Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I totally forgot, but I booked Bin Laden when I was producing Jenny Jones.

It was the mid-nineties. Daytime talk shows were all the rage. I was two years out of college and working as an associate producer on the popular talk show. There was serious pressure for me book good guests. During the show a show topic and phone number would come on the screen.
“Is Your Brother’s Wife a Hoochie Momma? Then call us at 800 JENNNNY.”

People leave their stories and phone numbers on “carts.” Interns worked 10 hours a day straight transcribing the names and numbers on long sheets of paper.

Hard working interns and production assistants would listen to the phone messages and then give us the information. They all sit next to each other at a long table in the basement of the studio with headphones a blue Bic pen and a stack of paper. They have to put at least five names on each sheet of paper and they have to get through the stack each day. They couldn’t get up from the table. The volume of calls was so high, the EP had to limit bathroom breaks.

This one guy, Eric, started as an unpaid intern – I recommended him for an unpaid PA job. Eric always gives me the best names. Eric really liked it there. He was afraid he might have to leave because like most of the other guys he developed a urinary track infection. I promised to keep it secret.

Eric ran to my part of the cubical, he had a sheet of paper in his hand. He ran up taking two or three stairs at a time. He did so because he had a great lead and he had to get back to the long table.

I thanked Eric and told him if these pan out I’ll put in a good word for him to get a paid internship.

Originally, bin Laden was just an audience plant. Our host, Jenny, went over to him went over to him and handed him the mic. "Yes, um, Jenny, I have a question for that one over there," he pointed to the heavy woman on stage. "You think you're all that. But you need to be on Jenny Craig, not Jenny Jones." The crowd went nuts. The heavy woman stood up and slowing twirled around. "You can't handle all of this!"
"I wouldn't want to," he yelled back barely making over the screams of the audience.

Originally he called in for “My Mom Dresses too Sexy.” I told my producer that this guy was great.
“Do you love him?” she asked?
“Yeah, I love him.”
“Do you love him, love him or just love him?”
“I love him, love him.” That should have sealed the deal. She got on the phone with him to check him out.
“So Osama, I hear your Mom dresses too sexy…”
That was his cue to just start going off on his mother just as we planned.

Bin Laden was great. He went right into his thing about how she embarrassed him and his country and brought shame to his home and how she should be killed in public and so on.

My producer wasn’t impressed. “I love him. But I don’t love him, love him.”
“He has an accent. People will be turned off.”

Besides, she continuded, his standards for “too sexy” was way different than the people who watch our show. I couldn’t argue with that. We were looking for woman in short shorts and tank tops, not totally covered but showing some leg. I think he understood.

Finally I made him an audience plant.

I didn’t tell her, I just did it. I was allowed to book the plants, so I brought him in without telling her.

When the fat woman spun around and give Osama the “hand” that was the money shot. You hear about the hand, but you seldom see it. It’s a talk show staple. Like when the monkey peed on Carson - it meant I had arrived.

For the audience plant we paid him $50 and gave him a car to and from his non-disclosed location. After his appearance I asked him if he would come back. He was very excited, but needed me to cover his day’s wages. I made it sound like a big deal, but it was no problem.

Our boss loved him. I gave Eric some of the credit and Eric got a promotion and a salary.

I was then promoted to producer.

Bin Laden appeared on one of my many Boot Camp shows. His son was too wild and Bin Laden was at the end of his rope. We had to call in "Moses" the retired general who runs a boot camp style place where bad children go to be whipped into shape.

Osoma was pretty calm until someone in the audience (Eric’s plant) said that if Bin Laden spent less time at work creeping around caves and more time with his children, his son might not need to act out. Bin Laden did not take this lightly. He stood up and pointed at the guy. "You don't know," Bin Laden yelled at the guy, "You don't know me. You don’t know me. And besides, you need to sit down with those tired ass Jerry Curls." The audience loved it; they went nuts. Osama was right; the guy's hair-do was tired.

Years later I saw him on a video on the news. The footage was grainy, but he had lots of energy and charisma. I wondered how his kid turned out. I thought about my producer who almost didn’t put him on because she didn’t people would listen to him. Boy, was she wrong.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

ENOUGH! Maybe the Emmys wouldn't snub the best show on TV.

The Wire has been snubbed again for best show.
24? great show - enough already.
Lost? not that good last year.
Big Love - never seen it
Heroes? never seen it.
Grey's - really good show

But "The Wire" is simply the smartest and most exciting TV show on TV. Why not recognize it? What's the hold up? Did people really see Big Love and say it's better than The Wire?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Today I was talking to my agent. He finally put a meeting together with the right agent. Apparently my agent for the last year does not specialize in my field. He's for writers, I'm a producer. It was like finding out i was wearing the wrong size bra.

He introduced me to the producer agent. As we talked it came out we went to the same school. I told him I graduated in 1994. I assumed he was younger than me...maybe '97 or '98.
He graduated in 2002. What the? He's been out of school for 4 years?
Questions arrise:
Can he rent a car?
Does he still have a sticker with his college's name on his back windshield?

We talked today. He feels we should go into the pitch meeting with a show runner. "Aren't I the show runner?" Apparently since I never ran a show a network would trust handing their money over to me. Understood. I get that. I don't want to do teh heavy lifting anyway.

He pitched a couple of clients.

He tells me, "We need someone young and hip."

My mind races. "Aren't I young and hip? I'm 35. Not young? When I was 25 I couldn't tie my shoes let alone run a show. Apparently at 35 I still can't run a show."

Who am I? Martin Landau in "Entourage?"

You find me someone the networks would trst with their money and I promise to only hire kids who ride skate boards. Now get going before you miss wing night.

Friday, December 01, 2006

This morning as I was reading my USA Today (What can I say - I love a graph.) I couldn't figure out why the review for the new TBS show "10 Items or Less" was in the movie section. Turns out there's a movie with the same name that came into theaters the Friday after the Monday that the wacky sitcom premiered. I haven't seen either but the ads for the TV show told me if I thought an Office was funny – wait until I saw a grocery store.

A lot of times movies that have the same plot like "the Core" and "Armageddon" or TV shows like “er” and “Chicago Hope” and the laugh out loud "30 Rock" and the unintentional laugh out loud "Studio 60" come out at the same time. Sometimes it's easy to explain - everyone wants a movie about the hot craze of break dancing, the Lambda or Christopher Columbus.

But it's always weird when a TV show and a movie with similar concepts come out. Like “Day Break” about a black cop caught in a time warp type thingie and tries to solve a murder and protect his girlfriend from dying and “Déjà vu” about a black cop using a time machine to solve a crime and save the woman he loves.

Then there's this fall's hit TV show "Ugly Betty" about a non fashionable woman working at a fashion magazine who befriends the stylist (the woman from the British "Office") who hands out wisdom and this summer's big hit "The Devil wears Prada" -about a non-fashionable girl who works at a fashion magazine who befriends the stylist (Stanly Tucci) who hands out advice.

They couldn't be copies of each other. They did not steal Ugly Betty from the Prada movie. They stole it from Spanish TV. The TV show is a copy of a Spanish TV show and the movie is based on a book that's based on real life.

Which do I like better?
Let's compare. I'd do columns like they do all fancy in EW (ewe) magazine. I can barely type.
The unfashionable girl –
Winner? Betty!
She really is unfashionable. They didn't mind making her really unattractive. they gave her terrible hair and braces and outrageous clothes. The Ann Hathaway girl is guilty of wearing last season's skirts and putting her hair up. Also it only took 20 minutes for Anne to have a make over and conform. 12 hours in and Betty is still ugly. At least one fictional character can stick to her guns.

As for the Fairy godmother stylist...
Winner?Stan the man Tuchers.
You can understand what he’s saying and it's fun to see him gay it up just a little - -but not too much.

That was a complaint about the film - The mean, mean boss wasn't that mean actually. OH NO! She wants things done on time and she doesn't want people to know about her failing marriage. Not quite "9 to 5."

Betty went on the air with lots of unfair comparisons to the movie - But now things have turned around- "Prada" is being developed into a sitcom for FOX. When and if the show goes on the air, it will be put side to side with "Betty" but this time with out the help of M. Streep and the Tuch.

This happened years ago when a movie called "Three Men and a Baby" came out right after a TV sitcom came also about three bachelors bringing up a girl(s) - "Full House." the movie became a monster hit that prompted a sequel that no one saw and Tom Seleck leaving Hawaii for Hollywood to do films. That worked out.

"Full House" ran for a 1,000 years.

Just for the fun of it here's where they are now:

Bob Saget .... hosting game show and making a comedy about penguins

John Stamos .... On "er" and other ladies.

Mary-Kate Olsen .... college student?

Ashley Olsen .... college student?
Dave Coulier .... in penguin movie

Candace Cameron Bure .... acting
Jodie Sweetin .... Hosting “Pants off Dance off” on Fuse