THE WRITERS’ ROOM
10 p.m. Monday, Sundance Channel
The image of the writer funneling the muse’s whisperings onto paper has tickled the imagination for decades.
So it’s no surprise that a TV show would be devised about the creative goings-on at some of today’s most lauded series.
Hosted by Charlotte native Jim Rash – co-director of “The Way Way Back” and the Academy Award-winning co-writer of “The Descendants” – Sundance Channel’s “The Writers’ Room,” which premieres Monday, takes us to the heart of the creative process behind six current shows, including HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Showtime’s “Dexter” and FX’s “American Horror Story.”
The season premiere features a roundtable discussion with “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan, series star Bryan Cranston and more than half a dozen of the show’s writers.
Yep, TV shows are written by teams, not churned out by a single genius.
“We chose to focus the show on TV as opposed to films because of the fascination of the idea of the (writers’) room,” Rash said in an interview. “The idea of a collective taking a show creator’s vision and becoming, in the process, really, a writing family.”
Collective writing was entirely new for “Dexter” co-executive producer and writer Sarah Colleton.
“I come from a feature film world, and at first, I was baffled by the whole concept of the writers’ room,” she said in a phone chat. “But then I saw that when you have the right mix (of people), there’s this alchemy where (everything) just jells.”
Colleton, who appears on “The Writers’ Room” with three fellow writer-producers and “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall, said, “I have enormous respect for the room.”
Rash, 43, said he jumped at the chance to host the Sundance series. He especially loved his homework assignment: “I watched all the shows,” he said. “Luckily, I had been keeping up with most of them, but I did do some binge-watching.”
Rash, who is an experienced comic – he’s one of the stars of NBC’s “Community” – tried to bring a unique angle to each discussion.
“It was a blast to do the show,” said Brett Baer, co-executive producer and cowriter on Fox’s sitcom “New Girl,” which is featured on Rash’s show. “Jim’s had so much experience on the sketch-comedy circuit that he’s amazingly funny and he does a great job of … keeping the dynamics interesting.”
Rash said each 22-minute episode of “The Writers’ Room” is boiled down from a 90-minute roundtable discussion. His job, he said, is to tease out the dynamic in the writers’ room.
He discovered that there’s a big difference in that dynamics between drama and comedy writing teams.
Baer said “New Girl” has 14 staff writers, twice the number on most dramas.
“We break up into two or three rooms,” he said. “One room breaks the story down, another room is doing fixes, while another group is pitching jokes and punching up the lines to make the show funnier.”
Rash said most of the shows he discusses this season are dark. The episode on “Game of Thrones” explores “the effect of the story’s darkness on people who hadn’t read the books,” said Rash. “In the first season, they didn’t know that the main character (Eddard Stark, played by Sean Bean) would be killed off. I mean, (Bean) was on the posters!”
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