The Odyssey Odyssey

Following is an edited compilation of posts from my former blog, Genesis of a Historical Novel, about the creation of my TV series The Odyssey.

Part 1

Fans of The Odyssey have expressed curiosity about how the show came to be, and I have meant to say more about that. Maybe I’ll start now.

Warren Easton and I had been friends from childhood, as far back as grade 3 in North Vancouver. Along with other friends we had an interest in creative and dramatic things such as writing and acting. After leaving high school 1977 we lost the nurturing environment for following these things, but were still interested in these creative pursuits, even if it wasn’t clear how to follow these now.

After some time spent (mainly separately) working, traveling, and dropping out of higher education, we agreed in spring 1982 to write a script together—a made-for-TV movie.

Well, we never quite finished that, but over the next few years, while varying between unemployment and working at various jobs, we kept chipping away at script projects. At the same time, I was a stringer for a small Montreal-based magazine called Cinema Canada, writing articles and then columns about happenings in the film and TV industry in Vancouver. This got me meeting people in the industry (and getting them willing to talk to me!). One of the people I met was Michael Chechik, a local producer whose company, Omni-Films, was involved in making the feature film Walls, a true-life prison story starring Winston Rekert, who went on to star in the TV series Neon Rider.

When my father, Al Vitols, who was a current-affairs producer for CBC-TV in Vancouver, told me that the long-running, locally produced TV series The Beachcombers was going to come to an end before long, and that the CBC may well be looking for something to replace it, Warren and I put our heads together and came up with what we thought was a similar adventure-comedy idea, but more urban in tone and therefore (we assumed) also cheaper to produce, maybe. It was a show about bicycle couriers, which we called Flash Dispatch. (At that time, 1983-84, bicycle couriers were everywhere in Vancouver; the fax machine had not yet arrived, still less the Internet.)

After studying a couple of half-hour CBC scripts that my father furnished us, Warren and I set to work writing a pilot script for our half-hour would-be TV series. (Like many proto-TV writers, we looked at the scripts and thought, “Cripes, we can do better than that.”) Warren and I had both recently ended periods of poverty and unemployment by getting jobs, he as a messenger at a securities firm downtown; I soft-landed as a clerk at the Insurance Corporation of B.C.—a cushy unionized job. He worked days and I worked evenings, so we got together at midnight each night in his little apartment over a bagel shop at 16th and Oak in Vancouver. With a typewriter set up on something like an upended box (he had no furniture), I typed while he paced or lounged, and the traffic zoomed noisily past just below.

This was in the winter of 1984. After a few grueling weeks of working like this, we had a pilot script for our show. Entitled “The Old Switcheroo”, the episode had one of our young couriers involved in mistakenly picking up a pack filled with the proceeds of a bank robbery, with farcical results. It was a comedy with fast-moving, outdoor, West Coast action: we thought it was good, and we started trying to get it read—first of all by sending it to the CBC.

Nothing. No response. Not yes, not no—nothing. Gradually we realized that we’d probably have to start showing it to other people, producers. At the same time, we tried to come up with other ideas, while also keeping body and soul together by holding down regular jobs.

I forget now exactly how it happened, but at some point, late in 1985, I sent some material to Michael Chechik at Omni-Films—Flash Dispatch and a story treatment for a TV movie that Warren and I had worked up about ice dancing, called Dancing on Ice. Well, one evening, I think in early December 1985, I got a call at home from Michael, saying he really liked the Flash Dispatch script and wanted to see about getting it produced.

Yahoo! I thought. I’m in show business!

We agreed to meet at La Bodega, a tapas bar downtown, to talk about it. How exciting! We were going to be produced!

There were plenty of twists and turns yet to come. . . .

Part 2

I recall driving through snow to meet Michael at La Bodega in the West End, not wanting to postpone the meeting merely because of the weather. I’d met Michael before of course, but things were different when the issue of a project of my own creation was on the table: I was moving to the inside of the industry, I felt.

Michael’s enthusiasm was genuine, and this is a huge boost for any writer, who toils mostly in obscurity and self-doubt, and very often in failure. In the world of filmmaking, the highest compliment any producer can give a writer is to form a sincere desire to produce his work. Verbal expressions of praise are only icing on the cake. So, on that cold dark night, in the dim and rather deserted atmosphere of the tapas bar, I basked in the feeling of becoming “real” (sort of like that excellent children’s story The Velveteen Rabbit, if you’ve ever read that: in the story, becoming “real” is the dream and goal of every plush-toy).

Michael, with his electric-blue eyes, neatly trimmed beard, and rather high-pitched, fast-talking voice, expressed his eagerness to make the pilot—but of course there was the matter of getting a broadcaster interested, and funding the production. Indeed, he didn’t have the resources even to buy an option on the script, a normal step in the big time when a producer wants to lock down the rights to a particular project so he can see about raising funding to produce it.

That was OK with me. I knew that Michael so far had not produced any drama; he and his two partners at Omni-Films were documentary producers, and in fact had won a Genie Award for their documentary Greenpeace: Voyages to Save the Whales. (Michael’s involvement in the movie Walls was more that of a silent partner, as I understood it, rather than as a primary producer of it.) Producing a drama from scratch would be something new for them—as it would be for me and Warren. Michael’s newness was one thing that made him open to looking at our work, so I was more than willing for us all to be newbies together.

Michael set the wheels in motion, and had us write (I think) another draft or two of the script, along with supporting material discussing and selling the concept for the TV series. Warren and I were invited in to meet the people at Omni-Films, a small cadre of 20- and 30-somethings operating out of a suite of offices near the top of the Dominion Building, a picturesque 1910 office tower at Hastings and Cambie that was briefly the tallest building in the British Empire (13 stories). We used the Omni word-processor to prepare final drafts of the material.

Now that we were in show business, Warren and I of course had to quit whatever pesky jobs we had and set up as full-time TV and movie writers. I quit my job at ICBC, and Warren and I took to meeting every day, first of all in a spare room at my mother’s house, but then soon at our own office in the Dominion Building—a place where, it turned out, you could rent a one-room office with its own sink for $80 a month. We took an 8th-floor terrazzo-floored office facing west over roof parking-lots and looking into the walls of downtown high-rises, furnished it with a friend’s old desk and a couple of mismatched chairs, chose the whimsical business name The Megavolt Script Factory, which the landlady put on the building directory down in the marble-floored lobby, and got to work.

Yes: work. What to write? We came up with and submitted show ideas for Canadian series running at that time, like Night Heat (our favorite) and Danger Bay. We started working on a screenplay, The Panda Gap, a Cold War comedy that featured the abduction of politically sensitive panda-bears. And, because we had a telephone and therefore a Yellow Pages listing, we fielded inquiries from young would-be scriptwriters who wanted to join our company. Our gross earnings for the first half of 1986: $0.

Meanwhile, Michael kept pressing to finance Flash Dispatch. There were some exciting moments. I recall him showing us a letter of intent from Jan Rofekamp, at that time a Montreal film distributor, expressing enthusiasm for the script and assuring us that if we could deliver the show, he could certainly find buyers for it internationally. We were feeling more and more “real”.

An office in the Omni suite became available, and, in exchange for a continuing “option” on Flash Dispatch, Michael let us have it gratis. The Megavolt Script Factory moved up to the 11th floor, now looking east over the more picturesque Downtown East Side. It was a smaller room, and I think the sink didn’t work here, but we were closer to the heart of the action. The people at Omni said that they heard us laughing all day long from the office down the hall. I don’t think that that was much of an exaggeration.

As 1986 started drawing to a close, Warren and I were forced to ask ourselves whether we could afford to be professional film and TV writers. Although we did actually earn some scriptwriting income that year—we split $1,000 paid to us by a director who liked our work, and who wanted us to write a sitcom pilot for him about an old-folks’ home—the writing contracts were not flooding in as we’d hoped. There was the odd producer or director who wanted us to write something for free—sorry: on “spec”—but these projects were always terrible, and we felt that if we were going to write for free, we might as well do our own material, or at least something we liked.

In short, I was going broke. I also wanted to devote more time to writing a novel I’d started, Truth of the Python, about a Vancouver hypnotherapist who accidentally regresses a client to a past life as the philosopher Pythagoras. Feeling chastened after a year as a “real” TV and movie writer, I returned to my job at ICBC in December 1986, a month before my 28th birthday. Warren stayed on for a time as the lone representative of The Megavolt Script Factory, but eventually he too had to give up the office and find gainful employment.

As for Michael, he hadn’t given up on Flash Dispatch. It’s just that these things take time. . . .

And as 1987 came in, I had returned to corporate life, and the dream of scriptwriting was apparently a bust, at least for the time being.

Part 3

In 1987 I got away from scriptwriting. I was back at the Insurance Corporation; I became a Buddhist and took up meditation; Kimmie and I bought a townhouse together; and I was working on my New Age thriller novel, Truth of the Python.

I recall that Warren and I prepared more material for our would-be TV series Flash Dispatch, ideas for episodes for a first season, plus a description of how each episode would look and feel, and descriptions of the characters—material that in the TV world constitutes the “bible” of a series. Michael Chechik got the material in front of CBC drama executives in Vancouver, but their verdict was that the pilot script did not live up the potential in the accompanying material.

So there we sat.

But later that year, CBC headquarters in Toronto, no doubt responding to ongoing prodding and complaining by independent producers across the country, and making one of their occasional token efforts to give substance to their mandate to be a “national” broadcaster and not merely a Toronto broadcaster, came up with the idea of producing an anthology of one-off half-hour dramas from non-Toronto producers (that is, from “the regions”, in CBC-speak). The intent was to give producers in “the regions” a chance to get some experience in producing drama for the CBC, and, of course, to give voice to “regional” perspectives from across Canada. It will help Canadians learn more about each other! Just what the CBC is supposed to promote! Warm glows all round.

The anthology was to be called Family Pictures, and the theme was Canadian family life. CBC corporate ambassadors were sent out to meet with “regional” producers to explain the concept and give them documents describing what the network was looking for in the dramas. Michael was at the Vancouver meeting, and he called Warren and me up to suggest that we come up with an idea to pitch to the CBC. We said sure.

I came up with an idea. It was on 7 December 1987. I thought back to when I was in grade 7 at Brooksbank School here in North Vancouver, when I heard a rumor about a boy in another grade 7 class who had passed a love-note to a girl in the class, and the note had fallen into someone else’s hands and then been made public. I don’t know whether that actually happened, and I don’t recall the boy in question acting any differently than usual (strange in any case), but I thought: what if we wrote that story, and had our lover-boy feel, in his humiliation, that he can’t return to school ever again to face his peers?

When I pitched the idea to Warren he liked it right away; we knew it was a winner. And it was exactly the kind of thing we wanted to do: a comedy focused on kids. Thus was born the idea for “What’s Wrong with Neil?”: the story of a 12-year-old boy who passes a love-note to a girl in class, which is intercepted and read out loud by the class showoff, thus causing the boy to run home and pretend to be sick—so sick he could never go back to school. . . .

We wrote up a couple of pages of material sketching the story and gave them to Michael. He sent them in to the CBC, and we waited.

A few months later (fast in TV-show-development time), probably early spring 1988, I got a call from Michael: the CBC liked our story and wanted to go to script.

Wahoo! I experienced the next big leap forward in “realness”: it wasn’t just a producer now who was interested in my work–it was a network, the people who would actually pay for it to be produced, and then broadcast it! Jubilation!

But I didn’t quit my job—not this time. This was only a one-off half-hour drama, and I had two mortgages now. Warren and I would have to write in our available off-job time, as when we’d written Flash Dispatch. But now we were not on conflicting shifts; I was on days and it would be a lot easier.

Michael held a meeting at Omni in which we met with Jana Veverka, the story editor contracted by the CBC to supervise the writing of the scripts for Family Pictures. (Later she’d go on to produce TV shows such as Bordertown and Airwolf.) As I recall, that first meeting was still in the Omni suite on the 11th floor of the Dominion Building. Jana was very positive about the story idea, and liked the fact that our hero was a nerdish love-sick 12-year-old. Her concern was that there might not be enough story there to fill a half-hour of TV.

“There’s plenty there,” we said. We saw some nice farce opportunities in the story.

There: we’d just had our first meeting with a network representative—our first “story meeting”. We were on our way.

Part 4

Warren and I wrote “What’s Wrong with Neil?” on weekends and evenings in 1988, as I recall (you reading this, Warren? feel free to elaborate), mainly here in my home office. We took it through the stages laid out in the Writers Guild of Canada Independent Production Agreement, from step outline to first draft to final draft. I typed the material on my electric typewriter, and we received actual payments for each step.

