While there is a plethora of them churning out often innocuous sitcoms, there are some rather brilliant ones. The idea of writing essentially 23 or more three-act plays in a short period of time under network pressures and deadlines can zap the creativity out of the best of souls so those who are successful have to be more than just lucky – they have to be very good.
One of my favourite writers is Chuck Lorre, the creator of a show that I love, Two & A Half Men. He was also the man behind such hit shows as Dharma & Greg, Grace Under Fire, Roseanne and Cybill just to name a few.
While some of his shows might not be your cup of tea, they were all hits and you can’t deny his brilliance as a writer. But I’m drawing attention to him not just for his scripts, but for a little something extra that he does on his shows. I’m talking about his vanity cards.
Vanity cards are the show ending billboards that usually tout the production company of the show in question. Everybody remembers the “sit Ubu, sit” that appeared at the end of Family Ties. That was the vanity card.
Chuck Lorre puts a lot of effort into his vanity cards. They change with almost every episode and the only way you can really appreciate them is to tape the show and then freeze frame it to get a clear picture of his writing talent.
To give you an example, posted below are two such vanity cards from Two & A Half Men. The first one is:
- CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #126 -- Sitcom Erotica: He tore feverishly at her bodice, ripping it off her sweat-drenched body. Having just bought the bodice, this really bummed her out. Still, she wanted more than anything to be devoured by his earthy passion. Unfortunately the idea of saying "devour me with your earthy passion" creeped her out, so instead she murmured "Hum daddy bow-wow." He had no idea what she was talking about and found himself wondering whether it was positive verbal feedback in regards to his foreplay technique, or signs of early onset dementia. He went with positive feedback because the notion of making love to a woman who would soon be drooling into a cup was not terribly arousing. Not un-doable, but not a big turn on either. Thus resolved, he threw her to the bed, missing high and to the right. Her head careened off the night stand, somehow turning on the clock radio to an easy listening station. Tina Turner was singing "Proud Mary", but just the nice and easy part. They paused briefly to check for signs of a concussion. Not knowing what those signs might be they decided to forge ahead and make love as if they'd never made love before, as if it were the first time. And so they did. They made love in a hurry and badly. Afterwards, she wondered how she could have been foolish enough to leave a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day.
The second one was written the day after the 2006 California gubernatorial election that elected incumbent Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to his first full term.
- CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #167 -- November 8, 2006: I'm relieved that he's reached across the aisle to fight global warming. I'm delighted that he's worked to increase the minimum wage, reduce the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, improve the infrastructure, and bring accountability to the school system. My problem, and let me state for the record that it's my problem, not his, is simply this: Whenever I hear the governor of California speak I find myself nervously looking around for a train that will take me to Poland.
Those are just two examples of Chuck Lorre's writing and you can find literally dozens more without having to freeze frame a show. While it is fun to catch each one as it airs, since they are often either timely or relate to the show that just aired, a much easier way is to go to Chuck's website where, lucky for us, he lists them all. His site is at: www.chucklorre.com
When it comes to Chuck Lorre, as a writer I'm not worthy.
That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.
(Listen here for an interview I conducted with Chuck Lorre in 2008):
(For more audio interviews visit the Celebrity Interviews page on my website)