Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This is the story of a Procedural.

So I'm at a meeting with a producer the other day and he's pitching me a tv idea. As way of emphasizing why I need him and his idea, he brings forth a piece of paper. On it, my credits. He doesn't actually hand it over to me but he says this:

PRODUCER: I've been looking over your credits, pretty impressive.
ME: Thanks, we try.
PRODUCER: Seems to me you're just missing one thing from these credits. And I'm gonna tell you what it is.
ME: Please do.

At which point he turns the piece of paper towards me and I see he's written in bold black marker near the top, pointing to the list: BIG FUCKING HIT TV SHOW.

ME: Well, yes, I am missing that. Very true. I think about that a lot.

PRODUCER: That's all right. Because I'm here to change all that.

At which point he launches into his pitch for what may or not be "my big fucking hit tv show."

Now, I leave it to you to debate whether pointing out my shortcomings is a good or bad sales strategy (it rarely works for my dad but often for my wife), and I'll leave it to me to decide whether or not the idea he pitched me was the answer to my problems.

I will say this about the idea, however: IT WAS ENORMOUS. The concept, the scope, the budget, it was resolutely and irresponsibly EPIC and for that I was totally grateful. Because if I'd been pitched one more aspirational character-driven procedural you were going to have to peel me off the Barham asphalt.

Not that I don't understand the impulse for procedurals. They're the golden retrievers of television. They're cheap. They're endearing. Not too hard to understand. And they won't cost 3.5 million per ep, pull in a 1.4 rating, and pee on your favorite tauntaun sleeping bag.

On the other hand, there's been a lot of recent attempts at "event" television and almost all have been utter failures. Even some of the ones still on the air stagger around like a drunk who woke up with a Season 2 and have no idea who drove them there or how to get home (I'm looking at you, V.).

With the death of Lost and 24, we find ourselves looking for the next bit of pop culture big-fucking-dealness that we can get ourselves all worked up for. And when I say "we" I'm referring to Fans of TV with a capital F and not simply those for whom TV is the thing that occupies the space between dinner and the sleep apnea machine. We Fans of TV want that Big Sexy Going Down the Rabbit Hole Feeling and no matter how much my mother loves Simon Baker, The Mentalist just isn't going to do it for us.

The Mentalist, is, however, going to make a shitload of money for all involved. It's easy on the eyes and is habit-forming much in the same way two glasses of red wine a night is: you'll get a nice, warm buzz but you're not gonna get really wasted and wake up with Cobb's malevolent freight train blasting through your cortex. The Mentalist isn't the best sex you've ever had, but it's also not likely to leave you to finish yourself off while your partner falls asleep to reruns of "Cheaters".

The Character-driven Procedural works for a number of reasons, but the biggest and the best of them is this: they almost never get picked up to series without a Serious Asswhipping Actor in the lead. Simon Baker. Hugh Laurie. Tony Shaloub. Kyra Sedgwick. Angie Harmon. These are legitimate cleanup hitters in any TV lineup. They might not be the favorites of the genre crowd. You might not stand in line for their autograph. And you are not going to see them down at Comic-Con doing funny panels with Jeff "Doc" Jensen. Why? Because they are too busy making the other twenty million people who watch tv every night love them.

"Event" television, on the other hand (and here we can probably insert the word "genre" or "science fiction"), usually demands a big canvas, a big cast of characters, and a large concept that often dominates. It's ideas first, characters second, and that, dear friends, is often a recipe for tv disaster. FlashForward tried to balance a lot of character work on the big bouncing back of their elephantine idea but the show never found a proper stride and a lot of people were knocked off into the pachyderm shit. Warehouse 13 works for SyFy because it's what X-Files would be if Mulder and Scully took Ecstasy and dry-humped their way through a Freak of the Week. Which is to say, a quirky procedural.

Aaah, but what about Lost, you say? Explain Lost, or at the very least, explain Lost's success? Big ideas, lots of characters, no big alpha stars, lots of story, lots of...lots?

I'm not the first to say this, but Lost is a freak show that will never be repeated. It's the Michael Jackson of television. No one should try to deconstruct the Lost phenomenon ever again. There is nothing to be gained from studying Lost's success. It's a Black Swan, or an Outlier, or one of many other books on my Kindle I'll never read now because, let's be honest, it's on my Kindle.

You can't construct a phenomenon from the outside-in. You can't will a show into the public's consciousness. Both of this year's breakout hits, Glee and Modern Family, had big buzz coming into the season. But that's because people who'd seen them knew they were good. They didn't just decide they needed them to be good and then set out to market them so, they actually KNEW they were. Both shows also have very strong creators who know television, know their own minds, and know what show they're making. These are not shows that could've been created by anybody--and that's not something you can say about most television. They are also decidedly NOT procedurals.

The stories I love often involve world-building. But most people working in the tv business are terrified of building worlds. They want shows that are relatable and recognizable. They want real worlds with real people that will under no condition make viewers uncomfortable or remind them of anything remotely strange and unknown. No Ordinary Family is a perfect example of this: the family is Absolutely Ordinary until they're NOT. And when they're NOT, they respond to that very NOT-ness just as any other Ordinary Family would.

But much of our most successful and daring television is, if looked at broadly, Fantastic with a capital F. Ryan Murphy is a world-builder, Matt Weiner is a world-builder, Vince Gilligan is an 800 lb world builder. Breaking Bad exists in a strange Albuquerque Dream State that is at once the most surreal and also the most achingly real drama I've ever watched. These are "genre" shows, maybe not exactly science fiction, but certainly not traditional "dramas", either. They are as weird and off-putting and daring and out there as any "space ship show" that the networks refuse to put on every year. And that was even before mother and daughter sang "Poker Face" to each other across a grand piano.

But I digress.

This is a story of a Procedural. Specifically, mine.

Last Sunday night the wife and I were sound asleep at 1145pm after a night of Entourage, True Blood and Schadenfreude. Because I have the iPhone4 and thus cannot use it as a phone, I had forwarded my cell phone to our home phone. At approximately 11:47:52, the phone rings and my wife answers it. Here is the call as has been best reconstructed:

WIFE: Hello...Who is this?
WOMAN: I need to speak to Josh.
WIFE: What? Why? Who is this?
WOMAN: Let me speak to Josh. He owes me money.
WIFE: Money? Call back in the morning.
WOMAN: I need to talk to him now. I'm in his office. He owes me money.
WIFE: (to me, handing over the phone) It's for you.

WOMAN: Josh? I need my money. I'm in your office.
ME: I don't know what the fuck you are talking about. What office?
WOMAN: Your office. In Larchmont. I'm there.
ME: You're in my office? At midnight. On Sunday? Describe my office.

At which point the woman gives me a very detailed description of my writing office--a second floor one room/one bathroom space that I rent because as much as I love my family...well, The Shining.

ME: Okay, fine, you're in my office. Why? And again, who are you?
WOMAN: You know why I'm in your office, Josh. You've been here with me for the last three or four hours.
ME: Lady, I don't know who you've been with in my office, but I haven't been there for two weeks. I mean that's a problem itself, my lack of motivation, but lets get back to what you're doing there?
WOMAN: Well...I met someone claiming to be you on the internet and he paid me to come to your office and have sex with him. Only he didn't pay me. He left. And now I've wasted my whole fucking night.

