Binge Watching HBO’s The Newsroom – A Lesson In Character Development

Nov 11, 2014 by


Several of my friends posted on my Facebook wall Saturday p.m. about how distraught I must have been about Auburn losing to Texas A&M.  I really was not.

Truth is, I didn’t even watch the game, and for that matter, haven’t sat beginning to end for an entire collegiate game all season.

I’ve had other things going on.

Namely, I’ve continued to use every available moment to work on my first novel project, what I’m calling, The Privacy Patriots.

So what was I doing most of Friday evening, nearly all day Saturday and three hours on Sunday?

My homework, prescribed by Author Suzanne Frank from Southern Methodist University.

I was binge watching, the HBO series, The Newsroom. Yes, from about 1:30 p.m. Friday until 10 a.m. Sunday, I watched all 19 episodes of Season 1 and 2, and then at 8 p.m Sunday night, watched the first episode of Season 3.


I’d never heard of the show before Thursday night’s class at SMU with Suzanne.PS newsroom

As class was beginning, she handed back 36 pages of 12 scenes involving my lead character, Kip Rippin. The exercise was designed to learn about what 12 major events had shaped him before the book begins. We were supposed to develop things that made him weak, strong, wounded, needing to change; the guy he is when we meet him on Oct. 13, 2016 in the newsroom of the fictional media blend of TV, radio and print called The Washington Broadcaster.

On the cover page of my submission was a note from Suzanne: “PS: you need to watch ‘The Newsroom’ especially this final season.”

Suzanne cautioned me about binge watching. “Every show is so intense.”

And is it ever. From the beginning scenes you’re sucked into an emotional roller coaster with multiple character archetypes and storylines.

Twenty hours of viewing later, I’m a much different person than I was Friday morning. I’m a much different budding author and writer, too, as I’ve seen some excellent examples of what I need to be planning and revising in my own characters. Not to make them like Will, Mac, Maggie, Jim, Don, Sloan (BTW, how in the hell does Aaron Rogers from the Packers wind up with a girl like that?) Charlie, and Neal, but to give them places to grow and develop in the pages I have yet to compose and then revise a dozen times before they hopefully appear printed before your eyes.


HBO has a great show on its hands. Regrettably, there are only five more episodes to go before the series is over and the character arcs are completed. The important thing about this new season is that Neal, one of the techies in the show, is now entangled in a mess with an Edward Snowden type of character, much like my Kip Rippin is in The Privacy Patriots. Naturally, my storyline isn’t going to be like the Newsroom and the premises between the show and my work are completely different, aside from involving whistleblowers. The richer experience for me, no matter how the Whistleblower storyline goes, is an example on making characters come to life, play off each other, and live rich lives in the conflict that’s created in their tiny world of a cable newsroom in New York City.

I can’t wait to see how the next five episodes go. But more importantly, I can’t wait to see where my own characters go because of the experience of watching excellent storytelling on TV.





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Win Or Lose Tonight, Auburn Still Wins

Jan 6, 2014 by

Win Or Lose Tonight, Auburn Still Wins

I just had lunch at my local Wing Stop, figuring it’ll be too crazy to get in there tonight with Auburn and Florida State University playing for the final BCS National Championship. I went in wearing a sweatshirt I received for Christmas heralding Auburn’s chance to play in tonight’s game, and ESPN was playing with no audio at both ends of the store. Across from me, two men spied me watching as Coach Nick Saban commented about Auburn’s defense. Auburn Logo

When I sat down, almost like he was trying to pick a fight, one of the men looked over at me and said, “They’re not going to win tonight.”

I greeted him and responded with, “We weren’t supposed to win the last two, either.”

That was the end of the conversation. It was like talking to a Bama fan up until Wednesday afternoon. (BTW: The best joke so far today–“How long does it take to beat Alabama?”–Answer: “A second, or Sooner.”) Where does such arrogance and outright anger come from anyways?

What The Man At The Table And Most Others Don’t Understand

I’ve been an Auburn fan since we moved from Atwater, CA to Montgomery, AL  in 1981.

In Alabama, you have two options, you’re either an Auburn fan or you’re “One of them.” (An Alabama fan.) Bama has a much longer tradition of winning than Auburn does. One of my friends, in a put down earlier this year, said, “Alabama seniors have won more national championships than Auburn.” Quite biting, yes, and true.

Tonight, Auburn has the chance to win it’s third national championship in the school’s history. No, that’s not as storied as Bama, or Notre Dame, or USC’s past programs. And yes, there’ve been many years at Auburn when we’ve had to just chalk things up to “next year.”

But here’s the part others don’t understand–Auburn was never expected to be playing tonight. All year long we were beaten down by Alabama fans and the news media. Bama fans, up until the last play of the Iron Bowl were constantly crowing about their being on the way to their 16th national championship. All they had to do was push pitiful Auburn out of the way.

So without the expectation of even being here, with a 3-8 record last year, a horrible showing in the Iron Bowl and one of the worst losses ever to Alabama, Auburn’s team this year did something special–they ignored what EVERYONE was telling them and they went inside for something all of us should do day in/day out–they found an inner strength and a determination to not let go of their dreams.


ESPN is running a nonsensical, non-scientific Twitter poll right now. If you think FSU is going to win, you Tweet #FSUWins, if you think Auburn, #AuburnWins.

In many ways, it feels like I’m back in the Alabama Governor’s Office today waiting for 7 p.m. when the polls close. Then all the pundits and nonsense can stop and the real poll can be conducted.

I hope Auburn wins tonight. But even if they don’t, I’m still going to be very, very proud of what this group of kids and our new coach have done. And we have about 320 more days to remind Bama fans of how long it takes to beat them…..


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What The Auburn Alabama Game Has Done For Auburn

Dec 5, 2013 by

What The Auburn Alabama Game Has Done For Auburn


dad-cutout-auburn (Photo credit: ClaxtonCreative)

It’s been five days since the 2013 Auburn Alabama Game in Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. A game where Auburn was ranked 4th going in and beat UAT/BAMA, ranked 1st nationally going in, and where Auburn won the game in one of the most unusual and spectacular 109-yard TD run plays of all time.

And the impact of the game has been surprising. When I was in college, the Bammers used to love to mock Auburn and say, “Where’s that?”  Even five days after Bama’s defeat this year, people in surprising places have been talking about AUBURN.

At the end of the news on ABC’s Nightly newscast with Diane Sawyer Monday, they ran a feature story of the Auburn-Alabama Game.  Brian Williams, Tuesday in talking about the man-made earthquake from Monday Night Football in Seattle pondered on air, “What would have happened had they been doing seismology tracking in Auburn Saturday night?!”

Justin Timberlake chimed in on Twitter Saturday calling the game one of the most spectacular he’d ever seen.

And all that’s great, among the famous people. But something else has happened these past few days.

As I’ve moved about Dallas, from a lunch scene at Corner Bakery Wednesday, to lunch at Jason’s Deli Thursday in Mesquite, I’ve either overheard people still talking about Auburn and their win, or people, a woman today, came up to me and said, “Wow, you must have had an amazing Saturday.” (I was wearing an Auburn sweatshirt..)

Last year, Gene Chizik had made the Auburn football program crap. We were 0-8 in SEC games. Bama fans were relentless and have been since Cam Newton interrupted their string of national championships.

Saturday’s win has shut the Bama mouthing down. It’s been a nice quiet few days of people, who had they beaten Auburn, would have continued along with their sometimes arrogant, can’t be beaten, Titanic-type of attitude. Some have posted congratulatory posts to Auburn on their Facebook walls, but none/few of my traditional harassers has put anything of congratulations on my own wall. And that’s okay. And I’ve not gone looking to rub it in. I should, but I’ve not, because I’ve also seen how viciously ugly the Bammers can get when the subject is brought up. Apparently it’s been okay in the past to trash Auburn for losing, but it’s not okay to tease Bammers when they lose.

Nonetheless, for the purposes of this post, I want to return the focus on the good that’s come about because of what happened in a second of official time in Auburn Saturday. People around the country know about Auburn now and they’re saying nice things. What a change that is from where we were last year.  What a change that is from where we were 30 years ago…… Now if only Auburn will make something positive of all the new attention….


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A&M Not Ready for Bama Game–Hello! This is the SEC

Sep 1, 2013 by

A&M Not Ready For Bama Game–Hello! This is the SEC

On my Facebook Wall yesterday I made a post that said the NCAA should consider putting the SEC in it’s own division because football on the collegiate level isn’t played like it anywhere else. At least not traditionally.  Admittedly, that was before Texas A&M,  Bama, Auburn and LSU struggled to beat their non-SEC opponents and Georgia got beaten by Clemson by three.

But what was most troubling of all yesterday was to watch the goings on in College Station. ESPN had the A&M v. Rice game on before the Bama game, (I’m sure there were some in Tuscaloosa upset they’d been pre-empted by Johnny Football) and they hyped the non-sensical suspension (Which rumor had it this past week some Bama alums were behind getting the whole autograph deal before the NCAA) and they showed the video of the official telling Johnny Manziel to get off the field while he was still suspended, they showed him coming in to play, they showed his silly “show me the money” gesture after making a score and made note he’d been doing that last year, and then they also showed the mimed signature bit, his two jawing sessions with Rice players, and then Coach Sumlin ripping into him. About that time, the UAT (University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa) game came on, and then shortly after that, the Auburn game and so what was going on in College Station and even the whole Syrian matter with President Backed-Down all faded into irrelevance for the rest of the day.

ESPN focused on a Twitter post from a Rice player involved in the penalty event with Manziel where he said JF said something like, “Hey Nick, nice play.” How the refs would take that and throw a flag is puzzling, but nonetheless the central point of this post is this–there’s a game in two weeks with Alabama, whether they are ranked #1 in the country or were not ranked at all–this is the SEC and once you tick a team off like Alabama and its alums like Manziel did last year, you’d better get your affairs in order.

And from what transpired yesterday, Manziel isn’t aware of that significant fact and neither is his coach.

I didn’t think Bama looked all that impressive with what I saw of its offense yesterday, and even EPSN was noting at one point that special teams had carried most of the day in point generating, but when UAT gets to College Station in two weeks, with a week’s break in between, it’s going to be like there’s a hurricane blowing into south central Texas. (Matter of fact, maybe A&M’s fokes should start praying for one to give them some additional time to prepare.)

Now one could joke that officials in College Station should be guarding any pretty trees they have on campus from being poisoned by stupid-assed Bama Updyke fans, the real danger here is that A&M’s fokes don’t seem to understand what it means to be playing in the SEC. Rivalries run deep in the SEC. In talking to a Montgomery, AL minister a few weeks ago, he was explaining to one of my friends from California, (where they have no real concept of what real football even is.) He explained that football in the South, particularly the SEC, often rivals worship to God. And he wasn’t kidding.

Yes, it would be good for Bama to beat A&M, being an Auburn fan.  But it’d be better still for A&M to beat UAT from my point of view. And from what I saw on the field in College Station and even in Atlanta yesterday (Why did Georgia officials not light the Georgia Dome from end zone to end zone BTW? It’s like watching football in a cave on TV) A&M isn’t ready for Alabama and they don’t even have a clue why not…..

It’s going to be ugly in two weeks … but maybe that’s what the attitude of Manziel needs most of all.


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