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May 22, 2011

WWE Creative Insight: Former Writer Describes Pitfalls of WWE System vs. Actual TV Industry, Working With McMahon, Cult-Like Environment

Former WWE writer Larry Mollin shared unique insight into WWE's attempt to be an entertainment company, but not having the system in-place to execute it during an interview on Dave Lagana's "I Want Wrestling" podcast series. (IWantWrestling.com to download the podcast.)

Mollin, in his mid-60s and with a strong resume of industry experience, painted a picture of WWE trying to be like a Hollywood production with their weekly TV shows, but not having the infrastructure, discipline, or long-term planning to achieve that goal.

Mollin, whose chief experience was executive producer on "Beverly Hills: 90210," said the staff on 90210 had their own "WrestleManias" building to specific episodes during sweeps periods, but they planned those out and filmed the episodes months in advance.

Whereas, Mollin shared that WWE - as a self-described entertainment company trying to be like a Hollywood production - tries to get from WrestleMania to WrestleMania as part of their seasonal structure, but the lack of long-term planning undercuts the process.

It captures what former WWE writer John Piermarini has said in various forms on the Torch that he would try pitching a basic four-week outline of storylines from time-to-time, but McMahon remained intent on booking week-to-week.

Mollin said one of the issues exacerbating the week-to-week nature of the writing is enhancements in technology. McMahon can get away with quick changes five minutes before a show goes live or is taped, which reinforces bad habits of not having the stories mapped out in advance.

Mollin noted the plane rides where storylines were pitched were very tense because McMahon would often-times throw out an entire show, forcing the writing team to re-write an entire show when they arrived at TV.

-- As for the nature of the writing process compared to Hollywood, Mollin described being part of the WWE writing team as a 24/7 job. Comparatively, in Hollywood, there's a chance to take a breather in-between writing sessions & film shoots for natural breaks in the work schedule to avoid the pitfalls of the WWE schedule.

It paints a picture of why writers are easily burn-out, why there's self-inflicted pressure on McMahon to get shows written due to the week-to-week system, and how it frustrates writers creatively when the stories are changed on the fly, often-times causing long re-writes.

It also captures why TV storylines can change from week-to-week, why certain characters come across inconsistent, and why it's difficult for viewers to invest in many of the stories when the direction could change with no notice.

Overall, Mollin described working for WWE as a "cult" and laughingly described the creative process as "they'd beat you down, then hug you." He was referring to McMahon ripping apart storyline pitches, then management acting like a family with the writers after each week's TV tapings before starting it all over again the following week.

source: pwtorch.com


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