Monday, 16 March 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #250: Miscellaneous Monday Musings

We have a bit of a Sci-Fi theme going today, or perhaps one could say SyFy, but only if they have their head up their own ass which we'll get to in a second, but first...


Writer, raconteur, provocateur, and all around scrapper Harlan Ellison is suing Paramount over not getting what he considers his due from the Star Trek Episode "City on the Edge of Forever," and he's also suing the WGA for not protecting his interests and rights adequately enough.

This proves the two solid and absolute truths about Hollywood.

1. Nobody learns anything.

2. When Harlan Ellison thinks he's been done wrong, Harlan Ellison will fight like hell.

Ellison is a great writer, one of science-fiction's true grand masters, capable of doing more with a short story than 50 lesser writers with an entire novel.

He's also the world's most contentious, litigious, and just plain ornery people the world has ever known. In the words of my wise grandpa, he's one of those guys that would "rather fight than eat."

There's nothing he likes more than good battle, and make that battle with a large corporation that treats people badly, and he will positively love it.

Which raises the question:


Why would Paramount, a company that's having a hard time finding investment capital, want to start a fight with someone who will go after them tooth and nail. He's not the sort of person to just sit back and let lawyers suck him dry in quiet desperation, and then fold when he starts to run out of money. Ellison will take it public, he will hoist it up the flagpole to see who salutes, and he will shout from the rooftops about what a pack of bastards Paramount really is.

If Paramount refused to pay the royalties due Ellison for his work, then that's the equivalent of you sneaking up on a sleeping badger and sticking your thumb up it's butt-hole.

You might survive the mauling, but was the blood loss and mutilation really worth getting your thumb covered in shit, especially when you knew for a fact that doing it will cause you pain, and get you nothing worthwhile in the end?

How will Paramount attract the needed financial partners with yet another case of them screwing someone over making the news?

Anyway, in other news....


Just when you think the folks at NBC-Universal have hit bottom, they break out the shovels and start digging.

In another example of bizarre corporate logic, the people that brought us Ben Silverman's reign of error at NBC, have decided to take the Sci-Fi Channel and "re-brand" it the SyFy Channel, with a new logo, and the slogan "Imagine Greater."

Think about that for a second, I'll wait.

They, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to take one of their few successful operations, the Sci-Fi Channel, and change the name and logo to something more befitting a lifestyle channel that teaches you how to brew your own patchouli oil. In fact their new nonsense word SyFy sounds like some sort of dish made from couscous, granola, and seasoned liberally with the ire of Sci-Fi fans.

The phrase Sci-Fi (believed to have been first coined by the late Forrest Ackerman) comes from the phrase Science Fiction, which was coined by the legendary editor-publisher Hugo Gernsback, when his first attempt Scientifiction didn't roll smoothly off the tongue.

Which leads me to the reason behind this decision.

You see it has nothing to do with helping the channel connect with its current fans and attract new ones, but it has everything to do with ownership.

You see NBC-Universal can't slap a "registered trademark" symbol onto the word Sci-Fi, SF, Science-Fiction, or any rational variation thereof, because they are commonly used words that belong to the public at large. NBC-Universal can't claim they own them and sue anyone for using those words without their permission.

So they make up a bit of rhyming nonsense that they can claim ownership of, even though no one would want it, with their permission or not, because it is nothing more than stupid rhyming nonsense.

Hey NBC-Universal, in keeping with your spirit of great business decisions, how about letting me have the rights to the web address for the price of $1 Canadian. With your network going all "syfy" and the term being public domain, it can't be worth that much.



  1. SyFy? Please tell me you're kidding. Really, I mean it. Please tell me you're kidding.

    The fun part is that most self-respecting hard-core science fiction geeks don't even like the term sci-fi.

    It's kind of like calling a serious Star Trek fan a "trekkie". That's "Trekker" to YOU, thank you very much. :)

  2. "last, best hope for science fiction baen book ".
    PS it is Skiffy Channel

  3. Re: Paramount: They're a huge company that grosses 1.5 billion in 07. What do they care if an obnoxious osified SciFi writer sues them. They can use the tax write off if they lose and if they win it's a precedent they can extend over the entire industry. Not to mention that Harlen isn't that popular a guy, some folks might just think it's funny.

  4. K-

    It isn't the lawsuit itself that's the problem. Right now Paramount can't attract people to invest in their films.


    Because lawsuits like this make investing in Hollywood look like a sucker's game. And Ellison will make as much noise as humanly possible and beyond. It's his style.

    This is why I call tactics like not paying people royalties and residuals a self-fulfilling idiocy. The studio folks who okay the screwing think they're saving money, but in the long run all they do is cause prices to go up, investors to stay away, and pay for new yachts for their lawyers.

    The lawsuit is small change to them, but they can't see the big money that things like that really cost them.

  5. 1. "Syfy"? So Jeff Zucker. (Nothing more to add here.)

    2. What we have classically known as Paramount Pictures was split in two in 2006. Today's "Paramount Pictures" is only the movie studio and its home video arm; the TV division (originally founded as Desilu by, yes, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) is now part of CBS as "CBS Paramount Network Television". CBS and Viacom (Paramount's parent) are separate companies, though both controlled by Sumner Redstone/National Amusements.

    Notwithstanding point 2, you analysis is spot-on about how corrupt and stupid the CEOs of the Hollywood studios have become, and how it's bringing these companies to ruin.

  6. Tony.

    I know about the division between Paramount and CBS Paramount, but since it all goes back to Sumner Redstone / National Amusements/ Viacom/ hell knows what, and they are all affected by the lack of investor interest, I simplified.