To be answered sometime in this post. Greetings from Seattle where I’m broadcasting this weekend’s series against the Minnesota Twins on 710 ESPN, the Mariners Radio Network, MLB.COM, and Sirius/XM satellite. But before I fill out my line up card, here are some Friday Questions.
Liggie starts with a baseball broadcaster query:
How long did it take you to get used to calling games while having the producer barking into your earpiece? I have to wear a headset for my job, and I always have trouble concentrating when I'm talking to a customer face-to-face while an unrelated conversation is going on in the radio system.
It was an adjustment when I first started doing television play-by-play I admit. But most of the time the director will only chime in when it’s necessary and he'll be brief. “Replay.” “Promo.”, etc. That said, I had a director when I was in San Diego who drove me nuts. I’d be telling some story on the air and he’d be commenting in my ear. Or trying to top me if I was saying something funny. I finally had to take him aside and tell him I would kill him and his family and his pets if he ever did it again.
When I was with Seattle in the early ‘90s Ken Griffey Sr. was my partner on some telecasts. Ken is a great guy, but at the time was new to broadcasting. The director has the ability to talk to both announcers or either announcer through our headsets. Sometimes the director will talk to the analyst and tell him what graphic or replay is coming up. This would be the case with Kenny, but from time to time he would answer, forgetting that he was on the air. So I’d be talking about something and Ken would randomly blurt out, “When do you wanna do that?” or “No.” And at first I thought, “What the fuck is he doing?” and then I realized.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for Bob Costas, hosting the Olympics, keeping all those names and events straight, and in his case the director must be talking to him non-stop. It’s truly an art.
What's the most important piece of advice you'd give to the director of a brand-new sitcom?
Help the actors find their characters. Show patience, allow for a lot of experimentation, and create a safe, open environment.
Always hanging in the air during a pilot is fear. There’s a lot riding on it. Today especially, actors know they could be fired as early as the network runthrough. So in addition to trying to embody a new character they’re always working with a guillotine over their heads. You need to understand this. They will do their best work if they trust you. Be in control of the set. Set the tone. Let them see you really are on their side and whatever their process is (and each actor has a different one), you’re willing to work within it.
Then go home and down a pitcher of margaritas.
estiv wants to know:
The other night I was watching a Dick Van Dyke Show episode with Allan Melvin in a supporting role, and got to thinking about how many times I had seen him over the years. On shows like MASH and Cheers, what was the feeling about using well-known character actors for individual episodes? Seems like it would be a tradeoff between hiring a known quantity, reliable and professional, versus the fact that such a familiar face could take the audience out of the story, and just make them think, "Oh, him again." How has it worked in your experience? Thanks.
I tend to fall in the “Oh, him again” category. At least at the beginning of casting. I’ll ask the casting director if there isn’t someone we haven’t seen as often? But on many of these occasions we’ll read some fresh faces and realize they’re not nearly as good as the veteran character actor. There’s a reason he gets cast in so many shows.
I remember we had a part on MASH one week. A certain character actor was suggested. We said, “Jesus, he’s been in everything.” Let’s keep looking. After multiple casting sessions we just cried uncle, hire the established guy.
He turned in a fantastic performance. A few years later he got a break starring in a small movie that became a surprise hit and his career took off like a rocket.
The movie? BABE. The actor? James Cromwell… although at the time we knew him he was always “Jamie.”
My heart goes out to character actors. They’re always either over-exposed or under-exposed.
Finally, from GC from France:
What is your favorite sitcom episode, if you have to choose just one?(any show)
What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks!!