Friday, July 02, 2010

If I could write on any show...

Happy Indie Day. Here are some Friday questions to read in the Emergency Room if you’re planning on using home fireworks this weekend.

Brian starts us off:

What show past or present would you have loved to have written for and is there a show you would turn down?(if you were fortunately enough to be able to turn down work).

I would have killed to have written for THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. Also BILKO. When David Isaacs and I were breaking in, the holy grail was THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. They filmed at the Radford lot in the valley. David’s apartment was in Studio City so we would write our specs there and on the way to lunch drive by the MTM stage and say, “We’re coming, Mary!”

Today’s shows: Maybe MODERN FAMILY and DEXTER but that’s kind of a cheat because they’re essentially the same show.

Early in our career we would turn down nothing. We wrote back-up scripts for horrible pilots; we didn’t care. It was work.

And then throughout our career we considered each project individually. There were a lot of factors. Did we like the show? Did we feel our sensibilities meshed with the show? Did we like the people we’d be working with?

The only time I would categorically turn down a project is if I knew I just didn’t understand it. David helped out on a pilot one night. It was an urban show written by white writers. And there was someone in the room whose job it was to take the jokes and turn them into Ebonics. To me that was completely nuts. Hire writers who understood that world and didn’t need translators.

And even then it depends on where you are in your career. Our first assignment remember, was a JEFFERSONS.

Steely Dan (apparently has taken time out from touring) asks:

Do you think that movies and television are two distinct mediums?

Yes, for one main reason: movies take forever to get made, TV shows don't. What I most love about television is that you can “serve it while it’s hot”.

Otherwise, production values on television shows can be as good or better than movies. Even though TV series are essentially serialized, we live in an age of sequels so you can see the same movie characters in five installments. Some movies even film concerts or plays in front of audiences so that’s similar to the multi-camera format in TV.

And the blurring continues as there are now movies of TV series and TV series based on movies.

And finally, from David:

You've said that you and David (Isaacs) verbally talk out the script you're writing and have an assistant in the room taking notes. Do you ever have a situation where the assistant throws out an idea or two? Is this one of those things that is frowned upon under all circumstances, or is it the type of thing where if the assistant has a good line, you're happy to have it?

Generally it is frowned upon but it depends on the relationship you have with the assistant. Along the way we’ve had three great ones – Lana Lewis, Sue Herring, and Ruth Horne. Not only did we value their opinions, we sought them out. Rarely would they pitch “jokes” but sometimes they did and sometimes they got in.

There were other assistants we had that would have lasted a lot longer had they just let us do the talking… even a little.

But Lana, Sue, and Ruth we adored.

One time we were rewriting JEWEL OF THE NILE with Ruth taking the dictation. We were stuck on a story point. Jack (Michael Douglas) was trying to rescue Joan (Kathleen Turner) who was held prisoner in a tower. We pondered for about ten minutes over whether he’d enter this certain chamber, would he be expecting guards and look for a different route, and if so what would that route be, and would there be guards there too? Back and forth, back and forth we went on this issue until Ruth finally just said (as she wrote it down), “Jack enters!” We said, “Okay” and went on from there.

What’s your question? Happy 4th. Don’t blow your fingers off lighting fireworks.

22 comments :

Anonymous said...

My question is about continuity. Sometimes there are glaring continuity issues that always leave me wondering, why doesn’t the actor say, “hey, this isn’t right!” A prime example is from The Andy Griffith Show where the character of Goober Pyle is suddenly, with no explanation and for just one episode, referred to as Goober Beasley. How and why does this happen? Thanks, Carson.

Corey said...

Head line from recent Portland Oregonian: "Gun ruling a victory for medical pot users"

LinGin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LinGin said...

My question regards television and baseball. I'm an aging baby boomer who has watched a lot of television and not quite as much baseball. I don't recall the terms show runner and walkoff homerun being used while I was younger. When exactly did these terms come into use?

Abie the Fish Peddler said...

"There are now movies of TV series and TV series based on movies."

NOW? This is hardly a new development. It is a tradition that goes back to the 1950s, when there were movies based on DRAGNET and OUR MISS BROOKS, and TV series based on KING'S ROW and CASABLANCA.

