Dallas Surf Report: Hidden History – A Room With THE View at SMU


Dallas, Texas — At my Alma Mater, Southern Methodist University (SMU), there is a Room with, hands down, the best view of the campus and of the Dallas skyline.

And, it’s a 100-year-old Secret to most Mustangs.

Welcome to the Attic Apartment atop Dallas Hall.


Dallas Hall sits atop an actual Hilltop at SMU and commands a view of the entire campus (voted one of the most beautiful in the nation) as well as the skyline of the city of Dallas. The building is listed on the national historical register, and its dome is quite majestic.

If you look at Dallas Hall, focus on the two stone balconies beneath the grand Dome, on each side. Now look at the Dome, but right in the center beneath it, there is Another Balcony.

Herein sits Dallas Hall’s long forgotten dorm room and SMU’s very tight-lipped architectual Secret.

Once upon a time, the first President of SMU, Robert Hyer, was to live in a private attic apartment at the very top of Dallas Hall in front of the dome with its own private balcony overlooking the entire campus. The apartment, however, was deemed too small for President Hyer’s wife, so they ended up living in another building, Clements Hall.

Kudos to you, Mrs. Hyer. You are/were quite correct.


So for a very short time, the attic apartment which is basically just two rooms (and a fantastic balcony with an unparalleled view) housed SMU’s first football coach, Ray Morrison (who also coached Track, Baseball, and Basketball in addition to teaching Mathematics!) who was then succeeded by some lucky Theology students before they got too rowdy, and use of the apartment was discontinued.

This is why we can’t have nice things, people!

Darwin Payne, former chairman of SMU’s Division of Journalism, mentions this space in his well-received SMU Centennial commemorative book, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop. Payne’s book reminded me of the existence of Hyer’s apartment. The Seed of Curiosity germinated.


A few weeks ago during Homecoming Week, this Prodigal returned to The Hilltop to guest-lecture a couple of classes in Meadows School of the Arts.

I checked out a number of exhibits in both Perkins’ Bridwell Library  (Martin Luther Bibles!) and the Meadows Museum (Spanish Art!), however, those wonderful displays paled in comparison to this privately secured campus tour.

I was lucky enough to rediscover SMU’s architectural secret alongside my classmate, Dodie Jacobi (a Meadows grad), and Joan Gosnell, the University’s Archivist. Our tour guide was Scot Montague, Operations Chief (and an SMU Dad).

Entering via an unmarked door inside Dallas Hall, the four of us very carefully climbed an old iron spiral staircase which leads to an anteroom of the apartment. This anteroom is circular because of the Dome:

Lots of exposed brick, cobwebs, and dust welcomed us as its most recent visitors.


We were stepping back through Time: An Unmarked DoorAn Old Spiral Staircase! A Chamber of Secrets?

All that was missing was the ghost of President Hyer (or his wife) bitching about the draft and our casual attire.

My inner Harry Potter could not have been more thrilled!

If only those Theology students from the 1900s could have regaled us with their stories of having the coolest dorm room on campus. Surely, they grilled out hamburgers on the balcony while debating The New Testament.

Okay, maybe not.

What I did not know is that there is a second iron spiral staircase that leads to a private office below the apartment. Presumably, this staircase entrance was intended for President Hyer. Dodie and I both made mental notes to reserve that office should we ever return as Alumni-in-Residence.


Dallas Hall is the first (and last) building a student likely enters while at SMU. I certainly had many English, Journalism and History classes there during my undergraduate days. So, it was a particular pleasure to finally get a peek at one of its most closely held secrets: The Attic Apartment.

In a perfect world, the University would share my love for this space and restore it. Again, there are only two very small rooms: A living area and a bathroom. And, that awesome balcony (or three!). The pale blue walls are heavily grafittied from students (and faculty) who commemorated their sneaky visits via Sharpie. We were not the first to visit this belfry. Many have preceded us. You can read their names right there on the wall.


What is undeniable about this curious space is how special and unique a living quarter it must have been back in the early 1900s. Also, it must have been very cold and drafty during the winter months!

One hundred year-old wooden doors with transoms, baseboards, and tongue and groove flooring show the craftsmanship that went into creating this one-of-a-campus apartment.



Unfortunately, the safety concerns are numerous. That tremendous view, though…


One day, this wonderfully quirky attic apartment will be re-discovered by the right person, that maverick Dean, the history-obsessed University President, and it will be restored to its original Glory. (Heads up, Laura Bush!)

For now, though, this super secret apartment is A Room With THE View at SMU.


Special Thanks to Joan Gosnell of SMU Archives and to Scot Montague of University Operations for the private tour which was the highlight of a very special week in Dallas. Thank you for your time and for your generosity of Spirit.

After the tour of Dallas Hall, Joan invited Dodie and I to view the Archives which is located in the DeGolyer Library in the Fondren Building. It was like stepping backstage of Reality, or if you will, the Room of Requirement in Hogwarts.


The History of SMU is in good hands as Joan is a wonderful custodian of the University’s past which includes collections from Dallas entrepreneurs Stanley Marcus and J.C. Penney.

Dodie and I found our junior year Rotunda which chronicled our days as the Resident Advisors in the now-defunct Lettermen Hall (sadly, now a parking structure):




Architectural Secrets at SMU are probably numerous.

Supposedly, there are secret tunnels that run underneath the Main Quad. I shall leave those to another intrepid alumnus to file a report. For me, though, seeing this Dallas Hall secret after wondering about it for decades was a triumph in both curiosity and resourcefulness in addition to the generosity of the University to grant such a Tour.

I love my alma mater. Now, I love it even more. History really is a treasure. At SMU,  there is much to be discovered. You can start with SMU’s Digital Collections

Seek and Ye Shall Find, my fellow Prodigals.


N E X T   U P:

Off to Park City, Utah. Let it Snow!





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Film Surf Report: 2018 Looks Like A Good Year For Super Franchises (Stock Tip: Buy #Disney)


Santa Monica, CA  — Just renewed my Passport and am ready to travel to Wakanda to hang with Black Panther (and to check on The Winter Soldier who is still frozen) before heading to France to catch up with those Fantastic Beasts.  Am gonna need my wetsuit because ya never know where Aquaman will drag a fella.

2018 is gonna be a fun year at the movies!  Were I trading on the Stock Market, I would most definitely buy *Disney as 2018 will belong to this studio (with The Last Jedi closing out 2017) which will clean up via Marvel Studios, Pixar and Lucas Film.

My pick for Sleeper Hit comes from Disney, as well:  Ava Du Vernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, which hits theaters March 9th (and is the first in a series, launching a new franchise). Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling Are Featured In The Trailer


Meanwhile, mark your calendar and alert your stock broker because here’s what’s on tap:

  • *Black Panther   Feb. 16th — Very impressed with Chadwick Bozeman and his introduction in Civil War and have high hopes for the standalone film which boasts a fine cast directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station).  Interested to see the South Korea locations.  Here’s the T R A I L E R #1   Fox scored with Deadpool on this release date. Smart move.
  • A Wrinkle in Time  March 9th — See above!
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider  March 16th — The re-boot stars Alicia Vikander and Dominic West. Roar Uthaug directs.
  • X-Men: New Mutants April 13th — Josh Boone directing a new group of mutants that will likely include Wolfsbane, Rachel Summers, and MagmaJames McAvoy set to return as Professor X.
  • *Avengers: Infinity Wars Part One    May 4th –Could be way too many Marvel characters going up against Thanos in this one.  Everyone gets short shrift, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Marvel. Here’s the 1st Trailer – Wakanda!


  • Deadpool 2  June 1st — Ryan Reynolds returns with a new director for the foul-mouthed, almost-Oscar nominated sequel and breakout X-men property.  Fox has to get this sequel right in order to launch Strike Force, so expect a set-up.  Here’s the very fun T R A I L E R for DEADPOOL 2
  • *The Incredibles 2   June 15th —  Cannot wait, Pixar Studios!  Brad Bird returns along with the original voice cast (Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter). This is a 4-quadrant movie.  Here’s the 1st TRAILER featuring Jack Jack.


  • *Ant-Man & Wasp  July 6th  — Not a fan, so Rudd & Co. gotta win me over, especially since this film is being billed as Marvel’s first Romantic Comedy! Michael Douglas returns as Hank PymPeyton Reed directs (again). Walton Scoggins signed on for an unknown (and probably villainous) role. Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne also star. Production just wrapped Nov. 20th.
  • Venom Oct. 5th — Hopes were not high until Tom Hardy signed on to play Venom, the anti-hero of the Spider-Man Universe.  Interested. Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) directs.


  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix  Nov. 2nd — Too soon. I still remember the Famke Janssen version of X3, and young Jean Grey was just okay in Apocalypse. Fox is going to the X-Well once too often, I fear. Simon Kinberg is set to direct. Jessica Chastain plays the Villain, who is taken from the original Comic.  Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy return as does Evan Peters as Quicksilver.  Feels Ho Hum to me. Been here, done that.  Meanwhile, someone dies! Any guesses?


  • Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them: The Crimes of Grindewald  Nov. 16th — David Yates to direct the 2nd of the planned five films in the franchise that will likely culminate in the big duel between Grindewald (Johnny Depp) and a young Dumbledore!  (Jude Law)
  • *Young Han Solo May 25th or Dec. 13th  Alden Ehrenreich (Hail Caesar!, Beautiful Creatures) seems to be a terrific choice.  Donald Glover co-stars as young Lando Calrissian.  Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Emilia Clarke also co-star. Phil Lord and Chris Miller either quit or got fired, and now, Ron Howard takes over much to my dismay.
  • Aquaman  Dec. 21st — Man, I hope DC Comics/WB gets it right here.  Jason Momoa looks great holding a trident, confronting Bruce Wayne, etc. in Justice LeagueAmber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman also star. James Wan (Fast & Furious 7, The Conjuring) directs. Supposedly it’s not an Origin Story but expect a lot of humor a la Thor: RagnorakEW’s 1st Look Make It Sound Like An Origin Story, Tho!


Here’s a Peek at  2 0 1 9:

  • Gambit  Feb. 14th — Channing Tatum, anyone? Yes, Fox booked this X-Men spinoff film correctly by selecting Valentine’s Day as the release day as women will flock to this film if promoted using Tatum front and center and minimally clothed. Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex) co-stars. Gore Verbinski (POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl) directs.
  • The Batman  March (SO VERY TBD) Ben Affleck returns (or does he????). Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, War for the Planet of the Apes) set to direct.  Joe Mangianello made a surprise cameo as Deathstroke in Justice Leauge. However, there are rumors that Deathstroke is out (and may now get his own much smaller solo film instead), and The Penguin is in as an effort to lighten up this franchise. Frankly, I’d rather see  Bookworm (with Tom Cruise or Colin Firth). Affleck wrote the script with Geoff Johns, however, Reeves is starting over from scratch and going for a detective noir approach.  Hence, the delay.  This will be a standalone film and not part of the DCEU.


  • Avengers 4  May 3rd — What was to have been a 2-parter from The Russo Bros. has now become Avengers 4 which supposedly wraps up the current group, including expensive paycheck players Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America who completes his contract with Marvel with this film. Look for an intro to Captain Marvel, as well.  Thor has an eye patch. Black Widow is now blonde. The End of the MCU (As We Knew It) Via GQ
  • Untitled Fox/Marvel Film  June 7th — That Fantastic Four option appears to be lapsing.  Doctor Doom perhaps? Or possibly, Multiple Man starring James Franco! Simon Kinsberg produces from a script by Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman).
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming Pt. 2   July 5th — Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei scored in Civil War and are rewarded with a 3-parter.  Expect director Jon Watts to return for the sequel.
  • Captain Marvel   Okay, Brie Larson.  July (tent.) Ya got your work cut out for ya. Story is set pre-Avengers in the ’90s with Nick Fury not wearing an eye patch! Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to direct. Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Tomb Raider) scripts. Jude Law has signed on to co-star.
  • Flashpoint  (SO VERY TBD) Ezra Miller’s standalone film has been plagued with problems. New script and new director caused the film to get pushed back by a year or more. Hope they get this film on track as Miller was the highlight of the Justice League. This DC film will likely move to 2020. DC Film Slate Gets All Shook Up  Gal Gadot returns as Wonder Woman!


  • X-Force A team franchise led by Deadpool, Fox will make it work for better or worse (Fantastic Four anyone?). Drew Goddard writes and directs this non-virtuous team of X-Men which also includes Josh Brolin’s Cable. Ryan Reynolds gets an EP credit.
  • Shazam!  (SO VERY TBD) David F. Sandberg (Annabelle) set to direct with Zachary Levi set to star, and Dwayne Johnson is set to produce and to star as Black Adam, the villain of Shazam!, in a spinoff film, but Johnson is reportedly not appearing in Shazam! (or is he?). Supposedly, Shazam! is the next DCEU film to go into production in 2018.
  • Wonder Woman 2 — Nov. 1st  — Director Patty Jenkins has set the sequel story during the Cold War with Russia.  Who’s the next villain for Diana, though?  My money is on Ares’ son.  Nerdist breaks ’em down 5 Villains for WW2
  • James Bond 25 — Nov. 8th — Purvis and Wade scripting. No director set. No distributor.  Daniel Craig returns one more time as James Bond, though. More info forthcoming including a return for Monica Bellucci.
  • Justice League Part Two  — November (SO VERY TBD) The reviews for Part One have been mixed with most declaring, It’s Better Than BvS! Part Two supposedly introduces Green Lantern! This month is getting awfully crowded with franchises, so I expect this film to slide to either December or to 2020.
  • Fantastic Beasts 3 (Nov. 15th) More Dumbledore! Less Johnny Depp.
  • Untitled Fox/Marvel Film — Nov. 22nd — More X-Men! Or possibly, Dr. Doom from Fantastic Four with Noah Hawley (Legion) helms.
  • Star Wars, Ep. IX   — Dec. 20th —  How will LucasFilm deal with the untimely death of Carrie Fisher and her alter ego, Princess/General Leia? JJ Abrams returns to the franchise in the director’s chair after a troubling start. I predict the storyline for The Skywalkers gets wrapped up. No more Death Stars, please!



N E X T   U P:

The Room With THE View at SMU.


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Film Surf Report: Universal’s Dark Universe Should Look to John Logan’s Penny Dreadful for Resurrection & Inspiration


Santa Monica, CA — When last we saw Tom Cruise’s character (whose name I can barely recall as it was so bland….wait a minute, he was called Nick Something) in The Mummy, he and his resurrected buddy were riding off into the desert landscape to Parts Unknown, both newbie Immortals in search of a Sequel.

Oy, The Mummy was a terrible film. Just terrible. Nothing worked.

Jammed in the middle of the crazy story was poor Russell Crowe holding court in The Prodigium, the hub of The Dark Universe, where the audience was supposed to one day meet Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, The Bride, and The Wolfman.


Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie & Co. will have to wait a minute for their respective solo Monster Movies as Universal regroups and commences its salvage operation. Architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have left the franchise.

The Mummy made a respectable $400 million worldwide. Not much to salvage here. More like, a course correction. Make a good movie! Tell a great story! Set up the franchise in the End Credits, if you must.

Universal’s Company Line About Its Intention to Move Forward

Heads Up, Universal.  I have a suggestion:  Look to Television.

Specifically, spend the weekend binge-watching Showtime’s enthralling three seasons of Penny Dreadful, wherein, you will see a seamless gathering of Monsters like The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, Dorian Grey, and The Bride.

More importantly, these Monsters exist within a really really good Story.


Master Storyteller Anne Rice is a recent convert and recently shared her thoughts on Penny Dreadful and the Dark Universe:

Anne Rice Posts on Facebook About Dark Universe

Rice, who is on a book tour promoting her own Mummy sequel co-written with son Christopher, Ramses The Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra, knows something about good horror writing.  She’s a fan of the classic Universal monster movies. The studio should call her in for a meeting and bring her on board to help steer the rudderless ship.

Anne and Christopher Rice Discuss The Return of The Mummy With Nerdist


You know who else Universal should meet with?  John Logan!

Penny Dreadful is brilliant storytelling.  Television was the perfect medium, too. Here, Everything Worked.

Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall, SPECTRE) clearly had a vision that his production team masterfully executed as they created period London by evoking foggy cobbled streets, mysterious horse-drawn carriages, and underground dwellings where monsters meet for a cuppa and some solace among friends.

The casting was dead on brilliant, too: Wonderful Actors Who Are Not Household Names.

Eva Green (Casino Royale) was put through an emotional wringer. Her scenes with John Clare, aka, The Monster, were so so moving, filled with wonderful depth and pathos. Rory Kinnear, a supporting player in the Daniel Craig Bond films (M’s assistant), breathes new life in a dead character we’ve seen so often.

Everyone has a monster within them. Moreover, our inner-monsters can be heroic.

Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Reeve Carney, and Billie Piper were equally excellent. Again, Everything Worked: Writing, Casting, Production Design. Everything. This series exemplifies the elusive Lightning in a Bottle.  It is everything 2017’s The Mummy was not.

Am not sure John Logan would wish to re-tread this material for Universal, but it’s worth a conversation, and at the very least, a binge-viewing. He is currently at work in TV adapting Justin Cronin’s deeply disturbing American vampire saga, The Passage, for FOX. (A wonderful book, btw. Am still haunted by its imagery.)

Meanwhile, the notion that the studio has abandoned the franchise after one terrible film (that will make money for them in perpetuity) does not hold water.

The Hollywood Reporter Sees Mummification of Franchise


Bill Condon (Beauty & the Beast, Twilight, Gods & Monsters) is still attached to direct The Bride of Frankenstein, however, its 2019 release date has been scratched. Jolie was being courted to star but was never formally attached to the film. Now, she can concentrate on Maleficent 2. David Koepp wrote the script, which is being heavily scrutinized.

Please, no more mindless action!

The studio is on record saying these films will be director-driven. I would advise looking abroad for these directors. For example, New Zealander Taika Waititi did a wonderful job infusing some Kiwi humor in Marvel’s latest mega-hit, Thor: Ragnorak.

Also, these films should not be star vehicles. The Monsters are the stars and should not be eclipsed by the actors portraying them (Depp, Jolie). Sofia Boutella is terrific as the Egyptian Princess in The Mummy. I wish she had been given a better Story and a lot more to do than just wreak mindless havoc once unearthed. More Boutella. Less Cruise.

In a sense, the Monster(s) in these films should somehow break the audience’s heart through their respective pain at the cruel hand dealt to them by Fate.  Logan hits homerun after homerun via his characters in Penny Dreadful. As does Anne Rice in The Vampire Chronicles.

We. Must. Care. About. The. Characters.

There’s more life to be had in the Dark Universe. One misstep should not cancel an entire franchise. These are classic horror stories meant to thrill us. Again. And again.

Binge-watch Penny Dreadful. You will be glad you did.


N E X T   U P:

The Room with THE View at SMU.






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TV Surf Report: Branding in the Age of Streaming When Social Media Engagement Has Never Been More Important (Part 4 of 4)


Santa Monica, CA – A recent headline in Variety proclaimed that 22 million adults will cut the cord and get rid of their cable television subscription by the end of 2017. That’s a lot of lost revenue at $100/month/household.  Add to that lost revenue the number of consumers who are dubbed Cord Nevers, people who have never subscribed to cable.

Well, yikes! So, where will they go?

Answer: Streaming Services and Social Media Platforms. Even Networks know this as evidenced by CBS creating CBS All Access and launching Star Trek: Discovery there.

Studios are evolving as well as evidenced by Disney which is set to premiere its own Streaming Service in 2019 with New Star Wars Series As Its Center Piece

Let’s discuss, shall we? We are covering new ground here, as are these specific companies, so they are discovering their respective Brands as they find their unique super-hits and go from there, producing similar shows in order to capture a consistent audience base.  The one factor all share is Youth.

Baby Boomers, although they have money, are unlikely to Adapt in great numbers.


  Streaming Services:

Amazon is an interesting case study in Branding. It can deliver Anything Anywhere Anytime within 24 hours or same day. That’s pretty much its current Brand. I think of it also as having a strong tie to Publishing, and its development relies heavily on IP (see below).

Notably, the company is spending $4.5 Billion in original content creation this year. A huge chunk will be devoted to its recent acquisition of the TV Rights to J.R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings.

The New York Times Reviews Its Comedy Pilots

  • Signature Series: Transparent, Man in the High Castle, Catastrophe, Mozart in the Jungle
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 2.69 million are talking about something they just bought!
  • Notable Development: A multi-season commitment to a prequel series adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings which reps a Huge financial risk should it fail. Rotten Tomatoes Predicts Possible Storylines for LOTR Series Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been ordered for two seasons based on its Pilot. Homecoming, an adaptation of a Podcast about government conspiracy with Julia Roberts set to star; Good Omens, a 6-episode hour-long comedy adaptation of the Terry Prachett/Neil Gaiman novel with Michael Sheen and David Tenant set to star; The Underground Railroad, a limited series from Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight); Jack Ryan, an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s spy series with John Krasinski (The Office) set to star; a re-boot of Starsky & Hutch with director James Gunn (GOTG) executive producing; The Romanoffs from Matthew Weiner (Mad Men);  Agatha Christie Mysteries with BBC One; a continuation of Galaxy Quest (no original cast set yet); Mercury 13, a mini-series from Brad Whitford and Amy Pascal about 13 women behind space flight; Too Old to Die Young is a crime drama set in the underbelly of LA and stars Miles Teller and Jena Malone as assassins.


Netflix is an international force to be reckoned with, but what is its Brand, and does it even need one? Am thinking it could be We Have Something For Everyone.

The company is spending $6 Billion in content creation, $100 million of which is going to uber producer Shonda Rhimes. In 2016, Netflix produced 46 original series.

  • Signature Series: House of Cards, Stranger Things, The Crown, Orange Is The New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Defenders, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist; Black Mirror; The Punisher, Grace & Frankie, Fuller House; Alias Grace; Disjointed; Frontier; One Day at a Time
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 3.77 million (strong)
  • Notable Development: A lot of Comedy Specials; multiple spin-offs of House of Cards (presumably without the recently fired Kevin Spacey); a re-boot or another installment (TBD) of Armisted Maupin’s Tales of the City; a re-boot of the campy ’60s family drama Lost in SpaceDanger, Will Robinson!; an adaptation of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (10 eps.); The Haunting of Hill House starring Timothy Hutton in the 10-episode adaptation; The Witcher adaptation which is like Buffy 2.0; Maniac, a comedy series starring Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and Sally Field; The Umbrella Academy, a new super hero show with Ellen Page set to star; The Good Cop with Tony Danza and Josh Groban; Huge in France, a comedy about a star comic who relocates to LA with his model son; Godless, a Western starring Michelle Dockery; Messiah, a 10-episode limited series from Roma Downey & Mark Burnett; a Sabrina the Teenage Witch horror spinoff from The CW’s Riverdale (20 episode order); Altered Carbon, a sci-fi series in the vein of Westworld meets BSG (premieres 02/18).


Hulu made big noise earlier this year when its original series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale won the Emmy Award for Best Drama.

But what’s its Brand: Nostalgia?

Unlike Amazon and Netflix, Hulu does not have a global reach. However, it does have four parent companies: Fox, Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. The streaming service has committed $2.5 Billion for original content creation, per Variety

And, Hulu has a strategic partnership with Spotify aimed squarely at Students, a desirable demographic for advertisers. Lots of series to binge here (new and old until studios start pulling out their content to reserve for their own newly created streaming service a la Disney).

  • Signature Series: The Handmaid’s Tale, Shut Eye, The Mindy Project, Difficult People, Chance, Sarah Silverman Loves America
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 516k
  • Notable Development: Marvel’s Runaways to premiere Nov. 21st; Future Man from Seth Rogen and starring Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) as a Janitor By Day/Gamer Super Hero by Night; Castle Rock, an anthology series;expect lots of IP-centric development, titles people are already familiar with and presumably, once liked.

YOU TUBE LOGOYou Tube is owned by Google. Now, this is a Streaming Service to watch. Anyone else notice it sponsored The World Series? Very interesting.

As for its Brand, the company is evolving a brand from Your Video Here to something new, You Tube Red. Digital Influencers will be a large part of their programming.

