We want to end up with a perfect storm by midseason. We want one character to be grappling with a sense of self so let’s start her off in a stable relationship and then upend it when her boyfriend decides he’s gay. Maybe she’s gay too? We want one character to be in a wheelchair so let’s put him in the line of fire of a stray bullet during a protest march. He can be moving to protect an old woman and get clipped at the top of his spine. Question in the back of the room?… Yes. Someone can be in the line of fire of a stray bullet, of course. It’s a bullet. It has a path. He’s standing in that path…. No, no. “Stray” does not imply that it doesn’t follow a course, only that the course is different from the originally intended aim of the shooter… Fine, say “trajectory” if you’d prefer. I know you went to a highly selective college. Everyone knows. We hear about it every day. Did you major in bullets?… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. You’re right. I always say that this room is a safe space. I always mean it, too. I’m just surprised that you’re taking issue with this. Imagine if a car is driving down a road, veers off into a field, and hits a farmer…. I don’t know if it’s arable… Okay, then let’s not call it a field. Let’s call it a meadow or even a park. It makes no difference to the central point of this story, which is that he’s in the line of the stray car… No, I didn’t know that you minored in agricultural studies, but I think you’re just pursuing a distraction to cover up for the fact that you were wrong about the bullet. We have to get on with the episode. It airs in six weeks, so if we spend all our time indulging your concerns, we’re going to have to show a black screen for an hour. Or maybe we can put a message on it about how you didn’t understand two major plot points and that hung us up to the point where we weren’t able to finish writing the episode… Which two major points do I mean? The bullet and the car, obviously… What? Now you’ve got me all turned around. The car was definitely in the episode. The daughter was visiting a farm. Why? I don’t know. Maybe that’s where her biological father lives. She’s in the house, telling him about how her boyfriend is grappling with a sense of self, and her biological father can’t deal with it. He’s old-fashioned. He’ll come around eventually. We all sense that. But not now. Too much too soon, collision of the traditional with the unfamiliar, and so forth. And he walks out to look at the spot where years before, his own father had returned from the war and buried his helmet, and just at that moment, the car shoots off the expressway and barrels down on him… What? He can be hit but not killed? The gay boyfriend, driving to tell the daughter that he still wants a lifelong relationship with her even if they can’t be together like they used to, can see the car go off the road? The three of them kneeling there in the gold of the cornfield, the driver of the car crying behind the wheel, yes, yes, fantastic. I think you’ve really redeemed yourself.
March 5, 2018
A TV Network Drama’s Writer’s Room, 2018
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