All posts by Manny

New Podcast!

Don’t worry, Breakin’ In! will still be around, in the meantime though Cheryl and I started a NEW podcast titled Diff’in Strokes. Each week Cheryl and I will sit down and chat about Cheryl’s struggles and successes as she works her way through recovery from her stroke.

You can go to http://www.diffinstrokes.com to check it out. We’ll also be up in iTunes by the end of today. Search for it by the title Diff’in Strokes and subscribe.

Please, feel free to share it with anyone that you think might find it interesting and Cheryl and I thank you for all of the support you have shown us through the years.

I promise you, when there’s something to say or someone to interview, Breakin’ In will be back!

Till next time…

Episode 82: Updates! w/ A VERY Special Guest…

Hey Everyone…

It has been ONE year, to the day, since we posted a show for Breakin’ In! Last time we chatted, it was the morning that Cheryl was coming home from the hospital. Well here we are now, a year later and we thought it would be fun to sit down and give you some updates because a LOT has been happening.

So who exactly am I sitting down with to make it a “we?” Pretty sure you already know, but you’ll have to give it a listen to find out if you’re right.

Enjoy and hopefully you won’t have to wait another year before we post a new show.

Till next time…

The War on the Consultant IV: Who Do You Trust?

Ugh! Sorry this took so long to put up but I’ve been in rewrite hell on a script for the past few weeks. If you need to catch up, head over to Part 3 here. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is over here.

Now… where did we leave off? I think we were about to discuss exactly who you can trust in the consulting world. Before I get into that though, I want to mention a couple of things. 

First: To those that live in Hollywood or know anyone that works in the entertainment industry…

There is absolutely NO WAY you should pay for a consultant. It’s a waste of money. If you live and work in or around Hollywood, you HAVE to know SOMEONE that has done something at some point and could give you feedback.

If you DON’T know anyone, then you need to brush up on your people skills cause you are not networking properly. Everyone is a friend with someone. The sole purpose of a consultant, in my eyes, is to get “industry level” feedback on your script. Not necessary when you’re in and around the industry. Make sense?

Second: Writer’s Groups DON’T count!

Notice above, I said “someone who has done something at some point.” Way back in Part 1, I mentioned writer’s groups. THEY DO NOT COUNT AS FEEDBACK!

Unless you’re in a writer’s group with actual working screenwriters who have studio deals, you’re in a group with a bunch of people that are in the same boat as you. How does that help you? Sure, they can read your script and give their opinion, but as the saying goes, people who have opinions have assholes or assholes have every opinion. Eh… you know what I mean.

That doesn’t mean you should drop buckets of cash on a consultant because, if you’re out here and in a writer’s group, than… well… see number 1.

Third: If you went to film school…

In theory, even from the worst teachers at the worst film schools, you’ve gotten SOME type of education or hint of knowledge that eeks you past the need for “expert opinion” on your script. You should have moved past that and be on to the part where you’re dealing with actual working professionals in the industry. (i.e. managers, agents, producers…)

Also, if you went to school to make this your profession than you did the smart thing and moved to Hollywood, started networking and… well, see number 1. You might have even joined a writer’s group when you got here, so see number 2.

Okay, now… On to everyone else!

Obviously, if you didn’t go to film school or don’t live in Hollywood, it’s pretty hard to network your way into the hearts of someone that will read your shit and give you feedback. The fastest and easiest way into the industry is to move here and be a part of it.

Let me make this clear: Obviously… there are exceptions to every rule. 

So let me make THIS clear: Being an exception is hard. I said moving to Hollywood is the fastest and easiest way into Hollywood, but it’s not the ONLY way. To be an exception to the rule you have to be a diamond in the rough. That’s not a simple task to accomplish.

Which brings me to: SPOILER ALERT! YOU’RE PROBABLY NOT A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH!

I know your ego can’t handle reading that. In fact you probably read that and thought “Heh! He’s not talking about me.”

Yes. Yes I am. I’m talking about you. 

But your inflated self-worth can’t handle that… so there’s only one option in your mind…

“I’ll pay a ‘professional’ to read my script and give me notes!”

Okay fine. If you want to go that road, I can’t stop you… but I can make it a little easier for you. There are a lot of choices out there. Some are flat out scams. Some are less full of shit than others. How do you tell though?

Let’s get in it and figure it out.

(WARNING: as I have previously said, I have never paid for coverage or paid for a consultant so my opinion is NOT based on experience. My opinion is soley based on my experience, conversations with working producers, managers, agents and my fellow screenwriters.)

Let’s start with the scams:

1. People who will JUST “read your script.”

That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just read it. Not even a guarantee of notes. These people might promise you things like “if it’s good, I’ll pass it on to a friend who’s an agent.”

THIS IS A SCAM! Do not pay these people! They will not read your script and they will not pass it on because they do not have any friends… not reputable ones.

They’re only in it for the check and because they used language like “if it’s good,” they can just tell you it isn’t. Then they can make a couple of general comments about the script like, “the third act needs work” or “your dialog lacks punch” or “your character’s journey isn’t fully flushed out” (ALL REAL COMMENTS THAT I’VE HEARD WRITERS TELL ME) and NOT pass it on to their “friend.”

And although above said comments may, in fact, be true, they’re vague enough for you to reexamine your choices, spin your wheels on another draft and be out X number of dollars.

These “consultants” typically advertise the fact that they did ONE movie once with some top named actor a few years ago. 

Like that means anything… That’s the same thing my Uber driver told me the other day.

2. People who will read your script, but first…

This doesn’t always fall in the lap of the consultant as much as it does so called “managers” or “production companies. 

This scam is fairly easy: First they tell you that they don’t read scripts without coverage from a “reputable source.” Then they give you a “list” of sources they “trust.” Lo and behold, the source is a “division of their company.” Wanting to break in, you pay their “coverage person” (i.e. cousin) to read your script and write up coverage.

The coverage will, most likely, recommend a pass. They might include notes such as: “Dialog needs to be punched up,” “character’s journey…,” “falls apart in the third act…” blah blah blah.

Just vague enough for you to spin your wheels and be out your dough.

If this happens, they realize that they can’t make any money off of you so they take your cash and bid you goodbye. 

But sometimes…

3. People who read your script and want to rep you… for cash money, yo!

Take the above example but this time say the coverage comes back a “recommend.” Then the “manager” will come back to you and say they read the coverage, loved your idea and want to rep you. All you need to do is drop them a “producer’s fee” up front. This can be anywhere from $5,000 – $25,000 depending on what you can do.

This money will be used to “fund your project.” Cause guess what? Not only are they a management company and a “coverage/consultant firm”… but they’re also a PRODUCTION COMPANY!

And instead of wasting time finding a producer, they’re just going to fast track it into production! WHOOOO! Hollywood gate consider yourself kicked open! Bring on the strippers and blow! Not only are you now a writer with a produced film, BUT you’re going to get offered a producers credit too!

HOOOOO-LY SHIT! Is this the line for my Oscar? 

In reality, the film will never see the light of day. You will never see a return on your “investment” and it will all be chalked up to: “Well that’s Hollywood for you. What’s next?”

And the cycle starts all over again while they live off your money cause, sorry to ruin it for you but, that money was never used to fund your film at all. It was used to pay their Mercedes car payment, so they can look important when they pull up to bum-fuck-wherever and hand out their self-made “producer” business cards to suckers.

I mean writers.

Okay, those are the scams that I know, for sure, exist… what about the rest?

Now that we know to avoid the big money fleecing writer scams, lets take a look of the rest of the pack. Who do you choose to trust? Here are some of the pet peeves that irratate me:

1. Consultants who speak in metaphors…

I’ve been known to toss in a metaphor or two to help explain my point. One or two… no biggie. But when a consultant STAYS in the metaphor for the entire time? RUN!

