Aloha from Hawaii where the tradewinds are whispering Friday Questions:
Derrick starts us off:
How is it decided who gets credit for creating a series? I was reading a piece about the old sitcom Bewitched awhile back, and while a gentleman named Sol Saks is credited in every episode as creator of the series, I got the impression from the article that nearly half of the guys associated with the series in its first season claimed at some point to have been the one who REALLY dreamed up the whole thing. While I'm sure at least some of that is latter-day glory-seeking, how (and who) decides who gets credit for creating a television series?
Where things get sticky is when different writers are brought on at different times during the writing of the pilot. Then it goes to arbitration. And whoever gets story credit ultimately gets created by credit.
Bill Jones wonders:
Hi Ken. I have a question about "imitator" shows--you know, the shows that appear in the wake of a hit show, where it's clear that everyone else is trying to copy the success of the previous show. Examples include all the FRIENDS knockoffs in the mid-90s (remember TWO GUYS, A GIRL, AND A PIZZA PLACE?) or, more recently, NEW NORMAL, which is so clearly a knockoff of MODERN FAMILY.
How do these knockoffs come about?
Networks spread the word that they’re looking for the next FRIENDS. But in truth, they don’t even have to. We all know networks chase whatever’s popular at the moment. You come in excited to pitch a totally original concept and they’re disappointed you’re not bringing them “GLEE but in Law School.”
I can't tell you how many times my writing partner David and I were told by networks to give them another MASH. We said we couldn't. MASH was unique. One time we sold a pilot about an improv group and a network exec said, "Great, but you make it more like MASH?"
A few years ago we wrote a pilot for NBC. It was a very urban sophisticated comedy. When they bought it we were told their mandate was to return to the Must See TV smart comedies of yesteryear. We turned in the first draft, they loved it. Hardly any notes. They were thrilled.
Then MY NAME IS EARL premiered, did well, and all of a sudden the mandate changed to “rural” comedies. Our can't-miss project was dead.
So not only are you chasing the elusive zeitgeist, you’re shooting at a moving target.
Of course, it's one thing when networks are all chasing monster hits. But I'm hearing tales of NEW GIRL knockoffs. NEW GIRL is only in its second year and struggling to stay alive. Not exactly SEINFELD.
When an actor exits a scene or they are not in a particular scene, where are they? Do they go out and watch the scene? I'm of course referring to a show shot with an audience.
They generally go backstage or to their dressing rooms. Sometimes they'll go to make up. Often times they’re changing wardrobe. We discourage actors standing on the stage. It takes the audience out of the show to see the actors out of character.
If an actor wants to watch the show, there is a quad-split (the four monitors) backstage out of the audience’s view. They generally don’t because that’s where all the agents and managers congregate.
Max Clarke asks:
About actor names, did the Charles brothers get it that their good name "Sam Malone" was also "Sam Alone" when they wrote the pilot? Considering the end of the series and that last shot of Sam alone, it was perfect.
No. It was a coincidence. And at the time they created the character they had no idea he would not wind up with anybody. Also, there’s no significance attached to Norm being the “Normal” bar patron.
Do you have a question? Leave it in the comments section. Mahalo.