Category Archives: Networks

The Horrible Not Knowing 01

The Horrible Not Knowing

by John Bensink

A writer’s lost script is found decades later by people born after his last produced credit. 2,492 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


This all started back before electronic submissions. Wilkerson had knocked out a beautiful script in three days that was a beautiful script. Wilkerson knew it was the best work he’d ever done. So did his wife Alice, who was unerringly right. She had shouted “Yes, perfect!” over and over while reading it with Wilkerson hovering, unable to sit, always desperate for her approval which he always had anyway.

He subsequently made ten copies at Kinkos on Vine, using pale-cream bond pages finished with snappy manila covers. He gave the counter guys old brass script brads he’d found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, fearing the more flimsy ones might splay and spill his precious tale. But these sturdy warriors would never surrender.

But when he put the screenplay copies on his agent Helena’s desk, she recoiled. Because she’d already read his hand-delivered original and pronounced it dead on arrival and dropped it showily into her massive metal wastebasket.

“So what’s wrong with it?” Wilkerson had challenged his agent in his first yet fatal clash with the woman who had done so much for him. Slapping her was like slapping his beloved Alice.

Helena glared. Then something flickered in her eyes like the dismissive blink of a falcon at full altitude. Helena knew people would despise the script because it was neither fish nor fowl. But she said simply, “It’s a wanted poster for unproducible.”

Yet he pushed on recklessly. “Agents only tell their writer that when they don’t get something but won’t admit it.”

They didn’t talk for three weeks.

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All in the Details 01

All In The Details

by Richard Natale

Major media maguls are control freaks not just about their business but also their life. 2,652 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


No matter how he crunched the numbers, Darby Morton saw little chance of making it to graduation with a roof over his head. He’d exhausted almost all of his maternal grandmother Nan’s allowance and what was left, to the penny, was committed to tuition and textbooks. Moving was not really an option though his Greenpoint apartment in Brooklyn was so small that, if he accidentally knocked over a bottle of mineral water, it might flood.  In all likelihood, he would be out on the street by mid-March, the dreaded Ides. And then there was cruel April.

He’d been planning to spend the weekend studying for Monday’s economics test when he was interrupted by a call from Janis Shokovich, who ran Hi Society, a cross between a temp agency and a P.R. firm which specialized in odd assignments – personal shoppers, apartment sitters, assistants – for the well-heeled. She prided herself on having on hand a stable of the city’s most “appealing” (air quotes not optional) young men and women easy on the eyes with an aura of good breeding. She was impressed that Darby came from old money. What he didn’t mention to her was that there was no new money since his parents had poured most of the old money down a shot glass.

Darby had first heard of Janis after some dubious flatterers suggested he pursue modeling. But he was dismissed by a top agency because his face was more a freehand pencil sketch than a completed drawing. But the agent who delivered this damning criticism slipped him Janis’ card. She was a petite poodle-frizzed blonde who ran her business out of a snug one-bedroom on the upper East Side. She bore almond eyes, the hallmark of one too many encounters with a scalpel and paring knife. Though unmistakably a native New Yorker, her speech frequently lapsed into pseudo-British phrases like “other side of the pond.”

The modeling agent had been right: Darby was Janis’ type. To date, the only assignment she had come up with was as a walker for an octogenarian dowager who was going to the Met to see La Forza del Destino. In addition to paying for the rental of his tux, the old woman had tipped him with a folded-over twenty as if he was a maître d’ and she wanted a table by the window. But that was six months ago. Now Janis was on the phone to him.

“Bet you thought I’d forgotten about you, dearie,” she said. The assignment sounded easy enough: checking a “major media mogul” into the Hesperia Grand Hotel. The nabob’s name was Jace Wagner and she said he was gay. “But not for publication. Which reminds me, you have to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

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Speck Script

Speck Script

by Diane Haithman

A very big TV/film fan hitchhikes to Hollywood in search of something – or someone. 2,408 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


On behalf of my home planet, I’d like to welcome myself to Hollywood.

I hail from Mars. I know for decades you’ve been searching for signs of life up there on the fourth rock from the sun. We were so flattered in 2012 when you sent up that cute Mars Rover Curiosity that’s still zipping around our Gale Crater like a little golf cart. We love each and every orbiter and all those nifty NASA-type gadgets. When that stuff shows up, well, it’s just like Christmas here!

You’ve explored Mars — but you still haven’t found us. Don’t blame yourselves. We’re smaller than anything you can detect even with your most sophisticated ultra-microscope. You can take home all the digital photos, rocks and space-dirt you want— you won’t see us. No, you’re not stupid. It’s not your fault. We’re just real small, that’s all.

Okay I like you humans. You’re funny. So I’m going to share a little secret: You can see us, in a way. We are the red on the Red Planet. All of us, together: our very existence radiating a beautiful warm glow into space for the whole galaxy to share, shifting from tangerine to blood orange to terra cotta brick depending on our mood. That’s us.

We would have done purple when Prince died if we could.

But I digress. My Earth pop culture reference to The Purple One reminds me of the story I wanted to tell you as my first direct communication with Earth. About how I came to Hollywood, and why I must stay. I must stay for as long as it takes.

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Celebreality_Harris

Celebreality

by Mark Jonathan Harris

A down-on-his-luck social message documentary filmmaker is asked to work on a Reality TV show. 2,323 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The phone jarred Michael awake at 6:18 am. It was Eva, his sister and self-appointed agent, calling from her Audi on her way to the gym.

“You couldn’t wait until you finished your workout?” he said groggily.

“Today at 11,” she reminded him. “I sent them over your teen hooker piece and they love it. They’re eager to meet you. Now don’t screw it up.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior,” he mumbled.

“Don’t you dare embarrass me.”

“I didn’t know that was possible.”

“You’re such an asshole,” she said and hung up.

Michael got out of bed and brewed some coffee. He knew he should be grateful for Eva’s attempts to get him work, but reality TV? He had become a documentary filmmaker to make the world a better place, not to contribute to its degradation like his sister, who represented many of the worst offenders of the genre. “Reality TV,” she once told him, “is the 21st Century equivalent of the gladiatorial arena. The Romans loved it and so do we. It’s human nature. We glorify the strong and want to kick the weak.”

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Orson Welles 2A

The Invasion
Part Two

by Robert W. Welkos

Nothing in showbiz ever goes as planned, especially when Orson Welles is involved. 2,833 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City — October 25, 1938

Orson Welles’ baritone voice caused the half-empty gin bottles to vibrate against the mirrors in the St. Regis hotel bar where he was a regular. “Hey, Mike, a martini for Miss… What was your name, again, my lovely?“ he asked the beautiful redhead seated next to him.

“Dalrymple, silly,” she replied, pretending to slap his cheek.

“Miss Dalrymple Silly!” Orson repeated to the bartender. “And two olives, Mike… one for the lass and one for the scurvy rat nibbling on your shoelace.”

The reed-thin bartender in bow-tie and checkered vest looked offended. “We ain’t got no rats in here, bud. I know ‘cause I clean up every morning.” He plucked the menu out of Welles’ hand, “And no more double steak dinners and pistachio ice cream until you pay your bill.”

Welles smirked and returned his undivided attention to the swirl of ginger at his side. He stared at her fair features and emerald eyes. The redhead placed a finger on her chin. “I haven’t seen a Martian that I know of, hon… Although I have an uncle who is friends with some blind Venetians. I mean, he makes Venetian blinds.”

Welles titled his head back and roared with laughter. “Excellent! I knew you’d be fun! A gorgeous actress with wit. You don’t find too many of those prowling the theater district, my dear.” He lowered his voice. “Now, what do you imagine a Martian would look like?”

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Orson Welles 2

The Invasion
Part One

by Robert W. Welkos

Would the American radio public believe Martians were attacking? Or Nazis? 2,086 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Berlin, Germany — March 1938

“Ladies and gentlemen… Am I on?… Ladies and gentlemen, this is Peter J. Simons of the Beaumont Global Radio Network. I am looking down Unter den Linden, a major east-west thoroughfare in Berlin. As far as the eye can see, there are German Waffen-SS — a paramilitary force under the command of Heinrich Himmler —marching in a parade. I can hear the trump-trump-trump of their boots as they goose-step in unison holding aloft flags with the familiar Nazi swastika. Crowds line the grand boulevard — men, women and even little children — all thrusting out their arms in a rigid “Heil Hitler” salute. There seems to be some sort of commotion up ahead. Nazi thugs are surrounding a man on the ground and they are slamming his head into the curb. It’s terrible, terrible… I’m being given orders by a Nazi official to leave the area. But I’m an American journalist! And now more violence is breaking out. A woman who came to the man’s defense, her face is covered with blood after she was beaten senseless… Now I know why the Nazis invading the Sudetenland has Americans on edge that they could be invaded, too.”

London — September 30, 1938

Dignified before the gathering of supporters at the airport to greet his return, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepped off the plane to cheers and stood in front of the microphone to talk about his meeting with German Chancellor Adoph Hitler. “I believe it is peace for our time.”

A few days later, in the House of Commons, British MP Winston Churchill rose to deliver his response to the Munich Agreement. “Do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

New York City — July 11, 1938

Orson Welles sat in the dimly-lit bar near the St. Regis Hotel holding an unlit cigar. The 23-year-old actor, director, writer, and producer was celebrating the premiere of the live radio dramas he created, each a weekly hour-long show presenting classic literary works performed by his celebrated Mercury Theatre repertory company.

Naturally, he wasn’t alone. A statuesque blonde, her cheeks freshly rouged, draped an arm around his slumping shoulders and stirred him.

“Tell me,” he asked her, “have you ever seen a Martian?”

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Day Of The Dead

Day Of The Dead

by John Kane

Television executives know what it is to work for horrible bosses. Then there’s Niles. 2,261 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The electronic display on his alarm clock read 4:13 a.m. when Peter Hallerman awoke in his heavily mortgaged home in Encino Hills. The emptiness in his stomach, the kind you get when someone breaks up with you or the doctor gives you bad news, made trying to go back to sleep futile. Careful not to wake his wife, Peter grabbed his grey terrycloth Polo robe and walked downstairs to the dining room.

He pulled a deck of cards out of a drawer in the dining room table and began to play solitaire. The ritualistic quality of the game, red on black, black on red, one match leading to another, lulled him into a contented stupor. His father had always told him that playing cards was a great way to relax. “And remember,” his dad, thirty one years a bus driver in New Jersey used to tell him, “it’s not the hand you’re dealt. It’s the way you play it. You make your own luck.”

Peter paused, not sure which pile to pick. And then it occurred to him: what did it matter? He let the card drop to the table. He would be at GPTV in four hours. That was all that really mattered.

GPTV was the brainchild of Auguste Gaumont, a French billionaire who had moved into broadcasting when he bought a second rate cable channel and decided to turn it into an American television network. Like Steve Ross and Sumner Redstone, Auguste had made his original fortune in another business. That business was urinals, which accounted for his company’s name, Gaumont Pissoirs. Naming the network GPTV seemed a way around that, and the marketing department went further, dubbing GPTV “the sixth network.” That backfired when many people in the industry began to call it “the sixth sense,” implying that GPTV was dead as a business only it didn’t know it yet.

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The Invisible final

The Invisible

by Richard Natale

As protector and pal to a Hollywood VIP, he did everything the boss asked. Everything. 3,470 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


If you look at any photo of the famous media mogul Magnus Byers taken over the past thirty years, chances are I’m in it. Not my face. No, never my face. But my arm, my shoulder or my flank. Right there next to the boss (I always call him boss, never Mr. Byers, and for sure not Magnus).

I’m there but at the same time invisible. And indispensable.

I’m not tooting my horn here. Just stating the facts. I contributed to his success from the very start and in ways that only he can appreciate. I know the boss better than anybody, better than my parents – and they gave birth to me. I know the good stuff and the bad stuff and he knows I know. But he trusts me. And I never gave him reason not to.

Hardly anybody outside Magnus Byers’ close circle knows my name or exactly what my responsibilities are. Most of them think I’m his bodyguard, just some big tough who doesn’t say much probably because I’m a little soft in the head. And that suits me fine. Keeps them from asking questions. Annoying questions. Awkward questions.

I don’t like being asked questions.

Except for some hoax kidnapping threat about twenty years ago, keeping people out of the boss’s face is the least of my duties. I just step out front, fold my arms and give them the old stare down. They back off pretty quick. Just the same, I always keep a sidearm handy. Perfectly legit. Got a permit and everything. Practice firing it every week at the Beverly Hills Gun Club. My aim is still dead-on, even after all these years. Yeah, I’d take a bullet for him. What of it?

The boss created, bought and sold newspapers, TV and radio stations, movie theaters, casinos, resorts, satellite and internet. His finger in every pie and made more dough out of it than any of his competitors. Men looked up to him, wanted to be him. Women were impressed by him, even the ones who eventually tried to suck him dry. He was feared and respected but rarely loved. Even by his own kids. Especially by his own kids. Five of them. By three different wives. They barely tolerated each other. Their only common goal was waiting for him to kick the bucket and destroying everything he built. Talk about a lack of respect.

