[ETCETERA] Happy New Year!

Times Square New Years 2022
Onto the next

Make a resolution to be a better person in 2022. The world desperately needs more good people.

Science is real, by the way. Stay safe.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[THREE CENTS] Looking Back to Move Forward

Winter snowfall in Manhasset, New York.
A Land for Winter Wonder

We’ve reached the end of the year. The first full pandemic year, as a matter of fact. And if you’re reading this, you’ve probably survived. Congratulations to us all.

In addition to a flurry of holidays (and occasionally some holiday flurries), this season serves as a milestone for most of us. A moment of reflection.

When I was younger I used to look forward to all the annual retrospectives that would come out in the winter. Newspapers, magazines, Life‘s Year in Pictures.

It was cool to flashback to the previous twelve months, and be reminded of how many significant moments there were.

For a writer, or any creative, I find this a good time to produce your own annual retrospective.

Life Magazine's The Year in Pictures (1987)
Retro Retrospective

What kind of goals did you set for yourself last year, and how well did you meet them?

In the corporate world, this might be considered a self-evaluation. Well, check out your bad self.

It’s easy to get ambitious about all the things you want to achieve. The ever-growing list of dream projects.

I get this same feeling a lot of times at night before I go to bed. I’m preposterously ambitious and anxious to get started on a million or so projects the next day.

It’s not especially reasonable. I suspect my subconscious knows there’s no time to start any of these things as I climb under the covers, so it’s safe to conjure delusions of grandeur for the morning.

The point to evaluating the past year isn’t to beat yourself up for any shortcomings, but to shape what you’re going to try to do moving forward. Reflect back as a guideline. And then set realistic goals for the future based on what you’ve learned.

To quote a script of mine, “dream the possible.”

What are you actually capable of? Not in the perfect circumstances, but in the very messy real world where we all live.

That’s not to say you should let yourself off too easy (“I think I can get a solid paragraph done in 2022 if I really buckle down”). But at the same time, don’t overreach to the point where you’re always defeated and disappointed in yourself.

Be inspired. Be ambitious. But be honest.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] Enjoy the Moment

I think I’ve always had a problem with looking ahead.

On the surface, “looking ahead” sounds like a good thing, an ambitious thing. But it can actually be quite problematic.

Edward Norton as Bruce Banner mediating in "The Incredible Hulk" (2008).
You wouldn’t like me when I’m not enjoying the moment

The problem being that when you spend all your time looking ahead, you’re not quite being where you are. Not being in the here and now.

What does this have to do with writing you may wonder? Plenty, I respond (why are we talking like this?).

It’s no secret that getting writing work is difficult. So if you are fortunate enough to get some, don’t let yourself get completely consumed by the notes and deadlines.

Find the time to mentally step back and relish the moment. Be tickled. Be thrilled. Be proud.

Years ago, while on a series abroad, I had a lot of responsibilities. We were far away from home, working a six day week for six months straight, and that stress weighed on me. I think we did a great job and produced a great show. But it’s hard to say I enjoyed it.

Obviously, these things are easier said than done, but looking back now, I don’t think I spent enough (any?) time feeling excitement or satisfaction. That was a mistake.

In these situations, it’s critical to appreciate exactly where you are, not where you want to be next. It doesn’t make you lazy, or unambitious, or stagnant. It’s just essential to your soul to embrace the experience as it happens.

In the entertainment business, a lot of things that seem promising don’t actually come together. Potential work doesn’t materialize, doesn’t get bought, or doesn’t get produced.

"A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (1973).
Don’t forget to be thankful too

Which is why you can’t wait until the cameras start rolling on a project before you get thrilled about it.

If you advance in a writing competition, feel the validation. If you get optioned, celebrate the victory. You never know if you’ll get to experience something like that again.

The buzzword you hear a lot these days is Mindfulness. Being Mindful. Mindful meditation.

According to mindful.org, Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

This applies to life, relationships, and of course, work.

As we roll into the official month of thanks, don’t miss out on fully experiencing your own life and appreciating where you are. Wherever you are. Always remind yourself to be mindful, thoughtful, and grateful.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] Size Doesn’t Matter

Entertainment comes in so many forms. Today, more than ever (though I think they might’ve finally phased out wax cylinders and 8 tracks).

So, while I understand that it’s important for writers to create a brand for themselves, I think it’s also important to branch out occasionally.

Various film formats.
Something for everyone

I speak from experience. A wide array.

Although I’d made short films in high school and took a sketch comedy class in college, I graduated with the intention of becoming a feature film writer.

But despite my growing pile of specs, one of my first opportunities to write professionally was on a syndicated detective show called High Tide. Was I going to turn my nose up at an hour-long run time?

Hell no, I wasn’t. I was thrilled.

If you get an offer to do something outside your brand, don’t reject it out of hand. That thing may end up being what you like writing the most.

Or not. But you should flex those creative muscles anyway. Take some chances. Especially if someone is going to pay you to do it.


The interesting thing about working in broadcast television is crafting drama to peak at a commercial break. It’s a challenge to shape your story to build to a cliffhanger strong enough to make viewers stick around to see what happens next.


For me, this came about through Mowgli: The New Adventure of the Jungle Book, which I created along with Tim Bogart and Guy Toubes. A lot went into this beyond just writing. Like a lot a lot. But the writing was also a unique challenge.

It was a shorter duration, obviously. And needed to be geared for a younger audience. The most unexpected obstacle, though, was writing for real animals that are only able to perform very specific actions.

We learned very early in production that any sequence where we wrote that Baloo dramatically charged onto the scene was not going to work. The bear did not “charge” anywhere. Lumber, stroll, sit, sure. All day long. But charge? Not so much.

So, once we knew what we were working with, we got busy writing stories that would work.


Image from "Extreme Team" (2003),with Chris Pratt, Paul Francis, Eric Mabius, Elizabeth Lackey, and Scott Paulin.
Extremely cold

With Extreme Team, I got a movie into production at last.

Most aspiring screenwriters are very familiar with the feature paradigm, and probably have several specs sitting in their computers. They’re raring to go when this kind of opportunity comes along.

Extreme Team was a television movie, so the classic three act structure gets modified to accommodate those dramatic breaks for commercials.


With animated half hours, you don’t need to worry about the limitations of real life bears, but that doesn’t quite mean anything goes. There’s only so many backgrounds, guest characters, and vehicles in a show’s budget. Someone gets paid to design and draw every one of those things, so dollars and schedule dictate just how much you can dream up.

Rhonda Smiley and I have reached the end of seasons on shows and have been asked to write episodes that take place in settings, or used characters, that had originally been generated for previous episodes.

Recycling is good for the planet, as well as the studio.

Learn to create great stories despite these kinds of restrictions, and you may become a go-to hire for show runners and production companies alike.


One type of animated half hour consists of two different 11 minute segments (a broadcast half hour is typically 22 minutes of content).

This structure is frequently targeted toward younger viewers or preschoolers, which can come with the challenge of E/I rules. These are requirements to educate or inform. E/I series are staffed with an educational consultant to make sure writers are properly weaving age-appropriate lessons in their stories.

Entertaining and educating? A noble format indeed.


During my run on Kuu Kuu Harajuku, I was asked if I wanted to also write bonus streaming content for the show. That translated to creating stories that were a mere 3 to 4 minutes long. You can’t even finish microwaving a Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese in that kind of time!

With the Kuu Kuu Close-Up, the assignment was to essentially write a monologue. This would keep new animation to a minimum, while providing action by cutting in existing moments from the show.

Challenge accepted.

24 thousand views is not too shabby


In the other duration direction, you have mini-series, limited series, and lest we forget, the classic open-ended television series. Unique writing challenges there include things like character arcs over the course of an episode, season, and even an entire series run.

So don’t let yourself get stuck in just one kind of storytelling. Flex those creative muscles and take on new things, unfamiliar things, different things.

Despite their differences, all these formats still require a compelling narrative with a beginning, middle and end. If you can imagine and convey a good story, then it shouldn’t matter how long it is, or how big a screen it will reach an audience on.

Entertain. Enlighten. Move.

Keep your options open. You never know where opportunities may arise!


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] When Art Requires Craft

Lightning strikes the clock tower in "Back to the Future" (1985)
Change is good. Sometimes great.

There’s an aspect – the glamourous aspect – of writing that’s all about the magical alchemy of creation. Tapping into your muse and dreaming up rich characters, dynamic relationships, and deep dramatic conflict.

Sure that’s part of it. But there’s another side of professional writing that’s less about the art, and more about the craft. The nuts and bolts. The – to quote Tim Gunn – “make it work” moments.

This is when you have to use logic and critical thinking to effectively (and deftly) sew back up a script that’s been torn apart, while still keeping all the good bits intact.

Notes are frequently a trigger for these times. But there are a host of other causes too. Budget constraints, bad weather, prop failure. Even retconning. This skill set is especially crucial mid-production, when locations may already be reserved, actors cast, and even scenes shot.

Ian Rickett, a writer on 3Below: Tales of Arcadia and Wizards mentioned once that he actually enjoyed solving these kinds of problems. Working in the room to fuse pages, scenes, and plots can be quite a challenge. But if done well, the results can be even better than the original.

This came to mind last week while watching the Back to the Future episode of The Movies That Made Us on Netflix.

Storyboard showing the originally-scripted atomic test that would power Marty's return home in "Back to the Future" (1985)
I don’t think anyone is missing the nuclear explosion

Thanks in part to the addition of three DeLoreans, the budget for the movie had ballooned to over 18 million dollars, and the studio decided that savings had to be found before production could begin.

The easiest answer was to cut the expensive atomic bomb test that had originally provided nuclear energy for the jump back though time.

But what would happen in its place? With mere weeks to go before cameras started rolling, writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale had to come up with an answer. Checking out the Hill Valley set at Universal Studios, inspiration struck.

Maybe, if they added a clock to the top of the courthouse, they could have it hit by lightning and know exactly the time the DeLorean could get a charge of that critical 1.21 gigawatts.

Not only was that idea incorporated at that key moment in the film, it was also carefully woven into the entire story, all the way back to the beginning and that seemingly innocuous flyer about saving the broken clock tower. That’s the craft of writing in full effect. Perfection.

When I was working on the syndicated series, Born Free, there was an episode that ran long in post production. To help it hit the required runtime, the B story was edited out.

Artwork for the syndicated series, "Born Free" (1998)
Every moment is precious… to the budget

Ever thrifty, though, the production company didn’t want to just throw those precious scenes away.

Instead, to save both schedule and budget, I was tasked with incorporating that unused footage into the subsequent episode I was writing.

To do so effectively, I had to do more than just randomly drop those scenes into a new script. I needed to account for the existing attitudes, energy, and – most importantly of all – the dialogue and story as I folded it into mine.

In the end, it was as if it was designed to be there the whole time. Seamless.

Not too long before that, during production on Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book, we had an actor not return after a day of shooting an episode.

Again, thanks to super tight schedules and budgets, we weren’t in a position to merely reshoot those same scenes with a new actor. Instead, we had to scramble to rewrite the parts of the episode not yet filmed to explain his absence and give their remaining role in the story to an entirely different character.

Stressful, no doubt. But the kind of creative adversity that provides a real sense of achievement when you finally triumph over it.

If you find yourself working on a production – maybe even your own – expect to use all aspects of your creative skills, both artful and practical. Problems are unavoidable, but an open mind and the ability to keep your eyes on the big picture can help you navigate every kind of script obstacle.

Maybe, like Ian, you’ll even look forward to the challenge.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[ETCETERA] Not All There

The always obscured Wilson from "Home Improvement"
Patented Wilson Wisdom

Watching television over the years, you begin to notice things. Familiar storylines, tropes, set ups and payoffs.

But the one thing that’s fascinated me as both a writer and viewer is the characters who aren’t there. And not just occasionally.

They’re not there a lot.

I’m talking about significant recurring characters on shows who are rarely – if ever – seen on screen. A lot of times, not even heard.

It’s definitely a gimmick, but an interesting one at that.

Here’s my personal take on a Field Guide


Norm and his wife, Vera, on "Cheers"
I’d recognize Vera anywhere

These are characters that are talked about frequently, but never show up on screen.

On Frasier, Nile’s first wife, Maris, was often the subject of conversation. None of it flattering.

But as vivid as the descriptions of her were, she never made an appearance.

This is the pure version.

A hybrid offshoot comes courtesy of Cheers, the show Frasier spun off from. There it was Norm’s wife, Vera, who Norm talked about regularly but (almost) never showed up.

Researching this post, I learned that Vera was heard offscreen on a handful of episodes and made one “appearance” with her face covered by pie (when more than a reference, she was played by George Wendt‘s real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett).


Charlie, from "Charlie's Angels"
Good morning, Angels

Back on the original Charlie’s Angels series, the show’s namesake primarily made his presence known courtesy of a speaker phone.

(If you wanted to see the actor himself on your TV screen every week, you had to wait until the season after this show wrapped, when John Forsythe, landed the role of Dynasty patriarch, Blake Carrington.)

A more recent example of this audio-only character was on The Big Bang Theory. There, Howard’s mom, Debbie Wolowitz, made a strong impression via Howard’s stories, as well as her booming offscreen voice.

But other than a couple of fleeting glimpses behind a partially closed door and a bird’s-eye view on a nighttime rooftop, that’s the most you’d ever see.

On Home Improvement, neighbor, Wilson, was always heard, but never fully seen. He gave all his reliable advice partially obscured by a fence or some other artfully placed obstacle.


Jenny Piccolo and Joanie Cunningham on "Happy Days"
Piccolo in persono

Back in the early seasons of Happy Days, Joanie Cunningham would frequently tell stories about her boy-crazy friend, Jenny Piccolo.

It wasn’t until season eight, when much of the original cast had left, that a flesh and blood Jenny Piccolo finally showed up.

I find this particular case to be a brilliant way of replacing cast members on a show. Jenny’s first onscreen appearance played out to a certain degree as someone audiences had been following for years.

Well done.

Twin Peaks: The Return did something similar with Dale Cooper’s assistant, Diane. But the less said about that, the better.

Carlton from the animated "Carlton Your Doorman"
Looks better as an intercom

A few decades earlier, on the show, Rhoda, there was Carlton the Doorman, who would only be heard via the intercom in her apartment (and once in a gorilla mask).

After the end of Rhoda’s run, Carlton briefly returned to television via his own animated special. And as more than just a voice.

In Carlton Your Doorman, he finally had a corporeal form… albeit hand drawn in two dimensions.


KITT, the talking car on Knight Rider gives the impression of an example here, but isn’t actually. You can see him perfectly fine. He’s just a car.


It seems like a fun writing challenge to create a memorable recurring character that never steps on screen. Someone to join this iconic list. I’ll have to get on that.

This inventory is obviously incomplete, though, as I haven’t watched all the shows that exist. Are there characters you can think of that I missed? I’d love to hear in the comments.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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Barton Fink struggles to write his script in "Barton Fink" (1991).
Don’t let it make you crazy

I have a million ideas. Most writers do. But unless you’re already a sought-after creator with a track record of success, an idea itself isn’t going to get you very far.

In other words, you can’t sell a spec that doesn’t exist.

You need to get those ideas written down for them to get you anywhere. That’s not easy, of course, but nevertheless mandatory.

I get it, I really do. It can be intimidating to think about what it’ll take to crank out an entire script. Paralyzing, even.

So, for god’s sake, don’t think about that.

Much like a literal marathon, the journey here begins with the first step. Focus on page one and let page one-hundred-and-one come when it comes.

For me, I’ve struggled with getting my ideas down because I’d try to make every sentence be the final polished version of that sentence before I wrote the next one. I needed every line of dialogue to be absolutely perfect before I wrote the absolutely perfect response.

The less-than-stellar results of Jack Torrance's novel writing efforts in "The Shining" (1980).
Seriously, don’t let it make you crazy

This is a recipe for never finishing. Or avoiding starting in the first place. Perfection is actually the enemy of this stage of writing.

Relax on the self criticism for now and focus on being prolific and judgement-free instead. At least judgement-light.

If you’ve got an outline in hand (you do, don’t you?), you’ve already done the hard work of crafting your story. Now it’s time to execute it. Plow through those pages without overthinking, and without getting hung up.

Screenwriter and novelist, Rhonda Smiley, calls this initial pass, Words on Paper. It’s the perfect description. You’re not going to win an Academy Award with your first draft. Just get it down.

If you notice yourself loitering around a scene, going over it again and again, changing an “a” to a “the” and then back again, it’s time to stop for a moment and regroup.

Recognize the delay, and push forward once more. Rinse and repeat. Before you know it, you’ll have reached your “Fade Out” after all. Triumph.

You might end up with scenes that are on-the-nose. You might end up with dialogue that sounds unnatural.

Novelist, Paul Sheldon, endures mental and physical torture when forced to write a novel in "Misery" (1990).
Writing is not for the faint of heart

There might even be bits that don’t go anywhere or jokes that don’t land.

Nothing wrong with that. No writer is going to submit their first draft to a buyer anyway (seriously, don’t do that).

The key here is that you have a first draft, and that’s a huge achievement. This is a step in the process and an essential one. You don’t get to a polished gem without getting here first.

Most importantly, a really rough draft beats a perfect script that’s only in your head. Every time.

Now take a break and then come back with fresh eyes. The real work begins with the rewrite…


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[IN THE TRENCHES] Shameless Self-Promotion

James Hereth - Writer/Editor - jameshereth.com
Don’t forget the Promotional Photo.

As a writer, self promotion didn’t used to be important.

Most writers are more of the self-doubting introvert types as it is. Who would we promote ourselves to? The dog?

Well, things have changed. A lot.

Thanks in a large part to social media, promoting yourself and your work is now a generally unavoidable aspect of the writing business.

So, although the writing itself will always be the prime task and where most of your time is devoted, you should still set aside a little to let the world know you’re around.


For the most part that translates to an online presence, so that potential buyers, employers, collaborators, or fans can find out more about you. At the bare minimum, this can be done on most social media sites, which are generally free. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even LinkedIn.

Ideally, though, you should create a personal website, to serve as a digital resume and showcase. Although you might have produced credits listed on IMDb, your own website is where you can add details, images, work for non-traditional venues, and even unproduced projects or works-in-progress.

The site should also serve as the central location for any other things you have out there on the internet – links to your social media accounts, official websites for projects you were/are involved in, possibly even sites for friends and collaborators.

You probably shouldn’t put your email address on there for everyone to spam, but a contact form is helpful if people don’t know how else to reach you. It would suck to miss out on an opportunity due to lack of access.

Finally, there should be a section or page where you can post news – press, a job, an award, a newly finished spec, or produced project. Even a work-in-progress if the progress might be interesting to followers.

I don’t know much about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but making the most of it can help drive people to the website you’ve worked so hard on. If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive, check out this article from Indie Comix Dispatch. It’s tailored for comic creators, but most of it can be applied to creatives across the board.

All that said, don’t be overwhelmed by this list. You don’t have to do it all at once. Or all ever. You can just pick and choose the bits that work for you.


SFP NOW graphic for the podcast featuring James Hereth and Kev Hopgood talking about graphic novel, Blowback.
Why write when you can podcast?

When you have a freshly finished project – from a short to a feature, a webisode to a series episode, a book, short story, or graphic novel – make sure you shout about it from the highest digital rooftop.

Obviously, you highlight it on your site and socials, but also beyond…

Consider the genre and audience that might be interested. Then seek out the sites that cater to the same types of material.

Many sites have contact information or forms you can fill out. Pitch your project and see if they’d be open to doing a story or announcement. Maybe a review. Maybe an interview.

Sometimes, websites actively seek out contributors. See if you can find an angle that allows you to write about your project in a way that would be entertaining or informative to their audience.

Beyond the sites that match your project, think about the places that match you. Is the paper that covers where you grew up open to doing a piece on the local done good? How about the neighborhood paper where you live now?

Schools like to highlight alumni that are working in the field they studied. Pitch them a feature story about what makes your journey or project special or interesting to students or prospective students. At the bare minimum, you can usually post a short bit about what you’re up to on the school’s website.

There are also an infinite number of podcasts out there. Seek out one that matches your project and determine if they have guests. Contact them to explain why you’d be an amazing addition to their show.

It’s a numbers game and you need to know going in that far more venues will ignore you than agree to cover your project. Don’t let it get you down. Just keep going until you run out of places to pitch. Form relationships and then promote their coverage of you.

Sell, sell, sell!


With my current project, Blowback, I’m doing as many of these things as I can right now.

So far, Blowback has gotten reviews or coverage on Soda and Telepaths, SciFi Pulse, Pipedream Comics, First Comics News, Comics Crusaders, downthetubes, Comic Book Posers, and Indie Comix Dispatch.

We’ve guested on the SFP-NOW Podcast, as well as the Fanbase Weekly Podcast.

I’ve even been fortunate enough to get an interview on the VoyageLA digital magazine.

So I know it can be done.


Sometimes, when you’re self-promoting – no, most of the time – it’ll feel like you’re shouting into the abyss. No one’s listening, no one cares. Other times, you might find your shout is being drowned out by all the other shouts from your fellow creators. It’s just a whole lot of white noise.

Maybe, maybe not.

Regardless, you still need to put in the effort and stake a claim on a little bit of that internet real estate. In the new millennium, it’s part of the writers’ job. Don’t fight it.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[THREE CENTS] Desert Island Discs

Tower Records Pulse! Magazine Cover Public Enemy - June, 1990
Literally saved from my dorm room wall

Back when I was in college, last century or so ago, Tower Records, well… they still existed to start with.

And while existing, they also put out a free monthly music magazine called Pulse! In addition to the interesting words inside, it was a good place to procure cool covers of your favorite bands for your dorm room wall.

One of their regular features was called Desert Island Discs.

Basically, it posed the question: if you were stranded on a desert island, and you could have only ten albums to listen to (possibly forever), what would they be?

It’s tough. How do you narrow down all the music you love to just ten discs? I choose to add the additional layer of difficulty that you can’t include “greatest hits” albums or box sets. Let’s keep it pure, people.

Much like I mentioned in my favorite movies list, I suspect most people’s album faves center around the music they listened to in their high school and college years.

That’s extremely true for me, as – other than one exception – all my choices are from a mere six year period. Although… that’s also a bit deceiving.

One of the realizations I’ve had here is that I’ve consumed a lot of music over the years in small increments. 45s, mix tapes, and – more recently – downloads and playlists. In the case of a lot of bands that I love, I’ve never even owned any of their complete albums. Singles and greatest hits, sure, but never a full LP.

As a result, artists like Queen, Eric Clapton, and even Hall & Oates are sadly never going to join me on my desert island.

But who will?

Answers below in no particular order….

Licensed to Ill (1986) – Beastie Boys

Licensed to Ill Album Cover (1986) - Beastie Boys
It started way back in history

I was already a lover of the rap / rock hybrid thanks to RUN-D.M.C., and this album just absolutely put it over the top. It was perpetually playing from the moment I got it.

The Boys were keeping it classy in those days with the mirrored “EAT ME” next to the Def Jam logo on the cover. Saw them live at the Universal Amphitheatre on their 1992 Check Your Head tour. Think they had sort of grown beyond any affection for most of this album at that point, but I was (and still am) all-in.

Appetite for Destruction (1987) – Guns N’ Roses

Appetite for Destruction Album Cover (1987) - Guns N' Roses
If the Sunset Strip was music

Hard, gritty, driving music by a volatile bunch of guys that have yet to come close to duplicating this album’s seedy alchemy. Sure, G N’ R Lies and Use Your Illusion I (and II) had high points, but there’s not a dud to be found here. A virtual Greatest Hits.

I spent a good chunk of time throwing up in a Great Western Forum bathroom during a show of theirs in 1991. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have pre-gamed so hard in the parking lot beforehand. Know your limits, people!

Vivid (1988) – Living Colour

Vivid Album Cover (1988) - Living Colour
What’s your favorite color, baby?

Vernon Reid‘s virtuoso guitar and Corey Glover‘s soaring vocals are a one-two punch that lift this debut to dizzying heights. With a grab bag of styles that go from hard rock to hip hop, there’s no chance of losing interest. Cult of Personality and Glamour Boys are the cream of the crop for me (though the entire crop is pretty creamy from start to finish).

A Living Colour show at a NYC club called The Academy was the first and only time I’ve ever crowd surfed. It didn’t end well, but was pretty wild while it lasted.

Van Halen (1978) – Van Halen

Van Halen Album Cover (1978) - Van Halen
You really got me. You really, really do.

