Saturday, December 18, 2004

[TV] lovebites - episode one (1)

Just going through one of the many boxes about the TV show. The pilot, if I remember correctly, went through about 20 different versions before we settled on 'Phil trying to score Maryann's flatmate' and 'Richard's bean-bag'. A lot of that was due to us having to settle on starting positions for these characters. We always wanted Phil to come back from Australia ... but in the first episode or the fourth? We always wanted him to have undergone some sort of character transformation, but that shifted from an omni-sexual to a male chauvinist. And was Clare already an established character as the series began or not?

One version of the show, written quite late on in the development process (August '00), had Richard running a horror video evening and becoming terrified (but only during the night). Meanwhile Ben assisted Maryann in breaking up with her boyfriend. This reminds me: we constantly had to make decisions between comedy and truthful character motivation. We nearly always decided to come down on the side of showing truthful things about the characters. This meant that the show, from its early days plotting it out on hundreds of index cards on my living room floor, went from having an absurdist tone to a much more grounded feel.

It might be worth expanding on how that decision-making process emerged over the two years of developing the show.

Another version of episode one was a massive Night on the Town sequence. It involved Phil coming back from Australia being incredibly generous with his money and Richard pushing him to the limits of his generosity. Looking at some of my notes and comments this episode, I find it is endearing how passionately we all tried to solve problems for versions of episodes that never made it to screen. Hopefully going through these boxes will give me some indication of when and why we decided to shift from one version of an episode to the next.

... Bear in mind that I'm writing these comments in real time as I'm reading through the box. So that's about 20 minutes since I started, and I just had a flashback to how much time pressure (and editorial pressure) we were under to come up with the final version of the pilot, the funniest episode of lovebites ever. In fact, I believe the pilot was the 12th episode to be shot? We reached this point where the entire production had to be shut down for an extended break - not a pleasant time - and according to these notes, the broadcast version of episode one started to get locked down in early January. It centred on the beanbag as a subplot - and moved Ben into a central role (finally!) by forcing him to choose between Phil and Maryann.

Ten days later, and we got some feedback that nearly blew up the writers' side of the production for good.

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