The Sword and Scale TV Show That Never Was
I’m just going to say it up front…. There will not be a Sword and Scale TV Show.
I know; it sucks. I know that those of you that happened to read a press release hinting at its existence are probably disappointed. I may have mentioned something about it at some point, hinting at the possible birth of this new weird bastard child. But it wasn’t meant to be. It was stillbirth; excreted from the womb before it ever had a chance to live. Let me explain…
In the Fall… Winter perhaps?… of 2016 I met with BP Jenkins in a hotel bar to talk about the possibility of working on the Sword and Scale TV Show. Jenkins, runs a production team over at Propagate, an L.A.-based independent production company owned by Hollywood bigwigs Ben Silverman and Howard Owens. It was a startup, a brand new venture, and they were looking into the podcast space for ideas and “street cred” so they could package up something and sell it to one of the big networks like Amazon, Netflix, HBO, Hulu, etc…
I was in a bad place. I had just gone through a year-long ordeal with another network called Pilgrim that produces a lot of reality TV shows like American Chopper, Fast & Loud and Wicked Tuna. They were the first to approach me and stupidly I signed on to a one-year development deal for no money, hoping that eventually I’d get a Emmy-Award-Winning TV Show out of the whole thing.
That didn’t really work out. After a year of responding to various requests for sending them lists of possible stories to cover, various bios and descriptions, logos, and even videos of me in front of the camera saying certain things in a certain way, it all ended with two very different ideas of what the Sword and Scale brand was all about. In that final meeting, I could almost envision exactly what they imagined this show would be: Mike Boudet, the true-crime independent investigative journalist getting to the bottom of horrible murder and solving it, leaving the detectives, police department, hell… the whole community, in awe. The whole thing started to sound like a really bad version of the worst Discovery ID show you’ve ever seen. For God’s sake… they wanted to call it “Fatal Flaw”.
Yeah, that was never going to happen. So in the Fall/Winter of 2016, the first day I arrived in Chicago for our Sword and Scale Meetup, I told Pilgrim that I was out. I wasn’t happy and I wanted to try something else. To my surprise they were very graceful and let me out of my contract. A month later, I was having a martini in The Fontainebleau Hotel with BP. Boy, was I excited.
Now, as an “investigative journalist”, I had to do my due diligence (and if you don’t understand that’s total sarcasm then, that’s on you). I did a quick IMDB search of Mr. Jenkins and learned he’d been involved on big hits such as Face Off with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta. Surely, that’s something right? I mean, it’s not like anyone gives you a handbook when you join this bizarre “entertainment industry” thing. There’s no “Joining the Entertainment Industry for Dummies” book that I could find on Amazon at the time, so hell… sounds legit! That night, after saying “yes”, I was at an “insider” party schmoozing with Morgan Spurlock.
In any case, I signed on the dotted line pretty quickly, because I knew it was my best chance at seeing that beautiful logo displayed on my TV, in between McDonalds commercials that is.
Initially, things were fantastic. My ideas were being heard and valued! I had BIG dreams and they were coming true!!! After a few months of conference calls and emails exchanging big-picture visions of the show back and forth, I had a Los Angeles trip scheduled for the launch of Sword and Scale Rewind. I let my agent know about this because honestly I was hoping to get to be on Joe Rogan and thought he could pull some strings for me. Yes… I have an agent. Ugh. Let’s back up…
So, remember how I was saying that nobody tells you what you need to do when you join the Entertainment Industry? Well I was lying. I had a conversation with Owen Benjamin back then, who’s been in this industry practically his whole life. Now, yes, I know how polarizing Owen is, and no I don’t agree with everything he says. But I still do consider him a friend, and he’s helped me out with advice on more than one occasion. So, if you have a problem with that kindly fuck off. Now, as I was saying…
Owen’s first words to me after hearing what I had been going through was, “You need an agent!’
His statement was so matter-of-fact that it took me off guard.
I asked, “Um. Can you help me find one?”
So, yes, I have an agent. Relax, I know it’s weird. Just relax though, it’s fine. Also, the first thing you learn about agents is nobody is exactly sure what it is they actually do. In any case, this agent got me a meeting with Propagate, and Propagate signed me to another one-year development deal, again for no money. But I didn’t care, because this was it. This was the situation which would lead to that amazing goal, that wonderful, fantastic, beautiful vision of seeing my stupid logo on the stupid television set.
Email after email, conference call after conference call…
Propagate signed up a guy by the name of John Kim to be the show runner. I KNOW you don’t know what that means because who the fuck does? Here’s an FYI… in Hollywood, a “show runner” is basically the CEO of the show. They hire and direct all of the talent and oversee all of the production. They’re the big dawg that everyone goes to, so naturally I was excited about the fact that John Kim had been a producer for The First 48, a show that I was a big fan of and is probably one of the best true crime tv shows ever produced.
John and I got along great. We seemed to see eye-to-eye on every creative decision and frequently texted ideas back and forth during the early stages of production. There were also some other exciting personnel additions during this time.
Hey, did you know that oftentimes when a production house is pitching a TV show, they’ll pay a big A-list celebrity to come in and talk about it? They’ll list them as “Executive Producer”, a title which I learned means actually nothing whatsoever. They meet with the team responsible for selecting the best prospects for a new show and wow them with their celebrity status, all the while the production house tries to get the Amazon or Netflix or Hulu to sign on the dotted line. Once that happens, that celebrity is long gone and cashing out their paycheck, but the grunts at the network are still buzzing about the fact they met Iron Man.
I didn’t meet Iron Man, just his successor, but I was still star-stricken nonetheless.
So fast forward to that L.A. Trip… After telling my agent I was coming, suddenly I had a full schedule of activities. I was to spend two days going to the offices of just about every network pitching this new Sword and Scale TV Show. For an immigrant kid that grew up in a lower-middle class environment with a single mom to be in the offices of Netflix pitching my show is surreal. To then be going to HBO, Hulu, Amazon, ID, Oxygen, Showtime, and several other places I can’t remember right now, is unimaginably exciting.
When I started this little podcast which i called Sword and Scale just over five years ago, I could not have imagined walking into one of these networks to pitch a TV show. But there I was, trying not to freak the fuck out when Don Cheadle walked into the room. He was the celebrity hired by Propagate to sell the show. “Star-Struck” is an understatement. Fucking War Machine sitting right there... talking about his golf handicap.
For BP, this was a weekly occurrence. I rode in his Porsche from meeting to meeting because I hadn’t planned on the last minute transportation necessities and hadn’t rented a car. Not important. Anyhoo…
We got a deal.
WE GOT A FREGGIN’ TV DEAL!
It was with Amazon Prime and we were so incredibly psyched!!!
A week later, the #MeToo movement was all over all media and Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios, resigned in disgrace.
Now, I know you probably don’t know how this works, because I surely didn’t. When you have a major fallout like this and a head of a network resigns, all of his people go with him. Anyone associated with the “old regime” either leaves or gets pushed out once there is a replacement in place, and all of the decisions they made are often scrutinized and re-decided.
Jennifer Salke eventually replaced Price. All I know about her is what I could find on IMDB… She’s done a lot of crappy network television. A LOT. And by “crappy”, I mean PURE SHIT.
So despite a signed development deal, we were done at Amazon. We had to regroup and rethink and resell the show all over again.
Hulu had been very receptive to the idea of what we pitched, even though Cheadle had skipped that meeting. And, to be honest, we were desperate.
Hulu gave us a deal. A one-episode pilot which they would have full creative control over and the right to air (or not air). That’s when things sort of changed…
First, John Kim was suddenly fired and replaced. I won’t name this person because I don’t want to embarrass them. I do honestly think they tried to do the best they could, but the last minute change meant that a year’s worth of calls and texts and emails were negated and replaced with the vision of someone who had no idea what the show was about, what the brand was about, and were thrust into a roll just to save a few bucks.
This new person would be responsible for filming the recreation scenes (the scenes where actors play out the actions of the crime) and piecing together the final product with music and sound effects and so on. From the very beginning of my dealings with Propagate, I was adamant about the “recre scenes” (recreation scenes) and how they could destroy the show if they were perceived as cheesy. At that point, I had seen way too many cheesy Forensic-Files-like-with-bad-lighting recreations to know that those in-between shots could ruin an otherwise fantastic documentary series. Yet, this new person didn’t really see things my way. Then, when I pushed harder after seeing the awful recreations they had hastily shot, I was met with more resistance and outright anger, this time from Propagate and BP himself. Not wanting to be “that guy”, the guy that nobody wants to work with because they’re “difficult”, I backed down. I said I’d go along with whatever was decided.
What was decided is what Hulu ultimately rejected. They don’t want the show, and honestly, I can’t blame them.
Frankly… there is no one to blame. Propagate didn’t do anything wrong. Neither did Pilgrim before them. BP is still someone I consider a friend. So is John Kim. This entire endeavor has been a learning experience about how this entire industry works and what each party is hoping to accomplish. I wish I could say that everyone is motivated to make the best television show possible, but that would be a lie. Everyone is motivated by their own individual motivations, their own egos, their own quest for wealth. The art gets lost in the process. It happens every single day and the fact that there are some incredibly good shows out there, after seeing “how the sausage is made”, amazes me. I don’t understand how the stars even align to make it possible with so many different motivations involved, so many egos and so much pure unadulterated bullshit.
But, no, there will not be a Sword and Scale TV show coming to you anytime soon. We got our sights set on a movie instead…