Hollywood: Breaking In, Moving Up
Michael Gleason was a writer/producer at Universal Studios when I started working there. He had been the producer of “McCloud” on the previous year, so I basically took over from him when the show started its 7th year (which turned out to be in its last year). Michael Gleason was the funniest, most charming guy I ever met. He had a terrific sense of humor, which he used to maximum effect on “McCloud”. He had created “Remington Steele”, which was a wonderful TV detective show starring Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist.
Michael and I would get together, even though we never actually worked together, and laugh about the trials and tribulations of the television business. I remember once running into him years later, when he had a show on NBC, which shot in Vancouver. At that time TV ratings for shows had dramatically declined. When I started working in television, a show that had a 30 share rating was considered a moderate hit. Years later, a rating in the 20’s would have been a dismal failure. I asked Michael Gleason when we met up again how his show was doing on NBC? He said, in his inimitable style: “Oh, we’re a solid fourteen share!” Then, as an afterthought, he added: “Both half hours!”
Michael was a wonderful guy, sadly no longer with us. There was a story that I used to tell about Glen Larson that was Michael Gleason’s favorite Glen Larson story. Remember, Michael Gleason had worked for Glen on the 6th season of “McCloud”…
Glen had just picked up the rights to the “Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries” which had been brought to Universal by a couple of producers, who were going to work with Glen. The idea was that they would generate the plots of the original books for the TV series, but that idea was soon scrapped, because the books were too dated.
Glen Larson eventually brought me onto the “Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew” series as the showrunner. We shot 50 episodes before the show was cancelled for supposedly low ratings. It was the only 7:00 P.M. show that ever took a bite out of the ratings of “60 Minutes”. I think the network realized they had made a mistake to cancel it and regretted their decision at the time.
Anyway, going back to the beginning of the “Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew” TV series, a couple of scripts had been written. At that time the series had nothing to do with me. I was working on a show called “Quincy” and Glen Larson was busy with his many pilots. But one evening Glen came into my office. He said he had to generate a script for the “Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew” series. It had to be a Nancy Drew story, there was one Act, but he said there was no second Act. There was a third Act that another writer was feverishly working on, and Glen was going to write Act Four. But he needed a second Act, and he needed it right now! And it was already after 7:00 PM in the evening!
So, Glen outlined for me what had to take place in this second Act of “Nancy Drew.” He went through the steps of the Act. This happens, then this happens, then this happens, and then we’re at the end of Act Two.
Glen wanted me to stop writing the teleplay I was already working on for “Quincy” and get this new “Nancy Drew” Act Two written. Could I do that? I said, sure. Glen left me the outline pages, which were sparse, to say the least, and went back to his office. So, I got to work in my office on ‘Nancy Drew”, and about three hours later I wrote “FADE OUT” on Act Two. I looked it over, thought it was okay, as I didn’t have the faintest idea what the total story was about in any detail.
I walked down to Glen Larson’s office. I knocked on his door and he waved me in. I handed him the new pages for the “Nancy Drew” Act Two. He read them very quickly. He kept shaking his head, saying; “No, no, but that’s okay. You couldn’t have known about that… Okay, that’s good… “No, that won’t work, but this may work… okay, good, good.” I asked him: “What happens in Act One?” Glen looked up at me and said: “What do you care what happens in Act One? You’re not doing Act One!” He went back reading through the new 15 pages of the Nancy Drew Act Two, murmured a couple of more times: “Okay, good…no, no, but I can fix that… Nancy is at the well at the farm, and the bad guy points a shotgun in her face… she’s trapped…okay, that works…” Glen looked back up at me and nodded. I asked him: “What happens to Nancy in Act Three?” Glen was almost apoplectic. “You’re not doing Act Three! What do care what happens to Nancy in Act Three?” I turned around and walked to his office door, then a thought struck me, so I turned back. “Will I get paid for this?” Glen looked at me askance and said: “What, for one Act?”
When you worked for Glen Larson, you were part of a team: his team.
Until next time.....