Ever notice at the end of shows there are those cards that fill the screen with names of bizarre production companies, sometimes animated and sometimes with sound (“That’s some bad hat, Harry.”)? Those are called vanity cards. When writer/creators form their own production company (and they all do) they’re entitled to a vanity card.
The question is: what to do with it? When my partner David Isaacs and I got a series on CBS we had to create our vanity card. First we needed to come up with a name for our so-called entertainment conglomerate. Candidates included “13 and out”, “FU Money”, and “Tina Delgado is alive ALIVE!” We decided to just call it “Levine & Isaacs Productions”, thus extending the outer reaches of our creativity. Look, it’s on screen for like one second, so why not just go for ego under the guise of simplicity?
Some of these vanity cards are so cutesy and pretentious. We wanted to steer clear of that. Maybe the worst was Stephen J. Cannell's. You see him writing at the typewriter with an Emmy in the shot. He takes the paper out of the typewriter, flings it into the air, and its brilliance morphs into an animated version of his company's logo. Yikes!
Now for the visual.
Chuck Lorre fills his card with long fine print rants. That’s an ingenious idea but (a) we didn’t want to copy Chuck, and (b) who wants to do all that extra writing work?
We thought of showcasing our dads waving at the camera as a tribute to them. But then we realized, networks were going to think that was me and David and we didn’t need being blackballed for ageism while we were still in our 30s.
We considered baseball caps from our favorite teams. His was the Yankees but mine would change depending on who hired me to do play-by-play. So that was out. Then we figured, just use caps from our colleges – UCLA and the University of Miami. But UCLA raised my basketball tickets that year and the U of M was undergoing another scandal so we nixed that idea.
To animate something would be costly. And again, there was that fear that we would look incredibly full of ourselves.
So we settled on this. Did it in black and white because there was nothing on TV in black and white then. When it appeared, a little shimmer went across the screen but otherwise this was it. You’re welcome to download it and use it as your wallpaper or screen saver.