LIVING the DREAM Blog
“Politically Correct” tries to explore the PC culture of the legal workplace. More specifically, it focuses on Nick’s unfortunate attempt to distance himself from an insensitive colleague’s offensive language. He tries to stand up for the gay rights movement, but in the process, ends up coming across as a racist. That’s what you get for being too PC.
One of these days, I suppose Nick will actually learn to keep his mouth shut—or say the “right” thing—or be a selfish, competitive, politically astute gunner. But then he’d be just like the BigLaw tools he despises, and the show wouldn’t be fun to watch. Or write. And it probably wouldn’t help my PTSD much either.
“The Review” focuses on Nick’s upcoming review and his fear of getting fired.
My “inspiration” for the episode dates back to a story I heard my first week at Skadden about a slightly insane senior associate who billed 2600 hours a year for nine straight years—only to be heartlessly passed over for partner. Legend has it that the disgruntled associate saw the bad news coming and brought a .38 revolver into his review. After the bad news was delivered, he pulled the gun, aimed it at the Senior Partner’s face, pulled the trigger, and muttered “Bang.” Moments later, he was escorted out of the firm in handcuffs.
At first, this story seemed preposterous to me. Who the hell would do something so stupid and self-destructive? After a few years of billing 2600 hours myself, however, the story began to make perfect sense. In fact, I began to wonder why more people didn’t pull guns or go insane.
In any event, that apocryphal story became the basis for “The Review.” Given the state of the legal economy and the acute, constant fear of getting laid off, it seemed like an unfortunately topical and relatable concept. A perfect BigLaw cocktail: Equal parts fear, anxiety, and pressure—with just a splash of inherent unfairness.
Well, that’s it for Season One. Thanks for all your support and “constructive criticism” along the way.
We plan to begin production of Season Two in 2009. The thought of ending the series on Nick pathetically “self-gratifying” all alone in his office just seemed too depressing. Even for a law firm comedy. Besides, there are just too many funny, inane, dark BigLaw stories yet to tell. And it’s fun.
Though Nick will have more experience under his belt this time around, his life at Sullivan & Moore will be as stressful and hectic as ever, given the global economic meltdown and the firm’s plans to eliminate 10% of its workforce. The good news, however, is that Nick will finally meet a woman! And yes, she will be hot—and yes, he will most likely have some form of sexual interaction with her. But as many of you know, intra-firm romances are rife with complications. Nick’s will be no exception, I promise.
No, I never did this. Thought about it a few times. But never pulled the trigger, so to speak. This episode is simply the natural extension of feeling trapped and helpless in the office. What’s a guy supposed to do when he’s so stressed and horny that he’s about to implode? I don’t recommend doing what Nick did, but I know it’s happened.
Interesting tidbit: Kevin Ruf, the actor who places the over-the-top, slightly insane security guard, is a lawyer. Not an ex-lawyer. A real, live, practicing attorney. In fact, he just argued a case in the front of the 9th circuit. Kevin’s also a former main company member of the Los Angeles-based improv group “The Groundlings” and has appeared in several television shows and movies, including Friends, Seinfeld, and Fun with Dick and Jane. He also co-created and starred in a show for Comedy Central called Halfway Home. Kevin and I met years ago when we were both associates at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which is where we filmed this episode.
While I never wore a ridiculous drugstore-purchased Superman costume to the office, I did wear one to a swanky Halloween party at the home of a famous female pop star. Problem was: I arrived at the party two hours early. It was just me—in a stupid costume—and the pop star—in jeans and a t-shirt. Oh yeah, and she didn’t exactly know me either. I was a friend of a friend. So there I was, some random ex-lawyer-turned-writer in the lamest costume ever, ringing the pop star’s doorbell. I was already nervous. Being an outsider. Not famous. Not terribly successful. I was sort of the token regular Joe at a fabulous LA costume party that I was told started at seven. And like the naïve outsider I was, I thought seven meant seven.
When Pop Star opened the door, she just looked at me quizzically. No smile. No recognition. No Halloween festiveness. Just a weak, slightly annoyed smile. Then finally, she uttered the following six words—six words I’ll never forget—“The party doesn’t start until nine.” Silly me, I actually thought that seven meant seven. Plus, it was a Sunday night. A school night. Who kicks off a party on a Sunday at nine? (Answer: Pop stars.)
To be fair, she did invite me inside. Pop Star and her two assistants—also both dressed causally in jeans—talked to me for about two minutes then ushered me into the den, where I sat by myself, in a Superman costume, for about two hours. But it only got worse…
When the other guests finally arrived, it was clear that I was pretty much the only loser who took the costume thing literally. About 70% of the people didn’t dress up. The other 30% wore “cool” costumes. You know, the kind that actually make you look better or hipper than you usually do. Not the kind that you buy at CVS—and make you look like a pedophile.
As for Living the Dream, in my quest to highlight the 24-7 randomness of Big Firm life, I thought it would be funny to see Nick’s nemesis boss, Phillip Atkins, call him back to the office on Halloween night while he was at a costume party, trying to have a good time. Costumes are embarrassing enough when you’re at a goddamn costume party, let alone an uptight, humorless law firm (which is why, I guess, I thought it would be funny.) To me, Atkins’ lack of reaction to the costume is the best part of the episode. He’s just another stupid associate in a stupid outfit getting called back from a Halloween party.
Anyway, the bottom line is: If you’re ever invited to a costume party, don’t go. And if you do, go two hours late—and don’t buy your costume at a drug store.
For the deal geeks out there:
If you were paying attention to the actual episode, you’ll notice that the Partner (Edward Kerr) tells Nick (John T. Woods) that the buyer wants to bump the purchase by $40 a share. Obviously, that’s a pretty big increase. Like crazy huge. So why does he say it? Because the actor made a mistake on that particular take. He was supposed to say $4 a share, but he said 40. And since it was his best take, we decided (after considerable and vigorous debate) that we’d go with the best acting performance, regardless of the $36 increase.
Or, if you’d prefer, we can assume that the seller’s stock is trading at $400 a share, so the $40 bump is only a ten-percent increase. Not earth-shattering news here, no doubt, but I wanted to make damn sure I preempted the M&A geeks and the mistake-hunters from ranting about the seemingly ludicrous $40 increase. Just so you know, I fought to use a lesser take where the actor said $4, instead of $40, to endure the transactional veracity. Until the editor told me I was insane, and the producer suggested I was ridiculous. Just another example of legal PTSD. Once a law geek always a law geek.
As for the Pop Star’s identity? I can’t say. Which is sort of ironic. Don’t you think?
Years ago, my friend and I were working at a local health club when we spotted a legendary athlete lifting weights. He was first-ballot Hall of Famer—and apparently, according to my friend, a man with a legendary rope. Not sure who told him this, but he claimed it was common knowledge. This guy was allegedly part of the all-celebrity big-johnson team. Right up there with Milton Berle and Tommy Lee.
Later that day, my friend—who, for the record, is straight—was in the locker room, when Endowed Superstar appeared. Naked. Unable to control his active mind and relentless curiosity, he followed the legend. And when the opportunity presented itself, he stole a quick glimpse—and got caught. Endowed Superstar saw my friend staring and shot him a nasty “What the hell are you looking at, bitch?!” look. Embarrassed, my friend got dressed as fast as he could and got the hell out of there.
Men are curious when it comes to “huge ropes.” You don’t really think about it (or most men don’t, anyway), unless someone happens to plant the seed in your mind—and you happen to have a perfect opportunity to confirm or disprove the myth for yourself. That’s what happens in this bathroom scene. Nick not caring about Keller’s johnson in the first scene, but then obsessed with it in the next. If Quinn hadn’t said anything about Keller’s size, Nick never would have thought about it. Not in a million years. But Quinn planted the devil seed . . . . and Nick couldn’t help but succumb to his sordid curiosity.
When I was a lawyer, I worked with this investment banker who, for some reason, assumed I went to Yale. Every time we were together he’d make some sort of Yale reference. At first, I assumed he went to Yale and was just dropping self-serving New Haven tidbits to impress his peers. But he wasn’t. He truly thought I went to Yale. Every time I tried to correct him, someone would interrupt, his phone would ring, he’d change the subject. It was like a bad joke. Years later, he called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to join his investment bank. I said yes, of course. But did he still think I went to Yale? If so, was that the reason he was offering me a job? Would he still want to hire me when he found out I didn’t go to that little school up in New Haven?
