Thursday, November 7, 2013

"An Unseemly Exercise In Unmitigated Venom"

This one’s like a kidney stone you need to pee out and get on with your life.

I need to keep this short, because…

If you do “because”, you are not going to keep it short.

…I have someplace to go.  You jumped the gun there, Italics Man.



Although “You jumped the gun there” made it unnecessarily longer.

Can I get to my story, please?

Oh, you’re blaming me now?

I’m curtailing this conversation.  And I am thinking about disabling “Italics.”

Yeah, like you’d actually know how.

Okay.  I’m starting now.  And my first sentence is this:

In the arena of situation comedy, Non-Writing Executive Producers are like hockey players who can’t skate. 

“That’s my ruling”, as Judge Roy Bean used to say, in movies, if not in real life.

You are on the team because you can play.  It doesn’t matter what team it is.  Nobody’s on the team if they can’t play.  What good would they be?

COACH:  I need a replacement.  Not you.”

In situation comedy, the “team” is essentially the writers, all of whom have earned their bones by putting something down on paper that made that was adjudged to be funny, not by everybody, but whoever’s running that particular team, an accredited writer themselves, because in situation comedy, the writer is King. (Or, yes, Queen.) 

Writers are writers for three reasons:  They love writing.  They are skillful at writing.  And they could not imagine doing anything else, not because of their unilateral passion for the field, but because they are literally incapable of doing anything else.  For me, it was writing or… I have no idea – a clear example of the situation I am talking about. 

We write because there is nothing else we can do.  And we gain acceptance because at least we can do that.

Then these other guys (and, yes, gals) show up, who are not writers – hence the name Non-Writing Executive Produce – and they demand entry into our domain.  And not just entry.  They want to be an integral part of running it. 

(EVIDENCE IN THAT REGARD:  There are no Non-Writing Story Editors or Non-Writing Supervising Producers.  These interlopers (I was about to say parasites) are to be found only at the top.  Imagine an empty-resumed entity walking into a multi-national corporation and demanding – and receiving – a position as “Non-Knowing-Anything” CEO.  Who is not a member of the CEO’s family, or someone who has pictures which, if they became public, would bring down the house.) 

How are non-writers able to crash the “Writers Only” party and procure jobs as Executive Producers? 

They have a note from their mothers.

“My Sonny Boy (Girl) is a genius!  I’m their mother.  I know.”

Okay, that doesn’t happen.  (At least as far as I’m aware of.)  What generally happens is that Non-Writing Executive Producers gain access to the proceeding bearing negotiable chits.   Redeemable coupons, earning them an otherwise unattainable seat at the table.      

I shall start with the Gold Standard of non-writing Executive Producers.

Grant Tinker. 

Grant Tinker secured entry into the proceedings in the company of an immensely valuable – in the context of television – audience-tested commodity: 

His wife.

Mary Tyler Moore.

Mary delivered a hit show.  Grant Tinker ran it.  The success led to more shows.  And he wound up with a television empire.

It must be readily acknowledged, however, that Grant Tinker was the best non-writing Executive Producer in the history of television.  Why?  Because he never touched the writing, and he insulated the writers against network interference.  After Grant published his memoir, I wrote him a letter, confessing that, because of his impeccable behavior, I expected all Non-Writing Executive Producers to act in an equally protective and boundaries respecting manner.  I went on to reveal that, in my, to that point, twenty-year career, it had never happened again.  This led me to insist that Grant Tinker give me my twenty years back.  For having been so cruelly and egregiously misled.

Grant was the prototypical example of the ideal Non-Writing Executive Producer.  Unfortunately, nobody ever followed that example. 

Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey had been production executives at ABC.  (As “Development People” there, they had ramrodded Best of the West on to the network schedule.)  Not longer afterwards, Tom and Marcy left ABC to produce their own shows, taking with them certain line-jumping commitments from their former employers. 

That’s why The Cosby Show was originally pitched to ABC, who turned the show down.  They moved on to NBC, and The Cosby Show, Rosanne, Third Rock From The Sun, That 70’s Show later, they are now billionaires. 

However – more so with their advancing success – they meddled.  In areas where they had questionable instincts and expertise.

Third example – the Non-Writing Executive Producer of According To Jim.  I know not how this woman gained her lofty position in the According To Jim triumvirate (along with its two show creators), or access to the room even, but there was not a creative element in the show in which she was no micro-managerially involved, instructing writers on how to do their jobs, and doing so entirely “Credentials Free.”

It is hard for me to believe that at the end of the day, Non-Writing Executive Producers do not retreat to their lavish homes, shut the door briskly behind them, and scream

“I’m a fraud!!!!!!!!”

I felt that way constantly.

And I actually did something.

Okay, the venom has now been purged.

Moving on.

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