Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Meet The Press (Or, As I Called It 'Meet Depressed' Because That's How It Felt After I Did It)"

A month or so after the new fall TV schedule is announced, journalists from around the country and neighbouring Canada – my computer just “underlined “neighbouring” in red, like I spelled it wrong.   Do they make “Canadian” computers that don’t do that?  They would have to, wouldn’t they? 

Okay, where was I?  

Oh yeah.

Journalists from around the country and neighboring Canada converge on Hollywood to interview the shows’ creators and stars.  (I put “creators” first.  The journalists probably flip those.)

As Major Dads co-creator – I received a “Developed By” credit for my efforts – I was delegated – along with stars Gerald McRaney and Shanna Reed – to face a couple of hundred press representatives who had seen the show’s pilot and were desperate for something to write about.

Okay.  A little backstory.

I have mentioned in the past that it has become my habit over the last – I don’t know, thirty-five years – to meditate in the morning immediately after I wake up.  (Meditating before you wake up is called sleeping.)

I have found this practice demonstrably helpful in calming my (naturally agitated) thinking process.  For me, meditating provides heightened focus, clarity, insight and funniness.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Ergo, I meditate every morning.  And it invariably it delivers the goods.

I dutifully meditate the day of the Major Dad press conference.  And just before I face the journalists, I slip outside the Interview Hall, “topping off” my meditational mojo with a bolstering “booster shot” – ten minutes of further meditation.  (Although focused on my breathing, I pick up the muffled responses of my press interview predecessor, Richard Chamberlain, droning tediously through the separating partition.  Dear Lord!  Even the architecture was yawning.) 

I shall spare you the glorious details – while taking a brief moment to relive my personal triumph…………………………… okay, I’m back.  And thank you for indulging me.  I went back and deleted four dots so it wouldn’t take too long, realizing you are busy people and your patience is limited.)

I don’t know whether it was a relief at listening to me instead of to Richard Chamberlain, but my every pronouncement was a towering home run.  Virtually everything I said met with prolonged laughter, and sometimes, even applause. 

This is not a subjective recollection.  You can look it up.  TV Guide reprised some of my spontaneous punch lines in their exalted magazine.  I had no idea where this performance was coming from.  It’s like I was a hotshot comedian and the free bar had opened early.

That’s not true – I know where it came from.  It came from my natural abilities, sharpened indispensably by preparational meditation.

Okay, that’s enough of that. 

It is now five years earlier…

(I just realized, this is the exact storytelling structure as my recent “baseball” post, where we declined from part owners of the team to sitting ignominiously on the grass.  A trajectorial “downer” but it works.   Call it the “dream-to-nightmare” scenario.)

Having been captivated by The Cosby Show’s fourteen-minute “presentation” (the “bargain basement” version of a pilot shot on a borrowed studio set to save money), when I was asked by the project’s co-owner Tom Werner what I wanted to do on the show, abandoning my normal trepidations about leadership, I spoke up and said, “Run it.”

(As ABC “Development” executives, Tom Werner and partner Marcy Carsey had   championed Best of the West onto the network schedule.  The team apparently liked me.   So when, through my agent, I expressed an intense interest in their new series, they – intemperately perhaps – made me the show’s first Executive Producer.)

The Cosby Show makes NBC’s schedule. 

And here – “rumble, rumble”, for the approaching storm clouds – comes the ubiquitous “Press Tour.”

I am a little murky on the specifics, (nightmare’s inherenlty include gaps.)  I know I meditated as usual that morning.  I recall driving to Bill Cosby’s house, and being shuttled, along with the star, to NBC’s Burbank Studio in a cocoa-brown Rolls Royce.  (Drives in cars costing more than your house tend to adhere themselves to your my memory.)  

I am pretty sure I was not informed of the press interview.  I was dressed super casually and if I’d been told about it I would have at least brought an accompanying sports jacket.  And I didn’t.

My understanding was it was only for pictures.  Why they needed me there – nobody asked to take my picture – I don’t know.  But they told me to be there, so I went.

And then late that afternoon, I was apprised of the press conference.  I sensed from the get-go that this was not going to be pretty.  I was dressed wrong, I was embarrassingly unprepared and by the time the questioning commenced…

I had not meditated for almost twelve hours.  (Mediation mojo inevitably wears off.  After that, it’s like Popeye taking on Bluto when he hasn’t had spinach since yesterday.)

To spruce me up before facing the Press Corps, Tom Werner took off his blazer and insisted I put it on. 

So I put it on.

Dark blue. 

Gold buttons.  

And at least two sizes too big. 

I was just swimming in the thing.  I expected the first question to be, “Have you been sick?” 

Capsule summary of the experience:

I was terrible.

No focus.  No clarity.  No insight.  And no “funny.”

I rambled aimlessly for twenty minutes, laying a seismically measurable omelet.

Again, I have evidence this was not a subjective evaluation.  When we were done, Bill Cosby turned to my wife – who was present, although neither of us recall why – and said to her,

“I hope he can write.  Because he sure can’t talk.”

You know how in Casablanca they say, “We’ll always have Paris”?  Well I’ll always have the Major Dad press conference. 

The thing is… (BIG SIGH)

I am stuck with the other one as well.

1 comment:

Gunny said...

How is Shanna? She was the best part of your show.