For our seventh script, Matthew and I decided it might be interesting to try our hand at writing for television. The prevailing logic on TV writing is that, if you want to get a job writing for TV, your best bet is to write a sample episode for some popular show similar in tone to the show for which you want to write. It’s always struck me as an odd strategy. I mean, I am sure Matthew and I could write an episode of The Simpsons that’s better than most of their episodes from the last decade, and I have actually had dreams containing extremely detailed Seinfeld episodes that could easily be converted, but I don’t see how that really shows how we’d be as writers, aside from being good at copying a certain show’s aesthetic.
A few months back, I read this discussion with Michael Schur about Parks and Recreation:
I always prefer to read spec pilots, because it’s sometimes hard for me to judge with a spec version of an existing show whether it’s a really great writing sample, or the person is just a good mimic of a particular style. Like, it’s especially hard with 30 Rock, because 30 Rock is so joke-intensive that I sometimes get lost. Like, someone will write a 30 Rock spec that has three awesome jokes, and I’ll be like, “Oh my God, this person’s amazing!” and then on the next page, there’s three terrible jokes. And then you wonder, “Who am I gonna get? Am I gonna get the person who wrote the three amazing jokes, or who wrote three terrible jokes?” So I just find it harder to evaluate someone’s ability with an existing show than an original piece of writing.
That’s pretty much all the motivation we needed. Last summer, we were sitting around, griping about X-Men: First Class, and agreed that the best part of the film, far and away, was the sequence about Magneto travelling the world hunting Nazis. We would happily have watched that for several more hours instead of the mess the film eventually turned into. That conversation eventually led to “we should write a TV series about guys who hunt Nazis.”
All of which leads us to the pilot for our TV series, Red Sea. It’s set in the early 60’s, immediately after the capture of Adolph Eichmann in Buenos Aires by the Israelis. As far as the history books go (and, really, I have no reason to doubt them), the Israelis ditched their plans to abduct Nazis in hiding and bring them back to Israel for trial. Our show postulates that, in fact, they just created a significantly more covert operation to hunt down and execute the Nazis.
The plot came together pretty quickly. We open with a fairly accurate re-enactment of the Eichmann capture, then put the new team together to figure out how Eichmann got into Argentina. This leads our characters back to a network of priests who helped smuggle Nazis out of Europe after the war, and the pilot ends with our heroes with a list of future targets to track down. If I had to pitch the entire premise to a TV exec in less than two seconds, I’d go with a “Mad Men meets Munich” description.
If you’re interested, you can read the teaser here, and we’d be happy to send you a copy of the script if you fill out the form on that page.
I did a fair bit of research for this one. If, for any reason, you feel like learning about the hiding of Nazis following the war, the capture of war criminals, the immediate post-war Avenger squads, etc., I would recommend the following: