Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
In the Writing Groove
2007-02-09 22:21
by Jon Weisman

In a strange confluence of events, four articles I wrote or co-wrote for Variety were posted in the same afternoon:

Friday Night Lite at ABC

The network that once publicly thanked a higher power for Fridays almost seems to be dreading the end of the work week now.

Having joined other nets in retreating from firstrun scripted programming on Saturday nights like the Chicago Bears from a first down, ABC has gone a step further by abandoning first-run fiction during the bloc formerly known as TGIF.

In this sweeps month of February, the Alphabet web has filled its Friday schedule with a combination of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Brothers and Sisters" encores, newsmag "20/20" and never-say-die "America's Funniest Home Videos." ABC hasn't aired an original scripted program in Friday prime time since Nov. 10, when "Men in Trees" made its final foray before planting itself on Thursdays.

ABC now goes 70 hours without first-run scripted fare, from the end of "Trees" Thursday to the 9 p.m. start of "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday. ...

Cast hunt sends out global S.O.S.
Several Oscar contenders cast their movies in far-flung places, a trend that might lead you to believe Hollywood has developed a go-to blueprint for such challenges.

No such luck. Mostly, casting the international movie remains a mad scramble.

"You just call everybody you know," says casting director Victoria Thomas of "Blood Diamond," nominated for five Academy Awards. "You just do whatever you need to do."

Complicating the process is the desire for local authenticity, which often means that the right person for the job is someone the director has never heard of, as was the case with Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima." ...

First-times mix it up with vets (Co-written with Alex Belth)

It's safe to say that Ben Sliney, national operations manager at the Federal Aviation Administration, did not seek out the role of Ben Sliney, national operations manager in "United 93."

Yoshi Ishii, a Japanese publisher and broadcaster in Los Angeles, had no aspiration to play a sympathetic military postman in "Letters From Iwo Jima."

Some long-suffering actors might wish it weren't so, but several Oscar-nominated films banked on non-pros who possessed qualities key to their stories. ...

WGA Screen Laurel honoree: Robert Benton

Writers are known as wordsmiths, imagined as devourers of literature, but well into his adulthood, WGA Screen Laurel honoree Robert Benton was anything but.

"I grew up in a small town in Texas, and I was seriously dyslexic before anyone knew what dyslexia was, so it was very difficult for me to read," the 64-year-old Benton recalls. "I always thought of myself as seriously stupid, and most of the people in my town would have agreed with me.

"My father, unlike anybody else, when he would come home from work, instead of saying, 'Have you done your homework?' would say, 'Do you want to go to the movies?' So I would." ...

2007-02-09 22:43:42
1.   Greg Brock
The running away from Fridays continues to baffle me. Sure, key target demographics are often out of the house, but I would think that the network that puts on kiddie friendly fare would corner the market on the family set.

Wonderful World of Disney, maybe ship over some stuff from the ABC family channel. NBC can put on their Universal catalogue. Why give up on Fridays?

2007-02-10 09:27:11
2.   Bob Timmermann
I guess "Numb3rs" scares off the competition.

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