Monthly Archives: April 2015

Writers Circle Confidential: Favour For a Friend

Fresh from its debut at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo (shoulda been there), it’s the latest episode of Writers Circle!

And fresh from “me writing it all down yesterday,” here’s your peek behind the scenes.

Writing Zoe

Keith has spoken, here and elsewhere, about how he felt challenged coming onto the project and writing characters that I had created, had written on multiple occasions, and was quite close to. The exception, of course, is Zoe. Zoe’s not in the play. We created her together. Wove her out of whole cloth as a unit.

And yet… and yet in my eyes, she ended up Keith’s character.

Sure, I wrote plenty of Zoe episodes. More than Keith, even, but that has less to do with our connection to Zoe and more to do with “When you write two thirds of the season, you write damn near everybody more often, that’s how math works.” But on the other hand, it’s episodes like this (and next week) when Zoe really gets fleshed out, because in my episodes (with the possible exception of the season finale, which is coming up just WAY too soon for my tastes), I really lean into the “Zoe is afraid of everyone” aspect of her character, while Keith created the Zoe/Becky hostility angle in this episode, and then continued to explore it next week.

In fact, now that I think about it, the “Jeff can’t remember Zoe exists or notice she’s in the room” running gag was Keith’s as well. I only wrote it into In The Depths after seeing how well it worked in Keith’s episodes.

We want more Zoe in season two. We want more EVERYBODY in season two. That’s gonna be a challenge. But I’m hoping we get to know her better.

Comfiest shoot ever

Take a look at Zoe’s car. It’s in, like, the first seconds of the episode. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Alright. See it? That’s a, forgive the product placement, Toyota Yaris. Belongs to our Yaris Wrangler Matt Pickering. That isn’t the story, it just seemed the best time to mention it. The point is, it’s not a super big car, is it? The answer I’m looking for is no, no it isn’t. Which is fine for the ladies, it’s super roomy up front… but what you can’t see, thanks to Ian’s thorough work at angling the camera, is that he and I are wedged into the back seat.

I was directing this episode (the first one that Keith 100% wrote and I 100% directed; there’s not really a story there, just thought it was worth mentioning) from the back seat, while hunching down out of sight. I am known as many things… writer, actor, director, malcontent, Mass Effect fan, traveller, Mass Effect obsessive, son, brother, uncle, last sane man left standing, recovering Mass Effect addict, or my most common label, “Oh right, that guy…” but “small” and “easy to fit in compact spaces” do not make the list. Not like fun-sized Stephanie, taller but slender Anna, or my co-exec Ian, who while certainly not much more comfortable crammed back there, has been charitably described as of superior height to an Oompa-Loompa, and makes a token effort to keep himself in better shape.

I also make a token effort. It just yields very gradual results. Anyway.

I was not what you’d call super comfy back there, and most of the actual direction got done during the rehearsals in my dining room. Let’s just say this was a good shoot for my barrel-chested co-director Keith Kollee to be out of town with his family.

Ian has often accused me of calling “cut” too soon, something he’s not wrong about, since one of our favourite things to do is to just keep rolling on our delightful band of weirdos and see what comes out of them. And in the case of this episode, there were a few comments in post-production about “do we have to cut this bit so short,” followed by “Yes, because Dan kept yelling ‘cut’ super fast.” But you know what? Pressing my head into the car door for entire takes was giving me a killer headache, so if it sounded like we’d finished the scene, I was shouting “cut” and sitting up straight. That was what happened next.

Also, stopping the car short tended to kill our sound recording. So, there was that.

Big fans of law and order here

We split the shoot into segments, each with its own slice of my neighbourhood to drive through. We stuck to suburban streets (as you can tell from the shots outside of the car) because we had kind of a complicated camera setup.

“Complicated?” you ask. “No, you just strapped GoPros to sides of the car, right? Seems obvious to me.”

No. No, that is not what we did.

"Complicated" may have been too much credit.

