writing down the sun

why katherine heigl was rude, but right

Posted in celebrities by annie on June 14, 2008

Katherine Heigl, who plays Izzy Stevens, a doctor at “Seattle Grace” hospital in the ABC show “Grey’s Anatomy” has ruffled some serious plumage with her decision to remove her name from Emmy consideration — and to be quite open about it when asked why:

β€œI did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention,” she said. β€œIn addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.”

My thoughts: Yeah, you’re right. But Lord almighty do you have to be so damn blunt about it?

For those who don’t watch the show — well, it’s painful lately, so I can’t blame you. With the sole and notable exception of the season finale, which was right on the money, the show’s quality has suffered from what appears to be a serious lack of commitment and focus. Where is it all headed? Nobody apparently knows and that’s the problem. It ain’t the acting. It ain’t the directing. It is, I’m sorry to say, the writing — and the … well, whatever you call whoever’s in charge of making the big picture CEO decisions about the show’s master arc does. That’s all over the place this year.

The character of Izzy in particular has been impacted by this lack of focus. In the show’s universe, it wasn’t that long ago that she lost the love of her life, but this year she was thrown into an ill-advised, completely unforeseen, and totally character-inappropriate relationship with, of all people, her best friend George. That was mercifully aborted almost as soon as it began but not before driving an even greater wedge between the show and its loyal fans.

So, yeah, Heigl’s right when she says she wasn’t given appropriate Emmy-quality material this year. But she should have kept her yap shut as to “why.” Why? ‘Cause she looks like a grade-A, royal queen-bee bitch now, that’s why. And while she obviously has the potential for quite a successful movie career (as opposed to the show’s ostensible star, Ellen Pompeo, who will surely be forever playing Meredith Grey, no matter what show she’s in), that future is dependent on other people deciding “Hey, we like her, let’s hire her.”

And that, for celebrities, as for the real world denizens like us, depends on behavior. Yours. Mine. Heigl’s. We teach people how to treat us, but we also teach them in large part how to feel about us, too.

There’s a charitable fraternity-organization for business people called the Rotary Club. I don’t know much about them except that whenever I have to make a court appearance for a client, I drive past these “Burma Shave”-esque signs they put up on the side of the road headed into Conway. They exhort me to, before I say something (anything!), answer these following questions:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build good will and better relationships?

Y’know, I mock those signs every time I drive by (just a little — in a good-natured way), but there’s something to be said for holding one’s tongue when the answer to one or more of those questions happens to be “no.”

And you can probably put this one in that “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” category too. We’ve been hanging out there a lot lately, haven’t we?

Source: “Grey’s” Source: Heigl’s comment a slap in the face

just because you can … part 2

Posted in what i'm thinking now by annie on June 13, 2008

The story out of Oceanside, California yesterday has parents, teens, and educators talking — really talking, apparently, even agreeing with each other. Can that ever be a bad thing?

Well — yes, if the talk and agreement is centered around a mass school-wide deception of incomprehensibly epic and cruel proportions.

Imagine: you’re a teen. You go to school Monday morning only to note that several classmates are absent. Weird, you think – or perhaps you don’t notice. Maybe you only notice when the uniformed state troopers start showing up with grim faces and even grimmer news:

Those absent classmates? They’re all dead. Victims of a horrible drunk driving incident.

You and your classmates, with the raw grief that perhaps only teens can muster for each other over the lives of those who thought themselves invincible, predictably — understandably — fall apart. There are tears. There is despondency. There is rage.

Yet this is nothing like the rage that is induced mere hours later when the rumors start to float around. First, just one or two students who were particularly grief-stricken, inconsolable, hysterical with grief even — then more and more, and finally when you all file into the assembly that you used to think was a rapidly planned memorial service for the dead, you realize you all know by this point:

This was all a hoax.

Your teachers, your principals, your fucking guidance counselors all thought this was a good way to get you not to drink and drive over graduation weekend.

From my vantage point of 20-odd years post-high-school, this is how I feel: what the hell were these adults thinking? Were they thinking at all?

This whole charade has the smell of one of those projects that somehow take on lives of their own. You know the kind I mean. They start with just a kernel of an idea, fueled by a good intention. But by the time details start getting added to flesh out this kernel of an idea, the whole thing is a fait accompli and no one can even remember agreeing to the damn thing in the first place.

So, good people get swept up in the tide. Do they question it? Maybe. Maybe somewhere deep inside there’s a tiny whisper urging a bit of caution, another look, a step back. Do they listen? Maybe. Maybe someone tentatively raises a hand in a staff meeting and says, ever so uncertainly, “Are we sure this is the way we want to go?” That hand quickly gets pulled down, though, when the response is dismissive.

The end result: no one stops and takes a moment’s pause. No one takes that crucial step back and thinks about it from the peculiar vantage point of after-the-fact.

And, so, I have no doubt that there are some stunned school officials in Oceanside this week, wondering how in the hell they became such universal objects of scorn and outrage. How? Simple. They got carried away, and didn’t practice the one skill I believe is most needed in this day and age, yet remains sadly absent from our public education curriculum: critical thinking.

There is no reverse on the DVD player of your life. There is, however, a “fast forward” of sorts.

my adventures in spec script writing, part un

Posted in tv, writing by annie on June 7, 2008

So, I’m writing a House spec script. What this means: I write the script in full without payment. Unlike real Hollywood TV writers who, once established, get hired (read: PAID) to write such a thing, I’m writing it “speculatively” — i.e., speculating on something else happening. The catch in my case: the “something else” I’m waiting for isn’t a writing gig on House* but a breakthrough on my novel. So, you might say I’m “speculating” that this endeavor will reassure my shaky choice-shy psyche that yes, it’s OK to finish the novel.

And to start it all off, I’m watching/rewatching old episodes with an eye towards sussing out and understanding the structure. It’s like playing TV detective! (Not “detective on TV” though. That’s something else entirely.)

And as it turns out, your favorite TV shows have a secret life all their own. You think you know — you don’t know! Here’s what I mean:

Normally, House follows a very predictable structure. Teaser – 2 minutes or less. Titles. Act one – six to eight scenes, normally 60% less than 1 minute long, the rest from 1 to 2 minutes long. Hardly ever does a scene go over 2 minutes. Act two has a similar structure; three as well but it’s shorter overall, four is more like three, maybe a bit shorter, and then the last scene sometimes lays a foundation for the next episode.

I haven’t seen ALL the House episodes yet – nor have I analyzed all the ones I have seen. But I feel pretty comfortable stating that they fall within this structure, more or less.

If you’re a regular House watcher you may have felt (as I did) the first part of the finale — “House’s Head” – felt …. different, somehow. Not just the whole “House is the patient — whaaa?!” thing or the amnesia or the hallucinations and hypnosis — something about the whole “feel” of the show was different.

Turns out, there was a very good reason for feeling that way: The structure got turned on its head. The teaser was the same, but then there was an immediate cut back into Act One, after titles, and from that point on all hell broke loose. SEVEN Acts, not four! First act waaaaaay longer than usual! Number of scenes per act decimated! TWO scenes in one of the acts! Average time per scene something like 3 minutes, much longer than usual! Whoa, nelly. What in blue blazes is going on here?

But watching it, you’d never single that out and say “Oh yeah, they changed the structure.” (Unless you were some script nerd, as I fear I am becoming.) Yet the structure completely changed the way you experience the episode. Made it more intimate and at the same time uncomfortable – like you stayed too long at the party and watched the host and hostess get into a crockery-throwing, obscenity-hurling smackdown, yet you just couldn’t NOT look …. or something.

I’m telling you, there’s like this whole secret life of television shows you think you know — you don’t know until you break out the stopwatch! It’s so cool. I never really got into “technique” before — I was more focused on being creative (to varying degrees of success, I might add). This is pure technique and as such it’s very interesting and new.

Also makes me think “What the hell did I agree to do?! No way I can keep all this together!”

Which then makes me think “The hell you say … just watch me.”

Which, when you get right down to it, is The Whole Point.

*Ironically, were I writing this as a wannabe TV writer, and not for creative treatment, I’d be looking for a job on any show other than House, actually. Show runners never read spec scripts for their own shows for legal reasons. I am told.

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time to change clothes

Posted in what i'm thinking now by annie on June 2, 2008

I made it look different. I was gettin’ bored with the old pic and look.

stuck in the house

Posted in tv, writing by annie on June 1, 2008

So I’ve been just consumed — OK, let’s call it what it is — obsessed — with watching the first two seasons of House MD on DVD. A few strange developments have occurred during this marathon:

  • I’ve decided I really like the show after all. I know — that sounds pretentious, like I was too cool for House, one of the (arguably, the) finest shows on TV. Yet it rubbed me the wrong way at first. Probably because of this ass, also being brought up by a nurse who saw firsthand the unbelievable arrogance of most (I didn’t say “all”!) doctors. So — yeah, it started chipping away at my doc-defenses. I admit it — it’s technically good, and I like it. Happy, Dr. Pig Jowls?
  • I’ve developed a simultaneous block on my novel. Actually, to be honest, I’m pretty sure the block arose first. The House marathon was a distraction, but . . .
  • . . . I’m beginning to think the two are connected. What I mean: I think House is the solution.

Explanation: I’m blocked, whatever we agree that this means. For whatever reason, most likely self-induced, I cannot get past a certain point in the novel draft and therefore it sits untouched, damn it. What I think will help: something structured. ‘Cause, see, the novel isn’t, right? It’s like this vast wasteland of possibility.

And what, pray tell, is more structured than an established procedural-cum-character drama spec script?

See where I’m going with this?

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