What do you get when you put eight Emmy-nominated writers on the same panel? At Thursday night’s Sublime Primetime, our annual event co-hosted by the Writers Guild of America, West and Variety, we got a mix of fun anecdotes from the writers’ rooms of some of our favorite shows as well as some insightful perspective on the changing landscape of the television industry.
Variety editor Cynthia Littleton assumed moderator duties and welcomed panelists Jane Anderson (OLIVE KITTERIDGE), Alec Berg (SILICON VALLEY), Joshua Brand (THE AMERICANS), Semi Chellas (MAD MEN), Stephanie Gillis (THE SIMPSONS), Elliott Kalan (THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART), Christine Nangle (INSIDE AMY SCHUMER), and Matthew Weiner (MAD MEN).
- The Beginnings of the End: Weiner shared the ending of MAD MEN with Chellas right after she joined the show on Season 5. He had always envisioned the end with Don Draper meditating on a cliff at Esalen followed by a clip of Coke’s 1971″Hilltop” commercial. Kalan, on the other hand, did not get as advanced notice that Jon Stewart was leaving THE DAILY SHOW. He found out a few months before the last episode aired.
- Damn you, Internets!: Comedy writers Nangle and Kalan opined on how online media and communities would overanalyze sketches or even scoop their jokes. Nangle was particularly funny in describing how her “You Can’t Go In There” sketch inspired a tome about gender relations in America. Kalan had us laughing as he described the competition to break jokes between THE DAILY SHOW and THE COLBERT REPORT, which occasionally got scooped by someone on YouTube. “It’s like getting hit by a bus as you’re running from a mob,” Kalan said.
- What’s In a Name?: The writers shared stories of naming characters after relatives, friends and real people in their lives. Most were meant as compliments, except for Gillis, who named a villainous character on THE SIMPSONS after her mother’s not-so-nice former boss. Also fun fact: Gillis has a cameo on one of the season finales of MAD MEN.
- Actors as Muses: Anderson credited actress Frances McDormand with giving the push she needed to write the screenplay for OLIVE KITTERIDGE. Berg also revealed that he leaves areas open in each episode’s script for the SILICON VALLEY actors to improv and admitted to writing in order to impress them.
- A Writer’s Motto: Lastly, we loved (and plan to adopt) Weiner’s motto for upholding the value of his work: “You cannot let them use the love of your work against you, because all of us would do it for free.”
[From left, Variety’s Cynthia Littleton, Alec Berg, Jane Anderson, Joshua Brand, Christine Nangle, Semi Chellas, Matthew Weiner, Stephanie Gillis and Elliott Kalan. Photo Credit: Michael Jones]