Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THE RULES OF HOLLYWOOD

If They Tell You It's Wrong, You're Probably Right

October 15, 2006|Phil Rosenthal | Phil Rosenthal is the creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond." He also directed the comedy video "The Final Days," featuring President Bill Clinton.

Starting any creative venture is difficult--a movie, a painting, a Sunday magazine feature. In 1996, we were starting a CBS sitcom called "Everybody Loves Raymond," and it was not what anyone would call a smash out of the gate. I knew that all shows needed a little time to grow, to try things on and see if they fit.

But networks and studios don't really have that time. There was a particular studio executive who knew this and took advantage. Let's call him Iago. Even in the world of many cooks giving lots of conflicting advice, this fellow was troublesome. He even ran down our work to the show's star, Ray Romano. In fact, he wanted my show-runner job for himself. He thought running a show would be preferable to what he was doing. Eight episodes in, I wrote a script called "In-Laws," introducing Debra's parents, and we were lucky enough to get Katherine Helmond and Robert Culp to play them. We had a table read, then adjourned for notes with the network, the studio people and Ray. Iago never attended table reads, but insisted on a closed-circuit feed to his office, where he would give his notes via speakerphone.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 21, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Adapted essay: The tag line for the Rules of Hollywood essay by Phil Rosenthal in Sunday's West magazine said the essay was reprinted from Rosenthal's new book, "You're Lucky You're Funny." It was adapted from the book, not reprinted.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 22, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Rules of Hollywood: The tag line for the Rules of Hollywood essay by Phil Rosenthal in West magazine on Oct. 15 said the essay was reprinted from his new book "You're Lucky You're Funny." It was adapted, not reprinted.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 29, 2006 Home Edition West Magazine Part I Page 5 Lat Magazine Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
The tag line for the Rules of Hollywood essay by Phil Rosenthal ("If They Tell You It's Wrong, You're Probably Right," Oct. 15) said that it was reprinted from Rosenthal's new book "You're Lucky You're Funny." It was adapted from the book, not reprinted.

"I don't like this episode and feel we shouldn't be doing it," he said.

"Why is that?" I asked.

The question seemed to stump him. "For one thing, it seems like we run out of story around page 40."

"The script is 40 pages long," I pointed out.

He couldn't get more specific. When I got back to my office, I called him for a private conversation.

"What is going on?" I asked.

"It's set in a French restaurant," he said.

"What's wrong with that?"

"We've seen French restaurants before."

"Wait, you're talking about the set?"

"Why not make it a Japanese restaurant?"

"You don't like the set?" I said. "We've seen scenes in a bedroom too. We still use that set."

"I don't know what you're trying to do with this show," Iago said.

"I'm trying to do a well-made, classic sitcom."

"All words we should be avoiding," he said.

I took a second. "And what words should we be running toward?"

"Hip and edgy."

I couldn't figure it out. It seemed insane. Maybe a sushi bar set was the proper edginess we needed, but things got worse that week as Iago presented this episode as evidence to everyone, especially Ray, that I should be replaced. I started getting calls from other executives that Ray wasn't happy.

What the hell? I thought my relationship with Ray was fine. And besides, the show seemed to be going well. Some episodes were better than others, but certainly none I considered bad. One executive tried to make sense of it for me by saying, "The show is going like this . . . " He made a circular motion with his fingers. " . . . when it should be going like this." And he reversed the circular motion of his fingers.

This executive would later claim to have "saved the show."

As it turned out, that particular episode was pretty good. It was a good introduction to Helmond and Culp, and it certainly was good enough that Iago couldn't bother me for a while.

The best advice I ever got from anyone about anything was from writer and producer Ed. Weinberger ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Taxi" and "The Cosby Show"). He said, "Do the show you want to do because in the end, they're going to cancel you anyway."

*

Reprinted from "You're Lucky You're Funny" by Phil Rosenthal, to be published Oct. 23 by Viking, a member of the Penguin Group. Copyright Buona Sera Productions, 2006.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|