Variety‘s fifth annual A Night in the Writers’ Room welcomed Kerry Ehrin, Courtney Kemp Agboh, Andrew Kreisberg, Gideon Raff and Matthew Weiner to the drama panel Tuesday evening.
The showrunners, in conversation with Variety moderator Debra Birnbaum at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills Calif., chatted candidly about the impact of Twitter on television today.
“The ‘Power’ parties have been a big thing,” Agboh said, referring to fans of her Starz series joining together to live-tweet episodes. “That was huge for us because it means the era of appointment television isn’t over.”
Weiner, who is not on Twitter, agreed that social media has helped the buzz surrounding television shows, and can relate to the passion behind live-tweeting. “I remember having a ‘Melrose Place’ viewing party,” he fessed up. “I understand the engagement.”
“We owe a lot to Twitter at ‘Mad Men,’” Weiner continued, referring to popular fan-made accounts such as “80’s Don Draper,” of which he’s admittedly a fan. “What was confusing for us at first is there were all these people taking on the characters and AMC was like, ‘We own these characters,’” he joked about the discussion of potential lawsuits, before he and the network realized, “this is a boatload of free publicity.”
‘Mad Men’ premiered before Twitter was hugely popular, and though he appreciates the conversation it created for his show, the creator never hopped onto the social media train. “I do not tweet. I would need two accounts — one for tweeting and one for apologizing for tweeting. I didn’t have a smartphone for a while because I have such a terrible temper.”
Ehrin of A&E’s “Bates Motel” shared a similar sentiment to Weiner, as she was a late social media adopter. “I resisted Twitter for a long time, and I started using it last year and it’s remarkably fun,” she said. “It’s like hanging out with kids in the neighborhood….it’s a great way to actually talk to people who love the show, as much as you do.”
On the other hand, Kreisberg — who’s at the helm of CW fan-favorites “The Flash,” “Arrow,” the upcoming spinoff “Legends of Tomorrow” and CBS’ fall series “Supergirl” — didn’t have an option.
“The year we did ‘Arrow,’ they made us all join,” he said of the CW having their creative teams and talent become active on social media so that they could interact with their younger-skewing, Twitter-using audience. One of the funniest pieces of the Twitter puzzle to Kreisberg is the uber-passionate fans who truly believe their opinionated tweets are actively changing what goes on in the writers’ room week-to-week. “The weirdest thing is the people who think that they’re influencing the show.”
Raff said his “Dig” cast was very active on Twitter, but he is not. “The actors do it all the time — they ‘Twit,’” he said, incorrectly pronouncing the word. With a laugh, he added, “I don’t even know how to say the word.”