FIASCO: fi-as-co (pl) fi-as-coes
Definition of FIASCO:
1. Glen Larson
2. Galactica 1980
3. ABC (See: Anything But Class Network)
4. Susan Futterman (See: Censor, Dimbulb, Bluenose Twit)
5. MCA/Universal Studios.
Origin: Low French - A fucking fuck up of the first fucking order.
First Known Use: Circa 1980 - Chris Bunch to Allan Cole: "This show is a fiasco, Cole. A fucking fuck up of the first fucking order.
NOTE FROM ALLAN:
Initially, I was going to regale you this week with tales of our MisAdventures writing for "The Incredible Hulk." After all, our first sale to that show is more or less next in historical order. Then I received a fascinating email from a longtime reader that brought that plan to a halt.
His email informed me that some doofus-brain had launched a "Galactica 1980" comic book series. I thought, surely you must be joking - and a sick joke at that. but he included a link proving it. (Don't bother looking it up. You'll give your Browser warts.)
In my view "Galactica 1980" was easily the second worst prime time show in television history.
What was the first?
To quote our former producer guru Al Godfrey: "When you see something really bad, always remember there's something a lot fucking worse right around the corner."
Truer words, and so forth.
Anyway, the G-1980 comix project brought back all kinds of hideous and gideous memories from those days, so forgive me for going out of order. Never fear, Hulk fans, I promise many episodes about that happy subject later.
But first…Wait for it…Cue the drumroll…
FADE IN: GALACTICA 1980
Freilich was on the phone. I heard him say, "Well, what did you think of the Battlestar Galactica movie, guys?"
Diplomacy was required here, so I said, "Lorne Greene was good. But, then he's always good."
Sounding a little exasperated, Freilich said, "That's it? Nothing else, except you liked Lorne Greene?"
Grudgingly, I said, "The rest of the cast wasn't bad, either."
Over at his desk, Chris lost patience. "Jeff," he said, "let's fucking face it. They had good reason to cancel the son of a bitch. The special effects were shit. The directing was shit. The script was shit. The whole thing is a fucking bad rip-off of Star Wars, including the design of the cheesy fighters."
After a pause, Jeff displayed a rare flash of humor. "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln," he said, "how did you enjoy the play?"
We all laughed over that, then things calmed down and Jeff said, "Seriously, guys, I could use some help. I know you sold a big science fiction series (Sten), and that will go over well with Glen Larson if I show him I'm connected to the science fiction community."
Chris rolled his eyes at me. One sale does not a science fiction community member make. But, why tell Freilich that?
I said, "Well, we saw the movie version like you asked. It was just down the street from us on 20th and Wilshire. Popcorn was pretty good. And the air conditioning worked. Beyond that, we can't see where Glen can go with the premise. When we left off, and the show was cancelled,- Lorne Greene and his hardy band of heroes were looking for the mythical Earth, with evil Nylons, or Zylons, or Cylons, or some shit, chasing them."
|Cylon - Nylon - Zylon?|
"Cylons," Freilich corrected.
"Whatever they're fucking called," Chris said, "the sucker who designed them ought to be strung up by his balls from the Grauman's Chinese Theater marquee."
Freilich said, "They had budget problems in Battlestar. That definitely won't be the case with the new series."
I said, "I know Larson is a genius at picking the pockets of the Networks, but how'd he manage to get a bigger budget for the revival of a failed show?"
Freilich said, "He didn't want to do the show. Honestly. He was totally opposed. But they've got some new faces at ABC and they think Battlestar was mishandled. Plus, there was a huge write-in campaign by fans of the old series."
Chris groaned. "A write-in campaign? To save the piece of shit we just saw? God, people are stupid."
Jeff ignored this and rattled on. "Get this, guys. The Network is guaranteeing Glen a minimum one million dollars per episode, with room to jump that up for special episodes."
Chris whistled. "One million? No shit?" (In today's dollars that would be $3,083,767.93.)
At the time, that amount made Galactica 1980 the most expensive series in television history. But, hang on, folks. It gets worse. And more expensive.
I said, "Yeah, but that doesn't answer my question, Jeff. What's the show about? Are they still looking for Earth? Are the Cylons still after them?"
"Wait'll you hear this, guys," Jeff said, bursting with enthusiasm. "In the very first episode of the new show, they FIND Earth. And it's Earth in 1980! Just like now!"
There was silence on our end.
Jeff rushed on. "And, get this, the Cylons are right behind them. So, the first thing Adama (that was Lorne's character) has to do is keep the secret of Earth's location safe. Or the Cylons will destroy us because they hate humans so much. And the second thing is that Adama can't let people on Earth know of the existence of a superior group of humans, with incredible scientific advances, or it will cause a panic."
The long silence continued.
Jeff nervously said, "Guys? Guys? Are you there?"
Chris could hold it in no longer. "That's the stupidest fucking idea I ever heard in my fucking life," he said.
I added, "At heart, good science fiction is what Damon Knight called 'a search for wonder.' And if you are searching for wonder, and find a place exactly like the one you left, then why watch the damn thing in the first place?"
Jeff dug in his heels. But, when I think back on it now, what choice did he have? He'd already signed onto the gig. And if he didn't convince himself that Galactica 1980 was the best thing that happened since the Federal Government lifted the ban on sliced bread after the end of World War Two, he'd go shrieking and gibbering into the night.
He said, "Look, guys, think about it. Work some stories out. All my friends are coming in to help out and I know I can count on you two."
Chris and I looked at each other. He had us there.
But before we could say, "Okay, Jeff," he said, "Also, I might even have some staff jobs for you. We're looking for story editors."
Another bout of dead silence on our end.
Jeff said, "Guys? Guys? Are you there?"
I suppressed a long sigh. Chris and I definitely DID NOT WANT a staff job. And I said, nicely as I could, "Sure, Jeff. You can count on us."
We hung up. Not a word was exchanged. Chris just got to his feet, went into the kitchen and made us a couple of stiff single malts. Came back. Put one on my desk. Went to his desk. We both sucked on our drinks for a few minutes in dead silence.
I just stared at him. What the hell was he talking about?
"Only EatAnter I know of," I said, "is the critter in the BC comic strip."
Chris nodded. "Yeah, that whiny little son of a bitch. Jeff sounds just like him. Or, at least how I imagine he talks,"
I laughed. Now that he mentioned it, Freilich did sound like the EatAnter. He was also a very picky person who could drive you nuts with points so small, you lost track of what the hell you were talking about.
"It's like being nit-picked to death," Chris said. "He doesn't listen. He just fucking, picks, picks, picks. Whining about it all the time."
Well, there was nothing to do but find out more about what the fuck was going on with Galactica 1980, and who better to check in with than our producer/mentor Al Godfrey. Gave him a call, then drove over the hill to buy him a steak sandwich and French fries and crispy onion rings, with lots of hot barbecue sauce to dip them in, at Morton's - a favorite industry lunch spot in the days when people thought "cholesterol" was a cure for bowel disorders.
We talked about things other than business, during lunch. Godfrey was one of the "Geller Boys," after Bruce Geller the legendary producer best remembered today for creating "Mission Impossible."
Geller's career was tragically cut short in a light plane crash in the Santa Monica Mountains. Every year Godfrey, and the other writers and directors and producers from "Mission," got together for a Bruce Geller Memorial Lunch.
Why lunch? Well, because all those years ago Geller had famously decreed that "Lunch Is Important," forbidding all shop talk when he ate with his crew, and he made the whole experience like a family hour, except this would have been a family whose language would make a boatswain's mate blush.
Meanwhile, back at Morton's, we finished lunch. Then, over a couple of scotches for us, and a vodka tonic with a lime twist for Godfrey, we ran down our conversation with Jeff (The EatAnter) Freilich.
Godfrey laughed. "Jeff wasn't shitting you about calling all his buds," he said. "He's got his ex-partner Chris Trumbo on the hook, E. Nick Alexander… the whole Quincy gang… and on and on… Shit, he even called me."
A modicum of gaping ensued. "And you told him to fuck off, right?" Chris said.
Godfrey looked pained. "Now why would I do that?" he said. "It's fast money. And since every time I blink some ex-wife has got her hands on my wallet, I'm sure as hell not turning up my fucking nose at a little fast money."
Al was many things - most of them good. A loyal friend, a talented producer, a helluva story man and so on and so forth. But, he had one fatal flaw.
As Chris once put it, "Godfrey will try to fuck anything in a skirt. And if she holds out for two dates, he'll marry the broad just to get into her pants. Then, he'll keep on fucking around until the lady righteously divorces his ass and then takes anything she can lay hands on that the other wives didn't get."
We all studied our drinks a minute, then I couldn't help but ask, "The show sounds like a piece of shit, Al. Sure you want your name on it?"
Godfrey gave me a withering look. "Haven't I fucking taught you big lugs anything," he said. "Nobody sees the writer's name on the credit roll. When the son of a bitch goes into the tank, the Network will blame Glen Larson, not some poor schmuck of a writer.
"And they won't blame him too hard because he's got so many shows on the air and he is into them for the tune of a couple of hundred million of dollars. So, it may look like shit, and taste like shit, but they've got no choice but to eat it up and say, 'Yum, yum. Pass the mustard.'"
So, you don't think it's going to last long?" I said.
Godfrey chuckled. "Didn't Jeff tell you the time slot?"
We shook our heads. Dumb bunnies, us. We'd forgotten to ask.
"Seven o'clock, Sunday night," Godfrey said.
It registered immediately.
"Opposite fucking 60 Minutes?" Chris said. "They'll get steamrolled."
Godfrey nodded. "You got it. Cancellation City, here we come."
"But, that's blatant show-icide," I said, aghast. "And after all those people wrote in! They're going to be pissed."
Godfrey said, "If Jeff told you that's why they were putting it on the air, he was pulling your fucking leg. ABC doesn't give a shit if people write in. No Network does. This is the fucking National Broadcast Business, boys. They've got the country wired coast to coast and border to fucking border. And they only things they care about are the advertisers and the fucking FCC."
We were both puzzled. What's the Federal Communications Commission got to do with it?
Godfrey saw our looks and snorted. "The FCC controls the licenses that authorizes the Networks to broadcast. No license. No God-given right to pollute the public airways."
"And this has what to do with Galactica 1980?" I asked.
"Everything to do with it," Godfrey said. "And everything to do with the seven o'clock time period. See, Congress wants us to think they give a shit about what the kiddies watch. That's one of the main ways they keep getting elected and ripping us off. Family values, blah, blah, blah.
"So seven o'clock has been declared the public interest hour. You can broadcast news and information, like 60 Minutes. Or, programs that - and I quote - enrich the television experience for the nation's children."
Chris and I didn't know what to say. So we ordered another round of drinks. After they had arrived and we'd lit new smokes, Godfrey said, "Now, the real politics cuts in when you think about which network in particular is putting Galactica 1980 on."
"ABC," Chris said.
"Yeah, ABC," Godfrey said. "The network that puts more jiggling tits and ass on the air than the rubes got to see on the old burlesque circuit."
I got it. "So, they have to show they are good guys at heart," I said. "We'll give you a million bucks an hour kiddie show if you let us keep letting us flash all the skin we want."
"Shit," Chris said, getting it too.
"ABC has been getting so much grief from the Feds," Godfrey said, "that they even put a Program Practices Vice President on the Board Of Directors. Show the FCC how serious they are."
Chris and I were horrified. Program Practices! A dirty phrase in any American screenwriter's vocabulary.
"Fuck me," Chris said.
Godfrey raised an admonitory finger. "Yeah, but not on Galactica 1980."
Then he said, "Remember this name, boys. And remember it well. Because she will be the one who holds your destiny in her lily-whites: Susan Futterman.
"And she spells it, C-E-N-S-O-R."
"And she spells it, C-E-N-S-O-R."
NEXT: SUMMONED TO THE BLACK TOWER
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Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.
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THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions.
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A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.
LUCKY IN CYPRUS:
A True Story About A Boy,
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Some Terrorists And The CIA
LUCKY IN CYPRUS is a coming-of-age story set in the Middle East during the height of the Cold War. An American teenager – son of a CIA operative – is inspired by grand events and a Greek Cypriot teacher.
He witnesses earthquakes and riots and terrorist attacks, but in the end it is his teacher’s gentle lessons that keep him whole.
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What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)
THE SPYMASTER'S DAUGHTER:
A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan
After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.
BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization.
TALES OF THE BLUE MEANIE
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Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is "The Blue Meanie," a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.
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