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For Writers, Some Joy in Mudville

Why word of a J.J. Abrams bidding war and bad numbers for ”Dancing With the Stars“ is all good.

There was joy in Mudville (also known as Writer’s-ville) last week with two announcements.

First there was the J.J. Abrams/Josh Reims spy spec bidding war among the networks. Sure, Abrams has been on a role with the summer’s "Star Trek" movie and the kind of TV success that makes Joss Whedon green with envy. And sure, the last TV spec he trotted out was also the subject of a bidding war but that was 2007.
Before this recession thing kicked in.
For months the networks have acted like 1930’s skid row residents, walking around the with hat in hand as they lay off hundreds of workers. Now they have finally remembered that they are some of the largest, wealthiest conglomerates in the world and that the only cheap way to play the entertainment game is not to play.
It’s too early to speculate whether this is a one-time freak occurrence, an exception made to one of the few guys who has proven he can deliver the big numbers in the box office and the small screen, or the start of a trend. But we’re writers — imagination and by extension speculation is our stock in trade.
The second piece of good news was an about the disappointing numbers for "Dancing With the Stars" compared with the new scripted shows debuting this fall. Sure, you see plenty of writers in the credits of "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race," but by and large the reality TV trend has been the bane of the writer’s existence the last decade or so. Now one of the main reality juggernauts is reporting trouble for the first time ever, while new scripted shows are grabbing the glory.
Again, it’s too early to dare dream that the reality trend is finally played out. But we’re allowed to dream a little bit. Every writer out there can imagine for a little while a Hollywood where the nets spend big bucks for new scripted shows and WME reps are on the prowl in the cafes and coffeehouses hungry for new pilots and new writers.
It gives a writer an excuse to dig that old pilot script out of the closet. The one he stuck in between knapsack between the clean underwear and the toothbrush. The one about the private eye alien. The one that was going to make him an overnight sensation.
We all dream that the fame and fortune is still out there to be had and is just one read away.
It just took 10 years is all.

Michael Lee is a novel writer, blogger and freelance journalist living in L.A. He's been a judge for the prestigious PAGE Awards and blogs about his two biggest passions, screenwriting and food, at Screenwriting Foxhole and To Cook and Eat in L.A., respectively. Lee is also a co-author of "The Insider's Guide to Screenwriting" and has just published his first novel, "My Frankenstein."