If you're wondering why all the action shows on television look alike, I think I might have an explanation. It was revealed by a television star, who told me that if I used his name he might never work again.
"So what's the secret?" I asked.
"There are only two writers in Hollywood scripting every television action drama."
"What are their names?"
"Al and Harry."
"Why only two?"
'Because no television producer wants to take a chance on new writers. Al and Harry are proven commodities. They started with Peter Gunn, and they've been signed up for every program that's been on TV since. Whenever someone wants a new show. Al and Harry get the call. That's why all the shows look alike."
"I don't understand. Why would Al and Harry write the same show over and over again?"
"Look, if you watch most action dramas, it's 10 percent dialogue and the rest of the time the characters speed around in automobiles. The most creative work Al and Harry have to do is figure out where their people are going to chase each other."
"It's true that most shows take place in automobiles," I admitted. "But at the same time, it must be hard to think of new ways each week to send a car over a cliff."
"I'm not saying that they don't have talent," the television star said. "I remember the first time Al, or maybe it was Harry, came up with the idea of having a helicopter chase a car. That was a real breakthrough in television writing. It was so successfuly that they now use it in every other show they do."
"They must be terribly busy."
"What have they got to be busy about? They have a card file of all the plots they ever used. When they do a new show, they go to the file and rewrite the same plot. Then they play tennis at afternoon."
"But it seems to me that at the end of the action dramas, I always see different writer credits on the screen."
"They're all pseudonyms for Al and Harry. The studios provide the names because Al and Harry don't have the imagination to think up their own."
"But why Al and Harry? Why not Sam and Max?"
"Al and Harry own the copyright on the psychopathic killer. They invented him during one of the early episodes of 'Dragnet.' Without a psychopathic killer you can't have an action drama."
"Why is the psychopathic killer so important to these shows?"
"Because you don't need any character development. Almost every show starts out in a police station. The phone rings and the sergeant says, 'There's a nut on the roof of the city hall, and he's threatening to blow up the city water supply or kill 20 hostages or slash the Mona Lisa.' Then the rest of the show writes itself. You bring in another type of killer and you have every ethnic group in the country on your back. But the psychopaths in this country can't seem to get organized, so the networks don't mind making them the heavies week after week after week."