Why no one is hiring me to write sitcoms

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By Darren Johnson

It’s New to You!

There aren’t many sitcoms I watch anymore. None really. Maybe I saw a few episodes of “Two and a Half Men” before Charlie Sheen was axed. Before that, maybe a few episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Yes, I watch “Seinfeld” in repeats, and have seen every episode a half-dozen times, but people tend to watch things they’ve seen before to de-stress more than anything else. I rarely laugh along with George and Jerry now.

As a kid, I enjoyed the genre immensely. Not that “Happy Days” or “Three’s Company” were any better than today’s shows, but I was young and just the idea of the Fonz beating up a whole gang of toughs or Jack Tripper pretending to be gay while living with a blond hottie and a brunette nottie, the two most virginal women on the planet, perhaps, was enough to capture an imagination fueled with tween hormones.

(OK, “All in the Family” and “Good Times” were very well written – but that social commentary stuff would never fly on today’s corporate-strangled stations.)

But, nevertheless, I went to college to study writing and the thought once in awhile popped into my head as to what kind of job would I eventually want. I ended up mostly going into journalism, with the occasional creative piece getting published or staged, but when I was 19 or 20, the possibilities seemed limitless.

Briefly, the idea of perhaps writing for TV made sense. Writers in the union make low six figures. Yes, it is a type of group writing where no one’s really an “author,” but it’s a notable job. It’s a job that my now-late mother could have related to. She’s the one who got me into TV watching in the first place. We’d go on vacation and she’d even watch her shows in the hotel.

But the type of shows I’d write would never make it with a viewer like her. I’m too edgy, and people like her are more typical than me, I’ve learned over time. (Once I ran for elected office in a small town and only got two percent of the vote. My ideas aren’t mainstream, and I’m okay with that.)

I was reminded of this in a recent July when I had a sitcom idea, posted the idea on Facebook and then virtually heard crickets chirping. None of my 223 “friends” cared. Here’s the idea:

After the whole Derek Jeter 3000th hit drama, I saw a pic of Jeter with the husky guy who caught the 3000th hit (as you know, the guy gave the ball to Jeter as a gift of sorts), and I thought, what an odd-looking couple.

Here’s the sloppy-looking, chunky guy, who looks like he literally ate Jeter, posing next to the svelte, GQ-looking superstar. Now that would make a good sitcom, I thought.

OK, change a few names and the situation slightly.

A fat guy (maybe played by Howard Stern sidekick Artie Lange) catches the landmark baseball hit by an aging superstar.

Turns out, the fat guy has $100,000 in student loan debt, and then the IRS wants to tax him some huge amount for the ball itself (based on the real story). How will he ever pay all that? I mean, the guy lives with mom upstate and spends all his disposable income (maybe give him a job at Arby’s) on junk food, beer, strip clubs. You name it.

The aging baseball player (maybe played by “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson) REALLY wants that ball. He made a horrible business decision –building a compound in Florida as the real-estate market there crashed (also somewhat based on Jeter’s reality) – and his career is winding down. He sees that ball as his nest egg. The baseball player is in shape, high-class, neat and tidy.

So the fat guy and the baseball player make a deal – they’ll share an apartment in Manhattan (a la “The Odd Couple”) so that the slob can pay his student loans and the IRS while the baseball player will get paid with the ball, eventually.

Picture all the scenarios – The Rock tries to bring a sexy starlet back to the pad only to find his roomie sprawled out in his underwear with a half-eaten pizza on his belly and empty beer cans all around him.

The roomie’s nosey, star-struck mom hides in the closet to see who the baseball player is dating, and bedding.

The baseball player makes over the slob and takes him clothes shopping for a job interview, hoping to finally get him a real job and get rid of him. The fat guy, a la George Costanza, sabotages the interview, however, as there’s no way he wants to leave The Rock’s penthouse.

The possibilities are limitless.

I can’t quite pinpoint WHY this would never make it to TV. I mean, practically every other sitcom out there right now is worse than this premise.

I just somehow KNOW this idea would never get anywhere. Perhaps from my early years as a writer where I saw which of my works were accepted and which were rejected. Eventually, I learned to only write things I knew I’d get paid for and not waste time.

And, today, I see which stories and cartoons I create get an audience and which of my posts have internet tumbleweeds rolling across them. The analytics don’t lie. I test the waters with such Internet posts and responses fuel me to pursue a work further. Other ideas I let die.

So don’t expect to see my sitcom – maybe titled “Foul Ball,” “Bleacher Creature” or “Left Field” – anywhere anytime soon. Kooky ideas don’t make it big like that.

The odds are about the same as catching Jeter’s historic ball. So I’ll just keep plugging away (and getting paid) at Campus News, thank you.

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