Post Mortems

Chicago Fire Boss Explains [Spoiler]'s 'Dignified' Exit, Surprise Goodbye Kiss

Chicago Fire Mills Leaves

Chicago Fire bid farewell to one of its own on Tuesday night as Mills (played by Charlie Barnett) left Firehouse 51 to open a restaurant in North Carolina with his family.

While Barnett will no longer be a series regular on the NBC drama, viewers can take comfort in the fact that his non-deadly departure left the door open for a return. And Dawson can always think back on that unexpected kiss Mills planted on her before taking off.

Below, executive producer Matt Olmstead talks about the “difficult” decision to say goodbye to Mills, the new faces coming in to fill his position and what that smooch means for Dawson.

TVLINE | What brought about the choice to have the Mills character exit?
In the writers’ room, we have a board with all the characters and all the episodes, and we’re pretty vigilant here about making sure that storytelling is fresh. Especially with a relationship-based show, you never want to get stagnant, and you have to be tough-minded sometimes… It was time to shake things up. It came solely from a storytelling standpoint. He’s an amazing individual and a fantastic actor and gave us so many different things, but it was just this going to give us, hopefully, some new blood in terms of a new character and the departure of [Mills] is going to affect other people. So it’s invigorating storytelling-wise.

On a personal level, it’s very difficult. I have a great affection for Charlie. The worst part of the job is when you have to let somebody go. I have no doubt about the prospects of his career; he’s going to do fine. I was on Prison Break, and the same thing — there are people you never want to let go, but you had to bring new people in, you had to show the audience that there’s real teeth to the consequences out there.

TVLINE | After the devastated response when you killed off Shay, was this a conscious decision not to give him such a sad ending?
No, it wasn’t. Not because of any selected negative viewer response to Shay’s death, but having just already done that, just internally for us, it was a different exit we could do as opposed to repeating ourselves. So we went a different route.

TVLINE | It is a pretty opened-ended exit in some ways. No one dies, Mills makes some overtures before he goes. Do you have any plans for him to return in some capacity?
We have nothing scripted. I’m sure Charlie’s going to be gobbled up with multiple offers to work elsewhere. But I’d be lying if I said that we didn’t have it in our back pocket, the opportunity — if down the road all parties come together and there’s mutual interest — for him to return for whatever. It was factored in when we conceived the way his character was going to depart, but for now, he’s off to North Carolina.

TVLINE | How did Charlie take the news when you broke it to him?
It’s never easy. He was completely professional, grateful for the opportunity. It’s slightly unexpected when it happens, but he was so professional and was concerned about how we felt. But then when the other actors found out, they were the ones who kind of fell apart. They were really upset and emotional… Keep in mind, it’s different when you’re filming a show in another city. If it’s Los Angeles, it’s a little different. But in Chicago, they have each other. They’ve worked together now for three years. They are a tight group. It’s not a bunch of older, married with kids actors who all splinter off and go do their thing. It’s not an ensemble where it’s populated by headcases who no one wants to hang out with and everybody just takes off after they wrap. They socialize together. They travel together. They do stuff together. Some are roommates. They’re tight. They’re as close to a family as they’re going to get without the blood. So it was hard.

TVLINE | You could really feel that onscreen. Watching a lot of the scenes, especially the giant group hug, it felt like real life was bleeding into the show.
In that scene, there’s no doubt. That wasn’t even scripted. That was just spontaneous in terms of the actors feeling it.

TVLINE | Was there a particular scene that was difficult for you? There were so many emotional goodbye moments in the episode.
Michael Gilvary wrote the episode. He’s been with us from the very beginning. I worked with him on two years of Breakout Kings prior to this. He’s one of our top writers. When I read what he wrote — and it’s all him — there was some stuff that definitely got you in the throat. When he’s saying goodbye to everybody at the bar, you just knew that was going to be a tough one to film. Also the scene midway through where he’s at the hall of badges and he’s looking at his dad and the decision’s made right there that he’s honored his dad’s legacy. At that point, he’s making the decision to go with his real family, his sister and his mom, who need him; though everyone’s an adult, when you’re the man of the house, you’re the man of the house. That was also a really great scene. It’s funny because the first couple incarnations of that scene, there were versions where we talked about where he was contentious with Boden and we came to the conclusion he needs to be resolute and dignified, which is how we really wanted his exit to be from the very beginning. We didn’t want him getting killed. We didn’t want him leaving in disgrace. We wanted him to leave with his head held high and knowing that he completed a fairly dynamic and full journey on the show for three seasons.

Chicago Fire Mills LeavesTVLINE | Mills is clearly not over Dawson, but she looked pretty surprised by that kiss. Is that weighing on her at all in the upcoming episodes?
No. It’s still in the back of her mind. It was a surprise for her. But then also, you realize, “How can it not be in the back of his mind?” They were a couple. He was way into her. As in life, rarely do two people walk away from a relationship and it’s 50/50 where they both feel the exact same way. Usually one prompts the departure and the other one is left with these lingering feelings and, certainly, he was that one in that relationship. So it was his, “Whistle for me if you ever need me.”

TVLINE | Is she going to mention the kiss to anybody? Or is it one of those things where she doesn’t feel the same way so it’s not worth talking about?
It’s funny, we talked about that. It’s not like it’s not worth talking about, because it is definitely significant and noteworthy. But she doesn’t tell anybody, because she wouldn’t want to diminish the importance of it actually and marginalize him by turning it into some kind of gossipy story. She gets what went behind that, and there is a lot behind that. To honor him, she’s going to take it for what it was, which was a very nice compliment.

TVLINE | How is Mills’ exit going to affect the rest of the firehouse?
We play it out. The beginning of the next episode starts with a very quiet firehouse gathered in those chairs in the briefing room as Boden is introducing the replacement, and they’re not too thrilled about it. It takes them a while to warm up to the new person because, just as in life, they worked together 24 hours at a clip and they are tight as a family. [Mills] was there from the beginning. So they can’t just shift gears that quickly, though Boden would rather they did shift quickly and welcome the person. It’s a little bit of a thawing out for them to be able to welcome the new arrival.

TVLINE | Is the new arrival a paramedic or a rescue squad person?
Paramedic.

TVLINE | Is there still a spot on the rescue squad?
There is still a spot on the rescue squad. [Who fills it] will be answered this season.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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112 Comments
  1. will says:

    Dude…that group hug in the bar.😭

    • Joyce says:

      i cried last night then cried again this morning reading this article. Mills will be missed. Hope to see Charlie in something else soon.

      • Cam says:

        I have enjoyed watching the growth of “Peter Mills .. Have no doubt he will go on to bigger and better things .. Will miss you Charlie ..

    • Jamie says:

      When Brett lost it, there is no way that emotional breakdown was scripted. That was way too real. I’m not a fan of Peter Mills, but I’m glad they wrote him out instead of killing him.

    • sladewilson says:

      Yeah, man. That group hug and then the Kiss. Freakin’ Chicago Fire killed me with that one… Great episode….

    • i posted yesterday on a video on you tube from oz on season 6 episode 6 that was the closes i ever came to crying in a show or movie well this i didnt cry but it was very emotional how they gave him a proper fairwell how in some jobs all employees consider themself all like family just great thank you very much mills good to have had you around for 3 years i hope barnett has a great career he showed his talents on last episode and he shined

  2. m3rcnate says:

    Haven’t watched the episode yet but im happy. In terms of the character (not the actor) i was never a fan and found him to be more and more annoying, and then recently to be quite boring and stale and bland. They are definitely making the right move to remove a weak link character that has hit the end of the line in terms of what you can do with him and to bring in fresh blood.

    • Reba says:

      Totally disagree !!!

      • delfiteblu says:

        No Kidding! He was a real sweetheart and if you remember the beginning of the show, he was the newbie. He made himself popular by doing the cooking. I can’t think of anything he ever did that was bland, boring, stale or anything else. I will miss him a lot!

    • ? says:

      He never really worked for me as a paramedic, or ever since the first season when he was a rookie, actually. But considering at one time they wanted his character to topline the Chicago PD spinoff I’m really surprised they fired him. Bet Charlie will be wondering just what decisions he could have made differently at that point in his career for a while to come (not that this is his fault, that’s showbiz).

    • cheryl says:

      I cried and cried last night..and this morning as well…why did they have Mills leave…didn’t make sense…he’s one of the ‘good guys’ …bad move

    • Nancy says:

      Mills was one of my favorite characters on the show! I cried. Charlie Barnett is an outstanding actor. He will be missed; I don’t want him to go, but I’m glad they left it open for a possible return when I predict the restaurant goes bust!

      • Trish says:

        10000% agree … Mills (Charlie) was one of the main reasons I watched the show. He reminds me so much of my own son. I cried and cried, too, and he will be sorely missed. :'(

    • Nancy says:

      I couldn’t disagree more m3rcnate!

    • Gwendolyn says:

      Bring him back. Open up a restaurant in chicago. He is such a caring person.
      if you are bringing in new faces, why can’t he stay? Such ashame. So sad.
      BRING HIM BACK

    • I love Mills and Charlie as an actor. I thought he was going to be gone a long time ago. I’m glad I got to hold onto him a little while longer, but I see your point. I thought they were wrapping him with him meeting his Grandpa. That felt like a story wrap. Usually characters get full episodes of story and that’s it. Least that’s what they did in LOST when someone was about head out.

  3. JK says:

    I’m OK with Mills leaving, I never warmed up to him and never bought him & Dawson together. I would like Dawson to go back to being paramedic and her and Casey to get back together.

    • cheryl says:

      OMG Casey and Dawson??? never !!! he needs someone who can keep her legs closed for more than a minute

      • Nikki says:

        Since the start of the show we’ve seen Dawson with Mills (in a relationship) Jay (the start of a relationship but him being an undercover cop stopped her from really pursuing) and Casey. Not long after Casey and Dawson split, Casey was sleeping with a married woman. Dawson has yet to sleep with anyone. Aside from that one night wuth Matt.

      • delfiteblu says:

        And he needs a vice for HIS. He has slept with nearly every woman on the show. Dawson slept with Mills and Casey – I could be wrong but I don’t recall her sleeping with anybody else. OH – the cute guy from Chicago PD. But she wasn’t attached to anybody at the time It wasn’t HER who right after they broke up decided that the way to feel better about a broken engagement was to pick up a woman in a bar and spend a couple of days in bed, then find out she was the bosses’ ex, and go right back to bed again.
        I’ve never been his biggest fan and I certainly wasn’t after that. I wish HE had family in North Carolina.

      • delfiteblu says:

        And he needs a vice for HIS. He has slept with nearly every woman on the show. Dawson slept with Mills and Casey – I could be wrong but I don’t recall her sleeping with anybody else. OH – the cute guy from Chicago PD. But she wasn’t attached to anybody at the time It wasn’t HER who right after they broke up decided that the way to feel better about a broken engagement was to pick up a woman in a bar and spend a couple of days in bed, then find out she was the bosses’ ex, and go right back to bed again.
        I’ve never been his biggest fan and I certainly wasn’t after that. I wish HE had family in North Carolina.

      • Bos says:

        You mean like him keeping his zipper shut? Your comment sounds sexist to me.

  4. Lynn says:

    Would have rather seen Dawson go, something about her character is just really, really annoying. Maybe she can go join Mills in North Carolina.

  5. C R says:

    Bummer! Bummer! Bummer! Would much rather it been Herman or Otis or Mouch that left. Mills was one of the only reasons to watch this show.

  6. Maryann says:

    I’m sorry that Mills is leaving. He will really be missed. I would rather have seen Otis or the bald headed guy go. The story made sense though, and it was one of the most emotional stories we have had to date. That said, I really don ‘t see the necessity to shake the cast up, and I just can’t see liking any new arrivals as much as Mills.

  7. Bonnie Smollett says:

    Don’t like it…. put damper on my feelings about show. Who’s next. Not happy…

  8. Sela says:

    Not at all happy with drop kicking Peter from the show. From the beginning it has always been Peter’s story as a young firefighter trying to find his place in the house that was central to the show. I love the others but I think you could have dropped some others as opposed to Peter. Also I take issue with the explanation that Peter has to go ‘take care of his female womenfolk’ (see ‘man of the house’ comment)as if they were too – what? Too dense to do it on their own? Just a little bit insulting there to your female viewers. You dropped the ball on this one, guys. I’m glad Peter’s not dead so you can bring him back after you realize that.

