By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"Colorado Studios announces the launch of the first sitcom to be produced in Colorado and is kicking off a search for the pilot script...Anyone, anywhere, is invited to submit a script...Any kind of sitcom will be considered -- there are no limits...There are no specified target audience demographics."
-- actual announcement from Colorado Studios received recently at the Westwordoffice.
Scene One A couple of shopworn Writers, not the "chained-to-the-desk" type, currently between stories.
Female Writer: "I don't see why we should have to make something up. Cinema verité, you know? Can't we just go out...into Denver...and write down something snappy?"
Male Writer: "I like C*O*P*S."
F.W.: "Right, but how about we use firemen instead? Firefighters...in big suspenders...who -- I know! Can dance! Dancing firemen!"
M.W.: "Or some kind of underappreciated, crusading government worker."
On the hunt for sitcom ideas, writers stand slack-jawed in front of Annex One, a Stalinesque government edifice that flanks Denver's City and County Building.
Interior, the Tax Assessor's Office. A Member of the Taxpaying Public is saying: "I live at BLEEP [address deleted]. According to you guys, it doesn't exist. But I assure you..."
Five minutes later. Writers have been granted an audience with the Chief Appraiser himself, one Ben White.
Ben (politely): "A sitcom? Uh, I don't know. A lot of times what goes on around here is negative. Conflict."
M.W.: "Which, as you know from watching TV, can be very funny."
Ben: "Not when you're in the middle of it." He reconsiders. "Necessarily. Well. There is this woman who wants a lower assessment because, she tells me, she had all these radio beams and alien visitations out at her house. Jamming her telephone wires, and that sort of thing."
F.W.: "You would think that would make her property pretty attractive to some people."
Ben (laughing politely): "Ha ha ha...Oh, and there's this other lady -- we've gotten to be good friends. She built a shed, and then her land was subdivided and the property line went right through the shed, so now she basically owns half a shed. She's usually furious. At one point, she wanted me to come get this other guy's stuff out of her shed, which is not traditionally what the chief appraiser does."
M.W.: "Who would you want to play you in a TV show called, say, The Taxman?"
Ben: "Aw, come on..."
F.W.: "No, really."
Ben: "Well, I like Bruce Willis. He's got a great presence and a terrific laugh."
F.W.: "And lately, he's buff."
Ben (brightening): "And I'm planning to be buff one of these days!"
Interior: A hallway near the assessor's office. Camera zooms in on sign reading: DENVER CITY SHERIFF'S DEPT. POLYGRAPHS. M.W. and F.W. exchange are-you-thinking-what-I'm-thinking glance.
Interior: A female polygraph officer stares evenly at writers. The black polygraph chair, with its large, imposing arms, is somehow reminiscent of "Old Sparky," Colorado's infamous electric chair.
F.W. (somewhat desperately): "How about a game show? Like, uh, we could call it Don't You Be Lyin' to Me!"
F.W. (pressing on): "But wouldn't you say you're better than most people at guessing who's lying and who's not?"
M.W.: "And wouldn't that make good TV?"
Officer: "I wouldn't wanna use the word 'guess.' It's more like instinct. And you know...a game show couldbe funny...There are deceptive mannerisms. Like when I'm really bugging a subject, he may start wiping at something, some imaginary lint. Women do a lot of blinking. Or they say no, no, while their head nods yes, yes. Both sexes might put their hand to their mouth when being untruthful..."
M.W.: "As if to keep the truth from flooding out?"
Officer: "Exactly. You know, I had a guy just recently in for a pre-employment screening. His record says he's been arrested for more than $15,000 worth of felony theft. I say, have you ever been arrested, had trouble with the law, et cetera, et cetera? He says no. I show him the record and say, how do you explain this? He says, oh, did that show up? I gotta tell ya, sometimes you feel like you should be wearing a little white collar and saying, 'Go, my child, and sin no more.'"
M.W.: "That'd be a good episode. Are you a good poker player?"
Officer: "I am an excellent poker player."
Brief montage during which Officer explains that she would want to play herself in the sitcom and actually has done quite a bit of acting and screenplay-writing. Makes a note to herself to call her agent about local commercial film work. Perhaps sensing that writers have little chance of winning the sitcom contest, she advises them to take a cue from Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and "those two Good Will Huntingkids" and try, if possible, to produce their own pilot, thus maintaining creative control.
Officer: "Let me know what happens with the game show. I'd be glad to review any neat ideas you have involving the criminal element."