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From their obsessive rituals (Peppermint Patties! Oatmeal! Bruce Springsteen!) to the parts of their jobs they hate most (killing characters off, dealing with agents), TV’s most influential writer-producers featured on The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual list of the Top 50 Showrunners come clean about the people, things and quirky habits that keep them — and their shows — alive.
What was the TV show that made you want to become a writer?
Crane:The Dick Van Dyke Show. It looked like the best job ever. (Turns out it actually is.)
Klarik:That Girl. When I was a kid, I wanted to be That Girl. I even wrote a spec script for it and sent it to Sam Denoff. (Of course, this was before I even knew what a “spec script” was.) Amazingly, he wrote back with encouragement. Changed my life.
What was your first major writing job?
Crane: Dream On, HBO.
Klarik: Dream On, HBO.
Who was/is your TV mentor?
Klarik: The voice in my head.
Crane: I’m more concerned about Jeffrey’s answer.
What is your proudest accomplishment in the last year?
Klarik: Changing people’s perception of Matt LeBlanc.
Crane: Our nomination for a Writers Guild award for Episodes. In 25 years, I’ve never gotten one. Meant a lot.
What was your toughest scene to write this past year, and why?
Klarik: The giant fight scene in the second season finale. There were 13 speaking characters and multiple story lines to tie up. It was like trying to pack for an around-the-world trip in an overnight bag.
Crane: All of the Pucks! scenes (the show-within-a-show) in Episodes. I don’t know how to be funny when I don’t care about the characters.
What is the funniest/most absurd note you’ve ever gotten from a network exec?
Crane: Years ago, Marta Kauffman and I pitched a show about a hotel in outer space. The note: “Does it have to be in outer space?”
Klarik: I did a pilot about a girls boarding school called BS. The network bought the pitch, saw multiple drafts of the script, watched several cuts of the pilot, approved the credits, and the night we were locking it, they called to say: “BS?? You can’t call a show BS!”
What is one aspect of your job as showrunner that you’d rather delegate?
Crane: Wardrobe, hair, makeup, all the financial stuff. Do I have to pick just one?
Klarik:I’d rather not delegate any of it. I don’t play well with others.
What is your preferred method for breaking through writer’s block?
Klarik: Walk away.
Crane: Go on a hike. (It’s like walking away, with sweating.)
If you could add any one writer to your staff, who would it be?
Crane: Buddy Sorrell.
Klarik: Louis C.K. Then I’d just go away and let him do it all a lot better.
What is the show you’re embarrassed to admit you watch?
Klarik: None. I have no shame.
Crane: A slew of reality shows. If someone’s getting eliminated, I’m there.
What are the three things you need in order to write?
Klarik: Fear, pressure, room to pace.
Crane: Panic, doubt, a really strong partner. (I’ve always been lucky enough to have all three.)
If you could scrub one credit from your resume, what would it be?
Klarik: None of them. Like I said, I have no shame.
Crane: Everything’s Relative. The first freelance script Marta and I sold. They rewrote every word except “decaf.”
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