Chuck Lorre wanted to write a show about aging guys with old-guy problems. The streaming revolution allowed him to do so.
Lorre, one of the most successful producers in television history, offers his thoughts on how the dawn of the commercial-free binge-watching age has changed the nature of television storytelling in the latest episode of Strictly Business, Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment.
“I wanted to write about the minutia of getting old. I didn’t want to do two old guys rob a bank,” Lorre says. The ability to pitch such a story to an outlet like Netflix, home to Lorre’s Emmy-nominated “The Kominsky Method,” that is not concerned with drawing advertiser-friendly demographics has been a game-changer for creatives.
“It doesn’t matter if [the episode] is 32 minutes or 28 minutes — just tell the best story you can,” Lorre says. “I’ve never known that kind of freedom. It’s really something.”
The writing process on “Kominsky,” which stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin as two longtime friends grappling with aging in Hollywood, has even changed the way he approaches writing in the form that made him a star, multi-camera broadcast TV comedy shot before a live audience.
“I’d like to think I’d learned something by doing something differently,” he says. “It changes the way you do an audience show. There’s more trust in the moment that isn’t necessarily a big joke.”
At the same time, Lorre observed that even in working solo on scripts for “Kominsky” he still thinks in terms of pacing for a sitcom. “The audience is in my head. I can’t get them out,” he jokes.
Lorre also reflected on the differences between writing solo and writing in a room on shows such as his latest CBS comedy, the well regarded “Bob Hearts Abishola.” And he discusses the common threads he’s observed in his many years in TV among those who turn comedy writing into a vocation.
“As a group, comedy writers are broken. That’s why we need agents,” he says. “From various stages of dysfunction and darkness, you can become a bitter son of a bitch or write about mass murder. Or you channel it into laughing. And if you had a wonderful childhood, you become a network executive.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.