Violence per se

Art Buchwald

November 09, 1993|By Art Buchwald

TV VIOLENCE is now having its 15 minutes of fame. Legislators are ranting and raving about it, and no one has any idea what to do to cool the tube.

Congress is interested because nobody can disarm a street gang these days, but you can always take a TV license away from a station that features blood and guts on the screen.

What has never been publicized is that all the violent shows on television are written by two men -- Moose Wentzel and Roy Jones. For years they have been turning out program after program, all of which feature shooting, killing, rape and torture -- not necessarily in that order.

Moose told me that writing violent shows for television was not as difficult as people think. "We started in this business in October, 1969, writing a show called 'Crash, Bang, Choke.' It was the story of a gang of kids from Marin County who hold TC priest, a minister and a rabbi hostage while they kill a policeman, a schoolteacher and a half-back on the college football team. In the end the three clergymen set the gang members on fire and the bad guys all fall to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge."

"It was a big smash," Roy said. "After it came out and gained a 70 share of the audience, whenever network executives discussed new shows they would say, 'Give us more like "Crash, Bang and Choke." '

"So we wrote another violent series using most of the elements of the first one. They liked it so much that we were asked to write yet another one. This time, instead of a car crash we used a speedboat chase on the Central Park reservoir. We also substituted the villain being churned up in a cement mixer for a scene of him being pushed under a train on the Eighth Avenue subway."

"It sounds as if you guys are really creative."

Moose shrugged his shoulders. "Writing violent shows is easy providing you have a good knowledge of what the special effects department can do. Straight shooting with a gun is old hat. Garroting a victim is still good, and if you can have one person standing on another's head under water you have a winner."

"Do either of you pay any attention to the plot?"

"Not if we can help it," Roy said. "Violent TV is not something for intellectuals. The people who watch it seem to be attracted by how much bodily harm the characters can inflict on each other. The funny thing is that when it comes to violence, it's easy to fool adults, but you can't fool children. They know when you're faking it."

"I notice that all the stories you tell are very similar. Do you do that on purpose?"

"We don't have time to write a new plot every time. But we are expected to create new methods of mayhem. For example, in the script we're writing now our victim is killed by a baseball bat thrown at his head. Everyone thinks that the pitcher did it when in fact it was the umpire behind the home plate."

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