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October 02 2006

The Vague and Winding Road - Jane Espenson blogs about developing a TV show's mythology. In her ongoing on-line screenwriting seminars, Jane answers a Buffy/Angel fan's questions about story arcs, mythology, and other questions of seasonal development.

Though specific Buffy/Angel examples are not cited, she is clearly drawing on her Whedon'verse experience to explain these story development processes. I found it illuminating.

I'm glad you posted this, because I wanted to comment. :)

I've never been on a show where a sponsor affected our story-telling. And I'd be pretty pissed if it happened.

I remember Joss saying once that Doublemeat Palace was the only episode that had ever made sponsors pull out. He said that their fast food advertisers weren't happy with it, and that's why they didn't show Doublemeat very much after that first episode. I took that to be true, although it's also possible that he just said it to explain away a generally un-liked plotline and its relative disappearance.

Edit: BTVS Trivia Guide

[ edited by
ormaybemidgets on 2006-10-02 01:03 ]
Double meat is double sweet!

P.S. I love Jane
Well even if Fast Food advertisers were unhappy with DoubleMeat Palace (which would be understandable on a number of levels), it didn't actually affect the story that was told. Although how any Fast Food companies could take that episode seriously is beyond me...
I wish I had Jane's brain, or even a reasonable facsimile thereof.

I will go on record as liking Doublemeat Palace. My only problems were Sarah having to wear such an unflattering uniform and the resurgent memories of 16-year-old me working at a Tote's Big Boy restaurant where my coworkers played baseball with the meat patties and then cooked and served them to customers. The place heavily advertised their "secret sauce", which came in from the supplier in 10-gallon tubs labeled "tartar sauce".

After so much glamorization of teen sex, I think network TV was overdue for a giant penis monster. Think of it as a public service announcement.
But blinding orange is her very best color.
And Buffy working at Doublemeat Palace also gave me one of my favorite scenes, the exchange between Buffy and Riley in 'As You Were.' 'Were you always this tall? ... My hat has a cow.' Ha.
Mythtaken, I love your name. I'd use it too but that might be a mythdemeanor.
Actually, I think it would be a mythnomer.

*ducks*
Why are you ducking? I'm mythtefied. This place is like Caritas--no hitting allowed. Mythtaken,you should visit more often, not just when "mythology" is in the headline.
No one is mithstaken here, by my reckoning. I loved Doublemeat Palace when it aired, and have never wavered. I have more mixed feelings about As You Were, though it's certainly also very quotable. I considered using "myincrediblepatheticness" as my handle here, but thought better of it as too revealing.
I used to work for a woman who had a penis-shaped head.

Oh yeah. Sometimes I shouldn't say words.
jaynelovesvera - I'm here all the time, my friend. I have been for years. I just lurk in the shadows like a catfish.

(and nice call on the 'mythology' thing - I hadn't even noticed!)
I noticed it too, Mythtaken, I thought that was what called you out of the shadows.
I just lurk in the shadows like a catfish.

Very mythsterious Mythtaken. Hovering in the mythsts at the side of the board ready to swoop in and correct jaynelovesvera's mythconception. Awethome ;).

'Doublemeat Palace' definitely has its moments but it's not one I eagerly await the repeat of or anything (as with even the worst BtVS episode though I spend a lot of it thinking incredulously 'And this is a bad one ?'. Still streets ahead of most TV)

And as usual, great insights from Jane's blog. I fit into the 'curious about the process' category and her posts never fail to fascinate and illuminate (and make me wish I ate lunch more often ;).
It's a good assessment of how arcs can work, or not as the case may be, as well.
I loved the question the guy asked... but personally I wish he had asked specifically about Buffy and Angel and how the big writing decisions were made on those shows. For example, when did Joss come up with the whole Angelus arc? When did they realize they would kill off main characters, and did anybody from the network complain about Buffy's "unhappy" endings? Did Joss think of the whole Willow arc before she cast her first spell in "I Only Have Eyes for You"? Questions, questions!!

Oh, and put me down in the I-Love-Doublemeat camp. That season needed some light and silly moments to break up the doom and gloom.
who doesn't love th "doublemeatpalace"??? must be sick...
who doesn't love th "doublemeatpalace"??? must be sick...


...or have eaten there, or both.
Hi all! Jane here. Ooh, another Whedonesque mention! Nice! And I'm glad to see some love for the Doublemeat -- that was certainly an atypical episode, but a load of fun to write. As it was realized, I, for one, was startled by the shape of the monster. I wrote "lamprey." To be fair, it's a fine line.

Glad people are liking the blog -- I think I'm going to start including more stuff about the process as it works once a writer is hired on a show, instead of just about the spec writing. People seem to be interested.

Kittens!
Ms. Jane: If this is a lamprey, then, euuwww, I'm happy they went with the penis-monster.

And, yeah, I think I also like to get a view into the writer's room and all of the breaking/refining processes, as well. Well, plus some dish sprinkled in...

Dear god, no more lampreys ever again, only kittens.
Jane! Jane! Come back, Jane!*

Caroline, can we put Jane's name in every headline? Maybe she'd come back more often.

*too obscure?
jvl, nope, not at all. Maybe just better known to folks of and above, shall we say, a certain age?

Say, perhaps for example, moi?
I'm here! I've got the computer just off to one side, while I do some notepaper work on my pilot.

Also, of course, I'm periodically checking the sales on "Prisoner of Trebekistan" by Bob Harris. You can buy it here!

Tiny kittens!
Our lucky day - both Jane and Joss posted today. Jane, we love hearing from you. I'd enjoy reading more about how the process works - with lots of war stories.

Oh, I just ordered Prisoner of Trebekistan today from my local bookstore. I'm looking forward to reading it this weekend.
Jane, you are right about your readership not just being writers looking for spec script advice. From the discussions around here, all kinds of people with all kinds of interests are reading your blog, so expand or contract the subject matter as you see fit. I just wish I could figure out what that XML feed thing is, whether it would help me keep up to date on your blog and if so, how to use it.

Sigh. Yes, I am sometimes pathetic...but it passes...really.

Edited because I was talking about "your" readership not "our" readership. Hell, I don't think I even have an our... (Please no time puns.)

[ edited by newcj on 2006-10-03 07:37 ]
Jane!!! JaneEsp!!! I love your blog, and I have no desire to write spec scripts. I love writing, however, and learn a lot from your pearls of wisdom. Am I laying it on a little too thick? But 'tis true. And you're mentioned a lot. Please visit accordingly. Even when you're not mentioned!

Also loved "Doublemeat." (Lamprey, huh?) And I'm saving up for Harris' book. . . . I read about a quarter of it in Barnes & Noble the other night. Really enjoyed it.

Kittens!
"Doublemeat Palace" scared me more than any other Buffy episode -- until the penis monster showed, which was comic relief after nearly an hour trapped in a minimum wage hell dimension. The Gentlemen? The Mayor? Cute cuddly kittens compared to The McJob!
newcj, I sent you an email explainig how to use the XML thingy.
Hi, JaneEsp! *waves* Thanks for giving us so much insight into the writing process for TV shows, and thanks for stopping by. That is all, except for --

Kittens! :-)
Thank you, JLV. You are a gentleman and a scholar. I will go there when I am awake, and see what I can make of it.

Kittens!
Aww, QG -- sappy, yes, but sooooooooooooo cute! ;-)
Is that a pie casing they're sitting in QuoterGal ? Mmm, kitteny goodness.

Not at all jlv. And he totally didn't die at the end. And neither did Butch and Sundance. And neither did Avon*. It's my head, i'll be as delusional as I want ;).

Plus, Jane and Joss postage, "Why ambassador, you spoil us".


* not all that obscure but probably a bit British
Plus, Jane and Joss postage, "Why ambassador, you spoil us".


* not all that obscure but probably a bit British


It sounds familiar, but I can't place it. Spill.

Jane Esp, please come back anytime you want to talk about anything, or see very cute or very gross pictures.
Heh, well, where others quote Twain or Franklin or even Warren Ellis waxing poetic, i'm (probably mis-) quoting Ferrero Rocher adverts dreamlogic. Not sure I want to know what that means ;).

BTW, presumably by 'spoil us' they mean the same way bacteria spoil milk because eating Ferrero Rocher is, to my mind, quite a lot like eating cardboard dipped in chocolate. And not even fresh cardboard either.
Well, mass media seeps into our heads and lodges there and sends out spores. I still think I heard that line in a movie or something, and it was actually funny. Or withering, or something like that.

Fresh cardboard is actually pretty tasty, or so I seem to remember from when I was three.
Then I was definitely quoting the funny film and not the unfunny advert ;-).

(and you're not wrong about media-spores, at least 25 years after I had any contact with them Xander's Weeble line made me laugh out loud in instant recognition. Advertising executives are like the new Jesuits ;)
JaneEsp - have you ever thought about collecting all the blog entries and publishing them with some extra content? Blog publishing has really taken off. I know I'd certainly buy a copy. It's a great, informative blog.

Massive giant headed kittens.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-10-03 17:08 ]
I love this place. All the best people come here.
Saje: "... (and you're not wrong about media-spores, at least 25 years after I had any contact with them Xander's Weeble line made me laugh out loud in instant recognition. Advertising executives are like the new Jesuits ;)"

This brings us 'round full circle to Jane Espenson, who wrote about this recognition & its laugh-value in yet another, earlier blog entry:

"Punchlines derived from commercial tag lines like 'Two, two, two mints in one,' 'He likes it! Hey, Mikey!' 'Ancient Chinese secret, huh?' 'Less Filling! Tastes Great!' and so on, were a huge part of my television adolescence. (For some reason, I only seem to be thinking of really old commercials… but I know I have often referenced more recent ones when writing.)"

One of my personal favourites: "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful..."

Hydrocephalic cat progeny to all...

(Saje, the secret ingredient in Kitty-Pie is processed vegetables. Hey, dl, loved "media spores.")

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