Wednesday, March 14, 2012
If you thought sitcom writers needed Pepto-bismol BEFORE...
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…
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.