6 showrunners share nightmare (and hilarious) studio notes
TV shows go through many pairs of eyeballs before they make it to air. Some of the final ones are those of network and studio executives and Standards and Practices, yielding those infamous notes. Some are bad, some are hysterical, some are hysterically bad, and others are so unbelievable, you never want to think about it again.
“For the sake of my mental well-being, I can’t remember the network notes over the years,” Chuck Lorre (“The Kominsky Method”) tells Gold Derby during our Meet the Experts: Showrunners panel (watch the group chat above) with Russell T Davies (“It’s a Sin“), Dave Andron (“Snowfall”), Bill Lawrence (“Ted Lasso”), Little Marvin (“Them”) and Austin Winsberg (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist“). “I’ve washed them out. It was maddening. The things that made network television [was] almost crazy-making.” Click on each person’s name to view individual webchats with each producer.
Lorre does recall one note from his days on “Muppet Babies” in the ’80s. “The note came that [said] ‘Lady tigers don’t drive coaches nor do they wear hats and Miss Piggy would not say ‘yikes,'” he shares. “And I knew my days were numbered in children’s animation with notes like that. It was like, ‘I have to leave now.'”
Like Lorre, Lawrence first tasted success on broadcast network, specifically ABC, in the ’90s, and he has one note — his all-time favorite — from Standards and Practices about “Spin City” framed on the wall. “Back when I started in ‘Spin City,’ you were allowed to say the word ‘ass,’ I think, three times in a network half-hour,” he explains. “We submitted a script that said ‘ass’ four times, and Standards and Practices sent me a note — they didn’t know they were making a joke — but they said, ‘You have the word ‘ass’ on page 7, 13, 19 and 25. That’s four times. You can only do it three, so please pick your ass.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s going on the wall forever.'”
But not every note is a pain in the you-know-what that you can only laugh about years later. Andron appreciated the call he got from FX Chairman John Landgraf about the “Snowfall” pilot. “He started the thing with, like, ‘Look, this is your TV show, but for what it’s worth, here’s my thought.’ And when the president of your network who’s kind of so well respected across the industry starts his notes call with ‘This is your show but this is my thought,’ I mean, it’s really smart,” Andron says. “You’re immediately inclined to want to listen to him and take it. And it’s not B.S. He genuinely means it. He could’ve called me up and been like, ‘You’re a moron. You’re gonna do this.'”