How did you become one of the writers on Moonlighting and later Supervising Producer?
I actually went on staff as Supervising Producer. Most of the time that title has to do with how long you have been in show business, more than what your function is. I had been on MASH and Hill Street Blues, so I was "high level" by then. Glenn and I had the same agent, and as I recall, Glenn was looking for someone else for the staff and our agent suggested me, and that's how it happened.
What was your role as supervising producer?
All staffs work differently and are set up by the showrunner, and on that show all the writers functioned at the same level, so I had no role other than writing. We all sat in a big room and broke stories, and when it was time to write, we went to our offices and wrote. I spent a lot of my free time in editing, observing, because I was fascinated by it.
Big Man on Mulberry Street was the first script your name is attached to. This is one of the all-time greatest episodes of the series, and a real fan-favorite. Tell us EVERYTHING you can about the writing of this episode. Is it true that Billy Joel had written this song for the show and Glenn Caron wanted to center an episode on it? Was it your idea to make it about David returning to NYC for the family funeral that uncovered his early marriage? Who wrote the plot of the wonderful dance sequence? Who wrote Maddie's monologue in the hotel room? As we understand it, Glenn Caron wrote most of David's speech in the hotel to Maddie about his marriage, is that correct? Who came up with the idea of what had happened in David's marriage?
This episode is one of the few things from my career that I actually remember clearly! I don't know about Billy Joel's reasons for writing the song, but I know that Glenn handed me a tape of the song and told me to play it in my car stereo and see what it inspired. I have to be honest, it inspired nothing. At that point in my life, I think I had been to New York once and had spent most of that time in my hotel room scared to death. (I'm from a town of 1200 in rural Virginia. But for the record, when I go to NY now, I think I own the place.)
Anyway, while I was wracking my brain and worrying about how to tell Glenn I didn't have a story idea, he came up with the story and pitched it to me. As Glenn mentioned in his interview, we never did things normally on that show, so we never had a story outline when we wrote a script. We usually knew about one act at a time. So what I knew when I started writing was that David was going to go to New York to his brother-in-law's funeral, and there was going to be a dance sequence directed by Stanley Donen.
I went to work writing the first act, and Glenn and Stanley Donen went to work on the dance sequence. I finished the first act and Glenn was very happy with it and I was thrilled about that. Then he pitched me the rest of the story as we went along, and I wrote what he told me to write. Glenn did all of the story, including the dance sequence. As I recall, I did all of the dialogue except for that David monologue (I wouldn't have known where to start with that!) and the scene before the funeral -- I took a pass at the latter, but Glenn made it a lot better. I did the Maddie monologue, but I remember taking copious notes as Glenn was pitching it.
I love the episode, I'm glad I was able to contribute to it and I think I was the right person to help Glenn do it, but I couldn't have done any of it in a zillion years on my own.
Maddie and David in the midst of their monologues in Big Man on Mulberry Street--Maddie as she tries to explain why she has flown to NYC following David & David revealing to Maddie the details of his failed short, early marriage.
You also contributed to Sam and Dave, the episode that Bruce Willis won his Emmy for. Tell us what you contributed to that episode.
I'd love to help you there, but with a gun to my head, I wouldn't be able to tell you who did what on that episode. All of the Mark Harmon episodes were gang written -- I had to look at the episode guide the other day to see which ones I had credit on! All I remember is that we had fun and Mark Harmon was a nice guy and went with us to lunch.
You are listed as one of the writers of the teleplay to I am Curious....Maddie? What does that mean? How is that different from the Story By credit? What was your contribution to that episode?
See, the reason I was pleased that I could remember the writing process of BMOMS was that it's the only one I can remember! I was very surprised to learn that I was one of the writers on I am Curious...Maddie. I always liked that title. On every staff I've ever worked on, it works like this: early in the season, writers work on their own episodes and feel like artistes. Later in the season, we gang write every script and are just happy to make the deadline. We were always under the gun on Moonlighting, and we gang wrote everything in the last part of that season, and the credits usually reflected "who hasn't had a credit lately?"