Friday Questions this week come to you from Walla Walla, Washington. Your first question is “what am I doing in Walla Walla, Washington?” I spoke last night at the kick off banquet for their summer college league team, the Sweets. Thanks to all for a great and fun evening. Okay, here are your Q’s and my A’s:
Starting us off is Andrew Wickliffe:
I'm watching season 11 of MASH right now and it seems like production values changed a lot. Like they went to videotape or sets instead of location. The entire show looks different; starting a few episodes after Radar left.
MASH never went to videotape. The look of a show can change if the Director of Photography (Cinematographer) changes. Each DP has his own preference and distinct look. Over the eleven seasons, MASH had several DP’s. That’s probably what you’re reacting to.
Remember also that MASH only filmed exteriors out at the Malibu Ranch during the summer and early fall while there was still a lot of daytime light. Once we went to Pacific Standard Time and it got dark at 5:00 we could no longer fit all the work that was needed into the day. So for the last seven or eight shows each season, any exterior shot (day or night) was filmed on a soundstage. And those tended to look crappy, especially the daytime ones. Think Brady Bunch backyard.
In planning out the season we purposely held back shows that didn’t require daytime exteriors and filmed those towards the end of the year. And shows that did need a lot of exteriors were moved up.
The first MASH script ever written with Charles Winchester in it was “Merchant of Korea” written by me and David Isaacs. But since the plotline involved a night-time poker game we didn’t actually shoot the show until maybe the 15th or 16th episode of the season. That script was used as a template however for the other writers to write the Charles character. And those subsequently aired before ours.
From Mark Roman:
The Mantra used to be that if you were over 40 that you were too old to write for a sitcom.
I've seen numerous writers stand by those words and said the only way to be 40 on the show it to Create The Show.
Does this theory still carry any weight or has this changed?
There is definitely an age bias. At least in sitcoms. But networks are not unaware that the writers for their most successful shows – BIG BANG THEORY, MODERN FAMILY, TWO AND A HALF MEN, etc. are generally over forty, and in some cases, over fifty.
It’s definitely harder to get work if you’re over forty but not impossible. One way certainly is to create a show. But there are a number of older writers who are still in demand because of their talent and experience.
What is the brand of shirt that Sam Malone (Ted Danson) wears on CHEERS?
Generally Nike. A few years ago I wrote a post about how I borrowed Ted’s wardrobe for an article about me in GQ. (Yes, as unbelievable as that sounds, GQ once did an article about me.) You can read that post here.
And finally, Charlie Van Dyke, whose voice you hear on 1000 radio stations and 700 TV stations, asks:
What's with the current deal of rolling credits so long at the start of a show? I watched two shows on CBS last night and the credits kept popping up for the first 15 minutes of both shows.
Annoying, isn’t it? This is a by-product of networks eliminating opening titles and credits. They fear opening titles cause tune-out. Personally, I think they’re dead wrong. I love opening titles and theme songs. Even with my DVR I never fast-forward through the HOMELAND opening titles, or JUSTIFIED, or any show. Do you fast-forward through the opening titles of MASH or CHEERS? In some cases the opening titles are the best thing about a show. MIAMI VICE falls under that category for me.
But as a result, all the actor, writer, director, producer, and guest cast credits have to be snuck into the content of the show. And in many cases that’s a lot of names.
As a writer it drives me crazy because these credits distract an audience. I want viewers paying attention to the story and jokes. But practically all shows do it now so that irritating practice is here to stay. It's like a performer trying to sing while waiters are still clearing tables.
What’s your question? They will find me no matter where in the world I am.