Twice a year, the Television Critics Association (which is comprised of TV critics from all over the country) gathers in L.A., sits in a large, dimly lit ball room for most of the day, and listens/asks questions while a TON of networks trot out a panel of creators and actors for each one of their new shows, as well as some of their returning ones. You’d be surprised at how many networks there are.
You ever heard of the Pivot network? Me either, and it’s my fucking job to sell scripts to networks. But guess what, they had a panel there, and people apparently had questions for them other than “What the fuck is Pivot?” (Unrelated: Hi Pivot, you seem great! I’d be so excited to partner with you on a project I think really fits whatever it is that’s your brand!)
Anyway, this whole thing takes place over two weeks. Now, I’m not a critic, but I would imagine for them, 90% of it is like sitting in one of those timeshare sales pitches that you thought you could get out of when you accepted that free two-night stay in Vegas. And probably most annoying of all is that every show is being presented as if it’s redefining the medium of television. I’ve seen Ted Talks about the future of cancer prevention that took themselves less seriously than panels for shows about two roommates that make jokes about boners. And I get it, networks and creators are trying to explain to critics why, in a very crowded marketplace, this show is worth them talking about. But again, if I were a critic it would just make me more inclined to loathe the show.
And if you think I’m about to tell you that the panel for my show was any different, I’m not. They’re all introduced that way.
That photo at the top of this post was taken on Monday, January 13th, at the panel for my new show “Surviving Jack.” I’m the bald, Jewish-looking one with the glasses. To the right of me is my writing partner Patrick Schumacker, with whom I co-created the show. To the left is Bill Lawrence, (creator of Spin City, Scrubs, etc.. and also EP on the show) who is the one with hair and without glasses, who is decidedly non-Jewish looking, which is rare in comedy writing as it’s overwhelmingly comprised of balding Jewish males.** In fact, to borrow a line from American HIstory X, “In here, Bill Lawrence, YOU ARE THE JEW.”
Bill has done this many times, and was happy to field most of the questions. This was my second time at the TCAs. The first time was for a little show you may remember entitled “Shit My Dad Says.” It was based off my twitter feed and book. I could tell you how I didn’t think the show was good, but I’ll just use a quote from my favorite review the show; “I’d rather watch shit coming out of a Rhino’s asshole.” (By the way, because of that my goal is to someday sell a show about shit coming out of a Rhino’s asshole. LOOKING IN YOUR DIRECTION, PIVOT.)
Anyway, Surviving Jack was based off my second book, “I Suck At Girls,” which is a coming-of-age memoir… in the same way that Shit My Dad Says was a coming-of-age memoir. (Before you call me an asshole because I’m 33 and feel as though my life merits two memoirs, the books are 160-ish pages. You could read them in, like, ten morning-after-drinking shits.)
Despite the fact that it takes only a few shits to read my books, I am very proud of both of them. But I’m also not dumb enough to think I’m interesting enough two sustain two memoirs, and thus in both books my very funny, unique father is prominently featured. Therefore he’s also prominently featured in Surviving Jack. Seeing as how both Shit My Dad Says and Surviving Jack are centered around a character based on my father, I thought there might be a good chance I’d be asked about the differences between the two shows and it’d be weird for me to say “Bill, you want to handle that question?”
Unlike Shit My Dad Says, I really feel that Surviving Jack is a good show, and has the potential to be a very good show.* But the thing about the TCAs is that EVERYONE tells the critics they think their show is a good show. They’ll always tell a story about how lucky they were to get X actor or how the show “just came together and it was lightning in a bottle,” when in fact they only cast X actor after they said words “Kristen Wiigs’s agent says she doesn’t want to do a network TV show right now? We’re sure? Okay, fine, I guess make an offer to X actor.” And also, shows never “just come together.” A TV pilot is like taking a shit in a gas station bathroom; Even if it turns out okay, the experience was probably terrible.
So when it was our turn to get on the panel, and when I was asked about the Shit My Dad Says TV show, I thought “What is the point of trying to bullshit a bunch of people who have been bullshit to non-stop for several days?” Plus, I’d already been pretty public about my feelings about the SMDS TV show, it just hadn’t made news because I’m not important enough to make news and who the fuck wants to read a story about a show that was cancelled five years ago? So on the panel, I decided to answer honestly.
And that was one of two headlines that came out of our panel. Would I have liked to have been more eloquent? Sure, I’d always like that. But I went to shitty public schools and played sports in college, so that train’s left the station. I also would have liked the photo of me not to look like I was haggling over the price of a Hyundai. But I can say that I’m not sorry that I said what I said, because now, if nothing else, when I tell people that I truly believe in Surviving Jack, that I think the cast is great, and that I’m really proud of it, they know I believe it. They may not ultimately agree with me or care, but maybe they’ll give it a chance because at least one of the creators of the show didn’t scoop up a big pile of bullshit and plop it down in front of them. And if they don’t give it a shot, or the show fails?
Aziz, I know you don’t know me, but I’m a big fan. Let’s make this happen.
* I’ve said this before on this blog, but it bears repeating: The reason Shit My Dad Says the TV show sucked is not because of William Shatner, or the Studio, or the Network, but because of me.
** The fact that the majority of TV writers are white males is incredibly problematic, but a topic for another post.