Yes, it’s a holiday weekend, but I never stand down from my Friday Question watch. So here they are:
Klee gets us started:
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!!
Definitely a combination. First, the writers have to create a good character. There are many factors to that. What makes the character interesting and funny? And equally important, how does that character fit into the mix with the rest of the characters on your show? What purpose does he serve your series? What will the other characters' attitudes be towards him? And what comic mileage can you get as a result?
New characters can shake things up and add fresh life to your series if developed correctly.
Next you have to cast the right person. I agree that when Julia Duffy joined NEWHART that’s when the show really took off. Put her in the right role and she is hilarious. I think she was mis-cast DESIGNING WOMEN.
But luck is so key. Let’s say Kirstie Alley was not available when we were casting the Rebecca part for CHEERS? Or David Ogden Stiers on MASH?
It’s always a Catch-22 because you want the best actors. But the best actors are the ones usually working and so are not available. That’s why it’s such a gift when someone like Woody Harrelson walks in to read for Woody on CHEERS. (And by the way, it’s purely coincidental that the character was named Woody. How many people do you encounter named Woody?)
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?
And if there was any miniscule inconsistency or two shots that didn’t match we’d hear about it.
We’d be in a late night rewrite at 1 a.m. and some logistic question would arise and we’d all say, “Let’s call the Pineapple. Let’s wake him up. He’d know.”
That said, we always appreciated that there were fans who were so devoted. We thanked the Pineapple for his efforts and sent him lots of CHEERS swag.
You've mentioned problems with networks failing to promote shows several times. With many alternatives to TV and dwindling audiences, what do you consider to be effective promotion today? Online ads, showing up at Comic-Con in full force or still old-fashioned TV promos?
Answer: All of the above and more. I’d have fan pages on every social network that has an icon. I’d encourage my writing staff to have Twitter accounts and I’d be tweeting like mad. I’d try to set up “behind the scenes” videos for a fan website and YouTube. I'd set up on-line contests giving away signed scripts.
And if critics responded to the show I would go back and enlist their help in getting the word out.
I would pretty much do anything short of making the P.A.’s wear sandwich boards and walking through malls.
ALISON GRAHAM wonders:
I see you said you worked some with Hugh Wilson (WKRP) I bet you wanted to do some writing for that show. Tell us if there is a Hugh Wilson, WKRP, Ken Levine story out there....
which you can order and enjoy here. (What an artful subtle plug.)
What’s your question? Have a great and safe holiday weekend.