And some of you may remember a TV series from nearly forty years back, that was based on a movie called M*A*s*H...

Abie the Fish Peddler said...

Anonymous's posting reminds me of a famous incident in comic book history: The Hulk made a guest appearance in an issue of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, and his alter ego was repeatedly identified as "Bob Banner"--though he had always previously been named Bruce Banner. When readers complained about this, Stan Lee explained away his memory lapse by claiming that the character's full name was Robert Bruce Banner.

Years later, the producers of the Hulk TV series insisted on changing his name to David, on the grounds that "Bruce" was an effeminate name. They did, at least, make a slight nod to tradition, by showing his full name to be Robert David Banner.

DJ said...

No, it was shown as "David Bruce Banner"

Mike in SLO said...

It is a change from my youth that TV today is edgier and usually better written than movies. As a kid, that seemed to be reversed. Maybe it's cable? The ability to target a niche audience instead of the masses? In any event, I think that's a nice change, although I rarely find a reason to go the movies anymore.

Mary Stella said...

Years later, the producers of the Hulk TV series insisted on changing his name to David, on the grounds that "Bruce" was an effeminate name.

Bet that pissed off Batman.

Abie the Fish Peddler said...

DJ is quite correct. My excuse is I was relaying a 30-year-old memory--not that my almost-50-year-old brain is all that much better with more recent memories.

My verification word is "rests." Uh, that's the plural of... "rest."

estiv said...

Since you're expressing your admiration for THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, your readers might like to know that all five seasons are available for streaming via Netflix. It's cool to not even have to handle a DVD or Blu-Ray and get to see such great work. (You do have to have one of the supported game consoles, like a Wii or PSP.) I'm about halfway through the first season. The original HEAD OF THE FAMILY pilot, with Carl Reiner and Sylvia Miles (!), is also included. And no, this isn't spam. Or if it is, then I'm getting stiffed.

Gary said...

That's funny, Mary! Maybe that's why he insisted that his sidekick be called Robin.

Bob and Rob Professional American Writers said...

Oh, let me think...for a millisecond! The Dick Van Dyke Show!

One: Carl Reiner

Two: Dick Van Dyke.

Three: Mary Tyler Moore.

Four: Mary Tyler Moore's sweaters.

Five: "Buddy, "Sally" and..."Shut up, Mel!" The funniest ensemble in history...

I might add, I named my first born son, Brady Alan!

Cheers, (no pun intended) Bob

thomas tucker said...

The Dick Van Dyke show is the greatest comedy show of all time. And people who have met him say that Dick Van Dyke is an incredibly nice person. One interesting tidbit that I didn't know until recently- Richard Deacon, who played Mel, was gay.

Eddie Haskell said...

I wonder if Mrs. Rutherford knew her husband was gay. I bet Lumpy didn't.

play roulette online said...

television programs may be factual, as in documentaries, news, and reality television, or fictional as in comedy and drama.

thomas tucker said...

Hey Eddie.
Quit giving us the business.

Kirk Jusko said...

You mentioned the Mary Tyler Moore as being the Holy Grail of sitcoms, and it made me think of a question. Although the show was funny throughout its' seven-year run, I thought it lost a little something after Rhoda (Valerie Harper) left. Not laughs, but, at the risk of sounding a little corny, some heart. I wonder what your opinion is of this.

Laurie A. said...

A question: when a season premiers, how many episodes are generally completed and ready to air? How many are written and remain to be written? How many are at various stages in between (and what are some of those stages)?

Also, do you know how a season is going to end at the onset of writing the first episode in order to appropriately build up to it, or do you wind through the season without really knowing what the ending will be?

Mike said...

I'm printing out the final paragraph of this post and putting it right between my keyboard and my monitor so I don't forget it the next time I get stuck.

Mark said...

Just caught the Frasier episode with John Glenn. Any back story you can share of that episode? What was he like to work with as an actor? From "You Bet Your Life" to "Frasier", interesting career for him.

Mark said...

My memory is apparently faulty. John Glenn was on "Name that Tune" Oct 4th 1957, not "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx.

I like my memory better.