Sera Gamble’s first screenplay was a goth girl comedy

In Variety’s new feature, The One That Got Away, Emmy nominees reflect on one of their projects that never saw the light of day, was canceled too soon, or that they would like to revisit one day.

When you hear the name Sera Gamble, don’t think of comedy.

After starting ABC’s short-lived procedural Eyes in 2005, she joined the Supernatural writers’ room. She later created, produced and wrote Syfy’s The Magicians and in 2018 brought out You, starring Greg Berlanti, a drama based on the twisted novels by Caroline Kepnes.

The dramas are laced with a bit of darkness – and couldn’t be further from the comedy. When she started, however, she didn’t know which way she was going down.

“This is the story of how I was almost a comedy writer. I wouldn’t have predicted that at all for my career,” she says diversity. “My goal was to be a professional writer, but my first attempt at breaking into the business was with a comedy feature.”

She and co-writer Raelle Tucker moved into a rental house in Van Nuys — “the kind of house you like to be in, there was definitely some porn done here,” she says.

Together they wrote a comedy feature that pays homage to “Dog Day Afternoon,” set in a strip club. It was a finalist on “Project Greenlight” that landed the agent duo. So they figured they’d try to break into the TV side – and stuck with comedy.

“We were like, ‘We’re going to write a pattern of every type we can think of, because we weren’t at all picky about which room to break into.’ We just needed a job urgently,” she recalls. “That’s the setup for a script called ‘Misery and Anxiety’ that’s kind of based on us. It was about two goth girls named Misery and Anxiety who lived in a shitty house in Van Nuys and wanted to break into Hollywood.”

The script opened at a stuffed animal convention, where Misery got giant pig suits for Anxiety to get laid.

“Raelle and I were really busy. We were very young, but no matter how much we partied the night before, we always got up and worked, and it’s boring and not fun,” she says. “So instead we infused misery and fear with all the selfishness and laziness. It’s just more fun to watch people trying to take a shortcut, and that was sort of the idea. Every week these girls came up with a horrible get-rich-quick or famous-quick idea.”

The pilot focused on the girls trying to get a job. Anxiety decides to monetize a live stream of their lives by putting up webcams around the apartment, while Misery begs her grandmother, a former porn star, for money for a car. She sees an “American Idol” billboard and decides that even though she can’t sing, she could be a pop star because of her looks.

“She spends the car money on liposuction. She comes home high on painkillers, unaware that she is performing in front of this international audience who watch her via webcams in every room of her house,” Gamble says with a laugh. “It gets even more chaotic and off-kilter, culminating in a hallucinatory musical number starring Misery and Ryan Seacrest.”

To date, the script is the only one that Gamble’s agents have said no to. Still, the hard work paid off; Tucker and Gamble were hired for procedural Eyes around the same time. After Eyes was cancelled, she got a spot in the Supernatural room.

“I think it would be so easy for us to tell a really elegant arc about how I ended up writing ‘You.’ Like, ‘Oh, she loves dark fairy tales and she saw every horror movie that was ever made when she was 12,'” she says. “But I honestly believe there’s a ‘Sliding Doors’ world where if we just went through ‘Misery and Anxiety’ one more time, we’d make it 30% less crazy and do better, talk about something crazy would, surrealistic, slightly mean half hour, which I also liked to write.”

Today, Gamble is still proud of that script — but not many have read it, and she hopes it stays that way: “I really don’t want you to misunderstand me. It wasn’t a good script. It took a lot of work… But it has a lot of enthusiasm and an odd, awkward goth girl heartbeat that I still hold dear.”

Charles Jones

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