More of your Friday questions and my answers.
Johnny Walker is up first:
Given everything you've seen in all your years working in the industry, would you still recommend wannabe writers try to get "in"?
I would absolutely recommend it. Name me a job that doesn’t have frustrations, horror stories, or faulty air conditioning. On the other hand, how many professions allow you to spend all day with incredibly funny people, and see the best actors in the business doing their material? Yes, the take-out Chinese Food gets cold and lays in your stomach like a bowling ball. Take a Tums.
It’s still a privilege to have something you’ve written be shown on national television.
But pursue it only if you really want to be a writer. If you feel you have a voice, or are just compelled to share your thoughts and imagination with others then by all means, go for it. Now with cable and webcasts there are so many more opportunities than back when I broke in during the Pleistocene Era when we only had three broadcast networks and wrote with sticks. But if you see a screenwriting career to be your fastest path to fame and untold riches, you will be sadly disappointed. Sorry Harvard grads and Boy George but the ‘80s are dead.
A few weeks ago I helped out on a pilot, which prompted this question from Gottacook:
Ken, do you have favorites among those sitcoms that didn't really take off and remain almost totally obscure today?
You mean besides my brilliant pilots that didn’t get picked up? Forget the title but Richard Rosenstock (FLYING BLIND) had a pilot a few years that starred Jason Biggs and newcomer Jordana Brewster that I thought was terrific – far better than anything that did get on.
My memory is a little hazy because these pilots come and go so quickly and I’m usually asked to help out for only a day or maybe two. And along the way there were some real dogs. But I recall there was a funny one starring Cheech Marin. There was also one by Robin Schiff with Romy & Michele (long before the movie) that certainly had its moments. I believe Lisa Kudrow starred.
I’ve been fortunate that a lot of the pilots I worked on did become series. Among them: CHEERS, FRASIER, WINGS, BECKER, IT’S ALL RELATIVE, GEORGE & LEO, ENCORE ENCORE, SIBS, THE GEORGE CARLIN SHOW, JUST SHOOT ME, OUT OF PRACTICE, PIG STY, LOVE & MONEY, THANKS, THE KRISTIN CHENOWETH SHOW, LATELINE, THE TONY DANZA SHOW, THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES, MY SISTER SAM, THE IN-LAWS, and THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW.
Max Clarke asks:
Ken, nothing broke the "reality" of a tv show like that fake phone number, 555 and something else.
For example, Cheers remains my favorite all-time comedy, but in the episode "One Hugs, The Other Doesn't," it ended with a doll singing the recorded phone number of Nanny G. Fine, a cute way for her to let Frasier know how to contact her, but the number was fake. Norm and some other guys even sang that fake number several times.
Did the writers and producers understand that having a character give an obviously fake phone number ruined the mood?
And I can tell you this first hand. When I was a disc jockey in San Bernardino I did the all-night show. So I had to sleep during the day. My phone number with a 714 area code was the same as a hooker who advertised in the LA WEEKLY (with a 213 area code). A hundred times a day my phone would ring and some mouth breather would say, “Hey, is Jeannie there, man?” I almost went crazy. And you’d think for that kind of inconvenience she’d at least give me a discount! Bitch!
What’s your question?