Friday Question of the Week time. There is one of those meme things going around. Various scribes on the blogosphere are being asked why they wanted to write for television? You know me. I can’t resist a good meme (whatever the hell that means).
My partner David and I started out at a time when television comedy was vastly superior to film, certainly in quantity and variety of styles. This was the early 70’s (1970s not 18) and with the exception of Woody Allen and Mel Brooks movies there was very little hilarity on the silver screen. It was a golden age of cinema with Coppola, Spielberg, Friedkin, Lucas, DePalma, Scorsese, Ashby, Altman, and whoever directed BLACKUA turning out one classic after another. But comedy was relegated to the back seat.
TV was a different story. This was the heyday of ALL IN THE FAMILY, MASH, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, MAUDE, BARNEY MILLER, THE ODD COUPLE, and BRIDGET LOVES BERNIE. We were much more inspired to write for television (especially that last classic.
Plus, when we started we knew NOTHING about writing. I had to buy a TV script just to see what one looked like. So we figured it was probably easier to master 35 pages than 120. And since we’re still trying to master those 35 pages I’d say we were right.
Another thing I like about TV is the immediacy of it. You write something, it gets filmed next month, the following month it’s on the air, ten minutes later it's on HULU, eighteen minutes after that the DVD comes out, and within an hour used copies are available for $ 19 on Amazon. You can serve it while it’s hot. Movies take forevvvvvver… and that’s if you’re even lucky enough to get one in production. We wrote our first draft of VOLUNTEERS in 1980. It came out in 1985.
TV is also a writer’s medium. Film is a director’s. Writers become show runners in TV. They get thrown off the set in movies. TV writers have some control. Movie writers get rewritten by the director and his wife’s slow cousin.
And it used to be that if you wrote a show that aired on a major network, more people would see it, even if it finished dead last in the ratings, than have seen all the live productions of HAMLET put together. But with NBC’s line up that’s no longer true. Still, more people will see a show you write for the Peacock network than have seen all the productions of Joan Rivers’ one-woman show ever staged.
There are certainly plusses for writing screenplays too, and we’ve been fortunate enough to do both. But for some reason we always come back to television. Of course that could also be because they’ve heard of us in television.