At which point I write the word "hooker" on the bottom of the envelope I'm using to take notes and hold it up for the wife. Now, it is perhaps a testimony or a condemnation to the way that I've lived my life that at no point during my conversation with this hooker calling me from my office and asking for payment does my wife for EVEN AN INSTANT think that perhaps, yes, she should be concerned that a hooker is calling her husband at home asking for payment.

Now I don't know about the rest of you, but this is a first for me, and my mind is racing. What to do? What information do I need? How do I go about getting it? I'm proud of myself for writing "hooker" on the envelope but I know I've got to do better than that. What pops into my head is: WHAT WOULD THE MENTALIST DO?

So I begin asking questions, trying to extract as much information from her as I can. Eventually I convince her that I am Not the John She is Looking For. At which point she says:

WOMAN: Well, now I'm feeling creeped out. Someone in here was pretending to be you. I think I'm gonna leave and go to my car.
ME: Great idea!

I ask her for the description of the guy:

WOMAN: Six two, white, clean cut, good haircut, nice jeans, cool Adidas sneakers, purple with green stripes, like the African soccer team. And by the way...can I say...I'm not proud of of what I do, but I'm not ashamed, either. I'm in school, single mom, two kids. I do what I've gotta do.

ME: I understand.

(Holy shit, really? Could she really have a heart of gold?)

ME: Could I have your full name and your phone number. In case the police need to talk to you?

WOMAN: Sure.

At which point she gives me HER FULL NAME AND HER PHONE NUMBER. My God. The woman really does have a heart of gold. But I can imagine the network notes:

NETWORK NOTES: We don't find the prostitute character believable. She's so helpful and well-adjusted. I don't think any prostitutes act like that. And the kid thing is so cliche. Shouldn't our cop have to earn that phone number with a little more detective work?
ME: First of all, the guy's not a cop. He's a quirky amateur who's also the victim in this case.
NETWORK NOTES: Feels a little premise-y. I thought we weren't doing a premise pilot.
ME: Second, go fuck yourself.

Finally I hang up with the plucky hooker and call the LAPD, pumped up by my amateur detective skills and excited to HAND THEM A FULLY MADE CASE.

What follows is fifteen of the most Kafka-esque minutes I've ever spent on the phone:

ME: A hooker and a john pretending to be me had sex in my office tonight. I need a patrol car to go to my office.
COP: How do you know?
ME: The hooker called me and told me.
COP: How does she have your number?
ME: I don't know. She's spent four hours in my office with a guy pretending to be me.
COP: You need to go to your office and see if anything's been taken. See if a crime has been committed. Then call us and we'll come out there.
ME: People are fucking in my office. In the middle of the night. For money. Without my permission. Certainly there's a crime there. And it's a brand new Ikea leather couch. I would say the couch's innocence has been taken if nothing else.
COP: You need to go up there and see.
ME: I'm scared.
COP: It's Larchmont, sir. It's safe.
ME: I'm gonna beg to differ.

Eventually the officer and I come to an agreement: I will not go to my office by myself in the middle of the night and see if the mysterious woman on the phone was telling the truth about why she was in my office and he will absolutely not send a car over there to check it out.

NETWORK NOTES: We don't really like the cop here. He's not very sympathetic.
ME: Agreed. But that's the law. There's a shortage of cars and they can't be sending them all willy-nilly everywhere.
NETWORK NOTES: Well someone should say that somewhere. Have the cop say he would go but the regulations won't let him. It's the system.
ME: That's not what the story is about.
NETWORK NOTES: And, you come off as a real pussy.
ME: No argument there. I'll see what I can do.

The next morning in the warm light of day I decide to go to my office and investigate. It's 8:30 am, and I'm feeling much braver after a full night's sleep and a lumberjack's portion of Ativan. My office entrance is on the exterior of a two story building with an outside set of stairs, ostensibly the only way into my office, in case you wanted to break in and screw a hooker and then ditch her.

I turn the doorknob, it's open. I curse my favorite hooker for not locking up afterwards but I understand she was a little spooked when she left. As I step into the office, A MAN steps out of my bathroom.

This is the moment time freezes: he is across the room and I immediately do a tilt-pan from head to toe, like the third act of a thriller when the hero is confronting the murderer: Tall, white, good haircut, nice jeans...wait for it...purple and green Adidas sneakers!

He is certainly as unhappy about this encounter as I am, but as he's probably had more experience playing the bad guy then I have playing the quirky amateur detective, he speaks first:

MAN: Oh..hey..Sorry...my buddy said to wait for him in his office...Is this the wrong office...? Damn. Sorry...

Watching someone lie and hope to get away with it is a fascinating experience. You know the answers to the test that he's currently trying to bullshit his way through, but you want to give off the impression that maybe you're buying it so you don't let him know that the jig is completely up. Which, of course, it most certainly is.

But then he does something downright creepy: he edges his way to my desk, sits down at my computer, and begins clicking keys and closing windows.

ME: DUDE. Are you fucking kidding me? Get off my computer!
MAN: Sorry. I was just surfing while I was waiting for my friend--
ME: DUDE. Do you have ID on you? Name? Anything?
MAN: Yea, of course. Wallet...Hmmm...can't find it. Shit...

He stands...

I know that at different times in this blog I've referred to myself as a fat, lazy fuck. But in truth...who am I kidding. That's exactly what I am. However, in the last year I've become a less fat, less lazy fuck. I've hired a trainer, mostly at the behest of my wife, who doesn't want me to die young and leave my child fatherless. My own motivation for working out is mostly to postpone my death at least until my wife is old enough that she can't remarry anyone that would sexually threaten me when I watch them fucking from Heaven.

For the last year I've only done one kind of exercise, three times a week: I'VE BOXED. And if my trainer is to be believed, and why wouldn't you believe a man who spent five years on British Gladiators and is nicknamed RHINO, I have a right hook like a SLEDGEHAMMER.

So as the tall man stands up from my computer, holding up his hands in a "no problem' kind of gesture, I'm thinking to myself: release the sledgehammer, Josh. Release the fucking sledgehammer. He doesn't know you're onto him, step in as if to shake his hand, pull him close and drop him like a rock...That's what any good hero of any decent show would do...release the fucking sledgehammer...

Here is also what is going on in my head: I'm gonna have to put my backpack down...but my iPad's in my backpack. What if he grabs that and swings it at me? What if he has a knife in those jeans of his, what if he guts me like a fish? For what? If I swing at him will my new iPhone fall out of my shorts pocket? It falls out all the time in the car, these shorts pockets are so shallow, I should've gotten the case for the phone, then it'd be less likely to fall out and break...if I had the case I probably would get better reception in my house and wouldn't have forwarded the call to the home phone...I never would've answered the phone last night...I wouldn't be here face to face with this guy...Bring the sledgehammer, Josh...

Here's what I said:

ME: Why don't we go outside and talk? I need to make a phone call.
MAN: Sure.

At this point I notice he's got a skateboard leaning against the wall. He casually grabs it as we head outside, down the stairs and down the long driveway to the street. I'm hoping someone else will be out there so maybe I can grab him and a mob will form and help me hold him down, but no one's there...He keeps repeating one phrase over and over as he edges to the street:

MAN: I don't want any trouble, I don't want any trouble...


His eyes go wide and he stumbles onto his skateboard, paddling for the street. I half-heartedly jog after him, trying vainly to take a picture of him with my iphone4, yelling nonsensical things like: "Come back here and I will fuck you up!"

He does not come back.

NETWORK NOTES: We don't like the detective very much here. He doesn't stop the bad guy, has no plan, and at the end sort of just puffs after him yelling like an idiot.
ME: It's real. It's what really happens when people are confronted with these types of things. Especially quirky amateurs.
NETWORK NOTES: Again, seems like a pussy.
ME: I get that. Maybe he'll just seem flawed but in an endearing way.
NETWORK NOTES: We also don't understand why he says the part about not paying the hooker. Why does he consider that to be relevant to all this?
ME: He's got a good heart. The hooker seemed so nice and he feels for her.
NETWORK NOTES: He's not gonna do something stupid in the next episode is he? Like call the hooker and meet her at a coffee shop and pay her the money she's owed.
ME: Ummmmm...No.

I return to my office and call the police. Two and a half hours later they arrive, turning my USA detective show into a hard-boiled network cop series. Two female uniforms, serious women, women who clearly do not want to be hearing from some jackass waving an envelope with the word HOOKER! written on the bottom.

I detail my story, knowing how impressed they're going to be by the number of clues I've already amassed...

COP: Sir. Before you continue...I want to say something to you.
ME: Of course, officer.
COP: I need you to understand that it is against the law to file a false police report sir. It is a crime.
ME: Are you kidding me?
COP: I am not.
ME: Are you suggesting I'm making this up? Why? To cover up for the fact that a hooker has called my home demanding money from me? Do you think I'm a whore-r? (sp?)
COP: It's a strange story, sir. Very strange. Doesn't add up. They seem to know a lot about you.
ME: They were in my office for four hours! I'm pretty sure they weren't having sex the whole time. God knows I couldn't.

NETWORK NOTES: We like this part. Conflict between our guy and the system. Of course they would suspect that. Maybe our guy did do it. Maybe it's all a scam. Like Usual Suspects. We love that movie. People wouldn't expect that.
ME: He didn't do it. There's security camera footage which shows the plucky hooker and the big tall John.
NETWORK NOTES: We need to see that. Security camera footage is always cool.

So there I was: scanning security camera footage with one cop while the other one took the phone number for the hooker and called her to confirm my story. There was definitely a moment of panic when I considered that the hooker was going to deny the whole thing and make me look foolish, but God bless her she SANG LIKE A CANARY!

I am not making that up. That is what the police officer said when she got off:

COP: My God. That woman SANG LIKE A CANARY."

(For those of you who've never hear that line in real life, trust me, it's even better than you imagine it would be.)

So between my new best hooker friend and the security tape footage, the police finally believe my story. (Another FYI: the security camera adds, like, fifteen pounds.)

So what do they do?

They do nothing. Wait. That's not true: they leave.

ME: But...I've got a glass here with his fingerprints on it! He left a shirt! It's wet! Full of DNA! There's a muddy footprint! Don't you want to take a cast?
COP: We're good, sir. Nothing's been taken. No property damage. We'll pass it along to the detectives but...I don't even know what we'd charge...
ME: Breaking and entering? Unlawful sex and non-remuneration of a prostitute?
COP: Sir.
ME: Well, are you going to send a forensic computer expert out to go through my computer? See what he was poking around in? See if he's stolen my identity for real?
COP: Nah. You can go on your computer. It's fine.
ME: Really.
COP: Really.

NETWORK NOTES: Well that just seems like lazy writing.
ME: But that's what happened.
NETWORK NOTES: It's not satisfying. The amateur sleuth's gotta go on the computer, use his own sleuthing skills, figure out the perp. You know. MacGyver it. We need more of that. More MacGyvering. Less being a pussy.

So that's what I did. For the rest of the day, another tv writer friend and I scoured the office and computer for clues, photographing footprints, analyzing the back window of the office for smudges...We discovered that the end of the paper towel roll I'd left over there had gotten caught in the window, obviously evidence that the window had been opened and shut (never by me). We found a print by the window, a smudge on the sill, we discerned the wet shirt was from the rain the Saturday before, also explaining the muddy footprint...We created a timeline of entry, cross-referencing with the time codes from the security footage...He'd come in off the adjacent roof, through the window...bringing the weather with him...

We went through my computer and discovered he'd gone through every one of my files only a half hour before I caught him in the office. This included deal memos, accounting emails, pictures of my family. You name it, he'd seen it. I canceled all of my credit cards, alerted the credit unions...

We went through my browser--he hadn't had time to erase his history--and found that he'd spent a good portion of the morning ordering ANOTHER HOOKER. We blew up stills of webpages, recovering a possible email account...I imagined how impressed the detectives would be with me when I provided them with all of these new leads...I was an amateur forensic genius profiling motherfucker...

We found out that my hooker with a heart of gold had spent some time the previous night doing what many of us do while waiting for a john to return from a smoke break: editing photos on facebook. A few clicks and we'd learned that everything she said was true: she was a single mother of two, attending college...Her photos were full of friends and family and happy memories, and I couldn't help but wonder about a world where this woman would do what she did and then retreat back into her world, if only through photos...

NETWORK NOTES: Too much. The whole photo thing while waiting for the john. Ick. Maudlin. It makes me feel sorry for her and now I'm getting a little creeped out by the detective. This is not blue sky. This is the opposite of blue sky.
ME: I was thinking of a Coldplay song over a montage.
NETWORK NOTES: Oh we love Coldplay. That'd be really powerful.
ME: So that's how it'll end: The amateur detective mooning over the hooker with the Coldplay song in the background, pushing his way forward all alone, the system ignoring him, looking for a break that may never come.
NETWORK NOTES: But not dark or serialized or anything like that, right?
ME: It'll be case of the week. Like The Mentalist.
NETWORK NOTES: We love Simon Baker.
ME: Who doesn't.
NETWORK NOTES: Does it have a title?
ME: Yep.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009




After years of sharing The San Diego Convention Center venue with Comic-Con, organizers of the JoshFriedmanCon Corp. have decided to finally take the ridiculously lucrative Convention devoted to all things Josh Friedman out on its own.

"There's a number of reasons we've decided to end our partnership with Comic-Con," says JFCC co-founder Josh Friedman. "It's become clear recently that Comic-Con's interests and Friedman-Con's interests were beginning to diverge. Comic-Con has gradually changed from its early roots as a colorful sanctuary for the comic book industry and its fans to something more akin to a corporate trade show focusing on broader marketing objectives in all corners of entertainment culture. JoshFriedmanCon, on the other hand, has been and will always be singularly devoted to Josh Friedman. And that's what our fans want."

Last year 120,000 people visited the combined Comic-Con/JoshFriedman-Con. The organizers of JFCC detailed a number of things that caused them concern regarding the quality of their fans' Con-Experience. Friedman cited some alarming statistics:

"Of the 120,000 visitors to Comic/Friedman-Con, 97% of them self-identified as 'Josh Friedman Fans' or 'Friedman Fans' or 'JF Fans' while only 8% considered themselves 'Fans of Movies or TV or Comics which did not in some way involve Josh Friedman.' 63% of THOSE visitors self-identified as 'West L.A. douchebag d-boys trying to fuck a Bud Light Bakugan Girl on his expense account.' After analyzing these numbers we came to a series of conclusions: first of all, there's a lot of douchebags in Los Angeles. Many of them do not like Josh Friedman. Frankly, we don't know why. We've always gotten along really well with douchebags and in fact, have partnered with them a number of times on film and tv projects. Second of all, and we think Mr. Comic-Con would agree with us, at some point you've gotta take the training wheels off. You can only lean on someone else's fan base for so long. Whether Comic-Con can survive without us remains to be seen. If it does, certainly we'll welcome them as a healthy and vibrant part of the Con Family. If they don't, well, I'm sure we all remember what happened to Pheasant-Con and Foam Hand-Con."

Said a spokesman for the Convention Center: "This came as quite a surprise and disappointment for us. We've counted on Friedman-Con to bring in the majority of the attendees, I think everybody knows that. But what people don't realize is the amount of food and drink consumed by the average Friedman-Con goer is approximately three times the amount consumed by the average Comic-Con visitor. I remember last year six fans dressed as College-Aged Friedman shut down an entire Pizza Hut concession. And I'm pretty sure two of them were girls."

Last year Friedman-Con had experienced some backlash from hardcore fans who felt that the "F-Con" had "sold out" by aligning itself so closely with Friedman's sci-fi show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Especially angry had been some of Friedman's online backers.

From FriedmanOnlineDailyChatVerse commenter FatFurryBastard:

"FWIW if JF continues to waste his/our time creating television shows and writing sh*t m*vies then I will consider the promise br*ken. U can troll-slap me and so be it but no one has been a bigger JF supporter than I have been--fan since Schwayder Camp '77-- and even stuck with him through late 30s cancer (YAWN). This year's main Friedman panel sucked. Waited three hours to sit in back of 6A and what did I get? Five questions for JF, none of which discuss '08 decision to grow out hair, three of which cover high school (HASN'T THIS BEEN COVERED FULLY IN GRAPHIC NOVEL PART 3?) and TWO f'ing question about SUMMER GLAU! SUMMER F'ING GLAU? Are any of us sitting there dressed like Summer Glau? Chr***. I can't wait for that p**** of ****** to be cancelled so those other mot***fuckers can get off his stage. But YMMV."

When the show's ratings dropped precipitously in the second season, Friedman's supporters staged fan rallies in front of WB and Fox, carrying placards which read "The Show Must Go Off" and hanging Summer Glau in effigy. A "FREE JOSH FRIEDMAN" campaign was organized as fans mailed in thousands of half-eaten Twinkies and empty bottles of Don Julio tequila to Fox President Kevin Reilly.

In May, Friedman's fans got their wish when Fox Broadcasting Co. declined to renew Sarah Connor for a third season. Said Friedman at the time: "The fans' passion for cancellation spoke volumes to WB and Fox. I know that I was extremely moved by it and did everything I could to convince Kevin and Peter that this donkey had no balls."

The blogosphere concurred. Typical was this response:

IDoLoveaJew1967: "About frakkin' time. Just about everyone on Television Without Josh had pretty much given up on JF. I thought he'd pulled a Whedon or a Moore on us but I think we all owe him an apology. He got that show cancelled right quick and now JF CAN GO BACK TO DOING WHAT HE DOES BEST: BEING J FUCKING F!"

According to Friedman: "I knew the cancellation was gonna be a big boost to JoshFriedmanCon. Everybody's always loved me most as a cocky, fat, unemployed lazy hefty bag full of neuroses teetering inches from self-immolation. That's sort of my thing."

Organizers also were excited about FriedCon's new locale, the bulk snack food aisle in the 3rd st. Smart and Final. An all-access JF-Con pass allows a fan the opportunity to purchase bulk treats from BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE, including both the savory and the sweet.

Friedman: "I know many of my fans were frustrated both by the vastness of the San Diego Convention Center as well as its strange smell of printer's ink, vinyl and animal sex. I've toured the new set-up at the Smart and Final and want to assure everybody that the more intimate atmosphere will be nothing short of ELECTRIC and the smell is a wonderful mixture of spanish peanut, pink and white animal cookies and lox by the box."



As is traditional for the opening day of Friedman-Con, all of the panels revolve around something humiliating that happened to Josh while he was naked. Among the highlights:

Panelists will include Darlene and Alan Friedman (Josh's parents) Aunt Terri (Darlene's sister ten years her junior and a frequent babysitter) and a guy named Matt. A.V. Presentation included.

Panelists include Todd Grant from second grade, John Karp of the Jewish Summer Camp Karps, and that guy Matt's dad, Murray.

How Josh had an asthma attack while losing his virginity. Panelists include Josh Friedman and A Girl Named Christa who now goes by her married name. We suggest you arrive early as the aisle will be at full capacity.


The traditional Friedman-Con celebration of Josh's self-destructive eating habits. Highlights include:

SOCIETY FOR CREATIVE ANACHRONISM PRESENTS TACO NIGHT! Fastidiously researched and recreated, the SCA will re-enact the Friedman family tradition of turning home-cooked taco night into bloodsport. Don't miss watching Josh's "Dad" elbow Josh's "brother" out of the way to get to the hamburger meat while "Josh" protects his fragile psyche by power-guzzling three large burritos. Mary McDonnell guests as Josh's mother whimpering in the corner.

A highlight of every Friedman-Con has been the Friday night costume party. Participants are encouraged to come dressed as different high and low points in Josh's fifteen year, eighty-pound roller coaster cycle battle with weight and self-loathing. Awards will be given to those who most creatively express this year's theme: "I Don't Need a Trainer, I Can Do it by Myself".

There will also be a breakfast pizza eating contest.


An eclectic series of panels relating to the work of Josh Friedman. Including:

Panelists include Josh's 7th grade English teacher, his tenth grade football coach, his High school JV basketball coach, that girl Christa who goes by her married name, and Josh's Dad.

Panelists include Josh Friedman, Josh's therapist Esther, Bryan Fuller and Bryan Fuller's therapist Kristin Chenowith.

The highlight of Saturday's panels is a barn burner: Josh Friedman sits down for a funny and insightful one-on-one conversation with his Blog. One-time intimates but now barely on speaking terms, Josh and his Blog reunite for what promises to be a crackling hour of accusations, back-pedaling, furious rationalization and insane resentment. Topics to be covered include: Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane, David Koepp, The Literary Criticism of Anonymous, Whose Cancer is it Anyway, and exploring the answer to the age old question: YOU SUCK.


As usual the highlight of the final day will be THE ANNUAL MUSICAL. This year we will be dramatizing the idea that under certain sonic conditions, like if it's really loud or windy, the names "Josh Friedman" and "Joss Whedon" sound almost exactly alike.

All parts sung by Kristin Chenowith and Josh's Dad.

And despite the fact that ticket prices have tripled due to what Friedman calls "the economic climate," the Man Himself wants to reassure the fans that it'll all be worth it.

Says Friedman: "It'll be our best Con yet!"


Thursday, June 04, 2009


So where was I?

Oh. Right.

I had this little scary robot show and for whatever reason couldn't convince enough people that it was a) scary enough b) robot enough or c) in English. Add that dim sum combo of factors to a red bean paste of non-monetizable early adopters dvring the show like motherfuckers and now I'm unemployed.

Everyone says having your show cancelled is like a death but I've been dead before and at least when you're dead you don't get thrown off the Warner Bros. lot for haunting your old parking space. They probably mean it's like the death of a friend or a family member but that shit only hurts when it's YOUR friend or family member and even then it's mitigated by age, lifestyle and whether that person was a Hollywood friend or a real one and whether that family member left you money.

Losing your show is more like a surprise divorce where you get served papers in the morning and your (ex)wife is fucking Human Target by three in the afternoon using the same time slot your child was conceived in and also where she did that one thing that one time on your birthday.

People say the bright side to losing your show is gaining time to spend with your family but I'm pretty sure that waking up next to your ex-showrunner spouse whom you haven't seen for two and a half years is pretty close to waking up next to that special someone you met the night before at Carlos n' Charlie's in Cancun on Spring Break.

