Friday, October 25, 2019


I was watching this shlock boxing movie on Turner Classic Movies, whose name I don’t remember, starring people I don’t remember and if I did I would have no idea who they were.  But man, were those guys fake-punching their hearts out!

(It was not TCM’s “Finest Hour.”  The word “Classic” was shading its eyes.)

Anyway, the film’s motif reminded me of the first Taxi episode I wrote.  Which was the second produced Taxi episode of the series. 

I once explained to someone that I had written the second Taxi script, the second Cheers script and the second Cosby Show script, and they said, “Earl!  You were one script away from a billion dollars!”


Let me tell you something about writers.

Sometimes, you think you made stuff up, and it turns out later, it was not quite the case.  I know that sounds technically like “Plagiarism.”  But this isn’t on purpose.  It’s just a million things fly into your head, and when they fly out, you think at least some of them are yours.

Two small – post-“Statute of Limitations” – examples.

I am creating Best of the West.  I pick the name for the local bar.  I call it The Lucky Chance Saloon.  Years later, I am watching a Clark Gable western I have apparently already seen, because there, displayed prominently – to my startled and innocent surprise – is The Lucky Chance Saloon!

A slightly larger example, though one not rising to courtroom adjudication.

A premising element in Best of the West is the fact that “Southern Belle” Elvira met her new husband, former “Yankee” officer Sam, while he was burning her plantation to the ground.

Years later, but again, clearly also before, I watched She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, where exactly the same thing happened with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

I couldn’t believe it!

“Yeah, yeah.”

I couldn’t!  Both that that relationship setup was not original to me, and that burning down their plantations was such a “turn on” for “Southern Belles.”
Though in no way deliberate, it would therefore not be surprising if I “remembered” but thought I made up the second episode of Taxi.

Here’s how early this was in Taxi’s development.  The episode, ultimately called “One Punch Banta”, was originally called “One Punch Ryan”, because the “boxer” character was intended to be Irish, but then Tony Danza – an actual professional boxer – came in, captured the role, and changed the ethnicity.

(An interesting tidbit for uninteresting parties.) 

Anyway, maybe it was the spirit of Rocky, maybe it was the true story of Chuck Wepner (“The Bayonne Bleeder”), I don’t know.  But I brought in the idea that boxer-in-the-show Tony Banta, for a few extra bucks, gets a job, sparring with the middle-weight champion before an upcoming “Title” fight, and during the sparring, Banta knocks the vaunted “Champion” on his butt.

Suddenly, Banta’s a “hot fighter”, earning a shot at a “Top Ten” contender.  (Which I originally pitched as he actually got to fight the “Champ”, but my more experienced bosses sensibly lowered the stakes.)

Then, in a pre-fight moment, Tony learns that the sparring “knockdown” was a setup.  The “Champ” had seemed unbeatable, and his “handlers” needed a detectable “weakness” to heat up the betting.
Which leads to the “Big Payoff” – Banta, entering the ring against a “Top Ten” contender he has no business fighting.  (We do the “comedy” version, rather than the “Brain Damage” version.)

That was my first Taxi episode.

It came off quite well.  (The “Guest ‘Contender’” was Carlos Palomino, which means “My friend” in Italian, and if it doesn’t, it should.)  (Sorry.  I am still not well.)

If the idea sounds familiar, let me know.

I enjoy making stuff up.

But not if I didn’t.

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