Back in LA, ready with Friday Questions.
Cap'n Bob begins:
Do non-actors like Judge Judy need to be in an actor's union? How about non-actors who make one-shot appearances on TV shows?
You can be Taft-Hartley’ed if you just do one, but anything more you need to join SAG.
Interestingly, when I had to join SAG about twenty-five years ago, I had to go right down to their office, fill out the forms and pay the initiation dues – in either cash or a cashier’s check. No credit cards or personal checks were allowed. I guess they had been stiffed too many times. New SAG members, is that the same policy? (Hey, I can ask Friday Questions too.)
Is it easier to write for a sketch show? I assume the networks can't really give you notes since you don't have any stable characters or stories.
It’s hard for me to say because I’ve only written on one sketch show and we had no notes. That was on THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW for James L. Brooks at the beginning of the Fox network and Jim’s deal was no interference whatsoever. The network wasn’t even allowed to attend tapings. It was a beautiful thing.
I imagine Lorne Michaels has a certain amount of autonomy at SNL save for standards & practices.
In many ways I found sketch writing harder than sitcom writing. You don’t have established characters. You don’t have stories the audience will be invested in. You have to quickly create a situation, establish everyone, have a beginning, middle, and end and be funny throughout since you live and die by the laughs.
My big problem with most sketches is that they start with a good premise and then have no payoff. You get a few big laughs off the premise and then the sketch fizzles. Endings are important, kids.
I suppose on SNL they have the added task of working the guest host into the sketches. Sometimes these hosts are – to be charitable – not gifted sketch comedians. It’s always a pain to write around NFL wide receivers.
As a former radio guy, can you speculate why the (opinion) talk format has been a bonanza for conservatives but a non-starter for liberals?
Conservative talk show hosts tend to be more extreme and project bigger personalities. They make more noise and draw more attention. And that makes for more dynamic programming.
Most liberal talk show hosts I know are rational and measured. Who wants to listen to that? And they're also not as entertaining.
However, if there is a rating trend it’s that people are getting tired of loud right-wing radio. Ratings have steadily declined. Folks are getting tired of the act.
Molly B. wonders:
A couple years ago, PARKS AND RECREATION was running promos welcoming Rob Lowe to the cast at the same time that BROTHERS AND SISTERS was running promos about the season finale in which "someone" was going to die. Obviously that someone was Rob Lowe's character since he was already a regular on another TV show. Is there no clause or at least professional courtesy that would prevent one show from announcing a new series regular before that actor's character on another show has been written off?
Professional courtesy? In Hollywood? What’s that?
If you read one of the on-line trades you’ll see who has been hired to appear in pilots. And it’s the same thing. When I saw that Elizabeth Mitchell had signed to star in the pilot of V I figured, “Uh oh. They’re killing her on LOST.” But like I said, you can’t blame the actor for looking elsewhere.
Happy final weekend of Christmas shopping. My book would look great in someone’s Xmas stocking. Just sayin’.