The last several months have been development season. That's where the big networks hear pitches from writers and buy ideas, which will later be written as scripts, and some shot as pilots, and a tiny portion of those will become the new fall shows in 2014.
So while still doing my day job, I've also been going around telling executives my dumb ideas. This is my story.
(Before I begin, it takes a lot for me to get worked up. And the events that have transpired have gotten me more worked up than I've ever been in my life. At times, it could best be described as pure, unadulterated rage. And before you write in and tell me that I just have sour grapes. You're right!! I do! I'll be the first to admit that if I had sold a show I'd probably think the system was just fine and dandy. Well, that didn't happen. So yes, I'm bitter. Very bitter. Maybe you can blame it all on that. But then again, take a look at the network TV landscape. Check out the ratings. Check out the shows. It gets worse every year and nothing changes. So maybe, just maybe, I have a point. All right, here we go...)
I came into development season with a blind script deal with a big production company. It was for a one hour. And everyone wanted me to do a 1 hour drama that was also funny. Perfect. That's what I wanted to do too! And thus, the problems began.
During the spring, I came up a bunch of ideas that I thought had potential. As development season began, I shared these ideas with Team Handleman and the studio. They concluded that the ideas that sounded dramatic, didn't sound funny. And the ideas that sounded funny, would only work as half hours. This issue would come up over and over and over and over again.
The problem, as I see it, is that there aren't really any examples of 1 hour dramadies on the air at the moment (plus, "dramadey" is the lamest word ever). Castle is a little funny. There's a show coming out on Fox called Rake that might fall into this category. But other than that, it no longer exists. And it makes these people unable to comprehend what a 1 hour dramedy would even be. The days of Moonlighting and Ally McBeal are long gone.
But I think if I just would've pitched a procedural cop show, with a dicky "tells it like it is" lead, they would've loved it. "It's House but with a cop!", they would've said. That's what they wanted, but that's not what I wanted to do. I'd rather do more of a soap - as you know I hate procedurals. Something in the style of The OC or Rescue Me. But in this land of "Revenge" and "Betrayal" and "Scandal", that's difficult to sell. There has to be a mystery! But also funny? I don't know how that would work.
This is not even to mention the fact that some in the Handleman camp were pressing to just do a half hour instead. It was chaos.
Anyway, we went back and forth about various ideas. One of my ideas was about a modern day gold rush. Essentially, a Denis Leary in Rescue Me type guy discovers gold in his backyard in Detroit. More people find gold, the place gets invaded by gold seekers, and parts of Detroit turn into Beverly Hills.
But it's not funny! But I would write it funny! I don't understand!
Well, it's probably good that that didn't happen, since "Lucky 7", which has a somewhat similar premise, just came in at a .7. Yikes.
I went on a few general meetings. Talked with some executives. Lightly pitched a few of my ideas. Nothing seemed to go over that well. Oh, actually, one thing did. It was a half hour. About a coach.
This was an idea that nobody ever seemed all that excited about, until this executive did. My team scheduled a follow up meeting with him to talk more about it. But it was a little unclear whether this was to be a full pitch, or if we were supposed to talk about it and some other things.
I prepared a rough pitch just in case. As I drove to the meeting, my agent called me and I specifically asked if I was pitching. He said no. Then he offered up a completely different show idea that he wanted me to mention. Okay.
I get to the meeting, and the guy says, "all right, let's hear it". And I'm like, "hear what?". And he goes, "Well, why are you here? Just talk about whatever you're here to talk about". He didn't know either! Confused, I decide to just pitch the coach thing. But I had to do it a little informally because I hadn't memorized it or finalized it completey. But the premise was there, along with a bunch of characters, some story ideas, and a bunch of personal stories that I thought added a nice touch. He asked a bunch of questions. He said he would tell it to his bosses. I thought it went fine.
Later that day, my agents call me and begin with this question: "How do you think it went?" Uh oh.
Apparently, this dude fucking sold me out. Even claiming that he "was pitching more than I was". This is a 100% lie. And if I ever see him, there will be a confrontation, because I'm sorry, his version of events is just made up and makes me look like shit. I've gone on approximately a thousand meetings and I've never, ever had this happen before. Ever.
I wanted his phone number just so I could ask him - if he was pitching more than me, what specific ideas were his? Please tell me and my agents exactly what these great pitches were. Cause there weren't any! I had written out 7 pages of this fucking thing and I said it all and he said nothing! But he gets to suddenly take credit and make me look unprepared? As the black people say: aw, hell no.
Hold on. Need to calm the rage.
Okay. Adding to my anger was the fact that I was setup for failure and misled as to what the meeting was even about. I was screwed before I even walked in. What I think actually happened is that he got excited about the idea, had me come in and explain it, then pitched it to his bosses (who are big shots and hot right now), and they hated it. And since he had been the champion of it, he then had to turn it around on me and make me look like an idiot. I don't know, that's my best guess (again, it could easily be me. Totally my fault. But...I doubt it).
BUT, Team Handleman quickly found out that it just so happened that NBC was looking for a coach show!! And a certain hot shot director, who has a production company, also had a coach idea! Why don't I take my coach idea to the director, combine our ideas, and then boom: we premiere after an all new episode of Sean Saves the World!
Sounded like a plan.
So I go over my pitch again. Fix it up. Make it even prettier. This was my first official pitch of the season, so I was nervous. Barely got any sleep. Memorize the thing, know it backwards and forwards. Arrange to miss work, which I HATE to do. Get up early. Drive on multiple freeways. And as I'm literally 5 minutes away from their offices, I get a call from my agent.
AGENT: Hey Irwin, just wanted to let you know: NBC bought a show about a coach last night.
ME: Oh, really? Okay...
AGENT: So...don't pitch the show this morning.
AGENT: Don't pitch the show. It's dead.
ME: It's dead?! I worked a lot on it. What am I supposed to talk about then?
AGENT: I don't know. Other ideas, the kind of character you want to do...
ME: What the fuck are you talking about? Let's just cancel.
AGENT: No, it's gonna be fine.
ME: Fine!! Do you know how long it takes to prepare this shit? I'm 5 minutes away.
I don't think I've ever been more pissed off in my life. Seriously. After a few Floyd Money Mayweather left hooks to my steering wheel, and a proper cursing of God, I parked my car. And I went into the meeting...
Stay tuned for Part 2, where things get worse, and later, I explain the problem with the system, which involves a mysterious man named Aaron Kaplan...