April 2, 2018

"My personal sense of the show was that the first half dozen episodes were too freighted with Presidential heroism."

"It seemed that every episode was an exercise in saving the world, with virtually no attention paid to the reality that even the most powerful person on earth – the President of the United States – is faced daily with the frustrating limits of that awesome power. Their were other issues as well, including overly melodramatic 'B' stories involving the President’s children – an eight year old daughter and twin teenage siblings (brother and sister), as well as a whole bunch of satellite characters who were truly under characterized and under served. Nevertheless, as fantasized as the show ['Commander in Chief'] was, and as much as there were elements in it I didn’t much care for, there was something fundamentally appealing about the show. It had a good heart. It wanted to be a hit, in spite of itself. It had real stars in Geena Davis, and the remarkable Donald Sutherland, as her antagonist....

"Donald Sutherland... had had strong opinions and feelings about every single word of every single script we wrote... And yet... [h]e was a delightful man, erudite and intelligent, and we often found ourselves engaged in deep conversations about world affairs, politics, and our personal lives. Geena was altogether another story. I would get long, detailed critiques of our scripts, and copious notes and questions about every scene she was in. Okay, I get it. She’s the star of the show. She’s being protective of her character. Fair enough. But I would almost always get these tomes about particular scenes on the morning of the day we were to shoot them. It was virtually impossible to carry on a dialogue since a) she was on the stage already doing the work, and b) there simply wasn’t time to intelligently debate and/or alter the scenes without stopping production.... Geena was severely undermining our efforts on her behalf, and it was clear that while she wouldn’t outright say it, she was definitely not on board with the direction in which I was steering the show. It was inevitable then, that the network started hectoring me about the scripts, in eerie lockstep with Geena’s objections...."

From "Truth is a Total Defense: My Fifty Years in Television," by Steven Bochco, which I just put in my Kindle, for reasons discussed in the previous post.

Questions I invite you to discuss:

Was there any sexism in Bochco's comfort with Donald Sutherland and resistance to Geena Davis? Do you think a powerful man might accept critique from another man but experience the same kind of contribution from a woman as annoying and chaotic?

Do women — or did just Geena Davis — tend to have a more chaotic, irritating way of attempting to contribute to a joint project?

Do you think that playing the role of President of the United States affected the mind of Geena Davis, creating something of a delusion that she could, even at the last minute, imperiously expect that things would be done her way?

Do you think that being President of the United States creates a delusion that you can instantly and imperiously expect that things will be done your way?

Do you think the actual President of the United States feels something like an actor playing the part of President of the United States and that has created something of a delusion that he's doing a TV show and a TV show President of the United States would act like a major film-star diva given a TV show where she gets to play President of the United States and acts like a big drama queen annoyingly, chaotically, and imperiously expecting everyone to go along with whatever spontaneously rises to the surface of her big brain at any given moment? (By the way, both Geena Davis and Donald Trump are people who claim to have a very, very high IQ.)

Do you think that the Trump presidency suffers from the same problem Steven Bochco detected in the scripts for "Commander in Chief" — and makes every episode "an exercise in saving the world, with virtually no attention paid to the reality that even the most powerful person on earth – the President of the United States – is faced daily with the frustrating limits of that awesome power"?

59 comments:

rehajm said...

Madam Secretary exists to soften our revulsion to the idea of 'President Hillary Clinton'.

tcrosse said...

Donald Sutherland: another damn Canadian.

Michael K said...

Gee a Davis was good in Hero, one of my favorite movies. I haven' seen her since.

Ralph L said...

He didn't say when Donald S critiqued his lines, but obviously Geena pissed him off, probably by waiting until the last minute and then sending them over his head.

Michael K said...

Geena

Ralph L said...

Sandy Bergler was an advisor, no wonder it failed.

Unknown said...

My guess is that Bochco would have been equally irritated with a male star delivering ‘copious notes’ on the morning of shooting... and would have characterized such behavior with a word like “diva”. -willie

robother said...

Geena Davis probably developed this technique of last minute critique for the same reasons that Trump perfected his diva routine at the negotiating table. As a lawyer I hated the chaos of the pre-closing tantrum, but I have to acknowledge that it is usually quite successful at extracting concessions from corporate and banking players who are already counting their commissions or cash-outs.

Annie C said...

I came here to say the same thing as Ralph and Unknown said; She delivered copious notes the morning they were shooting. It's the timing not the sex.

Ralph L said...

