Bonus Friday question: Dana Gabbard asks:
you could give us a peek at the legal process a script goes through. I
know from reading the Making of Star Trek that someone researches
whether a character's name is too similiar to an actual person who has
the same profession as the character, etc.
There are a
couple of research firm that comb through scripts to identify possible
legal problems and double-check facts. You mention Hitler and they’ll
say, “Former German dictator”, stuff like that.
time on CHEERS we had a run where Cliff explained the derivation of
Yorkshire pudding. The research person called me (since I co-wrote the
episode) asking where I got that information. She had been researching
it for two days and couldn’t confirm our claim. I said a waitress at
Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant told me. The researcher was apoplectic.
“You can’t go with historical information based on hearsay from a waitress!” I reminded her it was Cliff telling the story. Who gives a shit if he’s right? She hung up satisfied.
other research firm story is not so amusing. When my partner, David
Isaacs and I were creating the MARY show for Mary Tyler Moore in 1985 we
set the series in a Chicago newspaper. We gave the research firm a
list of about twenty newspaper names. They came back with five or six
that had cleared. We selected the Chicago Post. We filmed the pilot
and then David went to Chicago to supervise the filming of our opening
credit (yes, we even had opening credits back then). We had posters on
the side of buses showing Mary.
At 9:00 the next morning I get a
call from a gentleman who said he just saw a bus go by and was very
concerned. He was the editor of the Chicago Post. I picked my jaw off
the floor and said I’d have to get back to him. I then called Chicago
information and sure enough there was the Chicago Post. The research
firm had fucked up BIG TIME! MTM contacted him and was willing to
arrange a settlement for use of the name.
the words Chicago Post were nowhere in the newsroom set. But the Post
editor figured we’d have to reshoot the whole pilot at a cost of
several million so he really had us over a barrel. He asked for a
fortune. MTM countered with a very fair offer. He said they were
bluffing. They gave him a deadline. He didn’t bite. We became the
CHICAGO EAGLE. It cost a few hundred dollars to loop Eagle for Post
in dialogue and a few thousand to reshoot the bus shots in Chicago.
Far less than it would have cost had we settled. FAR less. But can
you imagine the hassle? All because the research firm (who we fired,
you’d be surprised to learn) didn’t employ as one of their resources the
damn phone book.