For the 6th and final episode of Season 1, Jordan spoke to David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, the brilliant minds behind the award-winning Showtime/BBC series EPISODES, which recently concluded its fifth and final season.
David and Jeffrey both got their start writing on the legendary late-night HBO sitcom DREAM ON. From there, Jeffrey went on to write and co-produce the hit series MAD ABOUT YOU, while David co-created the sitcom FRIENDS.
EPISODES follows a British husband-and-wife comedy writing team who travel to Hollywood to remake their successful British TV series with FRIENDS’ alum Matt LeBlanc.
OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, East. The podcast is hosted by Jordan Carlos. Mix, tech production, and original music by Stock Boy Creative.
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Thanks for listening. Write on.
Jordan: (music). I’m Jordan Carlos. And you’re listening to On Writing. A screenwriting podcast from the writer’s guild of America east. This is a show about the stories we see on our screens. And the people who make them happen. You’ll hear from writers in the film, TV, news, and digital media industry about their work. From pitching to production, from process to favorite lines. And everything in between.
Today I’m joined by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik. The brilliant minds behind the award winning Showtime BBC series Episodes, which recently concluded it’s fifth and final season. David and Jeffrey both got their start writing on the legendary late night HBO sitcom Dream On. From there, Jeffrey went on to write and co produce the hit series Mad About You. While David co created the sitcom Friends.
Episodes follows a British husband and wife comedy writing team who travel to Hollywood to remake their successful British TV series with Friends alum, Matt Leblanc. Jeffrey Klarik and David Crane, thanks so much for joining us on On Writing. This is the final season of Episodes. And, I mean, what, what a body of work that, that you created. I want to ask, because what I got from the show, and, and what I love about it is the unflinching commentary on Hollywood. What I like is when comics from another country come to America and point out all the silly things that we do. What is your biggest note? What is the mark that you would like to leave with this many seasons of the show? What do you hope people take away? That the British are just funnier than us? Or what?
David: I, well I think, you know, while the, the Hollywood satire stuff is, is fun and it certainly we’re getting a lot off our chest. But even more than that, I would say the part of the show that we’re the proudest of is the relationship between the characters. And that that’s gotten deeper and deeper with each season. That when they first meet Matt, he’s sort of just a, a nemesis. And then those relationships just go further and further. And I think that’s the work that we’re the proudest of. I think if it were just a satire of Hollywood, we would have gotten bored and expect an audience to get bored.
Jordan: What were the moments when you were like, aha. This all worked out. We brought all the threads taught basically. And everything that we’ve been trying to do, everything we were trying to express. Any favorite moments this season where that, that kind of happened?
David: I’m going to, um, say certainly the, the last scene of the last episode. Uh.
David: Was, if, if-
David: There was ever an occasion of pulling threads together.
David: We, we, we worked really hard trying to figure out how to, how to wrap the season up in a satisfying way that was also surprising.
Jordan: And how long did that take?
David: Six years actually. (laughs).
Jordan: Six years. Yeah.
David: We started thinking about it six years ago. How the hell are we going to get out of this one?
Jordan: Really? Oh man.
David: Yeah. Pretty much. Pretty much. And, and originally we had thought about actually shooting a couple of scenes of episodes, the, the Shawn and Beverly version of episodes, with Emma Thompson and maybe Kenneth Branagh.
Jeffrey: Kenneth Branagh. Right.
David: We, and then we thought to ourselves, A, I’m, I would freak out having to direct Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.
Jordan: I’m sure they’re lovely.
David: I’m sure they are. But I, I don’t think I could have done and still breathed at the same time. Plus the fact that the scheduling and, and getting them of, to, to agree to do it. And we just thought, okay. Let’s, let’s be smart here. How can we achieve that without having to spend a penny? And so that’s how-
David: We kind of came up with, with the credits. The opening credits of the show within the show.
Jordan: I love it. Thank you for the wake up call. But I had no idea. Are they kind of the inspiration for the whole show? Kenneth Branagh and, and, uh-
David: Oh. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. We always wanted a, a Emma Thompson type-
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
David: As Beverly.
David: And we were just so fortunate to find Tamsin Greig. I mean, that was-
David: That was just khismit. I, I mean, that’s the thing about the show is, and it, it happened on Friends. And it happened on Mad About You. Is you’re just blessed with the perfect cast.
David: That there is no weak link. That everybody that we hired kind of just-
Jordan: Kept the ball aloft.
David: It was perfection.
David: It was, you just, you know? It’s lightning in a bottle. You don’t know when you’re casting. You, you see people read once or twice. And-
David: You think about all the missteps you could have made when it turned out exactly right. Because we looked at many, many, many, many actors for-
David: For Shawn for example.
David: Uh. We actually, mention some of the people that we actually met with. Uh.
Jeffrey: Oh my-
David: Benedict Cumberbatch.
Jordan: No. Benedict Cumberbatch. Really?
David: All kinds. Yeah.
Jeffrey: Came in.
Jeffrey: The guy from Homeland.
David: Years ago.
Jeffrey: What was his name?
Jordan: Oh Mylanta. Benedict Cumberbatch. Really?
David: Yes. And-
Jordan: Doctor Strange himself.
David: And the guy from, uh, Damian Lewis.
Jordan: Oh wow.
David: Yeah. Yeah. But, but, you know what?
David: As amazing as those actors are, as Jeffrey always says, there’s like only one Cinderella for the slipper. And-
David: Stephen Mangan was exactly right. And he walked in and went oh okay. There we go.
Jordan: Yeah. Stephen Mangan, he, I just enjoy his sincerity on screen. And his chemistry with Bev is, is like, I, I for a moment, I was like, are they really married in, in real life? Like because-
David: Uh ha. Good.
Jordan: They have a very good-
David: Couldn’t stand one another in real life. (laughs).
Jordan: (laughs). What? Is this an exclusive?
David: No. I’m-
Jordan: Is this a podcast exclusive?
David: I’m kidding with you.
Jordan: Okay. Okay.
David: No. They’ve actually worked together before so they, they brought all that to it. Twice before, actually. On Green Wing and what was the other?
Jeffrey: Something else. British.
David: Black book?
Jeffrey: Maybe. Yeah.
Jordan: Oh. Okay. So they, they, they had history. And they brought that, they brought that to the screen.
Jeffrey: And, and the first day we had Stephen read with Matt, I looked at David and I said, Chandler, Joey chemistry. It was immediate. Seriously. You just, and it was, it was totally different. But you just thought, oh. This is Art Carney and Jackie Gleason. This is, this is a twosome that is classic.
Jeffrey: And you, and you saw that immediately.
Jordan: Of course. I enjoy that, what Matt Leblanc of course brings to the screen. And in this show, and I, I was wondering, tell me about his, his journey. Because at one point he kind of has a, a riches to rags situation in the show. I mean, it, is it hard for him? Like how much, because it’s him. How much is Matt Leblanc like able to kind of like move on?
Jeffrey: This thing about it is it’s not him. Which, which is actually a compliment. Thank you. (laughs). That, that it really is very little the real Matt Leblanc.
Jeffrey: We sort of did this amalgam of, of a little bit of Joey and a little bit of a spoiled actor. And a little-
Jeffrey: And, and, and people really just like they believed he was dumb as Joey-
Jordan: Oh? (laughs).
Jeffrey: They kind of thought that this was, this was who Matt Leblanc is. And it’s a testament to his ability that you blurred the line. Even we sometimes couldn’t tell where, where Matt ended and Matt began.
Jeffrey: If that makes any sense.
Jordan: So peel back the layers a little bit for us. Like what is Matt Leblanc like then? It feels like he’s just cool under fire and is just such a, such a, uh, [crosstalk 00:07:34].
Jeffrey: [crosstalk 00:07:34].
Jeffrey: And an incredibly generous actor because the character is called Matt Leblanc. And even though we’ve approached it-
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey: From a writing standpoint as a character. The way we would any other character. It still has his name on it. And in the very beginning, when we started sending him the script, we thought is he going to push back? Is he, you know? Is he, is his ego going to get involved? And to his credit, never once did he say, “Uh. You guys. I don’t know. I don’t want to do that.” He was an incredible sport. And he really understood that this is a character.
Jeffrey: And he approached it like a character and he was willing to go anywhere with us.
Jordan: Let me ask you this. What was your secret then, in all these seasons for keeping it fresh? For keeping the storyline fresh? What did you all do in the off season?
Jeffrey: I think, I think we’re enormously talented.
Jordan: Well, okay. I mean, I mean, obvs. Obviously.
David: More specifically-
Jeffrey: Oh more specifically.
Jordan: Yeah. More specifically.
Jeffrey: I’m enormously talented.
Jordan: Well, I’ve, I loved, uh, David you, you wrote on Dream On. Right? Uh.
Jeffrey: We both, yeah. We both wrote on Dream On.
Jordan: You both wrote on Dream On. So you’ve been-
Jeffrey: Yeah. We go back a long time.
Jordan: So you’ve been entertaining me since then by the way. So you are immensely talented. Thank you very much for-
Jordan: Stealing my innocence. (laughs).
David: Go ahead.
Jeffrey: I was going to say in terms of how we kept the show fresh-
Jeffrey: I think part of it has to do with because our primary concern was the relationship between the characters, and-
Jeffrey: We were always sort of taking their friendships in new places and their marriage to new places. It was able to stay fresh for us. And stay interesting for us.
Jeffrey: Uh. You know? And we also had this habit, at the end of each season, we would write ourselves into a corner.
Jeffrey: Like oh, this show’s been canceled. Like, well, how do you, where do you go from now?
Jeffrey: And I think the task of sort of writing ourselves out of those corners led to really interesting seasons.
Jordan: Yes. And, and let me ask you this. Like, there seems to be within the show, and a kind of like attraction and, uh, repulsion with Hollywood. Why can’t Bev and Shawn leave? Not just because, you know, you need them for the show. But why, why do they stick around so much? When it seems like they have so-
Jeffrey: Why does anybody stick around? It’s a horrible, horrible business.
Jeffrey: It’s truly. I mean, why are we thinking of doing a new show after everything that’s gone down?
Jeffrey: I, it’s what you do. And, and coming over to America for them was a chance to actually make some money on, on what they do.
Jeffrey: You know? They weren’t making that, even though they were, they had a hit show in London, in England, they weren’t making American money. And that was one of the appeals for Shawn. And I think in many ways also, I think Shawn just, Shawn, well they both loved the creative part of it. And Shawn loves show business. And I=
Jeffrey: Think Beverly loves Shawn. Uh.
Jeffrey: And so-
Jeffrey: One of the reasons that they stay, I mean, there were points when he wanted to stay, and she wanted to leave. And so-
Jeffrey: That for us was really interesting dynamic in their marriage and their relationship. We actually did have them go home. Uh. Was it in season three?
Jeffrey: They have this new show, they, their, Pucks is canceled. And-
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey: They have this new show that there’s a lot of heat on. And neither one, Beverly says, “No. Let’s not do it.” And-
Jeffrey: Shawn says, “But if, if this new one’s a hit, that’s like winning the, the prize at the carnival. That’s what your, the giant stuffed giraffe.”
Jeffrey: And ultimately Beverly convinces him. She goes, “No. Everybody wanting us, that’s the giraffe. Once we say yes, we’re screwed. Then we’re back in it.” And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
Jeffrey: They, they get over to England. They’re happy. It’s raining. They’re so, they’re in love again. Their marriage is-
Jeffrey: The most romantic scene in the fog by the bridge.
David: And the phone rings and it’s, “Come back. We, this, it’s happening.”
Jordan: It’s happening. Right.
David: “You got to come back.”
Jordan: You got to come back. Yeah.
Jordan: Where did, I mean, um, great stories come from great germs so, uh, what was, what was the germ of this show?
David: The germ of this show is we did a show about I don’t know 12 years ago called The Class on CBS.
Jordan: Jessie Tyler Ferguson.
David: Jessie Tyler Ferguson.
Jordan: I remember.
David: And John Burnthal. And Lizzie Taplin. And Lucy Punch. And, (laughs), I mean it was like, it was, it was supposed to be the next Friends. And bit by bit the network got involved and chiseled away. And didn’t promote it. And before we knew it-
Jeffrey: Right. And they had expectations that were too high. They were the ones calling it the new Friends. We’re like, “No. No.”
David: No. No. No.
Jeffrey: “It’s not he new Friends.”
Jordan: (laughs). Yeah.