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Staffing Season 02

Staffing Season

by Adam Scott Weissman

A fired showrunner’s assistant looks for a new job as a writer. Good luck with that. 3,027 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Caleb was glad when the show was canceled. He felt guilty about his schadenfreude for about five minutes. Now he wouldn’t have to make up a lie about why he wasn’t returning or, worse, tell the truth: that he “hadn’t been invited back,” which was code for being fired.

He had done his best to make amends for his wrap party meltdown – going off on his boss for sleeping with a young female staff writer and not promoting Caleb, dissing the TV community’s push for diversity which meant young white wannabes like himself had a tougher time getting hired. After a few weeks, he’d asked the showrunner Bryan to lunch so they could bury the hatchet. Bryan downgraded the lunch to coffee.

Caleb had worked for Bryan for four years, and that hopefully counted for something now. The showrunner came through. He gave Caleb a signed letter of recommendation and a business card with the number of an agent at CAA. “I sent your writing samples to Terri at the agency. She used to be my agent Bob’s assistant. She just got promoted and she’s hungry for clients. I told her to make you a priority read. And she will. Lord knows I’ve made that company enough money.”

It was a whole lot more than most showrunners in town would have done for an ex-assistant, and Caleb felt pretty grateful.

Caleb didn’t even wait until he got home to call Terri. He texted her from his car. Surprisingly, he got an immediate reply: Will call in 45.

That was at 11 a.m. For the rest of the day, Caleb’s heart skipped a beat every time his cell vibrated.

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One Of Us final

A Teaser For The TV Industry

by Jay Abramowitz

A one-time TV comedy writer must clean up classrooms as well as his career. 1,249 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Decades ago, I made an impressive living as a writer and producer of network sitcoms, shows such as Full House and Growing Pains, that were aimed at a kid audience. They were frothy, bouncy entertainments that portrayed family life in the late twentieth century United States through decidedly rose-colored glasses. But even then I had a darker vision of America, one that acknowledges life’s limitless complexities, that embraces the tragic elements of existence as well as the comic. So the original half-hour series I pitched were directed at adults – a Vietnam War comedy, a lesbian laugher, etc.

And because I was pigeonholed as a “children’s sitcom writer,” I was unable to sell any of those ideas. Upon leaving more than one executive’s office, I was certain I could hear, through the slammed door, unrestrained derisive laughter.

In my eighteen years as an elementary school janitor I’ve had abundant opportunity to contemplate my comedy life. So much time squandered on bitterness at an industry I deeply felt had wronged me! But recently, other setbacks – a second divorce, the refusal of my beloved daughter Isabel to answer my phone calls, a minor concussion from a fall in the second-floor girls’ bathroom – have motivated me to take responsibility for my life, to look inward, to ruminate on what choices I might have made to avoid my current professional circumstances.

Pondering my situation yesterday morning while plunging a clogged toilet in that same bathroom, I recalled a quotation from William James: “Invent some manner of realizing your own ideals which will also satisfy the alien demands – that and that only is the path of peace.”

A light went off in my head.

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Killer Review Art 02

A Killer Review

by Howard Rosenberg

A prominent TV producer’s death is both mourned and celebrated simultaneously. 3,192 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Melody Grant observed life through a writer’s eyes, composing on a laptop in her head. That way she could imagine her husband’s recent death — ninety-five per cent factual, with dabs of embellishment for color and drama — as a passage in one of her novels:

On the eve of his greatest glory, Arnold Chafis was not merely upset, he was thunderbolt-shaken and enraged, Vesuvius about to blow. He had tried to remain calm while continuing to read, grinding his teeth as his volcanic anger built, until pain erupted in the middle of his chest. Then his arms, then his jaw. Suddenly, eyes clouding and brain swimming, he felt faint — then fear. Arnold, a prominent TV producer, was 63 when he died in Hancock Park. His wife, the mystery novelist Melody Grant, found him in the evening, slumped over his banquet table-sized desk in front of an open laptop. He’d been reading reviews for Remorse, his highly anticipated weekly TV drama about a young doctor accused of malpractice. It was to premiere the next night on ABC.

Notices for the series had been blurb-ready and glowing:

Congenitally glum Val Steinway of The New York Times cheered: “Hats off to a brilliant and vibrant new feather in TV’s cap!” Roger Kale of the Wall Street Journal, famously unkind to anything attached to a broadcast network, toasted “this HBO-worthy Chafisian work of genius.” Politico’s resident skeptic Carrie Rice-Wentworth rated the new series “many times smarter than ABC’s Shondaland and — no exaggeration — nearly equal to The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.” And in Variety, difficult-to-please Vince Nichols forecast “a ton of Emmys for this stunningly boffo TV.”

