Time to kick off the weekend with some answers to your questions.
As far as making a sitcom believable, could you comment on filming vs. taping? Is the technology advanced enough to make a four camera show look real with tape?
Back in the days when some multi-camera shows filmed while others taped, the taped shows never looked real. They always looked like you were watching a play. They featured stark lighting and a very flat look. The sets looked like, well… sets. Audiences were used to film – either on TV or at the movies. So multi-camera filmed shows felt more real. So real that CHEERS had to announce that each show was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Otherwise viewers didn’t believe the laughs were real.
So why were there taped shows when they didn’t look as good or as real? Because they were CHEAPER.
I told the story about a year ago how CHEERS experimented with switching to tape.
I’m not a technical guy so I don’t know specifics, but with today’s new HD cameras it’s much easier to achieve a filmed look on tape. Some will say it looks as good but I think that’s stretching it. It’s the same as Diet Coke and regular Coke but with pixels instead of sugar. To my knowledge all multi-camera shows are now filmed in this high def process.
And Fred asks:
Years ago I noticed you wouldn't see Margot Kidder in a movie without Michael Ontkean showing up in the same movie. There was another actress, Kaki Hunter, who also showed up with both Kidder and Ontkean in movies at this same time (thanks to IMDB for her name).
Just this week I saw an episode of Psych with Christine Baranski as a guest star. Cybill Shepherd has also guest-starred on Psych. Do I need to mention that they were in a situation comedy together a few years ago?
Perhaps some of these were coincidences. However, I wonder if agents make package deals for their clients. Nowadays you couldn't imagine someone saying "if you want Margot Kidder, you also have to take Kaki Hunter," but there was a time when Kaki Hunter wasn't the box office poison she is now.
Does this happen, or am I a conspiracy theorist in need of a much better conspiracy?
Wow. This was my first Kaki Hunter question. TV networks like to “stunt cast” – hiring guest stars that will attract a larger audience. Madonna on WILL & GRACE. Britney Spears on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. Betty White on everything else.
When we were doing AfterMASH the studio wanted us to bring in Loretta Swit for an episode to reprise her role as Hot Lips. But she declined. That didn’t stop the brilliant 20th exec. He said, “It doesn’t have to be Loretta Swit. Just find anyone to play Hot Lips.” Oh yeah? I suggested Diana Ross.
Sometime pairing people from other shows is a big draw (a la Cybill & Christine). I know I’d love to see Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards do a guest shot on GARY UNMARRIED.
This “reunion” concept works in features too. When Tom Hanks and John Candy clicked in SPLASH they were re-teamed for our movie, VOLUNTEERS. “If you liked them in one, you’ll like them in one not as good.”
As for Margot Kidder and Kaki Hunter et al, I have no idea what that’s all about. I would imagine Margot Kidder’s only demand is “hire me!”
Sometimes producers and directors have favorite actors they use time and again. Maybe this was the case with Margot-Kaki-Michael. Who am I kidding? I have no fucking clue.
From friend-of-the-blog Rory L. Aronsky:
What items (of value and of little value) have you taken from the shows you worked on? When "Almost Perfect" was cancelled, did you try to swipe Nancy Travis on your way out?
No. Like an idiot I have the bathrobe she wore in one episode (which you can watch here) but I didn’t have to foresight to throw Nancy in my trunk.
When BIG WAVE DAVE’S folded I took a few surfboards. Otherwise, I never lifted anything from one of our sets. I was probably stupid. Some folks from MASH at the end took everything they could fit into their cars. Oh wait. I do have one of the helicopters.
Having my name on printed scripts from the shows I’ve been lucky enough to work on is all the keepsakes I need. And the helicopter.
And finally, from Jose:
After a late night in the writer's, about how much turnaround time would you guys get before having to come back for the next work day?
Depends on the show. For most multi-camera shows we got in at 11:30 in the morning. That gave us the afternoon to work of future scripts before the late afternoon runthrough. Rewrites varied but generally wrapped up around midnight or one. So we could in theory get a decent night’s sleep.
But when we were doing that comeback vehicle for Mary Tyler Moore, one of us had to be on the stage every morning for the table reading of the new draft. So that meant going home at 6:00 a.m. and returning by 10:00 a.m. I don’t recommend it.
What’s your question?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
By Ken Levine at 7:38 PM