The Bachelor and The Power of Love

Ratings for Brad Womack’s comeback season on The Bachelor are down, and he’s been scorned as a featureless, psychobabbling Ken doll. But beneath his boring exterior lies a highly skilled Romeo…
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According to Robert Greene, author of The Art of Seduction, Womack is the modern equivalent of Benjamin Disraeli, one of the greatest seducers of all time. It was Disraeli, after all, who as prime minister of England in the late 1800s seduced the socks off Queen Victoria by appealing to the stodgy royal’s femininity and deeply buried sexuality.
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Disraeli affectionately (and with irreverence that shocked everyone but la reine) referred to Victoria as the “Faery Queen.” He sent her political reports that were essentially love notes, filled with juicy gossip about her enemies (one of whom was wittily described as having “the sagacity of the elephant, as well as its form”). But the essence of Disraeli’s genius as a courtier was his ability to make it all about her.
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Enter Womack, who constantly deflects attention from himself to focus on the needs and whimsies of his potential brides. On his first date with Jackie, a 27-year-old artist who lives in New York, he brings her to a luxurious day spa. “Can I help you with this?” he says as he gallantly helps her into a robe. He then tells the camera how excited he is that the date “solely centers on pampering Jackie.”
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Later on, when he whisks Jackie off to a private dinner and concert at the Hollywood Bowl, he toasts his by now totally smitten date by saying: “Here is to what I hope is as close to a perfect day as possible for you. I’m glad it’s you.” And throughout the night, which concludes with a private Train concert, he frequently murmurs, “I hope you’re happy.”…
Greene pointed out that on The Bachelor, Womack is not in the traditional position of seduction artist—technically, it should be the women who are seducing him. But as someone who is trying to “seduce America,” as Greene described Womack’s “motive,” and convince audiences that he’s no longer an insensitive cad, his wooing energies are in high gear.
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The only time Womack ever seems flustered is when a woman disrupts his flood of attention and turns the focus back to him. Womack clams up and is visibly thrown off his game.
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This is the description of a Power of Love character.

Brad-Womack-BachelorI am not particularly a fan of The Bachelor but I was struck by this article on the current season.  It’s such an apt description of the Power of Love character.

These Character Types are the ultimate seducers.  They believe if they make themselves indispensable and/or irresistible, the other person will need them and will be obliged to love them.

On a paper valentine it says simply, firmly and powerfully “Be Mine.” Possessiveness and passive/aggressive domination are the hallmarks of these characters.

They manipulate by focusing the attention on the other person or love interest.  Power of Love characters lavish their attention and affection on others in order to exercise control, prevail or gain dominance.

That’s what it sounds like Brad Womack’s seduction strategy is as discussed in the article below:

Ratings for Brad Womack’s comeback season on The Bachelor are down, and he’s been scorned as a featureless, psychobabbling Ken doll. But beneath his boring exterior lies a highly skilled (even brilliant) Romeo…

…According to Robert Greene, author of The Art of Seduction, Womack is the modern equivalent of Benjamin Disraeli, one of the greatest seducers of all time. It was Disraeli, after all, who as prime minister of England in the late 1800s seduced the socks off Queen Victoria by appealing to the stodgy royal’s femininity and deeply buried sexuality.

Disraeli affectionately (and with irreverence that shocked everyone but la reine) referred to Victoria as the “Faery Queen.” He sent her political reports that were essentially love notes, filled with juicy gossip about her enemies (one of whom was wittily described as having “the sagacity of the elephant, as well as its form”). But the essence of Disraeli’s genius as a courtier was his ability to make it all about her.  (And thus gain control of the relationship.)

Enter Womack, who constantly deflects attention from himself to focus on the needs and whimsies of his potential brides. On his first date with Jackie, a 27-year-old artist who lives in New York, he brings her to a luxurious day spa. “Can I help you with this?” he says as he gallantly helps her into a robe. He then tells the camera how excited he is that the date “solely centers on pampering Jackie.”

Later on, when he whisks Jackie off to a private dinner and concert at the Hollywood Bowl, he toasts his by now totally smitten date by saying: “Here is to what I hope is as close to a perfect day as possible for you. I’m glad it’s you.” And throughout the night, which concludes with a private Train concert, he frequently murmurs, “I hope you’re happy.”…

…The only time Womack ever seems flustered is when a woman disrupts his flood of attention and turns the focus back to him. Womack clams up and is visibly thrown off his game.  (When the attention is on him he loses the advantage and can’t control and manipulate the person or the situation.)

The rest of the article is here:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-02-20/bachelor-brad-womacks-hidden-brilliance/?cid=hp:mainpromo6

Modern Day Sherlock Holmes on the BBC

1. Have you seen BBC’s Sherlock Holmes? Thus far it’s a three-episode series set in contemporary London, and to podge a British term, it’s brill. Smart, fast-paced, relying more on intellect and issues about character than on the stars’ appearance, it won thumbs up from all four members of my family.
What they do well, IMHO:
a. Respectful blending of past with present: Watson is a recovering war vet, wounded from a tour as a physician in Afghanistan. He’s a blogger!  Despite modernization, though, the essence of the series feels true to the original books.
b. Technology is important in the sleuthing process, but not the focus. This is not a series about gadgets.
c. There’s a fascinating and believable relationship between Watson and Holmes in which each make the other bigger. Without Holmes, Watson would be limping in a half-existence,  devoid of the risk and stimulation which is his life’s blood. Watson, on the other hand, both grounds Holmes and validates him.
d. The writers have set up a central question about Sherlock, articulated by Lestrade in this quote: “He’s a great man. if we’re very lucky, one day he might be a good one.”
Will Sherlock cross from brilliance into psychopathy, perhaps out of sheer boredom? Will he learn to engage emotion and vulnerability along with his impressive intellect, particularly around the female sex? These are great questions to have a viewer asking within a few moments of beginning a series.

bbc-sherlock-holmesHere is a post from a wonderful blogger Jan O’Hara writing on Tartitude.  She was thinking about Sherlock Holmes and asked if I thought he was a Power of Reason Character.  My answer was:  Sherlock Holmes is indeed a Power of Reason character– Everything can be explained/deduced rationally and logically. “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.” Power of Reason characters care more that something makes sense or is practical and less that it is moral or kind. Moving from a cold clinical analysis toward a more human evaluation (which takes into consideration connection, caring and a real valuing of others) is their journey toward greatness.

Here is Jan’s review of the new BBC re-envisioning of Sherlock Holmes in a modern day setting.  Looks interesting.

1. Have you seen BBC’s Sherlock Holmes? Thus far it’s a three-episode series set in contemporary London, and to podge a British term, it’s brill. Smart, fast-paced, relying more on intellect and issues about character than on the stars’ appearance, it won thumbs up from all four members of my family.

What they do well, IMHO:

a. Respectful blending of past with present: Watson is a recovering war vet, wounded from a tour as a physician in Afghanistan. He’s a blogger!  Despite modernization, though, the essence of the series feels true to the original books.

b. Technology is important in the sleuthing process, but not the focus. This is not a series about gadgets.

c. There’s a fascinating and believable relationship between Watson and Holmes in which each make the other bigger. Without Holmes, Watson would be limping in a half-existence,  devoid of the risk and stimulation which is his life’s blood. Watson, on the other hand, both grounds Holmes and validates him.

d. The writers have set up a central question about Sherlock, articulated by Lestrade in this quote: “He’s a great man. if we’re very lucky, one day he might be a good one.”

Will Sherlock cross from brilliance into psychopathy, perhaps out of sheer boredom? Will he learn to engage emotion and vulnerability along with his impressive intellect, particularly around the female sex? These are great questions to have a viewer asking within a few moments of beginning a series.

#ThinkpieceThursday – Skins: No Consequences

mtv-skins-tony-480x270Lots of controversy has been brewing around the new teen drama “Skins” on MTV.  I think the problem here is a lack of good storytelling.  The three crucial elements of any good story is 1) want, 2) need and 3) price.  Dramas that don’t work most often don’t attach a price to the choices a character makes.  Unless there is a cost, the action doesn’t feel urgent or compelling.  The higher the cost, the more intense the story and the emotional journey.

What a character wants is a clear and simple ego-driven goal.   It is something he or she can physically have or obtain.  It is clear.  It is simple. It is concrete.  It is specific– The booze, the drugs, the girl, the party invitation.  The want is a finite object of a character’s personal desire.  It is something tangible that would gratify or benefit a character personally and immediately.

What a character needs is an inner ache or yearning that a character is unaware of, denies, suppresses or ignores.  It is a deeper, more abstract or intangible basic human longing.  It is not physical or concrete. It is an emotional satisfaction that enriches the character more deeply– to be accepted for who you are, to be intimate with someone in a meaningful way, to find joy or to connect with someone in a true and authentic manner.

To embrace the need, a character must abandon specific selfish or self-centered goals and address more fundamental and far-reaching human concerns. Every great story ever told since the beginning of time is about the war between the things of the world (the satisfaction of the ego by obtaining worldly trophies, prizes or thrills) and the things of the heart, the soul and the spirit (the deeper satisfaction of embracing our essential humanity).

420x316-alg_mtv_skinsWhat is the cost of obtaining the want or object of desire?  What is the cost of embracing the need and living up to one’s highest, truest, most authentic values?  Which price is a character willing to pay?  What is a character willing to sacrifice or surrender to obtain the want or embrace the need?  The tougher the choice is, the better the story.  If choices isn’t expensive– if there are no expensive consequences– a character’s actions seem episodic and gratuitous.

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David Carr writing in the Business and Media section of the New York Times put it this way:

Now that MTV is back on its heels, you will hear arguments that “Skins” merely describes the world that we already live in. There’s something to that. MTV didn’t invent “friends with benefits,” oral sex as the new kiss or stripper chic as a teenage fashion aspiration. And MTV didn’t employ the teenage star that posed semi-nude in Vanity Fair; the Disney Channel is the one in business with Miley Cyrus.

But when you hear talk about how innovative and daring “Skins” is — and you will —that argument is no more credible than the one made by the stoned teenager out after curfew. “Skins” is pretty much a frame-by-frame capture of a British hit. “Kids,” the film by director Larry Clark, plowed the same seamy ground back in 1995. (And films, at least, are more regulated: “Kids” initially received an NC-17 rating, which meant that some of the youngsters who were in the film could not legally see it.)

“Skins” is nothing new, only a corporate effort to clone a provocative drama that will make MTV less dependent on reality shows and add to the bottom line. True, MTV is not alone. Abercrombie & Fitch built a brand out of writhing, half-naked teenagers, as Calvin Klein once did.

But since its inception, MTV has pushed this boundary as hard as any major media company ever has and may have finally crossed a line that will be hard to scramble back across. The self-described “Guidos” and “Guidettes” of “Jersey Shore,” MTV’s breakout hit, have probably already set some kind of record for meaningless sex.

(More questionably, MTV exported the show to some countries with the tagline, “Get Juiced,” a clear reference to the obvious steroid use on the show.)

But while Snooki & Co. may act like children, they can legally drink alcohol and give consent to what might ensue: the age of 21 may seem like an arbitrary distinction but it’s an important one and, besides, it’s the law.

Even in the most scripted reality programming, the waterfall of poor personal choices is interrupted by comeuppance. People get painful hangovers, the heartbreaks are real if overly dramatic and the cast members have to live with their decisions.

Not so on “Skins,” where a girl who overdoses and is rushed to the hospital wakes up to laughter when the stolen S.U.V. taking her there slams to a halt. Teenagers show children how to roll blunts, bottles of vodka are traded on merry go-rounds, and youngsters shrug off being molested and threatened by a drug dealer. And when the driver of the stolen S.U.V. gets distracted and half a dozen adolescents go rolling into a river, the car is lost but everyone bobs to the surface with a smile at the wonder of it all.

Any adults on “Skins” are of the Charlie Brown variety, feckless beings who are mostly heard off-screen making bummer noises. MTV leaves it to real-life parents to explain that sometimes, when a car goes underwater, nobody survives and that a quick hookup with cute boy at the party may deliver a sexually transmitted disease along with a momentary thrill.

Read the full article here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/24/business/media/24carr.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=Skins%20+%20MTV&st=cse

Mad Men – Emmy Winner

Mad Men follows protagonist Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a man with a shadowy past who stole another soldier’s identity at the end of World War II. Don is a Power of Truth Character. He is an ad man, a master illusionist, twisting words and images to suit clients’ sales pitches. He has trouble discerning the truth about himself, his wife and his target marketing audience: (”What if women want something else? Inside. Some mystery wish that we’re ignoring?”) He works in a cutthroat environment where duplicity, betrayal and infidelities are everywhere. He doesn’t fully trust anyone including himself.
Here’s how AMC describes the show on the official website: “Returning for its second season, the Golden Globe®-winning series for Best TV drama and actor will continue to blur the lines between truth and lies, perception and reality. The world of Mad Men is moving in a new direction — can Sterling Cooper keep up? Meanwhile the private life of Don Draper becomes complicated in a new way. What is the cost of his secret identity?”
That’s a description of a classic Power of Truth story.  Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is a classic Power of Truth protagonist.  Note the tagline of the series:  ”Where the truth lies.”
These kinds stories are about issues of loyalty and betrayal. They ask: What exactly is loyalty? What is betrayal? How do we betray ourselves? How do we betray others? Can you be loyal to someone and betray them at the same time? When should you let go of old loyalties and move on?  How is the ground shifting beneath you?  What is real and what is an illusion? Who or what can you trust?
All these issues were front and center in the first season.  They had a real urgency and the potential for disastrous consequences.
Over the course of initial 13 episodes we learned Dan Draper isn’t who he seems.  He is leading a secret life on a number of levels.  He stole another man’s identity in Korea (by switching dog tags with a dead officer).  He is cheating on his wife.  He is a slick master of illusion in an industry that thrives on selling half-truths and the manipulation of perceptions.  As the season progressed we worried and waited for hammer to drop.
Mad Men has authenticity working for it in even the smallest details.  Everything on the sets, in the background, what the people wear, how they talk, what they talk about is absolutely true to the period.

mad_men ETB Screenwriting

 

Mad Men won 2010 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. The show is about the world of advertising; a world of illusion, sleight of hand and outright deception. It is a quintessential Power of Truth story and is anchored by a wonderful Power of Truth protagonist, Don Draper/Dick Whitman (Jon Hamm). Surface laughter, glamour and the sophisticated tinkle of ice in a cut-glass tumbler of scotch obscures the dark and tangled subterranean underpinnings of both the man and the profession.

The show follows Don, a man with a shadowy past who stole another soldier’s identity at the end of the Korean War. He is an ad man, a slick master of mis-direction in an industry that thrives on selling half-truths and the manipulation of perceptions: “What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.”  He is adept at deception (and self-deception), twisting words and images to suit clients’ sales pitches. This is especially true with main client Lucky Strikes.  He and his client both know the product is poisonous but Don finds a way to make it attractive: “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”  Don, himself, is anything but OK.

don draperHe has trouble coming to terms with the truth about himself, his failed marriage and even one of his target markets: ”What if women want something else? Inside. Some mystery wish that we’re ignoring?” He is acutely aware that more lies beneath the surface of things than he understands or is willing to inspect.  When the new firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce brings in a female psychologist and focus group expert, Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono), to help determine what exactly women want, Don is hostile.  He refuses to participate in her work or answer any of her survey questions.  He rejects her notion that people’s childhoods are a predictor of who they are and what will influence or inspire them. Dr. Faye defends her research and says she can’t change the truth: “That Glo-Coat ad came from someone’s childhood.” Don cannot afford the truth. His entire life is based on the desire to make something true that isn’t, and vice versa.

In addition to issues of perception, illusion and deception, Power of Truth stories are also about issues of loyalty and betrayal. They ask: What exactly is loyalty? What is betrayal? How do we betray ourselves? How do we betray others? Can you be loyal to someone and betray them at the same time? When should you let go of old loyalties and move on?  How is the ground shifting beneath you?  Who or what can you trust? When does loyalty look like betrayal?  When does betrayal look like loyalty?

Peggy OlsonThese themes are especially relevant to Don’s evolving relationship with Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss).  Their relationship is quite similar to one in another Power of Truth story, Million Dollar Baby.  Frank Dunn (Clint Eastwood) and Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) also have a powerful mentor/protege bond.  Frank is a Power of Truth protagonist who is hiding from his past as well.  His parish priest observes: “Frank, I’ve seen you at Mass almost every day for 23 years. The only person comes to church that much is the kind who can’t forgive himself for something.”

Initially, both Frank and Don are skeptical about a woman being able to “do the job” no matter how hard she works.  But both grudgingly admire the tenacity and raw talent they see in their young protege.  They want to toughen her up but yet somehow protect her.  They berate her and insult her but genuinely care for her.  Neither man is able to show affection that doesn’t also include harsh words (or hard truths).  Their relationships have a Father/Daughter dynamic that is profoundly meaningful to them both.  In making Peggy into a brilliant advertising executive Don could almost be following the advice of Eddie Scrap-Iron Durpis (Morgan Freeman) as he describes Frank’s coaching techniques:

Clint Eastwood Hillary SwankEddie Scrap-Iron Dupris: “To make a fighter you gotta strip them down to bare wood: you can’t just tell ’em to forget everything they know, you gotta make ’em forget even in their bones… make ’em so tired they only listen to you, only hear your voice, only do what you say and nothing else… show ’em how to keep their balance and take it away from the other guy… how to generate momentum off their right toe and how to flex your knees when you fire a jab… how to fight backin’ up so that the other guy doesn’t want to come after you. Then you gotta show ’em all over again. Over and over and over… till they think they’re born that way.”

The technique works on Peggy, who says to Don after a particularly rough exchange: “You know something. We are all here because of you. All we want to do is please you.”  Those words are truest of her.  Peggy only really hears (or cares about) Don’s voice.  But Peggy is no push-over and that is what will make her great in her own right someday.  Eddie describes that quality: “All fighters are pig-headed some way or another: some part of them always thinks they know better than you about something. Truth is: even if they’re wrong, even if that one thing is going to be the ruin of them, if you can beat that last bit out of them… they ain’t fighters at all.”

Peggy has her own stubborn streak and sense of independence and fairness.  She confronts Don over her lack of credit on the Glo-Coat ad, talks back to him, refuses to get him coffee and is the only one who seems able to see and accept him for who he is.  She is the only one Don trusts enough to share bits of his past.

Peggy would rather be at work with Don than doing anything else. His world is the only world that truly interests her. It is the only thing she really wants: “I know what I’m supposed to want but it never feels right or as important as what happens in this office.”  Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) says basically the same thing to Frank Dunn: “Problem is, this the only thing I ever felt good doing. If I’m too old for this, then I got nothing. That enough truth to suit you?”

Peggy OlsonHere is a wonderful montage of clips that clearly delineate Power of Conscience character Peggy Olson.  Notice how many times the issues for her are fairness (or unfairness) (“I don’t know if you read in the paper, but they passed a law that women who do the same work as men get paid the same thing.  Equal pay.”); integrity (“Pete, just tell the truth. Don’t worry about the outcome.  People  respect that.”); propriety (“I’m from Bayridge, we have manners”); judgement (“I know what people think of you.  That you’re looking for a husband and you’re fun.  And not in that order.”)

Peggy is a good girl who sometimes does bad things. She is definitely the moral compass of the show. She even goes so far as to confront Don and demand that he hire the smarmy kid whose tag line Don drunkenly misappropriated for a Life Cereal campaign.

http://www.nerve.com/entertainment/2010/08/31/the-evolution-of-mad-men

Hillary Swank is a Power of Idealism character.  She is much more passionate than Peggy and much more willing to bet everything on a single glorious moment. Peggy is more grounded and controlled even when she is acting out or being rebellious.  When she strips to call a lazy unctuous creative director’s bluff, it is about doing the work (and her work ethic) not being seductive.  Her sense of morality may be the one thing that Don can’t beat out of her.  Even if it is the ruin of her it is also what will make her great.

 

 

Advice from David Mamet

DavidMametI am getting ready to go to Europe in May and work on a couple of cop shows.  I stumbled on a great letter David Mamet wrote to the writers of The Unit.   It’s really useful advice for any writer of any script in any genre.   The ALL CAPS are his.

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TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT
GREETINGS.
AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.
THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN *DRAMA* AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.
EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF *INFORMATION* INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.
OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE *INFORMATION* — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.
BUT NOTE:THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.
QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, *ACUTE* GOAL.
SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES *OF EVERY SCENE* THESE THREE QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.
IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.
THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. *YOU* THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE *EVERY* SCENE IS DRAMATIC.
THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.
IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT *WILL* BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.
SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS *YOUR* JOB.
EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.
THIS NEED IS WHY THEY *CAME*. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET *WILL* LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO *FAILURE* – THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS *OVER*. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE *NEXT* SCENE.
ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE *PLOT*.
ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.
YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”
AND I RESPOND “*FIGURE IT OUT*” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE *ABOUT* HIM”.
WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE *WILL* BE OUT OF A JOB.
THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. *NOT* TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”
WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO *REALIZE* THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
YES BUT, YES BUT YES *BUT* YOU REITERATE.
AND I RESPOND *FIGURE IT OUT*.
*HOW* DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? *THAT* IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO *DO* THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.
FIGURE IT OUT.
START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE *SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC*. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.
LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.
PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.
THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, *YOU* ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.
HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
DO *NOT* WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR *AND* HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.
REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. *MOST* TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE *RADIO*. THE *CAMERA* CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. *LET* IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS *DOING* -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY *SEEING*.
IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.
IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION,INDEED, OF *SPEECH*. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM – TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)
THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO *START*.
I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE *SCENE* AND ASK YOURSELF “IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT *ESSENTIAL*? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?
ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.
IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.
LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05
(IT IS *NOT* YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO *ASK THE RIGHT Questions* OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)

TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT

GREETINGS.

AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN *DRAMA* AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF *INFORMATION* INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE *INFORMATION* — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE: THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION: WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, *ACUTE* GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES *OF EVERY SCENE* THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?

2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?

3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. *YOU* THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE *EVERY* SCENE IS DRAMATIC.

THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.

IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT *WILL* BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS *YOUR* JOB.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

THIS NEED IS WHY THEY *CAME*. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET *WILL* LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO *FAILURE* –  THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS *OVER*.  IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE *NEXT* SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE *PLOT*.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “*FIGURE IT OUT*” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE *ABOUT* HIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE *WILL* BE OUT OF A JOB.

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. *NOT* TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO *REALIZE* THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES *BUT* YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND *FIGURE IT OUT*.

*HOW* DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? *THAT* IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO *DO* THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE *SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC*.  IT MUST START BECAUSE THE HERO HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.

THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, *YOU* ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.

HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS.  ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO *NOT* WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR *AND* HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. *MOST* TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE *RADIO*.  THE *CAMERA* CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. *LET* IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS *DOING* -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY *SEEING*.

IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION,INDEED, OF *SPEECH*. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM – TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)

THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO *START*.

I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE *SCENE* AND ASK YOURSELF “IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT *ESSENTIAL*? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.

LOVE, DAVE MAMET

SANTA MONICA 19 OCTOBER 05

(IT IS *NOT* YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO *ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS* OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)

The TV Economic Model Changing

For more than 60 years, TV stations have broadcast news, sports and entertainment for free and made their money by showing commercials. That might not work much longer.
The business model is unraveling at ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and the local stations that carry the networks’ programming. Cable TV and the Web have fractured the audience for free TV and siphoned its ad dollars. The recession has squeezed advertising further, forcing broadcasters to accelerate their push for new revenue to pay for programming.
That will play out in living rooms across the country. The changes could mean higher cable or satellite TV bills, as the networks and local stations squeeze more fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV for the right to show broadcast TV channels in their lineups. The networks might even ditch free broadcast signals in the next few years. Instead, they could operate as cable channels — a move that could spell the end of free TV as Americans have known it since the 1940s.

remote-hdtv-televisionThe future is arriving faster that anyone expected.  It is playing out in the biggest pay-TV provider, Comcast’s  takeover of NBC and Rupert Murdock’s battle with Time Warner cable.   Here’s an interesting article from the Hollywood Reporter on how the TV business model is unravelling in front of our very eyes.

For more than 60 years, TV stations have broadcast news, sports and entertainment for free and made their money by showing commercials. That might not work much longer.

The business model is unraveling at ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and the local stations that carry the networks’ programming. Cable TV and the Web have fractured the audience for free TV and siphoned its ad dollars. The recession has squeezed advertising further, forcing broadcasters to accelerate their push for new revenue to pay for programming.

That will play out in living rooms across the country. The changes could mean higher cable or satellite TV bills, as the networks and local stations squeeze more fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV for the right to show broadcast TV channels in their lineups. The networks might even ditch free broadcast signals in the next few years. Instead, they could operate as cable channels — a move that could spell the end of free TV as Americans have known it since the 1940s.

Full article here

The Switch to Online Viewing

TV_m1309438This is an interesting article from the Los Angeles Times on the pace at which audiences are migrating from cable and broadcast to online viewing.  The future is arriving faster than we think.

Jazz musician Bill Cunliffe loves television — but he doesn’t watch it on a TV set.

“I can watch anything I want, any time I want,” he said, “on my bottom-of-the-line Mac PowerBook.”

Cunliffe, 53, is one of a growing number of TV viewers who get all their programs via the Internet.

For reasons that include saving money, convenience, personal choice and a hatred of commercials, these viewers are cutting the cord from cable, satellite and telephone suppliers of TV service, and even throwing away the rabbit ears and other antennas that brought in over-the-air broadcasts.

“The idea that you come home and your entertainment choices are dictated on what some entertainment channel decides is not for me,” said video game producer Chris Codding, whose Venice apartment has a 52-inch Sony television that’s used only for video games and viewing DVDs.

“I really like the concept of having something in your mind that you want to watch,” Codding said, “and then going to the computer and watching it.”

There have been no mainstream studies on just how many people have cut the cord to established TV program suppliers, and the percentage of viewers who have done it is probably small. But there’s plenty of evidence that the number of people who are watching TV shows online is growing.

Read the whole article here:  http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-notv26-2009oct26,0,3559474.story

Writer Access Project

WRITER ACCESS PROJECT
Dear WGAW members –
I am delighted to let you know that the Writer Access Project is returning. Inaugurated last season, this project is designed to identify excellent diverse writers with television experience and to bring these writers’ scripts to the attention of showrunners, creative executives and agents for consideration during staffing season. Writers with previous television writing experience are invited to submit a spec script and spec pilot in one of five categories: minority writers; writers with disabilities; women writers; writers over age 55; and gay and lesbian writers.
Last year twenty-eight writers or writing teams were selected as Writer Access Project “winners” and their work was made available to showrunners, network and production company executives, and agents. In addition the group was offered a fascinating talk from an experienced showrunner about how best to promote oneself in a meeting. We received 160 submissions and 150 producer-level writers served as judges in two rounds of judging. The overall response to the project, based on surveys of participants and judges, was extremely encouraging.  We intend to continue to build the program with increased publicity and promotion to the entertainment community when this year’s winners are selected.
We have made some improvements to the program based on input from last year’s participants:
The deadline for submission will be November 30, allowing greater time for preparation of the required materials.
2.  Current active and Post-current active members are eligible to submit (see more
details in the Guidelines).
3.  We intend to announce the winners of this year’s project earlier (by mid-March) to
allow more time for showrunners to read the work of WAP winners.
There are some additional changes in the Guidelines and requirements for submission, so please review them carefully.  The Guidelines and Application can be found at:  http://www.wga.org/content/default.aspx?id=3436
Please contact the WGAW Diversity Department if you have any questions: diversity@wga.org or 323-782-4589.
We hope many of you will submit your material for consideration as part of this program and that you will benefit from the experience.
Best,
Kimberly Myers
Director of Diversity
Writers Guild of America, West
7000 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048

For all those who are having a hard time being heard above the fray–

Dear WGAW members –

I am delighted to let you know that the Writer Access Project is returning. Inaugurated last season, this project is designed to identify excellent diverse writers with television experience and to bring these writers’ scripts to the attention of showrunners, creative executives and agents for consideration during staffing season. Writers with previous television writing experience are invited to submit a spec script and spec pilot in one of five categories: minority writers; writers with disabilities; women writers; writers over age 55; and gay and lesbian writers.

Last year twenty-eight writers or writing teams were selected as Writer Access Project “winners” and their work was made available to showrunners, network and production company executives, and agents. In addition the group was offered a fascinating talk from an experienced showrunner about how best to promote oneself in a meeting. We received 160 submissions and 150 producer-level writers served as judges in two rounds of judging. The overall response to the project, based on surveys of participants and judges, was extremely encouraging.  We intend to continue to build the program with increased publicity and promotion to the entertainment community when this year’s winners are selected.

We have made some improvements to the program based on input from last year’s participants:

1. The deadline for submission will be November 30, allowing greater time for preparation of the required materials.

2.  Current active and Post-current active members are eligible to submit (see more details in the Guidelines).

3.  We intend to announce the winners of this year’s project earlier (by mid-March) to allow more time for showrunners to read the work of WAP winners.

There are some additional changes in the Guidelines and requirements for submission, so please review them carefully.  The Guidelines and Application can be found at:  http://www.wga.org/content/default.aspx?id=3436

Please contact the WGAW Diversity Department if you have any questions: diversity@wga.org or 323-782-4589.

We hope many of you will submit your material for consideration as part of this program and that you will benefit from the experience.

Best,

Kimberly Myers

Director of Diversity

Writers Guild of America, West

7000 West Third Street

Los Angeles, CA 90048

Bill Mechanic’s Speech on Indie Film

Bill-Mechanic-etbscreenwritingThis is a really interesting speech about the business of the business.  I found it on Nikki Finke‘s excellent blog Deadline Hollywood.  Bill Mechanic was the chairman/CEO of Fox Films from 1994 to 2000 and is now an indie producer and owner of Pandemonium who recently produced CORALINE.  The speech was made at the end of September at the Independent Film & Television Production Conference.

“I was asked to address you this morning with my observations on the present as well as the future state of Independent Production.

But before I begin, I have to relate the story of a close friend of mine, who’s a leading heart surgeon.

He said he’d recently been involved in a very trying and emotional six hour piece of open heart surgery where he and a team of people fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to save a patient.

Afterwards, my friend entered the Doctor’s locker room where one of his colleagues was staring absently into the void, clearly spent from the ordeal. He tried to cheer him up but the colleague turned to him and asked why he was not more distraught.

My friend answered with a smile:

At least we weren’t asked to save Independent Production.

Well, the truth be told, we may not be heart patients but we aren’t that far away. We have too many insignificant movies clogging our distribution channels. Tightening economic conditions are sending sharp pains through our systems. Our blood supply from heretofore vibrant markets such as DVD and TV seemingly have evaporated in front of our eyes.

The question we must ask is if the condition is fatal. Read the full story »

Cougar Town – When a Character Doesn’t Ring True

cougar-town-etbscreenwritingI caught up with the Cougar Town premiere online and thought it was absolutely terrible.  The best words I have to describe this raunchy and demeaning show are desperate, pathetic and insulting.  Courtney Cox’s character asks her son why he doesn’t laugh at her sex-obsessed jokes and he says:  “Because they make me sad.”  Bingo!

I have nothing against sex-obsessed women who fret about aging and the difficulty of finding love.  I am a big fan of Sex and the City. But that show has something that Cougar Town lacks– authentic characters who feel real. Carrie and her crew each has a distinct and very specific take on sex and romance that defines who she is, how she sees the world and what love means to her.

Carrie Bradshaw is a well-defined Power of Idealism character.  Throughout the series, she is obsessed with the emotionally unavailable Mr. Big.  These characters believe that what is perfect but unavailable or unattainable is infinitely more desirable than what is flawed but possible or achievable. They are always reaching for the unreachable star.

Charlotte York is a Power of Conscience character and the most conservative and uptight member of the ensemble. While the show focuses on sexual liberation, Charlotte is the voice of more traditional values.  Perfection to her is what is proper and socially correct.

Samantha Jones is a Power of Will character and views sex as power.  She is always the one in control of the sexual power in her relationships.  She decides when, where, how much and what kind of sex she will have.  She is loud, lusty and unashamed of her passions.  She is unapologetic when she decides to move on to new conquests.

Miranda Hobbes is a Power of Ambition character.  She is extremely career-minded and has her sights firmly fixed on a prestigious law partnership.  She often views sex as a distraction to her work.  In one episode she and her lover fight over the fact she wants to schedule sex and refuses to let passion distract her from important work-related obligations.

Each of these women is thoroughly believable and acts consistently with specific attitudes about life and love.  I recognize women I know in the characters in Sex and the City.

Cortney Cox’s character is is poorly defined, cartoonish  and utterly inauthentic.  She acts like a thirty-year old Judd Apatow guy trapped in a one-note joke about being desperate but clumsy in the attempt to get laid.  I have no idea what her cardboard cut-out character believes about life or love or why she is doing what she is doing.  To you tell you the truth I don’t really care.  Someone please put this excruciatingly pathetic show out of its misery.

Here are some additional reviews that hit the nail on the head.

WALL STREET JOURNAL   (T)his is the 21st century, where pole dancing passes for a statement of female liberation. So it should come as no surprise that Jules will search for self-esteem in frequent sex and the proof that she is still “hot.”  Such a quest could be made funny, but here it mostly isn’t. Ms. Cox is struggling with some ugly material and often seems desperate.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE  Cougar Town is one of those shows with a trendy topic at its core, but it’s hard to see how the show will work long-term, and the screechy and semi-frenetic tone set by the pilot doesn’t help.

VARIETY  (T)he execution here is consistently about as subtle as a kick to the groin — and represents the least appealing component in ABC’s quartet of new Wednesday-night comedies.

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER  Cougar Town is a mess of a place no one would want to visit, even for a half-hour. With a little luck, though, it’ll have a short shelf life.