Hello from Noo Yawk! The Mariners begin a pivotal, crucial three-game series with the Yankees tonight. I’ll be calling the play-by-play for the Seattle Mariners Radio Network and MLB.COM. If there are lulls I can answer Friday Questions on the air, but just in case the action is too jam-packed, I’ll answer them here.
Matt leads off:
Recently, "METV" reran "Love, American Style." This is the first time I've watched the show from a writing perspective and I really admire how the segments are tightly written, funny and well paced. I wonder what your thoughts are on this show as an example of how to get right into a story, on creating characters and dialog.
The great thing about that series was that it provided work for lots of writers. You would think those little featurettes would be easy to write since they were just ten-minute in length. But in fact, they were a bitch because in a sense you were writing mini-pilots – introducing characters, setting up the premise, telling the story, and getting laughs.
I always rooted for that show because it was the only comedy series on the air that was an anthology. It broke the rule that you needed to follow familiar characters to be a success.
I never got an assignment for LOVE AMERICAN STYLE but did get to write for THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, which was very similar.
About ten years ago one of the networks tried to reboot LOVE AMERICAN STYLE. A pilot was produced but it never made it. REJECTION AMERICAN STYLE.
Here’s a question from Becca that she posed in the comments section of an entry from a couple of weeks ago. But it’s a great question and you are invited to weigh in as well.
What are some TV shows from the past that you felt were canceled too soon? This is a question flung out there into the universe for anybody who wants to answer.
Okay. You asked. It’s a rather long list, probably includes a lot of shows you’ve never heard of, and I’m sure I left out six more. But here goes.
When you're writing a script and you envision a non-specific celebrity cameo of some sort (like, say, last year's The Muppets), is it considered presumptuous to include that note in the script? And is it preferable to leave it anonymous or "assign" the role to give the reader a better way to envision the scene?
We generally do not write a celebrity cameo into a script unless we know ahead of time that we have him. Of course, that’s not to say that plans don't change after you complete the script. We wrote a CHEERS episode expecting to use Larry Bird. He backed out so instead we got the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, Admiral William J. Crowe. No joke. And they essentially played the same part.
If you are writing a spec script I would recommend that you not use any celebrity cameos. It’s kind of a cheat. You know you’re not going to get Julia Roberts to appear in your pilot or spec ROB. So why do it?
And finally, Adam White wonders:
As an aspiring staff writer, how to get agents to focus on reading specs vs original material. It seems that every time I get an agent or manager wanting to see my work, they just want to read the pilot. I have a solid original pilot, but I feel like my specs are out-and-out better displays of my talent/funniness as they don't have to waste as much time laying pipe and can focus on my strong points: nailing character voices and being funny.
Sorry, Adam, but today you do need original material. You need specs for existing shows too, but even if an agent loves your spec BIG BANG THEORY he’s going to ask to see a pilot or something original. That's just the way it is. I guess you could always write a couple of LOVE AMERICAN STYLE scenes.
What’s your question? Leave them in the comments section. Many thanks!