(For Flash Dispatch we had never received any actual money payment—just the use of the spare room in the Omni-Films suite in the Dominion Building. The only person, as far as I know, who was actually paid for “working” on the Flash Dispatch script was a woman writer whom Michael Chechik had engaged to critique the script, who received $100 essentially to trash the project. Warren and I were choked about that. Michael, as ever, laughed the whole thing off as though it had involved people he didn’t know personally and he were merely hearing about it third-hand.)

Where was I. When we delivered the first draft of the script, probably about June 1988, the series story editor, Jana Veverka, was favorably impressed, and conceded that we had indeed found plenty of story in our idea to fill the half-hour (a commercial TV “half-hour” is actually something just under 24 minutes of storytelling). As a professional scriptwriter herself, she offered good, focused comments on how to improve aspects of the script, and kept her hands off the stuff that worked—which was most of it. We would eventually learn how different that type of story meeting was from one with network executives who had never written anything and who had to guess at what they liked and didn’t like about a script.

In all, the writing process was pleasant. People found the script engaging and funny—the people we were dealing with, that is. For the decision on whether to go ahead and shoot the script would be made by CBC honchos back in Toronto. That’s the big decision, the expensive decision. Warren and I split about $3,000 to write the script, and that was essentially most of the cost associated with the episode up to that point. To produce the thing (and for this Michael had to submit a budget to the network) would cost (I’m guessing, thinking back to 1988 prices) something on the order of $200,000. Not all of this money would come from the CBC, for in Canada, with its small population, even a national network doesn’t earn enough to be able to finance full-blown drama productions on its own. Funding had to be tapped from Telefilm, another federal cultural agency, and then also from other sources—hard to find, since TV shows in Canada had an even tougher time then making money than they do now.

However, with a broadcast commitment from the CBC, that other funding could definitely be found. Would they go for it? How did we compare with the other scripts and productions being dreamed up across the country for this Family Pictures anthology? Warren and I had seen some of the other concepts being developed, and thought ours compared very favorably. For one thing, it was one of the few comedies in the mix, and of those, it had probably the catchiest premise—the intercepted love-note. Jana Veverka liked it—but the decision was not hers.

It would have been in the summer, July or August, that I got the call from Michael: the network had green-lighted us for production.

Yahoo! Another big increase in “realness” for the writers: our script was actually going to be produced! All kinds of expert help would be hired, film would be purchased, expensive equipment rented—people would be poring over our little script, figuring out how to get it on film! Plus, on day 1 of “principal photography”, Warren and I would get another lump-sum payment—the balance of our writing fee, which was contingent on the show actually being produced.

This was it: the true watershed of film writing. Years later, at a writers’ conference, I heard a presentation by a literary agent talking about the difficulties facing writers known to the publishing world as the uns: unpublished and unrepresented. In the film world, the un writer is unproduced. When you cross the divide from unproduced to produced, you enter the realm of the professional: you join those who also have persuaded people to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe more, to realize your work. Let me tell you, it’s a great feeling. Especially for something so flaky and creative, something created by, as Warren and I sometimes said, “two kooks in a room.”

Michael quickly got things rolling, hiring people, getting the rest of the financing together. Meanwhile he, the producer, like producers elsewhere, was having to provide his own “bridge financing”—fronting his own money to meet expenses, trusting that the big corporations who have made the promises will eventually cut him checks, as stipulated, when all the gears have turned in their internal bureaucracies.

Production was slated for early November. I did my utmost to arrange some days off, for by day I was still a clerk at another Crown Corporation—a writerly Clark Kent whose everyday identity earned his crust by helping keep B.C.’s vehicle fleet licensed and insured. Now I really had something to look forward to: watching people film the material I’d written.

Part 5

November 1988: principal photography for “What’s Wrong with Neil?”, written by Paul Vitols and Warren Easton—one of several Vancouver-produced episodes for the CBC anthology series Family Pictures.

Brad Turner, an experienced TV director, was hired to direct the episode. Michael’s partner at Omni-Films, Rob McLachlan, a former competitive cyclist, was to be director of photography. David French was cast as Neil Kozak, the 12-year-old boy whose love-note to a girl in his class gets read out loud, causing him to flee home in mortification and feign illness so he never has to return to school to face his peers. Sarah Bowling was cast as Heather, his narcissistic older sister. The episode was filmed here on the suburban slopes of North Vancouver, using a house up in the Grousewoods neighborhood as the location for the Kozaks’ home, and using Handsworth Secondary School to stand in for Neil’s elementary school. The sets were a five-minute drive from my house.

