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good *uck, chuck
i don't want to be chuck lorre, but i wouldn't complain if it happened
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)

Without going into detail (I'm saving that for the book), my life has changed a whole lot in the last two months.

As compared to, say, six months ago, I have a new job, I'm living alone for the first time in my life, and -- most importantly -- I'm feeling pretty good about myself. Life -- knock on wood -- seems to be moving in the right direction. I'm pretty happy to be me.

Which hasn't always been the case. (I can actually picture my mom reading this right now, thinking, "No, don't tell them personal stuff that might make you look bad." Don't worry, mom, I think this is universal stuff coming up. Or I'm a freak.) There have been times in my life where I really didn't like me, who I was, what I looked like, what I was doing at my job, etc. I'm sure we've all felt that way at one point or another.

That said, I don't believe in reincarnation, but if it does exist, I fully expect to come back as exactly the same person, only taller.

There have been people that I've observed throughout my life and thought, "Wow, he must have it all." It's not that I wanted to be that person, just that I admired where they were in life. John Stamos is a good example (stay with me on this). At one point in his life, he was on a hit TV show (yes, "Full House" was awful, but still a hit), married to a gorgeous girl who actually had a brain in her head, and -- when he got bored with that -- would occasionally play percussion for the Beach Boys. Yeah, watch the video for "Kokomo"; that wasn't a cameo, Stamos just plays bongos.

You get the idea. There's a charmed life, all things considered. Now I'm not so naive as to think that the man never had problems. Hell, he's divorced from said gorgeous girl, so obviously not everything went right all the time. But the point is that while I always thought, "Now that's the life," I never really wanted to be John Stamos. In his shoes, sure, but not actually to be him.

There is one man, though, that I might actually want to be, even given that I like being me. It's got nothing to do with where I am in my life, or how I feel about myself. It's got everything to do with my sincere admiration for the jobs he's done and how, well, hysterically funny he is.

That man is Chuck Lorre.

For those of you who might be snickering because you know his work and are less than impressed with it, hear me out. For those who don't know who the hell I'm talking about, well, you just hear me out, as well. There may or may not be a quiz.

Chuck Lorre (birthname Charles Levine) is a TV writer and producer. His work, which I'll get to in a minute, tends to actually invite the ire of armchair critics (if that's not a term, I'm officially coining it) and often lends itself to be the butt of jokes when someone's casting around for a punchline about bad TV. "Dharma & Greg," is an excellent example. There's a show that's really inspired some serious hatred. He's also the creator of "Two and a Half Men," which I know actually makes some people go apoplectic with rage.

I do have to admit (maybe this was the personal stuff my mom was worried about) that I thought "Dharma" was pretty funny when it debuted. My dad even still references a line from when Greg's father was asked if his wife had gone through menopause yet: "Like Sherman through Atlanta."

The thing about Lorre's work is that I personally find him fantastically clever, especially when he's testing the limits of what the critics will allow. For a show starring (originally) a ten-year-old kid, for example, "Two and a Half Men" is pretty adult in its themes and humor, though not in an overtly prurient way. Given that the basic plotline (a divorced man has to move back in with his rich brother and watch his son on weekends) could descend into over-the-top saccharine sweetness where everyone learns a lesson at the end and the show runs for a decade, Lorre went the other way, making it sharp, a little dark, and daring not to go right for the lowest common denominator. You will never see a "very special episode" of "Two and a Half Men."

An example of dialogue:
Alan: What's the matter with you?
Charlie: I just had lunch with my mother and my stalker... We spent the afternoon eating off each other's plates and discussing my fear of intimacy.

Not exactly something you'd hear on "Full House."

His new show, "The Big Bang Theory," is already promising. Again, the dialogue is clever, especially in that the main characters are socially inept physicists. The Halloween episode, for example, got some mileage out of the fact that one of the characters dressed up as the Doppler effect.


The two main characters have conversations like this:
Leonard: At least I didn't have to invent 26 dimensions to get the math to work.
Sheldon: I didn't invent them. They're there.
Leonard: Yeah? In what universe?
Sheldon: In all of them, that's the point!

It's clever and smart, if I can make that distinction. The other thing I really appreciate is that the show has an uber-hot blonde who's not an idiot. That's right. They made the girl across the hall pretty, but avoided the cliche. If for nothing else, Lorre deserves a hand for that.

The last reason I wouldn't mind being Chuck Lorre is that he's allowed to create his own vanity cards at the end of the show. You remember how "Family Ties" always ended with "Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog"? Well, Lorre writes a new vanity card to appear in that place for every episode. Now that he has two shows on TV, he gets to write two. I want to write two vanity cards, dammit.

As it turns out, this is a tradition going back to "Dharma & Greg," though few people probably knew about it, as the only way to really read them is to pause the screen, and that implies someone would deliberately have recorded "Dharma & Greg."

A couple examples:


Every so often I'm hit with an overwhelming urge to write. An inchoate feeling wells up inside me and demands to substantiate itself through the power of words. When I sat down to write this vanity card, I was in the grip of just such a feeling. Thankfully, it has passed.


Bad Mantras

If I can transcend my ego, I will be amazingly cool.

I'm only as good as last night's ratings.

TV critics are your friends. Confide in them.

We're never gonna get nominated.

Breathe in fear, breathe out serenity.

I am love, I am stardust, I have a suspicious mole.

I could totally do that. In fact, I kinda do, once a month. Though mine are longer and tend to ramble more. Huh, I beat him in two categories. Maybe I'd better stick to being me.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

more about adam kraemer


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topic: television
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dr. jay gross
11.10.07 @ 10:56a

Here I am a bit older and doubtfully wiser and I don't know if I know who I am yet. If I could go back in my life would I make the same errors? Would I choose a different path? If I had chosen a North-Eastern school rather than a Southern one would I be a Senator? If my height were inches plus would I have been a beach volley ball player? If my dexterity were better would I be....? Could we be living in one of Leonard's 26 dimensions...universes...parallel existances? Too many 'if's'. This time around I am who I am. I'm happy you are finding out that you are who you are....maybe.

adam kraemer
11.12.07 @ 9:52a

Well, maybe the trick is to find out what each of us isn't. Then what's left is what we are. Like Michaelangelo said, "I created a vision of David in my mind and simply carved away everything that was not David."


tracey kelley
11.17.07 @ 9:11a

I loved the first two seasons of "Dharma and Greg". After that, it just tanked. Like "Mad About You", when the writers changed sweet and saucy Jamie to bitchy-hyper Jamie, Dharma lost her fairydust luster and just became sort of a better-than-thou Scientologist.

No. Wait. That was Jenna Elfman in real life, wasn't it?

adam kraemer
11.19.07 @ 9:43a

Art imitates life imitating art. Charlie Sheen's character in Two and a Half Men resembles Jenna Elfman as well. Wait, no, that's not right.

sandra thompson
11.30.07 @ 10:40a

I'm so glad you've paid tribute (sort of) to Chuck Lorre. A week or so ago I had seen him credited with "creator" or producer or something important on so many shows that I really enjoyed, the latest being Big Bang, that I Googled him just to see what else he'd done.

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