Here are answers to some of your Friday Questions:
Mitch gets us going:
Your comment about ONE DAY AT A TIME falling between the cracks prompts a question, Ken. Have all your years in television, as a writer, a director and a show runner, given you any insight into why some shows remain perennially popular while others fade out? It doesn't necessarily seem to be question of quality. There are lots of excellent shows that rarely, if ever, see the light of day, while some not-so-excellent shows retain their popularity.
That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many shows and so many variables. But here are a few general thoughts. Some shows stay out of syndication because there are rights issues. These tend to be series that were independently produced. CYBILL was hung up in rights issues for years. So too BARNEY MILLER.
WKRP IN CINCINNATI had a unique problem. As an AFTRA show and not SAG they were able to use music without paying high license fees during their network runs. But that changed when they went into syndication. And as fans know, they replaced actual songs with covers and it hurt the overall effect greatly.
Other times the studio that owns the series is unaware they own it. Case in point is ALMOST PERFECT. We made it for Paramount. CBS/Viacom now owns the library and although we have 34 episodes and it has been in syndication twice (USA and Lifetime) I don’t think anyone there knows they have the show. And I don’t know who to contact.
Most long-running shows do go into syndication and for whatever reason a few don’t click. I suspect that was the case with ONE DAY AT A TIME. It didn’t get decent ratings and disappeared. Why audiences didn’t respond? I couldn’t tell you. To me it’s a lot better than other shows from that time that still air.
One element that undercuts a series’ syndication value is topical references. They make the show seem dated. The perfect example of this is MURPHY BROWN. How many of you would enjoy Dan Quayle jokes? Many many Dan Quayle jokes.
Seems to me the shows that do best in syndication – and this is comedy I’m talking about – are the ones that are more universal and more relatable. The characters and situations are as identifiable now as they were when the shows first aired. Family shows tend to age well.
Some shows survive because they’re just damn funny and entertaining. THE GOLDEN GIRLS continues to kick ass. And then there’s Lucy.
I think in fifty years in whatever platform television shows will be shown they will still be running I LOVE LUCY and MASH twelve times a day. I hope my heirs spend the ten-cent residuals wisely.
Steve Catron wonders:
Was there ever a thought of giving Winchester a spin-off show. I always thought it would be terrific if he went back to Boston with new-found humanity and clashed with his old money family.
Trust me when I say 20th and CBS approached everybody. The result of course was AfterMASH and a pilot called R*A*D*A*R that never made it to series.
I've noticed that comedies tend to keep either one director or a few directors and use them for the run of the show (or at least an entire season) where dramas will have a maybe 13 or more directors in a season. Is this just a timing issue between a half hour and an hour long show?
Hour shows require several days of prep and “tone meetings” as they’re called where the producers go over the script with the director to explain their intentions line by line. There may be complicated sequences, locations to scout, effects technicians to consult, etc. The DGA requires sufficient prep time be provided for the director.
In multi-camera shows there’s no generally no real prep. Same sets, same people, same tone.
Also, single-camera shows generally film for twelve for more hours a day. Not so with multi-cam. Most days you rehearse the actors and wrap by 5:00. It would be grueling for one single camera director to do episode after episode.
Now you might say, well the cast of single-camera shows have to deal with that week after week. Yes, but each cast member is not usually in every shot. On the other hand, sometimes they are (Kiefer Sutherland in 24, Hugh Laurie in HOUSE) and in those cases yes, the actors are fried by the end of the year.
And finally, XJill asks:
I have checked off a box on the 'ol bucket list and got tickets for some Spring Training games at Camelback Ranch. I would love some pro tips on what to do, etc. to get the most out of my Spring Training experience!
Then walk over to the park and watch batting practice. For the game I’d suggest you bring a cap or visor because there’s little shade. And don’t even bother scoring because there will be so many substitutions.
The later in spring training you go the more you will see the regulars. By the final week the regulars will be playing six or seven innings at least.
Bear in mind this year that with the World Baseball Classic a lot of regular players will be absent for several weeks. And of course, there will always be a few idiot players who still can’t enter the country because of visa problems.
Say hi to all the guys for me.
What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Play ball!