Update: “True Detective” primer

March 7th, 2014 by

So I’ve caught the “True Detective” bug. Created and written by , starring and , and directed by Cary Fukunaga, it is some eye-popping, dialogue-rich, mind-blowing, crazy-ass shit. As I’ve been chasing down every article and interview I could find on the HBO series, I thought I’d aggregate them into a sort of primer for readers. NOTE: This is an revised reprint of a post that originally ran February 19, so you can trace the history will all of the updates from that date.



“True Detective” primer

February 19th, 2014 by

So I’ve caught the “True Detective” bug. Created and written by , starring  and , and directed by Cary Fukunaga, it is some eye-popping, dialogue-rich, mind-blowing, crazy-ass shit. As I’ve been chasing down every article and interview I could find on the HBO series, I thought I’d aggregate them into a sort of primer for readers.



“The Simpsons” Miyazaki tribute

January 10th, 2014 by

Via Vulture, “The Simpsons” with an homage to famed Japanese animation writer-director Hayao Miyazaki:

An annotated version via Slate:

The episode airs this Sunday.

Emmy Awards for writers

September 22nd, 2013 by

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series: Henry Bromell, Homeland • Q&A

George Mastras, Breaking Bad • Dead Freight
Thomas Schnauz, Breaking Bad • Say My Name
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey • Episode 4
D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, Game Of Thrones • The Rains Of Castamere

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series: Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock

Jeffrey Klarik and David Crane, Episodes • Episode 209
Louis C.K and Pamela Adlon, Louie • Daddy’s Girlfriend (Part 1)
Greg Daniels, The Office • Finale
Robert Carlock and Jack Burditt, 30 Rock • Hogcock!

Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Abi Morgan, The Hour

Richard LaGravenese Behind The Candelabra
Tom Stoppard, Parade’s End
David Mamet, Phil Spector
Gerard Lee and Jane Campion, Top Of The Lake

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series: The Colbert Report

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

“Inside the Breaking Bad writers’ room: how Vince Gilligan runs the show”

September 22nd, 2013 by

The world according to Vince Gilligan:

“The worst thing the French ever gave us is the auteur theory,” he said flatly. “It’s a load of horseshit. You don’t make a movie by yourself, you certainly don’t make a TV show by yourself. You invest people in their work. You make people feel comfortable in their jobs; you keep people talking.”

With the success of the TV series “Breaking Bad,” who are we mere mortals to argue Monsieur Gilligan?

As the groundbreaking show winds its way to a conclusion, there have been — rightfully so — a bunch of articles and features written about it. This one from The Guardian is one of the best, providing an inside look at how Gilligan and crew produced the show. Some excerpts:

In his room, he said, all writers were equal, an approach that he insisted had less to do with being a Pollyanna than with pure, selfish practicality. “There’s nothing more powerful to a showrunner than a truly invested writer,” he said. “That writer will fight the good fight.”

On this day, a Monday, he sat at the head of a conference table as his writers gathered for work after the weekend, chattering about the heat. Forty-three years old, he wore light jeans, an orange T-shirt and silver sneakers; his face, with its goatee and glasses, was poised at a precise fulcrum between relaxed southern gentleman – a young Colonel Sanders, maybe – and eager fantasy geek. Gilligan started his path to TV with a semi-successful career in feature films. His TV break came with The X-Files, where he rose to executive producer and penned some 30 episodes before returning to the frustrations and snail’s pace of feature-film making, working on Hancock, a movie about a surly, alcoholic superhero. In the midst of the endless rewrites, in 2005, Gilligan was on the phone with an old friend and fellow X-Files writer Thomas Schnauz. The two were complaining about the state of the movie business and wondering what they might be qualified to do instead.

“Maybe we can be greeters at Walmart,” Gilligan said.

“Maybe we can buy an RV and put a meth lab in the back,” said Schnauz.

“As he said that, an image popped into my head of a character doing exactly that: an Everyman character who decides to ‘break bad’ and become a criminal,” Gilligan recalled. It was a powerful enough image that he got off the phone and began jotting down notes. The heart of the show came together in a hurry. The main character, Walter White, is a mild and beaten-down high school chemistry teacher who finds himself diagnosed with lung cancer. Inadequately insured, with a baby on the way, he is desperate to provide for his family when he’s gone and hits on the idea of going into the meth business with a junkie ex-student named Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul. Thanks to White’s chemistry expertise and relative (by the standard of meth dealers) discipline and devotion to quality, Walt and Jesse’s product becomes much in demand. Legal, familial, and moral complications ensue.

There you go, the inspiration for the show.

Nearly every discussion in every writers’ room, Gilligan explained, boils down to one of two questions: “Where’s a character’s head at?” and “What happens next?” Ideas v action. Text v subtext. This, as it happened, was a “What happens next?” day, in which the details of a relatively banal plot point need to be worked out.

To borrow a handy acronym, the question was this: WWJD? What will Jesse do?


With lunchtime approaching, there was a marked increase in shifting in the writers’ office chairs. In the centre of the table, there were three categories of items. In ascending order of importance: things to play with (magnets, puzzles, paper clips, a lump of clay) things to write with (stacks of legal pads and index cards, a pretzel jar filled with pens and Sharpies), things to eat (candy and snacks of every description). There were more and more bathroom breaks and a brief conversational detour into quotes from The Big Lebowski. A small faction of the writers took a quick trip downstairs to see how extreme the temperature had become.

Throughout it all, Gilligan kept up a stream of talk about the problem at hand, sometimes as if to himself. “Fuck,” he finally said, spinning around in his chair. “Why is this so hard?”

Money quote for me. If Vince Gilligan can be reduced to uttering, “Fuck, why is this so hard,” then all of us who have the same experience should take comfort. ‘Coz you know what? Writing is hard.

For the rest of the feature, go here.

Special treat: A glimpse of their writers room:

Hey, Breaking Bad fans: What’s your single favorite moment in the history of the series? See you in comments.

101 Best Written TV Series

June 7th, 2013 by

I’m a bit late in getting to this party, but recently the WGA announced the 101 Best Written TV Series. Here are the top 25:

Created by David Chase “A mobster in therapy, having problems with his mother,” was how The Sopranos initially sparked, according to creator David Chase, though he was thinking about the premise for a feature film… READ MORE


Created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld At the end of Seinfeld’s run, Jerry Seinfeld commented that one of the more underrated aspects of his show was the number of its locations and sets, creating a sense of indoor-outdoor movement… READ MORE


Season One writers: Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Robert Presnell, Jr., Rod Serling No show in the history of television has lingered in the imagination quite like Rod Serling’s anthology series… READ MORE


Developed for Television by Norman Lear, Based on Till Death Do Us Part, Created by Johnny Speight Asked how he’d been able to be so controversial on All in the Family, creator Norman Lear said in 2009: “I don’t really know how to explain it…” READ MORE


5. M*A*S*H
Developed for Television by Larry Gelbart M*A*S*H remains the only long-running series, comedy or drama, set around a war zone… READ MORE


Created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns The MTM brand, under Moore and then-husband Grant Tinker, was responsible for an iconic run of comedies (and dramas) in the 1970s, beginning with The Mary Tyler Moore Show… READ MORE


Created by Matthew Weiner Matt Weiner wrote the Mad Men pilot nearly a decade before it found a home as the first scripted drama at AMC, where the series debuted in the summer of 2007… READ MORE


Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles and James Burrows The qualities that made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a seminal sitcom in the 1970s gave Cheers the same importance to the ’80s… READ MORE


Created by David Simon No series, arguably, is more responsible for the novelistic ambitions possible for television writers now… READ MORE


Created by Aaron Sorkin “The people who get angry at us on one Wednesday night will be standing up and cheering the next Wednesday night,” Aaron Sorkin wrote in Written By before The West Wing premiered… READ MORE


Created by Matt Groening, Developed by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening and Sam Simon The Simpsons is as ineffable as American humor gets. Among the show’s landmarks (hitting 100 episodes, then 200, then 500)... READ MORE


“Pilot,” Written by Jess Oppenheimer & Madelyn Pugh & Bob Carroll, Jr. Though the show won an Emmy as Best Comedy, the writers were never so honored… READ MORE


Created by Vince Gilligan Creator Vince Gilligan said he was joking with Tom Schnauz that the two former X-Files writers might have to rent an RV and cook crystal meth if their stalled Hollywood careers didn’t turn around… READ MORE


Created by Carl Reiner Carl Reiner has said he based his first sitcom on his experiences as a writer on Your Show of Shows, working for temperamental star Sid Caesar while also trying to be a husband and father… READ MORE


Created by Michael Kozoll and Steven BochcoLow-rated in its infancy, Hill Street Blues broke as many TV storytelling rules as its ultimate success helped establish for cop shows… READ MORE


Created by Mitchell HurwitzMitchell Hurwitz offered a glimpse into his take on the family sitcom when he spoke of his own parents’ refusal to “quietly disappear into their middle age…” READ MORE


Created by Madeleine Smithberg, Lizz Winstead; Head Writer: Chris Kreski; Writers: Jim Earl, Daniel J. Goor, Charles Grandy, J.R. Havlan, Tom Johnson, Kent Jones, Paul Mercurio, Guy Nicolucci, Steve Rosenfield, Jon StewartIt began as The Daily Show (hosted by Craig Kilborn) in 1996… READ MORE


Created by Alan BallAlan Ball pushed dramatic television into uncharted territory with his series about the Fishers and their Los Angeles funeral home… READ MORE


19. TAXI
Created by James L. Brooks and Stan Daniels and David Davis and Ed WeinbergerPost-Mary Tyler Moore Show, James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, Ed Weinberger and David Davis left MTM, formed their own company… READ MORE


Created by Garry Shandling & Dennis KleinHaving lampooned himself – and sitcoms generally – on the meta It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Shandling this time trained his comedic radar onto the fear and self-loathing backstage at a late-night talk show… READ MORE


21. 30 ROCK
Created by Tina FeyTina Fey’s canny take-off on her former life as head writer on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock was initially viewed as “too inside” for a mass audience… READ MORE


Developed by Television by Peter Berg, Inspired by the Book by H.G. BissingerPeter Berg wrote and directed the pilot of a show that was the second adaptation of H.G. Bissinger’s non-fiction narrative about the impact of high school football on the hearts, minds and lives… READ MORE


Created by David Angell & Peter Casey & David Lee, Based on the character “Frasier Crane” created by Glen Charles & Les CharlesThe Grub Street Productions team of Casey-Angell-Lee furthered the work they’d done on Cheers by moving psychologist Frasier Crane from Boston to Seattle and giving him a radio call-in show… READ MORE


Created by Marta Kauffman & David CraneCo-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane met in the theater program at Brandeis; by the time they created Friends, they had added a third partner, Kevin Bright… READ MORE


Season One: Head Writer: Michael O’Donoghue; Written by: Ann Beatts, Chevy Chase, Tom Davis, Al Franken, Rosie Michaels, Garrett Morris, Michael O’Donoghue, Herb Sargent, Harry Shearer, Tom Schiller, Alan ZweibelIn his 2009 memoir, writer-performer Tom Davis conjures the small gang of writers standing outside Lorne Michaels’ office… READ MORE

No knock on “The Sopranos” which is a great series, but how can you not give the #1 slot to “The Wire”?

Here’s something interesting: 16 of the top 25 are comedies. Yet if I’m not mistaken, the last comedy to win a Best Picture Oscar was Annie Hall in 1978. What’s up with that?!?!

What do you think of this list? Agree? Disagree?

For the rest of the list, go here.

Los Angeles Times: TV Showrunner Roundtable

May 29th, 2013 by

Showrunners Alex Gansa of “Homeland,” Terence Winter of “Boardwalk Empire,” David Benioff of “Game of Thrones,” Glen Mazzara of “Walking Dead” and Vince Gilligan of “Breaking Bad” discuss how awards can help a show. Times’ editor Martin Miller moderates.

To see the entire hour-long session, go here.

Let’s drum up some support!

February 17th, 2013 by

Longtime GITS reader Debbie Moon lives in the UK and writes for a BBC TV series there called “Wolfblood”. Indeed Debbie created it. Now she has some exciting news: “Wolfblood” has been nominated for the Kids’ Choice Award for Favourite UK TV Show, and also for a Royal Television Society (North East) award.

You can vote for “Wolfblood” in the Kid’s Choice Award here.

Voting isn’t restricted to the UK: you can vote from anywhere in the world.

You can download a sample script from Wolfblood season one here.

Let’s show some support for Debbie and her creative efforts by voting for “Wolfblood”. By the way, the series was picked up for a second season and Debbie is hard at work on it.

Trailer: “House of Cards”

November 17th, 2012 by

Via RopeOfSilicon:

Netflix has premiered the trailer for David Fincher‘s original series “House of Cards” starring Kevin Spacey as Congressman Francis Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife Claire, two people that will stop at nothing to conquer everything. described as a wicked political drama, the series is said to penetrate the shadowy world of greed, sex, and corruption in modern D.C. Additional co-stars include Kate Mara (“American Horror Story”), Michael Kelly and Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris) with Fincher and Beau Willimon (The Ides of March) producing.

Fincher directs the first two episodes in the 13 episode series with the likes of James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), Joel Schumacher (Phone Booth), Charles McDougall (“Queer as Folk”) and Carl Franklin (Out of Time) also coming to the director’s chair.

All 13 episodes will launch on Netflix on February 1, 2013 available in US, Canada, Latin America, UK, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

The trailer:

Norman Lear – 90 Years in 90 Seconds

July 30th, 2012 by

Belated Happy Birthday to Lear who turned 90 on July 27th. Hard to overstate the impact his TV series “Archie Bunker” had on American culture.