Only one major critic panned. It was this scathing review — by usually-measured, never-shrill, bordering-on-dull Dean Formento of the Los Angeles Times — that Arnold had been reading when his heart stopped.

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The Wrap Party 4 final

The Wrap Party

by Adam Scott Weissman

TV FICTION PACKAGE: The flirting and gossiping ends badly for someone on this series. 3,759 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The wrap party was being held at the cheesy cowboy theme bar at Universal CityWalk. Caleb hated that development next door to the lot where he worked. Even the name grated on him: “CityWalk.” It was everything that pissed him off about L.A.. The antiseptic tourist trap was so utterly un-urban. He could rattle off at least a half-dozen bars on nearby Ventura that were far superior. But he was just a lowly writer’s assistant so it wasn’t his place to question the chosen location for the wrap party. Actually, he wasn’t surprised. He worked for a cookie cutter network procedural, and the powers-that-be had chosen to end the season in the most uninspired way possible. Little wonder that he always could predict each show’s ending.

As he parked his car, he thought about Nora, the staff writer considered a “diversity hire.” She had once confessed to him that she loved the City Walk. Of course, Nora loved the City Walk. Caleb hated Nora. He didn’t see her talent, or what she offered to the show, or why Bryan gave her two scripts. Caleb was really hoping he’d get to co-write the finale, like Matt Weiner’s writer assistants, but instead Nora got it. Like she needed another credit.  Caleb had read her pilot back when he was Bryan’s assistant. It was fine, the dialogue was cute, but the story was nothing special. Rom-com chick stuff. He’d been working for Bryan for four years, and Nora had never worked on a show, but she was a staff writer and Caleb was the writer’s assistant. Bryan told him it was because of money. The show had spent too much of its budget on upper level writers, and the studio would pay for a “diversity writer.” That was Nora. A Korean girl from Encino… How fucking downtrodden.

While she would never tell any of her fellow writers, Nora loved Universal CityWalk. As a kid growing up in the Valley, it was the closest she ever got to actually walking onto a studio lot. L.A. kids aren’t supposed to get starstruck. But Nora just couldn’t be jaded. She wanted to belong to the business, not merely be adjacent, and write for a real primetime TV show with millions of viewers. Now that she was, Nora still liked to visit CityWalk to remind herself how far she’d come. About once a week, she’d arrive an hour before work, go to Starbucks, drink her latte and think about how she was about to go work in a bungalow on the real lot. Though she questioned whether she deserved to be there. But if she really was nothing more than a token, Bryan wouldn’t have given her two scripts. She knew Caleb resented her and coveted her job. But she was working her ass off, agonizing over every word of procedural exposition instead of scripting for people to ignore while they did their laundry. Nora had long ago learned that hard work was the best remedy for insecurity.

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Troubador 4

Troubador

by Steven Axelrod

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A veteran producer learns from one of his teen contestants. 2,442 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


People have a lot of questions for me lately. How did I come to fire the most powerful law firm in Hollywood? Tear up the contract that governs how most reality competition shows do business? Lose the potential breakout star of my TV singer-songwriter contest Troubador?

The last one is the easiest to explain: Why didn’t I sue Brady James when he gave me and my series the finger and walked away?

He didn’t have a contract.

It started with me watching Crystal Bowersox on season nine of American Idol and thinking — that girl writes her own songs so let’s hear some of them. The idea took shape with Phil Phillips and this latest kid Mackenzie Bourg.  I quickly realized a new show could put everything I loved together in one package. I love music. I love songwriters. And as I’ve proved during a thirty-year career working with all four networks and a couple of cable newbies, I love TV. So why not air a performance contest for singer-songwriters? Forget LaPortia Renae standing up there in the laser show belting out some old Mary J. Blige number. My vision was 1974’s Joni Mitchell standing up with a guitar, no light show or pyrotechnics, and simply singing Big Yellow Taxi. Or Bob Marley performing No Woman No Cry for the first time on my stage. Or – why not, shoot for the stars, Danny! – Bob Dylan, scruffy and unknown, knocking the world on its ass with Mr. Tambourine Man. You’re telling me the world ran out of Joni Mitchells and Bob Marleys and Bob Dylans? Seriously?

Then check out Brady James. I knew he was the genuine article at the first Troubadour audition. And it was a big relief, let me tell you.

