It’s Friday question day. Poor Kaley inspires the first one.
I just saw that Kaley Cuoco broke her leg in a horseback riding accident and that The Big Bang Theory show is planning to rewrite the script they are filming tonight without her.
That sounds like a Herculean task to take a significant character out of an episode in two or three days. Has this ever happened on a show you were on? If so, how did you do it and what (belated) advise would you give the BBT writers.
First off, best wishes, Kaley. I imagine in time she'll return and they'll explain away the cast. And this is just the kind of thing that wins people Best Supporting Actress Emmys. I'm just sayin'.
Anyway, to the topic. Yes, once. In the first year of CHEERS we got a call in the writers room at about 7 that Nick Colasanto had just been admitted to the hospital with Pleurisy. We had to rewrite him out that night.
The hard part was reconstructing the story. But it was doable. Had we lost Ted or Shelley or had BBT lost Jim Parsons they might have had to shut down. This is why it's fortunate for TWO AND A HALF MEN that Charlie Sheen is not in prison.
You have to go into every season with the mindset that along the way there will be a few episodes that are snake-bitten. An actress will break her leg, a script will bomb at runthrough, there will be a flood on the stage on show night. You just have to expect it and roll with it.
The good news is that those late nights can also really bond a staff. There’s a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. As long as it doesn’t happen every week. Then you just want to fucking kill someone.
I really don’t have any advice for the BBT writers. I can offer my support though and say to them – good luck you sorry bastards.
Hi Ken, here's a question for you. Do you know any writers/producers/directors/actors involved in the soap opera industry? How can the possibly keep up with writing and filming for a one hour daily show?
Surprisingly, I don’t know any soap opera writers. Maybe because they’re locked up writing all the time. The hard part has to be plotting out the overall storylines that will stretch out over weeks and months. I imagine with practice these skilled writers can bang out the actual scripts in fairly short order. On the other hand, it’s not like they have to write a blog post every day. Now THAT’S pressure.
I do know a number of soap opera actors like Eric Braeden and Carolyn Hennessey and I’m always in awe of their ability to memorize hour scripts every day. They both say the same thing. You develop a technique that allows you to memorize very quickly. And once the show is filmed you almost instantly forget it.
Soap opera talent (on and off camera) doesn’t get the recognition they deserve. They work in a very specialized and rigorous field. So you have to excuse them for the occasional twin brother marries a girl who turns out to be his sister who was thought to be eaten by cannibals but escaped by sleeping with the tour guide who she later learned was her father.
"Networks now pretty much control the stories." Does that mean that when we like or don't like the direction a show goes in, we should be crediting or blaming the networks as much as the showrunners?
Yes. But if the show tanks guess who gets blamed? Not once have I ever heard a network say, “You know we led the showrunner in the wrong direction. It’s really our fault.”
And finally, a rather unusual question from Steve:
As a writer, do you ever develop crushes on your characters? For instance, did you have a crush on Dharma or Diane Chambers? (I would have.) If so, did that affect your writing?
To be honest, I’ve never even thought about it. Since I work with the actual actresses, I dunno, it would be weird. Really weird. So... no. I confine my crushes to SI swimsuit models and Rachel Maddow.
Monday I’ll answer another question, but it’s a long one, worthy of an entire post. I’ll give you tips on how to pitch a movie or pilot to agents, networks, or studios. This is called "a tease". It's also called a "stall tactic" because I haven't written it yet.