Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Open All Night

I’m amazed and delighted that some of you actually remember OPEN ALL NIGHT. David Letterman did make a cameo in one episode. So did Joe Montagne, Elvira, David Paymer, and me and my writing partner, David Isaacs (playing two swinging lawyers trying to pick up female mud wrestlers at a mace class).

For the other 99.9% that don’t recall the show, it starred George Dzundza and Susan Tyrell as owners of a 24 hour convenience store. Sam Whipple played Susan’s weird nerd son, and the always hilarious Bubba Smith played a co-worker. It ran for 13 weeks on ABC in the fall of ’81.

We wrote two of the episodes. Here’s part of a scene from one. The weird son, Terry (Sam Whipple), runs away and becomes a desk clerk at the Bates Motel. Step-father, Gordon (George Dzundza) goes to get him back. Once you read it you'll see why we were astounded that we got a WGA award nomination for this script.

INT. BATES MOTEL – NIGHT

RIGHT OUT OF “PSYCHO”. IT’S AN OLD HOTEL LOBBY ADORNED WITH DUST AND MACABRE-LOOKING STUFFED BIRDS. AN OLD LADY, HER BACK TO THE CAMERA, SITS IN A ROCKING CHAIR AS GORDON ENTERS AND LOOKS AROUND.

(We pick up the scene with GORDON TALKING TO TERRY AT THE FRONT DESK.)

GORDON
Look, Terry, it took me three hours to find this place. Now I apologize. So go get your stuff and let’s get out of here.

TERRY
I’m not going anywhere. I’m happy where I am. I fit in. I like it here. It’s quiet. I’ve got friends (RE STUFFED BIRDS) … and nobody hassles me.

GORDON
You gonna stay here for the rest of your life?

TERRY
Probably not. The place is sinking into the swamp.

GORDON
I never thought I’d say this… but it’s important to me that you come home.

TERRY SCOFFS AS A YOUNG WOMAN, MARION, CARRYING A SUITCASE AND A NEWSPAPER ENTERS. SHE ACTS VERY NERVOUS AS IF BEING FOLLOWED. MARION BEARS A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO A YOUNG JANET LEIGH.

TERRY
Excuse me… I have a customer. Welcome to the Bates Motel.

MARION
Do you have a room? I need a room.

TERRY
We’ve got rooms. Twelve cabins. Twelve vacancies. Do you have a reservation?

MARION
No, I just need it for the night. I’ve got a long drive back to Phoenix.

TERRY
You can have Cabin One. It’s the closest if you need anything.

MARION
I won’t need anything.

TERRY HANDS HER A LARGE ORNATE KEY.

MARION
Oh… does the room have a shower?
GORDON
No!!!

TERRY
Sure it does, Gor-don.

MARION
(TO GORDON) What’s the matter with you?

SHE EXITS.

TERRY
I wonder if I changed the linen in that room?

TERRY MOVES A PAINTING ASIDE REVEALING A PEEPHOLE INTO CABIN ONE. HE PEERS THROUGH IT.

TERRY
Yep. All set.

HE SLIDES THE PICTURE BACK. GORDON WANTS TO GET OUT. HE GRABS TERRY BY THE ARM.

GORDON
Terry, no more arguing. Get your stuff.

TERRY
Are you gonna hit me?

GORDON
Hit you? Have I ever hit you before?

TERRY
We’ve never been this close before.

GORDON
Terry, come on home. I’ll make it up to you.

TERRY
Oh, really? Oh, really? You’ll stop ignoring me? You won’t chop me down behind my back? You’ll take a weekend off just to be with me? I think not. I’ve had it with fathers. And step-fathers and uncles. None of you have ever wanted me. You all think I’m weird. Maybe I am weird. A lot of people are weird. A lot of people. Isaac Newton was weird. So was Wolfgang Mozart… and Fred Silverman, and the list goes on and on. Carly Simon, Garry Marshall, Charles Kuralt…

GORDON
All right, all right. I get the point.

TERRY
Thomas “Tip” O’Neill…

GORDON
Okay. (BEAT, THEN) Terry, I don’t know what I’m trying to say… I guess I’m trying to tell you…

OLD LADY
Could you tell him in the men’s room? I’m trying to read.

TERRY
Pardon me. I’ve gotta go set the coyote traps.

TERRY STARTS FOR THE DOOR.

GORDON
Wait a minute… What if I was to promise to try harder? To… start from scratch, give you a break or two. I don’t know if we’d ever wind up “buddies” but you deserve more than I’ve given you.

TERRY
Would you take me on a two-week father-son cruise to the Bahamas?

GORDON
No.

TERRY
How about a day in the mountains?

GORDON
What day and what mountain?

TERRY
Here we go again.

GORDON
Okay, okay, a day in the mountains.

TERRY
You’d really do it? Just you and me?

GORDON
Why not? You’re the only kid I got.

TERRY THINKS THAT OVER, THEN:

TERRY
I love you, Gordon.

GORDON
Yeah.. uh… that’s fine. Let’s.. uh… get goin’, huh?

TERRY
I’ve got to go up to the house and return Mr. Bathes’ clothes.

GORDON
You mean that spooky place on the hill? It’s dark except for some old woman sitting in an upstairs window.

TERRY
That’s Mr. Bates. I’ll be back in a minute… “Dad”.

TERRY EXITS. THERE’S A SCREAM.

GORDON
I heard a scream. Was that a scream?

OLD LADY
Yes. But you get used to them.

GORDON RUSHES TO THE PEEPHOLE AND SLIDES THE PAINTING ASIDE.

GORDON
Oh, my God. Are you all right in there?

MARION (O.S.)
Yeah. Except there’s no hot water. (THEN) Do you mind?

GORDON NODS, SLIDES THE PAINTING BACK AND WE:

FREEZE AND FADE OUT.

19 comments:

Mr. Peel said...

My God. I remember Open All Night, I remember the theme song, but I think this is the only actual episode I remember. Maybe it has to do with recalling my dad laughing hysterically at all the Psycho jokes, but I'd never seen the movie since I was only nine or ten at the time.

Anyway, thanks for the memory and a very-belated congratulations on the nomination.

One more thing comes to mind: Wasn't there some sort of runner involving a cheesy romance novel that characters were reading?

Iain said...

Same with me. This is the only episode of "Open All Hours" I've seen.

I remember seeing this at my grandmother's place (it was on Tasmanian commercial television which appears to function in a different dimension to the rest of Australian television.) Really dug the bizarre Psycho reference.

Anonymous said...

I remember "Open All Night" and I remember it because it portrayed real working people accurately; with brains and hearts and being very human... the comedy coming from funny situations and characters... not like the other 99% of hack sitcoms that make working people look like morons. The networks should ALL be ashamed for the crap that they have aired that is supposed to be "blue collar". "Open All Night" was one of those really rare shows that was doomed from the start... it was smart AND funny, a deadly combination that no network executive can allow to survive without their "creative notes". Screw them all for ruining TV sitcoms.

Anonymous said...

Here's the opening credits

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Mk7G8o95kxs

Ken Levine said...

Thanks for the link to the opening theme. I have a VHS tape of the show...somewhere. Now I'm dying to find it.

And yes, there was a runner about a romance novel that everyone including Bubba Smith was reading. Mr. Peel you have a great memory.

EditThis said...

Sigh. Remember the days when even a bad sitcom with no future would actually AIR for 13? The networks are so quick to cut stuff now. Shows like Cheers and The X Files would never have had a chance.

some guy said...

I was 11 when it aired and have a vivid memory of the episode in which the son gets scammed into buying cases of chutney, the father rails at him for his stupidity in being conned, and then falls for the larger scam, in which the bad guys either clean out, or actually take the whole store. The son has a long I told you so speech -- "I got ripped off for $200, you got ripped off for $84,000", etc.

I thought chutney was a fake product the scammers had invented, and was just amazed one day to see it on the menu at an Indian restaurant. I still think of that ep every time I hear the word chutney.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this loosely based on a British show?

Tom Quigley said...

Ken, one of the things I love about your and David's writing is your ability to draw the comedy from the moment and the environment around the characters, rather than awkwardly trying to force it in where it won't fit or isn't appropriate. The laughs then come so much more naturally. It's what Danny Simon called creating a balloon around your characters, putting all the elements of the characters and the context into that balloon, and then choosing those elements that seem to have the potential for the funniest situation and using them to create the comedy.

Great job as always, even though I remember the show, but don't really rmember any particular details about it (except for Bubba Smith, who I think had just come off of doing a bunch of beer commercials, and thought by that point he could act).

paulryan said...

At first I wasn't sure about this one, but I loved it by the end. I can definitely see how this was nominated. It's quirky and funny in a completely different way that conventional TV shows.

Paul Duca said...

Ken...if you had the opportunity, would you have given yourself a regular role in any of your shows, the way OPEN ALL NIGHT co-creator Jay Tarses did?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've read some of your blog, pretty interesting. You clearly have a lot of talent for comedic writing, and some pretty big connections.

Could you visit http://huberthumphries.blogspot.com/ and give some input on what you think? Thanks.

James said...

Great read. Funny stuff.

Now to track down the epidsodes to watch.

Rob Bates said...

I remember this show too. The stoner kid character was actually pretty popular with kids at school. I vaguely remember the theme song, but I must say, that youtube clip was far cooler than my memory. It's s shame the show didn't take off, if only for that song ...

RobW said...

Oh, come on! That "I've got friends" line killed. If memory serves, Whipple delivered it after draping his arm in a pally fashion over a stuffed owl. Laughed my arse off.

TCinLA said...

You guys probably got the nomination for having the stones to go for that particular parody. That's definitely one where you are treading very close to the deep dark water in the swamp.

And you pulled it off!

- 0 - said...

How strange, I was just thinking about that show (and I missed any earlier posts by you about it). For some peculiar reason I remember one character pointing to the other's head and saying, "What do you do up there -- rent space?"

15 years that idiotic put-down was wedged in my synapses. I ought to sue.

Anonymous said...

I remember an episode where Terry ( the misfit son ) was dating Amber, a girl out of his league. I laughed at the gag which consisted of Terry running into the store crying, upset that Amber had broken up with him.
Terry (upset, in tears): Mom ... Mom ... Amber ... I ... uh
Mother: Oh Terry, what is it ? What about Amber ? Did she hit you ?

Vinnie Rattolle said...

Ken, did you ever find your tape of the show? I put 8 complete episodes on You Tube but am missing both of the ones you wrote and I can't find copies of 'em anywhere. A guy contacted me looking for the "Sitting Ducks" episode (that's the one where Terry gets locked in the freezer, right?), which is the holy grail to his autistic brother.