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TheStreet Open House

Offutt Scores TV Success, Ready To Abandon It

CHRIS TALBOTT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) â¿¿ Chris Offutt doesn't have HBO, so he's going to head over to a neighbor's house Sunday night to watch "Treme." It just might be his last chance to see his name in a television show credit roll and, to be honest, he's OK with that.

He's felt the lure of Hollywood, heard the Sirens in the distance. And the 54-year-old Kentucky native has experienced enough success as a screenwriter and story editor on TV's brainiest shows that it felt real. But he's ready to leave all that behind.

"When I was working on 'Weeds,' I got depressed, and then I realized I wanted a big house in the Hollywood Hills, and I wanted a Jaguar," Offutt said. "I mean I really wanted these things. And I thought, 'OK, this isn't me. I gotta get out of here, because A, it's obtainable, and B, it don't mean a goddamn thing.' So I left and I moved to Mississippi."

Offutt's about 195 pages into his next novel, a welcome return to fiction for an author who's published far too little of it in the two decades since his first short story collection, "Kentucky Straight." He'd always been able to make ends meet by teaching, which allowed him to write for his own pleasure. Over the years, he produced another story collection, a novel and two memoirs, showing off his versatility and originality. But as his sons approached college age, he made the decision to explore his options.

"I had $7,000 in the bank," he said. "That's it, and I'm 48 years old. I'd managed to save $7,000. And that's not going to pay for them to go to college, so I looked into ... television because TV is a business, so it pays."

His versatility paid off again as he studied, then mastered the art of the TV script. He's written pilots, spent time as an executive story editor on "True Blood," a co-producer on "Weeds" and was recruited to write this weekend's "Careless Love" episode featuring Fats Domino for "Treme" by crime writer George Pelecanos, an executive producer on the show about New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

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