Friday, July 25, 2014

Chatting with The Big Bang Theory Screenwriters on Geekerati

Sometimes I forget how blessed my life is, living as I do in beautiful southern California. There are times when I need to take a break from grumbling that not enough people listen to the Geekerati podcast I do with Shawna Benson, or wondering why no one has spontaneously noticed that I would be perfect as a voice on their latest animated series. Today is one of those times when I remind myself that no matter how challenging and intimidating my life might be I pretty much live in "Pops Town" as depicted in one of the Hallmark puzzles by Robert Blair Martin. A heavily populated version of Pops Town, to be sure, but one none the less. The Los Angeles area can be a scary place if you don't know anyone, but it also happens to be filled with wonderful people who can make this megalopolis feel like it's just the right size.

Let me walk you on a brief tangent about this aspect of L.A. before we get back to the main point of this post...getting you to listen to the Big Bang Theory interviews Shawna and I did on Geekerati.

My wife Jody and I moved down here so that she could attend film school at USC and I could begin pursuing graduate education. We moved to Los Angeles from Reno and we immediately experienced culture shock. Let me tell you, unless you are from a big city it is quite shocking to be surrounded by so many people. The Reno/Sparks Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of roughly 425,000... or roughly 3 Comic-Cons. The Los Angeles Combined Statistical Area - or as someone who lives in Glendale and commutes to Riverside for my Ph.D. classes calls "L.A." - has roughly 18 million. That's roughly 120 Comic-Cons. That is a lot of people and when Jody and I first moved down here it was mind-boggling. We lived in Crenshaw at the time, and finding any place that wasn't crowded was a quest suitable for 16th level Rangers and not wide eyed newbs from the Sierras. Though we did discover that the "vacant lot" where Elizabeth Short' body was found is a 9 minute walk from the Crenshaw Krispy Kreme.

How crowded is Los Angeles you ask?

There is so much light pollution in the area that Jody and I describe the Los Angeles day as having two parts, "Day and Dim." There is no night, only dim. There are so few stars visible that we wondered why they bothered to maintain the Griffith Observatory, though at the time the Observatory was closed for renovation.

Our first Christmas in Los Angeles, we made the mistake of heading over to Universal City Walk to get a feel of L.A. at Christmas-time. For Jody, who grew up in Nevada City where they have Cornish Christmas/Victorian Christmas every year, venturing into a pseudo-mall that has a Santa hat wearing King Kong as its only acknowledgement of the season was horrifying. It was anti-Christmas for her. There was no snow. There were no Christmas carols. It was 70 degrees. We later learned that the Southland celebrates Christmas - and so many other wonderful celebrations - magnificently, it's only Universal City Walk that is terrible...except at Halloween when it is appropriately horrifying.

For our first year, we were very lonely in a very large place. Then something magical happened. We wandered from our cave and managed to meet some Angelinos. Some where natives, but most - like us - were transplants. Some of them were semi-famous, but most were normal people getting by. I'd like to take a moment to highlight a couple of lynch pin people who have made our day to day lives in L.A. wonderful: Bill Cunningham, Shawna Benson, Wes Kobernick, Joel Allan, Eric Lytle, Luke Y. Thompson, David N. Scott, Julie Scott, Kate Coe, Dale Launer, Scott Kaufer, Caryn Mamrack, Kevin Burke and Nicholas Santillan. These names only scratch the surface of people who have been more than generous with their time and energy to both Jody and me...and are people I can name without feeling like I am "name dropping." I would mention some of the people in my gaming group, but it is my hope that I have been able to do for them what the above people have done for me and Jody.

These people make Los Angeles feel like a very small town. Small in the cozy way and not in the gossipy loss of privacy way.

It is through these people, and some of un-named individuals, that I have had the ability to get some great guests on the Geekerati podcast that Shawna Benson, Bill Cunningham, Wes Kobernick, Eric Lytle, and I started in 2007. Of the many great guests, the "gets" that most surprised me in that I was able to get them at all were writers from the biggest comedy on television...The Big Bang Theory. There are really only three "gets" that I would geek out more over, William Shatner, Bruce Campbell, and Nathan Fillion. I'll add them to my bucket list.

We had Executive Producer David Goetsch on our show in early 2008. In that episode we discussed a number of topics, but I remember one thing fairly distinctly. It was Goetsch's kind tolerance of me telling him that TBBT had better not commit a BOSTON COMMON. For those who don't know, BOSTON COMMON was a sit com starring Anthony Clark who played a geeky hick who is madly in love with much cooler Traylor Howard. Needless to say, they get together in Romantic Comedy fashion at the end of the short - due to it being a mid-season pick up - season. The show was picked up for another season, which apparently made the writers panic because they broke the couple up in order to "recapture the magic." As an aside, Traylor Howard went on to star in TWO GUYS, A GIRL, AND A PIZZA JOINT which starred two geek favorites (Nathan Fillion and Julius Carry), someone geeks love to hate (Ryan Reynolds), and a highly under appreciated comic actor (Richard Ruccolo).

Since its launch, TBBT has been Jody and my favorite modern sit com, it falls somewhere behind FRAZIER and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW on the all-time list. Jody has even written a spec screenplay for it, which is a double edged sword for a struggling screenwriter. You've written for what you love, but you don't tend to have people read specs for their own show. This isn't for "IP" reasons. It's more due to the fact that if you don't get the characterization perfect - in the minds of the shows creators - they might be very resistant to your interpretation. This is true even if your screenplay is funny. That's one of the reasons writers submit screenplays for similar shows, or other popular shows. You want to demonstrate you can write in the genre, but you don't want to claim you understand the characters better than the show's creators.

Anyway, enough of the build up. You will find the two episodes we interview TBBT writers embedded below. If you need any proof of the show's geek cred, just think about the fact that they were willing to spend time with a fellow geek to chat for over an hour...twice...and hopefully again.

Interview with David Goetsch

Find Additional Blogcritics Podcasts with Geekerati Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Interview with Maria Ferrari

Online Entertainment Radio at Blog Talk Radio with Geekerati Radio on BlogTalkRadio

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