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Sunday, August 15, 2004


I've been running full out for so long I hardly knew what to do with myself today. It's Sunday. And I finished the pages I needed to do this weekend a little early. But I felt a vague unease all day. As if I was loafing by not finding some work to do.

Of course, both my story editors are working full out this weekend. But there have been many weekends where they had some time off and I worked through. So my more-Calvinist-than-thou work ethic is not strictly logical.

I guess part of it is that someone else is rewriting my script for the finale. That's always hard, when you're taken off a script. But I've taken writers off scripts before, of course; sometimes you get locked into doing it one way, and a new writer won't be so tied to the same approach. So having offered to "help," I'm probably well advised to steer clear of the script so no one thinks I have a need to meddle. To be a team player as a tv writer -- to be a tv staff writer -- is to keep your ego out of it as much as possible. The script is not your baby, never was. It belongs to the showrunner. Even when you're the showrunner, it's still not your baby. It belongs to the show.

That's one way tv is different from original features (and slightly similar to features that are sequels): a feature builds its own unique audience. The audience for The Piano is whoever went to see it and liked it and recommended it. A tv show builds an audience over the course of its run. The longer you go, the more they develop expectations of what you're going to deliver. Fail those expectations and they will desert the show.

I rented some Friends Season 9 episodes; and oddly I found the shows hard to watch. I went through a phase where I was watching Friends every other night, sometimes twice a night, taping it when possible. Sure, I was writing a half hour comic drama, and now I'm writing an hour drama. But tonight it just seemed shrill and too highly keyed.

Maybe I'm just not in the mood.

I wish it were late enough to go to sleep.

My first wife said that whenever I was done with a writing project I felt depressed and listless. Maybe that's what this is. I'm not quite done with this show, but we're finishing the last two episodes. One story editor is careening through the third draft of the finale, and the other is rampaging through a rewrite of the last episode we'll shoot. I have no immediate writing to do. And I don't want to shift my concentration over to some new project just for a day -- that way lies madness.

I think I need a little vacation. It's been forever since I took an official vacation.

We are shooting out of order, by the way, because we are going to shoot the last episode entirely off the standing sets, so we can strike them and save the rental of the studio. We can't do that with the finale -- we need some of our standing sets. So we're shooting the finale as the second to last ep to go to camera, and the third to last episode will go to camera last. Isn't producing fun?

Actually, it's not. A producer is on the hook for the show personally. All a writer can lose is his time. Having worked a bit in the producer racket, I have tremendous respect for producers for their willingness to live in a maelstrom of risk. I'm so glad I'm a writer!


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