Browse Tag by Robbi Ramirez
Humours, TV

Pitch Document for the Proposed Universal Network’s Jaws: The Series (Part 2)

In 1981, Universal was preparing their planned Universal Broadcast Network, for which one of the tentpole series would be Donald Bellisario and Steven de Souza’s Jaws: The Series. Twelve episodes were included in the initial pitch document.

“Last Limbo in Bogota”

Deputy Lefty announces to the media that Sheriff Hawk, now known to Hooper and the gang as Ricky Delgado, drug-trafficking gangster, has disappeared and is feared dead. In reality, Lefty is still receiving his orders from Hawk, who is fleeing the pursuit of Agent Rocco, who hasn’t yet found a way to prove Hawk is Ricky, or connect him to the Colombians. Lefty attempts to distract the public by raising the prize of the wine festival’s beachside limbo contest to an outrageous $10,000, drawing an unsafe number of participants to a beach still under threat of a massive, man-eating shark who might be going through intense cocaine withdrawals. Panic ensues at the limbo when a bloody Hawaiian shirt washes ashore, but Brody recognizes it as belonging to a local drug pusher who helped Rocco track down the cartel. Is it possible the shark was driven to hunt humans when the drug runners used them to “dispose of some evidence”? Mac and Tiffany set up Becky on a blind date with guest star [GUEST STAR], unaware of her budding relationship with Cartwright.

“Swap Meat”

The festival’s swap meet is shut down when a porcelain statuary breaks, revealing that it’s filled with packages of cocaine, and the drug smugglers are using the festival to distribute their product. Brody uses this as an excuse to tell the public to avoid the festival without creating a panic over the very real risk posed by the shark. The chairman of the festival, guest star [a George Segal type], wants Brody’s head for such an affront, but his intimidation of Brody is interrupted by the boat they’re on being attacked by a strung-out great white shark. [Why are they on a boat? – Steve] The shark, as it turns out, was attracted to the boat by the smell of drugs – the chairman is in league with the cartel! Mac encounters tension when his ex-wife brings her new boyfriend to the festival.

“Speed Kills”

Lefty has Mac arrested on spurious charges, with his bail set so high the gang need $5,000 just to put up for the bond. Fortunately, the cash prize for the wine festival’s half-marathon is exactly five thousand dollars, and Dr. Cartwright just happens to be a former high school track star! But danger strikes when Lefty enters a ringer into the race, who is faster than Cartwright and willing to cheat…with deadly consequences. The race is on to catch this crooked runner in the act before he can cross the finish line. Becky tries to raise Rich’s spirits before the race with a surprise luau. [How long is this goddamn wine festival? – Steve]

“Shark and Roll”

The festival’s charity concert, a perennial highlight that draws massive crowds, is moved to a floating stage just off the beach at the request of flamboyant rock star Ricky Jump, the concert’s headliner. Obviously, Brody is terrified at the prospect of drawing a huge crowd of people to the beach for a rock show, but Dr. Cartwright hatches a risky plan: since the waters themselves will have to be cleared for the stage, the band’s massive amplifiers could be set to a frequency that will attract the shark, then dumped into the water to electrocute the beast, all before the last act make it onto the stage. Brody is convinced it’s too dangerous, but Tiffany unexpectedly sides with Rich. Will cooler heads prevail? Mac stands trial with the only lawyer who would take his case: his ex-wife!

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Humours

A History of Foreign Blockbuster Knockoffs: Part 1 – Pre-1700

The historical record now makes it quite clear that the history of low-quality foreign knock-offs of popular franchises and characters vastly predates what was previously thought. For every so-called Turkish Star Wars or Panamanian Ghostbusters, most of which do have original titles in their native languages despite what they borrow from their mainstream equivalents, there is an older, even ancient work that plays in similar space.

As recently as a decade ago, we naturally assumed that the vaunted “Cradle of Infringement” was the Turkish city now called Batman, named of course for the costumed crimefighter who despite his seemingly modern origins has existed in various forms since at least the Iron Age (the hypothesis that the Egyptian Anubis was a sort of “proto-Batman” is extant, but not roundly accepted). However, reevaluations of some ancient texts have made it clear that blockbuster knockoffs are as old, perhaps, as written language.

While the title Mesopotamian ET is something of a misnomer, the true title of this sequel to the Epic of Gilgamesh literally translates to “Further Enkidu Hijinks Record,” or more colloquially, Enkidu is at it again!? It’s easy to see the comparison, though. The prominent subplot where the goddess Ishtar leaves behind her beloved hairless sloth near the home of a widower farmer and his two young sons is certainly reminiscent of the story we previously attributed to Spielberg, who it now seems only updated an ancient theme, the “alien and telephone-home” narrative that would later be seen in Moorish Spain in texts like Foreign Large Eyes Monster Unchained, et al (Spooner, 2010). Whether he was aware of these then-obscure tales is not known. Enkidu also gives us the first known occurrence of the long-standing “Bicycle and the Moon” motif, although “bicycle” is a very modern term for the kind of crude two-wheeled wagon present in older sources.

After the Classical period, blockbusters fell out of fashion in the Old World. The Greeks and Romans favored their own inventions, stories like the Iliad, or the Odyssey, or Pretty Woman. But miles away, another pocket of cheap foreign knockoffs was taking root that wouldn’t be seen by Europeans for centuries to come.

When the Spanish made contact with the Mayans, newly discovered records previously thought burned for heresy show that they were stunned to find that, somehow, the Mayans had independently developed Spider-Man, a superhero known to the Spanish as “the Mysterious Champion of Spiders.” Their figurines were crude, but showed every detail now considered definitive of the character’s visual design. Strangely, the Mayan Spider-Man is a more morally ambiguous figure than modern iterations, probably owing to the spider’s long association with trickster figures.

To be fair, though, the foreign knockoff “dark age” was really only a European phenomenon. As near as India or even further west, in modern Kazakhstan or, some would contend, the eastern reaches of the Byzantine Empire, the model still flourished even through Roman and later medieval times. One could hardly walk through any densely populated area of India without seeing thousands of toys depicting Godzilla in crude 11th-century plastic. Of course, Godzilla’s origins changed considerably over time before he reached the silver screen and his Atomic Age backstory became indelible. India’s Godzilla myths date back to a short but quite familiar passage in the Brahmanas detailing a plume of mystical fire that awakens a giant creature of the depths, although he is seemingly more amphibian than reptilian, as befits a sea monster.

In Europe, the Renaissance was, appropriately, a rebirth of the foreign knockoff archetype across the board. Just look at Michelangelo’s (the sculptor) immortal marble figure of Michelangelo (the Ninja Turtle), an enduring icon for the ages. Leonardo himself even got a jump on Marcel Duchamp’s debasement of his Mona Lisa with his own “Renaissance Italian Jessica Rabbit,” as we often call it today, his Voluptuous Lady of the Rabbit, posed and barely smirking just like its more famous sister.

Next week: a deep interrogation of colonial-era heroes like the Scarlet Pimpernel, progenitor to the roguish Zorro, and John Shaft, the black private dick who’s a sex machine for all the chicks, if you can dig it.

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Humours

SLN Employee Handbook: Break Room and Restroom Guidelines

A staff break room with ample accommodations has been provided for your enjoyment and convenience. Your meal times are a right, but our facilitation of them for you is a privilege. We have suspended microwave privileges on many occasions, but never without good cause. Refrigerator rights have been rescinded only twice, for similarly grave reasons.

The refrigerator is for food, and for medicines that must be refrigerated. That is all. Anything else will be discarded, and if we know whose it is, they will be notified they have committed an infraction. Two infractions that are verifiably attributable to the same employee will result in loss of fridge privileges (or “fridgileges”). We reserve the right to terminate privileges after one offense if it is particularly grave.

Do not attempt to store the following in a break room fridge: Alcoholic beverages. Stationary. A smaller refrigerator. Food that is also not food. Cold-weather animals. Evidence of a crime. Secret reserves of NERF(TM) weapons or ammunition. Currency (representative). Interns.

Additionally, the following shall not be stored in break room fridges by penalty of a harsher nature: Illegal substances. A refrigerator of equal or greater size. Food that doesn’t exist. Warm-weather animals. Currency (precious mineral). Permanent employees. Putting an object in a refrigerator will not extinguish it if it is on fire no matter how cold you set the fridge.

Common appliances like microwaves are also available. A standard SLN office break room comes equipped with a microwave, a coffee maker, a sink, cabinets for storing accessories like mugs if you choose, and cabinets with a standard selection of certain non-perishables like tea bags. Most break rooms are equipped with electric kettles, so do not use a coffee maker to heat unadulterated water for the purposes of making tea. WE WILL KNOW.

If you need instructions on proper microwave use, please do not use the microwave. An incident that compromises the microwave will result in a total loss of microwave access. If an object catches fire in the microwave, do not attempt to extinguish it by putting it in the fridge.

Thanks to a radical misreading of how hypothetical new legislation might have affected the restroom needs of corporations, a wildly sufficient number of restroom facilities are available in all our offices. All restrooms in SLN offices are unisex, whether or not maintenance have changed the signage adorning the doors at your location. We really thought this whole thing would shake out differently. Vandalism of restroom facilities or inappropriate conduct between employees in a restroom, regardless of consent or contamination with experimental pheromones, will not be tolerated. Persons violating restroom protocols will be subject to censure or termination, as the company is legally prohibited from withholding restroom access. If a superior threatens you with loss of restroom access, please report them to a human resources representative. This includes the levy of tolls or fees, or the destruction or decommission of fixtures themselves, or the threat thereof.

Toilet tissue stored in an office restroom is available to all staff. If you want to keep your own reserve of outside toilet tissue, it must be stored at your workspace. Outside toiletries stored in a restroom will be considered part of a “pool” whether one has been arranged or not. This policy is no longer subject to debate. We have wasted far too many hours on this already, and for the record, the company-supplied stock of toilet tissue is perfectly adequate in comfort and cleanliness. Notes in the suggestion box regarding the quality of office-supplied toiletries will be discarded unread. The matter has been settled.

All designated smoking areas are located outside. An open window is not sufficient. Any area where smoking is permitted is clearly marked.

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Possible Episodes for the First Season of the Proposed Universal Broadcast Network’s Jaws: The Series (Part 1)

In 1981, Universal Studios entered the planning phases on what was then called the Universal Broadcast Network. Like every other attempt at a “fourth network” before FOX emerged as a serious competitor and ubiquitous cable changed television, it was a very ambitious near-miss. One of its flagship shows would have been the intense hourlong drama Jaws: The Series, based on the blockbuster film. The following were the episodes pitched to the studio for the initial season, all conceived over a lively three-day weekend by future industry giants Donald P. Bellisario and Steven E. de Souza.

“Pilot” aka “The Grapes of Wrath”

Bodies of large sea life seemingly torn apart are found off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard during an annual wine festival by the crew of a small fishing boat. Fearing a panic at an important time, the corrupt Sheriff Dallas Hawk has his deputy Lefty “silence” the fishermen…permanently. Former police chief, now private investigator Martin Brody of nearby Amity Island happens to be in town for the festival, a tradition he shared with his late wife Ellen, and catches wind of something “fishy.” Recruiting his old friend, Rich Cartwright, marine biologist and trained magician [is there a reason we’re still not using Hooper? – Steve] as well as his streetwise partner “Big” Mac Hunter, Brody follows a trail of bloody streets and dirty money all the way to Sheriff Hawk, who had the fishermen taken out to keep the public from learning that their beloved beach is being stalked by a ravenous shark. He fails to find key evidence linking Hawk to the crime definitively before it is destroyed in an amusement park fire, succeeding only in drawing the attention of the devious sheriff…and also that of alluring lifeguard Tiffany San Sebastian. Brody pledges to stay in Martha’s Vineyard until he gets to the bottom of this case, even in the face of a deadly shark…or a Hawk.

“The Wine-Dark Sea”

During a sandcastle-building contest at the wine festival, a surfboard washes ashore…with no surfer. The massive bite in the side of the board panics the crowd amid growing rumors of the shark plaguing the beach. The sinister Deputy Lefty attempts to calm the citizens, but Tiffany brashly confronts him with evidence she has seen that the threat is real, and a stampede away from the shore wreaks havoc on the pie-eating contest. Cartwright takes Brody and Mac out on his boat at night to hunt for the shark, but are waylaid by a boat piloted by Colombian cocaine smugglers. Mac attempts to bond with his estranged son.

“Blood Red”

The wine festival’s perennial hit Singles Luau is abruptly canceled without explanation. The real reason: Sheriff Hawk’s loyal goons have found the remains of the shark’s first human victim further down the beach. Beautiful but eccentric medical examiner Becky Summer is unable to identify the body despite its distinctive tattoos, which she finds suspicious even before she is pressured into not recording the incident as a shark attack. She calls on Brody to do some legwork, and he remembers having seen the victim’s tattoos on one of the Colombians. An associate of the drug runners is in custody, but is taken by FBI Special Agent Rocco Prince before Brody can talk to him. Cartwright tries to juggle a date with Dr. Summer and his budding ventriloquist career, with unexpected results.

“White Heat”

Cartwright is contacted by Agent Rocco when the captured drug dealer starts talking about a “devil shark.” Brody shares with the agent his suspicions about Sheriff Hawk, whom Rocco identifies from a photo as the Chicago gangster kingpin Ricky Delgado, long thought dead, hiding in plain sight. Unable to locate Hawk, who has been tipped off to his discovery by the eavesdropping Lefty, Rocco and Brody confront the Colombians on the sea. In a freak accident, a dozen kilos of cocaine are spilled into the water when the marauding shark nearly capsizes both boats. Driven into a bloodthirsty frenzy by enough cocaine to kill twenty humans, the shark savagely devours most of the drug dealers…but not Sheriff Hawk, who was hiding on their boat, and narrowly escapes by helicopter, swearing revenge on Brody and the others. Mac and Tiffany mentor a blind teenager who finds an astonishing talent for surfing.

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