Why Are You Here?

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot KCRW.

I ran into a guy last week, in the waiting area of a big TV network. He was there to pitch a show, which was odd, because up until that moment, I had been pretty sure he was out of the business.

Not in a bad way, though. The guy had his name on three hit TV shows. He had a major chunk of the last two, which both ran several years, both hit syndication, both, in other words, which even individually would have made him a very rich man.

"Why are you here?" I wanted to ask him. "Why are you not in the South of France, or traveling the world on a yacht, or shopping for $300 shirts?"

But I don't ask people questions like that, questions that I really want to know the answer to. I ask questions like, "So, did you come over the hill or did you take the freeway?" And, "Do you like the Audi?" But I was curious, so I did what all writers do: I called a friend of mine, who's also this guy's friend, and asked him the question.

"How much does that guy have?"

"No idea. A lot. I mean, two shows. On points alone, Say he was at 25 modified adjusted to start. Gives some away, gets to the hard floor of, I want to say, 20 but let's be conservative and say 18--."

When writers talk about money, they suddenly get very very good at math.

"---and let's factor in fees which were high, times 22 episodes times 6 years, times 2 shows, the house in the Palisades--."

"Where?" I ask.

"Riviera," my friend says, with quiet awe. More calculating. Some subtraction for the kids at Crossroads and the college tuitions. The divorce. Still, you end up at a whopping sum.

"What is he doing here?" I ask. "Why is he not in the south of France? I mean, if this guy gets a show on the air -- his third! -- he'll be working so hard, late hours in the editing suite, casting, writing, getting notes from the studio, getting notes from the network, what's he want all of that for? You know, in his position, I'd be so far gone, so out of town. Swinging on a hammock somewhere. Starting a second career as a food writer. Traveling around the world on one of those freighters."

"Wow. You've really thought about this," my friend says.

"Are you kidding? I have a file on my computer called "Things I'd Rather Be Doing." I have a bookmark file on my web browser called "Syndication Escapes" --"

"Well, this guy obviously likes working in television."

"But that's so sad," I say. "That poor guy. Here he is, so successful, so rich, he can do anything he wants, and it turns out that he has nothing else in his life but this business? How tragic. You know, I actually feel sorry for him."

"Did you ever think," my friend says, "that maybe that's why he's so successful?"


"Well, maybe he likes doing this. Maybe he genuinely likes television, likes casting and writing and producing and likes it enough to put up with notes and networks and executives. Maybe he has a show he's passionate about, something he's burning to do, and that's why he's still in the game?"

"That's crazy."

"Maybe, in order to be successful in television, you've got to really love doing it."

"You're not getting me."

"Maybe if you spend so much emotional energy planning your escapes and daydreaming about the day you can leave town, you don't have any left over for the work itself."

"I'm sorry," I say. "You're going through a bad cell. I'll have to call you back." And I hung up. Because life has few enough pleasures as it is, and feeling sorry for someone who is richer and more successful and more productive than you are is one of the juiciest. So I'm going to stick with, that poor guy, he has no life, how tragic, and ignore the possibility that he loves what he does and does it well, because, well, you know why because…

That's it for this week. Next week, I behave irresponsibly. Next week, we'll wonder why some people are still here.

For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long