10 Questions, 10 Answers

John and Craig tackle the bursting mailbag, answering listener questions on topics ranging from the variable length of the TV season to underachieving agents to embarrassing IMDb credits.

Mason and Finley

The 22-year old twins at the center of my 1999 TV show D.C. were named Mason and Finley. Rare names at the time, but increasingly common.

Ugly children and cigarettes

Has a statistician cracked the code on successful screenplay formulas? John and Craig cast a skeptical eye at a New York Times article on Vinny Bruzzese, who claims to have done exactly that.

A city born of fire

Writer Derek Haas (Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma) joins John and Craig to discuss gay slurs, refrigerator logic and his TV show, Chicago Fire.


John and Craig give heroes the week off and talk bad guys. Not every movie needs a villain, but if you have one, he better be good.

Sprints, marathons and migrations

This week, I’ve been working on a feature, a TV pilot and the stage musical of Big Fish. It’s gotten me thinking about the nature of different forms of dramatic writing.

Workspace: Leo Chu & Eric S. Garcia

TV writing team Leo Chu & Eric S. Garcia discuss their workspace and work habits.

Workspace: Cherry Chevapravatdumrong

Family Guy writer (and YA novelist) Cherry Chevapravatdumrong discuss her workspace and work habits.

Gorilla City and the Kingdom of Toads

John and Craig talk about the new show John sold to ABC, which leads to a conversation about the differences between studios and networks, and how writers end up having relationships with both.

Chosen, or Hey I’m Doing a TV Show!

Josh Friedman and I just set up a new show called Chosen, produced by 20th Television for ABC. I’ll write the pilot, and if the show goes to series, Josh will run it.

Writing big movies for little screens

Stephen Harrigan reflects on his career writing TV movies of the week.

Leaning into the weirdness

I admire the way Happy Endings has morphed from another sorta-like-Friends show to its own weird beast. I wouldn’t want to be friends with any of these narcissistic self-defeating chatterboxes, but I like them together.

Spending a year on Ringer

Jay Faeber writes in with an update on his earlier First Person post, this time detailing his first year on the writing staff of Ringer.

Understanding house styles

Ongoing TV shows often develop their own esoteric writing styles, which you notice in scene description.

Why you can’t get HBO Go by itself

Pricing issues are the main reason HBO doesn’t offer HBO Go as a stand-alone service.

Getting more women writing TV

Jane Espenson wants more women TV writers, but not for “a female point of view.”

What does a reality producer do?

Matthew Watts, a producer on both The First 48 and Swamp People, discusses three kinds of producers in reality television.

The downside of TV’s golden age

Ryan McGee argues that the success of HBO’s drama series has come at the cost of individual episodes.

In defense of Liz Lemon

Linda Holmes worries that 30 Rock has infantilized Liz Lemon. I disagree.

What it’s like when your show gets cancelled

Lauren Bagby offers an office PA’s perspective how it feels when your show gets cancelled.

Pitching a show

I’d missed this piece from November by Jesse Lasky in which he describes his first experience pitching a TV show.

Downton Abbey, season two

The second season of Downton Abbey debuts Sunday in the U.S. As I’ve discussed on the podcast, I couldn’t wait and bought it off the UK iTunes Store. I’ve already watched the whole second season and the Christmas episode.

So, for American audiences, here’s a non-spoilery preview of what I found notable about this season.

More on Archer’s odd pre-laps

Comparing Archer’s actual script to my transcript-y approximation shows a little bit more about how Adam Reed’s show works.

Workspace: Christine Boylan

Screenwriter and TV scribe Christine Boylan talks through her work habits and tools.

Who killed the mystery?

Procedural-plus shows are simply more difficult to pull off, both at the whiteboard stage and in the finished episode. Once you’ve established the stakes of the A-plot — a killer is on the loose! — any scene that doesn’t address that feels like filler. So writers need to find ways to weave character moments into plot scenes, which can be difficult.