Now hold on just a darn minute there, before you start screaming about the headline on this piece. TVWriter™ is as color/sex/ethnicity/etc blind as can be (go back and read all our posts and see!), and normally we would be talking about David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik in terms of their writing only.
But this article originally appeared in The Advocate, with the title “Meet the Gay Couple Who Made Your Favorite TV Shows,” and our thought is that if its subjects’ sexual preferences are important to one of the most important gay publications in the U.S., then we’d damn well better honor it.
Now, about Crane and Klarik and their sensational writing:
by Daniel Reynolds
In the final season of Episodes, viewers will see the last chapter in the tale of Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig) — a British couple who moved to the United States in order to create a television show starring Matt LeBlanc. Throughout its five-season run, the Showtime series has received acclaim for its insider’s observations (and evisceration) of the entertainment industry. It also garnered 10 Emmy nominations throughout its run — four for LeBlanc in his meta portrayal of a narcissistic actor.
What viewers may not know is that Episodes was created by and is inspired by the lives of an American gay couple: David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik.
“The two principals, Sean and Beverly? We are absolutely writing ourselves,” Crane confirmed in a recent interview with The Advocate.
“They work together, they live together, and basically, their points of view toward the world and show business reflects ours. Jeffrey is very much Beverly — more cynical, more willing to step up to a fight. I’m more Sean — needing everyone to get along and hating conflict,” Crane said.
In fact, Klarik and Crane have been partners in life and business for over 30 years. (The pair were set up at a dinner arranged by mutual friends, and they’ve been together ever since. “My trap was set,” joked Klarik, who had set the wheels in motion.)
Like Sean and Beverly, the writers have a relationship that extends to their work, which has included two of the biggest hits in modern network television. Crane cocreated NBC’s Friendsalongside Marta Kauffman. Klarik was a coproducer and executive story editor on NBC’s Mad About You. And as in every venture in their careers, they helped each other in writing these productions.
“I was the unofficial writer on Friends,” said Klarik, about how the pair would ghostwrite for one another’s shows. “I had overall deals with different studios so there was a conflict of interest. So I would just do what I had to do in the shadows.”
Thus, unbeknownst to America, a gay couple worked together to craft jokes and storylines for its favorite shows. The impact of this was subtle. Unlike their contemporary Will & Grace,neither Friends nor Mad About You had LGBT primary characters. And the couple is hesitant to say the shows had a “gay sensibility” or agenda. However, the gay writers did bring a perspective that is unique from the mainstream.
“I don’t know if it’s a gay sensibility or if it’s a female sensibility,” Klarik clarified about this understanding. “On Mad About You, I knew how Helen [Hunt] with [her character] Jamie would feel. I don’t know why. But I just understand how women think and feel. And I emphathize with them. And so it’s very easy for me to get into that, to kind of channel female characters.”
“I don’t think there was ever a conscious [intention] to approach anything with a gay sensibility,” Crane said. “I think I’ve always written things that make me laugh or make Jeffrey laugh. I have my own personal sensibility, which also happens to be gay, and I guess it informs the writing that we do.”
Their identity also gave them an understanding of the importance of the inclusion of gay characters. “We felt as though if you have a big ensemble cast, they should be in the mix,” Crane said. This has led to some major moments in television history….