Inside the ‘Writers Room’

San Francisco ChronicleJuly 28, 2013 

Jim Rash, left, Mike Schur, Amy Poehler, and Dan Gor - in the Sundance Channel original series "Writers' Room" - Photo Credit:

MARK PETERSON — Sundance Channel

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    ‘The Writers’ Room’ debuts at 10 p.m. Monday, July 29, the Sundance Channel.

If a TV show succeeds in making you believe every word you hear, chances are some very talented writers have done their job well.

Every TV show begins with an idea, but writers are arguably the most important link between the idea and the creation of the show.

The Sundance Channel gives viewers a rare look behind the curtain and into “The Writers’ Room” with a new series produced by Entertainment Weekly and hosted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Jim Rash, whose shiny pate is well known to fans of “Community” from his role as the cross-dressing Dean Pelton.

The series launches Monday with a major get: The writers and star of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” which will begin its final eight episodes next month. Other episodes sent in advance to critics include the Aug. 5 show with the writers and star of NBC’s “Parks & Recreation” and the Aug. 19 episode on Fox’s “New Girl.”

Rash is a perfect host for a show about writers, not just because he’s a writer himself, but because he seems to be legitimately interested in talking to his subjects, and not just hogging the spotlight himself. That may seem self-obvious, until you think of other interview shows that seem more about the interviewer than the interviewees.

Because Rash speaks the same lingo as his subjects, “The Writers’ Room” has the potential to provide real insight into the process of making great TV. With the “Breaking Bad” crew, for example, you get to hear the one thing, above all, that sets that show apart from almost anything else on television, and that is: The characters change over time.

Think about that for a minute and you’re realize how true it is: With almost every TV show ever created, the characters, no matter how realistically complex they may be, are not allowed to change all that much.

In some ways, the show is only as good as the writers from week to week. The second episode features Amy Poehler and the writers of “Parks and Recreation.” It’s an enjoyable episode but not especially enlightening.

Since this is an EW production, the magazine’s editor, Jess Cagle, shows up at the end of each episode to ask a few questions. I wouldn’t mind if he essentially co-hosted the show with Rash. It might be useful, especially when you’re trying to wrangle a bunch of comedy writers.

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