In this episode of Scriptnotes, 296, it’s Craig’s turn to be absent for an episode, Damon Lindelof of Lost and The Leftovers joins John August to co-host the show to fill his place.
This was a very informative episode about writing for television, something I haven’t heard as much about, but am definitely interested in.
It’s such a collaborative process, and everyone hears that, but it was great to get so many firsthand accounts from Damon. I haven’t really learned much before about the process of moving up in tv writing, and it was interesting to hear his story about writing an episode Wasteland and turning it in, and his advice about finding that perfect time to jump in in a way that helps. I think I knew that some tv writes sort of as they shoot, and some shows do the whole thing ahead of time, but I didn’t realize the schedules that frequently got that down to the wire. I have a newfound respect especially for tv actors—not that I didn’t before, they’re fantastic, but I didn’t realize often how little time they have to prep. It’s truly incredible what tv shows accomplish.
I also really liked hearing Damon and John talk about the paradox of fans wanting everything planned out from day 1, but also wanted the creators to listen to and adjust for fan input, and it’s true that you can’t have it both way. I mean, you can have some details of the whole plot solidified from day one and then adjust for fans as you go, but you definitely can’t give even 70% of one while giving as much dedication to the other request. I think a lot of times people get too critical of shows for writing as they go. I mean, sometimes that criticism is merited, for sure—if you do it enough it feels like you keep putting asterisks next to your world building and using side notes to try and lawyer your way out of your own plot, like the second time weeping angels are used in Doctor Who and they just up and become a completely different species for horror factor, which was totally unnecessary anyway as the fandom at large still agrees that Blink is one of the scariest episodes of all time, despite being one of the only episodes ever where no one is killed during the course of the episode. Copious amounts of death is cheap horror, if that’s all you have to offer.
Oh the positive side, shows and movie franchises that respond to audience desires in general are, I think, going the correct route. Media is a give and take experience, it should be collaborative including with the fans, and there’s nothing wrong with a show listening to its audience, and figuring out where it’s going to go. I doubt when Supernatural introduced Crowley they had any intention of him ending up where he is now, and similarly I’m fairly certain Gabriel was just a trickster the first time he was introduced, not Gabriel, but I’m not giving any complaints and neither is their fandom at large. They’re taking what people like, and what they like, and building on it successfully and carefully, and it’s turned out tremendously well and profitably for them.
Anyway, after a lot of helpful info about tv writing, the episode ends with One Cool Things about the show Occupied and the show City Girl, and a bonus cool thing about John Hodgman.