What better way to kick off the Presidents Day weekend than with a few Friday questions?
Rob starts it off:
Why has reality TV lasted so long? Is the amount of money that can be made from the show really that much more than what could be made off the Simpsons, MASH, or heck, even According to Jim?
Reality shows are CHEAP to produce and people are watching them. But you’re right that they have a very short shelf life. Sitcoms play much better in reruns. There are cable channels replaying reality shows but in general they don’t draw good numbers. Even mega hits like AMERICAN IDOL, who’s going to watch old Bucky Covington performances?
But in this day and age, CHEAP is a big selling point to networks.
I do feel that the novelty of the genre has worn off and there is the danger of over-saturation. Already we can see that scripted shows are starting to make a comeback. Let’s hope that trend continues.
Your thought on this pearl of wisdom from the internet. "Multi-cam and single cam sitcoms are very different formats. Single cams feel weird with laugh tracks, but multi-cams feel weirder without."
Single camera shows do feel weird with laugh tracks. Where are the people coming from? That was always my beef on MASH. Were there bleachers on the chopper pad? You destroy the reality when you add disembodied voices laughing.
Multi-camera shows are shot in front of a studio audience. They’re more like plays. So the laughter is coming from real people. Without that laughter the shows would feel very hollow.
There are some multi-camera shows that block-and-shoot, which means no studio audience. You do miss something without the audience but usually those shows have so many scenes that a studio audience would go batshit having to sit through all them. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is an example. So it’s a trade-off. They’re able to tell better stories without the restrictions an audience imposes but they sacrifice the spontaneity and energy a group of people can offer the actors.
SEINFELD did a mixture of block-and-tape and scenes shot in front of an audience.
Most multi-camera shows will pre-shoot tricky or outside scenes and show them back to the audience on filming night. And those scenes usually don’t get a great audience reaction. On BECKER there were a few times when I had to do car scenes and instead of showing the pre-shoot, we just put the actors in chairs and told the crowd it’s a simulation of the scene. Invariably those scenes would play better than pre-shoots to the audience because they were live. Or the chairs were funny.
And finally, Steve B. asks:
Here's my question, Ken: How do you do this? To me, your level of output on this blog is pretty amazing, especially during baseball season when you have so many other responsibilities. How hard is it for you to switch hats, and how much time do you devote to the blog? Do you treat this like a hobby, or more like a full-time commitment?
I view this blog as stretching exercises for writers. It usually takes me between a half hour to an hour to write a daily post. I also try to have a few in the bank in case I’m actually required to do something that day. The hardest part is coming up with ideas for entries. And it depends on what’s going on. There are some weeks when there’s so much happening I post more than once a day; other times I’m going through my files seeing if there’s a scene from our TORTELLIS episode I could re-print.
But it’s fun (mostly) and I love having an outlet, although I’m forever amazed that anybody gives a shit what I think about anything.
Update: There's another major point I want to make about the comedy test. Check back later this evening for that. Thanks.