Stuff To Watch: Some Thoughts On Law & Order: Criminal Intent Season 6: Some Advice For Its Creators

Music ‘When The Day Goes Down’ Acoustic Version By The Eurythmics (from the promotional only ‘Acoustic Eurythmics’ CD Sampler released in 1989)

Law & Order Criminal Intent has just finished a horrible season, an ‘annus horribilis’ or maybe more accurately a ‘tempestas horribilis’ and has moved from NBC to the USA Network. In order to make the move go more successfully and to make sure as many viewers as possible watch all future LO:CI episodes, USA just completed a marathon broadcasting of all of the episodes of the sixth season (stretched out over two weekends). So while this gesture of support made by the new network was appreciated, there are old issues pertaining to the sixth season that I feel compelled to address

I call this completed sixth season a horribly rough season because it involved a lot of changes in the creative team, which dictated a lot of changes in the creative decisions that went into making the shows and which affected both the characters and the fans relationships with them.

I won’t sugarcoat the fact that as a fan of LO:CI who was willing to watch the show from Day 1 Year 1 that the show I fell in love with was the Rene Balcer helmed version of LO:CI and that there were too many changes packed into too short a period of time with Season 6 to keep me as ecstatically happy as I was with Seasons 1-5. The characters suffered, the stories suffered and as a loyal fan I suffered along with it. But with the move to a new network and the start of a new seventh season, I have some advice for the creative powers behind the show and although it may be presumptuous on my part, I am acting as an advocate for a certain segment of loyal LO:CI viewers, viewers who may not be as clearly heard as they ought to be.

With much soul searching I have come to the conclusion that those who were responsible for LO:CI’s fall from grace (a ‘sixth year itch’ if you will) are a combination of the network, the production company and the writers. I am certain that NBC which is a floundering broadcast network stuck for the most part in last place in the ratings (which matter far more to advertisers and the shareholders of media companies than to your typical viewer) put the most detrimental pressure on the show to change. Broadcast networks have a long history of doing this fiddling with programming that works reasonably well creatively and artistically in an effort to capture *every* *last* viewer. This kind of narrow-minded thinking has decimated both the news and entertainment divisions of the broadcast networks, making them sacrifice serious, intelligent, steadfast viewers for viewers who are nothing like their core audience and probably never really will be won over as loyal viewers. The core audience however once it perceives it has been abandoned inevitably moves on…in the case of news to the Internet or in the case of entertainment programming to cable networks (and presumably in the future to Internet broadcasting). This is not an amicable parting of the ways as smart loyal viewers once burned generally don’t ever come back.

Getting LO:CI free of NBC, a network that is now helmed by a very immature programming executive who is hailed for his connections to crap celebrity culture that the vast majority of Americans don’t really think or care about and has dubious creative ideas (bringing back ‘Knight Rider’ but changing the car to be Transformer-like is his latest aspiration) was a crucial step for LO:CI’s survival. But it is going to be up to LO:CI’s writers to keep creeping network pinheadism in the name of higher ratings from further alienating LO:CI’s core audience to the point of no return.

To its credit, USA has an excellent track record with how it promotes its shows (heavily if not always accurately or cleverly) and to my knowledge has not imposed too many idiotic demands on its shows creators (one I am aware of is relocating ‘Burn Notice’ from Newark (as conceived by the show’s author) to Miami, presumably so that scantily clad young women and men could be used in a ploy to get ratings from young people…the show’s creative team very shrewdly minimized that sort of footage and didn’t dwell on it, choosing instead to make Miami into a kind of sight gag). But the ratings monster will demand to be fed no matter which network a show lives on and if the writers don’t hold the line, what makes LO:CI LO:CI will be lost.

One other area that concerns longtime LO:CI fans is what Wolf Studios may do. Dick Wolf is in the enviable position of not being dependent on any one of his brand of crime dramas for the majority of his income. Currently SVU pulls the best ratings and has the most recent award winners, while L&O is Wolf’s favored first born series and Wolf is more interested in capturing a longevity record for most consecutive L&O broadcasts rather than capturing the long term respect of viewers to come. The cast of LO:CI, no less deserving of accolades and raises didn’t get them this year and the below the line unsung heros — the LO:CI crew — in many cases took pay *cuts* to keep LO:CI going. As LO:CI is running third in the competition for Wolf’s affection, interest and resources, the writers need to be ready to stand up to potentially detrimental demands from Wolf Studios. I am certain that if the issues are mostly economic, there is some degree of cost containment that can be done and in fact this could improve the creative direction of LO:CI if necessity forces everyone to be more inventive. So I am less worried about how Wolf will influence LO:CI’s creative direction.

Now I come to the difficult area…the fans. Old school fans like myself have to some degree been placed at odds with newer fans, largely by the networks insatiable ratings growth demands and to a lesser degree to satisfying Wolf’s quest for increasing profitability of his shows. While we can accept that things change over the course of the production of a series — actors leave, writers seek to advance their salaries by taking on more roles than just writing, and networks and production companies want more money and ratings first, then some awards, and all for a decreasing investment — we longtimers have endured a lot of changes in a very short period of time.

To give you a fair analogy of this old timers overall evaluation of LO:CI Season 6 stands, think if you will for a moment about the brilliantly funny 1984 mockumentary movie ‘This Is Spinal Tap’. There is a scene in which the band’s lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest) shows off his collection of guitars and stage equipment to the film’s director Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) that goes something like this:

“Nigel Tufnel: [pointing to a customized Marshall amplifier head unit] This is a top, to, uh, you know, what we use on stage, but it’s very, very special, because, if you can see…

Marty DiBergi: Yeah…

Nigel Tufnel: [pointing to the control dials] …the numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board: eleven, eleven, eleven, eleven…

Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?

Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.

Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is that any louder?

Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most… most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up… you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

Marty DiBergi: I don’t know…

Nigel Tufnel: …nowhere! Exactly! What we do is if we need that extra… push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.

