Posts Tagged ‘Barney Miller’

“When I was 12 or 13, I wrote a spec M*A*S*H episode.”
Jane Espenson

So I was over at screenwriter John August’s website yesterday and he had a quote there from screenwriter Jane Espenson, so I went to her site and found that she started blogging again after taking a little sabbatical from blogging. Jane’s credits are extensive; Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Gilmore Girls, The O.C., Star Trek; Deep Space Nine, Caprica—you get the picture.

But before all those credit, and before her graduate and undergraduate work in linguistics at Berkeley, Espenson was raised in Ames, Iowa. I poked around a little and found this quote from an interview Espenson did with Roz Kaveney.

“I grew up in Ames, a small town in Iowa very far from the TV industry, and I always knew I wanted to write for TV. I was a big fan of Barney Miller and Starsky and Hutch, and The Love Boat. I knew which shows were guilty pleasures and which were the well-written ones. The nice thing about Barney Miller or M*A*S*H or The Odd Couple is that the characters are well defined. You knew how the characters would react: you could imagine a scenario in your head and have an insight as to how it would play out. A show that is a guilty pleasure has wonderful moments that make you laugh and fall around but does not have such well-defined characters.”
Jane Espenson
Reading the Vampire Slayer, Roz Kaveney

Something to mull over for those of you interested in writing for TV. And from the odd connections section, that means the writer of Big Fish (John August) went to college (Drake/Des Moines) just about 30 minutes away from where the writer of 23 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer went to elementary school in Ames. Not quite sure what that means, but if I don’t point those things out who will? But the bottom line is writers come from everywhere.

If you are wondering how Espenson made the transition from Ames and Berkeley to Hollywood— she was a part of the Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship. The group that helps with “talent deveolpment and diversity” in the film/TV industry. (I’m guessing that means women, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc.) The long-running program is currently accepting production associates April 1-16, and submissions for the 2011 Televsion Writing program opens May 2010.

I guess the other take-away from  Espenson’s quote is writing well defined characters is good. (Though some “guilty pleasures” air as well.) Years ago, Lew Hunter recommended the book to me Writing the Character-Center Screenplay by Andrew Horton. In the first line in the preface, Horton writes, “Strong characters hold our interest in life and on the screen.” That’s true of Buffy and all those wacky characters in Big Fish, and hopefully in the screenplay you are writing.

Bonus triva— Buffy fans know that in season four there was an episode titled Goodbye Iowa (which wasn’t written by Espenson, go figure).

Scott W. Smith

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