Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Closing Time"

A recent visitation of back spasms makes it difficult for me to sit down.  Though Dr. Bill Cosby proclaimed, when he gave me his PhD dissertation to read – “You don’t have to sit down to be a writer” – I actually believe you do.  And right now, that’s a problem.

I have two choices.  I can stop writing until I’m better, or I can write shorter posts.  I choose Option Two.  It’s no big difference.  You’ll end up with the same content.  It’ll just take a little longer getting to you. 

Who knows what you might gain, by spending less time on this blog.  You could make a new friend, or discover you like gardening.  Let me know how it turns out, will ya?  It will be gratifying learning how my shorter postings improved your lives.

Look at that.  I’m cramping up, and I haven’t even started yet.  Okay.  Without further ado – and I mean it – here we go. 

Think about it.

You’re James L. Brooks.  Though his co-workers, amongst whom during the late seventies (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and the early eighties (Taxi) I numbered myself, always called him Jim.  There was no, “Good morning, James L.”  “How’re ya doin’, James L.?”  “James L.” was strictly for the credits; everywhere else, it was “Jim.”  Maybe his Driver’s License said “James L.”  I don’t know.  He never showed it to me.

As a comedy writer, Jim Brooks was the standard all of us measured ourselves by, and against which we all fell humblingly short.  Jim was simply the best.  His story ideas were startlingly original, their development, imaginatively fresh.  His insights into character took your breath away, and his jokes arrived “Air Mail” from the “Planet Jim.”  You’d marvel, “How did he come up with that?”   

“He’s Jim.”

It was the best answer we could offer.  If we were Jim, we could easily have done better.

Wikipedia reports that Jim Brooks was nominated for forty-five Emmy Awards, and he won twenty.  Then, making the most successful transition into movies of any sitcom writer in history, Jim scored big with Terms of Endearment (writing Oscar), Broadcast News (writing Oscar nomination) and As Good As It Gets (co-writing Oscar nomination).  But we’re not just talking “the critics’ darling” here.  These movies enjoyed solid commercial success as well.

Being mortal, Jim suffered some inevitable misfires along the way, but, in the context of show business’s notorious unpredictability, Jim Brooks was the closest thing to a hit-making machine. 

It’s 2004.  Jim Brooks unveils his latest movie. It’s called Spanglish.  

It tanks.  No critical accolades.  And a box office disappointment.

Well, so what?  Everyone throws up an “air ball” once in a while.  A manager once said the most important word in show business is “Next!”  You move on.  You lick your wounds, and you go back to work.

It’s 2010.  Jim Brooks returns with How Do You Know.


Unfavorable reviews.  And nobody’s going.

Think about it.  You’re Jim Brooks, the Babe Ruth of comedy writers, and suddenly, your prodigious home runs are pop up’s to the pitcher.

What do you think’s going on?

Okay, I got to get up now.  I’ll continue this tomorrow.

Oops, I seem to have posted these posts backwards.  Please read yesterday's post today, and today's post yesterday.  It'll make more sense that way.

I thank you for your patience.

1 comment:

Gary said...

I thought my flux capacitor was incapacitated. Thanks for reorienting me at the end of the post. The age thing certainly plays with my versions of reality at times, more and more lately, it seems; maybe it does w/James L.'s, too. Sure, the audiences are younger, and so the characters must be too. And the younger folk seem to want you to bring the mean now. Besides Louie DePalma, did Brooks create any bad-ass characters? Louie may survive on today's streets, but he'd be the only one. I'm not entertained by the work of the younger generations. And I doubt that Brooks is pining to join the next iteration of Jackass. Time will eventually pass everyone. Can't do a thing about that. Not till Prof. Brown gets that time-travel thing perfected.
Feel better, Earl.