Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

How to Turn a How-To Book Into a Sitcom

CBS greenlights David Hornsby’s pilot based on a book by Nashville author John Bridges

February 11, 2011 David Hornsby was in high school when his mother gave him a copy of John Bridges’s etiquette book, How to Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy, for Christmas. She gave his brother a copy, too; scroll down for a picture of the two of them pretending to be thrilled by the gift.

As it turns out, Hornsby, who is now the writer and executive producer of the FX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, actually read the book and even held onto it, says Bridges: “When Hornsby’s agent first contacted me nearly two years ago, she told me that he loved the book and was interested in optioning it. Of course I told her I’d be glad to talk to him.” The proposal Hornsby sent to Bridges included, in addition to the photograph here, a letter thanking Bridges for their conversation (clearly the man has read Bridges’s book) and a note from Hornsby’s own mother: “She told me how much she liked How to Be a Gentleman and how much she appreciated its being in the world and how glad she was that I wrote it.”

Bridges was totally game for what Hornsby had in mind: a buddy show about a fastidious man who is learning, with the help of an old high-school classmate, to live in a world where other people don’t behave with impeccable manners themselves. “I thought it was a great idea,” says Bridges. “How to Be a Gentleman is not a book that would just jump into your mind when you watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but I loved what he had in mind. The show is only loosely based on the book, and ‘loosely based’ is the operative term.”

Ultimately, Media Rights Capital optioned rights from Thomas Nelson, the publishing company that brought out How to Be a Gentleman, and Hornsby wrote the script on spec. Last week CBS bought the pilot, which will begin production in May. Hornsby will write, produce, and star in it.

So is Bridges thrilled about this unlikely second life for his etiquette book? “Nothing really thrills me,” Bridges says. “This is a highly positive development, and I’m real, real interested to see what happens, but I’ve been around the block enough to know that nothing’s happened until something happens. But I went on and sent David Hornsby a note after I heard. I told him how happy I was to hear this news, and please give his mother my best.”

Read more about the deal here.

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