Another Hiatus?!: And “On Writing Pilots”

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Look, everybody just calm down and be quiet. Give me some room.

That’s right, there isn’t gonna be a podcast this Monday morning for your Monday commutes into the city. And after a mid-season finale, there won’t be another for a while. I wish things would’ve turned out differently, but that mythical backlog is still working its way down: earlier of course it was rutted in ‘epic,’ and while approaching ‘low fantasy,’ is caught in the drear-space of ‘that one where it’s modern day but there’s a portal to a hidden world.’

Truth of the matter is, I have not been consuming enough media (Blade Trinity, The Maxx), nor rewatching critical pieces (Strange Days) enough to do any episode justice. What I have been doing is wandering in non-genre land, fixing to return to The Americans after reading a recent essay on Season 3 by Nussbaum, and checking out a long-retired HBO classic with In Treatment.

And primarily I need to be studying the show Hannibal. I watched The Silence of the Lambs for the first time a few days ago, wouldn’t you know it? But the thing is — I’m moving to LA to become a TV writer, and my current career-model is Nic Pizzolatto, who was asked on set once by a PA, “How’d you do it?” And while his story is more interesting, the key was to get a job to generate enough money, and live with as little overhead as possible… so that you can write.

He went into town with two drama pilots (a bull-riding show and something called True Detective), and a spec for Justified, which is a totally logical choice given his output so far (literary crime).

Of course, he was getting meetings because of a novel that was optioned, but there again — write.

Writing a spec nowadays is incredibly tricky. A while ago, you could do Buffy or The X-Files or Seinfeld and you would go on to contend with whatever mountain of shit, but the shows on right now are post-Breaking Bad (I’d say post-The Sopranos, but Breaking Bad pushed it so much farther), where it isn’t case-of-the-week, and you have to consider all this mythology and character arcs.

Imagine writing an episode of Better Call Saul right now, and then imagine the window you’d have to shop it around town before your events were contradicted by the show itself. And you have to write a popular show (The Americans is straight out) and a show that wouldn’t require research beyond your means (The Americans is straight out), and something that’s still currently on.

I was two half-Word-documents deep into a Revenge spec, and that show’s over now.

Lastly, the great challenge is finding a show that announces your intentions. I want to write science-fiction, and can count on both thumbs the amount of science-fiction on television. If you want to write genre, you have exactly one option: superheroes.

So after deciding that Agents of SHIELD was not my cup, I remembered Hannibal, that show known for a few things: being very good, being very bloody, and being elegantly beautiful with its look and design. But I’m only three episodes in, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

And unfortunately, The Battle Beyond Planet X was never the number one priority (even when it should’ve been). There was always some creative project keeping me busy, even as the nature of the show evolved.

At first, the podcast was a wrongheaded attempt at a platform. Everyone needs a website, right? Gotta get those products proddin’. But as I got into it, this really became product.

I’m not doing this dumb show because I like the sound of my voice (I loathe it) or because it’s great for advertising (…), but because I personally believe it’s important.

It’s filling a void. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be doing something exactly like it — the show is not gonna end any time soon. I’m gonna do one big Episode 53, and then cool it for a few months.

What I will never do is just disappear. That happened with the Genrebusters (in the age of the Internet, for chrissake), and it broke my heart.

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For my one dedicated listener, I’ll be along shortly.

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