    • Lauren says:

      The whole show is pretty sexist, it doesn’t surprise me that he is too. They have two female characters, neither of which were firefighters originally. They then kill one of those two female characters and replace her with a lookalike so that they have more chances for romance with the male characters. Don’t even get me started on Donna wanting her child to have her name as well and the Chief refusing. If that had been me I would have said that since the baby was living inside of me for nine months and I was the one giving birth to it I would name it whatever I wanted. i enjoy it for the most part but it’s easily the most misogynistic show I watch.

      • Nikki says:

        Yes! I thought that after the baby had pulled thru and was gonna be fine, that the cheif would have given in to the two names. His reasons were selfish and made no sense. And extremely rude toward his wife. If I want to hyphen my babies name, I sure as hell wiuld do it with or without him. He doesnt have to sign the birth certificate!

      • Lisa says:

        Totally agree! It’s like they said, “Oops, we made Shay gay and now she can’t have sex with one of the guys.” So, they kill her off and replace her with the most boring thing ever. A bland vanilla muffin. You cannot replace Lauren German with someone so yawn worthy. Olmstead seems like such a d-bag. Loved season one, done by season three.

    • suzybel58 says:

      I sort of got the impression that his mother and sister were forcing him (sort of emotional blackmail) into joining them in the restaurant venture. His dream was to become a firefighter and he has to leave because mom and sis need him to help with the restaurant? Seems kind of selfish to me.

  9. dj says:

    I hope we see him soon on another show. He’s a great actor. He will be missed.

  10. Nancy says:

    I didn’t like Peter Mills, but iT is concerning that they drop characters so easily.

  11. Mark says:

    This write up is almost word for word a repeat on what was said when Lauren German was written out of the show — it was a mistake with her and this will be a mistake

    • CJ says:

      I totally agree. The lengthy and dignified goodbye to Mills makes me feel even saltier about the brutal and abrupt way they got rid of Shay.

  12. Bwhit says:

    I am shocked he left and thought they handled the exit well until the Dawson part. Really? He’s held a candle for her this whole time while she’s clearly way over him and in love with Casey. It just kind of cheapened his exit in my opinion, especially because when he said go with me she somewhat laughed and thought it was a joke! I’ll miss Charlie on the show and am glad his character didn’t die.

    • delfiteblu says:

      I thought it was sweet and although she was surprised when he asked her to go with him, she halfway looked like she was considering it. She didn’t think it was a joke; she knows how he feels about her.

      • Bwhit says:

        It would have been sweeter if it was Brett and would have made a lot more sense! Yes they never got together but those two had great chemistry and they missed an opportunity big time by not exploring that. The whole Dawson thing was forced and out of nowhere given the fact they barely interact anymore and she slept with Casey the episode before. I don’t think she considered it at all but was shocked he asked, but hey that’s the beauty of differing opinions :)

  13. donholley77 says:

    I strongly disagree! Mills had plenty of story potential! Great episode, but this departure will be prove to be a mistake!!

  14. Mr. Tran K says:

    This makes me very sad. Hope the series will never be the same without Mills (Charlie Barnett).

  15. Guy says:

    I would love to know why fox could show the series 24 for 24 consecutive weeks yet nbc has to show Chicago fire and Chicago pd two of the greatest shows on tv today.yet they show 2 or 3 new shows then off the air or repeat 2or 3 weeks then a new episode or 2 then repeat.why cant you run them straight thru it gets very discouraging when u do that to us loyal fans.

  16. Reba says:

    I hate that you had him leave it was a surprise still trying to get over Shay not being there. I think you can always juice things up without taking out such good actors. There are other ways and this one stinks just like Shay I still miss her. I like the new girl I want her to stay but, I wish Shay was still on board and, I feel the same with Mills you lost two great actors!!!

  17. kn1231 says:

    I thought the Dawson/Mills thing was way too random at this point. I feel like it would have been more believable if he wanted Brett to come with him. Anyone else have the feeling that Dawson is going to be that new member of Squad, so her and Casey can get back together and be more open as a couple? I definitely think the season is going to end with them getting back together, especially since this show has veered away from most of its central storylines (ex Shay/Severide, Mills wanting to make his father proud).

