Category Archives: TV

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An Exception To The Rule

by Michael Brandman

Hollywood is known for horrible executives. But some are way worse than others. 1,697 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Jeff Sterling, the President of America’s pre-eminent TV network, GBN, bought Lincoln HIgh in the room. Or to A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBbe more specific, in his cavernous Hollywood office. He liked the synopsis and had listened raptly to my proposal. He said yes before I even finished. Sterling was legendary for trusting his gut, for making split second decisions based on his instincts.

"This is just what I’ve been looking for," he exclaimed.

In our youth, we had worked together for the legendary Hollywood mogul, Len Richmond, and I had shamelessly exploited that connection so as to pitch the project directly to him.

But by going over the head of Conrad Cadwallader, the Global Broadcasting Network’s V.P. Of Movies, turns out I had unwittingly raised Cadwallader’s ire.

"There’s nothing like it on TV," Jeff Sterling pronounced as he escorted me down the hall to Cadwallader’s office. "I bought it," he bellowed when we entered unannounced. "I love it."

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Pool Boy

by Ann Hamilton

A narcissistic actress meets the one man she can’t have. 2,546 words. Illustration by John David Carlucci.


When Jacqui decides to rent a house, the most important item on her wish list is the position of the pool. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3The wrong exposure, too much shade – deal breaker. No tanning beds or crfeams, Jacqui enjoys the sun. She has zero interest in people who obsess about skin cancer. God created sun, didn’t he? But did he create dihydroxyacetone, the creepy stinky chemical in self-tanners that does who knows what to your immune system? She visits her dermatologist once a year to get checked out and she’s doing just fine, thanks. SPF? Not for Jacqui.

Jacqui never wanted to be an actress. She moved to L.A. with a high school girlfriend who had the acting bug. Jacqui figured she’d get a job, then marry a nice man. Enough of a reason to leave Fresno. The girlfriend took acting classes and one night, after a showcase, Jacqui was approached in the lobby by an agent who said he admired her performance.

“I wasn’t in the show,” Jacqui told him.

“You should’ve been,” the agent told her, not missing a beat.

Jacqui married the agent, did some guest spots on TV shows. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Quantum Leap. She learned her lines, got along with everybody, became known for her pretty face and nice body. But L.A. was filled with actresses like Jacqui. Fortunately, there also were plenty of men who admired them. Divorce, alimony. Another marriage, another divorce. Alimony again. Star Trek: Voyager, NCIS, a couple Lifetime movies. She was aware of getting older, of losing roles to younger women. But Jacqui didn’t care. She had money – not a huge amount, but enough. She still worked. Other actresses talked about their plastic surgeons and line fillers and boob lifts, but Jacqui was oblivious. Because, no matter what, Jacqui always had the best tan.

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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 could8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3 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 FRN

by Larry Amoros

A newly hired channel executive thinks up the best for the worst. 1,195 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


To:       FRN Staff
CC:       Skip Delicious, Executive Consultant
From:  Jack Ahze, President, Fake Reality Network

8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3I am proud to welcome Mr. John “Skip” Delicious, Executive Consultant, to our FRN family. Mr. Delicious will be responsible for reimagining Fake Reality Network’s programming and turning it into a premiere niche network in at least 17 of the 48 continental United States and maybe Guam.

Mr. Delicious has had a long and storied career as an Executive Consultant in a variety of industries, from medical technology (The Ouchless Catheter) to fast food (Ox ‘n’ Brew). And his rate of success as an Executive Consultant is unparalleled in the annals of consulting. In fact, he was born to be a consultant. When he was seven years old, he used to walk down the street and stop random passersby and say things like, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” and “Might I suggest you diversify?”

I first became aware of Mr. Delicious in 1994, when he was working as a Executive Consultant in the field of Public Relations, and he advised Al Cowlings to “drive slower and put O.J. on the phone – you’ll get more face time.” I knew, even way back then, he and I would work together some day. And today is that day.

In the coming weeks you’ll all get to know and work with Mr. Delicious, and together we’ll make FRN destination viewing!

To:         Jack Ahse & FRN Staff
From:    Skip Delicious, Executive Consultant

First of all, CALL ME SKIP!!! I am happy to be a part of the FRN team and make us the best fake reality network we can be. Let’s hit the ground running!

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Not My Kids

by Harry Dunn

The agony and the ecstasy of one man’s experience working in the TV writing biz. 1,449 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


There are many dreaded words a father can hear from their child. “Dad, I wrecked the car.” “Dad, I’m in a Tijuana jail.” 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3“Dad, the pee stick has a plus sign.”

