Exploiting the Archives: Holy Shit, I Used to be on the Teevee!
I will never forget what my agent told me after informing me that the book-length manuscript I had sent him about the making and unmaking of Movie Club with John Ridley, to be titled My Television Business, had been rejected by every major publisher and was now officially dead. He told me that some editors liked my work and liked the manuscript but thought it would be a hard sell commercially. He said other editors said they liked me and my voice but not the subject matter and some editors, they just plain didn’t like me.
My agent had pitched My Television Business as Augusten Burroughs writing The Devil’s Candy, the wonderful, essential book about the making of Bonfire of the Vanities. That was famously a failure, just as Movie Club was unmistakably a failure. Movie Club was not the right kind of failure, however. Bonfire of the Vanities was a famous failure featuring people like Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Brian DePalma. Movie Club was just a failure. There wasn’t anything famous or large scale about it.
The problem, he told me bluntly, was, to use his words, “No one is going to spend twenty-five dollars to buy a book about the making of a television show nobody has ever heard of.” He’s right. About a third of My Television Business made it into The Big Rewind, my 2009 memoir (Jesus fucking Christ, it’s crazy that the 10th anniversary of my first book looms in the not too distant future) and those passages were almost universally panned.
When you write about being abandoned, people are inclined to empathize. When you write about being dragged kicked and screaming into a mental hospital as a helpless fourteen year old, readers feel your pain. When you complain that the basic cable movie review panel show that you briefly were a panelist on didn’t reflect your creative vision and was conceptually muddled, I have discovered that people don’t give a mad-ass fuck.
In hindsight, I’m glad My Television Business wasn’t published, because, if the response to the Movie Club chapters in the book are any indication, the book would have been universally panned, instead of getting mixed to positive reviews praising the early chapters and panning the ones about Movie Club.
I have not thought much about Movie Club with John Ridley in the twelve years since it was canceled. I guess writing an entire, unpublishable manuscript about the experience was a way of getting it out of my system. Every once in a while I’d look for clips online and was strangely comforted that they didn’t exist.
I kind of liked the idea that in a world where seemingly everything is available for public consumption, with the noteworthy exception of The Day the Clown Cried, the only way you could experience an intensely unimportant show like Movie Club would be through the least well-regarded passages in my memoir.
Movie Club seems like it was an eternity ago. I can’t ever imagine ever having a real, non-Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place real job again, so it’s crazy to think that as a twenty-eight year old fuck up, AMC would fly me from my job as head writer of The A.V Club in Chicago to my other job as a film critic in Los Angeles.
And at this point it really has been an eternity. Holy fuck 2004-5 were a different time. Was I ever so young?
Anywho, I asked one of the producers on Movie Club if she had any footage of my wildly beloved television performances and she sent me this.
Enjoy! Holy fuck did I wear a lot of make-up on that show. And mug wildly. It was fun. It was ridiculous. It was silly. Shit, just watch it yourself.
Fun fact: John Ridley would go on to win the Oscar for adapting 12 Years a Slave. Josh Kun would go on to win a MacArthur Genius Grant. And your old pal Nathan? He’s been so successful in begging strangers for money on the internet that he was able to move out of his in-laws’ basement not too long ago. #Winning
Oh, and I’ve been jibber-jabbering on camera a lot more as of late. Here’s me talking ICP on a pretty neat Reason video about Juggalos and the March and the Gathering. Like all good neurotics, I feel more than a little self-conscious about how I look and sound onscreen but I’’m also feeling more and more confident these days. So if you want a weird, intense bald dude with gap teeth to talk about shit in front of a camera for some reason, get at me, dog. I’ve been quiet on that front for the last twelve years thanks to a complete lack of interest, but I wouldn’t mind getting back in the game.
Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and Nathan Rabin’s dream of making a decent living doing what he loves over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace