Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday questions of the week

It’s Black Friday question day. Take a break in between trips to Costco and your bank (if it hasn’t gone under).

From Vermonter17032:

QUESTION: I think CHEERS got better when Lillith became a regular character. Bebe Neuwirth is great. When a character who has been in the show sporadically is finally made a regular, are writers glad or is it just more challenging?

Writers are thrilled. The reason a sporadic character becomes a regular is because they’re terrific. It’s usually the writers who campaign to get that character on the show permanently. Both Frasier and Lilith were happy surprises. Frasier was originally supposed to be in a three-part arc to begin season three. And Lilith had four lines in a teaser and that’s it. But the actors scored so well that we just kept bringing them back. Another example is Chris Lloyd as Reverend Jim in TAXI.

On ALMOST PERFECT we were going to make Lisa Edelstein a regular. But alas, we were canceled first. It’s too bad. I wonder whatever happened to her.

ElwynBrooksWhite wants to know:

What happens to the writer(s) that come in after the first bloom is off a show? For example, how do you write the episode that follows the "Happy Days" Jump the Shark three-parter? Or, when a character previously played for laughs ("Hot Lips" etc.) then takes a more serious turn? Is it possible for a show to recover from a stunt episode? Or does that tend to linger?

Most of the time when a second regime takes over the show is not as good. I’m very proud of the work David and I did on MASH in those middle years of the series but our seasons don’t hold a candle to Larry Gelbart’s.

Sometimes however, new teams of writers can energize or even improve a show. For my money, NEWHART got much better when Dan Wilcox took over and even better still when Mark Egan & Mark Solomon ran the show.

Generally, when a show jumps the shark it’s very hard to come back. It’ll be interesting to see if 24 can rebound from it’s sub-par sixth season. And HEROES is still trying to recover from its disastrous second season (although usually a hit show doesn’t lose its way in season two… that takes real futility).

What’s your question… besides what was in that stuffing?

29 comments:

JP, London said...

Why are there so few characters who just happened to be Muslims in US sitcoms?

TCinLA said...

Well, we know what's going on with "24" - a frickin' disaster (as they say) with that "movie" they put on this past weekend. Fifth place on Sunday?? Given that I've never been a fan of fascist "art," this can be filed under "good riddance to bad rubbish."

Heroes is dead. I loved the show first season, stuck with it through the second (strike) season, and three weeks ago stopped watching on the grounds I hate having my IQ dribble out my ear when I watch TV. Interestingly enough, several political blogs that strongly supported Heroes have dropped the show. It's losing 1 million viewers per week according to Heather Havrilevsky on Salon, so by the end of the season it should be at zero. As SWMBO said, "You have to have a reason for doing things beyond 'it's our show and we can.'" This is baaaaaaaad comic books now.

Mike said...

If a Network came to you and said "Create a sitcom, about anything, choose who would star in it and there will be no interference form us"

What would you create?

wesley mead said...

Just had this e-mail:

Dear Customer:

You submitted the following rating request to SonicWALL CFS Support:
Rate kenlevine.blogspot.com as "47.Humor/Jokes" at 2008-11-26 03:25:00.500

The request has been reviewed and rated as:
"31.Web Communications" at 2008-11-28 01:35:02.510

You should see this rating change reflected within 1 to 3 business days.

Thank you for your request,
SonicWALL CFS Support

Simon H. said...

Two things. First a question: Do you ever watch old episodes of shows you wrote, and then have that moment where you go "I could have done that better if I changed that or did so and so"?

Second, In regards to the whole Ken Levine's Blog is Pornography snafu, I received this email from Sonicwall this morning after I requested a change in the status of your blog several days ago:

"Dear Customer:

You submitted the following rating request to SonicWALL CFS Support:
Rate kenlevine.blogspot.com as "14.Arts/Entertainment" at 2008-11-25 23:25:00.290

The request has been reviewed and rated as:
"31.Web Communications" at 2008-11-28 01:35:02.510

You should see this rating change reflected within 1 to 3 business days.

Thank you for your request,
SonicWALL CFS Support"

See, the system works. In 1 to 3 business days.

rms said...

Darn, Wesley Mead and Simon H. beat me to it! I was also going to post that SonicWALL is changing your status. So much for all the porn.

Congrats on getting your site revised!

3.1CdR53lMeOe8IaxK.BBuTtM_u06U0c said...

Just finished watching the DVD commentary for Heroes, Season Two. The writers strike caused them to completely change the course of the series - before the strike, the virus was supposed to be released, but due to the strike they decided to re-write from there. That seems amazing to me! Are there other examples of this? What's the deal with the new SAG strike?

Dr. Cuddy said...

Here I am...

Anonymous said...

This country will never really change if we can't use the more politically correct term for today: "African American Friday."

Kirk Jusko said...

I assume that writers, at least when they're starting out, go wherever the work is, and sometimes end up writing for shows that, through no fault of their own, go down in history as silly, cheesy, hokey, etc. I wonder how that hurts a writer's reputation. For instance, would someone who had written for GILLIGAN'S ISLAND or THE BRADY BUNCH have had a difficult time getting work on MASH or ALL IN THE FAMILY?

Anonymous said...

"For instance, would someone who had written for GILLIGAN'S ISLAND or THE BRADY BUNCH have had a difficult time getting work on MASH or ALL IN THE FAMILY?"


Not, I would imagine, if they'd written good stuff on GILLIGAN or BRADY. I would hope the fallacy that only a certain type of writing is "good" writing is not that common in the actual writing biz.

MIke

Kirk Jusko said...

They could have written good stuff that was later "edited" by some hack. Of course, that could happen anywhere, not just in television.

sephim said...

I've never understood the appeal of HEROES, I thought there was already a poor attempt at recreating the X-MEN comic book in TV form called MUTANT X.

