THR Emmy Roundtable: 'New Girl,' 'Big Bang' Showrunners on Dropping F-Bombs and Comedy's Tough Year
Matthew Carnahan, Greg Daniels, Bruce Helford, Liz Meriwether, Steve Molaro and Mike Schur also talk to THR about turning down product placement, their most absurd network notes and whether "Anger Management" is the model of the future.
Daniels: I really liked what you guys did this season.
Meriwether: He will not stop tweeting me about it! He's like, "Oh my God, LOL!"
Daniels: I think that you have a window, and you can miss your window, and then people get too invested in the characters who aren't supposed to be the ones whom they end up with. I've seen shows where in the beginning of the show, you're like, "Well, these two have some sparks," and then they're so worried about bringing them together that they give each of them another partner, and then after a little while the audience kind of gets more invested in the new partner, and they never get back to it. So I think you're totally right to be doing it when you're doing it.
Meriwether: Thank God.
THR: Steve, Big Bang fans are very engaged in social media. How much attention do you pay to what they want your characters to do and not do?
Molaro: I am affected by social media, but I try not to read too much of that. I think if we acted on a large number of tweets that were sent to me, Sheldon and Penny would have sex every week.
Schur: Which could be a good show.
THR: What's been the most difficult or surprising part of taking over all the showrunner duties from Bill Prady this year?
Molaro: It's really easy -- Bill was just skating! Actually, Bill and I co-ran it for the last three years, so it really wasn't that much of a shock when he stepped back. The writing staff has just really stepped up, and I'm proud of the season that we did, and people seem to be happy with it so far. But writing jokes is hard. So I get to delegate that now!
Schur: I think I've delegated everything that I can without being fired for incompetence.
THR: What about notes? What's the funniest or most absurd one you've gotten in the past year?
Meriwether: We have a special relationship with our standards and practices department. We were doing a scene inside a gynecologist's office, and the e-mails back and forth were really outstanding. I have a couple framed in my office.
Helford: We started an arc where Charlie and his therapist-slash-girlfriend are doing a sex study a la Kinsey or Masters and Johnson, and so they have a room where they observe, through a two-way mirror, people having sex who are hooked to electrodes. And the note was, "Can you not have the sexual people being studied move up and down?" So I thought if they move horizontally, it's not considered a sexual act.
Meriwether: Like if the bed's going to move, it can't be rhythmic.
Molaro: I think last year, Amy [Mayim Bialik's character] was doing a nicotine addiction study, and we had a monkey that was smoking, and there was a joke -- Sheldon asked, "What have you learned so far in the study?" And [she said] "So far, the monkey looks so much cooler than all the other monkeys," and we were told, "You can't say that smoking makes you look cooler," even though it was about a monkey. So Chuck Lorre told the network that he will personally respond to all the letters from monkeys that get addicted to smoking because of our show. I think that joke stayed in and then was followed up with a monkey masturbating joke on top of it. It was like, "Do you have any other notes that you'd like us to reject?"
Helford: Sometimes you just pile in extra stuff [to distract them]. You give them a few you didn't want anyway.
Schur: That was the Saturday Night Live move. If you wanted to say a certain word that was borderline, you would just load up the rest of the sketch with the stuff that was absolutely not OK.
Helford: I can remember trading. "We're trading three 'damns' and an 'ass' for …"
Carnahan: We did that a lot when I had a show at FX.
Schur: It's like, "Look, we took 11 F-bombs out of that sketch, what do you want us to do?" They're like, "All right, fine, just …" At a certain point, you just wear them down.
Daniels: You know what's funny is that you said F-bomb instead of …
Schur: 'Cause I don't know if we're allowed to curse here!
Daniels: Right. I mean, we all know what he's saying, right? But the networks would have a problem with the character saying the word "F-bomb."
PHOTOS: THR Emmy Roundtable: Behind-the-Scenes Photos of TV's Hottest Drama Actresses
Daniels: Or bleeping. We would bleep things, and then they'd go, "Come on, guys, stop bleeping." But the bleeping's good, right? You're supposed to like the bleeping because it means that they didn't swear.
Schur: We found a creative way around that. We have the character whom we wanted to say, "What the F is going on here?" And they had a problem with that. So the line that we gave her was like, "What the mother-effing C-ing S-ing K-ing G-ing L-ing F is going on here?" And then our response is like she's insane. Those aren't swear words, she's just a crazy person. And they let us do it.
Meriwether: That's smart!
THR: Matthew, your show is more of a dramedy. In fact, most comedies today have a lot of dramatic elements, including New Girl, which had a very serious episode this year about Nick's father's death. Is this where the genre is heading?
Meriwether: Maybe that's why our ratings are going down. I'm joking, they're not!
Carnahan: I don't know. I think the last dramedy to win an Emmy was Ally McBeal, and that was a while ago, and it was an hour format. But that's not so much my concern. I see what my son watches. He's 15, and he likes funny, he likes jokes. I don't know if there's a trend toward dramedy. What do you guys think?
Helford: Some of it is just a perception of the visual look of something. Roseanne was a dramedy, and it was a multicam. I think when people see a single camera, they think it's going to be more dramatic, more like a film.
Daniels: You don't hear anybody laughing.
Helford: They're just seeing now the single-camera comedies, which God knows so many of us were trying to get started years ago and no one wanted to even think about doing it until the multicams went down for a while.
Molaro: I don't think my dad knows the difference!