Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 10/3/14

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Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP) & Lesley Arfin (BROOKLYN 99) & Paul Rust (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) are writing a Netflix comedy series following a young woman and young man “as they deal with the best and worst of relationships.” (Mixed feelings here from yer friendly neighborhood muncharooni. The good: The Juddman’s TV work has always been funny as hell and, at the same time realistic. The bad: His recent film comedies have all seemed to be about beings that appear human but live and react like no real people any other real people have ever known or seen. Will Leslie and Paul save this series? Gotta admit – I’m rooting for it.)
  • Stephnie Weir (THE MILLERS) is writing the proverbial “untitled half-hour project” for ABC about funny stuff happening at a bank. (Speaking of something not being real! Have you ever had one moment of fun at your local bank? Even when I’m putting my very own money into their hot little hands the squids behind the windows at my most convenient bank branch do their best to make it not convenient at all. Was that a rant? Sorry. We return now to stories of wonderful success:)
  • Jason Blum (described as a “horror master” but hell, my life is the biggest horror of all and I’ve never even heard of the dude) is developing an untitled horror series for NBC that the network’s PR describes as “in the vein of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. (Uh, that would be, as the release intimates, cuz it’ll be an anthology without continuing characters, not necessarily cuz it’ll be good. Just sayin’.)
  • Jimmy Kimmel (yeppers, that Jimmy Kimmel) is writing yet another untitled pilot script, this one a comedy for ABC about “a once massively popular VJ who…is forced to move back in with his parents and take a job as hot of a local radio ‘morning zoo.'” (Now this one sounds funny and is actually based on the life of Mr. Kimmel’s good buddy Carson Daly, whom I personally happen to know and therefore will be able to call and ask for a job if this gets picked up, which means today’s luv and $$$ has – potentially at least – a very happy ending for, you know, moi. Yes!)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/27/12

Latest News About Writers Doing Better Than We Are (Why Do There Have To Be So Many?)

  • Rob Weiss & Jay Leggett & Blake Leibel (ENTOURAGE) are writing a sitcom about legalized pot for Fox. (Well, not really about pot. More about pot heads because a plant can’t be the star of a series unless it’s on Adult Swim, right?)
  • Spencer Hudnut (newbie!) has joined CBS’ UNFORGETTABLE as a staff writer. (And to think, we knew him when he was just, um, a lawyer. Movin’ up in the world, dood.)
  • Larry Stuckey (LITTLE FOCKERS) has sold a comedy project to ABC, based on his relationship with his brother. (Hey, isn’t everything we write based on some part of our lives? And don’t many of us have brothers? So why is Larry the one getting all the big bucks here?)
  • Talk about making it big. Over 20 years ago a newb writer named Judd Apatow (you name it, Judd wrote/directed/produced it) wrote a spec episode of THE SIMPSONS, and at last the show has bought it. (As Executive Producer Al Jean puts it: “For people who want to know how to write a freelance ‘Simpsons’ episode: Just do it, then have a megamilliondollar movie career and we’ll buy the spec.”)

A Brief & Inadequate History of TV Comedy

by Larry Brody

For me, television comedy began with Uncle Miltie. Milton Berle, whom I first laughed at/with/from in 1948. In just a few short years he was joined, as my definition of comedy, by Sid Caesar, Martin & Lewis (why did Dean get first billing? No wonder Jerry was mad), Red Skelton, Bob & Ray, and Ernie Kovacs (above), who I still believe was the cleverest comic who ever lived.

Yes, I’ve left out Lucille Ball. Because as a child I couldn’t really laugh at her. All that angst, that desperation to be loved – sorry, but she made me way too tense.

By the late ’50s I was getting most of my laughs from the One And Only Harvey Kurtzman, originator of Mad, first a comic and then a magazine and always batshit insane. I still remember how I felt when I saw my first issue and met “The Lone Stranger.” It was incredible. The most joyous moment of my then short life…because I had just found out that I wasn’t alone. That others – who got published! read! paid! – saw the same absurdity everywhere that I did.

I will happily argue (and have, in my sadly now out-of-print book Turning Points in Televisionthat until the birth of The National Lampoon in 1970 Harvey Kurtzman and his Uncle Miltie-plus-incredibly-complicated-panels-Jewish-humor sensibility were the basis for all popular humor. Every stand-up comic. Every sitcom. They all owed an incredible debt to:

The most influential comedy mayven of the ’60s probably was Neil Simon.

In one sense he was the spawn of Sid Caesar, but Sid Caesar was, in essence, Harvey Kurtzman on the screen instead of the page. Simon, AKA Mr. Badeep Badop Badoop, had a very definite dialog rhythm, page after page of:

  • set-up
  • set-up
  • punchline

Over and over, bringing tears of laughter to Broadway audiences and, then, to TV audiences as writers like James Brooks, Ed.Weinberger, and dozens of others (including another noted Sid Casesar alum, Carl Reiner) translated the Simon rhythm to the small screen…and, for my money, outdid him time and time again.

Until The National Lampoon, comedy was about the shleppers, the oppressed who laughed at the oppressors, delighting in raining on the parade of the uncaring, stupid 1% (although of course they weren’t called that then). Nat Lamp, however was Harvard through and through, humor for the Überclass.

That effect was even stronger when it made its way to TV on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Chevy Chase’s heartfelt, “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not” said it all. (How do I account for John Belushi in view of my statements above? Well, he was a big exception, and we know how well that went for him, don’t we?)

The 21st Century brought another sea change, ushering in our current era, The Judd Apatow Rebellion.

I say “rebellion” because I genuinely believe that. From THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW to UNDECLARED to any and all of his movies, Apatow has taken us back to the schlemiel losers with their cockeyed perspectives, disdain for the ruling class, and undying hope. His influence now is all-pervasive. Neil Simon was a shlepper compared to Apatow, whose slackers understand what Sabatini’s Scaramouche (my favorite hero, dramatic or comedic, of all time) knew so well:

He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.

I love current comedy. The chaos of it. The disrespect. But I have an admission to make. Every time I read about some comics property being turned into a film or TV series my mind goes back to Harvey Kurtzman and I wonder: “Why, why, why, isn’t someone making his greatest creation [with the truly awesome Will Elder]?”: