Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Carpe Diem

Up until a few short years ago I was a television writer. I worked, I made a living. Then suddenly, almost overnight, I couldn't get a job. The new young showrunners would read my work, like it enough to have a meeting with me and then I would get the call from agent saying they had hired someone else. "But they said they loved my writing." "They do. They think you're great." But...And the hidden BUT was...I was too old to be funny. Interesting how that happens. In an instant, in the wrinkle of an eye, you are suddenly dried up, out of touch and useless. I asked my agent if I could get a job where I didn't have to actually sit in the writers room and upset the others with my maturity and maybe I could just mail in my scripts and they wouldn't have to look at me. He didn't find that amusing. He just saw that I was no longer a paycheck. Oh, these people are brutal. The last show I worked on full time was Mad About You. It was run by one of the most wretched human beings I have ever met. I don't want to mention his name because why drag him through the muck at this point. (Vic Levin) Oh, he was awful. I had written a spec pilot about a teenage boy whose parents were divorced so he lived two lives. One in Fairfield Conn. and one in New York City. Vic liked it and he called me in and I could tell he was shocked when he met me. "You wrote this?" "Yup." "How did you write this? How do you know how a hip teenager talks?" "Uhhhhh...I'm a writer?" "No really, you're...what?" He's thinking old. He's not going to say it. But I've got to give him credit. He hired me. And then he tortured me like he did every other writer. In fact, I actually left that job before it was finished because one of the advantages of being "mature" is that you know you do not have to put up with a jerk if you can afford to quit.

But the great thing about show business is that there is always another jerk right around the corner. Another job I left after a mere three days was a show based on the movie Parenthood. Oh, this show runner was a doozy. We were coming up with story ideas for the season and I suggested one about the Mothers. After all the show was called "Parenthood", about families, parents, dads...moms. And this guy says..."Boring. Who cares about the moms? Who gives a shit about moms." Well, obviously you don't, you little twerp. And I was gone.

I worked for a very, very nice couple who had a big hit a few years back. They were wonderful people and it was great working for them...Except they were sooooo not funny. Their jokes were those kind of pie in the face jokes, way over the top, obvious, I'll even go so far as to say, stupid. But they were nice. They were not assholes. So I had to suffer through humor like..."Oh my God, is that toilet paper on my shoe?! And Billy saw it? Oh my God!" I told myself at the end of every day, "They're nice. They're nice. They're nice. They're not funny, but they're nice." And I decided that I would much rather work for nice and not funny rather than brilliant and assholic.

But what is this thing about age? And you know where it comes from? Not the young kid running the show. It comes from the old geezer himself, Les Moonves. (This is they guy who runs CBS.) This guy is my age. Does he not think he's too old to be running all those networks? His programming sucks. Katie Couric doing the news. Oh, brilliant idea. Katie Couric, Walter Cronkite, oh yeah, I can see the thinking. He actually has a show on called Pirate Master. Where people live as "buccaneers" and hunt for treasure. Oh boy do I want tivo that. Can he possibly think of one more way do another CSI? NCSI, CSI Miami, CSI New York. How about CSI Baghdad? CSI Jerusalem?

But I'm not bitter. No. Yes. Yes, I am bitter. Why hold back? That's right. I always forget I have cancer and I must seize the day. Finally tell people what I really think about them instead of holding it all in and getting an ulcer. Or...I could go to Ralphs and figure out what I want for dinner. Hmmmmm. I'm thinking halibut.

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