Happy Memorial weekend Friday question day. What's yours?
Steve starts us off:
I'm curious about recurring characters. Do writers have any say over who comes back when, or is it the producers/someone else? Take Colonel Flagg on M*A*S*H as an example. Could you just write him into an episode, or are you instead told, "Hey, we want Colonel Flagg back. Write a story for him."?
Characters become recurring because they really score. The showrunners make those decisions but they’re usually easy ones. The good news for the writer whose script introduced a character who becomes recurring is that they get royalties. We got one for Eddie LeBec. Some great examples of characters who went from day player to recurring or even joining the regular cast are – Klinger on MASH, Reverend Jim on TAXI, Lilith on CHEERS, Bebe and Bulldog on FRASIER, and Bob on BECKER.
Here’s my favorite story: Judith Lowry really scored as Mother Dexter on PHYLLIS. So much so that MTM (the company that produced the show) offered her a ten-year contract. She laughed. Judith Lowry was 88 at the time.
It’s a gift from the Gods when a guest star scores big. Most producers will happily rewrite future scripts to include them.
What's currently a typical day / week for you? Are you still consulting, meeting with execs, agents, etc.? Does announcing take up all of your time and you just relax in the other hours? How much prep work does announcing take?
Doing Dodger Talk does take up a good chunk of the day. If we have a 7:00 home game I’m at Dodger Stadium around 4:00 and depending on the length of the game, leave around 11:30. I’m there so early so I can talk to players, managers, and of course, rake the infield. I read a lot of stuff online – newspapers and blogs to keep up to date baseballwise but I don’t consider that work. It’s what I’d be doing even if I didn’t have a radio show.
David and I are talking about some future projects and I’m planning on staging my play next winter so I’m meeting with my director, producer, and currently doing a rewrite of the play. Casting begins in the fall and I’m already putting together lists.
I’m also writing that 60s book so usually my mornings are spent in front of my computer either writing that or blog posts. I also write late at night. Most of the jobs I’ve ever had – either in broadcasting , staff writing, or gigaloing – required I work nights so I’m used to the late hours.
When my partner David and I have a project we’ll get together around 10 and write until 1:00 or 2:00. Then we’ll meet the next day appalled at what we wrote the day before.
The rest of the time is spent is spent going to the gym and eye doctors. I lead a very full life.
david russell asks:
Do you find it harder to stay focused on writing now that the pesky Internet is here to distract you with, say, reading blogs? Do you have tricks, like working on a stand-alone, non-web connected computer or are you just that disciplined?
I’ve developed discipline from working in television where you’re always on deadline. So that helps. Once I start writing I generally stay with it, although it’s important to take breaks. The breaks should not last longer than the actual writing intervals however. I check my email too much. I will admit that.
Sometimes for some real concentrated writing I’ll take my laptop to UCLA and roost in one of those cubbyholes in the library. It’s quiet, no distractions, yet there are people around. I don’t feel like I’ve been sent to solitary confinement.
A couple of times when my partner and I had a screenplay that needed to get done quickly we’d drive down to San Diego and lock ourselves in a hotel room for three days. A good portion of VOLUNTEERS was written at the Town & Country hotel in beautiful Mission Valley.
Here comes a short answer to a long question. It’s from Jkessler:
Ken, a question regarding classifying sitcoms. There seem to be three or four general categories: family comedy, office comedy, friends/singles comedy, odd couple relationship.
Most sitcoms fall under at least one of these general categories. But what about a show like "My Name Is Earl?"
None of these categories seem like a good fit. I guess you could argue it's a family comedy, but that's really reaching. Is it a unique genre of sitcom? Redemption comedy? Redneck comedy?
Anthology comedy. (Told ya it was short)
Happy Memorial Day. Drive safely.