Alex and Nick discuss television procedural shows and how they work, from writing them to reinventing the genre itself.

What kind of procedurals are there on TV? How do you juggle between the characters, the overall story, and the case-of-the-week? What are some common tips for writing a procedural? How does the structure evolve between episodic and serialized procedurals?

The Paper Team solves the case…

SHOWNOTES

Content

1 – Defining TV procedurals (00:46)
2 – Writing TV procedurals: structure, case of the week, and reinventing the genre (03:22)
Takeaways and Resources (28:29)

Links

Carol Mendelsohn
“How Joss Whedon and the Buffy writers’ room broke episodes” – TV Calling
“My Overkill” (2×01 – Scrubs)
Colin Hay
“The Art of the TV Episode” (PT20)
“Subway” (6×07 – Homicide: Life on the Street)
Andre Braugher
Dancing Baby
“Tracking the long career of half-forgotten TV auteur David E. Kelley” – Stephen Bowie/The A.V. Club
Ann Donahue
Steven Bochco
Century City (TV Series)
“When every Fox show becomes a procedural, it gets very boring” – Daniel Fienberg/THR
Michelle King
Robert King
“Common Descent” (2×17 – Stargate Universe)
“Should You Pay for TV Writing Education?” (PT19)

Resources

“How The Good Wife broke the rules for legal dramas, and then broke itself” – Noel Murray/The A.V. Club

This episode brought to you by Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Writing Competitions

Use code PAPERTEAM to get $15 OFF when you enter a Launch Pad Competition

Special thanks to Jason J. Cohn for helping us edit this episode.

If you enjoyed this episode (and others), please consider leaving us an iTunes review at paperteam.co/itunes! :)

You can find Paper Team on Twitter:
Alex@TVCalling
Nick@_njwatson
If you have any questions, comments or feedback, you can e-mail us: [email protected]

When I started TV Calling nine years ago, we were at the end of the great writers’ strike of 2007-2008.

Hulu had barely started, The WB’s post-CW dedicated online presence was about to launch alongside the now-defunct Strike.TV. Plus Childrens Hospital was but a twinkle in Rob Corddry’s Brazilian eyes.

(For you young whippersnappers who barely remember it, or if you’re just masochistically nostalgic, check out this documentary about the writers’ strike called “Pencils Down! The 100 Days of the Writers Guild Strike“)

Time is a flat circle, which means the WGA is deep in renegotiations with the AMPTP, which means the AMPTP isn’t very forthcoming, which means a strike authorization vote is looming.

What’s all this, then?

First, let’s talk about the demands.

There’s been a lot of misinformation (especially in the trades) these past few weeks, specifically regarding the WGA’s goodwill. Here’s the gist of the writing issues:

TV writers are getting paid less due to fewer episodes, shorter seasons, exclusivity clauses, and longer amortization; all while healthcare plans are potentially about to be rolled back.

But on the plus side, Peak TV!

In a contract bulletin, the WGA went over the five critical reasons why the average TV writer is seeing their income go down:

1) The number of episodes, and therefore, episode fees are half the traditional number on many series.

2) These fewer episode fees are being amortized across more than two weeks per episode.

3) Writers are held exclusive and under option even when not working on these short season series.

4) Residuals are too low in the emerging rerun markets.

5) Script fees remain unequal to the network rates for the growing areas of the industry.

Despite the huge increase in TV content, median earnings from 2013-2014 to 2015-2016 have dropped 25% for co-producers and above.

And the even more painful rub is the aforementioned exclusivity option, which forces writers to forgo other work until their current show returns (spoiler alert: it may not be renewed or picked up).
Less money + shorter periods of work = unhappy campers

Oh, and that’s not even bringing up the health plan issues.

Health costs are expected to grow 10% per year overall while contributions based on writer earnings are only expected to grow 3% per year. If nothing changes, the plan could end up broke by 2021 (!).

And since deficits have been funded by reserves (themselves funded by employer contributions — which have also been lower for writers than directors), the potential rollbacks by the AMPTP aren’t looking so nice.

The Guild is clear:

In this negotiation, we don’t seek a better health plan, only a solvent one.

To put it in piggy-bank terms, the total WGA ask for these issues is one-third of one percent of last year’s gross profits from the AMPTP’s top dogs. Profits, not revenues. That’s 33¢ to their net $100.
The WGA’s ask from the big six multi-billion dollar media corporations is estimated around $117 million a year. Their CEOs alone made $308+ million in 2016.
For more perspective on this drop in the ocean, follow the aptly-named WGA Perspective on Twitter.

So, those are the broad WGA asks.
But what about the negotiations themselves?

A few informative (as opposed to misinformative) resources have covered them:

– The WGA’s 3rd/Fairfax podcast did an extremely useful podcast regarding the 2017 contract negotiations, featuring a conversation between co-chairs of the WGA Negotiating Committee, Billy Ray, Chip Johannessen, Chris Keyser, and Negotiating Committee member Kate Erickson.

– John August/Craig Mazin’s Scriptnotes also delved into “WGA negotiations 101” with an episode last month, as well as a special mini-episode posted yesterday.

– For an even more basic intro to the situation, Amy Berg posted on Medium a FAQ about the WGA contract talks. It’s been a couple of weeks so it’s not breaking-news-updated but it covers a lot of the important talking points.

Where we stand today:
The WGA and the AMPTP have agreed to a brief recess in the negotiations until April 25. (The guilds’ current contract expire at midnight May 1.)

Which brings us to what’s going to be happening between now and then.

This week is the strike authorization vote.
It’s a leverage tool. It doesn’t meant there’s a strike. But voting YES is crucial.

As Amy Berg put it:

I received an email from the Guild about a strike authorization vote. What does that mean? Are we going on strike?

No. An authorization vote does not mean there’s going to be a strike nor does it lend itself to one. […] All a “yes” vote does is empower our leadership at the negotiating table with the threat of a strike. Voting “yes” does not mean you want a strike. No one wants a strike. Strikes suck.

If you’re curious why voting YES is vital, the Guild sent out this nice video with writers explaining the importance of saying yes to the strike authorization vote.
It features Eric Wallace, Matthew Weiner, Luvh Rakhe, Kate Erickson, Zoanne Clack, Glen Mazzara, Aaron Mendelsohn, Meredith Stiehm, and Carleton Eastlake.

Still thinking of voting “no” because strikes suck?
David Slack came to Twitter to explain how a “no” vote could actually lead to a strike.

TL;DR: Vote YES.

Current active WGAW/WGAE members who have earned at least $33,701.25 under the MBA during the last six years and/or have at least 15 qualified pension years are eligible to vote.
The member meetings are happening on Tuesday and Wednesday in LA and NY. More info on them at the WGA’s strike authorization page.

The strike authorization vote begins in person today (Tuesday, April 18), and online at 8:30PM tomorrow (Wednesday, April 19). Vote ends Monday, April 24 at 12:00PM (all times PDT).

And if you’re wondering about my thoughts in all of this, they’re straightforward:

I stand with the WGA.

Or to put it in profile picture terms…

I Stand With the WGA

Write on.

Alex and Nick welcome Alison Tafel, staff writer on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, to discuss writing on an adult comedy animation TV show.

What is the BoJack Horseman writers’ room like? How different is writing for animation from live-action? How do writers interact with animators? How much is planned in advance of the season? How are episodes broken in the room?

