Brace yourself: this could be the most ridiculous piece I’ve ever posted.
When I did my Random Roles with Jim Beaver earlier this year, we talked about The Trouble With Normal, the short-lived sitcom he did with Jon Cryer, Paget Brewster, David Krumholtz, Larry Joe Campbell, and Brad Raider. In the process of discussing the series, he recalled how the cast decided at one point to do an interview with Entertainment Tonight where they were completely naked, hoping to score enough attention to raise their ratings, which had started out unimpressive and only gotten worse. They did the interview, but the plan failed. End of series. Heavy sigh.
As the esteemed Mr. Beaver told me of this incident, however, I found myself thinking, “I should see if Paget remembers this.” So I sent her an email, and she replied with a few recollections.
Then I did an interview with Jon Cryer for my oral history of his 1987 film Dudes, and I thought, “I should ask him if he remembers it.” So I did, and he had a few remembrances of his own.
At this point, I decided, “Well, hell, I should just reach out to the other three cast members, too!” So I did. Brad Raider kindly responded. David Krumholtz’s rep reportedly forwarded him my request, but I never heard anything back. And I did send Larry Joe Campbell a message on Facebook, but he doesn’t know me from Adam, so I take no offense over the fact that he didn’t respond. If either he or David would care to contribute to what you’re about to read, I’ll happily update the piece to add them in.
For now, though, please enjoy…
NAKED NORMAL: AN ORAL HISTORY
Brad Raider: It’s hard to imagine a time before the internet was as mainstream as it is now and could contribute significantly to the awareness of a new TV show. Back in those olden days of 2000, it took a lot of old-fashioned promotion and marketing dollars to catch the attention of an audience. We were incredibly proud of The Trouble With Normal and of each other. It was my first big job in television and I couldnt’ve been luckier to be working with Dave, Paget, Jon, and Larry. Victor Fresco, too, is still one of the best show-runners in TV. But for whatever reason, whether a lack of promotion or the wrong time slot or a thousand other variables — the show wasn’t performing in the ratings those first few weeks in the way that ABC had hoped.
Jon Cryer: We were kind of in dire straits ratings-wise from the get-go. But we had a great cast, and it was a show we loved.
BR: We were still shooting our order of 13 episodes when we started to air and heard Entertainment Tonight was coming by. We were also told something to the effect of that if our next episode didn’t perform better than it had in the ratings, we’d be in serious trouble of cancellation.
Paget Brewster: I think our second episode had aired to dismal ratings again.
BR: So we knew we had to do something. We were like, “It’s up to us to save this show!” We wanted to make waves and do something unusual to get people to watch
JC: We were sitting around with the publicist for the show at ABC, and we said, “Well, what can we do?”
BR: I want to say that it was Paget’s idea — but I honestly can’t remember for sure.
PB: Maybe Cryer?
JC: I think I blurted out, “Well, we could do an interview naked!”
BR: I just remember that we were all almost immediately onboard.
JC: And then we all just sort of did a riff on why we had to be naked, and it was that I insisted that we always rehearse naked, that it was just an acting thing that we did.
BR: The conceit would be every week we had been doing at least one rehearsal for the show, before our public taping on Friday night, in the nude, our privates covered only with that week’s script.
JC: And he just happened to catch us at the end of one of our nude rehearsals. [Laughs.] We all just sort of looked around and said, “Yeah, let’s do this!” Which for the guys was easy. For Paget, not so much.
BR: Paget had the hair and makeup department do something clever so that her hair (mermaid-style) covered her other lady parts.
PB: [David] Krumholtz got cold feet after we had all been sprayed with body makeup and two feet of hair had been added to my head to cover my nipples.
JC: Yes, for our fun little spontaneous idea, she had to sit in the makeup and hair chair for quite awhile extra. But she was an incredibly good sport about it.
PB: We talked Krummy back into it, trying to keep the show on the air.
JC: So, yeah, we did our naked interview, and we were the headline-grabber on Entertainment Tonight for one night.
BR: I remember there were director chairs set up for us and we made an entrance from off-set. We sat down and talked about the show, our love of rehearsing in the nude and various other things. Larry — more than once — dropped his script on the floor and had to awkwardly pick it up. We all pretty much broke character when he did that — it was very funny. Near the end, a few of the writers showed their solidarity and entered the frame naked with scripts in tow. Later, they filmed some B-roll of us rehearsing which was tough because we couldn’t really look at our scripts — they were serving a much more important function!
JC: And yet that did not turn around the fortunes of the show, astonishingly.
PB: We were canceled after our third airing, so our nudity didn’t work.
BR: I’m sure we would’ve done a lot more if we could’ve do keep the show alive. But I think we all felt satisfied that we did everything we could do to get some attention.
JC: Sometimes you’ve just got leave it all on the floor. Literally.