Big giant head

In Other News

Oh. My. God. My Mojave Phone Booth page is exploding.

A few days ago it was tapped as a Yahoo Surfer's Pick. That generated quite a few hits; it was averaging something like 300 a day. Cool, huh?

Today it got promoted. Now it's a Yahoo Pick of the Week for 6/7/99. I checked the counter when I got up this morning: 700+. Wow. And it was just getting started. It ended the day with 2,077 hits and it's still going strong. I'm stunned.

I don't know about Steve, but I'm getting mail from people all over the globe, most of them reporting that they tried calling and The Booth is still busy. Someone called it from Holland, fer Chrissakes!

People are writing to say they're planning Booth trips, asking how to get there, asking if I'll meet them there, asking what it was like there, saying they wish they could go there, thanking me for going there. It's incredible.

A lot of the traffic is spilling over here to my journal. So for all you newcomers: Howdy, thanks for coming, pull up a seat and stay awhile.

For you old-timers: I have no idea what I'm going to pull outta my ass to keep the new kids entertained. You've been tamed, you're used to my humdrum existence, but these folks are coming in with visions of gonzo; they think I'm a madman. And maybe I am, but we all know it's not the kind they think.

As for The Booth itself... I almost feel bad about shedding all this light on it. Not because I wanted to keep it a secret, but because with all the added calls it's getting, if they ever do fix the damned thing it's just going to melt from overuse.

Try to do a nice thing...


Monday - June 7, 1999
Bad Taste

I've been kinda down for about the last week. Career stuff, writing stuff. Failure stuff.

Part of it is that my Everybody Loves Raymond script tanked in the competition. Just like last year with Frasier, I didn't enter really expecting to win; I entered expecting just to get a minor ego boost from advancing past the first round. Just like last year, it didn't. And just like last year, I think it should have cleared the hurdle. Unlike last year, however, I don't think it tanked unfairly this time around. This time around it was my own fault.

The way the competition works is that only part of your script is read in the first round -- how much is up to you. Last year, with Frasier, I sent in the maximum, something like 18 pages. Unfortunately those 18 pages carried into where the story got complicated, and two of my three readers just didn't get it. One loved it, these two didn't. Their notes made it clear that they didn't get it. Now, maybe that's my fault, but keep in mind that one of those two readers also criticized my format, saying I had it wrong.

Excuse me. I created and manage the Sitcom Format 101 website, where literally thousands of aspiring sitcom writers go to find the correct format for their specs. I know what I'm talking about there. I know format. My Frasier format was dead on. Frasier Exec Producer David Lee said so himself. Ergo, Reader #3 was an idiot. #2? Just not so bright.

Yeah, I know: sour grapes. Listen, I'm honest enough with myself to know when I've gotten deservedly bad notes. I'm not one of those people who blame the reader for their own failings. If I blow it, I take it like a man and admit it. I really don't think I blew it with the Frasier. I honestly believe I got bad reads.

Whatever. Stung by last year's experience, when I submitted my Raymond this year I submitted a small sample: 10 pages. I submitted small because I didn't want to get nailed by morons again. My readers didn't like that, they wanted to see more. They were right to want more; I was an idiot to do it like that. Two of the three liked it and wanted to see the rest, but all of them said the sample was too small and I can only assume they scored it accordingly. Dink! Ergo, my fault.

So that hurt. But that's really kind of the least of it. Career-wise, confidence-wise, I've just had a shitty couple of weeks.

The last time I talked to my agent he said he hadn't gotten around to reading my Raymond yet -- a month after I turned it in. A few weeks ago I sent him email asking if he'd read it yet and where, if anywhere, it was out. Haven't heard back yet. Why not call him? Because I don't need the added blow a repeat of my last round of phone tag with him would have. I got routed into his voicemail for two weeks with no call back before he finally called me from home...while he was fixing dinner...and he mainly wanted to talk about what kind of sandwich he should make: peanut butter and banana or ham and cheese. It wasn't, as you might imagine, terribly productive for me.

I learned recently that a fellow sitcom-er on a mailing list I'm on just got picked up for her first staff job. I'm thrilled for her, I really am, but I'm jealous as hell too. Why her? Why not me? Well, because she's younger, she has a better agent, she won the contest I just tanked twice in a row, and she's probably a better writer. Be still my beating ego.

A good friend of mine just lined up a gig writing episodes for an online serial adventure show kinda thang. He runs much of what he writes past me before he sends it out. He praises my writing up and down, says he wants to work with me, we say we'll bring each other up if/when we make it. He just signed this deal: 60 episodes and he's a producer. Cool. I asked him if he could toss an assignment or two my way. No. Ooookay...

And finally, I just found out an old...acquaintance... recently got his first staff gig on a cable sitcom. That was the last straw. This guy is socially inept, a borderline talented joke factory who can't write good story, he burned me once that I know of on a sitcom mailing list we created together, and I suspect he soured the water between my agent, myself, and a producer on Spin City by repeatedly calling -- harassing -- the producer and claiming he was me.

This really happened; I only suspect it was him. But I suspect strongly. He is one of very few people who knew of my relationship with both people, and he's the only one who knew who I think could/would do it.

The guy is, in short, a troll. A short troll. And it burns my butt to a crisp that he's made it. Whatever happened to karma? But, hey, he probably earned it. He was driven, persistent, had tunnel vision on what he wanted, and followed that vision doggedly until he made it. That's what it takes. He has what it takes. I don't, apparently. I take small comfort in the fact that it is without a doubt the worst show on TV, pay or otherwise.

Yeah, I know: sour grapes. Yeah, it is. It's small and petty and I'm not proud of it, but it is what it is. What it also is is profoundly depressing. I'm questioning myself, questioning my game plan, questioning where I'm going to end up.

So I think I'm giving up. It hurts to say that, but it's true. I'm too old for the sitcom game anyway; it was pretty much this year or nothing. So I'm out. Three years wasted, seven scripts wasted (and, thanks to my agent, largely unread by people who should have read them), a dream wasted.

I'm going to focus on writing features now. I just dug up the first 30 pages of the last one I started, two years ago, and it's good. I'm going to finish it, then move on to another one and then another one. I'm starting over; I'm at the beginning of a new row to hoe and it's going to be a long one.

I really don't like this taste in my mouth. It's the taste of failure.


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Copyright © 1999
Chuck Atkins