Thursday, July 17, 2008

Friday questions of the week (yes, more than one)

Two questions today. The first from Mike:

I recently read a review of the Season 9 DVD of Cheers, and was saddened to see that, in the episode where the bar gets a karaoke machine, the part where Frasier sings "Isn't it romantic?" is cut. As was the very brief part where Norm and Cliff load up on helium and sing "Lollipop." And it's because Paramount didn't want to spend the money on licensing the songs for the DVD release. How does that make you feel, as a creative talent, knowing these moments are cut, all because of money? And when you were working on Cheers, did you guys have to be concerned with the cost of having a character on the show sing a song? Particularly when they only sing a little snippet of a song like in the karaoke episode. Or did you have to pay to have a song sung, regardless of how much of it was actually sung on the episode?

What annoys me most is that studios would rather just eliminate the music rather than paying the license fees. The musicians deserve their royalty just as much as the writers, actors, and directors. But since their contribution is easily removable and unlike the writers, their contractual participation is significant the studios would much rather just cut them out than pay them. And if the shows suffer, so what?

The worst example is WKRP IN CINNCINATI. The studio has practically destroyed that show by substituting generic music for what was originally there. And of course the studio claims that if they didn’t do this they would not have released the DVDs at all, so at least fans of the show can see episodes in some form. Gee, thanks soooo much.

Each studio has a different policy. When your show is in production most will allow you to use songs from the library that they own. If a Paramount show needed a romantic ballad you’d always hear “Autumn in New York” , “Moonlight in Vermont”, or “Moon River”. Need a Hawaiian tune? “Blue Hawaii” or nothing. On ALMOST PERFECT we had a big fight with Paramount over having a character sing a few seconds of the old Vikki Carr song, “It Must Be Him”. It got down to just how many words would we want to use? At 20th I’m sure you could always use the soundtrack from CLEOPATRA.

Wayne asks:

Question. How jealous do regulars get when a weekly player (like Kelsey first was) score big enough to get brought back?

I can’t speak for every show but on CHEERS I can tell you that Kelsey was accepted almost immediately. Especially after a show has been on a while the cast recognizes that adding new people can freshen things up, and possibly add a few years to the run. So they may lose a few lines but they end up with a lot more money.

I do know of some other shows where new characters were viewed by the cast as a threat and that can sometimes lead to ugly situations. I’m not at all privy to what goes on but I can’t imagine the original cast of HOUSE being all too happy over last season. They went from stars of the show to having fewer lines than the coma patients.

My big question (and maybe someone from the show is reading this and can respond) is how do the original cast members of LOST feel? Every year they’re squeezed out more and more, usually by better, more interesting characters. A lot of the original survivors have been killed so they’re no problem, but I do wonder about the remaining Oceanic Six + two. I guess they can’t bitch too loudly or they’ll be in Davy Jones locker with Charlie. Ironically, some of the “others” became the stars and they became the others.

If I find out more, I’ll let you know. Keep those questions coming. Thanks.

29 comments:

Jaime J. Weinman said...

I seem to recall that "Isn't It Romantic?" was used in a lot of Paramount shows (and before that, a lot of Paramount movies). I heard it in another episode of Cheers and at least once on Frasier. I guess because it was from a Paramount movie (Love Me Tonight). But now that Paramount is cutting it out of their DVDs, I wonder if that means it's not part of their library any more, or if they just cut these things without even checking?

Of course Paramount recently took things to the next level by releasing episodes of The Fugitive with all the musical scores replaced in every episode. (The show used music-library cues and Paramount no longer wanted to check who owned which cues.) I look forward to future releases of Star Trek with the fight music replaced by an organ playing "Beautiful Dreamer."

Mark P said...

Not to be a picky pete, but it's actually the Oceanic Five (Sun, Sayid, Hurley, Kate, Jack) and the...uh, On-Island Four (Locke, Claire, Sawyer, Jin) from the original cast that are still on Lost. I've always thought that Lost's flashbacks were a great way of shutting up cast members who were angry about screentime. "You've got a whole episode devoted to yourself coming up, so quit yer bitchin'!" Of course, then Claire and Sawyer didn't get centric episodes last year, so....I have no point.

Anonymous said...

There is NO show that has paid the price for its music more than The Wonder Years.

One of my all-time favorite shows, and I'll never get to see it again. All because of the music.

Christina said...

I think Northern Exposure is another show that suffers on DVD from some of the original music not being included. I used to have every episode on VHS recorded when it was in syndication, but the tapes were getting old and the quality wasn't that high, so I finally parted with them.

D. McEwan said...

Mark P,
Jin is dead, blown up in the season finale. For that matter, I'm pretty sure Claire is dead now too, blown up in her house. For that matter, Locke is dead also, but in the future.

But then, being dead doesn't automatically take you off of LOST. The actor who plays Ethan has done more episodes since he "Died" than he had before he died. Between the flashbacks and the ghosts/visions/appritions/whatever-they-are, being dead doesn't remove you from LOST unless they are really through with you, as with Mr. Eko, who was such a pain to work with that they happily bowed to his request to kill him off earlier than originally intended.

Claire is off ghosting with her dad and "Jacob". We haven't seen the last of her, but I'm quite sure she's dead.

But it helps with suspence. On traditional shows, like let's say STAR TREK, you knew the regulars were safe. No real suspnce. As long as you're not a completely obscure actor in a red jumper, or a tragic guest star, you're fine.

On LOST, pretty much everyone is expendable. I suspect that Jack, Kate, Baby Arron, and Ben are the surest bets to make it to the finale, and they may not all make it to the roll of the last closing credits, come May 2010.

The movie DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN originally ended with Vincent Price singing OVER THE RAINBOW in the closing credits. For years the movie was not available with Price's vocal still in it. I scorn my VHS copy. Feh! Fortunately, for the DVD they manned up, paid the licencing, and Price warbles OVER THE RAINBOW once again.

The music for CLEOPATRA was the best thing about it. I understand that, when under contract to 20th, Liz Taylor was only allowed to marry other 20th stars.

Vegetable Gentleman said...

Whoever wrote the Cheers review didn't actually view the DVDs. The music wasn't cut. Frasier's "Isn't It Romantic", "Lollipop" by Cliff and Norm, and the Frasier-Lilith brief "duet" of "You're Just In Love" are all on the DVDs (in the last two epsiodes on disc 3 of Season 9).

Sebastian said...

Claire's not dead. Period.

Jin is only dead in the future.

And besides, Jack's dead has been "dead" from the beginning of the series (you know, Jack flew to Australia to get the dead body of his father back to the US) and I guess you can not really say that the actor didn't have enough work in the past four years considering he's "dead".

Being dead on Lost means nothing.

Well at least as long as your name's not Nikki or Paulo.

Anonymous said...

Regarding House, sucks for the actors, but they really revived that show with the huge shakeup, it had really gotten repetitive. By the end of last season I had pretty much written the show off, Thank you to whomever had the idea to change things up, I have a new love for House thanks to you.

D. McEwan said...

Sorry Sebastian. Claire was blown up in her house at New Otherton by the mercenaries. It was her ghost-vision-thingy who went into the woods with Sawyer and now hangs out at Jacob's shack with her equally-dead father.

Jin is dead in the present. He died in the present when the freighter exploded while he was on deck. Look for him in visions and flashbacks.

Being dead on LOST means you're dead, but not that you're out of work, unless, as you very accurately point out, you are Nikki & Paulo.

Anonymous said...

I recall hearing at the time that part of Kelsey's appeal to the producers was that Shelley didn't like the addition of his character and since there was no love lost between the producers and Shelley at that point they were even more inclined to use him. I'm sure it's just a vicious rumor, but it sounded plausible.

VP81955 said...

I recall hearing at the time that part of Kelsey's appeal to the producers was that Shelley didn't like the addition of his character and since there was no love lost between the producers and Shelley at that point they were even more inclined to use him. I'm sure it's just a vicious rumor, but it sounded plausible.

Although since Shelley guested a few times on "Frasier," I'm presuming her working relationship with Kelsey.was okay. (If not, then she really needed a few acting gigs at the time.)

Speaking of Ms. Long, she's a member of the Celebrity Legs Hall of Fame, more than 400 female celebs honored for the greatness of their gams (hope that doesn't sound sexist). Alphabetically, Shelley follows that other funny leggy lady from Fort Wayne (see above). For the entire list, go to http://www.aeolia.net/legs/hof.htm

A. Buck Short said...

Update: Franco is still dead. But he had legs that went from here to there and back again. You got it, kind of a classy dictator with a great set ‘o gams. But regardless, this whole Lost thing has gotten way too trekky-scary for me.

Not equally central to the integrity of the show as the music replacement, but here’s a somewhat related question, if for some reason you have time or space.

I’ve noticed that product placement has long been an aspect of feature film production, and maybe not necessarily too serious a creative problem as long as you don’t have something like Marie Antoinette gulping a can of Red Bull shortly before the decapitation. But TV product placement, not so much; and I’ve always assumed that’s because flaunting a particular brand could limit competing sponsor options especially at the local level either bartered or even more with the additional local time in syndication. So why doesn’t the product-shilling pose a similar problem when the movies air either on network or locally? Do they have a list of what’s placed in the theatrical version and perform product-ectomies? And what about things like car chases even on TV, where you can identify a make of car whether they show the emblem or not? It’s obvious something like “Walker, Texas Ranger” has a major placement arrangement with Dodge Ram Trucks. So why doesn’t that screw up the deal with auto dealership groups that seem to account for so much of local commercial time.

Incidentally, vpa, congratulations on seizing the opportunity for the Carole Lombard placement deal – twice.

A.B.S. said...

Oh, one followup question. If they do cut out the products placed, does that make the show BETTER?

Patty said...

Well this is really good to know as I do purchase some DVD's of past shows I really enjoyed. I'm a huge Vikki Carr fan, so of course when I know her songs have be featured somewhere, whether I like the show or not doesn't matter to me, just having that bit of history is what really matters, now, knowing they cut songs because of money (never mind that I'm willing to pay for the DVD...) and was possibly, very loyal to that show seems to mean nothing.
Patty

sonderangerbot said...

I want to hear more about Mr Eko's bad working manners. I can see how since he's a pretty big bloke the only way to talk back to him would be to fire him.

Is it ever the case that a character is written off a show because it was meant to be, creatively speaking, instead of them just being a pain in the ass one way or the other? You always assume the latter.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Just how much does it cost to get the rights to use a particular piece of music in a show or DVD release of the show? Is there a set fee no matter how many copies are pressed? X-cents per pressing? Do they even press DVD's? Inquiring minds want to know.

Mr. Peel said...

All this talk about music reminds me of a scene--I can't remember the episode--where Frasier and Lilith are at the piano and they begin to sing both "Moonlight in Vermont" and "Autumn in New York" at the same time, because the opening of each song sounds the same. I remember watching that after having gotten into Sinatra and thinking, "Hey, I get that joke now!"

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

I also wince at some of the music replacements on DVD sets, but the studios sometimes have a legitimate reason for doing it (unless your view is that there's no such thing as a legitimate reason -- the studio should either include everything that was in the original show or not release the DVD at all. That's fair enough, but for now I'll assume otherwise). Unlike the scripts, acting performances and music underscore, all of which the studio typically own as works for hire, performances of pre-existing songs, (also embedded film and music clips), often require a new license to be used in a DVD. And the terms of those licenses can be project killers.

The obvious example is a copyright owner who refuses the license outright or demands an exorbitant fee which by itself or together with other fees on the project makes the DVD a money-losing enterprise. That happens. But just as likely the demand isn't terribly excessive by itself, but the studio has lots of previous licenses it obtained for a set maximum fee by promising each licensor that s/he was getting the maximum fee the studio pays anyone, (i.e., a "favored nations" provision). In that case, if someone demands even a little bit more than the set fee, the studio either does without that music or it has to go back and pay the new higher fee to every licensor it promised the favored nations treatment. That can make a license fee even a tiny bit over the studio's set limit a project-killer many times over.

I'm not saying music substitutions aren't done out of pure greed. I assume they are. But they also happen for the reasons I mentioned. Which adds insult to injury when you're stuck listening to some cheesy midi track and don't even know who to silently despise.

Eric L said...

Although since Shelley guested a few times on "Frasier," I'm presuming her working relationship with Kelsey.was okay. (If not, then she really needed a few acting gigs at the time.)

I recall Kelsey being interviewed and saying that while him and Shelley didn't get along during the filming of CHEERS he felt it was important to have her guest on FRASIER because he thought both the characters and actors should make peace with each other. Which I guess they did.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

D. McEwan said...

"On traditional shows, like let's say STAR TREK, you knew the regulars were safe."

Maybe from the studio, but certainly not from each other. If you believe the scuttlebutt (and who believes that, right?) the only reason Bill Shatner didn't employ a food taster is he was too clueless to know he needed one.

Ray Randolph said...

Off Topic: There's a nice article about Ken and his partner Josh Suchon and DodgerTalk in today's Daily Breeze. You'll need to pick up the print edition to see the nice photos of them.

VP81955 said...

Eric L said...
I recall Kelsey being interviewed and saying that while him and Shelley didn't get along during the filming of CHEERS he felt it was important to have her guest on FRASIER because he thought both the characters and actors should make peace with each other. Which I guess they did.

