I am no longer in Cuba. I'm not home either (so still no pictures), but I'm on my way home - I'm in Mexico. Some people might point out that Mexico is further away from my home than Cuba is. To those people I say simply this: Shush.
Anyway, Xinzhou. I like it now, but it was one of those episodes where there were times during the writing of it when I simply didn't see how I could possibly get it right in time for the recording. The other ones this happenes with were Limerick and Fitton... all the ones, in other words, where it's just the main cast on the plane, and there doesn't appear to be a plot. Because those little buggers are always three times as hard to write as a normal episode, but because I am an idiot, I always forget that, and think: well, it's just them mucking about without a plot, that'll be easy. But it's not, because of course there has to be a plot, because if no-one wants anything, there's no stakes, and if there's no stakes there's no story; and if there's no story then the audience, even if they don't realise it, start thinking 'yeah, but why are you telling me this?', lose interest, and wander off to do the ironing. So, you have to write about people being bored without being boring, and you have to not only work out a plot that will keep the audience interested, but then hide it from them. Plus, these tend to be the episodes where the characters unbend and actually talk to each other about stuff, so you've got to try to do that justice. All of which is far harder than sticking Martin and Carolyn out in the Irish countryside and then putting obstacles between them and the airport. Not better, necessarily, but definitely harder. And one day maybe I'll learn that.
But I didn't learn it this time, so the writing, or rather the rewriting and rewriting and rewriting; and then at the last minute more or less throwing it away and starting from scratch, and then rewriting that, was scarier than it's been for a while. All the episodes owe a huge amount to that prince among producers David Tyler, but this one more than most. Not least (though also not most) because a large amount of it was written in his house, whilst drinking his coffee, eating his cheese, and taking three minute breaks to play with his dog. This is not a service all producers provide...
Anyway, enough whining - it did get written, somehow, and the reward was that it was one of the most fun episodes to record - especially, as you might imagine, the ancient and noble game of Fizz Buzz Have A Banana.
What with being abroad I haven't been able to hear this one go out yet, so I'll do Notes and Queries and Deleted Scenes when I get back, and I'll put up a notebook photo too. Or possibly, for this episode, just a photo of a waste paper basket full of screwed up post-its.
Bye for now - by the next time I write, I'll be back in Britain, and we'll all have been to the charming Swiss town of Yverdon-Les-Bains. Hope you enjoy it...
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Posted by John Finnemore at 1:49 am