This is my intro for Dead of Winter. I thought it may spark an interesting discussion about what I call Peak Zombie:
I think I was a freshman or sophomore in high school the first time I saw Dawn of the Dead. It hit me the way certain things can only hit a child’s fragile, eggshell mind: it was gory, and disturbing, and pretty scary. It also made me wonder what I would do if I found myself in the zombie apocalypse. Would it really be living if I spent the rest of my life trapped inside a mall? At what point does surviving cease to be living? Why am I asking myself incredibly complex and difficult philosophical questions, instead of playing The Legend of Zelda?
Dawn of the Dead piqued my interest in George A. Romero’s version of the zombie apocalypse, and I devoured — sorry — Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, and even Return of the Living Dead. For many years, I was a zombie fiend. In fact, every Halloween from 16 to 30, I was some version of a zombie. I wrote stories about zombies, I read stories about zombies, and if there was something with a zombie in it, it was on my wish list.
But sometime in the last few years, we hit Peak Zombie, and the truth is: I’m kind of over it. The Living Dead are rarely a metaphor for consumerism, conformity, militarization, and complacency. In much of popular culture, zombies are little more than cannon fodder and background noise in corporate entertainment that’s rushed to cash in on the public’s insatiable — some may say zombie-like — hunger for stories that pit a scrappy band of human survivors against a relentless, endless, faceless mob of interchangeable, shambling bad guys.
But every now and then, something breaks through the fortified wall of hardened, Hipster cynicism I’ve built around my survival compound, and reminds me that we keep returning to stories where zombies are threatening our very existence because even if the undead aren’t explicitly standing in for some profound and specific commentary on our modern world, they can, in fact, stand in for time, age, hunger, despair, and every existential threat we worry about when the night is darkest, and we can’t find the light.
Today on Tabletop, Dodger Leigh, Grant Imahara, and Ashley Johnson are here to explore a game that puts us right in the middle of the depths of our fears, during the worst of the zombie apocalypse. As if staying alive and pushing back the undead wasn’t hard enough, one of us may very well be working against the rest of us, to ensure that none of us make it through the DEAD OF WINTER.
When I was a little kid, playing Star Trek on the playground (I always ended up being Spock), I had no idea that less than a decade later it would become a fundamental part of the tapestry of my life.
Forty-eight years ago this week, Star Trek premiered on television. Something that happened six years before I was born would end up changing my life forever, and that’s a very strange thing to think about, especially when you know how hard it is for anything to get made in television, especially something good.
As I’ve written in my books, my long relationship with Star Trek has been complicated, and not always awesome, but I wouldn’t trade anything for it, because I love my life, and the people in it.
To celebrate Star Trek’s birthday, I’d like to share a story I wrote about when I had to say goodbye to Next Generation for the last time. It’s in my book The Happiest Days of Our Lives (audiobook link), if you’re interested in owning it. It’s called The Big Goodbye.
the big goodbye
When we were teenagers, my friend Terry said to me, “You’re a pretty big geek, and you’re part of the biggest geek phenom- enon in history…but you hardly ever talk about it. How come?” It was true. I didn’t talk about it very much. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, or didn’t think it was cool, but when I was with my friends, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about work. That reluctance persisted until I wrote “The Saga of Spongebob Vegaspants—or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Star Trek” in late 2001 for my book Dancing Barefoot. That story and this one bookend a time in my life that was so significant to me, I—well, I’ll just let you read this, and I think you’ll understand why.
Last week, I went to Paramount to film some host wraps for a Star Trek: TNG DVD documentary, and I discovered that the old cliché is true: You can’t go home again, especially when your home has been torn down and replaced with sets for a Farrelly Brothers movie.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been to Paramount since Wesley Crusher turned into a magic ball of light and floated out into the galaxy to fight crime and save amusement parks from evil developers with The Traveler. In Just A Geek, I wrote:
I found myself at the Melrose Avenue guard shack, half an hour early for my 8:30 a.m. call time.
“ID, please,” the guard said.
I pulled my driver’s license out of my wallet and gave it to him.
“And where are you going today…” he looked at my license, “Wil?”
“I’m working on Star Trek,” I said.
“Enterprise or Nemesis?”
The Next Generation, I thought. “Nemesis,” I said. “I play Wesley Crusher.”
He looked up at me. “Oh my god. You are Wesley Crusher!
You look so…”
“…grown up.” “Yeah,” I said. “It’s been a long time.” “Do you know where to park?” “Yeah. But I don’t know where our dressing rooms are.” But I do! I do know where our dressing rooms are! They’re
trailers on the street in front of stages 8 and 9. Mine is filled with Warhammer 40K figures and GURPS books. It’s right next to Brent’s trailer. It’s 1989, and I’m back. I’m back home.
When I worked on Nemesis several years ago, returning to Paramount to put on the uniform and immerse myself—if only for a day—in Wesley Crusher’s goofy grin and wide- eyed excitement (I wrote at the time that I couldn’t tell where Wesley ended and I began), it was an emotional experience. I felt genuine regret for not appreciating Star Trek more when I was on the series every day, which morphed into a general regret that when I was a teenager, I acted like…a teenager. Some of Just A Geek is about this, and the catharsis that came from writing it is a large reason why I was able to accept and embrace my small role in the Star Trek universe.
I went to Paramount last week to go onto our old stages and walk a camera crew through the Guardian of Forever into 1987. I didn’t expect to be particularly emotional. I was wrong.
I live in a different part of town now, and while it’s faster to go through Silverlake and across Beverly, I wanted to put myself in a place where I’d be most receptive to emotional sense memories, so I added twenty minutes to my drive and went down the 2, up the 5, across Los Feliz and down Western before cutting across Sunset to Van Ness. I took this route every single day, once I got my driver’s license (and a license plate frame on my Prelude, the one that was just a little better than Patrick’s, that said “My other car is the Enterprise”— awesome), and at one time could probably do it with my eyes closed. I told my iPod to shuffle my ’80s Alternative playlist, and after an hour of Boingo, Depeche Mode, OMD, Squeeze, and The Smiths, I was, as they say, really feeling it when I pulled up to the guard gate on Melrose.
I turned down Only a Lad and rolled down my window. “Hi,” I said, “I’m Wil Wheaton, and I’m going to Stage 24 for the Star Trek documentary.”
The guard, who was probably in elementary school when I was piloting the Enterprise, nodded.
“May I see your ID, sir?”
Though I’m “sir” to a lot of people these days, it was bizarre to hear it in a place where I was used to being “The Kid” or “The Boy.” I pulled it out of my wallet and handed it to him.
“Okay, you’re all set, Mr. Wheaton,” he said. “Just pull up to the valet there. I’m sure you know your way around here?”
I smiled. “Yeah, I do.” He handed me back my ID and leaned down toward me. “We’re not supposed to do this, but I’m a big fan,” he said,
conspiratorially. With anyone who really was a big deal in Hollywood, he was probably risking his job.
“Really?” I said. “You seem a little young for TNG.”
He grinned. “Not Star Trek, your blog.” This took me completely by surprise. I have been so busy
with other writing projects that I haven’t been able to give my blog the attention I want. I’ve frequently considered putting it on hiatus for a few months.
“That,” I said, “is totally awesome. Thank you.”
He smiled and then looked over his shoulder at the other guards. He turned back to me, nodded tersely, and waved me onto the lot.
I traded my car for an orange ticket with some numbers on it and headed toward stage 24. A few minutes later, I walked past the Hart building, where TNG’s writers and our fearless leader Gene Roddenberry lived while I was on the series. I stopped for a minute and looked at what had been Gene’s first- story office window. I was hit by a machine-gun montage of all the times when I walked past that window and he called me in for a visit. I looked at the empty spot on the sidewalk where Gene’s golf cart used to be—the same one that I frequently got into trouble for racing around the backlot. I felt the first of many tugs at my heart.
Oh boy. This is going to be one of those days, I thought, as I pulled myself back into the present and walked to stage 24 to meet the crew.
“Glad you could make it, Wil,” the producer said, as my eyes adjusted from the brilliance of the day to the darkness of the empty stage.
“Me too,” I said.
I looked around for a moment. Something about this place was incredibly familiar.
“Hey, you know what I just realized? I shot Family Ties here right before I started Star Trek.”
“Yeah, I was cast as Tina Yothers’ boyfriend. I only did one episode before I booked TNG, but the word on the street at the time was that Gary David Goldberg was going to write me in as a recurring character before I went into outer space,” I said. “And, uh, the future.”
