Ready for Presidents’ Weekend? Got your costume? Let’s get you in the mood with some Friday Questions. Leave yours in the comments section. And don’t party too hard this Prez Wknd.
Ann starts us off:
I have a "Frasier" question (or a request, really). I was reading your story about Peri Gilpin's casting as Roz Doyle and I was wondering if you had any more Peri stories. She seems like such a warm and genuinely nice person and Roz was always my favorite character on "Frasier."
She is a warm and genuinely nice person.
Here’s a story: first season. I didn’t really know her that well. We finish a runthrough and she’s in the radio control room set. I say to her jokingly that she really looks like she knows how to run a radio board. She says she comes from a radio family. Her father was a disc jockey… but unfortunately he had passed away.
Peri was very little at the time. I told her that I had met and become friends with her father when he was the program director of KHJ in 1969/70. I even interviewed him for a class project. One weekend he filled-in on the air and I ran a tape.
The next day I gave Peri that tape. She said it was the first time she had ever heard her dad on the air. Now with the internet and great websites like Reelradio.com there are several airchecks of Jim O’Brien floating around and everyone can appreciate just how good he was. But back then it was just my dusty 7” reel-to-reel tape. I was so thrilled that I was able to provide that for her.
Peri is wonderfully down-to-earth. It’s like she’s almost not even an actress. We still correspond. I hope to someday get to work with her again. She is a true joy.
Bg Porter asks:
In the room, how much consideration is given to how a joke will age? Is it enough to get a laugh in 1973 with your great Comet Kohoutek bit? I'm remembering the Cheers scene where Frasier enters the bar and agrees with the tribal chant that he had just heard, "Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody... Wang Chung...tonight." Plays very differently in 2012.
Ken, I've always wondered about how certain jokes work when recording in front of a live studio audience. For example, if you have a joke whose punchline depends on a cutaway to another scene (e.g. a character says something like "I would never be caught dead in a giraffe costume" followed by a quick cut to that character wearing the giraffe costume), how is that filmed? Obviously you can't get the character into the costume quickly enough for the audience to laugh at the joke at the right time. Is the audience shown the pre-recorded scene at the appropriate time or are those usually covered with a laugh track?
Also, are sitcoms taped in front of an audience filmed in chronological order so they unfold like a play? I know movies aren't done this way, but I always wondered on TV shows how it worked if you had a setup in the first act that paid off in the third. Thanks for any insight you can provide!
Jokes that depend on quick cuts are generally pre-shot the day before and are just shown to the studio audience on monitors.
Shows are filmed in chronological order so the audience can follow the story. It is like a play. Except in plays they don’t perform the same scene two or three times before moving on. In some Tom Stoppard plays I wish they would run scenes multiple times. I might be able to follow them better.
And finally, from Chris:
Does the network ask you about future episodes and how many stories do you think you have or do they just order episodes if they like the pilot and it tests well?
You mean when you’re originally pitching a pilot? Yes. They want you to come in with several suggestions for possible stories. And later, after the pilot is filmed, they may ask for written story possibilities before they decide whether to pick up the show.
Once the show does get picked-up the network then has to approve every story, every outline, and often – every draft. At least for new shows… unless a major showrunner like Chuck Lorre is at the helm. But the norm now is total network control. Stories are so hard to come by. I wonder now how many great stories were thrown out because the network rejected them? And when you see some of the lame stories shows are doing you have to wonder – how much of this is the staff’s fault and how much is the network’s? You can probably guess which side I'm on.