“Complicated” may have been giving us too much credit.

Lacking GoPros, what we did… or rather, what Ian did, let’s not throw plurals around unnecessarily… was follow this tutorial to build a simple wooden rig that we could attach our camera to and affix to either window of the car. So we were driving along with a camera-bearing wooden square hanging out of either the driver’s or passenger’s side window, depending on the angle. We… we think it was street legal.

We think it was.

Super legit, that's us.

Super legit, that’s us.

Because of this, and also not knowing if our home-made camera rig was going to survive at over forty kilometres per hour, we decided to keep to the quieter suburban streets of my neighbourhood, ending in the strip mall where we shot Night Moves. Encountering less traffic seemed to be the best option, even if it ends up implying that Becky just lives super deep in suburbia. You know, like those people you visit who are ten minutes from major roads, and you need directions both to their house and how to get back to any street that will take you out of the neighbourhood? Which doesn’t feel like Becky, she seems like a “build up not out” person, but… I don’t know, maybe she got the house super cheap because there was a bunch of murders or something.

Next time… after two weeks off, Jeff’s back in Stonebluff Road. See you back here.

Writers Circle Confidential: Night Moves

Working on our Night Moves…

Tryin’ to make some front page drive-in news…

Fun with exteriors

A first for us on this series: with the exception of Phil’s side of the opening phone call, this episode was entirely exteriors. Which, given our budget (basically nothing), was a challenge, since getting a park closed down for a shoot costs hell of money. Now… we meant to shoot this in August. We meant to shoot many things in August. But due to scheduling shenanigans, we had to push this back to September.

Now would be a good time to remind you that we live in Canada.

One of these people is dressed appropriately.

One of these people is dressed appropriately.

Now, Calgary’s not that bad, weather-wise. It can still be nice out in September. But only during the day. Come late August, once the sun’s down it gets colder, and fast. And since all of our exteriors had to take place at night, we made sure to have at least one crew member on blanket duty. As soon as I said “cut,” Tawni (our costumer/slate girl) would step in and get the blanket on Stephanie. Daisy, our production manager, would offer warming rubs as well. And then Steph, who is a trooper, would shrug it all off and do another take. Of our first attempt at a long shot. Not a several minute long shot where Matthew McConaughey has to escape a gang war or Daredevil fights like a dozen Russian mobsters, so, you know, not worth trying to take a bow over or anything. Just saying it was a long time for Steph to act like she wasn’t cold.

The merits of planning ahead

I wasn’t used to writing for film. Or directing for film. Or thinking about “how this should look” when writing basically anything. So it wasn’t until we started shooting Phil’s half of the phone call that it occurred to me that it might be neat to do the call in a split screen. Which Ian seemed confident he could do, in theory, but in practice… since we’d just thought of that, Steph hadn’t been called that night. Ryan was recording his half alone.

Alone-ish.

Alone-ish.

And to do a split screen conversation, you kind of need both people there, at least for the first half, to nail the timing. So that, as you’ve seen, didn’t happen.

Welcome back Matt

This is the third time that occasional guest star, one-time production manager, and to the observant, perpetual presence in our YouTube episode descriptions Matt Pickering has come up in these blogs, and thanks to the magic of non-sequential shooting, the second time he was on set. And fortunately for us, he is no more attached to his dignity than I am, because grunging him up into Jimmy Dave the hobo was a bit of a process.

Nothing this majestic is easy.

Nothing this majestic is easy.

We needed multiple coats. We needed to sacrifice a pair of jeans on the altar of Jimmy Dave. And we needed to make him dirty. Well, physically dirty. The other kind just happens. We tried a few things, including rubbing his face in the grill of my barbecue…

Or, rather, vice versa.

Or, rather, vice versa.

…which proved ineffective, so it came down to grabbing a handful of dirt from my back yard and smearing it in his face.

Oh, yes, this whole park scene at the end? That’s just my back yard. Right outside what viewers will come to know as Becky’s kitchen. And it’s a shared back yard in my condo complex, so… while we were sure to get this scene shot first, before it was late enough that Steph yelling “BECKY RULES” as loud as she could would get cops called on us… we did get a few curious looks from my neighbour as we set up lights, a camera, and apparently a homeless man lurking in a tree.

That said, in the end, I’m really the only one Matt startled. In the long take of Phil and Becky walking past the shops, Ian, Daisy, and I were walking backwards: Ian shooting, me observing, Daisy trying to make sure Ian didn’t walk into anything or fall down a staircase. Matt, half convinced this shot was going to get him arrested, would loop around in the background, swing through the parking lot, and catch up with those of us behind the camera. And every time this happened, I would see the shambling form of Jimmy Dave out of the corner of my eye, and every time I would panic for a second before I remembered it was Matt.

Says good things about the outfit, really.

“Character wine”

Basically, Becky’s scenes were shot in reverse order. First the park, then the walk, then the phone call. Steph, in what I’m sure was commitment to her craft, had brought an entire bottle of wine to help her get into character, as it were. However, she drank it all very early in the process, before being handed a plate of rapidly cooling and increasingly spongy perogies to eat and a bottle of sparkling water to drink. So Becky gets drunker and drunker as the shoot went on, yet we got further and further from the character wine. And Steph, for the record, claims that the cold killed any sort of buzz she’d had pretty quickly anyway.

Once we were done with the backyard, it was time to wander over to the shopping center near my house, hoping that the parking lot would be quiet enough at 11 PM that we could get this thing shot without incident. Which we… sort of did. Unfortunately, the best-lit stretch of sidewalk ended precariously close to the liquor store, which was open until midnight. So at the point where they stop walking and Becky throws up, we were right near the spot where dudebros were pulling up to grab some last-minute alcohol on their way to… stuff. I don’t care what they were doing, I was just trying to make sure Ian didn’t physically fight any of them for yelling “You guys shooting a movie” at us.

Some of the customers were cool about it, though. One gentleman sat quietly in his car, not opening or closing the door, talking, or starting the engine until I yelled “cut” and Daisy gave him the go-ahead.

Transformations

My favourite part of this whole shoot had to be Phil and Becky on the bench, talking about loving your characters. It was a simple moment when I wrote it. Just Becky reassuring Phil that he wasn’t being crazy, by talking about a character she decided to let live at the last minute. A simple moment, not about anything specific… FINE, Mass Effect, it was a little bit about Commander Shepard in one of the various Mass Effect endings. The point is, it wasn’t supposed to be my favourite moment in the episode.

Then Stephanie got her hands on it, and what was supposed to be a simple moment suddenly became this… beautiful little speech. This sweet little glimpse into her worldview.

That’s one of the beauties of what I do. The text transforms itself it the right hands. Moments you never knew you wrote spring to wonderful life when the actors get into it. It’s right up there with audience reaction (which writing for the internet kind of robs you of) as far as perks of the job go.

Next week… the ladies take an awkward car ride. Which is even more awkward for the crew.

Writers Circle Confidential: Love is Blind

Did you miss us last week? Well, we missed you. Both Ian and Keith are joining me today, and there’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get going. Here’s the new episode…

…and here’s an awkward yet frank discussion about crossing lines in comedy.

Touchy topics

This is one of Keith’s episodes, so I’m-a let Keith talk before I get going.

This was the first episode I wrote. Taking characters that were very near to another writer’s heart is a daunting task. Even one misstep can be a disaster. After sending the first draft out to Dan, I nervously awaited his feedback. After reading three pages, he messaged me: You’re killing this dialogue. I would like to tell you that I coolly celebrated this vague affirmation, but the fact of the matter is, I think I sent him a dozen messages confirming that his sentiment was indeed positive. It was not cool at all. It was at that moment that I knew Dan and I had a synergy. We were on the same page, and understood these characters on the same level. It was incredibly gratifying.