These are the people who like to refer to your screenwriting career as “getting behind the wheel,” or “taking flight.” 

And you’re the “pilot.” 

And your script is “the plane.” 

And the characters are “your passangers.” 

And agents and managers are “the airport.” 

And their desk is “the boarding gate.” 

And if you listen to them they will teach you to “land safely and unload your passengers… right into their boarding gate.”

GAG!

That’s some hack shit right there. I don’t trust these people. 

2. Consultants who sound intelligent, but then just try to sell you shit…

I read an article the other day that was really well written. I didn’t know who had written it, but I was in to it. They seemed to know what they were talking about and were spot on about how shit works in this crazy industry. I thought the article was written by an actual working executive. I was so in to it I was going to share it and promote whoever this writer was. 

But then I got to the last paragraph…

In the last paragraph this writer turned out to be a consultant and basically added: “…and you can avoid all these pitfalls if you just buy my book…” as the last line.

FUUUUUUUUUUCK! Really?

I’m not above self promotion, but there’s a way to do it and there’s a way not to do it. Putting “…and buy my shit!” in the last paragraph, to me, negates everything you just said, becuase the goal wasn’t to help me, the goal was to sell your shit.

You take that and you put that in the bio at the end. It should read “so and so is a consulatant and you can buy their book at blah blah blah.”

This person is clearly in it for the money and they don’t give one fuck what happens to you. Although if you DO end up doing something, its good for them. They can use you as a “success story.”

…you know, to sell more books.

3. Consultants who don’t say anything… anywhere… you gotta just trust them…

Part of the issue with consultants is that you can’t really establish a relationship with them until you hand over your money. You should be able to interview them for the job. You are, after all, hiring them. But that’s not the way it works. You have to trust, based on the credentials they give you, that they know what they’re talking about.

The only way to truly get a feel if the consultant is the right choice for you, is to read articles they’ve written in other places. Most every consultant “speaks” out some where, whether it’s their own personal blog or through various articles or even through their book.

By reading their views and opinions, you should be able to get an idea if they’re the ones for you.

Unless you can’t find anything out there that they’ve written. If they expect you to go to their website, read their “about page” and then order their services… well, fuck that noise. That’s a red flag.

First, I’ve already pointed out the issue with credentials and second, it’s mildly arrogant that you should trust them based on the fact that they USED to work for a studio.

FACT: the industry changes rapidly. It’s rare that ANYONE in the studio system stays in one job longer than a few years… case in point… THEY (the consultant) USED to work in the studio system. Why don’t they now? Hmmmm.

4. Which brings me to… those who can’t do…

To quote Woody Allen in Annie Hall: “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym. Everyone else taught at my school.”

I think one of the major issues that working screenwriters have with consultants is that the consultants aren’t doing. So what could they possibly know? 

Honestly? To me… this is a chicken/egg scenario. You can learn a lot by “not doing.” You can learn even more by failing miserably. But does that then make you capable of telling others what they should or should not do?

The problem is, people who find success don’t really have time to help “the little guy” because they’re busy being successful. This means that most of the time consultants aren’t currently working, but have at some point. They have to have SOME knowledge that they can pass on to you, right? In theory… yes, they can. BUT, when exactly did they get their experience?

FACT: the way shit happened in the 90’s isn’t how shit happens now. So if the extent of the consulatnt’s experience is from their time in the studios in the 90’s… well, how can they possibly help me now? My cynical mind also assumes that they burned out of the business. Tired of playing the game, or not even asked to play any more. I would avoid these people… but that’s just me. You decide.

5. Lastly, my biggest pet peeve… the secret keeper…

I can not describe to you the level of fucking anger that builds in my blood when I read that a fucking consultant has the fucking secret to unlocking your fucking career.

Fuck.

Seriously.

Here, come ‘ere for a sec… let me whisper this into your ear. Are you listening? Cause I’ve got a secret…

THERE IS NO FUCKING SECRET YOU DUMB, GULLIBLE SONUVABITCH!!!!

If by secret do they mean hard work? Networking? Putting in the time? Oh… so you mean like… treating your career… like a career!? 

Sigh.

Anyone who falls for this shit deserves to fall for it. If you think that there is ONE thing, that if done, you’ll get the keys to the party bus that is Hollywood? You’re an idiot.

Actually, strike that. You’re a genius. While I have your attention, “I’m a Nigerian prince that needs a small amount of money to finance my oil field. If you just send me $25,000 dollars as a loan, I will return your investment 4 times over. Who wouldn’t want $100,000 dollars for the simple price of $25,000 dollars?”

While I’m at it…

5. Don’t trust anyone who uses lame marketing ploys…

You know what I’m talking about… the shit your mom shares on Facebook. Videos that have lines like: “This dog came home and you’ll never believe what happens next!”

So you click on it, cause you want to see what happens next… aaaaannnnnd It’s a dog taking a shit. WHELP! Can’t get those 45 seconds back. Thanks mom! 

I see this all the time… “Do you want to know how to be successful?” 

“Click here to find out how to get a manager!”

“Still looking for an agent, I can tell you how!”

They might as well just do this.

All they’re doing is getting you to click on their shit, which drives up their website traffic which makes them look important to other people. They can go back and say, “HEY! 3000 people visit my site every day! I know what I’m talking about… give me money!”

It’s marketing language. A.K.A. bullshit. (Thanks George.)

Now that all that negativity is out of the way, let me say this…

I believe that there are people out there that can help you. People who know what they’re talking about, people who read the trades, follow the tracking boards and can help put you on the right track… or at least a better track than you were on before.

Do the research. Find the reviews. Read the articles. Don’t just hand over your money to anyone. If you run into a consultant at a pitchfest or some event, chat ’em up. Get to know them as much as you can. Don’t be weird about it, but see if who they are vibes with what you’re trying to do.

Or don’t…

There’s no right or wrong answer. At the end of the day, it’s your money and you can spend it any way you want to. Want to blow it on a metephor using hack who has the secret to Hollywood? Go for it. Just don’t bitch when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to.

Want to save your money and move to Hollywood and meet people and network and put the work in? Cool. Do that.

As Cheryl and I have always promoted by doing the podcast and this website… “there are a million ways in to the industry…”

Find what works for you. Just try to do it smartly. That’s all we ask.

…and if you have any questions, ask us… we have the secret to piloting your career safely into the port of your dreams…

Sigh.

The War on the Consultant III: Confessions of a Script Consultant

(If you haven’t had the chance to catch up, check out  Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, I had just admitted that I too, dabbled in script consulting.

NOOOOOO! I know! I was young… I needed the money… Don’t worry, i got out. Cleaned up. Got tested. All is good.

If you’re thinking: “Wait! Did he just compare consulting to prostitution?” Why, yes. Yes I did. If you subscribe to Mazin’s camp, then that’s all a consultant is. Someone that’ll fuck for cash. A soulless entity only after one thing: Dollaz. More specifically: Your dollaz.

Is that the reality? Well… it depends. I know. Tough, isn’t it?

I’m not being difficult, it’s just that the answer isn’t an easy one. Some people out there truly are con-artists. Bent on taking advantage of naive writers, clueless about a system they are desperately trying to be a part of.

On the other hand, some consultants have a vast wealth of experience to offer you. Experience that you might not get anywhere else. Experience that comes from years of working in the industry in various roles. Experience that, when printed out on a resume, blows your level of expereince away.

Yet at the same time, I just proved that what LOOKS good on paper, isn’t always what IS in real life. Know what I mean?

