Thursday, December 15, 2016

MASKED TEN MOVIES - 2016

Here are my ten favorite movies of 2016. As you can see below, with one exception, my bias is towards the smaller independent films. I waited to publish the list until I saw "La La Land" but, for me, it didn't knock any of these off of the list. It was no "Whiplash". 

 There was nothing that blew me away like the above mentioned movie or "Boyhood" of "Mad Max: Fury Road". If you put a gun to my head I would say my favoritest movie of the year was "Sing Street" with "The Eagle Huntress" a close second but all of these movies (listed alphabetically) kept me awake for their entire run and left a lasting impression on me. Check them out.


Arrival
The Eagle Huntress
The Handmaiden
Hell or High Water
The Innocents
Love and Friendship
Miles Ahead
The Nice Guys
Sing Street

Weiner

Saturday, December 10, 2016

MASKED 12 - JAZZ ALBUMS 2016

Here's my annual list of favorite Jazz albums for the year. I listen to a lot of Jazz and Reggae and these are the twelve Jazz albums that would break through the constant background music and make me stop and look to see what's playing. By the end of the year I just knew.

Some years an album or two would be heads above the others. This year I enjoyed all of these works equally but if you don't buy much jazz check out Lucian Ban's "Songs from Afar"

So here are the Masked12 for 2016



Charles Lloyd & the Marvels - I Long to See You

Lucian Ban - Songs from Afar

Larry Young - In Paris: The ORTF Recordings

Renee Rosnes - Written in the Rocks

Vijay Iyler & Wadada Leo Smith - A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke

Jack DeJohnette-Ravi Coltrane-Matt Garrison - In Movement

Eli Degibri - Cliff Hangin'

Omar Sosa & Paolo Fresu - Eros

Richard Bona & Mandekan Cubano - Heritage

Enrico Pieranuzi - New Spring

Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra - Time/Life


Tom Harrell - Something Gold, Something Blue

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

THE MASKED TEN TV - 2016

Lots of good TV this year, far more than the shows found below. As I do each year I want to emphasize that this list represents my favorites and not necessarily the "best" shows of the past year. I don't know how to do that. 

I don't watch everything, but I do watch a lot. As you can see below I gravitate towards certain platforms because I tend to like their product. Although this is a "top ten" list there are seventeen shows here. I'm an old-school scheduler so I do believe that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts and, although shows don't appear on the same night, they do represent a feeling.

Finally, I can't get to everything so a show like BLACK MIRROR may show up next year. I thought that was going to be the case with TRANSPARENT but season three again did not live up to my appreciation and joy of the first season. Oh well.

Yes I watched this year's darlings STRANGER THINGS, WESTWORLD, and THE NIGHT OF. They didn't do it for me to the extent of replacing anything on this list. I'm happy if they did it for you.

So here are my faves for the year in some sort of order but don't hold me to it. I don't try to be cute by finding something obscure to put here. Most are returning shows, only two are freshman series.


THE AMERICANS (FX)

The evolution of Paige, the destruction of Martha, Elizabeth's betrayal of her one true friend, the sadness of William, Nina, the Mail Robot. This show is fucking amazing. AND IT TURNED OUT THE RUSSIANS WON!!!!!

RECTIFY (SUNDANCE CHANNEL)

Every scene, every sentence, every character is perfection. I find myself holding my breath, forgetting to breath more with this show than any other. Caitlin FitzGerald has been a welcome addition to this final season. I will miss them all so much.


THE PEOPLE V. OJ SIMPSON (FX)

Full disclosure, I'm not a big Ryan Murphy fan but this "event series" or whatever it was labelled held a special interest for me because, without going into details, I had an intimate link to this moment in our history.
This was riveting television from start to finish with some of the best over-the-top acting I have ever seen. There were times I felt that every actor was in a different show but it didn't matter. Respect to Sarah Paulson and special shout out to Travolta who was a glorious trainwreck. The ESPN documentary was also quite excellent. This will never go away. 


BETTER CALL SAUL (AMC)

Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks and MVP Michael McKean that is all.

SILICON VALLEY (HBO)

This is the funniest show on television for me and, although I don't work in that world, feels authentic. Don't bust my bubble. Special shout out to Masked Wife's fave Martin Starr because he reminds her of me....attitude wise.

HAPPY VALLEY/RIVER/THE FALL/MARCELLA (NETFLIX)

One of my favorite things about Netflix is when these little nuggets pop up. HAPPY VALLEY is my fave of the group and  RIVER was a pleasant discovery. They are dark and riveting and I have a few sitting in my to do list for the new year. 

PREACHER (AMC)

This one came out of nowhere for me but, as I said above, AMC is one of those platforms that gets my full attention. This show was fucking wack and we consumed it virtually close to air. Can't wait for season two and what a way to get introduced to Ruth Negga (Tulip)

ATLANTA (FX)

I don't turn to FX for my comedy fix and I honestly don't see this as a comedy...more of a sadedy...I was worn down by the platitudes so I figured we would check it out and, because we were late to the party, and because there are so many ways to consume TV we went to the FX app and caught ourselves up. So happy we did. I think this was the Masked Wife's favorite show of the year since she keeps coming back to it in conversations...and she has exquisite taste.

GAME OF THRONES (HBO)

Loved, loved this season and actually gave one episode a standing ovation so fuck you if you disagree.

JANE THE VIRGIN/CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (CW)

I know they are now on different nights  but for one glorious season Monday night on the CW was the best night of network television there was. Smart and creative in so many ways and so aware that they are TV shows. One makes me feel warm all over and the other hurts my brain but in a good way. They are both a reminder that the CW is more than superhero of the night. Too bad the CW whiffed for me in their third attempt at this form. I hope there are more and looking forward to Archie et al.

THE GOLDBERGS/FRESH OFF THE BOAT/ MODERN FAMILY (ABC)

I'm not saying it's easy to make great comedies like these but sometimes the networks make it harder on themselves than they have to by trying to be different. ABC has the secret sauce and superb casting and they are single camera but there's a lot to laugh at here. We had The Goldbergs at FOX for a cup of coffee and I would have loved to see how it would have been cast...not like this I'm certain.

 If I had to pick 5 shows that just missed the cut they would be

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (NETFLIX)
CATASTROPHE (AMAZON)
UNDERGROUND (WGN AMERICA)
THE NIGHT MANAGER (AMC)
HIGH MAINTENANCE  (HBO)

The most improved show of the year for me was GOTHAM. Check it out.

Happy to hear your thoughts but remember...not the best...just my personal favorites.





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TCA SMACKDOWN

I attended my first TCA (Television Critics Association or "Press Tour") sometime around 1987 or so. Since then, up to my retirement from the industry, I have gone to about 60 of these puppies. I mention this right up front to establish that I believe I have some cred in what is going to be an obsession among TV writers leading up to the January TCA in Pasadena. You see yesterday the heads of the broadcast networks. with I believe the exception of the CW, decided not to hold executive sessions at this event.

Here's my two cents on all this and remember.....experience. I will be brief.

Let me start here. TCA has changed over the years but the way networks approached it has not. The biggest change has been the speed by which the "news" from TCA is disseminated to the consumer. The original intent of TCA was to book stories for the next few months as new shows were rolling out. The networks would make their senior executives available to the press and those sessions would be reported within a day or two of their occurrence.

Preparation for the executive sessions would take up a lot of time as we would try to anticipate the issues that would be top of mind to the writers. The goal was not to make news. I remember one of my bosses almost got fired for commenting on something during his TCA session. Some serious shit could happen if you weren't careful and, as much as you prepared, there would always be a question or two that you did not anticipate.

I always told my bosses that there are only three responses to questions at TCA:
Yeah
And your point is
Go fuck yourself
Just be creative in how you frame the answer.

As painful as it was and as risky as it was my bosses always felt the obligation, as did our competitors, to meet the TV press at TCA. To be honest, I think there was always a little ego involved in all this but you don't get to those positions without it.