So I went to the interview ready to rebuff any and all Yale references with self-effacing humor and honesty. Luckily, it never came up—mainly because he talked about himself for the entire interview. I did, however, meet with several other bankers—all of whom were aware of my real credentials—and I was offered a job that afternoon.
I fortunately never had to disabuse Mr. Yalie of his potentially embarrassing mistake because he left the investment firm for a more lucrative position at another bank three days before I started work.
Anyway, I figured it would be funny for Nick to suffer the humiliation of being on the wrong end of a “You went to Yale” mistake, too.
Interesting tidbit: Spencer Garret, the actor who plays Thorne (the Yale-obsessed partner), just finished shooting the upcoming Michael Mann movie Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
If you really must know, a million years ago, when I was a first-year law student, a woman I was dating off and on asked me one night, jokingly, if I was gay. It’s worth noting that the question was posed moments after I told her, yet again, that I was tired and not in the mood to have sex. It’s also worth noting that I was stressed out, studying for finals and dating someone else at the time. Anyway . . . .
Two days later, after about 40 consecutive hours of studying torts, my mind began to drift—and I began to wonder if maybe I was gay. Until this precise moment in time, the thought had never entered my mind. Not for a millisecond. But somehow, after being trapped in a library for what seemed like a decade, I began to question everything and anything—especially if it was unrelated to law. Did I believe in God? Was The Godfather Part II really better than The Godfather, or is it just one of those trendy things to say? Is it possible to actually hear color?
So anyway, there I was, studying “foreseeability” when a handsome blond man walked past. No big deal. But then, my so-called girlfriend’s words began to echo in my mind. “Are you gay?” Bored and sensory deprived, I stared at the lad and wondered: if I were on a desert island, could I possibly imagine . . . Oh my God! I could. Kind of. I guess. Imagine it. In a theoretical, desert-island kind of way. Maybe. Then again, I could also imagine eating raw bison if I was on a fucking desert island. Nonetheless, my mind began to race. Was I really gay? And if I was, how come it never occurred to me before? And how come I like women so much? Thankfully, a moment later, another man walked by. Fat, kind of bald. No interest. Then another. Athletic, reasonably attractive. Nope. As I was trying to process all this, a not-so-attractive woman walked by and my sexual orientation was instantaneously—and unequivocally—restored. If she were on the desert island too, I’d go with the not-so-cute woman. No brainer. The blond guy was officially dead to me. Desert island or no desert island.
For about twelve seconds, I was convinced I might be gay—not because I was gay, but because I’d been so goddamn deprived of any and all external stimulation for weeks. Not to mention sleep.
Gayholm Syndrome (a riff on Stockholm Syndrome) is a law-firm dramatization of the cruel jokes your mind can play when you’re trapped in a windowless conference room for three days straight. POWs fall in love with their captors even though they hate them, so why can’t first year associates fall in love with gay co-workers even though they’re straight?
The only thing more pathetic than kissing ass is trying to kiss ass and not succeeding.
A few years ago, I bumped into my boss at a popular LA restaurant. We said our hellos, slapped each others’ backs, then retreated to opposite sides of the bar. Worried my latest script was sub-par, or possibly just looking to kiss some Hollywood ass, I told the barkeep to send a round of drinks to Head Writer and his party of four. On me, of course. Well, the drinks were delivered, but the bartender never told the target of my obsequiousness where they came from. A few moments later, I overheard my boss thanking the sycophantic owner-greeter for the free drinks. The owner, of course, cracked a wide smile, uttered a few words in Italian, kissed the boss’s wife on both cheeks, then walked away. And that was that. What could I do? Interrupt the owner and say, “Wait, wait, I bought the drinks. Cost me 45 bucks too. I can even show you the receipt if you want.”
Bottom line is: When something like this happens, you’re screwed. You just have to shut up, accept defeat and move on. But it’s not that easy. There’s something maddening about the inherent unfairness of someone else getting credit—and accepting credit—for your generosity. It’s even more complicated when your generosity isn’t really generosity at all, but a thinly-veiled attempt at self-promotion. Which is why I thought it would be a perfect no-win situation for a politically unsavvy dude like Nick Conley to navigate. Or attempt to navigate anyway.