Aloha from Wailea, Maui. If you have any restaurant suggestions, please pass 'em along. Mahlo, y'all. Even in paradise I never stand down from my Friday Question watch. What’s yours?
Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Kveller (what a name) starts us off:
The mention of the awful series finale for Mad About You brings me to a Friday question - series finales. How does a good show go bad with its series finale?
I'm sure it has something to do with the pressure to do something "special" to end the series, but, still, why do these people who have just spent seven years successfully separating good ideas from bad ones suddenly lose that ability when they hit that finale?
As opposed to movies, the overall “story” of a TV series moves very slowly. Like a glacier but not as speedy. There may be little changes along the way but by and large it’s the same people in the same situation week after week. Now suddenly you feel compelled to make a big story turn. The audience is expecting some sort of closure. You want to satisfy them while also doing it in a fresh way. That involves a risk. Sometimes the risk doesn't pay off.
Also, how much closure? Is it just getting two people married or is it like LOST where you have 50,000 loose ends? Are you going to wrap up the storyline for two characters or eight? It can get complicated. Plus, it’s the natural tendency to want to be extra grand and special. After all, you know you’ll be getting a huge audience.
And networks want you to do longer last shows so they can sell more advertising. This takes you out of the rhythm of your show. MASH for example works best as a half-four. The lines come at you so quick. And for one 30-minute chunk that’s fine. But once it goes for an hour or more the pace gets tedious. The last MASH was 2 1/2 hours. Goodbye already!
My three all-time favorite final episodes were THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, NEWHART, and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. All three were just a half-hour.
I mentioned this before but had we known we were going to do a last episode of our series, ALMOST PERFECT, we would have brought back the characters from our two previous series (MARY and BIG WAVE DAVE'S) and wrapped up all three at once.
From Iron Fist:
Can somebody more experienced answer this question: Let's say you're in season 2. Do the network and cable executives personally approve the script of each episode or they trust the showrunner?
In most cases, yes. I remember talking to the showrunners of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER during (I believe) their third season and they were still having to get stories and scripts approved. And by then their show was already a big hit.
Eventually they leave you alone but first year shows – unless they’re run by Aaron Sorkin, Chuck Lorre, or David Kelley – have to deal with it.
Talk about the good old days – when the Fox network began they asked James L. Brooks to do a show. He said he would (the result was THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW) but that not only was the network never to give notes, they weren’t even allowed to come to the tapings of the show. Oh, I miss those days.
Jeff Hysen asks:
In his latest podcast, Alan Sepinwall said that Sam Malone "devolved" from smart to stupid as the show went from Shelly Long to Kristie Alley. Do you agree?
Absolutely. This was always my pet peeve. The general feeling was that they needed to make Sam dumber to get comedy out of the character. The original cool/street-smarts Sam was hard to write for – especially without Diane to play off of. I don’t agree. I liked that original version of Sam – maybe because it so mirrored me. Hey, stop laughing.
A lot of your work, particularly MASH and Cheers, have been parodied a lot in pop culture. Any of those parodies you found particularly amusing?
As a kid I idolized MAD magazine. And when they did a parody of MASH and used one of our episodes, it was like one of the greatest moments of my life.
And finally, a radio question from Bert:
It seems like an increasing number of FM radio stations are turning to a sports format, and some of these (for example KGMZ in the San Francisco area) broadcast major league baseball games.
My question concerns the FM sound quality of a major league broadcast. Having been raised on Vin Scully on KFI, KABC, etc, it sounds strange to hear the much more clear FM sound. Because the fidelity is so much better, it oddly sounds to me less like a professional broadcast.
What are your thoughts?
Here’s what you miss on FM – on AM the station generally compresses the signal to make it sound fuller. As a result, the crowd noise is raised and you have that bigger sound. FM is cleaner and with better fidelity but if you’ve listened to games on AM your whole life it just doesn’t sound right.
I still say the best way to listen to sports play-by-play is on a transistor radio under your pillow at night.