Rob Lowe was supposed to be a central character on The West Wing, but the heroic Bartlett sucked the oxygen out of him (and others) and he left.

tcrosse said...

It's unlikely we'll ever see an American version of In the Thick of It. Sad,

Unknown said...

There’s also the possibility of some sensitivity or defensiveness of male writers regarding their female character creations. -willie

sinz52 said...

Many, perhaps most, actors with a reputation of being hard to work with are male.

In "Tootsie," Dustin Hoffman played an actor with a reputation of being hard to work with. Hoffman really did have that reputation himself.

Other actors with a reputation of being hard to work with (sometimes even freaking out on the set while filming) include Christian Bale, Bruce Willis, Gene Hackman, Chevy Chase, and Val Kilmer.

The Germans Have A Word For That. said...

I bet if I wrote a TV show about a female law professor in the midwest who wrote a quirky blog, and Althouse was cast in the role, she would have a lot of notes given to me about the dialogue I wrote for her.

But I bet she wouldn't wait until the last minute, like Geena.

As to: "Do women — or did just Geena Davis — tend to have a more chaotic, irritating way of attempting to contribute to a joint project?"

I think a lot of women fit the chaotic way of attempting to contribute to a joint project.

The part of it being irritating is the male response.

Many women do not function well in the concept of a team, because that requires sacrificing their individual feelings to the bigger purpose. Men have rough-housed their way as children into accepting such roles as adults.

Except the ones who abstained from rough-housing as a child: they function much like women, too.

And, of course, women function as a team in women's basketball. But those are all lesbians.

The Germans have a word for this.

Saint Croix said...

Was there any sexism in Bochco's comfort with Donald Sutherland and resistance to Geena Davis?

To know that you would have to ask him when Sutherland made his opinions known, as that seems to be the real annoyance.

I would almost always get these tomes about particular scenes on the morning of the day we were to shoot them.

It sounds like she was giving detailed, in depth critical response on particular scenes the morning they were shooting those scenes. That's a recipe for being ignored, since shooting would be delayed and costs would escalate dramatically. And then she went over the show runner's head to the network, which is clearly what pissed him off.

And it sounds like Sutherland gave his criticisms over supper or some other more relaxed time. Since they talked about many off-topic subjects (which you wouldn't do in the middle of a film shoot).

he was a delightful man, erudite and intelligent, and we often found ourselves engaged in deep conversations about world affairs, politics, and our personal lives.

Presumably he wasn't having these fascinating dinner conversations with Geena Davis. We might call that "sexism" but it's simply a fact that if you ask a person of the opposite sex to dine with you, she suspects sex is afoot. (And often it is, for instance Bochco married one of his actresses).

There are ways around this. For instance the show-runner and the two stars could have had dinner together. (And this was probably the show-runner's fault as much as the star's).

traditionalguy said...

Can the Orange Clown chew gum and walk at the same time ? Concerned people want to ask that question over and over. But we know he juggles his back channel into Putin’s headquarters and still smoothly plays President. We need to ask that serious question over and over.

George Spix said...

Tantrums. Strange how they all kept coming back for more abuse and wanting him on their side of the table when negotiating.. Perhaps because each knew how abusive they’d have to be to get the geese to lay more golden eggs for them to harvest. Bankrupt? Trump penniless, yippee? anyone of them could have stepped into his shoes right? Even now? Yet the don’t. How unfair. Like the Godfather whose enforcers left horse’s heads in their bed.

Saint Croix said...

Cop Rock is rumored to be spectacularly bad.

It sounds so bad I kinda want to see it.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastian said...

"Was there any sexism in Bochco's comfort with Donald Sutherland and resistance to Geena Davis?" No.

"Do you think a powerful man might accept critique from another man but experience the same kind of contribution from a woman as annoying and chaotic?" He might, but apparently not in this case.

"Do women — or did just Geena Davis — tend to have a more chaotic, irritating way of attempting to contribute to a joint project?" Far be it from me to stereotype the weaker sex.

"Do you think that playing the role of President of the United States affected the mind of Geena Davis" No. Just a diva doing her diva thing.

"Do you think that being President of the United States creates a delusion that you can instantly and imperiously expect that things will be done your way?" No. The opposite.

Saint Croix said...

Also I would like to say that I had the right answer at 8:24.

But my copious notes slowed me down.

Bay Area Guy said...

Geena Davis - pain in the ass.

George Spix said...

Or is it just envy of JFK's conga line of groupies, women and men lined up to jump into his and older brother's bed? Free love, don't you know? Every age has it's heroes and tragic figures, in hindsight. Feet of clay. Which everyman understands without being able to admit it, applies to them as well, and always will.

