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Friday, June 24, 2011

Know Your Audience. 2.

Harkening back to last time, when you are in a position of power over people who are trying to force spec scripts upon you, what factors are usually applied that determine whether or not you actually open the envelope containing said spec script, leaving you open to possible litigation and probable embarrassment if you are trapped into having to offer an opinion about what you have read?

In one instance early on in my career, when I was head writing on "The Odd Couple", when I was still somewhat of a softy, I insisted that
another letter be sent along absolving me from any charges of plagiarism.
I only made this insistence after outright pleading and begging over the phone by the prospective spec script submitter, before we had the screening process down to an exact science.
Many promises were made by the submitter.
About how this was easily the best spec script I was ever going to receive.
About how he knew "The Odd Couple" inside and out.
About how everyone he had shown the script to had told him that it was the best "Odd Couple script they had ever read.
This begs the question "How many "Odd Couple" scripts could everyone he had shown his script to have read?"
I was dubious at the prospect, but I had been systematically worn down.

So I received the letter of absolvement, and opened the envelope.
At least it was the right length, unlike the page-and-a-half full of "Howyoudo's" submitted by my relatives, which was never actually in an envelope to be returned unopened.
But that's the best that could be said about it.
In most respects, it was far worse than the page-and-a-half full of "Howyoudos".

The word most accurately describing it was "belabored"
It contained this massive, pointless scene about how Murray the Cop was eating a hamburger, and the thrust of the alleged comedy was how his breath was making Felix and Oscar nauseous because it smelled from onions.
Fifteen minutes of dialogue about onions and Felix and Oscar being nauseous about it.

It also had the added bonus of consistently having the word "onions", whether in dialogue, or description, spelled "Oinions".
And the payoff to the scene, which involved Murray having not the slightest clue why Felix and Oscar were acting less than positive towards him, was Felix saying to him "Murray, it's because you're eating OINIONS!"
(His caps, not mine)
We went into full "avoiding ever taking this spec script submitter's calls in the future" mode.
But some people are just too persevering.
These were the days before Caller I.D, and it was too easy for any caller to get through if he happened to pick the right time.
So I found myself confronted once again by this man, who tried to pin me down about the script.
At first, I told him there was nothing wrong with it.
I was met with "So when are you going to shoot it?"
I then had to inform him that we weren't going to shoot it.
I was then met with "I don't understand. Why wouldn't you shoot it? All my friends think it's great!"
I had to explain that all of his friends don't work on this show.
He pinned me down to the point that I had to break down and tell him that not only wasn't it going to be shot, but it was immediately going to be thrown into the trashcan.
It was easily the worst spec script we had ever read.
"What was wrong with it?" he inquired.
"What wasn't?. You gave more dialogue to Murray the Cop than to Oscar and Felix. You did a fifteen minute scene on making people nauseous, which would likely make the audience nauseous too. And you consistently misspelled "onions", turning it into "oinions".
He responded "Well that was just a typo."
I said "It's a typo if you do it once. After ten times, it's a lifestyle".

It soon became clear to him that we were not going to do his script.
I'm sure he had lovely things to say about me to his friends who adored the script.

To this day, in my house, and in my sister's house (My sister used to work for me at the time), the word "onions" doesn't exist.

It has been replaced, now and forever by "oinions".


My new book, "Mark Rothman's Essays", ones that were culled from the blog and are no longer there, along with a surprise bonus, is available for purchase.
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1 comment:

  1. While I loved the whole story, your payoff at the end was the best. Thanks for the laugh!



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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."