Good grief! It’s Friday question day. Leave yours in the comment section. Thanks.
YEKIMI gets us started:
Was there ever anyone you wanted to use as a "guest star" on MASH [or other shows] but decided against it or the network decided against it because they felt they had been "overexposed"? [i.e.: too many apperances on other shows, etc.]
Not that I can recall. Generally we try to avoid that ourselves. There have been times when an actor has been suggested and we’ll say, “Jesus, haven’t we seen him enough already?” But those are usually character actors. We’d be thrilled to use Ted Danson in any project we ever do, even if there’s no part for him.
The big double-edged sword for character actors is landing a long running commercial. It’s great money but they can become typecast. I hope for her sake that the Progressive Insurance chick is making a bundle. And good luck to Jack from Jack in the Box if he ever wants to guest on LAW & ORDER.
Networks love “stunt casting” – bringing in a guest star with celebrity value that would attract a larger audience. Movie stars are preferred (duh!). And that’s fine when you’re a big hit show and it’s cool to be on it. Julia Roberts does a FRIENDS. Madonna does a WILL & GRACE. But if you’re just a struggling show (and need the audience boost the most) it’s extremely hard to snare one of those people unless someone on the shows knows a big star personally and is willing to call in a favor. I’m sure you could get Lindsay Lohan to guest on TIL DEATH if you could break her out of jail for five days.
When we were doing ALMOST PERFECT and CBS was hounding us for more stunt casting, we were unable to scrounge up any Oscar winners (living or dead). But we had what I thought was a fun idea. Since our show was set in the writing room of a TV cop show, we thought it would be fun for one episode to bring back all the classic crime fighters from years gone by. Angie Dickinson, Mike Connors, Jim Garner, etc.
We could have said, “We’d like to do a Manson Family reunion” – that’s the level of enthusiasm we received from the network.
So we settled for Marie Osmond (who was terrific by the way).
Barefoot Billy Aloha, who I assume is from Mississippi, asks:
How did you guys decide on top billing? Straws? Grenades?
We go in alphabetical order and neither one of us can spell.
Seriously though, I got top billing at first because I called David to see if he wanted to work together. Once we started selling scripts I offered to alternate billing every year and David said, “No, let’s just leave it this way. My relatives know where to look to see the credit and it’s up there so briefly that to switch every year would just confuse them.”
But within the industry we’re known as both. Either Levine & Isaacs (pronounced correctly – Lee Vine) or Isaacs & LaVeen.
From Bob Gassel:
When it came to deciding what happened to the old gang at Cheers (ie: Rebecca's divorce), were you free to do whatever you wanted, or did it have to go thru several channels?
You’re referring I assume to the FRASIER episode we wrote where Sam Malone guested. You can read the script here.
As I recall, David and I came up with the various scenarios of where the CHEERS characters were then and ran them by the FRASIER staff, which included three former CHEERS producers in Casey, Lee, & Angell. I don’t think they ran our ideas past the Charles Brothers but they might have. We were never told. And none of our ideas were vetoed.
We tried to make them funny and very character-specific. We didn’t want to do anything really crazy with them. Norm is now a big porn star, Cliff is the Secretary of State – that sort of thing (although both ideas are very plausible).
And finally, MIkeN wonders:
DO the cast while filming an episode ever say this part of the script makes no sense?
Only all the time. It pains me to say they’re usually right. But most of the time they’re polite and respectful about it. Not like Orson Welles. I’ll leave you with this recording session for a commercial Mr. Welles was asked to do. Yikes!