This is why television should not base all of their programming decisions on research: Based on your comments my “Friday Questions” is by far the most popular feature of the blog. It also consistently attracts the lowest traffic of the week.
But don’t worry. I’m not canceling it. It’s not like I’m developing “Friday Poetry Corner” in case the demos don’t improve.
Kevin Laseau gets us started:
What advice would you give to THE OFFICE as they go about trying to find a replacement for Steve Carell?
Straight-laced like Rebecca started out? Lovable curmudgeon a la Colonel Potter?
I would say just go for something completely different from Michael Scott. When Ricky Gervais originated the character for the British OFFICE I was in awe. We’ve all seen asshole bosses and incompetent bosses and screaming bosses but I had never seen that guy. Who else, what other type haven’t I seen? That’s what they should be striving for. Yes, it’s a Herculean task, but if anyone can handle it it’s Greg Daniels and his terrific staff.
The good news is if they do find this fresh new character it will energize the show, change the chemistry, and probably keep the series on the air two years longer than it would have been.
Jaime J. Weinman has a question about filming night in front of a live audience:
If you shoot a scene after the audience has gone home, what do you do about the soundtrack? Do you add pre-recorded laughs or show the completed scene to another audience later?
Depending on the situation, both. If we pick-up a scene after the audience leaves we borrow laughs from that night’s audience or “sweeten” with a laugh track.
However, if there’s a difficult scene or an outdoor scene we will usually pre-shoot it the day before the audience filming. In those cases we’ll show the scene to the crowd and record their reaction.
But here’s the odd thing about audience filmings: they will generally laugh harder at anything they are seeing live as opposed to on monitors. So a couple of times when I’ve directed BECKER and there have been scenes in cars I will pre-shoot them but on show night just set up two chairs and have the actors perform the scene live. Even with the complete suspension of reality, those scenes play far better than when we just screen the scenes that will actually be seen on the air.
We’ll then use the laughs from the live performance and put them in the pre-shot version.
Two of my favorite shows, THE OFFICE and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, did not have the best season. I've read interviews with showrunners from both shows, and there is a marked difference. The HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER guys basically acknowledged it was not their strongest year, said they were trying to do something different, and that it didn't work. Conversely, THE OFFICE showrunner defended the past season, said he liked what they did and considered it a successful year.
My question is: Obviously shows have off years. That's to be expected after a show goes several seasons. But what's the best way to handle it? Do you try and save face and defend it, or admit to taking missteps?
If THE OFFICE staff truly believes they had a good year then yes, they should defend it. You may look back in a few years and find you like this year’s episodes way more than you did originally.
But I really applaud the producers of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER for (a) admitting that they missed the mark this year, but even more importantly (b) that they were willing to take a chance creatively. I love that they place such a high premium on telling stories in a fresh way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t -- but it’s the mark of a true artist that he tries.
Have you or any show you've worked on had to do this, and if so, how was it handled?
I’d have a real hard time convincing people that AfterMASH was a great show. So yeah, I admit we kind of struck out with that one.
And finally, from Steve Currie:
Do you have a queue of articles waiting to be posted or do you write up your posts just a day or so in advance?
I try to have a few in the bank in case I need them but a lot of times I’ll bang them out the day or night before. I wrote this yesterday. I try to stay as topical as I can, which means writing close to publishing. It would have been hard for me to write my rant on the presidential visit a month before he actually arrived. Not impossible but hard.
What’s your question?