Now, after talking about how awesome this episode was for me, I would be a fool if I didn’t realize there was an elephant in the room, so allow me to address it. I think that literally everything in the world can be funny. In my opinion, it is one of the most important things that have sustained us as a species. That ability to look at everything from the silliest gaff to the grimmest tragedy and decide that the only way to get through it was to laugh. I really feel like that’s the only way we get through this existence. I only mention this because Love is Blind came out this week. As I mentioned, I wrote this episode, and debated it with nearly everyone close to me, including my wife, my two co-executive producers, and the two female leads. I used the same argument I outlined above: You can joke about anything, as long as it is legitimately funny. Luckily, I think it is (thanks, in no  small part, to Stephanie), though, if I’m wrong, I imagine you’ll let me know…

Okay. My turn.

Hi, I’m Dan, I’m a straight white male, and this is my blog post about rape jokes. Won’t this be fun.

So, as we recall, at the end of this week’s episode (which of course you’ve watched, why wouldn’t you have watched it, it’s right there, and if you haven’t, I… why? Why are you reading this if you haven’t… watch the episode, then read the commentary, I, honestly, I do not know how to make that any clearer), it’s revealed that Becky, having had too much wine, performed a certain oral act upon Ted against his will. We play this revelation as a joke, and in our defence… it’s a pretty funny joke. At least so people keep telling us. It was funny when I read it, Steph’s delivery of “I might have raped him a little” makes me laugh every single time… and given that during post-production I watch these things so many times the words lose all meaning, that’s saying something… and all the way from writing to casting I never considered that there might be something wrong with it. Hell, I wrote a follow-up joke (that you’ll see next week), and that was funny too, so we’re good, right? Right?

Somehow we managed to take what few scenes referenced this less-than-voluntary-blowjob and use them and very nearly only them as audition sides when we were casting Zoe and Phil. To an outsider, which of course our auditioners were, it seemed like our show was just going to be jam-packed with rape jokes. Which made some people cautious about signing on.

On that note… Ian, enlighten the folks, will you?

Back in the early days of the project when we were still casting, the bookend scenes were one of the sides chosen to see how the group dynamic would flesh out. I had brought Anna on board to play Zoe as I never could imagine anyone but her when I read the scripts.

After a couple days Anna had spoken to me about the scene, worried that we were making a joke out of rape and rape culture. (A concern echoed to me months later by Steph). Until she brought it up I had honestly not seen the problem. It became kind of a large concern for her and for Keith, Dan, and I. They will tell their sides of it but for me my major concern was making sure that we handled her concerns well as in this stage of casting it would have been very easy for her to decide she didn’t want to be a part of the project.

I agreed with Anna’s concerns that we shouldn’t make rape funny, but also with Keith’s view that addressing something with humour was the best way to take the fear of addressing it away.

We had a meeting with Anna to try to allay her worries, and while I’m not sure she was entirely convinced of Keith’s philosophy, it was enough.

In another world we might have handled this all with less open communication and Anna would have walked away from Zoe. I’m glad it worked out. I’m told she ended up quite liking the episode.

Thanks, Pond. Back to me, then.

This is a tricky subject. Smarter, funnier people than I have pondered the issue of rape jokes, the danger of their potential contribution to rape culture, and if/when they’re okay. Here’s one of them. Click that link for a lengthy but well-thought and informative essay from Patton Oswalt on joke theft, hecklers, and rape jokes. You don’t have to. I’m-a borrow some thoughts from him, though, and I wanted to be clear where they were coming from.

Comedy should not have boundaries. Of this, Keith was super certain when we started discussing the joke in question. Like, shouty-certain. And he’s right, because as Mr. Oswalt states in the aforementioned essay, comedy can be a way of confronting something horrifying and lessening its power through humour. Humour is a great way to discuss serious subjects in a way that makes people pay attention. Look at Aziz Ansari talking about creepy dudes. Here’s John Oliver trying to make people care about government surveillance by framing it as a discussion about dick pics. Hell, there’s a reason John Oliver’s ex-boss, Jon Stewart, was able to turn a comedy show on basic cable into one of North America’s most trusted news sources.

