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by David Hofstede


In 1998, I was hard at work on two books about TV shows, one on The Dukes of Hazzard and one on Charlie's Angels (both now available in bookstores and from, if Andy will allow me the cheap plug). One aspect of the job was interviewing the men and women who wrote the shows, to record their memories of the experience and of the episodes they contributed. Somewhere along the way, I thought it might be fun to attempt to write a TV script myself.

Having no prior experience in this field, I decided to "warm up" first by working with a concept that I already knew inside and out. Isis was my favorite show when I was a kid, and it remains to this day a precious childhood memory. Not a month has gone by when I haven't watched an episode or two on tape, and found myself instantly transported back to happier, more carefree days, so that seemed like a good place to start. I would write a remake of Isis, a pilot for a proposed new series based on the original classic. I would keep the main characters, add a few new ones and focus on how Andrea Thomas first became a "dual person," an event originally covered only in the series' opening credits.

For the next four months, I worked on the Isis script whenever I found the time. I began with a four-page treatment that outlined the story and introduced the characters and then fleshed it out into a script for a one-hour action-adventure. I set the story in Miami, Florida, at Cameron High School (named, of course, for Joanna Cameron). I made Andrea Thomas a history teacher instead of a science teacher, and kept the character of Rick Mason as her friend and fellow educator. I invented new students, including three who would figure prominently in the story.

In my series pilot, Andrea and her students succeed in a semester-long project to raise money for a special class trip to Egypt. During their journey, the group is beset by a series of mysterious accidents. When they visit the Temple of Isis, Andrea discovers a hidden chamber, and a golden amulet, and as in the original she finds herself heir to the secrets of Isis.

She discovers the source of the accidents is Sutekh, the Egyptian god of evil, who had hoped to prevent Andrea from reaching the temple. After more revelations, the story ends with a climactic battle between Isis and Sutekh, and Andrea adjusting to her new life and dual identity. I was proud of the final draft, especially for a first attempt, and sent a copy to a woman who had co-written a few Charlie's Angels episodes, requesting her feedback. She called me about a week later, and said that although I had made many of the mistakes common to new scriptwriters, there was "a lot of good stuff" in there, and she really loved the concept. A week later, I was in Los Angeles researching another book project.

While looking up the name of Colleen Camp in a celebrity address book, my eye drifted up the page onto another name: Joanna Cameron. Recalling the encouraging words of my TV writer friend, I copied down the address and also the address for Lou Scheimer Productions. When I returned home, I made two more copies of the script and mailed them to Lou and Joanna. I'm not sure now how many days passed after that, but I do remember waking up late on a sunny Sunday morning, and shuffling over toward the blinking red light on my answering machine. Still half asleep, I pressed the button and heard, "Hello, David, this is Joanna Cameron." Anyone who has found this website is most likely someone who, like me, grew up with Isis. If you're a guy, she might have been your first crush, as she was for me. So to my fellow worshipers of this Egyptian goddess, I need not explain what it felt like to hear that familiar voice coming from my machine (and yes, it sounded exactly the same). She thanked me for sending the script and asked me to call her, leaving her number. It took me an hour or so to gather my composure before I could make that call. I've met plenty of celebrities in my work, but this was different. This was Isis! After several deep breaths, I dialed the number, she answered the phone and I had the chance to tell her how much I loved the show. She talked about how she got the job right out of college and mentioned with pride that she can still fit into the costume today! She spoke of leaving acting for the medical profession and about living in the Monterey area of California where she loves to take long bike rides through the beautiful natural scenery. She also invited me up for a round of golf at one of the famous Monterey courses, an offer which I still berate myself for not accepting.

It was hard for me to get a sense of her feelings about the show and the role she made famous two decades ago. On the one hand, she talked about receiving videocassettes of the series from countries all over the world. I never knew Isis was so popular in Europe, Asia, and Africa. She expressed regret that, for various legal reasons, the series was never released on video in America. On the other hand, when I mentioned how many stars of classic shows have made appearances at sci-fi conventions and other fan events, she quickly dismissed the idea of doing so herself. (Editor's update: Joanna will make her first convention appearance in Tulsa, Oklahoma in June. Go back to the home page to read more). Finally, we spoke about the script. She praised it and said, "You and Lou should produce it." She knew I lived in Las Vegas from my letter and talked about the Egyptian-themed Luxor Hotel, and how that would be a good setting if we could find a way to use it.

I told her I hadn't heard back from Lou Scheimer yet and she asked me to keep her posted. After we hung up, I spent the rest of that day wondering if my first script could actually be produced. Since it was only a writing exercise, I worked with no thought of anyone else ever seeing the project. I had no concerns about copyright, name clearances or how much it would cost to shoot the story I had created. It still seemed like a million to one shot, but stranger things have happened. I registered it with the Writer's Guild, just in case.

A few weeks passed, but I never heard from Mr. Scheimer. Emboldened by Joanna's encouragement, I called his office and left a message. I referred to the script and to Joanna's suggestion that he and I produce it. This time, he called me back. He told me he'd love to do Isis again, but that he no longer owned the rights to the series. They had been sold years earlier to Hallmark Entertainment. I asked if he had read the script, and he told me he hadn't, but would do so soon, and told me to get in touch the next time I was in Los Angeles. As it happened, I had a trip planned for the following week, and he told me to stop by his office.

When I arrived, I was shown right into Lou's office, which contained several items of Filmation memorabilia and posters from their more recent productions. It was clear from the enthusiasm in his voice that Lou loves the shows he used to produce, and loves talking about them. With little prompting from me he launched into several anecdotes about both Isis and Shazam, stories about the casts, including who was fun to work with and who wasn't. Unfortunately, he couldn't tell me the location of the high school where several Isis exteriors were shot, though he did tell me it was located in Sherman Oaks. One of these days I'm going to have to track it down.

I also learned that Michael Gray is working in a florist's shop in Southern California. As for Isis, he told me how Joanna's shapely legs helped her get the part of Andrea/Isis, and he mentioned seeing Brian Cutler just a few weeks prior to my visit.

When I brought up the script, he said he didn't want to read it after all, because he was afraid he might like it and then be unable to do produce it. He said that if Hallmark knew he was interested in buying the rights to Isis back, they would jack up the price, but he said there was no reason that I couldn't contact them, and if I got something going he could sign onto the project later. I took the necessary information, and when I returned to Las Vegas I wrote two letters and followed up with phone calls, but to no avail. I told Lou that I had no luck in even getting a call returned, and urged him to make an attempt, but he didn't think he'd have any better luck. So the script went back in my files, where it remains to this day. Every so often I'll pull it out and read it, maybe change a line or two, and wonder what might have been. But I can hardly consider the project to be a failure, because it put me in touch with two people who made my childhood Saturday mornings a special time. And you can't put a price on that.

Thank you, David, for your article. If you, the reader, have met anyone who worked on the "Isis" show, we would like to hear from you! Please e-mail the site administrator at for information on submissions.