What is Writers’ Room Eats, you ask? It’s a new monthly series, each spotlighting a current TV show’s writers’ room. Specifically, we ask a few writers from the show what foods fuel them through the long days of pitching jokes and plot twists and late night rewrites. If you learn nothing else from this series, you’ll learn that every writers’ room ever is totally obsessed with lunch.
For our first installment, Paste talked to the writing staff of the CBS comedy Superior Donuts. The show revolves around an old-school donut shop called, you guessed it, Superior Donuts. The curmudgeon-y owner, Arthur, is stuck in the past while his Chicago neighborhood gentrifies around him. Everything changes when Franco shows up with lots of big ideas for the shop, and convinced Arthur to hire him as his lone employee. The series follows the unlikely pair and their cast of regular customers as they work to keep the business afloat.
Paste spoke with writers Emily Wilson, Peter Murrieta and Cindy Appel about workday snacks, their infamous lunch wheel and, of course, donuts.
Paste: Tell me all about donuts. Did you eat tons of them?
Peter Murrieta: I have loved donuts forever. I was one of the ones that brought them in from a couple of places that I think do them right:Bob’s in the Farmer’s Market and Stan’s in Westwood. But as production started and we got down to it, that kind of eased up. I love a good Maple Cake donut and won’t pass one up if it’s around.
Emily Wilson: We researched how donuts are made and when we first started writing there were a lot of donuts coming into the writers’ room. Lots of donut enthusiasm. But now that we’re shooting, we have access to BOXES of free donuts post shoot, so that’s how we get fat now.
Paste: Did you visit any donut shops?
PM: I visited Bob’s at the Farmer’s Market—I’m a long time client—and I got a chance to ask him some specifics about how it all goes down. I also got to ask him how come they don’t make the maple cake donuts until after 7 a.m. His response was, “Maybe everyone doesn’t like maple cake donuts like you do, Peter.”
EW: Peter sometimes likes foods that many others do not. Like pumpkin pie. Disgusting, disgusting pumpkin pie.
Paste: Let’s move on to other foods. What are the snacks like?
Cindy Appel: One thing I noticed with the writers’ room and food is that it’s all about timing. You get there in the morning, you’re fresh, maybe you worked out that morning and you’re feeling healthy. So you eat half a donut and even order fries with lunch. Lunch comes and you’re happy you got fries because you’re suddenly ravenous like you just wandered out of The Grapes of Wrath or something. Then about mid-afternoon, you feel like a viscous pile of lard sitting in a chair, but oh! here comes coffee! Yay, coffee! That gets you to about 8 p.m. when you don’t care about life anymore and will eat the second half of the donut you gingerly ate for breakfast, plus two pieces of pizza.
EW: There’s some sneaking over to the production offices for snacks. Writers don’t usually request junk food but there’s pure garbage on the production side. I snuck over there for Combos more than once.
Paste: What snacks do you frequently request?
EW: I feel like our constant requests vary but the writers seem to request a shit load of nuts. And I request cucumbers, cream cheese and turkey so I can make myself Midwestern baby shower food mid-day. It’s very indulgent.
PM: I need tortilla chips and potato chips. For some reason during the day it’s all about SALT for me … and also it’s important that whatever Emily is bringing back from the kitchen is something I can knock out of her hands and run away like a terrible big brother.
EW: Peter does struggle with wanting to smack things out of my hand, as do I for him. There’s nothing better than slapping someone’s carefully prepared snack out of their hand.
Paste: Do you have any other food-related practical jokes going on between the writers?
EW: Our biggest pranks/disagreements happen over lunch. We spin a wheel every day to see who gets to pick our lunch place that day. There are pretty elaborate rules to the lunch wheel but that’s when you’re most likely to try to screw your fellow co-workers. If you have veto power you can force everyone to eat whatever you want. We went to Popeyes three times last year. It made some writers pretty mad.
CA: I’m a vegetarian. If someone picks Popeye’s, I get a kick out of the trouble it causes and I find it entertaining. But when the food gets here and I can’t eat anything, it does piss me off a little. None of it is a big deal because the superstar writers’ PA Kate will give me petty cash to go to the commissary and get a salad.
Paste: Tell us about the elaborate lunch wheel rules!
PM: I don’t dare describe all the rules of the wheel. The big basics are: Everyone’s name is in a space, you spin it and whoever it lands on gets to pick where we go to lunch. If you want to veto their choice, it costs 10 bucks. If you want to veto the veto, it costs 20 bucks.
Where it gets interesting is with the IRON VETO — if you spin the wheel, and call the name of who it lands on, you get an iron veto. It can’t be vetoed and people must bow down to your lunch choice no matter what!
CA: Peter seems to have Machiavellian wheel skills that I think must come with years of experience.
EW: The wheel is great. It can get really good and contentious sometimes. For instance, one day I had an iron veto. Myself and two others had a plan to iron veto whatever choice came up and make everyone eat Taco Bell. We thought it would be funny! But as it came time to launch the plan, the vibe in the room was bad. People had been sick, others were complaining about gaining weight and eating too much junk. Taco Bell was not going to be funny. So two of us chickened out and the third guy went solo with the plan, trying to make an entire writers’ room eat Taco Bell for lunch. As you probably know, Hollywood writers’ rooms LOVE their salads. This poor guy was thrown to the wolves with this suggestion. His character was questioned. He was yelled at. I felt like he was going to get thrown across the room. And the other guy and I just kept our heads down and let him take the beating. True cowards. With no back-up, he lost Taco Bell. And I think we had Sharky’s (which is writers’ room Taco Bell), so in the end … it still felt like a win.
airs on CBS on Mondays at 9/8pm.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy