On my way up to Seattle for the big Mariners’ home opener. Here are some Friday Questions while I wait forever in the TSA line.
Damian1342 is up first (beating out the previous 1341 Damians):
Is it possible to get a freelance or staff writing job or even manager from just a Sitcom Pilot script? As opposed to doing a traditional Spec script? Of course we are assuming here the script is good and can be placed in the right hands. Or does one really have to have one of each?
Today you do need one of each – a spec for an existing show and some piece of original material. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a pilot. It can be a one-act play or short film script.
I was on a panel with Bill Lawrence (SCRUBS, COUGAR TOWN) recently and he told the story of a young writer who submitted a spec from an existing show and a DVD. Bill liked the script and turned to the disc, which was labeled “writing sample.” He put it on and it was four minutes of this guy sitting at the computer writing. Bill hired him.
Now you take a big risk doing something outrageous like that. Some producers would not be amused and you’d be dead. But others might think, “Wow! This guy is original.”
Me? I’d laugh, think it was great, and then ask for a pilot.
Heath Brandon (a proud Sitcom Room alum) asks:
Do showrunners listen to the feedback of critics and audience members and potentially adjust something to the prevailing wind throughout the course of the season?
I can’t speak for all, but most do. We certainly did. Especially with a multi-camera show, you have the advantage of an audience's reaction so you see what works and what doesn’t and then steer your show accordingly.
But what that means is you’re really living on the edge that first season. You want to always be ahead, have a few scripts in the bank ready to go, but not too many because things could change. And you sure don’t want to go week-to-week with writing new scripts because then you wind up in a cardiac ward or the Unibomber’s shed.
Mid-season shows have the advantage/disadvantage of filming all episodes of their order before they finally air. The disadvantage is you can’t make mid-course corrections based on feedback. But the advantage is your cast isn’t plunged into a suicidal depression when bad reviews and/or bad ratings come in. Try producing another eight episodes when that occurs. It’s Baghdad with worse weather. Sometimes it’s best when you’re working in a bubble and everyone is happy and optimistic and fooling themselves.
As for critics, there are some I admire and take seriously and others who are idiots and I just dismiss.
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?
To my knowledge, not at all. Frasier was created by the Charles Brothers to serve as a temporary love interest for Diane. Who would Diane Chambers be attracted to and why? Those were the only considerations.
And finally, from scotmc:
A few episodes of FRASIER utilized Seattle's now defunct NBA team, the Supersonics. How much should a show incorporate its location, city?
As much as possible. Your location can be a great tool in defining your series. We’re all products of our environment and incorporating that into your series helps determine the attitudes of your characters.
The location also adds flavor and specificity. Generic is the enemy of comedy. (Well, that and Adam Sandler.) Here's an example. What’s funnier?
“I’m so sick.”
“That’s what you get for going to White Castle.”
“That’s what you get for going to that popular east coast franchise fast food restaurant that is famous for serving bite size but greasy hamburgers.”
On the other hand, you have to be careful that your location mentions aren’t so specific that only people in that city will get the reference.
“I’m so sick.”
“That’s what you get for going to Ray’s on Cloverdale.”
Ten people in America might get that (although legendary comedy writer Jerry Belson used to say, “ten is enough.”)
Ultimately, my favorite shows are the ones that take me into a whole world, whether it be Seattle, Washington, Harlan County, Kentucky, or Pawnee, Indiana. And I think it was very smart to set WKRP IN CINCINNATI in Cincinnati.
Okay, I have to put my shoes, belt, jacket, eye glasses, and tooth fillings into the bucket and go through security. What’s your question?