Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If you thought sitcom writers needed Pepto-bismol BEFORE...

Hello from Peoria, Arizona where tonight I broadcast my first Mariner game of the spring. 7:05 PM on 710 ESPN in Seattle and MLB.COM. Should be great.  The M's against... I think Kansas City.   One of the many things I love about Arizona is the number of decent BBQ joints they have here. That and the fact that most sitcoms are wrapping up for the season right about now inspires me to write a post about a grand sitcom writers room tradition.

The final rewrite night feast.

I don’t know where this delightful tradition began – maybe TAXI, perhaps on THE BOB NEWHART SHOW. It’s been awhile. The early participants are probably now in cardiac wards. But forget about that. Like all good traditions, this one needs to continue so if you’re on a writing staff and have your last rewrite night of the season coming up, I urge you to follow in the footsteps of your noble and most likely infirmed brethren.

Quick explanation for non-pros. By the way, I love that expression – non-pros. It means non-professionals or people not in show business. When Variety or the Hollywood Reporter would report marriages or new babies they would say: “groom is story editor on MASH, bride is a non-pro.” In other words, the bride could be finding a cure for cancer but is worthless because she’s not in the entertainment industry. But I digress…

On multi-camera shows, the first full runthrough is usually followed by the big rewrite of the week. That’s the night you really try to whip the script into shape, fix the story, replace scenes, punch it up. These can be long nights so dinner is brought in. Each show has about eight or ten different places they rotate. You try to eat somewhat healthy because you know you’re still going to be working for many hours.

The final week of production is generally an easier week. You don’t have any more scripts to prepare, usually the show runner writes the season finale so it’s in good shape, and the result is an easier rewrite night. To celebrate that, shows will often blow it out on the final rewrite night. And so on CHEERS, WINGS, FRASIER, and all the shows I co-ran, our final rewrite nights was catered by…

Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas Style Bar-B-Que. This is not just some rib joint. This is some serious pounding down of animal fat. It has one location, in Van Nuys – just north of the Budweiser Brewery and south of the Mexican gang wars. And it’s GREAT.

If you eat it once a year.

As a regular diet I don’t think John Belushi would’ve lasted six months.

But we would all gorge ourselves. Ribs, brisket, pork, chicken, beans, slaw, and don’t forget that pecan pie for dessert. One slice has more sugar than the entire state of Hawaii.  It's a night of many laughs and wetnaps.

A tradition within the tradition is that all new writers to the staff are required to eat a certain delicacy. Have I not mentioned the Texas hot links? These are the hottest damn things I’ve ever attempted to eat. We had a story editor on WINGS who consumed one then turned bright red and stayed that color until the series went into syndication. Fraternities have been thrown off of campuses for less severe hazing. But the rest of us got a good chortle out of it.

There’s only one problem with the last night Dr. Hogly Wogly feast – if the runthrough happens to be really bad you are fucked. This happened one year on CHEERS. We figured at best we’d finish around 3:00 AM. But all the food was ordered. The P.A.’s left at like 4:00 PM to pick it up. You knew when they were almost back because you could smell the hot links a mile from the studio.

We ate at 7:00. At 9:00 we all went into a beef coma. We were probably on page 7 at this point. We caught our second wind, but that wasn’t the only wind in the room. The beans kicked in about 10:00. We re-enacted the famous campfire scene in BLAZING SADDLES.

Y’see, usually you eat, write three more jokes, then go home. By the time we finished the rewrite we looked like those Chilean coal miners when they first were rescued.

But again, for you writing staffs about to produce your last episode of the season – don’t think about that. Don’t think about the considerable health risks. Just unbutton your pants and have one of the great meals of your life. And if your show does call on the good Dr. please let me know about it. I may just crash your rewrite.

16 comments:

MikeBo said...

Dr. Hogly Wogly's Texas Tyler BBQ. I remember that place as a high point on my newsmans gourmet tour of LA neighborhood eateries in the 70s and 80s. You're absolutely right about the hot links. Fortunately, we spent most of our time in the field not in a closed room,so the after effects weren't like were for a group of writers. No wonder the PAs went home early.

Paul Duca said...

As a back up, can you fly in delicacies from Adam's Ribs in Chicago?

Dan Tedson said...

You gotta try Chino Bandido. 19th Ave and Greenway. Sort of mexican and chinese food fusion. Even made it on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

John said...

Did any of the lines about the Hungry Heifer and its menu on Cheers come out of some of the staff experiences with Dr.HWTTBBQ?

Unknown said...

I second the Chino Bandido recommendation.

Do you ever go to Salty Senorita right there by the ballpark? I'm playing drums with a cover band there 4-7 on Friday, say hi and give us a request if you're out there!

YEKIMI said...

MMMM, barbeque! Growing up in Florida in the 60s my parents used to take us to Smalley's Barbeque in the St. Pete area. Good thing we didn't eat there every week or I probably would have been the first 10 year old with clogged arteries. Best damn food I have ever tasted. When I went back there in the 90s, it was one of the first places I stopped and the food was just as good and amazingly the place had hardly changed at all. Sadly, they seem to have gone out of business now so if I ever make it back there I'll have to find a new place to chow down.

Max Clarke said...

Funny, Einstein would be a non-pro, Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman non-pros.

jwj170104 said...

I love that it's "Tyler Texas" BBQ, not Lubbuck, Not Austin, Not Dallas but Tyler Texas home of Earl Campbell, Tyler Roses and my brother-in-law! Who knew Tyler would be so popular!

Hanibal said...

I remember it was 1989 and I made the mistake of going to that joint direct from a screening of “Parents” a film in which Randy Quaid graphically devours human flesh. Needless to say a vegetarian restaurant would have been a much better choice that night.

Johnny Walker said...

What season of Cheers was that?

Paul Duca said...

About "non=pro" spouses...does that mean VARIETY would print this"

"Groom is a story editor on MASH, bride is a actress in adult films"

Janice said...

Dr. Hogly Wogly's is indeed a stunning establishment. Stunning.

I am still grunched that the Wiener Factory, home of THE best hot dog on the planet, closed. I so miss their Hot Polish Dogs.

Ryan D. said...

I third the recommendation for Chino Bandido

SkippyMom said...

The name alone promises good food. I think I may have to convince my husband to do some brisket this weekend. [After our corned beef of course.] :)

the actor's diet said...

i want a "writer's diet" guest post for my blog, "the actor's diet!"

norm body said...

The Good Dr. is awesome, worth risking a case of gout, the Wiener Factory is gone but some former employees have a truck called the Wien, found at thewien.com