When Warren and I first went up to the set, it was day one of filming at the school. There were equipment trucks outside and electrical cables snaking through the weekend halls. The crew was competent and busy, but the atmosphere was relaxed and fun.

In high school I had made films myself, and so had had the experience of being on sets where my own writing was being filmed. But those were small, low-budget, self-financed efforts—which I also coproduced and directed. The feeling was altogether different from walking on the set of a full-blown professional film production on which everyone is carrying around pink copies of the script that we’d written, all marked up with their own technical concerns. It was a huge thrill.

I’ve just fished out the file on “What’s Wrong with Neil?” from a box under my desk that contains “old projects”. My gosh: here’s a copy of the “final draft script”, with the title page on Omni-Films letterhead; a copy of the shooting schedule; a copy of our 3-page writer contract (our total fee: $5,346—very nice in 1988); our resume; and a couple of black-and-white still photos from the production. One is a cast-and-crew group shot; the other is a shot of Warren and me looking on at the filming: an intent and wonder-struck pair of young men.

The second scene filmed one day 1 was scene 1, the opener of act 1. Here’s the beginning of that script, which I have right in front of me:

1. INT. – SCHOOLROOM – LATE MORNING

OPENING TITLE SUPER over a BIG CLOSEUP of the HAND of a 12-year-old BOY, drawing something carefully on a folded-up wad of looseleaf. It’s a heart.

PULL BACK TO ESTABLISH the boy in a grade seven classroom, where the kids are all bent over some kind of worksheet. He is NEIL KOZAK, an outwardly unemotional, nerdish boy, and he has finished his worksheet some time ago. He covers the folded looseleaf with his hands, afraid of having it seen. He glances at the desk beside his. From his POV we see the girl working there: BETH ANDERSON, an outspoken girl who can order around boys her own age. There’s a book satchel on the floor by her desk. When we CUT TO NEIL’S FACE again, we can see that he adores her. His reverie is broken by a whisper:

JASPER

Neil–what’s the answer to number seventeen?

It is JASPER GOPAL, Neil’s loyal Indian-Canadian friend, who is more at home with skateboards and NHL players than school worksheets. He sits in the desk in front of Beth.

NEIL

(whispers)

The Holy Roman Empire.

The BOY in the desk in front of Neil’s also turns around. It is RANDY SINCLAIR, class showoff and sadist.

RANDY

(whispers)

Hey Kozak–what’s number four?

JASPER

You’re only on number four?

Randy reaches across the aisle and whacks Jasper with a flexible plastic ruler.

RANDY

Shut up, retard. I left this one for last, okay?

BETH

Stuff a sock in it, Sinclair. Do your own work.

Randy pretends to tremble.

Thus page 1 of the script. For most of the filming Warren and I were allowed into the classroom, stuffed in a corner among lights and so on. Brad Turner was very good with the kids, relaxed and easygoing. After each take he would laugh at the humor of the scene. In one shot, where Neil had to pass his note at a certain point while the camera moved, and David kept missing his cue or timing it wrong, Brad had a rope tied around David’s leg, which Brad pulled in order to cue him at the right moment during the camera move.

People working on the show were very complimentary to us about the script. Everybody liked it and wanted to realize it to their utmost. The atmosphere on the set was very relaxed, creative, and “up”. Warren and I loved being there. Writing isn’t always fun, but watching people film a (good) script that you’ve written is fun.

The days went by and the filming went well. Warren and I spent lots of time on the set, eating catered lunches with the crew under a tarp while the cold November rain fell around us.

On one of the days when it was not raining, Warren and I went walking through the neighborhood around the set. We agreed that having our script produced was an altogether excellent experience. There was only one thing wrong with it: it was only one script. A single episode. After that: nothing. In order to keep this experience happening, we’d have to create our own TV series—a whole bunch of scripts.

That focused our minds: we need a TV show. But what?

That was the question. Flash Dispatch, the pilot script we’d written four years earlier, going on five, was pretty much a dead issue. The fax machine had arrived and the bicycle courier’s day was already in decline. We needed something new—but what?

We liked writing for kids and knew we could do it well. Everyone commented on the vivid and nonpatronizing way we had written the kids’ parts in “What’s Wrong with Neil?”. We saw kids as distinct, passionate individuals, not different from adults except in their level of knowledge about the world. Yes: we wanted to write kid material, but with a comedic take.

But what?

Part 6

While “What’s Wrong with Neil?” was in production in early November 1988, Warren and I were bending our heads to the task of coming up with an idea for a viable TV series, so that we could provide ourselves with writing gigs on into the future. I mentioned a walk we took through Grousewoods while the show was being filmed. I recall we also took one or more walks through my own neighborhood, down the mountainside from and east of Grousewoods. What kind of a TV series could we create?

We wanted to do a show about kids. We liked the innocent energy and comedic potential of kids, and felt that they are mainly poorly portrayed on TV, written condescendingly, either as cute moppets dutifully obedient to adults, or as precocious smart-asses who are really just adults in children’s bodies—more like the jesting midgets at the courts of medieval monarchs than like real kids. We knew we could do better than that, and had already proven it with “What’s Wrong with Neil?” It was obvious to us: most adults are not able to get into the mind of a child, to see the world again through a child’s eyes. They’ve forgotten. Children are almost always written from the outside; we were able to write them from the inside—and that gave us a big edge, surely.

How to get a show that focuses only on kids, without having annoying adults get in the way? How do you get kids on their own? At school? But school is so structured, and is run by adults. We thought back to when we were kids on summer vacations: long days spent among friends and neighboring kids—leaving the house in the morning, playing and adventuring through the day, then returning home for dinner at night. In all that time, you lived in a kid world, having kid adventures: riding bikes; collecting pop bottles to turn into candy-buying cash; getting into pine-cone fights with unfamiliar kids in the park; sneaking into public swimming-pools; speculating on mysteries like sex; exploring woods and ravines. . . .

Yes! That would make a cool show: kids on vacation, having adventures with other kids, with never an adult in sight. They have their own society, their own politics, their own justice. They return to the “adult” world only at dinnertime, when they become subordinate members of the family once again, awaiting the next day and another tour of freedom.

But you can’t make a TV series out of kids on summer vacation. It’s too random; there’s no goal. It’s just kids playing and fooling around. And even in a show like that, you wouldn’t be able to exclude adults altogether—they’d have to be part of the action, even if only because we’d need to know about the family situation of each of our characters. The problem: how to have a world of kids without adults? We puzzled over it.

Meanwhile, “What’s Wrong with Neil?” wrapped: a very pleasant and successful shoot. A short time later a wrap party was thrown at the cinematographer Rob McLachlan’s house in North Vancouver. While I munched snacks from a table, I met a man I hadn’t seen before: a pleasant, soft-spoken guy with his face set in a faint smile. We introduced ourselves, and I learned that he was Michael Conway Baker, the composer hired to do the score for the show. When I told him I was one of the writers he made a point of complimenting me on the quality of the script.

“In my work I see a lot of scripts,” he said. “Very few are anywhere near the caliber of this one.”

“Thank you very much,” I said.

He said that the script was funny, but what he liked was that the story was so good.

“Yes,” I said. “A good comedy first of all has to be a good drama.”

Michael nodded emphatically. I was intrigued to learn that he was using “What’s Wrong with Neil?” as a teaching tool for his students in a course at UBC on film scoring. He told me he had screened the rough cut of the show for his class, and got them to write music for it. (Michael’s score for the show was very good; he’s one of the premier composers in Canada, and later on would do the music for The Odyssey.)

“In that opening sequence,” he said, “when the kid’s running home—” (After Neil’s love-note is read aloud to the other kids by his sadistic classmate, Neil runs from the school and sprints home “like he’s being chased by killer bees”, as we put it in the script.) “—they were writing this very romantic, Romeo-and-Juliet music.” He shook his head.

Michael had seen it quite differently: he’d written a tempestuous score there, a dramatic score—something more like the New World Symphony or “Ride of the Valkyries”. The music was expressing Neil’s feelings—his point of view, not our point of view, the audience’s. By treating the show as drama, he was liberating its comedic energy: making it funnier.

I was very pleased to meet Michael, and felt that he was a kindred spirit. It was excellent confirmation of our approach to writing.

As December 1988 drew in, “What’s Wrong with Neil?” was approved for broadcast by the network and slated to be aired in March 1989. Warren and I continued to tussle with the question of how to get a TV show populated only by kids.

To be continued . . .