if you watch it first. I’ll wait.
No, don’t come back to it. Do it now.
But we wondered, what can we do that’s unique to our show? And involve more of our characters? We then came up with the idea of having her boyfriend, Mike be an extra and wreaking all kinds of havoc. Normally, she’d just fire an extra who ruins take after take, but she can’t do that if he’s her boyfriend. This also gave us a chance to put him in her world for an episode.
We figured there would be enough story beats in this to not need a B (or secondary) story.
Okay, now it was time to plot it.
First scene: In the office. Quickly set up the problem. We learn that the scheduled director had to bail and no other regular director was available. Block all alternative options. (For Seattle Mariner fans, did you notice two of the names were Dave Niehaus and Kevin Cremin?)
Quick sidelight: We needed someone to enter the scene and basically provide expositional information. That can be dry and certainly thankless for an actor. So we gave her a real comic attitude – she takes great delight in delivering bad news. Suddenly we got some laughs out of it. And Mary Jo Smith was the perfect gloating messenger.
We also needed to set up that Rob wrote the script so he would have some attitude towards the shenanigans that would follow.
Characters always need attitudes in scenes. Having Kim prepare was not enough. Was she nervous about it? Confident? Overly-detailed oriented? We chose confident so we could do a quick flip to later that night in bed where she woke up terrified. The only way you want your character walking into a tough situation overly-confident is if the audience knows they’re really walking into a propeller. In this case, we wanted the magnitude of the task to really hit her. And it was very relatable. People do wake up in the dead of night terrified over some upcoming task.
The danger here is that the scene could be very expositional and not a lot of fun. Just a character saying they were scared. We used the device of the dream and called-back “the Fatman” to get some laughs out of the exposition. And we used the scene to rope in Mike. We liked the idea of Mike wanting to be there to support her and Kim coming up with the idea of having him be an extra. She’s ultimately hoisted on her own petard. And we established in numerous episodes that Mike had very little knowledge of show business so he could screw things up for her and legitimately not be aware that he was doing it.
To help foreshadow that stormy seas lay ahead, we had Kim offer to give him a line and we can see by his rehearsing that no good could come of this.
Now we go to the set. By the way, that was our stage at Paramount. At one point they walk to our craft services corner. If you look closely in a couple of shots, you can see Kim’s apartment set peeking through. But don’t tell anybody.
Again – attitude. We decided to start with Kim kicking ass. She’s very capable, very organized, relieved that she seemingly can handle this job after all. We needed to make a clean demarcation so that when Mike enters that’s when the problems start. There’s no doubt that Mike is responsible for all the havoc.
The other BLUE JUSTICE writers are there as our Greek chorus.
who watched the show did.)
We gave this outline to George McGrath and he did such a great job with the script that we put him on staff as a result.
Two final points: This was a very tricky show to shoot – especially in front of a studio audience. Director Jeff Melman did a terrific job. You needed an experienced hand and Jeff made it look easy. Secondly, there were a lot of re-takes, which meant a lot of pick-ups. We would need to shoot long after the studio audience had been sent home – well after midnight. That makes for a long long day. People can get cranky, especially stars. And if the star is unhappy she can make everybody unhappy. Nancy Travis, however, was a goddess. She assumed the role of a cheerleader, very positive, getting everyone pumped up. What could have been a nightmarish night was instead a night of fun. I love Nancy Travis.
Hopefully you enjoy these glimpses into the creative process. If nothing else, you can see that a great deal of thought goes into every moment. Every beat has a definite purpose, every scene has a clear objective. Not all sitcoms do that, especially today. But I feel they suffer as a result. The hardest part of the process is story. It’s worth the time and effort to get it right. Or at least I think so.