What happened to the summer? That’s the first Friday question. Here are others. Thanks for asking yours.
Many series have clip show episodes with some new material to tie together all the reminiscences. Do you keep an audience from a regular taping, or if there is something in need of a audience reaction, do you just sweeten with taped reactions?
I never had a show of my own on long enough to have a clip show. Did one on MASH, which took more time pouring through footage than if we had written a six new episodes.
Note to showrunners: CLIP SHOWS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS. At first you’ll think it’s a freebie, but it’s NOT. It’s a time suck like you wouldn’t believe.
If a show does not heed my advice they usually will shoot the wrap-arounds after a show if filmed and just before the audience is released. How many people stick around? That depends on how long the filming was? If they kept for five hours then there will be a stampede when the director yells “cut!” If they're kept for three they’ll probably hang in there. It helps to provide pizza.
On TAXI they did an interesting thing: to save money because each week of production was expensive, they put together a two-part episode where each character went off to find a new job. And every week they filmed one of these scenes after the regular show. Each actor only had one week where they really had extra duty. They also filmed the wrap-arounds after completing an episode.
This saved Paramount two weeks of production costs. And by the way, they were two of the best episodes that season.
Alan Sepinwall, TV critic extraordinaire (who you should read on his new site) asks this MASH question:
In hindsight, do you think it was a mistake that when Radar left "M*A*S*H," his replacement was the pre-existing Klinger? Or did Klinger's role and persona change enough with the promotion that it felt like the show had added a new character?
I wasn’t on the show at the time. The last episodes my partner and I wrote were “Goodbye Radar” but that never stops me from answering questions as if I were there.
I believe the decision to make Klinger the company clerk was to kill two birds -- cover that job assignment and give Klinger something else to do. The producers (rightly so) determined that we had gone as far as we could with the dresses and Section 8 schemes. Having used every gown in the vast 20th wardrobe department that covered over 10,000 pictures probably was a clue.
I think the trouble they encountered though was that without that schtick it was hard to make Klinger really funny.
Ever since advertisers discovered that they could get specific audience info rather than as a block for everyone, networks have targeted their decisions to the 18 - 49 demo. It doesn't matter how many people overall watch a show as long as the 18-49 or better yet 18-35 demo loves it.
Do you think this has affected the quality of programming?
Good God, YES!!
It seems to me that comedy shows especially were funnier before the Friends model began to control everything. Not to mention a number of shows that I enjoyed that were pulled because even though the total viewership numbers were decent, they didn't do well in the 18-49 demo.
I don’t know if they were funnier but comedies used to be more sophisticated. They were written by adults for adults.
Oh no!! This is going to make me sound like one of those "you kids get off my lawn" old guys. But...
What I don’t understand is this: why do networks feel the only way to attract younger viewers is to do shows featuring teenagers and twentysomethings exclusively? I think that's insulting to the viewers you’re trying to reach. In today’s world the following shows would never get sold: MASH, FRASIER, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE ODD COUPLE, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, CHEERS, WINGS, TAXI, BARNEY MILLER, and ALL IN THE FAMILY. None of these shows had zany teenagers or were about high school and yet all these shows had huge 18-34 numbers.
I wish the networks would give young viewers more credit.
And finally, from Dana Gabbard:
Ken, how do you and your partner come up with titles for the scripts you co-write? Any rule you tend to follow? Does it make a difference whether it is for a show that displays titles on air as to how much effort is invested in coming up with a title?
Even if a show doesn’t display the title on the air it's usually listed it in your channel menu. So be careful not to give away any plot secrets.
Sometimes to soothe an actor’s ego we’ll put the name of the character somewhere in the title.
Otherwise we generally just do variations of movie titles or puns. “Death Takes a Holiday on Ice” was the CHEERS title in the episode where we killed Eddie LeBec with a rogue Zamboni machine. When Norm staged an office toga party we titled the show, “Friends, Romans, Accountants”. Nothing too elaborate. It's not like you're being asked to come up with episode titles for Rocky & Bullwinkle.
I love how on FRIENDS they just titled every episode “The one that…” How many brain cells were saved as a result of that time saver?
On OPEN ALL NIGHT we wrote an episode we called “Missing One Geek”. It got filmed with that title and I dunno, someone objected so it got changed to “Terry Runs Away”. When we were nominated for a WGA Award for it the Guild didn’t know what the official title was. Fortunately, all confused was erased when we lost. What a break!
What's your question???