Thursday, June 04, 2009


So where was I?

Oh. Right.

I had this little scary robot show and for whatever reason couldn't convince enough people that it was a) scary enough b) robot enough or c) in English. Add that dim sum combo of factors to a red bean paste of non-monetizable early adopters dvring the show like motherfuckers and now I'm unemployed.

Everyone says having your show cancelled is like a death but I've been dead before and at least when you're dead you don't get thrown off the Warner Bros. lot for haunting your old parking space. They probably mean it's like the death of a friend or a family member but that shit only hurts when it's YOUR friend or family member and even then it's mitigated by age, lifestyle and whether that person was a Hollywood friend or a real one and whether that family member left you money.

Losing your show is more like a surprise divorce where you get served papers in the morning and your (ex)wife is fucking Human Target by three in the afternoon using the same time slot your child was conceived in and also where she did that one thing that one time on your birthday.

People say the bright side to losing your show is gaining time to spend with your family but I'm pretty sure that waking up next to your ex-showrunner spouse whom you haven't seen for two and a half years is pretty close to waking up next to that special someone you met the night before at Carlos n' Charlie's in Cancun on Spring Break.

WIFE: Oh...It's you.
WIFE: You look...different than I remember.
EX-SHOWRUNNER: I've gone a little grey.
WIFE: Or a little fat.
EX-SHOWRUNNER: Pretty sure it's grey.
WIFE: Pretty sure...fat. Was I...drunk?
WIFE: I don't know. The whole time?

You should own your self-inflicted wounds if for no other reason than a) they are yours and b) you inflicted them, you dumb motherfucker, but I do want to say in my own defense that it takes a special kind of someone to work seventy hours a week where it is HALLOWEEN 24FUCKING7 and not pack on a few--

WIFE: Dozen.

A dozen--

WIFE: A few dozen.

a few dozen pounds fine I get it. A few dozen pounds consisting mainly of but not limited to: Chocolate Pop Tarts, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, double-decker PB&Js, pink and white animal cookies, duck sandwiches, maricopa almonds, stinky cheese, french bread, deer in a thai curry peppercorn sauce, trail mix with the peanuts picked out, breakfast sausage, pistachios, Diet Coke, large Jamba Juices, those little Butterfingers, lox when we had Zvi the Israeli P.A., and sushi.

And I'm willing to own that. Especially the sushi part.

One of the hardest parts of having your show cancelled is the part BEFORE it's cancelled, when it's "on the bubble". The absolute hardest part of that, besides the phrase "on the bubble," is everyone gets it in their head that you actually know what's happening with your show and you're just not telling them. No one believes the show's fate is in the air, they believe the fate's been decided, you know the fate, but you're just not sharing it with anybody. Now understand this: at any one time on a show there are over TWO HUNDRED people working on a show. OVER TWO HUNDRED FAMILIES DERIVING THEIR INCOME FROM YOUR LITTLE CREATIVE ENDEAVOR.

What kind of fucking asshole would I be if I knew they were all going to be out of work in a month but just didn't feel it was politically expedient to tell them?

CONSCIENCE: Hey. Buddy. That grip's wife is having a baby in two months. He's thinking of leaving to work on a feature.

ASSHOLE ME: We're cancelled in two weeks.

CONSCIENCE: We gotta tell him.

ASSHOLE ME: Nah. People leaving. Bad for morale. Not politically expedient.

Who but a heartless cocksucker would stop someone from getting other work knowing they had no future at their current job? (Other than William Morris and Endeavor, that is.)

But I progress.

I guess there were signs that the show was in trouble (other than the 1.3 rating and the four share). First there was the day I was in my office and looked up to see Chuck Lorre and a Warner Bros. facilities manager standing in my doorway pointing to various features and using their hands to take "air measurements." (Chuck tried to play it off like waving to me God Bless him, but I know an air measurement when I see it.)

I know what you're all thinking: Chuck Lorre needs office space? What the fuck for? Doesn't he already have office space spread out all over half the fucking studio? Isn't it enough that Charlie Sheen's trailer is the size of Waylon Jennings' tour bus and it blocks the best way to ride a golf cart from a certain scary robot writer's office to a particular scary robot sound stage? There's only 2 and half men for fuck's sake, and one of them's like, six years old or something.

You think MR. CHUCK FUCKING LORRE that just because you've pimped my show on Big Bang that you can stand out in my hallway with a basket waiting for the guillotine to fall and my head to roll right to you? Do you think you can do that? Air measurer?

Damn right you can. You're Chuck fucking Lorre and you own my ass.

But Chuck didn't take my office--I believe he said something about my private bathroom having a non-platinum sink--and what I thought was good news soon became anything but. Because while you may be a bubble show to your family and your fans, as far as the studio goes the minute your show wraps you are a deadbeat renter who's already forfeited his cleaning deposit.

