Get this: An awful pitch for a TV show based on a joke about the screenwriter’s hometown becomes a winner after she learns to love where she came from.
What is it? A film about a television screenwriter who is very negative about her (or his) childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. She pitches a medical comedy called Baltimore, MD about a doctor with the last name Baltimore but who does not actually live in Baltimore. While struggling with producers about the limitations of the gag, she is forced to return to Baltimore on family business, where she rekindles an affection for the city and eventually reworks the series concept around her hometown.
Working title: Baltimore, MD … of course.
The set-up, of course, would be the protagonist screenwriter in a dry spell, searching desperately for an idea. The inciting incident would be her receiving a letter from Baltimore with very bad news about her family (a grandparent dying?) with “Baltimore, MD” in the address. A-ha!
Newly inspired, she puts the envelope aside without opening it, works up a pitch, and delivers it to lukewarm reception. The producers like the medical comedy angle, but realize that the verbal gag is very limited. Despondent, the writer returns home, reads the letter, and thus gets even more bad news.
Part of the fun-and-games would be the lead clumsily trying to explain the premise to dubious, offended Charm City residents: “He’s a a Canadian doctor in Chicago and his name is Baltimore” or “an Australian doctor in Philadelphia” or, worst of all, “his name is Baltimore, but he lives in DC.” And, playing to “coming home” comedy strengths, there would also be a reuniting with an old love, or an old overlooked classmate who turned out better than she expected he would.
After the midpoint death of the sick relative, ensuing family financial woes, and rocky B story romance with the old love, the lead gets a call from her agent telling her that she’s on the verge of losing all of her credibility as a writer and being forced out of the business. All is lost, and she must fix everything in one magical move.
Facing the wall at home and at work, she comes around to pitching the show set in Baltimore and making the lead character a British doctor descended from the Lord Baltimore for whom the city is named. Hearing this fish-out-of-water story set in a quirky town (where, as B’moreans kept reminding the lead, The Wire was set) the producers love it. And so does everyone in B’more.
Elevator Pitches: I started the Elevator Pitch series to cleanse my mental palate of the thousand and one ideas that crowd their way into my consciousness every day. A few of them seem cool enough to share, and I’ll share them here!