Saturday, September 29, 2007

Golf carts, rum, sharks, sperm and rabies


Sometimes Microsoft Paint is the best way to express yourself. I may have to stop watching Grey's very soon. Anybody see Izzy bring a deer back to life in the back of a truck? Yeah. And McDreamy just happens to meet and be attracted to a woman who just happens to be Meredith's half sister whom she never knew about and just happens to get a job as an intern at the hospital? I know television is all a little bit convenient, but come on. The premiere ended with Meredith & Derek in the same situation as ever...having great sex but afraid to commit themselves to anything more. If I have to hear them say they're "not ready for this" one more time I'm going to take a scalpel to everyone's ambubags. Emotionally unavailable medical experts, grow the fuck up.

Private Practice was okay. I liked it better than the Grey's premiere, but that's not really saying much. The dialogue and tone are snappy like vintage Grey's, and the characters have some nice quirks to them. I thought the plot was a little weak, though...the thing with Amy Brenneman in the store was kinda strange, and I also don't want to hear the word sperm ever again. The establishing shots of LA (and more specifically, Santa Monica), felt weird because there would just be one super-quick shot at the beginning of an act. Overall, I'm not sure. It's somewhat sillier than Grey's, which may prove to be redeeming - or result in there not being enough at stake to keep our interest.

There's no doubt in my mind that ABC's Big Shots was pitched as the male Desperate Housewives. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as juicy or fun. The plots, though soapy, are simple and tired...and the dramatic scenes just don't tap into genuine emotion. Lots of cheating, a little business, death by golf cart and a trannie at a truckstop? The characters are unsympathetic, the women are underdeveloped and the show overall is superficial. I get what they're going for: four guys trying to fix their botched relationships and therefore their lives...and I like Dylan McDermott's icy blues as much as the next girl. But Big Shots is another show about ABCs that fails to make an impression.

CBS's Cane was a nice surprise. It's the story of a Cuban-American family and their rum business. It discusses the mixing of business and family, business and pleasure, past and present, tradition and modernism. I thought the flashbacks were melodramatic and largely unnecessary, but overall the golden aesthetic was a joy to watch. I also thought the combination of English and Spanish felt very natural and established the tone and setting well. The teenagers on the show are a bit cliche (a complaint I have about many shows), but they share screen time nearly equally with the adults, so they may prove to be more complex. Variety points out that the show may not attract many viewers because it's so different from the rest of CBS's procedural-heavy lineup, but it's worth a watch. Tuesdays at 10.

The Office was great. I'm always impressed by the ideas the writers come up with to make the show more visual, this time being a Rabies Fun Run. I also think the Jim/Pam plot was really well done, since the point at which two characters finally get together on a show is often the end of conflict and the beginning of the show's demise. In their case, the new conflict is now keeping the relationship secret, which should keep us going for a while. Plus, Kevin's reactions to them are classic. PB & J!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The alphabet

I would like to propose a new acronym for ABC: Affluent Brooding Caucasians. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of shows on ABC...but they are all about rich white people struggling with relationships. People were raving about Dirty Sexy Money, but I was underwhelmed. The main character is a lawyer who goes to work for a rich, crazy family. It's a bit reminiscent of Arrested Development (sigh), but soapy instead of absurd. The pilot had some funny moments, but unfortunately the show suffers from Devil-Wears-Prada syndrome: the protagonist is the most boring character in it. His only goal or passion is not turning into his father (who had the same job and thus neglected his family). I haven't watched Big Shots or Private Practice yet, but I'm expecting more ABCs.

On NBC, Journeyman was decent. It's somewhere between Early Edition and Quantum Leap, but darker than both. The protagonist, Dan, is a slacker (no shock there, given this pilot season) who travels through time to fix other people's problems - but since he can't control his comings and goings, he creates many familial problems of his own. Unlike EE and QL, the time-traveling in JM is absolutely a curse that may ruin Dan's life. The show is visually exciting and emotionally compelling, but I'm not sure if the plots will seem worthwhile, or if we'll always be on Dan's side.

Annd, I just want to say that Pam Beasley and I wore the same blue knit top from Banana Republic today. I swear it's the same one...and that's awesome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RETAILiation

It seems that the theme of this premiere season is "Retail Slackers." In just two days we saw Mr. Bennett (Heroes), Chuck (Chuck) and half the cast of Reaper hardly working at much-hated jobs at giant retail conglomerates...and in each show, the attitude was clearly that the job sucked the big one. I find this a little strange. Did all the writers used to work at big stores and hate them?

