It’s horrifying but all you should really care about is getting through it. And learn to be able to laugh at it.”JUDD APATOW: The pilot had a very daring existential idea, which was that a young, really smart girl sits with her dying grandmother and asks her if she sees “the light,” and her grandma says no. The girl decides to have a more experimental high-school experience, because she doesn’t know if she believes anymore.
I was always surprised that the network didn’t notice that that’s what our pilot was about.
She said, “If we don’t make this show, I’m quitting the television business.” Scott Sassa had come in as president of NBC West Coast, and Scott wasn’t a content guy [he was previously in charge of NBC’s owned-and-operated stations], so he was deferring to his people more than other network heads do.
SCOTT SASSA: Networks then programmed towards something called “Least Objectionable Programming,” which meant the show that would suck the least so people wouldn’t change the channel. PAUL FEIG: We went over to NBC, and I remember feeling that “new person in the industry” kind of indignation, like “If they want to change this at all, I’m not going to do the show.” So I start to make that speech and Shelley goes, “Don’t change a thing.” It was like, This is not at all what I’ve always heard network development is like.
JUDD APATOW: Paul showed up when we started production with this bible he’d written about the show, hundreds of pages long, with every character in detail—what they wore, their favorite songs.
I asked him to write another few episodes to explore the world, and he banged out two more.
JUDD APATOW: Paul felt like most kids are not trying to get sex, but trying to avoid that moment.
You could split them into kids who are constantly trying to get older and kids that are desperately trying to hold on to their immaturity.
One day I bumped into him and said, “If you have any ideas for TV, let me know.” I didn’t think he would hand me a finished script a few months later, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be the best thing I have ever worked on. He called about 12 hours after I sent him the script. I’m going to have Dream Works buy it.” It was that moment when you go, “Wow, my life’s just changed.”DAN Mc DERMOTT (then head of Dream Works Television): Within 24 hours, I’d say, we got a pass from Fox, from CBS, from ABC.
A day or two later, we heard from Shelley Mc Crory, a development exec at NBC.