We have a guest expert answering the first of your Friday Questions – Peter Casey, one of the creators of FRASIER. The other questions unfortunately, you just get me.
Andy Ihnatko wants to know:
How did "Frasier" put together those brilliant silent scenes that played out under the end music? Were they fully written or did everyone just work out a funny piece of business during rehearsals?
I think I'd even watch a compilation of all eleven seasons' worth. Each one is a pretty little gem.
FROM PETER: Those end credit scenes were not written out. Usually the writers would put their heads together and come up with an idea after the audience was released and the crew was shooting pickups. One of my favorites came when Mathilde Decagny, the dog trainer, told us Moose could jump really high. We ended up putting a muffin on the kitchen island then Mathilde commanded Moose to jump over and over again. All the audience saw was his head popping up again and again from behind the island looking at the muffin. That wore the little sucker out.
Thanks so much, Peter!
From David L:
Ken, I was watching an interview with writer Michael Patrick King and he said a writer should never tell a series actor what stories might be coming up. The actors get attached to the idea and then are unhappy if that storyline falls by the wayside. Was that your experience on MASH as well?
That’s fine if you can get away with it, but in the real world most stars want to know what’s ahead and not telling them will only cause you grief. Also, you’ll notice a lot of stars have producing credits. They’re part of the loop whether you like it or not.
I personally disagree with Mr. King. I don’t go over every story with the cast, but I want my star to know what’s ahead and I want him on board. What good do you do yourself when you go down a road your star hates and you have five episodes that follow that path? It’s a lot easier to re-think things when they’re at the conceptual and not script level.
Alan Alda, in particular, was a great creative partner. He was always a cheerleader, full of great ideas himself, and even if he didn’t like something he was always willing to hear and seriously consider your side. The world needs more Alan Aldas.
Which would you prefer? Premiere your new series in the fall or the midseason so you have more time to develop the series? Or does getting the extra time mean more network changes?
I’d prefer the fall. There is the valid argument that it’s easier to launch shows mid-season because there are less of them and you have a better chance of standing out, but there’s nothing like being part of the big fall hoopla. From the upfronts announcements to a summer of interviews and promos, it’s exciting.
Plus, if you premiere mid-season the network will only 13 episodes. If you debut in the fall and do well you stand to get 22.
If your show premieres in late April then you’re pretty much dead. Don’t kid yourself. You get 6 and out.
However, if your show is an event, like Fox bringing back 24, then anytime is a good time with the proper promotion. The tentative plan for 24 is next May, going into the summer.
But I should specify that I’m talking about the major broadcast networks. Cable is on a different time table. If you’re on USA it might be more advantageous to premier in the summer or March.
As for network meddling, they make their scheduling decisions based primarily on their need, so they might want you to re-tool but they want you on in the fall so you scramble like crazy.
And a lot of time mid-season shows go right into production so they’ll be ready in late October when the first casualties fall. So you don’t even have the benefit of time.
But if you do have that time luxury and you do need to re-tool at least you won’t be under that same insane casting pressure when a hundred projects are all casting at the same time. You can see more people. And you don’t have to hire someone immediately because you’re afraid another show will snap him up after lunch.
Rory W. has a question about my recent pilot rundown.
I was really struck by this line in your post today:
"scheduling requirements (e.g. we need another multi-camera sitcom to go with our Tim Allen existing multi-camera sitcom)"
Do schedulers really think that way? I don't know that I've ever noticed the format of a show or shows that I like or necessarily cared. Only because of this post did I realize that "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" are single-camera and "The Big Bang Theory" is multi-camera. (Those are the only comedies I watch/DVR.)
I can't imagine that audiences really care about that.
But, maybe I'm wrong.
The networks feel it’s very important that shows in an hour time period be compatible with each other. Is there a different audience for a multi-cam show and a single-cam show? Maybe. Perhaps subconsciously. I’m sure networks have volumes of research to suggest there is.
But the question is what is compatible? Format or content? MODERN FAMILY and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND is compatible to me, even though their formats and sensibilities are different. But they’re both smart, funny family shows.
Other people don’t like multi-cam rhythms and would prefer two quirky single-camera shows even if one was a family show and the other was a workplace comedy.
It’s tricky, but like I said, networks have reams of research to support this theory.
What’s your Friday Question? Please let it in the comments section. Molto bene.