Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Do you remember THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES?
There was a short-lived sitcom in 1990 called THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. It was way ahead of its time. It was created by Richard Rosenstock who went to win an Emmy for ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and has worked on (among others) FRIENDS, FAMILY GUY, and WILL & GRACE. He also created the cult hit FLYING BLIND for Fox, the series that introduced Tea Leoni. His shows are smart and always very funny.
I personally have a soft spot in my heart for THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. First off, it was my kind of show. A brainy nerdy Jewish New York kid in high school, complete with all the requisite humiliations and angst. And secondly, my partner David Isaacs and I wrote an episode AND appeared in it. Yes, we were actors. We played two gay guys at a Jewish wedding. I even had to deliver a punchline while I was WALKING. And in front of an audience no less. Proud to say I did it without a stunt double. If James Burrows can get a performance out of me he can get one out of anybody.
Anyway, THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES is one of those little gems that few remember, but the ones who do remember it very fondly. One such fan wrote in a Friday Question about the show. What I like to do in a case like that is go directly to the source for an answer. And even though this might be a show you’re unfamiliar with I think Richard Rosenstock’s answer will give you a great window into how showrunners think and what they’re up against network-wise.
The question comes from Arthur Mee:
One of your more obscure credits is The Marshall Chronicles, a show I watched and enjoyed. (And a show now most famous for having forced a little show called The Seinfeld Chronicles to change its name, to avoid confusion.)
My question is: how much thought was given to what would happen after the first season? Marshall was taking his SATs, so would the next season have been set in college? (Which would necessitate new sets, new cast members, dropping of some existing cast) Or was is going to remain a high school show for as long as they could stretch it out, Head Of The Class-style?
Or was the thought "let's get this on the air, and worry about second season later"?
Here’s Richard’s answer:
What might be surprising is that for a show that aired in 1990, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever been asked this question. Including by the network back in 1990, which should give you an idea of just how invested and excited they were about the future of the show. If there was any doubt about that, we were told after the second episode aired (and the ratings came in), exactly when we would be leaving the schedule (four weeks hence), and that one of our seven episodes wouldn’t be aired at all. Hence, there wasn’t a LOT of discussion of how we would handle, say, season five.
In theory, since high school was a very particular part of Marshall’s hell, my plan would have been to keep him there until we had mined the milieu and the mindset for as many additional stories as we found, as well as being mindful of not keeping them there past the point where the actors were believably high-school age. Then MARSHALL would have moved on to NYU, which would have continued to leave the city explored and the regulars to be retained even if not necessarily existing in the same physical space as Marshall (and his parents). Of course, if you weren’t in the shower with me when I came up with this plan, you would never know it. Needless to say, no one knows it. But thank you so much for asking. Clearly you are the only one in the entire world (and for twenty-six years) who has.
Thanks to Richard Rosenstock for his reply. Our episode used to be on YouTube until someone took it down. But if you ever come by the house, I’ve got it.