Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Quite a long post about that new Aaron Sorkin thing.

Americans care a great deal about what we British-style people think of them. We are the Greeks to their Romans. Or possibly we're Greasy about their Roamings, I get confused.

Any-old-way, Aaron Sorkin, who wrote West Wing and A Few Good Men, apparently gets asked all the time at parties whether he's really one of the writers behind Green Wing, and he probably sighs and stares at his canape, which is odd, because the same thing regularly happens to me, only the other way round, and with chips. I have begun to suspect that Mister Sorkin became drawn into the world of the comedy writer though this repeated mistake. 'Another show with Wing' in the title', he probably thought, 'Hmm', and decided to google it, and if he came across this blog and realised that comedy writing was in itself an highly dramatic and also occasionally humorous subject for a television show, who am I to begrudge him taking my life and turning it into telly for Americans in a 'show' called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip?

I myself have been talking to Channel 4 about developing a televisual showing based on the dramatic and also occasionally humorous events of this blog (true), but so as not to step on Mister Sorkin's toes, I decided that I would keep most of the details accurate, but instead of being a comedy writer, I would make myself a top cool secret agent with guns who also keeps a blog. Which isn't that big a change, because if I ever had the opportunity to run through baddie-filled warehouses in slow-motion whilst holding a gun in each hand I could totally do it.

But I digress, and it is unfair to overshadow Mister Sorkin with my own massive talent and fableous hair (although in photos his hair looks fine, anyway, it's not a competition). Now, I had begun to suspect that Mister Sorkin was trying to contact me discreetly to ascertain my opinion on his American works thus far, through coded references to Bob the Builder made by President Bartlett (and quite a subtle Planet Cook nod in A Few Good Men, but you really had to look for that one).

So, when the first couple of episodes of Studio 60 were mysteriously left in a mysterious location (which rhymes with 'blimternet') for me to 'happen upon', I decided that maybe I should take time out from my schedule of thinking/lying down, and give Mister Sorkin the validation he so clearly needs.

MY THOUGHTS ON STUDIO 60 AND HOW AMERICAN COMEDY WRITING DIFFERS FROM BRITISH COMEDY WRITING AS WORKED OUT FROM THE FIRST TWO EPISODES OF 'STUDIO 60 (ON THE SUNSET STRIP)'.

1. American comedy writers are paid a lot more than british ones. Not just one and a half times as much, either, or two times as much and a free bus ticket. American writers have so much money they can afford to have nice clothes and had problems from eating too much cocaine. I have never been offered drugs whilst I worked in television, which makes me wonder sometimes, in the middle of the night, if I am not actually very important in the grand scheme of Television Things. In fact I have been offered cocaine only once, at a party for some retired music therapists, which made cocaine seem frankly not a very cool drug. I didn't take it anyway. Don't do drugs, kids.

2. When American networks have to announce a big change to a show, American journalists sit round quietly and wait for the important lady to stop talking, before asking insightful and probing, but basically respectful questions. Were similar announcements to be made in Britain, I strongly suspect journalists' questions tend to be along the lines of 'Where the free booze you promised us?' 'Why is your program so shit?' 'Why haven't you resigned yet?' and the more enigmatic 'Your face my arse'. To be honest though, the British way is probably better, and if Brighton was washed away by a big storm in which thousands of people died and the people supposed to be in charge weren't, and the people supposed to help didn't, the authorities would probably not have got away with it. But America is a different country with different traditions, and we should respect that.

3. Some American comedy actresses are Christians. Well that happens here, but it's mostly quite discreet. This lead into the next bit...

4. Before a big live show, all the comedy writers and comedy actors and actresses hold hands and have a big prayer. Now your reaction to this might be, as mine was, ew gross, no way, I'd rather be punched in the face etc, but hang on for a moment. What if before a taping of The Friday Night Project or something with Jimmy Carr in, all the participants had to look each other in the face and think, really think about whether there was an afterlife, and if so, would their actions be accountable in it? I reckon Friday night telly would get a lot better. So, Good One Americans.

5. American writers and actresses sleep together. I thought this was a deliberately surreal streak, but then in America, the line between writers and producers is more blurry, and marked out with million dollar bills, so it sort of makes sense. Note that I am not calling actresses ladyho's. Although some of them get their baps out for cash. And sometimes have sex on camera for more cash, so it's a tricky call. But then I just did some scripts for viral adverts for a mobile phone and internal comedy sketches for a bank a few weeks ago, next to which being a big 'ho seems quite a noble profession. Anyway, actresses are not ladyho's, or if they are, so are actors and writers as well. I might delete this bit later, it got away from me somewhat.

6. American Men Television Executives are shallow, scheming and a bit odd-looking, whilst American Lady Television Executives are principled, honest and beautiful in a dignified way with great fashion sense (viewing companion became somewhat detached from the narrative at this point trying to work out where American Lady Television Executive got her skirt from, ah bless). Fortunately this is exactly how it is in the British Television industry as well, so top marks Mister Sorkin.

7. American Comedy Writers have a board with their ideas on. This is mostly empty, and quite often someone changes their mind and takes down two of the three existing ideas, and everyone sighs. This too is also true over here.


SO IN CONCLUSION: I want more money.



Don't forget: GW assistant producer Patrick's band 7 Seconds of Love playing at the Borderline off Charing Cross Road Saturday 7th October, doors open 7ish.


28 comments:

Dan said...

Interestingly, I often also stumble across 'free' items on the 'blimpternet', though instead of likening it to clues left for me to find, I often thought of it as finding a wallet on the street, taking the cash, and putting the empty wallet back. Perhaps that says more about me though...

Another point of minor interest, if you replace 'producer' with 'academic' and 'writer' with 'postgrad', your 7 points also work. You may have stumbled across an alternative to '42'...

LMS said...

Oddly enough I stumbled across the first 20 minutes or so on the 'binternet' but decided watching it that way didn't do the show justice.

Have you seen Sorkin's earlier show Sports Night?

LoRi~fLoWer said...

I haven't seen the show yet. My big question would be is Matthew Perry playing Chandler *again*?

*sits out on the British v. American stuff for obvious reasons*

But I will say, I wish you wrote for one of our shows..say...Veronica Mars maybe? Or you could come save our "version" of The Office.

Anonymous said...

Greetings,

We are strangers wandering through the shadowy, murky land that is cyberspace and thus your blog was revealed to us.

Just read this back and sounds really weird, so basically we are Green Wing (and obviously James Henry)admirers (in a non sexual way...or is it?) :-) and were wondering if there will be a script book signing? Also when will the 'Christmas' special be coming to our screens (and dvd sets) and will there be a signing of that?

Thanks for your time,
Emma, Mel and Philippa.

P.s. Note the grammatical perfection of this comment.

leonie said...

"...had problems from eating too much cocaine."

"eating"? really?
not that i'd know about that sort of thing, although sometimes i like to pretend i do.

patroclus said...

It *was* a particularly nice skirt.

Salvadore Vincent said...

I'm not even sure that holding hands and having a seance would resurrect some shows.

james henry said...

Dan - '42'?

lms - Never seen Sports Night, haven't heard great things about it from friends who've seen it. I am a huge fan of West Wing though.

Lori-F - Veronica Mars is excellent, huge fan (and main bird not unattractive). Does the american office need saving? Not seen it, but it seems to be doing very well...

Emma, Mel, Philippa - Hello, no plans for a script book signing that I know of, no idea when the 'feature-length' episode (that's what we're calling it) will come out - hoping for Christmas, but gawd knows, and don't know if there'll be a signing either. Wow, I'm like the best GW resource ever. Apologies. Grammatical perfection noted.

Leonie - it was a hilarious joke, the pretense being I don't know how cocaine is consumed! It's okay that you didn't get it. In reality of course I am well aware that cocaine is conveyed, via a small spoon or rolled up banknote, up the bottom.

Patroclus - Yes.

Salvador - Agreed. I'm really worried about the new Robin Hood by the way, but that's all I'm going to say about it.

Phew, knackered now.

Anonymous said...

I've had the pleasure of viewing the first three episodes of Studio Sixty and as a massive West Wing fan I have not been dissapointed. It really is exceptionally good. The fact that it stars the wonderful Mathew Perry (not playing Chandler) and Brad Whitford is a big plus for us ladies. Patroclus if it is the skirt I'm thinking of, it *was* lovely.

skeadugenga said...

"I'm really worried about the new Robin Hood by the way, but that's all I'm going to say about it"

Me too, "Have you got a hoodie?" keeps coming to mind.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr James,
Please be advised that I will shortly be calling on you to reimburse me for money spent on Sena lady pads, as I really really nearly did a wee when reading your LadyHo's rant.
My solicitor will be in touch shortly to demand recompense in the form of a large tube of jelly tots!

(Are jelly tots not the fabbest food group ever? They count as fruit don't they?)

LoRi~fLoWer said...

Re: the American version of The Office. It's just not the same. There were moments in the original that were so painful to watch, but in a brilliantly awkward, no-he-couldn't-possibly sort of way. But most Americans don't know what they're missing anyway. Just like they don't about Countdown or *gasp* Watercolour Challenge.

irony in motion said...

I really love Countdown.

Rach said...

Watercolour Challenge doesn't come anywhere near the sheer genius that is Whispering Bob Ross...

rob said...

Emma, Mel, Philippa -

Having meeting this week to discuss GW book marketing, which will include
signing(s) by cast/writers. Dates/venues yet to be decided obviously, but rest assured as soon as these are confirmed, James will be the very last person to know.
But someone else might come and post them on here.


James - '42' - Hitchhiker's Guide.

Kitty said...

Your blog gets better and funnier. You should now officially get your own show(whilst continuing to write for GW of course). It is, however, quite surreal when read after Alison Tyler's blog - which I won't link to as it's rude but I do tend to read her and then you of an afterwork evening moment - maybe you should consider collaborating. Just a random thought from the cosmos. Well me acting on behalf of the cosmos.

Anonymous said...

Does money really make the world go round?

james henry said...

Rob - well I first thought of Hitchhikers Guide but then wasn't sure how it fitted. Hmm.

Kitty - by a strange coincidence I have just read AT's 'Tiffany Twisted' which was great.

Hells - dunno

flic 2 said...

ooh did you write the barcly card adverts?
may have to get one then

patroclus said...

Heather - all her clothes were nice, but it was the white one with the red flowers that put me into a kind of trance. Usually, of course, I am capable of following the most complex of narratives, yea even unto those exhibited by pre-school masterwork Bob the Builder.

Actually I've never seen a single episode of Bob the Builder.

I talk a lot of rubbish.

james henry said...

I didn't write the Barclay Card adverts.

And I still haven't seen half the Bob the Builders I wrote, which is a shame, because I wanted to see what the Roman Ampitheatre looked like. That was either Best or Worst Day ever for the prop guys I reckon.

taigathefox said...

Blimey, you could have signed my Pilchard soft toys! (Well, they are not actually mine, but almost.)
Which BB episodes did you write? I have been forced to watch quite many of them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was the skirt I was thinking of (sorry for hi-jacking here James!) Ms. Peet does seem to have *quite* the wardrobe on Studio Sixty.

Feeling awful sorry that I missed going to the signing and meeting you all. Although the lovely Skeadugenga saved the day by getting a dvd signed and sent to me up here in the Northern wilderness.

LMS said...

One good thing about Sports Night is that it's short (25 min episodes), however the first series has audience laughter, normally during the unfunny moment. On the whole it's an enjoyable show and a good companion to The West Wing.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Rach on Whispering Bob Ross. This show is complete genius and completely insane.

L said...

I third the statement made about Bob Ross. If this is indeed the committee meeting I'm meant to be at...

I'm new by the way! Hello! A lot of my GW myspace friends come on here. I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon as well...

Anonymous said...

James I've seen the Bob the Builders you have written, as my son is a huge fan and we have to watch it quite often. So often in fact that most of the bob the builder vid's are now hidden until I get fed up of Shark Tale and Shrek again. To be honest I'm really fed up with Bob the builder but because I'm a really nice mum I haven't yet hidden them in the bin.

Yet.

frangelita said...

Teeheehee.

Ladyhos

Definitely my new word of the day.