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

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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.