Women on My Mind

women illustration

I’ve been thinking a lot about women lately. Of course there’s Hillary Clinton, the first viable female candidate for president who’s ironically having a tough time getting the support of young women voters. Old school feminists like Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright aren’t helping with their comments, which are rubbing millennial women entirely the wrong way. Albright’s been saying, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” for years, attacking women who haze other women. These nasty chicks feel that since they had to fight their way to the top, and since there’s limited room for senior women in their given field, they’re not going to make it any easier for the women who follow them. But to young women who were born onto a still-imperfect but much more level playing field, it sounded like Albright was telling them to support Hillary just because she’s a woman…which to them is as bad as not supporting someone just because she’s a woman. Young feminists appreciate the historical significance of a potential female president but it’s more important to them to vote for a candidate on his or her merits, not his or her gender. Isn’t that really what we’ve been fighting for all along?

Another woman I’ve thought about is Jessica, who I worked with at the Grace Institute Brag Party last year. She and 104 other women just graduated from Grace’s intensive 5-month job readiness program. I was so proud of her when I received a LinkedIn notification that she got a new job as a receptionist at a law firm. Congrats to all of the @graceinstitute grads!

I’m tickled pink about the return of some of my favorite funny women on TV. Samantha Bee is killing it on TBS’s Full Frontal. Much has been said about the fact that she’s the only woman in late night comedy (which is a bit of a stretch; her show is on at 10:30pm, which is really prime time…but, whatever.) I hope whoever passed over her to replace Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show is looking at the ratings and realizing he made the biggest mistake of his life. I like Trevor Noah and think he’s doing a decent job, but seeing Bee succeed is sweet revenge for the sexism and ageism that prevented her from getting that promotion.

I can’t be too mad at Comedy Central, they did bring us Inside Amy Schumer. I was a fan long before Amy became a movie star and one of The Most Fascinating People of the Year. Amy’s right up there with Richard Pryor and George Carlin as one of the most daring and influential comedians of all time…not just one of the best female comedians. Now Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are back in season 3 of the hilarious Broad City. If you haven’t watched this show, run…don’t walk…to Comedy Central On Demand to catch up.

Speaking of women in TV, I want to give a shout out to my fellow Women in Cable Telecommunications NY chapter board members. @WICTNY has been working on a Leadership Series event titled, “Climbing the Corporate Ladder: How to Make it to the Next Rung” featuring a panel of four successful women at various stages of their careers. The event (to be held on February 29) sold out in record time and I was reminded of just how hard these volunteers work to put together helpful, meaningful programs. The benefits of WICT membership go way beyond what one can learn at our events, however. In Never Eat Alone: and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, Keith Ferrazzi touts the importance of networking and developing real, mutually supportive friendships for career success. As I’ve been reading the book I keep thinking how fortunate I am to have developed many great personal and professional relationships through WICT.

To keep abreast (pun intended) of all the news that matters to women I read the LZ Sunday Paper. There’s always terrific, thought-provoking content curated in former NBC exec Lauren Zalaznick’s weekly roundup of news, insights, arts and culture. Sign up at LZSundayPaper.com, it’s a great read.

Email from Louis C.K.

Here’s the email I received today about Horace and Pete. I think it’s fascinating for the creator of a show to share this kind of information about the process.

Hello friend guy lady or other,

Some of you are aware that, last Saturday, I launched a new series on my site louisck.net called “Horace and Pete”. I’m writing now to tell you some stuff about it….

Horace and Pete is a new show that I am producing, directing, writing, distributing and financing on my own. I have an amazing cast: Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Alan Alda, Jessica Lange, Aidy Bryant, Steven Wright, Kurt Metzger and other guest stars. Also Paul Simon wrote and performed the theme song which is beautiful.

The response to episode one has been great so far and there are more coming. We are making them now and having a lot of fun doing it.

Part of the idea behind launching it on the site was to create a show in a new way and to provide it to you directly and immediately, without the usual promotion, banner ads, billboards and clips that tell you what the show feels and looks like before you get to see it for yourself. As a writer, there’s always a weird feeing that as you unfold the story and reveal the characters and the tone, you always know that the audience will never get the benefit of seeing it the way you wrote it because they always know so much before they watch it. And as a TV watcher I’m always delighted when I can see a thing without knowing anything about it because of the promotion. So making this show and just posting it out of the blue gave me the rare opportunity to give you that experience of discovery.

Also because we are shooting this show in a multi-camera format with an emphasis on a live feeling, we are able to post it very soon after each episode is shot. So I’m making this show as you’re watching it.

Okay so let’s talk for a minute about the five dollars of it all. If you’re on this email list then you’re probably aware that I always make an effort to make the work I do on my own as cheap as possible and as painless as possible to get. That’s why my specials are five dollars and that’s why I sold tickets to my last big tour here on the site, with our own ticketing service at a flat price with no ticket charges and we have worked hard to keep my tickets out of the hands of scalpers.

So why the dirty fuckballs did I charge you five dollars for Horace and Pete, where most TV shows you buy online are 3 dollars or less? Well, the dirty unmovable fact is that this show is fucking expensive.

The standup specials are much more containable. It’s one guy on a stage in a theater and in most cases, the cost of the tickets that the live audience paid, was enough to finance the filming.
But Horace and Pete is a full on TV production with four broadcast cameras, two beautiful sets and a state of the art control room and a very talented and skilled crew and a hall-of-fame cast. Every second the cameras are rolling, money is shooting out of my asshole like your mother’s worst diarrhea. (Yes there are less upsetting metaphors I could be using but I just think that one is the sharpest and most concise). Basically this is a hand-made, one guy paid for it version of a thing that is usually made by a giant corporation.

Now, I’m not complaining about this at all. I’m just telling you the facts. I charged five dollars because I need to recoup some of the cost in order for us to stay in production.

Also, it’s interesting. The value of any set amount of money is mercurial (I’m showing off because i just learned that word. It means it changes and shifts a lot). Some people say “Five dollars is a cup of coffee”. Some people say “Hey! Five dollars?? What the fuck!” Some people say “What are you guys talking about?” Some people say “Nothing. don’t enter a conversation in the middle”.
Anyway, I’m leaving the first episode at 5 dollars. I’m lowering the next episode to 2 dollars and the rest will be 3 dollars after that. I hope you feel that’s fair. If you don’t, please tell everyone in the world.

Meanwhile, we’re going to keep making Horace and Pete. We’re going to keep telling you the story.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy it. I’ll write you again later and tell you more about it. It’s fun to talk about. But for now I want to shut up and not ruin the experience of you just watching the show.

Here’s the link for the website. Enjoy episode 2 of Horace and Pete. We’re shooting it now. You’ll get it on Saturday morning.

This person,
Louis C.K.

OTT is HOT

It seems like wherever you turn these days everyone is talking about how Over The Top services (streaming networks) are taking over the video world. (Except, of course, when they’re talking about Donald Trump.)

To wit:

  • Netflix received 8 Golden Globe nominations for television programming this year, more than any other network. In stark contrast, NBC – host of the awards show – received 0. While Netflix didn’t take home any statuettes, Amazon won 2 of the 5 categories in which it was nominated. The streaming services’ dominance was most obvious in the Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy category, representing 4 of the 6 nominees: Orange is the New Black from Netflix, Transparent from Amazon, and Casual from Hulu, with Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle taking home the prize. The other 2 nominees were from HBO.
  • Amazon and Netflix shelled out millions at the Sundance Film Festival, snapping up high profile films by outbidding traditional distributors. Last year Amazon attended the festival but didn’t buy anything. This year their acquisitions include the drama Manchester by the Sea starring Casey Affleck for $10 million (that’s Casey, not Ben). Netflix ultimately lost the most buzzed-about film at the festival, Nate Parker’s The Birth of A Nation, to Fox Searchlight, but not before bidding the price up to a record-breaking $17.5 million.
  • Netflix has even worked its way into the millennial vernacular: “Netflix and Chill” is the new “Booty Call.”

