It’s called Crashed Cars and it’s about a family of vagrant addicts who live in a junkyard; they shoplift food and drugs; they commit arson to achieve arousal sexually. The only way the male lead can—I don’t know how to say this delicately in our meeting here; make love, I guess will have to suffice—the only way he can make love is if someone holds a loaded gun to his head and keeps telling him they’re going to kill him any second. This isn’t an abusive thing, this is what he asks lovers to do for him, or asks someone watching him and a lover to do for him. Actually, I should back up a minute and clarify that they’re not, obviously, a biological family. They’re a family in the road-worn petty thief sense of the word; so, basically, a tight-knit covey of small time degenerates; that’s all I mean by family. Like the way Charles Manson and those people were a family. Jesus, I’ve said the word “family” five times or something; it sounds like I’m really tailoring my pitch to you. It’s just that when I started talking about them lighting stuff on fire and holding loaded guns to each other’s heads in order to become aroused it occurred to me that I should clarify what I meant by “family.” Okay, so moving on… they sleep in a junkyard, like I was saying. They sleep in the cars waiting to be smashed and stacked, so if they were to oversleep, they would be smashed alive on the backseat of whatever junkyard car they dozed off in dreaming of a better life. Those are your stakes, at the beginning of the pilot episode, and those stakes continue through the whole series; we establish this as daily stakes in this life they’re living. So, real simple, if one of the shoplifting sexual deviants sleeps on the blood-encrusted back seat of a crashed Monte Carlo that’s waiting to get flattened and stacked into the scrap heap, that’s where they’re crushed to death. So, even though they’re a filthy family of miscreant junkies with sex problems, they wake up early and on time, every day, period. Very punctual people, and you wouldn’t think it to look at them. Then the unthinkable happens to the female lead in the very first episode; she oversleeps; she is smashed alive. Yep, third act of the pilot, after we’ve written every trick in the book to get viewers to fall in love with her and after we’ve clearly invested the whole episode in setting her up as the series’ protagonist, she’s crushed like a filthy bug in the back of a shitty old limo, sleeping on a rum-stained velour back seat that smells like two decades of middle management cologne and menthol cigarettes; killed, dead, just flattened. So the viewer assumes that the male lead must, in fact, be our protagonist that’s going to lead us through the series. Well, we cut to our male lead in a broken down studio apartment having sex with another junkie while a third party, a girl, holds a loaded gun to his head as he makes love. She repeatedly screams that she’s going to kill him and suddenly—BLAM! Holy Christ above, the gun was loaded, he’s dead. She’s shocked, she’s covered in blood, how the hell did this go wrong, this was just a sexy game, why the hell was the gun loaded? She’s high of course, and wracked with guilt, and she turns the gun on herself—BLAM! Dead. All of this makes the junkie on the bed—the woman our male lead was having intimate relations and intercourse with, and now the only person in the threesome left alive—unexpectedly have an orgasm. Fade to black. End of story. Then we dissolve up on a new scene—a button on the end of the third act of our pilot. We’re outside a strip mall massage parlor next to an interstate where both our female lead, our male lead, and the girl we saw turn the gun on herself are talking with the rest of the secondary characters about shaking the massage parlor down; they’re jabbering on like a gaggle of filthy gypsies, yammering about working some short con on the johns inside the place. They’re smoking, making plans to grift some cash, talking about getting back to the junk yard and into their sleeping cars before the pit bulls are let out to prowl the yard. And you’re saying: “Wait, huh? What? I thought those three characters were dead.” Okay, get ready for a kick to the head here: these the characters die in every single episode of every single season. Yep, this is the afterlife, folks; this is purgatory; and if you think life is a bitch, just wait till you get to the afterlife. That might be your tag line for the poster, by the way; it just kind of came to me, but that is, in fact, the central message of my show. Anyway, yeah, they’re road ghosts. Wait, you know what, new title: Road Ghosts. Or it could even be: ABC Family Presents Road Ghosts. So, yeah, they’re all dead and have been from the second we met them. Back in their earthly days, two of them were young lovers who overdosed in a motel in Michigan. One of them was an upper middle class accidental suburban suicide mixing dry saunas with masturbation, wine, and Valium. And one of them had a heart attack in a fast food place, leaving behind a mortal trail of beneficiary relatives who are all winners now in our litigious nation’s lottery of lawsuits against the cash-rich corporations that are killing us all for profit. That’s why he does so much heroin in the afterlife; because he can see how wealthy he accidentally made his middle class relatives by dying.

[Long pause. Silence, and then some mumbo jumbo about family comedies and calling me if they’re interested in seeing a pilot script.]

- - -

Available in print with
The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency