Thom Deason was interning at Grammnet, and knew they were looking for family comedies. He was the producer on a short film script of mine that never quite got made, but thought that maybe that short could be turned into a TV pilot.
That wasn’t a completely new thought. While we were still trying to get it made as a short, the directors involved (Drew Sachs and Karen Lund) had made a similar suggestion. But it wouldn’t be easy.
The short was about a guy that is trying to commit suicide; but a bumbling employee of death accidentally convinces him that life is really worth living. (Ironic, given my past year, no?)
What it became was a sit-com about an I.R.S. agent that prevents his own accidental death by agreeing to work with a bumbling agent in the Death Department of the bureaucracy known as The Heavens. Of course, we called it Death and Taxes (thank you, Lauri).
But there was a little problem. I had never written a sit-com before.
I had written plenty of comedic plays, musical comedies, hilarious children’s videos, and a number of one-hour dramas that had comedy in them. In fact, my Monk spec script was garnering awards, and readers of my West Wing thought I matched the wit of Aaron Sorkin (which was generous – I fooled people into thinking I matched the wit of Aaron, which was good enough for me).
I think of myself as a rather humorous writer.
But three jokes a page? Not the style I’m used to.
So I took the script to Joel McCrary.
Joel and I had worked together in our church’s drama team, so I knew his writing and his sense of comedy. Besides, I had written the role of the bumbling Death agent for Joel – he knew the script already.
So I asked him to read it with suggestions for upping the funny.
And his suggestions were so good – and so true to the story – that I took it further and asked him to co-write with me.
We rewrote the pilot together, developed and practiced the pitch, and took it to Grammnet. And they loved it!
Which means both diddly and squat in this town. As much as they liked it, they couldn’t figure out how they would sell the network on a sit-com about Death moving into the basement of an IRS agent’s home. And so our sit-com died at pitch stage.
Next: Life After Death (and Taxes).
Just my thoughts,