Thus Spake MoonvesJanuary 12
Thanks for taking the time to meet with me when you and Les were out here on the coast last weekend. I think I understand the kind of new, groundbreaking programs you want on your schedule next fall, and I'm looking forward to making my contribution to the network.
Just to refresh your memory, here's a synopsis of the show we talked about over lunch. Night Owls would be something of an unconventional show -- the story of a couple of twentysomething insomniacs who while away the hours after midnight at whatever all-night destination they can find. Coffee houses. Diners. Laundromats. And they talk -- about their problems, their hopes, their fears, whatever. It's a comedy, but not the formulaic set-up/punchline premise that's made today's sitcoms so stale. Instead, it's just a show about two guys -- two unremarkable, kind of quirky but thoroughly interesting guys -- and their relationship with one another.
As we discussed, I'd like to use stage actors, unknowns who are well-versed in improvisation and character development to play the roles of Chris and Gary. Casting someone who's widely known for doing TV would ruin the atmosphere of Night Owls that we're trying to create.
I realize the show is risky. It's certainly different from a lot what's on television nowadays. But I get the feeling that you want shows that take risks. And I think, with Night Owls, I can give you a show that people will make a point of watching every week.
Let me know what you think.
Great to hear from you, guy. Les and said it last week at lunch, but I'll say it again: We're glad to have a producer of your talent on our team.
And you're right, Night Owls is the type of ground-breaking show our network wants to put on the air. And we think it's going to be the kind of show that puts us on the top of the broadcasting heap... with a bullet!
Of course, in any creative endeavor, there's going to be times when we won't have our sights set on the same page. And that's going to call for some compromises -- some on your end, some on ours.
With that in mind, the program development department of the network has a few questions about Night Owls and the direction we want to proceed in.
* Is this a sitcom? Because when you pitched Night Owls to us, we were under the impression it would be. Now it sounds like you're going in a more dramatic direction. Which is fine with us. We just want to know whether this is a sitcom or a drama now for scheduling purposes. Because we originally wanted to pair Night Owls with a new workplace comedy we're developing for Dabney Coleman, but if you're going to go serious on us, that really wouldn't work.
* The show will be more than just the two characters talking, right? I mean, your characters will get into different situations each week, correct? Maybe Gary's always coming up with some crazy get-rick-quick scheme that lands Chris in hot water. Maybe Chris and Gary have some sort of misunderstanding that leads to hilarious consequences. Maybe the two of them can get in some sort of fight over the same girl. Those kinds of stories, you know?
* Speaking of girls, will the show have a female character? The network feels that it would not only help bring in women viewers, ages 18 to 45, it would also help inject Night Owls with some much needed sexual tension.
Other than that, the idea looks great. Speaking for myself and Les, I can't tell you how much we're looking forward to bringing Night Owls from the page to the camera.
Stay in touch,
I have to tell you, I'm pretty relieved. I was afraid the network was going to make sweeping changes to Night Owls, but your suggestions seem pretty minor and doable. Let me address your concerns one by one.
Of course, Night Owls is a comedy; it's just not the typical laugh-track-laden formula you see so much of on network television nowadays. I thought I had made this clear in our meeting. What we're aiming for is a show that's got some laughs in it, yes, but not the bawdy, bathroom-humor laughs you get from the Married... With Childrens of the world. Night Owls will be funny, but there will be some poignancy mixed in, too.
To that end, there really won't be that many "situations," as you call them. No episodes where Gary and Chris find a treasure map or stumble across a new invention or get thrown into jail because of some sort of contrived misunderstanding. As I explained before, this is really supposed to be a character-driven show.
As for the love interest, I'm certain we can come to some sort of agreement there. Certainly, I'm not opposed to inserting one in future episodes, but I'd like the early show to focus on the Gary and Chris characters.
I hope this is all right with you.
Don't get us wrong -- we know you're a funny guy. Les was telling me the other day, "Remember at lunch, when David made that crack about Dick York and Dick Sargent? Now that was funny!" And Les is usually right about these things.
We know you're funny, David. And we know your show will be funny. We just want to make sure up front that it's "ha ha" funny as opposed to the sad, ironic kind of funny. Because when we lay down that laugh track and those jokes aren't funny, believe me, the audience notices.
A simple rule of thumb is to remember the demo we're going for here. They've worked hard all day, and what they want to see is the jokes flying fast and furious. A little poignancy now and then is all right -- we'd all like Night Owls to win an Emmy. Just don't overdo it.
Maybe it would help if we fleshed out some of the characters you keep talking about, give them some traits and idiosyncrasies and whatnot. Take the Gary character. He can be the lady's man of the pair. Or he could have a catch phrase, something catchy like "Hey, don't go there." Or maybe we could make it so that he's always coming up with crazy, get-rich schemes. And Chris, he can be the smart-aleck.
You see how devoting a little time to characterization helps sharpen the focus of the show?
P.S.: Glad you're on board with this love interest angle. I haven't given her character much thought. Maybe just give her a name like Rita and make sure she fills out a sweater well.
I have to admit, I'm a bit confused. In your last letter, you talked about character development, and I agree that's very important to the success of Night Owls. But stringing together a handful of pat quirks and eccentricities has nothing to do with creating realistic, interesting characters.
Hanging a name on a female character and saying that she looks good in a sweater -- that's not creating a character. That's resorting to some warmed-over archetype so that the audience won't have to strain itself following along.
I'm sorry if I'm coming off as difficult. I guess I'm just frustrated with the direction the show seems to be taking.
I'm sensing some hostility on your part to the Rita character. Is a love interest not in your plans for the show? You weren't thinking of making the Gary and Chris characters gay, were you?
I mean, it's totally cool with the network if that's the direction you want to go in. We're all for artistic expression here. Just let us know now, so we can start warning our affiliates down south that you have a gay show in the works.
It's been a week or so since my last letter, and still no word from you. You doing OK, guy?
We've been giving a lot of thought to the problem you're having coming up with convincing characters. Maybe it would be better for us to cast the show now. That way, we can build Night Owls around the actors we put into place.
For example, the network just signed a long-term development deal with Bob Saget. Obviously, we're pleased to have a TV star of Bob's magnitude on board. But what we're just ecstatic about is that Bob's totally interested in Night Owls. He could play Gary or Chris, though frankly, we think Chris is the better choice. Bob Saget would be a natural foil to all of Gary's get-rich-quick schemes.
Obviously, this changes everything for our show. What was once a program on -- to be perfectly frank -- creatively shaky ground suddenly has a recognizable star and a built-in audience. And Bob's perfectly comfortable playing gay if that's still the direction you still want to go in.
Once again, David, Les and I want you to know that we believe Night Owls has the potential to be a smash hit for our network. The project finally seems to be gaining some downhill momentum, and so long as we're all pushing in the same direction, there's nothing that can slow us down.
I have several issues with the proposed casting of Bob Saget as either Chris or Gary. Namely:
* The characters I described are in their twenties. Bob Saget is much older.
* I wanted to cast unknowns. Bob Saget is anything but.
* Bob Saget is the last goddamn person I want anywhere near my show.
Can we please get back to discussing the concept I originally pitched to you?
-- David Bozmann
Your opposition to the Bob Saget idea is short-sighted and, frankly, a little disappointing. If Bob doesn't meet the ideal of the Chris character you've envisioned, then let's work around that.
For instance, how wedded are you to the idea of making the show about two twenty-year-old layabouts? Instead, why not make them co-workers? Or neighbors? Or old college roommates who reunite after 10 years to live under the same roof once more, and maybe solve some crimes.
That solves two other problems with Night Owls. Instead of just sitting around laundromats and donut shops gabbing all the time, the two main characters now have something to do. And it gives us a chance to work the Rita character into the show. She can be the downstairs neighbor or the building superintendent or maybe even the mouthy secretary (We think Annie Potts would be terrific in this part!).
You see? With just a little flexibility that Bob Saget hurdle you got so worked up over gives us a better show.
Let's get cracking on that pilot now.
I take it from your lack of response that you're still mulling over the idea of making this a show about two college buddies who reunite to fight crime. That's OK. Take as much time as you need.
In the meantime, the NAACP has really been on our ass about this diversity thing. So long as Bob Saget is set for the part of Chris, we were thinking about maybe making the Gary character a black guy. We know you didn't write the part this way, but maybe we can bring in a black writer or two to add some "street cred" as they say.
We were thinking someone with an effervescent personality who can appeal to middle America. A Sammy Davis Jr. type, only living. David Alan Grier, we were thinking.
We'll start to arrange the casting. You just work on that pilot script. And remember: Even though this is a show about crime-stopping buddies, we still would like to keep it fairly light. Shoot for an In the Heat of the Night meets The Odd Couple kind of feeling.
All the best,
Dear Mr. Pearson:
Mr. David Bozmann has directed me to inform you that he's renouncing all rights and interests to the Night Owls project. The show and its concept are now entirely yours to do with as you please.
All Mr. Bozmann asks in return is that you make no further attempts to contact him via letter, phone or e-mail and that his name never, in any way, be associated with the program Night Owls.
Thank you for your cooperation.
As you may have seen in the news the other day, the network picked up Night Owls for the fall schedule. We think this gritty police drama starring Bob Saget, Malcom Jamal Warner and Annie Potts will be a major success next season. And we have the scores from the test audience screening sessions to prove it.
I just wanted to let you know that you share a lot of the credit for this great success -- even if our legal settlement with you stipulates that you don't. All I want you to know is that a show like Night Owls would never have made it to the air without the vision and efforts of producers like you.
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