Sunday, March 23, 2014

Open All Night

I’m amazed and delighted that some of you actually remember OPEN ALL NIGHT. David Letterman did make a cameo in one episode. So did Joe Montagne, Elvira, David Paymer, and me and my writing partner, David Isaacs (playing two swinging lawyers trying to pick up female mud wrestlers at a mace class).

For the other 99.9% that don’t recall the show, it starred George Dzundza and Susan Tyrell as owners of a 24 hour convenience store. Sam Whipple played Susan’s weird nerd son, and the always hilarious Bubba Smith played a co-worker. It ran for 13 weeks on ABC in the fall of ’81.

We wrote two of the episodes. Here’s part of a scene from one. The weird son, Terry (Sam Whipple), runs away and becomes a desk clerk at the Bates Motel. Step-father, Gordon (George Dzundza) goes to get him back. Once you read it you'll see why we were astounded that we got a WGA award nomination for this script.

INT. BATES MOTEL – NIGHT

RIGHT OUT OF “PSYCHO”. IT’S AN OLD HOTEL LOBBY ADORNED WITH DUST AND MACABRE-LOOKING STUFFED BIRDS. AN OLD LADY, HER BACK TO THE CAMERA, SITS IN A ROCKING CHAIR AS GORDON ENTERS AND LOOKS AROUND.

(We pick up the scene with GORDON TALKING TO TERRY AT THE FRONT DESK.)

GORDON
Look, Terry, it took me three hours to find this place. Now I apologize. So go get your stuff and let’s get out of here.

TERRY
I’m not going anywhere. I’m happy where I am. I fit in. I like it here. It’s quiet. I’ve got friends (RE STUFFED BIRDS) … and nobody hassles me.

GORDON
You gonna stay here for the rest of your life?

TERRY
Probably not. The place is sinking into the swamp.

GORDON
I never thought I’d say this… but it’s important to me that you come home.

TERRY SCOFFS AS A YOUNG WOMAN, MARION, CARRYING A SUITCASE AND A NEWSPAPER ENTERS. SHE ACTS VERY NERVOUS AS IF BEING FOLLOWED. MARION BEARS A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO A YOUNG JANET LEIGH.

TERRY
Excuse me… I have a customer. Welcome to the Bates Motel.

MARION
Do you have a room? I need a room.

TERRY
We’ve got rooms. Twelve cabins. Twelve vacancies. Do you have a reservation?

MARION
No, I just need it for the night. I’ve got a long drive back to Phoenix.

TERRY
You can have Cabin One. It’s the closest if you need anything.

MARION
I won’t need anything.

TERRY HANDS HER A LARGE ORNATE KEY.

MARION
Oh… does the room have a shower?
GORDON
No!!!

TERRY
Sure it does, Gor-don.

MARION
(TO GORDON) What’s the matter with you?

SHE EXITS.

TERRY
I wonder if I changed the linen in that room?

TERRY MOVES A PAINTING ASIDE REVEALING A PEEPHOLE INTO CABIN ONE. HE PEERS THROUGH IT.

TERRY
Yep. All set.

HE SLIDES THE PICTURE BACK. GORDON WANTS TO GET OUT. HE GRABS TERRY BY THE ARM.

GORDON
Terry, no more arguing. Get your stuff.

TERRY
Are you gonna hit me?

GORDON
Hit you? Have I ever hit you before?

TERRY
We’ve never been this close before.

GORDON
Terry, come on home. I’ll make it up to you.

TERRY
Oh, really? Oh, really? You’ll stop ignoring me? You won’t chop me down behind my back? You’ll take a weekend off just to be with me? I think not. I’ve had it with fathers. And step-fathers and uncles. None of you have ever wanted me. You all think I’m weird. Maybe I am weird. A lot of people are weird. A lot of people. Isaac Newton was weird. So was Wolfgang Mozart… and Fred Silverman, and the list goes on and on. Carly Simon, Garry Marshall, Charles Kuralt…

GORDON
All right, all right. I get the point.

TERRY
Thomas “Tip” O’Neill…

GORDON
Okay. (BEAT, THEN) Terry, I don’t know what I’m trying to say… I guess I’m trying to tell you…

OLD LADY
Could you tell him in the men’s room? I’m trying to read.

TERRY
Pardon me. I’ve gotta go set the coyote traps.

TERRY STARTS FOR THE DOOR.

GORDON
Wait a minute… What if I was to promise to try harder? To… start from scratch, give you a break or two. I don’t know if we’d ever wind up “buddies” but you deserve more than I’ve given you.

TERRY
Would you take me on a two-week father-son cruise to the Bahamas?

GORDON
No.

TERRY
How about a day in the mountains?

GORDON
What day and what mountain?

TERRY
Here we go again.

GORDON
Okay, okay, a day in the mountains.

TERRY
You’d really do it? Just you and me?

GORDON
Why not? You’re the only kid I got.

TERRY THINKS THAT OVER, THEN:

TERRY
I love you, Gordon.

GORDON
Yeah.. uh… that’s fine. Let’s.. uh… get goin’, huh?