The Germans Have A Word For That. said...

"I bet if I wrote a TV show about a female law professor in the midwest who wrote a quirky blog, and Althouse was cast in the role, she would have a lot of notes given to me about the dialogue I wrote for her."

The lead character is a female law professor in the midwest who writes a quirky blog in her spare time.

She falls in love with a brash real-estate developer.

Who, to the surprise of almost everybody, becomes President of the United States.

Hijinks ensue when she has to explain to him about law and the Constitution and why he can't always get what he wants the moment he wants it.

Meanwhile, she continues to writer her blog, detailing her new life in the White House. She approaches things on her blog with a cruel neutrality, which often causes the media heads to explode, and occasionally, the head of her husband.

I could so write dialogue for that.

The Germans have a word for this.

Saint Croix said...

Geena Davis' career, and her husband's career, and her marriage, were all wrecked by Cutthroat Island, the girl pirate movie.

It's a fun movie, about as much fun as The Long Kiss Goodnight. But it wrecked her career, and his career, and their marriage. Good popcorn flick, but it cost $98 million, and grossed $10 million in the USA.

Inga said...

“Do you think the actual President of the United States feels something like an actor playing the part of President of the United States and that has created something of a delusion that he's doing a TV show and a TV show President of the United States would act like a major film-star diva given a TV show where she gets to play President of the United States and acts like a big drama queen annoyingly, chaotically, and imperiously expecting everyone to go along with whatever spontaneously rises to the surface of her big brain at any given moment?”

Yes. The delusion he creates is in his own brain. Millions of people are not under the influence of his delusions, thankfully.

Mike said...

Geena was excellent in Beetlejuice. I even enjoyed her co-star Alec whats-his-name too. Almost always have to stop down and watch when I come across it, at least until the seance scene.

rcocean said...

He's just expressing a dislike of the passive-aggressive approach many women take. They don't want to talk things out "Man-to-man". Instead, their natural inclination is to "go tell teacher" and get the authority on their side, or criticize indirectly.

I've seen this is business, where women will NOT speak up in a meeting or conference despite encouragement - but the men will. Later, the women will then go behind everyone's back and voice their objections.

Its like the rape/sexual harassment - the poor dears need years to drum up the courage to speak out, and then only after a half-dozen "sisters" have gone first.

Saint Croix said...

Here is Bumpty, Bumpty

Hill Street Blues fans should probably avoid watching Let's Be Careful Out There

And here is Bochco talking about the audience response

"the most fun I ever had"

Saint Croix said...

I like The Lineup. That's not bad at all.

But when they're bad, they're really bad.

Ralph L said...

I liked Cop Rock, but then I liked Galavant (in small doses).

Unknown said...

No recognition at all by Althouse in the questions of whether Davis was being passive-aggressive by just issuing edicts, rather than have an actual conversation, which Sutherland invested the time to try and change minds. And he's the villain. It's called "dialogue" for a reason.

gregq said...

Questions I invite you to discuss:

Was there any sexism in Bochco's comfort with Donald Sutherland and resistance to Geena Davis? Do you think a powerful man might accept critique from another man but experience the same kind of contribution from a woman as annoying and chaotic?

Well, that depends: did Sutherland only talk to Bochco at the last minute, like Davis? Is Bochco lying about what Davis did.

Because there's a rather large difference between "having a conversation when it will do you some good" and "whining after it's too late to change things."

I feel kind of embarrassed to have to make such an obvious point. But the only way that "sexism" could reasonable be inferred from this situation is if Bochco is lying

Char Char Binks said...

"Donald Sutherland... had strong opinions and feelings about every single word of every single script we wrote..."

I read an interview with another director whose major complaint about Sutherland was just that, and that he rewrote his own lines. It's a question of what each contributor is allowed to contribute, and who is ultimately in charge.

When you're a star, they let you do it.

Infinite Monkeys said...

Yes. The delusion he creates is in his own brain.

Your delusion is that this only applies to the current president.

Saint Croix said...

There are Commander in Chief clips on youtube.

Oh, wow. Worse than Cop Rock!

The show was created by Rod Lurie, who was responsible for The Contender. That screenplay is horrifying in its stupidity.

Anyway, apparently his show was #1? I've never heard of it. Anyway, even though it was #1, Lurie was fired because of cost overruns and shooting delays.

You can see the viewer numbers per episode here.

What it sounds like is Lurie was working with Geena Davis, rewriting the stuff she didn't like, reshooting stuff, causing cost overruns and shooting delays. So the network brought in Bochco to fix that problem. But Bochco has always been an ensemble guy: Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue.

Commander in Chief seems like it is very similar to Lurie's movie, The Contender, which is centered around a female hero.

Anyway, Lurie got fired, and then Bochco got fired. And then they brought in a third show runner, and a new time slot. And by that time the show had dropped from #1 to #70. And it was cancelled.

I have to say it's very strange that the show runner of a #1 show is fired. I guess maybe he was really running over budget. Or the other possibility is that Geena Davis wasn't happy with him, either.

Anyway, the clips I saw are horrible and boring.

If you want to time travel, here are the Republicans who were in a lather about this show back in 2005.

Saint Croix said...

On the other Bochco thread, Althouse writes…
<
Bochco was asked to take over, 2 years into the show's run (in 2007).

Somebody's making a mistake!

According to Wikipedia, Lurie was fired in the first season, right after the seventh episode, and Bochco took over (in 2005).

So either Althouse read it wrong, or Bochco remembered it wrong. Or Wikipedia is wrong, that's another possibility. I'm more inclined to trust Wikipedia on this, for some damn reason. No idea why. Maybe Rod Lurie is secretly editing Wikipedia to fix his reputation. Anyway, according to the internet, the show only lasted one season.

Also there were severe delays, as in, no shows at all in December. So if Rod Lurie is wondering why he got fired, that might be a reason.

Also, and Althouse will like this, when American Idol started up in January, Geena's show was toast. So Bochco can blame Geena and Geena can blame Bochco, but sometimes the train just runs over you and it's not anybody's fault. But go ahead and blame each other because those youtube clips are horrible. Worse than Cop Rock.

Yancey Ward said...

I think Commander in Chief was only the first show that tried to pave the way for Hillary! In 2005, Little Bush had began serving his last term, and Hillary! was seen as the the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic nominee in 2008- thus the idea for the show.

History repeated itself with Madame Secretary. Of course, Hillary! did manage to at least win the nomination this time. I hope to sell Hollywood on my new show concept I Zombie President to pave the way for Hillary!'s resurrection run in 2020.

Michael K said...

I had forgotten she was in Beetlejuice. She was pretty good in that.

Yancey Ward said...

She was also very good in David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, which is actually the movie that really launched her into the big time.

Karen of Texas said...

"Are you crying? Are you crying ? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!"
(A League Of Their Own)

Geena looked to have pretty decent form when she swung that bat, caught and tossed that ball... She really did catch that pop foul behind her back - the double couldn't do it. Props to her - and the other actresses - for spending eight hours a day, six days a week for seven and half months participating in baseball training to hone their mostly non-existent baseball skills. (Although Rosie O'Donnell was supposedly decent.)

FIDO said...

Why weren't these questions approached scientifically?

Does Gina Davis have a long reputation of being difficult to work with?

Does Donald Sutherland?

WHAT did she want changed? Was she forcing the story into Bartlett territory, where she is never wrong and always wins...or at least is always correct?

She is, at the end of the day, a high priced parrot. Her job is to read her lines, not write the story. Same as Donald.

If they want that creative control, put it in the contract at the start, not after signing on.

Ann Althouse said...

"'I would almost always get these tomes about particular scenes on the morning of the day we were to shoot them.' It sounds like she was giving detailed, in depth critical response on particular scenes the morning they were shooting those scenes. That's a recipe for being ignored, since shooting would be delayed and costs would escalate dramatically. And then she went over the show runner's head to the network, which is clearly what pissed him off. And it sounds like Sutherland gave his criticisms over supper or some other more relaxed time. Since they talked about many off-topic subjects (which you wouldn't do in the middle of a film shoot)."

Notice "almost always" — so it wasn't always the morning of the shoot, and "tomes" is plainly hyperbole. And he doesn't reveal when she got the script or how much the scripts were going against other things she'd said on earlier occasions. Maybe they were antagonizing her by ignoring her previous input and delivering the script late so her contribution could be rejected as impractically late. We don't know.

Also, Sutherland seemed to have had access to relaxed casual conversations, full of camaraderie with Bochco. He didn't even need to put it in writing. And maybe Sutherland getting his way in the new scripts and being given better and better material -- and it was the very stuff that was bothering President Geena.

A dynamic builds. There's complexity to this. Ironically, Bochco is credited with bringing complexity to the characters on a TV show, but isn't his book short on complexity?

