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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ creator Bruce Miller talks about the new rules of making TV for the internet

On Recode Decode, Miller says the story will keep going after the plot of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel ends.

Art Installation And Book Giveaway Celebrating Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale' Opens On The High Line In New York City Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Hulu

Bruce Miller has made TV for the living room and the computer before, working on shows like “Eureka,” “The 100” and the Amazon show “Alphas.” But as the creator of one of the year’s buzziest shows — Hulu’s new adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” — he’s taking full advantage of the freedom of web video.

“For the last 6,000 years, we’ve basically been telling stories that are about one or two hours long,” Miller said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “My job hasn’t changed all that much in terms of the writing, but the environment has changed incredibly around me.”

He said the “biggest difference” between Hulu and traditional TV is that he doesn’t need to write episodes to a set running time, which was mandatory in the past to accommodate commercial breaks.

“I know my daughter, who’s 12, she consumes so much media in a day that she knows exactly what’s going to happen,” Miller said. “A happens, then B happens, then C happens. Part of that, in television, is you know about when it’s going to end. You have this internal clock.”

“Not having a specific running time allows me to surprise the audience in ways that I don’t think was quite as possible [before],” he added. “A show on a network, the time limit is prescribed down to the second.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify (mobile only), TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

Miller said that, as a fan of Atwood’s novel, he’s excited to tell more stories from the Republic of Gilead than are originally addressed in the book.

“A lot of people, including me, get frustrated when you get to the end of the book because it ends,” he said. “It ends rather abruptly. Part of that is because the point of view of the main character is so strict that anything that she sees, we see, and anything she doesn’t see, we don’t see. When her story kind of ends, our vision into the world is shut off.”

“We expand that point of view in the show, starting in little ways and then in bigger ways,” Miller added. “But the book, also — Margaret Atwood creates this incredibly rich world and there’s things that are mentioned in the book that you really want to explore. In some ways, I don’t feel we go beyond the book, ever. We’re extrapolating from what she’s done. We’re also exploring parts of the world that she mentioned, described, but didn’t ever get us there.”

And, he noted, Atwood is creatively involved in fleshing out the show, which Hulu recently renewed for a second season.

“Usually, when you adapt a classic, the author is quite dead, and Margaret is quite alive,” Miller said. “And also, usually, even if the author is around, it was written so long ago and there’s so much intervening work. But she has a startling memory for how she arrived at a particular story decision. I don’t remember why I decided to call someone Bob instead of Steve 35 years ago, but boy, Margaret does.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

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