Friday, December 25, 2020

CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS is back for a return engagement until Jan 8!

Did you miss CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS the first time it was released? Did you buy tickets and forget to watch? Did you love it and want to see it again?

Well, as a Christmas gift to you, we are making CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS available again until January 8th. For only $5 you can watch, though if you're motivated to donate more, you certainly can give more if you want because the proceeds go to two worthy causes.


And if you bought tickets for the first airing, those tickets still work at no additional charge! It's like rewatching for free!

1) The Hollywood Support Staff Relief Fund - This has been established by the Actors Fund to benefit L.A. based support staffers affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns. I'm a Writers' Assistant on SUPERMAN & LOIS, and I'm very fortunate to have a job right now. Many of my peers aren't as fortunate and I really want to help them out with this show. Please give generously. You'll be helping a lot of future TV writers stay in the game.

2) The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation - This is a non-profit that does legal work to protect the land rightfully owned by the descendants of former slaves as well as ecologic and economic work to sustain those properties and their communities. Basically, they help underserved families protect land that the government or rich white people want to take from them and exploit.

Click HERE to get your tickets!

Related links:

Download the script here

Then, for an EXHAUSTIVE list of annotations that list every reference, go here

Links to interviews that I've done about CRISIS can be found here

For a roundup of the reactions to the first airing, go here.

And for a little history about how this came together, go here

A Crisis is erasing the world of the Teen Drama multiverse and the only thing that can save it is an all-star cast of teen archetypes assembled by Kevin Arnold and Dawson Leery! The worlds of VERONICA MARS, EVERWOOD, RIVERDALE, ONE TREE HILL, GILMORE GIRLS and 13 REASONS WHY are just a few that collide in this meeting of the angstiest, sexiest and fastest talking teens in TV history.

And in a special treat, this dream team includes Ephram Brown and Amy Abbott from EVERWOOD - played by their original performers: Gregory Smith and Emily VanCamp! Yes, it's an EVERWOOD reunion, and that's not the end of the surprises here!

From producers Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s Creek; Everwood; The Flash; Riverdale, and many more) and Ben Blacker (Thrilling Adventure Hour; Dead Pilots Society) and writer Adam Mallinger comes a tribute to the classic WB teen dramas of yesterday and an affectionate parody of the CW superhero shows of today.

Starring

Gregory Smith (ROOKIE BLUE) as Ephram Brown

Emily VanCamp (THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER) as Amy Abbott

Melissa Fumero (BROOKLYN NINE-NINE) as Lorelei Gilmore

Isabella Gomez (ONE DAY AT A TIME) as Rory Gilmore and Brooke Davis

Emmy Raver-Lampman (UMBRELLA ACADEMY) as Veronica Mars

Vella Lovell (CRAZY EX- GIRLFRIEND) as Veronica Lodge

Nick Wechsler (REVENGE) as Archie Andrews and Lucas Scott

Matt Lauria (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) as Dawson Leery

Anjelica Fellini (TEENAGE BOUNTY HUNTERS) as Hannah Baker

Mark Gagliardi (BLOOD & TREASURE) as Kevin Arnold

Caroline Ward (HOST) as Peyton Sawyer

Jaime Moyer (A.P. BIO) as Sue Sylvester

Lindsey Blackwell (DAVID MAKES MAN) as Young Veronica Mars

Autumn Reeser (THE O.C.) as Taylor Townsend

And Greg Berlanti as The Flash

.

Monday, December 21, 2020

2020 seemed to give me everything I wanted... and then it took my Dad

As 2020 winds down, I'm left with the realization that it's a year I'm always gonna remember as "the year I lost my dad." Considering how much has happened this year, it's sobering that that is what leaves a mark.

From the time Donald Trump, truly one of the worst Americans alive and easily the worst American president ever, had been elected, I'd spent practically every day counting down to Election Day 2020. In a truly dark turn of events, that day, November 3, 2020, was the first day in 73 years that my father was not on this Earth, having died the previous morning.

I started the year with so much optimism. Just two weeks in, SUPERMAN & LOIS had been picked up and thanks to prior encounters with Greg Berlanti, I had a meeting with Todd Helbing, the showrunner. Having been up for a Berlanti show the prior season, I knew that nothing was in the bag, so I went in as prepared as possible and managed to walk out with the job.

Holy shit! I'm was going to be working on a Superman show! Produced by Greg Berlanti! It was pretty much everything I wanted from the time I first came out here. When I finally met the staff, they proved to be a great bunch of people and for a month, it was a dream job. As writers' assistant, I was spending my entire day in a room with people talking about Superman, and I got to contribute quite a bit too.

Then, about a month into the room, the whole world changed. Due to a complete failure on the part of the Trump Administration to contain COVID-19, the pandemic broke out. The room moved to Zoom, and here again, I have to commend the staff I was working with. Working on Zoom is draining in a way that working in a normal room isn't, but I think we adapted about as well as any team could have.

I think it helped that as a collective, this might be the best writing staff I've been lucky enough to work with. In other rooms, I've watched as animosity brewed between some specific writers, to the point that it was obvious everyone in the room was noticing it too as it led to daily clashes between those two. I've witnessed one writer push another writer so far that the second writer simply walked out of the room at 11:30am, drove home, and didn't return until the next day. I've seen writers not intuit after months in a room which pitches aren't anywhere near viable, or be able to adapt their style when it's clear their personality isn't getting results.

We didn't really have that on our show. It was a great bunch of writers who all seemed to feel that the best part of our day was getting together and talking story. Most days, you could feel the excitement even across Zoom. I'm not exaggerating when I say that working on SUPERMAN & LOIS kept me sane this year, and helped me through what otherwise would have been an extremely difficult several months where I was isolating with only my wife and son.

At one point, we took a brief hiatus, and so, with nothing else to do, I found myself writing the teen drama mega-crossover I was born to do: CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS. I've told that story here, so I won't retread most of that ground again. But as you know, I was as shocked as anyone when - at a point when only four pages of this script existed - Ben Blacker contacted me and told me he wanted to do the Zoom live read of the script. Then, once the script was done and I showed it to Greg Berlanti, Greg generously offered to help us with casting.  This is how we got Gregory Smith and Emily VanCamp to reprise their roles and make it sort of an EVERWOOD reunion.

As I returned to the show, the summer found me focusing my attention on either SUPERMAN & LOIS, or the production of the live read. Both were welcome distractions and as our amazing cast came together, it was clear that we had something special. At the same time, it was the end of the summer when Todd Helbing called me with a question, "How would you like to write the next episode?"

I found myself breaking my episode as the last pieces of the live read were falling into place. That all but confirmed to me that it was time for something that had been long delayed - I was going to remove the anonymity from The Bitter Script Reader.  And so, once we had filmed and edited the Zoom live read and announced a release date, I made that reveal as part of the announcement... on October 11, 2020.

Mere hours after I made that announcement, my mother texted me with news. My father had symptoms that appeared to be COVID and had gone for a test. 24 hours later, while I was in the Zoom Room, I got another text from my father: "I tested positive for COVID."

Late that night, I got a call from my mother. Dad had collapsed and hit his head, necessitating a trip to the emergency room. The next day, Tuesday, October 13, he was admitted to the hospital and was being given oxygen to get his blood-ox up. I spoke to him on the phone that day, immediately surprised that he sounded normal. I expected his voice to be weak, or for him to be coughing heavily, or at least sound winded. He didn't. I allowed myself to believe that this was a relatively minor case of COVID, especially when he was released that Thursday.

Friday night, October 16, he was back in the hospital after his blood-ox remained low. He would not leave again.

I spoke to him on the phone the next couple of days. Dad told me he was looking forward to my live read. He hadn't watched most of those teen shows, but he knew it was a big deal for me. He was impressed to see it all come together. In what turned out to be one of our last conversations, he said, "I'm most excited to see Greg Berlanti as The Flash."

I always took that to mean he was very impressed that I was doing something that someone as accomplished as Greg wanted to be a part of. And I think he was very excited for me that I was working with one of my professional idols.

In that same conversation, I told him that I'd just been on the notes call for my episode story area and that everyone raved about it. I read him the non-spoilery parts of the pre-meeting email, which was "We. Loved. This. Episode." He was so happy for me. I told him that I'd been working on my episode's paperwork, which included applying to the WGA. He asked what that meant. I told him it meant I was a writer. I'd be joining the union, card and everything.

But there became concern that he was talking too much and it was affecting his blood ox, so on Tuesday, October 20, they told me "no voice calls." The last conversation I would ever have with him was the day before that. I didn't realize for a few days that he had been allowed to keep his cell phone and was receiving texts, but once I did, I sent him a few pics of my son and we had a brief chat that Sunday, October 25. We texted again on Monday, October 26.

I woke up on Tuesday, October 27 to the news he'd been intubated and sedated. 

This was three days before my live read premiered. The one he'd been so excited for.

The rest of the week was a series of updates as to his condition, communicated in the forms or numbers and levels and benchmarks that aren't worth recapping. There's be improvement in one area, and then something else would go south. They'd address developing blood clots by using thinners, and then the thinners would cause trouble elsewhere in his body. So they would address that, and the distress then cascaded elsewhere.

What this leads to is me on a FaceTime call with my unconscious father on Saturday, October 31. He'd had a bad morning, but seemed to be turning around by the time they put me on the phone. I knew why they were doing this. I knew that this was the call where I was supposed to say goodbye, just in case there wouldn't be any other opportunity.

I hate goodbyes. I told him that. I told him I knew why they wanted me to talk to him. And then I said to him that I wasn't going to say goodbye. This call would not be goodbye. Instead I told him about everything that was going on. I told him I'd dedicated the live read to him and that since it debuted, so many people were sending well-wishes.

I reminded him of the line he often quoted from Dumb and Dumber, when Lloyd is told by Mary that his chances with her are "one in a million" and Lloyd says, "So you're saying there's a chance!" I told Dad that I needed him to believe it, and that I believed it.

The next day, I posted a picture of my newly-arrived WGA card to Twitter and spent the day fielding congrats from so many of my followers and peers. This was on the heels of CRISIS being very well-received just two days earlier, so my feed that weekend had been like a geyser of well-wishes and positivity. It was a lot of kindness at a time I truly needed it.

Dad did not have a good Sunday. Late in the evening here, I got a call from Mom that his condition was bad. My brother was making the four hour drive to get there because there was a very real chance that he wouldn't make it through the night. I've already told you as much about that night as I can bear, and you'll find that post here.

What I was left with in the wake of Dad's death was anger, so much anger. His death, like so many of the other 250,000 COVID casualties at the time he passed, didn't have to happen.

Any competent administration and Congress would have put everything on a true lockdown, paid people to stay home for two months, and then done contact tracing to isolate active cases and prevent a spread. They would have promoted the science aggressively, and let it be known that masks drastically reduce transmission and embraced the necessity of social distancing. They would not have prioritized "the economy" over human lives, and they wouldn't have acted like it was encouraging freeloading to take financial burdens off of people so wouldn't have to choose between going to work and staying safe.

My father is dead because of Donald Trump, because he chose to fight a pandemic like a PR problem.

My father is dead because not enough people understood how grossly unqualified and incapable this man was to lead... and that wasn't a hard thing to see. Myself and many others knew from the day he was elected that he would only bring ruin to this nation and we spent four years begging everyone else to see it. 

My father is dead because of every ignorant person who voted for Donald Trump despite all the red flags in 2016, and I promise you that just about all of them voted for Trump again the day AFTER my father died, thereby making it crystal clear their denial that boorish ignoramous completely screwed up the pandemic response. Other countries got a handle on it. We didn't - because we have a sociopathic asshole guiding our response.

I hold all of those people responsible, even those who once might have considered themselves close friends or blood relatives of my family. I will never be able to forgive them for what they did in putting that man in the White House. And I don't want people to tell me that I need to "understand" why they supported this racist garbage of a human. I have zero interest in salvaging those relationships and I could not have a lower opinion of those who tied themselves to Trump.

So you can see how all of that tends to overshadow the overwhelming positivity that happened elsewhere in the year. 

I was grateful for the many people who reached out to me as they heard of Dad's passing. One of the advantages of having a robust social media presence is that news travels fast. One of my oldest friends let me know that he felt "like I lost my second dad." A college friend who I first met at a pre-orientation event for Columbus locals attending Denison emailed me to say that he remembered meeting my Dad at that event 22 years ago, and talked about how friendly Dad was to him then.

A writer I worked with on my last show emailed me to say he spoke to my dad when I dragged my parents along to a cookout hosted by another of the writers earlier this year. Apparently Dad told him all about how we drove across the country together when I moved out here and "You know this already, but it bears repeating: he was damn proud of you. For your hard work, your perseverance, and having landed your dream show. He knew you were starting a new chapter and he was positively beaming. It was clear you and your family were the apples of his eye."

I wasn't prepared for how hard it hit to hear that from someone who'd only had one encounter with him.

So many people who Dad met only once or twice, often YEARS ago, emailed me to tell me details of their conversations with him. I have been to so many parties where a friend introduced me to their parents and I promise you, I probably couldn't pick them out of a lineup today. I don't even know if I often had any kind of in-depth conversations with those people... but Dad had such a presence that even in those short encounters, he made an impression.

These last seven weeks have been about me realizing that this impression is now a gigantic hole in the wake of his passing.

Again, the people on SUPERMAN & LOIS couldn't have been more wonderful to me. The morning of my Dad's passing, Greg Berlanti and Todd Helbing had flowers sent not just to me, but to my mother as well. That night, one of the actors on the show, Erik Valdez, happened to see a RT of my tweets about my dad's passing, noticed that we worked on the show together, and DM'd me to introduce himself and send his condolences. The next morning, I returned from a walk to find more flowers waiting for me and a very kind note from "The S&L Cast." Though he didn't claim credit, I'm sure that was Erik's doing.

All of the writers were so wonderful to me, reaching out, covering for me, being there to listen when I needed it. And in perhaps the most unexpected kindness of all, the other Arrowverse assistants - many of them, mind you, whom I've not yet met aside from email - reached out with a condolence card and gift card.

I'm telling you this because I want you to know that contrary to the stereotype of people who work in Hollywood, my co-workers, bosses, and counterparts on other shows are some of the kindest, most empathetic people you could know. Their big hearts made a horrible situation much more bearable than it would have been. All I can do is try to life up to that kindness and pay it forward when it's my turn.

Everything good about this year was connected to either this show and Greg Berlanti. I got to write my first episode of TV. I got to write SUPERMAN. I did a star-studded crossover of my favorite teen shows and got Emily VanCamp and Gregory Smith from my FAVORITE teen show to come read MY words. Because of my job, I didn't have to worry about supporting my family during the pandemic, and because of the attention the live read got, I didn't have to go through the days after it alone.

2020 took my father from me and it feels like the only way it could balance the scales is by giving me everything else I ever wanted. And yet, as I sit here reliving the past year, I'm left with these thoughts:

As your parents get older, you confront the reality that one day, they will leave you. That had definitely crossed my mind the last few years. My father was 73, but he looked nearly a decade younger. He'd been taking care of himself. His father passed at the age of 79 and looking at pictures of him, I'm struck by how he looked at least 15 years older than my father did this year. 

