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Posts published in “Seven Days For Seven Years”

Seven Years of TV Calling

Seven years ago to this day, A TV Calling was created.

I can hardly believe it. SEVEN years! We ain’t getting any younger.

It’s been a blast looking back at our seven years over the past seven days. Reminded me of that time we did the same thing for our one year anniversary.
Incidentally, I’m on a Parisian trip at the moment, meaning I’m writing this anniversary post in the very same place I started this site: my parents’ basement my Paris bedroom. Hard to imagine that seven years ago stood in this place a little blogspot thing. And now, look at us!

Since I love me some stats, here are some to accompany the birthday:
To date, there have been, not One Hundred, nor Two Hundred, or Three Hundred, or Four Hundred, or even Five Hundred, but 564 posts in total. An average of 1.54 posts a week. (It should be a bit higher, but let’s just forget the dark ages of 2011-2013.)

My most popular posts have been three staples of spec writing:
The “Bix Six” TV Writing Fellowships
– The yearly (as-of-now 2015) Comedy Spec List and Drama Spec List
Ten Spec Writing Rules (and why you should care)

Past the writing side, my next most-popular posts have been the Lost letter and “How to get an agent“. Surprisingly, my Cabin in the Woods review of the script (pre-release) is also a well-read item. Also worthy of mention: the Six Feet Under and Friends Screenwriting Lessons.

Over the past seven years, the site was visited by over 12,780 different cities in 203 countries. We’ve also had people from all 50 states, trailed by the Dakotas and Wyoming. California is well ahead with nearly 40% of all U.S. users.

We should talk about changes to the site itself. We’ve seen three iterations of the design. Every change was made to highlight the great content and facilitate access. This trend is about to continue with our next evolution.
I’ve been talking about a new design for the past month, and we are on the verge of breaking our mold once again. Tune in later this week for the big reveal.

Yes, I’m still teasing! I’m still on my way back to LA! It’s going to be great!

I do get all tingly looking back at the first four posts of June 2008.
The first sentence ever written on the blog was: “Yes I’m lazy.“ And, yeah, I’m still pretty lazy. In fact, most of this post is basically a retelling of my post for the one year of TV Calling. Lazy. I did warn you in the first sentence.

Over the years, I’ve also received many kind letters. Unfortunately, some fall through the cracks. I may not have time to respond to all, but do believe I read them all. That is why I wanted to take this opportunity to say, to everyone, from the bottom of my keyboard: THANK YOU.

Thank you for your readership. Thank you for your words. Thank you for your faithfulness.

My goal, as stated way back when, has always been the same:

[Guide] other struggling writers out there in their daily, and not-so-daily problems. I hope my trial and errors will help show that nothing is impossible when you pour your heart and soul into it.

If this site helped even one person, then we can safely say our mission–our journey has only begun.

Hold on, I need to grab a Kleenex. These damn allergies I tell ya!

I’m back. So. What have we learned over the past seven (!) years?
Many, many things. Too many things. Let’s just pick one. Bears can dance. Yes, that sounds about right.

Let’s celebrate what we’ve accomplished while looking as to what’s ahead: more writing tips and tricks, more business advice, more interviews, more insight, more scripts (yes!), more you name it.

It is a great time to be on TV Calling.

Welcome to Year Eight.

Seven Years of My Life 101 (or Life of Alex)

And now for something completely different. Or exactly what this is all about.

We’ve seen the evolution of TV Calling’s content (and form). Today, I’ll be talking about, well, me. Alex. The man behind the machine. Or the keyboard.

This site is named A TV Calling for one simple reason: television is my calling. I created this website to chronicle my own journey into the TV writing business.
I used to talk daily on this site. After all, it used to be a more traditional blog. Fortunately for readers, it evolved into what it is now. (But what is now?)

You can track seven years of my life through this site. I feel old.
When I started A TV Calling in June 2008, I wasn’t even in Los Angeles. Or the US. Or the Americas. I lived in Paris (not the one in Texas).
As I wrote in the very first post of this site:

If all goes to plan in 5-year time I should be in L.A. for good.

700 days later, I had moved from one side of the world to another. I was living in Los Angeles.

For people who are wondering how I got to live and work in the US–I won my green card. In the lottery.
On October 2, 2008, I registered.
On May 28, 2009, I got the white envelope.
On March 13, 2010, I received my Green Card.

I explained the entire, lengthy process in “How I got my green card“.
Before I had it, I looked up all my alternative visa options, then listed them in details in two parts: Visa Breakdown (Part One) & Visa Breakdown (Part Two). There’s also the post about the application process for the lottery.

Yes, it was, and still is, fairly off-subject with the whole TV writing business thing. But I’ve had a couple people request direct links to these.
And we’re talking about my life here!

I get to be a little off-topic at times. A lot of the times.

There’s that time I mentioned I had a Furby.
There’s that time I had issues with one of my hard-drives. And that time I had HDD troubles yet again.
There’s that time I posted a photo of Waldo.
There’s that time I posted a photo of my suitcase.

It’s relevant!

Oh, in June 2009, I chronicled my ten days at the Cannes Film Festival, or as I put it: “How I Survived the 62nd Cannes Film Festival”. There was just so much to say (and show), that I did it in three parts:
Episode I: The Sleep Deprivation Menace (Thursday, May 14 to Sunday, May 17 2009)
Episode II: Attack of the Celebrities (Monday, May 18 to Wednesday, May 20 2009)
Episode III: Revenge of the Films (Thursday, May 21 to Sunday, May 24 2009).

On September 2009, after the Fringe bashing I mentioned yesterday, it was officially reveled that I am an asshole.
It’s always a good laugh to read flaming comments, so here it is for the seven year anniversary:

If you honestly think that your stupid post will steer people away from watching Fringe, YOU ARE SADLY MISTAKEN! Grow up, asshole!


In August 2010, I moved to Los Angeles (meaning I’ll celebrate my five-year move this year).
Incidentally, it was then that I cut back on the personal meanderings.
Maybe I should get back to that at some point.

Several of the Scribosphere Carnival topics were related to my own processes. One was about my TV writing workflow:

Unlike some writers, I actually prefer to write in the comfort of my own home instead of going out to a coffee shop (and spend $5 on a latte).
With that said, I like to create an appropriate “space” for the magic to happen. Even if my desktop is in the bedroom, I will try to physically separate the “writing workspace” from where I sleep by moving stuff over to the living room.

Another (lengthier) one was about criticism: how to give it, how to take it, how to get it. Did that sound dirty?
And the very first Scribosphere Carnival was a time-capsule from 2013 for the year 2014. I was hoping to nab a writer’s assistant position by then. Things didn’t work in my favor. Alas.

So. Seven years later. Where am I? Who am I? What am I?
Existential questions we won’t get the answer to.
But one thing’s for sure: life is hard. And that’s that.

Looking back at seven years’ worth of personal content makes me almost teary-eyed. Or my allergies are acting up again.
I hope to continue aimlessly writing about my journey on this big ball of dirt hurling through space.

Let’s conclude with one of my favorite quotes, and the one thing summarizing everything we’ve seen up to this point: “Never give up, never surrender.”

By Grabthar’s hammer, what a site!

Seven Years of TV Analysis

We’ve taken a long glance at a lot of TV shows over the past seven years.
In fact, I’m usually pretty vocal about shows I love, and shows I…do not.

Before the age of Ultron TV marathons and binge-watching had arrived, I pointed out “why mythological shows are often idolized.” I’d probably broaden the scope to “serialized shows” now, but most of my points still stand:

In marathon-like screenings, the mind is somewhat submissive to the story told and the episode. The brain is passive, not active. You don’t have time to really think about the many twists and turns since you’re watching them unfold. You’re “eating” away the episodes, not “digesting” them. Everything will probably seem to blend into a unified storyline instead of finite stories broadcast every week or so with hiatus lasting months in-between seasons. Watching the first three seasons of Battlestar back-to-back won’t be the same thing as having been there since 2003.
For one thing, you didn’t theorize during Season One or Season Two. That might not seem all that important, but not being able to think for several months or years (or even only days in the case of a marathon) about who the twelve Cylons are won’t make you aware of how preposterous the introduction of the Final Five during the show’s third Season is. If you care a little bit about a show, you’ll surely think about it, start asking yourself questions. Let’s be honest, we all have way too much time on our hands and we love to theorize. Shows such as BSG or Lost work because you can theorize about them all day long… Until you can’t due to a faulty mythology.
Turns out, when watching episodes back-to-back you don’t have months to think about “what’s in the Hatch” or anything else that deserves theorizing. You’re not expecting special answers either, so you rarely end up disappointed either.

Since we’re on the topic, I did expand in another article on my love-hate relationship with Battlestar Galactica (as the show concluded six years ago).
And speaking of finished shows–
There was this post on why Dollhouse might be renewed, and a counter-post on why Dollhouse would be canceled. Turns out I was right on both ends. It would get a second season, thanks to some of the elements I brought up, and then subsequently would get canned, again mostly due to the aforementioned reasons. Looking back, it’s interesting to see that even at the time I was alluding to the concept of “brand” for writers. Namely, Joss Whedon’s geek appeal. (Part of which would get him the Avengers gig later on.)

As I said previously, I often voice (or write) my opinion on shows, even if it’s a negative one. One such example (and disappointment) was with the series premiere of FlashForward. For over a year, I had hyped the show. I loved the script, Iloved the cast, I was anxious for the final result. Unfortunately, the finished product left a lot to be desired:

Overall, what worked on the page didn’t work on screen.
I don’t blame the writing though, I blame the plain directing and editing.
A two-hour premiere would probably have given enough time to develop both the story and the characters. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Better luck next time.

Although more optimistic, Lordy wrote at the time about two cult-adjacent series in Better Off Ted and Medium.

In science-fiction show news, I expanded on the unoriginality of Fringe. First I tackled its resemblance to The X-Files, before comparing its alt-world dichotomy to that of Sliders.
And we shan’t forget Heroes, now incidentally coming back from the dead. During its third season, I explained why Heroes should not set an end date.

Haters gonna hate.

Case in point: my 2009 article on the heydeys of Mad Men, or as I called it, “Mad Men: demystifying the overhyped“.

When a single series occupies 80% of all writing nominations despite obvious worthy contenders, when Times Square dedicates a whole evening to said series’ season premiere, when virtually everyone declares it the best series of the year, no matter how good the show actually is, that’s Mad Men.
And Mad Men is being overhyped.

Finally, let’s transition to more positive thinking, and three of our biggest talking points over the past seven years: Lost, Star Trek, and Breaking Bad. Trek was more writing (and Terran)-related, the other two were about their end.
To celebrate all three, we dedicated for each an entire week of brand new in-depth articles. Kind of like what we’re doing now with this site, except with original content.

The first one was the end of Lost, and our Lost Week. On top of articles covering Lindelof/Cuse quotes, Lost parodies and the future of the brand, my main focus was on a big aspect of the show: how Lost revolutionized TV storytelling. One example were its use of flashforwards:

Flashforwards in Lost gave weight to something that was rarely used, or at least not for their sake, but just to give hints of the future. It was the ABC show that truly revealed the potential of such a storytelling technique. The series had showed again that audiences could follow simultaneously two very different timelines. Not since La Jetée have we had such a complex array of timelines, combining both analepses and prolepses. One could argue the writers are trying to catch the lightning in the bottle once more with this season’s flashsideways technique. But all they’re actually creating is a fake sense of nostalgia.

