Friday, June 28, 2013

How accurate is CALIFORNICATION?

For many of you the 4th of July holiday begins today. What better way to celebrate than with Friday Questions?

Dodgerdog has one near and dear to my heart:

Both "Episodes" and "Californication" have story arcs involving television writers getting it on with hot young actresses on their shows. (Hilarity ensues.)

The public is well aware that movie producers and directors often have "special" relationships with star actresses, but in films, the writers tend not to be around for the shoot, whereas in TV, the writers are always there (along with the producers and directors of course).

No question David Duchovny and Stephen Mangan are attractive guys. My question: since television writers are writing these shows, how much of this is from their own or observed experience as television writers, and how much is wishful fantasy?

There’s an old joke – Did you hear about the Polish actress who tried to get ahead in Hollywood by sleeping with writers?

I’m not saying it never happens, but it just doesn’t happen enough. That said, there have been occurrences. Chris Thompson created NAKED TRUTH for Tea Leoni that resulted in a rather public and ultimately messy affair. David E. Kelley is married to actress Michelle Pheiffer. There should be a statue of him in front of the Writers Guild.  Katey Sagal is married to Kurt Sutter and Jenna Fischer walked down the aisle with writer Lee Kirk. There are other examples. I’m sure you can Google them.

But CALIFORNICATION is as realistic as I DREAM OF JEANIE is. Actually, I DREAM OF JEANIE is more realistic.

Charles H. Bryan asks:

Ken, are there ever any discussions about casting actors that resemble each other when their roles are siblings? Or is the production happy to just find people who show up on time and can get the job done? I always think this of FAMILY TIES: "Those kids aren't related to each other. This is a scam." However, I never doubted that Niles and Frasier were brothers.

There is often discussion on the “look” of an actor for a part. Ideally, yes, you’d like to cast siblings who look like they could come from the same family.

But often you find yourself in a situation where you have two actors – one has the perfect look and the other has better skills. What do you do? Personally, I opt for the better actor.

And sometimes hiring actors who look too similar causes confusion. You like a little individuality – different hair color, one wears glasses, one is shorter, etc.

Remember, that in the original conception of the FRASIER series there was no brother. Casting director Sheila Guthrie saw a tape of David Hyde Pierce and suggested to the producers that if they ever wanted to give Frasier a brother, this might be the perfect guy. To Casey, Lee, & Angell’s credit, they saw the possibilities right away and snapped David up. So in this case, it wasn’t like a casting call went out for an actor who looked like Kelsey Grammer.

Side note: I can’t tell you how many times on shows I’ve gotten letters and photos from people who said they should play the brother or sister of cast members, and invariably they were so far off it was hilarious. I look more like Kirstie Alley than some of these women.

Matthew has a question based on a recent post regarding outlines.

Is it common for jokes and/or story lines that were in original outline but cut out of final script to be recycled in subsequent outlines?

Absolutely. On CHEERS we had what we called “the S.O.S. file” – Some Other Show.

And there was one bar run from the first season that we filmed but cut due to time. So a couple of weeks later we wrote it back into that week’s script. Again it was filmed and again it was cut because the show was too long. By the third time the cast almost killed us. But it was a good bit and we couldn’t just use their performance from a previous show because the wardrobe wouldn’t match. The third time proved to be a charm... thank goodness… for us.

What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks. Happy 4th of July.


Mike Barer said...

Just a note on David Hyde Pierce. I was working in Downtown Seattle when Fraser shot it's on location episode. As a loyal fan, I spotted David at the shoot (at the Westlake Mall) and he was kind enough to sign an autograph for me.
I appreciated his generosity.

Dan Ball said...

I've always thought it was weird how the casting of Arrested Development worked. The Bluths actually look like they could be related. GOB and Buster favor George Sr. and Michael favors Lucille. (And before I saw the S3 finale, I thought Lindsay favored Lucille too/also. Not Lucille 2.)

Also, in my readings the other day, I read that the daughter from "ALF" married a PA who worked on the show. As a former PA, that's excellent.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The discussion of casting siblings raises a slightly different Friday question: what do you look for in casting a young kid (5-7)? I ask because if the show gains traction, the kid you cast at 7 may be hugely different at 14. Cute is great at 7, but by 14 the kid needs skills. How do you discern the germ of the skills you're really going to need later? (This arises in sports, too, because the most talented juniors are often not the ones who make it as pros.)

MAD MEN seems to have been extraordinarily lucky - or prescient - with respect to Kiernan Shipka, who was cute as a button at six, and at 13 displays an exceptional maturity that includes gestures and quirks that tie her to her on-screen parents.


Karl said...

I think I've mentioned this before, but if they ever decide to cast Sheldon's father on Big Bang Theory, David Hyde Pierce would be perfect for it.

Todd Everett said...

Friday question:

Increasingly frequently (it seems), networks will schedule two new episodes of the same show to follow one another on the same night -- more the cable channels (both "Wilfred" and "Anger Management" last night, for instance), but the broadcast nets as well. It's generally sitcoms; perhaps because it's easier with half-hour shows.

As a member of the audience, I'm not sure whether I'm getting a special treat, or being denied new episodes in subsequent weeks. It also looks as though the stations may be "dumping" the shows.

What's your opinion as a producer?

tb said...

Ms. Partridge must have gotten around, with the blonde, brunette and redheaded kids. Surprised she didn't have a black kid too!

Justin T. said...

@Karl I agree but for the fact that they've previously established on the BBT that Sheldon's father was both obese and is dead.

T. Wade said...

Some casting choices between people that make the connection and believability that much better include: Micheal Gross and Noah Wylie in ER, and James Garner and Noah Beery, Jr in The Rockford Files.

Andy Ihnatko said...

Justin - Well, hell, man...they established on "Cheers" that Frasier's dad was dead, too.

And then "Frasier" covered for it brilliantly when Sam came to Seattle and Marty found out that Frasier had told all of his friends in Boston that his father was dead. "We had an argument. I was mad at you," Frasier explained, and then, done, move on.

BK said...

Don't leave us hanging, Ken... What was the Cheers scene that was filmed 3 times?

Michael said...

Friday question: These days it is easy for viewers to point out continuity errors and/or complain to showrunners on social media. In pre-Internet days, did you get similar letters from viewers?

Dan Sachs said...

On the show Anger Management the guy playing Charlie Sheen's father is very believable in the role.

Marv said...

Both guys on Royal Pains look enough alike that you can definitely believe they're brothers. However they hired a new doctor who also looks like he's from their family, only he's not.

BTW, your Captcha program is almost unreadable. I'm on take 4 to get this published and who knows how many more I've got.

Loosehead said...

Who is Michelle Pheiffer, and is she related to the wonderful actress Michelle Pfeiffer? I only ask because their names are so similar...

Klee said...

Perhaps it's been brought up before. Kirstie as Shelley's replacement brought new life to the show. On the other hand, when Julia Duffy replaced Delta Burke on Designing Women, the show never quite recovered. Conversely, when Julia replaced Jennifer Holmes on Newhart, the show blossomed. Ken, what are your thoughts on actors brought in during a show's run. "Formula"? Luck? Combination of both? Thanks!!

DBenson said...

Do television shows use look-alike standins like the movies? I'm not talking stunt performers, but guys seen (from a distance) driving a car, or doing the closeups of the hand holding the letter, or literally standing on the star's mark while the crew lights a scene.

I don't recall a lot of insert shots in MASH, but would they make Alan Alda or Harry Morgan hang around for shots like that?

Storm said...

It's always confused the hell outta me how no casting director has ever seemed to realize how much Ron Perlman and Tom Waits look and sound alike, yet have never been in a project together. The "type" that tends to be a fan of one tends to be a fan of the other, and also tend to like strange films, which both are quite happy to make. JIM JARMUSCH, I'M LOOKIN' AT *YOU*.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Dave Arnott said...

Tying in your previous post about Margaret Colin, I was always impressed with the casting for the Heide Perlman sit-com "Sibs." Marsha Mason, Margaret Colin, and Jamie Gertz actually looked/felt like they were sisters, IMO. And they were also great on the show.

@Wendy: I was just saying that the other day, about Kiernan Shipka, clearly mind-toggled by how especially amazing she was in those last two episodes.

Kosmo13 said...

Lost in Space also stretched sibling credibility. Will and Penny looked enough like Mom and Dad respectively to be believable, but blonde sister Judy looked like no one else in the family.

St Elsewhere suffered from the 'he's not dead anymore' continuity glitch. In one episode, hospital founder Father McCabe is revealed to have died while posing for the portrait of him that hangs in the hospital. In a later episode, Edward Herrmann as elderly-but-still-living Father McCabe visits the hospital.

Dan Ball said...


I was watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation" the other day and noticed uses of stand-ins. Also, the new season of "Arrested Development" used them. Quite extensively, from what I've seen and heard.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

@Michael: Agatha Christie's personal stand-in in some of her books, Ariadne Oliver, complained frequently that some of her readers seemed to live only for writing letters to her pointing out mistakes.


VP81955 said...

Some writers had the chance to get in good with actresses back in the day. Fay Wray -- who deserves to be remembered as more than a "scream queen" -- was married for more than a decade to John Monk Saunders, who wrote "Wings" (the 1927 Academy Award-winning film, not the late '80s sitcom) and other screenplays and novels, most of them dealing with aviation. Wray then married Robert Riskin, best known as screenwriter for many of Frank Capra's films (including "It Happened One Night"...but in the mid-thirties, Riskin was in a close relationship with Carole Lombard. The only reason they didn't marry is that she wanted children; he didn't. Disappointed, Lombard settled for some guy named Clark Gable.

Splenda said...

Why was Bulldog essentially written off of Frasier? He was a key supporting character in the first few seasons, but he had less and less screen time as the series continued. Dan Butler did a great job as Frasier's foil, so what went into that decision?

Chris said...

Ken, one of the things that bugs me on network sitcoms is how characters often say "sleep with" in place of "have sex." I mean, who says this in real life? How about "bang" or even "screw"? Is it just me?

Smart Feller said...

Ken, apparently Duchovny was coached by an actual dating coach before they started filming.

"Over the next three months, I worked closely with Dave on exactly how to look at women, the way to think about women, the direction conversation should go with them. I wrote down notes for him when he became overwhelmed."

Interesting, I had no idea.