Thursday, April 10, 2014
Our attempt at SCANDAL in 1980
Every time I watch SCANDAL I shake my head. Not that I have any problems with it. It’s highly entertaining. But I can’t help thinking back to 1980 when David Isaacs and I sold a pilot to ABC.
The show was centered on the White House Press Corps. We’d follow these journalists and see all the behind-the-scenes activity that led to scoops, romance, competition, and intrigue. ABC bought the pitch in the room. They loved the premise.
There were just a few minor things they insisted on, but those shouldn’t have any effect on the integrity of the piece.
We were not allowed to show the president. They didn’t want the president to be a character. They were concerned that the audience would infer a political allegiance. This they didn’t want. So we were not allowed to specify which party the president was in.
They preferred if we did no politics. How do you do a show about the White House and have no politics? What was the press corps covering?
We spent several days traveling with the White House press corps. ALL they talked about was politics. We also noticed that photographs of the president were everywhere.
So we said to ABC, could we just show the photo of someone, a non-actor (my dad)? They preferred if we didn’t.
We struggled mightily through the first draft. ABC had a big problem. We named our commander-in-chief President Turner (as generic a name we could find). ABC insisted we don’t name him at all. He was only to be referred to as “the president.”
At that point we were writing THE WIZARD OF OZ. The second draft was like pulling teeth. Never had we turned in a script we believed in less. And God forbid if they picked it up. By week two we’d be out of stories.
Needless to say, the pilot didn’t get picked up. I think they felt it was still too controversial. We were never so happy to see a project die.
And today you have SCANDAL. Can you imagine if our pilot story was they discover the president was having an interracial affair? “Yeah, but we never mention him by name.”