Everything The Republicans Are Doing Is Going To Blow Up In Their Faces

In a way, The Republican Party is about to become like a car-chasing dog that finally catches up to a car only to realize it never prepared itself for this moment – and this moment sucks – because the car just ran over it. On two different fronts, Republicans – white, Christian conservatives – are about achieve the very goals they dreamed about. But, like an old friend of mine (the Crypt Keeper) used to say, “Be careful what you wish for, kiddees, you might just get it!” Yes, religious conservatives will finally see the end of Roe v Wade. Core Republicans, libertarians, white supremacists and originalists will finally get to make voting as hard as possible for everyone who isn’t them. For about two seconds, conservatives will celebrate like it’s 1999! And then – in both cases – backlashes will begin in earnest. And those backlashes won’t stop until they’re spent. And where that will land us as a culture and a country? It’s the exact opposite of what these pirates want.

Do conservatives honestly think that the SCOTUS putting an end to Roe v Wade will stop abortion in America? Do they think women will be cowed into… what? Only having procreative sex just in case something happens? Do they think women in America will do nothing after a minority has stripped them of not only a right but their own bodily integrity? Do they think America’s women won’t remind them how cynical their whole “right to life” campaign has been – from the very get-go? Abortion rights were never a thing in America “until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools.” In fact, “W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased [emphasis mine]: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed [emphasis again mine].” The bottom line truth: Evangelicals – the drivers of the entire abortion debate – became “pro-life” only after their battle to maintain desegregated schools failed.

The abortion battle in America has never actually been about babies. It’s always been about racism. But the fact that the abortion battle gave religionistas and women-hating conservatives a “moral war” to wage against women and their bodies? That stone cold fact is going to be the big takeaway the instant the Supreme Court delivers the final coup de grace to Roe – the whole point of Mitch McConnell’s hijacking of the American judiciary and especially the SCOTUS. Take this to the bank and prepare to get rich beyond even Jeff Bezos’s wildest dreams: not only won’t America’s women take this lying down, they’re going to get hyper motivated by it. They’re going to vote out every politician who’s piggishly and priggishly violated their rights. They’ll focus, too, on the money that’s financed these politicians and their war on women.

Here’s an example of how the marketplace of ideas works here in reality. Remember Bill O’Reilly? Yeah, sure – Bill brags about his “online presence“. Ya think he wouldn’t kill everyone he knows to have his old job, his old show, his old life back? The reason Bill shills from the internet instead of Fox News is because America’s women decided they’d had enough of Bill – and America’s advertisers, like a canary in a coal mine, saw it way ahead of everyone. And they saw it because their clients – the companies manufacturing the products whose ad dollars pay for much of Fox News’ budget – saw it coming. And they saw it coming because they know for a fact that the bulk of big ticket buying decisions in American households get made by women.

When advertisers rejected Bill O’Reilly, he became persona non grata at ad reliant Fox. The democracy of the marketplace voted Bill O’ off the air.

The truth is, Roe v Wade never was the best way to get to abortion rights. It makes abortion a privacy choice rather than a health care choice. The fix can only be legislative – and it will be. And it will be sooner than the evangelicals realize. Take this to the bank and prepare to get even richer than before. The investigation into the January 6 insurrection – now beginning to focus on elected Republicans who conspired in it – and the DoJ’s growing examination of back stage Republican planning and financing of the insurrection – will claim hundreds of Republican political lives. The GOP is about to be gutted by the very corruption that overtook it. Purple states are about to go full blue. Red states are about to go purple. People with “R’s” next to their names are going to be fighting legal battles (and paying ungodly legal bills) that make running for office impossible.

Then there’s the second front the Republicans are about to open up against themselves: voting rights.

Let’s take one small anti-democratic law as an example – like the one they now have in Georgia that makes it illegal to give food or water to anyone standing in a line to vote. Let’s do a little thought experiment… It’s November 2022. The election is happening with every bit of Republican anti-voter lawmaking still in place – and an electorate that hates what the Republicans have done. Lines in Black, brown and Democratic districts are longer than ever – by design. Finally, the rage boils over into a collective action: a thousand people hand food and water to a thousand Black, brown, female and/or Democratic Georgia voters. What happens next?

Do a thousand Georgian cops arrest these thousand food and water protesters? Let’s say they do! Let’s say Georgia arrests and sends to trial one thousand of its citizens for giving food and water to good Georgian citizens standing in interminably long lines in order to exercise their right to vote. Do the anti-democratic conservatives crafting this legislation actually think juries will convict after hearing these stories? Do they think they’ll be able to find juries to begin with who don’t sit down already committed to find against them purely on grounds of decency? I’ve served on juries. Both were incredibly decent in our approach to the law and the cases facing us.

But, like the abortion fight comes down to racism and sexism, so, too, does our voting rights fight. Originalists – being racist to the core – want America to return to the days when “All men are created equal” meant ONLY men and ONLY men like them – white, Christian land owners. Just as “right to life” was always really about racism, our fight to fully extend the American franchise – the vote – to every single citizen because it’s their right is a fight against racism (and those who only want white men to vote). The insurrection – still ongoing – is an attempt to deny a level playing field to the majority of Americans. Every last one of its aims is to return America to its conservative heyday – the 1850’s when everyone knew their place.

Alas, this won’t end well for them. American fascists count on America being like Germany. They’re counting on Americans behaving exactly like Germans and falling into line. But how Germans (steeped in German culture and history) acted in the 1930’s is not how diverse Americans will behave. Sure, there were plenty of “Good Germans” who didn’t agree with the Nazis – and they weren’t a small group. But, at the end of the day, they remained more “German” than good. They resisted quietly or, really, not at all. They went along to get along – understandable but immoral. When conservatives attempt to impose their will on a diverse American population? They won’t find enough “Good Americans” to fill enough Nuremburg style rallies to make this shitbird fly. Think Black people are going to go along with this? Think Mexican or Puerto Rican or Central American people will fall in line. A few anti-Communist Cubans will – they’re still fighting the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. But, the overwhelming majority of Latin-x voters will vote for their best interests – and they know the GOP doesn’t have them in mind.

If – per our thought experiment – the GOP did get their two big prizes here? The results will be messy and violent and ugly. But, in the end, the conservatives will lose if only because progress will ultimately happen regardless. As it does. Here in America, we’ve had our history of white men suppressing everyone else. We have zero interest in continuing or perpetuating it. Now that the Republicans have hoisted their “Hail Mary” toss toward the distant end zone, it’s incumbent on the rest of us – the not-so-silent majority – to not only knock down that pass, but to intercept it and run it all the way back for the game-ending, game-winning touchdown.

It is never nice to be hoist on one’s own petard. The Republican Party is going to wish it had never been born with a petard on which to be hoisted. Hell, by the time History is done with the GOP, they’re gonna wish they had never been born at all.

In The TV Ad Wars, Progressive’s “Flo” Kicks “Doug” (And His Emu’s) Butt – Fight Me!

If you’re a regular consumer of cable TV news, you’re also a consumer of all the ads the news channels run in a constant, mind-numbing cycle. Big Pharma and Big Insurance own the bulk of the real estate; at least, that’s how it feels inside my head. Big Pharma’s “slice-of-life” ads beg to be satirized, especially the part of each ad where — as we watch our characters living their best lives (now that they’re cured!) — a Voice O’ God narrator speed reads a list of the “cure’s worse than the disease” side effects. See how happy these formerly afflicted people are now? They wouldn’t be so happy if any of this drug’s side effects ever kicked in. While Big Pharma stokes our fear of getting sick, Big Insurance stokes our fear of every other bad thing that could ever happen to us: car accidents, natural disasters, death (especially death). Living life each day, it turns out, carries the risk that something bad or expensive could ruin all our hopes and dreams. What’s that old joke about how to make God laugh by telling “him” your plans?

Big Insurance wants to inflame every latent fear cowering in the shadows of your mind — and, like an arsonist who’s also a fire fighter, their whole deal is to step forward as the loving savior who’s got your back!

For a price, of course.

