Friday Questions coming at ya. Duck!
Most shows are now going into the summer hiatus. On shows like Cheers and Frasier, did their main sets just sit on the sound stage all summer? Or were they struck so the studio could use them for other things?
Those two particular shows did not strike their sets. They stayed up all year. Coincidentally, they were both on the same stage – Stage 25 at Paramount.
On Stage 19 at Paramount, the WINGS set remained all year. But that’s where we filmed the ALMOST PERFECT pilot. In order to save money, we used Helen’s house as Nancy Travis’ house – just repainted it and substituted new furniture, and we wheeled out the plane and put the office set and restaurant set in the space normally reserved for the hanger. That’s how huge the hanger space was – you could fit two other sets inside of it.
orenmendez checks in:
Recently I've noticed some shows switching back and forth from the number of acts per episodes. Parks and Rec used to always be 3 acts, but in the past few weeks it moved to a 4 act structure, with the 4th being just one or two scenes, then the tag. 2 Broke girls is usually 3, but sometimes it only 2 acts.
How is this decision made, and how should I pick the structure if writing a spec?
It’s usually the network that decides the format based on how they feel they can maximize their commercial load while still keeping the audience from tuning out. Rarely is it, “I think you could tell your stories better if you followed this format.”
I just helped out on a pilot. It was a multi-cam, had a cold opening, three acts, and a tag.
Give me two acts and a tag or teaser any day. And while I'm at it, let's go back to vinyl.
As for your spec, follow any format the show uses on at least a semi-consistent basis. I always advise writers to try to obtain a copy of a script from the show you’re specing. Sometimes the cold opening is as long or longer than an act. It helps to know whether they call the first scene a cold opening, a teaser, or act one. Little stuff like that.
Did you know that in CHEERS scripts we never wrote INT. CHEERS – DAY? It was always INT. BAR – DAY. The more accurate you are, the better.
Re: "Anger Management," can you talk a bit about how the 10/90 structure works? I heard they have to deliver 90 episodes over two years. At 45 episodes per year, wouldn't the quality suffer? (Granted, I saw the first two episodes and don't really consider this a quality show.)
With this volume, do they get to have a writing staff that's twice as big as most sitcoms?
I don’t know what their schedule is but I do know they’re cranking out episodes at a furious pace. And yes, the quality suffers. The writing staff is not way larger. The writers they have work incredibly hard and I imagine incredibly fast. I suspect there’s not nearly as much rewriting.
I wonder what the mindset is, I really do. On a network show, 24 episodes was a killer. But we broke our backs to make sure each episode worked. We threw out whole scripts after table readings sometimes and stayed up all-night fixing jokes. If an ANGER MANAGEMENT episode isn’t coming together do they make drastic changes or do they say, “Well, out of 100 there are going to be a few duds” and just let it go? I ask this not as a put-down but a serious question. I can’t imagine the pressure that writing staff must be under.
And finally, from Mark:
I was wondering when it comes to multiple-part episodes and double-length episodes, under what basis would an actor be paid?
Per episode. If a series is normally an hour like MAD MEN and they do a two-hour premiere he gets paid twice.
Where it gets a little dicey is when a show will do a “super size” episode, just adding five or ten minutes. I suspect the actors don’t get paid more but you never know. I’m sure their agents ask for more.
One final note on two-parters, and I’ve said this before. Usually, when a half-hour show expands the story is right in the middle – too much for one half hour and not enough for a full hour. There’s usually padding. They should be a part-and-a-half not two-parters.
What’s your question? Please leave it in the comments section. Thanks much and have a great weekend.