I remember exactly where I was when I saw my first episode of The Office. It was 2006, the summer before my senior year of high school, and I was at a summer screenwriting program at USC. A lot of people forget this, but one of the reasons that The Office took off like it did was because it was one of the very first shows that allowed you to buy individual episodes on the iTunes Store - This was before easy streaming, before fast torrenting, before Netflix, after all - and that was the way I was first introduced to it. On the recommendation of a friend, I sat down in front of a laptop in a dorm at USC to watch the twelfth episode of the second season of some show called The Office.
That episode was “The Injury,” and it remains a favorite episode of mine to this day. Not just of The Office, but of any TV show ever. I had no idea who the characters were, or what was really going on, but it grabbed me in a way where I knew that I was going to be watching a lot more of this show. After that, I got every episode from seasons 1 and 2, got caught up, and was prepared to watch the premiere of season 3 that fall. Since that episode (“Gay Witch Hunt,” which on aired on September 21st, 2006 if you’re curious) I have watched every single episode of The Office within a week of its airing.
“You fight like a dairy farmer.”
“How appropriate, you fight like a cow.”
Those words will probably be burned somewhere into my brain for as long as I live. The very first insult and response combination that you learn for insult sword-fighting in Secret of Monkey Island, I remember reading those words in 1993, slowly and out-loud, when I was barely five years old while playing SoMI with my dad. An engineer at IBM, he had received a free Lucasfilm Games sampler pack with our latest computer - Secret of Monkey Island, Loom, and (inexplicably) Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. I don’t think I ever got Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe to work, but the first two games would have more of an impact on me than I ever thought possible. Every night when he came home from work, my dad and I would sit in front of the computer and work through every puzzle and challenge on Mêlée Island with Guybrush Threepwood.
So over on Tumblr, which is a fascinating place, I saw a lot of discussion and anger happening among the fans of various TV shows - A lot of fans who want their shows to go certain ways and get really upset whenever they don't. A lot of these fans have a tendency to blame "the writers."
"Do the writers just not know how to write women??"
"Why do the writers think that there always needs to be a romance??"
"Why do the writers keep teasing us with [sub-text] and then not delivering???"
"How do the writers not remember [tiny bit of continuity]???"
"Why do the writers...?"
And so on. What I started to notice was that there was a trend of blaming the writers for the problems that fans are having with the show or the direction it's going, or for 'baiting' the fans in various ways, so as a screenwriter working in the industry I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions and notions about how a TV show episode gets written. I wrote a little article about the process of writing in the TV network world which has, shockingly, accumulated over 2,500 notes and been reblogged by such awesome people in the animation community as Giancarlo Volpe and Johanne Matte.
I figured I'd post it here on my own blog for posterity purposes.