THE “WRITERS’ ROOM”
What is the “Writers’ Room?” It is the room where the writers of a television show work, live and write as a unit. In multi-camera comedy especially, it is a weird and wonderful place – the location of the “brain” of a TV show. To put it in STAR TREK terms, the Writers’ Room is the Bridge of a television production.
As writer, nearly every moment of every day is spent there, from 10 am till 12 midnight. Oh, yes, you might go out for casting or editing. And yes, you go to the stage for the daily run-through. But other than that, you live in the Writers’ Room.
It is a magical place. A place where different people work together toward one goal – making the show as good as possible. And the “different people” are writers, who are more different than most. The average writer is an iconoclast who doesn’t “play well with others.” And yet here they have to think creatively with a bunch of other creative people.
When it works right (and it has worked right more often than not, in my experience) the Room creates its own mind. One writer will pitch a set-up and another writer will pitch a punch line, just like that – ZOOM! – with no preparation or talk beforehand.
A re-write can be minor (fix a few jokes here and there) or major (throw out the story and start over) or anywhere in between. My Room – the Room we wrote CHEERS in and every other Room I’ve run – is set up like a living room, with sofas and a coffee table. If you walked into it, you might think you were at a party that is just winding down and getting really interesting. (Most Rooms nowadays are set up around a table. That looks too much like work to me. Too much like a job. Who needs that? Writing a television show should be fun.)
Writers share a lot of horror stories about the Room. But I have mostly happy memories of bright, talented creative people doing their best to make everybody laugh. After all, if you don’t come up with something funny, something that makes the other writers laugh, you don’t get to go home. And on nights where the hour hand is approaching twelve that is a primary concern.
Some writers have bleak memories of the Room. The locker room smell. The stupid notes from the Network. The deadly, rotten run-throughs. Okay. I remember those times too. But they are far out numbered by the good memories.
There’s one thing all writers can agree on. The highpoint is ordering lunch and dinner. I’ll take a cheeseburger.