It should come as no surprise that the most innovative content is being driven by the newest delivery platform. Historically each time a new competitor enters the ring they have had to be more agile and original than the established players to earn the respect of the creative community, viewers, and the press. Back in the early days of cable, basic networks’ lineups included a heavy dose of broadcast repeats and rejects. Cable was the Rodney Dangerfield of the television world. When the cable networks became profitable enough to invest in quality original programming, they had to break new ground to lure viewers away from broadcast. Suddenly cable shows started winning critical acclaim and awards.

HBO (and later Showtime) figured out that theatrical films were commodities. To build viewer loyalty they had to offer original programming too…and it had to be better than what was on basic so customers would pay more to get it. Unencumbered by the “standards and practices” of broadcast, with bigger budgets than basic, and without the need to pander to advertisers, the premium networks attracted the best Hollywood talent–both behind and in front of the camera–by offering more creative control. Premium became the place to be for high quality, pushing-the-envelope series.

Now the OTT services are the new kids in town, so they’re the ones willing to take creative risks. They’re out-premiuming the premium networks. I have yet to pay for a streaming service; we spend so much on our cable bundle that I can’t rationalize shelling out any more for in-home entertainment even though they’re very reasonably priced. While you pay for Netflix as you go and Amazon charges upfront for a year, they both come out to about $8 a month. If it were up to me alone I’d probably cut the cord, get a digital antenna for broadcast reception, and order up Amazon and Netflix. But my husband and son are die-hard sports fans, so cable is still the best option for our family.

To get a first-hand view of what all the fuss is about I took a deep dive into streaming waters with simultaneous month-long trials of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. On Netflix I started the month with season 3 of Orange is the New Black (I was already a fan, having seen seasons 1 and 2 with previous freebies) and ended it with the first episode of Making a Murderer, the series making documentaries cool again and sparking a national debate about the guilt or innocence of its protagonist. I was sorry to miss the rest of the series, but not sorry enough to pony up $8 to see it. My husband, who doesn’t watch a lot of dramas, stuck with Narcos (based on the life and legend of Pablo Escobar) while I sampled a couple of episodes but never got hooked.

On Amazon I double-binged seasons 1 and 2 of Transparent. I loved that it’s unlike anything else on television but was surprised how much of the focus is on Maura’s narcissistic children’s dysfunctional sex lives rather than her own struggles as a transgender woman. Prompted by its Golden Globe win I checked out Mozart in the Jungle. I liked it enough to watch several episodes but, even combined with free 2-day shipping and the other Amazon Prime perks, opted to opt-out and the end of the trial.

Our kids like Netflix because its easy-to-use guide and recommendations for each family member make it simple to find programming that appeals to them. We’ve probably got access to just as much family friendly fare on cable (if not more), but it’s cumbersome to search through the linear channels and each network’s on demand offerings. They were turned off by Amazon’s interface and didn’t really give it a chance; they may have been more interested if we didn’t have Netflix at the same time.

Circumventing even the streaming services and with no advance warning, Louis CK just released the first episode of a new series he wrote, directed and stars in called Horace and Pete on his website. For $5 “You can download the video here. Once you’ve got it, it’s yours to do with as you like: sync it to your Zune, stream it over wi-fi to your spouse, burn it to DVD, etc.” I admire that he brings his programming directly to the people and I was intrigued enough to part with $5, but I have to say I appreciated it more than I actually enjoyed it. The superb cast includes Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Jessica Lange and Edie Falco. It’s more like a stage play than a television show, compete with an intermission, and is most definitely not a comedy.

I didn’t love it but I love that he did it. Whether direct-to-consumer, OTT, on cable or on broadcast, the less interference there is from the “suits”, the more innovative programming we’ll see.