By Greg Roth

CNN examines collaboration inside 3 writers rooms

Sometimes “innovation” or new ideas aren’t the result of major “a-ha” moments. Often, they’re just a result of honesty, and a little bit of cliche-killing.

CNN has an interesting, too brief story on the process inside the writers rooms of 3 hit comedies — “Insecure” “Fresh Off the Boat”, and “Black-ish” — all with race-related themes.

The full story, with a video look into these rooms, is here, but a few excerpts:

“Insecure” showrunner Prentice Penny talked about finding new viewpoints on familiar themes:

Once those yes-it-happened-to-me stories are shared, the real work begins. “It’s almost like taking Play-Doh,” Penny said. “You put it in your hands and you say, ‘This could be anything.’ Then your hands start to shape it into a story. You talk about if this feels predictable (and) how do you turn it on its head. … How do you make it unique or take something they have seen and do it in our way?”

On “Fresh Off the Boat”, showrunner Nahnatchka Khan, whose family is from Iran, is channeling the pressure of a 20-year gap from when an Asian family was last seen in primetime TV.

“If anything, I want ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ to be remembered as the series that showed people that the experience they hadn’t seen before was (still) relatable,” Khan said. “I think that would be an amazing thing.”

Finally, on the show Blackish, writers reflect on the difficult process of testing new thoughts and ideas that may seem a little too raw and unnerving at first.

The room is filled with talented writers who all want their ideas and stories to end up on the small screen…Getting there, though, can sometimes mean opening up with deeply personal stories.

“I spoke about being biracial and my feelings of not being completely open to the idea of my black son dating a white woman,” Henry said. “I think the room was really confused as to how I, as a biracial woman, could say that I had a preference for my black son to date a black woman.”

Not only did the conversation get intense in the writers’ room, but Henry said after the episode she brought her white father to the set and had what was for her an uncomfortable conversation.

It’s those types of stories and the reactions from viewers that thrill Barris.

“That’s been sort of the biggest compliment that I’ve gotten,” he said. “People say I was afraid to talk about this and your show made me open up and have a conversation with my friend or son or whatever, and I think that’s success for us.”

It’s an interesting tightrope to walk. These shows are mining personal experience for material, yet most collaborative environments to treat ideas as impersonal in initial talks. A healthy distance — and an aversion to personal judgement — are hallmarks of the middle phase of creative problem solving. Humanity treated clinically.

While story may lack some details about how these things are accomplished, the video demonstrates some evidence of open dialogue on ideas, keeping in mind that the goals isn’t to be right, it’s to be fresh, honest, and committed to coming up with some level of underappreciated truth.