Personally, TCA was always a chance to catch up with several of the writers with whom I had established trusting relationships over the years. I still stay in touch with several of them and help them out in any way that I can. There are a lot of smart people still writing about the business.

This all started to change with the rise of social media especially Twitter. News from TCA became instantaneous. The gap between reflection and assessment on the one hand and communication on the other vanished. The need to react immediately was intensified by the reality that you were sitting in a room with others sending out their take on what was happening.

On top of that the Tweeters developed personalities which started to merge with their reporting of the sessions at TCA. In my opinion Tweeting became as much to impress one's fellow writers as it was to objectively report on the session. Again, in my opinion, tweeting at TCA often became a form of virtual public stoning.

Sadly I spent the past few years at TCA feeling bad for my press and publicity comrades who had to sit through these sessions staring at their smartphones anticipating the worst.
I think it was Bob Greenblatt who turned the tables on the TV writers by posting their tweets on a big screen.

The game and the soul of TCA had changed. It's all about the clicks, who can be funny or witty, and that's OK.

Also, to be honest, there was a new generation of writers several of whom, not all, just didn't seem to have a grasp of the business nor an historical perspective to help process issues. Trust me, this wasn't just my opinion.

In the final years of my tenure in television two things I ranted about at work were TCAs and Upfront presentations. My rants were not about eliminating them but rather bringing both into the present in ways that accounted for the changes in technology and the new realities of the business. I was generally met with eyerolls because it was easier to stay the course rather than be the innovator (something I dealt with through my entire career). Therefore I was not surprised when it was Netflix and Amazon who fired the first Salvo here.

Were the networks smart in how they handled this announcement? No, not at all, but if it leads to a discussion of how to reimagine TCA given all of the new realities then fine.

Throwing a hissy fit like the one I read this morning. Calling the networks cowards and in denial is only going to harden positions. TCA stands for Television Critics Association. As critics they have the right to evaluate shows and give their opinions. They even have the right to be biased against broadcast network product and come to whatever conclusions they want to about why it is what it is. I don't believe the networks have pulled their shows, just their executives.

Maybe an association of TV Business Writers who sit down with the various heads of networks for open, honest discussions about the state of the business, while not on their Twitter accounts, would be a step in the right direction. I don't know.

What I do know is that these network heads and the people they report to are not stupid and are more aware of things and what to do about it than many give them credit for. Change is good. Let's see where this all goes.










Friday, November 11, 2016

THE BOOK OF LIFE - THE STICK TO YOUR KNITTING EDITION

It looks like the Fall premieres are finally over and I'm adding what I believe are the final four freshmen series to the Book of Life. Mostly good news and three of the four are CBS shows which were delayed because of the Thursday NFL package on the network.

CBS is best at sticking to its knitting and once again it paid off. However, they still seem to have issues with finding a solid medical drama. Code Black which was predicted to make it to a second Kol Nidre service (it did) is floundering and Pure Genius does not look like it will get a second season. On the plus side the classic CBS schlubby guy/hot wife formula still has legs and, after one or two attempts at Big Banging it again, The Great Indoors looks promising. 

ABC continues to score with family comedies but can't pop with the ersatz-Shonda approach to female centric drama.

FOX's biggest success is going broad and mainstream. Lethal Weapon is not only holding up well with 18-49's but is getting nosebleed level 2+ viewers which is something the network either consciously or unconsciously resists (trust me on this).

NBC is the most interesting in that they have the least to lose and can use The Voice and Chicago Whatevs to try something different and it's paying off for them.

The CW didn't come up with this year's Jane the Virgin or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend but let's see what happens with Archie (Riverdale)

Last May I said that the nets were acting like broadcast networks more than they have in recent years and it paid off.So on to mid-season where there are some more offbeat shots. 

New entries are in red  

BUY THE DELI PLATTER AND PAY A SHIVA CALL (stick a fork in it, it's done)
NOTORIOUS


WILL CELEBRATE THEIR B'NAI MITZVAH (will get to 13 on the air)
SON OF ZORN
McGYVER
PITCH
CONVICTION
NO TOMOROW
PURE GENIUS

LET'S GO TO A BRIS (the order will be snipped)
THE EXORCIST

SET A PLACE AT THE SEDER TABLE (should finish full the season)
DESIGNATED SURVIVOR
TIMELESS


SEE YOU AT NEXT YEAR'S KOL NIDRE SERVICE (there's a second season)
KEVIN CAN WAIT
THE GOOD PLACE
LETHAL WEAPON
THIS IS US
SPEECHLESS
BULL
FREQUENCY
AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE
MAN WITH A PLAN
THE GREAT INDOORS

Thursday, November 3, 2016

WHAT IF I SCHEDULED TRUMP TV

Last week I got a call from Michael O'Connell over at The Hollywood Reporter. He told me how much he enjoyed my Twitter feed and said that they were putting together something on the possibility of a post-election Trump TV. He wondered if I would put together a prime time schedule for the platform.

Of course in the modern era a Trump TV channel would be some sort of digital streaming entity where schedules don't really matter but, be that as it may, I was asked to go old school and, to be honest, the fact that anyone is still interested in what I have to say, makes me feel needed.

I put together the schedule in the same way I did it for over 25 years: I drew a grid by hand and filled it in with a pencil or pen.

My goal was to create a schedule that would be entertaining and that had a logic and flow to it. Clearly it reflected my opinion of the man who would put his brand on such an endeavor (not high) and I tried to reflect what I believe is going on in that deranged mind of his

Surprisingly the folks over at The Hollywood Reporter printed it as is with no changes other than a few typos since I can't spell to save my ass.

Here is the link to the Hollywood Reporter article and I reprinted the schedule.

Let me know what you think.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/a-legendary-hollywood-scheduler-imagines-trump-tvs-lineup-943547



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

THE BOOK OF LIFE - THE 'WHY BOTHER" EDITION

I added five more shows (they're in red) to The Book of Life. Two of them will make it to next year's Kol Nidre service not that they are performing well, it's more that nothing will perform better in the time period so....why bother? 

I have to believe that, somewhere on this blog, I discussed the magic number 2 1/2. That's the number of new hours that a network can put on before they are better off sticking with what's currently on their schedule. Most networks (CBS being the exception) generally go beyond this limit because "we can do better"....they cannot. What then compounds the problem is making too many changes when the current shows are not working. Good rule: You want to see a time period circle the drain quicker....change the programming.

There are so many factors which account for the decline of network ratings but there are self-inflicted wounds. that's why it's good to see networks sticking with what brought them to the dance. NOTORIOUS was the one show I felt needed to be offed because of its important place on ABC's big Shonda night. Yesterday they snipped the order but beyond that most shows are being allowed to run their course and I added two shows for a total of seven shows that I expect to be back for a second season.

One of the two shows that will be at next year's Kol Nidre service is FREQUENCY because the CW renews almost everything. NO TOMORROW was an attempt to replicate the creative success of two of my faves JANE THE VIRGIN and CRAZY EX GIRLFRIEND......nope. I don't expect it to last beyond its B'nai Mitzvah...but.....why bother.

Happy Simchat Torah everyone.  

BUY THE DELI PLATTER AND PAY A SHIVA CALL (stick a fork in it, it's done)
NOTORIOUS


WILL CELEBRATE THEIR B'NAI MITZVAH (will get to 13 on the air)
SON OF ZORN
McGYVER
PITCH
CONVICTION
NO TOMOROW

LET'S GO TO A BRIS (the order will be snipped)
THE EXORCIST

SET A PLACE AT THE SEDER TABLE (should finish full the season)
DESIGNATED SURVIVOR
TIMELESS

SEE YOU AT NEXT YEAR'S KOL NIDRE SERVICE (there's a second season)
KEVIN CAN WAIT
THE GOOD PLACE
LETHAL WEAPON
THIS IS US
SPEECHLESS
BULL
FREQUENCY