But none of those words could ever compare to the sheer horror of hearing a child of mine say, “Dad, I want to work in showbiz.”

Perhaps I should elaborate…

I am a husband and father of three kids. My career has been spent bouncing back and forth between life as a writer and life producing promos for a TV network. It’s been an occasionally pleasant but also frequently demoralizing. The highs are way too high and the lows are way too low. It’s career crack. Addicting, unhealthy and way too much suffering has to incur before receiving those rare tastes of joy. All those years of stories that started out with, "There’s a producer who seems to like my script…” “A big agent is going to read my script this weekend, I hope…” “The producer said if I give him a free option, he’ll try to sell it…" and then inevitably end with, "I haven’t heard back from him/her yet."

This is a profession I’ve regretted pursuing for a lot of years. And a profession I have adamantly tried to steer my children away from pursuing. You want your children to be both successful and happy, not just getting by and miserable. So I tell them my war stories to make it easy for them to reach their own conclusions.

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Hollywood Roadkill

by Richard Natale

A humongous Hollywood merger has unforeseen consequences for all involved. 2,559 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Margaret Sewell sighed as she sat across from her friend, Lou Delray, at the Fox studio commissary’s outdoor 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3patio. She had little appetite and barely touched her salad. “My boss said, ‘I wish I could take you with me.’ And he didn’t even bother to try and sound sincere. Then he gave me a holiday gift card to Neiman-Marcus. As if that was supposed to make me feel better. ‘Hey, clown,’ I wanted to say, ‘how about a gift card to Ralphs, so’s I can buy some food after I start collecting unemployment in 2018.’”

Lou was only half-listening. He hadn’t filed for unemployment since losing his first job right after college. For the past twenty years he’d been a teamster driver on a succession of studio TV and film projects. The studio facilities would remain and his boss, Henry, claimed Lou had “nothing to worry about.” But when your boss tells you not to worry, that’s precisely the time to start making other plans.

With the departure of the television and movie production units, sooner or later, probably sooner, something was bound to give. And that usually meant the older and more expensive workers.

“They’re saying that, after the merger, ten thousand jobs are going to be lost in all. Screw Murdoch and screw Iger twice,” Margaret said as she threw her salad into the trash. A number of heads turned and nodded, some eyes rolled, and a couple of mouths uttered sarcastic laughs.

Buoyed by the reaction, Margaret added, “I might as well tattoo ‘Roadkill’ on my forehead. Am I right?”

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Staffing Season

by Adam Scott Weissman

A showrunner’s fired 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. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3Now 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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The Galleys

by Keith Garsee

The director and script supervisor of TV’s successful sci-fi show are curious about its creator. 3,106 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The soundstage set is quiet except for the clicks and whirs of the Mitchell 35mm BNC camera, its lens lingering on 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3the face of a very young actress lying in a hospital bed. After a beat, the girl says, "Now people won’t be scared of me!" It’s shlock but she nails it. Now for the reveal: one eye in the center of her head and fresh bloody bandages covering both halves of her face. She’s a horrifyingly adorable cyclops, and her beaming actress mother speaks. "Dr. Vincent, you’ve done such a wonderful job, better than your father did on me years ago!" The mother, too, has one eye. So do the father and the doctor. “But why does that two-eye mutation still keep happening to everyone!?"

"Cut!" yells a voice offstage. Then another voice yells, "That’s a wrap on Episode Eight. Thanks, everyone!!"

A set bell rings. The lights go up. The director, Tom Sanders, slaps the TV series’ creator on the back and says, "Another one in the can, Hollinger! Love the title, too — See Like Me," using his hands to mimic a marquee. "I don’t know where you get the ideas for these episodes, but you’ve sure got a way with words!"

Clayton Hollinger is 39 years old, single, affable, tall, strong, and black. The year is 1957 and The Galleys is the most popular show in the country, tuned into every Saturday night by viewers numbering in the tens of millions. "Thanks, Tom. I suppose it all comes from up here," Clayton says, putting a finger to his temple. “And believe me, it’s good to get it all out."

Tom replies, laughing, "I wouldn’t want some of the creatures you come up with in my attic, either."

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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 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3and 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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Don’t You Know Who I Am?

by Ann Hamilton

No matter your religion or ethnicity or race, people inside and outside Hollywood will see your true colors. 1,782 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I used to do Roseanne.

No, no, not do Roseanne. I mean – hell no, are you kidding me? — I did Roseanne and Madonna and Cher as part of my “Tour Jetay’s Naughty Nasty Nineties” cabaret show. But Roseanne never really took off and people would boo even though I thought it was pretty clever, me going from sexy Madonna (hair flip/ pony tail/pointy bra: never gets old, bitches) and Cher (talk about never getting old: Cher is my spirit animal) to a fat frowzy housewife. Come on, she had the most popular show on television. You rooted for her. Everybody rooted for her. Roseanne was a heroine. Back then.

I’d lip sync to “American Woman” wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, the only concession being 5-inch pumps — because, hello, 5-inch pumps? — with a strip to a lamé version of jeans and a flannel shirt. Funny, right? A teased-up black wig and an exaggerated mouth. In the middle of the number, I’d usually let out a Roseanne-inspired, “Oh, Dan.” But it never caught on. “Sweetie pie, honey bunch,” Amber Skyes said to me once, “Tour Jetay is class. You’re high-brow. You’re drinking tea with your pinky stuck out. Roseanne is a bowel movement. And not an especially satisfying one.”

So Roseanne was a bust. Instead, I added Britney and Princess Di. And they worked much better. Sorry, Roseanne. I tried. But it wasn’t meant to be. Cut to two years later.

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Three Wishes
Part Two

by Ann Hamilton

The TV writer feels like Benedict Cumberbatch has forsaken her. Or has he? 1,974 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Kaylee wants you to come back,” Alex tells Melanie.

“Come back and do what?” Melanie is pleased. But suspicious.

“Pitch the pilot for Creepy.”

“So they’re giving me the job?”

Silence on the phone. her agent clears his throat. “Not yet.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Melanie says.

“Kaylee likes you. She says you have a feel for the characters. And she was very impressed with your vision.”

“So why don’t they give me the job?”

“Because she has to meet with other people.”

“She doesn’t have to. Alex. Maybe we should move on.”

“I think you’re going to get it, Melanie. She told me the two of you had a connection.”

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Three Wishes
Part One

by Ann Hamilton

A TV writer facing a career crisis finds Benedict Cumberbatch in her kitchen. 2,152 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Melanie forces herself not to be bitter at lunch with her pal Paul when he’s talking about his new job on Mind Your Manners.

“It’s the most amazing staff. Everybody is super nice,” Paul says. “The showrunner, Betsy, is famous for the way she treats writers. No long hours. Catered lunches. She’s already had two parties at her house so we can ‘come together as a team.’”

Melanie loves Paul. She tries to remember how much she loves Paul as he goes on and on about Betsy and the room. The actual room. Sofas and comfy chairs and windows with views of trees and mountains. When is the last time Melanie worked in a room with windows?

Melanie’s agent Alex put her up for Mind Your Manners. She didn’t even get an interview. When she complained to Alex, he told her she should write a new spec.

“But I don’t want to write a new spec.”

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Dead For A Living

by Jordan Riefe

A dispirited film journalist in Hollywood is having a dismal time in this book excerpt. 2,777 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It sucked being on the Red Carpet again. It may seem exciting on TV, but in real life it’s a drag. It’s always at the end of the day, your feet are hurting and you just want to go home but, no, you’re in a scrum down. And you’re not even guaranteed the “talent” is going to talk to you unless you’re Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood or some other high-power purveyor of poop, which Renny Aucoin was not. Instead he was a low-power purveyor of poop, writing for Wonderwall and MSN. Could be worse, he thought, could be August and 100 degrees and sickening with the smell of perfume and sweat. Mercifully it was May and pissing rain instead.

He hadn’t done a Red Carpet in years, but the damn intern didn’t show up, and his editor threw it at him. What could he say? The venue was 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. A quintessential movie palace from the golden age, this kitschy Chinese deco gem upstaged only by its famous courtyard featuring an endless array of handprints dating from Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks through C-P3O, whose imprint had to be reworked after Regis Philbin stepped in the still-wet cement during a broadcast.

Renny knew all this on account of his life-long love affair with movies. Since childhood they represented an aspirational universe, a shining city on the hill, and Old Hollywood was the Garden of Eden. He quoted movies the way others quoted scripture, and the Chinese Theater was his Vatican.

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On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part Two

by Duane Byrge

The lead actress of the opening night picture at the Cannes Film Festival is murdered – and a Hollywood film critic is the prime suspect. Part One. Part Three. 3,744 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


The French National Police gendarmes hurried Ryan Cromwell through reception, which resembled a cheap hotel lobby, and down a narrow brown hallway. They propelled him into an interrogation room only slightly larger than a bread box and painted gas chamber green. A man in his mid-fifties, wearing a dull black suit befitting a homicide detective, studied a copy of the day’s Hollywood Times. The page was opened to Ryan Cromwell’s review of The Ice Princess. The cop looked directly at Ryan. Then looked down at the paper. Then back up at Ryan.

