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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

What Do You Think?

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And just for the record, the title to this entry is not meant to be read in a sarcastic growl.

Here's the situation: I've come to realize that there are two possible ways of marketing this show. First, as half-hour episodes. I'm figuring that I can come up with 12, which would mean that those 12 would get four plays during the course of one year.

The second approach is to group them into four bundles of three. The set of scripts I've just finished (Plant Your Wagon) and the one I've just started work on (The Political Thing) are both three-episodes sets in themselves. Further, there are three scripts related to the characters of Jerry and George. I've written two other scripts that are related by the use of TV parodies that interrelate to the main story. The 12th script will use characters from both those earlier scripts, which will really tie that group together.

My thought is to try to market them as quarterly specials--perhaps in conjunction with pledge weeks. Does this make sense to anyone besides me and the Mrs? I figure that the stations would have two opportunities to insert pledge breaks, which I have to figure is a selling point, right?

On a related note, I think I'm going to change the name of the series to "Theater in a Box."

Unlike the General Election, each vote counts here. Let me know what you think. I'm interested.

28 comments:

Robert G. Margolis said...

Len,

Am I missing or misunderstanding the obvious (and I ask that in earnest and not either with a sarcastic growl)? As I am not married to your Mrs. Obvious, I think I must be. Why must it be a choice between one or the other? May not both these little piggies go to market? May not both presentations be offered to a prospective presenter? I don't know anything about any of this, so nothing about it is obvious to me...

"Theatre In A Box" is an excellent title. (Speaking parts sold separately, though?) It entirely outclasses my own, just thought of, title: "Serial Filler Thriller Theatre", starring that former heart-throb and now escaped serial murmurer...blah, blah and so on.

But back to the obvious. I still don't get why you must choose between one or the other (other than it keeps them both in business).

Robert G. Margolis said...

Oh, and while we're going on the record, I still think you should have a radio essay minute, maybe to be used when an episode is short of the necessary timage, called "Len Me Your Ears".

Len said...

Actually, I'm currently working on my pitch tto NPR and I've presented both as possibilities. I guess I'm just trying to make sure that neither one provokes a reader to think "What kind of loser talk is that?"

Len said...

Unlike Hebrew National Hot Dogs, I have no problem with fillers. "Len Me Your Ears" definitely has a place in that. Thanks.

I'm actually thinking about recording discussions with members of the cast, too. I'm not talking interviews, but real honest-to-goodness conversations.

The CDs will be fillerized even if the broadcasts aren't.

Robert G. Margolis said...

Well, Len, as you know (and, I think, once observed in one your part in one of our conversation installments), I am all for the provocation of readers. And "what kind of loser talk is that?" is a very good question, indeed, but it won't be provoked by why what you've publicked here. Besides, you're not even qualified for "loser talk". Doesn't one have to be in a position of power and consequence commensurate with one's delusion and ambition? I've recently (in the time between this sentence and the last) started a "Beyond Gain and Loss" club. Inventive, slip on the banana peel of duality folks like yourself are aleady all honorary members. And, anyway, Len, how can someone who figured out a way to get Theatre in a box be a loser?

Len said...

Thanks, Robert. I tend to veer from naive optimism to abject craven fear to bloated self confidence, often within a few minutes. I'm preparing myself to storm another citadel, and think I'm just about ready to order the troops to join the fray.

I keep a quote from Fred Allen as my screen saver: "men do not fail--they give up trying."

Len said...

Well, I just checked the US Patents and Trademarks office and they have "Theater in a Box" being a registered trademark owned by some lady in Idaho. perhaps I should stick with the easy way out and continue with Next in the Series, which I probably ought to trademark since it's available.

Roll with the punches, eh what?

Anonymous said...

When I read your initial post, even before I read any comments, I thought to myself, "Why not pitch it as available in either format?"
So as to fit any broadcaster's needs. Made with your mind in mind. I also think you should provide them with one-minute promo spots so that they can attract listeners to the program. Five witty, well-produced promos can be the first thing they listen to- even before they settle in to try the program and they will be "pre-sold" on what they are about to hear.

Mr. Moto

Len said...

I like the promos idea. I'll have to drop that in the think tank and let it fester. It's at times like these that I wish I had someone onboard to deal with the business stuff. I'm great at the creative stuff, but on the business side I'm like a midget trying to hit a high-strung pinata.

Bitty Barly

Robert G. Margolis said...

Editorial Aside From A Former Beloved Cartoon Character:

When I was up to my mounty boots in the business, traveling from animation cell to animation cell, and having to stay strictly within the lines both drawn and written, we never thought we were anyone's property let alone "intellectual property", but we were. So, take it from me: before someone sinister fiend ties your best gal to some railroad tracks and claims to have invented your title, patent it!

There are two titles, in use during my day, whose copyrights have expired: "Dr. Episodic's Radio Revival Theatre" and "Mortimer Sid's Forbidden Siderial Theatre". Though, that their copyrights were allowed to lapse and were not renewed or purchased probably tells you something about their usefulness and appropriateness for your purposes.

And finally, remember: someone else may have already invented Theatre in Box but you still have the opportunity to invent a Theatre that makes its own sauce.

In solidarity,

Dudley Copyright

P.S. You may be wondering what I'm doing up so early. I'm stranded in the City That Never Sleeps.

Len said...

Dear Dud (and I mean that in the best way possible),

I am going to trademark "Next in the Series," just out of spite, if nothing else. The titles you propose are interesting, and I'll have to check into the legalities involved as soon as my lawyer graduates from law school. (Groucho used to say that "It's not an old joke if you've never heard it before." I don't know why I brought that up now, but it's good to know.)

In one of my scripts, I have someone talk about watching The Saucy Channel on cable; has anyone used the title "Salacious Sedgewick's Saucy Cinema"?

Dudley Do-Right's brother, Seldom

Robert G. Margolis said...

Funny you should call me by that name--I learned my earliest horsemanship on a Dud Ranch (those beautiful creatures sure can play a mean hand at cards). It was on a Dud Ranch, too, that I learned how to tie sailors into knots. But that's another animated story. (Perhaps by R. Crumb, if he'd spare me the work.)

Dr. Episodic is a legend among us simple-line drawn characters. He had the rather novel idea that animation was really a radio phenomenon and that pictures just ruined a person's imagination. He wanted to liberate us from our lines, you see; our lines both drawn and scripted, that is. It takes a person who's exceptionally good at seeing the invisible to see it that way.

Looking back on it, all these many years later, I'm thinking that maybe Dr. Episodic was a bit (or maybe more than a bit) confused about what "radio" is exactly. Still, back in those days (which are a lot like these days), there were few who questioned his precise use of "radio", as a "revival" always makes people think of a gone or forgotten past returned as an unimaginably new and different future, with all the 'goodness' of the "good old days" but with none of the mortal effects and tribulations.

I guess my point is it's funny how the imagination is made to work when you put the words "radio" and "theatre" together. Ol' Doc Episodic had the true key to "revival", and it had nothing to do with tubes, transitors, or chips, or whatever the innards of radio were made of then or are made of now. It weren't a matter of electricity either (which, Ol' Doc Episodic insisted, is just light slowed down enough to be channeled, manipulated and regulated as a kind of "power" for human purposes)...

These reminisces of Dr. Episodic, and the times I spent with him on the Radio Revival Circuit, have fogged my thoughts in sentiment. I'll resume in my next post, when I have recovered the sequitar of my thoughts.

Len said...

I used the name Dud in memory of Dud of Dagenheim whho, with his pal Pete, used to discuss such strange things as Greta Garbo and Anna Magnianni climbing in their respective bedroom windows. Step relatives of the Man from Puckoon, I think.

I miss Dud and Pete and the Man from Puckoon.

Robert G. Margolis said...

Early in life, when he was a child, Dr. Episodic, heard his calling. Unfortunately, and very painfully for him, he could not answer it. Why? Because radio had not yet been invented. And it was radio, which clealy existed somewhere, just not within the usual dimensions of his usual experience, that was calling him. This lead him to develop a frightening, at the time inexplicable, condition, extremely rare if not unique, which only much later was identified as 'radio fits'. Each night, at exactly the same time and for exactly a half hour, he would go into a kind of fit in which he rapidly alternated voices and characters, using a vocabulary of words and a sophistication of grammar well beyond his child years. Exactly a half hour after the fit suddenly began, it would just as suddenly cease.

It was years later, when he participated in the first 'format experiments' that he connected the long unknown cause to its effects of fit in him. Diagnosing his own childhood condition--perhaps the first instance of radio diagnostics, that's how he got the affectionate and respectful name of Dr. Episodic.

It's not known what his parent given name was; he never used it or referred it. For all we know, he could have been a missing Dud.

Robert G. Margolis said...

Len,

I was just reminded by your above correspondent that Ol' Doc Episodic's first radio show was titled "Having Another One of His Episodes".

--Robert of Dudshire

Len said...

well, Robert, when you start talking about Old Time Radio (OTR to those of us in the "know"), you're getting into a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and about which I am something of an expert. For example, I can tell you that Old Time Radios (OTRs) had dials on the front and gasless tubes inside that made the whole thing work. I also "know" that Ed Wynn invented the studio audience and that Jack Benny was sponsored by Lucky Strikes and then Jello.

Now, the thing that comes to my mind when I think of Dr. Episodic is the time the he swooned when he found out his Hooper ratings had dipped. This condition came to be known as having "The Dreadful Hoopers," and there are photos of Depression-era children living in iron lungs by reason of having "The Dreadful Hoopers." Of course, since "The Dreadful Hoopers" isn't a pneumatic disease, they were only in there becasue there was more room in an iron lung than there was in the one-room apartment they shared with their parents and 19 other assorted relatives.

Isn't there a Dr. Episodic newsgroup?

Robert G. Margolis said...

Len,

I've seen clips, on the Hysteronics Channel, of those Depression Era children to which you refer, hooked up directly to radio tubes through which they received their serial nourishment. So sad.

I've heard, too, about this latter day Wynn who is building a Vertical Vegas of the Damned that, when completed, will be so tall it rivals the Tower of the Dame itself. All signs consulted, including entrails, indicate that not even Heaven will be able to topple it. It's long past the time when a traveling Radio Revival Show could pull into a strange town like that and get a chance to perform for the swells and the bombshells. Maybe Heaven has switched sides, I don't know. Not that I actually believe it has, but to a Radio Revivalist it sure can seem that way, huh?

To my limited knowledge there is not, not yet at least, a Dr. Episodic newsgroup. There is, or so I've heard, a group of old-time radio old-timers who have a crossword puzzle club in which all the questions and answers are derived from "Having Another One Of His Fits" broadcasts.

Robert G. Margolis said...

That should be, in the previous post, "Having Another One Of His Episodes" broadcasts, but, I've already gone and ruined the joke.

Robert G. Margolis said...

I'm not making this up--though I dearly wish I were: this is an actual title from the menu of news nuggets served up this morning on the Netscape main page:

"Ms. Wheelchair Stands, Loses Title"

This is too funny to even read the article, which would give it context and ruin the fun. It's the kind of title Dr. Episodic would have used for his Radio Revival Show.

Len said...

Robert,

I guess the firs thing I have to say is, "If the Episode Fits, then run it."

Having lived in the South for most of the last 22 years, I know a thing or two about revivalism. (As an aside, did you kow that H.L. Mencken went to a tent meeting one time? He wrote a great article about it.) The thing about revivalism is that it is an act of faith, something that one attends to despite the babbling towers that Babylon. Or is that "topless towers"? Next thing you know, they'll be lap-dancing towers. Such is the way things are going.

And speaking of revivalism and wheelchairs, isn't it possible that there was a miracle involved? Isn't it possible that the spirit of Katherine Kuhlman infested this young woman and got her to rise like the dough? Who was this Jane Dough? one wonders. And if she rose, was it on the third day of the pageant?

Robert G. Margolis said...

That "thing about revivalism", which you so succinctly and ably express, I well know: I do not denigrate revival culture or mock it in a superficially "enlightened" though actually reactionary manner. There is many a light hidden beneath many a bushel basket. In its own way, the HBO series "Carnevale" has beautifully, poignantly shown that.

Ol' Doc Episodic took Radio Revival seriously; he genuinely meant it to be a revival, especially since so much that has the appearance of being alive is really dead. And he took chances that others, whose hands flipped the switch of the power of radio, would not, did not have the courage and integrity to take. He got that courage, that integrity from his Revivalist faith, if you will.

Though he did not know the French have a word for it, Dr. Episodic was avant-garde for his weekly radio time. For one example, he produced the national radio premiere of Debit Mammal's play "Love In The Aftermath of the New Math" and then, following its unexpected success and acclaim, the play's sequel "Love Before The Next Ice Age".

All of us beneath the Great Tent of the Heavens are in a universal revival show, that's what Ol' Doc Episodic believed, and he wasn't afraid to say so or act on his conviction (and, as he himself liked to joke, so unlike some lesser pretender so-called "revivalists", he had no prior convictions). He had profound experience of how a, in the twinkling of an eye, a person could be changed by the revival power of radio.

Robert G. Margolis said...

I meant but neglected to say above that Dr. Episodic was also a pioneer in the development of "dual-use entertainment," for peace-time and war-time (this was, remember, when there was some presumption that there was still a difference). Dr. Episodic specialized, as you'd expect, in the development of such "dual-use entertainment" for radio deployment.

In my opinion, and though we must acknowledge him as a "pioneer", Ol' Doc Episodic's participation was unwitting and naive--certainly he was not aware of some of the uses his thinking and innovations would be put to then and subsequently given more and more sophisticated, subtle, insidious development.

This, again, goes back to his deeply serious, reverent regard for Radio as a medium for genuine revival, indeed as constituting a Revival in itself (not sure why I miniscule the former and majiscule the latter, but it feels right). Radio, for him, was a gift of the Unseen made audio-mental sensible, a gift of Light made into sound and words. It was unthinkable, for Dr. Episodic, that such a gift could be used for anything but the best, the noblest of common goods and for the spiritual edification of the human imagination (which often enters the intimate company of mysteries and truths through the entertainment of stories).

Robert G. Margolis said...

It should be said, in complement to the above, that Ol' Doc Episodic balanced his gravity with levity; his 'center of gravity' was, in fact, also his 'center of levity'. He was overflowing with jest, humor, pun and slapstick. Sure, the Power of Radio compelled him, but it didn't make him a humorless more-righteous-than-thou radio who was unable to enjoy the mysterious supra-sensical realities of the ordinary.

Examples that this moment come to mind, cherished favorites all, are: his weekly moment of art in which he would present a "radio still life". The one which makes laugh aloud to this day: "Hairbrush With Death". He occasionally presented something he called "Papercliche".

Nor did he neglect the young people among his listeners: He had a long-running Teen Detective story, a kind of parody of The Hardy Boys, titled: "The Malt Shop Falcon".

Robert G. Margolis said...

Dr. Episodic was sometimes heard to grumble, "Electricity ruined my material". His entire life on and off radio, as it was referred to then (on and off "the air" as it's referred to nowadays), he had a deeply ambivalent attitude toward electricity. He was never convinced electricity wasn't some kind of human dodgy debasement of the holiness of light.

Though his entire career, and what success he achieved, was entirely dependent on the proliferated use of electricity, he was always troubled that he lived in a time of constant efforts to apply electricity to anything and everything, and without the guidance or governance of wisdom. "One thing leads to another, but no one seems to know where that first thing has led us," he used to say.

Interestingly, he kept his views and opinions out of his radio show, at least editorially. If one goes back and re-listens to some of his routines and sketches, at the time regarded as obscure or even surreal, one can hear his profound ambiguity and troubled attitude toward the electrification of communication, entertainment, music, and, most of all, human speech and imagination.

Dr. Episodic, it seems, never resolved his ambiguity toward the electrified popular culture he helped to define and develop. Though, looked at another way, perhaps he did attain some resolve. At the height of his career in radio, he quit and never gain uttered an electrified, amplified word again. He subsequently took up mime, which he did for his own enjoyment and never in public performance.

