Egads! It’s Friday the 13th. But answering a question of yours is considered good luck, so here are a few.
John starts with a question that harkens back to a previous post about how actors should give writers notes.
Any corresponding anecdotes about actors/actresses who protested loudly/petulantly about a scene, didn't get their way and then had to watch the 'horrible' scene score a bull's eye with the audience?
Well, I have a variation of that. This was back in the late ‘70s on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW. There was one scene that Tony hated. It was between him and luscious young guest star Annette O’Toole (pictured: above). He tanked it in rehearsal. We all went back to the room and didn’t know how to change it. It should've worked. So we left it in. Next day, same thing. He buried the scene in rehearsal. One of the showrunners, Tom Patchett took him aside – and I’ve never seen this before or since – he told Tony they weren’t going to change the scene. Tom said it even worked when the casting director was reading the scene during auditions. Tom reiterated that the staff really believes in the scene and knows that if Tony wanted to commit he could hit it out of the park. But if he wanted to keep playing it the way he had been he could just die with it in front of the audience. Tony’s choice.
Tom then walked away. I was in awe. What cajones!
Tony did commit to the scene, it went through the roof, and afterwards Tony came up to us and said Annette O’Toole was really sensational and we should bring her back.
All these years later I still tip my cap to Tom Patchett. Wow.
Some actors have some experience writing or at least writing jokes, such as Ray Romano as a stand up comic. Are you more likely to take notes from somebody with this experience?
I have one simple rule: the best idea wins. Whether it’s from Ray Romano or the craft-services guy.
In the case of Ray, he was very involved in the creative process, even coming back to the room during rewrites. And I must say, having sat in on a few of them myself, he never played the “star” card. He was just one of the writers around the table. And yes, most of his suggestions were excellent ones.
Tim Simmons queries:
I love the deleted scenes from the office on their website. They are usually real quick jokes. Do writers add short, non-story related jokes to pad (or if running long delete) to fit time?
Sometimes. In the first year of CHEERS David and I wrote a bar run about what was the smartest barnyard animal? I think that was the bit. We wrote quite a few. Anyway, it was filmed, but then the show ran long so it was cut. A few weeks we put it back in another episode. Same thing. The actors rehearsed it, memorized it, performed it on camera and it wound up on the cutting room floor.
This went on about four times until the bit finally aired. By that fourth time the actors understandably were ready to storm the writers room.
Now you may ask, if you filmed it once, why not just use that? Because the wardrobe and background wouldn’t match. If this were MASH we would have been able to do that.
And finally, from DwWashburn:
In the pre VCR/DVR days of television it was not uncommon for a semi recurring character to be played by more than one actor. For example, Rob Petrie's father was played by at least two actors. Nowadays it seems like if a character is going to reappear, even if just for one or two episodes a season, the production company retains the same actor.
My question is does the actor (or their agent) call up the program and say "I'm available from insert first day to insert last day and then the writers get to work on a script featuring the semi-regular?
Or is a script written first, and then an effort made to find the actor and check his schedule?
Usually the producers will call the actor’s agent and check on availability first. If the actor’s free they’ll write the script, or they’ll adjust their schedule to accommodate the actor.
But not always. Remember the Bar Wars episodes of CHEERS? We used Joe Polis (pictured: left), but then he wasn’t available when we wanted to bring him back so they re-cast the part with Robert Desiderio. Over the next few Bar Wars episodes they kind of traded off depending on who was free. Too bad Annette O’Toole wasn’t available.
What's your question? Leave it in the comments section and stay away from black cats. Thanks.