The author, in the introduction, describes her career track as follows: 1. Who is Nell Scovell? 2. Get me Nell Scovell! 3. Get me a younger, cheaper Nell Scovell! 4. Who is Nell Scovell?
Her new book, Just the Funny Parts, definitely answers 1 and 4. I wanted to read it due to her extensive resume (most of which is right on the cover) as a writer of comedy for movies and television shows. I must have seen her name in the credits of many of my favorites over the years, but it hasn’t registered until now.
The body of work is amazing. A classic episode of The Simpsons? Wow. Three episodes of Monk? Triple wow. As someone who once tried to write scripts, I’m full of admiration. She even created the nineties series Sabrina the Teenage Witch, my personal escape valve when my kids were babies and toddlers. Sadly, she left the show after the first year, and you can tell. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the actors, the network types, and the funny animatronic cat named Salem.
Movies also came calling for Scovell. She was hired to “punch up” Disney’s The Mighty Ducks. After that, she and Joel Hodgson (best known as the creator/star of Mystery Science Theater 3000) were asked to revise another Disney property. Scovell writes, “Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves was perfectly suited to Joel’s visual sense of humor and my love of tiny, shrunken people.”
They bought model train-sized people and scattered them around her living room to get story ideas. The back of Scovell’s wicker chair, when viewed up close, appeared to be a ladder for tiny folk, and that device made it into the finished film.
Other shows and projects that Scovell had a hand in: Murphy Brown, Coach, Newhart, Charmed, NCIS, Late Show with David Letterman, speeches for President Obama, and the bestseller Lean In.
The show biz stories are both funny and infuriating. How decisions got made, who ruined this perfectly good idea, and who allowed great things to happen. It’s not for the faint of heart, this life.
A common expression in the entertainment world is, Nobody Knows Anything. Not true. Scovell may not be all-knowing, but she knows a lot.