My lifelong dream is to be a screenwriter for television.
Marge Simpson: “But your lifelong dream was to run out onto the field during a baseball game and you did it last year, remember?”
Oh how I forget.
Those who know me know I love to quote The Simpsons in my everyday conversation. Whether or not it makes sense to anyone else but me is irrelevant. Conan O’Brien wrote the teleplay for this aforementioned episode Marge Vs. The Monorail (Season 4). He is a hero of mine.
Television writing has been a part of my life since I emerged into this thankless world on March 10, 1983. My aunt’s boyfriend was in the hospital with my family on the day of my royal birth (who is this George Alexander Louis? I don’t know him). My aunt’s boyfriend at the time was a prominent television screenwriter who has written for Dragnet, M*A*S*H, and more recently, Diagnosis Murder. While they didn’t end up together, his quick wit regarding a largish female baby who shared the room with me had my mom in stitches great enough to threaten the stitches fresh from her cesarean section. I always wondered how life turned out for “Mr. P.” I like to think he had something to do with my love of writing.
When I was a teenager and in my twenties, I wrote short stories and poetry. I was a staff writer on my high school newspaper my senior year. Unless you count my blog and my high school newspaper, I have never been published. I am working on changing that now. Last summer, I got a position as a writing teacher for 7th and 8th grade GATE students at a private school. These students attended public middle schools in the Arcadia Unified School District during the year. This private academy was meant for enrichment during the summer and was therefore a temporary position for me. My job was to come up with my own curriculum to foster these gifted and talented students’ love of writing. They needed to be challenged by someone who truly loved to write and who could make writing fun for them. I planned my own essay topics, taught them how to write a strong essay, taught them how to write fiction, came up with my own creative writing prompts, and under my direction, we published a class newspaper. Their parents were college professors. My boss told me the parents called him up every day praising my program. Their positive feedback gave me the inspiration I needed to take my writing to a more public arena.
I gave screenwriting some serious consideration when I started watching Fox’s New Girl starring Zooey Deschanel. I tuned into this “Friends for the millenials” sitcom partially because I am a fan of She and Him, but mostly because I could relate to Deschanel’s T.V. character Jess Day in a variety of ways. First, we are both creative and quirky middle school teachers. Secondly, we both sing (only I’m not famous, but am working on that minor setback as well). Lastly, we are both the same age and look alike. I’d say my resemblance to Zooey Deschanel is only about 40%, but I’ve had enough people mention it to me over the past few years that I’m willing to believe it may have some merit, but I will let you be the judge:
Miss “Look at me, I’m a lovable goof!” Deschanel.
Miss “Look at me partying in my friend’s car! I totally have a reason for making this face!” Lewis.
After tuning into some recent episodes that appear to have been basted in the weakest recipe for weak sauce since Miracle Whip (Schmidt swallowing ALL of Jess’s birth control pills right in front of her? Beyond creepy and totes not funny), I decided it was time to add some of my real experiences/sydrocks flava that can take the plot ideas and writing of New Girl to soaring new heights. After all, there has to be some perspective that can be gained from a similar lovable goof/30ish female douchebag/hipster/singer/creative middle school teacher who wears “cool” glasses like Jess Day:
I’m aware that my glasses could be bigger. I’m aware that my frames could look more 1950s in a way that’s ironically unflattering. Sorry I’ve let you down with this anticlimactic photo. (Sidebar: I think school is very cool).
Here are suggestions to enhance the plots of New Girl from someone who considers Jess Day to be her spirit animal:
1. Have Jess collect homework from a row of male students. In horror, she will see that they have drawn dictures on their assignments. Hilarious parent phone calls will ensue. This has happened to me with my 8th graders and I have a feeling that both Jess and I would react the same way: blushing, laughing nervously, and crying on the inside.
2. In New Girl, I have seen a storyline where Jess has trouble fitting in with her fellow teachers. They are older and more experienced, so naturally they exclude her. I would like to bring my experience to the table. How about instead of her fellow teachers being a decade older, why not have them be almost a decade younger? Why not have them be jealous and catty about the fact that she feels more comfortable being called “Miss Day” rather than by her first name like them? Why not have them be jealous about the fact that she has more experience and education and is therefore getting more pay than they are? Why not have them give her icy stares in the hall because she is getting paid more for creating her own curriculum rather than passing out reading packets for less pay like them? Why not have them pretend to be friendly but act in passive aggressive ways like not erasing the board for her when it’s her turn to teach in the classroom they share or coming by to shut the door to her room because they think her voice carries? (It does, but the civilized thing to do would be to discuss it with her first). And why not have all of her fellow teachers be no older than 22? I’m trying to decide whether this situation would be funny or just plain sad.
3. Jess comes up with a creative writing prompt where she writes the beginning lyrics to several hip hop songs including “The Motto” by Drake (the clean parts, obvi) on the board and her 8th grade boys who are hip hop fans get to finish the lyrics by writing their own. She awkwardly raps the beginning lyrics to get them excited about the assignment. At first they stare at her, then to her total surprise, they laugh, nod their heads in approval, and call it a “bomb assignment.” Yep. This is how it went down for yours truly. Since the girls were not hip hop fans, I let them finish the lyrics for Justin Bieber and One Direction.
4. Jess’s students will ask her if she has a boyfriend. She will mistakenly answer, “Yes.” They will then ask her, “Do you do nasty stuff together?” She will react the same way I did: bewildered and crying on the inside.
Mind you, this is just a start. I think New Girl is great and that is why I have so much affection for Jess. I see a lot of myself in her. If I could, I would marry her. Oh wait. Now I can.