Sometimes my mind is given to incredible flights of fancy, spinning outward from a central joke or idea. This exercise can last five minutes, but sometimes it lasts much longer; feeding on my thoughts for days even weeks at a time, culminating in a story fragment or project. Based off of a joke I made before bed, Cat's Cradle is a ridiculous concept for a television show that will never, ever be made…and I just spent several hours fleshing it out.
Logline: Cal Darcy solves crimes out of his mystery bookstore, "The Cat's Cradle" in Seattle, Washington.
The feel of the show would be a somewhere between the sparkling whimsy of Pushing Daisies and the playful wit of Frasier. I realize, with that statement, I'm already condemning this imaginary program to be canceled after six episodes. It will likely garner a small fan base and critical acclaim but that may not save it. Maybe fans of the show will stage a letter writing campaign like when fans of Jericho sent in nuts to the studio, or when fans of Barnaby Jones sent in cartons of milk*.
Television show pitch "Cat's Cradle"
The series would star me, Rob Walker, as Calvin Darcy, the nebbish, yet handsome bookstore owner. Felicia Day would costar as my on-again-off-again girlfriend and lawyer, Zoe Chase. The romantic tension between us would be adorable, quippy and ultimately culminate in cohabitation in a season 3 episode called "Table of Contents"**, and a special two-part marriage episode in season four called "Uncorrected Proof"***.
The hourlong pilot episode, "The Stuff that Dreams are Made of" would introduce Cal, his cat Moriarty and the 'Cat's Cradle Mystery Bookstore' which is coming under foreclosure unless Cal can come up with the money. He soon get's hired to find a rare first edition of 'The Maltese Falcon' for a Professor. Pursued by two strange men, Timothy Muggins (John Hodgman) and Corwin McGonigal (Richard Ayoade), who are also in search of the book****. When the professor turns up dead, and the packaged book goes missing, Cal thinks that Timothy and Corwin are to blame. Zoe is dealing with a big case at the moment, but has decided to help Cal by talking to the bank about his missing payments only to discover the connection between the bank, a wealthy land developer and the professor's murder. The episode would end with Cal getting his hands on the wrapped copy of the book opening it in front of Zoe, Timothy and Corwin only to reveal that the thing they've been chasing the whole time has been a tattered copy of 'Romance on the Waves'. The whole episode would be a comedic love letter to 'The Maltese Falcon" and plant the seeds for Cal and Zoe's future romance as well as John Hodgman and Richard Ayoade to return as guest stars.
The series would become a staple of Monday night television and would also be known for creating innovative Halloween episodes***** in the tradition of Roseanne and The Simpsons. These special episodes would become award winners, and though it wouldn't draw huge numbers, CBS would realize that the show has critical value, giving the network a sophisticated edge, filling the void left by 30 Rock while complimenting shows like Castle. Between this critical acclaim and the letter writing campaign, Cat's Cradle would hopefully be allowed to continue to its season 5 series finale called "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?", where audiences would be treated to meeting Cal's father (Bruce Willis) and Zoe's mother (Cybill Shepherd), as the two are together on screen for the first time since Moonlighting.
So I've just spent the past several hours thinking about a television show pitch that will never come to pass, but if the many worlds theory is true, is enjoying a run in another version of our reality. It was a fun exercise and I may repeat it if moved by another idea, but for now I'll just enjoy my invisible non-show as it wisps in the aether.
Also, I almost forgot, that night before bed, I came up with a second show to pitch to The USA Network.
"Jake Hand is a master criminal out to retire after one last heist. He'll have to stay ahead of the feds and his old disgruntled partner to commit the perfect crime, codenamed 'The Hand Job'"
Denise told me that this plot sounded good, but that the name needs work.
* Gross and also untrue.
**S. 3 Ep. 14 "Table of Contents" : After bemoaning the fact that Cal doesn't own a dining room table, rather preferring that he eat off of a oaken cask allegedly owned by Ernest Hemingway, Zoe buys a table for their new shared apartment above The Cat's Cradle", only to discover that it contains a hidden compartment concealing a stolen necklace. Guest Star-Pierce Brosnan as McAllistar
***S. 4 Ep. 22 "Uncorrected Proof" Parts 1 & 2: In which Zoe's ex-boyfriend, lawyer David Webster, returns to offer her a place at the law firm Stanley, Griggs and Chambers. Cal thinks that it's just a ploy to get her back before she's married. Meanwhile when he goes to pick up the cake for the wedding, Cal discovers that a body in the freezer of the bakery. Guest Stars-Wil Wheaton as David Webster
****It's a foregone conclusion that John Hodgman, Richard Ayoade and I will become friends, spending time together sipping champaign at the Chateau Marmont while discussing Michael Chabon's use of foreshadowing and metaphor.
*****S. 1 Ep. 2 "The October Country" After a customer brings in a box of dusty books from an estate sale, Cal winds up with an original copy of Ray Bradbury's "The October Country" excited by the find, his excitement soon turns to dread when he thinks he might be haunted by the ghost of the author. Special Guest Robert Englund