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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Enter THE WRITERS' ROOM

Article first published as Enter THE WRITERS' ROOM on TheTVKing.

Sundance, a channel not available in all areas, unspooled an intriguing new series this summer entitled The Writers' Room. Even if you don't get that network, though, all six episodes of its freshman run, recently completed, are available on amazon.com to download or stream.

The Writers' Room is hosted by Oscar-winning writer Jim Rash (The Descendants), who also co-stars as the crazy Dean on NBC's Community. In each half-hour installment, Rash sits down with the creator, writers, and sometimes actors of a popular, well-written show. He not only talks to them about their work, but also makes them prove their mettle in fun exercises.

The first episode I watched was the fourth. The guests are New Girl creator Liz Meriwether, series star Jake Johnson, who plays Nick, and writer / producers Dave Finkel and Brett Baer. These four expound upon their process, and Rash challenges them to each pick a different oddity, then combine them into a script idea. It's a very entertaining premise, especially to those fascinated with writing as a medium and television as an industry.

After that, I watched the first episode, which was even better. Featuring Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, series lead Bryan Cranston, and quite a few writers, they told stories from the set, contemplated mass suicide, and even went into how the show was pitched. Some of what they said is already familiar to fans of the show, but much is new material, just now revealed to the general public.

Rash is a very capable host. He knows a lot about the subject at hand himself, being a writer, but he also has that charm and natural humor that serve him well in Community. His job here is not to be as outrageous as the Dean, but to keep things moving and to toss in a few jokes. This, he does very well. This could easily be the writer's answer to Inside the Actor's Studio, with Rash an even more magnetic James Lipton.

Another cool feature of The Writers' Room is that pop-up facts appear on screen throughout each installment. These give more information than those on the show have time to get to in the brief installments. It's unknown whether they come from edited-out material or things that have just been researched, but they are relevant and interesting. At least until the series can be expanded to an hour-long project, they help with the value of the production.

Other episodes available include interviews with the staffs of Game of Thrones, Dexter, Parks and Recreation, and American Horror Story. So, in short, The Writers' Room only attracts the best of the best, with this half dozen being among the truly great shows currently airing.

As a writer myself, I love this show and hope for more episodes, perhaps covering shows such as Mad Men, Hannibal, The Newsroom, The Walking Dead, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Yes, the last one is canceled, but one can hope, can't one?) It does not appear to be renewed yet, but it deserves to be. The writers of a show are so often forgotten or overlooked, but they are the ones who come up with the stories fans love. It's time they got to speak out in their own voices.

Check out The Writers' Room on amazon.com now.

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