The Hollywood Reporter Breaks It Down

  • Signature Series: Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken; 96 Hours With Katy Perry; Simply Complicated with Demi Lovato
  • Demo: 1.5 billion monthly viewers (yikes!) 18-34, youthful but edgy
  • Twitter: Um, who cares. (70.4 million!)
  • Notable Development includes a Karate Kid series in 2018. Original star Ralph Macchio returns for 10 episodes; a documentary from rapper Warren G; a continuation of the Step Up franchise; a musical comedy EPd by the Russo Bros. (Avengers: Infinity Wars); Impulse, a Doug Liman-produced drama based on the Jumper novels; Show Me More, a behind-the-scenes show with Ellen DeGeneres; Liza On Demand, an 8-episode half-hour comedy.


Apple is a Blue Chip Brand, and I would not bet against them, especially since the company is devoting $1 Billion in producing original content in the next year. Variety Projects Apple to Spend 4.2 Billion by 2022

  • Notable Development: A 10-episode re-boot of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories with Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Hannibal) executive producing. Jennifer Aniston returns to television with Reese Witherspoon in a drama about TV’s morning shows. Jay Carson (House of Cards) scripts this project which has been ordered to series with a 2-season pickup of 10 episodes each. Impressive get. Witherspoon is all about Strategic Partnerships, so I expect this to be another Creative Win following the success of Big Little Lies on HBO in which she partnered with Nicole Kidman.

Social Media:


Facebook has a video hub, called, Facebook Watch, and the behemoth Social Network plans to spend over $1 Billion on Original Content in 2018 alone, per The Wrap

  • Signature Series: Humans of New York, Ball in the Family
  • Demo/Reach: 2 Billion monthly users, worldwide; 13-34 is their target audience of 75 million users, a stat that is up for debate since Users state their age which may or may not be truthful.
  • Notable Development: Jessica Alba and Mike Rowe are to star in original content. Bill Murray and Brian Doyle Murray are set to star in Extra Innings, a 10-episode series about Minor League Baseball.

Instagram A recent headline in Variety read that Instagram has over 500 million daily users and over 800 million monthly users. Wow. That’s a lot of eyeballs. Also the amount of videos uploaded has quadrupled in the last year.

Owned by Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before some form of Original Content gets produced and advertised on this social media platform.


Snap Chat wants to turn your phone into a remote control for Television consumption. That said, the messaging service popular among younger users is not interested in creating long-form content, so don’t expect to watch an hour-long drama on Snap.  Videos will most likely be 3-5 minutes in length.

Make no mistake, though, Snap intends to be a Player. Snap has some work to do first, though. It’s not growing fast enough, and its design is troublesome for new Users: There’s An Overhaul In Snap’s Future

  • Signature Series: Supplemental content to existing series like The Voice and The Bachelor
  • Demo: 173 million daily users. They are young: 12-34.
  • Notable Development: Time Warner (one of several strategic partners) signed a deal to produce 10 new shows, per Variety


Twitter seems doomed, which is a shame because it’s so useful.

No one wants to buy my preferred social media platform. A certain POTUS likes it, too. Advertisers are there, but it cannot seem to turn a profit. Even expanding its Tweets from 140 characters to 280 seems like a Hail Mary attempt to innovate. However, the death knell is that Twitter has problems attracting new Users, especially young ones. Ouch.

Bloomberg News Breaks It Down – #RIP Twitter


N E X T   U P:

A Room With THE View at SMU


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TV Surf Report: Branding In Basic Cable Is A Lot Like Playing Monopoly, So Which Network is Boardwalk or Park Place?


Santa Monica, CA — Branding in Basic Cable is as Easy as Playing Monopoly.  You know what you are going to get when you advertise on MTV (teens), Lifetime (women), BET (African Americans), Food Network (Foodies), and SyFy (fanboys).

However, other networks like AMC and FX are qualitatively far and above in terms of their original programming, but their Brands are not as easily definable. In some cases, a network has a great Brand, but weak programming and poor social engagement. In other cases, a network has great programming but not unifying Brand.

Basic Cable:

A Lot Like A Monopoly Board


AMC is riding high with the megahit, The Walking Dead.  It’s slogan, Something More, delivers on its programming. Yet, it is not easy to say what an AMC series is other than something out of the ordinary and possibly about Zombies.

  • Signature SeriesThe Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Preacher, The Son
  • Demo: 18-54;
  • Twitter: an impressive 694k. The Walking Dead has 1.61 million followers. Preacher has only 128k.
  • Notable DevelopmentDietland adaptation of Sarai Walker’s novel; an adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel, The Little Drummer Girl, from the Night Manager producing team and starring Alexander Skarsgard in a 6-episode miniseries.


FX is a creative destination for Hollywood producers because of its distinctive programming which includes The Americans, Atlanta, Fargo, American Horror Story, Archer, American Crime Story, and Feud.

It’s Branding slogan is Fearless, and FX certainly lives up to that goal.

  • Signature SeriesThe Americans, Atlanta, Fargo, American Horror Story
  • Demo: 18-54;
  • Twitter: a surprisingly weak 167k. AHS, though has 1.75 million followers. Fargo, though, only has 130k. And, The Americans has a mere 91k followers.
  • Notable Dev: Mayans, a spin-off of Sons of AnarchyAmerican Crime Story: The Murder of Gianna Versace, and Katrina.


Lifetime owns the Television for Women Brand, but is it delivering anything noteworthy other than multiple versions of the successful Project Runway franchise it nabbed years ago from Bravo?

  • Signature SeriesProject Runway, Women In Jeopardy MOWs
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: 305k followers; Project Runway has only 334k followers. For such a strong Brand, there’s not a huge audience engagement for Lifetime series.
  • Notable DevelopmentFlint Water Crisis MOW should draw viewers, but what else is there to hang around to watch afterward? This is a network sound asleep at the wheel.


Bravo is noteworthy in basic cable for its Watch What Happens reality series like the uber-successful Real Housewives franchise. Its Brand seems to be Anyone Can Be On Television.

  • Signature SeriesReal Housewives Of Every City; Top Chef; Flipping Out; Vanderpump Rules; Watch What Happens Live
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: A surprising 1.09m followers. The audience is engaged.  Real Housewives of Orange County has 252k followers while Vanderpump has 129k followers.
  • Notable Development: Likely more of the same. Andy Cohen has been re-upped for three more years.


SyFy uses the slogan It’s A Fan Thing, but its programming is narrow and geared towards Men (or is it?). Science Fiction is the most popular genre in the world, so why isn’t this cable network the most popular? B-Level Content. Poor Branding. No Buzz about its series. This network re-brands itself a lot. SyFy encompasses many sub-genres that this basic cable network does not serve well: Fantasy. Horror. Science Fiction. They own the Real Estate Brand, but other networks produce better Science Fiction content.

  • Signature Series is The Magicians. We’re Millenials With Magic Powers. Cult hit is The Expanse.
  • Demo: Men, Fanboys, 18-49
  • Twitter: Surprisingly weak 244k followers. The Magicians has a mere 52.9k while 32.9k followers. No Buzz.
  • Notable Development: Krypton, a prequel series to the Superman story. Tremors sequel remake starring Kevin Bacon. Adaptation of Night Flyers from George R. R. Martin.


Freeform was once called ABC Family, but has since been re-branded. Why? What did ABC achieve by distancing itself from its cable channel other than not competing with Disney Channel?

  • Demo: focuses on Becomers, an audience demo of 12 – 25; this is Blue Chip for Advertisers
  • Signature Series: Pretty Little Liars and Shadow Hunters.
  • Strong Twitter numbers: 728k. Pretty Little Liars has a huge following of 4.48 million girls (and boys). That’s big. Shadowhunters has an impressive 1.31 million followers.
  • Notable Development: Cloak & Dagger, a mixed race Marvel pairing; and, sequel series to PLL where a Liar goes to college; and Siren, a YA-adaptation about young mermaids at war. Also, a college spinoff of Black-ish.


MTV used to stand for Music Television, now it’s mostly reality shows and reboots of  the popular Total Request Live. Make no mistake, though. MTV is an international brand with multiple channels in all languages.

  • Signature Series: Total Request Live, Scream, Road Rules, The Real World
  • Demo: 14-34
  • Twitter: 15.8 million followers
  • Notable DevelopmentThe Floribama Shore reality series. Sticking to its brand of youthful, reality series a la The Jersey Shore, etc. Amazingness, a reality variety talent competition show.


USA  The largest, most general audience of Basic Cable is in dire need of a Brand other than “Cable’s #1 Network.” Lots of series with single male leads.

  • Signature Series: Mr. Robot, Shooter
  • Demo: 18-54 males. USA needs women.
  • Twitter: 238k followers while Mr. Robot has 485k followers but Shooter lags with 29.5k followers. The audience is engaged about Rami Malek but not about Ryan Philippe.
  • Notable DevelopmentWild Cards, an adaptation of a George R.R. Martin novel; American Rust, an adaptation of Philip Meyer’s novel about a Pennsylvania town sheriff dealing with crime.


BET is a player in Cable because it delivers a target audience to advertisers: African Americans. Yet, there is real competition from OWN which is more urban and more diverse in its programming. Black Entertainment Television is part of the Viacom portfolio.

  • Signature Series: Being Mary Jane (which concludes in 2018)
  • Demo: 18-54 African Americans
  • Twitter: an impressive following of 2.09 million. Being Mary Jane has only 99.5k followers, though. Hmm.
  • Notable Development:


OWN is The Oprah Winfrey Network. Oprah is most definitely a Brand unto herself which stands for Smart, Successful, Entrepreneurial, Topical, and Spiritual. Bet on Oprah. And, Oprah is a star-maker (Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Iyanla Van Zant).

  • Signature Series: Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, Tyler Perry franchises, Super Soul Sunday
  • Demo: 18-54 African Americans, Women
  • Twitter: 911k followers. Super Soul Sunday has an impressive 573k followers while Queen Sugar has 61k followers, but Greenleaf has only 38.1k followers, though.
  • Notable Development: A podcast of Super Soul Sunday just hit the App Store.


Comedy Central is also something of a Blue Chip piece of Real Estate in the Basic Cable Universe: You might not know its programming, but you know its star-making potential as evidenced by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Amy Schumer, Key & Peele.

  • Signature Series: The Daily Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Drunk History
  • Demo: 18-54
  • Twitter: 1.56m;  The Daily Show has a whopping 7.08 million followers. This audience is engaged.
  • Notable Development:


Hallmark Channel considers itself The Heart of TV with its wholesome series like Cedar Cove and its numerous lineup of Holiday Movies (33!). This growing cable channel is clearly focused on Middle America and Women. Its parent company, Hallmark, is also going after Romance in a big way as its publishing arm wants emerging novelists: Write For Hallmark and Get Adapted

  • Signature Series: The recently concluded Cedar Cove which is based on Debbie Macomber’s novels and its Holiday Movie franchise. Here’s the Schedule of Christmas Movies
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: A scant 151k. Not much buzz. Still, Advertisers know what and who they are getting here.
  • Notable DevelopmentChristmas in the Villa. You guessed it: Holiday movie.


E! brands itself as the Pop of Culture channel, but it might as well be Kardashian TV with its many incarnations of that reality series family, which celebrates its 200th Episode And A Look Back At That Sex Tape

  • Signature Series: Keeping Up With The Kardashians (just renewed for 3 years) and its spinoffs; The Royals
  • Demo: definitely Women, 18-49
  • Twitter: strong following of 3.86 million which demonstrates its buzzworthiness. Kardashians boasts 444k followers, while Kim K has 56.5 million followers (wonder how many are real!). The Royals commands 101k followers.
  • Notable Development: More reality shows and Kardashian spinoffs. Ugh.


N E X T   U P:

Streaming with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Apple TV.




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TV Surf Report: HBO Leads The Way In Branding in Premium Cable Where The Audience (But No Advertisers) Knows To Expect Quality


Santa Monica, CA — Know Your Brand. Cable Television has an easier time staking its claim than Broadcast or Streaming: It’s Not TV. It’s HBO!

Premium Cable.

HBO is the gold standard in subscription-based Television, still riding high with Quality Series, Original Movies and Documentary Specials. You get what you pay for!

Game of Thrones. Veep. Big Little Lies. These series (drama, comedy, limited) continue to reinforce that Brand and make HBO a destination in Hollywood (and internationally) for Creatives. Westworld and Last Week With John Oliver make it relevant.  HBO is a major player in the Warner Bros. empire. No Advertisers, though! Yet, such a strong Brand. Interesting.

  • Signature SeriesGOT, Veep, Ballers, Real Time With Bill Maher, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Big Little Lies, True Detective
  • Twitter: 1.85 (strong) GOT has 6.74 million followers. People are engaged and talking about this series as compared to Westworld which has only 168k followers. Real Time has 124k, but John Oliver has 2.77m followers. Reese Witherspoon, however, has 2.04 million followers. She knows how to engage the audience.
  • Notable Development: Adaptation of Watchmen (the graphic novel not the film). Also, no less than five prequels to Game of Thrones! Mark Ruffalo stars in a limited series adaptation of Wally Lamb’s bestseller I Know This Much Is TrueFahrenheit 451 with Michael Shannon; Today Will Be Different adaptation starring Julia Roberts

Bloomberg Explores Life After Game of Thrones for HBO


Showtime has No Brand unless you count Pretty Good Shows That Aren’t That CoolSounding (with the Twin Peaks re-boot as a limited series being very much The Exception). Synergy works in Showtime’s favor, though. It’s the pay cable component of Viacom’s empire, and its sister companies are CBS and Paramount Television.

  • Signature Series: Twin Peaks, Shameless, Ray Donovan, Homeland, The Affair, Billions. Quality. But unlike HBO, these series do not have that water cooler quality to them (again with Twin Peaks as the exception).
  • Twitter: 273k (incredibly weak) Twin Peaks: The Return has a mere 74.7k followers while Homeland has 283k and Ray Donovan has 91.3k followers. Showtime has some work to do here.
  • Notable DevelopmentKing Killer Chronicles adaptation executive produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda; and likely, The Vampire Lestat adaptation (11 novels) from Anne Rice; Patrick Melrose adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Happy adaptation of the graphic novel with Chris Meloni attached to star; A sequel series to Lesbian drama The L Word; City on a Hill, a period Boston crime drama from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, starring Kevin Bacon.


Starz dubs itself Obsessable. That’s a good Branding place to start, and this channel is well on its way to deserving that Brand with international hits like Outlander, American Gods, Black Sails, and Power.

Add to that a strong mix of hit movies, a corporate partner in Lionsgate Studios, and Starz is creatively more interesting than Showtime right now (and a lot younger).

  • Signature SeriesOutlander, American Gods, Black Sails, Power
  • Twitter: 156k followers. Not bad. Outlander boasts 362k, and American Gods has 61.9k followers, but Power has 272k followers. Interesting. Starz needs to get more people talking about American Gods. Author Neil Gaiman has 2.66 million followers. Meanwhile, actor Sam Heughan (Outlander) has 391k followers. Very interesting.
  • Notable DevelopmentBlack Samurai adaptation starring Common and executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer; Ascendant, the TV continuation of the Veronica Roth film series; The Rook from novelist Stephanie Meyer (Twilight); Uber Producer Jerry Bruckheimer EPs P-Town, an heroine epidemic drama with a Lesbian heroine. Bruckheimer also EPs Family Crimes, a hot spec script from David Ayer (Suicide Squad);



N E X T   U P:

Branding In Basic Cable. Lets Play Monopoly!


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TV Surf Report: Branding In Television — Who’s Succeeding and Who’s Failing in 2017


Santa Monica, CA — These days, it’s All About Your Brand. For Networks, this is a challenge to define itself to not only its audience, but also to advertisers seeking to reach a specific audience and to creatives who seek to do business with the network.

Also, are your viewers engaged on Social Media and talking about your series? That’s important in today’s crowded landscape:

Buzz. Word of Mouth. Free Advertising.

Some Networks, Cable Channels, and Streaming Services are better than others when it comes to Branding. There are brain trusts at each company desperately trying to solve this Marketing/Advertising Puzzle which sometimes seems more like the Riddle of the Sphinx:

Dear God, What’s Our Effing Brand?????

Here’s a look at The Players, Their Signature Series, Demos and level of Social Media Engagement:

  The Broadcast Networks

(ranked in order of Most Successful Brand):

  1. The CW
  2. CBS
  3. NBC
  4. FOX
  5. ABC


ABC boasts the top-rated new drama series of the season: The Good Doctor in addition to its diverse lineup of half-hour comedies (Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family), reality programming (DWTS, Shark Tank) and its aging TGIT Shonda Rhimes franchise that includes veteran Grey’s Anatomy, the series finale season of Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.  What is its Brand though? Am guessing it’s We Love Diverse Family Programming!  Problematic because I am unsure.

  • Demo: 18–49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 456k (should be stronger). The Good Doctor has 34.6k followers while Grey’s Anatomy has 4.18 million!
  • Signature Series:  Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Shark Tank
  • Notable Development: A reboot of American Idol looks solid, but a questionable re-boot of Roseanne evokes strong feelings of anxiety. Larry Wilmore has a  Super Hero Middle Eastern Family Comedy Mash Up , which seems to hit a lot of boxes, Brand-wise. We shall see! Meanwhile, Shonda Rhimes has a Firefighting spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy in production. She is very engaged on Social Media and is one of many Creators who live-tweet during episodes.



CBS markets itself as America’s Most Watched Network.  That’s a Brand, or is it? From shows like The Big Bang Theory to spinoff Sheldon, Mom, Criminal Minds, Madam Secretary, 60 Minutes, and Football, CBS has everyone covered. It’s demo audience is traditionally older-skewing so the challenge is to create programming that will draw in younger viewers. CBS’ audience is also more rural.

  • Demo: 18-Dead;
  • Signature Series:  The Big Bang Theory, 60 Minutes, Survivor
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 940k. The Big Bang Theory 4.71m followers while 60 Minutes has only 926k. Star Trek: Discovery which airs on CBS All Access has a mere 73.1k followers.
  • Notable Development: A re-boot of Magnum, P.I. and a remake of L.A. Confidential



NBC is desperately trying to reclaim its once uber-successful Must-See TV brand by taking a gamble by re-booting Will & Grace, once a Thursday night staple.  The gamble paid off, and now The Peacock has something else to sqawk about besides its Emmy nominated monster hit drama, This Is Us. Now, if it could only launch another successful comedy.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.74 million; Interestingly, NBC has the largest following on Twitter among the Big Four (edging FOX and nearly double of CBS) This Is Us has 240k while The Voice boasts 5.2m followers.
  • Signature Series: The Voice, This Is Us, Saturday Night Live keep NBC relevant and popular amongst younger, urban viewers.
  • Notable Development: An ill-advised reboot of The Munsters and Miami Vice; and, a remake of Blue Crush, which could work. Girls Surf!



FOX is a network that used to have an Edgy Brand (younger, raunchy comedies and young adult dramas that appealed to the 18-34 demo), but now it’s grown into an older netlet that’s happy with 18-49 aged viewers who have yet to tire of The Simpsons or The X-Files.  Throw in Empire for some diversity.  Fox still has a “We’re younger than The Big Three” kinda aura about it, but it’s not really true.  The Gifted is this season’s biggest gamble trying to ride the Marvel Studio and X-Men gravy train.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Signature Series: The Simpsons, The X-Files, Empire
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.23m; The Simpsons has 929k followers while The X-Files has only 276k. Meanwhile, Empire 1.48 million followers. Meanwhile, The Gifted has a mere 26.7k followers. Not a good sign.
  • Notable Development: The Passage adaptation; a reboot of Kung Fu and a remake of True Lies. Ho hum.



The CW has The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Super Heroes. DC Comics.

This netlet very much has a Brand of Youth Appeal. Toss in Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and it’s clear The CW also has some Edge, as well. Supernatural has to end at some point. Dynasty looks like a big Miss, though. Advertisers know who they are pitching to, which is quite valuable, Brand-wise.

  • Demo: 12-34 male and female.
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 857k (strong). The Flash boasts 1.64 million, Arrow has 2.11 million followers, and Riverdale has 660k.
  • Notable Development: Black Lightning, a black Super Hero series from DC. A re-boot of Roswell with a notable Immigration Theme; a Sabrina the Teenage Witch spinoff from RiverdaleThe Wayward Sisters, a spinoff from Supernatural; and, It’s The End of the World As We Know It adaptation with Rob Thomas (I-Zombie) exec producing. Alien Invasion Dramas, always worth a shot, yes? The CW Has Aliens On Its Mind


N E X T   U P:

Pay Cable and Basic Cable.


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TV Surf Report: All Hail The Return of The Spinoff


Santa Monica, CA — Blame uber-producer Norman Lear for TV’s current trend of taking a successful series and creating a spin-off of that show.  In the ’70s, Lear created All in the Family for CBS which successfully spun off Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.

Spinoffs Work.

CBS has reached back into its ’70s playbook with the premieres of two big Spinoffs: The first, Young Sheldon, is a spin-off of The Big Bang Theory, the number one comedy on broadcast TV. Iain Armitage from Big Little Lies stars as the younger version of Jim Parsons, who serves as both narrator and EP. The network gave a full-season pickup to this spinoff after the first episode premiered to big numbers.

The second, Star Trek: Discovery, is of course the latest in a long line of spinoffs of NBC’s Star Trek which is produced for CBS All Access by Paramount TV, a sister company of CBS in the Viacom empire. Jason Isaacs and Michelle Yeoh lead a very diversely cast ensemble crew in this prequel series which hinges on battles with The Klingons.


Aside from the glut of DC spinoffs on The CW, here are some notable Spinoffs in development and/or production:

  • House of Cards at Netflix. Multiple spinoffs in the works as series concludes in 2018.
  • Sabrina, The Teenage Witch at The CW. A darker contemporary version from the Riverdale universe.
  • Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists at Freeform. A few Liars move on to a college town, continue to lie and continue to get caught up in murder.  I. Marlene King adapts Sara Shepard’s best-selling book and EPs. Sasha Pietese and Janel Parrish star.
  • Suits at USA.  Gina Torres’ lawyer character gets her own series set in Chicago.
  • How I Met Your Father at 20th (and presumably CBS). Spin-off of How I Met Your Mother which made a cool $1b for 21st Century Fox, so why not.
  • Supernatural at The CW. Now in its 12th season, the women of Supernatural get their own show, The Wayward Sisters, where naturally, they will battle monsters.


  • Game of Thrones at HBO.  The pay cabler is developing no less than five spinoffs, prequels, successors of the mega-hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire & Ice series.  Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) and Jane Goldman (Kingsman) are two of the scripters. Bryan Cogman, who has been with GOT since its beginning, pens #5 much to the delight of Martin. Bodes well for fans of Westeros. Brian Hegeland and Carly Wray are two others. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for Martin to finally publish Book 7, entitled, The Winds of Winter.
  • Mayans MC at FX.  Sons of Anarchy begets a new chapter.  I trust the creative brain trust at FX to get this right.
  • College-ish at Freeform. In another very synergistic move, ABC’s Black-ish spin-off is laid off at sister network, Freeform. Eldest daughter goes to college.  Sounds like A Different World, the collegiate spin-off from The Cosby Show. Could work…again.
  • Seattle Fire at ABC.  Shonda Rhimes spins off a firehouse drama from Grey’s Anatomy.  Series order. Stacy McKee scripts this ensemble drama. Gonna be hot.
  • The New Pope at HBO. Paolo Sorrentino begins a new chapter following the success of limited series The Young Pope starring Jude Law. One Pope too many?


Am sure there are more Spinoffs to come.  Some will work. Some will fail. For every Young Sheldon, there’s always an After-MASH.

Hey, that’s Show Business.

N E X T   U P:

My 53,000-mile TuneUp. An Unaffordable Care Act.


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TV Surf Report: Ye, God(s) — Religion & Faith are Trending and Make For Topical, Compelling & Entertaining Storytelling


Santa Monica, CA — Anyone else notice that God is trending in TV right now? If you like a little Irreverence with your Reverence, then dear Reader, you are in Luck as series dealing with Religion, Faith, Mythology, and Historical Fiction are available for your viewing pleasure.

There are a lot of religious-themed shows across All Platforms (Pay Cable, Basic Cable, Broadcast, Streaming), and they encompass many Genres.

What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening?

Religion, like Television, is a Worship Game:

Whomever Has The Most Followers … Wins.

That’s a butchered quote from a scene in S1 of American Gods, but hopefully, you get the point: God is Hot right now!

Starz’ glorious adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant novel enjoyed a stellar first season  and nabbed a coupla Emmy nominations (technical) along the way.  Full credit goes to Exec Producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for their super smart expansion of Gaiman’s meditation on Religious Darwinism and Cultural Worship.

Old Gods have awakened to the threat of New Gods in a fascinating battle played out across America via Social Media making for very Topical Television.


A shout-out to my former boss (casting director) Margery Simkin for her stellar work:  Ricky Whittle, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Crispin Glover along with Bryan Fuller favorites Gillian Anderson (Hannibal) and Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) make for a terrific cast.

American Gods may be one of the most diverse series on Television right now.  It’s a really wonderful intersection of Mythology and Religious Studies and perfect viewing for wannabe Seminarians like me.


Meanwhile, The Young Pope has made a Believer out of me.  Just in the nick of time, too, as my Southern Baptist upbringing was in danger of wearing off completely.

HBO’s terrific limited run series demands a lot from the Viewer as Jude Law’s character questions God’s existence which I found to be very compelling Television:  Who better to have a Crisis of Faith than The Pope?!

Another Emmy contender here with Paolo Sorrentino’s original storytelling so wonderfully humanizing a world leader at a time when the World is questioning everything.  Just terrific.

And the supporting cast is just wonderful, both American and especially, the Italians. Silvio Orlando is my new favorite actor. Bravo to Diane Keaton, as well. Their characters pray for forgiveness for exercising their Free Will to take matters into their own hands (and presumably, out of God’s).

HBO plans a sequel, entitled, The New Pope. (Spoiler Alert!)


And, Preacher on AMC is kicking butt in its second season.  This is so not Touched By An Angel, but that does not mean the storytelling is not equally as moving as the Roma Downey series.

(Speaking of Roma Downey, she and husband Mark Burnett have set up a limited series at Netflix, called, Messiah, with Michael Petroni (Chronicles of Narnia) scripting. )

Dominic Cooper is fantastic as a small-town Texas minister, the only person on the planet who can contain the God Force in this adaptation of a graphic novel. It’s very violent, but there is a cool twisted sense of humor to the violence reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

Another fantastic supporting cast here led by Graham McTavish (Outlander).


HBO just concluded its fantastic religious-themed series, The Leftovers, which also takes place in a small Texas town (and is also an Adaptation). There is so much tension in this series that, at times, I found it difficult to watch, anticipating some horrible act about to happen. Justin Theroux stars as the town sheriff, a man who seemingly cannot die. He is surrounded by a town full of zealots awaiting the Rapture. A fascinating drama, to be sure. There is a lot to discuss here, theologically speaking. Paging a Theologian!


One of the most buzzed-about new series of 2017 is The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Emmy-winner Elizabeth Moss, in this chilling adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s brilliant novel about the Patriarchy denying women not only religious freedom but also controlling their reproductive rights.

This Emmy-winning drama series has become a cultural influencer and put Hulu front and center as a destination for Creatives in Hollywood.  The feature film starring Natasha Richardson seems all but forgotten.

Greenleaf is now in S3 on OWN. Craig Wright’s soapy drama, starring Lynn Whitfield, about a Southern mega-church and the behind-the-pulpit machinations demonstrates that God can handle just about any backdrop:  Science Fiction & Fantasy to Historical Fiction to Horror to Soap Opera.


Outcast on Cinemax and Wynonna Earp on SyFy also dabble in Religion and Faith especially when it comes to Hell, always a popular fictional talking point for storytellers dating back to Dante.

I fully expect Showtime to tackle Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles which include popular books like The Vampire Lestat and Memnoch The Devil.  In the latter, Lestat travels to Hell in an adventure with The Devil.  Rice masterfully meditates on Christian mythology, but the content is too adult for broadcast television.

Premium pay cable (HBO, Starz, Cinemax) and Basic Cable (AMC, OWN, SyFy) and Streaming (Hulu) can handle complex ruminations on Religion, so why doesn’t Broadcast?

It’s been years since Touched By An Angel anchored Sunday nights on CBS.  Roma Downey has produced several Jesus-centric miniseries for NBC in the intervening years, and her production company (with husband Mark Burnett) has developed several pilots based on Biblical stories.


BBC One is adapting Sir Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s dark comic Good Omens which features David Tennant and Michael Sheen as an Angel and a Demon who share a flat in London.  Six episodes have been ordered.

ABC has the upcoming new drama series Kevin (Probably) Saves The World which stars Jason Ritter as a guy who is met by a messenger from God.  The writers behind Agent Carter present this fun take which feels Capra-esque.  Here is the Trailer for the Pilot

Meanwhile, CBS tries with By The Book, a comedy starring Ian Gomez, that used to be titled Living Biblically, about a guy living according to the rules of The Bible.  Johnny Galecki  (TBBT)  produces this adaptation of the popular book.


Hold up, though! There’s The Exorcist and Lucifer on Fox.

One is a TV remake of a feature film, and the other is an adaptation of a DC Comic.

Horror and Comedic drama can take on God, too. Or rather, God transcends all Genres!

More importantly, they appeal to an international audience.  Religion and religious mythology play pivotal roles in both series where God is the unseen Antagonist, if you will.

Both series appeal to a that much desired demographic: Young Adults.


And come April 1, 2018 — look to NBC for a live musical update of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

My mind is clearer now…at last, all too well, I can see where we all soon will be.

Craig Zadan & Neil Meron produce along with Marc Platt (LaLa Land).  Event Programming is alive and well, and JCS: Live! is timed not un-coincidentally right before Easter. Last year, Fox broadcast Tyler Perry’s production of The Passion. Expect bigger ratings and an international audience plus DVD sales for JCS.

Full Disclosure:  I know this soundtrack by heart. The film was one of my most memorable movie-going experiences as a child. And, I may have acted in a production (or two).

Prepare Ye: It’s only a matter of time before someone reboots GODSPELL

Cue DishwallaAll Your Thoughts On God

And lastly, Whoopi Goldberg reunited the cast of Sister Act to celebrate its 25th Anniversary on The View.  Just watching these Nuns sing one song from that film make me feel a moment of Joy, and that’s missing from broadcast TV right now.  Heads Up, ABC and Disney: There is a TV remake ripe for the producing here: Whoopi Directs “I Will Follow Him”


N E X T   U P:


Unaffordable Care Acts.



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TV Surf Report: Creative Remakes And Nostalgic Reboots Continue To Trend In Hopes of Breaking Through The Clutter


Santa Monica, CA — Nostalgia. Escapism. Feel Good TV.

What’s Old Is New Again. And Again.

Hollywood wants to soothe The Viewer with Old Chestnuts, with new takes on familiar titles and with tales of the Future in which Mankind survives this century’s political turmoil and threat of nuclear war as well as Climate Change.

In the Age of Reality Stars As World Leaders, Hollywood thinks The Viewer needs to Escape (Lost in Space, anyone?) or to laugh (The Munsters, The Jetsons).

Broadcast, Cable and Streaming also have a marketing problem. Remakes and Reboots are one answer to the problem of breaking through the Glut of Programming and reaching The Viewer:

Consume This!

You Liked It Before Even Though You May Be Too Young To Remember It!

See Twin Peaks: The Return on Showtime.

Also, in the Age of Vertical Integration, Networks that are sister companies to Studios with vast Libraries of Content are financially bound to raid the pantry, as it were: Fargo, Hawaii Five-0, and Battlestar Galactica are good examples.

One problem I foresee is that Baby Boomers are the Programmers and are the only people who remember these titles, and yet, they are programming for Millennials, who do not know most of these series or films, returning yet again:


  • Galaxy Quest at Amazon. Paul Scheer scripts this “continuation” of the feature. No original cast members set yet. Am surprised Paramount let this go to Amazon vs. its own emerging cable network.
  • Deadwood on HBO. Ian MacShane and Timothy Olyphant are set to return in HBO’s Western famous for its salty language.
  • The Twilight Zone at CBS All Access. Jordan Peele is set to revive the classic anthology series. This feels like a winning combination of Right Time for Right Show with the Right Writer. Looking forward.
  • Blue Crush at NBC. Hawaii. Surfing. Blue Skies.  Now, this is a remake I can fully support.  The 2002 John Stockwell film starring Kate Bosworth gets made over for TV.
  • Magnum, P.I. at CBS. Really? No one under the age of 50 knows this series, so why re-boot? Jeez, CBS! Pretty lame. Blue Skies. Hawaii. Replacement for the aging Hawaii Five-O re-boot, most likely.
  • Roswell at The CW.  Aliens Among Us in New Mexico: Now With Immigrants! Thanks, Amblin TV. Ugh. Possibly compatible with the Riverdale, I suppose. Ugh.
  • Amazing Stories at Apple TV.  Bryan Fuller (American Gods) and Amblin reboot Spielberg’s anthology series for a new player in Streaming.
  • Stargate: Origins at MGM Digital. Prequel series featuring 10-minute episodes. It’s a brand new world of programming out there!
  • Black Widows at ABC.  Leonardo DiCaprio EPs this US remake of a Finnish drama about three women in a mountain town, all of whom lose their husbands in a boating accident.  Drama and intrigue ensue.
  • First Wives Club at Paramount Network. The hit film gets re-made as a half-hour show about female friendship and revenge. Tracy Oliver, the screenwriter of Girls Trip, scripts. Let’s re-make every Bette Midler film, shall we?
  • Hocus Pocus at Disney Channel. Sorry, but the original stars (Midler, Najimy, Parker) and the director (Ortega) are not involved in this re-boot/re-make. This title has more steam as a Feature, I would think, but hey, it’s a new world out there.
  • Kung Fu at Fox. Gender flip lead character gets a pilot commitment with uber-producer Greg Berlanti showrunning. Not optimistic.
  • Get Christie Love at ABC. Vin Diesel godfathers this revival of a one-season detective show from the ’70s.
  • Underworld at TBD.  Len Wiseman’s successful film franchise about Vampires versus Werewolves moves to television after wearing out its welcome in The Movies.  20th Century Fox and Sony TV are targeting premium cable/digital to broadcast/stream.
  • Das Boot at Sky. The Wolfgang Peterson film gets re-imagined for television with the update starring Lizzy Caplan, Vincent Kartheiser, and James D’Arcy. No USA broadcast partner yet.
  • True Lies at Fox. Corporate Synergy is alive and well as the network remakes a popular title from the film studio library.  James Cameron is on board to EP.  I have a good feeling about this one. Right Film. Right Network. Right Timing.
  • L.A. Confidential at CBS. Curtis Hanson’s Oscar-winning period noir detective yarn gets a TV remake. Moody and female-centric. I have a good feeling about this one. Not the first try at adapting this book/film for TV.
  • Greatest American Hero at ABC. Gender flip. Pilot commitment.
  • Perry Mason at HBO. Robert Downey Jr. stars in this reboot of the classic legal drama which starred Raymond Burr. Rolin Jones (Weeds) and Ron Fitzgerald (Friday Night Lights) script. Am hoping Downey does away with his trademark snark.
  • Starsky & Hutch at Amazon. James Gunn (GOTG) can do pretty much whatever he wants in TV, so Sony is going with the flow and re-booting this buddy cop series from the ’70s and hopefully not the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson feature.
  • Jumper at TBD. Actor Jamie Bell and writer Julian Simpson (Doctor Who) are looking to adapt this 2008 feature which co-starred Bell (and Hayden Christiansen) as teens who teleport and who are being pursued by malevolent folk intent on their  destruction. I liked the movie.  Good idea that’s perfect for The CW or Starz.  Lionsgate produces, so I’d bet on Starz. Film is an adaptation of a series of novels by Steven Gould. The third novel, Impulse, is in development at YouTube Red with Doug Liman attached to produce/direct.
  • Your Honor at TBD. This Israeli drama, about a judge involved in a hit and run, gets a US remake. Peter Moffat (The Night Of) and Robert & Michelle King (The Good Wife) exec produce. Expect premium cable or CBS All Access to be the buyer.
  • The Jetsons at ABC.  This seems like a Hail Mary! attempt as the network will ride the Nostalgia Wave by giving Robert Zemeckis a Pilot commitment to transform the well-loved animated classic into a live-action multi-camera sitcom.  Oy vey!
  • The Birds at BBC. I am looking forward to seeing what the Brits do with this Alfred Hitchcock horror classic film.


  • The Munsters at NBC. Oh, I don’t think this was the best of Ideas, Bob Greenblatt. No one under the age of 50 knows this title.  It is the definition of an old chestnut.
  • The Karate Kid at You Tube Red.  Ralph Macchio returns in this sequel series to the successful film franchise he and Pat Morita launched several decades ago!
  • Miami Vice at NBC.  Vin Diesel scores a big title with his overall deal with Universal, so expect NBC or USA to be the first stops for this re-boot.
  • The L Word at Showtime. Original cast members eyeing a return to a Sequel rather than a re-boot of the popular and groundbreaking Lesbian drama series.
  • Teen Wolf at MTV.  All new cast. All new wolves.
  • Tales of the City at Netflix.  Hey, this series re-boot also qualifies as an adaptation thanks to author Armisted Maupin’s newspaper columns and books, but more likely, it’s a re-boot of the successful miniseries that ran on PBS and later on Showtime.  Lead actors Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis are back for more drama at 28 Barbary Lane. Update is contemporary, so I am guessing it’s Mrs. Madrigal’s swan song.
  • Tremors at SyFy. So much for re-branding. Kevin Bacon reprises his role from the 1990 cult favorite featuring giant Graboid worms out for blood! UCP and Blumhouse produce. Hope they make it fun and not take themselves seriously. Vincenzo Natali to direct. Molto Bene!
  • Herbie The Love Bug at Disney XD.  Okay, this could be fun.  Miss you, Dean Jones.  Michele Lee, are you in on it?
  • The Good Doctor  at ABC.  A re-make of a South Korean show brought to ABC Studios by Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0).  Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) stars as a brilliant young doctor with a handicap. Here’s the Preview Trailer
  • S.W.A. T.  at CBS. Shemar Moore stars in the TV version of the 2003 Neil Moritz film, which was a feature version of a ’70s TV series.  Justin Lin, Shawn Ryan EP with a hundred other guys, it seems. Just what audiences need:  Another cop show. Yawn.


  • Snowpiercer at TNT.  Daveed Diggs (Black-ish, Hamilton) to star. Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) directs the TV version of Boon Joon Ho’s futuristic film about a train filled with humanity’s survivors circling the globe. Josh Friedman (Sarah Conner Chronicles) is the showrunner. Pilot order. Sign me up!
  • Charmed at TBD. The CW developed a re-boot. Netflix may have it now. So far, this way-too-soon re-boot continues to be up in the air.  Oy! Thumbs down.  The creative auspices for The CW version are from Jane the Virgin, so we shall see if this moves forward off-cycle there or at Netflix.
  • What About Bob? at NBC. Gender flip. Sounds terrible. Yet it’s the familiar title that the network (and its studio, Universal) covet. Script order.
  • Dynasty at The CW. Grant Show (Melrose Place) is the new Blake Carrington. Krystle is Latina. Fallon is ….Fallon. Series order.
  • Lost in Space at Netflix.  Series order.  Danger, Will Robinson! Am hoping for a complete re-imagining of this beloved campy classic.
  • Will & Grace at NBC.  Now, NBC has a winner of an Event Series on its hands (or Peacock feathers, if you will) here.  I predict the 10+ episodes will premiere big and ratings will diminish considerably after that…just like the original series! Remarkably, NBC has ordered a S2.  The political humor will be quite timely. The gay jokes will be tiresome. More Grace, Less Will. Here’s the Teaser for the Re-Boot
  • The X-Files at Fox.  Mulder and Scully are coming back for 10 more episodes.  You’ll have to wait until 2018, though.  Meanwhile, check out Gillian Anderson in her fantastic turn as Media on Starz’ terrific American Gods which has been picked up for S2.  Great news for fans of the book.
  • Roseanne at ABC.  I have a very bad feeling about this one.  The entire cast is on board for a revival, though, even both Beckys.
  • She’s Gotta Have It at Netflix.  Spike Lee directs all 10 episodes of the contemporary update of his feature.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess at NBC. Now, this is truly a head-scratcher. The network has killed the script written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and put aside rebooting this beloved action series.  One would think the Peacock would take advantage of the recent success of Wonder Woman and hop on the female action train while it’s in motion. They remain open to a new take, but this should be on the fast track.


N E X T   U P:
My 53,000-mile Tune Up: An Unaffordable Care Act.



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