Producer's Blog

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Producer's Blog (Josh Friedman)


Written by Josh Friedman:
Creator/Executive Producer TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES
SEASON 2

September 8, 2008 – 5:28 pm

If any of you have seen pictures of me at press events recently you may be struck by the amount of hair I have on my head and face. To my wife’s dismay and the amusement of my family I have not cut my hair in months. It began when my barber had a massive heart attack (he survived) but has continued due to my obsession with all things Samson and Delilah. Many moons ago, before I’d written this episode, I was listening to a new Bruce Springsteen bootleg I’d downloaded. He performed a cover of the old spiritual “Samson and Delilah” also sometimes called “If I Had My Way.” The song stuck in my head the way songs are meant to do and I listened to it every day over and over. Sometime during this period the writers and I began discussing what we wanted to do for season two. I knew I wanted to start the episode with a big action sequence which would pick up right after the end of season one. I also knew how much everyone enjoyed the Johnny Cash/pool sequence in last year’s finale and I wanted, in some way, to thank everybody for their enthusiasm by trying to thread the conceptual need once again. So one day I go into the writers’ room with my ipod and said to everyone: “this is the opening of season two.” And I played Springsteen’s version of “Samson and Delilah.” In many ways the entire episode grew out of this piece of music and an idea to do an entire act of the show with no dialogue. It also grew out of the thematic underpinnings of the song: Man’s pact with God, the power of woman over man, and the fact that love can make you do some pretty stupid things. Some might wonder who exactly in the episode is Samson and who is Delilah. The story applies at many different parts of the episode to different characters. So go nuts with your analytical self. When you watch the opening act you will of course note that it is not Bruce Springsteen singing the song but the lovely and ridiculously talented Shirley Manson with a new version of the song composed by the lovely and ridiculously talented Bear McCreary. It was never in my original plan for Shirley to sing it — even after I cast her on the show I was loathe to approach her about it. She was (and is) here to act and I never had the song in mind when I brought her in to audition. Still, I’m a whore to opportunity and would’ve kicked myself in the ass had I not mentioned it to her. We were both pretty drunk when I brought it up and she agreed fairly quickly — whether or not the many bottles of wine and champagne had an influence on her I cannot say. Not surprisingly, she sings the hell out of the song. She also does a great job acting in the episode and in the three months since I’ve cast her, Shirley has not done a single thing to make me regret casting an inexperienced actor in one of the key new roles of the season. She’s good in every episode and in every episode she’s even better than in the previous one. I think the kid’s got a future. As for the rest of the episode… it’s sort of like what I had in my head those first few weeks I was listening to that Springsteen song all day long. Except better.

Written by Josh Friedman:
Creator/Executive Producer TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES SEASON 1

March 3, 2008

If you’re reading this I’m going to bet you already know tonight’s the two hour season finale of TSCC. In case you don’t know, well, you do now. These two episodes were never supposed to be the end of our season, but there was this little thing called the writers’ strike, and there you go. As it happens, if we were going to end somewhere, these two episodes aren’t a bad place to do it. Dumb luck, really. But I’d rather be lucky than good any day. (And I am.)

Dan Thomsen, one of our youngster staff writers, wrote “Vick’s Chip.” Dan’s the kind of guy who doesn’t speak in the writers’ room for a week and then he’ll mumble some piece of genius insight that’ll turn my head inside out. This script was one of the toughest for us to crack—it’s got a deviously challenging structure to it—and I commend Dan for his intelligent work on it.

Ian Goldberg, another one of our staff writers, penned “What He Beheld…” This is probably one of the only seasons in television history where the last two episodes of the season were written by staff writers (the most inexperienced writers on a show). Then again, I’d never written an episode of television before this year so what’s it matter? Both of them were under intense pressure to write quickly and I can’t praise them enough.

This episode features the only non-score music of the entire year and is the only time we’ve cut an action sequence to a piece of music and not vice-versa. I sort of love how it turned out. I’m such a fan of this particular artist that my son’s middle name is the last name of the singer.

As to the ending of the episode…well…there’s some stuff going on in the last five minutes and I’ll leave it to everybody to try and puzzle through the various references both pop and Biblical.

As of this writing it’s unknown whether we’re coming back for Season 2. I’m very proud of Season 1 and I know I speak for John and James when I say how much I appreciate everybody’s intense interest in our show. Hopefully we’ll have the chance to come back and do it again.

Peace,
Josh


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February 25, 2008

OF DUNGEONS AND DEMONS…

In true Terminator spirit I’d like to spend a minute talking about the past before I get on to the future…I didn’t get a chance to write about last week’s “Dungeons and Dragons” episode but obviously it was a very important episode for us in Sarah Connorland…

I’d always wanted to write about the Future War. My original idea was to do four future episodes during a 22 episode season. We got a thirteen episode order so I scaled my plan down to two future episodes. And then the strike came and what you’ve seen is what you’ve got.

Even though we aired “Dungeons and Dragons” sixth we shot it ninth because of all the prep involved. Unfortunately this put it right in the strike’s crosshairs. I had to leave before a frame of D&D was shot and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to the director Jeff Hunt and our Visual Effects Supervisor Jim Lima for their stellar work. Another perennial all-star is Rob Hall for his fantastic T-600 makeup. And props are due to makeup artist Harriette Landau for the crucial work of disguising Andy Goode as Billy Wisher. Don’t think that one didn’t keep me up at night.

The writers of the episode, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, are without a doubt the most hardcore Terminator geeks on our entire staff. During the strike one of my daily rituals was chasing Zack around the various internet chatrooms to make sure his alter ego “The Turk” didn’t reveal too many clues about the show.

“The Demon Hand” airs tonight. This is an extremely ambitious episode with quite a few parallel storylines (even more than usual). Toni Graphia wrote the script. Toni wrote on the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica and at least once a week she would accidentally spoil a BSG episode for some poor unsuspecting writer soul who wasn’t completely caught up with the series. Episode spoilage is epidemic in a writers’ room—everybody watches everything but not everybody watches it at the same pace. I’ve found that staff writers (who have less responsibility and more free time) tend to be the biggest episode spoilers. I nicknamed one of our staff writers Spoiler for his great work destroying Rescue Me on a weekly basis.

People assume (correctly) that the title “Demon Hand” references Harlan Ellison’s “Demon with a Glass Hand.” I’ve heard Harlan’s quite amused by this and I hope he enjoys the episode. Sometimes we spend a great deal of time thinking of titles and other times we throw a temporary title on the episode and for whatever reason we never trump it. After I named episode 2 “Gnothi Seauton” we had a spate of Latin titles that we quickly dumped because they were even sillier than “Gnothi.” In “Dungeons and Dragons” there was originally a reference to the Hunter-Killers as dragons that ultimately got dropped in editing. “Vick’s Chip” was a temporary title that kind of grew on us and resisted my attempts to impose some more obscure reference onto the episode. On the other hand, the title for the second part of the finale “What He Beheld…” may win the season award for most obscure, barely nosing out my “Gnothi.”

On a side note, TSCC did a panel at WonderCon yesterday and 4,000 people showed up. I’m pretty sure all of them were there just to scream “River!” at Summer Glau but still, 4,000 people’s a nice crowd. Everyone treated us quite well and my wife managed to find some extremely rare Lego Star Wars figures for my son—including a Princess Leia that I may be unusually excited about.

But I digress.

Demon Hand. Dr. Silberman. Fire. Ballet. And if you look CLOSELY you’ll see something (or someone) that gives insight into Sarah’s apocalyptic dream in Episode One.

Enjoy.

Josh


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February 11, 2008


WE’RE BACK.

When the writer’s strike started fourteen weeks ago, Executive Producer John Wirth and I decided to cease performing our Executive Producer duties. I won’t speak for John but as for me, this was a painful choice. I could have continued doing the non-writing aspects of my job. But I was and am a writer first so I chose to leave.

In doing so, John and I left James Middleton, our tireless friend and consulting producer, to balance an elephant on his nose without the aid of a peanut. (By the way, consulting producer suggests he has had someone to consult with since the strike began, or that others might be consulting with him. Truth is, we have left him completely alone. James has been the ONLY producer of this show for the entire strike.)

James oversaw the editing, mixing, effects, and music of every episode after the pilot. He has done every interview, confronted every problem, placed and answered every phone call, gotten up early and stayed up late. He has done a job that was previously being handled by three of us, and as far as I’m concerned he has done it better.

If you love the show, say a special thank you to James. If you don’t love the show, it’s all my fault. John and I love the show. So we’ll say a special thank you to James:

A special thank you to James.

I have assiduously avoided promoting this show during the strike but I want all of you to know it is not for lack of interest or passion. I have been lurking on your chatrooms, bookmarking your websites, reading your reviews, and otherwise acting like a dad spying on his kid during freshman orientation week at college. Not that my dad did that (as far as I know) and not that I will do that (as far as you know).

As anyone who knows me can attest, my self-imposed silent treatment has been extremely painful; it is VERY DIFFICULT for me to keep my mouth shut.

Please be assured that I am VERY familiar with the rules of time travel as explained by Kyle Reese in the first movie. When Cromartie’s head goes through the time bubble, THERE IS FLESH ON IT. If you can’t see it, that’s because a) it’s burning off very quickly and b) certain people don’t like it when we show burning flesh, cyborg or not.

(Historical note: The first person to ask me this head/bubble question was Jared in Props--a year ago while we were shooting the pilot.)

I would also like to mention that anyone who thinks Lena Headey isn’t big enough or tough enough to play Sarah Connor has not had the unpleasant surprise of been punched by her. I have—and I can only hope that someday each and every one of her doubters can experience her qualifications in this very clear and personal way.

This week’s episode is called “Queen’s Gambit.” It was written by Natalie Chaidez, a refugee from Heroes who, despite her small stature, is definitely the writer on our staff whom I would least want to get into a fistfight with. When we began shooting this episode Natalie expressed a great dissatisfaction for the number of times in previous episodes Sarah Connor had been seen in her trademark tank top. I think we make up for it in this one.

This episode includes what may be my favorite Cameron moment to date. I won’t say what it is but it’s freaking big…

As tempting as it is to download everything I’ve been pondering the last four months, I think I’ll wrap up this first Joshblog now. On behalf of all of the writers, I’d like to thank everybody for watching the show—we know that we’re caretakers of a franchise that many of you love and we’re trying to handle it with all the passion and geekness that you would if it was you.

We’d also like to thank you for your support these last fourteen weeks—many of you came out and walked picket lines with us, or sent us emails, or just bitched online about how much you missed your shows. It meant a lot to us. The ability to broadcast on the public airways is a superpower that should only be used for the good of the people. Thanks for reminding our industry of that.

Take Back the Future.

Josh Friedman