From the gritty inner city of HBO’s “The Wire,” to the idyllic period towns of Disney’s “Tuck Everlasting.” From the urban landscape of “Ladder 49,” to the historic Civil War battlefields of “Gods and Generals.” From the Washington, D.C., doubles of “Enemy of the State,” to the untouched Amish farmland doubles of “For Richer or Poorer.” Maryland is indeed “America in Miniature.”
— The Maryland Film Office Web site
Dear Maryland Film Office:
When I travel around the country, people often tell me how much they enjoy “Homicide” and “The Wire,” television shows based on real Baltimore life (or loss of life, now that I think about it). Or they confess that they are John Waters fans, entranced with his eccentric paeans to Charm City. Or they’re devotees of Barry Levinson’s nostalgic films.
Despite all of these fine productions, I believe the city has vast untapped entertainment potential like valuable natural resources just below its surface. I’m aware that the Maryland Film Office is constantly courting directors and producers with generous tax breaks and a film-friendly environment. But that’s not enough; we need to offer them ideas, too. In that spirit, herewith are my suggestions for Baltimore-based TV shows.
“Out of Service” Madcap, screwball comedy based on the MTA, featuring Charles S. “Roc” Dutton as a Baltimore bus driver with a heart of gold and a foot of lead. Regulars include a cast of enraged citizens waiting for the bus. Recurring action includes the bus not showing up, or falling into crater-size potholes.
“I’m On Break” Madcap, screwball comedy about Baltimore City workers with hearts of gold set in an anonymous downtown office building. Part of the comic fun is that the viewers never learn what exactly the city workers are paid to do.
“Latte Ladies” Lucille Ball-like hijinks of Roland Park/Ruxton matrons who drive around all day in Range Rovers and Suburbans drinking lattes and talking on cell phones while they plot women’s committee coups and meddle in the private schools. “Desperate Housewives” meets the Bachelors Cotillon. Pilot episode features a poodle-kicking!
“The Molly Shattuck Show” Wacky, wealthy, corporate wife becomes National Football League cheerleader. First season ends with Shattuck leaving to teach Pilates in Eritrea. Guest appearances by Anna Nicole Smith and Anna Benson.
“The Marc Steiner Show” Situation comedy based on radio talk show host who claims to have played pivotal role in the American civil rights movement. “Cheers” meets “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” Same characters come on every week. Blah, blah, blah. Martin Luther King Day special features The Mighty Clouds of Joy and Steiner singing “When I Lay My Burden Down.”
“Survivor: Charm City” Instead of dropping the cast off on some remote tropical isle or in the Australian outback, the show features a cast marooned in West Baltimore. Without cell phones, money or maps. Yikes! The tribe has spoken! Guest appearance by Molly Shattuck as the Pilates instructor.
“Eviction” Half-hour show features the men and women of eviction— a la “COPS” or “Rescue 911”— as they ride around Baltimore throwing the poor onto the street and scattering their belongings on the sidewalk. Latte Ladies make a guest appearance on the Christmas special!
“Downy Oshun” Loosely based on the life and times of legendary Sun columnist Jacques Kelly and his recollections of growing up in 19th-century America. With Bea Arthur as Aunt Cora and Robin Williams as Lily Rose. The Waltons on Guilford Avenue.
“The Congressman” A la “West Wing” but set in the West Wing of Baltimore. Show features charismatic African-American congressman with half a dozen common law wives and a vast brood of children.
“The Ex-Commish” A disgraced former Baltimore police commissioner rehabilitates himself as the host of a popular radio talk show. Guest appearance by Mayor Martin “Spuds” O’Malley.
“Baltimore 311” Reality TV series featuring the men and women of Baltimore 311. Show opens with trademark cut of a telephone ringing unanswered for several minutes. Each week viewers would see the men and women of 311 spring into action (Not!) by announcing that they will get there when they get there. “I’m On Break” spin-off.
“Charm City ER” Unlike other shows where the docs do everything from open-heart surgery to organ transplants, “Charm City ER” moves at a more leisurely pace. Patients forever waiting. Nothing happens. No lives saved. Doctors rarely seen. Foreign medical students— many of whom do not speak English— attempt to treat Baltimoreans— many of whom do not speak English. Nurses watch TV and read magazines until shift ends.
“Jail Birds” Madcap, screwball comedy about a newspaper columnist with a heart of gold who buys an old Baltimore rowhouse and takes in a lovable cast of ex-convicts, former drug dealers and homeless folks. Bonus: Two-hour Christmas special when “the boys” help out at Santa’s Village! A laff riot!
“Pete” Gentle Greek-American lawyer with heart of gold wins once-in-a-lifetime big case and decides to make life better for all of Baltimore. Buys ballclub, runs it into the ground. Buys landmark restaurant, runs it into the ground. Buys E.A. Poe House, closes it. Has site razed. Buys Shot Tower, closes it, has site razed. Buys Fort McHenry…