The stage was completely empty, except for a couple of work lights and the bleachers where audiences once sat. This stage, once filled with laughter and the energy of filming “live, before a studio audience,” was now little more than an empty room. My whole life, I’ve been in love with the magic that goes into creating the suspended disbelief of movies and television, but it wasn’t until I stood in that empty stage that I fully appreciated the effort that went into transforming 12,000 square feet of soundstage into the Keatons’ lives for eight years.
“So I thought we’d head over toward stage 9,” the producer said to me, “and we’ll shoot our host wraps in there.”
“Wait.” I said. “You mean we get to walk into stage 9?” 105
“Don’t get too excited,” he said. “There’s nothing left from Trek in there.”
Though I knew that there was no way they’d preserve our sets for twenty years, and though I knew that someone else would eventually move into our stages, just as we’d moved into the original series’ stages, I still felt a little sad.
“Nothing at all?” I asked. It was a stupid question. Of course there wouldn’t be anything there. But like a kid who just learned that Darth Vader was just a guy in a suit, or that KITT didn’t really talk, I had to ask again, just to be sure I hadn’t somehow misunderstood the cold hard reality.
“They’re building sets for some reshoots on a Farrelly Brothers movie,” he said, “so we’ll just shoot outside.” I was struck by how blasé he was, which shouldn’t have sur- prised me. How could I expect anyone else in the world to have the same emotional attachment to those stages as I did?
“Well…okay,” I said.
The crew got the camera and sound equipment together and loaded it on a cart that looked heavy and awkward.
“Do you know a fast—and preferably easy—way to get over there from here?” the camera man asked me.
I didn’t fight the smile. “Yeah. I do.”
We headed out of the stage and back past the Hart building. “See that window?” I said. “That used to be Gene’s office.” “Mmmm,” came the reply.
Nobody is going to care about these things like you do, I thought. Just keep it to yourself.
I looked at the window just a little bit longer. I recalled watching Shatner’s infamous “Get a Life” sketch on 3⁄4-inch video tape in Gene’s office with some of my friends who worked there during the second season.
A few Trekkie VIPs were there on a tour, and they watched it with us. (In the pre-Internet days, it was not very easy to watch that sketch on demand.) At one point in the sketch, Shatner says, “That was the evil Captain Kirk from episode 37, ‘The Enemy Within’…” and all of the Trekkies derisively snorted, in unison, “YOU MEAN EPISODE FOUR!” I looked at my friend, who very subtly shook his head. These were Big Deal Trekkies; pointing out that they’d just brought the sketch into the real world would have created some problems.
Back in the present, I laughed out loud, and a couple of the crew looked at me. “Memories,” I said.
I led them across the lot, on a route that would appear circuitous to anyone who didn’t work there for the better part of four years. On the way to the stage, I passed the same familiar and significant landmarks from my youth that I wrote about in Just A Geek:
That’s where I met Eddie Murphy when I was sixteen… Hey! I crashed a golf cart there when I was fifteen…There’s the mail room…There’s stage six, where the bridge set started out…I almost got up the courage to kiss that girl at the Christmas party on that stage in…there’s the stage where Shatner told me, “I’d never let a kid come onto my bridge.”
The next line in Just A Geek is, “…this street feels exactly the way it did when I worked here…here’s where my trailer used to be…”
Though I stood in that same place, it didn’t feel the same at all. Different trailers were there, filled with different actors working on different shows, but that wasn’t why I just couldn’t deny that twenty years had passed since I started working here. Maybe it was the knowledge that Star Trek is really gone for good, at least the way I knew it. Maybe it was the pain in my hip…or the responsibility on my shoulders. Maybe it was the fact that I have two sons who are older, and more mature, than I was when I started working on the series. Most likely, it was a combination of all those things.
I walked a bit farther, to the entrance to stages 8 and 9. In the hallway between them, where our security guard stopped tourists and Trekkies from coming onto the sets, where our bulletin board for callsheets, shooting schedules, and my brief foray into editorial cartoons used to be, there was now some sort of big, loud…something, with a fan and a bunch of pipes running out of it. As much as that behemoth should have prepared me, I was just gutted when I opened the stage 9 door. Instead of seeing the back of a turbolift and a corridor leading to the transporter room and engineering, I saw a bunch of sets under construction: sets that were quite clearly houses and other rooms squarely from the 21st—not the 24th—century.
Wow, I thought. It’s all…gone.
I stood in that open doorway for a long time and stared, working hard to replace the reality inside the stage with the memories inside my head.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Are you ready?” the producer asked.
“Uh, yeah.” I reluctantly let the door close.
“It’s too loud here to shoot, so we’re set up behind the stage,” he said.
I followed him down the street, past where my school room—what was effectively my entire high school experience—used to be. There was a production golf cart for Everyone Hates Chris there now. I lingered briefly, fighting the urge to take one more golf-cart joyride.
Moments later, we were set up in the alley behind the stage, just outside a giant open door. I looked inside. Where Sickbay used to be, there was a set that looked like a child’s room. Where the holodeck once stood (and where all the shuttlecraft interiors were shot), there was a large drop cloth and a several cans of paint. Where Picard used to command the battle bridge—one of my all-time favorite sets—there was a tropical backdrop.
I sighed and blinked back some tears.
“Everything okay?” the producer asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m just overwhelmed by a sadness right now that I can’t really explain.”
“I understand,” he said. “This happens whenever we work with someone from Next Generation. I don’t know what it was about you guys, but every single one of you loved each other and remembers working on the show very fondly.”
“I didn’t know that,” I said, around a lump in my throat. “But I’m not surprised. I…I really miss those guys.”
For the next few hours, we filmed host wraps. I told sto- ries about my time on Star Trek to anyone who would listen, and a few who wouldn’t.
In front of stage 16, I recalled an encounter with Lawrence Tierney (best known as Joe in Reservoir Dogs), who played holodeck tough guy Cyrus Redblock.
“Hey,” he said to me one afternoon between scenes. “Do you play football?”
I was 15 and weighed 95 pounds…if I was soaking wet and carrying a ten-pound weight.
“Uh, no,” I said.
He leaned into me, menacingly.
“Why the hell not? What are you, some kind of sissy faggot?”
I panicked, certain that he was going to beat the shit out of me because I was more comfortable throwing 3d6 than a pigskin.
“I’m not strong enough to play football!” I said.
“Well, maybe you wouldn’t be so weak if you played foot- ball!” he growled.
An assistant director arrived just in time to call us to the set and save me from certain death.
“Everyone has their own story about Planet Hell,” the producer said, pulling me back to 2007, “but yours is the first one that includes a fear of death unrelated to atmospheric smoke.”
“Boy, we sure like to complain about that smoke. Did you know it was mineral oil-based?” I said.
“After all the cast interviews I’ve done over the years, I know everything in the world there is to know about that smoke,” he said dryly.
Now it was my turn to laugh.
When the day was over, we headed back to stage 24, where they were set up to interview Ron Moore.
“How’s it going?” I said to him when he walked into the stage.
“It’s weird,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been here in years.”
He looked around and his voice softened. “Did you know there aren’t any writers left in the Hart building? Brannon is moving out, and he was the last one. It’s just a bunch of accountants right now.”
“That’s poetic,” I said.
He looked away for a moment and furrowed his brow. “It’s just…I look around here and—”
“I know.” I said. “I totally grok.”
We talked for a few more minutes, until they were ready for his interview.
“I will kick myself later if I don’t tell you how much I continue to love Battlestar,” I said before I left. I didn’t get up the nerve to add, “And I’d really love to work on it if you have anything for me, because it’s just about the best sci-fi on television, ever.” Later on, I kicked myself, and delivered one more to Jenny and the wimp.
“It’s always good to see you,” he said.
“Thanks, man. You too.”
I shook hands with everyone and said goodbye. When
I got out of the stage and walked past the Hart building, I stopped and looked at Gene’s old office window one last time. Though I’d said goodbye to Gene at his funeral in 1991, I said goodbye to him again—and to so many other things.
On my way back to the valet, I walked past the commissary, where I ate grilled mustard chicken with curly fries a few times a week during much of the series. I remembered a day during the third season, when I didn’t have a lot of cash on hand and no credit card, so my server got severely under- tipped. I planned to make it up to him the next day, but when I walked in, he silenced the entire commissary by running toward me from the back, screaming at me for stiffing him the day before. It was the first and last time in my life I wanted someone to be fired for the way they treated me.
Strangely, I still feel bad that I unintentionally stiffed the guy. Funny how those things stay with you and come back when you least expect them to.
Just past the commissary, where there used to be a company store that sold T-shirts and satin jackets celebrating the wearer’s affinity for Cheers, there was now a smaller company store that included a Coffee Bean. I stepped into the same room where I used to pick up really cheesy TNG t-shirts and insanely cool tiny communicator pins for my friends and family, and I bought myself an iced green tea.
I made my way back to the valet, where I traded an orange ticket with numbers on it for my car. While I waited for it to arrive, I struggled to put the nostalgia and associated sadness of the day into perspective. I didn’t mourn the loss of my sets as much as I mourned the time in my life those sets represented: a time when my biggest responsibility was knowing my lines and getting to the set on time, not coming up with college tuition for the next four years. A time when KROQ played music that was relevant to me, and I knew all the DJs. A time when my biggest problem in the world was getting out of costume and makeup early enough to make it to the Forum for a Kings game. A time when my life was simpler and easier, when I had the luxury of taking for granted that I would always have everything I wanted and my opportunities were as numerous as the little mirrored stars on the black velvet starfield that hung behind Ten Forward on stage 9…stars that are, most likely, cut up into hundreds of little bits to be doled out at auction for the next decade.
But, complicated as it is, I really like my life. I have a beautiful wife and two children who, though they don’t carry my DNA, are clearly mine in every way that matters. I’m not going to be buying a boat any time soon, but I have been able to touch lives as a writer in ways that I never could have when I wore a spacesuit, just reading the words that other people thought I should say.
The valet brought my car around, and I gave him a couple bucks from my front pocket.
“Thank you, sir,” he said.
Goddamn, it’s weird to be “sir.”
I got in my car and headed toward a red light on Van Ness, where a big decision loomed: Turn left and drive back over Los Feliz, the way I always used to drive? Or make a right and head down across Beverly?
Luckily, this was an easy one. I hit my blinker and began my voyage home.
A massive hurricane is currently tearing up the ocean just off the coast of Mexico, and the surf here in Southern California is huge. Waves between fifteen and twenty feet have been common, and on Wednesday, Anne and I went down to the beach to see them for ourselves, and take a long walk along the sand.
School has just started, so there weren’t many people down there. Parking was easy, and after a quick walk across the hot sand, we got to the edge of the water. We stood there for a few minutes and watched enormous waves explode into foam, before the ocean seemed to completely flatten out into deceptively serene beauty between sets.
We walked about four miles down the sand, and another four miles back. We shared a meatball sub for lunch, and a little after 2pm, we got in the car to head home.
We were about a quarter mile from our house when my cell phone rang. I vaguely recognized the number, so I picked it.
“I have [Syfy Network Executive] for you,” a disinterested assistant said.
“Okay,” I said. The line fell silent, and I knew that my work with Syfy was over.
“How are you?” He asked me.
“I’m fine,” I said, honestly. “I just got back from a nice long walk with my wife, and it’s been a pretty great day.”
“Well, I’m about to make your day less great,” he said. Then, he told me that Syfy will not be ordering more episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project.
He assured me that it wasn’t the quality of the show. He told me again and again how much he loved it, how funny he thought it was, how much he liked me, how much he wanted to find other things to do together.
Ultimately, he told me, the executives in New York just didn’t think we had enough viewers to justify more episodes. I didn’t say anything about the total lack of promotion off the network, or point out that our ratings were on par with The Soup, or that ratings are always lower in summer than the fall. I didn’t bother saying any of that, because I know he knows that. I was reasonably confident that he made those arguments with New York when he was trying to get the show renewed. I presume he fought hard for us, but ultimately couldn’t sway executives in New York who never seemed — in my opinion — to really understand what kind of show we were doing, who I was and why I was hosting it, and how to engage with and promote to the audience who would like it.
I thanked him for the call, thanked him for the opportunity to do a show that Syfy had never tried before, and sincerely thanked him for all his creative support. He’s a good guy in an industry full of bad guys, and I genuinely enjoyed working with him. I know that he’s trying really hard to put the sci-fi back into Syfy, and if anyone can do it there (which is going to be incredibly difficult, I think), he’s the guy who can make it happen.
I hung up the phone, and told Anne that we weren’t being renewed.
“How do you feel about that?” She asked me.
“I’m really okay with it,” I said. “I’m super sad that I won’t get to work with my writers and producers, and I’m sad that we don’t get to keep writing jokes, but I did everything I could to help the show succeed. I promoted it the best way I could, I worked hard to write stuff that was funny, and I tried so, so, so hard to get the network executives in New York to understand how they could help the show succeed.