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Fastball ART 4

Fastball

by Ann Hamilton

TV FICTION PACKAGE: An agent and writer find an executive in a compromising position. 1,834 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“She’ll buy it in the room, Kyle,” Chad says as we’re riding up the elevator on our way to the pitch meeting. “Melina Mullen already loves the one-liner.” He looks closer at me. “Did you take a Xanax? I always tell my clients to take a Xanax before they pitch.”

Melina Mullen, the network exec, is tall and blonde and more rounded-body sexy than the usual Jack Skellington-figured Hollywood female. There’s another woman in the office. We’re introduced and I immediately forget her name. She types on her iPad and never looks up.

Melina Mullen says she loved my play. I ask if she saw it in New York and she shakes her head no and tells me, “But I heard great things.” We talk about my first TV writing job on the series Melancholy, an updated version of Hamlet. I say I was super-lucky to have an experience like that with so many talented people, and I learned a lot.

And then there’s a pause. She’s waiting for me to start my pitch. I take a deep breath. And damn, I wish I’d taken a Xanax.

So I’m a playwright in New York, but I moved out to L.A. to work on Melancholy and it aired twice before the network pulled the plug. The reviews were awful and it got hammered in the ratings. More people watched a competing show, Kitty’s Krime, about a talking cat that helped solve mysteries. The showrunner, Logan, was unusually arrogant and mostly insufferable, but he did teach me how a TV series works. Another writer, Brett, was a dick and tried to screw me over, but that was a learning experience, too. After Melancholy was canceled, Logan sold a series to Showtime and Brett the dick got hired as a consulting producer on Kitty’s Krime.

And me? I was toast.

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Who Was Helen Twelvetrees final

It Takes Guts

by Ronald Alexander

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A soap opera actor’s father visits at the worst time possible. 3,788 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


As he slathered lotion on his face and scrubbed to remove the morning’s heavy makeup, he couldn’t help imagining what his father might say about a grown man who worried over his appearance. Van blotted with tissues and and began to brush his hair, stiff with spray. He thrust his jaw forward and studied his reflection. He wondered about his weak chin and if that was the reason he was stuck in this network daytime soap opera with no offers for anything better.

"You there, Van?" A soft tap accompanied the meek voice.  It was the new production assistant on As God Is My Witness. "I thought maybe you’d already left to pick up your father. I brought the scripts for next week."

"I was just getting ready to leave," Van said, thumbing the pages. "What betrayals does Alexandra foist on our eternally-dim Dr. Blair Blanton next week?"

"I’d never treat a man the way she does," the assistant replied, averting her eyes, blushing, then turning to make a quick exit.

Van scanned until he found Dr. Blanton’s dialogue, and began to read aloud: "Of course I’m not accusing you, Alexandra. But a colleague mentioned to me at the hospital that he ran into you at Capriccio having dinner with Tony Agnello, when you told me you were playing mahjong with the girls at the club. And you’ve been so outspoken about how arrogant you thought Tony was, always bragging about his airplane and his polo ponies and beach house. You never mentioned any benefit for the homeless that the two of you were co-chairing — "

Van dropped the material on his dressing table with a scowl. No one except for his sister and a few seldom-seen cousins back in Indiana, and the nation’s unemployed, was impressed with the soap or his role. His father thought Van was wasting his life.

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Wasted Talents

Wasted Talents

by James Dawson

TV FICTION PACKAGE: A wannabe writer seeks help from a college pal who’s now a TV exec. 2,642 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Michael Thompson wished he had taken his filthy Honda to a car wash at least once during the past six months. He tried consoling himself with the thought that his car’s appearance wouldn’t matter. It was pretty unlikely that Phil Brentlinger would greet him personally in the Everest Studios parking lot or walk him back to his clunker when their meeting was over. But if he did… well, too late to worry about that now.

Choosing what to wear had been another headache. Everything Michael read about TV people said they always dressed casually, sometimes even in t-shirts, jeans and running shoes. But that was after they already had positions, credits and big fat staff salaries. As a complete nobody, Michael didn’t feel comfortable dressing down. He settled on a blue oxford cloth shirt, khaki pants, a navy blazer and a yellow tie. The outfit seemed like a safe choice before he left the house. Now he wondered if he looked like a used-car salesman, or just a dipshit.

Too late to worry about that now, too.

He rehearsed what he would say to Phil, taking both sides of the conversation and talking out loud. He didn’t give a damn if other drivers saw him. This was Hollywood. People here either thought you were an actor or a wacko if they saw you talking to yourself, and neither was regarded as unusual.

"So, Phil, what did you think of the samples I sent you?"

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