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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
Once, a writing team I know pitched a show to a network. Pitches are tricky things – sell too hard, too slick, with too much prepared "hey! How are ya?" kind of patter, and you turn everyone off. You turn something that's supposed to be a sales call disguised as a casual meeting into a sales call disguised as a…well, disguised as nothing. As a sales call. A shabby please-buy-my-thing kind of event, no different from those people you see lugging pharmaceutical samples around doctor's offices, handing out pens and pre-printed post-it notes.
But in this case, with the writing team I'm talking about, it was pretty clear. They were selling. Hard. But they were also a little desperate, which had created tiny hairline fractures in their relationship, which, under the pressure of the pitch, started to widen. Especially when it was clear to both of them that the pitch wasn't going well. There weren't a lot of laughs from the network executives, weren't a lot of sympathetic, interested smiles. One of them nodded a lot, but she was looking at her Blackberry at the time, so it wasn't a good sign.
So the one partner winds up the meat of the pitch – he's told the basic pilot story, introduced the key characters, put in a few jokes – and the other partner does the big picture stuff – what's the show about, really? What are the big themes? What chords does it touch?
I seem to recall that it was some kind of blended family thing. You know: step brothers and sisters, two families coming together, Brady Bunch but with edge. And the Big Picture partner winds up by saying something like, "And what makes this show really different and special is that we're telling it from the kids' point of view. From how they feel, suddenly becoming a larger family, and how they learn over time to get along, to adapt."
"Well, not really," says his partner. And he turns to his partner and says, "Don't tell them we're doing that, because we're not." And then he tells the network that what they're going to do, what they talked about, the whole kernel of the show, is told from the point of view of the parents, not the kids. This is a grown-up show, he says. Not a kids show. And he looks hard at his partner. "Okay?" he says.
There's a little nervous laughter. Everyone is uncomfortable. The meeting wraps up. And the network executive tells them that it's a great idea, a great show, really has potential, could be really great, but, honestly, right now, they're looking for something with a strong kids' point of view, and this may not be it.
The other partner looks hard at his partner. "See?" he says, furiously. And they stalk out.
And a few moments later, when the network executive is casually looking out her window and enjoying the Pinkberry that her assistant brought her, she sees the two writing partners, in the parking lot, screaming at each other. She gets a phone call, talks for a few moments, then glances out the window again.
They're still at it. But it's more desperate now, more uncontrolled. It's no longer an argument. It's a spilling out of all of the pent up anger and fury and disappointment and blame they both share. And suddenly, it erupts into a slapping, kicking, purple-faced fight.
Her computer dings. She gets an email, responds, then an IM from her boss. She gets another call, finishes up her Pinkberry, and looks out the window.
It's over. They're both sitting on the curb, exhausted and panting. Faces glazed with snot and spittle. They both get into their respective cars and drive off. She tosses out her Pinkberry and begins returning phone calls.
What happened after that? I'll tell you next week. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.