With the whole writing staff watching, waiting to work, our boss would be trying on pants. A tailor was taking his measurements. When he was satisfied, he told the tailor he’d like thirty pair of these pants sent to his home in LA, and thirty pair sent to his summer home.
Thirty pair? Sixty total? That’s a lot of pants. What was going on?
This took place in the writer’s room of the show he’d created. His official title was Executive producer. He was our boss, our leader, the showrunner. He made all the high level creative decisions. Without him, the rewrites couldn’t begin. The writers were ready to work.
There was always plenty of work to do. However, it felt like he was always stalling. Procrastinating. He had a hard time getting started on all the rewrites. There was no urgency.
We’d leave at 2 AM, or sometimes stay up all night. What was going on with him? Didn’t he miss his family? Did he just like hanging out with us?
After working with him for a while it became clear that he wasn’t an intentionally mean boss (like so many others),but was basically a big kid.
He liked to race golf carts around the studio like they were go-karts. One time he had a staff writer riding on the back of the cart. The showrunner decided to “pop a wheelie,” causing the writer to fall backwards off the golf cart and break his leg. He spent the next few months wearing a cast.
It kind of seemed like he wanted to show off in front of us.
One time, while the writing staff was supposed to be working, he picked up the phone and ranted at the network suits for twenty minutes and banned them from the set. Then he hung up. And laughed.
These rewrite sessions took place generally in the late afternoon, after rehearsals. The entire writing staff would gather in his office as he got ready to rewrite that week’s script. At this point he’d look for things to do instead of writing. Anything.
We waited in his office while he finished the New York Times crossword, or picked his bets for the baseball pool, or read the dinner menu over and over. We would try to get him to start “running the room,” dropping not-so-subtle hints, but he was very good at creating distractions.
Even when we didn’t have a rewrite, he’d get bored with the current script.
He’s toss it out and we’d start on a completely new one. From scratch. We’d break down the scenes, then go line-by-line, pitching story arcs and jokes until 3:00 am.
There was another staff writer on the show who happened to be bisexual. The boss invited one of her girlfriends in at 4:00 am, and we all pretty much watched them make out in the writer’s room for a while. He watched. We watched. Then he’d talk about something in the newspaper.
“We’ve got to write this script tonight. It’s morning already!”
Fortunately, one of his favorite writers could get through to hi occasionally. One of the writers would take the newspaper away from him like he was a little boy and she’d make him face the computer. She’d scream at him until he got us all back on track, writing again.
We were always tired, but especially after rewrites. It’s interesting because, although I didn’t know it, or appreciate it at the time, it turns out that being tired isn’t a bad thing when you’re trying to be original.
At four in the morning we might actually be more creative.
I thought of it this way. At off-peak times, like I he early, early morning, we felt less focused and considered a broader range of ideas in formulating solutions. The wider the scope of possible solutions, the more options had. So, in a sense, we were more likely to take risks and try more original solutions.
I don’t think our boss thought about that. He was just prone to extreme procrastination. It may have allowed us to be more creative. And that may explain why many writers like to work all night. Not only are all their errands done for the day, and they can clear their heads, but the later they work, possibly, the more creative they become.
As for that particular showrunner, I remember when his show was cancelled, right before we finished filming a special Halloween show. Our insane sleep-deprived days and nights were over.
Like I say, he didn’t seem intentionally malicious, he just acted like the world revolved around him. When he was told the show got axed, he got very upset at the network people, yelling, “You’re not just taking the kid’s show away, you’re taking their Halloween.”