Valentine’s Day for Writers

A potpourri of writerly views of the holiday, the subject of love, and, that most writerly POV of all – ourselves:

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And the one that strikes closest to this TVWriter™ minion’s heart:

Yeah, we know. But if this isn’t “Aw…”some, what is?

LB: Saying Goodbye to Lin Bolen, A Real TV Pioneer

by Larry Brody

The Real Lin Bolen

One of the darker sides of getting, um, older (as opposed to the brighter ones, like being able to rest longer between workouts and pretend to no longer care about what other people think) is standing on the shore of the river Styx and watching old friends depart this plane of existence.

It doesn’t take long for the bravado behind cynical sentiments like “Better her than me,” or “He’s well out of it now” to  fade away, replaced by the fearful awareness that, “Holy hell, I could be next,” and eventually, if you keep on keeping on, by an awareness of the transience of all things that pervades your entire body.

An awareness that even the coldest of us have to acknowledge as genuine sorrow.

Like the sorrow I’m feeling right now.

Last week I learned that former network executive and television producer Lin Bolen died, just a couple of months before she would have turned 77.

Immediately, I was hit by an unexpectedly strong feeling of loss. We’d known each other for almost 40 years, interacting (that’s the oldster word for hanging together) professionally and personally. We all have professional friends,  so the hell with writing about that. The personal Lin is who’s important.

I met her through my good friend, the late director Paul Wendkos, whose oeuvre included the films Gidget and The Mephisto Waltz, with a ton of TV work before, between, and after. I remember thinking he was the luckiest of men to have a wife so intelligent, strong, and brave.

(Pretty damn good-looking too, but we don’t talk like that anymore.)

A small town girl (Illinois! The heartland! Flyover country in the extreme!), Lin’s talent, style, ambition, and refusal to take any shit from anyone, no matter how high up, enabled her to crash through the very low – I’m thinking waist high – glass ceiling of the time (there were no women anywhere in TV’s higher executive ranks then) and become the head of NBC Daytime Programming, the first woman programming VP at any U.S. network.

Fighting her way through the psycho-sexual showbiz politics of the ’60s and ’70s (and the ’80s, ’90s, and our very own 21st Century as well), Lin introduced long-form daytime serials to TV and gave NBC the “young women’s audience” it needed to survive at the time.

Business magazines didn’t talk all that much about “innovation” then, and that’s really too bad. Because if they had, Lin’s picture would’ve been on all their covers.

Faye Dunaway – not even close

Many of you reading this probably know more about Lin Bolen than you think. Odds are that you’ve seen and heard the version of her played by Faye Dunaway in a not-so-little film called Network.

Dunaway’s character is a foul-mouthed, man-eating shark who has fucked her way to the top where she still continues that particular practice, targeting and seducing every man in her way and leaving a bloody trail of dead male careers and egos behind her.

The film is dark and funny. The portrayal of Lin is darker, and the running joke about the character is how orgasmic she is. As luck would have it, Lin, Paul, and I saw Network together at a studio screening shortly before it came out. Watching the film, I braced myself for the worst, expecting Lin to be, well, at least as livid as Faye’s character had been in just about every scene.

As we walked to the car, I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a trace of anger on Lin’s face. There were, however, a few tears. She and Paul held each other close (they always did that anyway), and at last she spoke, revealing the sensitivity she tried so hard to hide.

“So that’s it?” she said. “Lin Bolen in a nutshell? For the world to see?”

Paul shook his head. “Don’t be silly, Linnie,” he said. “Everyone who knows you will know that’s bullshit. Not even you come that fast.”

I braced myself for the torrent of then-unprintable words to come roiling out of her mouth, but Lin fooled me again. She laughed and moved still closer to him. “Hurry up and get me home, Paulie, and I’ll show you what an amateur that bitch Dunaway is.”

I know this isn’t the kind of story someone usually writes about a recently departed friend. But it’s all about who Lin Bolen really was. An extraordinary human being who met everything she encountered head-on, no matter how much it hurt, in career, life, and love. She and Paul Wendkos loved each other with a ferocity most people can’t even imagine. If anything good has come from her death, it’s that they’re together again.

Hmm. Maybe that trip to the Styx doesn’t have to be so dark after all.

LB’s Choices for the 2018 WGA Writing Awards

by Larry Brody

The 2018 Writers Guild Awards will be  given out next month. It’s pretty much a given that a lot of you won’t agree with me, but in the interests of total disclosure and all that hooey, here’s the Writers Guild Award ballot I just filled out:

By all means feel free to dispute my choices in the comments!

Question for LB: OMG! Are Those My Words That Actor Just Said?

Glad You Asked Department 1/8/18
by Larry Brody

Last week we presented a guest article about what it’s like to see your first script produced, and over the weekend a similar question came in from a TVWriter™ reader about my own personal experience in that regard. So I thought I’d share my answer here and now:


Where are they now? No, seriously, if you know, please comment below!

Question from Armando:

Dear Larry,

My longest running recurring dream is that I’m sitting in an easy chair, iPad in hand, watching as an episode I’ve written as the newest staffer on THE GOOD PLACE begins, with all the actors delivering my lines. It’s the most exciting dream I’ve ever had, even better than the one about Gal Gadot, her golden lasso, a tub filled with Lucky Charms cereal, and me.

You’ve had hundreds of TV episodes on the air. How does it feel to hear actors saying something you’ve written? In particular, did it feel the first time?

Answer from Yours Truly:

First of all, congratulations, Armando, on proving yourself a real writer. How, you may be wondering, did you do that? Very simply: You asked me about My First Time and it was a writing question instead of a sex question. So smile, dood, this proves you’ve got what it takes to go far.

My first produced script was an episode of the long gone series HERE COME THE BRIDES. I don’t remember anything about the story other than it involved the heroes helping a group of immigrants trying to build a new life for themselves in the rugged 1870s Pacific Northwest, believe it or not. But I do remember sitting down to watch the show the night it was on, eager to hear the actors uttering my words.

Unfortunately, an hour later, after the episode was over, I was still waiting. Because the thrill of seeing absolute proof that I was a professional writer of television never materialized in terms of anything other than my writing credit. I never got to experience the “Oh wow, they’re saying that I wrote” moment for one not uncommon reason:

The cast wasn’t saying what I wrote. My recollection is that about two-thirds of the dialog had been rewritten by the story editor and the remaining third had been changed by the actors themselves during the shoot. And the way I felt about that was dumbfounded.

What had they paid me all that money for? Why had they hired me to write two more episodes if nobody liked my dialog? What the fuck was going on?

I got the answers as I continued to work on HERE COME THE BRIDES and then other shows over the next couple of millennia. My experiences and conversation with various executives, producers, other writers, directors, actors, and their friends and lovers and even spouses brought the truth home:

Like all television writers, I was being paid to do the hard job of facing the blank page. Of organizing the material. Of writing dialog that gave everyone else involved enough of an idea about what should be there – but to their minds wasn’t – to make it easier for them to adapt the words to their own needs.

This is one of those occasions where I could go on and on and on, but you probably get the point. On HERE COME THE BRIDES and all the shows that followed, I was hired and re-hired as writer and then producer and then showrunner (and occasionally even praised to the skies) because my words came closer to what everyone involved wanted, or thought they wanted, than those of most of the other writers they’d worked with.

In fact, very often the praise came out something like this:

“Larry, that script was awesome. You’re a really good writer. Rewriting you is a cinch.”

Now that may not sound like much to you, Armando, and when I was starting out I wasn’t exactly tripping on that particular accolade myself, but my time in the trenches has had its teaching effect, and I’ve learned to appreciate the comment above.

Because when you get down to it, and the various needs and desires of everyone involved in a Hollywood production are taken into account, if those in charge like your work enough to keep asking for more, you’ve done the job you were hired for and then some.

Which is what being a pro, a real pro, is all about.

Here’s hoping that you get to experience the same acceptance I have, and that you embrace the joy a lot more quickly than I did. Relax, let yourself grin, and enjoy your very real and exciting success along with everything that leads to and follows from it.

In other words, good luck, kid. Say hi to Gal and the tub for me.


My purpose here is to help as many undiscovered creative geniuses as possible. But I can’t answer if you don’t ask. So send your questions and make everyone’s day!

LYMI, LB

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘God Ain’t No Siegal & Schuster Character, Not Even Kirby & Lee’

NOTE FROM LB

The final poem here on TVWriter™, for awhile anyway. Not because I’m giving up but because I think it’s time to really bear down and write some more!


Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘God Ain’t No Siegal & Schuster Character, Not Even Kirby & Lee’
by Larry Brody

I always thought of Christ as a superhero.

Messiah Man!

Son of God!

Able to walk on water without a threat,

Heal the sick,

Feed the multitudes,

Raise the dead!

Hey, we’re talking real Marvel and D.C. stuff here.

He sees all, knows all, fulfills the plan of the Divine,

And, wow! wotta Dad! Not bad with the babes either,

Sure got on with Mary Magdeline, if you know what

I mean. One day, though, my love was crying,

And I held her tightly while she told why. “I try to

Be good,” she said. “I do things for other people.

My daughter, my husband, my family and friends—

I take care of you all. But my sisters and my mother

Seem to hate me. They hurt me whenever we talk.

My friends don’t know who I really am, and from

That comes great pain. And no matter how much

I give you and Amber, always you two need more.

I’m in danger,” she said, “always in danger, and it

Isn’t in spite of doing the right thing, it’s because.”

Now I’m no Bible scholar. It’s all comic book

Colors to me. But I started reading about Super Jesus

Again, just to see. And whaddaya know? Invulnerability

Ain’t one of the powers. Cut him, and he sure as hell

Bleeds. In fact, the Son of God suffers. He’s tempted,

He’s scorned, he’s betrayed and tortured. His

Mind and his body are wrenched every which way.

He just plain feels terrible all the time. Shit, the guy dies

One of the most painful deaths man can decree.

So something’s going on here,

Something we forget. To do right,

To be right, is agony. There’s no

Saving ourselves. Dr. Doom is always

Around the corner, with Lex Luthor

Right by his side. To be a superhero is

To keep fighting, even though you know

Krypton has to explode.

###

ANOTHER NOTE FROM LB

If you enjoyed this poem, you probably would like my book of poetry, Kid Hollywood and the Navajo Dog, available at Amazon.Com for an unlimited time for exactly $0.00. Yes, you read that correctly. Free. More than a Christmas present, this is my life present to you all.

Go straight to Amazon and avail yourself of all the delicious goodness simply by clicking HERE. (And if you like it, it would be great if you wrote a review. No pressure, but eventually someone’s got to, right?)

Many thanks.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘Basic Training (Courtesy Of The Navajo Dog)’

NOTE FROM LB

A public service message from The Navajo Dog. Listen up, kids, cuz unlike us humans she always knows what she’s talking about, even if we can’t figure it out.


Basic Training (Courtesy Of The Navajo Dog)
by Larry Brody

The Navajo dog is a schemer,

A sage who teaches with tricks, threats, and lies.

She makes things real as they are needed,

Pushing and prodding to set souls into the places

She deems proper so her lessons will spring to life.

No cost is too high for the Navajo dog to pay,

Nor too much for her to ask of such as we.

She demands all, and in return gives everything she has.

When I asked her one day (oh so long, it seems,

So long, long ago!) why she did things this way,

Why she didn’t lead Socratically with the truth,

The Navajo dog barked a short laugh,

And pawed at the dry earth. As she dug deeper,

The dirt grew more moist,

Darkening into a wholeness that no longer could be

Chipped or fragmented away.

“This is truth, ignorant boy,” she said.

“This is the true Mother Earth. The deeper we

Get the more is she alive. All of her is one,

A wholeness that dries into scattered bits

When brought up to the sun. Your mother

Does not throw herself at you, and expose

Her innards. She hides, and makes you find her,

Plants clues—lies!—to tempt you and tease you

And lead you ever on. You must dig and dig and dig

Past the desert’s dead surface,

To find the truth of this world,

Just as you must dig and dig and dig

Past the desert dog’s lies.”

“And what you tell me now,” I asked,

“Is this the truth? Or is there something deeper

For which I must search?”

The Navajo dog stuck her muzzle into the

Hole she had made, clamped her teeth

On a shard of bone. “If I scratched my way

Down to the center of the earth,” she said,

“Would there still be someplace deeper to go?”

I heard the bone crack between her jaws,

Watched her swallow the fragments.

“Always,” I said. “Always something deeper.”

The Navajo dog yipped and pranced off.

“What do you say we go hunting?” she called back to me,

“And find ourselves something a little more alive?”

###

ANOTHER NOTE FROM LB

If you enjoyed this poem, you probably would like my book of poetry, Kid Hollywood and the Navajo Dog, available at Amazon.Com for an unlimited time for exactly $0.00. Yes, you read that correctly. Free. More than a Christmas present, this is my life present to you all.

Go straight to Amazon and avail yourself of all the delicious goodness simply by clicking HERE. (And if you like it, it would be great if you wrote a review. No pressure, but eventually someone’s got to, right?)

Many thanks.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘Washo’

NOTE FROM LB

In the late ’90s I wrote a few episodes for a TV series called Walker, Texas Ranger. The star, Chuck Norris was very good friends with a friend of mine, and Chuck was a friendly, personable guy back in those days – plus I didn’t have much else to do – so I figured what the hell, why not dive into the money pit again. The following touches on an element of that experience that most television writers never encounter.


Washo
by Larry Brody

The last time I saw My Friend The Wild Indian

(I can still hear the bells!)

Was on the Lakota rez at Pine Ridge.

He was pointing at me and saying,

“Washo,”

And his friends were laughing and nodding

And pointing as well.

“Washo,” they said, whooping and whirling,

“Washo.”

So I was Washo and didn’t know what it meant,

I’d been there a month this time,

Trying to learn about life and death and the ever-blessed way.

I’d sweated and prayed and danced.

(Listen, oh, listen, can’t you too hear the bells?)

And worked and waked out on the range, and,

Visions or no, miracles or not,

“Washo” had become my real name.

It was the pointing and the laughter that got to me,

From people I thought were friends.

I was being mocked, ridiculed,

And, finally, I’d had enough, and I left.

No more Washo, not for them, not for me.

No more Friend The Wild Indian

(but forever the bells!),

The silvery, pretty-voiced hawk.

No more.

Washo retreated, a bad memory covered by false hopes

That reshaped the past.

But then, a couple of months ago, I heard it again.

“Washo…Washo…”

But not for me.

I was sitting in the office of a television producer,

And he leaned forward and said,

“We’ve got to find out what ‘Washo’ means.”

One of the members of the cast of his show was a Sioux,

He explained, who had begun using the word onscreen.

The actor was a Lakota medicine man and singer,

And I’d met him around Pine Ridge once or twice,

But he’d never said, “Washo” to me. Now he was calling the

Star of the show Washo and grinning and carrying on.

The lawyers, the producer told me, were getting nervous.

What was the guy saying?

I had never asked about Washo when I was on the Rez,

Because I was afraid. I feared its meaning would be even worse

Than I already suspected, and that I would be hurt even more.

Now I had a chance to learn the

Truth for someone else. In a way, this was a test of my own courage.

A test I’d already failed once.

I went home and drank a lot of coffee, very dark, very thick,

Like I used to drink in Pine Ridge,

Then called the Indian School nearby.

I asked the woman who answered what Washo meant,

And at first she was silent. Then, like everyone else,

She started to laugh. “It’s guy talk,” she said,

“Although I use it too. I call my husband ‘Washo.’

In Lakota, it means—well, it means ‘well-hung.”

Now the silence was at my end of the line.

Finally, I thanked her, and I

Called the producer and said, “It’s okay.”

Then I picked up the phone again,

Ready to call My Friend The Wild Indian

(and praying I’d hear the bells!).

I wanted to apologize. I wanted to rush back to him.

I wanted to be close.

But I hung up without dialing, and haven’t made that call yet.

So long have I lived with my ignorance

That I’m still afraid.

###

ANOTHER NOTE FROM LB

If you enjoyed this poem, you probably would like my book of poetry, Kid Hollywood and the Navajo Dog, available at Amazon.Com for an unlimited time for exactly $0.00. Yes, you read that correctly. Unlimited time. Free. More than a Christmas present, this is my life present to you all.

Go straight to Amazon and avail yourself of all the delicious goodness simply by clicking HERE. (And if you like it, it would be great if you wrote a review. No pressure, but eventually someone’s got to, right?)

Many thanks.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.