Friday, May 27, 2011

The Long Path To Failure Often Includes A Short Path To Success

I suppose the same can be said for the opposite, but for a lot of television shows, and my career, this has truly been the case.  I'll warn you in advance that this may be long, but I will still go where the writing takes me.

I said in my first blog post that I would give you a little background on how I ended up in the TV industry, and also what TV has meant in my life.  I grew up in Texas, and spent a significant amount of time, in my formative years, watching television.  By high school, I acted in plays, and dreamed of writing slogans for advertising.  Does that job even exist?  Who knows?  Maybe I watched too much Bewitched.

By the time I finished high school, I had already decided I wasn't going to be in advertising.  I had received material from Emerson College in Boston, and upon seeing Eli Wallach in the brochure, I figured that was where I wanted to go to school.  It didn't hurt that the smallest gap in financial aid came from Emerson.  However, it still hurts that I am still paying off those same college loans.

Arriving at Emerson, I was determined to have a career in radio.  That determination didn't last that long.  I probably could have done it, if I wanted to, but I didn't have any interest in going down that path.  At the place I worked at for College Work Study, I began to learn video.  I learned how to do video editing.  That was fun to me.  Within a year, I wanted to do both video and audio type stuff.  I originally went heavily into radio drama type stuff.  That was fun for me.  By the end of my sophomore year, I was also being encouraged to join 88.9 FM WERS's Live Mix Workshop.  I didn't really think I was capable of working on music, but tried anyway.  Less than a year after that, while still having a specialty radio show on WERS, I decided I wanted to go into music, for a living.  So, I was interested in radio, radio dramas, video editing, and music recording and mixing.  That's a whole lot of stuff, and I was eventually forced to pick just one.

I had done an internship at Cherokee Studios in West Hollywood, for my last semester of senior year, while attending the Emerson College L.A. Program.  I had called a few places asking about internships, prior to coming out to L.A., but since no one in the L.A. Program had ever wanted to go into music, previously, I had to do it all on my own.  I ended up choosing Cherokee Studios, because I am Cherokee.  It was so stupid, I know, but that's what I did.  I worked 40 hours a week, while attending classes full time, AND having a College Work Study job, for free.  At the end of the internship, which I learned jack and sh*t during (unless you count mad janitorial skillz), I was rewarded with the chance to continue what I had already been doing for minimum wage (I believe 3.55 an hour, at that time).  I told them I would think about it, and came to the conclusion that I didn't want to be poor for however long it took me to move up the ranks.

So, I packed up the idea of working in music, forever, and decided to explore the other side, video production.  A friend of mine from the L.A. Program recommended that I try to apply at The Post Group, since they had a good relationship with Emerson graduates.  I went and had an interview, but when asked what I wanted to do (Audio Post-Production), the guy who interviewed me said "Ooooh, is there anything else you want to do?  We just had someone promoted up, so there won't be any openings for a long time."  I said no, and with that, my budding career in Audio Post-Production was over.  Or, so I thought.

As a brief aside, I worked on a horror movie as a P.A., I guess, shortly after graduating college.  It was then that I decided I had no interest in working on the Production side of the business.  As many people learn, there are two types of people in the industry, Production and Post-Production.  I am definitely a Post-Production type.  The movie was called Witchcraft 8: Salem's Ghost.  If you rent it, or find it, or something, you may just catch a few shots of me "acting" in it.  I don't know, I never saw it.

So, after all of that, I eventually got a job as an Apprentice at Varitel Video.  I remember being introduced to a few people, and kept being referred to as "Oh, the audio guy".  At the time, I thought I was going in there to work on the video side, having given up my dream of working in audio.  In the first week I was shown two things.  The first was the audio room.  I got to sit with the Mixer, Terry Mader.  She was working on an infomercial for Catherine G.  When I saw what she was doing, I was blown away.  I knew, right away, that was what I wanted to do.  So, Catherine G., you may be responsible for my wanting to desperately getting into Post-Production Audio.  It was all because you had an infomercial being done at Varitel.  Then, the next day, they said they wanted to show me the video side.  I was shown into the machine room, and got to sit with Emerson grad, Tim Parker.  I watched him pull the back off of white tape, and stick it on the racks in little balls, and occasionally someone would call him to ask for a tape change or tape set up.  My fate was sealed.  I wanted to work in audio.  However, I was promptly stuck in the tape vault for many months, while working as an Audio Assistant part time.  The important thing was that there was no doubt about what I wanted to do.  From that point forward, I wanted to mix, and dedicated myself to getting to do that as quickly as possible.  I had finally found my calling.  All of my TV watching had come full circle.  In college, I did video editing, music mixing, and radio dramas.  When you added it all together, it became Post-Production Audio!  I still got to see video, I balanced music levels, and got to work with sound effects and dialog.  With my fate sealed, I now wanted to work on the stuff that I watched.

There was never any doubt I wouldn't end up in a 9 to 5 job.  Anyone who knew me in high school knew I wasn't interested in that.  It just took a lot of different things coming together for me to find out where I would end up.

Now to the important stuff:  TV.  I basically grew up as child/teenager of the 80s.  I remember getting cable when I was very young.  I am not lying when I tell you that my sister and I would literally sit glued to MTV, in the early 1980s.

As I was young, I generally didn't have much interest in dramas.  I watched a lot of sitcoms.  I grew up on sitcoms.  I loved sitcoms.  That's a key statement...loved.  Today, most sitcoms aren't that good, or don't appeal to me.  Maybe it's because I've seen so many, done so well, with better casts and characters, that I don't have any interest.  Or maybe it's just that I've grown out of sitcoms.  I really don't know.

One of the biggest revelations in the history of television, to me, at the time, was Nick at Nite.  When I came back from my first semester of freshman year, I became addicted to it.  It opened up a whole new world to me, that I had never seen.  This was in December of 1990.  I remember watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Dragnet, and The Donna Reed Show.  I got hooked to this older television I had never seen before.  One of the ironies about my TV watching habits in the 80s was that if a show had a theme song I didn't like, it meant I didn't watch it.  I could deal with some that I didn't like, but theme songs like the one from Taxi were so depressing to my young spirit that I couldn't even think of watching the show.  Also, Welcome Back, Kotter's theme song was extremely unappealing to me.  So, I didn't watch it in its original runs.

As many people who watched Nick at Nite know, that station eventually would move its programming forward in eras.  So, once the older ones had run their course, they would move newer and newer.  Now, Nick at Nite runs shows from the 2000s.  I don't really understand that, but it seems to be all that's wrong with TV since the year 2000.  So, a lot of those shows I turned my nose up at when I was a kid, I began to re-discover as an adult in the late 90s and early 2000s.  It turns out that Taxi was an awesome show, and even Welcome Back, Kotter was worth watching.

Now, I'm going to give a rundown of every show that I can think of, that I watched growing up or later in syndication.  I'll give ratings of 1 to 5 ..... on the embarrassment scale, and will place an asterisk on any show I would still watch, today.  It will give you an idea of my past viewing habits.  If there are no periods, I have no embarrassment about watching the show.  If there is no * or period, it means I don't remember too much about the show, or I wouldn't watch it again, but have no embarrassment.  You may notice some glaring omissions, here, but that's just because I couldn't really ever get into The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, or some of the others that astute readers will notice.  Also, there will probably be a bunch of shows not listed that I have seen, I just didn't watch them with any kind of regularity.  If it doesn't show up here, it's not important to me, unless I'm unintentionally missing some.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents*, Leave It to Beaver*, Perry Mason*, The Donna Reed Show ..*, The Twilight Zone*, Dennis the Menace ....., One Step Beyond*

Thriller*, The Flintstones .., The Andy Griffith Show* (pre-color), The Dick Van Dyke Show*, Mister Ed ..., The Jetsons (no embarrassment, but I couldn't watch it today), The Beverly Hillbillies .....*, The Outer Limits*, Bewitched*, The Addams Family*, Jonny Quest*, The Munsters*, Gomer Pyle, USMC ....., Gilligan's Island*, I Dream of Jeannie*, The Monkees ...*, Mission: Impossible*, The Carol Burnett Show*, The Brady Bunch ...., Monty Python's Flying Circus*, Get Smart*, Hogan's Heroes ..., The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis ..., My Favorite Martian ..., The Patty Duke Show, Gidget ..., Dragnet*,

The Mary Tyler Moore Show*, The Odd Couple*, Emergency!*, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids*, Maude*, The Bob Newhart Show*, M*A*S*H*, Kung Fu ..., Barnaby Jones*, Kojak*, The Rockford Files*, Good Times*, Rhoda, Chico and the Man*, The Jeffersons*, Barney Miller*, Welcome Back, Kotter*, Fawlty Towers*, Wonder Woman ..., One Day at a Time ....., Sanford and Son*, Night Gallery*, Delvecchio*, Laverne & Shirley ....., Alice ....., Three's Company*, Soap*, What's Happening*, CHiPs*, Quincy, M.E.*, The Love Boat ....., WKRP In Cincinnati ...*, Taxi*, Mork and Mindy ...*, Fantasy Island*, Trapper John, M.D.*, Vega$*, Diff'rent Strokes ....., Benson*, The Ropers, Dukes of Hazzard .....

