It’s Friday Question Day, complete with a special guest expert!
Jim S. starts us off:
How did the guest celebrity callers to Frasier's show do their bits? Did they record them, do them live, some combination of both?
How did you choose them? Were they favors, a cool inside baseball thing to do?
When I don’t know the answer I try to go to the person who does. Jeff Greenberg was the award-winning casting director on FRASIER and handled that aspect of the show. Jeff graciously took time out from casting MODERN FAMILY to answer your question Jim S.
We mostly used good non-name actors to record the callers when we filmed the show in front of a live studio audience in a special sound booth we built onstage and replaced those voices later with our namier guest actors. We often recorded those by phone or at a sound facility at their convenience, but occasionally they'd come to the show and record them live. One I can remember who did it live was Jay Leno. I remember that Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio recorded hers from a payphone in Lincoln Center in NY.
Initially we did call in a few favors to get it going. For the pilot, Linda Hamilton did it as a favor to me, and Griffin Dunne was a friend of Chris Lloyd, one of our producers. Other early favors were Patti LuPone and Judith Ivey.
David Lee, one of the creators of the show, and I would decide whom we would ask to be our celebrity callers. We paid them a favored nations $1000 for a few minutes work.
Thanks so much, Jeff. By the way, Timothy Leary was the caller on an episode my partner David and I penned. How many people can say they wrote comedy for Dr. Timothy Leary?
With the recent trend of re-making old dramas such as Charlie's Angels, Hawaii Five-0, 90210, why do you think it has not been attempted with old sitcoms? Or have there been attempts that just never made it to air?
It’s harder if the show was built around the star. You’re less likely to see a new ANN SOUTHERN SHOW or TONY RANDALL SHOW.
When M*A*S*H was originally aired they always showed the title of the episode. As someone interested in the writing and producing process, I was always interested in those details. I was probably the only 10-year-old who knew directors and writers names. When the show went into syndication these titles were cut off. I am assuming this was done for time considerations; to squeeze in a few more seconds of commercial time. How do you feel about this, as a writer?
MASH rarely put the titles of episodes in the credits. As a couple of commenters pointed out, it occurred a few times for hour episodes. That was because after the show was originally run in its hour form it was split up into two half-hours and we needed a way to connect them. Just saying “Part 2” wasn’t enough. “Part 2” of what? So we showed the titles.
I’m not a fan of showing the title because often times they give away key story points. This is especially true on FRIENDS where every title begins with “The one with (or where)…” “The one where Old Yeller Dies” is an actual episode. You really want that to be shown at the beginning of the show?
And finally, one from Dave Arnott:
Since I've been enjoying post-season baseball so much (and without "my" team in the hunt, even), I was wondering... if you know...
Where do Umpires come from?
Now that I've likely set you up, seriously... are they mostly old players, because it seems like they aren't, which kinda surprises me. Do you have any inside knowledge in this area? Thanks.
There are umpiring schools. The two I would recommend are the Wendelstedt Umpire School and the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring. Jim Caple of ESPN did a great story and video about the experience. You can find it here. The truth is it’s a lot harder and more demanding than you think.
Like players, graduates begin umpiring in the lower minor leagues and slowly work their way up. My feeling is, if want to take that kind of abuse, why not just be a comedy writer?
What’s your question?