That being said, I thought the premiere of Heroes was kind of disappointing. The episode had no real arc of its own...just lots of setup. There are two new characters from Honduras, one being a woman who accidentally mass murders people and then doesn't remember it (similar to the Jessica side of Nikki, in my opinion). I'm not sure I like this, given the fact that the few women on Heroes are already weak or have negative powers (Claire always has to be saved...and Jessica, the strong one, is evil)...but I guess I have to give it more time.

Everyone is raving about Chuck, but I thought it was just okay. It's quirky, fun and really well shot. But I have two problems: 1. The plot is a huge stretch, and I'm having trouble buying it. Chuck is a now-stereotypical retail slacker who saw a bunch of pictures his old college roommate sent to him in an email and now holds government secrets in his head. Really? 2. It's not that funny. The show is definitely going for more subtle Office-like humor than Two and a Half Men-style punchlines, which I give it credit for, but they're just not that funny. The action-comedy genre is fun, but I think Burn Notice on USA does it much better...it's a little funnier, and the plots are less ridiculous. (Speaking of funny...I never talked about Back to You's premiere last week. It's a very tired, typical sitcom with nothing new or original about it. It proves that no matter how many Emmy winners are on your cast, the show will suck if the jokes aren't funny.)


And now...I am happy to tell you that REAPER IS HILARIOUS AND PROBABLY THE BEST NEW SHOW OF THE SEASON. I say this hoping that some of you have Nielsen boxes and will tune in since scripted stuff on the CW isn't exactly known for pulling in huge numbers. Reaper is produced by Mark Gordon (Grey's Anatomy, Army Wives) and the pilot was written by Kevin Smith. Strange combination? Absolutely. But it worked. It's a story about a slacker retail worker (I'm letting this one slide because the scenes in the store were hilarious) whose parents sell his soul to the devil, forcing him to work for Satan, killing evil people who escape from hell. Why it's ingenious: 1. It's clever and original. Two news anchors? Yup, we've seen it a dozen or so times. Doing deeds for Satan? Not as much. 2. It's visually exciting. Using a dirt devil to suck up a burly arsonist who can set himself on fire is cool to watch. 3. It's episodic - The main character will be chasing after a different lost soul each episode. 4. It's strangely moral - even though he's working for the Devil, he's actually catching bad guys, which makes him a good guy in my book. And, most importantly, 5: It's hilarious. It's a combination of subtle humor, nice punchlines, weird characters and cool visual gags. My absolute favorite line was when the main character and the Devil (a distinguished man in a suit) stood under black umbrellas, looking at the muscley arsonist they had to catch. The Devil explained about him, paused and said, "Oh, gag. What a tool." Love it. Watch it. Tuesdays at 9 on the CW.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And some premiere gossip (girl).

Last night was the much-awaited premiere of OC creator Josh Schwartz's new show, Gossip Girl. I have mixed feelings about it, but I'll definitely be watching next week. It was nearly impossible to watch the pilot without comparing it to The OC. First off, it's deliciously shot (and actually, director Mark Piznarski also directed the Veronica Mars pilot). Second, it's about gorgeous rich kids who look and act way old than high schoolers (though at least Seth and Ryan drank keg beer from solo cups...these kids drink martinis in hotel bars? seriously?). More similarities: Dysfunctional parents who criticize clothing, and also parents who seem to have a history. Big party scene. Relationship infidelity. The idea of breaking into the cool "world." Basically, it's 3/4 OC and 1/4 Cruel Intentions. And at this point, I have to say that both The OC and Cruel Intentions did it better.

The OC was funnier and less pretentious, where GG takes itself much more seriously. There are some funny moments with Rufus, but he's not as strong of a character as Sandy. Plus, Seth never wanted to be part of the cool world, he just kinda fell into it when Ryan showed up and pushed him to pursue Summer. And he made cracks about it the whole time. On GG, Serena returns to the world she most definitely belongs in. Blair runs it. And cute brother-sister team Jenny and Dan are bothing aching to be part of it. Where is the satire? Where is the commentary that it's all kind of ridiculous?

Also, I think the voiceover of the secret blogger adds very little to the show. She does nothing but point out what we are already seeing, and the blog itself never affected the plot (though I'm guessing that will change).

