INT.HILL OF BEANS PRODUCTION OFFICE, BROOKLYN-DAY
CRAIG SWEENY, writer/producer, clenches and unclenches his fists as he walks along a corridor. He slows as he approaches the office at the end of the corridor from which we hear two loud voices. He gulps. Sweat trickles off his unclenched fist.
TITLE: 18 MONTHS AGO.
Sweeny slowly pushes open the door, and hovers in the doorway while ROBERT DOHERTY jumps to his feet to bellow at a phone on speaker emitting a dial tone.
DOHERTY: AND GOOD DAY TO YOU TOO, ‘SIR’!
Doherty picks up the phone and throws it off the desk. The receiver lands on the hard wooden chair on the supplicant side of the desk, while the body dangles in mid-air as the cord is attached on the other side of the desk.
DOHERTY: (looks up at Sweeny) Telemarketer.
SWEENY: Oh. Uh, hey, uh, Robert, do, uh, do you have, uh, a minute? Maybe?
DOHERTY: What? A minute? Oh, yes, certainly. Take a seat. In fact, it’s great that you’re here, Craig, I want to explain to someone a fantastic wheeze I just concocted.
SWEENY: Well, actually I-
DOHERTY: I said sit down sir!
Sweeny dives into the supplicant chair, and ends up sitting on the receiver. He tries to subtly move it out from under him while Doherty relaxes back into a leather armchair.
SWEENY: SO… I got this offer-
DOHERTY: If we get cancelled I have come up with a golden parachute to beat the bank. Have you read any of the Game of Thrones books?
DOHERTY: Ah! Neither have I, and one of us needs to, so that means you. Read them all in the next week and report back to me then. Also make some character notes. And some notes on the house style employed.
DOHERTY: Don’t interrupt! Now, George RR Martin is a decrepit old man. We all know this. What we all now but are too hidebound by bourgeois niceties to say is that, like Robert Jordan, he is going to die before he finishes writing the novels. Indeed he may well die before he even finishes the next book as he clearly has no interest in actually writing it. But, and how many times have I tried to impress this on you Sweeny, never present just a problem, always present the solution too. So! The solution – we pull a Patterson.
DOHERTY: Would you stop interrupting me?! Now, if James Patterson can come over all medieval craftsman and give anonymous people 50 page treatments which they then flesh out and he later okays before putting it out under his own name, then why can’t we do the same for decrepitly old George RR?
DOHERTY: He tells us, verbally, so that he doesn’t have to strain himself with the idea of committing something to paper, his ideas on what happens next, be they e’er so vague. We secretly record it, as the whole occasion will happen in front of a roaring fireplace as we get him roaring drunk. You transcribe it, I read it, work up a treatment, give it you, and you write it all up with the help of whoever we can keep on from the writers’ room.
DOHERTY: And everyone’s happy. A new novel appears, it seems RRish enough to be going on with, and it’s been done fast, so nobody’s dead, and nobody’s left millions of fans howling at him for wasting a good chunk of their lives.
DOHERTY: Now we just need to pitch it to his publishers. If only I had the requisite confidence you need in these situations… (gazes abstractedly at the roof)
SWEENY: Um, Robert?
DOHERTY: Oh, I thought you’d gone. Why haven’t you gone?
SWEENY: I’ve been offered another gig.
DOHERTY: What? You traitor! Where??
DOHERTY: You double-dealing traitor! I have nursed a viper in my bosom! (He goes to throw the phone at Sweeny, realises he’s already thrown it, makes a few attempts to lean over his desk and grab it, but grabs only air, and slumps back in his chair)
SWEENY: They want me to develop Limitless.
DOHERTY: … The Bradley Cooper film?
DOHERTY: I don’t see it as a TV show.
SWEENY: Well. I thought it might make for a good procedural.
DOHERTY: How so?
SWEENY: Well, suppose that we have Cooper appear in the pilot as a Senator. Suppose he wants NZT kept on the down-low, but suppose the Feds know about it, and then suppose that he cultivates a guy inside the Feds to keep them guessing.
DOHERTY: A healthy amount of supposition! So, set-up. What’s the week by week?
SWEENY: Why would the FBI keep a guy around? NZT makes you smarter. So he can see patterns nobody else can, the drug makes him the best analyst they have!
DOHERTY: (lilts) One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the ones that the Feds give you make you Sherlock Holmes for twelve hours. (mutters) Haha, said the title.
DOHERTY: Some day, Sweeny, you may join myself and Deadpool in an elite club. Yes, I think I can see this working qua show.
SWEENY: So, are you okay with me working on it?
DOHERTY: Yes! I see great possibilities. I was talking to a network lawyer and he said that he’s fairly sure that with a bit more screen-time he can get Clyde the turtle a SAG card, and then we can all share the health benefits with a nod and a wink to a tame doctor. Do you think you can give your hero a pet turtle that he uses for expository purposes?
Before Sweeny can answer BORIS sticks his head in the door.
DOHERTY: NO! THAT LINE REMAINS! DAMN TASTE AND DECENCY! YES! WATSON CAN DIRECT ANOTHER EPISODE IF SHE REALLY MUST! AND IT HAS TO BE PURPLE! PURPLE! PURPLE! PURPLE! IF HE CAN’T DISTINGUISH BETWEEN PURPLE AND MAUVE HE SHOULDN’T BE A PRODUCTION DESIGNER!
Boris nods at the answers to the three questions he didn’t get to ask, and sidles away. No matter how many times Sweeny sees Doherty do this, he is always amazed.
SWEENY: How did you?
DOHERTY: Do you need to ask? Honestly, Craig, this is the level you need to be at to ascend to show-runner. Incidentally I have an idea for a Ferris Bueller episode.
SWEENY: That sounds more like a season six conceit.
DOHERTY: AHA! I’m so proud, I knew you had it in you. My tutelage is second to none. Well of course it’s a season six conceit, but I have no confidence in getting that far so let’s put it in your show.
SWEENY: WHAT?! I haven’t written a final draft pilot script! I can’t start putting nonsense conceits in the show from the get-go.
DOHERTY: Nobody’s saying make the pilot bonkers, or the first regular episode barmy, wait till about episode 7. Also, I’ll be coming aboard your ship if mine sinks.
SWEENY: (suspiciously) As what?
DOHERTY: It’s nearly Thanksgiving, I might come as a turkey. (beat) (beat) (Doherty waits for raillery from Sweeny) (beat) (realises it’s not coming) Sorry, my mistake I thought we were doing something there that we weren’t actually doing. Creative Consultant.
SWEENY: Will you actually just be a creative consultant? Or will you try and be a backseat show-runner.
DOHERTY: Creative Consultant. Advise and Consent. A hopeless yes-man. I am a shy and retiring individual, as you know.
Boris sticks his head in the door again.
DOHERTY: F****** LILAC?!!! IS THIS SOME ILL-CONCEIVED APRIL FOOLS’ DAY PRANK?!!