Nigel Tufnel: …Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder, and make ten be the top… number, and make that a little louder?

Nigel Tufnel: [pause, blank look and snapping chewing gum] These go to eleven.”

While it is one thing for a band to “put it up to eleven” for the occasional solo or the big finale of the concert, it probably isn’t the brightest idea to set the amplifier and the volume as high as it will go and leave it there. It’s hard on the equipment, it’s hard on the musicians who can wind up with hearing loss and tinnitus and frankly it’s exhausting for the audience too and loses its desired impact if the maximum is sought for any significant length of time (probably more than five minutes in the context of music). And note that this scene doesn’t go on forever…nor is this joke repeatedly referred to…the concept is played for it’s optimal level of humor and then the story moves on rather than killing off the joke through overkill.

And now I’ll summarize LO:CI’s biggest problem in Season 6: certain elements of the show got permanently turned up to and stuck on eleven.

Before the change in creative direction, there were slower gentler less intense main character development arcs, a mostly indiscernable series evolution arc and well paced but interesting individual episode arcs. It is fair to say that Seasons 1-5 were somewhat formulaic, but the cases in each episode were more varied and the main characters were developed cautiously, thoughtfully and subtly. The cases investigated drove the character development and the crimes explored gave the guest characters interesting lives of their own. Also no one episode spent its entire 44-45 minutes at the absolute dramatic apex such that it foolishly squandered the energies of the guest characters, the series regulars or the audiences.

This all changed in Season 6. I can’t give a reason for certain as to why but my guess is that the ratings monster drove a lot of the radical creative departures.

Take the season opener for Goren and Eames “Blind Spot”: Goren reunites with his profiling mentor (and apparently his sole reliable father figure), sees his partner Eames kidnapped and tormented, is himself anguished by the prospect that not only has he outgrown his mentor, but that the man is really a bad father, that Goren should have somehow foreseen that the profiler’s daughter would become a serial killer, and that his new boss Ross hates and distrusts him. We also see that Ross is uneasy in his new role as the commander of the Major Case Squad, doesn’t understand that as a commander his job is management and not direct investigation, and is pushing Eames to ‘control’ her partner, the ‘overthinker’. Of course Eames is captive to this illogical Ross versus Goren conflict (and not to mention to the whims of a serial killer).

You can get away with running *all* of your characters on eleven for the entire length of *one* 45 minute episode, and to some extent trivilize the crime and investigative procedure that viewers expect from a show billed as a ‘crime drama’ or a ‘police procedural’ but you can’t make a habit of it.

So what happens to this investigative team in their second episode ‘Siren Call’? How about more irrational conflict between the boss and his detectives, the need for Eames to seek psychological counseling thanks to the previous case’s kidnapping, the revelation that Goren’s mother is dying of cancer and so his time and energy are spread thin amongst his investigative duties and his fillial piety, and oh yeah, we end with a seemingly preventable and gratuitous cop’s suicide witnessed by Goren, Eames, the cop’s remaining daughter (his other troubled stepdaughter was his very own homicide victim) and his terminal cancer stricken wife.

Stuck on eleven, I tell you. And for Goren and Eames and Ross we stay this way all the way to their season finale “Endgame”

Under the old regime logically, Goren and Eames would have been put on leave or desk duty and permitted to step away from the emotional brink, to have some catharsis (and through them some vicarious catharsis for the viewers). But this is not where the writers went (presumably because ‘high drama’ equals ‘high ratings’…a classic network pinheadism that needs to be shown up for what it is: a fallacy).

I find it utter unbelievable and reprehensible that most every case that came up for Goren and Eames to investigate generally had somewhere in the background a clueless, oblivious and/or delusional male who inflicted injury either deliberately or grossly negligantly on his spouse and/or his children. But ‘Blind Spot’, ‘Siren Call’, ‘Bedfellows’, ‘Masquerade’, ‘The War At Home’, ‘Privilege’, ‘Albatross’, ‘Brothers Keeper’, and ‘Rocketman’ all fit that pattern, a pattern that does a heck of a job angsting Goren indirectly and by association Eames and Ross and the viewers. As much as I disliked ‘Endgame’, at least the suffering was openly and directly inflicted upon Goren by the perpetrator, and frankly ‘Silencer’ becomes the exceptional episode where the source of familial distress leading to the motivation behind a crime is a female sibling who abandons her brother. Of course the case in ‘Silencer’ could also remind Goren of how he has been abandoned by his brother as their mother lies dying, but at least it’s a different kind of case with different emotional implications for Goren Eames and Ross. Still the writers beat the ‘bad family stuff’-as-criminal-motivation horse into oblivion. For ratings and new viewers. At the expense of old viewers, rational thought, good storytelling and giving the actors the chance to play more broadly and creatively with the scripts.

So what about LO:CI’s other investigative team Wheeler & Logan? Well here things are less a case of ‘Law & Order: Detective Angst’, but there is a case pattern into which the writters fell that frankly was also lazy and overdone. From their season opening case ‘Tru Love’ it was clear that Logan was going to be stuck playing the now ‘old guy’ detective who is utterly befuddled by modern culture and people under a certain age and needs his youthful partner Wheeler to explain it to him (as if poor Logan had suddenly and inexplicably lost his ability to think like a young person). While this could have been a rather pointed clever and amusing play on how as the young Detective Logan used to give his mothership partners Greevey, Ceretta and Briscoe grief and now had to take a bit of what he used to dish out, frankly it insults the intelligence, wisdom and intuitiveness that are rightfully Logan’s now that he is decidely ‘middle aged’. Whether it’s adult women stuck in adolescence (‘Tru Love’, ‘Bombshell’), the music business and rap/hip-hop culture (‘Country Crossover’, ‘Flipped’, ‘Players’), other youth media (‘Blasters’ Weeping Willow’ ‘Bombshell’) or the clash of the rise of homosexuality (‘Maltese Cross’), or multiculturalism and freer female heterosexuality (‘World’s Fair) against more traditional sexual and ethnic mores, Logan was often made to look unnecessarily dumb or helpless against young hip and improbably ‘always in the know’ Wheeler. The two exceptional cases ’30’ and ‘Renewal’ angsted Logan with the loss of a friendly career ally in the former and a potential romantic partner in the latter. And of course we had Ross interfering with the Logan and Wheeler led investigations as well, angsting Logan with his assertions that Logan is still in Ross’s eyes an ‘overreactor’ or a hothead while championing the unproven Wheeler. Talk about an unnecessary age war.

So here we long time fans are as befuddled and exhausted as our heroes. Now we surely are familiar with all of their inner conflicts and emotional issues but that came at the expense of the crimes and the cases. Some of them were too easy for us to solve and some of them we just didn’t really care who did it (although upon reflection we missed getting glimpses of criminality in all its myriad forms and with a variety of motivations that the ‘Criminal Intent’ name implies). It was something of a minor victory to still be watching a sixth season LO:CI episode at its conclusion, but it wasn’t a lot of fun or something that made you think much because you were overwhelmed by the emotional heroin of full metal melodrama.

So with the new network and the new season here is this fans small plea to the writers: dial back the emotionalism already. Pretty please, just simply give us all a break.

We have graciously let you into our most intimate and vulnerable spaces; our living rooms, bedrooms, media rooms…wherever there is a television, your characters have been given our permission to be eagerly welcomed guests in our homes. For six seasons we have largely enjoyed your company, chosen it over the company of other shows and other activities (most notably such as spending time with our families and friends). We are well invested in both what happens to the characters personally and what happens to them professionally and care about both the process *and* the outcome of each of the episode, series and character arcs. Our homes for the most part are supposed to be havens from a world that increasingly seems ‘stuck on eleven’ thanks to complex and difficult economic and political issues our country faces, the ever-increasing presence and dependence upon technology we as a society are confronting, and increasing change in just about everything you can imagine. Forgive us for sometimes wanting to take things a little slower and experience them less intensely but remember that we want you to entertain us with your stories, not exhaust us with drama kings and queens the way most other forms of media want us to. Intense feelings in characters are not unappreciated but not if to experience them we have to sacrifice the logic and quality of storytelling.

Running at eleven is simply not sustainable, certainly not for us old timers and most likely the new viewers will eventually burn out from the excess of spectacle and angst chosen over storytelling and progressive judicious familiarity with characters of depth rather than volume of feeling. We long time viewers have few ways to communicate this exhaustion directly to those in charge other than online or in old fashioned letters to production companies and more indirectly by changing the channel and not buying the products and services your artistic endeavors are meant to promote. As it is your typical viewer old or new is running all kinds of debts: too little time, constrained financial resources, being pulled in many directions by friends, family, community. We are willing to give something of ourselves to you in terms of time to work out these intense emotional phases for our main characters but not if you keep exceeding the limits of believability or the bounds of emotional restraint.

Let me give you one other piece of advice (and this goes for everyone on the creative team, not just the writers). Always remember that you are the professionals and we are the amateurs. If we all wanted to as fans, we all could write fan fiction which I can tell you from personal experience usually involves pushing characters’s emotions to eleven and often loses sight of context and good storytelling until you learn to do better. It is hard to restrain one’s self as an amateur writer, to learn about the dramatic arc of storytelling and follow the conventions set out by a genre and adhere to it rather than to indulge in flights of fancy and amuse one’s self to the exclusion of everyone else’s enjoyment. Whether you choose to read fan fiction or monitor online fan discussions of how the shows are progressing is your decision, but please don’t let yourselves be seduced into exchanging your visions of where the characters, crimes and series should go for ours. Not all of our ideas are good ones and you shouldn’t chase ratings or universal public love and approval or professional accolades through us. While your characters speak for victims living and dead, and their friends, families and loved ones, you ultimately speak for your characters, or more accurately, your characters speak through you to us. We don’t expect you to be perfect, but we do expect you to be the characters’ advocates, their champions. You don’t have to do everything we say we’d like you to do, just do the things that make sense for the characters and the stories. In the same way you would reject bizarre or inappropriate ideas from those above you like the network or the purse-string holders in production (or get creative when forced to labor under an idiotic edict), be strong and reject our silly and stupid notions and be true to your own artistic judgment. Even us stuck in the mud old timers can be brought around on many of your new ideas (not all of them as you have made mistakes too…welcome to the human race), but it is up to you to woo us back.

We are looking forward to being surprised and delighted…what a welcome change that would be from the larger world we live in. May you rise to the challenge, tackle it with aplomb and deliver television destined to become timeless entertainment.

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I’m Just Not Sure What To Believe Or Think Other Than Maybe I Should Watch Even *Less* TV

This post is kind of a thought piece and is only very tangentially related to VDO so you might want to move on if you’re were hoping for something more on point.

Last night ABC TV’s (in the USA) Primetime aired a piece on the actor Daniel Baldwin and his latest attempt to rehabilitate himself from his apparently very long-term addiction to cocaine. For whatever reasons, Daniel let the ABC cameras be turned on him while he spent several months in a $50,000 a month rehabilitation facility in Malibu California and also while he went through various criminal court proceedings on drug-related charges as well as him going on a movie location shoot. The ABC report also delved into his relationships with his family a little bit, especially mentioning Daniel’s also famous actor brothers.

For those who don’t know who Daniel is, he was one of the stars of the highly-regarded US TV series ‘Homicide: Life On The Street’. Daniel played Detective Beau Felton and left the show well before VDO did his Emmy-nominated guest appearance in the H:LOTS episode ‘The Subway’.

Felton was not a very popular character on Homicide. He was not meant to be pretty or brilliant or particularly likeable. But Daniel played Felton well, figuring out how to balance Felton’s repellant qualities and the character’s downward spiral with a sprinkling of humanity that would cause you to soften your initial negative judgment of his worth. That certainly takes some skill on the part of an actor and Daniel Baldwin proved he had the talent to find just the way to play that character.