So why did I do it?

At first it was simply because I had a lot of people asking me if I would consult. Later it became about trying to help people NOT make the mistakes that drove me crazy in my day job.

I thought that, if I could get writers to stop doing the dumb shit they were doing, maybe we could churn out better material.

And, to put it frankly, my time is valuble. When I sit down with someone and go over their script, it’s time consuming. I never just said “good job” or “maybe you need more of this.” I spent hours on each case. Reading, making notes and then talking to the writer for 1-2 hours going over all of the notes I made.

That makes for a long day when you spend all day reading scripts only to go home and read even more scripts? AND to try and write your own in there as well? Yeah. No thank you. So I charged people.

But I felt really bad about it. I felt dirty.

For one reason and one reason only. Why should anyone listen to me? I’ve never sold a script. If you subscribe what Craig and John are telling you, than you SHOULDN’T listen to me because what do I know? I haven’t sold a script. That makes me a con-man. A gigalo. Banging for cash.

Are they wrong? Well, no… they’re right. I haven’t sold a script. But does that mean I’m an idiot who doesn’t know anything? No. I mean I have a masters degree. In screenwriting! Oh wait, but I already explained…it’s a useless degree! Shit!

ARE YOU CONFUSED YET?

You are? Good. That’s the point. I did all of this, not to be a hypocrite, but to show you the complexity of the argument.

SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER?! WHO’S RIGHT?

And that’s the fucking problem with the entire ordeal. If you’re looking for an answer than you’re the fucktard in all of this. Because there isn’t one.

John and Craig went to good schools. Got a good ed-u-ma-cation. Used that degree to find jobs within Hollywood. Made contacts. Climbed ladders. Worked their craft. Spent years networking. Tweeking. Learning. Busting their ass. Eventually, they found success and made it to the top.

You know, like millions of people do every day at THEIR jobs.

Yet, for some reason, novice writers think all they have to do is say the correct phrase to the right person and they can get the keys to the executive bathroom. Poof. Just like that.

But that’s not how shit works. Yet there are hundreds of thousands fucktarded writers out there that think it’s just that easy. It’s not.

More importantly, there are hundreds of thousands fucktarded writers that did NOT choose writing and Hollywood as their “profession.” They’re doctors. Accountants. Teachers. Artists. Office workers. Whatever. Tired of their lives, they know FOR SURE that they have a great idea for a movie. All they have to do is write it down and tell someone. Then they can end their miserable lives and enter the the Garden of Eden that is Hollywood.

Fame. Fortune. Titties and ass everywhere! These await you behind the great Hollywood gate. All they need is the secret password. Spoiler alert, there isn’t one.

But here’s the part of the equation that many fail to see. Those fucktarded writers out there, the ones who didn’t choose Hollywood as their “profession,” all have one thing in common… THEY DIDN’T CHOOSE WRITING AND HOLLYWOOD AS THEIR PROFESSION!

And while my $200,000 masters degree is a “useless degree,” it’s still a degree in the field that I have chosen. If you chose another degree, or no degree at all, then you’re hardly knowledgeable in the field you want to be successful in… screenwriting.

So what do you do?

John and Craig have sold scripts and became a part of the elite. So they, according to their own logic, are now capable of acting as consultants… but they’re too busy to consult. Know why? CAUSE THEY’RE WRITING SCRIPTS!

They acheived this by the above stated hard work, not by using consultants. So it’s easy for them to shit on consultants. Label them as Satan’s Spawn cause “we did it without them, you can too.”

Why pay for someone to read your scripts and give you feedback? They didn’t… Or did they?

My combined two degrees ran me about $200,000. And I already told you that I went to a “pointless school in Hollywood.” John went to USC. Craig went to Princeton. Uhhhhh… Imma guess they paid a little more than $200,000 for their education. Soooo… doesn’t that mean that they PAID for their education in screenwriting? (Part of EVERY screenwriting class is reading and giving notes, either by the Professor or your fellow screenwriting noobs a.k.a. students.)

If you didn’t get a degree in screenwriting thus have no knowledge about the craft AND decide to seek out a consultant for their “expert opinion, based on their experience…” then aren’t you essentially paying for an education?

By my math, at quite the discount… unless you’re paying $200,000 for a consult. If you are… STOP! THEY ARE ROBBING YOU!

When I consulted, that’s how I justified it in my mind. All I was doing was “private tutoring in the art of screenwriting.” Hey, I taught screenwriting at a college level so I just translated that in to private lessons. With each person I consulted, I essentially gave them the same level of treatment that I would one of my students. 

Except this time, when I taught, I had all of my experience working in development to throw in.

Let’s take a second to break it down…

These are some of the most common tools that every writer starts with:

Laptop: $1,000 (on average… cost varies)

Copy of Final Draft: $200 (usually found cheaper)

McKee’s Story: $30 (usually skippable)

Save the Cat!: $11 (usually skippable)

Screenwriting Bible: $20 (eh… skippable)

The Hollywood Standard: Complete Formatting Guide: $18 (not skippable in the beginning)

Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make it Great: $16 (not skippable… EVER!)

Script Shark Screenplay Coverage (regular): $149 (if you must)

Average Consultant Fee (Feature Script): $300

Average Screenwriting Contest Fee: $55

Cheapest Pass to Great American Pitchfest: $300 (does not include air or hotel)

TOTAL COST: $2,099

VERSUS…

4 Year Degree at USC: $WAY MORE THAN $2,099!!

When you look at it that way, is it REALLY that bad for fucktards to spend their hard earned money getting an “education” from a consultant?

It is… if it’s a waste of money. What would make it a waste of money you ask? Well, there are good consultants and bad consultants. Just like there are good teachers and bad teachers.

So how can you tell a bad one from a good one?

Stay tuned to part 4 to find out!

The War on the Script Consultant – Part Deux: It Sounds Good on Paper

Yesterday, we chatted about the attack on the script consultant. The quick and dirty version is that script consultants suck, everything is horrible and everyone should kill ourselves because, really? What’s the point?

(If you want the less paraphrased version, check out Part 1 here).

We left off with my “impressive” list of credentials. And if I’m correct, I was about to trash said credentials. Yup. You heard me. Let’s break ’em down and play devil’s advocate.

First. The degree. It’s meaningless. Ohio University is a school that most of Hollywood doesn’t even know exists. OU hardly pumps out Oscar worthy screenwriters that are taking the industry by storm. I don’t say this to shit on my education (or the school), but let’s be real here. It’s no USC, UCLA or NYU. (TRUE FACT)

My first screenwriting professor at OU was an actress from Great Britain. Her claim to fame was one of many BBC productions of Pride and Prejudice in 1980. She taught us using Aristotle’s Poetics and Robert McKee’s Story. She never sold a script. Once I think there were talks of one of her scripts having heat, but like most of what happens to scripts in Hollywood, it fizzled out and never went any where.

She did her best, but let’s face facts… one of the senior lecturers at USC is Mardik Martin, who co-wrote Raging Bull. His 1980 was a little bit more eventful. Know what I’m saying?

So while the phrase, “I have a masters in screenwriting” sounds cool… the reality is… it’s not.

Quick Anecdote: In my final year of grad school, right before graduation, I had a discussion with a mentor of mine, Jessica Bendinger… a successful screenwriter. She told me that my degree was pretty much worthless when it came to Hollywood. One of her suggestions was enrolling in the prestigious Stark Producing Program at USC. Doing that would be a “silver bullet into the industry.” (Her words). So the answer to getting into Hollywood with a masters degree, was to get a DIFFERENT masters degree from a “better” school?! Um, no thanks. Anyway…

Next up: My Internships.

Internships aren’t hard to find. Being a reader is easy. The problem with being a reader? You hardly ever get to read anything that’s super spectacular. Both places I interned had a “no unsolicited scripts” policy. Which means that they only take scripts from reputable sources. Which sounds exciting, but again, let’s face facts… not EVERY agent and manager has the next golden ticket script in their pockets.

Everyone has a script. Everyone. And sometimes their A-list client wants to help out their niece’s cousin’s gardener who wrote a script and they’re forced to lightly peddle it around town. When said script makes it to the production company, who do you think gets to read it? The president of production? The CEO of the company? No fucking way. Interns read that shit.

Quick Anecdote #2: One day Arnold, of Arnold Kopelson fame, emailed me a script and told me to read it and give him some notes on it. Who wrote it? The Maitre ‘D at one of the resturaunts he gets a good table at. That’s how it works. The Maitre ‘D makes sure he gets the good table by the piano and in front of the window, next to Jennifer Aniston’s table and Arnold “reads” his script. (TRUE FACT)

I’m sure Arnold went back to that guy, told him a couple of nice things off my notes and made the guy feel awesome thus ensuring that he’d still get the “best table in the house.”

I promise you. That script sucked ass. It was BAD, but Arnold isn’t going to tell that guy that. He doesn’t want to rock the boat when it comes to remaining relevant in Hollywood.

The point is, it’s not like I was reading scripts by the next Alexander Payne… or even Alexander Payne himself. It was all shit.

Does that make me an expert? Hardly.

When I moved up in the ranks at Kopelson, the scripts didn’t get better. In the 90’s, the Kopelson name could print money… but now? Let’s just say that I wasn’t joking with the table table story and the staying relevant comment. Arnold’s ship was full of holes and he was scrambling to plug them up before the whole ship went under. You think heads of studios were calling up and delivering top notch material for Kopelson to produce? If you answered yes… you’re just as delusional as he was/is.

Yet, for some reason… “Kopelson” is still a legend, so it sounded cool when I dropped the name. Made me sound important. I wasn’t.

“I attended a slew of pitchfests.” This one gets me tons of street cred. Why? Pitchfests are literally the bottom of the barrel. That’s not me being hyperbolic… it’s me being real. The first time I attended a pitchfest, I had been working as an intern at a different company. My friend asked me to sit at a table for him because the organizers were pressuring him to participate and he didn’t want to. Plus, he knew I needed the money. I asked him what I needed to do. He said: “Just sit there, listen to what they have to say and pass on everything. If you hear something AMAZING. Get their number and let me know.” Boom. That was it. Before that day, I didn’t even know what a pitchfest was.

Now obviously, I’m not stupid and I picked it up pretty quick, but if I could hear pitches being an absolute zero… well, do the math? You think 100% of the people you’re pitching to has any real power? Hell, or even knows what they’re doing? I doubt it.

When I started going to pitchfests under the Kopelson name, I told Anne and Arnold that I was going to do it. It was on the weekend, it was my “own time” so they didn’t care. I thought it would be a way to show initiative and prove to them that I’m serious about being “in the game.” The following Monday, I tried to give a report of my time at the pitchfest but they couldn’t be bothered. So I dropped it. I kept going to them though, using their name without their knowledge. Now, HAD I FOUND SOMETHING, of course I could have given it to them… or worked it up the ladder, but needless to say, I never did.

I went to pitchfests all over Hollywood for a little over 3 years without them ever knowing or caring. Pitchfests were beneath them. The people running the pitchfests didn’t care because as soon as I signed on, they bumped some “lower company” off the email in order to make room for Kopelson. I mean come on, Academy Award Winning Producer… his company? At our pitchfest? They loved it and used his name as much as I did.

A few months before I left, I was planning to attend one of my last pitchfests under Kopelson. Arnold had received a call that I was on to take notes. It was from manager friend that he had known for years and was just as old as he was. One of the manager’s clients was planning to attend the pitchfest I was going to and said as much to his manager. The client also mentioned that Arnold’s company was going to be there. While on the call, the manager asked Arnold about it. It went a little something like this:

Manager: I hear you’re gonna be at this pitch thing coming up.

Arnold: What? What pitch thing?

Manager: I don’t know… some thing. One of my clients saw your name listed on the email.

Arnold: I don’t even know what that is.

Manager: It’s this thing. Where people pitch… I don’t know… I told my client it was a waste. That’s when he told me that you’re going to be there and I thought, well if Arnold is going to be there…

Arnold: Not me. I don’t even know what that is.

Manager: Oh. Well they’re using your name to advertise it. Says you’re going to be there.

Arnold: Well not me. I don’t even know what that is. (NOTE: YES, he repeated himself that much.) 

Manager: Well you should look in to it.

Arnold: I will. Thanks. I’ll have to. I don’t even know what that is.

Manager: Okay. Take it easy Arnold.

Arnold: You too.

(click)

After the phone call I thought: “Oh shit! Busted.” I’m going to have to explain it to Arnold all over again and there’s nothing more Arnold hates than being told he was told something and doesn’t remember. Rather than admit HE fucked up, he chose to stick to his guns and chew YOUR ass out. It’s HIS name on your paycheck after all which instantly means that he’s right and you’re wrong. So I prepared. Ready to get yelled at.

Thing is? After that phone call? Never came up. He never asked. Didn’t care. Never heard another word. That was that. (TRUE STORY)

So if you think “attending hundreds of pitchfests” holds any weight, it doesn’t. Doesn’t mean SHIT. Not when it comes to the top of the food chain. That and there’s the whole thing about nothing good has ever coming out of a pitchfest. Ever.

Ever.

Ever.

EEEEEEEEVEEEERRR.

Okay. I might be a little hyperbolic now, but seriously… it’s horrible. Most of us mainly go to see other execs. People we don’t get to see often because we’re all working. There are some execs I only get to see once a year and it’s usually at a pitchfest.

So does that “credit” on my resume mean anything? Nope. But it sounds cool. Sounds important. It’s not.

My time at Final Draft… Was a joke. I was barely there and the truth is, Final Draft isn’t “in the industry.” Its a software company. Run like a software company. By people who know how to sell… software. Final Draft (the program), in every sense, is a product. With a very specific market.

I went to Final Draft because I thought it would be an opportunity to mingle with a community that I was so desperately trying to be a part of. In my mind, working at Final Draft would afford me the opportunity to network higher up the chain than I have ever gotten previously. I mean… it’s Final Draft, right? I’d be able to rub elbows with the WGA elite… Right?

I forgot one thing though… FINAL DRAFT ISN’T IN THE INDUSTRY!

Sure, I met some people. Some big name writers. But their writers. Doing writing things. And I was the Final Draft guy. Doing software things. I wasn’t on their level… I was the guy that could explain what was taking so long for Version 9 to come out. (TRUE FACT)

When it came to writing, the people that run that company know as much about writing a script as Punxutawney Phil knows about predicting the weather.

Again, not being shitty. Writing scripts, giving notes on scripts, getting scripts made… NOT their business. They don’t NEED to know that shit. Their business is making and selling software.

So does my working at Final Draft give me some credibility? Not really. But it looks good on the resume.

Lastly, my current position with Barnyard Media… Holding the title of “Creative Executive,” to me, means a lot in the Hollywood game. It means that someone with a lot of years, knowledge and experience in the industry values and trusts my opinion. It’s validation that I know what I’m talking about.

This position gives me a lot of street cred… BUT, have I sold a script to a studio? No. Have I successfully packaged a script, locked talent and got it into production? Nope. I’ll say again, development is a slow game. Doesn’t mean I won’t do those things, but it doesn’t mean I will either. Hollywood is fickle. I say this, not to be negative, but to be realistic.

Do I have the power to get your script made? No. Do I have the power to get your script in the hands of someone that can get it made? No. Do I have the power to get your script in the hands of someone that can get your script into the hand of someone else that might be able to get your script made? Yes, but it would take a LOT for that to happen and it still doesn’t guarantee that it’ll get made.

The reality is: the only people that can actually get your script made are studio heads and they only give their number out to a select few and I promise you, they’re not going to take MY calls.

So why trash the credentials?

To prove a point. You see, I have a confession. One that makes me feel… ookie. Don’t tell anyone, but… I too… once dabbled in a little in script consulting.

Say what now? Part 3 coming up next…

The War on the Script Consultant: First Blood

Well folks, it’s that time a year again. You guessed it, it’s time for established screenwriters to shit on, according to them, the scum of the Earth… Script Consultants.

And by “Established Screenwriters” I mean… Craig Mazin.

After catching up on all of the drama last week (and apparently still going on), I thought I’d throw my two cents in to the ring. To make it easier to read, I’m going to break this up into parts…

If you’re out of the loop, then let me give you the quick and dirty version of what went down. Apparently, (read about it, didn’t hear it directly) Craig on his Scriptnotes Podcast, trashed consultants and told his listeners that, and I’m paraphrasing here,  paying for people to read your shit is dumb and you’re a stupid head if you do. I think he also said that books are stupid and people who write books are stupid and we’re all going to burn in hell. I think that was it.

Needless to say, that didn’t go down very well with all the people who get paid to read your shit. (Craig’s “words,” not mine.)

Several consultants fired back. Some tried the “can’t we all get along” approach… promoting that “writing is for everyone…” and “here’s a flower… express yourself!” Followed by some other hippie stuff.

While others went with a more direct approach of: “CRAIG MAZIN IS A LIAR AND A CULT LEADER!”

Which caused other established writers to fire back with: “I’m trying hard NOT to be mean, but fuck all you consultants in the ear!”

This caused your everyday, this-is-not-my-day-job-writers to join in the fray. Those that worshiped at the church of Mazin, jumped on the consultant hate speech bandwagon. Some actually took to Twitter to attack consultants on a personal level. So sad.

On the other side, those who want to believe the path of righteousness lays in the hands of the consultant… quickly jumped to their defense. Preaching the words of McKee after they took his “weekend retreat.” A retreat, I heard, that ends with everyone gathering and drinking Kool-Aid together. Allegedly. Don’t quote me.

No matter which side of the coin you rest on, I think you can agree… shit got bloody.

What do I have to say that hasn’t already been said? A lot actually but let me preface my opinion before I start.

First. I have interacted with Craig Mazin once. I found him to be very kind and totally NOT an asshole. There was no reason why he should have ever given me the time of day. I am, in his world, considered a “nobody.” I hit him up on Twitter, he responded. We exchanged a couple of emails. Never in that time did I feel like he was better than me or that I was insignificant. After that exchange, he never contacted me and I never contacted him. There was no need, nor did I expect that all of a sudden we were best buds. 

So I don’t have any issue with Craig Mazin. 

I have also interacted with John August on a similar level and have met him a couple of times. I found him to be completely genuine and extremely nice.  

But I don’t listen to their podcast. 

Not because I believe they give out bad information… it’s just not information that I really need any more. That’s not arrogance talking, I’ve just simply evolved past it. Plus, and this comes from a guy that listens to a LOT of podcasts and even had himself one once… I gotta say, I find them kinda boring. Even when they’re passionate about something, they’re not very excited to talk about it. It always sounded like the podcast was a chore rather than something they liked to do.

Not everyone can be Chris Hardwick or Kevin Smith.

On the flip side, I have also met, interacted and befriended several consultants. I don’t always agree with their message or their tactics, but I “get it.” 

Just to put everything on front street, I have never sought out a consultant and I have never paid for coverage. So I can’t tell you if either is worth anyone’s time or money. 

I don’t say that to be shitty… I’m just letting you know where I’m coming from. I have heard from writers that have had very positive experiences with consultants and I also know other writers who live by paying for coverage. It’s just something I have never felt I needed.

The second thing I want to preface are my credentials. This won’t make sense right away, but gimmie a couple of minutes and let me get there.

I have a masters degree in screenwriting from Ohio University. I interned at both Winkler Films and Kopelson Entertainment as a reader. From there I was hired by Kopelson to work as an assistant and I bullied my way into the position of story editor. There I was involved, albeit limited, in several scripts that were in development. I read them. Gave notes. Heard opinions.

I have attended numerous pitchfests for Kopelson. Heard hundreds of pitches and read my fair share of scripts. It’s because of this I was offered a column in the Business of Show newsletter. The column led to a successful podcast with listeners from all over the world.

From Kopelson I went to Final Draft to work in  their Marketing Department. One of my job duties was to act as a liaison between Final Draft and events seeking sponsorship from Final Draft. I attended several film festivals as a Final Draft representative.

I’m currently the Creative Executive for Barnyard Media. A small up and coming production company. While no big hits have come from us yet, we are on the cusp of having several projects take off. (The development game is a slow one.)

I am also a full-time writer. I have never sold a script, but I have two scripts in development with producers. I do not have a manager and I do not have an agent. So far, that has been by choice. I have had opportunities but didn’t feel the managers and agents I have met with were a good fit for me.

Why give my resume? Couple of reasons…

The biggest reason is to showcase the fact that I’m not an idiot. I know my shit. My entire experience, in school and in Hollywood, has been in development. I have never worked on the production side of things (besides student films) nor have I ever worked in a talent agency. Although I have met with and spoken to a slew of managers and agents who have tried to get me their client’s material.

My point is… screenwriting is my thing. I know it. I love it. I breath it.

Think of Hollywood like the government. There are three branches. Development (Executive), Production (Judicial) and Agencies (Legislative). Each is its own beast with its own rules and own way of doing things. Yet all of them fall under the same umbrella of government. You can KNOW things about another branch, but it doesn’t mean that you can offer any advice to people IN THAT branch.

Sure, production folks know themselves a script, and maybe have even written one, but it’s not what they do day in and day out. They don’t interact with agents and managers. They don’t really deal with other writers unless it’s with other writers who are usually in the same boat they are. (a.k.a. writer’s groups… more on this later.)

The other reason is: I’m about to destroy all of those credentials.

Stay tuned for part 2…

The Greatest Shows “Ever”…

Over New Year’s weekend, HBO re-aired the entire run of the critically acclaimed show, The Wire. Quite often hailed as “the greatest show of all time.”

For those of you, like myself, who have not seen The Wire… have probably grown tired of friends, family and complete strangers looking at you like you’re crazy right before exclaiming: “I can’t believe you HAVEN’T seen The Wire?! You HAVE to watch The Wire!”

Many years ago, after several people annoyed the fuck out of me, I sat down and gave The Wire a go. I made it through the first season no problem. It was interesting and compelling, but hardly “greatest ever” quality… but I continued anyway.

I bailed half way through the second season because, well… to be frank… it was fucking boring as hell.

For years after, when The Wire came up as a topic, I relayed this story to friends, family and complete strangers. I figured, “giving it a go” would have been enough to keep the “I can’t believers” at bay.

It didn’t.

Instead their arguments switched from “I can’t believe…” to “Oh! Well you have to give it until the third season… THAT’S when it REALLY gets good.”

(For the record, I’m not being hyperbolic, this statement was literally said to me verbatim by three different individuals, on three different occasions, months apart… in one case, over a year apart.)

