Now in its 10th season, “The Warriors” returns in 2018 with showrunners scrambling to make an inevitable story still interesting to fans. Here, we give you a behind-the-scenes look into the writers’ room as they prepped for the upcoming season, as well as a treatment and script for their eventual, earth-shattering idea.
Rick heaves a sigh. “It’s no use,” he groans, sitting farther back in his chair and kicking his feet up on the large coffee table in the center of the writers’ room.
Joe, pacing the floor incessantly, clenches his jaw. If this were 20 — or hell, 10 years ago — he’d be stubbing a cigarette out in anger. Instead, he dips into a nearby tub of Starburst and tears one open, popping it in his mouth. Junk food. Nothing in here but junk food. He checks his watch: almost 3:00 in the morning.
Jennifer, sprawled out across one of the sofas, takes her arm away from her weary eyes for a moment. “What if,” she begins, and then stops talking immediately after those two words. Still, the promise of an idea is enough to get Joe to stop pacing for a moment. Gail and Lisa turn away from their blank Final Draft documents and pivot their office chairs toward her. Rick leans forward. Bob raises his eyebrows in anticipation.
Jennifer, suddenly aware all eyes are on her, squints up at the overhead fluorescents. She starts to speak again, the arm that had been covering her eyes now straight up in the air, her tired brain churning. “What. If.” The team’s on pins and needles now, starving for someone to break the story. “What if the team goes to space?”
The tension hangs there for another few beats, then the room deflates. Gail speaks gently: “Jen, hon … we did that two seasons ago. Remember? ‘The Splash Brothers Shoot the Moon’?”
“Ugh. Right, right. Sorry guys. All-nighter brain.” Jennifer closes her eyes and shakes her head, letting her arm flop across her face once again. Rick leans back once again, fingers laced behind his head. Joe resumes his pacing. Lisa turns back to her MacBook and refreshes the “Jobs” page on LinkedIn.
“Keep hammering away, guys,” Bob grunts as he stands and stretches. His back pops in a manner that’s both good and bad, causing him to wince slightly. “We’ll break this sucker yet.” This will be Bob’s seventh season as head writer for “The Warriors,” but things have never been this bleak before. They’re pretty much tapped out.
Just as Bob thinks it, Joe pipes up. “But what if we don’t break the story, Bob?” Like all showrunners, Joe was nervous as a rule, always ready for the sky to come crashing down. His tenure even predated Bob’s, but over the past handful of years they’d come to enjoy a marvelous symbiosis. With that partnership had come success they’d never dreamed of individually, but after all the awards, the fans, and the ratings bonanza, they were running short of inspiration. They’d gotten too much, too fast, and as the riches kept pouring in, the story options kept dwindling.
“We’ll break it, Joe,” Bob assures him. “We always have before.”
“Yeah, but it’s always been easy before,” Rick offers. “We had a hell of a villain for the last few seasons, but then somebody decided it would be a great story to turn him into a good guy.”
Lisa spins her chair back around. “Hey, it was a great idea. You know how many LeBron T-shirts we’ve sold since we turned him into Season 6 Spike?”
Rick grins. “Yeah, yeah. I know you’re right. But I still think we could have squeezed at least one more year out of making him our Big Bad.”
Jennifer’s hand shoots up into the air again, eyes wide. “What if — oh my god, you guys.” She sits up on the couch, looking around at the room. “What if LeBron is actually a mole in the Western Conference? And then we can spend the entire season with him trying to bring the place down from the inside, only to get exposed near the finale?”
The others look at Bob, grimacing. Crestfallen, he nods and takes this one himself. “Jennifer,” he starts. She turns to look at him, eyebrows raised expectantly. “We’ve done the ‘inside man’ angle with both Durant AND Kawhi.”
“And Kyrie,” adds Gail.
Bob nods. “And Kyrie.”
Jennifer’s shoulders slump. She pushes her face into the sofa cushions. “Just fire me,” she moans, muffled by the fabric. “Fire me and put me out of my misery.”
Gail pats her on the shoulder. “It’s okay. We’ll get through this.”
“And don’t put your face in those cushions,” Lisa advises. “There’s like a decade of writer sweat in there. You’ll have to chew a Tide pod for real if any gets in your mouth.”
“Bob,” Joe says, softly. Bob turns to face his jittery showrunner. “I’m serious. If you think ‘Simpsons did it’ is a well-worn cliché, that’s nothing compared to what we’ve already burned through over the past few years. Even Kurt Sutter would think some of our recent storylines are a stretch.”
Still putting on a brave face, Bob tries to steer the conversation back to the positives of the upcoming season. “Hey, we’ve got Boogie now. Imagine the hijinks we can get up to with him.”
This time, Rick interjects: “Boogie’s going to be a non-factor. He only signed on for a recurring role at midseason. He’s not a member of the main cast. Jason Mantzoukas was great on ‘Nine-Nine,’ but no one thought he was going to stick around and factor into long-term storylines.”
Lisa nods. “Boogie’s for B-stories only, Bob. You know that. He’s our Worf.”
Bob tries to protest, meekly. “Hey, Worf was great in the late seasons. And then he went on to ‘Deep Space Nine’!”
Lisa crosses her arms. “Yeah, and he was still Worf over there, too.”
Bob opens his mouth to respond, but Joe cuts him off. “Look,” he says, “we all love Worf. Worf’s great. But he’s not Picard.” He raises a hand to thwart another interjection from Bob. “And yeah, we’ve got a Picard. The problem is we’ve got five goddamn Picards. And nobody wants five Picards. Nobody wants three Picards. We’ve just …” He trails off and looks through the blinds at the dark parking lot outside. “We’ve just got way too much of a good thing. It’s not compelling. There aren’t any stories to tell. Who wants to watch a show where there’s no tension, where there’s no drama?”
Bob doesn’t have an answer for that. Rick, head still back and eyes closed, pipes up. “Face it, boss,” he says. “We’re cooked. No more stories to tell.”
Jennifer squirms on the couch. Closing her eyes, only half-aware of what she’s saying, she sighs, “Why don’t we just burn it all down?” Everyone turns back to her, as she continues on, oblivious to the attention. “Yeah. Just go full scorched-earth, post-apocalyptic wasteland. Send them to a time where stories don’t matter, because they’ve already lived through them all. Just like us, now.”
Gail speaks now, slowly. “A time jump. Oh my god.”
Jennifer opens her eyes and looks around. Rick is leaning forward, turning possibilities over in his mind. Bob has his head cocked, nodding almost imperceptibly, as he always did when they were close to breaking a story. Joe resumes pacing, now bouncing on the balls of his feet, a big grin slowly spreading over his face.
“Are you guys … wait, really?” Jennifer sits up. In response, Lisa stands up and walks to the whiteboard. She uncaps a dry-erase marker and scrawls one huge word in black at the top of the board: WASTELAND.
Bob plops back down in his seat, beaming at Jennifer. “You did it. You broke the sucker. I’ll be damned.”
Jennifer sucks in a big, ragged breath, and exhales the weight of the past few weeks’ fruitless, 14-hour days in that lived-in writers’ room.
And together, they get to work.