Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Chase vs. Harmon Update

So Dan Harmon has apologized. Kinda. Sorta. In his blog yesterday he addressed the brouhaha surrounding his recent feud with Chevy Chase that has resulted in enough articles and blog posts (including one by your humble host) to take the heat off of Keith Olbermann. The real loser here is Gloria Allred. America’s number one attention whore is representing the disqualified transgender Miss Universe Canada contestant and no one cares. (Losing a case Allred can handle, but a press conference that doesn’t get coverage? Catastrophe!)

Harmon has acknowledged that the negative feedback has gotten to him. I think the cyber tally prior to his mea culpa was 10 thumbs-up for “like” and 4,000,000 whatever the icon is for “you’re-a-douche.” (Hey, I’m sure I can expect 500 “you’re a douche” claims myself just by addressing this topic again. Commenters appear more passionate about this than say how we approached writing the character of Frasier.)

Anyway, Harmon apologized for playing Chase’s voicemail during his stand-up act. He then tries to disarm his detractors by saying, “I’m a selfish baby and a rude asshole and not a person to trust with your feelings.”

That’s all very commendable (and probably true), but Harmon never mentions the incident at the wrap party where he insulted Chase in front of his wife and daughter. I’m sure Gloria Allred is calling Chevy right now seeking to represent him.

Do I really care whether Harmon gives Chase a proper apology? No. Do you? But because it was a half-apology, this story and mud slinging will continue.

The internet has been a wonderful thing for showrunners. They’ve been able to drum up support for their shows and attract some attention to themselves. It still pisses me off every time I pick up an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and see their Sound Bites feature where they show TV actors and post lines their characters have said. To the public, that looks like the actors came up with those pithy lines. None of them did. Writers wrote those! At least now through blogs and social networks, writers and showrunners can finally step into the limelight (assuming Twitter is the limelight).

But the web is also a trap. Transgressions get circulated instantly. Blog posts and angry Tweets are broadcast worldwide. I’m sure there were peasants in caves in Afghanistan following the Marc Cherry-Nicollette Sheridan trial.

Here's my point:  Showrunners have to take special care not to air any dirty laundry publicly. This is not just preferable; it’s imperative. Remember, you’re not just representing your show. You’re also representing the studio and the network. They do not like being embarrassed. They may tolerate it if your show still has some value to them, but good luck in the future when you’re no longer hot. Don’t needlessly shoot yourself in the foot for the benefit of your Facebook friends.

And then there’s the immediate problem: Internal incidents become major crises. And when that occurs you no longer have control over the situation. Now you’re also fighting public opinion and who can predict that?   Herman Cain got votes!  

Let’s take this specific COMMUNITY situation. Had Harmon handled Chase’s walking off the set discreetly, he could have made a much easier case for himself to fire Chase after the season. Now he has to contend with all the Chevy Chase fans rallying to his defense. And all the people who aren’t necessarily Chevy Chase fans but are taking his side in this scuffle. Thousands of emails I’m sure are pouring into NBC whereas there could have been none. Who needs that aggravation?

Harmon claims it’s his passion for the show and desire to please the audience that causes him to make these errors in judgment. I can appreciate that and have no doubt he’s pouring his heart and soul into COMMUNITY. But in the process he’s hurting his cause and making it harder on himself.

So showrunners, for the sake of COMMUNITY, and every show for that matter – do yourself a favor. Keep all squabbles private. Your loyal followers will not un-follow you. Gloria Allred will thank you. And tomorrow I can post that piece I prepared on how we wrote Frasier.

33 comments:

Curt Alliaume said...

"All the Chevy Chase fans"? Check the calendar -- it's 2012, not 1977. (And this comes from someone who still has his Chevy Chase vinyl album.)

Johnny Walker said...

Better yet, Harmon should just not act like a dick. Insulting Chase like that was something he did at a private function. It wasn't any more acceptable because it wasn't on Facebook.

I can't really imagine a situation where I wouldn't be upset with an actor for demanding a rewrite and then walking off a show, but that's certainly not the way to handle things (either Harmon or Chase).

The truth of the matter is that the most ambitious people are sometimes (often?) the least likeable.

I wonder what the script was?

cityslkrz said...

What about the dust-up from Lee Aronsohn's reprehensible anti-women remarks? I mean it's not surprising considering the misogyny on the show. But he didn't just offend his show's star, but 51% of the population.

Jake James said...

One has to wonder how long it will be before producers and studio heads (and agents and managers) start Tweeting and Facebooking their opinions and airing dirty laundry about actors they hate, showrunners they despise but work with because they're put out the goods, and writers they wont hire because they demand respect for the work they do?

Somewhere Sherry Lansing is bemoaning that there wasn't the internet in her heyday.

Nathan Hartman said...

I don't think I'd be one to trust Harmon as a show runner. I've heard several interviews with him, including a long one with the WTF podcast, and he always comes off as barely hanging on.

Though this is usually a symbol of the "true creative" that doesn't mean I'd want to trust my livelihood on him.

Tom Quigley said...

I can't imagine anyone who's thinking clearly and who's in any type of a management position, let alone running a high-profile network television program to see what benefit there would be in taking any internal conflicts public. It's just extremely poor judgment and in the end, no one wins.

Working the type of job I did when I lived in LA and being assigned to quite a number of different shows and productions, I heard plenty of stories on a firsthand basis (and believe me, a couple of them were doozies) about friction between actors and producers, between staff/crew and actors, between producers and staff/crew; and yet the successful shows, the ones that were able to stay on the air for five, six, seven seasons or more were always capable of dealing with these problems internally, and no one on the outside ever became aware of them. Even in this day of instantaneous social media and communication, It's not an impossible thing to do.

The problem isn't in the means of communication. It's in the lack of common sense demonstrated by those who are using it.

Warren Z said...

Regarding the Aronsohn issue, I was actually there at the conference he attended (though not at his talk, where he made his remarks). I did hear him speaking to some folks earlier and he seemed a nice enough guy.

But I came across this comment by Canadian writer Denis McGrath (heywriterboy on Twitter), who was there, on the NYtimes blog covering the controversy, so make of it what you will.

"I was there too. I even know the other commenter above. Unfortunately, she has gotten the context wrong - and so has the media in this case. Whatever you think of 21/2 Men (I don't like it myself,) Mr. Arohnson's point was that the show is from the point of men who have seriously damaged relationships with women. His point about comedy was that there is saturation on POV shows that are just about female difference. Arohnson wrote for Murphy Brown. This article does not reflect the context of his remarks. If you'd like to read about the true context, I suggest you follow @katholantern, a female comedy writer who was there. This has been distorted beyond belief. This is not about women vs. men, it's about comedy writing and point of view. Period."

Tervito Collavito said...

They're both a couple of douches in search of a bag. Now Gloria Allred, THAT'S entertainment!

PLAY BALL!

Frank said...

I bet there will be no tongue when Chevy and Dan kiss and make up.

Tamia said...

Ken, honey. A press conference with no media coverage would be a "catastrophe!" not just for Gloria Allred but for anybody who called a press conference. Afterall, isnt the point of calling a press conference to GET media coverage?

I am pretty sure that "peasants in Afghanistan" have more urgent priorities than to gather in "caves" and follow the Cherry-Sheridan case. I appreciate hyperbole as much as the next person but this was just off for me.

I agree though, Harmon apologises to everyone except the person he actually crossed - very passive aggressive of him.

As for Aronsohn, I would say that "I am done with him" except I have never watched a full episode of anything he has been connected with. And now I can confidently say that I never will.

D. McEwan said...

Why on earth is everyone so passionate about this? The whole appeal of this story is it's a spat between two spoiled douchebags. Watch them hack at each other and ENJOY! Why does everyone feel they have a horse in this horse's ass race? Who cares about Harmon? Who cares about Chevy? Why would anyone give a rat's ass about Aronsohn?

Really! Why? Laugh at the clowns, but why take sides?

Marija said...

Hi Ken,

I would much, much rather read about how you wrote Frasier.

Looking forward to it!

Loosehead said...

Arguing with your lead actor - counterproductive.
Slagging him off after he's walked off set - petulant.
Trying to lead an abusive chant later on, in front of his wife and kids - very uncool.
Getting all your showrunner and writer friends to write abusive blogs about your lead actor - now we're venturing into real arsehole territory.

RCP said...

"America’s number one attention whore is representing the disqualified transgender Miss America contestant and no one cares."

Actually it was Miss Universe Canada (sorry, it's the Edward R. Murrow in me.) Get your transgendered beauties straight!

OK - back to the Chase/Harmon mess...

Anonymous said...

Friday Questions for Ken:

1. If Frazier was about to be cancelled in it's third season, would you turn one of it's last episodes into a massive commercial for Subway?

2. If so, then what is your definition of a fat, mean, desperate whore of show-runner?

I'm trying to understand the ethical math of all this.

Anonymous said...

What I think is funny is seeing many of the actors and crew on "community" urging people on their twitter pages to watch and support the movie "bully," but when their own boss is the bully, they disappear into the walls, or keep whoring for the show as if nothing is happening!

I wonder if Gillian Jacobs tweets against slavery on her iPhone?

Warren Z said...

Well, it got passive aggressive here in a hurry.

A fuckin lady said...

@McEwan: Aronsohn didnt bully an equally douchey co-worker. No. He derided an entire brand of comedy for no other reason other than it is written by and for women. And the fact that he makes a living making the exact same comedy but from a male perspective is totally lost on that stoopid prick!

Ben said...

Ken, I've just finished watching M*A*S*H for the first time and couldn't help but feel that Charles Winchester was a pre-cursor for Frasier Crane. Do you know how much Frasier was based on or influenced by Winchester?

Flashfor said...

The wonderful thing when we live and enjoy the fun without disturbing others

Roger Owen Green said...

Off topic, is there a reason there's no place for comments on the current post re Frasier?

Johnny Walker said...

I'm guessing that Ken has disabled comments for a bit... there's been an insane amount of abuse flying around lately, it might be good to let people cool off for a bit.

Interesting post about Frasier, though. I'm on Season 9 at the moment, and the ornimentations have reached an all-time high. Still enjoying the show, though.

Someone once posted here that they'd heard Frasier had a huge show bible, apparently keeping track of all the details about each of the characters (as show bibles are want to do, I guess).

Having watched the show every day for a few month, from Season 1 to 9, I can definitely say that the characters have changed a lot. Martin was introduced as being very conservative. At one point he severely chastises his sons for talking about sex in a "modern" fashion.

In later seasons he loved having a bawdy girlfriend, and always laughs when someone says something risque.

Likewise Daphne started off as more of a kook character, and although that still rears its head from time to time, she's become a lot more normal. (Also, she was undoubtedly psychic in the early seasons -- she was proven correct everytime, much to the annoyance of Frasier.)

Niles has become less OCD.

Roz started off the series having a perfect relationship with her mother (juxtaposing Frasier's difficult relationship with his Dad), but that changed to the complete opposite in later seasons.

Just some things I've noticed :)

I'd love to know what was going on behind the scenes in Season 8 -- the show got horrendously serious at times. Almost to the point where I didn't want to watch it any more. The Lorna/Lana character was incredibly annoying, and it was depressing to spend time with her. Some of the storylines didn't feature any comedy at all (like Martin going to the parole hearing of the person who shot him), but as much as I love drama, it didn't work. It was just miserable.

Happy to see that Season 9 is more of a return to form, even if it doesn't reach the lofty heights of previous seasons.

Brian Phillips said...

This is a post regarding tomorrow's entry. I am able to do this because I'm a bit psychic and I am unable to leave comments in the next entry.

Sometimes you can see a style change when writers/showrunners change. "Mad About You" had its style, for better or worse and then Larry Charles came on board and the episode I saw was fine ("The Recital"), but you could have actually done some swapping here and there and you have been watching a "Seinfeld" episode.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Walker said...
I'm guessing that Ken has disabled comments for a bit... there's been an insane amount of abuse flying around lately, it might be good to let people cool off for a bit.
___________________

Johnny, why would he block comments on a non-controveersial subject, and leave comments open on one that is, because he wants us to cool down? You can't answer that, because you wouldn't make sense.

Part of good writing is about accurate observation, from which you draw logical conclusions, Johnny. You write who you are. You are your habits. Get better.

Ken Levine said...

There was a hitch that is now corrected. So comments for the current post on FRASIER are again welcome.

Johnny Walker said...

@anonymous: I can only assume that's some kind of meta joke about the level of abuse that's been flying around lately.

If not, I'll just add that a large part of writing comes from your imagination. If you can't think of a single reasonable way in which the events, as I saw them, could come about, I'd say yours must be severely lacking.

(I can now see why Ken hates people who post anonymously. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being patronized and insulted by someone brave enough to leave a comment, but too cowardly to take ownership of it.)

D. McEwan said...

"A fuckin lady said...
@McEwan: Aronsohn didnt bully an equally douchey co-worker. No. He derided an entire brand of comedy for no other reason other than it is written by and for women. And the fact that he makes a living making the exact same comedy but from a male perspective is totally lost on that stoopid prick!"


And that is relevant to this posting about Harmon and Chase how? You've decided to grind your own axe is someone else's playground. Your Aronshon objections are overruled on the grounds of being incompetant, irrelevant, and immaterial.

"Loosehead said...
Getting all your showrunner and writer friends to write abusive blogs about your lead actor - now we're venturing into real arsehole territory."


Well since Ken, as stated at the top of his first column on this topic, has never met Harmon, the only one here venturing into real arsehole territory is yourself, Mr. Head. (Or may I call you "Loose"?) I'll give you this: the acoustics up your ass are great. We could hear you out here just fine.

Johnny Walker said...

You mispelled "incompetent". Oh, delicious irony! Also, Miss Lady was merely answering your question as to why someone would care about Aronsohn.

RCP said...

Johnny Walker said...

"You mispelled "incompetent"."

Actually, that's "misspelled"

Johnny Walker said...

I believe that's known as "Muphry's Law".

Anonymous said...

McEwan-
"Well since Ken, as stated at the top of his first column on this topic, has never met Harmon, the only one here venturing into real arsehole territory is yourself, Mr. Head."

Reread the post.
He wasn't talking about Ken at all. He was talking about Harmon.

Good Wishes to You,
Team "Fuck Dan Harmon" Chevy

RCP said...

Johnny Walker said...

I believe that's known as "Muphry's Law".

That's right. Mixed perhaps with a bit of instant karma.

Johnny Walker said...

Karma is pretty fickle then, considering I was trying to defend someone by pointing out the irony of the attack.

When did everyone here suddenly decide it was OK to take out their life's issues on their fellow commenters?