Dave Barry has a network TV show. So what? That's what we thought, until we received a mysterious package.
"I PROBABLY SHOULDN'T HAVE DONE THIS."
That's how the typewritten note began. The note, in turn, came clipped to a bundle of papers we received a couple of weeks ago. Whoever sent the packet and typed the note apparently wanted to remain anonymous. Our only clues: a Los Angeles postmark and a preprinted return address on the envelope A CBS Entertainment Group, 7800 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90036.
Yes, we checked. Correct address.
Inside we found documents of the sort that sometimes fall into the hands of journalists -- namely, documents probably not intended to end up in the hands of journalists.
And while they weren't on a par with, say, the Pentagon Papers, they were intriguing nonetheless. We received what we presume to be a draft script of the television pilot for Dave's World, the upcoming CBS sitcom based on the life and writing of Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry.
In addition to the script, the envelope contained an internal memorandum apparently written by the show's creator, a letter purportedly from Herald publisher Dave Lawrence, and a couple of publicity photos.
Truth be told, we weren't all that interested in the Dave's World project, and the thought of publishing our mystery material was far from our minds. Until we began making a few phone calls.
CBS was happy to supply us with a standard media kit hyping the show (debut date: September 20). But when it came to commenting on the authenticity of our packet -- much less who might have sent it and why -- CBS's loquacious flaks became suspiciously tight-lipped.
Dave's World creator and writer Fred Barron (also responsible for the quirky Seinfeld) confirmed that he had made a trip to Miami and had met with Barry, which was the subject of the memo bearing his name. But Barron, too, clammed up when we described what had arrived in the mail.
The letter from Dave Lawrence to a CBS attorney was so innocuous, so perfectly Lawrence-esque, we didn't even bother calling. Besides, by that time we understood the significance of these documents and had already decided we would publish everything exactly as we got it.
We were helped along in that decision after learning that Dave's World seems to have been universally acclaimed as prime time's Next Big Thing. Just listen to the buzz:
CBS Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky: "Dave's World will be the biggest critical and commercial hit next year on any network."
Adweek's entertainment columnist Betsy Sharkey: "Whimsical and charming. Baby boomers with kids will love it."
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Publicist Sheri Wohl: "A Cosby for the Nineties."
Wohl, who served as publicist for the Cosby show, predicts that Dave Barry's influence may soon exceed that of many prominent politicians. "People will see Dave's World as almost like a guide to life by Dave Barry," she gushes. "Fans really patterned their lives after the Huxtables, and we think we'll see the same thing with Dave's family."
Even Jeff Jarvis, TV Guide's plainspoken critic, is beside himself. "I think it will be very big," Jarvis announces. "A top-ten show coming out of the blocks. What's so unusual about this show is that it's about a real guy who lives in a real town," Jarvis adds. "[Actor] Harry Anderson doesn't just play some humor writer in Miami. He plays Dave Barry. I believe this is the first time in TV history that someone has actually given their life over to a sitcom, and it raises all kinds of weird possibilities. What happens if Dave the character meets the real Dave? Will it be like on Star Trek when Captain Kirk meets the Kirk from a parallel universe? Will it be like matter meeting anti-matter, and the universe explodes?" Profound questions, indeed, but a bit weighty for our purposes.
In just a few weeks, the CBS publicity juggernaut will begin its full-speed hurtle across the nation's frontal lobe, with Miami's hometown hero leading the way. If Dave catches on -as virtually everyone expects -- America's funniest man will soon become one of America's heftiest marketing coups. T-shirts? Action figures? The official Dave Barry bad-hair wig kit?
For now, though, CBS's elite are guarding their new baby with a fierceness rarely encountered in nature. Which suggests to us that we have unwittingly come into possession of the hottest property in recent TV history. Though we may groan at the thought of publicizing the folks at the Miami Herald, we know a scoop when it lands in our lap. So here it is.