David: And they said, “We’re going to open the night with it.” And I said, “No. No. No. Don’t open the night with it. Let’s, let’s phone somebody.”
David: We want to come in under the radar anyway. It was, it was again your sort of recipe book for everything that could go wrong.
David: And it got canceled after a season.
Jeffrey: And I said to David, “I’m done. I am never working for one of these idiots again.”
Jeffrey: I swear to God. It’s like, life is too short. And I’m not doing it.
Jeffrey: And, and a friend of ours went over to London. And, uh, did a show. Uh. Six episodes. And he came back and said, “Oh my God. They leave you alone. They give you all the money you need. It’s, it’s what you thought writing for television was going to be.”
Jeffrey: So I said, “Okay. If we’re going to do it again, I want to go over and do it under the radar. I want to do it with a network that stays out of our hair. I wanted to do it so that nobody sees it.”
David: Right. And then Jeffrey came up with, he pitched the, the concept of the two writers who go come to America.
David: He said, “Because then we’ll shoot it here in LA.”
Jeffrey: And we’ll never see the BBC.
David: Right. The BBC will never be here. We’ll get to stay home. It will be sunny. And, and we’re still making a show for England.
Jeffrey: So we go over. We sell it in the room. And it’s like holy shit. This is great.
Jeffrey: Now we can go back to LA-
Jeffrey: Go, we’ll be left alone. We’ll do whatever we want. It will be just perfect. And nobody will see it. Which is great.
Jeffrey: Because that way they can’t criticize it. They can’t look at numbers. It doesn’t matter if it gets a rating or not. And so we, we get the budget from the BBC.
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey: And you could actually make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Jeffrey: From the licensing. [inaudible 00:14:24]. And it was like holy crap.
Jordan: Oh no.
Jeffrey: Are you shitting me?
Jordan: Oh no. Organic? Organic peanut butter? What are we talking here?
Jeffrey: No. Not organic.
Jeffrey: Not even Skippy.
Jeffrey: And, and so basically, uh, our agent Nancy Josephson said, “Uh. You’re not going to like this. But I think the only way we’re going to make any money off of this at all, and be able to shoot this is if you align with an American network.” And we said, “No. That’s the whole purpose. No more American networks.” And she said, “How about HBO? Or Showtime?” And we were like, we’d heard good things there.
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey: And we had a good experience on Dream On. And so, um, she took it to Showtime. And again, we had written two scripts already. And they went, “Okay.” So they were in. But, but even with them in-
Jeffrey: And the BBC money, we still couldn’t afford to shoot it in the United States.
Jeffrey: I swear to God. There, because the kind of budget we had was just, it really was peanut butter and jelly.
Jeffrey: And so basically we had to shoot the entire show in London. And make it look like LA.
Jordan: You are kidding me.
Jeffrey: You talk about your, oh no, talk about a challenge. It, every single, except for one day a year, we would come to LA, and shoot the hiking scenes.
David: Yeah. The exterior stuff. The beach.
Jeffrey: But other than that, every single thing was England.
Jordan: So you shoot London for LA?
Jordan: London for LA. I have never heard, that is a new. That is a, (laughs).
Jeffrey: The show you’re looking at, that’s all London.
Jeffrey: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Except for those few exterior scenes, it’s all shot in London.
Jordan: Uh. Okay. In my head I have just lost cabin pressure. I did not know that. Well, you did it, you’ve done a really masterful job with that. My goodness.
David: That was a challenge. And it actually became fun after a while. Figuring out ways. I mean, it, in the final season, we have Matt like pacing next to his swimming pool. Well, we shot that in March-
David: Outside of London. It was gray and drizzly.
David: And we found a house out in the countryside.
David: That had a swimming pool. And indoor swimming pool. And I figured out a way of opening the sliding doors on that room-
David: Putting the camera on the opposite side of the pool. And just lighting the crap out of it.
David: And, and so we, we brought in like potted, uh, palm trees.
David: But because the budget was so restricted, we probably had two palm trees. So if I was shooting towards Matt, I’d move those things to the left. The palm to the left. If I was shooting a little further over, I’d take that palm and move it over. I mean, it was really like, my father has a barn. Let’s put on a play.
Jordan: Wow. Yeah.
