The Writing Life

Writers aren’t like other people.

They’re crazier.

And television writers aren’t like other writers.

They’re crazier still more frustrated, angrier maybe, because they’re doing what they’ve always wanted to with their lives…but not quite. Because they’re doing it under someone else’s – the production company’s, the network’s, the star’s, once upon a time even the sponsor’s – control.

Muralists paying their mortgages by painting people’s walls.

One of LB’s beloved early mentors was a very cool guy named Gerald Sanford, whom LB worked with (which is showbiz for “under”) in the early ’70s on a show called BARNABY JONES. They still trade e-mails from time to time, two alte cockers pretending they like rocking on that old front porch.

You can learn a bit about the Sanford career here.

And something about him here:

From: Gerald Sanford

To: Larry Brody

Lawrence of Scripts, do you remember when we writers “pitched stories” in hopes of getting an assignment, and the Story Editor would tell us… “I like it. Write it up in five lines or less, and I’ll send it to Quinn… or whoever.”

Well, unable to tell my stories in five lines or less, I’d simply turn in the entire script and tell ’em to do whatever they wanted with it. Of course, that can be a bit risky. But then again…we’re in a risky business.

Like the time I was sitting in this basement apartment in Coney Island, along with a wife and two kids, looking at my 12″, B&W TV screen, and see that Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car crash the night before, and Matt Cimber, her current husband, was taking it real bad.

“Matt Cimber”? Damn, he’s the one who directed my off-Broadway Play, ‘WALK-UP’. About a bunch of characters living in a Greenwich Village Walkup.

And would you believe, seems Jayne just wrapped a movie where she played 5 different roles about 5 different women living in a Greenwich Village Walkup. Obviously just a coincidence. Besides, his movie was called, ‘SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED’.

Years passed, and passed. I had 4 more movies made — and got credit for — did a ton of TV, when I see that Matt, still directing, has moved to L.A., so I call him and we make plans to have lunch in Beverly Hills. Ya see, I had another script I wanted to give him.

We meet for lunch, but before giving him my new work, I ask about his making ‘WALK-UP/SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED’ without paying for it, or even letting me in on it. And he looks me straight in the eye, and says, “Gerald, believe me, I tried getting in touch with you, but I didn’t have your address.”

No, shit, that’s what he said.

The moral of this story: “Hey, no one twisted your arm to be a writer.”

P.S. That lunch Matt and I had. I not only paid, I gave him my new script on the way out. Never heard from him again.

gs

Updated! A TVWriter™ bonus. Some publicity pix of SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED. Proving that somebody made some money from this thing. Just not gs.

Some might say we’re just looking for excuses to post  scuzzy pictures of Mariska Hargitay’s mom. Geddoudda here! No way!

I Bet You Already Know Ray Bradbury is Dead

by Larry Brody

Just about everyone on the web has reported on the death of s-f author Ray Bradbury today. Obits, retrospectives, contemplative determinations of his place in literature abound.

And rightly so.

I’m weighing in because even though TVWriter™ isn’t a science fiction site, I began my career as a science fiction writer (well, after the poetry – because I got 2 cents a line for poetry but a gigantic 2 cents a word for science fiction). And I wouldn’t have been any kind of writer, or possibly even alive, if Bradbury hadn’t written The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

My mopey, oppressed, mostly miserable self read all three of these works while I was in my early teens. The poetry of them kept me from attempting even one of the hundreds of forms of suicide I would come up with when contemplating what I thought of as the hell of struggling through high school and into adult life.

That’s right, the poetry. Not the stories. Not the concepts. Not the ideals. Not the philosophy. The simple fact that some guy the same age as my Ignorant Oppressor Parents knew and felt words so well that he could sing them right into my soul is what made me decide life could be wonderful, and that I wanted to sing about that wonder to others.

Ray Bradbury convinced me to become a writer.

When I was 16, I stopped reading Bradbury. Too simplistic. Too much in love with the past. Complex me was way too busy running headlong into the future by then.

I did meet him once, though, in the mid or late ’70s, which is approximately the time of the picture above. He was practiced at the meeting fans thing but not particularly involved in it. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was the person who introduced us, a young woman whose name I don’t remember who owned a science fiction and fantasy bookstore in Santa Monica.

What I do remember is that said Bookstore Owner had a way of exposing her cleavage without ever seeming to try, and that her cleavage revealed a wonderful tattoo above one breast. And that she smiled at me as I fixed my eyes on it (the tattoo, I think, although it could’ve been the breast), and said, “You’re as freaky as the rest of us, Lar,” with so much approval that I knew any sins I had or ever would have were forever absolved.

Now that I revisit the scene, I realize that  Bradbury too was caught up in the Bookstore Owner’s sainted cleavage, which probably was why he couldn’t even think about putting much oomph into the the desultory handshake that marked our intro.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that many of my writer friends knew Bradbury to one degree or another. I was surprised to learn that most of them, while praising the man and his work in public, considered him “stuffy, “pompous,” or “irrelevant” when we discussed him privately. Which upset me since I didn’t want him to be any of those things. I wanted him to be nothing less than Huge, a Behemoth Striding the Earth, because, after all, hadn’t he saved me?

My advice to those of you who want to know more about who/what this legendary figure was, is wait till Harlan Ellison weighs in. Harlan and I were close once, very close. In fact, he’s the one who brought me into that Santa Monica bookstore. And as far as I’m concerned, his assessments of other human beings are, almost always, spot on.

Meanwhile, FWIW, to me Bradbury was more than merely Ray Bradbury. He was Fucking Ray Fucking Bradbury.

And that’s a lot to say.

Quick Update About 2012 Spec Scriptacular Entries

Never let it be said that we here at TVWriter™ aren’t at least as obsessed with TV as those who drop by to visit. TeamTVWriter has been busy analyzing the data from this year’s entries and today’s astounding discoveries are:

The most popular series to spec was MODERN FAMILY, with twice as many entries as

The second most popular series to spec, which was THE MIDDLE, which just squeaked past

The third most popular series to spec, also known as PARKS & RECREATION

Other oft-entered specs, albeit (always happy for a chance to use that word) not in the same league with even the lowest placing of the above, were:

  • ARCHER
  • BIG BANG THEORY
  • COMMUNITY
  • CRIMINAL MINDS
  • FAMILY GUY
  • HAPPY ENDINGS
  • NURSE JACKIE
  • THE BIG C
  • THE WALKING DEAD

Anyone notice a trend here? Like, out of the top 12 shows specced, only 2 dramas?

Drama writers of the web, arise! WTF has happened to you?

Look What I Found

by Larry Brody

 

Just saw this on the AUTOMAN Facebook page.

Desi Arnaz, Heather McNair, and Automan himself, Chuck Wagner.

This is only three-fifths of the original AUTOMAN cast. Missing are Bob Lansing and Gerald S. O’Laughlin, who couldn’t make the reunion because they don’t breathe anymore.

Also not pictured are “Cursor,” Automan’s sidekick/tool (think the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver if it behaved like Harpo Marx), and the Autocar:

And, no, neither Cursor nor the Autocar ever breathed.

I did drive the Autocar around LA – just a little – and learned that if you wanted to pick up women, it was God’s Greatest Gift. But if all you wanted to do was look at them, forget it. They’d look back and come running, and I’d have to hit that accelerator and get my embarrassed self away.

 

H’Wood Reporter Speaks to Top Showrunners

Drama Showrunner Gallery Main Image - H 2012

Okay, we admit it. Usually we hate these sniveling puff pieces. But these are showrunners. Writers. Talking about their shows. And how to write them. And everyone knows that writer P.R. is, well, every bit as sacred as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Or something like that.

Killed Characters, Fired Bosses and Canceled Shows: TV’s Top Drama Showrunners Tell All

On a sunny morning in early May, six of television’s busiest showrunners enjoyed that rarest of luxuries: two hours away from writers rooms, sets and, most frightening, blank computer screens. Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), 45, Howard Gordon(Homeland), 51, Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal), 42, Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), 44,Veena Sud (The Killing), 45, and Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), 52, run some of the most powerful and critically lauded drama series on TV. In a candid discussion about the pressures of their jobs, The Hollywood Reporter heard how some have killed off popular characters, how Mazzara coped with replacing his bossFrank Darabont, the rave reviews Gilligan receives from addicts for his spot-on meth recipes and Gordon’s struggle — shared by the others — to live a life despite “being perpetually haunted by these stories.”

Read it all