Episode #103 Shoot
August 31, 1999
There was a time this week during rehearsal where we were all sitting around waiting to start a certain scene. I was sitting at the top of the stairs since that's where I had to enter from. In the living room sat Stephen and David and they were chatting pleasantly amongst themselves and with the director. And I felt two distinct waves of emotion wash over me. The first sense I had was that this whole moment was a metaphor for the character and my experience on the show so far. The director and the two straight guys were sitting down in the living room laughing and joking and relaxing having a good time, while the gay guy had to sit off and deal with his issues and contemplate his role and the significance of the whole thing. And I thought, "Wouldn't it be so much easier to just be the artist who can't get a date, or the good-looking stud who has too many dates? I could play one of those roles. I always felt I was born to play one of those roles. But instead, I'm about to run down the stairs and fawn all over the UPS guy." And maybe I felt a little sorry for myself. And maybe I wished that everything could just be easy. Wouldn't it be so nice and so simple and so painless? And so easy.
Then right on the heels of that came another wave of emotion. And I thought, "There is no other character like this on television right now. I am performing one of the most interesting roles I have ever had." Of all of the possible bad roles on bad shows that come out of the network pipeline year after year, how lucky am I to have landed such a fascinating role on a quality show? Sure, playing Hunter or Norris would be 'easier' but I think that would also make it so much less interesting. I am being asked to do things that are a little bit of a stretch, a little bit demanding, but always intelligent and smartly written. I have been given a very rare opportunity. This may be one of the best jobs in Hollywood right now and I've got it.
The taping tonight drove that home even further. The episode is all about Ford and it's all quite funny. The first half of the show was tightened up and some of the less-successful jokes were eliminated. The scenes developed a little momentum and I think they turned out well. The second half of the show rocked. All of the funny bits seemed to go over extremely well. Each of the three story lines had fun relationships to watch. The writers have come to a pretty quick understanding of where these characters are coming from and going to. And I think the cast has the talent to pull it off. We all seemed to do so tonight.
Tomorrow begins our first week-long hiatus. And it's an interesting time to stop and take stock of the situation. We have shot three new episodes. They all seemed very funny and clever and sharp to those of us involved in the show. There were even moments tonight when I felt like this show is so good, it's phenomenal. To have put together three episodes as interesting as the pilot, and to have pulled off tonight's trickier "gay" episode, is amazing. The show is so so good.
And what I try to remind myself whenever I think things like that is that I worked on Conrad Bloom last year at exactly this time. It was their third episode and it was still a few weeks before they had their premiere. And that episode that I did had some laugh-out-loud funny moments in it, and the cast was very talented and quite accomplished, and everyone on the show was extremely positive and upbeat, and even the director, Jim Burrows, and long-time pro at the sitcom business, was quoted as saying, "You guys have yourself a damn good show here." And I believed it. It all seemed quite funny to me. Everyone seemed confident and assured things were going to be A-OK. And that show disappeared off the radar screen. Gone. They never made more than 13. They barely even aired the 13 they made. From the inside looking out, it's so hard to gain perspective on the quality of a show. We all love each other so we think we're all hysterical. Is that going to come across to the rest of the world? Or will we go down in flames, loving each other and wiping away our tears wondering what went wrong.
By the same token, no one can predict what the television viewing audience is going to latch onto. Maybe our show is really funny and well-put-together. That, however, may matter the least. Quality is not always important in determining the life of a show. The first week should be big -- new show, cute people, follows Drew Carey -- and we should do well. What happens after that is the people who didn't like the show stop watching it. Maybe they didn't find it funny. Maybe it just wasn't the kind of show they thought it was going to be. A chunk of that first night audience is going to be the wrong audience for this show. They will stop watching. Meanwhile, many people who are the right audience for this show will not be watching that night. Can we stay on the air long enough for those people to find us? And will there be enough of those people, once they do find us, to make the show a ratings success? The odds are against us. As much as we love the show, and as awesome as tonight's episode was, and all the episodes, the simple truth is that new shows fail. They usually do.
"Hey, we have a great show here!"
"Hey, Conrad Bloom."
Episode 103 | Behind the Scenes | Oh Grow Up