Back in the Dark Ages also known as the early ’90s, yours truly woke up one morning and thought, “I hate this. I hate this television writing and producing thing. I’m doing everything I always wanted to do and I hate it.” And, since the last time I’d had that thought when I woke up in the morning, about 15 years earlier, I had a heart attack later that afternoon, I decided a pre-emptive strike was in order.
So I quit.
I quit my job (also my then wife and family, but if I go into that who knows what veins might start spurting) and moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico, where I found myself a comfy little ranch on the South side, a nubile friend, a medicine person/spiritual mentor (who also happened to be a red-tailed hawk), and a gig teaching screen and TV writing and TV production at The College of Santa Fe.
I loved teaching, but the production class was brutal. I had an idea for a children’s series for local (Albuquerque) TV, so I wrote a pilot script, convinced the station manager to do it, and set up the class as the writing/production/acting crew. Everyone worked 3 jobs. Above the line, they were the actors and the writers. Below the line, they were the carpenters and camera and sound people and set designers, etc.
There was, of course, no money to do this with. The local station would only take the show if it didn’t cost them anything, and the College of Santa Fe would only give the station the show if it didn’t cost them anything either. The good news was that the student geniuses/laborers were gratis. The not-so-good news was that all the costumes and sets and the materials that went into making them had to be paid for.
That payment came out of my pocket. I didn’t mind though, because, hell, I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico with a nubile friend and a medicine person/spiritual mentor, and the sky was blue and beautiful, and the pressures that had made me flee from L.A. didn’t exist. But shortly after we got started I did find a couple of things that drove me crazy:
- There was no way I could get the student geniuses/laborers to work fast and hard enough to finish all the physical construction in time to start shooting even a simple, half-hour local series
- There was no way I could get anything resembling a script worth shooting even if things had been ready
With one exception. An upperclassman named Joe Wiseman, who was quite simply one of the funniest writers I’d ever read. The kid got it. I’d tell him what we needed a script to be, and clue him in as best I could re how to achieve that goal, and, wham! he was on it. After the usual false starts any beginner would make, Joe fell into a terrific comedy rhythm. Wrote like a pro.
When I looked at Joe Wiseman I barely saw the real him. Instead, I saw Garry Marshall with an aw shucks smile. That’s how good he was. He made the whole project worthwhile.
After a couple of years in Santa Fe, I felt rested and vigorous – oh, and madly in love with the woman I’ve written about in so many places as Gwen the Beautiful, AKA my wonderful wife . I came back to L.A. with Gwen and veered off into a new career direction – animation instead of live action. THE SILVER SURFER and SPAWN instead of POLICE STORY and MIKE HAMMER.
And as I was delighting in writing and producing material that kids, including my own could watch (first time I’d ever done that), Joe Wiseman was also in L.A., writing and producing material that, as they used to say in the circus “kids of all ages” could watch. Series like:
- JUST SHOOT ME
- REGULAR JOE
- THE IT CROWD
- PERFECT COUPLES
- LAST MAN STANDING
- NEW GIRL
And a ton of pilots as well. Today I read – in the “Today’s TV Writing Deals Dept” on this, my own site, that Joe and his partner, Joe Port, are hard at work on another pilot, one that’s guaranteed to be shot or else NBC, which won a massive bidding war, has to pay them 7 figures of $$ as a penalty. It’s called JOE & JOE & JANE and is based on the lives/relationship of the two Joes and Jane, the wife of one of them. Or, as TVRage.Com puts it, a series in which “A conflict-avoidant children’s book author named Joe is caught in an ongoing tug of war between two needy, flawed people: his wife Jane and his co-author/ best friend, also named Joe.”
I love this idea. I love NEW GIRL and the success it’s had.
And I love that as a writer and executive produceer Joe Wiseman has had so much to do with NEW GIRL’s success. And that he’s busting his butt to do the same with JOE & JOE & JANE.
I love that he took his natural talent and intelligence and applied it so diligently and brilliantly, and that it’s working out so well for him.
FWIW, Joe, the Brode is very proud of you.
And glad – oh so very glad – that your career didn’t turn out like that College of Santa Fe children’s show. (Sadly DOA.)
But if you ever want to do that one, hey, it’s yours. Keep the change.