Monday, January 8, 2018

"Limbo"

You know by now that my way of thinking about things is often a little bit “off.”  But I never believed it was this “off.”

I am sitting in an airplane, blogging away, when suddenly, in an unused synapse in temporary repose – if that’s actually a thing – this bizarre realization pops into my head.  Which is the following:

If this plane I am flying in suddenly dropped from the sky, I would continue writing until “KAPLUIEEE!!!”

Can you believe that?  Neither could I.  Fortunately, I was not required to put that theoretical happenstance to the test.  Because we landed safely.  (A choice I overwhelmingly preferred.)  Still, what an “imagining”, huh? 

Everyone praying and hugging and screaming,

And I’m finishing a sentence. 

Disclaimer: Had my beloved spouse been accompanying me, all bets would have definitely been off.  Who wants the last words you ever hear to be

“We’re crashing and you’re writing?”

My priorities would unquestionably change under those circumstances.  More hugging and less typing, eventually joining the other passengers in a collective “AHHHHHHHHHH!!!”  

Still, while the plane heads in a direction unsuitable for survival, at least a portion of my brain would be thinking,

“Did I get that right?”

This laser-focused proclivity is not just about writing.  Consider the character “Golda” in Fiddler on the Roof.  The Jews have been deported from Anatevka; everyone must leave immediately.  And where’s Golda?  Feverishly sweeping the floor of a home she is departing forever.  Teyve exasperatedly exclaims,

“Golda, what are you doing!

To which Golda intensely replies,

“I am not leaving a dirty house!”

I am not leaving an unfinished sentence.

Professionalism and personal integrity – that’s the ticket.  The situation is hopeless.  But you continue to do your job.  I’ll bet somebody was still shoveling on the Titanic. 

A situation I clearly recall from my television days.

Despite receding ratings, substantially because we’d been scheduled against the “Number One” show in the country, Dallas, Best of the West had been picked up for the “Back Nine” of its series order.  We had made thirteen episodes.  We were now contracted to make nine more, filling out the show’s full-season’s complement of twenty-two.

As Dallas skyrocketed, our ratings continued to tumble.  Finally, while we were preparing “Episode Twenty”, my boss called me into the hall and informed me that Best of the West had been cancelled.  

The chances of the remaining episodes being broadcast were zero.  But the network had ordered them.  So we had to deliver them.

That’s right.

We had to produce three episodes of a show that was no longer on television.

And we did it.

With energy, enthusiasm and the best creative effort we had in us.    

We were professionals.  That’s what we do.

But boy, was it weird.  Best of the West had become the “Flying Dutchman” of half-hour comedy, our final three-episode commitment, a wandering vessel that would never reach port. 

Did “Gallows Humor” pervade the proceedings?  How couldn’t it?  Re-working the story?  Upgrading the jokes?  Bringing the episode precisely to “time”, careful not to go “over” on a show that would never be seen?

Deeply sad.  Also, darkly hilarious.

You complete your work.  It’s your job, and you do it.  Whether it’s a doomed flotilla of sitcom futility.  Or a forcibly abandoned hovel in Russia. 

Your plane veers in an unfortunately direction…

You just keep at it until KABOOM!!!

I mean, really.


What else is there to do?

3 comments:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

There was such a scene in the now sadly ended EPISODES. The British writers, their show canceled, are thrilled to be back in London in the rain when the phone rings: for various reasons of the wrong people hating each other, they're needed back in LA, where their show has been ordered to produce I forget how many more episodes. They write the script on the plane...

Thing is, these days you can never assume that the episodes will never be seen. Some of the 2nd season of ALMOST PERFECT went unaired in the US - but was still sold to British (and probably other countries') television, where it *did* air (and I saw it) and doubtless lives on in some people's recordings, which could surface any day on YouTube.

wg

JED said...

If you can remember more about the writing and producing of those last three episodes, and care to write more on this subject, I would love to hear it. This goes to the essence, to me, of why we work. If you only do your best when the boss is watching or you know a sizable number of people will see your work, then maybe you don't have a real passion for your work.

I wonder if that last guy shoveling coal on the Titanic thought, "If I can just keep shoveling fast enough, I could still save the day."

Fred from Scarborough said...

What a lovely metaphor. We do our best and if we’re lucky we go Kaboom in our sleep in our late 90’s.