On September 2013, I decided to spec and release a pilot for a new Star Trek show (Terran). We already covered that aspect earlier in the week, which is why I wanted to bring up another post I did on the subject: “Why Star Trek?” — The State of an Enduring Franchise. Beyond my own spec experiment, it was a way to express why we needed (and still need) a new Star Trek series. Here’s a taste:

One of the most interesting trait of the genre has always been that it could serve as an echo of reality. And the world desperately needs a reflection of itself.
You could make a pretty long list of contemporary issues that are begging to be explored (surveillance, social class, role of government, etc.). These are issues that would still be prevalent within the Trek-verse. In fact, the franchise has always been great at taking on societal and moral issues throughout its series (some more contemporary than others).

Even more importantly, Star Trek endures because it always has been forward-looking.
Star Trek stands for hope. Reaching for the sky and going where no one has gone before. It is sending a positive outlook about people. A better humanity, united, and equal. We need Star Trek on TV to inspire society, but also a new generation, people growing up to be explorers in their fields. This is about believing in a better future and striving to better ourselves.

We need a new Star Trek series, not for the fans of the franchise, but for everybody else. We need it for the bigger picture.

What a rallying cry!

Last but certainly not least, we had the end of Breaking Bad, and our Breaking Bad Week. I’m actually even happier with the amount of great, thoughtful articles we did on the show. (Maybe I’ll edit a book with these fancy posts!)
I covered the amazing experimental storytelling of Breaking Bad:

The show took the time to breathe and embrace the real world around it, and feed the humanity of its characters. Consequences and repercussions mattered because of the time spent at building these relationships, this status quo being broken apart. Like a steady hand on the wheel, it knew where it was heading towards. It was spending its time on meaningful moments. Bad was about real emotions, real greed, real jealousy, real fear. All of it stemming from smaller scales. The series was not trying to milk these moments, it was trying to establish context. Even in the craziness of season five, you still had family moments and humorous moments, like Skinny Pete and Badger’s Star Trek conversation.

We talked about the realism of Breaking Bad:

The show was hyper-serialized, and given its time-frame (one year within the story), it couldn’t afford being “ripped from headlines” topical. Nonetheless, it was still relevant. We’ve already seen how the series embraced its everyday roots by showing the “moments between the moments”. And the show proved to be even more receptive to its cartel storylines. Most notably, in the second season, the now-iconic image of a drug informant getting beheaded (and later put on a tortoise). “Extreme” moments that are, actually, completely believable (and similarly happened later in real life). Another great example of an atypical sequence is Los Cuates de Sinaloa’s narcocorrido track inspired by Heisenberg in 2×07 (“Negro Y Azul”). Narcocorridos are traditional Mexican songs with lyrics usually inspired by illegal criminal activities, often cartel-related. Although not a music genre well-known in the States, it nonetheless cements his story within the “real world”.

We braced ourselves for the failings of Breaking Bad:

As a fervent viewer of the show since day one, that season two buildup was one of the biggest cock-teases in recent TV history. It wasn’t as bad as Lost’s smoke monster, or Battlestar Galactica’s Cylon plan, but for a season-long mystery, it was definitely a miniature version.
It may not play out the same now, as you binge-watch the show, but when it came to a weekly viewing, the resolution of such an extended teasing was nothing short of a slap in the face.

A little too harsh? Only time will tell.

And then we talked about the legacy of Breaking Bad, most notably its serialized binge-viewing:

With the advent of Netflix and other great streaming services, Breaking Bad was able to capitalize on its serialization where other shows had previously failed. Word-of-mouth coupled with amazing cliffhangers (i.e. the need to watch the next episode) cemented its online boom.
It started out as a niche show that caught on with the popular success only coming the last couple of seasons. It is without a doubt thanks to the unprecedented access to Breaking Bad’s previous seasons that viewers were able to not only catch up on the show but tune in live for the final episodes. Bad was the first drama to fully benefit first-hand from the one-click-away access to its serialized episodes. Everybody caught on just in time for the final season. With only a couple million viewers watching the series “live” during most of its run, it isn’t a stretch to believe that more people actually watched the show on Netflix than on AMC.

Lots and lots of shows. Lots and lots of great analysis.

I can’t wait to see what I’ve been up to.