Insurance is an essential concept to our capitalistic way of life. But, talking about insurance — geez, could anything be more “middle aged” and dull? The insurance industry is run by bean counters to whom the green eyeshade look is “a look”. And their product, essential as it is, is boring. For a long time, insurance companies took an entirely “adults in the room” approach to marketing their product to the unwashed and uninsured masses. Nationwide was “on your side”, You were “In Good Hands” with Allstate. If something bad happens, “Like A Good Neighbor State Form is there”. According to the New York Times, that all changed in 1999 when the Martin Agency created the Geico Gecko “to both reinforce Geico’s name and help the public figure out how to pronounce it”. The Gecko clicked however. He was funny and strangely human. An audience that didn’t care about insurance stopped to watch the ads not because fifteen minutes would change our lives but because we wanted to know more about the guy pitching it at us (lizard though he may be).

Before too long, Progressive Insurance — who no one even knew existed — created Flo (and her team), Allstate created Mayhem, Farmer’s Insurance rolled out J. K. Simmons as Professor Burke and Liberty Mutual created the LiMu Emu and his partner/friend/wing man Doug.

What all these insurance companies did was create IP (intellectual property) — characters who, they hoped, would encompass essential elements of their “franchise” within it. When you see the character, you’ll think of that insurance company. If the character made you laugh — in a good way — you’ll not only remember the insurance company, you’ll remember them fondly. If that’s all that happens, the insurance company is already ahead. Branding is a massive undertaking. But, if you end up buying insurance too? Back up the Brinks truck.

Now, I can claim a little bit of real world expertise when it comes to marketing and creating a franchise character. I’ve written and produced TV and feature films within certain franchises. My first produced TV show script was for “Freddy’s Nightmares: The Nightmare On Elm Street TV Series”. I’ve put words into Freddy Krueger’s mouth. I’ve also written and executive produced “The Outer Limits” for Showtime. OL’s franchise is more thoughtful than Nightmare On Elm Street’s. The “Control Voice” was always the weakest franchise character among all the anthology series that ever succeeded. I mean, who is he? What is he? I wrote and executive produced that show for two whole seasons and I still don’t get that character.

I also reinvented “Tales From The Crypt’s” Crypt Keeper when I took over running Tales going into its third season on HBO. Here’s a muuuuuuuuch younger version of me in the middle of a writing session with the dude. Love-hate. Yup. That was us.

When I took over writing the Crypt Keeper, Kevin Yeagher (Kevin created the CK) had gone as far as he could with his amazing puppet (run by six puppeteers) as the Crypt Keeper sat in the same chair wearing the same burlap sack outfit cracking the same painful puns for 25 episodes. In fact, when my partner Gil Adler and I took over at TFTC, it was supposed to be the show’s final season. We were caretakers wheeling the body to the TV show graveyard. Except that’s not what happened. Gil and I reinvigorated the show, I reinvigorated the Crypt Keeper and HBO went on to order four more seasons, Universal ordered three Tales feature films, the Crypt Keeper got merchandised and co-branded with Budweiser beer (among other products) and the Crypt Keeper even got a kids’ show. Not bad for a literal “dying concern”.

The question I asked — it’s what got me hired — was “What does the Crypt Keeper do when he’s not being the Crypt Keeper?”

What does he do when he punches the clock and goes home? What are his hobbies? What does he like to eat and drink? Who are his friends? What does he think about? Giving the Crypt Keeper an interior life gave him a life. Having a life made him more viscerally real to the audience who embraced him as they hadn’t before.

That’s my operating principle. It’s the bar characters have to clear (in my mind) to be “successful”. If we measure success by durability, that some characters endure while others don’t — that’s a good enough yardstick for me. Once you create a good character however, the real hard work begins: casting. Get it right, you’ll create a magical feedback loop that continually builds upon itself and its own invention. Get it wrong and begin to plan on getting fired.

In the current TV ad environment, these characters are succeeding because of superb casting: Geico’s Gecko succeeded beyond every expectation in large part because actor Jake Wood imparts so much humanity to his character. The CGI people gave the Gecko great eyes. Jake Wood makes every emotion the CGI guys invoke play for real inside our heads. That’s way harder than it looks. Bravo, everyone involved, bravo!

Jake Wood, the voice of the Geico Gecko

Not every great character can be “filled in” with great detail. Allstate’s Mayhem — like Farmers’ Professor Burke — is a good running joke but not really a character. Dean Winters, the actor who plays Mayhem is always fun to watch and the spots are usually clever. But, does Mayhem have a family? What must a family of Mayhems be like? Uh oh… am I about to make somebody rich?

Dean Winters is Allstate’s Mayhem

Similarly, J.K. Simmons’ Professor Burke is a great comic conceit more than a character. I’m not sure this character’s inner life is crying out for further exploration; I’m not sure this character has a meaningful interior life. In order for his home life to be interesting, Professor Burke would have to be something completely different in his off hours. Like a sex addict or a serial killer.

J K Simmons is Farmers’ Professor Burke

That brings us to Flo v Doug.

It’s not a fair fight; Flo and her crew win hands down. I’m not sure if Flo’s creators — copywriter John Park and art director Steve Reepmeyer, at the Boston-based agency Arnold Worldwide — anticipated how successful their creation would be. In 2008, in that very first ad, It’s just Flo, incredibly upbeat and super helpful.

The team at Arnold got it spot on when they hired Groundling alum Stephanie Courtney. Courtney has an improv player’s ability to make every environment believable simply by how she’s “being”. How she’s “being” creates the environment for the audience. Courtney sells Flo’s hyper-realness by believing in it so utterly herself that we do too. That’s how improv works: the actor literally wills the world in their head into ours. Being a good improv player, Courtney also fills her character with inner life (to justify how the outer life should look and sound).

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Here’s the Flo character’s first appearance —

You get the feeling she really, really lives to work.

It took a while for the Flo character to move from the retail floor to the corporate offices, for her crew to arrive and become distinctive characters unto themselves (the character Jamie especially). To its credit, the creative team at Arnold didn’t quit at Flo. Each and every member of Flo’s team is a distinct character with a distinct inner life; each time we get a glimpse, it makes sense — even when it’s completely surprising as it is with the Jamie character. Improv can only flourish in a “Yes, and!” environment. If I begin a scene by asking my scene partner “Do you like my hat?” She better say something like “Why, yes — I do! And I love the tropical birds! What are their names?” That will keep the improv going whereas if she says “What? You’re not wearing a hat”, the whole thing will die right there, on the spot. Progressive has “yes, and-ed” Flo into a whole believably organic world.

Over time, Progressive would sell itself by extending Flo’s world — including Flo’s family (Courtney usually plays the whole clan herself). There’s a Thanksgiving spot that gives the concept plenty of room to run around in.

A believable inner life. That’s the key to a great franchise character.

Before we shift to Liberty Mutual’s Doug, I want to give a shout out to another great Progressive character with a deep (I’d even say “profound”) inner life — the “Motaur” — half man, half motorcycle —

Throw in the Dr. Rick character (the guy trying to teach people not to turn into their parents) and you have a whole network’s worth of great characters.

By contrast, Liberty Mutual sure does try hard. Their various spots include the “Park With A View Of The Statue Of Liberty” world (it’s like a half-baked idea generator) and the Doug-Emu teaming. Goodby Silverstein & Partners developed Doug and the LiMu Emu. Per Liberty Mutual’s own web site: “The humorous and over-the-top duo who appear on the scene to share their knowledge and help protect people from paying too much for insurance coverage. LiMu Emu and Doug bring a new twist to the classic buddy-cop duo – partners guided by the notion that it’s a crime to pay for things you don’t need – going above and beyond to ensure they do their duty.” 

Okay — a simple enough concept but… oy, if you have to work that hard to sell or explain “funny”, it means the thing you’re selling probably isn’t. It’s not that the idea of a solid blue collar guy being partnered with an emu isn’t side-splittingly hilarious… oh, wait — maybe that’s the problem. Doug and his Emu partner are amusing. They’re a single funny thought. A sketch with a solid if unremarkable guffaw in it — and that’s all. The idea simply can’t support much more than that. This isn’t a casting issue. Not at all. David Hoffman does everything he can with the character. He works wonders with very little meat on his character’s undernourished bones.

Giving Doug and Emu girlfriends was cute. Clever even. They’re awkward and awkward is funny. But even awkward needs somewhere to go. What makes an awkward scene funny is that we, the audience, wouldn’t want to be in such a scene because even just watching it is cringey-funny. In the commercial below, the series achieves something remarkable.: a moment of genuine humor that works within the concept but also points to the concept’s limitations. It occurs at the end, when Doug offers Emu some food…

The awkwardness of Doug offering Emu chicken is terrific because it’s real. It points to how inorganic all the other awkwardness is. It’s a testament to Hoffman’s acting chops that he gets a great underplayed moment from an overplayed character.

By contrast, the Progressive ads are a master class in squeezing every last drop of painful humor from awkwardness. Jim Cashman’s Jamie is a fabulous creation with a completely unexpected off-stage life. It’s the contrast between an awkward character and a secure, confident inner life that makes Jamie compelling and infinitely watchable.

Jim Cashman as Progressive’s “Jamie”

Now that that’s off my chest, I can turn back to MSNBC. Hey, look! A Big Pharma ad’s on! And I am grateful as can be that I don’t (think I) have any of the diseases those characters have. And, damn if the side effects don’t sound horrifying enough to make even the Crypt Keeper fear for the worst.

Republicans Have Crossed A Line From Beyond Which There IS No Return

That headline is wrong. The Republican Party has crossed MULTIPLE lines from beyond which there IS NO RETURN. The moment the RW money decided to make permanent minority rule its mission — that was a line of no return. The moment Moscow Mitch McConnell stated out loud that denying Barack Obama (the president a MAJORITY OF AMERICANS voted for) his judicial choices was his proudest accomplishment — that was a line of no return. The moment current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a GOP leadership meeting a month before the 2016 GOP convention and said “I think there’s two people Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” and no one thought to get the FBI on the phone — that, when then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan said “let’s keep it in the family”, was a line of no return.

Hell, when Donald Trump said — out loud — that “Mexicans are rapists”. THAT should have been a line of no return — literally and figuratively.

How many affronts to our body politic and our physical bodies do we have to endure before something akin to a survival instinct kicks in? If only one Republican stood with Donald Trump, defiantly denying the election’s results, that would be bad enough. With very few exceptions (and I’m not entirely sure about Mitt Romney), every single Republican member of Congress would go right along with Donald Trump’s attempted coup d’etat if they thought Trump might could possibly get away with it. That’s the Republicans’ constant tell — they do everything based on what’s in it for them and never what’s best for the people they’re supposed to be publicly serving.

Here’s a line they’ve crossed: by denying the validity of this election — which some of them WON in — because Trump lost, they’ve made any future participation in ANY election completely dubious. Why take part in an electoral process you think is bullshit? Or is it only bullshit if you lose? Hmmmmmmm… now, why does that smell funny?

What the dishonorable “gentleman” from Missouri — Josh Hawley — is doing? It’s horse shit wrapped in bullshit wrapped in sedition.

Are we to accept as “normal” that we can never know for certain whether the Republican candidate in an election will accept his defeat? Speaking personally here — HELL, NO! If I own a shop and you walk in and regularly steal from me, I’m going to stop you from “shopping” in my store because you keep proving yourself a thief. The Republicans have just demonstrated — are still demonstrating — that openly stealing elections is not something they feel ashamed about. When — after January 20, 2021 we have a functioning Department of Justice — we begin to shine some light on everything Trump, we will learn — take it to the bank — that without Russia’s direct involvement, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS. Foreign countries — especially hostile ones conducting CYBER WARS against us — cannot win American elections.

Treason cannot win American elections. And, TREASON is yet another line pretty much every single Republican — Mitt Romney included — has committed. Sorry, Mittens, but “See something, say something” — that’s how conspiracy works. “See something, say nothing” — as you’ve done? You don’t actually have to “know” something to be considered part of a conspiracy. You only have to suspect your confederates are up to something in order to be liable — should you do nothing. Has Mitt called the FBI to tell them what he suspects? No? WHY?

That’s how the spider web of conspiracy will ensnare almost the entire GOP before the investigations are finished. We’re talking TREASON here — which still carries the death penalty — THANKS TO DONALD TRUMP! I bet he had hoped to use it on all his political enemies — more than half of America in other words. Oh, the delicious irony when Trump’s own bloodlust comes to haunt him personally.

As my old pal the Crypt Keeper used to say, “Be careful what you wish for, kiddies, you may just get it!”

The Republican Party’s behavior here whether by intention or not would set a precedent. They’d never have to lose another election. They’d simply contest the result endlessly, making governing nearly impossible. They’d always have “holding their breath till we all turn blue” in their pocket.

How can Republicans — having revealed the authoritarian pricks at their core — ever campaign as anything else? They have forever BRANDED themselves as corrupt, seditionist TRAITORS. Or do some Republicans plan to run in the future as “old fashioned” Republican who only fantasize about undermining the republic — they’d never, ever actually do it? Anyone putting that “R” next to their name — or seeing common purpose with people who do — is “co-branding” with everything the Republican Party has done and is doing — up to and including TREASON.

If our press could aggregate this story — growing their foundation of knowledge about Donald Trump and the Republicans as new, evidence-based information came in — they’d have stopped asking WHY the Republicans have followed Trump down this terrible, terrible road. They’d know already. They’d have reported it so that WE’D know. The entire Republican Party — to a man (and woman) — has betrayed the America the rest of us live in and aspire to.

How does a party guilty of such total betrayal “run” in an election? At some point, should they win, they’ll have to SWEAR AN OATH to uphold the rules we all agree we’re living under; how shall we take oaths sworn by people who’ve sworn not to stand by their oaths? That’s the question our news media asks us every time they even talk about elections in 2022 or 2024 — when they suggest Republicans would be the ones running against Democrats. How will America choose — between patriots or traitors — in the next election?

The only reason we still have to listen to anything any Republican has to say is because our news media is convinced both sides do what the Republicans are doing. That’s what they apparently think — whatever terrible, corrupt, treasonous thing the Republicans are up to? The Democrats are doing the exact same thing — we just can’t see it yet.

“Both sides do it” robs itself of perspective then smugly asserts that it can see inside everyone’s head though the only heads such “journalists” ever gaze into is their own. They are projecting their own moral ambiguity onto everyone else. That ain’t journalism, it’s cowardice.

The GOP has already poisoned itself. Its death throes will stretch out across 2021 and probably 2022. There’s a lot of terrible behavior to investigate. On the bright side, we’ll be clearing the prisons of drug “criminals” (their records wiped clean) and making space for (checks notes) pretty much the entire Republican Party.

The next line these craven Republicans come to, they better NOT cross. Their toes better be on it as they become (prison) wards of the state.

Showbiz Stories From The Vault — Buck Henry Died Today; I’m Proud To Say I “Put Words Into His Mouth”

Back in the day, I ran a show for HBO called “Tales From The Crypt”. My creative partner and I were hired to take over the show’s third season after its second season went a million dollars over budget. We ran “Tales” through four more seasons (60 plus episodes) and two “Tales From The Crypt” feature films (“Demon Knight” and “Bordello Of Blood“).

Making Tales was a hoot from start to finish (I absolutely do NOT include the making of Bordello in the ‘hoot’ part; making Bordello was literally the stupidest experience of my life). Gil (my partner) and I pushed hard to take Tales back to its ironic roots and to make the Crypt Keeper more of a franchise character than he was. We also pushed hard to get the biggest, best names we could get for our silly little horror TV show. And we succeeded.

We got to work with Tom Hanks (first thing he ever directed — an episode of Tales), Brad Pitt (a very young Brad Pitt), Michael J. Fox, Kirk Douglass, Dan Ackroyd, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Friedkin, John Frankenheimer, Isabella Rosselini, Ewan MacGregor & Daniel Craig (among many others). I’m not a star-effer by nature. I might be a fan — but if you screw up a day’s work and make life hard for everyone, you’re useless to me. The quality of the work is my bottomest line. Celebrity is twaddle.