Beyond that, my father's mother - my grandmother - had died only four months earlier at the age of 97. I never expected we could lose him so soon after her. Think about that... my father only lived four months of his life without his mother.

I feel like an entire decade was stolen from him. He should have been here to see my four year-old son grow older. Maybe he'd have even made it to his high school graduation, or at least been around long enough that my son wouldn't only know "Papa" as a distant memory.

It's unfair and it hurts and it never should have happened.

I miss him. And I will continue to miss him forever.

I love you, Dad.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

I talk 13 REASONS WHY, spec episodes and CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS on the podcast WHY NOT?

I was very excited to make an appearance this week on the podcast Why Not? This is one of my favorite podcasts this year. During the pandemic, David and Taylor launched the podcast as an episode-by-episode recap of 13 REASONS WHY. It was a show that they couldn't stop talking about, so they decided to make the podcast and find other people who couldn't stop talking about it.

I really enjoyed their examination of the first two seasons, but it was as they dissected season 3 (a lesser effort), that I realized that David and Taylor were examining the show with a fusion of the critical and humorous that I had not seen applied at that level since the glory days of Television Without Pity. When a show takes a ridiculous or an unpleasant turn, it's easy to just say, "This sucks" and rage at it. David and Taylor were great at engaging with what was embedded deep in the DNA of the series. They engaged with an obsession that could only come from someone invested in the show and they were hilarious as they laid it all out.

If you've been here a while, you know I was deeply invested in Season 1 of 13 REASONS WHY, to the point I wrote 13 posts about it. My thoughts about Season 2 were also largely positive, particularly with regard to Dylan Minnette's performance, though the heavy retcons left me conflicted. So this was the perfect podcast for me.

What you'll hear is a fun conversation between me, David and Taylor about the series in general before we turn to discussing my 13 REASONS WHY spec episode, which actually is the first episode of an alternate season 3. I wrote it over two years ago as an exercise in how one might write a spec episode.  It's sort of a mash-up with the premise of AWAKE. As the one year anniversary of Hannah's suicide approaches, Clay finds himself leaping between two worlds - the one he's known, and an alternate timeline where Hannah survived her suicide attempt and is still recovering. In doing so, this storyline would have explored all the ways someone in Hannah's situation could have sought help instead of trying to kill herself.

In breaking the story for that one script, I eventually ended up crafting an entire season's worth of story so that I could have a sense of what that first episode needed to put into play. Though I've shared the script before, I haven't posted that full season treatment on the blog. That comes up in my talk with David and Taylor too.

And finally, we have a little talk about CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS and why it was a fun project as both a fan and a writer.

So listen to the podcast here or here on Soundcloud

And check out some of their other episodes. Since moving on from 13 REASONS WHY, David and Taylor have turned their insight and humor towards all manner of cultural garbage, including TikTok feuds, Fast Food brackets, Pretty Little Liars, Kid Nation, Emily in Paris, and much, more.

Notes:

My original 13 Reasons Why Posts

My posts on my 13 Reasons Why spec, with "How to Write a Spec Episode"

Link to my spec episode

Link to my treatment of my alternate Season 3

Crisis on Infinite Teen Dramas script

Crisis on Infinite Teen Dramas reaction

Crisis on Infinite Teen Dramas Annotations


Note: when downloading the script or the treatment, after you click the link, press only the button that says "Download" next to the title. Ignore all pop-ups and anything that tries to tell you your Adobe Flash is out of date.

Friday, November 27, 2020

2-for-1 MasterClass annual memberships with "Give One, Get One Free"

 Note: this post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after using one of my links.)


If you've read my MasterClass reviews over the last couple years, but have been waiting for the right opportunity to buy, you might be interested in this Christmas deal. MasterClass is doing a "Give One, Get One Free" sale.  The promotion allows a new customer to purchase an annual membership for someone else and get one for yourself completely free!

Each class runs about 5-6 hours and comes with a workbook and often valuable supplementary materials. For instance, if you take Shonda Rhimes's class, you get the series bible for Grey's Anatomy, the original 10-page pitch document for the series, and the pilot scripts for both Grey's and Scandal.

As I've said in my reviews, I consider the Ron Howard class on directing to be essential for anyone who wants to be a film director. I absolutely will guarantee its value. If there's someone in your life who might find this of value, definitely consider gifting them the All-Access Pass. To help you out, I've included links below to the reviews I've written for the writing and filmmaking-related classes, as well as links to the full roster if that helps convince you that this purchase will be worthwhile for your interests.

And best of all, if you use any of these links, I get a commission, so it's like giving a gift to a friend or family member AND me!

To gift one and get one, go here. The offer is good until Monday, 11/30 at 11:59 PST.



Prior MasterClass Reviews:
Aaron Sorkin's MasterClass on TV Writing (review)
David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing (review)
Ron Howard Teaches Directing (review)
Shonda Rhimes Teaches TV Writing (review)
Judd Apatow Teaches Comedy (review)
Steve Martin Teaches Comedy (review)
Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting (review)
Dustin Hoffman's MasterClass on Acting (review)

Highlights of the MasterClass roster:

Filmmaking/Directing
Spike Lee teaches Filmmaking
Judd Apatow teaches Comedy
Malcolm Gladwell teaches Writing
Martin Scorsese teaches Filmmaking
Werner Herzog teaches Filmmaking
Ken Burns teaches Documentary Filmmaking
Mira Nair teaches Independent Filmmaking
David Lynch Teaches Creativity and Film
Jodie Foster Teaches Filmmaking


Writing:
Shonda Rhimes teaches TV Writing
Aaron Sorkin's Masterclass on TV Writing
David Mamet teaches Dramatic Writing
Steve Martin teaches Comedy
Judy Blume teaches Writing
Margaret Atwood teaches Creative Writing
James Patterson teaches Writing
R.L. Stein teaches Writing for Young Audiences
Dan Brown teaches Writing Thrillers
David Sedaris Teaches Storytelling and Humor
Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling
Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing
Joyce Carol Oates Teaches the Art of the Short Story
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
David Baldacci Teaches Mystery and Thriller Writing
Billy Collins Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry


Acting:
Samuel L. Jackson teaches Acting
Helen Mirren teaches Acting
Natalie Portman Teaches Acting


Music/Performance
Christina Aguilera's MasterClass 
deadmau5's MasterClass 
Herbie Hancock teaches Jazz
Hans Zimmer teaches Film Scoring
Reba McEntire teaches Country Music
Usher teaches Performance
Tom Morello teaches Electric Guitar
Carlos Santana teaches the Art and Soul of Guitar
Danny Elfman Teaches Music for Film 
Timbaland Teaches Producing and Beatmaking 
Itzhak Perlman Teaches Violin


Sports
Stephen Curry teaches Basketball
Serena Williams teaches Tennis
Garry Kasparov teaches Chess
Misty Copeland Teaches Ballet Technique and Artistry
Simone Biles Teaches Gymnastics Fundamentals 


Cooking/Food:
Wolfgang Puck teaches Cooking
Gordon Ramsay teaches Cooking.
Gordon Ramsay teaches Cooking Techniques II: Restaurant Recipes at Home
Thomas Keller teaches Cooking
Thomas Keller teaches Cooking Techniques II: Meats, Stocks and Sauces
Dominique Ansel teaches French Pastry Fundamentals
James Suckling teaches Wine Appreciation
Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas-Style BBQ


Business: 
Bob Iger Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership 
Anna Wintour Teaches Creativity and Leadership 


Politics: 
Bob Woodward Teaches Investigative Journalism 
Doris Kearns Goodwin Teaches U.S. Presidential History and Leadership 
David Axelrod and Karl Rove teach Campaign Strategy


Other:
Jane Goodall teaches Conservation
Marc Jacobs teaches Fashion Design
Annie Leibovitz teaches Photography
Chris Hadfield teaches Space Exploration
Daniel Negreanu teaches Poker
Paul Krugman teaches Economics and Society
Jimmy Chin teaches Adventure Photography
Will Wright teaches Game Design and Theory
Penn and Teller Teach the Art of Magic
Phil Ivey Teaches Poker Strategy

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

SPONTANEOUS, one of the best films of the year, is now out on DVD

When SPONTANEOUS hit VOD about five weeks ago, I was preparing for an extremely hectic month, so I opted not to do one of my long reviews then, figuring that by the time it came out on DVD on November 10th, I'd be able to really give it the attention it deserved.

Ha. If you've read this blog over the last few weeks, you know that my life is WAY too busy to do that, so I've decided to do a briefer, spoiler free review. I'm writing this because I want you to see it.

SPONTANEOUS is easily my favorite movie of the year. I realize that's not saying much in a year like this, so it might help to add that this would have been in my Top 5, maybe Top 3 of last year, had it come out then. It's one of those movies that I call a "magic trick" film. If someone told you about it, you'd never imagine in a million years that it would work flawlessly on screen. It walks this amazing tonal tightrope between being a dark comedy, and heartfelt, sincere, and heartbreaking. If I saw it as a teen, it's the kind of movie that would have made me want to MAKE movies.

A number of my early scripts were attempts at mashing up tones and genres that didn't usually work together. The result was a lot of scripts that few people knew what to make of, and if I'm being honest with myself, there probably was a question if the tone worked on the page, let alone was going to be effective on-screen. When I see someone stick the landing with a movie that almost invents its own tone, I take notice.

The premise is that teenagers start spontaneously exploding. One of the script's boldest decisions is the deaths are played for laughs BEFORE we're asked to care about people whose lives are at stake.  Some 45 seconds into the film, a student has exploded suddenly, splattering their classmates with blood. As everyone else in her class is trying to make sense of it, Katherine Langford's Mara reacts to the first death with ironic detachment.

This is a risk. It's like doing a slasher film where we're laughing at the killer BEFORE he has to be scary. It can be pulled off, but a layer of difficultly has just been added. And the movie has to do that while continuing to absurdly blow up its cast.

Oh. And it's also a love story. It's a really heartfelt romance that blossoms between Mara and Charlie Plummer's Dylan. He's admired her from afar for a while, but when the exploding classmates make everyone feel like they could go at any time, Dylan takes his shot, and for a while they go through the expected moments of teenage romance, until the pandemic takes over and accelerates their story in a different direction.

There's a sequence an hour into the film that's balls-out insane - it's comedy, horror and tragedy all in one perfect symphony that would be ruined if any single instrument was off-key. I don't want to say anything about it for fear of diluting the sequence's impact, but I consider it a major tragedy of 2020 that I couldn't experience it in a theatre full of screaming moviegoers.

I'd read the Aaron Starmer novel upon which the film is based, and as much as it worked on the page, I really wondered if the movie could blow up so many teenagers on screen and maintain the wry tone of the novel, told through Mara's eyes. It's one thing to have her say something like, "Oh, and then they blew up." It's quite enough to put that very absurd image on screen and not have it be too horrifying or too silly to keep the emotional reality going. As much as I enjoyed the novel, I think the film is sharper and more focused. It trims away a few subplots and reshapes Mara and Dylan slightly.

If you've been here a while, you'll know I've been a fan of Katherine Langford since her breakout performance in season one of 13 REASONS WHY. That was her first major role, even though I've enjoyed her in every thing she's appeared in since, she's usually been playing supporting parts that have been less challenging than Hannah Baker. SPONTANEOUS is my favorite performance of hers since that first season and she plays Mara unlike any of her other parts. With the curly blonde wig, she's almost unrecognizble as the suicidal teen she became famous for playing.

Her performance is equally unrecognizable. Langford proved she could do heavy drama on 13RW, but here she's got razor sharp comic timing and is clearly having a ball playing a broader character, one with a more sardonic edge. The best way I can describe her character here is "the love child of Michelle Williams and Busy Philipps." There's an energy to her performance that's completely apart from the shy, withdrawn teens she's played before.

The film doesn't shy away from dealing with death and the devastation it visits on those left behind. I think the ending of Mara's journey is one that doesn't deserve to be spoiled in this review, but I do want to say that after all the loss, the movie ends up in a very life-affirming place. After seeing so many people around you randomly dying, and knowing you could be next, how do you move forward with your life?

 As timely as these themes feel in a pandemic, I feel like the movie wouldn't even need that extra context to resonate so hard here. I'm not kidding when I say this film deserves to be on a lot of Best of lists at the end of the year. I'm totally available to do the door-to-door canvasing for the Oscars when the time comes.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

What it's like when your dad is going to die that morning

My dad died in the wee hours of the morning on Monday. He'd been in the hospital for about three weeks fighting COVID-19. Up until Saturday, there was never a doubt in my mind he'd be walking out of there, even after he was intubated.

The day he died, I didn't know what to do with my feelings. The next day I wrote this and posted it to Facebook. It helped to write it and seeing the responses actually was healing.

I'm posting it here in honor of the man who supported me through everything it took to get me where I am, and who really deserved to be here when I finally made it. He was 73 and in otherwise great shape until this. I will never feel like I wasn't robbed of another decade with him.

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You’ve just hung up from the call. The call you’ve dreaded since he took a turn for the worse yesterday.  The doctor told you a lot of explanations and reasons and jargon for how we arrived at this moment, but all you really need to understand is this: they’re moving to comfort care. Your dad is going to die that morning.

Your brother and your mother are with him, but you are not. You’re three thousand miles away. It’s 2:58am. You’re in the living room, waiting for the next call, the one that will come when your mother and your brother are actually by his side. They’ll hold up the phone so he can hear. “Can he really hear you?” you wonder. It will be the last time you talk to him. And then they will let him go. He’ll be comfortable, but he’ll be gone before the sun comes up where you are.

This is it, so you’ll have to make those words count. But you can’t wing it, because if you fall apart you’ll forget something. You’ll get it wrong and you’ll hate yourself for the rest of your life for getting it wrong. It has to be right. Even if he can’t hear you it has to be right.

The clock in the living room ticks each second as you try to gather your thoughts. Most of the time you don’t hear it, but the house is so still that the sound travels. It just turns up the pressure. How long will it take your mother and brother to put on their gowns? That’s how long you have to figure out what to say.

There’s no rewrites. No rainbow draft. They’re not even giving you blue pages. They’re shooting the white pages of this script and you have minutes to get them to set.

There’s so much to say. No, so much you COULD say. What do you NEED to say? Better, what does he NEED to hear? Focus, this is not about you. When you hang up it can be about you. This is about him.

You figure out what was unsaid. Oh god, when he was in the hospital, did you tell him you loved him? You check your texts with him, the messages that go right up to the night before he was intubated. The guilt comes back. They stopped voice calls a week before that to preserve his oxygen, but somewhere wires got crossed and you didn’t learn until almost a week later that he was still reading and responding to texts. When you realized, you sent him pics of your son to raise his spirits. You convinced yourself it was just a few days missed, that he’d be fine.

Now you wish you had those days back. But you see the last text you sent that he saw: “Love you too.” You breathe, and then you remember that you said that to him in at least two of your phone calls to him. You’re not sure if you did on that one. The one that freaked you out a little bit.

It is 3:20am. You think you’ve found the words. Why haven’t they called? What’s taking them so long? You find yourself impatient for a moment you dreaded, only because you’re afraid of losing it all.

It is 3:35am. The phone buzzes. This is it. Once you take the call it becomes real. You take that last second and put on your game face.

They put your brother’s phone to his ear. You think about how it’s easier to do this without having to see him and then immediately curse yourself for such selfishness. It’s not about YOU.

You start by reminding him of your call yesterday. Then one where you knew they wanted you to say goodbye. You’re terrible at goodbyes so you told him you weren’t going to say goodbye. Instead, you told him about your big show. You told him about the dreams coming true. The ones he’d helped nurture in you. 

And then you reminded him of a favorite movie quote – that moment in DUMB & DUMBER when Jim Carrey is told his chances with the girl are “one in a million” and his instant response was “so you’re saying there’s a chance!” Dad loved that quote. He used it all the time. You remember that time when your school was threatened with closure and the odds of stopping it were just as long. Dad was one of the people whose attitude was “So you’re saying there’s a chance.” You reminded him of this. You told him he had to believe it. You told him he had to believe it because YOU believed it.

But that was last night. Tonight you start by reminding him you said you weren’t going to say goodbye, but this is goodbye. God, this was so much easier in your head. Speaking it outloud, it becomes a incantation that summons all the feelings you’re not ready to deal with. You breathe.

You tell him not to worry. That you’ll be okay. Mom will be okay because she’ll have us. We’ll take care of each other, you promise him.

You tell him you were glad you got to talk when he was in the hospital. You say you enjoyed those talks. You know he’ll know what it means – the talk that freaked you out because you could feel him trying to tie up loose ends just in case. The one where he kept saying how much you impressed him and you just wanted him to stop because all you heard was the subtext “I need to say this in case I die.” The one where the only way to deal with it was to become modest and self-deprecating.

And then you tell him you’ve been thinking about his favorite movie, THE WIZARD OF OZ. Specifically, you’ve been thinking of the quote he used in your grandfather’s funeral 26 years earlier: “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” You tell him, “Dad, you are loved.” You tell him “I love you” and it hurts because you know it’s the last time he’ll hear you say it. 

You tell him goodbye.

You hear your brother say his goodbyes and the pain in his voice makes you wish you could do anything to comfort him. This is not how you imagined this moment ever going down.

You expect that your mother will be next, but you can’t hear anything. Is she whispering? Did she speak to him privately? You wonder what’s happening. Eventually you decide this is where they’re making him comfortable. Where your mother and brother will be with him. Should you be with them? Will it help? 

You can’t do this. You’re not there. You can’t see him. You’re a blind phantom, unable to touch or see anything, only hear the silence of a life slipping away. This is not helping. You tell them you have to go.

It is 3:50am. You go to bed. Your wife tries to offer comfort, but there’s no comfort to be found. This is going to hurt. You toss and turn. How can you not be tired this late? How are you not exhausted?

Why can’t you cry enough right now? You remember that insane cathartic cry you got watching that ER episode where Anthony Edwards died. The one where his daughter played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for him as he passed. Shit! Why didn’t you think of that an hour ago? Why didn’t YOU suggest playing that song for Dad? That would have been perfect. If you’d given it more thought during those fifteen minutes you were impatient, you might have come up with it.

You wonder if it’s too late to call and suggest it. You decide to let it go. 

Shit. That would have been so perfect. You kick yourself again.

It is later. You are still trying to sleep. Suddenly, with your eyes closed you see something that looks like golden starbursts. They’re not afterimages. You know what afterimages look like. This is different. And as they pulse you feel the slightest tapping on your eyelids. It’s not normal. But it has to be normal because you don’t believe in this stuff. You’re not Mulder, you’re Scully. You’re not spiritual.

But you check the clock anyway, just in case. It is 4:46am. If you don’t believe, then why did you check? Was it him?

You don’t remember falling asleep, but you must have because now you’re being awakened by the email alert on your phone. It’s Mom. A mass email to spread the word. It says he died this morning at about 8:00am, meaning 5:00am where you are. 

Later you’ll tell your brother about the experience. You’ll feel stupid and silly. You think he’ll see you as a drama queen trying to make it about you, or boasting that “Dad reached out to me!” It’s neither, you just have to know. He tells you Dad died at about five minutes before eight, but that 4:45 was about when they stopped the ventilator. He'll later tell you that was the minute he felt like he saw the spirit leaving his body, even mentioning that to your mother.

Was it him? Was he telling you he knew what you said? That he knew that you loved him? You think about this until you realize of course he knew you loved him. He’s your dad.

No, the past tense hits you, he WAS your dad.

No, you realize, he will ALWAYS be your dad.

And you will always love him.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS annotations

Thank you to everyone who has watched CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS so far, especially those of you who were there RIGHT when it dropped Friday night. Reading your tweets all weekend has been fantastic for my mood. I couldn't be more delighted with how it was received.

It's online until November 8th, so check it out if you haven't already. Tickets here.

I thought it'd be fun to go through my original script and point out all the inside jokes, references and callbacks.

In most instances, the hyperlinked text will lead you to a video clip of the reference in question.

If you have yet to download the script, you can find it here.

After you click that link, press ONLY the button that says "Download" next to the script title, and ignore any pop-ups you get or any messages telling you that your Adobe Flash is out of date.

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p. 1 - "Turn, Turn, Turn" is a song used more than once on THE WONDER YEARS.

p. 1 - This opening, and the entire sequence on "Earth-03" is an homage to the original CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS comic book, which opens with destruction of Earth-3. That Earth is populated by evil dopplegangers of the JLA, known as the Crime Syndicate. Dramatically, it was to kill off some notable characters, and show that Superman, Wonder Woman, et al, would have gone down just as quickly.

In this case, at the time of writing the script, I had only seen about 6-8 episodes of THE OC and wasn't sure I could capture the voices of the characters. I decided to destroy them early on to up the stakes, though very soon after, I binged the entire series.

p. 1 - THE OC scene we're dropped into specifically is from the season 2 finale, "The Dearly Beloved."

p. 2 - Pariah is a character in the original CRISIS whose role is basically be be drawn to each dying Earth. He cries a lot too. 

p. 2 - Dawson Leery, from DAWSON'S CREEK, is intended to be a Dawson from 2020. The finale of his series was set in 2008, five years in the future from its airdate of 2003. This means he's lived twelve years since the last time we saw him.

p. 2 - Marissa shooting Trey is one of those pop culture moments that you're probably aware of even if you haven't seen it. It was spoofed - with the "Hide and Seek" music - in an SNL sketch.

p. 3 - the Narrator is a riff on The Monitor from CRISIS. Harbinger is also a CRISIS character. In that story, she was rescued from death as a child by the Monitor and was raised as his assistant. In the first issue, her role was to gather the heroes.

p. 3 - We get our first clue to Harbinger's identity when we're told her universe had wild fluxuations in its history. That MIGHT mean she's from a show that tends to retcon its own history, or fails to remain consistent season to season.

p. 3 - our second clue to Harbinger's identity is when she says to the Monitor, "You're an actual nerd." That's something that the character playing Harbinger says in one of her first scenes in her first episode. I thought this was a subtle clue that no one would catch, but one reader actually nailed that hint pretty quickly.

p. 4 - The Monitor/Narrator is Kevin Arnold. He's described in his 40s, so you should be imagining a modern Fred Savage. In terms of Kevin's timeline, he's always 20 years behind our present, so that means he would have come from (as he later says) the year 2000.

p. 4 - On RIVERDALE, Veronica has described her pairing with Archie as "endgame." I don't have a specific point in RIVERDALE's history that they're being taken from, but it's probably the latter half of Season 2.

p. 4 - "Welcome to your crisis" is one of my less subtle clues about Harbinger's identity.

p. 5 - And now we're in GILMORE GIRLS, the intent is that we're in Season 3. 

p. 6 - As the script notes, Tristan is the character Chad Michael Murray played on GILMORE GIRLS, mostly in season 1. He often called Rory "Mary" (Lorelai explains "as in 'Virgin Mary.' It means they thought you were a goody-goody.") Rory notices right away he doesn't, which is a clue.

p. 7 - Lorelai's Ari Fleisher joke is intended to remind people we're in the early 2000s, when he was the press secretary for the George W. Bush administration. The fact Richard brings up she's been warned about insulting him this means this is set in season 3 AFTER "Let the Games Begin," where Richard chides her, "Ari Fleischer is our nation's mouthpiece, young lady."

p. 7 - Lorelai's joke about "Jeff Goldblum's transporter" is a reference to THE FLY remake. Rory saying "Help me" is a reference to the most infamous line of the original version.

p. 8 - Tristan is revealed to ACTUALLY be "Charlie," who was a character Chad Michael Murray played on season 5 of DAWSON'S CREEK.

p. 8 - Harbinger is finally revealed as Hannah Baker from 13 REASONS WHY. "It's Hannah. Hannah Baker" is a callback to her first line of dialogue heard in the series.

p. 9 - We're in EVERWOOD, obviously. The Ferris Wheel on the front lawn places us just seconds after the series finale. (which means they're from 2006.)

p. 10 - Ephram's interest in manga is a trait established in the EVERWOOD pilot. Amy pronouncing it that way is also a callback to how Ephram says it in the pilot.

p. 10 - Gino Chang's (misspelled in the script as Gino Chan's) is the combination Italian/Chinese restaurant established in EVERWOOD's second episode, "The Great Doctor Brown."

p. 10 - Aside from his interest in comics, there's a bit of an in-joke about Ephram getting the concept of a multiversal crisis, as the actor playing Ephram, Gregory Smith, is now a director whose credits include "Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 5" and "Crisis on Earth-X" part 4. (Both of those are episodes of LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.)

p. 12 - Amy teasing Ephram about once having purple hair is another callback to the pilot, where that hair style made Ephram a target of teasing upon his arrival in Everwood.

p. 13 - Kevin references Taylor Townsend, a character from THE OC.

p. 15 - Archie and Veronica have landed in the middle of the "Donna Martin graduates" episode of BEVERLY HILLS, 90210, season 3's "Something in the Air."

p. 15 - Archie thinking that Dylan McKay looks like his dad is an in-joke about how Luke Perry played both parts.

p. 16 - another doppleganger referencing the same actor having appeared on multiple shows. In this case, Kerr Smith, who was Ryan Thomas on LIFE UNEXPECTED and Principal Honey on RIVERDALE, which is why Archie mistakes the former for the latter.

p. 18 - Dark Monitor offering literary quotes is a clue to his identity. (And at least two people tweeted a correct guess at me after I originally posted these pages.)

p. 19 - The prisoners in Dark Monitor's jail are all characters played by actors who've also appeared on genre shows. Chris Wolfe was played by Jason Behr, who appeared on ROSWELL as Max Evans. Cate Cassidy was played by Shiri Appleby, who also appeared on ROSWELL as Liz Parker, and Dean Forrester was played by Jared Padelcki, who was Sam Winchester on Supernatural.

p. 20 - Kevin again references Harbinger's world having wild inconsistencies in its history. That MIGHT be me taking a small poke at a lot of the irreconcilable retcons in Season 2 of 13 REASONS WHY.

p. 22 - The "friend" who Hannah says Ephram reminds her of is obviously Clay Jensen. (And I'm really sorry I couldn't figure out a way to do a Clay/Ephram meeting somewhere in here.)

p. 22 - as we arrive in ONE TREE HILL, the reference to it being summer is meant to place us soon after the season 4 finale, after all the kids have graduated school.

p. 22 - "Go Brooke Yourself" is OTH slang for "Go fuck yourself." It passed into use after Brooke was caught masturbating and the gang joked about how often they "Brooke themselves" in season 3's "When It Isn't Like It Should Be."

p. 23 - If you saw the live read, this scene got a rewrite. Haley James Scott was removed in an effort to cut down the characters and streamline the story. (That killed me because Haley was my favorite OTH character and Bethany Joy Lenz was one of my bigger WB crushes.)

p. 23 - Haley recognizing Dawson is consistent with her being established as a DAWSON'S CREEK fan in the pilot of ONE TREE HILL.

p. 23 - Dawson references "Clothes Over Bros," the fashion line Brooke started in high school.

p. 25 - Veronica Mars being 32 indicates the Gilmore Girls are meeting her at some point AFTER the conclusion of the Hulu season. (Which is unofficially Season 4.)

p. 26 - Veronica references Vinnie Van Lowe, the sleazy PI played by Ken Marino.

p. 28 - Two famous mother/daughter pairings are referenced: Demi Moore and Rumer Willis, and Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

Sidebar: With p. 28, we start some sequences that I ended up altering for the live read. The motivation was mostly to reduce the number of characters overall, since it was such a giant cast. I went through to see where we could eliminate or combine some characters just to ease casting and to give some actors more to do.

For this PRETTY LITTLE LIARS sequence, I replaced Aria with Taylor Townsend from THE OC. We also added Brooke Davis from ONE TREE HILL to the team of Hannah Baker and Amy Abbott. This was all a consequence of removing the KATY KEENE sequence that begins on p. 37. It meant we could cut Josie and Aria entirely as long as Brooke got captured a different way. By dropping the idea of Aria/Katy as dopplegangers and Aria pretending to be Katy it let the PLL sequence advance the plot a little more on its own.

(I had some concerns about making Taylor evil, but I justified it by having her say this was just to get her world back and it's implied that she would have been taken from the point in THE OC's timeline that coincided with the opening sequence, meaning this predates her first appearance on the show in season three, before her redemption arc.)

p. 28 - The Masquerade Ball that Hannah and Amy have arrived in is the second season finale of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, "Unmasked."

p. 28 - Amy's line here (and a later joke on p. 29) are meta jokes about how the actress playing her, Emily VanCamp, later starred in REVENGE, in which she often wore expensive gowns and was obsessed with revenge on the people who destroyed her family.

p. 28 - The significance of Maya being played by Bianca Lawson is that Lawson spent over two decades playing teenagers on a host of teen dramas, including BUFFY, DAWSON'S CREEK, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and TEEN WOLF.

p. 29-30 - As Amy recounts the drama that spanned the first two years of EVERWOOD, she's unaware that Hannah endured severe bullying and depression (shown in Season 1 of 13 REASONS WHY) before that led her to take her own life.

p. 31 - Maya's death is revealed in the final scene of the aforementioned season two finale of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS.

p. 33 - Rory references Lane, her best friend on GILMORE GIRLS.

p. 34 - Veronica giving her age as 32 confirms that she's from the year 2020, 14 years after graduating high school in 2006 at the age of 18.

p. 35 - Veronica referring to this year as "pretty outlandish" probably indicates this is happening in Season 2 of VERONICA MARS. 

(In the live read, Wallace's role is replaced with Mac.)

p. 36 - Josie would of course recognize Veronica Lodge from Riverdale, but doesn't seem to notice this Veronica is at least five years younger than she should be.

p. 37 - Katy Keene is played by Lucy Hale, who also plays Aria Montgomery.

p. 40 - Two changes were made to this sequence for the live read: Haley James Scott was replaced with Veronica Lodge, since Veronica's trip to Katy Keene's world no longer happened. Also, instead of taking Santana, Ephram and Veronica grab Sue Sylvester as the world fades out.

p. 43 - Lucas Scott realizing he was "the puppeteer" and that Brooke was one of "my characters" might suggest he has a lot in common with a showrunner. Make of that what you will.

p. 43 - When talking about finding Brooke in the back of his car naked after a game, Lucas is referencing the third episode of ONE TREE HILL, "Are You True?"


p. 46 - Winnie Cooper is of course, Kevin Arnold's girlfriend from THE WONDER YEARS and her age also indicates she'd be from the same time frame as our adult Kevin.

p. 51 - Kevin says that Lucas Scott could be an Avatar of his show's creator, which is what gives him the power to bend the rules of the story. ONE TREE HILL was created by Mark Schwahn.

p. 51 - Kevin observing that "The forces controlling your world have frequently tried to debase and degrade you and the other women you know. They've made so many attempts to destroy your character. But it never lasts - you and the other girls always overcome it. No matter the degradation, your true nature remains intact. Your integrity always wins out" might be an unsublte way of saying that inconsistent plots and out-of-character writing still aren't enough to destroy the female characters of ONE TREE HILL, thanks in no small part to their performers.

p. 56 - Kevin lamenting he gave up piano playing is a callback to THE WONDER YEARS episode "Coda."

p. 56 - Ephram has been a piano prodigy most of his life, so he's not wrong to say this song is beneath his talent.

p. 56 - "I Don't Want to Wait" is, obviously, the theme song to DAWSON'S CREEK.

p. 58 - This is a pretty obvious connection to make, but if Ephram is an Avatar of his creator, that would mean he's connected to producer Greg Berlanti.

p. 59-60 - LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, SUPERGIRL, THE FLASH, BLACK LIGHTNING and BATWOMAN are all shows produced by Berlanti Productions and Greg Berlanti, hence, Ephram has access to them.

p. 60 - Veronica Mars thinking she recognizes Black Lightning is a reference to the fact that the hero's portrayer, Cress Williams, had a recurring role in the second season of VERONICA MARS as Wallace's father.

p. 60 - Lorelei's "Oy with the froggies already" is a reference to the phrase coined by Lorelei, "Oy with the poodles already" in the season two finale of GILMORE GIRLS, "I Can't Get Started."


p. 61 - "I Don't Want To Wait" was the theme song to DAWSON'S CREEK, at least in the States during the first airing. In streaming, it's been replaced by the international theme song "Run Like Mad."

p. 62 - On ONE TREE HILL, Peyton Sawyer drove a Comet.

p. 63 - Joey Potter's line, "People die... and they move away... and they grow up, Dawson. Everything changes eventually" is drawn from the season one episode of DAWSON'S CREEK, "Beauty Pageant." Jen Lindley's quote, "Impossible situations are only made better by doing something about them," originates from the season three finale "True Love."

p. 64 -  Lucas saying "It's you, Peyton Sawyer," and her responding "It's always been me" is a callback to Lucas saying (in a completely different context) "It's you, Peyton Sawyer. It's always been you" in ONE TREE HILL's season 4 episode, "Some You Give Away."

p. 64 - If you want to read some metatextual intent into an adult Peyton Sawyer being the one to vanquish her creator, I won't stop you.

p. 65-66 - Haley James Scott from ONE TREE HILL has indeed been married since her junior year, as revealed in the first season finale "The Games That Play Us." She also became a pop star the following season.

p. 66 - Supergirl being excited for a group sing and seeking out Barry/The Flash calls back to the musical SUPERGIRL/THE FLASH crossover in THE FLASH's third season episode "Duet."

p. 66 - you all know this but "Don't Stop Believin'" is the signature song from GLEE. It's first performed in the pilot and then performed four subsequent times in the series.

p. 69 - Jack Arnold's date of death being in 1975 is consistent with Kevin's final episode narration revealing Jack died two years after the end of the series.

p. 69 - The events in the Liberty High Gym on April 20, 2018 are shown in the climax of the season two finale of 13 REASONS WHY, "Bye." Specifically, Hannah arrives in the midst of this heartbreaking scene:


"The Night We Met" is a significant song for Clay and Hannah, as it's the song they danced together to a year earlier at the Spring Fling.

During season 2 of 13 REASONS WHY frequently talked with a Ghost Hannah that only he could see and hear. She wasn't a literal ghost, and was intended more as a dramatization of his own thoughts about Hannah and what he learned about her. He finally lets go of her in a eulogy at her funeral service in the season 2 finale, and that's visualized by her apparition getting up and walking out of the church.

By noting the resurrected Hannah is wearing the same dress, I wanted to give an open door for the reader to assume that the "Ghost Hannah" was actually Harbinger/Hannah, interacting with Clay while she still existed in some sense.

p. 70 - In the actual episode, Tyler nearly takes his weapons into school before being talked down by Clay. It sets off a chain of events that reverberates through the next two seasons and destroys a lot of lives. Here, Hannah alters that event, hopefully to Clay's benefit.

p. 72 - "Katie Couric time" is a callback to Dawson revealing (joking?) in the pilot of DAWSON' S CREEK that he gratifies himself in the morning, "usually to Katie Couric."

p. 72 - Joey's nephew Alexander was born in season one's "Baby," set in 1998, so this would be his COLLEGE graduation Joey references, just in case you weren't feeling old enough.

p. 72 - Joey promising Dawson she'll watch his show every week, "At least until you run out of ideas and do something crazy like make all the kids murderers" describes the missteps of multiple teen shows. Take your pick as to what she's alluding to.

p. 73 - Joey DID turn in her drug dealing father in season 2's finale "Parental Discretion Advised."

p. 73 - On DAWSON'S CREEK, Joey and Dawson often watched movies together in his bed, and given his Spielberg fandom, it makes sense they would have watched most of them together.

p. 73 - Dawson saying that INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL "disappoints" calls back to how Dawson described the less successful Spielberg films when showing Jen his room in the pilot. The producers were allowed to use Spielberg's movie posters after Spielberg himself gave permission, and so as to not offend him him, creator Kevin Williamson decided, "we don't say 'flops,' we say 'disappointments.'"


CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS is a hit!!

Thank you to everyone who watched CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS, especially those who were there RIGHT when it dropped at 5pm. Your texts and tweets during the show and right after it ended told me that plenty of you tuned in and that really made me feel good.

If you saw my Outro, you know that I dedicated the show to my father, who is currently battling COVID-19 in the hospital. He's been on a ventilator since Tuesday, sedated, and this is obviously a very difficult time for my family. Your kind thoughts at this time have been much appreciated. Please keep them up in this very rough time for us, either prayers, well-wishes, or whatever is in accordance with your belief system. 

I was glad to see so much praise for Ben Blacker's production and Laser Webber's editing. I hadn't seen the final product until Friday and they gave that Zoom read so much production value. I'm thrilled it didn't go unnoticed by all of you because they busted their asses to make this something special. Ditto for Paul and Storm, who were responsible for that amazing "Don't Stop Believin'" music number at the climax.

The show is still available until November 8th, so if you haven't seen it, you've still got a week. Tickets are $10 here. All proceeds going to:

1) The Hollywood Support Staff Relief Fund - This has been established by the Actors Fund to benefit L.A. based support staffers affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns. I'm a Writers' Assistant on SUPERMAN & LOIS, and I'm very fortunate to have a job right now. Many of my peers aren't as fortunate and I really want to help them out with this show. Please give generously. You'll be helping a lot of future TV writers stay in the game.

2) The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation - This is a non-profit that does legal work to protect the land rightfully owned by the descendants of former slaves as well as ecologic and economic work to sustain those properties and their communities. Basically, they help underserved families protect land that the government or rich white people want to take from them and exploit.

You can donate more than the cost of the ticket if you want. Just buy more tickets. It's not as if there's limited seating.

If  you saw the show, please keep talking it up. If you haven't seen the show, I can promise you a good time, but don't take MY word for it. Here are some of the reactions:


















































But if I'm being completely honest, this is a tweet I could never have imagined receiving just a few years ago...


Thank you all for your support. It's been an insane year and I'm lucky to have shared it with all of you.

Friday, October 30, 2020

How Greg Berlanti helped make CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS an EVERWOOD reunion

The EVERWOOD reunion in tonight's CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS Zoom live read came about because I broke one of the most unbreakable rules in showing your scripts. With every other script I've ever written, I've never shown it to anyone with any standing in the business until AT LEAST four people have read it - usually many more.

When I sent CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS to Greg Berlanti, NO ONE had read it in full, not even my wife. It was one of those scripts that was just so dense, and so inside baseball that I couldn't really thinking of anyone in my trusted circle who would "get it." But I was putting it out there publicly and I was playing with some of Greg's most beloved characters. Also, if you go back to the first day of reactions to the initial pages I posted, you'll see that Jonathan Gabay, an executive at Berlanti Productions was one of the first people to be intrigued by this concept, telling me, "I need this script finished asap." Since I was sending it to Jonathan, there was really no reason NOT to send it to Greg, at least as a heads-up.

Within days, Greg replied he couldn't wait to read it over the weekend and that it sounded awesome. I'd mentioned that Ben Blacker was already on board to produce this as a live-read fundraiser, and so Greg generously said if we needed help from anyone on his team, we should let him know. When I asked, he said he'd be happy to make a few calls. 

During the planning, I discovered one trait of Greg's that might explain some of his success. It was the first phone call with me, Greg Berlanti, Ben Blacker and Gregory Smith as we were hashing out the best way to do this live read. Greg Berlanti jumps on the call, and very quickly he's saying things like, "I think this could be something really special! You could raise a lot of money with this, do a lot of good! I think it's the kind of thing people need right now with the state of the world and it'd be a really fun show!"

It felt like he was selling ME on MY script! Obviously I agreed with him, but hearing him say that got me even more charged up to do it - and I think that's the point. It's like a coach giving the halftime speech to the team, it just brings up the energy immensely. If there's one thing I've learned from Greg it's to be the most enthusiastic person in the room. Be that beacon of positivity. Be the one who believes the most in what you're doing because people WILL follow you.

I've had bosses in this business who seemed to exist in a state of permanent jadedness and world-wearyness. Every move came from a cynical place. Even if they were right, they didn't fire you up about what you're working on. In the entertainment industry, you have to be the biggest believer in what you're working if you're ever going to make something people care about.

Anyway, within a couple weeks it was official - Gregory Smith and Emily VanCamp were onboard. I - perhaps one of the biggest EVERWOOD fans alive - had written something that would be a mini-EVERWOOD reunion.

As protective as some actors are of their iconic roles, I knew to temper my hopes as far as getting anyone to reprise their role. I really don't think that Gregory Smith and Emily VanCamp would have returned without the script having Greg's blessing. It really meant a lot to have three of the most important people in EVERWOOD put their weight behind this.

How did I get to the point of being able to email Greg Berlanti directly? Well, it started with Twitter.

A quick look at my archives will substantiate that I've been writing about EVERWOOD for a long time, and that it's not the only one of Greg's shows I've raved about. Whenever one of those posts went live, I'd tag Greg on the tweet promoting it. Greg's not particularly active on Twitter, so I never got the kind of interaction I'd had with some other showrunners, but every now and then he'd send a brief reply of thanks.

Then one day out of the blue, he followed me on Twitter. It was strange because I hadn't engaged or tweeted anything that should have caught his eye. My best guess is that maybe he saw my breakdown of the EVERWOOD pilot, which I'd posted about a month earlier. There was no interaction then, but it's important because it meant almost exactly a year later, I was able to DM him directly.

I was setting up a live read of THE MAKING OF STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII, a script I'd written with Brian Michael Scully. The occasion was my ten year anniversary as the Bitter Script Reader and I decided to mark the event by throwing a live read and inviting the many Twitter friends I'd made, and some of the professional contacts I had yet to meet in person.

To that end, I sent Greg a DM that read something like, "please excuse this one-time intrusion into your DMs, but I'm doing this live read as part of an anniversary celebration. I'm inviting a lot of people I've met via Twitter. Your work's meant a lot to me for a long time. It's part of the reason I want to be a writer and it'd be an honor to have you."

And then I waited to get unfollowed. But that didn't happen. Four or five days later, I woke up to a DM from Greg that began, "First of all, I'm touched you asked. And by all means this doesn't need to be an intrusion so write anytime." He went on to tell me that he had a conflict with that date - and it was a legit conflict - but he'd try to send someone from his company.

I wrote back to thank him and that I was glad it wasn't annoying. I mentioned that at the moment, I was working at Warners, so at least now I knew not to be shy if I ran into him on the lot.  On the day of the show, Greg sent me a message wishing me luck and saying that since I was on the lot, maybe I could stop by the office sometime and say hi.

Well, I'm not gonna say no to that, am I?

What eventually happened was we agreed to meet for coffee on the lot, and I learned something valuable from that. I got to meet Greg outside his office and then within like thirty seconds our chit-chat led me to bring up my son... and we discovered our kids are literally just days apart in age, so as Dad's we were dealing with the exact same things, same TV shows they were obsessed with and so on.

At this point, I'm pretty good at not being star struck, but I always worry I'll make a fool of myself in front of someone who's work I've really been into. By meeting Greg on neutral territory and having the conversation go the way it did, I didn't feel like I was meeting "Greg Berlanti, most prolific TV producer." I was talking to "Greg Berlanti, fellow dad" and from that moment on, it was like talking to a new friend who I was on equal footing with. When you're taking a general meeting that you're nervous about, try to find some way to get to that place in the conversation.

And then we went back to the office anyway. Greg said, "I want to know what you're writing now, your two best scripts, and what shows you're really into at the moment." My technique for answering was to make sure there was a thruline that ran through all of these. In other words, figure out how your favorite shows relate to what you've written before, and how all of that informs what you're writing now. As a bonus, if you can make all of that relevant to the person you're talking to, that's gold.

After I weaved through those answers, Greg said, "Okay, let's skip to the end of the meeting and then we can just chat for 40 minutes. I'm gonna give you my email. Send me your two best scripts. Give me a couple weeks to read them because we're about to work on some pilots, but after that we'll have hired some new execs for staffing and then I can pass what I like onto them, if that's okay."

If that's okay? Yeah, I think I'll be fine with you reading my work personally and then considering me for staffing.

I sent him my teen drama thriller pilot and my 13 REASONS WHY/AWAKE spec. Since at least ten minutes of our meeting ended up discussing THE MAKING OF STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII, I also included that, while specifying it was independent of my submissions. I was just sending to him in case he was curious.

He read all three - which means that even before Greg read CRISIS ON INFINITE TEEN DRAMAS, he'd read more of my work than every showrunner I've worked for - put together! 

As it turned out, that staffing season wasn't my year. Had some meetings with his execs and one of his showrunners, but didn't get it. I kept up contact with Greg and ultimately, when SUPERMAN & LOIS came along, I was offered Writers' Assistant.

That was a no-brainer. My favorite character in a series produced by one of my favorite writer/producers? It felt like destiny that after all the time I waited to break in, THIS was going to be it.

And this is where I've buried the lede. I can't tell you anything about the episode's plot. I can't even tell you which episode it will be, but by the end of first season of SUPERMAN & LOIS, you will see an episode with the credit, "Written by Adam Mallinger."

(That's me, in case you forgot already. Craig Byrne at KSiteTV was the first to break the news in this interview with me today.)

My first episode of television is going to be a Superman episode. This is something like 35 years of my life in the making. There are so many things in my life that have led up to the developments of the last couple months that if my life was a TV show, I'd feel like this was the endgame leading to the series finale.

I hope you all enjoy the show tonight. The entire act of making this program is an experience that has meant a lot to me.