Step 6: ‘They like me, they really like me!’
by Dave Addison
EDITOR’S NOTE: For great laughs and lessons, please take a look at Steps 1-5.
Hey people, Dave Addison back and guess what? Instead of my usual bitching and moaning – I actually have some good news for a change. The network finally picked one (of my many) story lines to be the pilot episode. And now once again I have to write a very detailed one-pager (which as I have taught you, Grasshopper, is actually 3 pages) describing the story. And when this phase of the pilot process is finally approved, I’ll then be given the green light to… wait for it, wait for it… write the pilot? No, silly people. That would be productive. No, I still have to write the outline (another 8 pages). Then get more notes. Rewrite it again. Tweak. Write. Tweak. Write. And then finally, finally I will be allowed to “go to script”.
As you may have surmised, writing a TV pilot can be daunting. A tedious process full of ‘two steps forward, three steps back’. Finding the Lost Ark of the Covenant would be easier. So that said, Dave Addison will be dropping out for awhile to actually write this thing cause they’re paying me and want it on time. But I promise to be back soon with a full report as I take you through the next chapter of this insane adventure – producing a pilot. Step by step, I’ll drag you through the casting process, the costumes, the set design and finally shooting this sucka in front of a studio audience. But before I go – one more Hollywood story for the road. This one’s probably my fav.
Remember that little show that nobody ever watched called The Sopranos? Well, I had the good fortune to meet one of the good fellas – the heavy set guy who played Bobby Baccala, Uncle Junior’s sidekick. We won’t use his real name cause I don’t know if he’d appreciate me talking about him. Capish? Anyway, we hit it off and he asked if I’d like to go in together on a pilot idea. He wanted to do a comedy. So I came up with an idea, created some fun characters, we pitched it to ABC and sold it right in the room. Fuggedaboutit!
Anyway, I’m busy writing the script when I get a call – Bobby B. is in L.A. and wants to have dinner with me. Two more people would join us – an Emmy award-winning director whom I thought would be perfect to direct our pilot and a guy named Vince. You may know him as Johnny Sacks (head of the NY family with the really fat wife that he adored). Vince was nothing like the ruthless cold mobster he portrayed. The guy was a pussycat.
We all decided to meet up at the Palm for steak, but once inside we were instantly overcome by adoring fans shaking hands, snapping cell phones and fist bumping. Just getting to our table took twenty minutes. The Sopranos was the most popular show on television and these two guys were true celebs. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when in the middle of dinner a short older gentleman surrounded by four younger men also approached us. The older gentleman seemed warm and sweet as he insisted we come by his club after dinner. But as soon as they walked off, Bobby B. turned to me and said, “Dave – you know who that guy was? I shrugged, no. “He’s the real head of the L.A. family. And he’s not asking us to come to his club – he’s telling us.” And so we went.
Inside the club were good-looking people smoking cigarettes and drinking. Apparently if you’re an L.A. kingpin, the “no smoking inside an establishment” rules don’t apply. We were led towards the back of the club where a long table was filled with “generals and lieutenants” and their wives. And sitting with his back against the wall facing us was the older gentleman, the big Kahuna, the Godfather. Funny enough, it kinda felt like a Sopranos‘ wrap party but I never opened my mouth. I can only assume these men have little or no sense of humor.
The night wore on as bottles of Pinot Gregio were opened and served and God help you if you declined. At one point, I turned to Vince who was sucking on a cigarette and smiling for the room. ‘Vince”, I said, “Do they think your name is really Johnny Sacks?’ He shrugged. “Well, do they know you guys are just actors?” Vince took an extra long drag on his Camel, thought for a bit and finally said, “Not really.” At 2am, the Don stood and thanked us for coming. Only then were we allowed to leave.
My pilot with Bobby Baccala never was made. And I’m sort of glad. Can you imagine that mob boss sitting in his living room watching TV and suddenly seeing Bobby B. playing a stay-at-home dad full of one-liners and prat falls? He’d spit up his Pinot, make a phone call and some thug would show up at my house. Cause they always shoot the messenger.
Later. Dave.Tags: ABC, Dave Addison, Hollywood, Selling a pilot, Television, Television development process, Television writer, The Sopranos