Tuesday, 18 November 2008


The interview of Ben Silverman by interviewer and broadcast journalist Charlie Rose on his show (http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9554) has been the occasion for Nikki Finke to write a most striking and moving piece on her blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/transcript-of-ben-silverman-on-charlie-rose/).


Ben Silverman is co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio since 2007 and founder of Reveille Productions, a company which brought successfully to the United States foreign formats, like UK's The Office, as remakes.

But it seems that NBC's Prime Time needs far more than a "reveille" ("wake up" in French), if not a résurrection, after the cancellation of the hyped My Own Worst Enemy (with Christian Slater) and of Lipstick Jungle, and the poor reception of Kath & Kim - the remake of an Australian hit sitcom. Silverman's praise of the advantages of a co-production like Crusoe achieved to raise skepticism (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/09/hollywood-babble-on-on-166-nbc-world.html) after the lack of enthusiasm caused by the network's fall schedule.

My Own Worst Enemy is a waste of the talent of Christian Slater, who deserve an equivalent of what 24 has been for Kiefer Sutherland. Watching the promos left the strange impression of a "Jekyll meets Jason Bourne" (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/09/things-to-watch-in-hollywoodland-when_1016.html) - everybody xerox Bourne these days... (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/11/fistful-of-solace.html) and from this side of the ocean it seems that US Network Television buys its weekly fiction only on pitches, whereas UK television builds shows from and around scripts (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/11/boob-tube-how-long-should-series-last.html).

In one case you got Spooks, the best spy show of the History of Television (with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), and in the other you got a long string of grotesque unsold pilots (http://www.leegoldberg.com/non_unsold.html), Fortune Hunter, Secret Agent Man and My Own Worst Enemy. Even if Fortune Hunter was very pleasant to watch, thanks to the late Mark Frankel and shades of Search (1972-1973, a wrongfully forgotten spy/adventure show). Only distance can save this type of series, in its golden age NBC was the network of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but this was 43 years ago.... if Mr Solo should go to Paris today, at least let's hope production would avoid ridicule.


This is not the first time Nikki aims her flamethrower at Ben Silverman (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/major-nbc-shakeup-ahead-network-wants-to-ax-teri-weinberg-hopes-ben-silverman-quits/) but her reaction to the evocation, in Silverman's interview, of the name of Brandon Tartikoff - the legendary executive who brought NBC to the highest summits with some of the most popular shows of the eighties (Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, L.A. Law and many others) - is rather moving for those for whom such a name really means something: « Also, I do wish Silverman would stop trying to channel Brandon Tartikoff's ghost [...] Yes, Silverman worked for Tartikoff once upon a time. But Ben, I knew Brandon. Tartikoff was a friend of mine. And, you sir, are no Brandon Tartikoff ».

After the cancellation of My Own Worst Enemy and Lipstick Jungle the blame apparently fell on Katherine Pope, Universal Media Studio President (http://www.nypost.com/seven/11142008/gossip/pagesix/black_widow_effect_at_nbc_138573.htm), behind the development of the two shows as well as of the terrible Bionic Woman revival and the overestimated Heroes (http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20070604nuts01).

According to New York Post, Ben Silverman has been able to cut costs at the network and seems to be satisfying his bosses, particularly NBC chairman Jeff Zucker. And TV analysts say ratings have become less important as the viewing audience has scattered to proliferating cable channels. Silverman told The Post last summer: « We're managing for margins and not for ratings ».


The Entertainment industry has deeply changed since the era of the great Brandon Tartikoff, Networks must compete against multitude of offers from cable, satellite and the internet. To be fair NBC is not the only network to have bad seasons since a couple of years. And the true problem for the "Big Four" (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox) is the relevance of continuing to order and show weekly series in an environment where viewers are accustomed to US quality fiction from Showtime, AMC or HBO or to la crème of British television through BBC America or The Sci-Fi Channel.

The best illustration of this dilemma is NBC's new Knight Rider, a show run by a man, Gary Scott Thompson, who has a true sense of what popular light entertainment should be on Network television (remember Las Vegas). The series is a target on the internet since its start, with reproaches going from the comparison to the original, or the casting, to the quality of scripts and the sfx. Which is truly amazing when you remember that the original, launched under the reign of Brandon Tartikoff, was produced by Glen A. Larson (no offence intended, his shows are magnificent childhood memories) and was basically My mother the car done straight with the production values of the Universal Television of the time and stunts.

Now the new version is revamped due to yo-yo ratings and three cast members are out, amongst them Bruce Davison, one of the finest American contemporary actors. Really a pity, 25 years ago (when the "Big Three" Networks were unrivaled) this show would have been the toast of the moment, but viewers seem to wish that the networks show them series like Dexter or Californication or perhaps no series at all - America's got talent or Deal or no Deal are a great fun to watch.

