Today, Rob Long dives into some of the unspoken commandments that everyone working in entertainment ought to know and live by, from savvy advice when it comes to pitching (“never go first”) to why writers should never solicit feedback from execs who pass on their projects (“explanations are meaningless”). Also do your agent and manager secretly hate each other?

“Everyone in the entertainment business works hard. Except agents, obviously.” So says Rob this week, as he describes the differences between writing and directing, with a few nods to actors (and their overacting): Being a writer teaches you how to be alone. But being a director teaches you how to be with people. So maybe, actually, being a director is the harder job? Also, what’s the best way for an actor to play a drunk person? We won’t spoil it here, but it hinges on on not being yourself.

Today, Rob Long presents the idea that anyone who puts on a little play, bangs on an instrument or talks into a microphone for money can say they’re in entertainment. But a true show business professional — hello, Harry Styles! — is hard to find these days, because the kind of people drawn to the industry are often much like baby actors — moody, mercurial, hard to reason with, yet also adorable. So when a fussy infant is faced with the prospect of being replaced by a cutting-edge robot on set, as witnessed by Rob, can they step up to the challenge?

This week, Rob Long recalls a childhood memory of a large, unidentifiable spinning machine with blades that took two people to operate — lest one lose a hand — which serves as good metaphor for working together in show business. And as long as that machine is doing its job, don’t try to tinker with it; just ask the people behind New Coke, who discovered — too late — that soda drinkers didn’t want something new. On the other hand, don’t be the CW, making shows for teens when the average age of your audience is… 58. Network programmers, this one’s for you!

Rob looks back at the “olden times”, when just a handful of broadcast networks with mediocre — and somewhat problematic — shows like Webster dominated the airwaves. Their main goals weren’t about attracting viewers as much as not driving them away to competitors. But in today’s streaming landscape, viewers aren’t drifting through a primetime lineup, or mindlessly channel surfing. And just like Rob, seduced by local clothes while on vacation in faraway places, both streamers and broadcast businesses need to remember who they are — lest they end up coming back dressed in a sarong and wooden slippers, looking ridiculous.

Writers get lots of advice during the development of a script, usually in a backhanded way with all sorts of qualifiers: agents like to give notes (typically on the prospects of a script in the marketplace) starting with phrases like “Hey, I’m not a writer!” or “I don’t have a creative bone in my body!” But if there’s one thing more awkward than receiving negative feedback on your work, it’s overhearing someone else getting those notes in a public space — a skill Rob has dubbed ‘yoga eavesdropping’. At the end of the day, sometimes the best thing one can do is provide no advice at all.

Most people will do almost anything to avoid being embarrassed, why is why, as Rob Long explains, embarrassment is the key to making something truly funny. But there’s a difference between personal mortification — “someone saw my nudes on my phone” — and professional humiliation — “I did a stupid thing in a meeting.” The latter can be used effectively as a way to build morale on a writing staff, or it can be deployed more nefariously to cause someone to leave the business entirely. Also, Rob cautions his listeners against committing the most ignominious act of self-humiliation: complimenting a show <em>not</em> on the network you are working with. Oops.

This week, Rob Long has a confession to make: he likes agents—they’re “the friendly bacteria in the lower intestine of the dirty business we call entertainment,” he says. In defense of this controversial point of view (well, for a writer, anyway), Rob offers a cautionary tale about a past-his-prime agent who, along with his assistant, saves the career of a struggling writer with a spec sale of an old script. In the process, he reinvigorates his own career and gets the assistant promoted to agent, too. All’s well that ends well, right? But that’s not the end of the story.

With help of an old joke, Rob Long explains why agents in Hollywood are the professional deliverers of bad news (except for the occasional random encounter with a network executive). Pro tip: never ask a network executive you just ran into about your “rice bowl” (that’s show-biz slang for your future income, as in a pickup for your pilot or a renewal for your on-the-bubble show). Also, what is it like to be on the receiving end of a “your show is cancelled” call? And then to have the bad news pop up in the press minutes later? Rob — something of an expert on this topic — describes it in minute detail. Finally, Rob reveals the telltale signs that your show might actually be going well, and, also, how to feel when your agent wistfully mutters the phrase “dark skies.” It may not mean what you think.

An Argentine writer named Jorge Luis Borges once declared that there are only four stories that are told and re-told. Or maybe there are seven — it depends who you ask. Regardless, Rob Long explains in this week’s episode why writers would be better off ignoring those rules. And why everyone else should ignore people who insist that the summer is over on July 5th.

In Hollywood, even the most prosaic activities often involves a complex dance of priorities, rank, and egos. This week, Rob explains the complex politics and power moves behind setting a meeting time that works for everyone’s schedule. But that exercise pales in comparison to figuring out who is in what position on which project, which often requires an advanced degree in calculus to understand, but also why (according to Rob), you can get by just as well with good grasp of the concept of dithering.

In the entertainment business, pitch meetings are an essential part of selling ideas — and getting jobs. So as a public service, Rob gives his expert guide to pitch meeting success, starting with what beverage one should order (it matters!) and ending with the post-pitch conversation in the car.

In this week’s episode, Rob Long tackles the idea that entertainment is a risky business that takes a lot of intuition and nerve. Things are going to fail, and sometimes, weird long shots do pay off. But that doesn’t stop networks from using methods to try to predict what shows will and won’t be hits. Rob reminds all network executives that they are in the business of taking chances, and reveals the clever way studios mitigate risk by using a highly technical financial instrument: OPM — a.k.a., other people’s money. Okay, it’s not very technical and it’s not really an instrument either, but it does mitigate their risk.

Screamers, show consulting, Stanford, seniority, status, and Stalin’s chair. These concepts are all linked, in this parable on power in the entertainment business. Listen and hear how.

This week, Rob give his notes on network notes. Some writers consider them the bane of their existence. Others carefully parse them like a detective at a crime scene for subtle clues that may (or may not) signal whether their script will move towards production. But what if your script receives the unusual but occasional “we have no notes” response? Well, that’s the dream, right? Rob explains why it may indeed mean you have turned in the perfect draft that answers all of the network’s questions and fears and your pilot is now on the fast track to the Production Promised Land. Or it may mean something more ominous….

As the entertainment business slowly becomes a form of television and everyone slowly realizing that the television business depends on the management skills and personal discipline of…writers, some show runners are finding themselves replaced at alarming rates. Rob — who has run a few shows in his time— has some words of encouragement and yes, advice for those people who find themselves in precarious employment situations. And in the process, talks himself out of a job. Oops.

In Hollywood, everyone is an artist. And as artists, they often feel they are entitled to a certain amount of eccentricity and perfectionism, including but not limited to having their cake and eating it too (metaphorically speaking).

Rob explains why managing “the talent” —which includes anyone who interacts with studio management— sometimes calls for techniques that are more commonly associated with calming infants. Or 19th century schizophrenics. Rob also reveals the strategy to winning any exchange involving talent, notes, deals, or even controversies that play out in the media. He guarantees it. Are you listening, Mr Chapek?

In Los Angeles, everyone’s in show business. Everyone.

There’s only one phrase a scriptwriter dreads more than “we love it, but we have some notes”: “we love it and have no notes.”