reviewing it fairly.

A lot happened. A lot was revealed. A lot of my predictions were proved dead wrong. (I could have sworn River was going to turn out to be a sensorite ((that’s for sure a joke, sensorites have those awesome stethoscopes and Abe Lincoln beards).

Let us brave on to the spoiler filled review of “A Good Man Goes to War”….better late than never.

“I have gene-spliced myself for all Spoiling duties. I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic Spoilers!”

THE GOOD

*Rising Higher – As predictable as it was for it to be the Doctor under that third hood, it was really freaking awesome. And how cool was that recruiting sequence when all we see is silhouettes of the TARDIS and Matt Smith? Plus the idea of the Doctor calling in all his favors is a pretty cool one, as more people owe their lives to the Doctor than that Spikey Haired dude that gives away houses on ABC. I wish we could have gotten even more creatures from the past, but I understand the budget reasons for just using what they had lying around. The whole thing was filled with so much bad-assery, which brings me to the next thing….

* RORY IS SO EFFING AWESOME – It’s hard to even put into words the awesomeness that has become Rory. The initial setup is great too, making you think Amy is talking about the Doctor when she’s talking about “The Last Centurion.” The best bit though was the moment when Rory talked to the dying Sontaran nurse. As the Sontaran dies Rory says, “But you’re a great warrior,” and the Sonataran says, “No, Rory, I’m just a nurse,” echoing Rory’s own identity crisis he was probably feeling.

* LIZARD LEZZIES – Some might see this episode as a return of RTD’s “Gay Agenda”, but the show does it so little now it was nice to see a little rainbow in the galaxy again, especially in the case of the awesomely strange Silurian/Human coupling.

THE BAD

* WHAT’S MY MOTIVATION – Still understand very little about why these people care so much about fighting the doctor, or why they need to steal a baby weapon to fight him. I’m hoping it gets revealed later (in Moffat we trust) but I’ve got to say, I’m nervous that Eye Patch lady will never really get fleshed out like I’d like her too.

THE UGLY

*THE WAIT – Seriously…..September? I have to wait until September? *Slits Wrists*

BOLD PREDICTIONS

* A GOOD MAN – This whole season has been about identity, and Moffat has made it his mission for us to constantly mix up the Doctor and Rory. We’ve often assumed that River killing “The Greatest man she ever has known” meant the Doctor, but it could also easily mean her father, Rory. What we know with Moffat is that it won’t be simple, but I am predicting that we will see what put River in prison by the end of episode 12, so that 13 can end on a happy note.

BOLD PREDICTIONS PROVED FALSE

*ITTY BITTY TIMELORD- I think that the little girl is Amy’s Baby (still) and that said baby was engineered by the silence to be the first Time Lord (hence all the stuff with the suit, they had do give her second heart a safe environment to grow). Remember this is all wibly wombly timey wimey. The Doctor could easily take part in his own species’ origin story. And then we would finally know why humans look Timelord.

I made this one in Episode 2….I was actually pretty close, but no ballgame.

* The Only Water in the Forest is a River These foreboding words of the TARDIS are talking about River’s death, which we have already seen (the library in that original Moffat two-parter was originally referred to as a Forest). The Tardis is looking backwards and forwards, but River’s death will have a great deal to do with the events of this season.

I was wrong about the TARDIS’s words in Episode 4, which I’m glad for, since this was a much cooler reveal.

FINAL SUMMARY

It wasn’t the “HUGE CLIFFHANGER” we were promised (at least it was nothing like last weeks) but it was a great episode to end the summer on. I just wish there wasn’t all this waiting. I’m really excited to see where the series goes on from here, especially in “Let’s Kill Hitler”

Is Bret Harrison Cursed?

Bret Harrison is one of my favorite television actors. I first became aware of Bret when he briefly guest starred on That 70’s Show when Topher Grace left the show. His part was funny, sending up the typical replacement characters sitcoms had seen over the years. Unfortunately, all of the terrific shows he has starred in since then have been short-lived. In all 3 of the shows we have seen him star in, he has basically been the charming straight man to a cast of oddball characters, trying to make sense of a situation he was thrust into. Bret is easy to identify with in each role, and manages to be funny and charming, and the underdog we root for in each series.

The Loop – In this short-lived Series, Bret played Sam Sullivan, a young airline executive, struggling to fit in at work with his older co-workers, and to satisfy his boss. He also tried to fit in a social life with his friends, who were still living the care-free life of the typical early twenty-something. The show was hysterical and charming, typically finding Sam’s personal and professional lives at odds, and him struggling to make both work. TheLoop unfortunately ran for only two abbreviated seasons on FOX from 2006 to 2007, being cancelled before episodes of season 2 ever began airing.

Reaper – Lasting three seasons, reaper focused on Bret’s Character Sam Oliver, whose parents had sold his soul to the devil, resulting in his life of servitude to the Devil, expertly played by Ray Wise. Sam, along with his friends, was tasked with capturing souls escaped from hell and returning them through a drop-off in the DMV. The best part of the show was the interaction between Sam and his friends, Sock and Ben, played by Tyler Labine and Rick Gonzalez as they chased escaped souls while working at the Work Bench, a home improvement store that inexplicably carried every item they could ever need to aid them in their task. The series also built up a pretty impressive mythology in its short run, introducing the devil’s slick son, a demon girlfriend for Ben, and Sam’s dad turned into a zombie, living in a chest freezer in the garage. Reaper ran from 2007 to 2009 on the CW network, and was dropped after the third season ended on a cliffhanger, seeing Sam lose his girlfriend’s soul to the devil.

