As you may be aware, I was once a fixture on local public access television as part of a comedy show called Steel & Marsilio. In fact, I once wrote a needlessly exhaustive history of the program on this very site. Since then, I've mostly moved into other mediums to water my creative lotus, but every once in a while, my former co-host Garrett Steel and I will put together a video or skit or something, and somewhere deep down I still have a love for producing televised media. Therefore, when Garrett brought it to my attention that none other than NBC (America's Network, or so I hear) was running a competition in which they were looking for fresh new ideas for comedy shows, we were all-in. We figured we at least owed ourselves a shot at mainstream sitcom production after our years in the trenches. So we got to work.
First things first: what was the sitcom going to be about? This seemed an imposing decision to make, as it would serve as the backbone for nearly every element of the pitch going forward. And frankly, we didn't have an actual idea. The original Steel & Marsilio conceit about aimless broke college students wouldn't work for numerous reasons, not the least of which was that we had obviously aged out of the roles, so what concept could possibly hit that sweet spot between innovative specificity and narrative broadness? Until we solved that issue, we were at an impasse.
One day, I was at my day job as the office manager for a real estate company when some particularly bizarre and baffling scenario unfolded. As I reeled and reflected upon where this incident would fit within the hierarchy of absurdly ridiculous events I have witnessed during my years in the field (it speaks volumes that I no longer even remember the scenario in question due to how much it pales in comparison to some of the horrors I've experienced), inspiration struck like the cliché bolt of lightning. Why not make a real estate sitcom? I had enough material culled from my own life to tell countless stories, and combined with the old Steel & Marsilio sense of blending oddball comedy with some pretty dark scenarios, I knew that we could have something special. And with that, the idea for Brokerage wriggled screaming into this world.
The conceit behind Brokerage was...well, how about this? I'll show you the pitch video. It was filmed by my friend Andrew, who worked on the first Captain America movie. Every time I introduce him to people, I mention this fact. He set up shop in my apartment with Garrett and I and shot the cinematic treasure below. I thought we'd have to do a lot of editing, but it turned out so well we ended up just going with an organic single-shot take.
Beyond the groundwork established in the pitch video, we had SO MANY IDEAS. I even had a general story arc planned for the first season and was filling it in with various individual episode ideas. Not to toot my own horn about imaginary fantasy accomplishments, but it would have been UH-MAZING. And both Garrett and I were very pleased with how the pitch turned out. Of course, there were still some obstacles to conquer. There was paperwork, that deadly menace that claims millions of gallons in finger blood annually and creates epidemic levels of eyeball glaze. Then there was the fact that we had to submit some previously produced work to show that we knew how to tell stories visually. The trouble here was that most of our previously produced video work was for public access, wherein our production budget allowed only for Hi8 tapes, cheap vodka and the occasional pumpkin. It doesn't help that video technology from late 2001 doesn't measure up to what most of us have in our pockets right now #notapenisjoke. After some consideration, we determined that our best bet was to go with a skit we made a few years ago titled "The Drinking Game" (covered here previously). Unfortunately it was a far longer clip than what the submission guidelines limited us to, so I spent the better part of a weekend painstakingly editing out a few seconds here, a poorly-acted monologue there, until it was whittled down to fighting shape. To my surprise, the re-edit was far, far superior to the original, so I present that here for your viewing pleasure as well:
Tragically, despite our efforts, which were especially remarkable given the parties involved, we were informed after like six months of waiting that we had not advanced to the next round of the contest. Then, just to rub e-salt in the wound, we received another email a month later reaffirming our rejection. Disappointed but not defeated, Garrett and I have since soldiered on, but I figured I may as well share with you a glimpse into the show that never was. Unless it someday is. By which I mean, if you happen to be reading this and are looking for someone to create the next hot comedy program for you, please feel free to drop me a line. I'll just be right over here, working on my second book and collecting more unbelievable real estate stories for the little show that couldn't.
Happy new year, everybody! I'll try to stick to my "at least one big post a month" policy a little better in 2015. One post down!
If enough of you buy Joey's book, Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior, he'll just finance Brokerage himself. Because hey, why not?