Monday, August 24, 2009

Okay, So Here's My Pitch...

So it's no secret that the economy's in the tank. It's spending more time in there than Patton's goldfish. And, look, I ain't gonna lie to you: this blogging thing isn't exactly lucrative. The other day I was at the grocery store, buying cat litter for my makeshift sandtrap on the one-holer I'm building in my backyard, and I realized as I went to pay that my account's overdrawn. When the cashier asked me for my money, I said, "You got a Twitter?" and when she told me her Twittername, I quickly tweeted, "The money is already in the drawer, look," and when she was busy reading and checking the till, I sprinted out the front door.

I've gotta make some extra income somewhere, so I've been writing pilot scripts like I want to wear my fingers down to really creepy little thalidomide-birth-defect nubs. The thing is, they're not selling. I'm cranking out unique, marketable shooting scripts at the rate of one per week. I should be getting more nibbles than a guy in a bear-suit that smells like fresh cookies walking into a Hallmark store run by ecstasy addicts, but so far I haven't even gotten a call back.

Look, this is quality stuff. I wouldn't be whining about this if I were just some hack starting out, but I'm actually a seasoned pro who knows how to deliver what ad execs and middle America want. Okay, to prove I'm not blowing smoke, here are the names of a few that got rejected (these should've been picked up for the names ALONE):
America's Next Top Ramen
World's Tallest Ladders
Colonic 911
Stop!—My Dad Is Hitler
Cripstacking with the Stars
Poke the Turk
So I Think You Can Dance... Because You're Black
The Deadliest Hotel
Fantastic Journeys: The Uterus
Two and a Half Fremen
Did I hear a peep about any of these? Nope. Still not convinced?

All right, let me tell you about a bigger idea I had. I actually developed this with a guy I know named Gene, but this is one of those ideas that just works across every market, right? First, Americans love fights and competition. Second, they love reality TV. Third, reality TV is really inexpensive. Fourth, everyone loves babies. Got it? Now I've got two words for you: Baby Fighting.

You take two babies, interview the parents, get their backgrounds, do the human interest stuff. It's adorable—they're adorable. Here they are, these inexpensive never-running-out-of-supply little things, and we really get into their lives, right? But at the end of the half hour, nothing changes the fact that two babies get into a crib, tied together at the wrists, with knives taped to their other hands, and there they stay until a victor emerges.

There's all kinds of different places we could take an idea like this. Think about it: when they get older, do the parents ever tell the kids that they're murderers? You could have a form where the parents check off "disguise our identities and do not disclose them to anyone," and then each show could have a segment about that. For instance, you ask the people who don't check that box, "Are you exploiting your baby? Do you want him to be known as a killer baby when he grows up? Are you going to try to milk a book deal out of his notoriety? Do you care about his psychological development?" On the other hand, you've got to really grill the parents who want to be anonymous. "So you want to hide your identity, because you acknowledge that what you're doing is wrong. So if you acknowledge that, then why are you doing it? Why are you letting your baby kill a baby?"

Plus, don't tell me it's exploitive. For one thing, that's not on us; anyone complaining, we just ask them, "Hey, where are the parents? They're on the first quarter-hour segment, that's where!" We can do the whole thing tastefully, inject a lot of cultural commentary and intellectualism. It's babies killing babies, for one—how much more social commentary do you need right there? And we don't even have to hide that. We can just have the host say that, sort of mournfully, look down, then look up and ask, "But how often do we stop to think about that when it's going on, on the streets of our inner cities every day?" Beyond that, we can do the rich cultural heritage angle. Those kids tied up together?—that's a fighting style called capoeira that was created by the shackling of slaves in Brazil, and that martial art has rich ties to creole music, dance and history.

And let's not get started on the psychological impact of all this. We could have different experts explaining the toll this takes every week, giving us insight into the human condition. Hell, why stop at psychologists? Why not philosophers? Beyond questions of how we deal with the carnage afterward, we have to ask ourselves, "Do the babies want to kill?" I mean, are they doing this for the money, for their parents—do they even have free will? Or what? Goddamn, we could probably get a Peabody for this, if we did it right.

And here's the other thing: you're going to get all the heavy-hitters of the advertising world with a show like this. First of all, it's a half an hour without ads. You totally synergize the marketing, from beginning to end. The Gladiatots (that's what you call the babies) are all given free products from the sponsors. Pampers, Similac, etc. Then the parents get free anti-anxiety meds: Paxil, Wellbutrin, you name it. And, in the end, free coffin. You've literally got all the ages of man represented in products.

On top of all that, we can sell albums. Every fight needs a training montage, and we could rope in the latest indie rock sensation to provide the music required to cover all the procedural stuff: making the babies watch old Nazi newsreels, putting them on treadmills, showing them images of babies hurting kittens and puppies—all the stuff we need to do to make the babies aggressive.

So whaddaya say? It sounds like a cash cow, like a fucking monster, right?

Well, tell that to the networks, because they aren't calling back. Not even Bravo. Hell, they're not even taking calls. I got one of their development veeps on the line and asked him, "Hey, do I need to Mapquest you directions to this amazing show, because I'm pretty sure you need a trip-tik to find your own asshole, buddy," and then I think we got disconnected. Apparently nobody wants to touch a shipping palette piled high with vacuum-packed benjamins, because I can't get these guys to listen to me for money, and I doubt they give a damn about love, and I've asked and offered both in a series of escalating emails.

So, here I am. I've decided my only option is just to explode quality in their face like two tons of TNT: Totally Nasty-Good Television.

I've been sitting on this one idea for years now and have finally honed it to a fierce blade of entertainment that will cut through the chaff that's on other channels and literally stab somebody with amazingness. See, this is it, this is my big score, the thing that sticks a clownshoe in the Doorway to Success and refuses to let the door close and also bangs on the door. Seriously, I can't just tell you. I need you to get amped up. I need you totally psyched for this.

Here, I want you to click on this Youtube and crank the volume while reading this. You need your brain to be shredding riffs while these words shred everything you thought you knew about television:

Okay, are you ready? This is what's going to change my life and yours:

Duck Butler.

Simple, high-concept. It's a duck, and he's a butler. It's a fucking Duck Butler. He's got a goddamn tuxedo on, and he's actually a mallard—he is an Anas mothershitting platyrhynchos. Now, it's okay for me to tell you this: I've already sent the pilot script off, so it's not like anyone could steal this and make a show of it without my getting there first. But I want you to know just how thoroughly I'm about to kick the ass of entertainment as we know it.


John Miller is a working-class joe living in Pittsburgh. Every day, he spends $5 on a lotto scratcher, his only vice. His wife, a social-climber, nags him about his needless expenditure, wanting him to save money. John doesn't share this ambition: his dream is having afternoons free to watch the Pirates on an HDTV. After an argument with her which sees him believing his marriage is crumbling, his workday goes from bad to worse. He drives past his usual gas station, seeming like he's given up his gambling, then hangs a u-turn and goes in to buy a scratcher and astonishingly wins the $50 million GOLDEN TICKET.

Fast-forward six months: John is now living in a mansion outside Washington, D.C., daily stuffed into suits he doesn't like and forced to attend his wife's parties. He can't stop putting his foot in his mouth. His servants treat him with contempt—that is, until the doorbell rings before a critical afternoon mixer, and John answers the door himself, discovering on the doorstep a mallard with a fantastic English accent, excellent taste and a gift for getting John to see the Big Picture. The duck saves John's bacon and makes the afternoon party come off a success. John offers the duck anything it wants. His only request: that he serve as the family's butler, that they keep his speech a secret, and that the family rid the mansion of any down pillows or comforters. The only problem?—a resentful and recently demoted butler, Childers, who plots to expose Duck Butler and thus sabotage John's new life.


Future episodes hinge on John relying on Duck Butler to get through a scrape to please his wife. John and Duck Butler should occasionally be at odds, usually over John's desire to do something trashy, like sponsor a monster-truck rally for autism. They have a Jeeves-and-Wooster relationship, with Duck Butler periodically getting upset before finally coming through in the end. Meanwhile, the demoted Childers seeks to undermine Duck Butler and reveal his terrible secret, often with results that comically backfire, such as his screaming to strangers, "The duck can talk!" and leading Duck Butler to evacuate hot duck guano on cue, prompting peals of laughter.


These are the bread-and-butter of your average sit-com, what gets people adding to the pop-culture vibe about your show being must-see. This show has tons of opportunities.

(to Duck Butler, angrily, and reflecting his new wealth) "WELL, YOU CAN BILL ME!"
(in agreement) "Birds of a feather!"

(on learning of a new plan Duck Butler and John concoct) "A conspiracy most fowl!"
(when thwarted) "Zounds!"

"Queck." (sounds like this because of his English accent)

Nothing, because women aren't funny.


Good casting is always key, but in a show like this, that challenges people's conceptions and really pushes them to cross new horizons of the human condition, you need a roster of talented artists who can deliver lines that seem like they mean one thing but also, while meaning that thing, mean another deeper thing that they didn't even expect. Because that's how the writing on this show will work pretty much constantly: on two levels.

Needs to be an earthy everyman, but not southern. The country's got redneck fatigue with all the NASCAR Dads and Teaparty Moms and President Bush. Someone with the rough features of a Tom Arnold but with the gravitas of a Jim Belushi. I admit I don't have an idea of who fits best here. Can Hagrid do an American accent?

We've got to tread lightly here, because you don't want to make a minority the villain, but I'm really feeling Antonio Banderas here. Ethnic. All-man. You want him to be sinister AND sexy, and that's Tony in a nutshell. Thwarted again by Duck Butler?—just picture Tony sucking in air and making an O with his mouth and going, "Ooooh." Who's horny right now just thinking about that? You see me?—you see me right now?—this is me raising my hand to say, "I am." Also, we want someone who can really make us empathize with Childers. He's evil, but he has his reasons, remember. We could really use some movie-star acting to make that happen, plus a movie-star name rounding out the cast, and, well, Tony's career ain't going anywhere right now. Plus, obviously he needs to bring home a regular paycheck, because last time I checked that wife of his had more teams of engineers fixing up her grill than the Big Dig. Just kidding!—I love Melanie.

This should be the easiest casting, because Duck Butler will be computer animated to resemble a 100% accurate male mallard, with only a few physiological deviations to make it look like he's talking and make him look natural when he smokes cigarettes. So in this case, the voice is everything. We need someone with a regal and authoritative-sounding English voice, someone cheap, and someone who's not gonna kick off before this thing reaches 100 episodes and a syndication deal. My idea?—Bill Nighy. Great voice, not yet 60, and the man will seriously appear in anything. Did you even see Underworld: Rise of the Lycans? Who needs a payday that bad? I don't know where his money's going, but if I try to picture it, the only thing I can see is him falling asleep every night on a different hooker with about 10 racing forms around him, and if you look closely you can tell his betting strategy is to throw a metric shitload of money on any horse whose name sounds like a novelty microbrew. Can you just imagine "Queck" coming out of a duck in the voice of Bill F'n' Nighy! You can, and you WANT IT.

Some eye-candy. Who cares?


Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying, "Baby, this sounds great, I love it and I want to order 22 right now, but it sounds like you just pitched me Mr. Belveduck." Well, you know what I say? "Yeah, and???" That sucker aired for six seasons and 117 episodes: it hit the syndication sweet spot. That's cash money. It brought England into the homes of everyone in America and changed the way we thought about people who do things like grow up in Europe. That show could blow its nose, and the hankerchief would get sogged with culture. Best of all, it went off the air nineteen years ago. The only people who remember it are insiders, the surveyors of TV-land — us word engineers.

And I know what else you're going to say: "That's out there. How is anyone in America going to relate to this?" Well, I dunno about you, but I noticed that Joss Whedon wrote nine episodes about space libertarians, and you can't go on the internet without running into people who post pictures of themselves wearing a pair of gorram chaps. And those people on the internet? They just finished up going nuts about a TV show where people were secretly robots and wanted to ask everyone if they'd read The Good News. Compared to that, a regular dude winning the lottery and a talking duck who smokes Camels all the time is pretty pedestrian. Heck, it could really happen.

So whaddaya say? Let's go, let's do this. People, it's time to change the world. I'm not doing the passive wait-for-a-callback thing anymore. I'm not just mailing this GOLDEN TICKET out there and waiting for someone to claim it. I'm getting direct. Just now, I called up FOX's VP for Development, Geoffrey Nussbaum, and said, "What's it gonna take to get your bigass Jew nose to start smellin' what I'm cookin'?" And you know what? He hung up. But more importantly, half an hour later, when I found President Kevin Reilly's number and called his office and gave my name, his secretary recognized it. He wasn't in, but as you can see, things are changing. They know who I am now.

I'm feeling this right now. I'm really feeling it. I'll be the brains. You be the broadcaster. Let's make lots of money.