It was Open Season on the Sarah Connor Suite as My Room of Ones Own soon became the Potential Room of Any Jackass Pilot Producer who Thought His Show was getting Picked Up. And believe me, there's a lot of those assholes. Poking their heads in, hopped up on good test scores in the key demos, power-drunk and showing off their spanking new laminated Warner Bros. ID card hanging off a lanyard like a slutty USC freshman and her Spring Weekend mug.

And yet. No one took it.

I was starting to feel like Grandma's hand-knit afghan at the garage sale that starts out a keepsake you couldn't part with but ends up as the substitute for styrofoam peanuts when you need to wrap up the six matching sunflower pattern kitchen glasses your mother gave you when you left for college.

Eventually I cracked and started taking the whole thing personally. I'd hear them coming and start screaming "Vultures! Vultures! Come in vultures!" It was that John Irving novel with the orphans and the older ones just know they're fucked and they start rejecting the parents before they can be rejected--

(It's here that I just want to note that I haven't read "that John Irving novel" but I'm pretty sure I saw a movie based on "a John Irving novel" and I feel like that scene was in the movie and should've been if it wasn't.)

--I really did this. Forget the John Irving thing. I really did yell this at people. No one thought it was funny. Well. I did.

I also considered renting the office back from Warner Bros., myself. It was a romantic gesture, or a lazy one, as I had a huge stuffed cow and a Lego Tower of Babel that I couldn't fit into the back of my Chrysler. As it turns out, the studio will rent you back their offices, but at THE SAME RATE THE PRODUCTION PAYS, which, while I can't remember the exact amount, worked out to something around $450,000 a month. But that did include the private bathroom with the non-platinum sink.

Eventually the day came when I was evicted from the room I'd written thirty episodes of my very first television show. I packed a very large SUV with a very large amount of computer equipment, scripts, DVDs, Sarah Connor memorabilia, something that may or may not have been many half-empty tequila bottles, some office supplies I don't want to talk about, and possibly some gum and trail mix. Despite the show NOT yet being cancelled, I was the last person to leave the empty building and would've turned the lights out if I was paying for the electricity.

I drove up to the security gate and prepared to be waved through, knowing there was a good chance this was the last time I'd be on this lot in my capacity as Executive Producer of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It was after 8:00 and that meant I was guaranteed a "trunk check," a phenomenal Hellerian ritual by which the guards checked your trunk and NO MATTER WHAT WAS IN THERE let you leave the lot. I had never known ANYONE to EVER explain themselves regarding the contents of their trunk during the trunk check ritual. I think this has even happened:

GUARD: Trunk please.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Sure, Frank. How's the kids?
GUARD/FRANK: Good. Good. (Checks trunk) Is that Bugs Bunny in there?
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Yeah. I roofied him.
GUARD/FRANK: Sure. Yeah. Looks that way.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: I'll probably bring him back tomorrow.
GUARD/FRANK: All righty. Make sure to call him a drive on, though. Otherwise we can't let him on.
ANONYMOUS TV PRODUCER: Of course. I'm no rookie, Frank.

So on my final official day on the lot I pull to the guard shack with my SUV full of EVERYTHING.

GUARD: Hey. How're you tonight?
ME: Last night, Frank. Last night on the lot.
GUARD: Looks that way. That your whole office in there?
ME: Pretty much.

As I start to pull away--

GUARD: You got your property sheet?
ME: Excuse me?
GUARD: Your property sheet. Like an inventory sheet. With all of this inventoried and signed off on by the production.
ME: What?
GUARD: I'm gonna have to ask you to turn around and return to the lot, go to your production offices, and get an executive to inventory all of this, certify it as yours, and then sign the sheet. Then you can leave.
ME: Frank. Let me explain something. There is nobody else. I'm it.
GUARD: Well someone is going to have to list, certify, and sign.
ME: Someone? Like who someone?
GUARD: Someone. A producer. Someone.

And then it hit me.

ME: Frank! I'm that someone! It's my show! I am the someone that I'm looking for!
GUARD: Wait. Who are you?
ME: I'm Josh Friedman, Frank! And until I drive past this guard shack I am the Executive Producer of this tv show! I am the someone! Can't I give myself permission to leave?

At which point Frank went to the guard shack. A line of cars had formed behind me, wondering what kind of fuck up was holding up the line at nine o' clock at night. Frank returned with a form, in triplicate.

GUARD: List the items. Certify they're yours. Sign off.
ME: I am, in essence, authorizing myself to leave and thus no longer be the Executive Producer.
GUARD: As far as we're concerned, yes.
ME: Works for me.

And so I did. And so I had. And so I wasn't.

As I drove off I rummaged through the questionable office supplies for a piece of gum. Stuck it in my mouth, accelerating onto Barham Blvd. into the night. I blew a bubble.

It would be another month before it popped.