Hello from Peoria, Arizona where spring training continues. People ask if I miss being on a show fulltime. Re-read the first sentence. Here are this week’s Friday Questions. In honor of spring training, the first is a baseball announcing question. The rest are TV and movie related.
Chemistry in the booth seems to be pretty key to a great broadcast, would you agree? How big a role does the producer play in that, and how is it tested on the road? I seem to hear Rick (Rizzs) and you among others make sure to mention the producer (Kevin Cremin) a lot last year; I've always enjoyed the Mariners broadcasts and last year was new but quite enjoyable, despite the team.
We’re very lucky on the Mariners to have the best producer/engineer in the business in Kevin Cremin (pictured above). And I don't just say that so my voice isn't buried under the crowd. In addition to the technical aspects of the broadcast, Kevin is forever feeding us stats, interesting background on topics we may bring up, and in general making me sound a whole lot smarter than I am.
Here’s how special this guy is: Now of course we have the internet and can look things up in a jiff. But in the dark ages ('90s), Kevin carried around essentially a portable library – a large heavy cabinet filled with baseball reference books, media guides, rule books, etc. This was in addition to all the cumbersome broadcast gear. You can’t believe what a pain-in-the-ass this bulky cabinet was, and no other producer/engineer bothered. But Kevin schlepped it with us everywhere. Little wonder that he usually is the engineer for the national radio broadcast of the World Series. And has gotten a hernia.
(By the way, there is a Kevin Cremin who is a line producer. Worked on THE SHIELD among others. Not the same guy.)
Chemistry in the booth does make for a much better broadcast. Again, I’m very fortunate. My broadcast partners, Rick Rizzs and Dave Sims both tolerate me with patience and grace.
But there have been cases where broadcast partners hate each other and don’t speak. For a long time the radio team for the Cleveland Indians was Jimmy Dudley and Bob Neal. They couldn’t stand each other. When one was calling the game the other would routinely eat chicken and toss the bones into a metal waste basket that would clang annoyingly just to piss his partner off. There are cases of announcers coming to blows. I'm sure when Al Michaels used to work on ABC with Howard Cosell that there were times he wanted to beat the living crap out of him. Now THAT I would have liked to have seen.
Have you ever worked all night on an episode and you felt it still didn't work but you had to put it on the air? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you doubledown harder on future episodes, brainstorm, or do you just accept there will be hits and misses as part of doing business?
If we categorically know a show just doesn’t work we will take steps to dump it. Hopefully we’ve got another script in okay shape ready for next week. We’ll just grab that and worry about next week later. Or perhaps we’ll shut down production for a day to completely construct something else. That’s a pretty drastic move because it costs the production a lot of money. Budget is a major consideration here.
One of the advantages of doing a multi-camera show on a Wednesday-Tuesday schedule is that as a God forbid you have the weekend.
Usually when you have a major rewrite, by the time you’re proofing the script at 6:00 in the morning you have no idea whether you’ve helped the script or just written a new bad version. You can go down to the next day’s runthrough and it’s a disaster or magically works like a charm. Trust me, I’ve experienced both.
For a more detailed example of this and the video of the resulting show go here. I’m extremely proud of this episode.
But those are extreme cases. Most of the time we’ll have things in every show that don’t work or could work better. The staff has to have the confidence to assume they can fix the problems. Dave Hackel, the creator of BECKER used to say to his cast on those occasions when a troubled show was on the stage, “Every week we deliver a beautiful healthy baby. Sometimes they just come out feet first.”
That said, some shows come out better than others. If we’re still not happy we will sometimes reshoot new scenes the following week during pick-ups. But at some point we have to live with it. These shows are just too expensive to casually toss out. Every season will have its weaker episodes. We just have to keep them to a minimum and learn from them.
Someone who didn’t leave his name (please leave YOURS) wonders:
When you watch the DVD extras of any current movie, they often show multiple takes of the same scene, with many different punchlines being tried.
How long as this been the accepted way that comedies are filmed? Does this mean that nobody liked the original punch line in the script, or that improvising is more accepted these days?
It's hard to imagine a comedy of the 1960's being done this way. As a classic example, I'll bet the script to "The Apartment" was completely finalized before filming, and it was shot exactly as written, with no alternate line readings or ad-libbing.
The key to all this improvising is you need actors, a director, or on-stage writers who can pull it off.
Still, there’s a part of me that misses those fine-tuned comedy screenplays like THE APARTMENT where every single word is there for a purpose.
And finally, Chris weighs in:
Why do they say Whitney is TAPED in front of a live studio audience? Do they still use tape in 2012?
Multi-camera shows are taped in High Definition, but they look like film… or close enough. And it’s much cheaper.
What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks.