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Television Writer Describes an Industry in Flux


When Darren Star, creator of Sex in the City, Beverly Hills 90210, and Melrose Place, began shopping around his newest project, Younger, he landed at TVland, a network better known for reruns of Gilligan’s Island and Gunsmoke.

It was a far cry from HBO, home of Sex in the City, and Fox, which hosted Beverly Hills 90210.

But Star said he couldn’t be happier.

“You’ve got to just do it for yourself . . . and hope the audience gets it and comes to it,” he said in a Q&A and screening with communications students on Dec. 2 at the Lincoln Center campus.

“I think some of the worst shows are the shows that seem to pander to their audience a little more, or you sense the network is in there, basically saying ‘It needs a little more of this,’ or ‘a little more of that.’”

Younger stars Sutton Foster as a single 40-year-old mother who, after being mistaken as younger than she really is, decides to reboot her career and her love life as a 26-year-old. The show returns for its second season in January.

In a wide-ranging conversation with James Jennewein, Fordham’s artist-in-residence, Star talked about the difference between writing for television versus film, how to break into the business, and the way he’s adapted to the changing media landscape with Younger.

One example of that change, Star noted, is that Younger draws more viewers via the online portal than from traditional network viewing.

“That’s what all these networks need to survive,” he said. “You need the content to travel to Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon, he said, noting that “airing shows in time slots is becoming obsolete.”

Of course, advertisers still need viewers to tune in at an appointed time for a show, so Star said he’s purposely written the comedy in a serialized way, so viewers are left hanging at the end of each episode.
One of the great things about writing for TV, he said, is that you can tailor a character to the unanticipated talents of the actor as the series progresses. That happened with the character of Samantha in Sex in the City.

“Kim Cattrall (Samantha) gave us signs that she was really funny and she could do more. It’s a symbiotic relationship between a writer and an actor. When you see an actor doing things [well], you want to give them more material in that direction,” he said.

Star shared some thoughts on why certain shows failed. There was a mismatch between his vision for a show and that of the executives at the network, he said, on Central Park West, which aired for two seasons only. In another series, Grosse Pointe, Golden Globe winner Amy Adams was cast in the pilot, but was fired after a network executive didn’t like her reading.

“The worst thing is when you have a show, and a network stops giving [you]notes. Then you know you’re in trouble,” he said.

As with Star’s monumental hit Sex in the City, Younger is also filmed in New York City—this time in the rising borough of Brooklyn.

“I think New York’s an exciting city for everybody,” he said. “Anywhere you point your camera, there’s something to look at.”


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