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Author: Lauren Blakely



Everything I know about women I learned from an ’80s flick.

For instance, eating birthday cake while sitting on a dining room table is always a good idea.

“Ditto” completely works as a way to let a woman know how you feel.

Men and women can be friends, and friends can fall in love, but it’s best if they don’t fake orgasms.

Finally, learning your soul mate is a fish is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is losing the mermaid you love, so merman-up and be with her under the sea. But if you’re stupid enough to let the girl get away, the surefire way to win a woman back is with a grand gesture.

That’s what I intend to do.

I’ve planned every detail of how I’m going to get the girl back.

Music? Check.

Props? Check.

Totally improved self? It took nearly a decade, but finally I can scratch that off the list.

It’s go time.



There are only a few things you truly need to be successful in comedy.

To make people laugh, to make people laugh, and to make people laugh.

See what’s in there? No, not the laughter, but the people. You need an audience. Or, really, I need an audience. A bigger one.

Make that an exponentially larger one.

I dive into the pool at the gym on a Thursday morning in late May, determined to use my lap time to devise a brand-new, brilliant idea to get that audience for my TV show.

The first order of business—let go of distractions. Thankfully, my phone can’t ring in the water.

Well, I suppose it technically can ring while I’m in the water, but I can’t hear it since I didn’t stuff it inside my swimsuit, and I haven’t yet resorted to wearing a waterproof Bluetooth headset. If I did, I’d ask my best friend, Christine, to have me committed for crossing every acceptable social line.

I push through the water, goggles snug against my eyes, doing my best to open my mind to new ideas and fresh concepts. I reach the end of the lap lane, smack my palm against the smooth blue tiles, and flip around, shooting like a dolphin the other way.

Water ripples from the next lane, and when I turn my head to the side, a man in a black Speedo is torpedoing through the chlorinated blue, his flipper-like feet propelling him.

Big feet? Would that work as a bit? Maybe an episode about whether big feet really mean men have . . . the need to wear big shoes.

Nah. Dick jokes are low-hanging fruit.

But what about Speedos?

Speedos are always ripe for comedy. You can double the laughter if the banana holders are in a funny color, and the funniest colors are usually orange, green, and yellow.

As I breaststroke my way down the lane, I ask myself what Seinfeld would do with a Speedo bit. That was a show that defined top-notch laughs. It didn’t even rely on romance. It didn’t depend on tropes, over-the-top setups, or a quota of jokes based on bodily functions.

Because . . . eww.

All I have to do is connect the Speedo to some sort of social commentary like Seinfeld would do.

What if my heroine is shopping for a new bathing suit for herself? That has potential because bathing suit shopping ranks on the awful list next to root canal and running into an ex while not wearing makeup.

Let’s suppose our heroine is at a department store trying on a bikini, and she spots a guy next to her in the dressing room testing out a Speedo, and she can’t help herself. She has to comment on it, big mouth that she is. She’s trying to be helpful, and she wants to save him from buying the Speedo, but he misunderstands her, thinking she’s hitting on him. That’s perfect, since the heart of Mars and Venus is finding humor in the confusion between men and women about what the other says and what the other truly means.

Satisfied with this direction, I finish my laps and park my elbows on the edge of the pool so I can catch my breath. The scent of chlorine is thick in the air, but so is possibility. I can save my show this season, starting with a bright yellow Speedo.

I climb out of the pool and head to the women’s locker room, feeling pretty damn pleased with myself. After a quick shower, I tug on a pair of shorts and a tank top then root around in my bag for my phone.

I cringe when I see the screen cluttered with notifications fighting their way to get to me.

Seven missed calls.

My stomach pitches with worry. It’s never good to have seven missed calls as a TV comedy writer. The only thing worse is when your phone mocks you with quiet.

Silence equals no work.

But this many missed calls? It’s the universal sign you’re about to get served Really Bad News.

Like when a dude in a fedora shows up on your doorstep. Are you Finley Barker?


You’ve been served.

Hustling out of the community center and into the bright morning sun of Hope Falls, I drop my rhinestone-studded purple shades on my eyes—because life is too short to wear boring black sunglasses—and race-walk out to the quaint side street, stabbing at the contact information for Bruce Fargo, the VP at LGO, the TV network that carries my show.

I swear he answers before it even rings. “Finley,” he barks. “What took you so long? I’ve been calling you all morning. It’s been hours.”

I look at my waterproof watch. “I was doing cardio,” I say, defending myself as I walk past a vineyard in the heart of our wine country town. Cardio is like a free pass, right? Everyone in the entertainment business knows workouts are sacred. “And I was only away from my phone for thirty—”

“Network brass is breathing down my neck.”

“With a twenty-two-episode offer for a second season renewal?” I ask, my voice rising as high as Minnie Mouse on helium.

My show hasn’t even been renewed for a second season yet.

He scoffs. “Funny. Why don’t you work that kind of dry humor into Mars and Venus?”

“Thanks, I’ll —” But before I can say try my best, he slices into my words with a serrated knife.

“Your show is on the chopping block.”

I stop, grabbing the wooden fence post next to a vine of Chardonnay grapes. My legs turn into rubber bands, and my stomach becomes a salad spinner.

“Are you serious?” I ask, the words tasting like dreams dying on my tongue.

“I’m as serious as a pimple on a teenager’s face. You think I’d joke about that?”

About pimples? Doubtful. About my show’s fate? I wish he were joking, but I know he’s not.

Hope leaks out of me like air from a punctured balloon. “How far on the chopping block? Are we talking the executioner has the ax out and my head is already hooded, or am I being walked to the guillotine—”

He has no patience for analogies. “This is how it’s going to work. Tad and Chad are demanding a strong storyline,” he huffs, naming the top execs at LGO. “Like blow-my-mind-and-make-me-die-laughing-so-fucking-hard-I have-a-hernia storyline.”

“I can do that,” I say, optimism returning. This is what I do. I write storylines. That’s not too far on the chopping block. I breathe a small sigh of relief. “I had all these ideas this morning, and I’m about to start working on a new story arc. The first episode will make them laugh till it hurts.”

“Yeah, that’s the issue.”

My stomach plummets. “What’s the issue?” I ask slowly.

“They’re asking for that knock-their-socks-off storyline before they even agree to renew it.” He pauses, giving weight to his already-heavy words. “For six episodes. That’s it, sweetheart.”

I press a hand to my stomach as if I could quell the churning. But it’s a cyclone inside me as I learn my show is on death’s door, and I don’t know if CPR is enough to revive it. Mars and Venus is my baby. It’s my dream. I’ve worked on it for years. I fought to have it made.

“Six episodes?” I repeat, as if the words will change if I say them again. A six-episode storyline on spec simply to claw your way out of the ratings basement is like Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie trying to escape the trash compactor.

Meaning it’s epically unlikely, except on film.

“Count ’em. You only get a half dozen episodes, and that’s if you can turn the ship around with a brilliant storyline. Otherwise, there’s no green light. It’s Goodnight Moon.”

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