Tabletop Season Three Will Be A Full 20 Episodes!!

After my very long day yesterday, I slept for 12 hours last night (and felt like I earned it, for a change).

When I woke up, Anne told me that Tabletop Season Three had it its first stretch goal, and we have the budget for a full 20 episode season.

I’m still pretty gobsmacked, and I’ve been struggling for a couple of hours to find the words to express my gratitude. As I often do when I find myself stuck for words, I began wasting time on the Internet. We had a really fun and magnificently creative #photoshopwilwheaton experience on Twitter yesterday, so I went to the Photoshop Wil Wheaton Tumblr to see if any of them had been submitted there, and I found the perfect way to express my joy and gratitude to everyone who has supported Tabletop Season 3:

750K and 20 Episodes of Tabletop Season 3 by jprakath
Click to Embiggen

My thanks and epic high fives to jprakath, who made this amazing work of creative genius, and also to everyone who has helped us get here for Tabletop. If you’d like to help us get to the RPG show I’m dying to make, we need $250K in the next 15 days. I know it’s a ways to go, but I’m beginning to believe that we may just get to do that RPG show, after all!

sleepy jack the fire drill

I got up today before the sun did, after sleeping just under six hours. Normally, I would go to be good and early before a day when I have to get up at 5am, but I was up a little later than usual last night because I was playing tabletop games with a couple of my friends and a couple of guys who won the opportunity in a charity auction. And if I may humblebrag for a moment, one of those guys was Tom Vassel, and one of the games we played was his game, called Nothing Personal.

That may be a story for another time, because at the moment I am so tired I can taste time.

Getting up super early on less than the optimal amount of sleep isn’t that big a deal, but the massive pain I have in my neck is killing me. Two nights ago I slept weird and pushed one of the vertebrae in my neck out, so I have all kinds of pain down my right arm, shoulder, and back. It’s putting some strain on my throat, even, so my voice sounds a little strange to me (which may be a problem, because I’m doing a voice job and an on-camera job later today).

I haven’t done one of these off-the-top-of-my-head blogs in forever, so I guess that’s what this is going to be, because I have to leave for my voice job in 20 minutes, and if I stop to rest my eyes for even a second, I’m going to join Bart and Lisa with Groundskeeper Willie, and that never goes well, whether it’s Smarch or not.

So how about those Kings last night? And did you see that Tabletop Season 3 is about 12,000 away from a full season of 20 episodes?!

Back to my very big day: I just got back from an incredibly fun Western photoshoot with Anne and our friends Colin, Ashley, and Doug. It’s for our friend Donna’s shop, Clockwork Couture, and when it’s ready for viewing, I’ll link to it.

We had to start really early today, because I’m going to work on Teen Titans at 10am, and the minute I finish that, I’m going to shoot promos and things for The Wil Wheaton Project all afternoon.

I expect my day to end with me slipping into the sleep of the very very tired shortly after I walk back into my house tonight.

I’m not complaining about anything, mind you. I’ve had enough days in my life where I had nothing at all to do, and if I have a day like this which is so full of stuff I end up feeling like this guy, I’m really okay with that.

Also, If  you’ve been playing along with me in the Dragons of Atlantis Advisor Wheaton questing super happy funtimes, be ready for a new quest later this afternoon.

Please, please, please don’t drive while intoxicated.

I saw this on our local news last night, and it broke my heart. Here’s today’s LA Times:

The Los Angeles County coroner has identified a Palmdale teen who authorities said was killed when a suspected drunk driver crashed into her home and hit her while she slept.

Giselle Mendoza, 16, was pronounced dead at her home early Sunday after Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies said Roberto Rodriguez, 20, crashed his SUV into a Palmdale apartment building.

Mendoza was sleeping in her first-floor bedroom when a 2007 Nissan Pathfinder slammed into the complex in the 1000 block of East Avenue R before 4 a.m. Sunday, officials said.

Please let me be your Internet dad for a quick moment: at some point in your life (maybe at several points in your life) you will be confronted with the decision to drive after drinking or using recreational drugs. You may think, “it’s only a mile” or “I’ll be very careful” or “I probably shouldn’t drive, but I think I’ll be okay” or “I don’t have money for a cab”.

