Jeffrey Tambor Transparent

Keep It Simple, Showrunner

Let me start with the obvious caveat that I am deeply and inherently prejudiced in favor of the particular form of narrative filmmaking that I specialize in: fictionalized biographical and autobiographical dramas. I do on occasion dabble in the magical, either with overt supernatural themes or the more subtle magical realism, which is my preferred cut-off; I don’t like to stray far from authenticity. But the unreal isn’t my forte because it isn’t what I’m passionate about.

This wasn’t always the case. When I was younger and mired in a miserable childhood in a gilded cage, I escaped at any opportunity by turning inward and daydreaming a world I could control by magic. When I taught myself screenwriting in my early twenties, my stories were entirely supernatural; as I like to say, “Twenty-somethings are only adult teenagers.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal

The Golden Age of Television: A Summer of Madness and Sadness

Here’s what you think about HBO’s The Leftovers: You have no idea what to think. It’s the weirdest show outside of Adult Swim or some other willfully esoteric programming segment, if that’s the proper term for it, on a channel few people watch. It’s absolutely fucking weird and as addictive as the relentless smoking by the white-clad members of the show’s nihilistic Guilty Remnant cult.

Most people I’ve spoken to about The Leftovers haven’t made it past the first few episodes. That’s okay: I’m standing outside your window like a Guilty Remnant member, puffing away, waiting mutely, emotionless. You will succumb eventually.

Joseph Gatt

Current TV: The Great, the Terrible and the Hideous

Before I kick off an overview of what’s on premium cable these days, let me add a few words to the millions already out there about Philip Seymour Hoffman. As a former heroin user, I understand the drug’s appeal. I’m also amazed it never dawned on me that there was a major giveaway that Hoffman was heavily into it: His voice. I can usually always hear a junkie’s voice, and it makes my teeth grind. It’s that low, sleepy drone coming from a rusty drain pipe in the basement. And it reminds me of my own when I was in that state, reminds me of who I was in that state, and it bugs the shit out of me.

Even though it was half a lifetime ago when I stopped indulging from one day to the next without twelve stepping to a higher power, for my money a heroin overdose is the way only to go. Like many former heroin users, I fully intend to go back on it if the pain becomes too much in the final days before The End. No normal morphine for me. I want the good stuff.

HBO True Detective

The Golden Age of Television: Whither HBO?

I’ve said it before: The Golden Age of TV, which has spilled over from premium cable into network and streaming services, is responsible for the surge in quality of award-season theatrical releases. And Netflix and company have created an income stream for indie features that ten years ago would have died after a festival run and never been seen. And that stream is critical to bottom-line projections that help close film-financing deals, which in turn get alternative content made in the first place. It’s a seller’s market out there for writers and creators; we no longer have to shovel crap that enables delusional, ditzy execs into thinking they are mitigating risk. So whither HBO,

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Veep

‘Veep’: High Heels and Yoghurt with an H

I have to confess I’m having some scary revelations about myself as I ditch movies for the rest of the summer and delve into TV.  For instance, I don’t see anything wrong with anti-heroes Walt from Breaking Bad or Dr. House from House M.D., which I have only recently started watching despite the fact it is eight seasons old.  I think they’re not only completely relatable, but absolutely right, from their behavior under the circumstances they are put in, to the things they say and the way they say them.  But when I read comments on forums, many people consider these guys to be arrogant, egotistical, utterly lacking in humility or sensitivity.  I think I even read somewhere that House is supposed to be autistic.  To wit, when we were considering Hugh Laurie for a role in something I was working on, a producer said, “You know, he plays that crazy doctor on House.”  How puzzling.  Worse: how troubling that I don’t see them that way at all.

In ‘The Newsroom,’ the Art of Arrogance

The title of this piece not withstanding—and it pays to understand that this is written by a man who has himself been tagged with the adjective ‘arrogant’ since his voice broke and he discovered how to talk down to people—I am not jumping on the Aaron Sorkin-bashing bandwagon.  Not that I didn’t want to.  Since watching Sorkin’s fluid, articulate acceptance speech for the Best Screenplay Oscar for The Social Network, he’s been in the crosshairs of my resentment.  When my agent said to me a couple of years ago, “The only writer booking jobs these days is Aaron Sorkin,” I almost broke my BlackBerry in frustration.  And when I read that he was under fire in the press recently for purportedly having fired his entire writing team on HBO’s The Newsroom (a story that was untrue), I was positively bilious with schadenfreude.

I’ve only watched a few episodes of Sorkin’s The West Wing, but I liked what I saw; it aired during years I didn’t live in the U.S., which fell in the middle of the twenty-year period I didn’t watch TV at all.  But who didn’t like The West Wing?  Well, I’m sure people with no engagement in politics or human relationships weren’t interested in it, who might be more inclined towards costume-driven supernatural shows, or sitcoms, but even if your tastes ran to something else, nobody could fault its production, its scripts, its performances.

The Not‑So‑Perfect Pitch

In a mild twist of fate, I auditioned for a role on an HBO series yesterday.  This is no early Meryl Streep character that is going to require me hours of dialogue training to nail an East Prussian accent.  I doubt I’ll have to insist that all crew members call me by my character’s name so that my precarious Method balance is maintained.  If I get the role, and it is a real long shot that I will, I would basically be playing me.

James Killough’s new headshot, which will launch a sneak attack on HBO. Photo: Sebastian Artz.

I’m sure there are hundreds of actors out there who can play a middle-aged Ghey from the West Village, which is what this is.  And I’m sure we all sound alike in the end; these are lines I would actually say.  I really felt this dialogue was written with me in mind, which is why I keep my hopes up, even though as someone who habitually sits on the deciding side of the casting couch I know better.

What concerns me is the script describes my character as wearing a kimono.  Maybe the writer is savvy enough to know that I would indeed wear a man’s antique shibori resist-dyed kimono in a heartbeat, but I think she might have something more flamboyant in mind.  And therein lies the challenge.

I mentioned to my associate Tyler that I was concerned they probably wanted an old-school extravaganza Ghey, the kind who, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, is coming back in vogue thanks to that little Nellie in Glee. Tyler encouragingly replied, “Nah, you’ll be like the transvestite Liev Schreiber played in Taking Woodstock.  He looked totally out of place in a dress, but it was really funny.”  I twisted my ankle the other day stepping out of Tyler’s Ford Explorer, so the thought of slipping into a dress and heels isn’t very appealing right now.  But trying to convince the costume department to outfit me in an antique men’s shibori resist-dyed kimono rather than Haute Golden Girls Nightwear is an exciting challenge.