Safran: They promoted the hell out of it, marketed the hell out of it. It was a little strange to me that – I didn’t love that the premiere was two hours, personally. If the premiere had only been the first hour and it ended with Jeremy singing “Broadway Here I Come,” and you felt that tingle of, there’s something new there? And you had all week to discuss it? It would have been a little better than jumping right into it. We didn’t engineer it – no one told us until after we had finished shooting that it was two hours. We would have engineered a two-hour [premiere]. It would have been a two-hour movie. [Episodes] sixteen and seventeen are engineered that way, we knew it would air at once so they are like one. There’s a month between them but they still are the nominations and the Tonys. It’s very clearly bookended.
At the time, because we thought they were going to air a week apart, one and two, we knew that episode one had to deal with a lot of stuff from last year and be a little bit darker in tone. We thought, “Let’s make [episode] two much lighter in tone.” I think it would have played better if it had aired separately. That’s another thing I feel strongly about.
The first episode, it was almost comical, when it was basically throwing all these things from last season out of the way.
Yeah, yeah, we had to. I’m incredibly proud of, for instance, in “Cut/Print, Moving On,” you learn really quickly, right away, that Karen’s not talking to Ivy, and all those little flashbacks and clips that teach you some stuff. There was a lot to do.
“I think we shouldn’t have waited so long to premiere.” Safran would have preferred a November season two start date. “[Season 1] was done by May and we didn’t start airing until February again. That works in cable when it’s on all the time in reruns, but on networks I don’t think it really works.”
There was a lot of subtle poking at the audience in that opening, too.
It’s funny – yes, but it wasn’t engineered that way. It wasn’t intentional, but of course it’s going to happen because it’s so what we were dealing with. But people were saying in the beginning that we were doing way too much meta. The only thing that we really did meta, was the premiere. Meaning the first episode, not even the premiere, episode one, was the only thing meta, where we were like, OK, let’s tell everybody, “Cut/Print, Moving On.” We know that was that, and this was something else.
That’s what I’m referring to; I only found out last week that people thought that the criticism of Julia’s book was a jab on Theresa Rebeck’s first-season plot.
Yes. Which wasn’t, by the way. I think at a certain point it occurred to us that it would be viewed that way, before it aired. The real reason for that was, we were talking about what gets the most negative attention when a show opens out of town? What’s the biggest problem? It’s always the book. Or, maybe the direction, but we know Derek’s a great director, we’ve seen that. And we knew that Julia was distracted, and we had heard that there were problems with the book. So when we sat down with [composer/lyricist duo] Marc [Shaiman] and Scott [Wittman], and we said, what are people always saying, what’s theatrical lore? And they were like, “It’s always the book. The book, the book, the book.”
So, that’s where it came from more. And more that Julia was having an affair: it fitted, and we also knew we were going to be getting Julia to be single, away from Frank. It really came out naturally and then after that it was like, “Oh, shit! It looks like we are ragging on last year’s book,” which wasn’t the case initially.
After that, I was like, you know what, some people had problems with the book of last year’s Bombshell; they didn’t know where the book was. I didn’t ever want to make fun of Theresa’s writing because A) I have the utmost respect for Theresa, and B) I actually think the show in so many spots was actually really well written. It was just that it was still finding itself, so pieces didn’t fully connect. I just wish some stories, they had slowed them down just a little bit because there was so much good stuff in them.
Q: Do you think there’s an audience for a musical television show that’s not geared to teenagers?
A: No, I don’t.
I didn’t want to knock on the writing at all. I think she is an incredibly talented writer. If she had stayed with the show and they had brought me on, I would have been happy to work with her. Seriously, I hope someday I can bump into her and we can have a laugh over everything. I don’t think that can happen, judging by the emails that she sent to Buzzfeed, but again, I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity. The characters that she invented were incredible. They were so rich, there were so much to them. It was so easy to take on Tom and Julia and Derek and Eileen because she had created such full characters. Eileen is so clear. To have the luxury of sitting down and knowing fully who this woman was when you sat down to write is incredible. It’s like someone did all your homework for you but you were allowed to turn it in.
I just feel bad because I really loved the show. I really loved it. I loved it so much.