Robert G. Margolis said...

History has a way, often, of eluding the past, of eluding our teneous grasp, if grasp it is, of all three "tenses" we use to parse "time".

I am prompted to observe this because these recent reminisces about Ol' Doc Episodic have got me, and at my request, some of my associates looking in our own tape collections for copies of "Having Another One of His Episodes" broadcasts. It turns out, none of us, so far at least, can find any! Were these shows not recorded, not archived, then? Of all the things electricity did, and could do, for Dr. Episodic, that was not one of them?!

Radio was a "new medium" back when Dr. Episodic had his weekly fits on the air, but over the years I've come to think of him as visionary in every respect. So, surely, he would have had his broadcasts recorded. I guess that's what affection and nostalgia and the effect of time can do to one's memory. But, then again, maybe that was Dr. Episodic being the visionary he was, that he didn't have his broadcasts recorded.

In any case, for now, and unless and until tape recorded copies of his broadcasts are found, Ol' Doc Episodic's world of Radio Revival lives only in memory and the Unseen realms from which it originated.

Most amusingly, and typical of Dr. Episodic, there is, so one of my former colleagues tells me, a recording, not even a minute in length, of Dr. Episodic performing--auditioning, actually, for the Power Suits who'd bought the radio station he worked for, what he called, a "Mime-o-Logue". The recording is silent, of course. At the end, there is the voice of Dr. Episodic, joking that all that hiss on the tape must mean the audience didn't like his performance.

Robert G. Margolis said...

Back when Television, or "TV", was fast becoming the "new radio", only with pictures and the nearly instant debasement of imagination, Dr. Episodic used to say that people who'd scoffed at his notion of a Radio Revival were now, themselves, switching to a new brand of religion and attending, what he called, "the Romance Cathode Church". "Worship on the channel of your choice," was their credo, said Dr. Episodic.

I was reminded of this by looking at the picture of the elegant-looking, wood frame old-time radio that appears two sections above this section. The radio's shape and design is distinctly, dare I say intentionally, reminiscent of church building architecture. Light, whether seen or unseen, in any of its manifestations, and even when slowed down to the degree that it becomes sound and audible, is always a holy phenomenon. Looking at the facade of that old-time radio, one senses the presence of a mystery within, of something 'oracular', of a connection with the Unseen, that elicits a feeling of respect and even reverence in some instances.

Ol' Doc Episodic said that, in this passing but ever-renewed world, itself broadcast from other worlds and realms, people's imaginations are on a pilgrimmage. Though they may not know it--and many don't, imagination seeks the realities it, if not understands, receives intimations of. Its intuition is that these realities are found in stories, in ordinary events and perceptions reconfigured, rearranged to disclose or unveil something truer than their appearance (and without which their appearance would be void of truth).

Dr. Episodic had a reverence for Radio, that it could serve as a vehicle of Revival, that is, a confluence of the Unseen made imagination made voice. The design of an old-time radio, so suggestive of a church building was, for him, itself a sign, an intimation of this 'ordinary' mystery, occuring 'within' (though not really localized there) and within the listener (though not really localized there), in the guise of entertainment.

Robert G. Margolis said...

For Dr. Episodic, Radio was a revival of the imagination and, therefore, a revival of a person's ability to 'see' the invisible. He used to say we could know that because it was in the very sound of the word "radio", if we heard it a certain way and with a certain meaning to that sound.

"TV", the very sound of it, thought Dr. Episodic, sounded ominously like a highly communicable disease, and one for which there was no vaccination. Even the weakest doses sent out proved to be unusable for the purposes of innoculation; the weakest doeses, too, soon brought on full blown "TV". At first it was just for those who could afford to own the actual instrument of sound and picture reception, and then for more and more people as that instrument became more and more affordable to own.

Likening something that one doesn't like or that one regards as 'alien' and a threat to the 'true order' of things to a disease or pestilence has a very dangerous and sinister history. But that didn't deter cranky, obstinate Dr. Episodic who, in the tube amplified earnestness of his glowing conviction, did not see such parallels and analogies to his views. "TV" was a kind of anti-revival to Radio and he, Dr. Episodic, believed he had a cure before it was too late. (In this last respect, his impeccable sense of comedic timing failed him: he was way off and way wrong; it was already too late, and had been for some time.)

But here is where the story turns even more strange and improbable. They say--and by "they" is meant the they that live in the shadows of unattributed and off-the-record, they say that Dr. Episodic was a close friend and drinking partner of Raymond Chandler. And the two of them, it is said, had a plan...My own take on this rumored plan scenario is that, really, Dr. Episodic had a plan, and it involved using the writing genius of Raymond Chandler to help it succeed.

What was needed, or so Dr. Episodic reasoned, was some kind of 'dark' or 'darkness' that, through the medium of Radio, and in under highly controlled conditions, could be introduced into the imaginations of Radio listeners in such a way as to better perceive and appreciate the nature and benefits of Light. A medium or message of light, Dr. Episodic further reasoned, partook of the nature of light, and Radio was just such a medium. I must hasten to had that probably no one, with the expection of Dr. Episodic, and certainly not Raymond Chandler, ever understood what this meant or how it could produce a recognition in people that Radio was a medium of light and that "TV" was not.

Nevertheless, Raymond Chandler (and, again, remember we're still going on what "they say") told his friend and drinking partner that he had a kind of 'dark' or 'darkness' which could be safely transmitted to people through the combined mediums of radio and imagination. He called it "Noir", and he said he'd been working on a story that contained exactly the kind of 'dark' that his friend, Dr. Episodic, needed for his experiment in contrast.

And that is how it happened that Raymond Chandler and Dr. Episodic adapted for radio the former's (unpublished, now lost original) story titled Midnight (With A Garnish Of Evil).

It received only one broadcast which became, in its own way, as legendary as Orson Well's broadcast of "War of the Worlds". With one crucial exception: mysteriously, no tape recording of its broadcast survives; it became, truly, a "ghost of electricity".

Robert G. Margolis said...

Last night, I was paging through my cherished copy of the first (and only) edition of the book Dr. Episodic compiled and self-published about his work in radio, titled A Radio Illustrated Guide To The Invisible.

What a collector's item this is, by the way. It is a (very) limited edition of signed and numbered copies (my copy is number 108). There is no year of publication given, but there is a note saying the year is not given because there's no reason to call undue attention to time like that. With the quality of the paper, the colors, the layout and design, the phrase "spare no expense" comes to mind, but, when Dr. Episodic got the book published, he had already had nothing to spare and so had to spare the expense itself. My conjecture is that illustrators, layout design artists, and some publisher, all of whom were personal admirers of Dr. Episodic and professional admirers of his radio work, produced the book for him as a favor in solidarity with his vision. All of these people chose, or Dr. Episodic chose for them, to remain anonymous and they are not credited in the book. Even the name of the publisher is not given.

The book's contents includes short essays, reminisces by Dr. Episodic and others who worked with him and performed his material "on the radio", and there are excerpts from scripts. There's also, amusingly, a quotation from Raymond Chandler: "When I listen to Dr. Episodic, I understand what I meant to say!"
I'm guessing Dr. Episodic wrote that himself and attributed it to his friend and drinking partner Raymond Chandler.

Among the script excerpts are portions from the working radio script for Midnight (With A Garnish Of Evil). Accompanying these portions are notes and reminisces about the script's single radio performance, the performers, and there is also Dr. Episodic's own
account of his radio listening audience's response to the broadcast (which strongly influenced Dr. Episodic's decision to never again broadcast another performance of Midnight (With A Garnish Of Evil)).

In my view, there reproduced portions of the scripts are lengthy enough, substantive enough, and indicative enough of the whole, that the rightly attuned radio person could--not restore the original of course, but could write a revival of what's between the lines and that would make a narrative whole of what's extant and that would resonate with the original.

This kind of writing and its performance for radio would be exactly the kind of revival that Dr. Episodic meant by the word and practiced with his words. I dearly hope that someone who has the imagination receiver with its dial tuned to the old days will pick up this signal.