Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Final thoughts on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW

Here’s the second part of my conversation with Bill Persky about my spec DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.   Yesterday was the first.  Tomorrow I jump onto other things.

First: some of my observations. Whenever I write a TV script I always visualize the final product on the air. I don’t pictures the actors on the stage with cameras and crew hovering. Imagining the final product helps me think of the characters, not the actors who play them. Doing the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW I realized this was the first time I had ever pictured a script in black-and-white.

I also felt that the tone was very different if I was writing a scene in the Petries’ house vs. the office. At home all of the humor is character-based. The laughs come from attitudes and behavior. At the office, however, because of Buddy and Sally and the nature of what everyone’s job is, there are lots of jokes.

So later in my script, when I had Buddy and Sally in the house, it was like a hybrid.

When Bill Persky said I captured the style and rhythm of the show, that’s what he meant. Especially at the house where writers couldn’t just rely on “jokes” to get their laughs. A home scene can be extremely funny but it requires constructing a situation conducive to comedy. For me, I was careful to make sure everyone had an attitude and a point-of-view. Otherwise, it’s just talking heads firing off one-liners. At the office however, Buddy could take shots at Mel, Sally could rattle off self-deprecating quips, and everyone could chime in with jokes and schtick as if they were pitching for the Alan Brady Show.

Finally, I asked Bill, “If this were just a spec you read on a pile of specs, what would your reaction be?” He said he would call me in, they would either send me out with a revised version of my story, or they would give me another story. So either way I would get an assignment. Now, for me that’s like winning the Triple Crown, an Oscar, and the Espy Courage Award. The number one goal for any spec script is to get you work.  Too bad my timing was off by only 50 years.

Bill said that he and his partner, Sam Denoff broke in the same way. They wrote a spec DVD Show. Carl did not like the story but did like their writing. He invited them to come in with ideas. One they pitched was based on a real life experience that happened to Bill. When his child was born there was a mix up at the hospital over flowers. That led to the THAT’S MY BOY?? episode – a genuine classic. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but the payoff produced the longest laugh ever. And that was their FIRST episode. Yikes. You can see it here if you haven't already.

Bill talked again about how my script reminded him of how innocent the times were back then. We all know about Rob & Laura sleeping in separate beds (even as a clueless callow lad I knew that was wrong on every possible level). But the whole spirit of the show was of a different era. And yet, it’s a real testament to how universal and relatable the themes were and how exceptional the writing and acting was that the show still resonates a half century later. Even in black and white (which is Millennial-repellent).

We speculated on how they’d do the show today. I said first of all there would be no Buddy Sorrell. Former Borscht Belt comics no longer exist – except for maybe Billy Crystal. Bill thought today they would have to go diversity for Buddy. I said Sally would become “Amy Schumer.” She wouldn’t be talking about all the losers she dated; she’d be talking about all the losers she slept with. Mel would be openly gay. And there are no primetime variety shows – Alan Brady might be a late night talk show host. Laura would be a working mom. And the Army flashbacks would be in Afghanistan.

For me this experiment has been a huge success. I always wanted to write a DICK VAN DYKE SHOW episode, and talking to Bill Persky, batting around ideas – for a few precious moments it was like I was in an actual DVD Show story conference. So how cool was that?  And my fingers are crossed that Carl Reiner will weigh in at some point and it’ll get even better. I hope it was fun for you guys too (and God forbid educational). My sincere thanks to Bill Persky for his time and wisdom. And to everyone associated with THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. You provided a lifelong inspiration, a career path, and more laughs and exploding hormones than an impressionable wise-ass teenager should be allowed to have. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bill Persky's notes on my DICK VAN DYKE SHOW script

I am truly honored that Bill Persky (far left) agreed to read and comment on my spec DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. Along with his partner, Sam Denoff, Bill wrote many of the classic episodes of the series including COAST TO COAST BIG MOUTH and THAT’S MY BOY?? and he rose to the position of showrunner later in the series’ run. (In case you’re coming late to the party, I wrote a spec DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, which I posted in four parts last week. Check it out.)

Quick aside: When I starting out, writing spec scripts, there was a book on writing sitcoms. In it was printed the entire script of COAST TO COAST BIG MOUTH (in proper format even). I was in awe. That script was my gold standard. I’m still trying to live up to it. So for one of its writers to respond to my script – you can understand what a thrill it is for me.

I’m still waiting for Carl Reiner’s reaction. When I receive it I will share it with you immediately, even it means delaying a post where I again plug one of my damn books.

Okay, so first off Bill sent me this email:

Reading the script was like a time machine transporting me back to the 60's; Obviously you capture the rhythm, style and sound of the show and characters, and the jokes were great and in character- you really had Alan cold. As to the story, we probably would have handled it differently. I'd be happy, with or without Carl to have a conversation about it, Another thing that I have thought about, and is clear in what you did, is how innocent we were, and how narrow the boundaries we functioned in- even though we were tough on some issues. I don't know that you could do the Van Dyke Show today without the episode of Rob getting caught watching porn in the office. Just let me know what you would like to do, and I'll be happy to do it. Bill

Is he a mensch or what? I then arranged for a phone conversation, which lasted probably a half an hour.

He seemingly wasn’t bothered by the prostate or stripper reference. But here’s the deal with that and it’s why I keep saying “think of the big picture” – if I had turned that script in and was getting second draft notes, Bill or Sam or Carl might’ve said, “not sure we could get away with prostate,” I’d say, “no problem I’ll do something else,” and we’d move on to the next note.  Done. These are not big deals.  My spec would not have been tossed into the reject file because the prostate reference was too jarring.

When I turn in a first draft I EXPECT there will be lines, or jokes, or moments that the powers-that-be will request be changed. But I’ve found that when you’re always second guessing yourself, wondering what will please the showrunner instead of writing what you think is good, you’re going to turn in a tepid draft.

I also should mention I’m much more receptive to doing the notes given by the showrunner because it’s his show. He knows it better than anybody. If he thinks a character wouldn’t say a particular line there’s no debate. He’s right.

Very semi-briefly: This was my thought process on how I broke the story. I thought it would be fun to have Alan Brady be an unwanted houseguest. Selfishly speaking, I wanted to write that character. I think my all-time favorite scene in THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW was the Alan-Laura scene in COAST TO COAST BIG MOUTH. (If you haven’t seen that episode you really need to.  It's on YouTube.  Go and come back.)

I created the car accident to establish Millie as a blabbermouth so she would ultimately pose a threat.

I needed a reason for Alan to hide out at Rob’s house. I wanted it to be scandalous but 1960s appropriate. And I wanted it to be a funny situation. So I thought of him being caught with strippers. Still, it needed a comic spin so that’s when I came up with the funeral angle.

Once Alan got to the house I wanted to introduce a flip. The audience would be expecting the obvious – he’s pushy, overbearing, obnoxious.  I wanted to do something unexpected and yet plausible. That’s why I structured it that he cooks them dinner, is nice to Ritchie, will sleep on the couch. The twist is Laura sees he left the kitchen a mess and is not a good houseguest at all.

And what seemed like a nice gesture to Ritchie is actually corrupting him and by sleeping in the middle of the house Alan's snoring is keeping everyone awake. I also had Rob explain that Alan must be in real pain having to keep up this facade. So Alan’s niceness is not out of character, it’s a conscious choice.

To make matters worse, Buddy and Sally were summoned the next day. More upheaval and another chance to write Buddy and Sally.

I was building to Laura having to make a tough decision – sacrifice her reputation or throw Alan under the bus? The new car was to help make her feel more guilty.  Always make it harder.  I personally love constructing stories where characters have to make tough choices.  They're relatable predicaments (which is why a DICK VAN DYKE SHOW episode still connects with viewers decade after decade) and their decisions really help define who they are.

It also tied into the other storyline because Alan knew their car was heavily damaged in the accident. Back in those days it was almost customary for the star to give people cars as a way of thanks. Desi Arnaz used to do that all the time. Producer Danny Arnold would give a writer a car if he had to write a script quickly and didn’t sleep for two days. So Alan Brady giving Laura a car seemed justified to me.

I wanted Alan to have to make a big decision too. Let Laura take the fall or fess up? That's why I had Rob lay out the consequences of Millie thinking their marriage was in trouble.

Would Alan step up and let Laura off the hook? He let her off the hook in COAST TO COAST BIG MOUTH. Judgment call – I thought he would.

Okay, so that was my game plan.  Now let's see how much better it can be. 

As Bill said in his email, he had problems with the story. He felt the car accident didn’t really pay off. I used it as a device, but he felt I could have done more. I can't argue with that.  In fact, he thought it could be expanded into a whole episode.

He said, what if Laura was driving somewhere and Millie was following her? Then the two of them get into an accident and the issue becomes which of them is at fault? Put Rob in the middle. The show becomes about two best friends who have a falling out. Could Ritchie still play with their son?  It's simple but universal.   Who hasn't had a falling out with a close friend?  And again, the star of the show is in the middle of it.  Much better than what I had.

Another option is to keep the accident as part of the Alan Brady story but let Alan get involved. Let him have some take on the accident and argument.

Bill said they probably would have let me say that Alan was having an affair. That’s the advantage of working out the story with the writers. As a freelancer I would not have known that. But then again, unless they’ve established that already as part of his character, they would not expect me to know that.  Oh, he thought the funeral/stripper angle was funny.

Bill felt I didn’t need the scene in the writers room. Alan could have just barged in on Rob & Laura and announced he was staying for a few days. This would have amped up both Rob & Laura’s reaction and given Rob less time to prepare. It would have been a more fun surprise for the audience too. He’s totally right. If I went in that direction, however, I would like to find an alternative scene in the office. Those office scenes are always fun.

I mentioned to Bill that the character I had the toughest time writing was Rob. Did he and the writers feel that way too? He said, no, not at all. And if I had trouble it’s because I didn’t give him enough to do. Providing him that little physical (choking) routine wasn’t enough. Putting him in the middle of an argument between Laura and Millie would be better. Or, in the Alan story, let Rob be the one to do all the dishes and try to clean up Alan’s mess. As he was saying all this I thought to myself, “Jesus, of course that’s better. Why didn’t I think of that?”

You're never too old to learn.  

MORE TOMORROW including his final thoughts on my script and the age of innocence that this series was produced in.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Network" notes on my DICK VAN DYKE SHOW script

I may get some angry comments but so be it.  I list these not to embarrass anybody but to illustrate what it’s like to get network and studio notes. I do appreciate all of your comments, I really do. And these serve to give you some idea of what TV writers face. On the surface it may seem absurd, but trust me these are exactly the kind of notes writers receive. That’s why I’m doing this. These notes are a perfect example of what we must address on a routine basis.

Some background to put these notes in perspective: We spend hours, maybe even weeks, working on the story. Is it interesting enough? Are the stakes high enough? Where is the fun? What are the emotional beats? Are the emotional beats earned? How can we tell the story in a fresh new way? Can we put in some unexpected twists so it’s not predictable? How do we get out the necessary exposition in a way that’s not dry and boring? How do we service all of the characters? How do we do this while still staying within budget… and time? Every beat is discussed, every motivation.

A draft is written. Then is carefully scrutinized. Can this line be funnier? Does this scene feel too long? Is there a nice flow? Does each actor have enough good things to do in the scene? Are the jokes spread around equally, or is one character primarily asking questions or laying out exposition? Are the payoffs big enough? Is the story easy to track? Is there still a better way of telling this story? Will the actors be happy? Is there any repetition? Is the act break strong enough? Is there enough physical comedy and movement or do we just have talking heads?  Is it too predictable or cliched? 

And after all of that discussion and polishing when we feel we’ve produced a well-crafted script that satisfies all of those conditions, we send it to the stage… and network… and studio.

And these are the notes we get:

It all rings true - except in the early 60s, I think Ritchie would have said "Hi" instead of "Hey"

Does anybody actually say "brunt" in everyday conversation? To me, it's one of those words that people occasionally write, but sound awkward when spoken informally.

People did not say "My God" in 1965 sitcoms.

Most of America is probably unfamiliar with haggis.

Pretty sure that kaddish would not have been mentioned back then, either.

I also query the insurance rates comments: my recollection is that they didn't go up as promptly or as much back then.

I don't get the line when Alan says to Mel :I don't like it when you speak normally. That doesn’t have the right ring to it.

I never remember Buddy getting off less then a fast 2 or 3 shots at Mel as soon as he appeared. A single shot seems lame for him

"Breaking out of Alcatraz" though time-wise right, is also too detailed a reference.

I think "Canada", rather than Poland seems more from Laura's world.

Do you think they would have used the term exotic dancers instead of strippers?

About the bagel thing, if this is going by 1965 lifestyles, would "plain Bagel" be a term that would be used and did the "goyim" even know about bagels?

The part with Alan making dinner rings untrue.

Wouldn't a motel room be cheaper than a car?

How do you buy a car and have it delivered early in the morning, before you make your bed/couch?

Wouldn't the racket of destroying a kitchen to make french toast wake her up earlier?

Alan Brady never once wrote with the gang.

I think Alan's joke at the end is anachronistic.

One clunky sentence I would change: "She's going to ask for all the things you borrowed back." Would change it to: "She's going to ask you to give back all the things you borrowed."

And my favorite, where they’re actually rewriting jokes:

The dollars left over from the funeral, while a great joke, still seems post-60s. Maybe "I got a bunch of singles from the funeral. I sold autographs during the eulogy." Or "I didn't tip the pallbearers this time." Or "They passed the plate for his favorite charity and I took change."

Now put yourself in the writer's place.  Makes you want to order a big drink or write plays, doesn't it?

Tomorrow: Bill Persky. You’ll see the difference.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

THE SITCOM ROOM is back!

 Finally!

For the first time in 2 years, I’m strongly considering holding another Sitcom Room. That’s where I lock 20 brave souls into “writers’ rooms” for an entire weekend so they can experience for themselves what it’s really like to write for a TV sitcom.   This is not two days of lectures.  It's hands-on experience.  And you get to see professional actors perform your work. 

I haven’t quite finalized the dates, but most likely it will be in October. It definitely will be in Los Angeles, as always.

If you want me to notify you when I’ve nailed down the dates and the venue (a hotel near LAX), make sure you’re on my Alert List.

If anyone hates me, I'll be at Jiffy Lube

I was walking through a mall recently and there was a radio station doing a remote. The disc jockey was in the corner of this store, sitting in front of a microphone, the station’s call letters on a big sign above his head. All of the music, commercials, everything else was back at the station. So it was just this poor schmoe, pleading for listeners to stop on by. Of course, that’s when he was on the air. Most of the time he was not. A song or spot or promo was playing so it was just a poor schmoe sitting alone under a sign. It’s like when you give your kid a “time out”. A few shoppers crossed back and forth but no one paid attention. I passed by and a arctic breeze went right up my sphincter.

In an ideal world remotes would lure more people into the store (for which the station receives a healthy fee up front). It’s kinda like when Jiffy Lube has a grand opening and schedules Greasy the Clown to make a guest appearance so bring all the kids.

Also, the broadcast is supposed to sound more fun to the listeners because it’s unpredictable, the D.J. can interview folks who are there, it’s a big party.

Yeah. Right.

Most of the time no one shows up and the ones who do don’t give a shit. The disc-jockey (thinking it’s a rare chance to be a big celebrity) is pretty much reduced to that crazy guy with a pinwheel hat who talks to himself on the subway.

I’ve gotten roped into a number of these remotes during my checkered radio career. Frequently (i.e. 90% of the time) the equipment doesn’t work, it sounds awful, there’s loud feedback, headphones that don’t work, I never know when my mic is actually on so over songs you hear me saying, “Hello? Is this crap working?” “When I get back to the station I’m going to kill Lenny for setting this damn thing up.” Weather is occasionally an issue. I’ve done outdoor remotes in the rain (“If you’re coming folks would one of you please bring an umbrella?”), the heat, and mostly the wind. All of my commercial copy gets blown onto a freeway.

Usually I’ll have prizes to give away. But they’re always weenie, and I sound so pathetic begging people to drive twenty miles to get free station bumper stickers and kitchen magnets.

The few stragglers that do stop by usually say, “Who are you again?” or tell me how much they hate me or my station. And then they still ask for one of the prizes. “You want this fucking kitchen magnet? Bend over. How about a station ballpoint pen? Let me give you one of those, too.”

I’ve done them in hardware stores, tuxedo rental shops, record stores, a Denny’s, and an exclusive country club. That was fun, telling the thirty-five people in Los Angeles who were even eligible to come on by.

One time when the Dodgers were on XTRA 1150 I co-hosted a pre-game show from a tire store in Torrance. But since it was a day game from the east and we were on west coast time, the show started at 8:00. The store wasn’t even open until 10:00. We sat there alone in the parking lot.

And later that same year we did our broadcast from a car dealership in Anaheim, again set up in the parking lot. The dealer also happened to have his gardener there that day. All the listeners heard for a half an hour was a deafeningly loud leaf blower.

On the other hand -- at least they're LIVE.

They're local. They're unpredictable. All the things that radio used to be before networks, syndicated shows, voice tracking, satellites, simulcasting, and automation took over. Give me a leaf blower over Sean Hannity any day... although that has nothing to do with my views on remotes.

This is a re-post from four years ago. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Questions

Hope you enjoyed my DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. Discussion will continue on Monday. But nothing pre-empts Friday Questions (unless I decide something does). Here are today’s.

Klee gets us started.

Do you know if they ever used Nicholas Colasanto's TV directorial expertise in Cheers? I recently watched a Logan's Run episode directed by him.

No. Nick primarily directed one hour dramas. His directing resume is impressive and extensive. BONANZA, HAWAII FIVE-O (the good version), IRONSIDE, COLUMBO, and even THE MISADVENTURES OF SHERIFF LOBO.

I’m sure he also felt he was in good hands with Jimmy Burrows directing all of the CHEERS episodes.

From Tim:

I live in New Jersey and I go to a Video Production School in Maine. My ultimate goal is to write comedy. Does it make more sense to find a crew job on the East Coast while I continue to work on my writing and submit spec scripts?

Absolutely. Take a crew job (or any job) and write at night. The beauty of writing is that all it requires is your time. It’s not like directing where you have to shell out a lot of money to mount a production to direct, or acting where you either have to be hired to practice your craft or attend that classes that cost you money.

J. D. Salinger was one of the soldiers who stormed the beach on D-Day. In his backpack was a few chapters of the book he was writing in his spare time – CATCHER IN THE RYE. A crew job has got to be better that than gig.

Richard is next.

Hey Ken, I loved your book on growing up in the 60s. I found it very relatable even though I grew up in the 80s and 90s.

Would you ever do one on your experiences in the 70s? You've shared a ton of great stories from being in radio and I'm sure you have a ton more.

Maybe at some point. Perhaps if more people bought the ‘60s book I’d be more motivated to write the sequel. Hint hint. You can find it here.

Steve Mc wonders:

When writing a pilot, which has many regular characters (whether a 1 hr drama like Mad Men or a sitcom like The Office), do you submit a separate sheet introducing each character? If so, how much do you write about each?

Do you mean, do we submit them to the network during a pitch? No. We may write a separate profile page on each character for our own use as a way of better defining the character (and it’s a practice I highly recommend), but we don’t submit that… for several reasons.

It’s way more info than the network needs, wants, or can digest. They have sixty pilot projects they’re juggling with.  (Each one has a character named Sam -- half are men and half are women.)  They want a quick concise definition of the characters, period. The other thing is that if a network does read an entire page they will invariably have notes. “Did she have to attend Stanford?” “Could one of the parents not be Jewish?” etc.

When writing the actual pilot, a lot of writers like to add an introductory page listing all the characters and a brief description of each. We don’t do that. We’ll quickly define each character as he’s introduced in the script. We feel it’s annoying for the reader to have to keep flipping back to the intro page every time someone new is introduced.

For us it’s all about helping the reader visualize and quickly grasp who the character is. We often give prototypes even though we know we’ll never get them. We’ll say “For Sam picture: George Clooney” “For Sam picture: Emma Watson.”

And finally, from Michael:

When actors on hit shows renegotiate their contracts, is it common for them to request some say in their character's story lines? I'm wondering if this could explain how on BIG BANG THEORY, Penny went from unsuccessful actress/incompetent waitress to successful pharmaceutical sales rep practically overnight.

Actors ask for all kinds of things, from creative say to trailers with windows. Whether it’s in their contract or not, actors want a say in where their character is going. Trust me, you do not want to send a character down a path the actor hates. That actor will make your life miserable. Personally, I don’t believe in forcing actors to do things they’re not comfortable with. There may be long discussions where I try to convince an actor to do something, and sometimes they'll come around. But if they vehemently oppose doing something I’m not going to make them regardless of whether I can contractually.

What’s your Friday Question?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW -- Part 4

Here's the last part of the spec script I recently wrote for THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.  On Monday I'll post the reaction from the real DICK VAN DYKE SHOW writers.  The first three parts appear earlier in the week.  An explanation of all of this can be found in last Sunday's post. 

EVERYONE BUT LAURA ENTERS THE KITCHEN JUST AS THE DOORBELL
RINGS. SHE TAKES A DEEP BREATH TO COMPOSE HERSELF THEN
ANSWERS THE DOOR.

MILLIE
Laura, is that a new car? That’s a
new car.

LAURA
(JUST LOUD ENOUGH TO BE HEARD IN THE
KITCHEN) So that’s why you’re here.
Because you saw the new car. Yes.

MILLIE
Wow. With a big bow and everything.
Rob got that for you, right? I can’t
imagine an insurance company gift
wrapping a claim they have to pay off.
Unless they’re going to drop you and
this is how they let you down easy.
That’s pretty low, even for them.

LAURA
No, Millie. It is from Rob.

MILLIE
Why? It’s not your birthday. It’s
not your anniversary. (DAWNING) Oooh,
you two had a fight.

LAURA
What? No. We did not have a fight.

MILLIE
It must’ve been a doozy.

LAURA
Millie, we’re fine.

MILLIE
He slept on the couch even. What more
proof do you need besides a broken
lamp? Frankly I’m not surprised.
Well, I am but I’m not. It’s always
the ones with nice teeth. Ever notice
that?

