Thursday, November 09, 2006

More Mary Tyler

Thanks to all who liked the scene I posted a few weeks ago from the MARY pilot David and I wrote and unfortunately got on the air in 1985. Here's that post. For those who requested more, here’s another scene. For anyone writing a spec pilot it gives you an example of how to set up characters.

As a refresher, the premise was that Mary (as in Tyler Moore) was a high class fashion writer whose magazine folded. She winds up working at a sleazy Chicago tabloid. This is the scene right after she accepts the job.

Tully is a legally blind copy editor. David Byrd plays him. Katey Segal plays Jo Tucker, a Fran Liebowitz type columnist, and John Astin is theatre critic Ed LaSalle.

****
INT. CITY ROOM – DAY

TULLY IS GUIDING MARY TO AN EMPTY DESK IN THE CENTER OF THE ROOM.

TULLY
This will be your desk.

THERE’S A DESK FACING HERS AND SHE’S FLANKED CLOSELY BY TWO OTHERS.

MARY
What do I do for privacy?

TULLY
Go home at night.

MARY
Who has the desk facing me?

TULLY
Jo Tucker. Good luck.

HE WALKS AWAY, CROSSING BY JO TUCKER, WEARING A PULLOVER SWEATER AND SLACKS, CIGARETTE DANGLING FROM HER LIPS.

JO
You’ll need it.

MARY
Jo Tucker…isn’t he that nasty bitter man who writes the “Main Line Chicago” column?

JO, NOW SITTING AT HER DESK:

JO
Yes, I am.

MARY
You’re Jo Tucker?

JO
Yes, and I don’t like being called bitter. I prefer…macho. So, you’re going to do the Help Line – solving problems for Chicagoland’s great unwashed. (THEN) You’re not going to keep little stuffed Care Bears on your desk, are you?

MARY
I’m only here until something better comes along. (TO HERSELF) Like a job in a limestone quarry.

JO LIGHTS ANOTHER CIGARETTE WITH THE BUTT OF THE ONE SHE HAD BEEN SMOKING.

JO
Cigarette?

MARY
No. I don’t smoke.

JO
Might as well. You’re going to die sitting across from me.

A VETERAN OF THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS WHO LOOKS LIKE HE’S PROBABLY “HOISTED A FEW” OVER THE YEARS, ED LASALLE APPROACHES.

ED
Ed LaSalle.

HE WAITS FOR HER RESPONSE AS IF SHE SURELY RECOGNIZES THE NAME.

MARY
(SHE DOESN’T) Hello…Mary Brenner.

ED
Ed LaSalle.

MARY
Mary Brenner.

ED
Just wanted to welcome you aboard, Mary Brenner. I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life. The Second City. The Windy City. The Big Shoulders. Hog Butcher to the World. Chi-town, my town. You’re going to love it here.

MARY
I’m from here.

ED
(HOW COULD SHE NOT KNOW) Ed LaSalle.

JO
(IMPATIENT) The theatre critic.

MARY
Oh. Of course.

ED
You like theatre, Mary Brenner?

MARY
Yes, yes I do.

ED
There’s a lot of great theatre in this town.

MARY
(TRYING TO MAKE CONVERSATION) Did you like “Cats”?

ED
Never saw it.

MARY
Oh. How about “Dreamgirls”…?

ED
Uh-uh. Mary Brenner, that’s all commercial pap. I cover the real theatre. Chicago’s theatre. Daring, experimental, the raw side of life. Emotions stripped bare. The refuse of the human condition that can be rated on a scale of one to ten. You know what’s the worst part of being a critic, Mary Brenner?

MARY
Musicals?

ED
No. Most nights I have no one to accompany me. Are you married?

MARY
(IMMEDIATELY) Yes.

ED
How come you aren’t wearing a wedding band, Mary Brenner?

MARY
Well, I’m not…technically married.

ED
Then, it’s the Big D.

MARY
Well, yes.

ED
(LEANS IN CLOSE) Good. Then, it looks like you are going to be (POINTEDLY) “steppin’ out with Ed LaSalle”.

MARY
Well…maybe. We’ll see.

ED
Steppin’ out with Ed LaSalle.

MARY
What?

ED
Steppin’ Ou ---

JO
That’s the name of his column.

MARY
Thank you. (TO ED) And a very clever name it is.

ED
If you need any help in naming your column…

MARY
I know where to come, thanks.

HE MOVES ON. MARY WAVES AWAY THE CIGARETTE SMOKE.

MARY
I don’t suppose I could ask you –

JO
Not if it would end world hunger. I like to smoke. Y’see, by nature I’m a very private person. I don’t care for people or things much, so I keep to myself… mostly in my apartment. It’s a rather dull existence. (HOLDING UP CIGARETTE) So these give me that chance to live life on the edge.

MARY
Have you ever tried cyclamates?

******

13 and out – which should be the name of our production company.

13 comments :

popcornflix said...

Ken,

Check your residuals statements. I saw this very scene on insomniac cable TV within the last eight months.

They staged it with Mary and Katie's desks facing each other at the front of the set, so we watched them in profile. Mary was camera left.

.:popcornFlix:.

gottacook said...

I saw the pilot episode of "Mary" when first broadcast - and I remember that Sagal and Astin really made the most of their parts. But now that I've read your earlier post about the production of the pilot and series, I have a better idea of why I never again tuned in - even though I did give "Foley Square" (the other new sitcom it was paired with, starring Margaret Colin and Hector Elizondo) a few more chances.

My thanks to tvsquad.com for pointing me and other readers toward your site.

Ken Levine said...

There was a TV Land special featuring Katey Segal that featured clips from the pilot. That might have been what you saw. If not, if it's actually playing somewhere, even on channel 563 I'd be thrilled.

Tom Quigley said...

This writing is so smart and funny right off the page... It's a shame the show (for whatever reasons) didn't survive... But then, look at Bob Newhart -- after two hugely successful series, the law of averages had to catch up with him... Although I'll have to say that in the case of BOB, the show didn't seem to have the stories, the writing, or the chemistry... Ken, this writing is excellent... Great inclusive job of character background, exposition and story development, all of which a good pilot needs to have.

Max said...

Great scene, it's like the pilot for CHEERS, which also gave you a great feel for the characters with only a few lines. Terrific lines here. What do I do for privacy? Go home at night. Did you enjoy Cats? Never saw it. Four sentences there -short ones at that- and two big laughs.

Dave Williams said...

Inspirational. Truly excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Cage Free Brown said...

great stuff!

now, an anal question.
suppose that show had been a big hit? How would the process have changed?

would you still be thinking of funny things for good actors to say or would your life become a living hell of actors trying to tell you what sort of things you SHOULD write for them?

or none of the above?

kostia said...

I never saw this show, though I remember it being on. In the intervening years I've realized how great John Astin was. These lines come right off the page sounding like him. I can just hear his voice in my head.

Anonymous said...

"Mary" had a lot of potential, but CBS blew it with the scheduling. This was not an 8:00 show. It should have been scheduled after "Newhart". I think they might have moved it against "Moonlighting" (then at the height of its popularity) at some point. Brilliant.

Wally said...

Thanks for posting this. It's got some genuinely funny moments, and any way one can get a glimpse of the inner-workings of TV comedy is a good thing.

lairbo said...

I didn't remember the show until I read the post, then it all came back, that scene especially, and I know I haven't seen it since then.

Similarly, when you were writing about the Goodbye Radar episode of MASH, I recalled thinking when it aired that Radar seemed really prickly and that it seemed so odd.

Graham said...

Is the character of Ed a reference to writer Emerson Lasalle?

Dwacon said...

Very sharp and witty dialogue. With a little Tommy Dorsey in the background, it could work for Abbott and Costello. But seriously folks... maybe it was a bit too sharp for middle America? that was, they tell me, what killed Sid Caesar's show...