”We have some questions for you, Monsieur Cromwell,” the detective said in a monotone and perfect English.

”Please, tell me what’s going on?” Ryan’s voice cracked, and his mouth was dry. “Why was I dragged down here?”

“My name is Inspector Thiereaux. I wish to talk about your film critique. In your criticism of The Ice Princess film, you wrote, ‘The script is so bad that one hopes that the film’s signature blue scarf would be stuffed down Kristen Bjorge’s throat so we wouldn’t have to hear her utter another word of dialogue.’”

”What do you mean, ‘stuffed down her throat’? I never wrote that.”

“It is right here.” The policeman shoved the review across the table. Ryan grabbed it and scanned the opening paragraph. He had begun with a discussion about lead actress Kristen’s screen presence. None of that was there.

“These are not my words,” Ryan said.

“I do not understand.”

“Sometimes the editors cut or rewrite my reviews. This is appalling. Because it blatantly misrepresents my thoughts. I would never take such a vulgar and aggressive tone. It’s so Internet.”

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On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part One

by Duane Byrge

A Hollywood film critic pans the opening night picture at the Cannes Film Festival – and suddenly he’s in police custody. Part Two. 2,430 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


The half moon was smudgy white but ripening nicely for its full appearance at the Cannes Film Festival. Like a diva, it would not make its entrance until the final Saturday which the organizers already were proclaiming an evening of perfect alignment when “La Lunar Festival” would ascend to its spot of high honor in the dark blue Mediterranean sky. At the moment, the moon was glowing so exquisitely above the sea that it could have been a special effects rendition.

For a brief second, Ryan Cromwell savored the spectacle. Because the moon, the sea, the breeze, and The Ice Princess party were all his. It was the hottest Cannes invite in years. A sexy publicist from DeSimio & Associates had offered Ryan $250 for his ticket and, when he declined, she had upped the ante with an X-rated proposition. Ryan said no because he had a bad case of “Cannes Disease,” a contagious desperation that you had to be doing something every minute, and if not, you were missing something somewhere. Because the one event you decided not to attend would be the highlight of the festival.

Ryan was the senior film critic for the Hollywood Times, the top trade paper for the movie industry. He stood just over 6 feet with wavy dark hair and a physique toned by daily afternoon runs at the UCLA track and regular Tae Kwon Do workouts at a dojo on Sunset. He dressed well, but erratically, and when he won special praise for his “costume design,” as he called it, he took it as an indication that he lacked style at other times. He had just turned 38, and this was his eleventh trip to Cannes. It still always overwhelmed him that he was at the celebrated film festival, where the likes of his movie idols had graced the Red Carpet. Despite his modesty, Ryan knew that he belonged; his reviews set the tone and held the future for many of the films that would debut here in competition. The world would be reading him.

Standing in line to get into the party, Ryan was tapped on the back. He turned to see Stan Peck, his least favorite journalist. Peck wore a Hawaiian shirt, large sun visor and blue metallic sunglasses.

“Where’s your cigarette holder, Hunter?” Ryan asked.

“Slightly funny,” Peck responded. “I hoped to talk with you about your scathing review of The Ice Princess. It’s already the talk of the festival. I loved your lead: ‘Big guns, big gadgets, big hair, big dud.’”

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Straight To Series
Part Two

by Richard Natale

TV sitcoms survive on babies, weddings and controversies – in that order. 1,749 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The ballyhooed nationwide talent search for a Muslim-American actress to play the lead in Alisha Loves Fred concluded with the selection of Chandra Parva, a stage-trained ingenue whose TV worked consisted mostly of Law & Order and Criminal Minds roles as the girlfriend or wife of suspected terrorists.

The network’s marketing guru Nina made certain that her staff touted Chandra’s American background. Born and raised in Iowa, even a member of the 4H Club, Chandra was not too dark or light complexioned, and she possessed just the right amount of spunk to make her interesting but not threatening. Still, it wasn’t sufficient to quell the Twitter-sphere where the most popular deprecation called her “a honky in a hijab.”

Casting for Fred narrowed down to the minor country music singer Blake Cummings, a Bakersfield native and bland enough Christian to pass muster. Again, his selection was trashed on social media.

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