Back to School: Week Two…When All the Assholes Hijack My Writing Class

Heading to Week Three of Television Writing Class in just a bit, and I thought I could piece together a blog about my experiences so far. I blogged about my Week One Class, but never got a chance to check in after Week Two.

If Week One was all about everyone getting to know each other, then Week Two was all about people trying to prove their intelligence and show off their TV obsessions. Seriously, one minute the teacher is asking us what existing TV shows we’re thinking of writing a script for (the goal of the class, after all), and the next minute people are discussing how “Louie isn’t a sitcom; it’s a show full of existential vignettes.”

I’m not joking…someone actually said that.

Week two was a bit of a reality check because I was hoping all along that it was only in my previous life of being around sales people where there was always someone in the group who had to prove they were the smartest in the room. I wanted to think it was unique to typical sales guy douche baggery, but alas, it seems like every group has one…or three.

After a 15 minute tangent of a conversation between two people in class arguing about Louie and 30 Rock, the teacher finally asked, “So are either of you picking Louie or 30 Rock as your shows to write?”

Nope. Of course not. They just wanted to waste our time and hear themselves talk.

I honestly thought a room full of writers would make for a quiet setting, a bunch of recluses who are scared of public speaking and attention. I was very wrong.

I’m trying to figure out what I should do the next time a conversation is going off the rails. I might go with yelling out, “Can you two shut the fuck up so this guy (pointing at teacher) can teach us something?” But I was also thinking of going the less mature route of making a super loud farting noise to break up the discussion. I can’t decide which way to play it.

A few more random notes before I pack up my grapes and M&M’s and head off to class:

Arrested Development is the absolute gold standard of TV writing according to my classmates. If you try to say anything negative about this TV show, you will get ostracized from the group. Our teacher said one negative thing—that the writers of this show only wrote jokes for themselves, not for the general public—and I’m pretty sure at least five students are dropping out of his class because of it.

-If Arrested Development is the gold standard, then Whitney is…the poop standard? The pyrite standard? (ahh, that’s a thinker’s joke. You see, pyrite is a metal compound that’s often referred to as “fool’s gold” because it looks a lot like gold, but is actually worthless compared to gold.) Whatever the opposite of “gold standard” is, that’s Whitney, according to my class.

-The TV show I’m picking to write a script for is Happy Endings. If you don’t know it, give it a shot. It’s a good one. And if you do know it and happen to have some really brilliant ideas on what would make a good episode for that show, feel free to send it my way.

-Finally, I think our professor has done too many drugs in the past. Why do I think this? Well, for one, he’s constantly referencing all the drugs he’s done in the past. And two, he seems to keep forgetting which class he’s teaching while he’s lecturing us. And in Week Two, he was supposed to bring in DVDs that had episodes of sitcoms on them for us to watch as a class, but he screwed up and brought only Portlandia episodes, which is a sketch comedy show. I’m trying to figure out how long until I’m allowed to scream out, “Hey, Prof, I’m paying for this class out of my own pocket. That’s right…not my parents’ pockets, not through some loans that I won’t see the repercussions of for years…MY. OWN. POCKET. So why don’t you get your head out of your ass and bring the right material to class?” It’s probably still too early to do that, but it’s coming.

Adventures in Relocating: Losing My Mind over Home Entertainment Choices

I worry that I’ll come home one day to find Julie trapped inside my wire jungle

I have already lost two full days trying to solve this riddle, and there’s no end in sight.

In my current apartment, we have DirecTV, a DVR for recording shows, and a Blu-Ray player.  Our DirecTV package has most of the regular cable channels as well as HBO & Cinemax.  We have typically bought the NFL Ticket and MLB Extra Innings packages to watch football and baseball when they’re in season.  Our Blu-Ray player can stream Netflix Instant content.  Those are all of the options we have available at this time. While Netflix Instant is affordable at $8 per month, DirecTV rapes us to the tune of $124 per month.

With the move to the new place in LA only two weeks away, I thought this would be the right time to do a reset of my home entertainment packages to see if I can A) leverage different services and devices to have a broader choice in TV shows and movies, and B) cut out some significant costs from my current situation.

As I started researching this topic via the web and chatting with friends, I came across an endless amount of options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Roku, AppleTV, iTunes, DirecTV, Comcast, On Demand, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, illegal downloading…

Don’t worry, this can go even one layer deeper in complexity when you start to consider the following: Netflix has its instant service and its regular/ship you dvd’s service; HBO GO only works if you have an active HBO subscription through a participating cable or dish provider, Hulu has free and plus services, Roku has four different devices with options on picture quality as well as having ports for your USB cable.  Not a single service seems to have “everything.”  For instance, Netflix Instant has almost every well-known TV show, but lags in making the newest seasons of shows available to you.  Hulu Plus’s claim to fame is that the newest episodes of currently airing TV shows are available the day after they air.  But their problem is they don’t have deals with all the major network and cable channels so some shows are missing.  Amazon looks awful for current TV shows but awesome for movies.

It also seems like if you were to create a spreadsheet that matched up all content providers (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) with all the physical devices that the content can be streamed through (i.e. PS3, Xbox, Roku), your computer would probably explode.  Just like my head was about to do when I started to consider all these options.

Maybe the first thing I should figure out is what I really want access to. Ideally I want to be able to watch any new/currently airing TV shows close to the date that the new episodes actually air.  I also want to catch up on old seasons of still-airing shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and 30 Rock.  I need the ability to watch the playoffs of all major sports.  But I also need access to every Red Sox and Patriots game. Movies don’t matter as much: I just want the option to see most new movies that are coming out on DVD.

I know some people who have gotten rid of cable/satellite service all together and get their content exclusively from the Netflix and Hulu’s of the world.  This is the dream scenario, and I eventually want to get there. But here are three reasons why I’m reluctant to get rid of DirecTV/cable: playoff sports still have a lot of games on channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT; without cable I feel like I might miss out on something (there’s no logic to this feeling, it’s just an emotional reaction); and Julie will go ApeShit on me because all of the ridiculous shows she watches are on Food Network, MTV, E!, and TLC, and I don’t think she could get access to all of that content from another service.

I guess I’m leaning towards keeping DirecTV (but going back to the most basic package possible), and then buying a Roku to stream Netflix Instant and the MLB.tv package on my TV.  This will probably satisfy me for three months, at which time I will buy AppleTV, subscribe to Hulu Plus, buy a PlayStation 3, add HBO to my DirecTV package again so I can access HBO GO, and of course activate the NFL Ticket just in time for football season.

I’m exhausted from this talk we just had…any better suggestions for me?