Darrell Vickers – The Paul Sands of Iwo Jima

When the treacherous and unpredictable seas of art and commerce enervate even the most dauntless of our kind, itinerant scribes oft times find themselves in want of a home. A sufficiently peaceful harbor in which to moor their buffeted and battered vessels. ‘Tis then we weary wordsmiths seek out a major studio in hopes of procuring an overall deal.

Bob Keane, Bob Smith, Andrew Nicholls, Johnny Carson, Patric Verrone, Darrell Vickers, and Tony DeSena

As previously stated: After a warm and comfy six-year tenure on the Tonight Show, a steady wage had become our bosomest of buddies and neither Andrew Nicholls nor myself wished to sever that reliable remunerative cord. Thus Lorimar.

An “overall deal” is basically a time-limited forgivable loan and a fairly juicy one at that. They dole it out to you in bi-weekly payments and expect their largesse to be cheerfully refunded to them in the form of pre-agreed-upon compensations for major and minor literary labors. Each pilot you sell, each series you create, each sitcom you staff reduces your accounts payable and lowers the chances that you’ll be frog-marched to the studio gates, once your contract expires.

And should you have a nano-second to ponder and reflect, the phone will inevitably ring and time-consuming tasks will be foisted upon you.

Back Story for Future Story

Once upon a time Andrew and I were on the set of The Trouble with Larry, desperately trying not to commit suicide, when the stage phone did ring. It was Les Moonves. “You’re no longer working for Lorimar,” he boomingly declared. Before Andrew could poop down his pant leg and sell his first born child for medical experiments, the jocular Studio Head/Seeker-of-Head informed my partner that he was now working for Warner Brothers. Lorimar was actually owned by Warners but the grand old studio’s TV development was a flailing, unentertaining mess and Les had landed about 20 shows on the air. So, the baby ate the dad. The two entities were being rolled into one and Les was being placed at the head (there’s that word again).

Back to the Future

After The Trouble with Larry ceased to be a trouble, we were in serious danger of a nano-second of pondering and reflecting, when… Ring. Ring.

Not only had Lorimar assumed the Warner Brothers’ name, it had also accumulated its contracts and obligations. One of these vexing vestiges was a commitment at CBS for a pilot to be entitled Girl’s Best Friend.

This trial TV balloon was to star Paul Sand. He was a talented but erratic comedic actor. After early success on Broadway and television, he had been mostly reduced to guest appearances on TV episodes and suspiciously short roles on series. In short, Paul was considered to be a bit of an odd bird.

Reportedly, Mr. Sand had walked into Jeff Saganski’s office at CBS one day with a corker of an idea. He would play a dog in a sitcom. To illustrate what an undeniable concept this was, he panted, rolled around on the rug, sniffed Jeff’s crotch and then leaped into his lap and licked his face. SOLD!!!

The showrunners were “The Two Marks.” Mark Solomon and Mark Egan had run the last couple of years of The Newhart Show. While unbelievably nice guys, they weren’t “Stop it, you’re killing me” funny. And that was at the best of times. This show was far, far from the best of times.

The pilot centered around a young female writer who adopts a dog from the pound. A talking dog played by Hollywood’s most beloved crotch-sniffing face-licker. The script was as flat as Keira Knightly’s pancakes. It would make synchronized swimmers stop smiling. There were more laughs inside Sylvia Plath’s oven. Les forcefully requested that we rub some of our special risible polish onto this tortured TV turd.

After reading it, Andrew and I felt like Captain Willard stepping onto the gun boat. We were now rock and rollers with one foot in this grave, and we were left to wonder, “Where the fuck does this series go from here?”

The Obvious Problem:

There are only so many old and tired dog references you can lampoon and the Marks were going to blow the entire canine carload of them in the pilot. God help them on show number 2!

We scribbled down the few hilarious hound knee-slappers that Egan and Soloman had missed and scurried on down to rehearsal. The sitcom’s fatal flaw stood out like Mike Pence’s erection at an Oath Takers’ convention.

Paul was only an actual dog for about a minute of the show. Subsequently, once chosen by the female lead, he transmogrifies into the moppity-haired actor that never quite became a star.

And thus he remained for the balance of this doomed divertissement. Just Paul, wearing a sweater and jeans, slowly telling every dog joke you can think of. Huh? Anyone who missed that early on transformation scene wouldn’t know what the fuck was going on. They would just witness a woman having bizarre and unfunny conversations with a guy who appeared to have severe mental problems.

I’m guessing for 30 to 40 seconds Paul’s canine capering in a network president’s office might have been mildly amusing, but over this 22 minute feline-hating fiasco, it turned into Kanye West singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Having ant-infested yogurt ladled into your butt-crack. Having your Thanksgiving relatives hang around ‘til Christmas.

Plus, the acting was as bad as the dialogue and that took some extensive casting. They must have left no untalented stone unturned. The dispirited thespians stumbled and faltered through their wan lines of mirth like they were waltzing in a darkened room full of dead midgets.

By the end of act one, you were left emotionally scarred and in a fetal position, tearfully praying the station would play a phalanx of extra long women’s product commercials before it came back.

The big flip in the second act was; Paul was wearing a doggie collar! Couldn’t you just die? They were going that dazzling, extra-special flea-bitten mile. Sensationally ramping up their game. Surely now, no one could tell this pedigreed performer from the real Mutt McCoy. It was super uncanny!

Reinforcements!

At about 13.5 minutes in, a pre-Friends Matthew Perry entered the scene as the asshole boyfriend. He does his best but the die was cast, set on fire and buried inside Israfil’s trumpet.

The – wait for it – CAT owning swain gets our sweet-but-naive starlet to agree to move back home and ditch her ball-licking bestie. Can’t you just feel your dander begin to rise?

Paul the pooch doesn’t take this news well. He bravely and defiantly chooses the open road to being returned to the pound. Heartbreaking piano music ensues. When she unbuckles Mr. Sand’s collar, they play the scene like Chuck Connors getting his Cavalry epaulettes torn off at the beginning of Branded.

Predictably – or there would only be one episode of this series… which there was – Mathew Perry ultimately exposes himself as a selfish jerk and he is sent packing by our heroine. Then a quick cut to the pound so our owner-in-chief can return poor, spurned Paul to the chintziest-dressed living room in Sherman Oaks. The final moments are of Mr. Sand dispensing advice to his fellow pound puppies. Not in English – the language he’s spoken non-stop through the entire episode – he barks. He barks for an uncomfortably long period of time and then turns and leaves his imprisoned and frightened cellmates to rot. Credits. Applause.

Life Imitates Art

While the production of this catastrophic contractual obligation cut more corners than a Chinese apartment contractor (check out the visually stunning credits), the cost still ran to a million and a quarter in today’s dollars. Imagine how many Rocco & Roxie Jerky Sticks you could have jammed up Paul Sand’s ass for that kind of money. Imagine the number of prostitutes Mr. Moonves could have leased instead of waving his wang in front of actresses and secretaries.

The Girl’s Best Friend Miracle

Anita Barone – perhaps because the pilot never aired – somehow survived this encomium to interspecies romance and still has a career today.

Anita Barone

Back to Me

I don’t know if there were any of our lines used in this joyless bucket of bland. It’s possible, but I have written so many jokes, and almost 3 decades have passed like Ex-Lax through a Tijuana barmaid. I only know we were called in to provide this service for any number of televisual cuspidors, including a failed Brand & Falsey pilot about a cranky kid’s TV host and a pilot that was actually picked up for series (it lasted three episodes) about a 1,300 year-old dragon who ends up becoming a weatherman’s sidekick.

After three-and-a-half years, we left Warner Brothers. We’d imagined we’d do some interesting things there – and they were indeed interesting – but not in the way we had hoped. Kind of like imagining you’re going on a date with a really cute girl but you end up getting sodomized by a gaur.

But it wasn’t all bad – we did get to do series with Bronson Pinchot, Faye Dunaway and Robert Townsend… No. No, I’m wrong. It was all bad.

More about those adventures later.

Girl’s Best Friend (the pilot)

=DV=

Please scroll down to leave Your Comments, Kudos, and Complaints

DBAWIS_ButtonDarrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: