It’s why we look forward to the weekend – Friday Questions! What’s yours?
What was Alan Alda like in person? Hawkeye Pierce was my first character crush as a 10-year-old girl and I've always wanted to know what the actor was like as a person.
Becky, you’ll be happy to know Alan is a terrific guy. Much like Hawkeye except he can’t do heart surgery worth a shit.
But working with him on MASH, he was always supportive, always respectful, and always positive. He was a great cheerleader. Never would Alan say, “This doesn’t work, fix it.” He would always say, “What could we do to make it better?” The key words there were WE and BETTER.
Alan was always willing to pitch in, and unlike with some other TV stars, his participation was very welcomed. He’d occasionally come up to the room and help out in a rewrite, and if you pitched a good joke he’d always be the one laughing the loudest. And then he'd take us out to dinner.
I know it sounds like I’m nominating him for Pope, but I genuinely loved working with Alan Alda. And would jump at the chance to work with him again.
Here's one for friday: I remember you saying extras aren't allowed to talk or else they would have to be credited as actors, how does that work when an extra or two have to laugh and it's obvious it's their laugh are those actors?
Laughing is not considered dialogue. Extras can laugh without being considered day players.
It’s often hard though, to get extras to react big enough. Not their fault really. They’re so used to miming. But at times when you’ll want them to really react to something they’ll give a muted performance. Or worse, most will give a muted performance and one or two will go way over the top.
Like everything else, being a good extra is a skill.
Depending on the show, the laughter you hear from the extras may not even be from their own mouths. Especially if someone’s laugh is too distinctive and possibly distracting. Looping people come in during post production and add laughter, additional screams, and background walla walla. All that chatter you hear in TV squad rooms or busy hospital corridors – that is all recorded after the fact.
Smoke and mirrors... smoke and mirrors.
Rob has a common CHEERS/U.S. Government question:
This morning someone who works for my company mentioned flags being lowered in Wisconsin for a former Chariman of the Joint Chiefs of staff. That reminded me of Admiral William Crowe, another former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was born in the town where I lived for a large portion of my life. I looked him up to confirm that he was indeed born there and saw that he was in an episode of Cheers written by...
How in the world did you come to write an episode including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
Here’s the full story and a great excuse to plug my archives. Lots of good stuff in there if you’re incredibly bored one day.
ernie changes the subject:
How are you able to keep positive and up when the team's hitting is horrible and in a seventeen game losing streak?
That seventeen game streak is now just a distant memory. For all I know it didn't even happen.
Staying positive is easy because I love baseball and love broadcasting it. Every game is different. Just because a team is struggling doesn’t mean they can’t pull off incredible feats. And no matter how long you’ve been covering the game, from time to time you’ll always see something you’ve never seen before. This even goes for Vin Scully and at last count I think he’s witnessed 3,474,864,843 ballgames.
But you never know. Last week there were two triple plays. On any given night you might see a perfect game or someone hit for the cycle or a spectacular catch or seven errors. Not to get too flowery or poetic but baseball is the Greatest Show on Dirt.
And finally, from Betty:
How did you get that first spec to the producers of MTM and did you have an agent before you made that spec and how did you get him/her?
We did have an agent… sorta. She worked out of her house. So you could call her agency either fly-by-night or boutique. But she was licensed and a signatory to the WGA.
We were signed because her daughter was dating my partner.
She claimed she was friends with David Lloyd, a producer of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and submitted our spec MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW episode to him. When she didn’t hear back in a month she sent a second copy along with a tart letter accusing him of shirking his duty.
This infuriated David who promptly rejected our script and began his letter with “How dare you!” The rest of the note went downhill from there.
Years later I worked with David Lloyd on CHEERS and brought up that story. He didn’t remember the incident but did say if he rejected our script he was sure it was shit.
And while we’re on the loose subject of archives, it’s worth going back and revisiting my thoughts on David Lloyd, a brilliant writer who passed away last year.