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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.
Stephen Cannell — who’s the first person I worked for as an assistant — they tell a great story when he was in the writer’s pool Universal. They came in for this show, Adam-12, they said we need an idea for the show. Who wants to write one and the first thing that came to him was — they’re policemen who rode around in a squad car all day — and his unique idea was, what if they got the squad car that was misbehaving — that had engine trouble and a flat tire and everything went wrong with the car. So the whole episode was about these men managing the tool of their job more than managing what the crime of the week was and that stood out in people’s minds. He was using the formula in a different way and that started to make people pay attention to him. So that he could leave and do other things.
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