(This is a follow up to Creating A Show – Part 1, so please read that first, if not, I guess you could read this and then go back, but that’d just be stupid)
My mission: To make a great serialized comedy series.
Welcome back Web Land! … Where was I? Ah, yes… So I had done a draft of a show, and it was crap. It didn’t stand out from anything else that has been on or is on TV. (In fact it was ‘Friends’, without Joey, and that would have never worked just like he didn’t work without his friends. Just let shows go out on a high note, ‘Frasier’ was a fluke!) I needed a new idea, but I was convinced that I was going to keep this nerdy character “Jessica Parker” in whatever else I come up with. At the time when all this was going on, I had started dating a girl, or a woman… or a chick. I started dating a female, bottom line. To protect her identity, (Not for any particular reason, but aliases are fun) let’s call her…Sharon, yeah Sharon works. Sharon was really cool and supportive about my writing, and that always makes things easier, just people supporting you in the things you really want to do. It just makes the days go by without weight on your shoulders. But the real reason I bring her up is because obviously as a writer, the things in your life just make it’s way on to the page. Sharon loved Harry Potter, all right, Jessica Parker is going to love Harry Potter, there would even be some Harry Potter jokes in the script. Sharon’s son was named Evan… Perfectly good name for a character in the script… Who’s name? I had no idea. I didn’t know what to write about. All I had was Jessica Parker… so I began to brainstorm more…
I love sci-fi, and fantasy genres like Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, Sliders, Heroes, Lost, Star Wars. Not too many successful comedies in the bunch. But still, along those lines, I really liked the idea of setting my story in a world that isn’t bound by the restrictions of our reality. A world you would have to suspend belief for, yeah that sounded cool, because it keeps things interesting and original, what my first attempt at a story severely lacked. I kept the fantasy genre in the back of my mind, cause I still had no clue how I would implement it. I came back to thinking about Jessica Parker… A nerd. I thought about her in the first show, she was just a side character, part of the ensemble. Now I would bring her to the forefront of the show, the main character. There are always shows/movies about the nerdy guy going after the girl. So let’s flip that shit! This will be the other side of the coin, the nerdy girl going after the guy. But what guy? Hmmm. Ugh. How about a guy named Evan!? Bingo, I was on a roll. But I couldn’t stop there, still not original enough, I was sure that format has been done in some form or fashion… I needed something else.
Now I am not only a filmmaker but I am an actor also, and when you are an actor and a writer, it’s REALLY hard not to write yourself a part in whatever you are writing. It’s just that performer inside of you that wants a great part and hey, who better to give you a part you know you can nail, than yourself? I have typically been cast in nice guy/Michael Cera type roles, the goody two shoes, cookie cutter, all American, wouldn’t hurt a fly, bubble gum, candy coated roles. (Too many analogies? Nah.) So I started writing an asshole character. Was I writing it for me to actually play it? No. Was I writing it with me in mind to play it? Maybe. (Remember, it always helps a writer to visualize an actor playing the role) More so than anything, it was just an exaggeration of the sarcastic self I was many many years ago that I tapped into mixed with a cockiness and self absorbed attitude a guy who looked like Ryan Reynolds would have if he was a jerk. (Which I hope he is not, cause that guy seems SO cool, Hey Ryan!) He was another person I visualized when writing this character. You also write what you know, so I made the character an Actor, but a bad one, (You don’t ALWAYS write what you know) and I had recently watched the Charlton Heston ‘Planet of the Apes’ and so his name would be Taylor. So I had basically two storylines that I wanted to start writing with two main characters, and no creative way to bring them together. I decided to put Jessica in an office, (Another thing I know very well, damn day jobs) I know what you are thinking “Josh, you just said you wanted something creative. There is an entire show CALLED ‘The Office’.” Well you need to calm down avid reader. I put her in an office cause I had the idea for the greatest evil company she would work for. “Kid Kontrol”. I saw a child at the grocery store who was so disruptive and making a scene and the parent did absolutely nothing! Just letting little Jimmy/Sally throw stuff off the shelves, scream and holler, without so much as a “Shhh little Jimmy/Sally! Shh…” So that got me thinking, what if this company punishes… err, ugh, disciplines children for parents that don’t know how or just can’t? Brilliant. And the boss of this company, the boss of Jessica Parker, would be my favorite character that I have ever created. A name any fan of the show, will come to know very well, Hal Miller.
Hal Miller started off being my “bad guy”, the “villain” of the show. He was the opposing force to Jessica and would belittle her at the drop of a hat. But this was still a comedy, so I made his lines as outrageous as possible. The more it went on, I discovered, this guy was a jerk, he was rich, and he was oblivious… He could say ANYTHING! It also went back to my suspended reality that I was creating, because obviously a boss would never say to an employee “It’s called a vibrator Parker. Jesus, lay off the sci-fi celibacy.” One of Hal’s first lines, but in this universe, he could, he does and he gets away with it. Now I got my 2 main characters, my “villain”, but still no real story. I knew that Taylor and Jessica had to be forced to interact somehow. That would be my show putting these polar opposites together, but how?
One thing that I HATE in shows and especially dramas, is the “walk off”. Two people get into a fight on screen about something, and after saying something impactful/hurtful or just a great comeback and then boom! They walk off. I thought to myself, how can I avoid the walk off? How will Taylor and Jessica be put together not able to walk off? The thought process was somewhat as follows: “Tayloris a bad person. Jessica is a loser who needs help. Jessica needs help. Taylorcould help Jessica. Taylorwould never help Jessica. How can I force Taylorto help Jessica? … … (sip of bubble tea) … … I need to killTaylor and make him her guardian angel!”
To be Continued…
Next time… How we tested the show before we even moved forward on it. The casting process, the good, the bad, and the Russian “model”, who walked in off the street to buy art but decided, “Hell, I audition for show of TV.” And all the other pre-production stuff that went into creating “Watching You”! (Leave a comment or a question and I will answer it next time!)
– Joshua Thomas
And remember, we only have so many tickets for the premiere, and it’s going to be damn hilarious, so get yours now at www.watchingyouseries.com !