    • wrstlgirl says:

      It’s obvious that they will get back together, that’s a no brainer. But as much as I can’t by Dawson as a firefighter having her take the spot on Squad is even worse. But I can see it going there, sadly. We have two main male characters on this show and Otis, Hermann, etc. are excellent back characters. What this show needs another strong female character so the focus isn’t always on Dawson. It’s just to much.

      • Bwhit says:

        I don’t know what the actress who played Rafferty is doing these days but that’s who they should get to replace Mills.

        • wrstlgirl says:

          I liked her but she doesn’t really fit the description. They aren’t supposed to like the replacement and I think Rafferty had a pretty good rep with the rest of the house, but who knows.

  18. Amber says:

    Such a stupid move on the writer’s part. When they get rid of someone, they have to bring someone new on the fill their spot. No one much cares about newbies, people care about the ones who they are invested in. Theres not much to keep me watching anymore. If the writing doesnt get any better and stop revolving around Queen Dawson, I’ll probably quit

  19. carol says:

    Big mistake letting Mills go. Don’t mess with the chemistry of a great show UP SETTING

  20. bonniesersland says:

    We need Charlie Barnett in Chicago Fire, he’s is great and a thrill to watch

  21. Dan Griffith says:

    He (Charlie Barnett) was one of the main reasons I enjoy the show so much.His character seemed to have a lot of heart.Will miss him a lot. Boo-hiss to the writers!

  22. Jane Fig says:

    I can’t believe you got rid of Mills! He added so much to each show! Why not Herman!!! Put him on Chicago Med!!!!

  23. margie says:

    I am with everybody else why do you need to miss up a great show and either kill a main character or have them leave, it doesn’t make sense to me at all.
    It brings to mind Dallas when Bobby left for a couple of season and brought in Mark Grayson as Pam’s husband, people stopped watching as much. The producers found out it wasn’t a good move and brought Bobby back.
    It should happen here or i think the show will not be around after season 4. It needs to be all a dream, with shay back and mills to. Dawson and Casey back together too.

  24. I LOVE Chicago Fire! Although I don’t like the relationships Shay had I still loved her character and her as an actor. I was stricken with grief when she died. Then here we go again. I literally cried with them last night. Those actors are like my family too. I WILL miss him greatly and will also have a hard time adjusting to his replacement like I did when Shay was replaced. But liking Shay’s replacement became easy. She’s fantastic! Keep on bringing the great writing!

  25. Lena says:

    i don’t understand how purely because his “romantic entanglements” were done, they were done with his character. are these guys too busy beginning a new hospital soap that they forgot how to write their firefighter show? cf started off so strong, so realistic and honest. that died with shay and it’s a shame they still haven’t come up with a way to get back on top of things, and can’t be bothered, because they’re too busy creating spin offs.

  26. Rick says:

    Awful decision to drop Charley Barnett — one of the best actors on CF, playing a character who’s different than everyone else.

    You had a fully-developed character, yet he’s the one who gets dropped. WTF??? Yet characters who serve as punchlines are still around, doing little to serve story. You must have a weak writing team if they couldn’t come up with future story for Mills; either that, or you have showrunners who don’t give a crap what viewers think.

    I know show execs can’t let viewers run the show, because you can’t have happily-ever-after for every character. But this firing is a real head-scratcher.

    As far as the claim that this opens up future storytelling, that must be written on a piece of paper for all tv executives to read when they drop a character. Pathetic.

  27. aph1976 says:

    I thought it was a nice exit and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mills does return next season even if it’s just for a few episodes.There could be a few scenes where he meets his replacement and see how everyone is.As for Mills kissing Dawson maybe it was a goodbye kiss or his way of telling her he could be back one day for her.So now with Mills gone Dawson may have to figure out what the kiss really meant and if she still has feelings for him.

  28. sarah j says:

    I am sad that Mills is gone.
    I hope that Charlie gets another show. He deserves it!
    You could tell that scene at the end was real.

  29. I think they should bring back Welch (Kenny Johnson) to fill the spot on squad.

  30. Das Snow says:

    So long Peter mills. I tried to be a fan of you, but I’m not and I cheered at your departure.

  31. Carla says:

    I’m truly sad to see mills leave I feel like I’m part of fire house 51 and my best friend is moving on I like the kiss with Dawson something to think about

  32. Mills was my fav! Don’t know if I can watch it now…

  33. Andrea says:

    So not happy about Charlie Barnetts’ departure on Chicago Fire! Can’t believe that the writers had not a storyline for him to develop. Man, we are going to miss him!!!!!