My god, what a debut. A classic introducing a genre-defining talent. Eddie Van Halen reinvented how an electric guitar could be played, and the resulting songs remain as tight and rocking all these years later. A flamboyant front man might be problematic for band chemistry, but it’s gold for an audience.

Lucky to have seen the entire original line-up live… albeit split across two shows and three decades.

Kick (1987) – INXS

Kick Album Cover (1987) - INXS
Need you… for the foreseeable future.

They’re quoted as wanting to make “an album where all the songs were possibly singles,” and they absolutely delivered. Another endless string of hooky hit music.

Their next album, X, wasn’t nearly as consistent, in my opinion, but it continued the musical direction established here and generated several more memorable tracks.

Flood (1990) – They Might Be Giants

Flood Album Cover (1990) - They Might Be Giants
Not Constantinople

While building sets for a student film at NYU, I was introduced to this album playing in the workshop. So weird and wonderful. There aren’t a lot of successful alternative bands with an accordion as a centerpiece, but there’s not a lot of bands like They Might Be Giants.

It was touch and go between Flood and follow-up, Apollo 18, but this is ultimately the right choice. I’ve seen TMBG live three times and once on film, in their documentary Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns).

Fear (1991) – Toad the Wet Sprocket

Fear Album Cover (1991) - Toad the Wet Sprocket
Not to be taken for granted

Beautiful. Haunting. Rich. Plus, a band name spawned from a Monty Python sketch (“Rock Notes“). What’s not to love? Walk on the Ocean is the standout for me.

Surprisingly for a group from Santa Barbara with such an offbeat name, their lyrics lean kind of melancholy. Cheer up, guys, you’re rock stars.

Hysteria (1987) – Def Leppard

Hysteria Album Cover (1987) - Def Leppard
Rocket baby, c’mon

After a prolonged delay owing to drummer Rick Allen‘s recovery from losing his left arm after a car accident, Def Leppard came back strong. Like, crazy strong. Dense soundscapes and vocal melodies, all on top of super slick guitars and crashing drums make this album shine.

Pour Some Sugar on Me was apparently inspired by RUN-D.M.C. and Aerosmith‘s Walk This Way collaboration. It’s like it was custom made just for me.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) – Public Enemy

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back Album Cover (1988) - Public Enemy
Louder than a bomb

I don’t remember what initially turned me onto Public Enemy, but I suspect it was hearing Fight the Power in Spike Lee‘s incendiary Do the Right Thing. Whatever the impetus, I’m glad it led me here. Thundering samples and beats with a message to boot. Angry, thoughtful, and relentless.

For me, this album just narrowly beats out Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black, which also includes Bring the Noise, but as a collaboration with Anthrax.

You Boyz Make Big Noize (1987) – Slade

You Boyz Make Big Noize Album Cover (1987) - Slade
Swan songs

Slade is definitely not well known in the States, beside their late-career hit, Run Runaway, a few years prior. Nevertheless my friends got their hands on this album and it became the soundtrack to our summer.

I understand Slade purists aren’t really fond of this one, but I just love it all. Sadly it was the final studio album by the band. They had a good run.

Beyond the Beach

Honorable mentions go to Raising Hell (1986) – RUN-D.M.C., Chess [Concept Album] (1984), Destroyer (1976) – Kiss, Pump (1989) – Aerosmith, Dookie (1994) – Green Day, and almost any later Billy Joel album. The Bridge (1986) maybe? Storm Front (1989)? How about River of Dreams (1993)?

You know what? Surprise me.


How about you? Can you limit your picks to just ten? Do you even know what an album is?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and lists in the comments.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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[THREE CENTS] Reboots, Remakes, and Sequels, Oh My

ReBoot (1994)
Looks familiar

People like to criticize Hollywood for a lack of creativity, but Reboots, Remakes, and Sequels have been around as long as stories themselves.

Hell, even the ancient Romans remade Aphrodite as Venus.

So to suggest that they’re inherently bad is painting with too broad of a brush.

After all, West Side Story, winner of ten Academy Awards, is a reboot of Romeo and Juliet. The beloved Clueless is an update of Jane Austen‘s Emma.

The Godfather Part II is both a sequel and a prequel and still won Best Picture. Star Wars follow-up, The Empire Strikes Back, is widely considered the best of the entire franchise.

That being said, they aren’t generally the model of originality, and are mostly motivated by capitalizing on the financial success of an earlier movie. Which is not unreasonable. Studios are big businesses, after all, and originality is inherently risky.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Movie Poster
Part Two or Five, depending how you look at it

Familiar actors, familiar franchises, and even just familiar concepts are safer bets for returning on investments. It’s good business. And most of these companies still fund and produce original ideas as well. One could argue that the profit from “retreads” is what allows companies to take more risks on new ideas. Maybe on a smaller scale, but still.

From an audience standpoint, sequels allow us to see characters we’ve come to know and love in new stories, new settings, and new adventures.

Certainly right now, with all the new streaming services cropping up like weeds, familiar names making a comeback seem to be an essential ingredient for attempts at success. It’s possible we’ve passed the saturation point.

So, what’s the difference between them all? Here’s my personal take on a Field Guide


According to Wikipedia – the source of all potentially true information – a Reboot is a new start to an established fictional universe.

This would apply to successive generations of James Bond, Robin Hood, and nearly every superhero franchise.

While researching some information for this post, I learned that the 1994 computer animated series ReBoot, was actually rebooted in 2018 as ReBoot: The Guardian Code, for maximum meta magic.


These pretty much speak for themselves. Another chapter in an ongoing franchise. They primarily take place after the events of the preceding chapter, but they can also take place before.

In some cases, prequels can be seen as soft reboots, depending on how far back they go. If the new time period requires an entirely different cast, I’d personally lean toward calling that a reboot.

Although… If they remain true to the events and history in the source movie, I might still be willing to label that a prequel. X-Men: First Class sort of follows that line of thinking by including Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine, while 2009’s Star Trek does the same by incorporating Leonard Nimoy‘s Spock.


The Longest Yard (1974)
Do you prefer football

These are more one-off stories, rather than franchises that have widespread developed universes.

Frequently they’re a country’s version of a foreign film. Point of No Return from La Femme Nikita, The Upside from The Intouchables.

Other times, it’s an update of a classic, like You’ve Got Mail was for The Shop Around the Corner.

Some Remakes like to change things up, sliding into “Reimagining” territory. In the original Overboard, the spoiled rich lead was Goldie Hawn. The genders were swapped in the 2018 update, however, casting Eugenio Derbez as the upper class jerk.

Mean Machine (2001)
…or football?

Then there’s The Longest Yard, the movie that sort of does it all. Burt Reynolds‘ 1974 original was remade as Adam Sandler‘s 2005 version, but also reimagined a few years earlier with the British Mean Machine, where soccer took the place of football.

Talk about a Hollywood hyphenate!


Although these are more commonly associated with television series, movie also like to spread the wealth when they can. Bruce Almighty generated a spinoff when Steve Carrell‘s star rose to the point that his supporting character could take center stage for Evan Almighty.

The Rock got his first lead role in The Mummy spinoff, The Scorpion King (also a prequel of sorts). Nearly twenty years later, he did it again, when The Fast and Furious juggernaut spun off the equally lucrative Hobbs and Shaw.


Obviously, I’m generally pro all these iterations. I typically lean toward more commercial fare as both a writer and viewer, and reboots, remakes, and sequels are most definitely that.

Given a choice, I would mostly take a sequel over a reboot. Even if the sequel has none of the previous actors (or characters), I can still appreciate it if the new version acknowledges those character as canon.

Ghostbusters (2016) Cast
This cast deserved a much better script

That was my issue with the Melissa McCarthy Ghostbusters. It didn’t matter that the leads were women. What I didn’t like was that it was an entirely new origin story.

I would’ve enjoyed it much more if they just existed in the same universe as Venkman, Spengler, Stanz and Zeddemore.

Oh, and if it was funny, that would’ve helped too.

To each, their own, of course. A lot of audiences are attached to the version they discovered originally. It’s the risk you take when you veer onto a different path.

What are your thoughts on these things? Are you pro? Anti? Does it even cross your mind? Pass the popcorn and let me know in the comments.


Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, available now at Amazon and comiXology.

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