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Get Me Rewrite!

A pitch meeting for Colorado sitcom ideas.

"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."

Scene Two

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!"

Scene Three

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!"

Officer: "Heh."

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."

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