It's probably safe to say that television is America's armchair: comfortable, always there, reliable — the centerpiece of the living room. We love it, we need it, we've gotta have it all the time. So it's no surprise that, following the boom in quality television over the years (thanks to this — cue angels harmonizing — golden age), that a show came along to go not just behind the lens, but beyond the page. Indeed, Sundance Channel's The Writers' Room is just that show. And following last night's finale, it seems necessary to point out that every single aspiring-or-current creative writer, actor, or lover of TV should hop, skip, and a-click on over to the On Demand section of their screens and watch it immediately.
A show such as this truly rises and falls on the backs of the producers, writers, and showrunners that join Dean Pelton from Community, aka Jim Rash, aka That Guy Who Won The Oscar For Writing The Descendants, at the oblong table. Luckily the series started on solid ground, with a line-up of conversations that includes the folks behind Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation, Dexter, New Girl and American Horror Story. Impressive for its premiere season.
Getting such big names in a room for a show's freshman season is a testament to Rash as a creative and a conversationalist. He manages — and nearly always succeeds — in getting great anecdotes that weave the show's style and narrative together in a fun, engaging way, making it incredibly fun to watch. That's not to say the show is perfect: the segments that coincide with the series' partnership with Entertainment Weekly are forced at best, which is unfortunate. But luckily, those moments are fleeting at the end, and take up mere moments of the episodes.
It's a very basic, no-frills approach to television, and many critics will likely say they can get their fix of such conversations at panels, set visits, or interviews they themselves conduct. To which I say: this show, then, is not for you!
It's for those who have no such access. The Writers' Room reaches a far wider audience and allows us the chance to peek behind the curtain of our favorite show, which, unless you live in New York or LA, most fans are largely unable to do.
And Jim Rash is a moderator/host that's a cut above the rest. His ability to pinpoint the right questions and follow-up questions, keeping the show tight but light, is something that doesn't always happen. It helps that he's also a writer and exists in their same world. Which is probably exactly why something like this works better than many a regular ol' panel discussion where a (forgive us, industry peers) regular ol' journalist is often at the question helm.
So, run, TV nerds, to your nearest VOD or Amazon account. There's no word on a second season, yet, but if we try hard and enjoy it, maybe we'll get lucky.
[Photo Credit: Mark Peterson/Sundance Channel]