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January 15, 2013

A jilted screenwriter recounts a bitter rejection by a certain NBC sitcom.


I’ve cracked jokes about the NBC sitcom Whitney from time to time. I mean, it’s such an easy target—in our post-Arrested Development era of televised comedy it’s hard NOT to poke fun at such a traditional, laugh-tracked battle-of-the-sexes sitcom.

But now, I don’t even know if I can make fun of it anymore.

Now, I feel personally victimized by Whitney.

That sounds melodramatic, and I’m sorry about that, but right now I’m just reeling from the fact that my script was rejected.

Like, I get it. It was a little out there, not exactly your traditional script. Honestly, it’d be crazy for them to pick it up. But I was PERSONALLY APPROACHED by a person with a large amount of creative control on the show (who, to protect identities, we’ll call Mark) and had seen my stand-up act and followed my Twitter page, to put together a script for the show as it entered its second season.

Mark explained to me that this coming season was going to try and shake off all the negative reviews by adopting a more (and these were his words) “cool, like, dark and out-there” sensibility. I warned him that I would probably go overboard, but was reassured that, as long as I didn’t choose obviously taboo topics (rape, incest, the sort of stuff I wouldn’t write about anyway) I would be okay.

I was excited. It’s been a dream of mine to write for TV and I finally had an in.

I bashed out the script in about a day. I was on fire. About three months later, I get this email telling me that they had decided not to use my script.

While the premise for the Whitney-Alex plot was promising, we disagreed with some of your developments.

The idea was that after an eye-opening conversation with her gal pals at the bar, Whitney decides that Alex might be masturbating too much; she feels unappreciated and fears that it might drive a rift between them. However, in keeping with their playful relationship, she decides to make a bet—if Alex can go a month without masturbating, he can go on the “Fifth Annual Chicago-And-Surrounding-Suburbs 32-Hour Titty-Crawl,” a bar crawl of every strip club in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs (running gag throughout the episode is that everyone always says the full name). Alex, having been unable to go for the past four years, immediately takes her up on it, scoffing “How hard could it be?”

We enjoyed Alex’s increasing frustration throughout the episode, but thought that some scenes took it too far.

This is probably about the yelling in German.

Throughout the episode, Alex has trouble adjusting to a life without masturbation, and grows increasingly edgy and frustrated. In one scene at the bar, all his and Whitney’s friends take turns taunting and provoking him, and ultimately, Neal (played by Maulik Pancholy), who had been absent for this whole torture session, arrives and makes an innocent comment which is met by Alex furiously bellowing Bruno Ganz’s famous monologue fromDownfall word-for-word, with goofy subtitles superimposed on the screen. I’ll admit Hitler jokes probably wouldn’t do well with the Whitney audience; I later found out the majority of its viewers are of the Hebraic faith. I believe they also took umbrage with my suggestion that Maulik Pancholy be hit with a folding chair. (No disrespect to Maulik Pancholy intended, his comedic timing is impeccable) 

We’re not certain how to visibly convey what you describe on page 14, nor are we certain we’d want to associate our show with an image that repulsive.

And this is where I started to get pissed. They wanted that “dark and out-there” stuff and I delivered in spades. Here’s exactly what I had in the script:

Whitney walks into the apartment.

WHITNEY: Alex, I’m home—

ALEX emerges from the bedroom sweaty, flushed and red. He appears bloated and overweight; he is literally GORGED WITH PENT-UP CUM. The sheer abundance of unreleased semen in his system has made him bloat like Baron Harkonnen. WHITNEY screams, recoils as this blob of pure despair made flesh lurches toward her.

ALEX: (whispered) Now I am one with the darkness.

He falls on his back through a glass coffee table, his gut exposed as he lies on the floor defeated.

I’m not in charge of makeup here, folks. It’s not my job to figure out how to get Chris D’Elia to look like a blushing cum-toad. I’m a writer.

I’m not saying that I’m completely without fault here. This script was obviously not for everyone. But if you hire me for my writing style, don’t be surprised when I deliver my writing style. It’s as simple as that!

Mark gave me carte blanche and all of a sudden I have to alter everything? It seems to me like they weren’t really looking for a new direction.

This last bit I couldn’t help but laugh at:

The ending where you have Whitney and Alex make up, followed by Alex going into the bathroom and in your words “torrentially cums (sic) while Whitney smiles and laughs outside the door all ‘Oh, you!’-y,” frankly cannot be done. The FCC has strict rules regarding depictions of ejaculation on network television.

So I guess there goes my dream of writing for Whitney. I was really hoping I could get my foot in the door at NBC with that script, but I guess not.

But I’m not gonna quit. I’m gonna pick myself up by my boot-heels, make a coupla alterations, and see if they’ll take my script over at Rules of Engagement. I think David Spade would look terrific all sweaty and bloated with pent-up cum.


FULL DISCLOSURE: This is all a lie. Literally zero of these things happened. I never wrote a script for Whitney. I was never approached to write one. However, I did watch an episode as research for this and I laughed a couple of times. Please don’t sue me, anyone.