Well I...never!

Jonathan Grossmalerman on life on the small screen, from the Summer 2014 issue

By Jonathan Grossmalerman

Courtesy the artist

I just now got off the phone with a very rude network lawyer who informed me that they are making a television series based on my life! Understandably surprised and somewhat taken back, I protested… vigorously… but all to no avail! He explained to me that at some point recently I’d unwittingly signed away all the rights at a Union Square farmers’ market petition table. A petition that I had mistakenly thought regarded wind turbines and raptors. But was in fact a contract signing over all the rights (in perpetuity!) to my admittedly fascinating story. Plus now I have a new mobile phone provider. This is why I hate dirty petition hippies! They’re always doing things like this to me.

I suppose that it’s not so much their making a television series based on my life without any input from me that’s got me so upset. It’s that it’s going to be a ‘comedy’ series

Ultimately, I suppose that it’s not so much their making a television series based on my life without any input from me that’s got me so upset. It’s that it’s going to be a ‘comedy’ series. And not merely any old kind of comedy series either, but a classic three-camera sitcom shot in front of a live studio audience. And there’s a catchphrase! Yes, apparently, once each episode, my character is required to say, “C’mon, don’t I always make it up to you?” I mean, what kind of a person says, “C’mon, don’t I always make it up to you?” I’ll tell you who! A jerk! That’s who says that. And not just any jerk, either. No! It’s a jerk who owes you stuff. Like a suit… or a watch.

I really don’t know who greenlights these things. Visual artists’ lives are notoriously difficult to translate to the small screen. After all, Julian Schnabel’s Here Comes JJ was a terrible failure. Though NBC scheduled it right after The Cosby Show for three seasons running, it never found its audience. A few years ago CBS quickly pulled the plug on Maurizio Cattelan’s I’m Come Back!, despite its being suitably whimsical, and only last season ABC cancelled Tino Sehgal’s This Hilarious Situation after widespread complaints regarding its ‘being terrible’. How many more humiliations do you think the networks need to endure??

The more I contemplate it, the more horrified I become. My life reduced to a sitcom? What are they going to do? Turn me into some two-dimensional, sex-obsessed, megalomaniacal buffoon with a mild stammer? A stammer that in real life is considered quite charming, by the way! Though I guess I can see how, handled in the correct manner, it could pay real comedy dividends.

Will some ex-artist’s-model drop a kid off at my doorstep claiming it’s mine and disappear forever, forcing me to raise the child as my own despite my curmudgeonly demeanour?

But what will become of Neal? Poor Neal, my idiot studio assistant? He may be a fucking retard, but is he now to be mocked for it by millions of people, as opposed to the relatively small number of people who currently mock him? Like the time he misheard “Test all the paint” as “Taste all the paint” and was sent to the emergency room for acute cobalt poisoning. Good God is he stupid. But he’s my stupid, and I feel the need to protect him. And what about Joyce?! The love of my life! What archetype will they choose for her? Lovesick victim or scheming coke-whore? Come to think of it, I’m not actually sure which one of those suits her best. I should really ask her. Next time she comes around.

And Tracie? My ‘daughter’? What are they going to do with her? I’m pretty sure she’s eleven or twelve by now and pretty much aged out of the cute thing. Unless you consider talking back and not doing what she’s told cute! Plus in a year or two I suppose she’ll be going to college or somewhere. What then? Do I have to take in some cousin? Will some ex-artist’s-model drop a kid off at my doorstep claiming it’s mine and disappear forever, forcing me to raise the child as my own despite my curmudgeonly demeanour? 

Will I, despite my nature, develop a fondness for the child and travel a great emotional distance? Will I learn something? Will Elizabeth, my ex-gallery-director, see that I’ve travelled an emotional distance and fall in love with me? And what am I going to do about that painting that returned from Moscow with $5 million worth of cocaine hidden in the frame that I didn’t even know about and was sold and has been auctioned off so many times that I can’t track it down and now there’s a Russian mobster who’s given me 28 hours to track it down before he kills me…?

Good God!!!
This thing writes itself!

This article was first published in the Summer 2014 issue