Third season? That’s a lot of work required by a show. Granted, I watch WAY more than the average TV watcher, but with the sheer amount of shows available to watch… my time is still limited. I don’t have time to give a show three seasons to grab my attention.

For this reason, I walked away from ever completing The Wire. Fuck that. You have 3-5 episodes MAX to get me… or I ain’t got.

That is… until now. Thanks to HBO’s marathon (and a lack of anything else to watch). I decided, finally, to start from scratch and watch the entire run of The Wire and find out, truly, if it is indeed the “greatest show ever.”

The answer: It’s not. Not even by a long shot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but “EVER” good? I wouldn’t even put it in the race.

Which got me thinking… what ARE some of the shows that would be on the short list for greatest ever? It was pretty easy to come up with a list, which surprised me. Titles quickly jumped out at me.

Before we begin, I should mention… I didn’t include sitcoms. That’s a different list, one that would look VERY different. Shows like MASH, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Sex and the City, Cosby and Friends would easily overtake some of the shows listed below. It wouldn’t really be a fair fight. Let’s face it, Friends is rarely a show that would be mentioned in the same breath as say, Breaking Bad.

Also, no procedurals. Yes, shows like CSI, NCIS and Law and Order have been on for eons and have spawned WAY too many spin offs, but they’re hardly in the same category as The Sopranos. They are what they are and we’re all okay with that.

Another thing, I should add that I only used shows I’ve seen, in most cases, all the way through. Sorry fans of 90210 or Veronica Mars. I’m sure they’re great watches, but I wouldn’t be able to fairly comment.

Although, there IS one honorable mention, but more on that later.

Okay, Got it? Good.. let’s get to it… (in no particular order)

First up…

– THE WALKING DEAD

Whether you’re a fan of zombies or not, you can’t deny the juggernaut that is The Walking Dead. Each year their numbers not only INCREASE, a rarity in TV land, but are also astronomical. Okay, sure… they’ll never hit MASH numbers, but given the amount of choices there are now compared to the three channels that existed in MASH’s day? They’re pounding the competition.

And look, you also can’t deny why it has the appeal that it does. There are enough zombies to lure in the hardcore horror fans, but not too many that it puts a bad taste in the mouths of the average lame middle American.

The story line is compelling, the characters are great and you never know where they’re going to go… well, unless you read the comics. Then you have a little idea of where they’re going.

Not only has the Walking Dead been able to survive the airwaves, but its also been able to survive the behind the scenes drama. Multiple showrunners and budget cuts haven’t been able to slow it down. Sure, it’s had its downfalls (farmhouse anyone?) but it always seems to bounce back when it needs to. Now that Scott Gimple seems to be in for the long haul as the show’s showrunner, maybe it’ll find it’s true, story telling legs. A funny statement when looking at the fact that we’re moving into the back half of the fifth season.

More than anything else, The Walking Dead deserves to be on this list due to its social impact. What other show in TV history has ever been able to actually create ANOTHER show, in which people sit on a couch and talk about what they just watched? That’s right… none. The Walking Dead has been able to bring the “Comic Con” part of nerd culture into your living room… and based on the numbers, you’re eating it up. With a spinoff debuting in 2015 and the comic still going strong, it’s not a show that will be going anywhere any time soon.

– BREAKING BAD

Are you surprised? Here’s a show that seemingly came out of no where to become, easily a front runner for “best show ever.” A show that faced cancelation due to poor first season numbers, ended up dominating both ratings and casual party chit chat.

Whether you liked it or not, you can’t ignore the fact that the show was smart. It knew what it was doing and where it was going. Only ever going to be 5 seasons, Vince Gilligan planned out shit so precise that there are open ended Easter eggs in season 1 that get answered in season 5 and only the biggest fans caught every detail.

So what was the appeal? Simple. The setup. An average, white, middle classed, teacher… gets cancer and has to provide for his family. There’s no person in America hasn’t thought about a life of crime after getting a hospital bill for the simplest of things.

It’s this foundation that solidified its audience. We wanted Walter White to beat the system and by the time he became “out of control” we were already on board for the ride. We, like him, went down the rabbit hole.

But let’s face facts, we didn’t tune in each week to see Walter’s latest conquest, we’d tune in to find out how he’d get out of the latest “oh shit” moments that HE created.

Another fair point, much like its AMC counterpart The Walking Dead, characters weren’t precious. Any one could go at any time, even Walter White himself as proven by (SPOILER ALERT) the series finale.

Breaking Bad was one of the few shows to air where you legitimately did NOT know what would happen from episode to episode. A rarity in television land. A land that thrives on predictability week to week.

– THE GOOD WIFE

Okay, yeah… I get it. I’m an old fart. It’s no secret that CBS has a long history of catering to, how should I say it, an “older demographic” and The Good Wife is no exception.

I mean it does’t have zombies OR meth. How can the 18 to 35 demo possibly relate to any of the characters?

I have to be honest, I resisted The Good Wife for years for a few reasons. I was never a fan of ER (was only forced to watch a few episodes thanks to a girl I was dating at the time…hence why its not on this list) which means I was never a huge fan of Julianna Margulies. Her association with a show I was forced to watch left a horrible taste in my mouth. Childish… I know.

I was, however, a HUGE Chris Noth fan. He was one of the best detectives on Law and Order and he was the only reason to ever truly watch Sex and the City. His characters defined cool.

It was this fact, that when the show was first advertised before airing, I was sold on watching… until I found out what it was about.

Chris Noth played a politician disgraced by a sex scandal… a topic that was, and sadly still is, hot. Hell, if I wanted to see that shit, I’d just watch the news.

That and the above mentioned actress were just too much for me to handle… so I never tuned in.

I was an idiot.

Years later, left in a TV dry spell and looking for something to watch on Netflix, I decided to give The Good Wife a shot.

I was hooked from the pilot.

The Good Wife finds a way to combine drama, comedy and thrills every week. The best part about the show is that you’re not sure which you’re going to get each week. I’m not talking about storyline, but genre. One week there might be an episode that’s funny from start to finish, some might be serious all the way through or some might find the perfect mix. Regardless of what you get, you never lose the over all thread of a seasonal storyline.

There’s also an issue on content. Being a person that does’t care much for people telling me what I can say or not say… let alone how I say it… I’m always a fan of the show that gives me something that I’ve never seen on TV before.

The Good Wife does not fail to deliver in this department. Early on in the series there’s a scene where Chris Noth’s character tries to get it on with his wife, Julianna Margulies’ character, who at this point has made it clear she just needs to get laid. An act that, alone, would be a victory for feminists everywhere. While women are often the objects of sex in TV and movies, a woman exerting her sexuality, is often labelled “a slut,” but the show doesn’t stop there.

They end up in a bathroom for a quickie and Noth goes to do his thing, but Margulies stops him, grabs his head and pushes him down between her legs. Gasp if you’d like, but let’s take a look at the facts: Oral is NEVER a discussed practice unless talked about or depicted as a crude act, by men… So for a woman, confident and well-spoken, to “get hers?” That should make you stand up and applaud everyone associated with the show.

But yes, I get it… a woman “gettin’ some head” hardly makes a show one of the “greatest ever.”

Sexiness aside, the show has never slowed down and it has remained interesting from the beginning. I have never found it to get boring or run a storyline to the point where I have yelled at the screen “okay, they need to wrap this shit up.” (A phrase I yell a LOT at my TV).

It’s this reason that I urge everyone to at least give it a shot before passing it up. Even IF you’re males in the 18 to 35 range. And if you are… let me just say this…

The show has lesbians. Really hot ones. And they get it on. A lot.

So you don’t have to make the popcorn or set your DVR, but maybe the next time the wife says she’s gonna watch The Good Wife, linger in the background “cleaning something.”

Your secret is safe with me.

– THE X-FILES

I’m not going to lie, I struggled adding this to the list for several reasons. First, even the die hardest fans in the world can’t deny… the show overstayed its welcome. I myself, who was everything X-Files, bailed somewhere in he 5th season and still haven’t seen the last four.

It took a bit of weird turn with the cases and tested the line of “suspension of disbelief.”

And this is the show that focused on alien abductions… so that’s saying quite a lot.

That being said, lets give it its fair due. The X-Files was really one of the first shows that brought “nerd culture” into the main stream. It was cool to like The X-Files and many did. You didn’t have to hide in the closet about it like Star Trek fans did. I mean even Stephen King wrote an episode. How cool is that?

It was also one of the first shows that I can remember EVERYONE watching. Back before DVR’s, when you had to “set a VCR,” The X-Files was the ONE show no one missed. In fact there are a few friends, when pressed, will probably admit that there’s still a box of episodes on VHS in the garage. Commercials and all.

But why was it so popular? Easy.

David Duchovny. Pure and simple.

He made being a nerd cool. So cool that the cool kids didn’t think he was a nerd and the nerds wanted to be as cool as he was.

Fox Mulder was a character EVERYONE could idolize. Whether it be his dedication to finding his sister, his vast knowledge about everything, his humor, his good looks, his rebellion against authority or just his overall charm.

Fox Mulder embodied a lot of things for a lot of different people.

But just like there would be no X-Files without Fox Mulder, there would be no Fox Mulder without Scully.

The ever realist, shitting on his boyish optimism every chance she got, Scully kept the show in reality. Most of the time by tripping and falling RIGHT before the cool shit happened, thus making it easy for her to deny said cool thing ever took place.

Still, Scully made things interesting and kept Mulder on his toes. Much as a source of the show’s comedy.

And let’s be honest… Gillian Anderson was pretty hot doing it too. Mole or no mole.

While the show stuck around and spawned two movies, it’s still much a part of culture. So much so that people STILL get excited when the Hollywood rumor mill whispers hints at Duchovny and Anderson donning the suits one more time for another flick.

Unfortunately, its shows creator never did much else. Probably why a new movie gets mentioned every few years. Gotta tap the well dry. The X-Files did however, act as a breeding ground for two very talented individuals who, to no surprise, also have shows on this list.

Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad fame and Howard Gordon of 24 fame.

Speaking of…

– 24

Much like some of the other shows on this list, 24 has had its ups and downs. It hasn’t always knocked it out of the park and probably has never really lived up to the hype of the first season.

You can’t deny, the whole ‘real time” thing got old and often became a parody of itself. Still, you tuned in each week to find out what Jack Bauer would do next. More importantly, who would end up double crossing who because there was ALWAYS someone who pulled a double cross.

Regardless of it’s ebbs, when the show flowed, it flowed. The show runners always gave you JUST enough at the 57 minute mark of the hour to make sure you tuned in next week to find out what happened. This ensured that, even when the show wasn’t at its best, that you tuned in to find out what happened.

24 also was the first show to bring true action to people’s living rooms each week. Whether it was a suspenseful car chase or a bullet ridden gun fight, 24 delivered action that was usually reserved for the biggest budgeted Hollywood movies.

Action aside, let’s not forget its hero… Jack Bauer. He was dirty, he was rough and for every hit he took, he delved out ten. Most of all, he was a patriot. Doing what he had to do to protect America. Something this country needed in a post 9-11 world.

Jack Bauer gave his life to protecting our way of life from enemies foreign and domestic and people loved it. More importantly, people needed that.

Bauer served his purpose, much like Captain America did for Marvel comics during World War II. Nowadays, when our government is taking hits for its tortuous ways, Bauer’s “bull-in-a-china-shop antics” aren’t really all that favorable. Much of the reason why he was given his hero’s swan song in a limited series years after the show went off the year.

Maybe one day, much like Captain America, Bauer will be dusted off and brought back into the fold. We are, after all, getting another Rambo… so anything is possible.

– The Sopranos

There’s a lot of people who haven’t seen The Sopranos. In fact, there are a lot of people who absolutely REFUSE to watch The Sopranos. Why? Because, and I quote: “I’m not really into gangsters.”

These are also the same people who claim: “I’m not really into Zombies” when it comes to The Waking Dead.

To those people I say: “You’re missing out.”

Yes. Tony Soprano makes a living in “Waste Management.”

And Yes. Tony Soprano MIGHT, POSSIBLY, do things a little… um… criminally.

But the actual heart of the show isn’t really about the gangster life. It’s about the people who live it. Even further it’s a psychological study of individuals who have the life thrust upon them.

Not only figuratively, but literally… as a major part of the show, Tony faces his issues in therapy after dealing with a panic attack. And while the similar storyline was tackled by Harold Ramis in Analyze This (and subsequently Analyze That), The Sopranos takes a much more serious tone. Delving into issues stemming from his “in the life” father and “less than caring” mother.

It’s these relationships that make the show such gripping drama.

Let’s be honest though, for most of you it’s about the lifestyle of the gangster and The Sopranos doesn’t disappoint in that department. You do get plenty of “whacking,” but with enough drama that it never seems “senseless.”

The Sopranos is not without its faults though. Mainly the beginning and the end. First, and this is a personal thing, it took me quite a while to get sucked into the world of The Sopranos. If I remember correctly, it took me the usual “HBO 5” to get sucked in. (For those that don’t know, HBO shows, for the most part, usually take a few episodes to REALLY get going…at least for me…hence the term “HBO 5.”)

But, after those 5… you’re hooked and, even when the show has its low points, it’s still extremely watchable.

And then there’s the end. If you have’t seen how The Sopranos ends, then you’ve probably heard about it or seen it spoofed on another show. No other show’s ending has created such water cooler bitching than The Sopranos with the exception of maybe Lost, which was more confusion that outright complaint.

Regardless of what you might think happened to Tony in the end, you fell into the trap of the show runners. You talked about it. A LOT. Like a lot a lot. In my case, to the point of where you started to hate the show, the subject of the show and the idiots that didn’t agree with YOUR point of view. I mean come on, some people were so desperate for closure that their brain actually heard a gunshot after the screen went black.

If you don’t believe that this is an actual thing, try talking to someone who heard the spinner topple at the end of Inception.

Anyway… More than anything, was the cultural impact that The Sopranos had. Let’s face it, before The Sopranos, HBO was a hyper expensive addition to your cable package. Its only purpose was to show movies that you could no longer see in the theaters and movies that maybe haven’t hit VHS yet.

Then HBO delved into original programming. Remember all of the articles about Netflix diving into original programming when House of Cards came out? Pretty sure authors just dusted off their old HBO articles and then did a find and replace.

HBO came out swinging with both The Sopranos and Sex in the City (also the lessor popular OZ.)

Can you even phantom a world without HBO now? It’s such a titan now that HBO is no longer an addition to your cable package, but a necessity. One could also argue that it was shows like The Sopranos that made it okay for film talent to be okay with TV… a fact that was not the case prior. TV was often a place film actors’ careers went to die.

Today HBO has paved the way for AMC, FX and Showtime to enter the fray. Even the much spoken about Netflix wouldn’t be able to draw in the talent it has without HBO breaking free of TV’s “network model.”

Shit on it if you will, but it’s because of The Sopranos that we have original programming like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead rather than the network trilogy of cop, lawyer and medical shows.

Speaking of original programming…

– LOST

It shouldn’t be any surprise that Lost is on the list. For six seasons, Lost was successful at capturing the imaginations of its viewers.

Yes. Lost… got a little… weird.

But regardless, people tuned in. Mainly for one reason and one reason only: Would they or wouldn’t they get off that frickin’ island.

That’s right, not since Ross and Rachel, were more people concerned with a show’s “would they or wouldn’t they.”

Of course, when they DID get off the island, they really didn’t… or wait? Did they? I mean in real life? Or was that a parallel reality? Oh wait, did they even crash in the first place? Or have they been dead the whole time? Or maybe this was a dream inside the head of a special needs kid? (see St. Elsewhere.)

Who knows? It was one of those.

It doesn’t really matter what you believe did (or didn’t) happen, it was almost guaranteed that you knew SOMEONE that believed something completely different than you did and had no shortage of breath when it came to arguing why YOUR belief was wrong and stupid.

That’s what Lost did best. It got you talking. It got everyone talking. For its die hard fans, Lost created passionate debates. Not something you can say about most shows.

Unfortunately, Lost’s originality was also it’s downfall. It became too smart for the dumb people watching and too dumb for the smart people watching. Simply put: Dumb people were confused and smart people saw the glaring holes in its plot.

And holes… there were a plenty.

Holes aside, fans of Lost ultimately made up their minds on what the show was and stuck to it. Even after years of being off the air, people who watched can still argue what the show was and “explain why they’re right.”

Then we come to the finale. If The Sopranos caused debate around the water cooler the next day, Lost’s finale caused debate for about a week after.

Personally, I fall on the side of disappointment. My education in existentialism was immediately applied and wouldn’t allow me to see any other possibility. Read Dante’s Inferno and Sartre’s No Exit enough and Lost becomes very clear in your mind.

And I’ll debate anyone why… what THEY think… is wrong and stupid.

Plot aside, Lost gave us great characters. Characters you cared about. Characters you wanted to see find some sort of happiness, whether it was by getting off the island or finding some sort of peace in their life. (or afterlife… who knows.)

Yeah yeah… there was also the typical love triangle but that was for the plebeians watching. That shit hardly interested you… the “smart viewer.”

– BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

Sure, Buffy was hardly for every one. In fact, in the ’90’s, fans of Buffy were mostly women. Women with a lot of cats. Women with a lot of cats and some social awkwardness.

But if you use that as a reason to not watch the show, you’re missing out.

The things that Buffy did, Buffy did amazingly. This was mostly due to one thing and one thing only: Joss Whedon.

Whedon knows how to perfectly blend action, comedy, romance and horror. All of which Buffy delivers a plethora of.

Buffy knew when to take itself “serious” and knew when not to. Regardless of which way they went, it always seemed right, never forced. In the world of Buffy, it was okay to have a completely musical episode right after a more serious toned one and Whedon always came up with a plausible reason for it to happen.

Maybe it’s better to put it this way: Even with the most ridiculous premise of a teenage vampire hunter living in small town suburbia, never once did I ever say “Okay, that’s ridiculous.”

You bought into it. Hook. Line. And Sinker.

Story lines aside, you can’t deny that the characters that Whedon created were all kind of like family. You cared about them enough, that when shit DID get weird, you were kind of okay with it.

You can’t really overlook the cultural impact Buffy had either. Buffy practically made The WB network back in the day. Plus, let’s not forget, it started as a movie. A movie that hardly anyone saw. It’s not very often that anyone can say: “the show was better than the movie.”

Buffy was also the breeding ground for so many beloved actors. Sarah Michelle Gellar aside, Buffy is literally a who’s who of today’s actors. From Nathan Fillion to Eliza Dushku.

Speaking of a breeding ground for actors…

– THE WEST WING

I can’t lie. I’d vote for Jed Bartlet in a heartbeat. I’m sure fans of The West Wing would agree.

The West Wing had it all. It had great characters, great story lines, great cliff hangers all well tackling the issues of the time. Issues like abortion, racism and gun control… issues that have long been resolved. Hang on… wait a sec…

Anyway…

The thing that was so fascinating about The West Wing was that it opened the doors to a world that’s largely closed. What IS it like to work in the White House? It was really the little things that interested me the most. Little things like: Sunday’s. It’s not like the world takes a day off every week. In fact, the world never takes ANY time off. So when the show delved into things that happened on off days or after hours, that’s when the show grabbed my attention the most.

And let’s face it, The West Wing seemed pretty real. The West Wing got it so right, that even Washington insiders loved the show. It’s easy to understand when the show humanized politics. So much so that it even made ME want to work in the political scene. Which, if you knew me, you’d know was an insane notion.

It’s rare for a show to have such an ensemble of actors that ALL are worth their weight in screen time. Every character was given their proper due and you were happy when they did.

Largely due to one man: Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin has never really had the same success in TV as he did with The West Wing, but that’s okay. Unfortunately, after Sorkin left the show after its fifth season, it was clearly obvious that he was the glue that held the show together.

It just wasn’t the same.

I dare anyone to try and find fault in those first seasons though. The West Wing was a very tight show that never wasted viewers’ time.

– HOUSE OF CARDS

If The West Wing was the Norman Rockwell of politics, House of Cards is the darker, “I-cut-myself-to-feel” street artist of politics.

Some would say, depending on your jaded view of Washington, the more realistic view of politics.

What’s beautiful about House of Cards is the complexity. Every move has a reason. Every play has been thought out. Calculated. And we don’t know… so when it’s revealed? It’s pretty amazing.

It’s too easy to point to the story line or the acting or the style of House of Cards as to why it’s great… let’s, instead, focus on the true IMPORTANCE of WHY House of Cards is on this list:

The death of cable.

Okay. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if Netflix does to cable, what HBO did to the networks, than it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.

The simple fact is this: You don’t have to pay for cable to get quality, original programming… and that should scare the shit out of the “TV” guys.

It should also scare the shit out of the FCC… mostly because Netflix falls under the umbrella of “The Internet” and doesn’t follow the traditional bullshit censorship guidelines that cable and the networks do.

Having the success and the freedom that Netflix has, we can look forward to even more to come. We already have Orange is the New Black and comic book geeks can look forward to our favorite Marvel superheroes as well. “Off-brand” characters like Daredevil, Luke Cage and The Defenders.

Netflix has proven that it is a force to be reckoned with. A force that wouldn’t have been had House of Cards failed.

Thank God it didn’t.

Well folks that’s that… I’m sure most of you have your favorite shows that didn’t make the list and I get it. To each their own.

You’ll notice that nothing before the mid-nineties made the cut. While some might blame my age, that wasn’t a factor. I’m such a TV consumer that I’ve seen a LOT of shit that was way before my time.

The problem with those shows is that they’re pretty dated and don’t really hold up well. Whether it be because technology has changed or because times have changed. You can get away with a lot more than you can today.

Shows like The West Wing hold up because (sadly) the issues they tackle are STILL happening today. And Buffy is fantasy… fantasy is always relevant. Buffy also does a good job, for the most part, of keeping technology out of it.

Try showing kids today The Wire and explaining what a beeper is. Actually, can you even explain what a beeper does without sounding stupid?

In the beginning, I spoke of an honorable mention I wanted to make. While I have never seen one full episode, I have to give credit where credit is due. None of these shows above could have existed without one show:

NYPD Blue.

Purely from a censorship level. NYPD was the first show to show bare ass and have full out swear words uttered. Not only that, but made events out of it. As any South Park fan knows: “they’re gonna say shit! On television!”

Say what you will about nudity and naughty language, it’s really hard to believe mainstream TV when they don’t act like REAL people.

Real people get naked and swear. That’s just fact.

Okay, that was my list. What’s yours? Begin…