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How a TV Writers’ Room Entertains Their Kids in Quarantine

Photo: HBO

Last week David Mandel, the showrunner for the recently wrapped-up HBO Emmy-magnet Veep, reached out to his former staff. They’re just as confused as the rest of us.

March 15 at 1:40 a.m. 
David Mandel: Hope everyone is doing OK.

March 15 at 2:45 p.m.
Billy Kimball: Austin developed a renewed interest in Fortnite just in the nick of time and is now interacting with a nice group of friends in Florida from a safe distance of 3,000 miles.

March 15 at 3:33 p.m.
Alex Gregory: I am slowly losing my mind and developing unhealthy fixations. For example, the unnecessary and incessant use of the phrase “price point” on House Hunters in place of the word “price” may drive me to self-immolation. Other than that, kids are doing great, enjoying old movies — Rear Window went over well last night.

March 15 at 3:34 p.m.
David Mandel: We did Splash on night one — holds up and John Candy even funnier than you remember. Night 2: Frozen 2 — eh.

March 15 at 3:36 p.m.
Alex Gregory: Midnight Run went over HUGE. Now in Kaitlyn’s all time top 5. Opened the Pandora’s box of South Park. Blew their minds.

March 15 at 3:37 p.m.
David Mandel: I need my kids to be a touch older I think. I will save South Park for year 3 of the quarantine.

March 15 at 4:07 p.m.
Gabrielle Allan: Splash! Great idea! So is Rear Window! Need more. Keep them coming. We tried Frozen 2 twice. I fell asleep during both attempts. Started watching Babylon Berlin. Anyone seen it?

March 15 at 4:08 p.m.
David Mandel: was trying to find a show a la Stranger Things, that we could all watch, but no success so far.

March 15 at 4:08 p.m.
Gabrielle Allan: We’re watching Midnight Run tonight. Thank you. Great idea. I let them watch South Park. Is Team America too much for 13 and 16? Or not enough?

March 15 at 4:09 p.m.
Gabrielle Allan: Schitt’s Creek is pretty funny. We’re watching that with Sam. Bob’s Burgers always a crowd-pleaser. Nathan for You is great.

March 15 at 4:53 p.m.
Billy Kimball: Loved The Terror but maybe not for younger kids.

March 15 at 4:55 p.m.
Billy Kimball: If you like reality shows, Below Deck is consistently entertaining. 

March 15 at 6:47 p.m.
Dan O’Keefe: Team America is pretty hardcore, even for 16.

March 15 at 6:48 p.m.
Dan O’Keefe: I really like Devs so far.

March 15 at 6:49 p.m.
Jennifer Crittenden: [Waiting for] Guffman went over well but I had disastrous results with 2 movies that I thought would be winners: Defending Your Life had a much slower pace than I remember and the charms of Albert Brooks were lost on Maisie and PJ. And we shut down Roxanne within the first 10 minutes.

March 15 at 6:52 p.m.
Lew Morton: I had a bunch of movies cued up, but my kids vetoed them all in favor of Phineas and Ferb.

March 15 at 6:53 p.m.
David Mandel: I was thinking about Roxanne. Ugh. They find everything too slow.

March 15 at 6:55 p.m.
Jennifer Crittenden: I didn’t remember Roxanne being such a vanity piece for Steve Martin. The whole first scene is him beating up 2 drunk ski bros with a tennis racquet, for no apparent reason. Then, after he lets Naked Daryl Hannah back into her house he makes himself at home with a cheese plate and some wine. Super creepy.

March 15 at 6:57 p.m.
Dan O’Keefe: To wit, we tried the animated Watership Down from the 80s, that I recalled really liking. Made it halfway through. Nikos said it is the worst movie ever.

March 15 at 7:00 p.m.
Billy Kimball: Everything I loved as a kid is either muuuuuuuch too slow for my kids (Sound of Music) or nowhere near as funny as I thought it was originally (Monty Python) or you gotta be kidding me (How Green Was My Valley). They even find current “adult” films (e.g. Ford vs. Ferrari) to be too slow and in need of too much Daddy explanations. Austin watched a glass-blowing competition on Netflix for a minute or two and I found it kind of amazing. They all still like Survivor.

March 15 at 7:06 p.m.
Billy Kimball: Thanks for the John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch tip, Lew. My kids and wife loved it. For my part, I find lots of contemporary films too slow. I’m sure Parasite and JoJo Rabbit were excellent and all but I didn’t make it very far in before I had to leave and go look at Twitter for two hours.

March 15 at 7:07 p.m.
Alex Gregory: Wes Anderson stuff like Moonrise Kingdom and Rushmore played really well with my kiddos. Mean Girls also worked. John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch was a big hit, as was New in Town.

March 15 at 7:15 p.m.
Billy Kimball: Fernanda loved Mean Girls and has watched it ten times. Also Step Brothers. And both To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and its sequel. She says it’s really sweet but also corny.

March 15 at 7:32 p.m.
Gabrielle Allan: Guffman went over really well over here. Have you guys tried Airplane? My kids loved it. Something About Mary went over well too.

March 15 at 7:40 p.m.
Gabrielle Allan: What I’m getting from all of this is that Alex’s kids are better and more sophisticated than mine.

March 15 at 7:32 PM
Alex Gregory: Hah! Hardly. We played with Legos today. Which, if things keep going the way they’re going, may be my full time job.

March 15 at 7:54 p.m.
Billy Kimball: Best in Show worked for Alexandra and Fernanda because of strong dog show interest. Austin watches endless hours of Simpsons on autoplay and Fernanda will sometimes do the same with Gilmore Girls, Friends, and The Office.

March 15 at 9:52 p.m.
Ted Cohen: Look at you all with your well-behaved TV-watching children. Sylvie won’t watch TV since she saw the Steven Tyler Skittles football commercial two years ago, which permanently scarred her.

March 15 at 9:53 p.m.
David Mandel: Well that made me laugh.

March 15 at 10:46 p.m.
Rachel Axler: We watch zero anything, and I can’t wait until Everly is old enough to hate the movies we love.

March 15 at 10:48 p.m.
Lew Morton: The kids walked in as I was watching Raising Arizona by myself and they stayed and enjoyed it! Either their tastes are not so different from mine, or they’re so happy to be allowed to watch tv in the middle of the day they’ll enjoy anything.

March 15 at 11:26 p.m.
David Mandel: I was thinking about Raising Arizona as well. Was also thinking about a best of SNL to try and show the kids that

March 15 at 11:56 p.m.
Gabrielle Allan: Our dinner conversation devolved into me asking, “What if Oskar Schindler didn’t care?” So, my takeaway is that my kids suck and I’m a terrible parent. But I’ll try Raising Arizona.

March 16 at 12:06 a.m.
David Mandel: Tonight for us: Beverly Hills Cop.

March 16 at 12:23 a.m.
Alex Gregory: Our girls loved Raising Arizona. For SNL, the Jack Black episode (King Kong Song, Spelling Bee) is a favorite. Now I realize we watch too much fucking TV.

March 17 at 12:39 p.m.
Lew Morton: All we watch now is the Key and Peele East vs. West Game extended cinematic universe.

March 17 at 12:43 p.m.
David Mandel: We split Bev Hills Cop into two nights. Beverly Hills Cop say “fuck” waaaay more than either I remember or they should, but Eddie Murphy is funny to all generations it turns out.

March 17 at 12:48 p.m.
Alex Gregory: Olivia and I are watching the Eagles documentary, her request.

March 17 at 12:53 p.m.
David Mandel: Oh to be young again and get to watch the Eagles doc for the first time!

March 17 at 12:23 p.m.
Ian Maxtone-Graham: My / our childless watching, this week:

Oldboy (the most definitely not for kids masterpiece I’ve ever seen)
Kill Bill 1 & 2
City of God
The Women

All pretty good

Curb — it’s a good season
Better Things
Pen15 (which may be great for girls. Dunno)
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

Pretty good, and streaming soon I think:

Emma (I think great for girls. Kind of a ripoff of Clueless though)
First Cow
Invisible Man

March 17 at 1:27 p.m.
David Mandel: City of God is sooo good.

How a TV Writers’ Room Entertains Their Kids in Quarantine