HEROES is a child that says their first word who once praised just keeps saying that word over and over; the difference? that child will eventually learn another word.

charlotte said...

FYI: Just got the same email as some of the posters above:

Dear Customer:

You submitted the following rating request to SonicWALL CFS Support:
Rate kenlevine.blogspot.com as "14.Arts/Entertainment" at 2008-11-25 17:25:00.500

The request has been reviewed and rated as:
"31.Web Communications" at 2008-11-28 01:35:02.510

You should see this rating change reflected within 1 to 3 business days.

Thank you for your request,
SonicWALL CFS Support

Alice said...

Awwww so I guess I'll have to go get my porn somewhere else... :(

filecite said...

Re the Sonicwall thing: Web communications? Wtf? That's even less meaningful.

David K. M. Klaus said...

> Generally, when a show jumps the
> shark it’s very hard to come back.


The Man from U.N.C.L.E. never really recovered from its camp third season, although the producers made a valiant effort to bring back something of the original flavor in the half of a fourth season they were allowed before being canceled for Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in January.

Laugh-In even acknowledged the cancellation: in its first regular broadcast, in the go-go party scene, everyone froze as the camera zoomed in on Leo G. Carroll speaking into an U.N.C.L.E. communicator, "Open Channel D: Come in, Mr. Solo, I think I've found THRUSH headquaters!"

Thirteen years old as I was at the time, I thought that meta-joke was hilarious, and even now, forty years later, it still strikes me as not bad.

Joe said...

Now I'm worried my kids will start to illegally download "Web Communications."

Joe said...

P.S. A question question, for a change...

Why is that that when there is a strike, so many shows never seem ti find their way back? Heroes seems like one, Moonlighting definitely was, etc.

Granted, some shows never get a fair shot because of a strike (I'm thinking Back To You) but why do so many shows flounder creatively in the wake of a strike?

VP81955 said...

For instance, would someone who had written for GILLIGAN'S ISLAND or THE BRADY BUNCH have had a difficult time getting work on MASH or ALL IN THE FAMILY?

IIRC, some of the people who worked on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" had worked on "My Mother, The Car" a few years earlier. That series became an occasional in-joke on "MTM"; you could see it listed on the WJM station schedule on the wall, for example (the station's budget for syndication must have been awfully low). And Jerry Van Dyke was a guest on an episode or two.

Verification word: "beeri." How someone not versed in Hollywood history spells the last name of Noah or Wallace.

LouOCNY said...

For instance, would someone who had written for GILLIGAN'S ISLAND or THE BRADY BUNCH have had a difficult time getting work on MASH or ALL IN THE FAMILY?

IIRC, some of the people who worked on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" had worked on "My Mother, The Car" a few years earlier. That series became an occasional in-joke on "MTM"; you could see it listed on the WJM station schedule on the wall, for example (the station's budget for syndication must have been awfully low).


And Gene Reynolds, who was one of the guiding lights of MASH, directed a lot of episodes of "Hogan's Heroes", the very antithesis of MASH....

Mr. Peel said...

As always, any Lisa Edelstein mention is appreciated.

Here's a question for you Ken: Have you written about making the Lilith character more than just a one-shot? If memory serves her first appearance is one small scene at the beginning of an episode--a disastrous date with Frasier, if memory serves--but she seems to nail the character and click with everyone immediately. I'm guessing that it was evident what was going on to everyone there.

I'd also ask an Edelstein-related question, but I just can't think of one right now.

Splenda said...

I caught a replay of the Frasier two-parter where Frasier and his flame go to Bora Bora, only to find Lillith and her flame there. Was the first episode written specifically to find Lillith there or did that just happen at the end of writing the ep?

Dan Coyle said...

I always thought Frasier should have ended with Lilith and Frasier hooking up again. None of the actresses quite had the spark with Grammer the way Neuwirth did.

I think Grammer and Patricia Heaton might have worked on Back to You, if the writers weren't hell bent on making Heaton's character such an irredeemable shrew. Then again, I hear Heaton invites that sort of characterization with her winning personality...

KEN LEVINE said...

Say what you will about her political leanings but Patty Heaton was one of the easiest and nicest actresses I've ever directed. And her talent is through the roof.

Susan said...

Hi Ken,

Here's my question: I have a good friend who writes for a tv show. What's a good gift to get for a tv writer, especially one who's out of work right now (between seasons, hoping to get picked up for next season) and is working on her own projects for a while? I got her a book on writing once that I love ("Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott) but it didn't go over well - she said she doesn't really like to read writing books, since she already has her own process that works well for her. Any hints or help?

Dana Gabbard said...

I found a page with a link to the You Tube of Leo G. Carroll on Laugh In:

http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/archives/2277-MAN-FROM-U.N.C.L.E.-LEO-G.-CARROLL-ON-ROWAN-AND-MARTINS-LAUGH-IN.html

Ed B. Hill said...

If Dr Cuddy needs a Daddy....Here I am!!!

House junkie here. If I could have my way I would Mary Dr Cuddy and keep Cameron on the side and well supplied.

Or hell. I could be a double sugar daddy If I had the double sugar.

Huge Lisa Edelstein Fan. I can see her in bigger roles soon.

Whose her agent?

Andy Ihnatko said...

Everybody leaves the house in the morning thinking they look pretty good. Even the 70 year old actor who worn the same deep brown rayon wig since 1981, or the actress who's always seen in heavy, cakey makeup.

Does this affect those actors' ability to get work? You can always take off the toupee or wash off the makeup, but even if he doesn't angrily reply "WHAT wig?" the actor is still associated with that look.

I've wondered the same thing about actors with tattoos. You can cover them up, but would a producer think "If I cast this other person, we'll have one fewer makeup hassle per episode"?