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October 26, 1999 - Image 21

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-26

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 27, 1999 - 9

ABC
bends for
Lue,
BochCol
he Washington Post
The scampering of little mouse
bet you heard late last week was the
o d of execs from Disney's ABC
c rk beating a hasty retreat after
etting publicly whipped by
ollywood's biggest baddest TV cat,
teven Bochco.
The Mouse House network
nnounced on Friday that, upon fur-
ier consideration, it had decided to
ive Bochco's "NYPD Blue" its old
'uesday 10 p.m. time period after
11, though it won't happen until Jan.
t, after telling Bochco the pre-
ious week that his show probably
ouldn't return to its berth at all.
cens the network wanted to contin-
e giving that slot to Sela Ward's dat-
tgdratta, "Once and Again," which
st happens to be produced and
wned by Disney. "Once" has been
irdng there since the season's start,
ut' ABC had promised Bochco that
Once" would bow out when "Blue"
e ed on Nov. 9. Instead it looked
the network was going to give
referential treatment to the show it
wned.
DBochco, who's nobody's fool, went
ght back to his plush digs over at
Qth Century Fox and started calling
V critics and reporters in key mar-
eis who are fans of his cop show.
his led to a spate of news reports
xer several days slamming corpo-
itoevil ABC for doing "NYPD
Clue" fans wrong in the name of ver-
cal integration.
"I'm not thumping my chest -
'ujust relieved that we got a better
suit than we had reason to think we
crc going to before," said Bochco
iaphone news conference arranged
astily by his publicist shortly after
BC. made its about-face Friday
egnipg.
modestly shared credit for the
a' saying that it was "in no small
rt hanks to you guys and the way
which you wrote about this stuff."
ABC's West Coast co-chairman
u Bloomberg insisted Friday that
is '.was the plan from the begin-

ng director hits it
ig with 'Goat on Fire'

Dennis Franz is more than 'Blue' with ABC.
him about any "plan."
"They didn't say anything about
anything," Bochco told his fan club
-er, the critics and reporters. "They
said they were not presenting us with
a fait accompli, but they refused to
share with us any other scenarios,
although they said they had one in
mind. When I asked what it was, they
wouldn't divulge it."
The scenario now is to continue
running "Once and Again" in the
Tuesday time slot through Dec. 28.
When the pro football season ends
and ABC's Monday night opens up,
"Once" will move to Mondays at 10)
p.m., debuting there on Jan. 24.
"Once" has been steadily shedding
viewers since its debut, while CBS's
"Judging Amy" in the same time slot
has been adding them. ABC dismiss-
es the decline, saying the show was
particularly hard hit by the baseball
playoffs.
Though Bochco said the new plan
was only the second-best thing he
could've hoped for - the first being
the return of "Blue" to the Tuesday
slot on Nov. 9 as originally planned
- he sounded pleased as a cat with
fresh mouse on its breath.
That's because, with 22 episodes
ordered and a January start, "NYPD
Blue" won't have to air a single
rerun this season. And "NYPD
Blue"'s rerun ratings stink to high
heaven.
Rerun-less, "Blue" blazes. Take
last season, for example. From its
season debut until the end of the
May sweeps race, when the season
officially wrapped, "Blue" averaged
14.5 million viewers - its lowest
season average ever -- and ranked
No. 15. Take out the in-season
reruns, and "Blue" averaged 16 mil-
lion viewers and was a Top 10 show.
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t,0s Alges Times
Not long ago, director Kevin Jordan
was ready to give up on Hollywood.
telling a friend it might be time to go
home to New York to work in his dad's
seafood restaurant.
'I was lying on the floor of my 8-by-
10-foot apartment in Venice and I said, 'I
guess I'm going back to the Lobster
Dock,"' the 25-year-old Jordan remem-
bers telling Derick Martini, who stars
with his brother Steven in Jordan's
ultralow-budget, "Goat on Fire and
Smiling Fish."
Moments later, the Toronto
International Film Festival called:
Jordan's first feature, a sweet tale of two
brothers finding love in Los Angeles,
was in. Suddenly, this 540,000 movie
that producer's rep Jeff Dowd calls "not
the next 'Blair Witch,' but 'Blair Witch
McMullen"' was off and running.
First, though, Jordan and the Martini
brothers had to race to get a 35mm print
to show in Toronto in.early September.
There, the film won standing ovations
and the coveted audience Discovery
Award, and earned rave reviews from
critic Roger Ebert ("remarkable") and
Daily Variety ("boasts .., date-movie
appeal"). Back-to-back screenings for
film distributors on both coasts sent the
three friends on two transcontinental
flights in four days. There's been a tidal
wave of phone calls from agents who
couldn't be bothered before, numerous
power breakfasts and nearly no sleep.
"Struggling in Hollywood is insane --
people not taking your calls, people not
returning your calls. And all of a sudden
there's this heat that we're in now," said
Jordan, looking happy but weary.
"Evervbody wants to meet you ... All of
a sudden they're your best friends,
though they weren't your best friends
three weeks ago when you were trying to
show them a (rough) copy of your film"
No matter how cynical the movie