But — funny thing about even mega-celebrities? Even THEY have someone they get goofy over. My executive producers on Tales were huge names: Bob Zemeckis, Joel Silver, Dick Donner, Walter Hill. I learned a ton from each of them. I wrote two of the three Tales episodes Bob Z directed (about which I am very, very proud).

And yet — for all the “big names” I got to work with and for, the one person I got to work about whom I felt… awe — there’s no other word — was Buck Henry who died today at 88 years of age. You can find Buck’s credits here. He was a giant in American comedy writing. A Giant.

“Get Smart” was seminal. “The Graduate” was transcendent. Buck Henry didn’t write the book (Charles Webb did that) but Buck Henry (along with director Mike Nichols) made “The Graduate” iconic by capturing something ineffable about Benjamin Braddock’s dilemma. “The Graduate” didn’t cast stones from outside Benjamin’s experience, it cast stones from inside. It identified white middle class alienation and spoke to a generation of kids (white, suburban) about the terrible contradiction they faced going forward between what they felt in their guts about life and the utter bullshit their parents (and the rest of the adults) were selling them about life.

“The Graduate” didn’t “solve” Benjamin’s problem, it simply pointed out that he had one.

I write screenplays — occasionally for a living even. I bow down before superb writing. Buck Henry’s work in “The Graduate” is superb.

We cast Buck in an episode called “Beauty Rest” wherein Mimi Rogers kills roommate Kathy Ireland to take her place in a beauty contest where she’s guaranteed to win — unaware that the contest is for a Miss Mortuary & the winner is going to get killed as part of her “prize”. It’s goofy, I know. That was Tales — it was more black comedy than horror. Our casting director Victoria Burrows suggested Buck Henry to play the strange beauty contest’s strange emcee.

He said yes.

My job on Tales was to rewrite every script (in addition to writing my own) until it was ready for production — and fit our franchise. The original script (credited to “Donald Longtooth” but actually Terry Black — Terry resented being rewritten) needed massaging as all scripts did. We added a musical number for the emcee character to perform and I wrote that part of the episode.

Writing dialogue for a great screenwriter is both tricky and (when they seem happy with it) gratifying. This isn’t just another writer reading your stuff and nodding at it — they’re having to take your words into their mouth — and speak them. They’re going to have faith in them as an actor — the words make sense to them and they feel they’ll look okay speaking them.

A screenwriter I deeply respected had faith in the words I was writing specifically for him to say. He had enough faith to sing some of the words I wrote for him. That’s a huge indication of “faith”.

He was a lovely man. I wish I had been less star-struck. I wish I had had more confidence in myself as a writer; I’d have talked way better shop than I talked. I don’t think we talked shop at all actually; I was waaaaaaaaaay to intimidated.

Rest In Peace, Buck.

You made the world a better place than it deserved to be. Thank you.

Wouldn’t Ya Just LOVE To Give Conservatives The World They REALLY Want?

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Remember this guy?  The Crypt Keeper?  Friend of mine actually.  For real.  He used to say “Be careful what you wish for, kiddies, you may just get it!”  Then the Crypt Keeper would laugh — kinda like this —

And then he’d get on with the episode.

Now, of course, when the Crypt Keeper warned that you’d ‘get’ it, he didn’t mean that you’d ‘receive the thing you wanted’.  He meant, ironically, the opposite.  You’d ‘GET IT’ and wish like hell you hadn’t.

That’s how republicans would feel — in a very short amount of time — about The World they have been trying to foist upon the rest of us:  “Wait — we didn’t realize THIS would happen if we had our way — send it back to the kitchen!  Is it too late to order something else off the menu?”

American conservatives — if we take them at their word — want to CONSERVE a world where:

  • The Rich Get Richer
  • Everyone else gets poorer
  • A dwindling Social Safety Net (to pay for the rich guys)
  • White Christian Male Cultural Hegemony rules
  • Abortion is illegal & so is Birth Control
  • All non-European immigration is illegal
  • The Free Press is not Free
  • Guns are even MORE ubiquitous than they are already
  • Anyone who isn’t Straight, white, Christian & male is automatically suspicious.
  • Might makes Right
  • Ignorance is bliss

A lot of conservatives want to bring religion (theirs) back to a Central position it really never had in American Life — except in Currier & Ives prints.

