What’s For Lunch?

While I was away, there was an amusing, and oh-so-true  article in the LA Times on the politics of food on a TV writing staff:

For the writing staff of the hit sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," a
good meal "was more than essential," recalls Phil Rosenthal, the show’s
creator and executive producer. "I’d say it was the most important
element in terms of establishing a camaraderie on the show. Good food
makes you happy."

Rosenthal’s shop, four dry-erase boards had equal prominence. One
contained the titles of every "Raymond" episode ever produced, and
another featured ideas for upcoming shows. The third listed restaurants
the writers loved or wanted to try, while the fourth displayed their
favorite places for takeout.

No wonder Rosenthal named his production company Where’s Lunch.

Harlan Ellison Cops a Feel

Ron Hogan over at Galleycat reports that author Harlan Ellison groped a woman’s breast as she was presenting an award to him…and that later Harlan argued on his website that she was asking for it. At least Harlan wasn’t in his bathrobe and pjs at the time (he once came to a WGA meeting like that). Ron writes:

You know, for the most part, we like to maintain some sense of
journalistic objectivity on this blog, but I feel reasonably
comfortable going into outright opinionating: Ellison’s gone way over
the deep end on this one. For years, people have been encouraging him
in his self-righteous, self-indulgent schtick, excusing away
his most outrageous behavior as manifestations of some sort of
uncensored passion for justice and creative expression, and years of
believing his own hype reflected back to him by both his peers and his
fans have finally worked their toll. With his boorish behavior and
subsequent outbursts, Ellison has become nothing more than a sad,
pathetic spectacle..

I’ve had a few run-ins with Harlan myself over the years. The one I remember most fondly had to do with an interview I did with him for Starlog Magazine. We were both speakers that year at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, so we did the interview there. Knowing that Harlan bites everyone in the ass, I decided to protect myself a little bit by doing a straight Q&A…unedited. I met him in his bungalow at the conference, gave him the tape recorder and let him go. I then transcribed the tapes and added a brief introduction. Easiest article I ever wrote. The article was published in two parts in Starlog. Naturally, Harlan said some things that offended people and, instead of taking the heat for his own opinions, he accused me of altering his words. So I sent him the tape and asked him to point to even one instance in which his words were altered or taken out of context. I’m still waiting.

That incident clearly pissed him off, because a few months later, he tried to get back at me. At the time, there was a radio talkshow here about science fiction (I think it was called HOUR 25). They were discussing the new TV series version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which Harlan briefly wrote for. One of the guests who was criticizing the show was a woman who may, or may not, have been an old girlfriend of Harlan’s. I don’t know. But some listener called in saying that the only reason she was trashing the show was because Harlan kicked her out of his bed. The caller identified himself as "Lee." The host hung up on the guy. Well, as it turns out Harlan was, unbeknownst to the listeners, in the studio, too. Harlan grabbed the microphone, said the caller was Lee Goldberg, and went on to trash me as a sleazy, lying, scumbag masquerading as a journalist.

Of course, the caller wasn’t me. I was out-of-town at the time, on assignment for Newsweek, and came home to find my answering machine smoking with phone calls from people furious at me for calling the radio show. I contacted the radio station, got a copy of the tape, and listened to it. I was more amused than anything else, but I wanted Harlan to be held accountable for his actions for a change.  So I sent the station a letter on Newsweek stationary pointing out the irresponsibility of naming me as the caller and trashing me on the air. I demanded an on-air apology from Harlan within one week…or else. The station acknowledged they were at fault and agreed to immediately comply.

So, a week later, Harlan called into the show and apologized….and then said something like "the caller wasn’t Lee Goldberg, but you can’t blame me for thinking it was him, because he IS a dishonest scumbag whose articles aren’t worth wrapping a dead fish in," and on and on he went, basically repeating everything he’d said about me before. I wasn’t angry…in fact, I found it very funny and pure Harlan Ellison.

I later served with Harlan for a few years on the Editorial Board of the WGA Journal, where we frequently disagreed with one another. He’s a great writer, who deserves respect for his work, but I’ve always found his act tiresome and silly. Which reminds me…

When I was a student at UCLA, I remember taking the bus to campus and seeing him sitting in the window of a science fiction bookstore and writing like some sort of animal on display in a zoo. A writer at work in his natural habitat. I guess you could call it performance art…maybe that’s what his grope was, too.

“This Year, Like Last Year, The Best is Right Here, on CBS!”

Mark Evanier takes a moment to appreciate those great, summer-time, fall promos the networks used to do.

I’m sorry they so rarely make these spots these days. You always got a
catchy jingle — to the point where many of them would reverberate in
your skull, long after the shows they were trying to sell had been

He’s got the video…but I’ve got some audio, which I recorded off the air with a tape recorder when I was a kid. Here’s the scratchy audio for the ABC schedule, EXECUTIVE SUITE, SWITCH, THE TONY RANDALL SHOW, SHAFT, HOLMES AND YOYO, THE NEW PERRY MASON, BARBARY COAST, SPENCER’S PILOTS, CHASE, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, STARSKY AND HUTCH, and the CBS Saturday Comedy Block.

(All of the above audio clips, and many more, I donated to TVParty some years back)

Alive Again

It’s amazing what ten hours of sleep will do for you. I don’t feel like one of the living dead any more, though I did chew off my daughter’s left arm this morning for breakfast.  Afterwards, I caught up with the season finale of DEADWOOD (or, perhaps, the series finale). Damn, what a great show this is. I still can’t figure out, though, what David Milch had in mind for that theatre troop storyline…seems like a complete waste to me. I would have preferred to spend more time this season with the DEADWOOD regulars, like the doctor and Tolliver, than the troop. Gerald McRaney was a revelation as Hearst…it will be interesting to see if he brings any of that newfound gravitas to his work on the new CBS series JERICHO.

I’ve started catching up on my email and snail-mail and discovered that it’s been officially announced by the Mystery Writers of American that I am going to be the chair of the Edgar Awards for 2008.  It basically means that I have to start begging, extorting and blackmailing writers I know to serve as judges. Consider this fair warning, my author-friends…

I’ve also taken a few moments to skim the fanfic debates that raged on my back-blog here while I was away and have, much to my delight and surprise, found far more comments of substance than vitriol (on both sides of the debate).

I have a ton of work to do today…but I think I’m going to follow my brother Tod’s advice and take a day off instead to recharge my completely depleted physical and creative batteries. Deadlines are mounting, but a man needs his rest.