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.