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If a show ever tries to be cool, then it's going to be doing something wrong.
I think if you're too concerned with being cool or hip or liked, you can't really make good TV because sincerity and coolness are opposites.
People think of taxes as money just being robbed from you. They don't consider the benefits of paying taxes. The benefits that they get and also the benefit of just being a part of a large group of people: a town, or a city, or a country, or a society that allegedly should stand together and all try to help each other.
People don't seem to make the connection between their tax money and the benefits that they get from their tax money, like free education, and the fire department, and police protection, and everything else. It drives me bonkers, because it's pretty straightforward to me.
I believe in the importance of sincerity and emotion and honesty in TV, even when it's goofy comedy.
The best shows are always the ones that are very, very low-concept and just about great characters.
Society is completely unreasonable. People want everything and want to pay for nothing. They panic if they think about their taxes being raised, but if their garbage collection is a day late they scream and yell.
When someone pitches a joke for a character that is just perfect, and you can imagine that actor reading that line at your table read or on the set, it's like the sound of a snap snapping into place.
I care more about making sure the story is correct and the characters are behaving in character than I do about the individual jokes.
For storytelling purposes, there has to be conflict, but that doesn't mean the people have to be mean. I've never liked mean-spirited comedy.
I personally think the best ideas for TV shows - at least comedies - are very low-fi ideas. High concepts often sell pitches in movies and TV, but, especially in TV when you're talking about hopefully a 100 or 150 episode proposition, those concepts just burn off, and then you're stuck with nothing.
My favorite TV show of all time is 'The Wire,' which has the feeling of a project-based show. You draw in people from disparate parts of the world, and they have to work together to achieve a goal.
All of comedy at some level is trial-and-error, whether it's a stand-up trying out jokes or a comedy show trying stories.
As a viewer of TV shows, I always like shows more when I just feel like the people in charge have a plan. You can just tell sometimes, 'Oh, there's a plan there. They have an idea for how this is going to unfold.'
My favorite sitcom of all time is 'Cheers.' That's a perfect example of how, like, people made fun of Cliff, but you never got the sense that they didn't like Cliff.
The best episodes of 'The West Wing' that dealt with policy and stuff, in my opinion, were the ones where they were in the middle of a crisis, and they were trying to figure out how to solve problems.
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Image of the Moment
Always keep your smile. That's how I explain my long life.
Robert A. Heinlein
H. L. Mencken
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