Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Our casting nightmare Part III

More on our snake-bitten CHARACTERS pilot for NBC in 1979.

Okay, we cast the girl. Maggie Roswell. But now we needed the guy who would be her comedy partner. Details of the pilot premise here.

As with the girl, we saw a bunch of guys – some incredibly talented – and Matriarch nixed them all. After she shit all over the screen tests she gave us the name of the couple she wanted. The actress was Ms. Broadway and the guy was an emerging LA actor. Did we like them? Her for sure. Him, it was hard to tell from his reel. But at that point we would have taken Trigger if he weren’t stuffed.

We fly Ms. Broadway out to LA, spend a delightful day trying to cajole her into doing our pilot. She was leaning against it but said she’d mull it over. Back to NY she flew to star in her Broadway play the next night.

We inquired about the guy. His agent said he wasn’t interested. He had just had a bad experience with a pilot and didn’t want to do a series at the moment.

We reported this back to Matriarch who screamed at us again. “You’re producers! Convince him! He’s the only one I’ll approve!” and again she slammed down the phone.

So we call the agent again and arrange a dinner with the actor. For four hours we reassure him that this pilot experience would not be like his previous one, that we are straight-shooter and he can trust us. Eventually, he gives in and says he’d do it – but only because we seemed to have the integrity the other producers lacked.

The next day business affairs and his agent begin negotiating the deal.

Meanwhile… Ms. Broadway is still on the fence. One of her concerns was who would her co-star be? Matriarch messengers over a tape of the actor. Ms. Broadway doesn’t like him.

So right in the middle of negotiations NBC pulls their approval and the deal is dead. To this day I am mortified. You live and learn. Today if that happened I call Matriarch and tell her she can take the pilot and shove it right up her ass. Either the actor is approved or we walk.

But then we were young and green. And stupid. A day later Ms. Broadway decides to pass.

So now we have neither.

Matriarch’s next choice is Jeff Altman. Nice guy, talented, but not right for this role. We pass. She slams down the phone again. Altman then gets cast in another NBC pilot that becomes PINK LADY AND JEFF. That show gets picked up instead of ours. A girl singing group from Japan (unknown to American audiences) that spoke broken English singing bad cover versions of Donny Osmond songs and doing comedy skits with Jeff Altman. It was a super train wreck (as opposed to SUPERTRAIN wreck, which was also picked up).

Finally, we catch a break. Philip Charles MacKenzie (pictured: above) walks into our office. He’s PERFECT. So perfect that even Matriarch has to approve him.

Does he look familiar CHEERS fans? Yep, he played the fiance in the Coach's daughter. Originally another actor played that role but didn't work out. I suggested Philip. He came in with only one day to rehearse and just nailed it. Philip is now a very successful director.

Two more roles to go. Stay tuned for more chapters.

By the way, three years after this pilot David and I sign on to produce the first season of CHEERS. At the first table reading NBC President Brandon Tartikoff takes us aside and says, “You know, you guys were right about Andrea Martin.”

We almost kissed him.


Mark said...

Philip Charles MacKenzie played Coach's daughter??? I think you mean the guy dating Coach's daughter?

David said...

Does he look familiar CHEERS fans? Yep, he played the Coach's daughter.

I thought that looked like Alice Beasley...

Unknown said...

Philip Charles MacKenzie is a very good actor but I don't think he could pull THAT off!

YEKIMI said...

Daughter? Maybe PCM has much less in the "joy department" than one would expect?

By Ken Levine said...

Oops. Okay, I meant the fiance in Coach's Daughter. Give me a break. I wrote it in between heats at the North Shore surfing championship just after I rode a 50 foot wave.

DonBoy said...

To me, he'll always be Donald from Showtime's Brothers.

Matt Bird said...

"Who ever heard of a restaurant that won't take a post-dated third-party check?"

He is SO good in that Cheers episode.

richard Y said...

Probably too late to get in line for a Friday Question but it is in regards to this posting subject. Have you ever, or any other writers that you know of, been able to come back after a few years with an updated script proposal that originally got trashed like yours and got produced?

Max Clarke said...

Philip Charles MacKenzie was great in Cheers, what a creepy guy, selling those suits.

MacKenzie was up there with the guy who played Andy Andy, one of the few times a single-appearance Cheers actor got an ovation when he finished his performance.

Michael Zand said...

You guys must have seriously considered hiring a hit man to take out Matriarch. Or maybe you did. She's not still around, is she?

Tom Quigley said...

He did another great job playing a DJ who was taking his payola in white powder for playing a record distributor's artists just a little bit more frequently in an episode of the original WKRP IN CINCINNATI.

Chalmers said...

He's typically smarmy and funny in the "Newhart" episode where he's producing a video based on Dick's plumbing how-to book (written by Phoef Sutton).

He even sings and dances a little at the end.

emily? said...

When will we learn the identity of Matriarch?

The Kenosha Kid said...

I vaguely remember Spalding Gray doing a monologue about meeting with a television cast person he referred to only as "The Maven." I wonder if this is the same person.

rita said...

next: matriarch goes into acting and takes up the name cybill sheperd.