Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Scene from a bad creative marriage (complete)










I talked recently about doing the Mary Tyler Moore comeback vehicle, MARY for CBS in 1985. Got a few requests for a sample of the pilot script (written by David Isaacs and me). And since you’ll never see the show on the air, even as cable channels grow to the thousands, I figured, it’s either here or nothing.

CBS wanted an updated version of her old show, believing that Mary’s audience would only accept a more mature version of Mary Richards. We listened to them instead of doing our original idea. That was our first mistake.

The premise everyone agreed upon was that Mary, a high class fashion writer found herself out of work when her magazine folded. She winds up working at a Chicago tabloid, the kind that views the Sun-Times as if it were the NY Times. We tried to put her in a much funkier, edgier arena than WJM. And we tried to give her a love interest. Our inspiration was HIS GIRL FRIDAY. We wanted someone who was handsome, charming, and kept Mary completely off guard. Was he a cad or just pushing her to be better? We hired James Farentino who was GREAT. Here’s the scene where they meet – Mary’s job interview. To make it easy to read I just re-posted the whole scene.

**********

INT. FRANK DEMARCO’S OFFICE – DAY

THIS IS THE ONE PLACE THEY DIDN’T CLEAN UP AFTER THE CHICAGO FIRE. FRANK IS SITTING BEHIND HIS DESK, ON THE PHONE, GETTING A HAIRCUT.

ALSO PRESENT IS A TALL, THIN MAN WHO WEARS HEAVY BIFOCAL GLASSES. THIS IS TULLY, THE COPY EDITOR.

MARY ENTERS.

(NOTE: THIS SCENE SHOULD PLAY AT 200 MPH)

FRANK
(INTO PHONE) Of course the cop won’t let you take a picture of the body. You slip him fifty bucks, he turns the other way, you go in and get the shot. Do you want the Pulitzer or not?! (TO MARY) Come on in.

MARY
Did I get you at a bad time?

FRANK
(WITHOUT LOOKING UP) Not at all. (TO BARBER) Keep a little in back. (THEN) Tully, how many S’s in “disappear”?

FRANK HANDS HIM A DUMMY SHEET. TULLY HOLDS THE COPY AT ARM’S LENGTH AND STRAINS TO SEE IT.

TULLY
Where?

FRANK
In the headline!

TULLY
Oh. Three.

FRANK
(TO MARY) Unions. I have to keep a legally blind copy editor. (TO TULLY) There’s two! Should be one. Fix it and print it.

TULLY
Big deal, so I’ll take out an “S”.

FRANK
Out!

TULLY EXITS. FRANK EXTENDS HIS HAND.

FRANK
Frank DeMarco.

MARY
Nice to meet you, Mr. DeMarco.

FRANK
Please…Frank. You got some samples of your work?

SHE OPENS HER ATTACHE CASE, HANDS HIM ONE.

MARY
Yes, well, this article from 1980 won an award from the fashion writers of…

THE PHONE RINGS.

FRANK
Hold on. (INTO PHONE) Yeah…

MARY
…America.

FRANK
(INTO PHONE) What do you mean he won’t take fifty bucks? This is Chicago! All right, for one picture we’ll get him floor seats for a Bulls game.

HE HANGS UP.

MARY
Look, if you’re busy I could…

FRANK
(YELLING) Tully!!

TULLY (O.S.)
Coming!

FRANK
Let’s do it now, Mary. This afternoon it’s gonna get crazed.

TULLY POPS HIS HEAD IN.

FRANK
You know the drawing the Sports Department is having for the Bulls tickets?

TULLY
Yeah.

FRANK
We just got a winner.

TULLY
Who?

FRANK
Me.

TULLY
Right.

TULLY EXITS.

BARBER
Finished.

THE BARBER HOLDS UP THE MIRROR.

FRANK
Well, Mary, what do you think?

MARY
About what?

FRANK
The hair.

MARY
Fine.

FRANK
Mary, if you’re gonna work here you have to have an opinion.

MARY
Am I going to be working here?

FRANK
I don’t think so.

THE BARBER PACKS UP TO LEAVE.

BARBER
See you Friday.

FRANK CHECKS HIS POCKETS.

FRANK
Son of a gun, no change. Mary, you got a buck?

MARY
No.

FRANK
I’m getting no help today, Henry. Catch you next time.

THE BARBER EXITS.

FRANK
Mary, just looking at you I can tell you’re a very talented writer.

MARY
I am.

FRANK
But the thing is, see, I’ve only been here three months. It’s my job to turn this turkey around. And that’s fine ‘cause that’s what I like to do. Storm into town, make a lot of noise, rattle some cages, leave a silver bullet, and move on. Look around you. I don’t need fashion talk. Most of our readers use this paper for clothing.

MARY
Then why did you agree to see me?

FRANK
Because I do have an opening, but I don’t think you’re right for it.

MARY
Oh, what is it?

FRANK
You really wanna know?

MARY
Not really, but I’m here so what the hell!

TULLY POPS HIS HEAD IN.

TULLY
Sorry, Frank, the guy’s already picked up his tickets.

FRANK
Thanks, Tully, you’re a big help.

TULLY
You can’t fire me, you know.

FRANK
Get outta here.

TULLY EXITS.

MARY
You know, Frank, you’re probably right. I don’t think I really fit in. Actually, I just came here as sort of a last resort but there must be resorts even worse I can try.

FRANK
I want to start a consumer “Help Line” column. Readers send in all sorts of problems. Our advocate fights like hell, cuts through the red tape, and we print the best stories.

MARY
That’s the job?

FRANK
Sensation sells papers, Mary. But above all what I want for the Eagle is credibility.

THE PHONE RINGS.

FRANK
(INTO PHONE) Yeah…The cop went for it, huh?… Good. Okay, take the picture and tell him you’ll drop by later with his circus tickets… What? Basketball tickets? Where am I gonna get basketball tickets?

HE HANGS UP. MARY IS STUNNED. SHE CAN’T BELIEVE THIS GUY.

MARY
Well I should be going. I’ve been here… (CHECKING HER WATCH) Whoa! Two whole minutes.

FRANK
Sorry to waste your time. But I doubt if a woman with your background could handle auto mechanics, immigration, city hall –

MARY
(IMMEDIATELY) How do you have any idea what I can or cannot do? You don’t know anything about me. I have faced more than my share of crises with a great deal of poise.

FRANK
Personal crises?

MARY
That’s none of your business. And as far as a car mechanic is concerned, I’d rather face one of them than an irate designer any day. Let me tell you about the time –

THE PHONE RINGS.

MARY
Oh for godsakes…

FRANK

(ON PHONE) Yeah… He doesn’t want me going with the story? Tough! He’s an elected official. As long as he’s got his hand in the till, I’m gonna be on his back.

HE HANGS UP.

MARY
… Let me tell you about the time they wouldn’t let me into a showing at… what elected official?

FRANK
It’s confidential but I’ll open my closet if you’ll open yours.

MARY
No, thank you.

FRANK
I knew I was safe. Now, you were saying?

MARY
I was going to tell you about the time…

FRANK
That’s well and good, Mary, but have you ever read the Post? A lot different style than Woman’s Digest.
MARY
I can write anything. I’ve done all kinds of material… short stories, novellas (PROUDLY) .. rejected by some of the finest publishers in this country!

FRANK
Where do you find the time to write all that?

MARY

Oh, nights.. weekends.

FRANK

Don’t you have a social life?

MARY/FRANK
That’s none of your/my business.

FRANK
Bottom line, Mary, I just don’t think you’re tough enough.

MARY
I am tough enough.
FRANK
Prove it.

THE PHONE RINGS. FRANKS REACHES FOR IT BUT MARY BEATS HIM TO IT. SHE GRABS THE PHONE AND YANKS IT OUT OF THE WALL.

MARY

There!

FRANK

I’ll try ya.

MARY

(STILL DEFENSIVE) It sounds like fun.

FADE OUT. END OF ACT ONE.



22 comments:

Hollywood blond said...

Some sweet lines in there. Better than much of what's airing today.

But no wonder Mary was miffed. Jimmy got all the good lines! Very enjoyable.

Ken Levine said...

Two things,

You'd be amazed at how many laughs Mary got just from her reactions. And in tomorrow's installment she weighs in with a few choice ones.

The Master said...

You do NOT wish you were me. Trust me.

Anonymous said...

didn't know how it ends?


Oh please. But good lines and a sparky sitch...nice one.

As a fashion editor, I would have thought she was a shoe-in for a gossip columnist.

Chris said...

Just curious - when the dialogue is crackling on the page like that, do the actors (one of whom is a legend) know how good their lines are - or do they still feel the need to "add" to them because they're "creatively insprired"?

Dave Williams said...

That scene reads like a verbal bullet train.

The reactions I would like to see would be from the guy who had to run the laugh track.

Very impressive stuff!

Hollywood blond said...

I love it. I hope webisodes are going in this direction. Get a megacorp like Microsoft or Starbucks to sponsor productions like this. Give us writing and scenes and feelings we want to be part of. Mary aced the job. There's sexual tension. Power struggles. And best of all, no CSI lab.

Dwacon said...

I always thought it would be a great idea to create a cable channel called "FLOPHOUSE." It would be the home for such inspired failures such as your Mary. Also, I would program shows like:

RANGO starring Tim Conway
INSIDE OUT starring Bill Daily and Farrah Fawcett
A MAN CALLED HAWK starring Avery Brooks
IT's ABOUT TIME starring Imogene Coca

As well as those shows that TV Land would never touch such as:

Mister Terrific... Captain Nice... and the Japanese imports such as Ultraman.

Of course, we could always name the channel UHF... with a wire coat hanger on top of a television set as our logo.

Whaddaya think?

Mike Barer said...

Mary made her mark as an excellent producer if memory serves. Didn't some of TV's better shows at that time come of MTM's studio's?

The Curmudgeon said...

I liked It's About Time.

Dave Williams said...

Oh, boy...here we go.

Anybody remember the show WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN by Mel Brooks? 1975, 12 episodes and out. I was pretty young but I loved the show. Was it any good, really?

Eric K said...

I wonder why with all the cable channels there isn't one that just airs all the pilots that never got picked up

benson said...

Doesn't Bravo or some channel like that run something named "Brilliant but Cancelled"?

It's funny how so many of these cable channels start out with lofty goals, but end up running nothing but network reruns.

Paul Duca said...

"Brilliant But Cancelled" was running on the now defunct Trio channel (part of the same family as Bravo)--it's become a website (www.trio.tv)

The Master said...

Sorry Dave, I remember seeing all 12 episodes of WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN. If I'd been 10 years old I would have thought it was hilarious. Unfortunately, I was 25 and it really was when things were rotten. Impossible as it sounds, MEN IN TIGHTS was actually better, and it was unbreaable.

Mr. F&I said...

My favorite flop was Hot'l Baltimore. Somebody needs to release it on DVD.

benson said...

I guess I'm lucky...one of my favorite flops comes out in the next few weeks-the original "Police Squad". Still think it was better than the movies.

The other I may have to wait a while. Brooklyn Bridge. But if you subscribe to the theory that everything will eventually be released on DVD, then it will someday.

Rob Bates said...

I concur about "When Things Were Rotten" ... loved it as a kid. Hated it as an adult. (I bought a video off ebay; you probably still can.)

Great theme song though.

Mark Black said...

Great scene, thank you for publishing it. But I just don't see "our" Mary yanking a phone line out. Let alone be tough in the way it sounds like you were hoping for a Rosalind Russel-type.

Anonymous said...

"It's about Time"? as in: its about space? Spaceship going back in time, landing on island a la Gilligan? What was not to like! Maybe your new channel would have to further focus programming nights, like to all series using islands, or robots, or blondes - no wait, not enough days in the week.

Dwacon said...

Seems the cable idea has already been taken. Well, what about creating feature films based on flopped shows? If you can have "Dukes of Hazzard" on the big screen and the ongoing attempt to make a "Dallas" feature, why not "It's about time" with CGI dinosaurs.

Even better, have Ron Moore and David Eick re-imagine it. Their reimagined "Battlestar Galactica" is an awesome series... and I read in Variety that Eick is re-imagining The Bionic Woman.

I'd enjoy a re-imagined "The Flying Nun." Forget the lift versus weight technobabble. Make her fly like superman and re-imagine her as the Pope's agent to defeat al-Quaeda.

I nominate Paget Brewster in the title role as our supersonic sister.

Steven said...

So you decided not to have James Farentino respond to Mary's ripping the phone out of the wall by saying "You've got spunk," eh? She could have said something like, "Don't tell me, I know. You hate spunk." And he could have said, "No, I love it."