A lot of conservatives want to restrict education to ‘special white people’ only.  Everyone else is going to work the gig economy while their faltering, compromised standard of living gets harder and harder to maintain.

A lot of conservatives think guns should be everywhere.  Literally EVERYWHERE (except republican party events).

American Conservatives now think conspiring with a hostile foreign power is no different than cleaning hand and finger prints off a gun you just used to murder someone.   No prints, no crime.

Uh huh.  Let’s see if Mr Mueller goes along with that…

If one could really pull off ‘Thought Experiments’, I would LOVE to give Conservatives the world they crave.

First, of course (because it’s a thought experiment), we’d put all the Conservatives in one part of the country (one that’s already hard core red) and — irony — PUT A WALL AROUND IT.

Then we, the progressive world, would go do our thing for, say, A GENERATION while our conservative chums did the same thing inside their world.  Then, at a certain pre-determined time and place, we’d all get together and COMPARE NOTES.  Question:  How would Conservative World have done in contrast to Progressive World?

If we realistically laid out Each World’s approach to education, to diversity, to health care, to birth control & abortion, to financing the commonweal itself, we would find very distinct countries:  One — Conservative Land — would be lots of fun to live in if you were straight and white.  More of a daily grind if you weren’t but that’s by design.

For anyone else, Conservative Land would be the ‘spark’ in their lives going out.  It’d be the voice of Reason sputtering.

For us, it’s just another day in TrumpLand…

Conservative Land would NOT be a place that innovated anything because innovative people would have been dissuaded from going there.  Conservatives figuring that THEIR gene pool would make up the difference are going to be mighty shocked when they discover that White People — fine as they are — aren’t an more innovative than anyone else.  In a world though where few new ideas gain purchase (because thinking the SAME is encouraged), innovation fails to ignite.

Thinking the same promotes acting the same promotes being the same.

And yet — as it teetered toward ruin — because bankrupt, because horrible standard of living, because dwindling tax base — Conservative World would still THINK it was succeeding.  What everyone else called failure, they’d call ‘doing things their way’.  But, no — it’s failure.  Total failure by EVERY other name.

Conservative World would probably attend the meet-up as spiffed up as it could be — but unable to hide how hard things have been.  Holding out their hand to Progressive World — after the hand-shaking was done — probably gave the WHOLE GAME away:  They needed help.

And they knew Progressive world 1) could help and 2) probably would help.

Progressive World would be a very different place — where anything can happen because so many people are creating so many things and thinking so many exciting new thoughts.  Diversity challenges everyone to compete against everyone else on the levelest possible playing field.

Diversity of opinion and process, diversity of point of view, diversity of problem-solving.  The human genome works by favoring strong attributes over weak ones — strong attributes being the ones where you’ll ‘survive better’ for having them.  The irony (cause you can never have too much irony) is that White Supremacists are under the mistaken impression that they can ‘fine tune’ and ‘purify’ their white genes by excluding everything else from their gene pool.

One more dumb white person idea gets revealed for the dumb white person idea that it is.  White Supremacists aren’t stupid.  The aren’t incompetent.  But they do cling on to bad information like it was their last dollar — which is stupid.

While Progressives could never, would never have a place in Conservative World, the opposite is almost never true.  It’s not true now.

One of the most important aspects about Progressive World — what really sets it apart from Conservative World — is that it evolves.  All the time.  It allows people to evolve.  To grow up and mature.  To live and LEARN.  And then to come back to the fold and contribute — hopefully having LEARNED from their mistakes.

There wouldn’t be a single attribute about Conservative World that wasn’t a thousand times better in Progressive World — Food, Entertainment, Art, Technology, Governance.

The only question remaining after this Thought Experiment — if it could be made real?  What to do about the fence we’ve built around Conservative World.  We’re not tearing it down — that’s for sure.  Hell — the question I’m thinking of is — do we build it even higher?  Or do we must mine the damn thing and enjoy the fireworks?