The Paper Team horses around…

SHOWNOTES

Content

Starting out in Hollywood, getting staffed on BoJack Horseman, and the writing process on the Netflix TV show (00:46)
Resources and Next Time On (48:53)

Links

Alison Tafel on Twitter
BoJack Horseman on Netflix
Kenneth Parcell
Raising Hope
Bunk’d
NBC’s Late Night Writers Worshop
Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Project Greenlight
“Fish Out of Water” (3×04 – BoJack Horseman)
“Downer Ending” (1×11 – BoJack Horseman)
“Stop the Presses” (3×07 – BoJack Horseman)
Greg Kinnear
Margo Martindale
Jessica Biel
Charming Cheetah Comedy on YouTube
John Myers on Twitter
Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
David Hill on Twitter
Superstore
Rachel Bloom
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Sheet Music

Resources

“Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation” – Charna Halpern, Del Close, Kim Howard Johnson
“Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV” – Joe Toplyn

This episode brought to you by Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Writing Competitions

Use code PAPERTEAM to get $15 OFF when you enter a Launch Pad Competition

Special thanks to Alex Switzky for helping us edit this episode.

If you enjoyed this episode (and others), please consider leaving us an iTunes review at paperteam.co/itunes! :)

You can find Paper Team on Twitter:
Alex@TVCalling
Nick@_njwatson
If you have any questions, comments or feedback, you can e-mail us: [email protected]

For the first Paper Team Live event, Alex and Nick go to WonderCon 2017 to host a panel on the dialogue between TV writers and their fans.
This relationship has become a vital tool for many television shows — and one that is often very fickle. That’s why we’ve invited writers and assistants from several beloved shows to share their thoughts on the issue.

Panelists include Ray Utarnachitt (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Jill Weinberger (Chicago Fire), Tennessee Martin (Lucifer), Diya Mishra (The Tick), and Taylor Brogan (The Shannara Chronicles).

What does a typical conversation look like between a writers’ room and their fandom? How much attention do TV writers pay to fans? Have fans’ voices changed the course of a story or character? What is it like going from being a fan of a show to being involved directly in the creative decisions?

The Paper Team goes live in room 209…

SHOWNOTES

Content

Live Paper Team WonderCon panel (00:00:38)
Next Time On (01:01:15)

Links

Taylor Brogan on Twitter
Diya Mishra on Twitter
Tennessee Martin on Twitter
Jill Weinberger on Twitter
Ray Utarnachitt on Twitter
The Shannara Chronicles
Into the Badlands
Gilmore Girls
Emily Gilmore
Powerless
The Tick
Pokémon (anime)
Lucifer
South of Nowhere
Chicago Fire
Wonder Woman (TV series)
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It’s Your Move
The Tick Writers’ Room on Twitter
Lucifer Writers’ Room on Twitter
Into the Badlands Writers’ Room on Twitter
The Shannara Chronicles Writers’ Room on Twitter
Derek Haas
Marc Guggenheim
Ben Edlund
Person of Interest
Terry Brooks
ATX Television Festival
Hep Alien
Amy Sherman-Palladino
Sutton Foster
Rachael Harris
“The One Where Rachel Has a Baby: Part 1” (8×23 – Friends)
Psych
Michael Emerson
Sports Night
Holly Robinson Peete
Iron Fist (TV series)
Atom (Ryan Choi)
Atom (Ray Palmer)
Brandon Routh
Hogsmeade
The Magicians (TV series)
iZombie (TV series)
Victoria Thompson’s “Gaslight Mysteries”
Grace and Frankie
Legion (TV series)
Good Girls Revolt
Riverdale (TV series)
Lee Toland Krieger

If you enjoyed this episode (and others), please consider leaving us an iTunes review at paperteam.co/itunes! :)

You can find Paper Team on Twitter:
Alex@TVCalling
Nick@_njwatson
If you have any questions, comments or feedback, you can e-mail us: [email protected]

Hi there!

Alex Freedman

I'm Alex Freedman, the writer behind TV Calling.


I started this site in 2008 to chronicle my own journey in television writing.

675 posts and 9 years later, TV Calling has also become a comprehensive resource dedicated to the full TV writing industry — from spec to success.


Everything here is written by yours truly (unless otherwise credited), so feel free to blame me for any missed deadlines.


I hope you'll answer your television calling, and join me in this creative journey.


Write on.


P.S.: New around? You should start here.

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