David: I, I mean, we did all the wardrobe. I would go to department stores with the actors and actually buy them wardrobe. Because we had no wardrobe. Uh. Budget. So it was really a challenge. And looking back, in retrospect, it was fun.
David: During it, it was hellish.
Jordan: So you got a scrappy show. That’s what you’re saying.
David: We are scrappy guys. Yes.
Jordan: You’re scrap, you are scrappy guys.
David: We had a scrappy show.
Jordan: You have a scrappy show. And well your characters are scrappy. That’s, that’s what I, your main characters, Bev and Shawn, are so scrappy. That’s what I love about them.
Jeffrey: They’re rough.
Jeffrey: I mean, that’s the thing. Shawn and Beverly are absolute, I’m very much, when we pitched it, we said, um, I’m Shawn. He’s Beverly. It’s, as we said, about us and the characters that Shawn sees the glass and half full, and Beverly says the glass is an idiot. And that’s kind of us.
Jordan: And that’s, I like that description. But-
Jeffrey: It’s true.
Jordan: What about on the network side? It seems like there were, you know, over the course of the seasons, there were allies and then there were definitely enemies. Right? Hearing this back story, and making the show itself, it feels like Merk, it feels like an amalgam of a lot of people that you must have worked with. Just a dirty snowball of-
Jordan: Bad vibes. And horrible, uh, exchanges. Is that correct?
David: It is, look. What we love about Merk that makes him I think a, a more interesting character than just a villain. But at the same time there’s a charm about him. One of our favorite scenes from this past season is when Carol’s at home. She can’t leave her house. She’s depressed.
David: And Merk comes over with food and dope. And they hang out.
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
David: And you get to see what’s wonderful about this man. That he can also be loving and charming and Merk. So, I mean, that’s a lot of these guys. I mean that’s the thing.
Jordan: No one’s irredeemable. That’s what you’re saying. Like-
Jordan: Yeah. I get that. I get that.
David: Right. And that the char-, no, none of the characters are, are one dimensional.
David: A lot of the times when you’ve decided you’ve just had it with network TV, they will take you out for lunch, and shmooze you. And you would come away thinking I guess I, I was wrong about him.
David: He seems so sweet. He is so nice and he’s going to give me total freedom. And I think I like him. You know?
Jordan: Right. Right.
David: It’s like, and then, and then as soon as you get there, it would be like, it would back to where you assumed it would be.
Jordan: Back to the salt mines. So-
Jordan: So, they can be charming and disarming.
David: They’re very good at seduction.
Jordan: Oh yes. Yes. Uh. Seduced and abandoned. That’s, that’s usually how it goes.
David: Yes. That’s exactly right.
David: Exactly right.
Jordan: So you’re still interested after all this. After all the, um, mishigas that you’ve been through with this show to make-
David: Oh. Mishigas.
Jordan: Uh. I mean we’re in New York. There’s, there’s going to be a couple [crosstalk 00:20:17].
David: And a little scrappy as well.
Jordan: Thank you. So, so let me ask you this. You said you are interested in making yet another show. And you’re, you guys are just going to strap it back on and, uh, and hit the pitches again? Or, I’m just curious as to how that goes. Like, what do you feel now? Do you feel as though you’re better at it? Do you feel as though maybe you’re just armor plated now? Does it get easier over time to-
David: No. It never gets easier. And it, there is no armor that’s strong enough. I mean, it really isn’t. I mean, it’s just, you have to kind of hold your nose and dive in. And know that it’s going to be hellish at times. And, and then, and wonderful at times.
Jeffrey: I mean, the actual making of it is, is joyous. You know? And sometimes the writing is … joyous is too good a word.
David: No. Because it’s too hard. I mean that’s the thing. It’s always hard. You’d think after, I mean, we’ve been doing this a long time. You would think it would get easier. It really isn’t. It’s just, it’s always hard. And then you have those days when you actually come up with one thing that you’re happy about. And it’s just the best day ever.
Jordan: And, and speaking of that, what is your process like? Do you both lock yourselves in a room together and just like, you know, kick yourselves in the butt and-
David: Oh. Uh. Process. I thought you said what’s our profit like.
David: And I, like I said, peanut butter and jelly. Um. Yeah. It’s just the two of us. We have no writers room. Which is-
David: Part of the reason I, I’m okay with doing it because I’m not great in a room full of people pitching out ideas. That I have to act like I like.
Jordan: That’s, yeah. (laughs). You have to act like you like.
David: It’s time consuming. And, and it’s exhausting being a lot of nodding and a lot, a lot of uh ha. Yeah. Uh ha. Maybe. Okay. Well, let’s put a pin in that.
David: You know? And it just like, God. You waste so much time.
Jeffrey: So this is where Shawn and Beverly split up because-
Jordan: This is so funny.
Jeffrey: Shawn, Shawn loved, I love a writer’s room. I mean I love the way we do it. Which is just the two of us. I, I’ve been in wonderful writers rooms. That I loved. But the journey that we went on with this show is it’s just the two of us.
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey: And if it wasn’t clear, we, we also live together.
Jeffrey: You know that.
David: Well, wasn’t clear to me.
Jordan: It wasn’t, wasn’t clear. That’s-
Jordan: That’s great. That’s great.
David: After we hang up we better discuss this.
Jordan: (laughs). Well, let me ask you this. Guys. Are you an efficient duo? I mean, you’re comedy writers. What part does efficiency verse laziness play? Who’s the lazy one? Who’s the efficient one? Who wants to throw whom under the bus?
Jeffrey: I would think of me, Jeffrey, as being the lazy one. But ironically, if we’re not working, I get anxious.
David: Yeah. Well, I’m-
Jeffrey: He’s more organized.
David: I’m, I’m sort of the organizing one.
David: I make the lists and I do all the typing. And, uh, Jeffrey paces. And he’s-
David: Much more inspirational. Uh. And it’s this kind of whatever side of the brain it is where things just kind of pop up.
David: And are brilliant. And surprising. I’m more of a plotter. But it’s a combination that seems to work.
Jeffrey: And we’ll got through periods where we don’t like anything we’re doing.
Jeffrey: And then we lock into something and suddenly it’s, it’s kind of flowing.
Jordan: Do you make mini drafts? Do you make two drafts, three drafts?
Jeffrey: Oh my God. Yeah. Yeah. A lot of drafts. A lot, a lot of drafts. And we write everything in advance before we start shooting because I’m, I direct it. So we have to have everything done in advance. So, we’re constantly rewriting. Even in the car on the way to the set in the morning. We’re redoing scenes. And while they’re doing setups, we’re typing another pass. I mean, we really do work hard.
Jordan: You do. And, and it shows. I just wanted to say, hats off to you because your dialog is very, it’s like popcorn. It’s like jazz. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Meta jokes.
Jeffrey: Thank you.
David: Thank you.
Jordan: Meta jokes layered on meta jokes. Which I, which I really love.
Jeffrey: We don’t, by the way, we don’t do any improvising. We’re, I know there are a lot of shows and movies-
Jeffrey: Where they’re just like we’re the, whatever the opposite is, we’re very controlling. We will absolutely give a note about a comma.
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). (laughs).
Jeffrey: Um. No seriously.
Jordan: Or a semi colon. A semi colon? What about a semi colon?
Jeffrey: Oh yeah.
David: Oh yeah.
Jeffrey: And so I have to clear the throat. I’m up there saying no. It’s like, (clears throat), not, (clears throat). And our actors are very patient with us because they know going in that’s just who we are. You know? Probably be healthier if we weren’t.
Jordan: I think if, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You, you, you both have-
Jordan: You both have very good ears for dialog and conversation.
David: Yeah. I, I got to say I agree. And no it’s true. And I think I-
Jeffrey: Are you going to talk about how brilliant we are again?
David: No. I’m, but I do think I learned a lot of that on, on Mad About You. How to write dialog that doesn’t seem written. And that’s a lot of work. It’s very hard. And to kind of avoid obvious pipe. I mean, we’ll watch shows now and, and we cringe because the pipe is so in your face.
David: And so heavy handed. And to me, that’s the challenge is how do you get all that information out without anybody realizing that they’re getting all of this information in?
Jordan: Okay. I have to know at least one troubleshooting way to do that. You know? Without giving away the farm.
David: No. Well, I mean, part of it is it’s just draft after draft of go, I mean, and Jeffrey will be more ruthless than I will of just cutting out words. And just paring it down. And not, uh-
Jeffrey: A pet peeve of mine, for example, is when every, every line starts with, “Shawn, if you’re going to do that.” “Okay Beverly. I’m-” you know?
Jeffrey: And it’s like, that’s not real. People don’t speak like that. People don’t speak in complete sentences unless you’re [inaudible 00:26:09]. I mean-
David: It’s just, you know, you know, and that’s, that’s like in Mad About You. It was just like little nuances of sentences and, and-
Jeffrey: A lot of ellipses.
David: A lot of ellipses.
Jeffrey: And, and also part of the challenge was really differentiating the British voices from the American voices.
David: And, uh, annoyingly we sort of acted out as we’re writing it. Or and thank God no one is around. It’s why it’s a good thing we’re not in a writer’s room because we’re doing these absolutely horrendous British accents.
Jeffrey: I don’t think so.
David: They really are. Um.
Jeffrey: I think I could fool the queen.
David: I think, yeah. One of our, one of, one of the people over in England when we were doing it at one point Jeffrey just did a little bit of it and he, he said that Jeffrey’s British accent was, um, borderline racist. (laughs).
Jordan: Borderline racist?
Jeffrey: yeah. I didn’t, I didn’t take it.
David: I know you take objection.
Jordan: Oh my gosh.
David: Yeah. Yeah. We, uh-
Jeffrey: I’m telling you, you would not be able to tell.
Jeffrey: But I’m not going to do it for you right now.
Jordan: So how, how do you? This is the question.
Jeffrey: We just kind of do. You just kind of do it and then you get to hear the actual British actors do it. And I have to say, fortunately, there were very few occasions where the way we’d written it felt sort of tinny to our ear.
Jordan: Yeah. I honestly thought when I, um, picked up this phone that you guys were both British. But not from your accents.
David: I am. And I have a great American accent.
Jordan: No. I’m sorry. Before I picked up the phone, I was like oh. These two British writers. They’re-
David: Really? Seriously?
Jordan: Yeah. Totally.
David: Oh my God. So obviously we’re very well known in New York.
Jordan: (laughs). You’re known for introducing me to Brian Ben Ben and I appreciate that. And introducing me-
Jeffrey: Oh God.
Jordan: As well, (laughs), as well to episodes. Which when, um, when I saw it for the first time, I was like thank you for making this because there’s so many, I mean, I, I, I do stand up for a living and you, you’ll get asked to do shows that you see on the BBC and, and the American version of them.
Jeffrey: Uh ha.
Jordan: And they are, they are put through the mill stones. I find it crazy. Were you both part of a show where, where that happened at all? Or just, do you just, you were on the lot a lot on this one?
Jeffrey: Oh no. No. No. It just, it seemed as though the idea of having, telling the story of British writers who come here, it gave us a sort of, I think we’re sort of where we started. It was a fresh way to look at American television.
Jeffrey: And in, and so the characters never have to explain everything. And it helped make it a little less sort of inside because you had characters entering this world for the first time. And the audience was able to see it through their eyes.
Jordan: Yeah. And, and what matters most to you all? Is the imagery, is it the dialog? Is it the themes? It seems like you said the relationships. You stressed relationships.
Jeffrey: It really does come down to relationships. Uh. And I would say dial-, dialogs really important. It’s why we do so many drafts. Um. And, and why we’re reluctant to get into all that improvising. Because I, it just seems so often that no. We, we really take a lot of time with the words. And, uh, they’re important. We don’t like jokes for joke’s sake.
Jeffrey: We like the characters to express themselves in humorous ways. And, you know, so it’s, it’s not like joking.
Jeffrey: As, as a lot of shows are. But I think it’s much more believable.
David: Yeah. It’s like all the comedy is always rooted in character.
Jeffrey: We would never do a joke and then think, okay. Let’s give it to, let’s give it to Shawn. No.
Jeffrey: Let’s have Beverly say it. No. What if Matt says it? And I’ve worked on shows where they do that. They come up with a joke, and then they put it in somebody’s mouth.
Jeffrey: And to me, that’s insane. It’s, it’s just-
Jordan: Well, what is broken then about the writer’s room? The more classic comedy by committee?
David: I think what’s broken is the studio system. I mean, you can write the best script in the world and then you get notes from the studio.
David: And then you get notes from the network. And most of the time they’re opposite notes.
David: I mean, and most people are afraid to call them on it and say, “Okay. Except Jack over here said the exact opposite.” Nobody says it. So then you start to try to compromise. And it’s, it’s like making a sculpture by committee.
David: You know? I, well, can you make the nose a little less, uh, aryan there? And maybe a little more [inaudible 00:30:38]?
David: Well, I was going to say the, you know, maybe, maybe a little-
Jordan: Little more like buttons. So what about you guys? What, what’s your, uh, method for adjusting to notes, or hearing notes, or inputting notes? Do you do some for them? And like push back on others? Or what’s been your MO these-
David: Yeah. I think, I mean-
Jeffrey: We’re really blessed.
David: We’re really fortunate on both Showtime and the BBC. Absolutely gave us a huge amount of leeway. There were very few notes. And the few we got were really smart so it was fine.
Jordan: Maybe you guys are just freaking talented. Huh? Maybe that’s why.
David: No. Yeah.
Jeffrey: No. No. No.
David: He’s right. He’s right. (laughs).
Jordan: As you said before.
David: You all were right.
Jeffrey: We were really lucky.
David: I think in general the goal is to try to hear the intention of the note. I mean, suggestions are generally terrible. Um. But, very often they speak to like a problem that, that actually exists in a script or in a scene. They may not have the solution, but the, the fact that they are questioning something makes you at least take a step back and examine it.
David: And see whether or not there was something there. I just don’t want to ever go through that again. You know? Dealing with those kinds of notes. Because there’s no way you can come out ahead. There’s no way you can do any really good work. And I think that’s why we’re sort of what they call what they call [inaudible 00:31:58] of television.
David: I think because fewer people are sort of getting their dirty little mits in. You know what I mean?
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jeffrey: They’re giving people, they’re saying okay. You have six episodes. Here’s the money. Go do it. And they’re staying out of it. And I think that’s how you get shows like Handmaid’s Tale and there’s so much content now, which on one hand is daunting.
David: But on the other hand, think this is what Jeffrey’s saying also is that it, it diminishes the amount of micromanaging.
David: Which is really helpful.
Jordan: That’s great.
David: Oh. It’s totally great.
David: Because that’s, that’s the way it should be. And that’s why I think there’s so much interesting stuff now.
David: And you can’t, and we can’t always succeed but at least let us fail on our own terms.
David: Everything’s not going to work. But at least but at least let us swing and miss as opposed to, you know? We went down in flames. There’s a mixed metaphor. Uh. Um. But it’s because we, we took everybody’s note and now we have Jeffrey’s sculpture that he’s talking about.
Jeffrey: Yeah. It’s fine if you’re Picasso. But-
Jeffrey: But, you know, if you’re-
Jordan: If you’re Rodan, it just looks crazy.
Jeffrey: It, it’s, that, that ear is on his head.
Jordan: (laughs). That’s, there’s the stinker. It’s not good.
Jordan: So, yeah. In conclusion, let me, let me ask like, what was the craziest note you all ever got?
Jordan: Not, not on this show. Of course.
Jordan: Because you love, you love Showtime. But in your-
Jeffrey: I, I would-
Jeffrey: Say, years and years and years ago-
Jeffrey: We were pitching a show, does not sound, it’s not a good show, but the concept was, it’s about a hotel in outer space.
Jeffrey: And the executive goes, “Interesting. Interesting. What if it’s not in outer space?”
David: And there you have it.
Jeffrey: And there you go.
Jordan: David Crane, Jeffrey Klarik, thank you so much for joining me.
Jeffrey: Oh thank you.
Jordan: It’s been super insightful. Episodes was such a good show. It remains so. And I thank you for giving this gift to the world. That was hilarious.
David: Very sweet. Thank you.
Jeffrey: Thank you.
David: This was great
David: Bye bye.
Jordan: [inaudible 00:34:00]. Bye. That will do it for this episode. On Writing is production of the Writer’s Guild of America East. Next, tech production and original music by Stockboy Creative. You can learn more about the Writer’s Guild of America East online at WGA East dot org. Or on social media at at WGA East. I’m Jordan Carlos. And you can find me at Jordan Carlos comedy dot com. And on Twitter at at Jordan Carlos. Thanks for tuning in. Write On.