Flo ....., Too Close For Comfort*, The Facts of Life ..., Bosom Buddies, It's A Living*, Private Benjamin*, Gimme A Break ..., Matt Houston*, Square Pegs*, Cagney & Lacey*, St. Elsewhere, Family Ties, Cheers*, Remington Steele*, Silver Spoons ....., Kate & Allie, Newhart*, Three's A Crowd*, E/R*, Riptide*, The A-Team .., Charles In Charge*, It's Your Move*, Who's the Boss ....., The Cosby Show*, Night Court*, Webster ..., V*, Miami Vice*, Hunter*, Mike Hammer*, MacGyver, Crazy Like A Fox*, Amazing Stories*, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985)*, Growing Pains ......, Moonlighting*, The Equalizer*, Spenser: For Hire*, Mr. Belvedere*, The Twilight Zone (1985), The Golden Girls*, 227*, Valerie, My Sister Sam, Designing Women, ALF ..., Matlock*, Perfect Strangers*, Head of the Class, Sledge Hammer!*, Starman*, Amen, Married...with Children*, The Tracey Ullman Show, Duet, My Two Dads ...., Frank's Place, The Law & Harry McGraw*, A Different World*, Full House ....., Ohara*, Leg Work*, Second Chance*, Murphy Brown*, 21 Jump Street*, The Simpsons*, Roseanne ..., The Wonder Years*, Dear John*, Just the Ten of Us ..., Sonny Spoon, Empty Nest, Family Matters ...*,

True Colors*, Parker Lewis Can't Lose*, In Living Color*, Get A Life, America's Funniest Home Videos ....., The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air*, Coach*, Law & Order*, Roc*, Shaky Ground*, Blossom ....., Home Improvement ..., Dinosaurs, Seinfeld*, Unsolved Mysteries*, Wings*, The Ben Stiller Show (nllm <---I give it the finger), Martin*, Where I Live*, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper*, Mad About You*, Living Single*, The Nanny, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.*, The X-Files*, John Larroquette Show*, Ellen*, Diagnosis Murder*, Kirk*, In the House, Newsradio*, Drew Carey*, 3rd Rock from the Sun*, Cosby*, Moesha*, Steve Harvey Show*, The Parkers*

Whew, that was a lot of research.  I stopped in the 1990s for a couple of reason.  First, it was clear to me that I wasn't watching much network television in the late 90s.  Second, I began working night shifts starting in 2000-2005, pre-DVR, so I didn't get to watch much Primetime Television.  I did get DVR in 2005, which allowed me to watch some Primetime Television up until late 2009, when I was still working night shifts.  Now, with generally lots of time on my hands, I have been able to watch a lot more TV since then.

What I'd like to talk about right now is FOX.  When FOX first started airing programming, in 1987, they didn't have much.  They just aired new programming on Saturday and Sunday nights, and not that much programming.  What I liked about FOX was that they appeared to take chances that no other networks would.  For those of you that liked Roseanne, that show would never have existed had it not been for the brilliant Married...with Children.  The edge in Married...with Children was unmatched, at that time.  Soon after, many shows tried to copy the formula, with varying results.  There were a lot of funny shows that didn't make it back then, and I enjoyed nearly everything they put on Sunday nights, in the early days.

The first big falling out I had with FOX was over one show.  The show has become a cult classic, but I thought it was one seriously unfunny turd, with a bunch of comedians trying too hard.  This show made me absolutely hate the star of it, and his career, with me, still suffers from it, today.  If only I had never seen that show, I likely wouldn't be polarized against his movies.  That show was The Ben Stiller Show.  It is filled with several actors who went on to have quite successful careers.  However, to me, the show just wasn't funny, or clever.  At the time, I felt that Parker Lewis Can't Lose was very funny and clever.  I ended up working on the DVD box set for The Ben Stiller Show, was tortured twice, and still did not end up with a favorable opinion, 10 years later.  Some people really love that show, though, and think it was great.  Those people must have had a lot of alcohol in their lives.

I'm not quite sure what all this has to do with anything, but it will at least give you an idea into the kinds of things I have watched, and if you paid close attention, the things I avoided.  There was a time when I would watch just about anything new, to give it the benefit of the doubt.  Those days are over, but possibly beginning again with this blog, I will open my mind quite a bit more.

This is the last time you'll see anything like this (think of it like the boring exposition in a pilot for a new TV show), and now we can hopefully move on to the fun stuff:  talking about TV.  If you made it through this, and found a point to it all, I congratulate you.  Thanks for reading.


  1. Well, I guess it all comes around because if I hadn't been semi-responsible, I suppose you couldn't have done that beautiful audio editing job for Michelle's Place --- so there you go.


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