In 1996, after completing the first season of ALMOST PERFECT, my partners on the project (David Isaacs and Robin Schiff) were summoned to New York. We had a hunch it wasn’t because CBS loved us so much and wanted to treat us to a few Broadway shows. It probably was to ask for some tweaking before they picked us up for a second year. The show wasn’t a break-out hit but we were getting decent ratings. And over the summer we were moved into Monday night where we were attracting new fans (at least five that I know of).
The premise of the series: Nancy Travis was juggling the career of her life with the relationship of her life, Kevin Kilner.
Much to our surprise, we were told by the network that they wanted us to drop the boyfriend character. They felt Kevin didn’t test well. Actually, that’s not accurate. Kevin did test okay, but everyone else tested higher. The real goal should have been to do more with Kevin so we could get his scores to match the others. But the network didn’t see it that way. And they sort of had control of things.
I must say I disagreed with them for every possible reason. Kevin is a terrific actor and has a special quality – he is very real. We were able to make Nancy’s character more out-there because Kevin grounded the show and their relationship. No, he didn’t get the huge laughs every week but we didn’t give him the huge laughs every week. Yet whatever jokes we gave him he always hit out of the park. It was a total win-win.
Plus, he was the lynchpin of the series. The relationship is what made the show unique in our eyes. Otherwise it’s just Nancy juggling her career and her career.
They weren’t buying it.
In that second season I thought we wrote some very clever episodes but the heart of the series had been taken away. It was never as good.
CBS did offer one concession. We could bring Kevin back for one and do the episode where he and Nancy break-up.
How do you tell an actor he’s fired and then ask him to come back for one more show? To his enormous credit, Kevin Kilner was the ultimate mensch. He accepted the situation and graciously agreed to do the break-up episode. The only time in my life I ever left work to go to a bar and drink in the middle of the day was when I had to have that conversation with Kevin.
When it was announced someone called our office. David answered the phone. The person was irate and railed on and on about the idiot producers who made this stupid move. David said he was the P.A. but would pass along the message.
So here is the writing problem. We ended the last season with them declaring their unending love for each other. How do we suddenly break them up in one episode, making it organic and not just arbitrary? How do we do it so you don’t hate one or both of them? How do we work the other characters into the story? And how do we make the show funny? It will be the season premiere, we don’t want it to be a complete downer. We also don’t want a long argument scene of two talking heads. And this was before LOST so we couldn’t just conveniently kill anybody.
Quite the thorny little problem. I want to hit that bar again just thinking about it.
Tomorrow: what we did.