Thursday, April 05, 2012
My writing partner, David Isaacs and I once found ourselves in a quandary about how to write FRASIER.
We had been writing the Frasier Crane character since he first joined CHEERS in the third season. We continued to write him for the first few years of his own show. Then we went off to do ALMOST PERFECT for two years.
When that show was unceremoniously dumped by CBS we were invited back on FRASIER. By then Casey, Lee & Angell were less involved than the first few years. Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan were essentially running the show... and continuing to win Emmys year after year.
We met with them and beat out the story for what eventually became the “Room Service” episode. This was season six. Since we had been away from the show for a couple of years we asked to screen some recent episodes. What we discovered was that Frasier Crane had changed. His dialogue became much more florid. His speeches were filled with little ornamentations and curly-cues. Not exactly the Frasier we remembered.
So we were left with a choice. We could either write the “new” Frasier or the character that we were used to.
We decided to write him the way we always had. Instead of trying to out-guess Chris & Joe, we thought “let’s write him our way and they can always rewrite us and add the curly-cues.” So that’s what we did.
To our happy surprise, they didn’t change our Frasier dialogue at all. And when we watched the episode, we were very pleased. First of all, David Lee did a fantastic job of directing it, but beyond that it just felt like the character as we knew him.
We wrote several more episodes of FRASIER over the next few years and it was the same pattern – we went back to our version and they kept it.
Proud to say that David Isaacs and I and David Lloyd are the only writers to have written Frasier Crane from his first year at CHEERS to his last year on FRASIER. And David Isaacs and I are also the only writers to write Frasier Crane in three separate series. We wrote the episode of WINGS in which he appeared. So far this distinction has not resulted in jack shit. No perks whatsoever.
But the point is you have to write what works for you. And I know that can be tough, especially if you’re on an assignment. Obviously, when writing someone else’s show you have to be as faithful to those characters as you can, but it’s an almost impossible task to out-guess someone. When you’re thinking, “What words would (showrunner’s name here) use in this speech?” you’re digging yourself into a hole. You’re not that person. You’re can’t be in his head. Don’t let him get into yours. Take your shot. You might be surprised. He might even like your take better than his own.
By Ken Levine at 5:57 AM