I suspect the TV business was a male-dominated game, and the very intelligent Geena Davis rankled at it and felt inflated by her role as President. And here she is trashed in the book for her failure to submit in the conventional actress way.

But maybe it was her fault and she was completely unreasonable, late, and verbose.

Ann Althouse said...

I love this:

"The lead character is a female law professor in the midwest who writes a quirky blog in her spare time. She falls in love with a brash real-estate developer. Who, to the surprise of almost everybody, becomes President of the United States. Hijinks ensue when she has to explain to him about law and the Constitution and why he can't always get what he wants the moment he wants it. Meanwhile, she continues to write her blog, detailing her new life in the White House. She approaches things on her blog with a cruel neutrality, which often causes the media heads to explode, and occasionally, the head of her husband. I could so write dialogue for that."

I love it!

Especially "why he can't always get what he wants the moment he wants it"... because it evokes (intentionally?) Trump's puzzling music choice for the end of his speeches, the Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What You Want." I think Trump knows he can't give us what he's made some people think they want and expect to get, and builds in the adjustment, "you get what you need."

Ann Althouse said...

"Geena Davis' career, and her husband's career, and her marriage, were all wrecked by Cutthroat Island, the girl pirate movie."

Yes, and did you notice how everyone at the time just seemed to know how utterly stupid it was, in this day and age, to do a big-budget Hollywood movie about pirates? And then 8 years later the incredibly successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" began — and Johnny Depp got that amazingly lucrative ride.

How can you not feel drawn to feminist analysis when shit like that happens?

Gahrie said...


How can you not feel drawn to feminist analysis when shit like that happens?

Are you trying to say that Geena Davis (loved her in A League of Their Own) is even close to being as good an actor as Johnny Depp? or that her pirate movie was as good as The Pirates of the Caribbean?

isn't it possible that Geena's movie just sucked?

Gahrie said...

I suspect the TV business was a male-dominated game,

I bet it was dominated by the Jews too......

Ann Althouse said...

"Bochco was asked to take over, 2 years into the show's run (in 2007).' Somebody's making a mistake!"

Thanks. I did a correction (on the other post).

Ann Althouse said...

"And maybe Sutherland [was] getting his way in the new scripts and being given better and better material -- and it was the very stuff that was bothering President Geena. A dynamic builds. There's complexity to this. Ironically, Bochco is credited with bringing complexity to the characters on a TV show, but isn't his book short on complexity? "

This of Season 1 of "The Comeback," that great HBO series about an actress doing a reality show about making a TV sitcom. When the reality show airs, it is edited to frame her as the unreasonable actress and the guy who abused her comes off looking like an innocent victim. There, the complexity was shown by letting us see the "raw footage" of the reality show before the final edit.

Bochco's account is like the final edit of the show within the show on "The Comeback."

I should look up whether Geena Davis every told her side of it. But I'm suspicious (and admit I don't know what really happened).

Big Mike said...

Do you think that the Trump presidency suffers from the same problem Steven Bochco detected in the scripts for "Commander in Chief"

Nope. Donald Trump seems to be a fairly quick learner, and I think he grasped the limits of the presidency pretty rapidly. The problems he has to face, while challenging, are not “save the world” challenging: immigration, and California’s defiance of federal laws relating to immigration; North Korea, which may be getting resolved; trade; fixing the FBI and intelligence services; and Russia.

David-2 said...

"Do you think that playing the role of President of the United States affected the mind of Geena Davis"?

Maybe. But if playing a role affected her mind, than playing this role affected it first.

And probably more permanently.

gregq said...

Althouse writes:

Notice "almost always" — so it wasn't always the morning of the shoot, and "tomes" is plainly hyperbole. And he doesn't reveal when she got the script or how much the scripts were going against other things she'd said on earlier occasions. Maybe they were antagonizing her by ignoring her previous input and delivering the script late so her contribution could be rejected as impractically late. We don't know.

Sure. And maybe Tinkerbell hates Gina Davis, and waved her magic wand to make everyone be mean to Davis

That's about as reasonable and supported by the evidence as your hypothesis.


Also, Sutherland seemed to have had access to relaxed casual conversations, full of camaraderie with Bochco. He didn't even need to put it in writing. And maybe Sutherland getting his way in the new scripts and being given better and better material -- and it was the very stuff that was bothering President Geena.

Maybe instead of being an officious and demanding jerk, Sutherland was intelligent enough to work with the writer, rather than fight with him.

