A few years ago, we had a show on the air and we were stuck writing an advice scene. You know what I mean: main character is in some kind of quandary, goes to another set somewhere where a colorful supporting character is often found, asks colorful supporting character for advice, which is given, in interesting and amusing dialogue, thus preparing the way for the conclusion and resolution of the quandary.
Sounds simple, but those are actually quite hard to write, because the advice usually has to be good and interesting and funny and believable, which means that a lot of writers are going to be sitting around the writers room staring at their shoes, because if advice is funny, it's probably not good advice, and if it's believable, it's probably not interesting. So when you get to that part of the rewrite, you usually end up waiting for the youngest writer on the staff to pitch something heartfelt and real, at which point you all turn on him and spend the next hour or so belittling his pitch and questioning his manhood.
I mean, so I've heard. We try to run our shows with a nurturing, supportive atmosphere.
Anyway, after minutes of silence, an older writer pitched this: the guy lays out his problem to his friend, asks for advice, says, "what should I do?” a long beat, his friend says, "Don't do anything. Maybe something will happen that will turn it all around.” Which is the worse advice ever, but is at least funny and possibly believable, or believable and possibly funny, which you'll take during a long rewrite.
Something will happen that will turn it all around.
I've spent the past few months generally slagging on the networks and the executives and their short-sightedness, their inability to recognize funny, the layers of terrified bureaucrats that gum up the works, that drain each idea of its freshness and humor, but you know, maybe I've been too hard on them, and the process.
Look, there's millions of dollars at stake, here. And these are publicly traded companies that answer to an unsentimental and hardnosed financial community. And it's very very easy to sit here and criticize the way they go about their business -- too obsessed with market research; too fearful of putting something on that's funny; too eager to please the out-of-touch boss; too cloistered to see that yet another comedy about single and married young people isn't going to work; too...well, you get the picture. Anyway, it's very easy to criticize. You can't just appear in front of your furious bosses and craven ad-salesmen and institutional investors and say, you know, this year, I'm just going with my gut.
So I take back what I said, you know, about the stupidity and the cowardice and the thing. You see, something will happen that will turn it all around. And what happened was this: I sold two pitches last week. To two networks. So, I mean, how bad could they be? Maybe the system isn't broken after all. Maybe everything's fine.
So, all that stuff I said? Forget it.
For now. Pilot orders come in January. So, it's possible that something will happen that will turn it all back around.
That's it for this week. Next week, we'll wonder why some people are still here.
For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.