The characters had some decent specificity...Jenny has potential to go through a lot of changes, and the Serena/Dan match could be interesting. I find Blair and Nate both kind of whiny. Eric is a bit of a cliche at this point, and I'm not sure that kid can act. Chuck could be a great antagonist, but he's seems to be trying a little too hard to be Ryan Philippe's Sebastian...and I hope we don't have to stomach too many more scenes of him forcing his tongue down girls' throats. Anyway, if you liked the OC, it's worth a look.

Also on Wednesdays...umm, Kid Nation? Probably the guiltiest and most pleasurable guilty pleasure of the season. I bet it started out as a joke in some meeting...an executive was out of ideas and said "All right, let's just drop a couple dozen kids in the desert and let them fend for themselves." And Kid Nation was born. Not suprisingly, it's gotten some scrutiny from both parents and the WGA. Anyway, I liked it. I think it's interesting because it shows that kids can be smart and sometimes eloquent even before they've lost all their baby teeth. The first ep was kind of positive, and I'm expecting it to turn more chaotic...come on, you read Lord of the Flies.

Job search update

I interviewed for a receptionist position at a commercial production company in Santa Monica on Monday and just heard today that I didn't get it...they told me that I was certainly qualified and the interview went very well, but they got a referral from an exec at another company and the candidate knows the commercial production world very well (I obviously don't) and it was a better fit. It wasn't my ideal job so I don't feel that badly about it...especially since the woman said she would pass my resume along to other companies looking for people, which was nice.

This morning I had a second interview for a receptionist (though they're calling it "production secretary") position at a production company in Burbank that produces game shows and specials like parades and pre-shows. The producer said he would like me to move on and meet with the executive producer, but I told him about my other interviews going on and he said he doesn't want to give the EP a candidate who won't be willing to accept the position and start immediately. He said to call the associate producer when I've figured it out, noting that they might find someone else if I wait too long. It's a dangerous game, but this job also isn't ideal...and I have reason to be optimistic about:

The mid-size agency interview that went really well yesterday. The woman in HR was exceedingly friendly, and maybe it was just her spiel but I really liked what she had to say about the company and the experience I would have there. She wants me to start in the mailroom for a month, then be a floater, then assistant. Honestly, the interview was not much of an interview...she did most of the talking and then asked whether I wanted to be in lit or talent, TV or MP. She gave me her stamp of approval so now we are in the process of setting up two interviews with agents there. If they like me (and she said as long as I am outgoing I should be fine), then I'm in. The mailroom pay is dismal, but you get more as a floater and more than that as an assistant, so it'll become pretty standard after a couple months. The reality prod co receptionist gig would pay more - even more than once I'm an assistant - but I really think working at an agency will be the fast track to career success. I'm quickly finding out that you need to have been an assistant to get an assistant job, and if you have been an agent assistant, it is even more valuable. It will be hard, but the atmosphere at the agency is really welcoming (she assured me there are no Ari Golds there, haha), and I think it will be worth it. I just hope the agents like me.

In the meantime I'm doing some freelance work Friday and possibly Monday & Tuesday, and I'm working another open casting call for American Gladiators on Sunday. I might actually be able to pay my rent next month!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

K-ville

Anybody watch the series premiere of K-Ville on Fox last night? I thought it was pretty good. What I think works about it is that it has elements of a typical cop drama - a new case each episode - but it's grounded in a really specific setting (modern day New Orleans) with unique problems. Overall I thought it was shot pretty well, but not as strikingly as Friday Night Lights or The O.C. (in my opinion, season 3 was a bit weak in writing but fantastically shot). Marlin is an interesting protagonist, an emotionally rattled cop who often takes things too far to keep control of everything. His partner, a reserved convict-turned-soldier, should provide conflict throughout the season. The plot moved along well, and there were always extremely high stakes. Occasionally I felt it delved into melodrama, especially with flashbacks that were unnecessary (and nowhere near as artfully done as those on the O.C.), but the situations have every reason to be intense. Plus, Marlin's cheeky personality - and the down-home New Orleans mentality that may prove to be a character in itself - offer a fair amount of humor to balance it out.

If you missed it, there is a special encore on tonight at 9. Normally the show airs Mondays at 9 on Fox.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good News.

Yesterday was a good day for the job search. I set up interviews next week for a management/production company in Santa Monica and a Mid-size Top-10 Agency in Beverly Hills. The former is for a Receptionist position (but since it's a small company I don't think that would necessarily be a bad thing). The agency HR assistant told me we would talk about mailroom positions as well as other positions. Yay. The lunch with my former internship boss got moved to Tuesday, so I actually have three places to be next week. Hurray!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Today is the day. One month since I arrived in la la land. When I woke up this morning, the universe decided to give me a present: NO MORE WIRELESS INTERNET.

Ughhhhh. Now I have a list of just 18 wireless networks to choose from, all of them password protected. I seriously considered knocking on my nextdoor neighbors' door and asking to split their bill. (Two of the networks are full-strength, so I know they must belong to someone nearby). Until I get that shameless, I'll be rockin it here at the Sherman Oaks Public Library.

Another thing I've learned about Hollywood is that people work crazy ridiculous long-ass hours. People like my roommate, who just emailed me to schedule hanging-out time. We live together. And just cause it's funny, I have to share with you our conversation (all separate emails):

KATIE: What are we doing tonight??

ME: whatever you want to! i have that 99 cent bottle of wine...i bet we can each get drunk for 50 cents. lol

KATIE: YAYAYAY!! AND WATCH FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS??? SHALL I BRING SOME PIZZA OR SOMETHING??

ME: haha FNL sounds good to me. hmmm i could do pizza! we have some menus/coupons at home too.
btw i am at the public library right now. we have NO MORE INTERNET at our apt. :( :(

KATIE: OH NOOOOOOOOO

I'LL WAIT TO GET THE PIZZA UNTIL I GET HOME SO WE CAN COUPON IT UP

A girl after my own heart. Her caps-lock enthusiasm looked pretty hilarious above her ultra-professional assistant email signature, btw.

Job update: Got an email about a receptionist gig at a commercial production company, now I'm just waiting for a second email with what time they want me to come for an interview. I also got my resume sent into two Slightly Smaller Agencies. I think I'm pulling myself out of the depression mindset and back into Carefully Guarded Optimism.

Meanwhile, pilots are coming!!! TV Guide has a nice...well, guide. Shows I'm excited for and why:



Dirty Sexy Money - dialogue
Pushing Daisies - concept, tone
Back to You - acting, plus an attempt at a traditional sitcom
Moonlight - solely for Jason Dohring
Gossip Girl - I loved Josh Schwartz's The OC, and I love Kristen Bell
Cane - it's not about rich white people in NY/LA
Cavemen - to see if the re-shot pilot is as disastrous as people said the original one was
K-Ville - I think we need more shows that reflect real events and problems
Aliens in America - "Quirky" and "awkward." Sign me up.

Also, I just heard that The Office will stream for free on NBC.com. Exciting.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

maybe just that one long finger in the middle.

The key to being successful in Hollywood is to treat every task like you are ON A MISSION TO PREVENT A DETONATED BOMB FROM KILLING EVERY HUMAN BEING ON EARTH. This will A) impress your superiors and B) distract you from (and give greater meaning to) the things you are really doing, like making sure dry cappucinos are indeed dry enough.

A corollary to this key is that you should never wear open-toed shoes if you are an office PA/runner. Wearing such shoes might cause layers of skin on your toe to slice open when you're running down the uneven sidewalk on Highland Avenue from one camera shop to another to make sure you get the correct batteries for a camera that must be ready to take photos of an executive's son's first soccer game in fifteen minutes.

What else? It never hurts to carry suncreen for 1o-hour outdoor casting sessions, two forms of government-issued IDs (or a passport, which trumps everything) for start forms, or extra change for parking meters. Always remember to ask for receipts, especially at Starbucks, where the like to throw them away before you ask. And GPS will surely become your best friend in the world, if your parents are generous enough to buy it for you (it's going on my Christmas list).

I know all this because I've gotten some random PA work, but nothing permanent yet. I guess it's decent, since I'm getting to know more people who I'm sure will have more opportunities for me to work. I just can't always count on it for money, which sucks. Unfortunately, the job in TV development that I really really wanted went to someone else. In my 7-minute Big Agency interview I found out I don't have enough basic admin experience (why did they call me to come in?). I haven't heard anything back from the talent manager, or the Page program. Or the 12 other places I sent resumes to last week. In 2 1/2 weeks I have an interview for a floater position at another Big Agency. Other than that, I got nothin.

I'm going to have lunch with the Creative Exec at one of my old internship sites on Thursday...perhaps he will have some pearls of wisdom (or friends with job openings, which would be better). Wednesday will be my one-month anniversary of coming to LA. At that point I think I will allow myself to be depressed enough to pop open the bottle of Riesling I bought with all the remaining change in my wallet at a 99-Cents Only store.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

fingers are crossed.

Man, that was a long weekend, I guess because weekends are totally irrelevant when you don't have a job...you get to hang out with your employed friends though, which is always nice. I went to a few bars, hung out at my friends' pool, and got some great discounted Ikea furniture off the set of a reality show my old London roommates are working on. I also got to see my sister since she was in town on business. We drove all over LA in her rental car (free gas thanks to her company!) doing various things, including going to a really sketchy furniture warehouse where all I could afford was a $40 candle thingy to put on my mantel. I also made my first trip to downtown LA. I mean, I've driven AROUND it, but I've never had reason to actually go there. My friend Ann lives nearby so we went to a bar called the Gopher something. Decent bar, though I wasn't thrilled about paying $5 for bottled beer. I know, it's standard in LA, but still. They didn't even have what I wanted. Tokyo in Hollywood, where we went on Saturday, was the same story...and also the restaurant in Burbank on Friday. I'm surprised at the poor selection of light beers in LA bars. How the hell am I supposed to be skinny enough to wear hotpants and stilettos like all the other girls if you don't serve Michelob Ultra or Bud Select? I know you're not all drinking Diet Coke and Bacardi Superior. Bleh.

Anyway. This morning I had the much-awaited interview to be a TV development assistant at a production company. Good thing I gave myself 80 minutes to get there, since I accidentally drove to Mar Vista and then accidentally drove to Beverly Hills before finding the place (in LA). It actually would have been a 20-25 minute commute without mistakes, which is great when you live in the Valley. I think it went well but it is sometimes hard to tell. It was a bit short, but I tried to talk enough to give the interviewer a sense of my personality/knowledge. He asked for a fun fact so I told him about my Who Wants to be a Millionaire experience. He didn't know the answer to the $25,000 question I walked away on, either...and he went to Cornell. So there. :) If I were offered the job I think I would definitely take it. He told me that I didn't have to lie and say I wanted to work in TV development, I could say I wanted to be a writer and after a year commitment he would be perfectly happy to help me get staffed on a show. (!!!) So I came clean, said I was very interested in development but I do want to be a writer. Which is all true. He also said that it is the kind of job where I would get to read everything and give notes if I want, which would be great. Good signs: I think we had a good rapport, he said I had great internship experience, and he also said it was a great "starter" job so he is ok with the fact that I haven't been an assistant before. Bad signs: The interview was only about 20 minutes, and he says he is going to be interviewing people all day...so who knows.

Random, I just now got another call from the big agency I cancelled on last week because I was working at the reality production office. I set up an interview for tomorrow because, what the hell. I may be working at the reality office (I did get called back, I just couldn't go today) but if not it's another option. I also have an interview at another big agency in like 3 weeks...it was their earliest HR opening, and I'm hoping to have a job before then. But if I don't, maybe it will turn into something.

I started working on my pilot about college radio again. I figure that I really need to establish writing as something I do EVERY DAY, regardless of what's going on in my life (and with no job, I really have no excuse). There are thousands of writers in Hollywood with completed scripts who can't get anywhere. So if I don't even have a completed script, I definitely won't get anywhere. Plus, if I do meet the all-important person who can make my career goals happen, I need to have a script to give them. I realized that my pilot relied too much on what really happened (and therefore was kind of boring and low-stakes) so I'm starting to invent more, which I think is a step in the right direction. It's good to be inspired by actual events, but sticking to them entirely is very limiting. I also realized that my protagonist wasn't involved enough, that the other people in the show had more power. So now I've given my protagonist the most powerful position on the radio staff, much to the surprise of everyone else, including her best friend who thought he was going to get the job. conflict conflict conflict. yay. Last night I hammered out the outline and started piecing scenes together. I've managed to incorporate most of the scenes I had already written, so it's not entirely starting from scratch. I hope to have act one done today and start on act two.

I'm also meeting a friend for half-priced smoothies (we both agreed we can't afford lunch, haha). Hooray for Val-Pak coupons. He's a writer too, though is focused on film. It's good to have people you can talk to about your writing, both for their opinions and so that they can help motivate you and keep you on track.