LAURA
He did nothing!

MILLIE
They smile and seem so normal. I
blame their mothers. Just had to get
their kids braces.

RESET TO:

INT. KITCHEN -CONTINUOUS

EVERYONE LISTENING AT THE DOOR, TALKING IN HUSHED TONES.

ROB
Great. Now the whole neighborhood is
going to think we’re getting divorced.
No, by the time it gets around I will
have an addiction to pain killers,
gambling problem, was caught fooling
around with the checkout girl, and the
accident was because I was in a highspeed
chase with the police.

SALLY
No one is going to believe that.

BUDDY
Sure they will. You’ve seen his teeth.

RESET TO:

INT LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

AS BEFORE.

MILLIE
Was it because he still blamed you for
the accident? Then he said things he
shouldn’t but only did because of the
pain pills? Laura, be honest, is he
addicted to those things?

LAURA
No! My God. Millie, what have those
soap operas done to you?

MILLIE
I only watch five. (THEN) But Laura,
seriously, if it’s not that then what
is it?

LAURA
(ON THE SPOT) What is it? (STALLING)
Why did Rob buy me a new car?

MILLIE
And sleep on the couch?

LAURA IS REALLY ON THE SPOT.

LAURA
Well... Millie... it’s because... the
truth is... yes, we had a fight.

MILLIE
I knew it! Over what?

LAURA
Oh, Millie...

MILLIE
Come on. I’m here for you. What was
the fight about?

LAURA
Uh...(BEAT) Cuba.

ALAN ENTERS FROM THE KITCHEN. THE OTHERS FOLLOW SHORTLY
BEHIND.

ALAN
There was no fight. I slept on the
couch. And I bought Laura that car.

MILLIE
Alan Brady?! Ohmygod! Alan Brady!

ALAN
It’s that look of surprise and horror
when people see me that pushes me ever
onward when things get tough.

MILLIE
Everyone is looking for you. It’s
even on the news. At first when I saw
you on TV I thought, “Uh oh, he died.”

ALAN
No, happily it’s just a major scandal.

ROB
Which is why you’re not going to say
anything, right Millie?

MILLIE
Huh? Oh no. Of course not.

SALLY
And while you’re not saying anything
about that, don’t tell any men that I
was voted the sexiest woman in the
writers’ union.

MILLIE
(SKEPTICAL) Really?

BUDDY
Hey, I’ve been to the meetings. She
was also voted the most handsome man.

SALLY
I’d be offended if he wasn’t right.

LAURA
Millie, this time you have to keep the
secret. Because if you don’t I swear
I’m going to... (BEAT) Rob, what am I
going to do?

ROB
Uh... she’s going to ask for all the
things you borrowed back.

MILLIE
(HORRIFIED) I’m not a murderer. (THEN)
Okay. I promise. Solemn vow. I
won’t tell a single soul that I saw
Alan Brady in your house. (PRACTICALLY
IN TEARS) Ooooh, this is going to be
so hard.

LAURA
(A WARNING) So help me, I’m taking the
Osterizer.

MILLIE
(A BROKEN WOMAN) Okay. Okay.

MILLIE EXITS.

ROB
All right, Alan, you have about a half
hour head start.

ALAN
Yeah, I figured.

LAURA
Thank you so much. But why did you do
that?

ALAN
Sooner or later I have to face this.
Why should I bring you two down with
me? (THEN) Cuba?

LAURA
That is so sweet. Thank you again.

ALAN
I just hope she also mentions that I
bought you a car. Let me get
something out of this damn deal.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. LIVING ROOM - THAT NIGHT

ROB AND LAURA ON THE COUCH WATCHING TV. FROM THE SET WE
HEAR:

ALAN (O.S.)
Again, I apologize to my fans. I was
merely respecting my dear friend’s
final wishes. Oh, and the family
requests that in lieu of flowers
please send all donations to the
“Society for the Elevation of Pole
Dancing” just off Times Square. Thank
you.

ROB TURNS OFF THE TV.

LAURA
Well, I thought he handled that well.

ROB
I don’t think he’ll be guesting on
Captain Kangaroo anytime soon but yes.

RITCHIE ENTERS.

RITCHIE
Hey Daddy, what time did the man go to
the dentist?

ROB
Gee, I don’t know, Ritch.

RITCHIE
Tooth-hurty.

ROB
Good one.

RITCHIE
That’ll be a dollar.

LAURA
Richie, that’s not why you tell jokes.

ROB
Mommy’s right. You don’t tell them to
make money. You tell them to make
people laugh; to make them happy.

RITCHIE
Not worth it.

RITCHIE EXITS INTO HIS ROOM.

ROB
God, I hate to lie to my son.

LAURA
What do you mean?

ROB
I didn’t go into comedy to make people
happy. I’m glad I do but that wasn’t
the point.

LAURA
Then what was the point?

ROB
To impress girls.

LAURA
Rob, that’s terrible.

ROB
But it’s true. When we first met,
remember I told you that story about
chasing the raccoon under our house?
You wound up going out for a soda with
me.

LAURA
That story wasn’t funny. I felt sorry
for you.

ROB
Wait a minute. So you only went out
with me the first time out of pity?

LAURA
Well... yes.

ROB
See? It worked!

ON LAURA’S REACTION, WE:

FADE OUT.

THE END

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW -- Part 3

Carl Reiner coined the expression "Hey Mae!" for act breaks.  A husband is in the living room watching and the act break is so exciting he yells out, "Hey, Mae, you gotta get in here and see this!"  Hopefully my spec DICK VAN DYKE SHOW act break was a "Hey, Mae."  Or at least a "Mae, if you got nothing better to do, come check this out."   Act two begins today.   Act one began on Monday.

FADE IN:

INT. BEDROOM - LATER THAT NIGHT

ROB IS IN BED, FLAT ON HIS BACK, STARING UP AT THE CEILING.
O.S. WE HEAR ALAN SNORING. LOUDLY. LAURA ENTERS IN A
BATHROBE.

LAURA
You’re not sleeping?

ROB
No one in New Rochelle is sleeping.
No one in New Mexico is sleeping.

LAURA
I just spent two hours cleaning the
kitchen. He said he’s going to make
French Toast in the morning. (IMAGINE
THE HORROR) French toast, Rob!

ROB
Well, he is a great cook. (OFF HER
LOOK) Right. We need to kill him.

RITCHIE ENTERS.

RITCHIE
I can’t sleep.

ROB
I’m sorry, honey. Mr. Brady is a
little loud.

RITCHIE
We’re playing tetherball in the
morning. I have to be sharp.

LAURA
Well, just try to ignore him. You
know a good way to get back to sleep?
Close your eyes and begin counting
sheep.

RITCHIE
I hate sheep.

ROB
Well, pick something you like.

RITCHIE
Money. I can count all the money Mr.
Brady gave me.

RITCHIE EXITS.

LAURA
Great. On top of everything else,
he’s corrupting our son.

ROB
Honey, I agree this is a bad
situation. But what can we do? He’s
my boss. I can’t throw out my boss.

LAURA
You don’t have to.

ROB
What do you mean? Uh oh. I don’t
like that look.

LAURA
Millie.

ROB
What? (REALIZING) Oh no.

LAURA
Millie stops by and two seconds later
the news is up on Telstar.

ROB
That would be wrong.

LAURA
French. Toast.

ROB
But he’s really trying, honey. He’s
going out of his way, he’s being
gracious, accommodating. You can’t
believe the pain he must be going
through to keep up that facade. When I
was choking earlier -- and he
expressed concern -- I almost felt
sorry for the man.

LAURA
Well, we have to do something. He’s
going to drown out the Civil Defense
siren.

ROB
It’s one night... that’s almost over.
Let it be. You’ll sleep better.

LAURA
(RE SNORING) How?

ROB
Good point. Let’s just close our eyes
and... I don’t know, count Ritchie’s
money.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. BEDROOM - NEXT MORNING

MUTED COMMOTION IN THE LIVING ROOM WAKES UP LAURA. ROB IS
NOT THERE. SHE CHECKS THE CLOCK. 8:00. STILL A LITTLE GROGGY,
SHE GETS UP, DONS HER BATHROBE AND ENTERS:

RESET TO:

INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

LAURA ENTERS TO FIND ALAN RECREATING ROB’S CHOKING FIT. ROB
IS THERE ALONG WITH BUDDY AND SALLY. LAURA IS NOT THRILLED.
NOTE: THERE IS STILL A PILLOW AND BEDDING ON THE COUCH.

SALLY
That was very funny, Alan.

ALAN
When Rob was choking for real it was
hysterical. Let’s put it in the show.

SALLY
Great. Real chicken bone or stunt
double?

BUDDY
(NOTICING LAURA) Hey, it’s Laura the
white nose reindeer.

SALLY
(SWATTING HIM) Not nice.

BUDDY
I was joking. (TO LAURA) Sorry about
your face.

LAURA PRESSES ON, TRYING VERY HARD TO BE PLEASANT.

LAURA
What’s going on here?

ROB
Oh, hi honey. Didn’t want to wake
you. There are still reporters
hanging around the office so Alan
thought we could work here.

LAURA
All of you?

ROB
Well, it’s just Buddy and Sally. And
you like Buddy and Sally.

LAURA
I love Buddy and Sally. But at night.

ALAN
I’m sorry, Laura. This is all my
fault. I guess we could have done
this session over the phone.

LAURA
No, no, it’s fine. You have a show to
do. I’ll just get out of the way. I
don’t want to stick my nose where it
doesn’t belong.

BUDDY
(UNDER HIS BREATH) Too late.

SALLY SMACKS HIM AGAIN.

ALAN
Laura, you’re wonderful. It’s a dirty
crime there’s no award show to
celebrate what you do.

LAURA
Well, thank you... and whatever
academy that might be.

ALAN
And I’ll tell the choreographer and
dancers not to come.

LAURA
What?

RITCHIE ENTERS.

RITCHIE
(TO ALAN) What do cats eat for
breakfast?

BUDDY
Mice Krispies.

RITCHIE
Phooey.

RITCHIE RUNS BACK TO HIS ROOM. ROB CROSSES TO LAURA AND
TAKES HER ASIDE.

ROB
We’ll only be a couple of hours.

ALAN
Hey, Laura. If you’re hungry. I made
french toast.

ROB
(OFF LAURA’S LOOK) Don’t call Millie.

RITCHIE RE-ENTERS AND RUNS TO ALAN.

RITCHIE
What did the big bucket say to the
little bucket?

BUDDY
You look a little pail.

RITCHIE
(FRUSTRATED) Mr. Brady was supposed to
say I don’t know! You keep ruining
it!

LAURA
Ritchie, honey, get ready for school.

RITCHIE RUNS BACK TO HIS ROOM ALMOST IN TEARS. BUDDY IS
PERPLEXED.

ALAN
I’ve been giving him a dollar for
every joke he tells.

BUDDY
Well give me the dollar. I wrote that
joke forty years ago.

LAURA
(SOTTO) I’m calling.

ROB
(SOTTO) Don’t call.

LAURA CROSSES INTO:

RESET TO:

INT.KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS

LAURA ENTERS AND ONCE AGAIN IT’S A DISASTER AREA. SHE HAS
HOURS OF CLEAN UP. SHE FLOPS DOWN INTO A CHAIR IN THE
BREAKFAST AREA. THE PHONE BECKONS. SHE INCHES TOWARDS IT.
SHE’S TORN. SHE’S ABOUT TO GRAB IT WHEN ROB ENTERS.

ROB
Honey, come out here. There’s
something you gotta see.

LAURA
What? Alan had his moose head brought
over so he’d feel more at home?

HE GENTLY TAKES HER BY THE ARM.

ROB
No. Better.

THEY CROSS INTO:

RESET TO:

INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

THEY ENTER AND ROB LEADS HER TO THE FRONT WINDOW.

LAURA
What is it?

ROB
Alan got you a little surprise.

ROB PARTS THE BLINDS. LAURA PEERS OUT THE WINDOW.

LAURA
Ohmygod! A new car?!

ALAN
My little way of saying thank you and
don’t call Millie. I could hear you
before.

LAURA
Oh Alan, I don’t know whether to be
thrilled or ashamed.

ALAN
Thrilled. Be that. And guilty.

LAURA HUGS HIM.

LAURA
Thank you so much. You really didn’t
have to.

ALAN
Yes, I know.

BUDDY
(TO SALLY, RE CAR) Hey, that bow is
the same color as yours.

SALLY
Yep, that’s my new look -- “Buick
Skylark.”

ROB
Uh oh! Close the blinds!

LAURA DOES.

LAURA
What’s the matter?

ROB
(IN HUSHED TONES) Millie. She’s
coming down the street. Darn.

LAURA
I didn’t call.

ROB
Everybody, let’s get out of sight.

THEY ALL SCRAMBLE TO THE KITCHEN.

ROB (CONT’D)
(TO LAURA) Not you.

LAURA
Fine. But I didn’t call.

ROB
Don’t say anything to her.

LAURA
I won’t.

ALAN
(A REMINDER) Guilt.

EVERYONE BUT LAURA ENTERS THE KITCHEN JUST AS THE DOORBELL
RINGS. SHE TAKES A DEEP BREATH TO COMPOSE HERSELF THEN
ANSWERS THE DOOR.

Tomorrow the finale.  Hopefully you can sleep tonight.