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From Tube to Telly, the Exchange Is Pop Culture

Television: Carsey-Werner breaks ground by producing U.S. and British versions of 'That '70s Show.'

April 05, 1999|SUSAN KARLIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Most British series use one or two writers, a situation driven as much by culture as it is by finances. "The British don't quite have that team mentality when it comes to writing," says Spiers. "They're more solitary. When we try team writing, we tend to find that the quality is not that great, mainly because we don't have the budgets that you guys have over there. So when Carsey-Werner employ a team of writers, they are employing very good writers and are paying them quite a lot of money."

'Actors in the States Are More Pampered'

But at this point, money issues go beyond the writing staff. Compared to Hollywood, Britain's TV industry as a whole is relatively low-frills. Carsey-Werner's Mandabach was stunned to learn that the British actors rehearsed off the set in a building with no heat, and had to wear mittens and hats while running their scenes. Their craft services spread consisted of hot water, tea bags and a tin of cookies.

"Actors in the States are more pampered," she says. "In Britain, if the actors blew a line or realized they hadn't done exactly what the director wanted, they took it as seriously as if a cameraman had missed a shot--they behaved as if they were part of a technical crew."

Even on the evening of this particular taping, only a handful of executives mill about the studio floor and herringbone tweed replaces Armani. This episode, called "Equal Rites," is the one in which a girl inadvertently emasculates her male friend by consistently beating him at games. Afterward, the cast and crew head to a show party in a smoky bar in another part of the Teddington Studio complex for a smoke and a pint.

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