Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day then staff work begins

Happy Memorial Day. This is the time of the year when writing staffs go back to work. If you’re an aspiring TV scribe, I hope someday that’ll be you. Here’s what you can sort of expect…at least on the comedy side.

The first week will just be sharing vacation stories, home remodeling nightmares, and trashing reality shows. You’ll go out for long lunches, bitch about how much other writers make, compare Prius prices, recommend apps for your iPad and iPhone, and discuss the upcoming summer movie slate. My blog might come up. Half will like it, half will think it’s a piece of shit.

You’ll mosey back to the office, maybe talk in very general terms about the season ahead, some scattershot thoughts on characters and stories, then go home at 4.

Week two you’ll come in and the show runner will panic. He’ll realize you’re now hopelessly behind. From there you get to work, really delving into the characters, spitballing story areas, eventually breaking stories. You still go home at 4 but at least you’re getting something done.

Over the next few weeks the stories will be outlined, assigned, written, turned in, and rewritten by the staff. You start having lunch brought in, going home at 6…and then 7… and then 9. By the time you go into production in August you might have four scripts ready to go with a few others in the pipeline. And hopefully you’ll have seen every summer movie you wanted to see, made your vacation plans for next year, bought that Mac, remodeled that kitchen, fulfilled every dinner obligation, read all those books on your nightstand, caught up on my archives, and took pictures of sunsets so you’ll remember what they look like…because now the real fun begins.

The actors come in rested and the first day of production you’re ready to kill them. And so it begins.

Your first real break comes when you can say "Happy Thanksgiving".


Paul Duca said...

You can enjoy your break in style...TV Land is having a BEWITCHED marathon and the episode featuring the Real Don Steele aires this afternoon at 3:30 ET--12:30 In Boss Angeles (or does TV Land have a separate West Coast feed?).

Anonymous said...

It's not Friday, but it's on topic at least:

If the writing year starts around now, when does it wrap?

What's a typical year schedule for a network comedy series? Is it different for single camera?
I understand there's lots of last-minute rewrites and fine tuning that goes on with a live audience taping, would that make the year longer for multi-camera? Or only for the show runners?

What was the writing schedule like on M.A.S.H vs Cheers?

Dave Creek said...

Another "not Friday" question -- I haven't seen you mention Lucille Ball much here. How much of an influence were her sitcoms an influence on you?

Certainly her work never had the sophistication of many CHEERS or FRASIER episodes, but I can see some of the more slapstick elements those shows had in Lucy's work.

Plus, I think it's worth noting her influence beyond comedy -- as the first female head of a studio (Desilu), she was responsible for STAR TREK and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.

Foaming Solvent said...

Wishing "Happy Memorial Day" is like wishing "Happy Funeral." You might want to stop doing it, because it makes you appear to be an unthinking jerk. Maybe you don't have any friends or relatives who died fighting for our country, but I do.

theunderling said...

If writers head back to work right now, when does the rest of the production staff head back to work?