The New York Times, January 30, 2000
Week in Review
Up Next, 'The Burma Shavers'
By Bruce Kluger
Myanmar stormed a hospital in
neighboring Ratchaburi, Thailand,
holding more than 800 staff members
and patients prisoner for 22 hours.Thai
security forces then stormed the
hospital, killing 10 rebels. The guerrillas
were part of a fundamentalist Christian
paramilitary group led by 12-year-old
Burmese twins, Johnny and Luther Htoo,
neither of whom took part in the raid.
American newspapers. Long-haired and pretty, Johnny Htoo peers over his
brother's shoulder with a slightly furrowed brow; Luther, eyes narrowed, holds a
cigar to his lips.
The next night, the Htoo boys began surfacing on American television, notably as a
comedy news item on The Daily Show, starring Jon Stewart.
One can only imagine what's to come.
[Fade in: ABC Executive Offices, Los Angeles.]
EXECUTIVE No. 1: Johnny and Luther!
EXECUTIVE No. 2: Luther and Johnny!
EXECUTIVE No. 1: No, you idiot. It's got to be Johnny and Luther. The funnier one
always comes second.
WRITER (standing): Hey, guys, hold on. I have a very serious question.
WRITER: Do you think this is really the right thing to do?
EXECUTIVE No. 2: Is what the right thing to do?
WRITER: A sitcom. A sitcom based on deadly rebel boys? Is that appropriate?
EXECUTIVE No. 1 (taking a deep breath): Let me ask you something, sweetheart.
Did M. J. just quit Spin City?
EXECUTIVE No. 2: Can the network survive on Millionaire alone?
WRITER: Uh, no.
EXECUTIVE No. 1: Then shut up and sit down. (To Executive No. 2) Johnny and
WRITER: No, wait. I'm serious. We've got two boys who aren't old enough for junior
high commanding an armed force and people are getting killed.
EXECUTIVE No. 1: Right. And you don't think that makes for good TV? (To
Executive No. 2) You think we have to cast Asian, or could we get away with Puerto
EXECUTIVE No. 2: No, no, the Sino-American groups would have our heads if we
didn't cast Chinese.
EXECUTIVE No. 1: But the boys are Burmese.
EXECUTIVE No. 2: Same thing.
WRITER: Stop! Stop! This is crazy! You're like a Saturday Night Live skit. I mean,
would you have done a sitcom about Columbine?
EXECUTIVE No. 1 (insulted): Absolutely not!
EXECUTIVE No. 2 (solemnly): An American tragedy.
WRITER: And aren't the Htoo boys a Southeast Asian tragedy?
EXECUTIVE No. 1: C'mon, that part of the world has been a mess for decades.
Ever since Vietnam.
EXECUTIVE No. 2: What's Vietnam?
EXECUTIVE No. 1: Some sort of war out there. Oliver once told me about it.
Anyway, man, these kids are totally funny.
EXECUTIVE No. 2: Right. The pretty one, Johnny, we could make him really
nervous and neurotic, always checking in with his bro. Sort of like Niles does with
EXECUTIVE No. 1: Yeah, yeah. And the other one, Luther, forget about it. He's a
wild man. I can see the first episode. The parents are going out and Mom tells the
sitter that the kids have to be in bed by 9 at the latest. Luther runs up saying, "But
Mom, some of the guerrillas are coming over to plan a raid on Gymboree next
Wednesday." So Mom says: "Well, O.K., 11. But no smoking, mister."
EXECUTIVE No. 2: Right! We can ride the cigar bit for at least six episodes.
WRITER (getting up): You know what? You guys are beyond reach and I'm going
home. Here we are in a new millennium, hoping that the next generation will help us
fix the mistakes of our past. We've got the Internet and fiber optics and God knows
what else breaking down the barriers dividing people and places, and what do you
guys want to do? You want to exploit our children instead of celebrating them!
EXECUTIVE No. 1: Brilliant. Simply brilliant. That can be Luther's monologue at the
end of the pilot. (To Executive No. 2) Did you get all that?
EXECUTIVE No. 2 (taking out pen): No, no, I was transfixed. (To Writer) Can you
say that again? Take it from, "Here we are, in a new millennium...."