Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #29 – It’s All About the Audience

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

Reader feedback beats executive notes any day of the week.

In my previous life I was a television writer and producer. Over thirty plus years I wrote hundreds of episodes of television shows, including Hawaii Five-0, The Fall Guy, Walker Texas Ranger, Diagnosis Murder and Star Trek: Voyager. And for better or worse, that’s just for starters.

Although the shows differed, one element stayed the same. Network executives never were satisfied with hiring writers and actors and directors and letting them do their thing. All any of us wanted to do was put on a show for the public. But the business structure of television forced us to play to satisfy corporate needs and, as we say here in Paradise, pay the audience “no never mind.”

Because of this, it’s with great pleasure that I observe that this column, Live! From Paradise!, has been appearing for six months now, and during that time there’s been no editorial meddling. No company demands. No “notes” ordering changes.

Have I missed executive intervention?

Does a lion returned to the wild miss the zoo?

I’m on my own here. If all goes well, the success is mine. If the column ends up in a Port-A-Potty the failure is mine too. Whatever the credit, or the blame, it comes to me because I’m the one who’s earned it. And, best of all I really do get both credit and blame, praise and criticism, suggestions and questions, from the folks who really count.

You.

Instead of an executive telling me, “Our focus group says you should say this. My boss says you should stay away from that…and whatever you do don’t write about Chet the Unhandyman anymore,” I hear directly from readers who e-mail me or recognize me from my picture and come over to talk while I’m out and about. And ain’t none of you shy about what you like and what you don’t.

Since communicating with you is the reason I write, getting your communication right back at me is…well, how about the P Word? “Paradise.”

Buck the Ex-Navy Seal put it into perspective on our way to the hardware store today. The purpose of our mission was to drop off my lawn tractor for fixing, and I was in a funk.

Buck said, “They should’ve told you these things are for golf courses, not mountain clearings. Next week I’ll be over at your place with my bush hog.”

Then he asked how the rest of life was treating me. Specifically, he wanted to know about this column. “The paper’s paying you, right? So they must be happy. And the readers like what you’re doing too, don’t they?”

“Not always, Buck. I get some pretty tough messages once in awhile.”

“That’s good! That’s great!”

My funk was still weighing on me. “Doesn’t always feel that great. Especially when people take what I write personally and think I’m insulting their hometown, or even them. Which isn’t the case because ‘Paradise’ isn’t a real town, it’s a composite of many towns, from all over, and each neighbor I mention is actually many different people I’ve encountered in my life. With my own imagination tossed to boot.”

“You’re not looking at it right,” Buck said. “Everything you write is real, even if it’s not exactly true. I may be a combination of this old boy and that one and the other fellow over there, but to anyone who reads this I’m Buck the Ex-Navy Seal, alive and kicking right here and now.

“And,” he went on, “anybody who takes the time to talk to you is doing it because what you’ve said means something to them. Maybe it’s made them happy. Maybe it’s got them mad. Either way, you’ve done what you set out to. You’ve put something into their lives that wasn’t there before. And it’s something they know is of value, or else they’d just blow you off.”

I hadn’t thought about it that way before. Executives are paid to impose their perspectives, but readers have no reason to respond unless what they’ve read has meaning for them. Having an effect on people—that’s what TV and newspapers and films and everything else we call “media” should be all about.

So my thanks to all of you for saying “Hi” at WalMart, and e-mailing me your thoughts, pro or con. As long as you keep reading I’ll keep writing.

How else will I be able to get Buck to bush hog my yard?

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.