Did Davis take the time to get to know the writer, interact with him, get the writer to know him, and so give the writer reason to want to adopt her changes? Or was she just a whining diva who said "I'm the star, cater to me!"?


I suspect the TV business was a male-dominated game, and the very intelligent Geena Davis rankled at it and felt inflated by her role as President. And here she is trashed in the book for her failure to submit in the conventional actress way. "

I fail to see any evidence that she's "highly intelligent". Because intelligent people figure out how to get what they want. Which indicates that Sutherland (who figured out how to work the system) was intelligent, and Davis was not.


Yes, and did you notice how everyone at the time just seemed to know how utterly stupid it was, in this day and age, to do a big-budget Hollywood movie about pirates? And then 8 years later the incredibly successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" began — and Johnny Depp got that amazingly lucrative ride.

How can you not feel drawn to feminist analysis when shit like that happens?


Because I saw both movies, and "Pirates of the Caribbean" was infinitely superior to "Cutthroat Island."

You write "Pirates of the Caribbean", and I can instantly think of half a dozen funny scenes. You write "Cutthroat Island", and not a single scene pops to mind.

So unless "feminist analysis" says "men make infinitely superior products, and get rewarded for it, and that's not fair!", I don't see any relevance of it to the situation

langford peel said...


If she had just sucked his dick she would have got what she wanted.

It's called the Harvey Weinstein rules.

langford peel said...

Why do think a hideous hag like Chelsea Handler is always getting a new show?

langford peel said...

That's why her stand up comedy career failed. She couldn't blow the whole audience like she did the head of the network who gave her the first show. Not because she wouldn't do it....it was just the time constraint.

langford peel said...

Also your fantasy TV show is a terrible insult to Meade.

Unless the President was Chance the Gardener.

Rex said...

I always thought the show failed because there was no way to take it leftward. Geena's actions as CinC were always sensible and what a Republican president would do--the facts of the situations plus a common sense way of approaching the solution kinda dictated the outcome. And knowing of the actors' liberal leanings along with the Hollywood left, I always wondered how long the show would be able to last.

dwick said...

"Yes, and did you notice how everyone at the time just seemed to know how utterly stupid it was, in this day and age, to do a big-budget Hollywood movie about pirates? And then 8 years later the incredibly successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" began — and Johnny Depp got that amazingly lucrative ride.

How can you not feel drawn to feminist analysis when shit like that happens?"


You know... maybe everyone at the time was trying to be nice in saying it was a bad time to do a big-budget movie about pirates rather than just straight-out say 'Cutthroat Island' sucked and thus risk being labeled a misogynist sexist male-chauvinist pig by all the ornery feminist analysts out there (of which we know at least one...)

Zach said...

I once read a description of the arbitration process in baseball contracts written by Bill James, who consulted on several arbitration cases.

The way the arbitration process works is that both sides present their case and the arbitrator must choose either the player's number or the team's. He can't choose a number in between, just because it seems more fair than the two choices he has. However, at any point up until the arbitrator files his decision, the two sides can strike a deal at any number they want.

James pointed out that there are two basic strategies you can follow:
1) You can research comparable salaries and pick a number that's pretty close to the fair value. James calls that filing to win. People who file to win are willing to negotiate, but they're not going to go very far from the number they filed at, because they have a good chance of winning their case.

2) You can pick a number that's far away from the fair value and plan on striking a deal before the arbitrator makes his decision. James calls this filing to negotiate. People who file to negotiate are planning to reach a deal on the courthouse steps -- they don't want to see the arbitrator's decision, because they know they will lose.

3) Sometimes one side (usually the player) just has the wrong idea about where the salary scale is and files a number that's a long way away from what the arbitrator will give them. They don't want to negotiate, because they're attached to their number, but they have very poor chances of winning. A lot of times agents go along with this to keep their clients happy, even though they know they're going to lose.

It sounds like Sutherland is using strategy 2 here and Davis is using strategy 3. Or else she thinks she's using strategy 2 but isn't leaving enough time to actually do the negotiation.

Sutherland is asking for a lot, but is willing to accept a final decision that's a long way away from what he's asking for.

Davis is asking a lot, because she thinks she deserves it. But she's doing it in a way that leaves very little chance that she will get what she wants (if we accept Bochco's version of the story as being accurate). She could do a lot better by asking for something closer to what she can get, or by asking for the same things and being willing to drop a lot of them in negotiation.

Of course, the worst strategy of all is
4) Start reading the script the night before, and come up with a detailed and comprehensive set of notes that nobody can actually use because you gave it to them the morning of the shoot.