But first, I have a question: Why the hell do people shop at 3 A.M.? It’s just the first day. Do you really think Macy’s will be cleaned out by 9:00? Anyway...
Steve B. asks:
Ken, from and writing and producing standpoint, which do you prefer, single cam or multi cam? It would seem like single would give you more artistically to work with, but multi brings that immediacy of working with a crowd that can't be replicated.
Uh, I think you answered your own question. There are advantages to both. Having worked in both formats, I can honestly say it depends on the idea itself. Some shows like MODERN FAMILY benefit from being able to bounce from family to family. Others, like BIG BANG THEORY that are primarily set in one or two locations are structured more like plays and benefit from having an audience.
I suppose, of the two I’m slightly partial to the multi-camera format. I like actually hearing the laughter. And there is an energy that is created by having a studio audience.
Also, is one much more expensive than the other?
Single-camera is more expensive. More sets, takes longer to shoot. Generally more ambitious.
Anonymous has a question. (Please leave a name in the future. Thank you.)
Curious about network show promos. Does the show runner or writer(s) suggest the clip or clips used to promote an upcoming episode? Or is that the judgment call of someone in the promo department? Did you ever have battles over promo content?
The showrunner does not have any say in the promos. It’s the network promo department. And depending on who they are, they can be very good or downright abysmal. Showrunners sometimes suggest clips but nine-times-out-of-ten they’re ignored.
Promo people manage to constantly give away plot points, ruin great jokes, and diminish the integrity of the show. Most comedies come off as loud, stupid, frivolous burlesque revues. Drama promos are all the same. “A killer is loose. Can _________ find him before it’s too late?”
And it’s the old joke about the guy who hates a restaurant because the food is bad and the portions are too small – showrunners are always complaining that they don’t get enough promos (even if they’re bad).
And where the promos are placed is also a major factor. Who cares if you get a promo in PAN AM? You want it in ONCE UPON A TIME.
A personal pet peeve is your show is on the second-half of an hour and the 30 second promo is 25 seconds for WHITNEY and then 5 seconds for you. The network then tells you you had a 30 second promo. No you didn’t. (Of course, if you follow WHITNEY, promos are the least of your problems.)
Why do on some shows the creator writes some episodes every season and on others they just write the pilot and maybe the finale? (Assuming they don't leave the show for all its run).
If the creator is the showrunner, chances are his thumbprints are on every script, whether he takes credit or not. How many he actually writes himself depends on how much else he has to do in producing the show, how much he trusts his writing staff, how prolific he is, and how much lead time he has.
I tend to co-write a lot of episodes of my series, especially early on. We’re still trying to find the show and also provide a clear voice for other writers to follow.
Generally, once the show has been established the creator will write special episodes, season premieres and finales. Or episodes that introduce new characters.
Personally, I like to write as many episodes of my show as I can. But that’s just me. I like writing first drafts. Other showrunners would much prefer rewriting off of existing drafts. Let me amend that – most showrunners would prefer an outside writer turn in scripts that are so good they can be shot as is. If you know of that writer, tell me!
And finally, from Drew:
I was watching a sitcom, which will remain nameless, from the 1980s a few days ago. It was a big hit, but most of the actors on the show have since vanished. So my question is, how do actors survive after their hit shows go off and nothing comes their way? Do they just live off the money they made while the show was on? Try to get a guest star gig once a year to keep them afloat?
All of the above. The good news if you’re on a long running hit that remains in syndication you still get royalties. The bad news is you sometimes get typecast and it’s hard to find subsequent work.
This is especially true for character actors.
Some write books, pursue other interests (their “name” is a big help in launching a product or business), become soccer moms, get into voice-overs, sell dolls on QVC, play in bands, teach at universities, get arrested, or donate their time to humanitarian programs they feel strongly about. Mike Farrell of MASH is deeply committed to several extremely worthwhile causes.
Oh, and one other line of work seems to attract former sitcom performers – U.S. Senator.
What’s your question? Write it now before you run back out to Kohl’s to buy those fleece vests. Hurry! Only 7,000 left… at each location.