What a week for our show and for our writers. It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch as Garrett Frawley, Brian Turner, Gretchen Enders and Aminta Goyel were recognized for their work on Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. When you’ve been in the trenches with these people, when you’ve fought alongside them to make something truly unique and authentic, when you’ve held the line against compromise and held each other up so you could reach just that much further than any kid show has ever gone before, then seeing their efforts rewarded means so much more. It’s been a privilege to be in the room with these writers. They haven’t just made our show richer, they have defined our show, become part of its DNA. I’m beyond thrilled for them.
The Humanitas Prize is a huge honor and recognizes writers who illuminate and celebrate our common humanity with their writing. There have been years when no prizes were awarded in the children’s category. This year, two episodes from our show were finalists. Gretchen Enders was nominated for her episode “Ranger and the Legend of Pendragon’s Gavel,” and Garrett Frawley and Brian Turner won for “Gortimer and the Surprise Signature”.
Brian and Garrett are a writing team and have been with the show from the beginning of the first season, when we got the green light for the series. They were best known for their TV movies Santa Baby and its sequel, and Snow Globe. Their first episode was the first episode of the new series, “Gortimer vs. the Mobile of Misfortune”. No pressure! Much was riding on that script because it was basically proof of concept — the pilot was a smash hit but could we actually make a series? Could we continue to create stories with quirk and charm? Could we recapture the unique voices of Gortimer, Ranger and Mel? It’s easy to take it for granted now, but at the time it felt like a very small target. It’s no spoiler to say, of course, that thanks to Brian and Garrett the show got off to a great start. “Mobile” continued the magic and the friendship and introduced us to the sweet, charming and funny Stanley, endearingly played by David Bloom.
Brian and Garrett were nominated as finalists for both the Humanitas Prize and the WGA Award for the same script, and it’s easy to see why. “Gortimer and the Surprise Signature” is just a great pitch to begin with: After having his cast signed by his friends at school, Gortimer finds one name he doesn’t recognize. But how is it possible to have someone sign your cast without you knowing? “Signature” is a fun episode, a great mystery, and a heartfelt investigation of the difference between shyness and introversion that shows not all who shun the spotlight need to be shoved into it. And again, Brian and Garrett introduce us to another continuing character, one who will become Gortimer’s first love, the enigmatic Abigail Arroyo, delightfully played by Coco Grayson.
I can’t see you.
I’m not sure you ever really saw me.
I thought if people knew about you, it would make things better.
Gortimer turns to find Abigail standing before him.
Better than what? I’m not like you. I don’t like being the center of attention.
But don’t you want everyone to see your art?
They do see my art. I’m not hiding it. I put it all over the place. But there’s a difference between what I do and who I am.
It takes courage to be a writer, and what strikes me most about Aminta and Gretchen is their courage. They are fearless when it comes to advocating for their stories and doing what it takes to make their scripts shine. Their reward is well-earned.
Gretchen was also with us from the start and jumped into the “Gortimer Gets Shushed” script, turning a fanciful pitch about a phantom bookmobile into something delightfully dark, mysterious, strangely whimsical and ultimately poignant and touching — just as a Gortimer episode should be. Her Humanitas-nominated script for “Gavel” is an inspired take on Arthurian legend that asks us to think about our relationship to power and what happens when everyone suddenly gives you your way.
Aminta joined the writers room for the second season and we were so very lucky to have her. She is an alumna of the Nickelodeon Writing Program and possess a wonderful sense of myth and folktale which lends itself perfectly to the rich world of kid lore in Gortimer. Some great fun awaits in Season 2B – wish I could say more! Aminta and Gretchen shared an office and it seemed like destiny they should write the Season 2A finale together. This was a deceptively challenging episode in which our three characters are stuck in a time loop. How do you keep that story alive and interesting? Gretchen and Aminta do it by gently uncovering the true heart of our characters, exposing their worries and fears, allowing them to be vulnerable and finally to find their strength in themselves and each other. “Endless Night” is a hauntingly beautiful episode, a gentle exhalation of breath after the emotionally tumultuous events of previous episodes. What our characters needed most was a quiet time together for reflection, and I think perhaps more than any other episode, “Endless Night” completely encapsulates what our show is really about. It still brings me to tears whenever I watch it. I consider it an incredible gift from two very talented writers.
Life is only going to get harder if we go back. But if we stay here we never have to deal with death or sadness or change.
It used to be easier.
Mel and Gortimer embrace Ranger.
Staying here doesn’t mean we won’t ever be sad. My mom is still gone. The pain still exists. We’ve just been distracting ourselves and you can only do that for so long.
But there’s no guarantee that we’re gonna be okay out there. We don’t know what’s gonna happen in ninth grade.
No, but we’ll be together.
Really?! We used to be together all the time. And now, I mean, I had to draw up master plans just to get you both to come out here. That never would’ve happened before.
I just want things to go back to normal.
Normal is always changing.
Yeah, and we’ll go through ups and downs… but we’re always us.
Garrett, Brian, Gretchen and Aminta have brought so much to the show, it’s great to see them have their day in the sun. Please take a moment to enjoy Gretchen and Aminta’s acceptance of the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Children’s Episodic Script: