I’m gonna get real for a minute here: I’m a meta- whore.
Okay, that didn’t come out right AT ALL.
What I’m trying to say is, I am sucker for self- awareness, the meta, and, in particular, art about making art. I own at least a dozen books about books. Some of my favorite movies are the ones about the industry like “Adaptation”, “All About Eve”, sunset Blvd", “Singin’ in the Rain”, and all the old “Hey Kids, let’s put on a show” musicals of the 30s and 40s. One of the reasons I enjoy The Nerdist podcast so much is that I like hearing about how comedians come up with their jokes (if you are into that stuff, “Born Standing Up” by Steve Martin is an incredible read), where the nugget of a show or book came from, or how someone made a scene that didn’t work work.
Therefore, when I saw something called “The Writers’ Room” on Netflix, I knew I would love it before I even watched. The general premise of the show is this: Jim Rash (of Community fame) sits down with the key creative personnel of a popular show and they have a chat about what it is like in the writer’s room. For those who don’t know, television writing is actually a highly collaborative process. Unlike writing a book, where, sure, an editor offers you feedback, but the bulk of the work is done by you, television simply has too much writing to be done to have just one person do it. This is why Aaron Sorkin got addicted to pills and had to quit The West Wing. When you think about the idea of writing something in a group, it is a funny thing to consider. When I write live updates for apoker tournament, yes it is collaborative, but I still feel like what we’re doing feels disjointed unless it is a situation like we had at WPT, where the group of us consistently worked together and had an agreed upon approach to reporting.
In Season 1, Rash talks with the folks from “Breaking Bad”, “Parks and Rec”, “Dexter”, “Game of Thrones”, “New Girl”, and “American Horror Story”. The episodes featuring shows I have actually seen versus shows I haven’t are obviously more interesting. I would also caution that there are some serious spoiler alerts in the episodes of just about every show, that if you care about now knowing what happens, only watch the ones of shows you’ve seen.
Nonetheless, it is a refreshing and breezy 22 minutes of watching creative people talk about their creative process. Moreover, it is incredibly to realize just how different each show’s process is. The “Game of Thrones” episode makes you realize just how unusual this show is not only in the production, but in the pre-production as well.
With Rash’s presence, he manages to keep it light and not delve into some sort of highly esoteric discussion of the meaning of art or let anyone get too pretentious. In fact, my favorite moments are when Rash tries to get them to kid around. He asks them to share pitches to the room that were deemed too cuckoo crazy, even for a show like American Horror Story. After all, if there is anything I love more than hearing about the process of successfully creating something, it is hearing someone unpack the reasons why something failed. And if that kind of stuff floats your boat too, hceck out the documentary of Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt to bring Don Quixote to the screen, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”.
My lack of Sundance Channel means I can’t enjoy Season 2, which is currently airing there, but I may get another rewatch out of Season 1 on of these days to tide me over. There is a lot to be learned from these discussions and I am only just beginning to tap in to an amusing wealth of information. Like how to turn my most horrifyingly awkward life experiences commercial entertainment: