Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Mary Tyler

Voting continues for the Komedy Kontest. The fate of an AfterMASH script might depend on YOU.

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.

8 comments:

Ger Apeldoorn said...

So... put your characters in a situation where they must introduce them selves... and just let them be. Amazing how easily this flows. But after two scenes I don't know where the story is going. Now this is not a criticism, because as a viewer I would not zap away. I have been totally caught by the characters and want to know what they are going to do next. Seems to me in most pilots the writer gets in the way of himself by wanting to do too much all at once.

DrBear said...

production company - that might make a blog post; how such names and logos are chosen. MTM is obvious, and one of the classics with the kitten instead of the lion - but how about some others?

A. Buck Short said...

Very very enjoyable, expeditious and expositionally exemplary. The cyclamate sarchasm was a terrific kicker. I assume this was around the time it was banned as a carcinogen by the FDA. Was it generally known that cyclamates were also invented in Illinois -- and accidentally, involving a cigarette? Arcane, but makes the joke work on two levels. Do you think there may have been anything in your subconcious like that to give you the idea? Or was it just the celebrity of the FDA's annuncement?

Annie said...

Exposition is easier to spot on the page than on the screen, since physical humor masks its delivery. For instance, I could see the beats develop as Tully had to explain Ed to Mary - his intent, his column name, his arrogant dweebiness, etc. Eventually, Mary would look each time to Tully for an 'Ed translation.' At the same time, I could see Mary returning to her desk and Ed interrupting over and over with a new 'Ed-ism.'
Or I could just be hungover again/still.

D. McEwan said...

"So... put your characters in a situation where they must introduce them selves... and just let them be. Amazing how easily this flows."

Flows due to hard work. Expository scenes like this are a bitch to make work and be entertaining. Nothing duller than a lousy expository scene. This is a really good one. Perhaps if you posted a really bad one (By someone else of course.), people could see just how difficult it is to make it flow, to not seem artificial, or dull, or just really obvious. Part of why pilots that are intended as "First episodes" can be so bad is you're so busy introducing characters, you have no time left for story.

That this one looks so simple and easy just shows how well crafted it is.

ShowPerson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Annie said...

I wanted to see Tully top the 'cyclamate' question with a 'I don't have a bicycle' retort.

Good scripts never die - you can't help but keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking....

Anonymous said...

I was convinced I never saw this show when it aired, right up until John Astin's "Ed LaSalle". I can see and hear him right now in my head. I DID see this show in its original run! I guess the fact that it wasn't very memorable may have been the problem. But John Astin was indelible in practically every role he played (not just Gomez Addams... "Eerie, Indiana", anyone?). It's a funny scene, Ken, thanks!