Monday, December 11, 2006

WRITING ABOUT HOUSE

Tonight I am going to turn my attention to House, that FOX show that has turned into one big hit with Hugh Laurie's cranky genius doctor solving medical mysteries every week. You know, it seems odd that this show has turned into one of FOX's biggest shows, given the personality of the main character. But the fact is it's a really intelligent show and Dr. House himself is an interesting, multilayered individual. He's got his own skeletons in the closet (!) (!). He's brilliant, yet he's ticked off.

In fact, House's personality has become something that the writers on the show have had a lot of fun with. They had a storyline going at the start of the season where House was shot and survived the attack, and when he came to he literally became a different person. So we got the kinder, gentler House on TV and saw how all his colleagues were going crazy because of it!!

Imagine Simon Cowell on American Idol saying nice things to contestants and praising Ryan Seacrest all the time!! That's what we're talking about here. Good stuff.

I read an article about the brains behind House, M.D.- the guy's name is David Shore and he's a screenwriter originally from London, Ontario. Yes, to answer your first question, he knows Paul Haggis, alright? Enough about that.

In fact, he's a former lawyer from Toronto who quit being a lawyer to try and go Hollywood. (This is yet another of my posts trying to help you suffering lawyers in office buildings who are looking for viable, cool alternatives to the legal world and all that entails.) Anyway, there was a big writeup about him in the latest Creative Screenwriting magazine. I wasn't able to find a link to that article, but I was able to find this Q-and-A that Linda Frum did with him earlier this year. I thought it was a bit odd that an ex-lawyer guy was doing a show about medicine, but it's not too unusual. A lot of lawyers have to deal with medical situations and personal injuries cases, so they have to know something about it. Also, this guy has done his share of time on legal/cop shows. He had done a spec of L.A. Law in order to land an agent and also did time on Due South, Traders and Law and Order. There was a market out there for procedurals and shows about doctors, so he went with it.

So you lawyer guys who are stuck in these office buildings, slaving away in misery: there's an idea for you. Go write for Hollywood! Actually, this isn't the only show that these lawyer-types are writing. I notice on the show Bones that Greg Ball and Steve Blackman write a lot of the episodes; these are two University of Alberta law grads who chucked law to be screenwriters, and they actually got a show off the ground in Canada called The Associates. I know a bunch of fed-up lawyers are all behind that Showcase series Billable Hours. And there are plenty of lawyers who write for or have already written for all the usual suspects on the air like Boston Legal, C.S.I., Law and Order and all these procedurals. The people who worked on Justice, which was just cancelled by FOX, were lawyers, too. I think it's worth giving it a shot if you are at all interested in television writing or dramas or that sort of thing. Even if the show flops and gets cancelled, it's still better than drafting boring documents!!!!

I've been thinking hard about trying my hand at a spec script of my own over the Christmas holidays--- just so I could say that I've done it. Heck, my whole background has involved writing of some sort or another. So I might as well try writing a TV screenplay at some point just for the heck of it, and try and do a good job on it.

The problem for me is that I dunno what show to write!! If you write the wrong show and it gets cancelled, your spec immediately becomes out of date and you're screwed! All I know from what I've read is that you should not write a spec of The O.C.; apparently all these showrunners think this show is a joke, and besides that the ratings are so bad that it's going to be cancelled anyway. So don't bother with The O.C.

I keep reading that House is a tough show to spec because it's so complex and complicated. You need to have a brain on your head to write these shows, there's no doubt about that--- you need to be able to know your infectious diseases. You need to spend the time at the medical library. You could spend all day looking up all these obscure viruses that ran rampant years ago and were thought to have disappeared, only for some drug-resistant form of it making a comeback. Then you can write your script where House miraculously solves the case and cures you by adopting ancient Chinese medical procedures in the operating room.

The heck with it! Why bother going through all that grief. Maybe I'll try a spec of a fun show like C.S.I. Miami or something like that. Or maybe I'll spec the Simpsons. Doh!

UPDATE: On an entertainment theme---- since there was nowhere else to put this--- I found a profile on the web about this former prosecutor who became an agent in Hollywood. Ted Chervin quit being a federal prosecutor to go to the Broder Webb agency that later merged into ICM and now he's an agent for TV. Of course, he went to Harvard, so the rest of us have no chance at these jobs. There are a heck of a lot of former prosecutors in Hollywood, but a lot of them are screenwriters, not agents. I guess this is something you could do if you're a fed up lawyer looking to get into Hollywood: go the agent route!

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