Tuesday, February 3, 2009

BEGINNING OF THE END...

Well kids, the clock is now ticking. Today we started "breaking" (group-outlining) the most anticipated MONK episode of the entire year. Hell, of the whole series: The Grand Finale.

For months now, fans have been abuzz with speculation about what precisely is going to happen on this show. Will Monk solve his wife's murder? Will he finally get "well" again? Will he find true love?

Word to the curious: I can't even confirm the finale is going to ask those questions, let alone answer them. All of us at MONK are being told to respect a kind of unofficial gag order -- meaning nobody gets to hear about the finale, even our wives. Think of it as being exactly like the Manhattan Project during World War Two, except instead of producing the weapon that will end the war and keep the world safe for democracy we are producing a low-budget cable TV show.

So once again: The Wheel will not be discussing any details about the finale, because he can't. He can, however, discuss a tiny bit about the process that is going into writing it.

But first, a little backstory...

My brother, Andy Breckman, is a stone genius. That is not opinion. That is fact. Ask anyone who knows him. Are you a fan of MONK? You are? Then you're a fan of my brother. Andy not only wrote the original pilot but he has been MONK's showrunner since day one, and is the final voice on every script.

Which is to say that MONK is Andy's baby, and for some time, Andy has had specific notions about the way MONK should end...plot revelations, mostly...and they're terrific...but what he didn't have, frankly, was a story. So today we did what we always do whenever we're breaking a new episode: Hauled out a bulletin board and sat down and began brainstorming ideas. Dozens of ideas. A hundred ideas. Ideas for scenes. Jokes. Clues. Epiphanies. Plot twists. Character connections, etc.

Five hours later, the board was covered with index cards -- always a beautiful sight, I suppose -- but there was no cohesion to the episode, no flow. No story. We hadn't yet hit upon the "spine" of the piece, and as the great William Goldman once observed: Screenplays are structure.

Goldman's correct, as usual. Trust me, kids, half the cards on that board will be comimg down by Friday.

But that's all right. It ain't supposed to be easy, particularly at first. And while once or twice per season you may hit upon an idea so high-in-concept and inspired the damn thing ends up practically writing itself...the rest of the time, baby, you feel like you're chiseling through stone.

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