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Great Memos from TV Execs

Producer Leonard Stern turns notes from networks into a humorous collection

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When Get Smart producer Leonard Stern began compiling memos he and colleagues had received over the years from unnamed network officials, he and coconspirator Diane Robison realized they had the makings of a book. The result, A Martian Wouldn’t Say That!, doesn’t inspire confidence in the cast of characters, but it does shed light on why TV is called the Boob Tube. Some of the anonymous submissions:

*From a VP in development to a writer: ”We cast a black actor as our lead, but the way you’ve written the dialogue you can’t tell that.” Writer’s reply: ”That’s what we intended!” Development response: ”Okay, but how will the audience know he’s black?”

*”This draft doesn’t work. Unfortunately the script is strikingly similar to the material from which it was adapted.”

*”Please avoid anything morbid, inappropriate or detrimental to his image in the display of the dead, gay midget lying under the toilet.”

*”We’re concerned about the uniforms on Star Trek. They look like the whole crew is wearing Dr. Dentons.”

*”It is too gruesome and unsympathetic to have Martin murdered while hooked up to life-support systems. Wait until he recovers, then kill him.”

*”The Sons of Italy are pressuring us to not have all the gangsters on The Untouchables portrayed as Italian. Could you change the name of Rocco Balboni to Seth Balboni?”

*”How committed are you to this Oscar Wilde fellow? If you want him to do the first draft, it’s all right with me.”

*”Please change ‘the jeep is loaded and ready’ to ‘the jeep is packed and ready’ to avoid the implication of drinking.”

*”On page 7, Ed Norton says ‘va-va-va-voom.’ Before we can give clearance, what does it mean in English?”

*”We’re most interested in a David Susskind televised special of Hamlet. Could we please see the script?”