Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: A TV writer’s pseudonym had his own parking space at Paramount!
One of the (many, many MANY) differences between television nowadays, or heck, television over the past twenty years or so and television of the past is that the role of the writer has become a major aspect of popular culture. People know who Joss Whedon is – a show will be marketed as being written by David E. Kelley and so on and so forth.
This was not really the case forty years ago (although Norman Lear certainly began to change things in the 1970s, then guys like Stephen J. Cannell in the 80s were part of a real movement to make the creator of the show a brand – notice how Cannell had his trademark at the end of his shows, as did Gary David Goldberg with his “Sit, Ubu, sit” closer to Family Ties).
In fact, one notable TV creator specifically went out of his way to NOT get as much public credit as he “deserved.”
Roy Huggins was one of the most prolific creators in television history, creating or co-creating such legendary television programs as…
Alias Smith and Jones…
and The Rockford Files (among many, many others)…
However, for the most part, if you were just a typical television viewer, you’d be hard-pressed to tell that Roy Huggins had anything to do with the production of these programs. The Fugitive, for instance, is credited to QM Productions (Quinn Martin’s production company).
This was because Huggins, who had been taken advantage of earlier in his career in television, later worked out contracts that protected him so well that he felt no need to make a big show out of his credits. The studios, after all, knew who he was.
In fact, Huggins thought that it looked bad for a single name to be on a show too much, figuring that it would look bad to the audience (presumably the same theory behind magazines with small writing staffs giving their writers pseudonyms so it seems like they have a diverse staff of writers).
So Huggins invented a pseudonym based on the names of his three sons from his second marriage, John Thomas James.
He used the name on dozens (likely hundreds) of shows that he worked on, like this Alias Smith and Jones episode…
or this Rockford Files one…
Typically James would just be credited with the story, but occasionally “he’d” find time to write a teleplay.
Huggins decided to have some fun with the alias and try to create a persona for James. So he had “James” join the Writer’s Guild and, as part of Huggins’ contract with the studio, James even had “his” own parking space at Universal!!
Huggins later noted that he would always make a point to look at the membership guide to see if the Writers Guild still listed James as a member (they did for years – I would imagine they no longer do, with Huggins being dead for years now).
It’s hard to imagine a writer ever being that modest nowadays (and for good reason, as even Huggins noted later in life that he probably would have been better off taking all the credit for himself)! It reminds of the time that a fake person got nominated for an Academy Award!
The legend is…
Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.