Is the Web Series the New Pilot?

We here at TVWriter™ believe it is and have said so for years. Here’s another look at the concept:

Actually just one web, as in not really a series. Get it? Get it? (from Pexels.Com)

by Shannon Liao

In its current form, the HBO comedy Insecure often looks and feels like a lush, feminist rap video that pays tribute to black excellence and corporate success. The show is centered around two black women in their late 20s who live in LA. It’s also insanely awkward, channeling the same humor creator Issa Rae used on her YouTube series The F Word, I Hate LA Dudes, and Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Although HBO executives have said Insecure isn’t a direct adaptation of Rae’s other series, Rae’s writing has a unique, authentic voice that shines through across all platforms. The show was renewed for a third season in August.

Episode 1 of the original Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl show, posted in 2011, begins with a few piano chords and an illustration of Issa in a magenta shirt that says “ABG.” It shows Rae as “J,” looking washed-out in a car under the glaring sun. The camerawork is shaky, and the scene cuts make the three-minute video feel like a Vine. The plot is simple: Issa raps along to the radio enthusiastically in her car, then has an embarrassing run-in with her co-worker. Awkward Black Girl’s production quality is rough, but its reception on YouTube was enthusiastic. Commenters marveled that Rae had tapped into something in the public psyche, and identified a strand of humor the world needed more of. They posted responses like, “It is so good and so relevant to who I am. Much love to Issa Rae,” and “Bitch, this is what should be on Netflix! Eight stars!”

HBO programming president Casey Bloys was one of Rae’s online fans, and he let his team know about how she was being received. Seeing the audiences she was able to draw, HBO executives reached out to her in 2013, expressing interest in a partnership. They didn’t quite want to turn Awkward Black Girl into a pilot, however. Instead, HBO wanted to explore Rae’s creative ideas. How could she riff off Awkward Black Girl to tell a story that would fit a 30-minute time slot? Although Rae and HBO entertained the idea of an office comedy called Nonprofit, according to HBO executive Amy Gravitt, they ultimately felt that a show located in a single office wouldn’t have enough material to explore. Instead, they developed a series revolving around three main characters — Issa Dee, her best friend Molly, and her boyfriend Lawrence. As the characters grow up and apart, the show found plenty of material to mine besides petty office dramas.

After Rae piqued HBO’s interest, she spent a hard three years nailing down the details of what would become Insecure. Former talk show host Larry Wilmore signed on as the show’s co-creator. Rae then had to hire directors, actors, and producers, fleshing out a staff that had previously just been her. But the move to HBO still keeps a lot of the original YouTube series’ overly awkward sentiments alive, and it fleshes out more of Issa’s life. Symbolically, her character’s name goes from “J” to “Issa Dee,” which is a closer iteration of her real name, Jo-Issa Rae Diop. On an HBO budget, Rae was able to better depict Windsor Hills, the affluent black neighborhood in California where she grew up — and in season 2, the gentrification of nearby Inglewood.

Earlier in 2017, Insecure was renewed for a third season. But Issa Rae isn’t the only web series creator experiencing the mainstream’s embrace right now. Comedy Central recently greenlit the fifth season of Broad City, a comedy about two Jewish-American women trying to make it in New York. Broad City originated as a web series that premiered on YouTube in late 2009. In April, black comedian and activist Franchesca Ramsey signed on with Comedy Central to make a still-unnamed late-night comedy TV pilot. And the web series Brown Girls, headed by co-stars Sam Bailey and Fatimah Asghar, got picked up by HBO in June for an adaptation.

So why are we seeing so many web series getting adapted for television lately? In this age of GoPros, neatly curated social media presences, and streaming services on demand, creators can design and shoot their own series, then serve as their own agents and manage their own online star power. As Webby Awards CEO David-Michel Davies says, “If you go back and look at webisodes in 2007, the quality of the ones made today are much, much higher, because the access to production is so much higher.” The road to becoming a TV star appears smoother than ever. And lately, we’ve been getting more of these perfectly curated DIY packages of talent and PR. A simple search for “web series” on YouTube garners 41.6 million results today. As more web series are posted online, more are getting noticed….

Read it all at The Verge

From the Creator of ‘The Mayor’: How I made it in Hollywood

Don’t you just love stories about how other writers have made it in TV or films? Don’t you wish those stories were about you?

Here’s something to love. And it’s helped keep the wish alive for this TVWriter™ minion, that’s for sure. Hope it does the same for you:

by Kate Stanhope

Jeremy Bronson got his start in TV working as a producer for longtime MSNBC host Chris Matthews. So, it’s only fitting that his new series The Mayor is about – you guessed it – politics. The half-hour comedy centers on a struggling young rapper named Courtney Rose who runs for mayor of his small town to increase his celebrity and ends up winning. That being said, the transition from Hardball producer to comedy series creator (with a few stops at Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, The Mindy Project and Speechless along the way) wasn’t quite so easy. Ahead of Tuesday’s series premiere, Bronson reflects on how he made it.

I was always very interested in writing and also very interested in politics. I wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and had assumed I was going to try and write for a TV show. And then decided that I really wanted to start out in politics and specifically in political television. When I was a senior in college, I started reading a lot of White House memoirs and really got hooked and throughout the year, just found myself really gravitating towards that. I had taken two classes, one about political speech-writing and another class about how to run for president, and they both made a big impact on me. They made me want to give it a go for real.

The day I graduated college, I drove down to Tennessee and worked for a Senate campaign doing communications. And then I left Tennessee and went to D.C. to work on The Chris Matthews Show, which had not been launched yet. I thought Chris Matthews was interested in potentially working with someone who had a humorous take on certain stories, but really, I think he was just casting a wide net. I ended up coming in for an interview and we really hit it off. Then I moved over to Hardball. We were covering all the big stories that I cared a lot about, and we got to do a lot of travel as well. Chris Matthews loved to take the show on the road whenever there was an excuse to and that meant that we were doing shows in primary states, doing shows from debates, and even prepping the NBC debates themselves. I loved it, but then I started to miss comedy writing. After we finished the show every day, I would go home and I would write while I was living in D.C.

I was writing half-hour spec scripts, pages of jokes for any show that might need to hire a joke writer, I was writing some sketches in case something popped up. I just wanted to be positioned in case the right opportunity came along that I would have the material to show that I could do it. Anyone who’s trying to break into a business while they currently have a job knows it can be challenging and taxing and sleepless, but I was having fun with it. I was really, really starting to feel that this is what I’m meant to do. I was enjoying writing tryout material, which is something that is inherently not enjoyable, so if you’re actually enjoying writing your packets, it’s a good sign that you’re doing what you should be doing.

When I was at that crossroads of figuring out whether or not to continue in TV news or move out to Los Angeles and really devote myself to comedy, I was fortunate enough that I had a manager to help me. My manager then took my material out to agents and once I had an agent, he started submitting my material to different shows….

Read it all at Hollywood Reporter


Remembering ‘Ren and Stimpy’

Ren and Stimpy was the father of all the wonderful, outre, weird, delightful, and magnificently written and produced animated series that have made TV, in all its formats, the joy to watch that it is here in TV’s “Golden Age.”

In all likelihood, without R&S and its producer/co-creator (with the equally brilliant but perhaps not as deranged Bob Camp), Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman, among many other current offerings. simply wouldn’t – as in couldn’t – exist.

So we at TVWriter™ are over the moon at learning that a documentary about our favorite childhood television memory is on its way:

Visit and nab an advance copy of the film and some really cool swag.

Star Trek: The Original Series Story Editor D.C. Fontana Speaks!

Back in the day when Our Beloved Leader Larry Brody was breaking into the biz one of his early mentors was his still very good friend Dorothy Fontana, known best by her oft-seen D.C. Fontana TV byline on everything from ST:TOS to The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu, The Streets of San Francisco, Logan’s Run, The Waltons, ST: NG, The Silver Surfer, to just about 2 million other great shows.

There’s no question that Dorothy is one of the pioneering and genuine greats of TV writing. Talk about knowing your stuff! It’s always a treat to hear what she has to say:

The Gay Couple Who Made Your Favorite TV Shows

Now hold on just a darn minute there, before you start screaming about the headline on this piece. TVWriter™ is as color/sex/ethnicity/etc blind as can be (go back and read all our posts and see!), and normally we would be talking about David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik in terms of their writing only.

But this article originally appeared in The Advocate, with the title “Meet the Gay Couple Who Made Your Favorite TV Shows,” and our thought is that if its subjects’ sexual preferences are important to one of the most important gay publications in the U.S., then we’d damn well better honor it.

Now, about Crane and Klarik and their sensational writing:

by Daniel Reynolds

In the final season of Episodes, viewers will see the last chapter in the tale of Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig) — a British couple who moved to the United States in order to create a television show starring Matt LeBlanc. Throughout its five-season run, the Showtime series has received acclaim for its insider’s observations (and evisceration) of the entertainment industry. It also garnered 10 Emmy nominations throughout its run — four for LeBlanc in his meta portrayal of a narcissistic actor.

What viewers may not know is that Episodes was created by and is inspired by the lives of an American gay couple: David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik.

“The two principals, Sean and Beverly? We are absolutely writing ourselves,” Crane confirmed in a recent interview with The Advocate.

“They work together, they live together, and basically, their points of view toward the world and show business reflects ours. Jeffrey is very much Beverly — more cynical, more willing to step up to a fight. I’m more Sean — needing everyone to get along and hating conflict,” Crane said.

In fact, Klarik and Crane have been partners in life and business for over 30 years. (The pair were set up at a dinner arranged by mutual friends, and they’ve been together ever since. “My trap was set,” joked Klarik, who had set the wheels in motion.)

Like Sean and Beverly, the writers have a relationship that extends to their work, which has included two of the biggest hits in modern network television. Crane cocreated NBC’s Friendsalongside Marta Kauffman. Klarik was a coproducer and executive story editor on NBC’s Mad About You. And as in every venture in their careers, they helped each other in writing these productions.

“I was the unofficial writer on Friends,” said Klarik, about how the pair would ghostwrite for one another’s shows. “I had overall deals with different studios so there was a conflict of interest. So I would just do what I had to do in the shadows.”

Thus, unbeknownst to America, a gay couple worked together to craft jokes and storylines for its favorite shows. The impact of this was subtle. Unlike their contemporary Will & Grace,neither Friends nor Mad About You had LGBT primary characters. And the couple is hesitant to say the shows had a “gay sensibility” or agenda. However, the gay writers did bring a perspective that is unique from the mainstream.

“I don’t know if it’s a gay sensibility or if it’s a female sensibility,” Klarik clarified about this understanding. “On Mad About You, I knew how Helen [Hunt] with [her character] Jamie would feel. I don’t know why. But I just understand how women think and feel. And I emphathize with them. And so it’s very easy for me to get into that, to kind of channel female characters.”

“I don’t think there was ever a conscious [intention] to approach anything with a gay sensibility,” Crane said. “I think I’ve always written things that make me laugh or make Jeffrey laugh. I have my own personal sensibility, which also happens to be gay, and I guess it informs the writing that we do.”

Their identity also gave them an understanding of the importance of the inclusion of gay characters. “We felt as though if you have a big ensemble cast, they should be in the mix,” Crane said. This has led to some major moments in television history….

Read it all at Advocate

40 or over & starting a Hollywood career? Here’s what you need to know.

What’s that? You’ve heard about H’wood’s, erm, “ageism problem?” So although at 40+ you’re feeling at the top of your intellectual writing game, you’re worried that you might not stand a chance. Here’s some genuinely helpful advice:

Yes, this is a plug for Carole Kirschner’s new book, Hollywood Game Plan. But we’re thinking it’s worth reading. And maybe even buying too – even if you’re younger. Honest!



WGAW 2017 Officers & Board Of Directors Election Results

The Writers Guild of America West has announced the results of its 2017 Officers and Board of Directors election.

The following members were elected to serve as Officers: President – David A. Goodman; Vice President – Marjorie David; Secretary-Treasurer – Aaron Mendelsohn.

The following eight members were elected to the WGAW’s Board of Directors for two-year terms, effective immediately: John AugustNicole YorkinAndrea Berloff (inc.), Meredith Stiehm (inc.), Angelina BurnettLuvh Rakhe (inc.), Michele MulroneyZak Penn (inc.). *Editor’s Note: (inc) denotes incumbent.

The ninth finisher, Patti Carr, was elected for a one-year term on the Board of Directors to fill the vacancy created by Marjorie David’s election as Vice President.


President: David A. Goodman (1,952)

Vice President: Marjorie David (1,962)

Secretary-Treasurer: Aaron Mendelsohn (1,322), Carleton Eastlake (553).

Board of Directors: John August (1,634), Nicole Yorkin (1,561), Andrea Berloff (inc.) (1,510), Meredith Stiehm (inc.) (1,436), Angelina Burnett (1,337), Luvh Rakhe (inc.) (1,337), Michele Mulroney (1,284), Zak Penn (inc.) (1,172), Patti Carr (1,096), Spiro Skentzos (920), Francesca Butler (734).

A total of 2,142 valid ballots were cast. The ballot count was supervised by Votenet Solutions.

The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio, and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national, and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: