How to Make a Republic of Doyle Finale in 8 Simple Steps
April 18, 2013By Leah Collins
Last year's Republic of Doyle finale served up a trifecta of cliffhangers plus an exploding GTO, and with Season 4 ending Sunday, April 21, there's only one way to jack the stakes: double that action.
This one's going to be a two-hour finale, Doylies - sort of like a Republic of Doyle TV movie - and what we see Sunday will take us into Season 5.
Now, five seasons is all Doyle's creator/star/head-writer/producer/etc. Allan Hawco envisioned when he first pitched the show, but that doesn't necessarily mean Jake's story is in its final chapter.
"We're developing Season 5 now, and we have been for months and months and months," he told CBC Live earlier this April. "And we came across what our original plan was, and we're not there yet."
("There" being the end of Doyle, and they still have several plot points to reach on that proverbial map.) "Which is great," he says, "because there's a lot more to tell."
Plotting and preparation is what it takes to make a season of Republic of Doyle - and, ultimately, what it takes to make a Republic of Doyle finale.
But what's the full process, step by step? Allan Hawco breaks it down:
Put head writer Alan Hawco, executive story consultant Perry Chafe and a writing team of "1,2,3,4,5,6,7 people" in a room that's about 200 square feet and see what happens.
Here's where it really begins. Everyone in the writing room shares ideas for where the season might lead. "They pitch me an idea for a story, what they think, or I bring them what I want to do and direct them with what the story is going to be," says Hawco. "We talk about what the personal arcs for the season are going to be, how it's going to fit in that episode."
Time to boost your TV vocabulary: when TV writers "break" a story, it doesn't mean they're first to publish some spoiler scoop. (Leave that variety of "breaking story" to the fan sites.) Rather, breaking a story means mapping a story act by act. Think of it as the Republic of Doyle blueprint, the guide that's going to determine what happens to Jake, Mal, Leslie, Des and anyone else you can name in the season to come. And every point in the story gets jotted on an index card, which the team pins to their office wall. (If the story needs a map, it might as well look like one.) Eventually, says Hawco, "every wall's covered in index cards, so it looks like Russell Crowe's brain from A Beautiful Mind."
The answer, courtesy of Hawco: "Usually right away. Usually you develop the finale at the same time you develop the premiere. That's the best way. You should always know where you're starting and where you're going to end. You have to be open to change, and you have to be open for a better idea, and you have to be open for, you know, what's the most organic thing that's going to happen. But almost exclusively, it ends up being the same idea that you started with."
OK, cool. Back to step...
Another vocabulary boost for you: A beat sheet is an episode's rough outline. For every step of the plot, there'll be a bullet point. Basically, it's what happens when you take all those index cards on the wall and put them on paper. But before the story makes the beat sheet, Hawco says he's passed over the wall "probably three times." And when he gets that final beat sheet, he scans the story skeleton yet again, this time making notes for the writer (which might be him).
No matter whose name is on that script, here's what Hawco says happens next: "There's a first draft, second draft, my notes, my rewrites, CBC's notes, second draft, my notes, CBC's notes, rewrites."
When Hawco does a rewrite, he says he's mostly tweaking the script's voice. (Four seasons in, the writing team knows the Doyle world well, so he's increasingly hands off.)
Still, there are several items to keep in mind during all those drafts. Creating a script that can actually be produced on budget and on time is a major consideration. You can't go obliterating GTOs every episode, never mind the undue emotional trauma it would cause poor Jake.
Also: Doyle has a signature style to consider. The finale might be a cliffhanger, but it's easy to watch any Doyle episode and pick up on the story. Every week is a new adventure, and that seemingly old-fashioned structure is all by design. "That episodic nature, by people being able to drop in every week, is really important because we're a network television show," Hawco says.
If Doyle were on cable, maybe it would be more of a serial. And even though fans can binge-watch old episodes on CBC.ca, Doyle is mindful that it's appointment viewing.
"I don't want to kick people out, loyal followers, because they have lives to live and they miss the week before. I don't want them to feel behind," Hawco says. "They should just think, 'Hey, this is a rock 'n' roll episode.'"
Once a script is finalized, anyone who needs one gets one. Sure, that includes the actors, but also the crew, the set designers, the costume designers, everyone. "That's the document that they work from," says Hawco, so everything that's on those pages, he explains, should be something the whole team can execute. "The machine is so big, it's 170 people moving around creating this world for you. They're all there to serve the story, and you need to give them the tools they need to help you."
There are approximately 5,427,943 steps involved in the further production of an episode, so we'll just direct you to this collection of CBC Live's greatest Republic of Doyle set visits, and have you infer what you will. Self-guided learning!
Republic of Doyle Set Tour with Krystin Pellerin:
VIDEO: Republic of Doyle Stars Talk Series, New Season and Newfoundland:
EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Russell Crowe on the Set of Republic of Doyle:
"The cool thing about the finale is I've been setting it up all season," says Hawco. "I've been setting up these threads from these characters that are introduced at the beginning of the season, the middle and the end and they all sort of come out in this finale.
"We have a very exciting ending, but the story to get us there for me is so cool. I think it's our best finale hands down."
Watch Republic of Doyle's two-hour Season 4 finale Sunday, April 21 at 8 p.m./8:30 NT on CBC.