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I say “My Top 10″ because “Your Top 10″ will no doubt vary.  Having read the Ice & Fire series before sitting down to watch Game of Thrones, I was prepared for moments like Ned Stark’s execution, The Red Wedding, and the duel between The Mountain and The Red Viper.  Similarly, behind-the-scenes developments on other shows prepared me for the “writing off” of certain characters.  And then there are those shows whose entanglements keeps you in a constant state of wariness, waiting for the other shoe to drop so that when it does and a character like The Sopranos’ Adriana gets bumped off, you’re left surprised…but not all that shocked.

No, the following 10 television deaths are moments that took me by surprise; moments I didn’t see coming.  In some cases, I really should have.  But at the time I watched them – spoiler free – these deaths left me completely and utterly shocked.

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!

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#10. Lady Sybil (Downton Abbey)

Look, I know it’s a soap opera and that characters die all the time in soap operas but…Lady Sybil?  Young, earnest, idealistic Lady Sybil dying during childbirth?  And her death partly attributable to her own father’s ignorance?  Shocking!

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#9. Dale (The Walking Dead)

I’ve been reading the comic book series for years, so the deaths of Shane and Lori weren’t all that shocking as the characters had far outlived their comic book counterparts.  But Dale?  Dale?!  Now THAT was a shocker!

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#8. Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire)

The death of Jimmy Darmody at the hands of Nucky Thompson was shocking in most part because it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Nucky executes Jimmy for turning against him, yet lets Eli walk free.  Yes, I know, Eli is Nucky’s brother, but Jimmy was like a son to him.  Strange.

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#7. Lem (The Shield)

For seasons, the members of Mackey’s strike team were inseparable: Vic, Shane, Lem, and the guy who got his face seared on the stove top.  And then, the team was blown apart by suspicion, betrayal, and the grenades Shane drops into Lem’s lap at the end of the show’s fifth season.

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#6. Lizzie and Mika (The Walking Dead)

A two for one here.  First, psychotic little Lizzie offs her own sister and then Carol caps Lizzie to end her threat.  Critics were livid, but I thought it brave and shockingly perfect.  The best episode of the series to date.

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#5. Zoe Barnes (House of Cards)

Zoe was a pivotal character throughout the show’s first season, so to kill her off so early in the second – well I, for one, did NOT see that coming.

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#4. Edith Bunker (Archie Bunker’s Place)

It’s hard to lose a loveable character, especially when said character is a television icon – even more so when she’s a television comedy icon.  And for Edith to pass away in her sleep off-screen.  Agh, the anguish!

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#3. Omar Little (The Wire)

Yeah, I know.  He was living on borrowed time and, sooner or later, his renegade disregard for all sides of the law would catch up with him – but for Omar to go out the way he did, gunned down at a convenience store by a young boy.  That was a shocker.

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#2. Terry Crowley (The Shield)

The pilot of The Shield still ranks as my very favorite for the sudden and unexpected twist at episode’s end, the death of undercover detective Terry Crowley at the hands of the show protagonist (???) Vic Mackey.

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#1. Lt. Col. Henry Blake (M*A*S*H*)

This oen gets the #1 spot because it left such an indelible mark on my young and naive t.v. viewing self.   M*A*S*H* started off as a goofy comedy that, in time, morphed into a smart, provocative dramedy – and a television classic.  And the death of the clownish Henry Blake at the end of the show’s third season marked a pivotal shift for the show – and the television landscape as a whole.

Production has a way of sneaking up on you.  One second you’re spinning stories for your first season and, the next, you’re boarding a plane for Toronto to oversee construction of those spaceship and space station sets.

I recently received a copy of our prep schedule and it looks like we’re officially underway roughly a month earlier than I had imagined, meaning I’ll probably be making the east coast move sometime in October.  Suddenly, I’ve got to find a place in Toronto, find someone to move into my place here, finalize those ship and space station designs, get the ball rolling on our visual effects.  I’m also going to have to abandon my randomized method of selecting books from my to-read pile and just cut to those titles I HAVE to read before I go.

I’m thinking the plan will be to travel to Toronto in early October for those preliminary meetings and then start the moving process.  I’m going to travel light – a couple of suits, the bare essentials, and then buy everything else in Toronto: socks, underwear, a deep freeze parka, dog beds, kitchen utensils, and a my kindle.  Once Akemi and I have settled in, we’ll go back to Vancouver, pick up the dogs, and travel back with them – and only them.  We’ll each bring a dog (meaning we’re going to have to purchase a round trip ticket for a friend because the airline allows only one carry-on dog per person) but ONLY dogs.  No checked baggage.  That way, our cranky pack will be in and out of that airport as quickly as possible.  Yes, I’ll be going into production on the first season of an SF series that will be shooting in Toronto in the dead of winter and I’m scrambling to get all 13 scripts done before we go to camera – BUT the thing that’s stressing me out most is the prospect of flying my dogs across the country.

I’d like to say I took the weekend off, but that wouldn’t be true.  I took a chunk of Sunday off, but then stayed up late Sunday night doing a pass on episode #3.  It’s in excellent shape but I wanted to tweak some of the dialogue, clarify a few things, and make a slight adjustment to one of the final scenes, changing the location from her quarters to the training room.  I also revised the outlines for episodes #5-8 and sent them Rob and Trevor’s way so they can start thinking about their respective scripts.  Paul sent me his pass on episode #4 (which I’ll review tomorrow) and I’ll send him my pass on episode #3 (which he’ll review tomorrow) and, barring any unforeseen complications, we should have our first four drafts out there before week’s end – as planned.

We’re maybe six weeks or so away from casting but I’ve already started making a few requests for some individuals I’d like to bring in.  As I said in a previous entry, we have seven diverse roles to fill and I would LOVE to make sure a couple of them are filled by some individuals I’ve already had the pleasure of working with.  A few familiar faces would be awesome (1, 3, 5, 6?).

In addition to the pilot, I got three scripts done (episodes 2, 4, and 9) in August and I think that, if I apply myself, I could get one more done (episode 12) before I head off to Japan on September 10th.  That way, I’d only have the co-write of the big season finale (episode 13) on my plate when I get back – and have to start dealing with all of the other aspects of prep.

On top of all this, I’ve got a Fantasy Football League draft to prepare for!  My Snow Monkeys draft Monday, September 2nd and I haven’t even started doing my research!  Who’s going to be good this year?  Do the Packers have a running game?  Is Dan Marino back at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins?

The calm before the regular season storm.

The calm before the regular season storm.

Well, I had a lot I wanted to get done to day and, although I didn’t accomplish everything, it was a nice, full day…

1) The Running of the Bulldogs

Akemi and I headed down to Yaletown early this morning to register our french bulldog, Lulu, for “the running of the bulldogs”, part of a HUGE dog-themed festival that included various vendor booths, complimentary dog treats, and doggy wading pools.  I registered her at 11: 00 a.m. as per the instructions in the flyer, specifying her name, my name, her weight (21 lbs), and her nickname (LeLouche).  Unfortunately, when it came time for the actual races, we could hardly hear the host and his ineffective bullhorn.  Perhaps more frustrating was the fact that they were calling in the participants out of sequence, NOT in the order in which they registered but some weird, randomized order known only to them.  I was eager to have Lulu run (she had carbed up that morning), but we were dog-sitting our old friend Petunia who was so exhausted that Akemi feared she might pass out.  So we left early.  Lulu missed out on her chance to run.  And I had to carry Petunia back to the car.

The pre-race turf

The pre-race turf

Out and about with the little lady

Out and about with the little lady

Lulu - yet to race and already tired

Lulu – yet to race and already tired

Petunia - ready for bedtime.

Petunia – ready for bedtime.

THIS guy!

THIS guy!

THAT guy!

THAT guy!

"Toons" gives me her it's-time-to-go look.

“Toons” gives me her it’s-time-to-go look.

2) Garlic Fest

We dropped off the dogs, then headed over the Richmond for the Garlic Festival – to try the much-hyped garlic ice cream.  A potential weird-food-purchase-of-the-day perhaps?  Alas, the garlic ice cream was sold out by the time we got there – so we had to settle for garlic scape pizza, roasted garlic, and six bulbs of Russian Red!

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Snacktime!

Snacktime!

3) Pie Championship!

We returned home, walked the dogs, then hopped back into the car and headed over to the city’s east end for the Incredible Pie Championship!  $5 got you a  taste of all 21 pies competing across five categories: Sweet, Savory, Structural, Vegan and Best in Show.  We met up with friends (Nicole and Lan), made new ones (Kirsten, Liz, Wendy, and guy standing in line who looked like Ronon Dex), and enjoyed A LOT of pie.

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The pirate-themed rum-pecan pie got my vote in the structural category.

The pirate-themed rum-pecan pie got my vote in the structural category.

The banana cream pie won my vote in the Sweet category as well as Best In Show

The banana cream pie won my vote in the Sweet category as well as Best In Show

The Lumberjack Royale, with its medley of roasted apples and bacon, got my vote in the Savory category.

The Lumberjack Royale, with its medley of roasted apples and bacon, got my vote in the Savory category.

The inspired onion-meringue came in a close second in the savory category.

The inspired onion-meringue came in a close second in the savory category.

Building the list of entries.

Building the list of entries.

Akemi preferred the cherry pie

Akemi preferred the cherry pie

Kirsten and Liz, who recognized me from this blog - and still elected to say hi and chat rather than throw a pie in my face.

Kirsten and Liz, who recognized me from this blog – and still elected to say hi and chat rather than throw a pie in my face.

Me and my 21 empty cups.  One thing they don't tell you: bring your own plate.  And utensils!  Otherwise, you'll end up doing pie shots for most of the afternoon.

Me and my 21 empty cups. One thing they don’t tell you: bring your own plate. And utensils! Otherwise, you’ll end up doing pie shots for most of the afternoon.

Liz shows off her stack.

Liz shows off her stack.

Nicole and Lan came prepared!

Nicole and Lan came prepared!

We came home, exhausted.  Akemi took her shower and was ready for bed.  At 8:00 p.m.!  Also, she sunburnt her ears. :(

 

Every state in the U.S. has an iconic dish to call its own.  Georgia has its peach pie, Louisiana its gumbo, and Pennsylvania its scrapple.  But not all plates are created equal.  I imagine that some came late to the party and, after finding out that ribs and brisket were taken, just threw up their hands and simply went with vinegar fries.  Anyway, here is my list of the Top 5 Best and Top 5 Worst State Dishes.

THE BEST…

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5. The Lobster Roll (Maine)

I discovered a newfound appreciation for the lobster roll two years ago when my buddy, Martin Gero, hired a lobster food truck to cater his birthday party.  Akemi was so enamored that she has taken to perfecting her own version.

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4. Mud Pie (Mississippi)

I love my desserts decadent and chocolatey, and this one offers the very best of both worlds.

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3. Philly Cheesesteak (Pennsylvania)

In terms of sandwiches, it doesn’t get any better than this: beef, green peppers, and cheese!

Pork Rib

2. Ribs (Kansas)

Tender, juicy ribs smothered in the state’s classic sweet and tangy tomato and molasses-based sauce.

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1. Ribs (Tennessee)

But as much as I love sauced rubs, there’s nothing quite like the delicious dry rub variety.

AND THE WORST…

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5. The Buffet (Vegas)

Mediocre jack of all culinary trades, master of run.

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4. Funeral Potatoes (Utah)

Where the following ingredients go to die: hash browns, onions, cheese, potato chips, corn flakes, and cream soup.

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3. Hot Dish (Minnesota)

“Hoddish” is a hot mess of ground beef, pasta, tomato, and cheese.  Variations include versions with green beans, cream of mushroom soup and sauerkraut.

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2. Vinegar Fries (Delaware)

Why would you do that to a french fry?

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1. Deep Dish Pizza (Illinois)

The picture alone triggers my gag reflex.

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Oh, it’s on!  This Sunday, come cheer Lulu on as she puts her undefeated record on the line (note: she’s never participated before so she is, technically, undefeated) in the Running of the Bulls at Pet-A-Palooza!

Looks to be a busy day because, in addition to that, there’s this:

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 5.15.27 PM

And then this:

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Finally, here’s Akemi’s take on that vegetarian restaurant (guest-starring yours truly):

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I brought Jelly in to see a specialist last week.  After a careful study of the x-rays and the my old gal, he reversed the initial diagnosis of a separated hip. Apparently, upon closer scrutiny, it looks bad – bad it isn’t THAT bad.  So that was great news.  And then, Tuesday, she was unusually energetic, walking all the way to the corner – and halfway back – before settling down on the grass and insisting I carry her!

1That’s the good news.  The bad news is she apparently has another bladder infection which means she’s back on antibiotics.  But it’s given Akemi the opportunity to buy her some fashionable new duds – including suspenders!

Who wants to hug Poopy, the exhibition mascot?

Who wants to hug Poopy, the exhibition mascot?

I’m researching interesting events in advance of my Japan trip in September and came across this interesting exhibition called “Toilet?!  Human Waste and the Earth’s Future”: http://www.tokyoweekender.com/2014/07/tokyo-museum-opens-a-special-exhibition-featuring-toilets-and-poop/

“If you’re still uncomfortable with the topic after entering the exhibit, a choir of singing toilets with friendly faces on the lids might help soothe your nerves, as well as a series of poop samples from different animals to assure you that you’re not alone in the act. You can also recreate the poop you had this morning with blobs of clay and play games involving a target and a urinal.”

Running until October 3rd!

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Some Japanese-style fast-food to look forward to.  Rice burgers!  https://www.yahoo.com/food/what-the-heck-is-a-rice-burger-95211558931.html

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Meanwhile, this opened in Osaka last month: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/10968074/Harry-Potter-in-Japan-260-million-Wizarding-World-theme-park-opens-in-Osaka.html

I was kind of hoping to take in a Hanshin Tigers home game while in Osaka or check out the Grand Sumo Championship while in Tokyo, but Akemi is balking. :(

Maybe she’d like to check out this place instead: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/11044864/Insect-lovers-swarm-to-a-bug-eating-club-in-Tokyo.html

We released our official writer’s drafts of episodes 1 and 2 today.  Paul and I co-wrote #1 (the pilot), but I did the solo honours on #2.  After some discussion, we’ve decided to start writing separately.  In truth, we’ve been writing separately for years now, but this is the first time we won’t be sharing the onscreen writing credit.  Or Exec Producer credits as we’ll be both be prepping the show through the start of principal photography, but only I will travel to Toronto to oversee production.  That’s the plan for season one anyway.  Who knows how things will shake out if and when we get that season 2 pick-up.

Delivered notes on episode #3 and hope to have a revised draft by Monday.  I’ll jump on it and then send it Paul’s way.  He’s going to do a pass on my first draft of episode #4 tomorrow and Friday and then, by end of next week, we should (hopefully) be able to release official writer’s drafts of both of those scripts as well.

Paul has a busy September ahead of him writing episodes #5 and #6.  I’ve already sent Robert Cooper the first two scripts as well as a link to the series overview.  I’ll be sending him outlines – including the outline to his story, episode #7 – by this weekend.  Trevor has already started thinking about episode #8.

I’ve almost 40 pages into the script for episode 9 and I hope to have that done by this weekend as well.  A real character-driven story this one, quite dark at times but darkly humorous too.

We’re deep into discussion on directors.  There are a few I’ve worked with in the past that I’d REALLY like to work with again.  The fact that we’ll be shooting the show in Toronto somewhat complicates matters in that respect – and as far as casting goes as well – but I’m sure we’ll see some familiar faces both in front of and behind the cameras all the same.

Speaking of which – I offered my thoughts on the casting breakdown for our seven roles.  We are wide open in terms of age, ethnicity and, in the case of one character, gender.

Next week, we’re going to get on a Skype conference with our production designer in an attempt to hammer out the ship and space station designs.  As I mentioned in a previous post, details like the locations of the airlock and the shuttle shell needed to be decided.  As far as the look of the space station goes, we’ve seen some incredibly inventive concepts, but we still need to address issues of scale and those all important docking procedures.

I spoke to Vanessa today about the official announcement.  Apparently, we’re almost there.  Hopefully sometime in September – before I leave for Japan.

Finally, in addition to working on the new show, I took the time to reading a truly awesome book, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonahthan Tropper – highly recommended, and watching a truly awesome series, Fargo created by Noah Hawley who wrote all ten episodes of the show’s self-contained first season – also highly recommended.  Hannibal is up next!

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