Games Writers Play

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November 20, 2015 by T. Gregory Argall

I’m part of a weekly gathering with some friends at which we watch several PVR’d television shows from the past week. Some we really like, some we generally mock, but all are enjoyed in one way or another.

During one show we watched recently, there was an off-the-cuff reference to James Bond. Our host, Bill, mentioned that he had noticed Bond references in three other television programs he’d watched that week. Then, in the next show we watched, there was another James Bond reference.

The new Bond film, “Spectre” had been released the week before, so the prevailing theory was that because of that the writers, independent of each other, just happened to have 007 on their minds while writing that week’s episodes.

Something about the randomness of that didn’t sit well with me. Television episodes are written weeks, sometimes months in advance. The inclusion of all these separate Bond references at that particular time felt more planned than coincidental. Maybe a group of writers from various shows all met up at the birthday cocktail party of a mutual friend. After a few too many whiskey sours they decide collectively to sneak a James Bond comment into their respective programs for the air-date right after the film comes out.
A little inside joke that only they would get, and then they move on with their lives.

Earlier this week on an episode of “The Flash” there was a reference to the Cameron Crowe film “Say Anything.” It wasn’t plot-related, so don’t yell at me about spoilers. Last night, while watching “Elementary” I caught another “Say Anything” reference. Again, it was not relevant to the plot, but the writers must have been proud of it because later in the show they mentioned having made the reference, just to be sure people knew it was there.
At this point, I have to assume there were other Cusack gags this week on programs that I haven’t watched.


This is bigger than just a one-off writers prank after a night of drinking. I think it’s a deeper, much more complex, favour-broker-style conspiracy.

Here’s the scene, as I picture it…  On a park bench near a duck pond sits an older gentleman, the collar of his trench coat is flipped up and his trilby hat is pulled low over his dark sunglasses. At the other end of the bench sits a young man, nervously clutching a laptop computer, as if the salvation of all humanity hides within.

The older man looks straight ahead. “It’s a done deal, kid. You’re in,” he says in a voice like Robert Loggia. (But it’s not Robert Loggia. It’s not. Really. I mean it. Seriously, who told you it was Robert Loggia? Because that’s a damn lie. It’s not him. Really.)

“Just like that?” asks the young man. “I’m in the writers union?”

“The only union that’ll have ya, kid,” growls the older man. “But a gift like this doesn’t come without obligations. Someday, might be next week, might be years from now, you might get an envelope. Inside that envelope will be certain details. Understand, this might actually never happen, but if it does, I trust you’ll know what to do.”

“Oh, I will,” replies the young man, perhaps a little too eagerly. “I know I will, Mr. Lo–“

“No names,” interrupts the older man, standing to leave. “And remember, if anyone asks, we never had this conversation.”

Years pass. More than a decade later the young man has clawed his way to mid-ranks of the writers room hierarchy of a reasonably successful network television program. One morning, an envelope appears on his desk. No one knows how it got there. No one saw it arrive. It was just suddenly there, as if delivered by UPS ninjas. The no-longer-quite-so-young man cautiously opens the envelope. Inside he finds a small piece of paper with words typed on it.

Better Off Dead (rom-com, 1985) 
Last half of March

Months later, as the arrival of Spring warms the northern hemisphere, on an episode of “Chicago Fire,” apropos of absolutely nothing at all, that guy that used be on “House” says, “Now that’s a damned shame, folks throwing away a perfectly good white boy like that.”

Somewhere, on a bench near a duck pond, an old man chuckles quietly to himself.

This happens. You know I’m right.

Try to be nice to each other.




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