Of all the creative areas such as music, painting, architecture, etc. writing / scripts are probably the most abused art form! A lot of people don't realize that when a person creates a story in a script, it's not "chiseled in stone." Is there such a thing as written on water? Basically once a script is sold to a company, it becomes the property of that company and the scriptwriter is paid like when you pay Home Depot for a sheet of plywood. Home Depot doesn't have any say in what you do to their former property. You take the plywood home and cut it up into pieces to make it work for you. Well, they do the same thing with a script--only there are lots of carpenters doing the cutting: The director cuts, changes, rewrites according to his/her "vision," the producer changes the script for image, liability or just because they can, and finally the actor changes the script because "My character would never say that line!" The script could even be changed because the right location couldn't be found, the weather changed, or the time of day changed. So you have a creative work that has many hands molding it. Most people wouldn't think of adding another palm tree to a painting or tell a composer to change the key to B-flat, but scripts seem to be fair game for a lot of input. That said, you can't do without them!
In episodic TV (like Magnum), right about the time you start filming an episode, a new script arrives in your box. Given that you are up to your neck with the current show, there is a real temptation to just leave the script where it is for awhile. However, it's not going to go away so it's in your best interest to read it asap for any possible "Are they out of their minds??!!" problems waiting and to give a heads up if you see an advance problem for your department. On Magnum there were some directors where I automatically doubled my budget regardless of the script requirements!
Before you even finish the new script, colored pages will appear in your box again--these are revisions. I forget the color sequence they have for 1st revision, 2nd revision, 3rd, 4th, etc. but it's something like blue pages, pink pages, green pages, yellow pages--whatever. Sometimes they will just say "Pinks are out" (which means they're in!) and that means more revisions. Sometimes these revisions are dialogue and they have changed "I can't go now." to "I can't go there now." This generates a new script cover sheet, contents sheet, and then the actual page with the dialogue change--and another tree gives its life for this valuable contribution to society. Of course they don't tell you what the actual changes are (you have to read them), but 95% of the time, it didn't affect me. In the pre-cell phone (pager only dark ages), I was once stuck in rush hour traffic on a freeway in L.A. My pager went off with the production office number and the dreaded "911" following. Fearing an emergency, I got off the freeway in a not so good area, found a pay phone, realized I was standing in a puddle of urine, called the production office only to find out that they had put "green pages" in my box! I needed to know this NOW??? This is why P.A.'s (production assistants) are sometimes found wearing concrete shoes and not on land. So as each new color comes out, you dutifully take your old pages out and put your new pages in your 3 ring binder. Then they will issue a new, revised entire script and you start all over again with more revisions. I think we're up to losing a forest by now! It's very embarrassing to be at production meeting where we PAINFULLY go through the entire script page by page (while your entire crew is waiting for you to dress a set at a distant location) and discover while everyone else has turned to their blue page, you are still have the old pink page and obviously not with the program. Wow, I am getting pretty detailed with all this! Moving on...........
On most shows, the scripts arrive mysteriously from a mainland production office--by mail or eventually fax on Magnum--by the internet now. However, Magnum was blessed with having a resident writer / story editor / eternally nice person named Chris Abbott-Fish. (I think the Fish name has since swum away). She wrote several scripts and rewrote others in residence at the studio. If there was ever a problem with a script, it could be handled (usually) quickly in house. I always enjoyed our infrequent meetings, but if anyone ever had a smile on their face at that studio it was her.
While I have no script writer inclinations or experience--there is a sort of template they stick to. God knows I could never stick to any formula the way I go on and on. There are things like "conflict" and "resolution" and other standard items that need to happen between commercial breaks. This is nothing new. I remember in college studying Greek drama and the professor used "Bonanza" as an example of Greek tragedy. When he broke it down into protagonist and antagonist and the other aspects of Greek theatre that I have since forgotten, there is a formula that is followed to some degree. Obviously you have to be a good writer to make it original, unique and interesting. Of course a few "f-words" and a couple of car explosions with really loud dialogue seems to help. Yeah, I know.........
So while we were shooting a current script, the next script would come out--it would be rare to have a 3rd one at the same time. Sometimes if there was a really difficult one, there might be a partial script, but rarely. Casting or production obviously had scripts before the worker bees got them. We would be too busy prepping the next episode to be able to deal with more than one ahead anyway. Each script had a cover sheet with all the usual info: writer, producer, director, production company, name episode number, dates, warnings, etc. Each script page would have the scene number on the left and ride side of the page and the page number at the top right corner. Basic action comments HE HOLDS UP HIS HAT or camera CLOSE UP ON HAND or location / time EXT. SURF SHACK - LATER are indicated along with the actual dialogue. A MOW (movie of the week) script is about 100 pages. An episodic TV script is around 60 pages. You hear "page count" as a reference to how many pages are supposed to be shot that day. If you have a 64 page, 1 hour script with an 8 day schedule, you better be shooting 8 pages a day. That's a lot for a 12 hour day and you better not have any company moves within that day. So you might have a 6 page day or an 8 page day depending on what they are filming. Some pages can go to 2nd unit. That means an entirely different and smaller film crew will go out and film the Ferrari driving up to the Kamehameha Club with a stand-in driving. Or a close-up of the bad guys shoes climbing the stairs (also a stand in) or the car crash, etc. Basically any photography not involving principal actors--or at least it's not supposed to be (but often is).
Feature films might only do 2 or 3 pages a day and have a 150 page script. And you wonder why you pay $10 to see a crappy movie? It's not all going to Nicole. A TV show with lot of permanent sets can go faster--the lights may already be in place and it's a routine for the actors. TV sitcoms with only 1 or 2 sets often do a taping in one night in front of a live audience--or at least they used to. These are sometimes called "3 camera shows" where they might actually be using 3 cameras at the same time--a wide shot "master," a close up, and maybe a side shot or a "2 shot." Obviously nothing is live / "one take" anymore so even if they mess up in front of an actual studio audience, they can always do another take or two and still finish on time more or less.
Ok, drifting off of scripts now so I guess it's time to close another time busting block buster of a blog post that sort of had something to do with "Magnum, P.I."!
P.S. Keep in mind that a "One Hour" script is really only about 50 minutes or even less for commercials. As was once said to me, "TV shows are the filler between commercials." That reminds of of a t-shirt I never wore to work: "Theatre is Art. Television is Furniture" Well, that was before the digital era so I may have to draw you a picture to explain.