life imitating TV imitating life

1

Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, and instead of doing your pages you see movies instead. Saw The Lookout and Notes on a Scandal, both worth the time and money.

A friend highly recommended The Tudors to the spouse and me, so we added it to Tivo. I am still recovering from the end of Rome…best television show in the history of the universe, all things Buffyverse of course not included. Our friend Jason, also a Rome fan, was urging me to post about it — when he wasn’t saying things like, “When are you going to stop all this vampire crap or whatever and write about our lives?” or “Nice try, but you’re very femme. If you were in prison you would not be the dealer, you’d be the dealt.”

As it turns out, I’ve been pondering that show a great deal, because it’s given me some ideas/inspiration for a novel not long down the line.

2

Last night I went to the CBS Studios in Studio City to watch the taping of A.’s pilot. It was initially called Lawdogs — which I liked, since I am a dog person myself –but the title got dumped. The show is currently known as Sachs/Judah Untitled. This reminds me somewhat of my own working titles, which tend to be along the lines of Novel, or Damn Novel, or Freaking [insert various profanities here] Piece of [insert more profanities] depending on my outlook at the time.

In order to avoid ugly traffic I went early, winding along lovely roads that cut through canyons separating the worth of properties by one or more million by virtue of city limits alone. I had this idea that I could find the place, settle in at a Starbucks or something and get work done until the taping began at 6. I was naive. The studio backlot turned out to be an eerily quiet maze of buildings, cheap wooden bungalows, and avenues named after television shows — Gunsmoke Alley, Mary Tyler Moore Lane, Gilligan’s Island Road. No tourists — somehow I expected lots of tourists, there are always tourists — just unglamorous people hard at unglamorous work, walking or riding bikes or carts, dangling keys and clipboards and messenger bags. The one cafe — Carla’s Cafe — had closed at 3, and the bare-bones coffee kiosk went dark ten minutes after I bought my coffee and salt and vinegar chips. I made my way to the building where the pilot was being filmed (in the basement) and wandered around dingy hallways trying to track down my friend. Someone in the elevator directed me to her dressing room, and since her door was open I went right in and waited for her to return from rehearsing. “It is,” I told her later, “alarmingly easy to stalk you.”

She was expecting another visitor as well — a Famous Person, or FP, whom she’d befriended the other weekend or something (“He is my new gay friend”). I saw him in the greenroom and didn’t go up to him precisely because he is an FP and I didn’t want to come off as yet another idiot bugging him while he conversed with his companion– otherwise I would have introduced myself, since we had A. in common — although if he wasn’t famous I wouldn’t have recognized him enough to introduce myself in the first place, so in the end it’s a moot point. Eventually we did shake hands, and he politely told me his name the way famous people do when they pretend they’ve never been on the cover of People magazine and you pretend you’ve never seen them on the cover of People magazine. He seemed extraordinarily fit. I also shook hands with cast member Scott Wolf — “Scott,” he said politely, adding, “Nice to see you,” which in this context becomes code for Maybe I’ve met you before but I can’t really remember and don’t want to offend you if I have . I kind of wanted to ask if he was still married to that Real World New Orleans chick, but of course I didn’t, partly because I am ashamed I ever let my brain absorb such information in the first place.

To my rather unexpected delight, the show was good. Well-written, well-acted, well-cast. A. — who, I think, identifies herself first and foremost as a comedian — worked with the writers to get bigger laughs from the audience*, and it was interesting to see how the scenes evolved during the taping. I sat in the greenroom watching on monitors, thankful not to be in the studio audience subjected to lame jokes and sing-alongs by whatever poor sap is hired to entertain the tourists (see? there are always tourists) during the many stretches of waiting. They would tape a scene, and it would seem fine and amusing to me, then behind-the-scenes people would crowd around the cast members to discuss amongst themselves. They would tape the scene again with subtle variations — an altered line of dialogue here, a different intonation there — and then do it again. And again. I began to truly understand why these things can last until dawn. I also got a sense of the professionalism and perfectionism involved — despite the light-hearted, jesting tone of the material and (rather scarily forced) let’s-have-a-good-time-or-else feeling in the studio audience.

The show seems to revolve around Wolf’s character and his female rival/love interest/counterpart: attractive but not intimidatingly so, cleancut next-door types. A. plays one of those characters you actively look for because of the color (literally in this case, since she was wearing a red dress amid the dark suits) and comic relief she provides. I was also struck by a male character who practically got a standing ovation after he delivered his Yoda impression. A show about lawyers that involves a stirring impression of the great green master. Recommended on that basis alone.

3

I got home around 10 or so and was on my way to the front door when a man called out from the bottom of the driveway. Two men in uniforms approached me, identified themselves, and all I could think was a) E wasn’t back from the airport yet and b) all those scenes in movies where somebody appears and flashes a badge and says, I’m sorry, ma’am, but your husband has been in a 25 car pile-up on the 405 and died at the scene. “I’m sorry, ma’am…” the first guy said, and I could feel myself detaching from my body, staring blankly at him, “…but we’re looking for your neighbor.” My whole self sagged and I laughed out loud and they looked at me like I was nuts.

So my Notorious Neighbor is being Notorious again. I had no helpful information whatsoever, not that it would have mattered; despite the way he comes off in the media, he’s actually a very savvy, rather surprisingly sophisticated, detail-oriented guy, and there was no way he was kicking back at some overpriced VIP table putting off the unpleasant/inevitable. Wherever he is, I’m sure it involves many lawyers, and when his extremely loud car drives up beyond the hedge separating our two driveways, he’ll have stories to tell.

* although my favorite line from her — “I shaved my special parts for you” — got nixed by the network. Damn network. If it was HBO they would have not only kept the line but included a flashback to demonstrate.

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