Web Exclusives: Inky Dinky Do
a PAW web exclusive column by Hugh O'Bleary

October 24, 2001:
You gotta love it!
Princeton inspires producers in Hollywood

By Hugh O’Bleary

Mid-October 2001

It was midafternoon on a recent Friday, and I was fighting off that old after-lunch sleepiness at my keyboard when the phone rang. I glanced at the caller I.D. display and immediately recognized the number, with its giveaway 310 area code. Beverly Hills. It was Scott from the Coast, my one and only Hollywood pal.

I picked up the receiver and had gotten out only “Hel—” when Scott’s voice broke in.

“O’Bleary!” he barked, and I could tell from the background buzz that he had me on his handless headset, evidently while in the middle of his spinning class. “O’Bleary! Hang on — we’re upping the cadence.” There followed a long roaring sound and a kind of a moan and then he was back on, panting a bit. “O’Bleary, it’s development time! I’ve got some big sitdowns on Monday — Moonves at CBS, HBO, Grushow at Fox — and I’m pitching a trio of boffo projects. They’re all Princeton-based! I figure, What could be hotter? What could be more relevant? Every network in town is buzzing over the U.S. News rankings. Viewers are hungry for values, for intellectual engagement, they’re ready to go back, O’Bleary. But, hey, as you know, I’ve never actually been to Princeton — though I thought Risky Business was brilliant! — so I’m having Stephanie fax you the proposals. I need you to vet them for me by Sunday — make sure I’ve got my Tiger stripes on straight — and we’ll conference.” He gave another gasp, and I heard dance music pulsing louder in the background. “You’ll get co-exec producer credit on any series that gets picked up,” he yelled, and then the line went dead.

A moment later the fax began to hum and out churned the familiar Scotso Productions letterhead. I sat down to read. Call it Must We? TV:What About Shirley!

In the tradition of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Julia and Rosanne, Shirley! introduces viewers to a ga-ga one-of-a-kind gal they’re gonna wanna get to know! A single mom with a background in cutting-edge microbiology, the loveable and leggy Dr. Tighlman finds herself in the middle of an ivy-covered madhouse. She just can’t sit still, man!

Note: Not so long ago network TV might not have been ready for a show featuring a Canadian-born, non-Princeton-degreed-woman prez, but this is the 21st century. Still, we can expect some flack from advertisers, so maybe this one’s better suited for cable. That would also allow for realistic academic language. Remember the Tigers

One of last year’s breakout movie successes was Remember the Titans, with Denzel Washington, a stirring true story of a high school football team whose success helped bring a racially divided town together. Sports shows have always done well on TV (think White Shadow!) and America is hungry for inspiring, sweaty drama. This series would follow the Saturday-to-Saturday struggles of a gutsy group of gridiron athletes as their heroic play and near .500 record unites a campus torn by… well, we can come up with something. Led by a charismatic coach (is Abe Vigoda available?), the Tigers weather a brutal season (special effects by the same team that did Band of Brothers for HBO) before pulling it out in the final game. Singer

Michael Richards — you loved him as Kramer; wait till you see him as Singer. Giddyup! Richards plays a zany bioethics prof with a penchant for tofu and philosophically controversial pronouncements. (Could be worth pitching this one to the Animal Channel. And if it doesn’t work out after an episode or two, we can always kill it.)

I set down the fax and sat very still. There was only one thing to do. I dashed off a quick fax to Scott. All it said was, “I want a piece of the syndication!”


You can reach Hugh O'Bleary at "Hugh O'Bleary" paw@princeton.edu