Friday, February 29, 2008

Hey, Ma! Look at Me!

I dunno.

Maybe for some writer's it's when they get their first paying gig.
For others it may be when they get their WGC card.

But for me... that feeling of having arrived... having written something that somebody actually wants to see-- just arrived in my google alerts.

"Geeks in Love" AKA "Robson Arms S03E02" has been Bit Torrented.

So long, suckers!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Robson Arms III: What I like about Episode 2... or Now let us Praise Gary Harvey

So. Tonight's my episode.

Make no mistake. I love the DRAHMAH. But I was raised in sketch comedy. And bringing a tear to somebody eye is great... but if it's by making them laugh... even better.

Drama is analog and comedy is binary. They laugh... or they don't. You can't kid yourself. Genuine involuntary laughter... you can literally take score. And that's why I can say: if you don't actually laugh tonight watching "Geeks In Love"... I have failed you faithful viewer... and if I haven't broken your heart little a bit while I did it, I have failed myself.

Because I can't blame anybody else for anything that's less than awesome about tonight's episode. Which is a long way to introduce--

The things I love about tonight's Episode:

1. The Troubadours.
If you go to the Robson Arms' website and hit the goodies, you can hear it. It's one of those things that, as a writer, leaves you humbled and amazed. The whole episode captured in a 30 second ditty. The lyrics, the music, the performance bring a tear-ball to my eye and soften my crusty and cynical old heart and make me all post-xmas Grinch. Gosh.

2. Haig.
Actors... you know what I mean? Oh, they're characters all right. And Haig Sutherland, who plays arguably the most unassuming of the Robson Arms tenants, Fred Fochs, is one of the largest characters on the set. Check out him messing with me during "The Question" on the RA site and you'll get a small taste.

Anyway... again, all eyes will be on Will Sasso's Bark. And with good reason, Bark is huge, and so is Will. Bark gets all the good lines, and so he should. But who is the heart of the episode? Who is the engine that keeps this story moving? Who do we see at his glorious best and heart-breaking worst? It's Haig's Fred. So in love and gloating, so insecure and jealous, so out of control and maniacal, so vulnerable and alone.

3. The Harv.
Okay. Most of you have never heard of Gary Harvey, and why should you? How many great television television directors are household names? But if you spend anytime working in film and television in Canada-- or spend any time WATCHING Canadian television I can almost guarantee you've seen his work. He's prolific.

In addition to his directing duties Gary is one of the executive producers of the show (along with Susin Nielsen and Brian Hamilton of whom we will hear more in future posts). They are an awesome triumvirate. But more than anyone Gary is the guy who is responsible for the tone on set. I've heard nightmare stories from friends and co-workers who have had to endure unbelievably tense and miserable months on sets run by people with the emotional sophistication of a two year old. Screamers. Tantrums. Shutdowns. Madness. Anyone who has had the opportunity to work with Gary doesn't know any of that. Cast, crew-- even critics, all remark on the feeling of the set. It isn't quiet like a library: there are plenty of disagreements and differing of opinions as there are bound to be whenever independent, talented and creative people with a job to do get together. But it's handled with perspective, respect and humour. And I blame Gary for that.

And if that wasn't enough-- he's also a hotshot director! Watch the episode tonight. And you'll barely see his work, but you're sure gonna feel it. Gary isn't a director that builds his scenes around a shot. He builds his shots around the scene. He teases out amazing performances out the actors, and pushing them further sometimes... sometimes reining them in. And comedy is a killer. It's all about rhythm and pace. Watch how he builds each scene, each moment! See how with the help of Franco our editor, the moments and scenes work with one another and take us deeper into the story.

Lucky, lucky me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Robson Arms III: Things I like about Episode One.

1) John Cassini's performance.

For me, the character of Yuri is at his best when he doesn't know what the hell is going on. He's not the brightest guy, he's a bit of a jerk... but he doesn't see himself that way. Yuri sees himself as the guy who's got every angel covered, he's tough but fair. If anything, he's too easy on people, a bit of a soft touch.

In Gila Monster Yuri discovers how wrong he is.

I think one of the reasons the Robson Arms writers keep coming back to Yuri is that his usual state is as a guy whose world is constantly crumbling beneath him and he's always struggling to get on top of things. Yuri is most fun to write when he's failing.

In episode one, though many eyes will be drawn to the talented Dave Foley, for me it's Cassini that captures and shares the soul of a man who discovers he's not as smart or as tough as he thinks he is. It's a vulnerable and brilliant performance.

2) Nothing is written in stone.

Do the writers know how the season will end when they start writing the first episode? We think we do. I mean, there's a plan. But to be honest we're not even sure which episode will be the last episode or which will be the first. For example this year: "Geeks in Love," "Mean Girls" and "The Prince of Nigeria" were all written long before we knew the building had been bought by Americans.

But it's not just imagination that shapes the season. Real life gets in the way too! In this case we discovered well into writing that certain actors were unavailable. Some wouldn't be coming back and others couldn't come back... Which brings me to the another thing I like about episode one: the episode ends where other series' seasons end.

Okay, that might be overstating it a little. But here's the thing: even though the writers' can't take credit for "the why" of certain events, I think we did our best to turn a practical production problem into an opportunity for story. It's a terrifying and fun part of the job.

Watch it and maybe you'll see what I'm talking about. Or maybe it'll appear to be a surprising but inevitable turn in a character's journey. Here's hoping.

The Reviews are In...! a trickling sort of way.

But they've been generally quite positive.
Here's a couple of reasons to tune in to the Sneak Preview of Robson Arms this Tuesday and Wednesday after American Idol.

In addition to asserting that the show could be read "as an extended metaphor" for Canada (and if that doesn't bring in the viewers, what will?) television critic for the Globe and Mail, John Doyle, says:

"The series is a smartly made social comedy, aimed at grown-ups and the better for it"

Brad from the Winnipeg Free Press says:
Over its first two seasons, Robson Arms has quietly established itself as one of the best-written shows on Canadian TV. Filled with a wacky, constantly rotating rabble of characters played by a stellar homegrown cast (which has included the likes of Mark McKinney, Leslie Nielsen, Gabrielle Miller, Fred Ewanuick, Joe Flaherty, Margot Kidder, Shirley Douglas and more), the series has kept its focus squarely on creating small, quirky and completely charming stories that resist the urge to lapse into standard sitcom silliness.

As such, Robson Arms is one of those sneaky-funny shows that prompts out-loud laughter at the most unexpected of moments. And that, of course, is more than half the fun.
So that's pretty good.

Read Oswald's complete review here!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Robson Arms Website is Up and Running

Just in time for the Robson Arms Sneak Preview this week after American Idol... The site is filled with video, behind the scenes stuff, and a chance to win an iPod Touch. Sweet.

Speaking of sweet, there was a promotion for the show just before the Oscars last night. If you've seen any other spots, let me know, would you?