Here are some Friday questions.
Ed wants to know:
If a TV show is written in a writer's room, why not simply credit all the writers who worked on that episode? For example, I think Tina Fey is as brilliant as everyone says she is, but I wouldn't mind a complete list of the writers who work on my favorite sitcom.
You've told us before that everyone else is credited with being a "producer." Why can't those who worked on the script be credited as writers?
The WGA has guidelines. Only two writers can share credit on one half hour episode. A team can count as one “writer” but let’s say a script was written by Writer A and Writer B (a team). Then payment would be 50% to Writer A and the team would split the other 50%.
When I was writing on ALMOST PERFECT there were three showrunners. When David Isaacs, Robin Schiff, and I wrote a script we had to petition the guild for permission and be paid 150% of guild minimum. So if the studio agrees to give all three writers 50% then it’s alright.
If you gave ten writers all 50% you’re paying five times the going rate for one script. That ain’t gonna happen here on planet Earth.
So to get around this staffs that room-write scripts just rotate credit. It is bullshit and makes the writing credit a joke.
All those producer credits you see – those are the writers. So they do all get credits on the show, just not for the actual work they do.
When working on a show like Cheers or MASH, when the show is a monstrous, rolling success, critically and financially, how much network interference was there?
did NBC and CBS think they still could give copious "notes" on each episode, or did they leave the shows alone?
Once a show becomes a huge hit the notes generally cease (although I hear AMC still managed to offer “suggestions” to Matt Weiner on MAD MEN). Showrunners will often have to meet with the network before each season to lay out their game plan for that year but after that the net tends to back off.
And it’s amazing, when a comedy is doing well in the ratings, the network suddenly LOVES everything they do. Runthroughs are laugh fests. Would the same jokes be as screamingly funny if they were losing their time slot to Telemundo shows?
The truth is once networks trust you they’re happy to leave you alone because they’ve got way too many other fires to put out.
On MASH we received zero interference from anybody. All CBS asked for was log lines for the episodes. NBC had notes the first year of CHEERS but those too disappeared as the numbers rose.
Of course network standards & practices were always ever present but that’s true with any show on any network. God knows how many “fucks” would slip into GHOST WHISPERER if S&P wasn’t around and vigilant?
Anonymous (please leave your name, guys) has a…
Follow up to the "Suite Life..." reputation question:
What if the opposite happens? Say you've already written for a network sitcom, and then Nick or Disney Channel offers you a chance to write the next "Cory In The House," is it seen as a step backward that will hurt your reputation or prospects of continuing to work in the network/cable sitcom worlds?
In this economy and marketplace? Work is work. You can class yourself right out of the business. And guess what, depending on the staff and situation, you might have ten times more fun working on a Disney show than a prestigious network vehicle. And if you have kids who watch those shows you’re a bigger hero than if you wrote THE WIRE.
Thanks for the questions. Keep ‘em coming.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
By Ken Levine at 9:30 PM