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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why I Am Not Babaloo Mandel. Part Two.

First, let me attempt to accentuate the positive where Lowell Ganz is concerned.
This is at least a modest attempt at fairness.
Then I will segue into the negative.
And I will most likely not mess with Mister In-Between.
Primarily because there is no such Mister in this instance.
Okay.
Lowell Ganz's good points:
He has a prodigious joke-writing talent.
He is perhaps the best oral-verbal writer who ever lived.
He talks in perfect writer's construction.
I give him practically full credit for our landing our job on "The Odd Couple"
Because our script was replete with his jokes.
And "The Odd Couple" was essentially a joke show.
I have always been more of a structurist and a storyteller.
And it was jokes that Jack Klugman and Tony Randall and Garry Marshall were looking for.
I seriously doubt that I could have written a successful "Odd Couple" script at the time.
My story underpinning was definitely on display in that script, but that went largely unnoticed.
Lowell was and is a virtual wellspring of ideas.
I was and am not.
I have always been handicapped with too much knowledge about ideas that had already been done.
A free-lance writer once came in to pitch an idea for an Odd Couple episode, and after about two minutes, I stopped him and said "They did this story on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
At which point, he sheepishly said "Yeah. I know. I wrote it."
My idea strength was to be able to get more out of a good idea execution-wise than anyone else, including Lowell.
I envied Lowell's joke-writing ability, but at the same time, was mildly contemptuous of the form.
I pride myself on almost never writing out-and-out jokes.
Because they make the characters sound like comedy writers.
This is fine for sketches that are two-dimensional, or "The Dick Van Dyke Show", or "Laughter On The 23rd Floor", or "My Favorite Year", where the characters actually WERE comedy writers.
I like shows that are reality based, and when comedy-writerish jokes are all over the place, coming out of the mouths of civilians, it removes a vital layer of reality.
This makes it very difficult for the audience to care about the characters.
The great contemporary sitcoms, "Seinfeld", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Two and a Half Men", "The Big Bang Theory", are virtually all joke-free.
With them, it's all attitude and character nuance.
And they are at least as funny as joke-oriented shows.
I write plays, and screenplays, and novels, and essays, which you know about, and they are all very funny, and they all steer away from the joke.
But I digress.
Two more good points about Lowell:

He and Mandel once wrote a great movie.
It was called "A League Of Their Own"

Lowell does the best Ralph Kramden I've ever seen.
Far better than Gleason did.
Because he removes the pain, and only retains the funny.

Okay. Now I will begin to touch on Lowell's negatives.
I'll begin way back when we were in college together.
In his interview on the EmmyTVLegends website, he makes his first Swan Dive off the High Board away from the truth, which may seem quite trivial, by describing how he wrote the Trophy Winning Sketch for a College competition, and I was an interested observer.
And how I approached him and said "I think money can be made from this kind of thing"
I believe he designed it to look like I was looking to find a way to exploit HIS talent.
As if I had never written a word of comedy before in my life.
Here is the actual timeline of events, easily confirmed by anyone who was around then to witness it:
At the Frat that he was involved in, Power House, in 1969, he wrote a sketch for the college competition.
I don't know if anyone else was involved.
I know I wasn't.
I was merely an interested observer.
I wasn't even a member of Power House.
It was pretty funny.
I thought I saw ways it could be funnier and better structured.
It had very bad songs. Nobody thought it could possibly win.
It didn't.
It came in fifth out of eight.
I thought it deserved to finish higher than that.
But it didn't.
After that, I was invited to join Power House.
Having acquired a minor reputation as a talented songwriter, I was recruited to write the songs for the 1970 sketch.
Which I did, singlehandedly. This soon evolved into Lowell and I, totally together, writing the sketch from word one.
And I directed it.
And that's when WE won the First Prize Trophy.
This begs the question "Why did he leave that entire part of the story out?"
I have a theory.
Even all these years later, even over something so seemingly unimportant, he was still wallowing in self-promotion.
What I also learned about him in those early days was that he was a very shrewd, spectacularly talented liar.
Thus, a natural politician.
At that time, he successfully pulled off one of the most humongous lies this side of Jon Lovitz's Tommy Flanaygan.
I can't go into the details of it, because there is someone who is still alive who would be severely hurt by the information contained in it.
But trust me. You could never fathom anyone getting away with, or even attempting such a lie.
And he did both.
To this day, I am not capable of lying convincingly about anything.
Or of being any kind of political.
But I knew one thing.
This was someone I wanted on my side.
I knew one other thing.
He was cunning, and if he ever turned on me, which I even then thought he was fully capable of, he could ruin me.
In the aftermath of our breakup, we thrashed it all out several times.
And I told him that I knew within the first week of our working on "The Odd Couple", where I was in a position to have to have his back, and did, and he was in a position to have my back, and didn't, that we were on the road to "Trouble In River City".
What I never told him was that I had this sneaking suspicion when we were still in college.
In the interview, that was the first of many far more significant Swan Dives.

We have miles to go before we sleep.

Until next time.

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My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays", and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at macchus999@aol.com.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

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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 macchus999@aol.com. 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."