The Basketball

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Last week I told the story of a writing team I know, and what happened at their last pitch meeting together.

One of them had turned to the other, mid-pitch, and had said, essentially, "Don't pitch it like that." And they had argued in front of the network executives about the point of view of the show, and then, later in the parking lot, they went at it with shouts, and eventually fists.

Well, not fists, exactly. They're writers, so it was more of a slappy kind of girly fight, with a lot of shirt grabbing and pointless pushing. But, by Hollywood writer standards, it was a prizefight.

And then afterwards, sweating and panting and streaked with spittle and snot and probably tears, too, they each got into their respective Priuses and glided away soundlessly.

And so here's what happened next.

Well, first, okay, I'm lying about the Priuses. I just said Prius because it seemed impotent and ineffectual, like the slappy girl fight and the bad pitch and the sudden realization that these guys had, in the room, pitching to the network, that nothing was going well. Not the pitch. Not the career. Not the partnership. Nothing.

But after a few days of festering and fermentation, they get together to discuss the events – that's how they put it, the events, which somehow made the whole thing seem solemn and dignified, less like what it was, which was two guys yanking on each other's hair in the parking lot of a low-rated network.

And this is sort of how I come into the story, because their summit meeting to discuss the events took place at a Coffee Bean in town, a place I very occasionally go to, but this day, I did. And there they were, in a corner. They had worked it out, apparently. Apologies had been made and statements had been stated and there was a lot of "All I'm saying…" and "Can I finish?" but the upshot was, they were going to keep working together. They were ready to go out and pitch again.

I got my coffee and waved at them, stopped by the table to say hello, and typically for me didn't pick up on the awkward vibe at all, and when one of them tonelessly and without enthusiasm asked if I wanted to sit down, I said, Hey! Sure, and I sat there and ate my lemon cake and asked them, with my mouth full, what they were up to.

And they told me what they had been pitching – they didn't mention the events, these I got a little later, through the grapevine – but they told me about their show idea: a blended family comedy, but sharper, and that the hook to the show is that the family is athletic or something, and they settle their differences out by the garage, at the basketball hoop.

"You know," one of them said, "That's how we should pitch this show. Just scotch-tape the pitch to a basketball, and instead of going in to the office and sitting down and making small talk and going through the whole humiliation of pitching and selling, we just…"

"Bounce the ball into the room," the other one chimed in excitedly, "with the pitch attached. Because that's the heart of the show, right?"

They both seemed so excited by this idea – bouncing the ball, turning around, heading out – that I just sort of sat there and wrapped up my lemon cake wax paper and shuffled off. And later I heard that they did, in fact, pitch the show exactly that way, and it went about as well as you'd expect – the ball bounced awkwardly, knocking over the Fiji water on the executive's desk; the baffled executive trying to remove the pitch from the basketball, but ripping it by mistake, and of course no sale. No fight in the parking lot either, I guess, so that's something.

It's been a while since I've seen those guys. Part of me is tempted to ask around, but part of me prefers to think that they're still fighting in parking lots and making up at the Coffee Bean and devising new and more irritating ways to pitch their shows, because that's the kind of business I want to work in, the kind of business that still has room for slappy girl fights and basketball pitches.

That's all for this week. Next week: the list. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with.



Rob Long