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Angela Bromstad's Legacy at NBC - Women Writers on Community

by Melissa Silverstein
June 8, 2011 7:00 AM
2 Comments
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Saw this link at Vulture (those guys and gals are really good) via the AV Club and it is such a good quote that it needs to be re-quoted verbatim.

This is Dan Harmon, the creator of Community discussing his being forced to hire more women for his writer's room by the recently departed Angela Bromstad at NBC and how it really helped the show.

The question from the AV Club is this: AVC: You’ve employed a lot of female writers, in both seasons. That’s not true of a lot of other TV comedies. Was that a conscious decision?

Answer:

DH: It was conscious on the part of [former NBC programming head] Angela Bromstad, before she left NBC. Angela said, “Get more women on your staff. Make it half women.” I remember going, “Are you fucking kidding me?” to myself. “Okay, I got a sitcom, and this is as far as you go,” because I’ve just been told that half of my staff needs to be a quota hire. From the mouths of bureaucrats come the seeds of great things. I dug extra hard. You find somebody like Hilary Winston. You find people later like [Emily] Cutler and [Karey] Dornetto.

They’re harder to find. It’s definitely not because women ain’t funny, because I’m finding the opposite. It’s because there’s fewer of them. The statistical probability of picking up a shitty script, it’s compounded for women. There’s the same percentage of genius happening in both genders, but there’s less women writing scripts and out there looking for the job. So you dig a little extra-hard, and you end up with a staff that took a few extra meetings and a few extra shitty scripts to read. Now you have a staff that is just as good as the staff you would have had, but happens to be half women. And it seems like the greatest thing in the world, because the world is half women. And the male writers across the board, from top to bottom, in their most private moments drinking with me, when they’re fully licensed to be as misogynist, reactive, old-boy-network as they want, all they can say is, “This turned out to be a great thing.”

The energy is different. It doesn’t keep anybody polite. We’re not doffing our caps or standing up when they enter the room. They do more dick jokes than anybody, because they’ve had to survive, they have to prove, coming in the door, that they’re not dainty. That’s not fair, but women writers, they acquire the muscle of going blue fast because they have to counter the stigma. I don’t have enough control groups to compare it to, but there’s just something nice about feeling like your writers’ room represents your ensemble a little more accurately, represents the way the world turns.

Race is another thing entirely. It would be fantastic to have 18 percent black writers on your TV staff and stuff. But the fact is, black women have ovaries and white women have ovaries; black men have testicles and white men have testicles, so actually, race is far more an artificial construct than gender. There’s a literal, actual difference between men and women, and it’s in their blood, and it’s in their brains, and it’s in their fingertips, and it’s in our conversations. I think women are different, and I think having them in the room is crucial to a family comedy, ensemble comedy, television comedy, where half the eyeballs on your show are women. As it turns out, I think Megan’s the only female writer who’s staying this year, so now, even though Bromstad’s gone, now I’m carrying this legacy, going, “Eh, guys, we really need a half-female writing staff.” I would teach it. I think we have to stop thinking of it as a quota thing and think of it as a common-sense thing.

So here's a guy who was basically forced into hiring women and it turned out to be the best thing for his show. Bromstad had to leave NBC to make way for the new regime of Bob Greenblatt, but she should personally be thanked by every female writer. It also looks like Harmon is shopping for a couple of female writers. So now's the time to send over your scripts.

The last couple of sentences should be given to each showrunner -- comedy or drama -- on their first day of work.

Here's what I would put on the t-shirt. "Having women writers in the room is crucial to your show. It's a common sense thing."

Dan Harmon walks us through Community’s second season (part 2 of 4) (AV Club)

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2 Comments

  • Murray | June 8, 2011 9:57 AMReply

    It's stories like this that remind me why I want to go into entertainment. In the feminist sense I'm wielding a lot of privilege in terms of maleness and whiteness and such, but even supposing I spent the next twenty years in the back rooms schmoozing and ignoring the movement (which I won't), TV is such an ad hoc business that all it takes is somebody, be it an exec or a showrunner, saying "gee, we should really hire women" and it makes change.

    Of course by then TV may not exist, blah blah blah... but one can't count on institutions fixing themselves. Good on you, Community Guy.

  • Scott Mendelson | June 8, 2011 9:29 AMReply

    Just one reason why Community is the best, funniest, smartest, and most ambitious (emotionally and narratively) comedy on television right now.

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