But here’s the thing about that: you may convince yourself that it’s okay to drive, and you may even get where you’re going safely. You may do that more than once, and start to think that you’re never going to have a problem if you drive while intoxicated (even a little bit).

But what if you don’t? What if you lose your focus or judgement for one second, and you end up hitting a person who’s crossing a dark street in front of you? What if you end up missing a light, and crashing into another car?

What will you do when you, an otherwise good person who would never intentionally hurt another person, make the decision to get behind the wheel when you shouldn’t, and you end up killing someone?

Just think about that for a moment, okay? If this kid, Robert Rodriguez, is found guilty, he’s likely going to spend most of his life in prison. He’s 20 years-old. He’s probably not a criminal, and he’s probably going to spend what should be the best years of his life in a prison, because he made the decision to drive while intoxicated.

Now think about the family of Giselle Mendoza. She was sixteen years-old. SIXTEEN. Her life hadn’t even started yet, and now she’s gone. Forever. Because a suspected drunk driver — just four years older than her — decided that he’d get behind the wheel of a car when he shouldn’t have.

Look, I get it: figuring out how to get home can be a hassle. Taxis and Uber are expensive, and public transit can be inconvenient.

But take a moment and think about Giselle Mendoza’s friends and family, and Robert Rodriguez’s friends and family, and ask yourself how much cab fare they think would have been too much.

Okay, thanks for listening and letting me be your Internet dad for a minute.

Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.

When our kids were little, they loved Harry Potter, especially Ryan, who has the exact same birthday at Harry.

I never read the books because of reasons, and I only saw the first couple of movies, also because of reasons.

Recently, Anne and I decided that we would finally read the books, and we’re about halfway through the first one (I’m a couple chapters ahead of Anne, because I had some time on an airplane that I spent … wisely).

Yesterday at Wondercon, while we were walking to our panel, I told  Felicia that we were reading the books, and trying to describe to her how much I love them.

“I just … I really want to go to Hogwarts,” I said.

“They’re building one at Universal Studios,” she said.

We passed through a curtain and approached a set of large, closed doors.

“No, I don’t want to go to an amusement park recreation of Hogwarts,” I said, “I want to go to Hogwarts. I want to go to a train station, run though a wall to platform 9 3/4, and take a train to Hogwarts, where I will learn how to be a wizard. I want Hogwarts to be real.

I noticed that she’d taken a subtle step away from me, which was probably a good idea. I was getting excited.

“What house are you?” She said. Our escort opened the doors and led us into an enormous corridor that was over twenty feet high, equally as wide, and a few hundred feet long. Chairs were stacked along one wall, and the other wall had doors in it that granted access to the various meeting rooms where the panels were held.

“I’m pretty sure I’m Ravenclaw,” I said.

“No way, dude. You’re totally a Slytherin.”

“I am not a Slytherin!”

“Yeah, you totally are a Slytherin.” Felicia crunched up her nose and grinned at me. “My brother’s a Slytherin.”

“Dude, I’m going to be Ravenclaw … or maybe Gryffindor. But I really think I’m Ravenclaw.” Our footsteps and voices echoed off the cement floor and walls. I imagined that we were in a castle.

“I’m Ravenclaw,” Felicia said.

“When I get home, I’m taking the test at Pottermore, and I’m going to be Ravenclaw, too.” We arrived at the door for our panel, and waited while the panel before us finished up. We talked a little bit about what we’d make sure to cover on the panel, and I realized that the corridor we’d just walked down was perfect for riding a longboard skateboard.

The previous panel walked out, the room filled up with people who were there to see us, and after a quick Tabletop trailer, we went inside for our panel. It was great.

When I got home last night, I was too tired for taking the sorting hat test at Pottermore, so I took it this morning. I was honest in all of my answers, and spent a fair amount of time thinking about some of the questions. I wasn’t trying to get the house I wanted (and I don’t know enough about Harry Potter to manipulate the results, anyway), so I was incredibly happy (and a little relieved) when I found out that, yes, I was in Ravenclaw.

RavenclawI know it’s a silly thing, and I know I’m a little too old to really care about it, but reading Harry Potter makes me feel like I’m part of something that’s special, that means a lot to a lot of people.

And I know it’s silly to care about what house I’m in … but I’m really glad to be in Ravenclaw, because I have a lot of books I need to read.

tabletop season three

How busy have I been? So busy that I forgot to write a blog about TableTop Season 3, and how you can help make it happen.

tl;dr: We’re crowdfunding Tabletop’s 3rd season. We’ve raised $500,000, so we can afford to do 15 episodes. If we get to $750,000, we’ll have enough to do 20 episodes (like seasons one and two), and if we get to one million dollars, we can afford to do the RPG spin off that I’ve wanted to do for years (a season-long campaign, cut into about 20 or so 40-minute-ish episodes with the same players, characters, and GM).

Here’s a spiffy video I made about it:

(Don’t read the comments; they will make you mad. Or, if you’re me, they’ll make you sad, because a lot of people don’t understand television production, and how much shows cost, so they yell at you a lot, based on presumptions that turn out to be wrong.)

Because we’re going completely independent , we can do some things we’ve always wanted to do, like an episode that’s me, Anne, and our kids. We’re also going to do a special episode that’s just a game or two for children, played with children, because thousands of people have asked me what I recommend they play with their kids.

We’re also going to do the SUPER DIRTY and PROFOUNDLY INAPPROPRIATE “TableTop After Dark” episode, where we play Cards Against Humanity. There may be beer and a couple of dirty comedians involved. This will be the episode that likely makes the world hate me forever.

We have a bunch of perks for people who choose to contribute various amounts to our effort, but I want to be really clear that we’re making Tabletop for everyone who loves it, whether they can give us zero or infinity dollars.

I’m not entirely positive when we’ll be filming the first 10 episodes, but I know we’re going to try to get them done soon, so we can release them later this summer. A lot of that schedule is going to be determined by how busy I am with The Wil Wheaton Project.

There have been a lot of FAQs about this campaign, so we did our best to answer them in the standard way:

Why are you going Independent?

Felicia: Geek and Sundry (and Tabletop) up until now was funded by YouTube’s original channel initiative, which is not continuing to go forward anymore. We have been talking to a bunch of partners and are excited about some of our options to continue G&S as a company, but Wil (and we) were passionate about being able to keep Tabletop on schedule to release more episodes this year, and stay independent of influence to change the show for sponsor/commercial reasons. That is why we are fundraising like this.

Wil: We want to make the same TableTop that we’ve made for two seasons, and give our audience something that we’re proud of, and we wanted to do that without compromising our vision for the show. The quickest and most reliable way to make that happen was to go directly to the people who love TableTop as much as we do, and ask them to help us make our third season as awesome as our first two.

Why are you asking for so much money?

Felicia: This show is a standout for a reason: We pay professional people to make it. It’s polished and stands next to TV show quality because we wanted to make something long-lasting, and impact in a big way, like a TV show when we conceived it. To put it in perspective: The average 30 second commercial you see on TV? Costs 1-3 million dollars. EACH. The average 1/2 hour comedy? 2-3 million dollars. Shows like Game of Thrones? 7-9 million dollars. PER EPISODE.

We are doing a minimum of fifteen, 30 minute shows for a fraction of ONE TV SHOW. If you put it in that perspective, we are definitely not paying people professional rates to work on it. I do a lot of low budget web videos (to help do shows like TableTop, actually), and I think the ones that last beyond that moment of consumption are the ones that have budgets, that people tend to enjoy over and over. My goal always has been to show the established TV world that people can work outside the system and compete with their business, Tabletop is our best example of that, just like The Guild before us. We are doing this show for the minimum we can do it and keep up what we have established before us.

Wil: This is a question that I wasn’t expecting, and I feel really stupid for not explaining this more in advance. I’ve lived in the film and television industry my whole life, and I’ve been an active producer on TableTop for 40 episodes, so I know how much it costs to make an average show, and how much it costs to make our show. Let me be clear right away: we’re not getting rich off TableTop. In fact, if TableTop was my only job, I wouldn’t be able to support my family for even one year. That said, to anyone who does not live in the film and television world, i completely understand a sense of ‘sticker shock’ upon hearing that this YouTube show needs half a million dollars to produce fifteen episodes.

This week, I’m doing an episode of The Big Bang Theory, When it’s all finished and cut together, it’ll be about 22 minutes (approximately the same length as the average episode of TableTop), and it’ll cost several million dollars to produce. If you do a strict math problem, you’ll see that we do fifteen (or 20 if/when we get there) episodes of TableTop – 33 minutes, at least, that’s 660 minutes of TableTop – for less than the cost of a single 22 minute episode of network television.

We put everything we have into TableTop, because we love it, and we push our budget to its maximum limited so the show that we put out on YouTube can stand next to anything you see on Broadcast or Cable, and I’ll keep doing that as long as we can. I also want to make one thing really clear: we’re incredibly grateful – I am personally – incredibly grateful and honored by the contributions we’ve been given by the TableTop community. I know that you’re trusting us to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and I’m going to honor that trust by making the very best show we can possibly make.

Will TableTop still be free to watch? Do I have to donate to see it?

Wil: It will absolutely be free to watch. And now that we are completely independent, we aren’t limited to broadcasting on YouTube, so we’ll be able to make Tabletop available to even more people in even more ways, as we release season three.



Felicia: You do not have to donate, we appreciate it so much if you choose to do so, and understand if you don’t. It will still be free and watchable by you if we make our fundraising goal.

So there you have it. Tabletop Season Three is guaranteed at least 15 episodes, and we’re feeling pretty optimistic that we’ll get to 20. I think it’s a longer shot that we make it to the RPG show, but Tabletop fans keep surprising me, so maybe I’m more uncertain than I should be.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us, and PLAY MORE GAMES!

two pictures from portland

I spent the weekend in Portland, visiting my sister and her family. I also saw some friends, and recorded an episode of Livewire Radio. It was a gorgeous weekend, with perfect weather, so we got to walk even more than we usually do when we visit.

We were walking downtown with my sister and her son when I spotted this in the street next to the crosswalk:

pdx_toynbee.jpg

I got really excited, because it’s the first Toynbee tile I’ve ever seen that wasn’t just a picture on the Internet. While I was taking this picture, Anne was counting down the seconds on the crosswalk. Hearing “…4…3…2…1″ while I was taking the picture made the whole stupid thing a little more thrilling than it should have been, but I’m easily entertained.

One more picture (as promised in the title) before I get ready to go to the set:

steel_bridge

Steel Bridge is one of my favorite bridges in the country, and this weekend was the first time we walked across it and up the opposite bank of the river. When we were about a quarter mile from it, heading toward a different bridge to cross back to downtown, a boat came up the river toward Steel Bridge. “Dude! If we hurry, we can get up to the bridge and stand right there when it goes up!” I said to Anne.

“You think we can make it?” She said.

“Yes. I know we can.”

“Are you sure it’s going to go past the bridge?”

“Unless it makes a U-turn in the middle of the river, it has to go past the bridge,” I said. “Come on! It’ll be cool!”

We turned around and walked quickly back toward Steel Bridge, the boat slowly gaining on us. When we were about 500 yards from the bridge, the boat blew its horn, presumably to alert the bridge person that it needed to go up … but when I looked at the boat to see how far it was from the bridge, I saw that it had blown its horn to alert nearby vessels that it was making a U-turn in the middle of the river.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said, laughing, as we walked onto the bridge and began to walk back across it. “Well, it would have been cool.”

Anne laughed with me, and held my hand.

tuesday morning

It was just after midnight, but thanks to the heatwave we’re having, it was still unseasonably warm. I walked comfortably in my T-shirt along a tree-lined street, the scent of orange blossoms filling the air.

A few miles away, cars on the freeway created a sort of white noise that I could pretend was a distant river. I looked into the sky, and saw Mars, red and beautiful above Vega, so bright it nearly outshone the brilliant white star.

I walked through the warm night, replaying the incredible events of the last few days, marveling at how lucky I am to be who and where I am. I walked into my house, and my dogs greeted me at the door. After inspecting me in the usual fashion, they trotted back into my bedroom, where I’d soon be competing for a spot on my bed with them. My wife was asleep, and I gently kissed her forehead before I got ready for bed.

I woke up this morning before my alarm, my head resting against my puppy’s head, who was sound asleep and snoring to my left. I moved, and she grumbled, stretched her legs, and snuggled back into me. From the foot of the bed, I heard Seamus’ tale thump, and I heard Riley walk into our bedroom, her nails clicking on the wood floor. I opened my eyes and looked to my left. Anne was already out of bed, and likely out of the house. I arched my back, stretched my legs, and kissed Marlowe on her little puppy forehead. Riley had arrived to the side of my bed and looked at me with her I’M A DOG face.

I stayed in bed for a few more minutes, before getting out, petting my dogs, letting them out, making coffee, and getting into my office to start my day.

GABBO — i mean tabletopday — IS COMING!

Tomorrow is the second annual International Tabletop Day! It’s TableTop Day 2: The Tabeleoppening Return of the Gamers Tabletop Harder Electric Boogaloo!

As I write this, our fellow gamers in those parts of the world where it’s already tomorrow are playing more games, and I’m so excited to join them when we finally catch up, here in California.

There are thousands of events all over the world, and you can find one close to you by going to TableTopDay.com. Also, if you’re able to attend an event at one of the friendly local game shops who have partnered with us, you’ll have a chance to get some truly epic limited edition expansions to some of our favorite tabletop games.

If you’re going to be playing games at home, or you’re stuck at work and still want to get in on the action, you can watch our livestream, which begins at noon Pacific time, and you can follow the #TableTopDay hashtag on Twitter, for cool pictures and stories and big news all about Tabletop.

Also, I would love it if you would share your stories and pictures to the Tabletop Tumblr I run, As Seen On TableTop, so I can share your games with the world.

Also also, if you want to tell me what you’re planning to play tomorrow, or let me know what games you’d like to see on future episodes of Tabletop, use the comments here, for great justice.

the cloneversation

About a year ago, my friend John Rogers and I walked to lunch, talking about how we’re living in a golden age of incredible scripted television. With very rare exceptions (Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, Castle) much of what’s on traditional broadcast networks isn’t particularly interesting to me, but the basic and pay cable channels are consistently producing programs that are so incredible, we’ll be talking about them decades from now. Shows like Mad Men, The Americans, Masters of Sex, Game of Thrones, Justified, and Boardwalk Empire are just a few of the compelling reasons to subscribe to cable, and I haven’t even gotten into the Doctor Whos and True Bloods of the world.

During this conversation, Rogers asked me if I was watching Orphan Black.

“I haven’t heard of it,” I said.

If we’d been listening to a record, it would have scratched straight across to the center. We got to a red light, and waited for it to change.

“You must stop everything you are doing and go directly to iTunes to buy it. It is one of the most amazing series, ever.”

“Those are pretty big words from guy who wrote Catwoman,” I said. (I kid. I kid. We have fun.) “So what’s the pitch?”

“A woman named Sarah is on a train, and when it pulls into the station, she sees another woman who is having a pretty bad time. That woman turns around and looks at Sarah, and she’s an identical twin.”

“Ohhhh twins,” I said. The light changed, and we crossed the street.

“Listen. She’s an identical twin, but before Sarah can say anything, she jumps off the platform and becomes part of a speeding train.”

“Holy shit.”

“Yes. So Sarah is like a punk or something, we’re not sure, but she needs money, right? She thinks for a second, grabs the dead woman’s bag, and assumes her identity.”

We got into the shade of a tall building. It was one of those days we have in LA where it’s miserably hot in the sun, but the shade is comfortable and soothing. “Oh, this sounds really cool!”

“It gets better. By the end of the pilot, we find out that the dead woman is a cop, and then we find out that she and Sarah and a bunch of other women are clones.” He looked sideways at me, knowing that he’d set the hook.

“Holy shit again.”

“And Tatiana Maslany, who plays all of the clones, is just fucking amazing. She will blow your mind, she is such an incredibly talented actor. By the second or third episode, you’ll forget that the same actor is playing all these different roles.”

“Wait. She acts in scenes with herself?!” We walked out of the shade and back into the sun. I squinted my eyes against it, and shaded them with my left hand.

“Yeah, and she does it in every episode,” he said. He landed me in the boat.

“This sounds incredible. How’s the writing?” We got to the restaurant, and I held the door open for him.

“It’s phenomenal. The storytelling is tight and crisp, the photography is great, and I know you’ll love it.” I imagined him standing on a dock, next to my body, strung up by my feet, posing for a picture with Actor Fishing Quarterly, a shit-eating grin on his face.

“Well, I am all over this. I’m buying it as soon as I get home.” I walked to the counter. “Burrito al pastor, extra spicy, no rice,” I said. I looked at Rogers. “Hashtag burrito watch.”

When I got home that afternoon, I went directly to iTunes and bought the series. I watched the first three episodes before I had to stop myself, because I knew that Anne would love it, and I’m always looking for something awesome for us to watch together.

Life happened, and we didn’t get to sit down with it for a month or so, when I saw that Season One of Orphan Black had been added to Amazon Prime Streaming. “You have to watch this show,” I said to Anne.

“You’re not the boss of me,” she said.

“You’re right. Let me try again. You’re going to love this, and I want to watch it together.” I didn’t give her any more details than that, because I thought it would be fun for her to discover the clone situation on her own.

I was right, and we binged the entire series over the next three days. We’ve been counting down to the start of the second season ever since.

I’m telling this story today, because I got super lucky, and was invited by BBC America to host the season 2 kickoff show next week!

But check this out: For my job, I get to meet and talk with and geek out all over Tatiana Maslany and the cast of Orphan Black. Orlando Jones and Patton Oswalt will also be there, and it’s called The Cloneversation.

… THE CLONEVERSATION, CARL!

Here’s a video trailer BBC America made for the show:

The Cloneversation airs at 8pm Eastern/Pacific on April 12, on BBC America. Orphan Black’s second season begins on April 19 at 9pm on BBC America.

Oh, and speaking of television, I’ll be on yours tonight (if you’re in the US or Canada) in a new episode of The Big Bang Theory, where I got to do what I think is the single funniest things I’ve ever done on television.

Announcing The Wil Wheaton Project

About a year ago, I had a meeting with a production company, who wanted me to host a show for them. The concept was simple, I thought it had the potential to be incredibly funny, and I really liked the people I met with.

“I can’t just be a host, though,” I explained. “I’ve been producing Tabletop for two seasons, and if I’m going to be the public face of a show, I need to have a hand in its creative direction. I want to write for it, and I need to be a producer.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve done more and more work off camera, and I’ve learned a lot about how shows come together and develop in the writer’s room and the editing bay. I love being an actor on camera, but it feels very much like I’m doing a small part of the overall production. If I was going to host a show, and if I was going to be the face of that show, I needed to do more than just stand in front of the camera and read lines. I wanted to help make the show.

“Of course,” the head of the company said to me, like I’d just told him that I’d need to breathe air during production. “We want to do this together.”

That was all I needed to hear. We agreed on the general idea, and spent the next several months working out the specific details of the show. About six months later, we went to the network to pitch it.

Pitching a show to a network is weird. You take your creative team to their offices, and then you sit across from a bunch of executives and tell them why they should buy your show. It’s sort of like an audition, but instead of just giving a performance, there’s an intense Q&A after (and sometimes during), and you have to be able to think quickly, and be prepared for anything. It could be very stressful, but this particular meeting wasn’t stressful for me, at all. I believed in the concept of the show, and I knew that it could be really cool if the network would trust our ideas and let us make it.

The pitch meeting went very well, and it turns out that the network trusted our ideas, and pay for us to make a pilot.

“Did you want to make a pilot that we could air, or would you prefer to do a non-airable pilot?” The head guy asked us.

“We’d much prefer to make something that doesn’t have to go on the air,” I said, “so we can show you all the different concepts and pieces.”

“Okay,” he said, “go and make your best pilot, and we won’t worry about putting it on the air.”

I couldn’t believe how … well, easy the whole thing was. Unlike auditions, where I often feel like the other people in the room are sitting back and just waiting for me to leave, the network executives I met with that day last year were engaged, enthusiastic, interested, and seemed genuinely excited about the show. As the creative team — now my creative team — and I walked out of the building, one of them said to me,  “that’s the best pitch meeting I’ve ever been part of.”

“Really?” I said. This guy’s done hundreds of pitch meetings.

“Yeah. You did great.”

“I guess it’s easy when you really believe in something and are excited about it, huh?”

“I guess it is!”

Another few months went by, and we continued to work on the show, refining it and pitching ideas to each other. We hired some great writers and segment producers, and spent lots of time making each other laugh, finding out what bits worked and didn’t, and trying to come up with a name for the show (that turned out to be the hardest part of the whole process).

Then, about three weeks before we were going to shoot our pilot, disaster struck: the network executive who green lit the project was out, and our show was probably gone with him.

In the entertainment industry, it’s not uncommon for executives to move around, but when that happens, any projects they had approved are always killed. The reasoning goes that the new person who takes over won’t want to keep any of the old person’s projects, because they don’t want the old person to get any credit for anything. Lots of really great projects have died this way over the years, and I was pretty sure that my show would join them.

I called the production company, and asked if we were finished before we had even really started.

“No! The network loves you and loves this idea,” he said, “and the new guy is apparently a fan of your work, so we’re still on target to make the pilot.”

I couldn’t believe it. It spoke volumes about the new guy’s character and confidence, and it said something pretty good about our idea, too.

Do you remember the day photoshopwilwheaton.tumblr.com was born, the day I took a stupid picture of myself and said that I was working in front of a green screen all day? That was the day we filmed our pilot.

It felt so weird to feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness as I walked into the stage and met the crew. I feel so comfortable with my Tabletop crew, and I know the crew at The Big Bang Theory so well, to meet and work with a crew I would probably only see for one day was a new experience for me. Would they like the show as much as we did? Would they laugh at our jokes? What would I do if they didn’t? In the fifty or so steps it took me to get from the stage door to my mark, the magnitude of what we were doing — the culmination of months of hard work — and what was at stake for us threatened to paralyze me. When I got to my mark, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that a lot of smart and funny people had helped get me to that very moment. I told the familiar voices of Self Doubt and You Really Suck, Wheaton, to shut up and let me do my work. I looked up at the camera and said, “Hi, I’m Wil Wheaton, and this is The Wil Wheaton Project.”

Just like that, all the nerves and doubts went away. I didn’t think about all the risks and all the ways I could screw up. I just had fun doing the work we’d written. I made the crew laugh over and over again, I amused myself, and I made the writers and producers laugh. We shot hours of stuff, knowing that it would get cut down to just 21 minutes, and by the end of the day I was creatively, emotionally, and physically exhausted. It felt great.

On my way to my dressing room, one of the network executives who had come to the set to watch stopped me. She told me how much she loved it, how funny she thought it was, how much she liked me as the host, and that she wanted to get it on the air right away.

“Thank you,” I said, unsure how much salt I should be using to season the effusive praise, “I had a lot of fun, and I’m really glad you liked it.”

“Well I loved it, and I hope that we get to do this together for years.” She said it with so much kindness and sincerity, I put my mental salt shaker away without using a single grain.

Imagine a montage here, of editing and more editing and even more editing. Imagine that the camera dollies across a room filled with network people, their faces illuminated by the flicker of a television that we can’t see. Some of them are laughing, others are stoic, most of them are smiling. We get the impression that they like what they see. Now we cut to me doing various things, like walking my dogs, homebrewing beer, doing some Rocky-like training for some reason.  Days and then weeks go by on a superimposed page-a-day calendar. the pages fly off while I call and email my production company to find out if we’ve been picked up. The camera cuts to a time lapse shot, high over Hollywood, as the sun tracks across the sky, the traffic ebbs and flows, and city comes alive at night. That shot has nothing at all to do with the narrative, really, I just think it looks cool. The montage ends as I pick up my phone to make one more call.

“So, it’s been a long time and we haven’t heard anything,” I say to my executive producer, “should I just assume that it didn’t work out?”

“What do you mean?” He says. “They picked us up for 12 episodes. We’re in pre-production!”

“Wait. What?”

“Nobody told you?”

I recalled the last conversation I’d had with the head of the company, a week before. I replayed it, and realized that I’d misunderstood him.

“The last I heard was that they liked it, but I thought that they hadn’t given us the official pick up.”

“Oh no. They love us. They love you!”

I felt this strange mixture of excitement and embarrassment, wrapped up in a blanket of silly.

“I have to say, this is the strangest way I’ve ever found out that something I did got picked up by the network.” I laughed, and we made plans to meet so we could discuss the writers and producers we’d bring on for the full three month production process (and hopefully years more, if the network likes us enough to keep us going.)

I hung up my phone, and then it hit me. I mean, it really hit me: the show we’d worked almost a year to make, the show that I’d thought was dead but wasn’t more than once, was actually going to happen. For at least twelve weeks this summer, I’d be hosting a weekly show on television, and I’d get to help write and produce it.

I whooped and hollered and ran around my house, while my dogs tried to figure out why I had the zoomies hours before they usually got them at 5:30pm every day.

Imagine another montage that serves to pass some more time, and ends with us having a meeting with the new guy at the network. Probably include another one of those time lapse shots of a city at night that I think are so cool, but this time a couple of thunderstorms blow over, because those look really neat in time lapse.

“I have to tell you,” the new guy says to us, “that a lot of people have tried to crack this particular nut, and nobody has ever been able to make the show you brought us work.”

We wait for him to continue, and he does, “But this is the funniest pilot in this genre that I’ve ever seen. You guys did a great job!”

I exhale, and thank him. We spend about an hour with him and the rest of his team, making sure we all know exactly what the show is going to be. We talk about what worked and what didn’t work in the pilot, discover that we all agree on those points (a huge bonus for all of us, because it means we see the show the same way), and by the time we’re finished we’re all excited to get the show on the air.

We’re not going to do another montage, because I have to publish this in fifteen minutes and I don’t have time. Let’s just do a simple time cut to me, sitting in my office wearing my Captain Kirk pajamas, writing this out. Marlowe is sleeping underneath my desk, and Seamus is quietly grumbling at me from the couch behind me, because they should have been given their breakfast an hour ago, but I’ve been writing nonstop since I woke up.

This is the part where I finally stop describing the process of creating this show and bringing it to life, and actually tell you what it is, and where and when you can see it.

The show will be on the network formerly known as Sci-Fi, and it is called The Wil Wheaton Project. It premieres on May 27th at 10pm.

The Wil Wheaton Project is a weekly roundup of the things I love on television and on the Internet, with commentary and jokes, and the occasional visit from interesting people who make those things happen. It’s sort of like Talk Soup for geeks, with a heavy focus on those hilariously bad paranormal reality shows (in fact, that’s where the whole thing started a year ago, but as we worked on the show more and more, we discovered that there were lots of scripted paranormal shows that provided a ton of comedic material. When we expanded to cover the scripted shows, we discovered that nobody was doing a show like this that was just focused on the genre shows that nerds like us love, and we decided that we’d make that show because of reasons.)

The official network announcement will be coming out a little later this morning, but I’ll put a little bit of it here, because I can:

Syfy has greenlit the 12-episode summer series, The Wil Wheaton Project (working title), a weekly topical comedy show hosted by actor and champion of geek culture Wil Wheaton.  The 30-minute show will offer a funny, fast-paced exploration and celebration of science fiction and genre entertainment.  The series premieres Tuesday, May 27 at 10PM ET/PT on Syfy.
Each week, Wil provides his insider point-of-view, sense of humor and expertise as he dissects the week’s most popular and trending topics across sci-fi film, television and pop culture, as well as video games, viral videos and news. Wil is on his feet for the rapid-fire half hour, delivering sharp, straight-to-camera commentary as he riffs his way through content clips. The result is a fun appreciation for all things science fiction.

I really love that I get to be part of something that brings Science Fiction back to Syfy, and if I read correctly between the lines during our meetings with the Syfy executives, this is just the beginning of the network formerly known as Sci-Fi returning to its science fiction roots, which is awesome. Developing the show has been incredibly fun, and like I wrote last week, when I met the full staff of writers and producers, I was floored by how talented and funny they are. We’re going to make something that I just know you’re going to love, and I hope that so many people love it, we’ll get to make it for years to come.

If you have questions about the show, the process of bringing it to television, or anything related to it, ask them here and I’ll do my best to answer all of them.

UPDATE: A couple FAQs have emerged, so let me answer them.

Q: Will this be online?

A: I don’t know, but I hope so. I’m pushing everyone who will listen to me to put episodes online, but ultimately that isn’t my decision.

Q: Will this air in [country that is not the US]?

A: I don’t know, but I hope so. That’s a decision that the network will make.

Q: Will this mean no more Tabletop?

A: No! I made sure that everyone knew I’d be doing Tabletop, and I made sure that my contract included language that would guarantee my ability and availability to make Tabletop.

Q: When will you know if you get more then twelve episodes?

A: I think we’d know about halfway through the summer, but I can’t say for sure. I’m pretty sure that if enough people watch and like the show, the network will order more episodes.

 

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