  34. rosie519 says:

    I think it stinks that you’re removing this character. There are others that I like a lot less. You didn’t really try to develop him and that is your fault. New characters don’t always meld in with old ones. He had found his place. Big mistake writing him out.

  35. rosie519 says:

    I think it stinks that you wrote him out. I liked the character and if you didn’t do more with him, the fault is yours. New characters don’t always meld with the old ones. Big mistake writing him out.

  36. Arlene says:

    I loved Mills, he will be missed, I don’t think we will be watching the show after this. Thanks Michael Gilvary. I hope he comes back, once he does we will be watching.

  37. liame says:

    Such a bad move getting rid of Mills! Just take a look at the remaining cast and tell me they couldn’t get rid of one of those useless boring fireman who owns the Bar. Ridiculousness is setting in again with these kind of shows.

  38. Christine says:

    Peter Mills was my favourite character. I’m devastated that he’s leaving. Please bring him back. You could have removed another character like the new guy on squad or a lesser character.

  39. R says:

    Bad move Gilvary. This show has been all over the place this season and I’ve been tempted over & over to quit watching but I hung in even after Shay. Peter Mills was a great character. You could have gotten rid of someone else; Otis, Cap; the new guy. Instead you took out the heart of the show when you wrote these 2 out when there was so many other ways to go with their story lines; especially Peter’s. Very disappointed but not surprised. Maybe it’s just time for some new writers…No more CF for me. Best of luck to Charlie Barnett! I will be watching for you.

  40. Tom says:

    Gabby is going to fill the Squad spot because they’re obsessed with her for some reason and she has a different career goal every season. And it opens the door for her to be able to be with Casey and not have it be a conflict anymore.

  41. Beverly says:

    If this is a “relationship ” show, why take out the two best-looking couple?

  42. Taylor says:

    How about just writing better storylines for the actors rather than killing them or sending them off the show! First Shay now Peter wth! I’m seriously considering to stop watching the show. Whats the point if all the best ppl leave!

  43. Lori says:

    Why mess up a good thing. Didn’t make sense when shay left. Makes less sense for mills to leave. The writers need to have their head examined!!

  44. I was so disappointed when Peter was written out of the program. He did it all! Cooked for the gang. Worked as a Medic and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a fireman. I don’t think I would have felt as bad if one of the other firefighters were written out. Just not Kelly or Matt. I hope you bring him back.

  45. Very disappointed that the writer’s decided to eliminate Peter Mills from Chicago Fire. He did it all ! From cooking for the guys to being a Medic and following in his father’s footsteps. I hope the writer’s have a change of heart and bring him back next season.

  46. fiberlicious says:

    Hey, Matt Olmstead – when get a few spare moments, could you please go have a talk with Shonda Rhimes?

  47. slj says:

    We from Sarasota will miss Charlie….for me him being a graduate of one of our high schools was the drawing card to watching the show from the beginning. Good Luck Charlie…..keeping fingers crossed that you find your way back to 51, since they all told you that you’d always have a home there.

  48. Hunnytree says:

    Good interview. Vlada. I am glad I found it, because I personally just felt the need to understand a little more about why Mills left Chicago Fire. Chicago Fire IS one of the best shows out there in my book. Every episode has an exciting rescue, and every episode stays true to the back story, the relationships between the members of House 51. I enjoy all the characters in the cast. It’s just plain – Good TV. I have watched every episode. Yep I will miss Mills. And I loved the group hug….felt like it was exactly what Olmstead said it was. Real.

    • I commented once before about Peter Mills leaving the show. But, thinking it over, I do not believe that the writers want to keep the show fresh by introducing new characters. They could still have put new actors in the show without getting rid of Peter. I think maybe he asked for a raise, and they decided to get rid of him. It happened on other shows where a lead character asked for a raise and they got written out of the show.

  49. Leslie Johnson says:

    First Leslie Shay. Now Peter Mills. Not happy! Can’t the writers invent other story lines?

  50. Linda Sparks says:

    I don’t understand why these writers keep feeling like they have to get rid of characters. Maybe we need to get rid of the writers job & see how they like it