Reader Question of the Day: “How did the writing process on ‘Monk’ work?”

June 10, 2013

How did the writing process on ‘”Monk” work? I know Andy Breckman was in New Jersey writing the series and not in California.  How did that work?

We were all in New Jersey writing the series.  On one of the DVD bonus features, we explain the process.  But here it is in a thumbnail.

When a show gets picked up, the head writer assembles a staff of writers to help him churn out the episodes, do re-writes, casting decisions, location approvals, etc.  In Andy’s case, he was a movie writer who refused to move to L.A. where almost every other writer’s room sets up shop.

Instead, he hired a group of East Coast writers.  We went into the office and spent all day talking through an episode.  It usually took a week to thoroughly outline the story and major jokes.  And then one of us, or a guest writer, would take the outline and, in our spare time, turn it into a script.  Yes, in our spare time!  It was a separate contract and not part of our regular jobs.
Then would come rewrites from Andy.  Then the table read, where we would sit on the phone and listen to the actors in LA read it for the first time.  Then more rewrites, etc.

It became a fairly smooth process after a while.  Tony and the bigwigs would fly into New Jersey once a year, listen to our ideas for the season, then fly off and leave us alone.  We always had a writer on the set in L.A. to handle the quick little changes that are necessary during filming.  But what wound up on the screen was almost always exactly what we wrote in the room above the dentist’s office in Summit, New Jersey.