Gazzoo starts us off:
For decades I’ve been convinced that the first two episodes of the seventh season of M*A*S*H were meant to be run in reverse order, can you confirm this? “Peace On Us” should have been the premiere…the opening scenes imply BJ is actually growing his moustache at that time, not to mention that the big storyline seems more fit for a season opener. In the episode that actually did air first, ”Commander Pierce”, BJ already has his moustache and is wearing the dyed red shirt that he didn’t make until “Peace On Us”. Do you recall anything about this and why the eps were flipped?
You’re very observant. Yes, PEACE ON US was supposed to be our season premiere. David and I wrote the episode. Ronny Graham wrote COMMANDER PIERCE. But after looking at the finished product we along with executive producer. Burt Metcalfe determined that Ronny’s show was better so we kicked off the year with that. There was that slight continuity problem, but we felt it was worth it. Ronny’s script was terrific. We made the right decision.
Dan Harmon said he wanted nothing to do with Community after getting fired, yet he still gets an executive consultant credit, just as NBC promised. How does that work, can you get that credit (and the money for it) without having anything to do with the show?
Yep. It’s not uncommon. Usually that contingency is written into the contract. Sam Simon has a credit on THE SIMPSONS and hasn’t been involved with the show for years. Personally, I think his contribution was so enormous in those early years that he deserves the recognition. Another example is WONDER YEARS. Neal Marlens and Carol Black received credit throughout the series run but left early on.
I always joke that the best gig a TV writer can have is “creator/deserter.”
Phil Nicols has this question:
I just saw some FRASIERS where Kelsey Grammer was the director. I wondered how an actor can direct multi-camera shoots when, presumably, they're too busy in front of the camera.
(I can understand it better for single-camera, as someone like Alan Alda on MASH isn't going to be in every shot, but multi-camera looks more difficult.)
Generally when an actor directs an episode it’s one where he’s light in the show. For multi-camera shows the actor/director really has to rely on his first assistant director and camera coordinator to monitor the performances and cameras.
Lots of actor/directors of multi-camera shows are not adept at camera blocking and thus let the camera coordinator handle camera assignments. It is a very technical and somewhat confusing process that takes time and practice to master.
Kelsey, I will say, has taken the time to study camera blocking and does assign his own cameras.
There was one actor/director I worked with (who will remain nameless) who was a great cast member, adored by his fellow actors. But when he would direct an episode he became a complete hard-ass. I suspect the pressure of the job would get to him, but boy, it was a real Jekyll & Hyde situation. Then, the next week, when he was just a cast member, he was back to being Mr. Nice Guy.
I was watching Newsradio, and then for some reason, I wanted to watch some Frasier. And I noticed that aside from the little opening jingle and the ending theme, that Frasier had no musical soundtrack. I also noticed that the show had no exterior establishing shots. Newsradio, on the other hand, had both.
So was there a specific reason why Frasier didn't use any of those conventions or trappings?
Yes. Because every other show did and they wanted to be distinctive. Interestingly, now networks demand that all shows have truncated open titles and themes. But FRASIER was one of the first. The networks reason for this was to avoid tune-out. I disagree with that philosophy but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
Have you ever watched a re-run of a show you wrote or contributed to and thought there was no way it could have been better? Like it was the perfect show or as perfect as it was going to get?
Well, certainly not PEACE ON US. Seriously though, no. Even in my favorite episodes there are always a few lines I’d like another whack at. That said, there are episodes I am very proud of and my tinkering would be minor.
Of course, there are other episodes I don’t particularly like for whatever reason and generally don’t re-watch them. If I’m channel surfing and come upon one I generally keep going. There must be something fun on the Hitler Channel.
And finally, from Micah:
Do you think shows would be better if they had longer-term commitments going in -- or after say a year? Seems like you'd be able to break story arcs, character development, etc, if you could plan further out. Or does the deadline pressure help create the best shows because they HAVE to do their best or face cancellation?
It would be lovely to have an entire year going in. But realistically, that’s not feasible. What if your show tanks the first week or two (see: any NBC mid-season show this year)? No way is the network going to air twenty more episodes. And who can blame them?
However, there are two new interesting models. The 10-90 platform a few shows like Charlie Sheen’s ANGER MANAGEMENT has. If after ten episodes the network wants to renew the show they have to pick up 90 more episodes. That's the case with ANGER MANAGEMENT. FX is now on the hook for 100 episodes total.
What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks, guys!