Aloha. Taking time out from doing nothing to answer some Friday Questions. What’s yours? Mahalo.
Vidor is up first.
My question is about the final episode of "Cheers", which aired on WGN just the other day (savagely cut, I'm sure). I have read in different locations that the silouhetted figure in the window in the last scene is 1) James Burrows (most sources say this) or 2) one Bob Broder, agent to Burrows and the Charleses. Which is it?
The answer is Bob Broder -- the best agent I ever had.
How do writers handle `legacy' themes that have run their course in sitcoms they join in mid-run. I'm thinking specifically about end-of-episode VOs like Scrubs, where the J.D. character wraps up the lessons learned in the previous 22 minutes. That annoyed me (I lasted well past the time JD was a rookie). I also think Modern Family is making the same mistake -- they will have a long run and the ``hugging/learning'' statements are already old. Can writers talk a show runner out of it (and if so, tell your pals on MF to knock it off!)
My partner, David and I came aboard MASH the middle of the series run and by that time just felt we needed to continue the legacy. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.
However, we did try to do format-breaking episodes along the way just to shake things up. The Point-of-View episode was one example. In “Night at Rosie’s” we set the entire episode in Rosie’s Bar, making it more of a one-act play than short film.
But our goal was not to change MASH. It was to do episodes that even approached the greatness of the Larry Gelbart years.
When there are big stylistic changes, usually it’s the show runner who makes them. If you’re sick of a device he’s probably sick of it ten times as much.
From Wendy M. Grossman:
Why do so many shows fall off a cliff, quality-wise, in later seasons? In some cases (Sex and the City) it seems like they run out of the original material the show was based on; in others, that the original creative team left (Murphy Brown, mid-run); in others that they lost track of their original premise (Mad About You was a close-up look at a couple forming and negotiating through a marriage - and in later seasons the two of them hardly spent any time together on their own).
But what is the underlying cause?
Having to churn out 22 episodes a season, year in and year out. And having to make them in a compressed period of time. It burns out showrunners, exhausts ideas quickly, and sometimes leads to creative mis-steps as writers flail to keep the show fresh. But how great would HAMLET be by episode 87? I mean, Shakespeare was good but he’s no Sorkin.
Here's a Friday question relating to the end credits -- did you write an ending differently if the final scene simply faded to black, as M*A*S*H did in Seasons 1-5, or if you had a 'freeze' on the end shot for the titles (Seasons 6-11), or where the end credits are detached from the scene, as with Dick Van Dyke, or later with Cheers?
No. In fact, until that question, I never even thought about it. I suppose, of the two, the freeze frame provides more of a punctuation to the final joke, but that format change was made not for creative reasons but to accommodate credits.
A finally, from Paul Duca:
I have a rare baseball question... it seems MLB won't approve the sale of the Houston Astros unless the new owner allows the team to moved into the American League. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I hate it. Each team will now have to play something like 70 interleague games since each league will have an odd number of teams (15). In addition to diluting the distinction between the two leagues, what are you going to do about the Designated Hitter rule? The American League has it while the National League does not. The Players Union will never allow the DH rule to go away (it means more money to more players) and the National League has never embraced it. But now what? National League teams are at a distinct disadvantage in AL parks against teams with DH’s. And American League teams are at a disadvantage playing in the NL park where they (a) can’t use their DH, and (b) their pitchers are unaccustomed to batting.
Seems they have to unify the two leagues, but does that mean the NL gets screwed? Again, don't fix it if it ain't broke.