The general idea of Yesterland Waltz came to me one Saturday night in 1986. Yes, over 30 years ago.
I thought it would be really, really funny to have a late night talk show hosted by a guy who didn’t want to do it. You know, a guy who was somehow forced to do it. And then let the failures of the show take over — terrible guests, falling light fixtures, cameras out of focus, etc.
And all the while, the host gets angrier and more disgusted, begging for a way out. But then it only gets worse for him.
Advance the clock to 2015. Thirty years later.
I was producing a weekly pro wrestling TV show that aired all over the nation, and I was constantly struggling with the limitations of producing a pro wrestling TV show, namely, that it requires a very large cast and crew.
That was a nightmare. I had the pressure of producing an hour of TV each and every week with no break. There was no off season. No reruns. Add to that challenge the tendency of minor league pro wrestlers to do this thing in pro wrestling called “no show.”
It goes like this. The producer announces to the cast of pro wrestlers: “All right, guys! Saturday! We have a big TV taping. Need everybody here at 7AM sharp! Please don’t be late! If you’re late, we’ll fall behind!”
Then Saturday morning rolls around. Sure enough, ten of the 20 required wrestlers — the actors — don’t show up.
“Sorry, brah, but my aunt died…”
“Sorry, man. My kid is sick…”
“Man, you wouldn’t believe it. My car won’t crank.”
The no show. The dreaded no show.
So there you are, a producer of a TV show, with a stack of scripts you’ve written that all now have to get tossed in the trash. Why? Because the actors the scripts were written for aren’t there.
Pretty soon I was telling myself I wanted out.
I didn’t want out of producing TV, but I definitely wanted out of any production that required so many people. I mean, this isn’t Hollywood. As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, when doing indie TV, guys aren’t getting paid $1,000 an hour to sit around in an air conditioned trailer, waiting for their time to be on set. These are indie performers who are all trying to get discovered and get a break at the big time. They got paid to be on my show, sure, but the pay wasn’t great.
Thus if anything “better” came along — a new girlfriend, a fishing trip, a late night concert, whatever — they no showed.
So I started thinking of ideas for shows that would require a tiny cast but would still be fun to watch. That way I could hire a rock-solid cast and crew whom I knew I could depend on. Plus, with a smaller cast, I could afford to pay that rock-solid cast and crew more money…hopefully making them even more rock solid.
I was sitting alone in a rocking chair on the porch of cabin in the Carolinas, staring off into the woods and sipping the last bit of a Bloody Mary when my idea of a guy hosting a show he hates, that idea from 1986, came back to me.
How about not just a small cast, but a cast of one?
Forget the late night host thing. That would require guests. And the guests would be just as prone to no showing as pro wrestlers. Forget that. One guy.
But then what would the one guy do? What would the show be about?
Then visions of a buxom Elvira, Mistress of the Dark filled my head.
Of course! Do a hosted classic sci fi/horror movie show like Elvira! Except instead of Elvira, you have a host in a suit who doesn’t want to be there.
And just like that, Yesterland Waltz was born.
My original idea called for Justin Michaels to host a complete, two-hour public domain sci fi or monster movie from the fifties, but I quickly realized that trying to sell something that required so much airtime per episode would be really tough. So I thought instead — why not just show old clips? You don’t have to show an entire movie. Just show Moe clobber Curly with a mallet and then go to commercial.
And so off we went.
And about halfway in to production, I’m pretty sure Justin Michaels wanted to clobber me with a mallet. More on that story in my next post.