Aloha. Here are some Friday questions from paradise. If the answers seem weird, it’s the pina colada talking.
Ken, do you (or anyone else) have a single favorite sit-com scene (from one of your shows or not)? I'm not referring to an entire episode, but rather a single scene (of, say, around three minutes or so) than can stand on its own.
It would have to be the "Chef of the Future" scene from THE HONEYMOONERS. Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Ed (Art Carney) try to peddle a new kitchen device on live television. This kills me every time. Check it out.
As for shows my partner and I have written, even though it’s longer than three minutes, the last act of Room Service from FRASIER, directed by David Lee.
Is there anyone on the production team responsible for grammar and pronunciation? Is this job description a thing of the past, a victim of current economics? Hardly a week goes by that I don't hear a "you and I" that should be "you and me." On last week's "Terriers," a character referred to a criminal's fiefdom, but made the first syllable rhyme with "life" instead of "thief." Are there no standards anymore?
Jon, not only is there not such a person on staff, when writers try to assume the role of grammar police, they usually wind up dead in a ditch with stab wounds from all the other writers on staff.
Especially when room writing, the goal is to get the scene down, get the attitudes right, find the best jokes. Number one, if a staff member keeps holding things up because of punctuation, it slows down the process. You try to get on a roll and you don’t want it interrupted by someone insisting a semi-colon is needed. Secondly, you’re writing conversationally. Real people don’t speak in proper English and don’t always know correct pronunciations. Maybe the character in TERRIERS who screwed up fiefdom did so on purpose.
If this bothers you, then you're going to have a problem with every show on network television. For God sakes, stay away from RAISING HOPE.
Over the course of your career, research would have changed quite a bit. From library and phone calls to internet.
What are the advantages/ disadvantages over time in how access to information has changed things? Does make it harder for plot surprises? Poetic license?
Having the world at your fingertips is a HUGE advantage. And it saves money.
Years ago, each studio had a “research” department. If you needed to know something about the Spanish-American War or who hit the most home runs in 1935, you called the research department. Several hours later, in interoffice mail, you’d receive a smeared Xeroxed article or two that hopefully answers your question.
And your show would be billed $800.
So for that reason alone, God bless Google.
But the best research is still one-to-one interviews. Nothing compares with first-hand experiences. The interviews that were done with nurses, doctors, and soldiers who served in Korea accounted for most of the stories on MASH.
My question is have you ever noticed when a staff writer on a show uses the same plot device repeatedly in the scripts he wrote and the show's quality suffered as a result? In this situation is it more the responsibility if the writer who wrote the initial draft to challenge himself and write something unlike what he's used to, or do the other producers just have to have more of an input on the final draft to ensure it doesn't seem too formulaic to longtime viewers of the show?
Staff writers are usually assigned episodes to write. A staffer may come in with a story idea that gets developed and he is given the assignment to write it, but generally, the entire staff plots out stories together. The showrunner has his thumb-prints on every story, whether he writes the first draft or not.
Sometimes writers excel in writing certain characters or types of stories so they get assigned more of them. Whenever they did a farce on FRASIER they always went to Joe Keenan. He’s a master at that genre.
That might be what you’re sensing. But on sitcoms, don’t pin too much blame, or heap too much praise on the credited writer.
And finally, bevo has a MASH question.
I recently lost some weight rather quickly (it was planned). My clothes are baggy and very loose as a result.
I started thinking about the MASH episode where Charles is convinced that he is gaining weight because his clothes are tight. Who thought of the story? Was it result of the research efforts that have been discussed previously? How did the last line, which is brilliant, come about?
Since B.J. was a practical jokester, we were always on the lookout for pranks.
I had heard of a story about a guy who pulled a practical joke on his neighbor. The neighbor got a new car. For about a week, the prankster would sneak over and refill the gas tank. The neighbor was ecstatic. He couldn’t believe the incredible gas mileage he was getting. Then the prankster switched it around. He began siphoning gasoline out of the tank. Now the neighbor was refilling every two days and mystified why he got 100 miles to the gallon one week and 4 the next.
We adjusted that story to fit our needs.
As for the brilliant last line, I don’t really remember it. It might be the reference to “Bean Pole Levine”, which was a nod to me (except I pronounce it Le-Vine).
What’s your question?