And which explains why Kelsey has become a successful producer as well as actor.

BTW, to the earlier comment: I get no pay or percentage from the Carole Lombard estate...merely the satisfaction of keeping her memory alive. (And for anyone who loves romantic comedy, that's important.)

D. McEwan said...

Sonderangerbot wrote:
"I want to hear more about Mr Eko's bad working manners. I can see how since he's a pretty big bloke the only way to talk back to him would be to fire him."

What I've heard and read is that Adawale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is an extremely serious method actor, somewhat humorless (Although some outtakes on the second season LOST DVDs show him engaged in a bit of onset goofing around.) who remains relentlessly in-character off camera. LOST is a happy set, and Adawale's gloomy Mr. Eko was not much fun to be around. A shame. He's a really good actor, and I personally find him EXTREMELY sexy.

His exit ecapsulates your second question: It was always intended that Mr. Eko would die. It was a creative decision. However, a stage directing job came up that he wanted to take, so he asked for his "Death" to be moved up, and given that he had been an unpleasant presence onset, they were happy to comply with his request.

His stage job could have been worked around. The reason Rose wasn't seen for most of the middle of season 1 ws because the actress was doing a play. The actor who plays Charles Widmore has been doing SPAMALOT in London this year, so they shot his scenes IN London. Nice for Micheal Emerson, who had to get flown to London to play his scene with him. Nice work if you can get it.

So yes, of course character deaths are, more often than not, intended creatively. If Katherine Heigl dies a lingering, miserable death on Grey's Anatomy this season, requiring her to appear on camera in 16 episodes, trussed up in traction with a disfiguring make-up that takes hours to apply and hours to remove, it will be a creative decision. A very creative decision.

bevo said...

Catching up on my podcasts this week. I listed to Ted Danson address the National Press Club about the oceans.

At the very end, he was asked about Shelly Long and her character, Diane.

He said she was a wonderful actor to work with, and a great dancer. People chuckled in the background. Danson followed by saying that the Diane character had never been done on television.

Huh? It sounded like the audience thought Danson was blowing smoke up their collective bums. Any thoughts of the adding clarity variety?

The Crutnacker said...

I've been TIVOing WKRP off American Life Network (Channel 9328 on your dial) and to my surprise, at least one episode (the wonderful bomb threat episode) kept all the original music.

Another episode was one I hadn't seen in forever, where a preacher comes in and demands WKRP not play certain songs. It was amazing to see a show that was almost 30 years old taking a hard line against censorship and "religious wackos". Could you imagine that flying past standards and practices on a sitcom today?

Mark P said...

I highly doubt Jin is dead. First of all, his being alive on the Island creates even more dramatic tension for if/when he and Sun eventually reunite. Second of all, on Lost, unless we see a body actually blasted apart, we can't believe anyone is dead. My guess is that Jin made it off the freighter in time and was 'moved' along with the Island and the surrounding area. Remember when the doctor's body ended up on the beach before he was killed on the freighter? Maybe a similar time displacement took place with Jin in the water. Either he made it back to the beach or he'll be picked up by Daniel in the raft --- bottom line, Jin ain't dead.

Another factor in Adawale Akinnuoye-Agbaje leaving the show was that he was having issues with being so far away from his native England. This was exacerbated by the fact that his parents both passed away in the year he was in Hawaii shooting Lost.

D. McEwan said...

Maybe you're right that when the freighter exploded, Jin got blown clear of the ship before it sank, landing far enough away not to get sucked down with the ship, yet not killed by the forces he'd been subjected to (firey explosion, high speed impact with water, etc.), and then washed up on shore 12 hours before the explosion (That's the weirdest part of the theory, but within the context of the show, plausable) and thus survived. Maybe Michael got magically whisked away from his position one foot away from the bomb as it blew also. Jack's dad was standing there also, and the Claire-ain't-dead faction sems to feel that he's not as dead as the corpse Jack was flying back with seemed to suggest.

But I spent last summer and fall desperately nursing such scenarios for how Charlie would be found to have survived his death also. I'm not getting burned twice. As far as I'm concerned, Jin is dead until proven otherwise.

Dhppy said...

Ugh! That completely pisses me off that one of my favorite Cheers episodes is cut off. You think that you're trading up when you get the DVD, but that ain't necessarily so.

Dhppy said...

Mark P said... "Not to be a picky pete, but it's actually the Oceanic Five (Sun, Sayid, Hurley, Kate, Jack)"

You forgot Aaron. He may not have been born, but he was on the flight. That's six.