TERRY
I’ve got to go up to the house and return Mr. Bathes’ clothes.

GORDON
You mean that spooky place on the hill? It’s dark except for some old woman sitting in an upstairs window.

TERRY
That’s Mr. Bates. I’ll be back in a minute… “Dad”.

TERRY EXITS. THERE’S A SCREAM.

GORDON
I heard a scream. Was that a scream?

OLD LADY
Yes. But you get used to them.

GORDON RUSHES TO THE PEEPHOLE AND SLIDES THE PAINTING ASIDE.

GORDON
Oh, my God. Are you all right in there?

MARION (O.S.)
Yeah. Except there’s no hot water. (THEN) Do you mind?

GORDON NODS, SLIDES THE PAINTING BACK AND WE:

FREEZE AND FADE OUT.

17 comments:

Ben said...

One of the best theme songs in tv history.

Carl Tyler said...

So was the US Version of the UK show Open all hours?

Brian Drake said...

Hey, that was great! Is there a DVD box set? Old master tapes? I'd love to see an episode.

D. McEwan said...

Some years ago I encountered George Dzundza by the side of a road in Studio City. He had a flat tire and no working car jack. I leant him my jack and helped him change his tire, while we chatted. he was, of course, pleased that I recognized him and knew his name. (Even if I was fuzzy on how to properly pronounce his last name.)

I watched Open All Night for most of its original run. I was, at the time, once a week, appearing in and emceeing a group-comedy and improv-sketch show at The Comedy Store that Tom Whipple was also in, so I was watching to see him.

John R. said...

I was 12 when this show was on, and my dad and I loved it. I can't believe you posted this scene. The one strong remaining memory I have of the show (like I said, I was only 12) was the "Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill joke. I laughed as hard as I've ever laughed. I loved everything about that joke--the randomness of it, the weird kid's delivery, the fact that he used the full name. I didn't become a professional writer or comic, but I did win "Most Witty" in my high school class and became a full-on comedy nerd, and I'm talking you, Ken, that joke had an effect on me. Thanks for posting this.

AndrewJ said...

Sam Whipple was a very talented actor who shone in great TV projects and even rose above lousy ones (for example, he was an adult Jughead in a live-action Archie TV-movie). He died way too young.

Rinaldo said...

I remember OPEN ALL NIGHT very fondly. (I suspect I'm one of the ones who said so before.) The premise-stating theme song was one of the best ever, George Dzundza was wonderful, the milieu and atmosphere were unique, the characters were endearing. The Sam Whipple character was the first representation I can recall on TV of a certain kind of airhead aimless teenager of that era.

The one element that (in my opinion) didn't work, and may have played a role in viewers not embracing it, was the casting of Susan Tyrrell as the wife. She seemed too gloomily real and dispiriting, evoking someone who really had no future or hope.

willieb said...

I recall -- fuzzily -- two things from "Open All Night." One was that someone's (maybe George's?) parents or grandparents visited from the midwest, and their entertainment was to sit in lawn chairs and watch their son/grandson run the store, smoking and eating pretzel surprise -- jello with pretzels in it. The other was a joke I think was on the show -- a woman hurrying to open the store and a customer complaining that "it's supposed to be open 24 hours." To which she replies, "Not in a row!"

D. McEwan said...

Jeeze, Andrew. I had no idea that Tom was dead. I'm very sorry to hear that. Talented guy.

D. McEwan said...

SAM, I meant Sam! What is wrong with my brain today?

Hamid said...

Love George Dzunda! In Basic Instinct, he stole every scene he was in!

Excuse the crudity of the language but this was his funniest line in Basic Instinct, berating the Michael Douglas character for having an affair with Sharon Stone's Catherine Tramell:

"Well, she got that magna cum laude pussy on her that done fried up your brain!"

Trey V. said...

I miss Sam Whipple - he was a high school classmate of mine and I have a very strong memory of him as Luther Billis in South Pacific, the spring musical. He was great! It is nice to see that he is still remembered fondly.

Dodgerdog said...

My son while in college rented a room in a "former" mortuary that had that whole Bates motel vibe. I swear we had that same exact conversation under similar conditions! Thanks for the laugh.

James said...

I saw the Letterman episode. I wasn't a fan of him before then (sorry, but I wasn't). That appearance made me hit Reset and try again.

You should take credit for his late night success. It's obvious his appearance on Open All Night was the final springboard he needed.

ScottyB said...

Sam Whipple was why I watched 'Open All Night'. There was just something about the guy' acting in that show that I really liked. I know he passed awhile back, but today, I always think of him whenever I see a TV commercial for Jimmy Dean breakfast products -- the guy who plays The Sun.

ScottyB said...

This talk about 'Open All Night' made me think of another short-lived sitcom that I remember being really amused by that a network (this time NBC) didn't seem to have much/enough patience with: 'Down Home', with Judith Ivey and damn-great character actor Dakin Matthews.

Thing is, altho I remember liking it, to this day I really can't remember whether it was actually *good*.

Barry Traylor said...

It made me laugh Ken. I'm going over to Netflix right away and see if they have it.