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'New Girl' writers discuss Sundance Channel's 'The Writers' Room'

August 19, 2013|By Yvonne Villarreal

They gave us a slow-motion chicken dance, Max Greenfield in a fat suit (numerous times) and the epic friend/roommate kiss.

The “New Girl” writers room has kept busy concocting a steady stream of adorkable and nutty storylines for the Fox comedy in its short run. Now Sundance Channel is giving viewers a peak at how the funny is made, spotlighting the crew in its latest episode of “The Writers' Room.”

The Sundance Channel series has lifted the curtain behind some of television’s VIPs—including “Breaking Bad,” “Parks and Recreation,” and even those hard-to-ignore Geico commercials—by turning the lens on the writers.  It's hosted by Jim Rash, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter who moonlights as Dean Pelton on NBC's "Community"

In Monday night’s episode, “New Girl” executive producers and writers Liz Meriwhether, Dave Finkel and Brett Baer, as well as star Jake Johnson (Nick), hit the conference table, speaking on behalf of the show's 17-member writing staff.

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We spoke to Meriwether and Finkel, who took a break from, uh, their own writers room as they work full-speed on the upcoming third season of "New Girl," to talk about their episode. Read on to get their thoughts on the "Alice in Wonderland" experience--and watch the exclusive sneak peak above.

How was being on this show presented to you—did you know what to expect?

Finkel:  Not really. My memory of it was we heard there was going to be this thing on the Sundance Channel and, well, we like Jim Rash so much—so it was a no-brainer to do a show he was hosting. I think more than anything it was so odd that there was an actual show that cared about what writers think and what our process is. I don’t know, it just seemed weird enough for us to be able to be involved.  It was a really interesting entrée.

Is it uncomfortable to sort of let people into your world--the writers room is usually so guarded? Or does it help that you’re talking about things after the fact?

Finkel: No, it’s horrible. We are filthy, and we are unshowered—we are the worst bunch of people in the entire world.  Liz, maybe you have a different take on it, but for me it was terrifying. The line between what I can actually talk about in public and what we talk about in the room is so blurred that I was just afraid I was going to go off on a tangent that was just not suitable for public consumption. It was strange; and I was worried that it would all be boring to people.

Is it surreal how things have changed, in terms of how fans have fostered interest—and, in some cases, dialogue—with behind-the-scenes folks? They know the names of show runners, executive producers, writers just as they would the actors. Does it add an element of pressure?

Meriwether: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s an emphasis these days on the show runner as somebody who is more of an artist than in the past. Then, it was more like a foreman at a factory—the perception, that is, not the actual job, because I think the job has remained the same. I think with cable and the HBO/Showtime sort of stuff, people think of TV shows as a little bit higher brow than I think they used to. It was really surreal doing “The Writers' Room” just because I can't believe there’d be enough people interested in what we do. We all sit in the writers room making television, and now, for some reason, we’re entering onto a television set to talk about –it was a weird “Alice in Wonderland” moment.

Didn't you just love the set—the mock writers room. It’s unlike any writers room I’ve ever seen.

Meriwether: Yeah, I think for me that was the funniest thing—that this set that is supposed to be like a writers room, but no writers room has ever looked that nice.

Finkel: Yeah, there was no urine in the corner. There were no carcasses. Writers are disgusting.

Meriwether: Especially at the end of last year. Our room was like a pit. There was all these footprints on the walls because people put their feet up on the wall. It’s a bunch of caged animals, the writer's room.

Finkel:  It looks like the writer's room the day before the writers start working.

Meriwether: There should be toys everywhere. Stuck to the ceiling. There is literally toys stuck to the ceiling in our writers room. Swear.

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Is there a show past or present whose writers room you would have liked to see on a show like this?

Meriwether: “Cheers,” “Seinfeld” …

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