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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Nobody Is Ever Safe.

It's been my experience when doing pilots for the networks that, no matter how powerful you may think you are, it turns out to be nothing when a network is nervous.
Nobody was as powerful as we were when we got our development deal right after "Laverne and Shirley" became a huge hit.
The head of programming for CBS invited us for lunch at the CBS private dining room, the food was great, and they essentially asked us who we wanted to star in our first pilot after we did "The Ted Knight Show".
We almost unhesitatingly responded "Rita Moreno" based on past experience.
And they said, practically in unison "We love her!"
I think we could have said "Doodles Weaver" and they'd have said "We love him!"
But we didn't test that theory.
Thus we put together a pilot for Rita Moreno, one that I'm very proud of.
We knew the limitations of our power.
It first reared its ugly head when we did a pilot with Ted Knight.
That was their idea, but we thought it was a good one.
And we ended up doing six episodes that ended up on their schedule in 1978.
During the first rehearsal for the network, we had an actor signed as a regular to play Ted's brother.
His name was Mickey Deems.
I had seen Mickey Deems many times, and always loved his work.
CBS gave us their approval, and I thought it was a no-brainer.
Whenever I've cast anyone, I've always thought it was a no-brainer.
I had never recast anyone because I felt that I'd made a mistake.
So, at the first public rehearsal, Mickey Deems essentially stepped on his dick.
I chalked it up to nerves, knowing how solid he was when the chips were down.
The network immediately wanted him replaced.
I considered this an affront, but I didn't think it was worth going to the mat for Mickey Deems.
So further auditions were held, and another actor, Normann Burton, was selected.
Everything he did was over the top, and I actively disliked his work.
CBS loved him.
Primarily because he wasn't Mickey Deems.
Both actors are dead now, so I don't have any qualms talking about them.
And nobody at CBS is still there, so I have no problem trashing them.

Then, we did the Rita Moreno pilot, and we needed to cast someone to play Rita's younger sister.
We decided to cast an actress who we had used on "Busting Loose" in a small part and she really scored.
Again, a no-brainer.
At the first public rehearsal, she less than pleased CBS.
They wanted us to cut her part down.
Hell, at least they didn't make us fire her.
And we were about eight minutes too long.
Much of the eight minutes came out of her part, which she did fine.
But there was an insurrection among much of the supporting cast.
They thought that this was something we wanted to do.
And we were met with scowls and scorn for the rest of the week.
They had no comprehension of how little power we actually had.
Rita, a major veteran of pilots, had no problem with what we had to do.
She was and is a total pro.
Not many credits since for the actress in question.
It's a shame.
She deserved better.
And she probably still blames me.

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".
They are all compilations of blog entries that have been removed from the blog.
So this is the only way you can find them.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download it.
They can be downloaded on IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not e-books.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is that you can't sign one.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.



  1. Deems just died last year. I got a lot of good quotes from him for one of my sitcom books. He was very helpful and
    sharp as a tack - remembered many details. However, nobody remembers more details about everything, (besides
    you of course) than Marvin Kaplan.

  2. After reading this, I went to my DVD wall and had a mini-Mickey Deems festival.

    Not much, really - Deems had a small featured part in "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (he played one-seventh of the title role).
    That, and a short-lived syndicated series he did in the early '60s - "Mack And Myer For Hire".
    Mickey Deems was Mack, and Joey Faye was Myer.
    The series was a bunch of slapstick skits, about ten minutes long each; stations could use them as a 15-minute show (with commercials), or two in a half-hour, or as a substitute for a cartoon in a kid show, or when a late movie didn't fill up the hour, etc.
    The credits read "Comedy Supervised By Mickey Deems", which I guess means he wrote and staged the skits.
    The show was shot in New York, on the lowest budget imaginable. The supporting casts were few in number: I recognized Danny Dayton, Sid Raymond, and Hank Garrett, but several others are driving me nuts.
    There were supposedly over 100 episodes of "Mack And Myer", but apparently only the six on the DVD survive (available from Alpha Video, a small company which specializes in finding stuff like this; there might be more forthcoming).

    From my bookshelf, I note that Mickey Deems was a major contributor to "King Of The Half-Hour", a very good biography of Nat Hiken, published in 2001. But I guess you already knew that ...

  3. I remember and loved "Mack and Myer For Hire". It aired quite often in N.Y. in the sixties.
    I always enjoyed it.

  4. The name Normann Burton was unfamiliar to me, so I looked him up. I think I've seen him before, but not in comedies.

    A look at his credits on IMDB did not seem to turn up much in the way of comedies, either.

    And he doesn't exactly look like a comedy actor.

    So aside from the affront to you (and Mickey Deems), no wonder you weren't happy with the choice. (Unless I looked up the wrong Normann Burton.)

  5. Normann Burton's best-remembered role was probably as the first guy to get burned to death in "The Towering Inferno".
    Insert your own punch line here.

    One of the episodes on the "Mack And Myer" DVD was their ten-minute version of "Cyrano deBergerac".
    Did they do this a lot?

  6. Actually, it was originally a tossup between Mickey Deems and Max Showalter (a,k,a. Casey Adams). After Mickey crapped out, I don't think CBS trusted my casting instincts
    So they didn't even want to hear about Max again.

  7. Deems also co-starred in an NBC sitcom from the late 70s (with David Huddleston) called HIZZONER. Lasted 5 episodes.

    1. When "Hizzoner" was launched, David Huddleston gave an interview in which he said he'd used Chicago's late mayor, Richard J. Daley, as one of his models for his character.
      When my father heard this, he noted to the family that Mickey Deems bore a considerable facial resemblance to Daley's immediate successor, Michael Bilandic.
      Probably just coincidence ...
      ... or maybe, to use Mickey Deems's running catch phrase from the show, "Human error, your Honor! Human error ..."

  8. There is a chance you are qualified to get a free Apple iPhone 7.



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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."