There is such a thing as a funny and non-offensive rape joke. Like, say, this one by Ever Mainard. Or this one by Louis CK. But it remains a tough issue, because our perspective can taint our views of these topics. Patton Oswalt, in that linked article, talks a lot about that. So does Cracked.com’s Daniel O’Brien in this post about how the second season finale of his series Rom.com was accidentally racially insensitive: in one place because of casting (a powerful female calling an underling “Boy” wasn’t offensive until they cast a black guy in the underling role), and in one part because he just didn’t see it. Sometimes, when you’re part of the most privileged group of people in the history of the Earth, things that less historically privileged people might find offensive can be hard to see.

That said. Regardless of the topic, I believe that there are only two defences any joke needs: is it funny, and were you punching up? Punching down, ie. making fun of people less powerful than you, is always a little mean. In this case, is the joke targeting the victim? Because that’s where jokes fuel rape culture, and that’s not something I’d want to be a part of. However, I posit that it is not what we did. That Becky, the perpetrator, is ultimately the punchline, both now and in the future.

Yes, the obvious thing to ask is “What if the genders were flipped? Would you still be defending the joke?” Please don’t ask that. If you do, I’ll be forced to say “If you flip the genders, it’s not the same joke.” Because it isn’t. Context is everything.

I hope you laughed at the joke. If you didn’t, I’m sorry, but we stand by it.

Let’s… let’s move on.

Harsh light of day

Here’s Ian again.

Though I forgot to include myself in the credits as such, I actually did some directing for this one. Dan was out of town and Keith was unavoidably commited the morning we shot the dates. Yeah, morning. After a night of rehearsing a bunch with Keith I dragged the actors and the rest of the crew out to a pub at 6:00 in the morning on a Saturday so we could shoot some of the worst first dates I was not personally a member of. This would not be the last time I organized a location shoot at unreasonable hours.

Shooting on location comes with tricky realities. You want to shoot in a pub? Don’t have enough money to pay them to close the joint? Well, guess what, you’re shooting at 6 AM, because that’s when they can accommodate you. So you’re going to have to drag your entire cast of volunteer actors to set at the crack of dawn.

And then not be there yourself because your cousin’s getting married one province over that weekend.

I would love to tell you all sorts of stories about shooting this episode. Like what Ted’s first day on set was like. Yes, we cast a guy named Ted as the character named Ted. It means when his friends make statements like “Ted getting raped was a highlight of the episode,” it’s extra funny.  (See? We’re laughing about it already. Comedy cures all.) I’m sure Keith would have liked to do that as well, but he also had family commitments that morning. The burdens of loving your children, I suppose. So for this episode, Keith worked with the cast at our usual rehearsal space (down the hall from the writers’ room set) on Friday night, then everyone tried to remember what he told them to do as Ian directed the actual shoot.

Don’t tell him, but I’d been looking forward to having Ted on set. He’d just been the lead in a Doctor Who tribute play I directed called Who Knows (along with Tawni, our costumer/slate girl), which was one of the most fun theatrical experiences I’d had in years, and having any of the Who Knows gang around is something to enjoy. And then when he finally makes his debut, I’m in Golden, BC, watching a wedding. Okay, sleeping. I was sleeping. Look, I couldn’t be on set, I didn’t see the point in getting up at 5 AM out of solidarity.

Random observations

Becky’s wine is white grape juice. Probably the only time Steph used “stunt” wine. But hey, before noon. That said, Steph hates white grape juice. Makes it awkward when she has to drink a lot of it on camera.

Ginette, who plays Jeff’s date, also played the stripper (or at least her legs) in episode three. As such, that sequence was also shot that morning. You’d think they’d have shot that first, to make sure it was done before the pub had to open. Apparently not, though. Guess they decided wrapping Chelsea and Ted was the priority.

Remind me… down the road, we’re going to talk about how Keith and I write Zoe. I think there’s some interesting thoughts there, but there’s a better episode to look at them.

Ian: In previous episodes whenever Jeff hands a girl his card it is actually the card of this pub’s manager, an old friend of mine from Junior High who helped me secure this location.

Next time: night shoots and stunt food with Phil and Becky.

Danny Writes Plays: Writers Circle

Okay. So. Normally this would be when I’d pull out another instalment of Writers Circle Confidential. We’d watch this week’s episode, have some laughs, and then I and possibly a guest star would tell you all about it. But as you may or may not have noticed, we don’t actually have a new episode this week. We have a blooper reel.

And while there’s still plenty of laughs to be had, there isn’t much scintillating behind-the-scenes storytelling to be done on a blooper reel. Save that it’s a little clear Anna never quite got or embraced our Star Wars Phonetic Alphabet. (A=Anakin, B=Bespin, C=Coruscant, etc.)

So instead, let’s hop into the old Wayback Machine, head to 2009, and look at the original script of Writers Circle: the play. Yes, that means jumping the queue a little where Danny Writes Plays in concerned, but we’ll just look the other way on that. Agreed? Agreed.

What’s it about?

Phil Payton (returning from Two Guys and U-Boat of the Soul), Becky Porter (also from U-Boat), and Jeff Winnick (he was new) are the house playwrights for Taranto Theatre Company, working under producer and Phil’s ex-fiancee Tina Gellar (also from Two Guys and U-Boat). The end-of-season gala is approaching, and they’re all expected to turn in a draft of their latest scripts so that Tina can announce the coming season. There’s just… a few problems.

Perpetually lovesick and depressed Phil is attempting to write yet another romantic comedy, but can’t focus on it, because he’s in love with his friend Olivia and can’t figure out how to tell her. Seemingly happy go lucky Jeff, on the other hand, is trying to write the latest in a series of epic tragedies, but is unable to find passion in anything, even his string of one-night stands, until he meets a woman named Monica, who seems reluctant to enter into anything long-term. Becky, who is working on a big-message period piece about Victorian society trying to pretend it’s something it’s not, has been keeping a secret: her boyfriend Alex that she refuses to introduce to the others is actually her girlfriend Alex. Alex, meanwhile, is easily triggered by the thought of life in the closet, something that Becky refusing to introduce her to her friends is setting off.

Whether he likes it or not, Phil is befriended by a stripper named Amber, who has decided to peel back the walls of his repression and find out why he can’t simply tell a girl he likes her.

Becky finally introduces Alex to Jeff and Phil, revealing to all three of them that’s she’s bisexual. Try to guess which of them takes it the worst. If you guessed the girlfriend, have a gold star.

Jeff and Monica repeatedly argue over religion: Jeff’s a strict atheist, Monica’s more spiritual… and when Jeff finally learns what’s been keeping Monica from committing to something long term… well, let’s just say it gets worse before it gets better.

And ultimately, with no plays written and everyone’s jobs on the line, everything comes to a boil at the launch gala.

So why’d that happen?

I was on a three week vacation through Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, and Tokyo. I find vacations, especially solo vacations like this one, are good for two things: reflection and creation. Far from home, away from my typical distractions, and if on a solo trip, no one to talk to, I either have revelations about my personal life, or come up with a new script idea.

In this case, both.

I’d been wondering if there was a way to weaponize the ridiculous banter my friend Ben and I get into. Close friends that, due to vastly differing philosophies, can look like arch enemies. Thus did Jeff Winnick come into being, named after Judd Winick, one of my favourite comic writers (would have been Jeffrey Bendis, named after Brian Michael Bendis, but there was some concern people would connect him to the cowardly soldier who dies at the beginning of the Firefly pilot). And what the hey, let’s bring Becky from U-Boat back, make it a trio.

As to the other thing… I’d also come to examine one of my close relationships. Came to see it more clearly. Came to realize that I wasn’t the hero of my own story, which is never an easy thing to come to terms with. And if there’s one thing Phil Payton proved to be good for five years earlier, it’s serving as a vessel to exorcise some demons. And so did Olivia become a stand-in for… someone else. Someone I discussed in an open letter to long ago.

Jeff and Becky’s plots required more creativity. Originally, she was going to be too open about herself, aggressively so, but it wasn’t until I reversed that idea that I felt I had a plot. Oh, and as for why I made Becky bisexual? We’d just done two really male-heavy plays. I felt somebody in the company had to serve up some female roles. So I gave Becky a girlfriend just to write in one more woman, and made her bi so that her crush on Phil in U-Boat could stay canonical.

How’d it turn out?

Overall? Pretty well. The three leads work. Their banter is staggeringly fun and easy to write. I think we’ve been proving that on a weekly basis lately. That said… there are some things that could stand to improve.

First off… it’s long. Super long. There are three protagonists, each with their own one-act worth of plot. It adds up. It adds up until a friend and I had to spend an entire night cutting whatever we could to get the runtime down to a mere three hours. It is the single longest thing I’ve ever written not intended to be episodic. Which, perhaps, is why the characters adapted so easily to an episodic format.

Phil’s story is 90% exposition. All the key details of his arc, from meeting Olivia to falling in love with her to her relationship with another guy to, most notably, the past trauma that has made Phil the way he is, all of it happens in the past and is described to Amber. And she’s only giving him a lap dance the once. The webseries gives more opportunities to explain Phil in ways other than lengthy backstory monologues.

It was explained to me by the good people at the Alberta Playwright’s Network that Jeff’s plotline lifts right out. Phil and Becky’s stories are all about honesty. They share a theme. Jeff’s doesn’t. But it would make for a decent one-act. So it may as well lift out.

And what the hell theatre company, in the world, has three in-house playwrights on staff? You find me that theatre company, and then you pop that company in the mouth. Or see if they’re hiring. One of those.

Would you stage it again?

It’s been a temptation ever since the first staging, since I wasn’t convinced the production was 100% worthy of the script, but it’s begun to occur to me…Why would I want to?

Yes, I could cut Jeff, or at least his plot, streamline Phil and Becky’s stories, punch up the exposition… but why? In the end, I’d have a (hopefully) two-hour show about Phil and Becky… but no Jeff. No Zoe. Nobody says “For Brent” even once. I’ve found a new vehicle for these characters, one that’s treating them way better than a single, if savagely long, play did.

So instead of dusting it off and taking another crack at a stage version, I’m giving myself (and the others) license to crib whatever I want and bring it into the webseries. Not, like, word for word or anything… I did that once and now it’s my least favourite episode… but plots and characters, those I can pinch whenever. This does not, thus far, include Jeff’s love interest Monica, and when we approach the end of the season you’ll see why, but I’m thinking Olivia is going to make an appearance down the road. And Alex is a strong maybe.

Repeated theme alert

  • The quiet protagonist the ladies inexplicably love: Phil’s a sad sack, but he almost married Tina, slept with Becky, and draws the interest of Amber the stripper. Bravo, me.
  • Something something pop culture reference: The play (like the series) opens with the leads arguing about Batman and Spider-man. I think that’s the worst of it.
  • Something something pop culture reference Into Darkness: Olivia, Phil’s crush, is named after Olivia Wilde. Becky’s girlfriend, Alex Hadley, gets her last name from Olivia Wilde’s character on House, Dr. Remy “13” Hadley. I like Olivia Wilde is what I’m saying.
  • “Let’s swap backstories for fifteen minutes like that’s not pacing Kryptonite!” Every. Single. Phil scene.
  • Writing about writers: This was, for obvious reasons, the worst example of this one.

Next week… an actual episode, and some frank discussions about crossing lines in the name of comedy.