Notes From the Sitcom's Deathbed

Still, after ILYK... I was hot to do another show, so I wrote a pilot without telling anyone about it: The White Album, a dark, comic, serialized murder mystery. When people read it, they kept saying ''It's sitcom noir — a whole new genre!''

The script went to networks. They loved it. They all rejected it. The reason, according to inside sources, was that the networks didn't have ''creative ownership'' over it. In less breathtakingly incoherent terms: Writing the show before telling them about it made them feel jilted. It's been said that in the history of the world, no one ever washed a rented car. In TV, rented cars are totaled.

So next time, I played ball. I pitched a show about a gorgeous 15-year-old girl in middle America who knows for a fact that, in a previous life, she was Sigmund Freud. She just wants to be a happy kid but can't fight her destiny. She constantly analyzes and helps people. She finally shares her secret with the only adolescent psychologist in town. He realizes she really was Freud and they have this father-daughter-mentor-student-idol-fan relationship. Then I packaged the show in terms a network could understand: ''It's like My Favorite Martian with a sexy girl instead of Ray Walston and a legendary genius instead of a Martian.''

The networks loved it. Then rejected it. Why? Are you sitting? No, you must sit. Okay:

They rejected it because they did not feel their audience would know who Freud was.

Yes, I'm serious. No! YOU get out. They . . . rejected . . . it . . . because . . . they . . . did . . . not . . . feel . . . their . . . audience . . . would . . . know . . . who . . . Freud . . . was.

Maybe I should have reincarnated Kurt Cobain. Or maybe I should pitch my next show to al-Jazeera. But no! America knows Freud! And even if they don't, a Seinfeld episode dealt with John Cheever and people didn't tune out!

Then again, if your ratings are high enough, you can do a whole season about Noam Chomsky.

Odd: When I started pitching shows after Seinfeld, a stunning fact emerged: The networks hated Seinfeld. They liked it as fans, but professionally, they resented it. It broke all their rules about likable characters, setup/punchline dialogue, everything. It didn't fall into one of their comfort zones, like ''A classic fish-out-of-water story!'' (FYI: Fish, when out of water, die.) And the fact that Seinfeld never had touching moments made the networks apoplectic.

Hey, you know when Friends finally won an Emmy for best comedy? When NBC promoted each episode with emotional moments drenched in mournful music by Enya. ''Who can say where the road goes . . . ?'' That is when Friends won an Emmy for best comedy. And really, writing moments that make viewers cry is so easy. Ninety percent of the world is on the verge of tears at any given moment anyway, how hard is it to push them over?

Well, Dash won't have heartwarming moments. Possibly because I won't allow it. Probably because no network will ever air it.

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