Working through these Friday questions as fast as I can. Here are a bunch more.
What show do you recommend to spec? You’ve mentioned 30 Rock, but since it's in its fifth season, is it maybe getting long in the tooth?
Is it wiser to write for a young show with promise (Raising Hope, Modern Family) or to write for a show that might be too stale in a year or so (Always Sunny, 30 Rock?)
Thanks, and I'll take my answer off the air.
If possible, write specs for shows that are hot or on the way up. The problem with writing a spec 30 ROCK now is that there are already a gazillion of them out there. Producers are tired of reading them.
That said, the most important factor is what show do you feel would best show off your talents? That's the show you should target. If you really don’t get MODERN FAMILY or like MODERN FAMILY then don’t spec one. On the other hand, if you are Barney, then HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is your "quid pro bro".
Among the preferred specs to write these days – and I’m just guessing here but I’d say MODERN FAMILY, PARKS & RECREATION, COMMUNITY, BIG BANG THEORY, maybe BORED TO DEATH.
I’d give the freshmen comedies a few more weeks before tackling one of them. I wouldn't put too much time into plotting out a spec RUNNING WILDE.
And if you have a great GARY UNMARRIED, sorry but junk it.
Here’s one from Richard Carpenter (I assume not the one who was Karen’s brother since he’s from Milwaukee):
Do writers for a series have a list of special talents of the actors, or do they ask around when they need something special for a scene?
There was an episode of Modern Family that centered around Cameron playing drums, an episode for which the actor really had to know how to play, and not just fake his way through it. I can't imagine even starting such a script before you knew it was possible to pull off.
Were there any cases in your shows where you used such a special talent, and if so how did that come to be?
Not a list per se but usually on actors’ resumes they will list their “skills”. I always check that because I am forever amused at what they consider to be “talents”. Bicycling, suitcase packing, stenciling, old lady impersonation, can throw a spiral, cook tacos, look good in shorts.
Normally you don’t have to ask actors what their special skills are. They’re happy to volunteer that info. And sometimes we’ll try to work those skills into shows. Eric Stonestreet really was a clown in his past life. MODERN FAMILY parlayed that knowledge into Emmys. On that Mary Tyler Moore show David and I did where we gave Katey Sagal her first job, we knew she could sing (she was once one of Bette Midler’s Harletts) and found a way to have her sing in an episode.
And then there’s Jane Leeves.
In the first year of FRASIER there was an episode where they needed her to play pool. Jane had never played pool so a tutor was enlisted to hastily teach her the fundamentals. After two days she was making trick shots. The tutor said he had never met anybody who picked it up faster and was as naturally talented at pool as Jane. He said she could be a professional after three days. Sometimes these people are just brimming with gifts. (I also understand that Jane is good at stenciling.)
Jim Miller wonders:
Why don't TV writers ever use the wisdom of the crowds by publishing and taking comments on a script before the script was shot? Fans could even vote on which jokes worked.
Jim, that’s an honest question but I can tell you there is NOTHING in the world, the universe that would piss off a comedy writer more than people voting on his jokes.
My post yesterday dealt with this to a certain extent. Audiences vote with their laughter.
And finally, from Eduardo Jencarelli:
Regarding those Simpsons episodes you wrote, did you and David get paid extra for creating the Capital City Goofball on Dancin' Homer and Ronnie Beck on Saturdays of Thunder?
What’s your question?