It was the early '80s then, and local cable networks were hungry for shows to fill their programming days.
IN HIGH SCHOOL, MY CIRCLE OF FRIENDS started up a sketch comedy show on the local cable access channel. It was the early '80s then, and local cable networks were hungry for shows to fill their programming days. The upshot of that hunger was that about a dozen of us -- primarily Stu Maddux, Steve Revare, Jon Niccum, Jon Skaptason, Polly Taylor (now Revare), Brooke Dillman (then Browne) and me -- ended up writing, producing, editing, directing and acting in a series of TV shows -- first KC Live, then The Kansas City Circuit and finally The Cyan Valley Supersystem.
While influenced by many sketch comedy shows before us, such as Monty Python's Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live, the show we drew on most heavily was the great, great SCTV. (For a great SCTV resource, try this link.) When we wrapped our final show (the hour-long CVS "Post Hasties" special), we discovered that after five years of goofing around, we had amassed somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours of original programming -- all completely conceived and executed by us.
Oddly enough, 15 years later, The Herd (as we had called ourselves) got back together for a reunion of sorts -- to watch the old shows and to reminisce about those long nights and weekends spent in one of the worst parts of Kansas City, running around like idiots and capturing it all on three-quarter inch video.
After five years of goofing around, we had amassed somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours of original programming.
Over Thanksgiving weekend 1999, we shot 12 minutes of brand new comedy, in a brand new format we called What You're Watching.
That reunion prompted us to attempt a "comeback." And so, over Thanksgiving weekend 1999, we shot 12 minutes of brand new Herd comedy, in a brand new format we called What You're Watching. All right, so it's not so brand new. It's still sketch comedy that pokes fun of television, but this version is faster paced...and we're all older. So that seems new, doesn't it?
Once again, we did everything. Only this time, the equipment was much better, and we owned almost all of it.
After editing all our footage down, we submitted our 12-minute "pitch tape" to iFilm.com. The Internet boom had yet to bust, and we had visions of our own Web-based comedy show. Ahhh, the good old days, eh?
After the Internet bubble burst and after iFilm itself changed its skin considerably, our show disappeared unceremoniously from the site. It was a swell ride for about a year, I guess. Perhaps one day, I'll have WYW available here for download.
While there was a time we were kicking around ideas for a WYW 2.0, it seems most of us have moved on to more lucrative pastures -- or, at least, pastures with the promise of being more lucrative. One of our most successful Herd members, Brooke Dillman, went on to shoot 12 episodes of ABC's The Wayne Brady Show, a variety show that had as many moments of greatness as of great disappointment. From there, she moved on to playing an ill-tempered weather nun on NBC's Good Morning, Miami, and then to the ensemble sketch comedy of the WB's Blue Collar TV. In both cases, Brooke was the best part of the show. And, yes, that is a biased opinion. But it also just so happens to be true.
There are still plans for more Herd-related activity. The future Mrs. Me, Wendy Molyneux and I are kicking around a sitcom pilot idea with Brooke, tentatively titled Point View Terrace. It will be loosely based on our own lives and will feature us as both writers and actors. We came up with the idea after watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on F/X. If you missed that show, I highly recommend catching its second season when it airs. It's a brilliant comedy, and the people behind it are even more brilliant, considering they wrote, directed, produced and acted in the pilot episode (which they shot for around $5,000 or $7,000, depending upon the story) and sold the idea to F/X who then gave them a six-episode pickup. That led to a 13-episode second season.
See? You can do-it-yourself.
So that's what we'll be trying to do, after Wendy and I get married (Vegas! in January) and go on our honeymoon (Hawaii! in February). March or April seems to be our target for shooting the project. We've already enlisted Stu to help, most likely as director and co-producer. There is no guarantee that we won't also drag Jon and Jon and Steve and Polly into our mad Point View escapade. So, I'll keep you posted.
UPDATE '08!!!Last August, we shot Point View Terrace in three short days. After a laborious editing process (and after much foot-dragging on my part) the project was completed and entered in the New York Television Festival. Almost a year to the day after shooting the pilot, we found out that Point View was accepted into the festival. And so, Wendy and Brooke and I will be in New York in September '08 to watch our pilot in competition.
Content © 2001, 2006, 2008 Jeff Drake
While there was a time we were kicking around ideas for a WYW 2.0, it seems most of us have moved on to more lucrative pastures -- or, at least, pastures with the promise of being more lucrative.