“I can only do so much, and we didn’t get a lot of promotional support. I did everything I could, and I’m proud of the work we put on the screen. On the one hand, it’s a shame that they stopped us right when the show was hitting its stride, but on the other hand, we went out with some great episodes.”
I’m disappointed that I won’t get to keep working with people I really like and respect. I’m sad that we won’t get to do more silly segments like How Will They Bite It? and Skeletor Reads Angry Tweets. I’ll miss the scarecrow most of all.
I’m grateful, though, to the people at Syfy who believed in us and gave us a chance to succeed. I’m grateful for the creative support we got, and I’m grateful that I got to spend my summer working with wonderful, talented, funny people. I grew a lot of levels in comedy writing over the last 18 weeks or so, and I owe it all to the amazing people I got to work with.
I had made a decision the day we wrapped the show, that I was going to be okay whether Syfy picked us up, or not. I can honestly say that I am really okay with where I am today. I’m looking forward to doing Tabletop and our upcoming RPG show. I’m looking forward to writing more stories, getting excited, and making more things.
Thank you to everyone who watched our show. Thank you for your kind words, and for being part of a pretty great summer.
Until next time: Play more games!
Oh, and let me just stop this before it starts: we nerds have a penchant for letter-writing campaigns and stuff to try and save shows we like. Please don’t do that here. It’s not going to happen, and we should instead put that energy into something else, like getting #butts to trend.
Second Season of Wil Wheaton Project. Yes or No? I hope SyFy channel has the foresight to keep it going.
So for those of you who don’t know, earlier this summer, I did 12 episodes of a silly comedy show on Syfy called The Wil Wheaton Project. It was basically The Soup for people like me who enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, as well as jokes about those things. If you’d like to see a bunch of clips from the show, they’re right here on my YouTube thing.
We’re officially on hiatus right now, and we don’t know if the network will order more episodes. I know that they liked us in a creative sense, but the ratings weren’t very good (ratings are generally not very good in summer, and while I don’t believe that ratings are as important as they once were, my opinion on the matter isn’t particularly important to the decision makers), but the people who did watch us really liked us. So I won’t know for a few more weeks, but until then, I’m on hiatus, which means I get to write more, play more games, and prep for season three of Tabletop, which goes into production in October.
Part of that preparation includes finding 20 games to play on the show, and as of today, I have eight (maybe nine) that are strong contenders.
What do you want us to play on the show next year? Would you tell me the game, the publisher, and why you like it?
Keep in mind the criteria for Tabletop game selection:
- Plays well with 4 people.
Plays in under 90 minutes.
Can be generally explained in about 5 minutes.
Has a high ration of luck to strategy, so everyone has a chance to win the game.
Looks great, has clear graphical design and photographs well.
Is not something we’ve played before.
I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.
We made a thing for last night’s Wil Wheaton Project, and I think it’s pretty great.
As of today, we have one episode left. We won’t know if Syfy is going to order more episodes for about 5 or 6 weeks. We all need the break (it’s a lot of work to make this show, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re all feeling a little worn out), but I’m sad that we’re going to take the break now, when I finally feel like our show is firing on all cylinders.
When we visited Stoopid Buddy Studios earlier this season on my show, Seth Green showed me some works in progress, including this song about Star Wars Episode VII:
The Wil Wheaton Project moves back to 10pm tonight. I love this episode a LOT. We have Kevin Smith, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Skeletor.
I’ve been getting up earlier than my body wants to on Monday mornings for almost two months, now, and I’m still not used to it. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m upside down in a pool filled with goo, but I’m still a little slow and easily confused until I get my CON and DEX bonuses from my morning coffee.
I don’t know if I’ve talked about this, but the way we put The Wil Wheaton Project together goes something like this:
We have a great staff of associate producers, researchers, and staff writers who are responsible for certain shows. We do our best to assign shows to each other that we wouldn’t normally be watching, so that we all bring different perspectives to the shows that we cover. All of us are constantly on the lookout for stories, videos, cats, and things that would probably be interesting and/or amusing to our audience, and we have a private mailing list for that.
We take all that research, and have a couple of creative meetings during the week that helps us narrow down what we’re going to do on the next episode (tonight, we air S01E08, which we call 108, so we’re working on 109 this week).
On Thursday, there’s a thing called a clip meeting, where everyone gets together to look at clips that have been gathered, along with some jokes or insights or other commentary that may go with those clips.
On Friday, I come into the office for a table read of the script with a the senior producers, and we all work on figuring out what sorts of jokes we’re going to do, and how the show is going to come together. We usually leave the office very, very late on Fridays.
Over the weekend, we watch all of our weekend shows, and keep looking for box office news for movies that are in our world. Then, at are-you-fucking-serious o’clock on Monday morning, the producers and editors put together material from those weekend shows. Around 8am, I head into the office and look at everything they’ve been working on, and we make a final decision on what’s going to fill out act one of the show.
Usually, we have three bits in act one that are more or less locked in, and we add up to three more based on that early Monday work.
After a bit of work on Monday morning, we all head to our studio and tape the show. It’s usually done in the very early afternoon, at which point the network executives and our executives get to work on putting together the final cut of the show, which is sent into space and then down to New York for broadcast about 30 hours after I walk out of the studio.
It’s not as harrowing as I imagine @Midnight must be, but we all work very hard without ever feeling like we have as much time as we want, and I’m super proud of the work we’ve been delivering since episode 104, which is when I think we finally found ourselves and started making the show that I hope we’ll get to make for at least another year.
So, I want you to know this about tonight’s episode: yesterday, we built act one from the ground up. We didn’t keep anything that we had planned to put there, and a few people — including our amazing editors — worked their asses off to build the longest act of the show, the most important act of the show, in just a few hours, when all of us are at our most exhausted. And get this: we ended up having to cut some things that we really liked from the first act, because it was too long! I’m intensely proud of the team I get to work with, and so grateful for the privilege of working with them, and what we did as a single unit yesterday is a very big reason why.
The last three episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project (105, 106, 107) are pretty much what I wanted this show to be all along. I feel like it’s a good blend of irreverence, silliness, cleverness, and actual information that’s entertaining and interesting. We’ve had some great guests drop in, and our original creations (our silly TV theme songs, games like How Will They Bite It?) are landing on the audience exactly the way we hoped that they would.
As far as I can tell, the people who watch the show are having a good time with it, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been overwhelmingly positive. This makes me happy, because I’m making the show that I want to make, and the people who are watching it seem to enjoy that.
So, creatively, I’m very happy.
Our ratings are okay, but not great. We are building on our lead in, which is good, and people are watching the whole show, which is also good, but it’s discouraging that more people aren’t watching something that I’m really proud of.
I’ve done just about everything I can to convince the network to make it easier to watch online, but I’m just getting a runaround that ends with a whole lot of audience that probably would add to our ratings just going to YouTube or Pirate Bay to watch us. I’m happy that people are finding and enjoying the show, but I’m disappointed that our network isn’t making it easier for those people to be counted in a way that would help us get renewed for more episodes.
I made a decision two weeks ago, after 106 didn’t do as well as I hoped it would, to not care about the ratings any more. They matter only because it’s part of some inscrutable formula some people in a building in New York use to determine if we get to make more than 12 episodes, and those numbers are a distraction from the creative process for me.
As it stands right now, we’ll get to do at least five more episodes. After that, my long range sensors can’t get a signal. I could spend a lot of time worrying about our ratings, but the fact is that people tune in or they don’t. The network has to promote the show in a smart way that gets people interested in us, and we have to make a show that those people enjoy enough to stick around and watch.
So I’m going to stay focused on the creative side of things, and work with an incredibly talented, smart, and funny team of writers and producers to make a show that we are proud of, that we can stand by.
Whether that’s for five more or thirty more is currently in Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box.
On last week’s Wil Wheaton Project, we invited viewers to have some fun with a picture of Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor “Hodor” Hodor on Game of Thrones.
I wanted to feature a bunch of them on the show tonight, but we couldn’t because of reasons. Here are some honorable mentions that I thought were awesome, and because we live in the future, I can show feature them for the whole damn world. Depending on your browser settings, you may have to click on the links to see the ‘shops:
— David Lakshøj-Hansen (@Dlakshoej) June 12, 2014
— He Geek She Geek (@HeGeekSheGeek) June 12, 2014
— Tiffany Graham (@TiffYG2133) June 11, 2014
— Owlbear (@TabletopOwlbear) June 11, 2014
I love it when people get excited and make things. Thanks to everyone who made us Hodorshops, and thanks for watching our show!