It's funny: I always, as a high school teacher and particularly as a high school yearbook teacher, because yearbook staffs are 90 percent female, I got to sit in and overhear teenage girl talk for many years. I like teenage girls; I like their drama, their foibles. And I think, 'I'll be good with a teenage daughter!'
On 'Dawson's Creek,' those kids were supposed to be outsider kids - you know, wrong-side-of-the-track kids, weirdo kids. And I just felt like there's no universe out there where Katie Holmes isn't the prom queen, hottest girl in school.
'Freaks and Geeks' was my favorite show when it was on, by a wide measure. And that's the show I wanted to do. I noodled with the idea of doing a show about teenagers that told small stories, small moments of personal growth.
The world domination plan goal is that I would love Veronica Mars to become a brand like Sherlock Holmes is a brand, like Nancy Drew, in a way, is a brand. When people start listing who are the great fictional detectives, I want Veronica Mars to make that list. That would be the dream scenario.
As I start to think about what I want to do next, there are eight or nine networks I would be thrilled to work with. I remember developing at FX and the executives there telling me, 'We don't want to do shows that 20 million people kind of like; we want to do the show that 2 million people really like.' That's such a refreshing thing to hear.
Reading 'Youth in Revolt' might have ruined my career because suddenly I wanted to abandon all the emotional truth of something and just go out far on a literary limb with completely implausible things that relied completely on voice and humor. And what saved me is realizing that I couldn't do that very well.
Teenage years are hard. And, having taught high school for a number of years, I think they're particularly hard on teenage girls. The most self-conscious human beings on the planet are teenage girls.
In a weird way, 'Veronica Mars' was my reaction to 'Freaks and Geeks' because 'Freaks and Geeks' was the show I wanted to write, the one I wanted to create, where there was no gimmick; you didn't have to have a teenage private eye. It was just these beautiful small stories about real kids.
Having written both comedy and drama, comedy's harder because the fear of failure's so much stronger. When you write a scene and you see it cut together, and it doesn't make you laugh, it hurts in a way that failed drama doesn't. Failed drama, it's all, 'That's not that compelling,' but failed comedy just lays there.
I like the rhythm of comedy in dramas, if that makes sense. In other words, I don't want to write setup, punch, setup, punch, where the joke dictates the scene; I want to find comedy in which the drama is actually driving the moment in the scene.
One reason I relate to 'Veronica Mars' fans is because I can totally geek out about shows. I mean, I write Vince Gilligan fan mail every year.
Before 'Veronica Mars,' I was not, and probably am still not, much of a crime reader. My mom left out a copy of 'Helter Skelter' when I was 10, and I secretly read it, and then I spent all my teenage years afraid of hippies. I kept away from crime books for, like, ten years.
I still don't think I've ever read a Nancy Drew book; I probably read three or four 'Hardy Boys' books when I was 10, 11, 12, and I didn't love them at the time. Even then, they felt dated to me, like the word chum - 'my chum and I.' However, the 'Encyclopedia Brown' books, I read all of them.
My hope is that I hit it big with something, and then I'll have enough of a cushion to carve out time to write a book. That would be my passion project.
I couldn't love a movie much more than 'Dazed and Confused.' I would argue that 'Dazed and Confused: The Series' would have been very much like 'Freaks and Geeks.' And that died a painful death because it was too good.
I always just wanted to write and maybe direct. I'm really only interested in that. And yet the business that I'm in has forced me into being a salesman - that's the last thing that 17-year-old me would imagine I'd end up being. I'm uncomfortable trying to sell anything, but that's what you're doing every time you walk into a pitch.
I think there are people, and I do not mean this to be disparaging, there are people like Jay Mohr and Jeremy Piven where they just give you that vibe, 'This guy's going to play someone a little venal.'
I think its going to be continually tougher on the big networks as more cable channels do really interesting television. The big networks have a choice to make: Do we try to be all things to all people and get the shows that will deliver 20 million viewers a week? Are we the McDonald's of television? Or are we going to try to be more specific?
So much of what I do... is coming up with new characters and trying to invent voices for them, and to have people fully fleshed out in my head and to know who can say what in the scene and who these characters are... I love it.
Something that bothered people about 'Dawson's Creek' but as a writer, I kind of dug: writing those kids as though they were college grad students. It was fun and liberating and made for a true sort of writer's show. It was a fun year for me, because I got to get out of debt with my first TV job, and I learned a ton.