Vanished Years by Rupert Everett, adapted by David Roper

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Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 24-28 September 2012
There exists a long-standing tradition of Brits writing about their experiences of working in the United States on films, theatre and other arts. P. G. Wodehouse memorably dramatized his brief sojourn in Hollywood as a would-be scriptwriter, when he tried - and failed - to adjust to a dictatorship, where the studio heads made all the decisions and employed nodders (i.e. people whose sole responsibility was to nod in agreement) to rubber-stamp them.  In the late 80s Simon Gray published How's That For Telling 'Em, Fat Lady?, a jaundiced account of working on the Los Angeles and New York productions of his play The Common Pursuit, and a Dallas production of Dog Days. Written with dry wit and self-deprecating humour, the book takes a wry look at an English person trying - and ultimately failing - to cope with American theatrical mores.
Vanished Years adopts a similar conceit, as the actor Rupert Everett recalls his experiences of trying to sell a sitcom, Mr. Ambassador, to NBC, with himself in the title role and Derek Jacobi as a Jeevesesque butler. The production was pitched, and a pilot episode made, but the series was never picked up - chiefly because it wasn't actually very good.
Everett constructs himself as the Brit abroad, a well-known actor with a Hollywood screen career (My Best Friend's Wedding), who nonetheless finds himself rather lost in the cut-throat world of American television, where reputations can be won and lost on the decision of the network chiefs.  He cannot adjust himself to the endless script rewrites; and finds it difficult, if not impossible, to work with his producer Victor, even though he has been assured that Victor is "the best in the business."  Mr. Ambassador seemed like a good idea at the beginning, but in Everett's account it seems that it was ruined by too much interference from divers hands.
While Vanished Years has its humorous moments, I have to admit that I found it rather irritating. Everett was too ready to make snap judgments, or adopt a position of lofty superciliousness that seemed rather inappropriate - after all, he was working in a foreign country. I kept wishing that he had been a little more conciliatory in tone. The producer of this Book of the Week was David Roper.