The creators of two of TV’s coolest cult classics tell us how they feel about what they’ve accomplished…and what they haven’t:
by Vulture Editors
Here at Vulture, we’ve been examining some of the greatest and most beloved shows in the teen TV canon. Today, we turn our attention to two creators whose shows are not only part of our High-School-TV Showdown, but part of our hearts. Josh Schwartz created The O.C. at just 26, and then co-created Gossip Girl only a few years later. Rob Thomas gave usVeronica Mars, and we marshmallows were never the same. Schwartz and Thomas are responsible for some of the best parent-child relationships in TV’s modern era, some of the great romances, and the best Chrismukkah ever. Ahead, Schwartz and Thomas discuss how Freaks and Geeksinspired them, the state of teen dramas today, and the romantic pairings they never planned for.
Josh Schwartz: Rob, what made you want to do a high-school-based show?
Rob Thomas: I taught high school for five years, my first five years out of college. I was a high-school journalism teacher and taught yearbook. There’s no place better to hear teen-girl voices than a high-school yearbook. I got my start writing young-adult novels, and I desperately wanted to write a teen show for television. And the show that I really wanted to do was Freaks and Geeks, but they did it and they did it so well, and then it got canceled. And I thought, That’s the death of small-story television. ForVeronica Mars, I thought I needed a Trojan horse. The only way I was going to get to tell coming-of-age stories is by giving this high-concept, “teenage-girl, private-eye,” and sort of sneak a teen show in behind that high concept.
Schwartz: It was a similar trajectory on The O.C. It was very much wanting to do Freaks and Geeks, but that wasn’t an option. So, how do you give them enough 90210, and then also try to smuggle in your Freaks and Geeks? There was a version of the script where Seth was much more Jewish, and they were like, “If Ryan is our Luke Perry, who is our Jason Priestley?” And I was like, “Oh, right, that’s how we have to play this.”
Thomas: You selling The O.C. made me think we could get a show on with this age group — it made things seem possible to me.
Schwartz: That’s nice, excellent. Did you have any kind of coming-of-age movies or shows that were super-inspiring to you? I’m taking the reins as the interviewer now.
Thomas: You’re doing a fine job. I had come out to L.A. and was walking down Hollywood Boulevard, and there was some store where you could buy scripts. The one that I bought was Heathers. That script really knocked me out at the time. I don’t know how you are, Josh, as a TV writer, but I spend no energy on my action blocks. Like, if you’re trying to be impressive on a feature script where you really want to knock people out with your writing, you might pay some attention to that. The Heathersscript set the bar so high because every line of it was beautiful. We were always trying to do Heathers. Like, We’re going to give them a stylized thing. The quip that the adult writers spent two days thinking up. We’re going to let our teenage characters say that. Whereas, Freaks and Geekswould make them say the things teenagers would say.
Schwartz: We always said, “We’d love Freaks and Geeks, but we’d also love to stay on the air.”…