Since you brought up the sort of myths with fandom vs what you've seen in tv... I'm sure you've seen in probably all fandoms, there comes a time when a collective comes together to say that something is/isn't happening because of "X movie company" or "management". So my question is - from behind the scenes, how much of that is actually true? Like are there people really holding the strings like that? Or are we going crazy? 😳
The answer is it’s complicated.
Also, you’re not crazy.
Let me start by comparing TV writing to book writing. I just wrote a book, and I only got creative notes from one person, my editor. She does two rounds of notes with me (a general edit and a line edit) and then passes me off to the copyeditor, who gives me grammar and spelling and continuity notes. Then it goes to print! Easy peasy! (Well, not easy at all, it’s a lot of work, but very straightforward.)
Compare that process to the TV writing process. Every Rdale script is broken (meaning: figured out) in the writer’s room, where there are 11 writers plus Roberto, our fair boss and Showrunner. We all chime in with ideas and suggestions and Roberto decides what direction he likes best and chooses the pitches that work best until we have a working outline. Then we put the scenes onto notecards, moving them around, re-breaking, rejiggering, until the story works. That’s a lot of hands stirring the pot so far, but we have one head chef: Roberto.
Then we write an outline, which gets notes from the producers, the studio (Warner Brothers), and the network (CW). Then we adjust based on those notes, which come from a few of the execs at each company, who are smart and very good at their jobs, which involves reading and analyzing TV scripts from many shows and deciding what works well for them. They’re drawing on their whole careers-worth of experience doing this on lots of different shows to figure out how to guide the direction of Rdale.
Then we go to script. The writer of that episode takes the very detailed outline and starts writing scenes. Sometimes s/he might farm out some scenes to other people in the writers room, or sometimes the room will move on to the next episode and leave that writer to write solo.
Then the completed script goes to Roberto, who does a pass on it to make it sound like his vision for the show, and feel like the characters he has in his head.
Then, when he’s happy, he brings it back to the writers room and we all read it and go through it page by page together to revise it and give notes. At this point, Roberto has the script open on a computer in front of him, and he changes dialogue, action lines, scenes, etc. live as we give feedback.
Then, the script goes back
to the producers, the studio, and the network, to get notes from them.
Sometimes those notes are minimal, and sometimes they’re major, it all
depends. The writer and Roberto make revisions based on those notes.
Sometimes we have to go back to the room and rebreak as a group, but
Somewhere along the way, someone at Archie Comics reads it to make sure we’re taking care of the characters they’ve had and loved for 75 years.
At some point, someone in a legal
department reads it for clearance, which means sometimes we can’t use
certain brand names in dialogue or else we’ll get sued, and we can’t use
certain people’s names unless they’re in the public eye.
Also someone in some department reads it to make sure we aren’t swearing too much or referring to something too vulgar or the FCC will fine us.
Then the script is sent up to Vancouver where production reads it and starts pre-production. Sometimes there are changes to the script at that point because we can’t get a location or we can’t get an actor because he’s booked on another series, or the weather won’t allow us to shoot somewhere, or we have to move an outdoor scene indoors, or a night scene to day for budget reasons. Revisions are made here. The actors read it, and occasionally they’ll have notes which require revisions.
Then it gets shot. Then the footage is sent to post-production, who starts to edit it. In the edit, frequently we’ll learn that our episodes are several (maybe many) minutes over, and we’ll have to cut lines, jokes, moments, sometimes whole scenes for time.
Then those rough cuts get sent to the producers, the studio, the network for notes.
get the idea yet? There are lots and LOTS of hands in the pie here.
Hundreds, maybe a thousand. If a certain idea isn’t making it through
from initial pitch to the final screen, it could be any one of the
people along the way raising a red flag. Usually there’s no grand
conspiracy – there’s too many people with competing interests for that.
If you find that you’re less than satisfied with something on your
screen, it could be for the devious reason you suspect or it could be
for a completely benign reason like budget or schedule. There’s no one grand puppetmaster holding the strings, but there are lots of people making changes along the way.
tldr: There are too many companies and too many people for any kind of grand conspiracy, but that doesn’t mean that a bunch of people giving tiny notes couldn’t add up to something bigger.