Inside the writers’ room at 24

Alex Berenson

Pretty interesting behind the scenes story here. Alex Berenson, reporter for New York Times and author of several novels was invited to consult on 24 Season 8 for a month after Howard Gordon liked his novel The Faithful Spy. He gives a look at what goes on in the writers room and just how hard it is.

We sit on couches and comfortable chairs, looking for answers. Season 8 will be set in New York. But why is Jack in New York? He’s a diplomat. No, he’s in a hospital, rehabilitating from his near-death experience in Season 7. No, he’s handling security for a rich guy.

We spitball possible plots. When the process is going well, it is like playing soccer with an invisible ball. One writer pushes an idea forward until another steps in. Someone says, “So the terrorists seize a school bus filled with rich kids. …” “except one kid hides a cellphone. …”

But all too soon someone finds a hole in the plot, or argues that it doesn’t give Jack enough to do, or that it’s too maudlin. We backtrack. Sometimes we succeed in addressing the complaint. Sometimes, after a few minutes of arguing, we fail. Howard steers us in a new direction. But the original argument will flare up a few minutes later, like a fire in a garbage dump.

Howard has a reputation as a very democratic lead writer. He likes to build consensus. The good news is that everyone gets a say. The bad news is … that everyone gets a say. The debate can seem exhausting and circular.

I wish I could say I contributed mightily to Season 8, but when I left a month later Howard and the guys were still plotting the first episode. Not one line had been written. In the end, they did find an arc for the season, and the reviews have been reasonably good. But when Howard told me a few months ago that he couldn’t imagine coming back for Season 9, I understood.

Check out the full article at NY Times.