‘Tis The Season… For Some Paddy Chayefsky!

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! In the spirit of holiday goodwill, I have a gift for subscribers (who comment below to alert me of their interest) — a script for an unsold 1974 pilot called Your Place Or Mine?, which starred James Coco and was written by famed playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (Marty, The Hospital, Network)!

Developed with Elias Davis and David Pollock (The New Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hot L Baltimore, The Carol Burnett Show, MASH, Frasier) — the latter of whom penned a terrific article about it for Written By Magazine in 2014 (see it all here) — Your Place Or Mine? was to feature Calucci’s Department‘s Coco as a Marty-esque character named Charlie Pellegrino, a plastics salesman who divorced his cheating wife and now has to navigate the sexual revolution in swinging Manhattan as a middle-aged neophyte. Others in this esteemed cast included Julie Garfield as his sister; Simon Deckard as his bachelor friend; Andrew Duncan as his business partner; Joy Garrett as his ex-wife; along with Cynthia Harris (Sirota’s Court, Husbands, Wives, & Lovers, Mad About You) and Doris Roberts (Angie, Remington Steele, Everybody Loves Raymond) as two of his neighbors. By Pollock’s account, he and Davis (who would have served as showrunners if the pilot sold) broke the story with Chayefsky, but then the trio split and wrote two separate drafts. Most of what was used was Chayefsky’s version.

Legendary director Delbert Mann helmed the pilot, which was produced in late March 1974. Although Chayefsky was reportedly happy with the results, many others were displeased — partly because of Coco’s casting — and it was not picked up by NBC. (Like most pilots from that era, it was burned off during the summer — airing just once several years later, on August 13, 1976, months before the release of Network.) While I have not been able to see the pilot to form my own opinion, I have a “first revision” draft of the script — dated less than two weeks before the final day of production (March 29, 1974). It’s still early in the rehearsal process and there are some marked revisions — from the hand of Doris Roberts, whose copy this was — so it’s safe to assume the final product evolved even more. But I have to say, it’s a fairly good read. During a quick first scan of the script several months ago, I thought the rhythm of the writing wasn’t really conducive to the situation comedy medium (long monologues and not a lot of hard jokes), and indeed thought it wasn’t as funny as it needed to be. However, upon a re-evaluation in advance of this post, I was more impressed; there’s some interesting character work.

But I think the premise would have seemed a little try-hard to 1974’s audience, which had spent several seasons enduring shows that the network claimed were “modern” and “relevant.” (This wasn’t “ahead of its time” — nothing is, honestly.) Also, I think the peripheral players weren’t, on the page, as different enough from each other as they’d need to be to drive character comedy. Additionally, it’s hard to imagine this aggregation of ensemble members sustaining episodic ideas for an ongoing weekly series… And yet, there truly is a lot of palpable humanity in this theatrical two-act play (each half of which is in real-rime) — it’s Paddy Chayefsky, after all — and I’m sure terrific actors like Harris and Roberts brought so much additional life to their material. So, I’m not sure what the end result turned out to be — perhaps Coco indeed was a hinderance — or what NBC’s specific objections were to the pilot, but for fans of Chayefsky and for lovers of the situation comedy, Your Place Or Mine? makes for a must-read… Subscribed critics and scholars (with no commercial designs on this material whatsoever), let me know below if you’re interested. And for everyone else, here’s a sample.

 

 

Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And tune in Tuesday for more sitcom fun!

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