Thursday, January 14, 2010

HBO from A to F

By popular demand, here is an article I wrote for my Upstage Productions Murder Mystery Newsletter in May of 2000. I am not making it up.

As I’ve boasted in previous newsletters, we were invited to perform for what I was told were a group of “top HBO producers” at the Belhurst Castle in Geneva, New York in April. The HBO folks wanted me to do a parody of “The Sopranos”, their fascinating, violent, vulgar, and addictive hit drama series, which features what we kindly call the “F word” as a mainstay adjective. And so I set to work writing a parody of the show and faxed it off to HBO.

They called me in March. “We really are happy to be working with you on this project,” they told me, “but we feel your script is a little … vulgar.” This is because in the first act, Tony introduces Uncle Junior, his 87 year old uncle, and Uncle Junior uses the “F word” literally 17 times in his first speech. To which Tony replies, “Uncle Junior, ever since you got cable, you been a real pain in the ass!”

So when the HBO chick told me my script was “vulgar”, I predictably replied, “Well, so is your show. And this performance is for your top producers, who put together shows like this, right?”

“Well,” she explained, “these are our top TELEMARKETING producers. These are the top salesmen of HBO subscriptions across the country.” – a different kind of “top producer” entirely. And so the “top producers” were really the “top losers”, as it were.

So I rewrote my brilliantly vulgar script, cleaning it up in the process, and we hit the road last month to make these telemarketers happy (by interrupting their dinners, in a sense – how fitting!)

The show was, I am proud to say, well received by the audience, but not by HBO, who, I’m afraid, were not the easiest people to work with. Nevertheless, we got an “A” , not an “F”, and not even an “F word”. Funny how they dish it out, and the subscribers are expected to "dish" it in, but they can't always take it.

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