- JAY: Gloria and I met the day my ex-wife moved to Florida. I was feeling pretty emotional and Gloria was one of the bikini bartenders at the giant pool party I threw.
(This reminds me of the great scene in “Mad Men” where Don introduces his new wife Megan and she feels she must interject that they didn’t meet until after the divorce, then instantly regrets it: She realizes that defensiveness just makes her look bad, and calls attention to the fact that her relationship is still inappropriate in other ways: the age difference, marrying his secretary, etc.)
This confirms two rules: Define your heroes by their current actions and attitudes as opposed to their backstory, and only reveal that backstory if it’s ironic. The backstory they originally included for Jay and Gloria was entirely unironic: in fact, it’s exactly what we’d expect. This makes it feel utterly unnecessary, inserted just to tell us information.
The final pilot includes an “origin story” for only one character, Claire, because she’s the only one with an ironic backstory: We hear that she was a wild girl in high school, which ironically contrasts with her current behavior. That’s the kind of backstory you need to reveal (and the only kind you should reveal).
I love the ironic backstory rule. So many writers need to learn this. It all comes from one of your pillars: irony creates meaning.
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