Hello from Boston where I survived the Redeye and I’m with the Dodgers for their big weekend series with the Red Sox. Manny Ramirez says hello to everybody, by the way. Here are some Friday questions from the home of Cheers.
LouOCNY gets it started.
My question is this: I recently saw a BECKER episode you directed where Gilbert Gottfried played a doctor even MORE obnoxious than Becker. The question that the whole world wants answered is: what is Gilbert REALLY like?? Is there a time where he is 'off', and fairly normal?
Gilbert was a lovely guy, surprisingly shy and low key. He even tended to underplay his character and I had to keep telling him to be more like “Gilbert”. He was too normal. One thing is certain though, he’s funny.
Anonymous wants to know:
There are the Archives of American Television which slowly manage to do interviews even with writers on some level. Ken, how come you haven't done one of these interviews yet?
Uh… no one’s asked me. And I’m sitting here in makeup.
What does a show-runner do when there are too many regulars on a series? I look at shows like Will & Grace, which had 4 regulars through its entire run, and at shows like Grey's Anatomy, which at last count has 13 regulars. Can even the best writer in your experience serve every actor every week?
That’s a very sticky problem and there are two schools of thought on how you handle it. One is to service everybody every week, even if it’s with just a few lines. That’s why you see a lot of “B” stories in sitcoms. You’re looking for ways to wedge everybody in even if they don’t figure in the main story.
The other philosophy is to say to your cast “You’re not going to be heavy in every episode, you might not even be in every episode, but we will make you the centerpiece of several episodes so you just have to be patient and you just have to be a team player.”
This is even true in sitcoms. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND only did one storyline per episode and had only five regulars and they still didn’t use everybody every week.
Personally, I’m in the second camp. You only have so much time and it’s hard enough to tell a good story without having to shoehorn lines in for actors who aren’t directly involved.
Anonymous has another question. PLEASE use your name.
A followup on the producer question -- what are the non-writing producers who aren't the line producer doing on the show?
They’ll tell you they’re shielding you from the network and studio and allowing you to devote your time to creative matters. But the truth is, for the most part, they do nothing but provide another level of obstruction, another layer of notes, and a partner you didn’t ask for to share some of your hard earned backend profits.
Here’s the bottom line: If you can do the show without them you don’t need them. And for years writers have been doing the show very nicely without them.
What is your question?