I for one learned to like the Felton character enough to write a short piece of fan fiction a few years ago that would allow me to combine the Felton character and that of Ned Beatty’s perfectly archetypical cop Detective Stanley Bolander with Detectives Goren and Eames of Criminal Intent fame and play around with some ideas I had into what has turned out to be a not utterly embarassing piece of writing that lingers on the ‘net in the archive of the excellent peer-reviewed fan fiction site Apocrypha (for those who care to read it see “What It Feels Like For A Girl”).

Frankly of the four established characters I was writing for, Felton was the most difficult to make believable and consistent with what most Homicide fans would know about him and yet not appear as a simple strawman or too stereotypically the ‘bad boyish cop’. I don’t think I succeeded totally capturing the complexities of Felton but at some point you have to put an end to a story for it to be published. So you could say I carried the idea of Felton and my conceptions about around in my head for quite some time.

So it was with more than a little interest that I tuned into watch the Daniel Baldwin piece.

In that story I wrote of Felton:

“The younger man is somewhat burly and boyishly attractive, but Goren notes that excess is taking its toll on those inherent good looks and prematurely aging the man”.

You can imagine that my description pretty much fits Daniel Baldwin the man as much as and maybe more so than it fits Felton, especially as he appeared before ABC’s cameras.

At this point in the Primetime show I was utterly hooked into watching in the same way that I was initially hooked into watching VDO’s film ‘Guy’, the story of a relatively ordinary and average man who lets a strange woman filmmaker turn the camera on him to make her next movie. ‘Guy’ to me is a watershed moment in filmmaking not only because it predicts the rise of ‘reality’ television in our culture but because it plays around with the idea that the act of turning a camera on someone causes them to alter their personality and become someone other than they normally would be. Maybe this isn’t acting in the professional sense of the word but it could be called posing or persona building.

The thing that makes a movie like ‘Guy’ different from a ‘reality’ program like Primetime is that it is 100% clear to me that ‘Guy’ is a character being made by Vincent D’Onofrio and being masterfully fashioned into an utterly average guy trying to figure out on the fly who to be before a camera and in the process not only distorting his own identity but how he relates to the films few other characters. I can’t say enough good things about how brilliant D’Onofrio’s performance in ‘Guy’ is, how I am haunted by it when I think of it and how I find much more to thoughtfully consider in it every time I actually watch the film.

Anyhow the ‘Daniel Baldwin’ in front of the Primetime camera struck me as less of a real person and more of a character like ‘Guy’ as the camera rolled on. The TV program does give some glimpses of a person in real pain but there are also moments when we see Daniel trying out being an actor, trying out being a contrite defendant, trying out being a part of a family, trying out being religious. You are left at the end of the hour wondering how much of what you saw was due to drugs, how much was due to his fear of being incarcerated, how much was an actor trying to suss out what his audience wanted at any given moment and how much was the actual human being underneath all of the layered-on roles.

I looked at the comments on Primetime’s website after the broadcast and found that the comments about ‘Daniel Baldwin’ were very mixed but one comment lead me to what is purported to be Daniel’s MySpace page. I found the possibility of ‘Daniel Baldwin’ having a MySpace page both intriguing and repellant.

I should mention that a few years ago after an experience I had online at a Yahoo! group purporting to have had the actual Vincent D’Onofrio as one of its members that my opinion of celebrities who venture online into public fora and with no intermediation from others is inclined to be negative and mistrusting. You can read about my experiences elsewhere on my blog if you choose to (just search on ‘DASH’).

But given my viceral reaction to the similarities of Felton as I envisioned the character and the ‘Daniel Baldwin’ of Primetime, I felt compelled to go to the MySpace page. I went there not taking for granted the fact that the page’s author might not be the actor I have seen on fictional or ‘reality’ TV.

I have read every entry at ‘Daniel’s’ blog at MySpace and I can say that I am now more thoroughly concerned confused and repelled by what I saw. Again ‘DB’ or ‘Deebs’ as the author calls himself is by turns misogynistic, angry, despairing, flippant, profane, insecure, self-absorbed, meek, playful, despondent, conflicted and contradicts much of what was said in the Primetime program. If anything “Deebs” is far more villainous, self-destructive and frightening to me than I would have imagined the character Felton to be (and if you read my story you will see that I only have the Felton character drinking heavily, hitting on women while he is still married, and utilitizing the services of a prostitute). That confuses and bothers me in a way I cannot adequately express but I also accept that it is not up to me to do anything about it other than to not encourage “Deebs” to make a spectacle of himself.

If I were his lawyer I would demand that the MySpace page be taken down: If it is *the* Daniel Baldwin writing the page there are admissions that could be used against him in court (not to mention calls into question what was said before Primetime’s cameras) and if it isn’t some of what is said potentially defames a whole panoply of people. But the one thing that seeps through the entire MySpace blog is that there is a troubled person behind the writings even though the medium of a MySpace page further distorts the true identity of the author and may pile on some more roles, poses and personas that have to be stripped away from who ‘Daniel Baldwin’ and/or ‘Deebs’ truly is/are.

I only know that whoever all these people may be, they are beyond my very limited capacity to help them. I also have confirmed why as a rule I choose not to watch ‘reality’ television. Unlike my experience of the film ‘Guy’ where I know I am dealing with an invented premise and characters, with ‘reality’ programming, I don’t believe the picture represents reality anymore than Salvador Dali painted with absolute fidelity the world around us. If I want to ponder alternate realities I can choose a good piece of fiction like a Phillip K. Dick story or I can daydream.

But I fear for a world where this sort of ‘reality’ television and unfettered access to the well-known via the Internet is considered to be a healthy diversion or a legitimate form of entertainment.

Anyway if ‘Deebs’ or his people should stumble upon this blog post this song is for you and all the complexity within and around you. I hope for your sake and for those who know and love you that you have an ending at least as upbeat as the one Primetime wanted to attach to its report on you. I also hope that with what you’ve done on TV and online that if you can’t redeem yourself, you help one other person who is similarly situated.

Music: ‘The Beast In Me’ by Nick Lowe

Entertainment Professionals Sites: Meet Vincent D’Onofrio’s European Doppelganger

I have been working on adding links to the official websites of a lot of people who have worked on various projects with VDO to the blogroll at the right of this page and in doing some research I stumbled onto the website of László I. Kish.

I know you American fans are asking yourselves “who in the heck is László I. Kish” so check this out:

The resemblance is startling isn’t it? Other than the hair color of course…

László I. Kish is a Swiss actor who speaks many different languages, English, German and Italian being but three of them. László (who is only 2 years older than VDO) also writes and directs movies and you should watch his reel and his video clips at his website (the text is in German but I’ll walk you through this):

http://www.thekish.com/

Go click on the number “4 Galerie” at the bottom of his webpage to see László in his multilingual “Demotape” (click on the word “abspielen” (play) under it, it’s on the right hand side of the screen)

Does his acting style strike you as more than a little familiar (even when he’s not speaking English)?

How about his resemblance to a 1980s era Paul Masson commercial-appearing Orson Welles in the “Run Rabbit Run” videoclip (click on the word “abspielen” (play) under “Run Rabbit Run”?)

Or how about the many photos of László on both the Galerie (Gallery) and “5 Logbuch” (Log Book) pages, especially his ‘Dune” photos at the latter link (the photos are on the left edge of the page)?

So what is Kish’s connection to VDO?

László snuck under all our radar screens playing “Angus” the fisherman in “Salt On Our Skin”/”Desire”.

And here I though I was paying really good attention when I watch VDO’s movies. LOL!

Now I’ve simply got to figure out how to see the entirety of that short film “Run Rabbit Run”…what a great performance!

Music: ‘Gemini Dream’ by The Moody Blues

A Moment Of Zen: Go Look At Matthew Modine’s Demo Reel

One of the more tedious tasks in keeping up an online site is checking for broken links. I have been checking the links in my blogroll to make sure they work correctly and was stopped dead in my clicking by what the actor Matthew Modine has done with his web site.

You simply *must* go to Matthew’s site and have a look at his demo reel.

Matthew Modine

After the nifty flash series of color photos of Matthew and the letters spelling out his name finish uploading, click on the link marked REEL to watch his demo reel.

For those who do not know what a demo reel is, it is a tape (or more likely these days a DVD) showing examples of an actor’s (or a director’s or a special effects house’s or some other creative person or organization’s) professional work. It is the film/video version of a head shot and is meant to give a prospective employer an idea of the range of a creative person’s talents and previous accomplishments. For the most part you don’t see too many reels online but in the future I expect that to change as the entertainment business becomes more computer-savvy.

For those of you who make your fan videos and put them online, I think you will find some inspiration in watching what a professional editor can do in making a reel. I thought the Rolling Stones’s ‘Paint It Black’ was an interesting choice of soundtrack for Matthew’s body of work.

I am sure that VDO has a reel out there somewhere but since he doesn’t have an official website, you certainly won’t find it online. But I would love to see what his various reel(s) look like…like head shots, reels are updated over the course of a career.

Oh and guess who makes an appearance in Matthew’s reel?

Enjoy!

Stuff To Watch: Which LO:CI Episodes Have Been Adapted For Paris Enquêtes Criminelles (PEC)?

Well thanks to Seb over at lawandorder-fr.com I have figured out which of the LO:CI episodes, the first 6 episodes of PEC will be adapting

Paris Enquêtes Criminelles adapted from LO:CI

#1 PEC Fantôme (Phantom) = LO:CI ‘Phantom’ (Marlane Gomard Meyer & René Balcer)
#2 PEC Requiem pour un assassin (Requiem For An Assassin)= LO:CI ‘The Faithful’ (Stephanie Sengupta)
#3 PEC Le serment (The Oath)= LO:CI ‘One’ (René Balcer)
#4 PEC Addiction (Addiction) = LO:CI ‘Smothered’ (Marlane Gomard Meyer)
#5 PEC L’Homme au scalpel (The Man Of The Scalpel) = LO:CI ‘The Good Doctor’ (Geoffrey Neigher)
#6 PEC L’Ange de la mort (The Angel Of Death)= LO:CI ‘Poison’ (Stephanie Sengupta)

There are also some casting updates to make here
Commander Vincent Revel (Vincent Perez)
Lieutenant Claire Savigny (Sandrine Rigaux)
Police Chief Bonnefoy (Jacques Pater)
Judge Lherbier (Hélène Godec)
Judge Fontana (Laure Killing)

Note that the ADA/prosecutor role is replaced by a Judge in PEC. Apparently there will be two judges who will be at the minimum recurring characters on PEC, both of whom are female! In some episodes you can expect to see both Judges Lherbier and Fontana while in others it is not clear whether both judges will have parts (things are still a bit slow to get out via the French media).

There will be 2 more episodes of PEC for its first season…I will update later when TF1 puts out more information on them.

Stuff To Watch/Choses de Regarder: Paris Enquêtes Criminelles (Paris Criminal Investigations)

Whoo-hoo! / Zut alors!

Even if LO:CI doesn’t get renewed, CI fans can get their fix (that is if they don’t mind learning a little français)

May I present the website for Paris Enquêtes Criminelles courtesy of the French TV channel TF1? From now on here is a new abbreviation to get used to so that I don’t have to flail around on my keyboard searching for non-existant French characters like the circonflex “^” e that belongs in ‘Paris Enquêtes Criminelles’ : PEC. Learn it well, because I have a feeling I’ll be using it a lot.

Regardez bien/ Take a look at Commander Vincent Revel (played by Vincent Perez) and Lieutenant Claire Savigny (played by Sandrine Rigaux)

TF1’s PEC site is a bit less developed than NBC’s CI site is now, but it reminds me of how the NBC CI site was back in 2001…it’s a little more polished though than NBCs (which back in the day had very little video to it)

I particularly love this tiny snippet of an interview from Vincent Perez on what Perez thought the differences between Goren and Ravel are (I translated this partly with help from an online translator and then used my own modest knowledge of French to Americanize it):

“I watched very little of the original version so as not to be influenced by it, but I have the impression that Goren is very cerebral. Revel is more instinctive and perhaps more vulnerable. At times, it is necessary that Revel has doubts, that he is a little lost. These two characters however have much in common. We had already begun filming [PEC] when we left for New York to meet the American team. When Vincent D’ Onofrio spoke to me about his own experience, I really had the impression that we had passed by the same stages. What he said evoked my memories, of my personal interrogations of the character of Revel. It was amusing.”

Here’s how Sandrine Rigaux answered the question: “Did you seek your American counterpart Kathryn Erbe’s advice?”

“Not really, but naturally we spoke about the difficulty of coexisting with our partners. The Americans also advised us to develop the female character more quickly than they had done it. Building a character alongside Revel’s is inevitably delicate. This partnership of cops functions like that formed by Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I was to find my moments, without falling into the trap of imitating my partner at the risk of destroying the balance of our team. Vincent Perez really helped me.”

Unlike the American CI which began with ‘One’, the pilot of PEC is an adaptation of the CI Season 1 episode ‘Phantom’ or ‘Fantôme’ as the French call it. The clip on TF1’s site (click on the ‘Extraits’ tab to watch it) shows Revel and Savigny questioning Nadine Delcourt (played by Hélène Degy) about the death of Malek Kelkal (played by Mustapha Ben Stiti). The quick thinking American CI fan will recognize that Nadine Delcourt is an adaptation of the character Charlotte Fielding aka Cookie Caspari! You will also note that the writers preserved one of my favorite detective exchanges ever:

Goren: One thing this job teaches us is that guys will do anything for love.
Eames: Or money.

Paraphrasing and translating
Revel …les hommes feront n’importe quoi pour l’amour.
Savigny Oui. Mais aussi pour l’argent.

The second episode of PEC will be an adaptation of the first season CI episode ‘The Faithful’ called ‘Requiem pour un assassin’ or ‘Requiem For An Assassin’ If you watch the promotional spot for PEC (click on the Bande Annonce tab to watch it) you will see Ravel doing his version of the infamous ‘Goren show’ investigation of a mentally ill homeless man from ‘The Faithful’.

From what else I can glean of the show by watching its promo spot, PEC’s Captain Deakins/Ross equivalent, Police Chief Bonnefoy, is male (and played by Jacques Pater) and the ADA/prosecutor role we would have associated with ADA Ron Carver (played by Courtney Vance) is a female called Judge Lherbier (played by Hélène Godec)!

PEC’s first two episodes will initially air back to back on Thursday May 3, 2007 beginning at 8:50pm (that’s Paris time). I am hoping that these episodes will be available online somehow, or that someone in France can hook me up with DVDs once the show gets going. The French are skeptical of this remake of an ‘American’ show…many of them think why redo CI, when what the Americans have done is so good. I say give PEC a shot…it might translate well to French culture and get better ratings there than CI ever did here in the USA.

The Negotiations Get Even Weirder: Everybody’s Beginning To Put Their Two Cents In

Okay things here are getting interesting, controversial and frankly a little faster paced than I thought they would (sweeps don’t start until April 26th). So on with today’s news:

First I learned from Newsday.com that while SVU’s been pulling 12.2 million viewers for its new episodes, CI and the mothership are pulling just a little over 9 million viewers each. This means that if you’re a CI (or a mothership) fan and want to make a difference in how the renewal fight is going, you need to get everyone you know to watch for the next couple of weeks…and you might consider getting people you don’t know to watch too. Apparently 3 million viewers makes the difference between a surefire renewal on NBC and a cliffhanging show with an uncertain future. I don’t know what the magic number will be that makes NBC think it’s worth it…right now I don’t have time to do some mathematical analysis and make guesstimates on where I think NBC will draw the line…maybe I can get to that in another post.

From the ‘other parties heard from departments’, we have the following 2 Fox News stories/gossip items:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,267803,00.html#2

“‘Law & Order’ Chaos
It’s chaos in the world of Dick Wolf and “Law & Order.”

Last year at this time, we told you NBC was going to cancel the series after 17 seasons and countless, ceaseless reruns in syndication. But our story did the trick, and the network relented.

Now NBC is sharpening its ax again, looking at both classic “L&O” and spin-off “Criminal Intent” as prime shows to cross off its schedule for next year.

Last week, Variety and other outlets noted this situation, but there was plenty they missed and some things they could not know. The latter included the newest dilemma at NBC about Alec Baldwin and “30 Rock.”

Will the peacock’s feathers withstand one of its stars calling his 11-year-old daughter a “rude, thoughtless pig”?

Meanwhile, NBC is still dealing with the quiet demise of “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip.” That hour must be filled next season.

And then there’s all the weird stuff going on in the Wolf’s den to keep the two shows on the air. “Law & Order: SVU” has already been renewed; it’s a bona-fide hit.

Already told she’s out at “Law & Order” is producer Jamie Crowell Blank. She was a controversial presence anyway based on a still unsettled sexual harassment brought by a former staffer.

Wolf is also telling insiders that if “Law & Order” is renewed, he’s dumping Jesse L. Martin and Milena Govich, who play the cops on the show.

Wolf is coming up with a plan to cut the show’s weekly budget in half, and replacing those actors with less expensive ones would be a way to do that, sources say.

But there’s another problem on “Law & Order”: S. Epatha Merkerson, the much-admired actress who has been with the show from the start, is unhappy.

Merkerson, who plays a desk-bound cop, has been complaining for years of not having enough airtime. Lately scripts have had her out on investigations, but Merkerson’s recent raft of awards and nominations for HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues” has emboldened her to make demands and to consider leaving the show altogether.”

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,268020,00.html#2

“I told you yesterday about the turmoil at Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order” shows on NBC. Here’s a little more.

Wolf, sources say, is in a huge-cost cutting move at the moment to keep classic “L&O” and “Criminal Intent” on the air.

For the former show, he has already fired a producer and is thinking of axing the actors who play the cops. He would replace them with younger, cheaper people.

For “Criminal Intent,” it’s a different story. There is talk that Wolf has suggested eliminating long time “L&O” player Chris Noth from “CI.” Noth came on in 2006 to alternate episodes with Vincent D’Onofrio. The latter actor had become very difficult and the company required a soothing change.

But D’Onofrio, they say, has calmed down. He is also less expensive than Noth, who is such a bona-fide star that he could easily carry his own show.

On top of that, Noth has already gone through one co-star, Annabella Sciorra. Now I’m told that Julianne Nicholson, who replaced Sciorra, is already not coming back, thanks to her pregnancy.

Here’s an interesting theory about why “CI” might survive while classic “L&O” might not. Apparently, “CI” is a hit in France, where the scripts are refilmed with French actors. The French production company pays a high fee for this.

“They don’t like the original ‘Law & Order’ because their judicial system doesn’t allow for the way the show is divided between the cops and lawyers,” an observer said. “‘CI’ is much easier for them to replicate.”
Stay tuned. …”

So Kitt and Kor of apocrypha, who are both long time L&O series fans and two people who are connected to their inner workings thanks to their zine apocrypha have done a little armchair analysis for me and ferreted out a little scoop of their own (one of these two also writes from time to time for an unnamed entertainment news source so I take this more seriously than the Fox News/gossip dude)

Apocrypha’s excellent analysis and some new information

“Putting the rumor mill into high gear
For those who might have missed some recent comments by VDOVault, an excellent commenter on these boards, here’s some more links about what’s going on behind the scenes at Law & Order/Criminal Intent:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,268020,00.html#2
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,267803,00.html#2

In summary (or, word/aka Fox’s Roger Friedman) has it:

1) Should L&O survive being axed, the lead cops will be replaced with less-expensive ones.
2) Chris Noth is likely to be axed from “Criminal Intent.”
3) His partner, Julianne Nicholson is pregnant and already out.
4) One producer (Jamie Crowell Blank) at L&O is out.
5) S. Epatha Merkerson is unhappy with a lack of camera time and has made noise about it.

***********

Bear in mind, as we’ve said before, that this is a Fox gossip columnist (he’s very in, but he’s not always accurate — Merkerson hasn’t been with the show “from the start,” as he says) and he’s talking about an NBC show.

Sources close to apocrypha spoke with Merkerson recently and she indicated that people are concerned behind the scenes about what happens next, but didn’t voice anything about trying to grab more land for herself. Other sources indicated that Noth’s salary is the issue; perception at NBC is that he might be able to carry a show on his own.

And that’s what we know, at this point.”

Then thanks to the Aussies at The Age (who threw the fangurls into a tizzy with their ‘Vincent D’Onofrio’s leaving at the end of Season 6’ article back in March) comes this little gem:

The Age’s Interview with CI Showrunner Warren Leight and Speculation on CI’s Fate

Is it out of Order?
Andrew Murfett
April 26, 2007
Andrew Murfett reports on the decline of a US TV icon.

CALL it the end of an era. After a gradual ratings descent, Dick Wolf’s once indomitable television franchise Law & Order may be cancelled.

Of the three titles in the L&O stable, only SVU has been guaranteed survival. After 17 years on air, the venerable original and the six-season-old Criminal Intent both face cancellation.

In the US this year, CI has slid a troubling 14 per cent in the ratings. In Australia, it’s posting solid figures (949,000 viewers nationally on Thursday nights).

With his show facing the axe, CI producer and head writer Warren Leight put on a brave face in New York last week.

“We’re trying to wait it out,” he said. “It’s part of the television business; your fate is not usually in your own hands. It’s a question of money.”

With CI in its sixth season, the costs are much higher than a new series that has not absorbed six years of pay rises for cast and crew. CI’s fiscal predicaments stem from its high production costs, even though L&O remains a huge source of income for NBC. According to Variety, all three series have revenue of more than $1 billion. L&O re-runs play up to 20 times daily on four US cable networks. (They screen here daily on Foxtel).

CI began in 2001, based around the travails of the Major Case Squad and the brilliant but eccentric Detective Bobby Goren (played histrionically by Vincent D’Onofrio). After D’Onofrio suffered a mini-breakdown in the fourth season, Chris Noth joined the cast, recycling his old L&O character Logan. The two split episode duties to lighten D’Onofrio’s workload.

“It was off balance at times,” Leight says of the show’s propensity to overplay Goren. “It could be argued that we overused him and neglected the other actors.”

This year Leight initiated further changes to CI’s structure, cast and visual style. Originals Jamey Sheridan (Captain Deakins) and Courtney Vance (ADA Carver) left along with Annabella Sciorra (Detective Barek). Sheridan was frustrated that his character was not more engaged in the story. Vance’s exit was more pragmatic: budget pressures.

Sciorra was replaced by Julianne Nicholson, playing Detective Logan’s (Chris Noth) umpteenth partner, Wheeler.

“Noth was unhappy to have another new partner,” Leight says. “I told him we’d write to that; that he’d underestimate her, she’d grow on him, and eventually he’d realise she’s the best partner he’d had since Lenny. It worked out beautifully.”

There was also a desire to explore more of the personal lives of the detectives. Leight was receiving feedback suggesting viewers thought of Goren as “the man who knew too much”. With D’Onofrio having completed 110 episodes as Goren, Leight fleshed out his family’s story to help keep him engaged in the role.

After several years of alluding to her, Goren’s schizophrenic mother appeared. The scenes with his mother (also undergoing chemotherapy) were poignant and helped explain where Goren comes from. Goren also has a drug-addled brother and little else. This explains his obsessiveness for closure in cases; his own life always lacked closure.

Leight says the quirks that Goren is renowned for – stuttering and stammering, leaning over during interrogation, and demonstrating odd and obscure knowledge – evolved partly from D’Onofrio himself. “Vince engages psychologically with the script the same way Goren engages psychologically with the suspects,” Leight says.

The difference in Goren’s and Logan’s episodes are conspicuous. Goren episodes typically conclude with a last scene that runs up to 10 minutes and ends with the internal motivation of the killer unveiled through a Goren confrontation. “Chris Noth doesn’t care for that manner,” Leight laughs.

Instead, Noth’s Logan is experienced and intuitive and he works as more of a traditional, street-smart cop: who, what, when, where. Logan’s not interested in why they did it; he just wants to find out who did it.

Leight and his team have also attempted to visually reinforce the narrative this season. They began making more of the fact that all L&Os are shot on location in New York (unlike shows such as CSI:NY, which purports to be set in New York but is filmed on LA sound stages).

“We really wanted to get out and show the city,” Leight says. “There’s a real look to the city we should take advantage of.”

Meantime, CI faces cancellation after enjoying arguably its strongest season. This week, a cluster of agents, lawyers and producers are crunching numbers to decide the show’s fate.

Leight is defiantly proud of the work of his team. Still, if it returns next year, expect subtle changes. For example, the medical examiner, Rogers, an L&O tyro, will get an expanded role.

For his part, the Goren character has endured a harrowing year. How can he continue? “We’ll ask what does a man who has never gotten to live his life do when he gets the chance,” Leight says. “Nothing about Goren suggests he’s a quitter.”

Okay…my turn

First of all, there is a common theme here: Money. M-O-N-E-Y.

Newsday mentions ratings which equal income

Second Fox News and this reads like a Joe Bob Briggs (the drive in movie critic) body count
The Mothership
1 fired producer
2 probably fired cops
1 possibly fired cop who wants more airtime and has an Emmy
50% budget slashing fu

CI
1 actress leaving due to pregnancy (Julianne Nicholson)
1 actor with a gossip/mainstream press fanbase and an already big salary– and boy oh boy are the fangurls *upset* that Chris Noth is making more money than VDO (I’ll come back to this in a bit) — and some issues over losing yet another acting partner which could be leveraged into a bigger salary demand
1 actor who has sent out so many coded messages about being so outta there that the topic deserves its own post not to mention presumably the gossip/mainstream press doesn’t like him (which is why we often get stories about unhappy cast and crew from them) (Vincent D’Onofrio)
No more room for really big budget slashes unless it’s all about going from hamburger to tainted pet food artistically speaking (last season’s loss of Rene Balcer and his creative team was like going from fillet mignon to hamburger)

Finally from The Age [with my analysis in blunt Tony Soprano speak in brackets]

“It’s part of the television business; your fate is not usually in your own hands. It’s a question of money.” — Warren Leight [At GE/NBC, it *really* is all about the Benjamins. F*ck the fans, f*ck the creative stuff, just f*cking pay us already, so to speak]

“Noth was unhappy to have another new partner,” Leight says. “I told him we’d write to that; that he’d underestimate her, she’d grow on him, and eventually he’d realise she’s the best partner he’d had since Lenny. It worked out beautifully.” [F*cking constant cast changes do not make for happy actors, good scripts do though]

Leight was receiving feedback suggesting viewers thought of Goren as “the man who knew too much”. With D’Onofrio having completed 110 episodes as Goren, Leight fleshed out his family’s story to help keep him engaged in the role. [*I*never said that Goren was too smart or that I needed to know everything about his personal life but then I’m a fan of that character from Day 1…the ordinary casual viewers said that and NBC just had to have bigger ratings and not a loyal viewership. So welcome to f*ck the fanbase who were willing to use their imaginations and their brains in favor of people would watch pretty much any old thing their TV clicker lands on.]

“Vince engages psychologically with the script the same way Goren engages psychologically with the suspects” [Welcome to smart people TV: take a smart script, give it to a smart actor and get the hell out of the way. Of course brain engaged TV does not equal ratings: think of ‘Homicide: Life On The Street’ or ‘100 Centre Street’. But it makes smart people (many of who have discretionary money to spend with advertisers) happy watching TV.]

“We’ll ask what does a man who has never gotten to live his life do when he gets the chance,” Leight says. “Nothing about Goren suggests he’s a quitter.” [Uh sorry but just because Goren the character is not a quitter does not equal ‘VDO will be back for a seventh season’. This is happy talk designed to keep rabid fangurls watching the show even though signs and portents abound to the contrary. In fact calling Goren ‘a man who has never gotten to live his life’ suggests a character that might not be back for a weekly TV series. Perhaps taking a page out of the Chris Noth book we’ll see CI TV movies with Goren in them. So technically Leight is covered no matter what happens, just like D’Onofrio is covered by the opposing The Age – TV Guide stories of March 2007. Misdirect and hedge all you want but if I hear VDO is gone next season I will have been neither fooled nor upset for the deception…you may have some ticked off fans and fangurls though, be warned.]

Speaking of the fangurls who are upset over VDO getting paid less than Chris Noth, well Noth played a business opportunity beautifully back in 2005. He got steady employment in a role he’s good in, Wolf and NBC got someone who could bring a fan base, VDO got some breathing space, VDO’s fans and fangurls got to continue getting their fix while Noth’s fans and fangurls got to renew their addiction all around. That was a smart move for everybody

But now most of the choices to keep CI on the air are zero-sum gain choices. For everybody who wins someone is going to lose. I say let CI go already while it’s quality is passable.

As for the French, nothing is preventing Wolf from brokering a deal for unaired CI scripts by either US or French writers, with Wolf taking a cut for the use of the CI brand…talk about an easy deal for Wolf!