Well… here I am, just a couple of weeks away from the premiere of the new hit comedy series based entirely on my life and starring me, which I wrote, called (after a lot of backand- forth and one high-level firing) The Grossmalerman! Show. I guess I have to admit to being more than a little excited. You will permit me that, no? Sure, the production has had its ups and downs leading to this momentous point. There has, as is often the case in these situations, been some minor retooling. The ‘paedophile neighbour’ subplot was rewritten to be less morally scolding and more a whimsical contemplation of growing up. Also, a lot of the artworld-insider lingo – that incomprehensible mishmash of Polari, back slang and thieves’ cant – had to be exchanged for more pedestrian fare that could be understood as far as Wisconsin.
My favourite scene, probably the funniest and most insightful thing I’ve ever written, had to be cut when one of the executives misheard Austerlitz as Auschwitz. And when you find yourself explaining that a joke is referencing the battle of Austerlitz and not the death camp Auschwitz, you’ve kind of already lost. So we just cut the scene. Even though it was a real window into the character of Grossmalerman. Not me Grossmalerman. The TV character Grossmalerman. To be honest, it gets confusing who’s who. Also we got rid of a lot of the longwinded ruminations on the nature of painting that weren’t, frankly, very funny, but along with all the vaginas (we also had to cut those) provided the spiritual underpinnings of the show. But that is to be expected. People will be watching this in Wisconsin, and people in Wisconsin are idiots.
And still, I feel the show has retained its initial spirit of scrappy, feel-good, ingratiating fun that got it green-lighted in the first place, even without the incessant female nudity that held the plot together. After all, there are still, between the many good-natured guffaws and chortles, a number of gruesome murders, incredible physical comedy involving my studio assistant Neal on heroin trying to serve a curator a bottle of spring water, an awkwardly long spit take and a female-on-male rape scene (the funny kind!). I’m not really sure what else a viewer could want or need, really. Yes, of course it would have been lovely to have maintained the internalised critique of the sitcom’s form. I had insisted on that when I accepted the gig and wouldn’t budge for a long time. Sure! Who wouldn’t want that? But ultimately hasn’t it already been done so many times? What would I be adding, really? What’s wrong with making something people can enjoy after a hard day’s work? Something that makes them feel good? When you think about it, isn’t a show about a charismatic painter and the crazy cast of characters who surround him and have fashioned a sort of ragtag family that’s a lot more like your own family than you’d like to think ultimately what we really need in this difficult time? I ask you! And do you have any idea who watches television?
This article was first published in the October 2014 issue.