Last night I had a strange and marvelous dream.
In the dream, I was back in Los Angeles, in show business again.
The Vice President of some TV network was taking me on a tour of the studio that housed my new office as head writer of what the V.P. said was, “Our longest running show. It’s been on so long it might as well be forever.”
The show was a soap opera. In my dream, I was very taken with the idea that I was now in charge of such a venerable, and intense operation.
Soap operas run every day, five days a week, and the pressure is on because you can’t stop or falter in any way. You’ve got to have a new episode ready, no matter what.
The Larry B. I was in this dream welcomed the pressure and the challenge. I couldn’t wait to get started, even after the V.P. told me the extra added obstacle I would face.
“As you know,” she said, “we’ve recently been through a long, debilitating writers’ strike. Our usual writers weren’t allowed to work on the show so we replaced them with writers who had no experience and, frankly, didn’t know what they were doing.
“Those writers,” she went on, “changed the storylines so that things that were supposed to happen didn’t. And things that weren’t supposed to happen did. Many of our most important and interesting characters were relegated to minor plots or written out altogether. Weak and inappropriate characters became the leads.
“The changes hurt the show creatively and financially. They drove much of our audience away,” the V.P. said. “Everything is topsy-turvy, and ratings are way down. And you know what that means.”
“You’re losing sponsors,” I said.
“And that means our very survival is at stake. This whole enterprise, with all its history, its glorious past and its wondrous potential is about to to pffft!”
The Vice President took me into the biggest office in the place. It stretched to the horizon and beyond. She pointed to a mahogany desk covered with mile-high stacks of papers. Scripts, they were. The entire continuity of the show, dating all the way back to â€” to whenever it had begun.
“The first thing I need you to do is restructure the storylines and characters,” the V.P. said. “Give us something worthwhile. Something the audience can relate to. Bring back the people they want to see. The heroes and heroines who understand truth and beauty and justice and hard work and love. Put them in the spotlight.”
“I’ll do my best,” I said.
She smiled. “We’re counting on you to save us. Now go. Go. Go!”
Then she was gone, and I was alone in the infinite room. The stacks of scripts swayed above me. It seemed as though they would fall any second and bury me alive.
“Wait!” I cried out at the closed door. “You never told me what this show is! I don’t know what’s happened already! I’m not even sure I’d know the good from the bad! Wait!”
I grabbed the doorknob to yank the door open and run after the V.P. But the knob wouldn’t turn. It wouldn’t even rattle. I was locked in. It was time to sit down at that desk and get to work.
First, though, I needed a script. Any script. Just to see what everything was all about. No way could I reach the top of any of those stacks, and trying to pull one out from the bottom would be suicide. So I clambered up onto the desk and walked around it carefully, looking for the shortest pile.
I found one a little shorter than the others. Bent my knees. Pushed up.
And made the kind of leap you can only make in a dream. Higher, higher â€” a mile-high jump that felt like flying. My extended arm reached the top of the stack. I snatched the topmost script and fell back down to the burnished wood.
I looked at the cover page.
There it was, the title of this long-running, beautiful but heart-breakingly messed up story:
“The History and Culture of the Planet Earth.”
The story of our world. Gone terribly wrong and entrusted to me for fixing.
I woke up in a heart-pounding sweat. My chest ached as though weighed down by an elephant of responsibility.
“Earth: The Rewrite” awaits.
What should I do?
What should we do?
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer and creative director of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Originally published May 29, 2008