Los Angeles Uncovered: Two of a Kind
Stan Zimmerman and Jim Berg are back in the spotlight with their hilarious brand of female comedy.
BY Stephan Horbelt
When Stan Zimmerman and James Berg met in the dorms at New York University, it was a moment that would mark the start of a successful career for both men. Having bonded over a love for television, and able to make each other laugh, Stan and Jim decided they should take a shot at writing for television. Upon graduation, the two moved west and began their television careers as a writing team. Nearly 20 years later, the duo is still writing great comedy that entertains the masses and speaks particularly to gay men.
One of the first shows Stan and Jim found themselves writing for was gay-favorite sitcom The Golden Girls. Their work on the episode “Rose's Mother” earned them a Writer's Guild nomination for best comedy writing, and things only got better from there. Next the guys wrote two episodes for the insanely popular show Roseanne, one of which earned them quite a bit of recognition. “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” which earned the writing team yet another WGA nomination, was the controversial lesbian kiss episode in which Roseanne gets one planted on her by Mariel Hemingway. The episode featured the very first same-sex kiss ever to air on American television, a fact that helped transform the small screen from a medium of entertainment to one that could also initiate societal change.
Stan and Jim's work on Roseanne also marked the start of their roles as producers, and the duo produced several episodes for the hit show. In between television projects, the guys also rewrote both of the Brady Bunch movies and the award-winning ABC movie of the week, Annie. Moving back into the world of television, Stan and Jim wrote and acted as consulting producers for the fifth season of Gilmore Girls, for which they penned the episode “Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant.” Recently, the writing partners adapted The Ivy Chronicles at Warner Bros., with Sarah Jessica Parker attached to star.
From The Golden Girls to Annie to Gilmore Girls, Stan and Jim have consistently found themselves in the midst of female-centric projects, both in film and television. While this would perhaps be challenging for a writing team of heterosexual men, Stan and Jim feel that gay men generally have a certain insight into female characters, and this fact shows through their work.
As Stan and Jim describe it, growing up gay results in not relating to the typical male power structure. Gay children, particularly young boys, are often closer to women, whether they are female relatives or other feminine role models. In addition, Stan and Jim point to particularly vocal female family members that have affected their sense of humor and as a result their natural writing style. Gay men are also typically unafraid of emotions and being sensitive, giving them a natural advantage when writing the female character. Perhaps the same thing that gives gay writers this special insight into the female mind is also what causes gay men to adore female-led features and television shows.
Stan and Jim are back on the radar these days with their newest project, Rita Rocks, initially begun 10 years ago when they wrote the pilot script on spec. It was a project that they had intermittently attempted to find a home for in the past, but when the writing duo's agent came to them with the prospect of Lifetime Networks, the show found its home at last. Lifetime prides itself as the leader in women's television and commits itself to advocating female issues, the perfect fit for a team of writers who specialize in clever female comedy.
Rita Rocks is the network's first original prime-time comedy series in a decade, starring Nicole Sullivan (of MADtv fame) as an unfulfilled working mom who decides to recreate her glory days as a garage band musician. Joining the sitcom are Tisha Campbell-Martin (known to most as Gina from the hit show Martin), playing the neighborhood's hilarious postal carrier turned keyboardist, and (the very cute) Richard Ruccolo as Rita's husband. The pilot premiered on Oct. 20 to great ratings, and the show is bound for success. With Stan and Jim at the helm, currently in the midst of production, there are surely many laughs to come.