Thursday, September 19, 2019

"A Deal With The Devil"

I don’t know if they still do this.  (I ought to get a stamp made of that, and stamp it at the beginning of each post.)

This first part may be moldy.  But the ending, I believe, still holds.  If it doesn’t, “Refunds for everyone!”


You want to sell a half-hour comedy to the networks.  (They still make them.  So at least that part is still current.)

We are thankfully long past “High Concepts”, featuring genies, Martians, voluptuous androids, and nuns that fly. 

But you have to have something.  Otherwise, why are you there?

Seeking a distinguishing “’hook” for your series, retreating from ice-breaking missteps, like, “A show about a man with a big chin”, and “A series involving a woman who walks backwards”, your focusing mantra remains:  “Something distinctive.  But reasonable.”  

Finally, you hit on something.  Calling your agent, you get “on the books” for a network “Pitch Session.”

I recall a short-lived series called Mr. Sunshine (1986), not to be confused with a Netflix series I never heard of with the same name.  Not to glut this paragraph with excessive “Mr. Sunshines”, I too created a show called Mr. Sunshine, which did not sell.  I now exhausted the list. 

By the way, I believe my “Mr. Sunshine” was quite good.

The 1986 Mr. Sunshine starred Jeffrey (“Hey, now!” from The Larry Sanders Show) Tambor, as a college professor who happens to be blind.

And unlikely idea for a sitcom?  Sure.  But who knows?  If “A college professor who can’t see” succeeds, it could spawn similar “infirmity-based series”, like “A chartered accountant who can’t hear.”  Possibly called, “What?”  

Spawning “Who’s on First?” implications like,

“Have you seen ‘What?””


“Have you seen it?”


“There’s no need to yell.  Have you seen it or haven’t you?

“Have I seen WHAT!!!!!

Und so weiter, as they say in German, when they want to move on.

As it turns out the network sparked to “a ‘half-hour’ about a blind guy.” (I just mistakenly typed “a blond guy”, a viable concept for an Asian sitcom.  You see?  Great sitcom ideas are everywhere!)  They could see the hilarious hijinks, the comically awkward faux pas.

“I didn’t know you were blind.”

“Sorry.  I left my sign in the car.”


“Sorry.  I thought knocking everything down would have given that away.”

Believing it’s the door out, the guy walks into a closet, exiting with threads of his decimated aplomb.

“Was that a really dark closet, or just me?” 

Insisting that blindness heightened his sense of smell, the guy mounts a definitive “Smell Test”, and gets everything wrong.

You see how that goes?  And that’s “off the top of my head”, from a guy who wrote a totally different Mr. Sunshine.

Okay.  So you make a good enough pilot, and you get on the air.  The inevitable next question is,

Now what?”  (Which is true of all scheduled pilots, but more significantly with this.)

It turns out that in a frustratingly short time you run out of specifically “sight-based” – or actually the opposite – “Moments of Comedy.”  Leaving you with a show about an educator who can’t see.  (Taking attendance on the “Honor System.”  Sorry, I had one left.)

Accompanying the increasingly tiresome stockpile of “Blind Jokes”, the underlying theme of such shows is, “Don’t judge us by our ‘difference.’”  A truly valuable “Life Lesson.”  The thing is, that “difference” originally got you the show!

Not surprisingly, Mr. Sunshine bit the dust after one season.


A “hook: is great.

Till it turns into an anchor.

1 comment:

What a revoltin' development exec this is said...

Since the networks are generally blind to fresh ideas, maybe they personally connected with the hook.