WIFE: Oh...It's you.
WIFE: You look...different than I remember.
EX-SHOWRUNNER: I've gone a little grey.
WIFE: Or a little fat.
EX-SHOWRUNNER: Pretty sure it's grey.
WIFE: Pretty sure...fat. Was I...drunk?
WIFE: I don't know. The whole time?

You should own your self-inflicted wounds if for no other reason than a) they are yours and b) you inflicted them, you dumb motherfucker, but I do want to say in my own defense that it takes a special kind of someone to work seventy hours a week where it is HALLOWEEN 24FUCKING7 and not pack on a few--

WIFE: Dozen.

A dozen--

WIFE: A few dozen.

a few dozen pounds fine I get it. A few dozen pounds consisting mainly of but not limited to: Chocolate Pop Tarts, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, double-decker PB&Js, pink and white animal cookies, duck sandwiches, maricopa almonds, stinky cheese, french bread, deer in a thai curry peppercorn sauce, trail mix with the peanuts picked out, breakfast sausage, pistachios, Diet Coke, large Jamba Juices, those little Butterfingers, lox when we had Zvi the Israeli P.A., and sushi.

And I'm willing to own that. Especially the sushi part.

One of the hardest parts of having your show cancelled is the part BEFORE it's cancelled, when it's "on the bubble". The absolute hardest part of that, besides the phrase "on the bubble," is everyone gets it in their head that you actually know what's happening with your show and you're just not telling them. No one believes the show's fate is in the air, they believe the fate's been decided, you know the fate, but you're just not sharing it with anybody. Now understand this: at any one time on a show there are over TWO HUNDRED people working on a show. OVER TWO HUNDRED FAMILIES DERIVING THEIR INCOME FROM YOUR LITTLE CREATIVE ENDEAVOR.

What kind of fucking asshole would I be if I knew they were all going to be out of work in a month but just didn't feel it was politically expedient to tell them?

CONSCIENCE: Hey. Buddy. That grip's wife is having a baby in two months. He's thinking of leaving to work on a feature.

ASSHOLE ME: We're cancelled in two weeks.

CONSCIENCE: We gotta tell him.

ASSHOLE ME: Nah. People leaving. Bad for morale. Not politically expedient.

Who but a heartless cocksucker would stop someone from getting other work knowing they had no future at their current job? (Other than William Morris and Endeavor, that is.)

But I progress.

I guess there were signs that the show was in trouble (other than the 1.3 rating and the four share). First there was the day I was in my office and looked up to see Chuck Lorre and a Warner Bros. facilities manager standing in my doorway pointing to various features and using their hands to take "air measurements." (Chuck tried to play it off like waving to me God Bless him, but I know an air measurement when I see it.)

I know what you're all thinking: Chuck Lorre needs office space? What the fuck for? Doesn't he already have office space spread out all over half the fucking studio? Isn't it enough that Charlie Sheen's trailer is the size of Waylon Jennings' tour bus and it blocks the best way to ride a golf cart from a certain scary robot writer's office to a particular scary robot sound stage? There's only 2 and half men for fuck's sake, and one of them's like, six years old or something.

You think MR. CHUCK FUCKING LORRE that just because you've pimped my show on Big Bang that you can stand out in my hallway with a basket waiting for the guillotine to fall and my head to roll right to you? Do you think you can do that? Air measurer?

Damn right you can. You're Chuck fucking Lorre and you own my ass.

But Chuck didn't take my office--I believe he said something about my private bathroom having a non-platinum sink--and what I thought was good news soon became anything but. Because while you may be a bubble show to your family and your fans, as far as the studio goes the minute your show wraps you are a deadbeat renter who's already forfeited his cleaning deposit.

It was Open Season on the Sarah Connor Suite as My Room of Ones Own soon became the Potential Room of Any Jackass Pilot Producer who Thought His Show was getting Picked Up. And believe me, there's a lot of those assholes. Poking their heads in, hopped up on good test scores in the key demos, power-drunk and showing off their spanking new laminated Warner Bros. ID card hanging off a lanyard like a slutty USC freshman and her Spring Weekend mug.

And yet. No one took it.

I was starting to feel like Grandma's hand-knit afghan at the garage sale that starts out a keepsake you couldn't part with but ends up as the substitute for styrofoam peanuts when you need to wrap up the six matching sunflower pattern kitchen glasses your mother gave you when you left for college.

Eventually I cracked and started taking the whole thing personally. I'd hear them coming and start screaming "Vultures! Vultures! Come in vultures!" It was that John Irving novel with the orphans and the older ones just know they're fucked and they start rejecting the parents before they can be rejected--

(It's here that I just want to note that I haven't read "that John Irving novel" but I'm pretty sure I saw a movie based on "a John Irving novel" and I feel like that scene was in the movie and should've been if it wasn't.)

--I really did this. Forget the John Irving thing. I really did yell this at people. No one thought it was funny. Well. I did.

I also considered renting the office back from Warner Bros., myself. It was a romantic gesture, or a lazy one, as I had a huge stuffed cow and a Lego Tower of Babel that I couldn't fit into the back of my Chrysler. As it turns out, the studio will rent you back their offices, but at THE SAME RATE THE PRODUCTION PAYS, which, while I can't remember the exact amount, worked out to something around $450,000 a month. But that did include the private bathroom with the non-platinum sink.

Eventually the day came when I was evicted from the room I'd written thirty episodes of my very first television show. I packed a very large SUV with a very large amount of computer equipment, scripts, DVDs, Sarah Connor memorabilia, something that may or may not have been many half-empty tequila bottles, some office supplies I don't want to talk about, and possibly some gum and trail mix. Despite the show NOT yet being cancelled, I was the last person to leave the empty building and would've turned the lights out if I was paying for the electricity.

I drove up to the security gate and prepared to be waved through, knowing there was a good chance this was the last time I'd be on this lot in my capacity as Executive Producer of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It was after 8:00 and that meant I was guaranteed a "trunk check," a phenomenal Hellerian ritual by which the guards checked your trunk and NO MATTER WHAT WAS IN THERE let you leave the lot. I had never known ANYONE to EVER explain themselves regarding the contents of their trunk during the trunk check ritual. I think this has even happened:

GUARD: Trunk please.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Sure, Frank. How's the kids?
GUARD/FRANK: Good. Good. (Checks trunk) Is that Bugs Bunny in there?
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Yeah. I roofied him.
GUARD/FRANK: Sure. Yeah. Looks that way.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: I'll probably bring him back tomorrow.
GUARD/FRANK: All righty. Make sure to call him a drive on, though. Otherwise we can't let him on.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Of course. I'm no rookie, Frank.

So on my final official day on the lot I pull to the guard shack with my SUV full of EVERYTHING.

GUARD: Hey. How're you tonight?
ME: Last night, Frank. Last night on the lot.
GUARD: Looks that way. That your whole office in there?
ME: Pretty much.

As I start to pull away--

GUARD: You got your property sheet?
ME: Excuse me?
GUARD: Your property sheet. Like an inventory sheet. With all of this inventoried and signed off on by the production.
ME: What?
GUARD: I'm gonna have to ask you to turn around and return to the lot, go to your production offices, and get an executive to inventory all of this, certify it as yours, and then sign the sheet. Then you can leave.
ME: Frank. Let me explain something. There is nobody else. I'm it.
GUARD: Well someone is going to have to list, certify, and sign.
ME: Someone? Like who someone?
GUARD: Someone. A producer. Someone.

And then it hit me.

ME: Frank! I'm that someone! It's my show! I am the someone that I'm looking for!
GUARD: Wait. Who are you?
ME: I'm Josh Friedman, Frank! And until I drive past this guard shack I am the Executive Producer of this tv show! I am the someone! Can't I give myself permission to leave?

At which point Frank went to the guard shack. A line of cars had formed behind me, wondering what kind of fuck up was holding up the line at nine o' clock at night. Frank returned with a form, in triplicate.

GUARD: List the items. Certify they're yours. Sign off.
ME: I am, in essence, authorizing myself to leave and thus no longer be the Executive Producer.
GUARD: As far as we're concerned, yes.
ME: Works for me.

And so I did. And so I had. And so I wasn't.

As I drove off I rummaged through the questionable office supplies for a piece of gum. Stuck it in my mouth, accelerating onto Barham Blvd. into the night. I blew a bubble.

It would be another month before it popped.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Hollywood Idol

So I'm trying something radical this week and in lieu of vanity-Googling four hours a day I've cut it back to damn near three and am using the savings to read a book. It's Marc Norman's "What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting." I know that's not much of a stretch but even in the best of times I'm a pretty self-absorbed motherfucker so you can only guess what I'm like when I've got nothing else to do but contemplate my own navel.

The book's well-written, well-researched, and just about all the other wells you could want out of something like this. It starts back in the silent era and paints a pretty good picture of the screenwriter through time. And by pretty good I mean colorful and informative but not always complimentary. To wit:

"...writers (in the 1930s) lived in a caste system of their own construct, along financial lines. At commissaries at lunchtime the $2,000-a-week writers like the Parker-Campbells sat with others at the same salary, the $500-a-weeks with their own, the junior writers--$50 a week, if they were lucky--off in a corner. These distinctions transferred to their social lives; a screenwriter approaching a house one night with a writer friend said he could not enter it and the party inside, they would not want him there, he was not making enough."

Reading this I flashed back ten years ago to a screenwriter dinner I was invited to where I was absolutely the youngest and least accomplished of the fifty screenwriters present. Everyone was nice to me but every conversation was some version of:

ME: Hi, I'm Josh Friedman (But that means nothing to you, does it?)
OTHER GUY: I'm ACADEMY AWARD WINNER (But you already knew that didn't you?)
ME: Great to meet you! (Of course I did.)
OTHER GUY: Likewise! (I've already forgotten your name. Oh Thank God there's Bass.) Excuse me, would you?

And I was left for the seventh time that evening holding a glass of white wine, a paper plate of pasta salad, and my rapidly shrinking dick.

Still, those monthly gatherings were always a thrill for me. People were generally polite and I would mostly shut up, get drunk, and fantasize about one day having a house big enough to host a gathering. Or at least a movie credit better than Shared Story on the Keanu Reeves Extravaganza Chain Reaction. At the time I thought it was going to be The Black Dahlia Directed by David Fincher. Huh.

Those were the glory days when we knew we'd been fucked on the DVD deal but no one really knew HOW fucked and if you were a tv writer you probably didn't think you'd been fucked at all. Those were the glory days when I was being paid less for a feature script than I currently am for a television pilot and yet felt wealthier than I could've ever imagined. In those days I knew a little of what I know a lot of now--it's not about making money, it's about making movies.

Because any jackass can get rich writing scripts; most of them won't, but any of them can. And a few of them do. Bad comedies and Bruckheimer action movies have kept any number of my friends in the business for quite a while and had I been a little looser with my special writing place I think Joel Silver would've bought me a beach house by now.

This is neither to suggest nor deny that writers are rich: a few are but almost all are not. I would never insult anyone and deny I've made more than most everybody else in the American work force, but for every writer I know that lives high on the hog I know twenty who buy their bacon at Costco.

Says Dorothy Parker in the Norman book: "I want nothing from Hollywood but money and anyone who tells you that he came here for anything else or tries to make beautiful words out of it lies in the teeth."

So let me lie in my teeth. While there is much pride in supporting my family there is little pride attached to the amassing of wealth. It was never wealth that I envied when I met my writing idols; it was those credits attached to their invisible name tag: Nice to meet you, CallieKhouriThelmaandLouise. How you doing ChrisMcQuarrieUsualSuspects? More wine SteveZaillianSearchingforBobbyFischerSchindler'sList? Lemme just get out of your way RobertTowneSeriouslyDon'tGetMeFuckingStarted.

There is no greater compliment a writer can pay another write than: "Damn. I wish I'd written that."

So I am at my core a star fucker and I only hope I've got my stars aligned correctly. I practically drooled on Ron Moore's shoes when I met him and it will probably not surprise you to know that impressing Matt Weiner has taken on a higher priority these days than making my father proud. (Probably easier, BTW.) Props from your peers are the crack hits on David Simon's Writer's Corner and I'm no better than Bubs when it comes to that.

And of course it's much more desirable to become friends with successful people than it is to have friends who suddenly BECOME successful.

God knows that sucks.

Because spreading out in front of Writer's Corner is Schadenfreude Circle, a bloody, bullet-strewn part of the city where lawless envy takes headshots at every homejew who dares try to pull himself up by his Final Draft bootstraps, jump straight to the A-list and get the fuck out of the Guild Minimum Ghetto.

Your friends in your writing group, people from your film school class, that ex-partner you wrote that one comedy with when you were just "experimenting" at USC Film School...They will try to drag you back down faster than Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips flipped on Mike Vick.

As you would them.

Because you can rise up my friend, just do not for a second think that it's cool to rise up above ME.

Hollywood is a fetish store for lists and labels and screenwriters are nothing if not for sale. Autistics obsess less than a D-girl does over a writer list for her empty assignment. There are good lists (A) and bad lists (black) and you don't have to be Dalton Trumbo to fall from the former and end up on some version of the latter. The lists are fluid like mercury and that shit flows up down and sideways without signalling first.

We've all been away from the game for three months now and you'd think the strike would be a chance to shirk the labels and the lists we've been yoked to and forge a more perfect writer union. No one should give a shit whose credit is what when you're all standing in the rain at Paramount and it's still dark. (Not my shift, by the way. John August's.)

And to some extent I think this is true, I've seen a mix-and-match on the strike lines which one could easily read as encouraging and I've heard a lot of sweet anecdotes about younger (read: less successful) writers picking the brains of more established (read: those who live in Malibu) writers.

And it warms my grinchy motherfucking heart.

And then my heart is flash frozen when I return home to this:



Or any version of a rumor involving A-List writers, influential members, powerful showrunners, fi-core, petitions, trade ads, chain e-mails, back-channel grumbling, etc.

And I'm a big believer in rumors because I know many of them are true and for a second I get all crazy poppins and then I remember something:

Who the fuck cares?

Why do I care what a bunch of "A-listers" think? Not that their opinion is any less valid, but why should it be more? Of course fifty rich successful writers are pissed. So are fifty poor ones, and probably a group of semi-successful fifty, and also a few subsets of any Ven diagram you want to find for me. We're not ten thousand clones...dissent is to be expected...democracy's a messy business...blah blah blah and fuck kumbayah...

But we cannot ascribe to someone a worthier opinion just because his credits are impressive. Some dude writes a couple movies that made the studios a billion dollars? Good for him. He should be commended and given a chance to do that again. Doesn't mean he knows jack shit about internet streaming just because he's got studio presidents on his speed dial. Big showrunner's got a hit show on a major network? Give him another show. Doesn't make him the go to guy on ESTs just because he hires and fires other writers.

But there are those who will argue thusly: "Those of us who actually WORK in this business should have a weighted voice here. We have the most to lose, we employ the most people, we've lost more than we'll ever make back with those fucking residuals anyway so we've made more sacrifice..."


Because when you have a strike for the middle class it's that upper class that feels left out. And they're not used to being left out. Or remembering what it was like not be who they are now--preferring to believe they were dropped fully-formed into their current position like a perfect angel made man.

Which is why its usually good to wait until you're dead to meet your gods.

Our negotiating committee is packed with A-listers and there seems to be two reasons why this happened. First, the belief (probably incorrect) that the AMPTP would be less likely to stare down our captains of industry and screw with writers they actually KNOW, and secondly (probably true), that we would feel more confident knowing that we have an all-star team working for us and not some WGA Committee lifer who may know every issue backwards and forwards but doesn't have a career we envy.

The first idea was a nice try if a little pollyanna, the second a little more cynical and thus probably more effective.

Of course, by now even the most dilettantish of the negcomm members is functioning at a higher level than all but the most wonky of us, so they've graduated from celebrity chess set to actual role playing characters with their own AI.

A few weeks ago Paul Haggis wrote an essay ostensibly debunking the "thirty A-list screenwriter cabal" theory which I found more hopeful than accurate. I know there are groups of prominent writers who are pissed about the strike. Have been since before we struck. Again, I'm not at all surprised by it and couldn't care less if there are. Like gathers like and as Britney would say about the voices in her head: it's a rainbow coalition, y'all.

At one point in his essay Haggis lists a number of writers as examples of A-list--amongst them the oh so fresh to the scene Diablo Cody, writer of Juno (this was before her Oscar nomination). I was listening as a few writers discussed the Haggis essay--mainly disagreeing with him--and a few focusing in on the inclusion of first-timer Diablo on the A-list as reason enough to discount everything Haggis said. She hadn't put in her time, her movie was overrated, she's got a fake name...could this fresh-faced little cherub from the Heartland fleshfarms truly be considered A-list after one screenplay?

Exactly the fuck yes.

Because whatever else the A-list is, it's written with disappearing ink. And all that matters at any given moment is: when they make today's list (and remember, THEY make the list, we DO NOT)...are you on it? It is nothing more than a snapshot--today's Dow Jones number--reflecting THEIR want of YOU.

Like Heidi Klum says: one week you're in, the next week you are out so verflucht schnell it'll make your pencil skirt spin.

So Diablo, (Babbling Brooke as I like to call her) is in. I may not like the way she's used the strike time as her own personal publicity pole dance (I guess old habits die hard), I won't fill out a WGA ballot for her because of it, but she's paid the one script minimum and no amount of hating the playa is gonna keep her out of the player's club.

Which is all it takes, people. One script. One feature. One pilot. One credit. No one in or out of this Guild is more than 120 pages away from the A-list.

If rumors are true (and aren't they always), we may soon have a contract to vote on. When that happens there will most likely be a) people who will absolutely approve it b) people who will absolutely NOT approve it and c) people who don't know what to think about it.

And category C is what will drive categories A and B to apoplexy. I've got ten writers in my writers' room and there are those that will stab their staff brethren in the HEART if Tuesday is healthy wrap day and not Thai food day. That's writers and God bless us every wild-eyed one.

There will be lists, petitions, appeals, threats. And I don't think I have to tell you who will be on those lists, my friends.

Your gods. Your idols.

The celebrity writer culture descending from Mt. Olympus (or a couple miles further up Laurel Canyon) to convert the unwashed masses while basking in each other's reflected glow.

Ignore them. Or better yet, get your ass into the temple and smash them into clay shards.

And if I'm lucky enough to get onto one of those lists, ignore my ass, too.

Monday, December 03, 2007


For those of you who wake up every day and think to yourself "My God my life isn't complete because I haven't been able to walk the picket lines with scribe-o-bloggers Craig Mazin, John August, Jane Espenson and Josh Friedman" here's your chance.

The four of us will be hitting the bricks together at Warner Bros. Gate 2/3 on the 8am-11am shift Wednesday.

I'll be the one wearing sweatpants.

Friday, November 30, 2007


So my wife is on her third round of antibiotics and her first batch of steroids for what the doctors believe is a sinus infection migrated south to retire permanently in her lungs as bronchitis. My son has awakened us every night for the past two weeks complaining of a recurring nightmare involving a bad man with a tail who lives in a lamp. I have a rash that I don't want to talk about, and my dog has had a recurrence of something that requires its own special canine dermatologist.

So something's up.

Because besides the bee death cult and the devil dreams and the wife's death rattle chest, there's also now the flood.

In my previous post I believe I mentioned the possibilities for floods?

Sometime last week, possibly on Thanksgiving but who really cares, a very small pinhole leak developed in a hot water pipe in my attic. An attic, that, due to a condition I possess which I can only define as "ladder-impairedness," is hardly a place that I frequent. It's dark up there, lots of air-conditioning ducting, a creaky wood beam floor, and most likely very large furry jumping spiders from Brazil.

This leak, tiny as tiny can be, sprayed hot water continually for days and days, drenching the creaky wood floor of my attic until such wood could no longer contain all of the water and passed it along to various portions of my house. The ceiling of my office. The wall behind a built-in bookcase. A large wall along a staircase. The ceiling in my kitchen. And the wall of my basement.

It was a very ambitious little leak, an uptight little overachieving leak, the kind of leak you want to beat the shit out of in high school. One that did its dirty work under the cover of darkness until paint started bubbling off my walls and small, amber colored drops of water started landing in my King Vitamin cereal at breakfast.

So for two days now my house has been the L.A. equivalent of the Amish barn-raising scene in Witness except you take out Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis and replace them with my handyman George and four other dudes who, every time you walk by them, smile and shake their heads and say: "Mucho trabajo." Which I understand now is Spanish for "Isn't this black mold?"

It's enough to make a man pine for the Hochleitners.

Plastic hangs over my doorways like a Dexter death room and rolls of butcher paper have been spread all over my floors with such enthusiasm that I am beginning to feel like a pork loin. One wall was dried out and plastered over and six hours later that wall had turned an ugly shade of brown--suggesting that it was not actually dried out in the first place or I am living in Fucking Amityville.

In my previous post I rolled these bones and saw signs of the labor apocalypse. And given the AMPTP's recent "New Economic Partnership" proposal it's certainly possible that the latest pox on my house is simply an anaphylactic shock brought on by the Big Media Beast as it slouches towards the Ivy to eat crab cakes and Rickey's Fried Chicken.


As devoted father and loving husband it is my DUTY to explore alternate explanations for whatever dark materials have found their way to my family and my hearth.


If we are to eliminate:
a) nature and all naturally occurring sources
b) the Old testament and related religious explanations
c) coincidence
d) the possibility that I am a delusional paranoid hypochondriac who is so fucked up that his family, pets, and house suffer from Munchausen's by Proxy--

We are left with only one option:

Joss Whedon is very upset with me for casting Summer Glau and has somehow invoked a powerful curse and relocated the Buffy Hellmouth underneath my home.

I saw how the Hellmouth operated for many years, I know its signs and symbols. And while there may not be any vampires yet to slay, I swear to God I saw Alyson Hannigan tongue-kissing a werebear in my laundry room when I was washing my strike shirt.

What kills me is I saw Joss two weeks ago at the Showrunner March. We talked about Summer. I didn't sense anything weird. Looking back I do remember seeing Shawn Ryan and the dude from the 4400 both give packages to Joss that at the time I assumed were Mrs. Beasley's muffin baskets but now I clearly believe were animal sacrifices.

(At another point during the march I saw Joss and Ron Moore huddled together but when I tried to eavesdrop on what they were saying I got this hot burning sensation in my ears and I may have blacked out and peed for a second.)

So because I think there is no other choice and also because I'm on strike with a lot of time on my hands I decide to make a donation to the Church of Joss.

I buy the Firefly boxed set (24 cents to Joss); I watched Serenity on cable (maybe .5 cents to Joss), I already own and have watched the entire Buffy series on DVD (75 cents to Joss). I have spent DAYS OF MY LIFE devoted to the works of Joss Whedon and I'm pretty sure I haven't even sent A WHOLE DOLLAR OF RESIDUALS in his direction.

Which is obviously not enough of a sacrifice to break the curse.

So I'll offer up one of the most humiliating moments for me as a professional writer:

Some years ago I am invited to a dinner party for screenwriters. There's about fifty of us there--including most of the A list people I had always wanted to call my peers. At the time the only credit I had was a shared story on Chain Reaction but I knew a couple of the people throwing the dinner and so I was invited. Terrified, but invited. At some point I am introduced to a writer/director whose work I had admired for years. He was a little older, kind of a legend. Here's how the conversation went:

ME: God, I can't tell you how great it is to meet you. I love your work. Especially (BIG MOVIE).
LEGEND: No. the pleasure is mine. I'm such a huge fan of your writing.
ME: Really?
LEGEND: Of course. It's fantastic. My kids absolutely love Buffy. Just love it.
ME: Uhmmm....
LEGEND: They're gonna be so impressed I met you. They're always going on about you...
ME: Uh, Mr. Legend? As much as I want to be Joss Whedon right now...I'm not. I'm Josh Friedman.
LEGEND: Josh Friedman?
ME: Josh Friedman.
LEGEND: Hm. Oh. Well, I'm sure you're a good writer, too.

And then he walked away.

So please, Joss. Do my family a favor. Take Back the Hellmouth. I know it's fucking huge and you might not have room for it at your place. Maybe you could donate it.

Maybe we could include it in the New Economic Partnership.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Three years ago my wife and I pulled into our driveway and just as we were about to get out of the car my wife grabbed my arm and pointed. Hovering over our car some thirty feet in the air was an angry black cloud of bees, probably fifty thousand of them. We could hear them from inside the car, and it wasn't a buzzing but a deep thrumming, a low electric sound, like a power line.

I've seen that bad movie so like the pansy I am I backed my car the fuck up and drove it around to the other side of the house where my wife and I could sprint into the house squealing like the terrified children we were/are.

Three phone calls later and a man shows up, dressed in a bright yellow hazmat suit carrying some sort of vacuum cleaner type deal. He proceeds to fill a very large bag with bees, focusing on getting the queen and removing her from the premises. My wife is extremely PETA proud but at that moment if the bee guy had told her he was going to take out the queen with whatever cruel and unusual method bees hate the most, she probably would've tipped him an extra twenty bucks to do it quicker.

The vacuum cleaner did the trick, however, and afterwards we knocked open a wall in our porch and pulled out an enormous beehive which had been built inside. Free of the terrifying bees, there was an air of sadness to the whole affair, and the various pieces of broken hive reminded me that in this story I am Legend, the Omega Man who hunts and kills mercilessly and yet considers himself not monster but persecuted victim.

But I'm sensitive like that.

So we've been bee-free for years and whether or not that's a good or bad thing for the ecology of my own little biosphere I can only say what is what.

But recently I have this:

Every morning for the last few months I walk out onto my driveway and find it covered in dead bees. Not a few, or a dozen, but hundreds of them, curled up on the concrete directly under my porch light. I know they're attracted to the light at night, I see them buzzing around there when I take the dog out. But some time between then and morning something wicked this way comes and I have no idea what it is.

Of course there's a rational explanation for this, and I've heard the cell phone theory and a few others, but finding hundreds of dead bees on your doorstep every day tends to get a body feeling apocalyptic. I fear a bee death cult, and a very determined bee Marshall Applewhite leading thousands of others to their demise wearing the tiniest of black bee Nikes.

Why the bee death cult has picked my house is currently unclear but surely my fault. More than likely (and certainly more than once) I have not thanked the correct authority, or bent my knee to the proper idol. I cut sugar out of my diet two months ago and lost some weight, but in the last week or two certain stressors have caused me to revisit an old friend (breakfast pastries) and make a few new ones (waffles and beer). I'm sure there is a curse attending those actions, but I've been fat before and it never brought a rain of dead insects down upon my land.

If I didn't make it clear before I've always been afraid of bees; it's not just the stinging but the hive mind that freaks me out. Is it that they actually think the same thing at the same time, or is it that they communicate with the queen so quickly it's as if they're of one consciousness? Either way and with apologies to Alice Krige it scares the fuck out of me.

So it's even weirder when I consider the thousands of bees who have made their way to my home recently in order to buzz around my light one last time and die. Surely if there's something specifically deadly about my house, something murderous to bees and all bee brethren, surely if that's the case at least one or two of them could get word out to the others to stay the hell away from me. I'm sure what happened three years ago is legend in the bee community--if my bees were relocated as promised then it's certainly part of the larger Bee Diaspora; and if the guy in the hazmat suit was full of shit and he killed my fifty thousand bees then surely their names are written on some wall somewhere so the other bees will Never Forget. In any event, if the bees are harnessing the horsepower of the hive mind like I think they do, then it is inexplicable why they would ever venture near my property lines.

Still, they do. And they pay for it. Every night. So maybe something takes them by surprise and they don't have a chance, or even lures them in with some carnival barker's promise of a resurrected Queen. It's Los Angeles, after all. Shit like that happens all the time.

Our city is nothing if not dramatic. She will not be ignored or left off the front page. We have earthquake weather and droughts and storms of fire. These recent days I look through the haze to the Hollywood sign and all I see is the Statue of Liberty from Planet of the Apes and wonder if we're already living in the Forbidden Zone but nobody's told us.

Instead of pilot season it's plague season. The power-mad and the craven and the greasy quisling fat from the king's scraps huddle nightly to plot their next incantation. Perhaps the bees are just the first wave. There may be frogs next. Or locusts. I recall reading of cattle-death, and darkness. But this is ultimately a battle for the firstborn, and the concrete scar we call our River teems with orphan baskets thrown over the wall in a last desperate attempt to save our babies.

There are those who would burn our city to the ground, scorching the earth to smoke us out. They would have us believe the fire is ours, that we are the masses of our own destruction. They would have us believe this but we do not. The tremor in the city is not a tremble but a quickening, and I choose to read the bees at my doorstep as a sign and not a curse. Our numbers grow, in the streets we move as one. For this is not a planet of apes but a city of Infinite Monkeys. And if there is a hive-mind at work it creates, it honors sacrifice and does not destroy. The red you see is the bloodmark we've written on our doors, protecting our children from a wrathful God. The sound you hear is not a buzz but a thrum, like a power line, or a chant. And all the pharoahs hiding behind their walls should hear it loud and clear:

Let my motherfucking people go.