I may get some angry comments but so be it. I list these not to embarrass anybody but to illustrate what it’s like to get network and studio notes. I do appreciate all of your comments, I really do. And these serve to give you some idea of what TV writers face. On the surface it may seem absurd, but trust me these are exactly the kind of notes writers receive. That’s why I’m doing this. These notes are a perfect example of what we must address on a routine basis.
Some background to put these notes in perspective: We spend hours, maybe even weeks, working on the story. Is it interesting enough? Are the stakes high enough? Where is the fun? What are the emotional beats? Are the emotional beats earned? How can we tell the story in a fresh new way? Can we put in some unexpected twists so it’s not predictable? How do we get out the necessary exposition in a way that’s not dry and boring? How do we service all of the characters? How do we do this while still staying within budget… and time? Every beat is discussed, every motivation.
A draft is written. Then is carefully scrutinized. Can this line be funnier? Does this scene feel too long? Is there a nice flow? Does each actor have enough good things to do in the scene? Are the jokes spread around equally, or is one character primarily asking questions or laying out exposition? Are the payoffs big enough? Is the story easy to track? Is there still a better way of telling this story? Will the actors be happy? Is there any repetition? Is the act break strong enough? Is there enough physical comedy and movement or do we just have talking heads? Is it too predictable or cliched?
And after all of that discussion and polishing when we feel we’ve produced a well-crafted script that satisfies all of those conditions, we send it to the stage… and network… and studio.
And these are the notes we get:
It all rings true - except in the early 60s, I think Ritchie would have said "Hi" instead of "Hey"
Does anybody actually say "brunt" in everyday conversation? To me, it's one of those words that people occasionally write, but sound awkward when spoken informally.
People did not say "My God" in 1965 sitcoms.
Most of America is probably unfamiliar with haggis.
Pretty sure that kaddish would not have been mentioned back then, either.
I also query the insurance rates comments: my recollection is that they didn't go up as promptly or as much back then.
I don't get the line when Alan says to Mel :I don't like it when you speak normally. That doesn’t have the right ring to it.
I never remember Buddy getting off less then a fast 2 or 3 shots at Mel as soon as he appeared. A single shot seems lame for him
"Breaking out of Alcatraz" though time-wise right, is also too detailed a reference.
I think "Canada", rather than Poland seems more from Laura's world.
Do you think they would have used the term exotic dancers instead of strippers?
About the bagel thing, if this is going by 1965 lifestyles, would "plain Bagel" be a term that would be used and did the "goyim" even know about bagels?
The part with Alan making dinner rings untrue.
Wouldn't a motel room be cheaper than a car?
How do you buy a car and have it delivered early in the morning, before you make your bed/couch?
Wouldn't the racket of destroying a kitchen to make french toast wake her up earlier?
Alan Brady never once wrote with the gang.
I think Alan's joke at the end is anachronistic.
One clunky sentence I would change: "She's going to ask for all the things you borrowed back." Would change it to: "She's going to ask you to give back all the things you borrowed."
And my favorite, where they’re actually rewriting jokes:
The dollars left over from the funeral, while a great joke, still seems post-60s. Maybe "I got a bunch of singles from the funeral. I sold autographs during the eulogy." Or "I didn't tip the pallbearers this time." Or "They passed the plate for his favorite charity and I took change."
Now put yourself in the writer's place. Makes you want to order a big drink or write plays, doesn't it?
Tomorrow: Bill Persky. You’ll see the difference.