To adapt foreign formats will certainly not be the solution to the troubles of this Fall's schedules or of the whole season. See ABC's Life on Mars US... What's the point of adapting series American viewers already know through BBC America or the internet? Do programing execs believe Brit shows are still ghettoized on PBS or relegated to cheapo syndication deals? What will NBC offer us in the future? A US remake of Hotel Babylon in Las Vegas? Seriously...

The real challenge for Ben Silverman and his colleagues or counterparts is to answer to this sole question: what kind of Entertainment for the networks in the 21th century?

Update: Lee Goldberg on Tim Kring and Heroes (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2008/11/how-not-to-get-people-to-watch-your-show.html).

Friday, 14 November 2008


Should you pick only one reason to like this business, it would be Mr Stephen Tobolowsky (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/stephen-tobolowsky.html), one of these consumed professional actors who give sense to a movie with his single presence at the service of a character, a script and a director. Not to mention the fact that only his name can make your humble servant watch Heroes.

More, the man is one of the nicest persons in Hollywoodland and always have a generous anecdote about his career or about his life to offer to you like if it was a gift in your birthday party (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/stephen-tobolowskys-birthday-party.html). And to have the privilege to discuss with him of Bob Darnell or Joseph Ruskin recalls you that movies mean not only B.O. or "franchises".

« I was in a big movie that should be released soon... The Time Traveller's Wife, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. It was a lot of fun to shoot. It is a very interesting combination of a love story and science fiction... I hope it works » Stephen told us yesterday.

« I just shot a TV pilot called Glee, from Ryan Murphy, the creator of Nip/Tuck. If that show is successful it will be premiered after American Idol in January. Again it was a tremondously fun script and shoot and the cast is very talented... but I have learned that one can never take anything for granted. When I was shooting the movie Hero I thought it was a slam dunk. It was directed by Stephen Frears (one of the finest directors working today), it starred Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia, and Geena Davis, and it was written by David Webb Peoples (nominated for the Academy awards with Unforgiven)... But the movie really never quite worked as it should have. It's good, but it had the pieces to be great... You never know. »

Hollywood should do a TV series about Stephen Tobolowsky. He's a character in his own respect and adventure is never far when he's around, especially when he's on holidays. « Also this was the year I broke my neck in five places and have lived to tell the tale!!! » he adds. « Feeling better everyday! »

Thanks for all, Mr Tobolowsky.

(C) Thierry Attard


Each year since 1980 Children in Need, the British Charity appeal, offers great moments of Television for a great cause. Tonight on BBC One, it will be the occasion to have a look to a preview of the Doctor Who Christmas special and Ashes to Ashes will meet Top Gear!

Fire up the Quattro!


Thursday, 6 November 2008


Yep, I know... Who speaks French these days... But the guy is talented and he's a friend: there's a very interesting interview of Tristan Harvey (http://www.tristanharvey.com/), the French-speaking dubbing voice of Seth Rogen (Zack and Miri make a porno) in Quebec since The 40 year-old Virgin, on the excellent http://www.cinoche.com/ website (http://www.cinoche.com/dossiers/189).

I had the opportunity to interview Tristan in 2004 when I was deputy editor of La Gazette du doublage (http://www.objectif-cinema.com/spip.php?article2454). The quality of French speaking dubbing in Quebec is always top-notch and deserve to be recognized as a reference.

These interviews are in French.

The trailer of Zack and Miri make a porno in French speaking dubbing from Quebec: http://www.cinoche.com/trailers/5283/5562

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


I've just learned on tv the news of the death of my favorite novelist, Michael Crichton. He was 66.

Author of The Andromeda Strain, Rising Sun, Jurassic Park, or Disclosure, amongst many masterpieces of modern litterature, he doubled as a talented film director during the 70s and 80s with great movies like Westworld or Looker.

He was a brilliant mind and a visionary. To be deprived in the future of the pleasure to read "the latest Michael Crichton" is really a very sad perspective.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


Special thanks to François JUSTAMAND

« It's a new world, with new enemies, and new threats. But you can still depend on one man... » Well, at least his producers can: Quantum of Solace, the new 007 flick - which opened on October 31 - breaks records for its first weekend in Europe: 1,3 million tickets in France (on 3 days) and £ 15 384 217 for its United Kingdom release, as UK is by nature the test market for the franchise. The movie opens on November 14 in the US.

With a $261 million price tag for a 105-minute movie, maybe the costliest film ever made minute by minute (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/new-bond-wannasee-double-casino-royale-questions-about-quantum-of-solace-cost/), failure was not an option for Sony, MGM and Eon Productions, the forces behind Quantum. The explanations to the first weekend lucky numbers are multiple: pertinent release opening date plan, no real concurrence, the commercial success of Casino Royale - the previous entry, and the prestige of one of the most solid myths of pop culture: James Bond.

But which one exactly? The character created by Ian Fleming for his novels? Sean Connery in Dr No (1962) and From Russia with love (1963)? Or the epitome of big screen escapist extravaganza established in Goldfinger (1964): the suave womanizing superspy fighting megalomaniac villains, with the little help of gadgetry, licensed to kill sportscars fully equiped, and girls right out of Hugh Hefner's dreams. All with this typical Brit ingenuity and wit, shaken not stirred.

Books rarely remain intact when adapted as movies. Honestly and with all the respect due to the work of Ian Fleming, the only proper way to be faithful to his novels today would be miniseries set in the time of the books with the quality standards of a Poirot with David Suchet. Without the alchemy that made Sean Connery the immortal star of the dyptic Dr No/From Russia with love (long before the producers decided that Quantum of Solace would be a sequel) Fleming's creation would only have been transposed for comic books (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/james-bond-is-back-in-action-again.html) and a forgotten anthology episode from the Prehistory of Television.

Goldfinger made modern commercial cinema and imposed the canons of a genre in its own respect for generations going every couple of years to see A JAMES BOND, « Hallmark of today's greatest entertainment »: elegance, action, adventure, exotic locations, classy cars, gadgets, gigantic villain's lair designed by Ken Adam, quips, fabulous title songs, the talent of John Barry and THAT theme. The world's famous film theme: The James Bond theme.

And this Bond lived on during forty years with flamboyance, many ups, some downs, sometimes trying awkwardly to emulate BO phenoms of their times, like Shaft for Live and Let Die (1973), the Shaw Brothers pictures for The Man with Golden Gun (1975), or even Star Wars - prototype of "franchises" as we know them today, for Moonraker in 1979. But always with one if not more moments to build its eternal glory and always true to the soul of Bond on film: escapism galore. In these days Bond meant an explosion of cinematic sensations sold by publicity geniuses devising the greatest taglines, and ordering magnificent painted posters. We knew the name, we knew the number.

Then came Die Another Day (2002) and its excesses and misses under the weight of audience demographics and against the reflection of a deforming mirror called Austin Powers. At the time your humble French servant, a longtime Bond devotee, thought it was about time to help the Bond franchise not to become a perpetual laughing stock for Mad Magazine. And he theorized pompously for his unfortunate friends about the so-called lack of credibility of 007 in the 21st century - insisting on the fact that his favorite screen spies were Harry Palmer and George Smiley (which is still the case, by the way...)

James Bond peaked his popularity as one « the Three Bs », the Holy Trinity of the Swinging sixties: Beatles, Bond and Batman. In the dark ages of a post-September 11 world, the Batman underwent a "reboot", and a 4 year gap between Die Another Day and Casino Royale (2006) saw the emergence of no-nonsense nor wit brutal fiction super agents: 24/7 tormented saviour Jack Bauer and the revamped Jason Bourne with Matt Damon. Mission: Impossible III, one of the best action thriller ever, did the rest and achieved to convince producers of James Bond that a reboot was the only way to make 007 one of the Bs of the high octane action genre, with Bourne and Bauer (Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt being the fourth musketeer).

« It's a new world, with new enemies, and new threats. But you can still depend on one man... » The trouble with Casino Royale is that this man is gone AWOL with what made the character a modern myth of popular culture. And we had to wait 4 long years of the usual rumors and speculations (worsen in the internet era), buy the idea of substantial changes, and accept Daniel Craig as the new James Bond (why not? He was excellent in Layer Cake) with the best feelings and intentions... for a rather despairing result (1). Box Office plebiscited the choices of Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, helmers of the series launched by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman in 1962, but to this date pros and cons of the « James Bourne » reformat are still discussing if the movie is pure Bond or not (2).

Retrospectively, Die Another Day has been the trigger if not the scapegoat of this reboot. DAD is not better or worse than another installment of the franchise. It tried to live up to the title of « Hallmark of today's greatest entertainment » inherited from the golden years of 007 in a world (a thought for the late Don LaFontaine here...) where there's one blockbuster from the Hollywoodland factory once a week, and where the Germans of action concept produce more spectacular action packed sequences in an episode of Alarm für Cobra 11 than the movie industry in 144 minutes of Casino Royale. Hollywood knows that, rent one of the recent movies of the great Bruce Willis.

Die Another Day is the « Old School Bond » Ultimatum. With Quantum of Solace the Bond Supremacy stays undisputed from a Box Office point of view but there's practically nothing left today of the Bond Identity: a logo on posters, the James Bond theme on trailers. Why not after all? Really. Everything changes, perhaps now there's a Bond for each generation: a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, relic of the Cold War or a blunt instrument. Your humble over-the-hill servant will not see Quantum of Solace, a botched regeneration in Doctor Who is enough disappointment for this year. No hard feelings, Mr Bond...

« The coffin - it has your initials: J.B.
- At the moment, rather him than me. »
(Thunderball, 1965)

(1) We'll develop on Casino Royale in a later article.

(2) More generally, Furious D on the « Bond, James Bond » issue: http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/11/cinemaniacal-bond-james-bond.html (see also http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/02/cinemaniacal-1-shaken-not-stirred.html).