'The Kids are Alright' creator Tim Doyle credits "white male privilege" for his quick rise in Hollywood
Doyle is one of the most reputed showrunners in the business, even having earned the reputation of being the go-to man to save troubled shows
Tim Doyle is the genius showrunner, who is known around Hollywood as the guy who saves troubled shows – at least until syndication. Doyle, the creator, showrunner and narrator of ABC’s upcoming ‘The Kids are Alright', seems to have humbly accepted this reputation, and told Meaww it was his promotion as the showrunner of ‘Grace Under Fire’ in 1996, after the show and the star burned through several bosses in short order, that cemented this role.
There are many reasons he was able to take on this role, he elaborated: “I have always been pretty smart about problem-solving and enjoy stepping into a new situation and puzzling out a few key changes which can make things work a bit better. I am also tall and prematurely grey (at least it was premature back then) which I think lent me a kind of reassuring, fatherly gravitas which helps a lot in winning the confidence of nervous executives and actors.”
Looking back, he is also able to see that white male privilege had a lot to do with his rise in the industry as well. “There was definitely a bit of white male privilege in my quick rise to this showrunner/troubleshooter role. Better writers, specifically female writers, didn’t often get the kind of battlefield promotions I enjoyed back in the 1990s as a big, tall, white man,” he acknowledged, adding his reputation came at the cost of him always being offered jobs on projects that are always on the rocks.
“I didn’t often get the chance to help on shows that were acclaimed and running smoothly. I have spent too much of my life in the dumpster fire business. But it’s hard for me to complain. I have been granted an insanely long career in a notoriously fickle business, so there is not much about the last thirty years I would voluntarily change,” he said.
Doyle is also known for employing an amusingly ingenious tool to keep all sides happy – bay leaf. He reveals he came up with it in the writers’ room over two decades ago, as a technique of keeping the suites at the studios or networks or even stars of the show or producing partners, happy. The showrunners would oftentimes get notes - “something someone in authority feels is missing from the present script.”
“In the bay leaf model, a writer accepts the note and adds the unwanted material to the script with the unstated intention of simply removing it later, much in the way a bay leaf might be added to a soup or stew only to be skimmed out before serving,” he said, explaining why this model was so effective. “It gratifies the note-giver that their note was addressed, and they don’t generally notice or mind later when they find it got cut out in subsequent revisions or the editing process of the finished show. By that time, they’ve moved on to other unnecessary notes or realized its uselessness.”
The more important quality of this “bay leaf” method is the effect minor changes, that would be cut at editing, has on the performance of the actors. He explained, “One almost mystical quality of the bay leaf is the ‘flavor’ it leaves behind after removal.”
“An actor might ask for some idea put into a dialogue which helps motivate their behavior in a scene. For example, their character refuses wine at dinner, so they want it put into the script that their parent was an abusive drunk. The writer might not want to weigh down a comedy scene with such heavy exposition, but the actor might feel like they need it to understand why the character turns down wine. So you put it in as a ‘bay leaf,’ shooting this dialogue in a way so it can be later edited out, but — and here’s the miraculous part — the actor was right. Saying those words helped them give a truer performance and — even after the alcoholic parent stuff is on the cutting room floor — their request made the scene a bit better because it helped them with their acting. Fun with bay leaves,” he added.