Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Story of a Writer - Part Nineteen B"

Preparing for this posting, I ventured into the storage room at the back of our garage. There’s dust back there, and possibly critters. But I went there anyway. For you. I went there, because in one of the storage boxes shelved there, there’s a file containing, among other memorabilia, a file containing the series ideas I came up with while I was working at Universal.

I distinctly remember once, in an explosion of creative exuberance, composing a list of ten ideas for situation comedies. That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? Seeing a list of ten series ideas I came up with on a single day?

I couldn’t find the list.

I did, however, unearth scripts and proposals for six of those ideas. I was surprised at how many there were. At the time, I believed they all had merit. They may not have been projects I was unilaterally passionate about – how can you be unilateral about six ideas – but they were areas I was interested in exploring. With the passage of time…I don’t know, you decide.

I had a deal. And these are the ideas I came up with:

The Home Team

An aging baseball superstar – think a forty year-old Mark Harmon – is rehabbing from a serious injury, though he’s confident he’ll be back in the game. In the meantime, since his wife’s career is starting to pop, he agrees to man the homefront, taking care of their two kids, one of them, an infant son. The guy never played baseball again, remaining, instead, a full-time, stay-at-home jock.

(This is a little like how I felt when I stayed at home after leaving The Cosby Show.)

At The Blackstone

(This one was partially based on a couple I met at a spa in Mexico that I’ve talked about.)

Using her inheritance money, a smart but insecure woman (think Julie Haggerty) and her domineering boyfriend buy a small (fourteen room) hotel in Washington D.C., which also houses a gourmet French restaurant. The boyfriend promises his girlfriend a fifty-fifty share in the responsibility. Then he does everything himself. He lets her pick the drapes. A confrontation ensues, the woman demanding that he live up to his promise of equal sharing. To teach her a lesson, the boyfriend abruptly walks out, leaving the woman, low in experience and self-esteem, to run the hotel alone.

(The woman's emotional journey mirror the feelings I experienced running a television show.)

The Beer Brothers

Inheriting a failing microbrewery, two brothers – one a straight arrow, the other a lovable goof-off – struggle to co-exist while trying to keep the family business afloat.

(I have a temperamentally different older brother. In this series, I’m exploring the practicalities of working together.)

The Studio

The sidesplitting saga of the floundering “Desperate Studios”, set in the low-rent district of 1930’s Hollywood.

(This is me, surrounded by the magnificent standing sets at Universal, inspired by a wonderful British television series called Flickers.)

The King

A quirky and career-challenged young fellow (think Steven Wright) is the offspring of a single Mom former Peace Corps volunteer, who, during her overseas service, had an affair with the monarch of a small European principality (who, unbeknownst to him, is the young fellow’s father.) When the king dies lacking a male heir, the young fellow is kidnapped, abducted to the small European principality and handed the responsibility of running the country.

(This is me, in Duck Soup, The Mouse That Roared mode, doing insightful and hilarious social commentary. Mixed with the feelings I experienced running a television show.)

Old Guys

Mismatched old guys are forced by financial necessity into sharing an apartment.

(Years ago, my brother and I improvised a routine concerning “Benny and Bernie”, who had reached a stage in their lives where neither of them could remember which one of them was Benny and which one of them was Bernie. The Old Guys old guys were nowhere near that impaired, but the quarreling relationship was the same.)

Those were six series ideas I came up with at Universal. What do you think? (I know it’s how you write them, but still.) Did I earn my money? I can still give it back. Let me know before I spend it all.


impwork said...

If I was a TV executive reading this list I'd be on the phone to you about The Studio right now. Maybe its just me but it sounds like nothing on TV now, its got the whole nostalgia trip / period drama thing and the opportunities for cameo appearances (which seemed to work for Extras even if it wasn't my cup of tea). Then again I'm not a TV executive and I'm no longer in an interesting target demographic either...

Michael said...

I want to say I LOVE the idea of the Brew Brothers. I think we are missing everyday type people on TV, especially work place shows not based in a law office or hospital. The concept just gets those creative juices flowing, and the beer doesn't hurt either. If you ever want to shoot this let me know. I know the perfect little brewery that might be open to being a location.

Anonymous said...

I can see definite possibilities in all of them, but my favorite is At the Blackstone. Excellent opportunity for a great ensemble cast and quirky guests. I love that it's a dual setting, hotel and restaurant. There's a chance that it could be compared to Fawlty Towers, but since copying the British is fashionable now maybe it's time to pitch this one again.

Keith said...

Yeah, I think The Studio would be great. The last period comedy on American TV that I can remember was a little western you may have heard of called "Best of the West". :)

However, you could make each idea more salable by adding "Oh, and one of them has a hot teenage daughter" to the end.