industry can sometimes appear, the story
of "Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish"
proves that this town can still muster
genuine excitement for a fresh discovery.
But it also proves something else: While
a huge independent phenomenon such as
the micro-budgeted "The Blair Witch
Project" is still possible, a lot has
changed in the four years since Ed
Burns' debut independent feature, "The
Brothers McMullen," found its niche. In
fact, some people say it's harder than
ever to get great little movies to break
through.
"Unfortunately, in today's market-
place, the demands on theaters do not
support a smaller film like ('Goat on
Fire') that has to sit in a theater and grow
and grow, said Tony Safford, a senior
vice president of acquisitions at 20th
Centurv Fox, one of several distributors
that opted not to bid on Jordan's film.
"It's a wonderfully sweet film. But its
hard to get the proper theater support to
sustain that growth."
Even if acquired cheaply, other indus-
try insiders explained, it can take a mini-
mum of S2 million to merely launch a
movie, let alone make it stand out in a
crowded field.
That reasoning meant that despite the
accolades, the ovations and the raves,
there has been no frenzied bidding war
for "Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish" --
and not only because of its unwieldy title
(drawn from the nicknames bestowed on
the film's two main characters by their
Native American grandma).
But Dowd, the film's inimitable pro-
moter (who was immortalized as "The
Dude" in Joel and Ethan Coen's film
"The Big Lebowski"), insists "Goat on
Fire" is the kind of film that can develop
a following from the grass-roots up.
"We're going to be like a touring rock
band, screening this film for free for
thousands of people to build word-of-
mouth, and taking these four guys on the
road," Dowd said, waving a beefy hand

toward the film's director, the two stars
and the movie's secret weapon: 74-year-
old Bill Henderson, a veteran character
actor who plays a retired motion picture
soundman who counsels one of the
brothers on love and life with a grace
that Ebert called "unforgettable."
Dowd thinks the filmmakers' real-life
friendship adds to the movie's mar-
ketability much like Ben Afileck and
Matt Danon's buddy story helped sell
"Good Will Hunting."
Money for the production was ridicu-
lously tight. For months, the filmmakers
worked off a 400-page handwritten
script (they had no computer) and jok-
ingly dubbed themselves Caveman
Productions. When shooting in nine Los
Angeles-area locations over 12 days, the
filmmakers begged and borrowed to
assemble the necessary equipment to get
the movie made. When that didn't work,
they tried something else: lobster.
"Mv family has this restaurant, exit 9
off the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. So I'd
say, 'I don't have any money, but do you
like seafood'?"' Jordan said, recalling
how he'd get his dad to send the crus-
taceans via overnight mail.
"It was amazing," recalled Derick

Martini. "When we were at our worst, no
money, and something had to be done,
bring in the lobster!"
For Henderson, it was the script - not
the garlic butter - that drew him to the
project. "Somehow I knew who that
character was when I started reading it,:
said the gravelly-voiced actor and jaz_
musician, who clearly got a kick out of
working with his yOuthful cohorts. "I
have ties older than all these guys"
Since the Toronto whirlwind, which
Henderson likened to being in the wake
of a comet, everyone's egos are healthier,
but their creature comforts are about the
same. During one of the screenings for
distributors last month, Steven Martini
had his car impounded for nonpayment
of parking tickets.
The filmmakers are planning their
next project (a dark family comedy set in
Long Island), so money remains perpet-
ually scarce. For the next few months,
they'll be occupied with finishing a final
print of "Goat on Fire," which was shot
on super lItm, and with crossing their
fingers that it will be accepted to the
Sundance Film Festival, held in January
That job at the Lobster Dock, it seems,
will have to wait

Director Kevin Jordan (top left) scored well at this year's Toronto Film I

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