V – Bret played a scientist drafted into the human resistance by the series’ main characters. The role was small, and the show’s ratings were already low when he joined late in the second season.

Breaking In – A new show this season on FOX, Breaking In followed Bret’s character Cameron Price, a computer expert who is recruited by a security firm that specializes in breaking in to secure locations to test their existing security systems. In its brief run, the series sawCam pine over his beautiful co-worker Melanie, played by Odette Annable. The cast also included cash, a nerdy fanboy gadget expert, who was constantly dropping references to pop culture, including re-making the entire Star Wars trilogy starring him in every role. Christian Slater played Oz, the owner of Contra Security, the eccentric boss who was constantly manipulating the staff into doing whatever he needed. The show was full of funny and nerdy moments, including an office-wide Nerf gun fight that ends with Oz firing a very real arrow through the water cooler to break it up. Or cash having to face off against a Ninja Turtle at Comicon to retrieve a copy of Goonies 2, a movie they had been hired to protect. Apparently a victim of low ratings, the show only lasted a brief 7 episodes on FOX this season.

Three times now, (four if you count V) I have been burned by shows starring Bret Harrison, but I will keep tuning in whenever I see him in the cast of a new program. I hope the next one sticks, and America sees just how brilliant and funny a comedic actor Bret is.

I checked, all episodes of Reaper are available on Netflix instant watch, and the Loop is available on DVD from them as well. Do yourself a favor and check them both out.

Re-watch it With Your Kids: The Littles

As a parent, if you’re like me, you want to share things from your own childhood with your kids. As a child of the 80’s, I naturally wanted to share some of my favorite Saturday morning and after school cartoons with my boys.  Unfortunately, many of the shows I remember fondly do not hold up well at all. My most glaring example of this was Voltron, which now I realize is terribly cheesy and badly written.

Imagine my surprise, then, when one of the shows I remember as pretty cheesy turned out to be much better than I remember. My wife started the boys watching the Littles, a show about a group of mouse-sized people who live in the walls of regular-sized people’s homes.

The Littles ran for three seasons on ABC on Saturday Mornings from 1983 – 1985, and had a movie, Titles Here Come the Littles in 1985. The main characters are a family of Littles, Including the young Tom and Lucy, their parents Frank and Helen, their older cousin Dinky and their Grandpa, imaginatively named Grandpa Little. They all live in the walls of the house of Henry Bigg, a human who accidentally discovered their existence, and has come to be a friend to them.

The show follows the Littles as they get into and out of all sorts of trouble. The real surprise to me, though, is the mature themes the series deals with fairly regularly. The Littles are often in danger of capture by a scientist named Dr. Hunter who is obsessed with proving their existence to the world. In one episode, the Littles help a little girl whose mother has a problem with prescription drugs by tricking her into thinking she’s hallucinating. In another, they are run out of their homes by giant evil-looking rats. They also deal with drinking, and in a later episode, a couple of guys who would be called terrorists today, who try to gas an entire art museum full of people. Later episodes see the Littles following the Bigg family (Henry’s parents are archeologists) on trips around the world.

 

The show is still aimed at children, of course, and more often deals with lighter themes, but it is refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t write for children as if they are all stupid, as so many of its contemporary shows did. Yes, it’s almost thirty years old, but I you have kids and want to share a bit of the 80s with them, check out the Littles on Netflix, the movie and all 29 episodes of the show are available to view instantly. My 3 and 5 year old boys  can’t get enough of it.

My interview with Mike Bobbitt!

Mike Bobbitt is arguably one of the funniest, if not the funniest comedian working in Detroit.  In his eight years in the business he’s already performed in numerous comedy festivals and worked with some of the biggest names in the business.

The remarkable thing about Mike Bobbitt is that he’s able to walk the fine line between speaking to a very specific crowd while maintaining a level of accessibility to the masses.

Mike currently wrapped production on the television show that he and his wife wrote.  I had a chance to talk to him while he was in Madison, Wisconsin.

Mike, let me start by saying you look really handsome.

Thank you!

You manage to be both cute and cuddly and ruggedly handsome at the same time.  That’s quite a feat.

I appreciate that, but this is already starting off a little weird.

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Maz Jobrani: The Prince of Persia

Maz Jobrani has done it all.  While you may not know his name, you probably recognize his face.  In addition to being one of the nation’s premiere comedians, he’s also one of the founders of the Axis of Evil comedy tour, and has been in numerous films, sharing the screen with Ice Cube in Friday After Next, Nicole Kidman in The Interpreter and Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30.   Maz first flew onto Christine and my radar in the amazing, but unfortunately short lived television series Better Off Ted as the scene stealing Dr. Bhamba.

I had the pleasure of working with him at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase recently.  Sharing the bill with comedians Kvon and Amer Zahr, Maz sold out two back to back shows on a Sunday night.  Between shows Christine and I were able to sit down and pick Maz and Amer’s brains about finding your fan base, auditioning for acting roles, the hurdles of television and speaking for your people.

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