As we all know, TVWriter™’s good buddy and long dead mentor, Aristotle, (the guy without a last name because…Aristotle, you know?) was, if not the inventor, then certainly the first person to codify the three act writing structure that is the basis for, well, just about every story ever written.
Here, in case y’all forgot, is a hearty explanation of the three act structure (and if this doesn’t help you master it, you can always try LB’s mighty fine TV writing book). Anyway:
As TVWriter™’s longtime friend the Old Billionaire used to say, “If you’re lucky, you don’t have to be smart.” Truth to tell, though, Michael Schur, writer-creator of The Good Place and former writer for The Office has both those things going for him and then some:
by Todd VenDerWerff
Michael Schur is one of the most adept minds in TV comedy. From his early days producing the Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon-era Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, to his work as one of the key writers on The Office, he has charted a career that spans some of the best TV comedy of the 2000s.
But in the 2010s, he’s become perhaps the principal figure in network TV comedy, via his shows Parks and Recreation and The Good Place. (He’s also the co-creator of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though his fellow co-creator Dan Goor is the showrunner on that series.) Parks and Recreation was a tribute to the idea of a kinder, more loving America, just barely holding off a dark and horrifying one, while The Good Place is the only show in TV history that has balanced advanced lessons in ethics and philosophy with elaborate jokes about shrimp.
That’s what made me want to talk with Schur for the latest episode of my podcast, I Think You’re Interesting. But I wanted to talk not only about his shows, but about his overall philosophy of comedy.
We delved into questions of what makes a good comedic premise, what makes a good character relationship to build a comedy around, and what the best comedic actors have in common. We even got around to tackling that age-old question: Why is it so much easier to set a sitcom in a bar than it is to set one in a restaurant?
But early in our discussion, when I asked him to find a common denominator among successful sitcoms, he gave me a long dissection of what went right with The Office, which helped transform it from a one-season curio into a nine-season series that ran for over 200 episodes. His answer, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
Everything you need to know about the “Legendary Pop-Icon and Humanitarian,” by our legendary Contributing Editor Emeritus.” (That title means that Herbie, erm, outgrew us…and his professional growth spurt makes us proud.) Anyway:
by Herbie J Pilato
Burt Ward, pop-culture icon and world-renown humanitarian, was about three seconds late for our phone interview, and he apologized.
But the apology, of course, was not necessary, certainly because his delay was only a minuscule of a moment, and secondly because he was detained due to his non-stop efforts to rescues dogs.
In the realm of classic television, Ward is best known as Robin, the Boy Wonder a.k.a., Dick Grayson, ward (“Holy irony!”) to Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, played by Adam West (who passed away in 2017) on the Batman TV series which originally aired on ABC, twice a week, from 1966 to 1968.
Today, more than 50 years after the show’s debut, the heroic-based Batman is more popular than ever, as is the heroically-human Ward.
Down-to-earth, bright, energetic, and unassuming, Ward continues to utilize his public persona to make a positive impact in the real world, just as did Robin on Batman.
In addition to keeping his Robin persona active in the public eye, Ward, and his wife Tracy, own and operate Gentle Giants Dogfood and Products, a company dedicated to the healthy meals and living for man?—?and woman’s?—?best friends, and saving the lives of those said canines, and as many beloved animals of every species as possible.
“When you’re involved with saving lives,” Ward said, “…sometimes, it’s a life and death situation,” and time is of the essence. “We’re known for rescuing dogs, but we’ve also rescued cats, horses, pigs, goat, sheep. And when you do that (save lives), and you give more of yourself. We actually get more pleasure of doing things for others, than doing for ourselves….”
Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.
The mission of the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project is to identify emerging writers from United States military backgrounds and provide them with the tools and insights to nurture their passion for writing and successfully navigate the entertainment industry.
We do this in two phases over a yearlong program: A weekend-long retreat, and monthly follow-up workshops and special events. Each military veteran is paired with WGA members. Our writer-mentors represent some of the most beloved movies and television series of the past and present, and are committed to guiding the voices of the future.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
When is it?
The program’s kickoff event – the weekend retreat – takes place in spring 2019. Ongoing mentorship workshops and networking events will continue each month through spring 2020 on weekday evenings.
Where is it?
All sessions take place at the WGF’s Shavelson-Webb Library in Los Angeles, CA.
How much does it cost?
The program is free. NOTE: those from outside the Los Angeles area are expected to cover their own transportation and lodging costs.
Am I eligible?
We encourage U.S. military veterans and military service members who are interested in the craft and business of screenwriting and storytelling to apply. Applicants must be 21+ years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Should applicants have writing experience?
Writing experience is not a requirement — what is most important is that applicants show a passion for the craft and business of writing and a commitment to completing 1 screenplay or TV pilot during the program.
How many vets does it serve?
About 50 veterans are accepted to the program per year.
How can I apply?
The application window to apply to the 2019-2020 Veterans Writing Project is now open. View the application here. Please read instructions carefully before submitting.
What is the deadline to apply?
The deadline to apply to the 2019-2020 Veterans Writing Project is Monday, February 25 at 11:59pm PST.
Will there be an interview?
WGF staff and/or selection committee members may reach out to select applicants for a phone or Skype interview.
I am a WGA member; how can I help?
If you are a WGA member and you are interested in mentoring, please contact Libbie at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please consider making a tax-deductible donation here.
I am not a WGA member or a veteran; how can I help?
Our volunteer needs are currently met, but you may email Libbie at email@example.com for more information on how to give your time to the Veterans Writing Project. And please consider making a tax-deductible donation here.
The application window to apply to the 2019-2020 Veterans Writing Project is now open!