More on our snake-bitten CHARACTERS pilot for NBC in 1979.
Okay, we cast the girl. Maggie Roswell. But now we needed the guy who would be her comedy partner. Details of the pilot premise here.
As with the girl, we saw a bunch of guys – some incredibly talented – and Matriarch nixed them all. After she shit all over the screen tests she gave us the name of the couple she wanted. The actress was Ms. Broadway and the guy was an emerging LA actor. Did we like them? Her for sure. Him, it was hard to tell from his reel. But at that point we would have taken Trigger if he weren’t stuffed.
We fly Ms. Broadway out to LA, spend a delightful day trying to cajole her into doing our pilot. She was leaning against it but said she’d mull it over. Back to NY she flew to star in her Broadway play the next night.
We inquired about the guy. His agent said he wasn’t interested. He had just had a bad experience with a pilot and didn’t want to do a series at the moment.
We reported this back to Matriarch who screamed at us again. “You’re producers! Convince him! He’s the only one I’ll approve!” and again she slammed down the phone.
So we call the agent again and arrange a dinner with the actor. For four hours we reassure him that this pilot experience would not be like his previous one, that we are straight-shooter and he can trust us. Eventually, he gives in and says he’d do it – but only because we seemed to have the integrity the other producers lacked.
The next day business affairs and his agent begin negotiating the deal.
Meanwhile… Ms. Broadway is still on the fence. One of her concerns was who would her co-star be? Matriarch messengers over a tape of the actor. Ms. Broadway doesn’t like him.
So right in the middle of negotiations NBC pulls their approval and the deal is dead. To this day I am mortified. You live and learn. Today if that happened I call Matriarch and tell her she can take the pilot and shove it right up her ass. Either the actor is approved or we walk.
But then we were young and green. And stupid. A day later Ms. Broadway decides to pass.
So now we have neither.
Matriarch’s next choice is Jeff Altman. Nice guy, talented, but not right for this role. We pass. She slams down the phone again. Altman then gets cast in another NBC pilot that becomes PINK LADY AND JEFF. That show gets picked up instead of ours. A girl singing group from Japan (unknown to American audiences) that spoke broken English singing bad cover versions of Donny Osmond songs and doing comedy skits with Jeff Altman. It was a super train wreck (as opposed to SUPERTRAIN wreck, which was also picked up).
Finally, we catch a break. Philip Charles MacKenzie (pictured: above) walks into our office. He’s PERFECT. So perfect that even Matriarch has to approve him.
Two more roles to go. Stay tuned for more chapters.
By the way, three years after this pilot David and I sign on to produce the first season of CHEERS. At the first table reading NBC President Brandon Tartikoff takes us aside and says, “You know, you guys were right about Andrea Martin.”
We almost kissed him.