When Richard and I moved to Los Angeles, we immediately got with the program. Everyone here was a hyphenate. He became husband-writing partner. Me… wife-writing partner. Everyone wanted to meet us… the new husband-wife team. Soon our palm pilots (pre-Blackberrys days) were filled with appointments… network people, studio people, indie people, starting with the VP-Comedy Development at Universal TV.
To prepare, we rehearsed a couple of our fish-out-of-water stories, turning them into hilarious verbal tales or at least we thought so. We jumped into our newly-leased, silvery sedan (with sun roof) and headed to the studio and our very first ‘drive on.’ We followed the yellow brick road (oops, wrong studio) to the appointed office designed two steps above ‘motel chic.’ But, Mr. VP-Comedy Development was open and friendly. He steered us to a leather sofa while he perched in a chair across from us. He kicked off his well-worn Guccis and plopped his feet up onto the coffee table. He had no socks on. Husband-writing partner and I exchanged looks. We definitely weren’t in New York (well, maybe the Hamptons). Fortunately, his feet were clean and oh, so immaculately manicured.
After exchanging some pleasantries, we started our first pitch. Forty-five seconds in, Mr. Buffed-Toenails jumped to his bare feet.
“Love it, guys!”
My optimism soared, until he continued. “But we’re already developing a show about a girl coming out of a coma, only to learn her husband framed her for murder and she’s headed to prison. It’s a com-dram.”
Since our story had no one coming out of a coma or being framed for murder, we weren’t sure what the parallels were, but we pressed on, each time stopped short by a “Love it, but…” By the third “love it, but” my optimism had left the building.
After twenty minutes we were ready to pack it in, but we had one final idea to throw at him. “Mother of Pearl”… a family sitcom about Pearl, an older, widowed, black woman in Harlem (think Della Reese) who decides to take in foster kids of various racial backgrounds. A rainbow of comedic complications ensues.
He loved it. No, he really loved it! He wanted to option it. Just one thing… Universal had a deal with that year’s Heather Locklear… could we make Pearl an “almost’ 40-something, single, career woman whose biological clock is ticking and decides to adopt twins?”
Husband-writing partner and I locked eyes. Before we could say anything, the barefoot wonder rattled on in a gush of enthusiasm. We held our breaths.
“Oh! And she’s left her high-powered job in Manhattan and moved to Connecticut after buying a rundown chicken farm. No…” A pregnant pause. We still weren’t breathing. “Maybe a horse farm. Are they called farms when you have horses?”
We didn’t know how to answer. Not to worry, we didn’t have to. He barely broke stride before galloping on.
“Well, some kind of farm. Babies. Animals. The network will love it!”
Back in our country cottage in snake-riddled Laurel Canyon, we wondered why the VP-Comedy Development needed us. The show he optioned had nothing to do with our pitch. But, hey, we had a contract. We’d been paid. We had arrived.
Of course, bottom-line, the show was never produced… unless ‘they’ changed it from that year’s Heather Locklear to a New York ‘stand-up’ whose comedic clock was ticking and decided to surround himself with three friends who do nothing. Renamed it “Seinfeld.” And “forgot” to tell us.