Monday, March 3, 2008

Funny I Should Mention It (not really)

Tuesday night, just before bed, I had an idea for a sitcom about a group of television show ghost hunters/paranormal investigators. The characters started coming fast and furious: the skeptic who comes up with ridiculous explanations for every weird thing he sees; the true believer who comes up with equally ridiculous explanations for any little creak in the woodwork and always, ALWAYS hears voices whispering messages in playback tapes; the unflappable cameraman who ends up face to face with demons and all they get out of him is a yawn...

So I wrote "TV ghost hunter sitcom" on a scrap of paper and went to bed, because I've got my priorities and over the previous week I'd actually managed to get into something resembling a reasonable sleeping schedule, regularly going from midnight-ish to nine-ish.

Got up in the morning, looked at the scrap of paper, thought to myself "…Oh. Yeah…"

Sat down in my newly reorganized office (shooting THE WHISPER OF MY SOUL just destroyed it, not that anyone but me and possibly Tiina would be able to tell, considering its usual state of disarray, which with the liberal use of a little fake blood, would make it a decent stand-in for any of a number of ground zeros), and got to work.

And by work, I mean sitting/lying/pacing for a few hours, trying to get this ghosthunter thing to work.

And it wouldn't. I mean, maybe it would, if I stuck with it--the quick description I wrote above still seems to me to be something that SHOULD work--but Wednesday, it just wasn't happening.

I went down to the home gym (read as "99 dollar kinda-but-not-really elliptical trainer set up in front of a TV"). Plugged in the first DVD of the Showtime sitcom WEEDS, which Dad lent me ages ago but has sat unwatched as I plowed through two seasons of ANGEL and one of DEXTER (an idea that could've been pretty awful, with an execution so brilliantly perverse I could cry.)

So I'm sitting there, sweating, watching Mary-Louise Parker (who I sort of fell in love with when she was on THE WEST WING) and the I-guess-he's-funny-to-some-people-but-my-God-he's-so-vanilla Kevin Nealon, and I'm thinking to myself:

This isn't funny.

Not the first time I've thought that of an American cable one-camera sitcom. ENTOURAGE got a similar reaction, and I doubt I'd have watched more than the first episode I came across if it wasn't for Jeremy Piven's performance. Future episodes were more amusing to me, primarily because I've been vicariously exposed to enough of Hollywood to get a laugh out of anything that presents movie folk as selfish, creatively empty, morally bankrupt egotistical jerks (see also: Altman's THE PLAYER, Richard Rushfield's ON SPEC). My minimal experience with the Machine would indicate this to be a fairly accurate assessment, and I'll likely continue to think everyone in Hollywood who isn't representing me is a complete idiot, right up until one of them proves to have some quantum of taste by giving me lots and lots of money.

(As for the folk representing me, they're only partial idiots. They chose to take me on as a client, after all, and while I'm grateful, the decision doesn't speak well to their business acumen... (Carina, Mitchel, Aaron, Brendan--On the off-chance you’re reading this, I love you guys.))

"This isn't funny." That's what I thought, watching WEEDS. At least I didn't find it as funny as, say, a random half hour of a Sorkin-penned WEST WING, or the first couple seasons of FRASIER, or FAMILY WEEDS ends up in the same category as ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT completely escapes me.

But for whatever reason--I suspect it’s got more to do with running time than anything else--it gets classified as a comedy. And that got me thinking…

Four days later, I’d gotten very little sleep (and what I did get was, uh, medicinally augmented). I’d also written a spec pilot script for something so far removed from my “TV Ghost hunters sitcom” as to be unrecognizable. Three acts, by my judgment with some funny moments but not enough for me to consider it a comedy. Something that would sit more comfortably next to WEEDS and ENTOURAGE than FRASIER or MONK.

It’s a weird little beast, but I like it.


I like it a little too much, actually. Because now that the thing’s done and off to the managers, I can’t seem to drag my mind out of that world. My body lay in bed last night, but my mind was still wandering the streets of the town where most of it takes place, listening to the characters talk to each other.

That’s almost a delightful state to be in when one’s writing something. (ALMOST. I don’t like writing, but I love having written. On the other hand, I do love sleeping and intensely dislike not sleeping.) But when one’s finished writing something…? Not so much.

I guess what I’m trying to say in my typically labyrinthine way is DEAR GOD I’M TIRED WHY CAN’T I SLEEP WHYWHYWHYWHYYYY???!?!?!


Also, T and I have both been feeling nauseous for several days now, and that’s in addition to the usual discomfort that accompanies wild fluctuations in temperature. Prying my own teeth out has been very tempting this week.

It seems to me this was similar to the physical state I was in when I wrote my first TV spec, which went so smoothly and the managers liked so much. Meanwhile, the second spec script I finished a couple weeks ago took about three months. Maybe there’s something to the whole “artists must suffer to create” thing.

I hope not.



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