Friday, September 27, 2013

Yeah, I know Richard Castle

More Friday Questions and answers:

Duncan Randall has the first Q:

I was reading Naked Heat by "Richard Castle" when I noticed a reference to Levine and Isaacs Public Relations. I'm betting you know who the real ghostwriter is (and won't tell us, so I won't ask THAT). So, what do you think about this type of book? I think it's a hoot, even if they are not intended to be high art. Seems like a good thing for the fans of the show, and especially this show about a writer.

Yes, we do know who the real writer is. Richard Castle’s friend, Jessica Fletcher introduced us.

As for the Castle books, I’ll be 100% honest – I like them way better than I like the show.  They stand on their own as terrific crime novels -- equal to or better than a lot of the work by best selling authors. 

mdv1959 asks:

Most of the highly regarded non-network shows you mention (The Wire, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, etc...) differ from standard network shows by doing 13 episodes per season instead of 20+ episodes. Do you think doing fewer episodes is a big factor in achieving a higher overall quality of the show? (Would CHEERS or MASH have been even better if you only did 13 episodes per year?) Do you think networks will gravitate to doing 13 episode seasons soon?

I do think it makes an enormous difference when a show like MAD MEN can take a year or more to make 13 episodes and a network show like THE GOOD WIFE has to churn out 24 in a year or less. They have to work twice as hard, produce twice as much, and deal with all the network restrictions and standards & practices.

To me it’s unfair that network shows have to vie with limited series shows for Best Drama Emmys. That’s like playing hockey where one team has six players and the other team has two. Emmy competition should not be decided by power plays.

As for comedies, sure it would be easier if we only had to make 13 instead of 24 – except everyone would get paid a lot less money.

Networks depend on hit shows and need to air as many of them as they can. And as long as people are watching, they’re happy. CBS is not going to let the producers of THE BIG BANG THEORY only make 13 because the quality will improve.  And from the studio standpoint, the more episodes they have, the sooner they can go into syndication.  That's where the real pot of gold is. 

Just think – there was a time in network television when shows made 39 original episodes a year. That’s over three seasons of MAD MEN in one year.  Of course all the writers of those early shows became basket cases but still! 

Jake Mabe touches on a sore subject:

You've probably been asked this before -- and I promise I'm not joking -- but why isn't "AfterMASH" available on DVD? I would like to see the series again and I think it would be a good companion to its daddy.

Is it a rights issue or does the company that holds the rights (is it FOX?) think it won't sell?

I’m sure Fox believes there’s not enough of a demand for it. Fox isn’t very big on rolling out their library anyway.

Meanwhile, I’m still desperately trying to get Viacom to release ALMOST PERFECT. It drives me insane to see THE DORIS DAY SHOW and THE CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE SHOW available (how many people are clamoring for those shows?) but not a smart sophisticated comedy starring Nancy Travis that went into syndication twice.

And finally, David has a question.

Does anybody know if its true that President Chester A. Arthur kept a whore in the White House?

David, I’m personally not qualified to answer that question. The whores I know don’t go back that far. But maybe one of you dear readers has the definitive answer. I’m surprised that wasn’t covered in LEE DANIEL’S THE BUTLER.

As you can see, I take all questions. Please leave yours in the comments section. Thanks much.

48 comments:

Drew said...

Have you ever had an earthquake during a show night?

benson said...

Thanks for the hockey reference, Ken. Season starts Wednesday with the Stanley Cup champions.

The DVD release issue has been mentioned here before, but it so pisses me off. The technology exists to simply let people download these files. (So there's no packaging costs, just paying some intern to record the .avi files.) Well, they can't do that, so they do see some value in these shows. Arghh!

Kevin C. said...

John Cleese has done well enough syndicating "Fawlty Towers": two seasons of six episodes each, aired FOUR YEARS apart. I guess it helps when you have John Cleese.

Janna said...

Ken... I thought the Showrunners Andrew W Marlowe and Terri Miller wrote as Richard Castle?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the re-posted Friday quesion (just wanted to try once more in case it was missed. . .)

Hi, Ken. Another "short seasons" question: I definitely have my own financial and creative quibbles with this new practice of tv shows like BREAKING BAD and MAD MEN splitting their last seasons. But I'm surprised that agents and unions aren't making more of a fuss. If, say, John Slattery's deal gets him a raise for a sixth season of MAD MEN (with an expected or established bump for a seventh), and then AMC/Lionsgate decides to shoot and air two sets of seven episodes a year apart from each other, but call them "the sixth season". . . well, *I* think it's somewhat dirty pool, fiscally. Do you anticipate this becoming an issue for the industry if the trend continues?

- Tony Tower

PolyWogg said...

Some of the series I watch are only 10-12 eps, but a couple seem to be more on a 8-10 month cycle rather than a year. Which makes me wonder, kind of like Mr. Anonymous above, couldn't they do Season 1 @ 12 eps and Season 2 @ 12 eps? While I see networks wanting to profit with successful shows, it also allows them to fund more shows (with more chances of success) and to limit investment on shows nearing syndication time i.e. like renewing Fringe and Jericho for half a season rather than a full season?

So, big Q is, I know you said 13 is better than 24 for quality, but are two sets of 12 better than one of 24 or no difference, just scheduling?

YEKIMI said...

I wonder if David was using a device that has an auto-correct spelling function. Maybe he meant to ask if Chester A Arthur kept a HORSE in the White House.

John Achziger said...

"As for the Castle books, I’ll be 100% honest – I like them way better than I like the show. They stand on their own as terrific crime novels -- equal to or better than a lot of the work by best selling authors. "

So we can assume that you are the writer of these books???

Bubba Gurney said...

It's Annie...proof comes from an interview with Ken in Rolling Stone earlier this year:
"Her (Annie) new project is ghost writing a series of novels based on a prominent mystery TV series. I can't reveal the specifics other than to say that if you eat burgers at White Castle you're half way there. As an unbiased father they're great reads and better than the TV show"

Carol said...

I think the Castle books stand very well on their own, but I just feel the need to defend the show - it's never claimed to be breaking new ground or anything, but I find the writing consistantly good, the characters are interesting and fun, and the actors are fantastic, with great chemistry.

I also really appreciate the fact that so far they've basically avoided every pitfall shows seem to fall into once they get the main couple together - most particularly contriving some way of breaking them up so they can reset the status quo. Castle and Beckett have been written to behave like mature adults who know how to communicate like intellegent people, and not stock characters who blow up at every misunderstanding.

It's refreshing, and I hope they keep it up!

Mike said...

A Arthur's personal assistant? B Arthur?

Johnny Walker said...

A quick Google and a little detective work and it's pretty clear who the Castle books are written by... You might even be able to say that Ken gave a little clue in his post :)

Igor said...


"The whores I know don’t go back that far."

Ken, then are you sure they're whores?

You may want to RMA those and get yourself some proper ones that go back as far as you want.

sanford said...

I didn't look at every old show, but I don't think that many made 39 episodes a year,especially if the lasted many years.

chuckcd said...

Networks want to sell commercial time for 24 episodes, not 13.

Dana Gabbard said...

Sanford, 39 episodes was the standard in the 1950s. By the mid-60s the number of episodes per season started to be reduced and by the early 1970s reached the current 22-24 per season. Mission Impossible season one (1966-1967) consisted of 28 episodes, season seven (1972-1973) had only 22.

Friday question -- what is the chief reason for removing comments: bad language, rudeness/disrespect, incoherent or out of context, robo-ads, or is there just a "it is my blog and I don't have to put up with that appearng on it" factor sometimes in play? Do you ever have a "really?" reaction to what folks post.

michael said...

AfterMash and Almost Perfect both have full episodes available on YouTube to watch.

So Ken, how do you feel knowing people can still enjoy Almost Perfect and AfterMash, but you and those who worked on it don't get paid?

Barbara C. said...

I think the short season form probably works better for dramas or sci-fi than for comedy. The first two need a tighter season story arc while the comedies need a tighter episode story arc. Dramas and sci-fi tend to do better with more cinematic camera work than comedies.

NBC is trying the short season with Hannibal, with only 13 episodes per season.

The latest short season show I was blown away by was Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany definitely deserves some kind of awared for her roles on that show. I can't wait to see what happens in season 2.

Jake Mabe said...

Sincere thanks for the Friday question/answer, Ken.

This frustrates me to no end. I'd love to see BOTH "AfterMASH" AND "Almost Perfect" on DVD, and yet as you say such shows are ignored while we're treated to seasons and seasons of shit. It took an act of Congress to get "The Six Million Dollar Man" (guilty pleasure, I know) on DVD and it looks as if "Batman" will NEVER see the light of day because FOX, William Dozier's estate and Warner Bros. are fighting over who owns the show.

I'm going to petition FOX, even if it is tilting windmills.

P.S. Please don't consider "AfterMASH" a sore subject. I loved it.

Andy Ihnatko said...

Friday Question: There have been plenty of sitcom episodes in which a walk-on character is there so that others can make jokes about their physical appearance. Is there any extra sensitivity paid to the actor on the set or in the writers' room?

These actors are professionals, and I'm sure they realize that the fact that they're dramatically overweight or that their looks are the opposite of what the entertainment industry considers "castable" is the reason why they got to work on a hit sitcom this week.

On the other hand, I bet that when a 100 pounds overweight actor is playing the blind date that one of the leads is horrified to meet, they can channel no end of similar reactions from their real lives.

I imagine it must make for an...interesting...set of circumstances when the writers are huddled around the set during shooting, brainstorming new, funnier things for the lead's boorish sister to compare this person's size to, while the actor is standing 20 feet away...

Chet said...

Many series were still filming at least 30 episodes or more per season in the early-mid.1960s. BEWITCHED made 36 episodes in both its first and second seasons. It was the switch to more expensive color filming in the mid-1960s that prompted shows to begin filming noticeably fewer episodes per season. I LOVE LUCY got away with filming only 26 episodes per season in its last two seasons, filling out their schedule with reruns from earlier years. (Of course, LUCY went off the air every summer, too.)

Barry G. said...

As for competition between programs that do an unequal number of shows, how about "The Wonder Years" winning the Emmy for Best Comedy Series in 1988 when they produced a grand total of six episodes? I always thought that was a complete absurdity for it to beat out Cheers and other top shows of the day that produced up to 24 episodes.

RareWaves said...

Although I have Almost Perfect on Beta, I'd still pay to get a nice clean DVD version with some commentary and outtakes. I still watch episodes of Almost Perfect and it just doesn't get old, especially the episodes El Pollo Loco, Suites for the Sweet, Auto Neurotic, and the Pilot. Nancy Travis trying to make chicken is a comedy classic.

Ken Levine said...

Just to be clear. I do not write the Castle books, nor does my daughter Annie. And I wasn't interviewed by Rolling Stone. The writer of the Castle books is not even a relative.

I wish I could write as well as this guy.

Vic said...

I’m still desperately trying to get Viacom to release ALMOST PERFECT. It drives me insane to see THE DORIS DAY SHOW and THE CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE SHOW available (how many people are clamoring for those shows?) but not a smart sophisticated comedy starring Nancy Travis that went into syndication twice.

Having been with MPI Home Video, the company that released The Doris Day Show on DVD along with a couple of her post-series specials, for a number of years, I can tell you, Ken, that Doris's series sold very nicely for us. Day still has a following.

As to why CBS/Paramount isn't interested in Almost Perfect, I would hazard a guess that they simply don't believe enough people would buy it to warrant the investment they would have to make in prepping digital masters for a DVD release. Look at the TV shows it owns that the company has released on home video. They rarely venture beyond "Viacom's Greatest Hits."

We were able to get Doris's series out because MPI is a smaller company whose sales expectations are much more realistic than those of a big outfit like Paramount. Unfortunately, that's what keeps too much great television locked away in studio vaults. The biggies expect everything to sell in such large numbers that they have no room for a series with niche appeal, like Almost Perfect. Shows like that don't generally get released on smaller labels because licensing fees, if the big company is willing to license at all, are usually so high that it's not possible for the licensee to make any money on the deal.

Unfortunate situation.

Keith said...

Speaking of shows being released on DVD, the Complete Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is being released in December. And they made OVER 300 episodes in just two seasons. Talk about turning people into basket cases (and taping them while it happens).

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Dana, Sanford: There was even a time when there were no reruns!

wg

Cap'n Bob said...

Andrew Marlowe pens the Castle books according to the Internet. Oh yeah, spoiler alert.

Julie Kistler said...

I want LOU GRANT on DVD and I will continue to whine and weep until I get it. Yes, I know. If it hasn't happened by now, it's probably not going to. But I really, really want it.

Anonymous said...

Jake Mabe: "The Six Million Dollar Man" was the victim of a complicated rights situation. That series was based on a novel, "Cyborg" by Martin Caidin; Universal let its license of the novel lapse, and another studio (I forget which) picked it up. Nothing could be done till both studios came to an agreement, and that did not happen till that other studio realized that the movie it had been trying to make for over a decade was never going to escape from Development Hell, and so there was no point in waiting any longer.

This, by the way, is why the remake of "The Bionic Woman" came out before the original series. The character Jamie Sommers was created for television, and thus was the exclusive property of Universal. This meant that Universal was free to tell new stories about her, and sell them in whatever medium it chose, but it could not release the old episodes because they included the characters Oscar Goldman and Rudy Wells, both of whom originated in the novel "Cyborg."

Mr. First Nighter said...

Does anybody know if its true that President Chester A. Arthur kept Horace Greeley in the White House?

DaveMB said...

[Does anyone know whether President Arthur kept Horace Greeley in the White House?]

I do in fact know that (and only checked Wikipedia to confirm). Unless you meant another Horace Greeley, he didn't, because the famous editor and presidential candidate died in 1872 while running against Grant, while Arthur became president in 1881.

Jake Mabe said...

Anonymous: Thanks much for "The Six Million Dollar Man" background. I remembered the holdup as soon as you started telling the tale.

I'm also with Julie. I want to see "Lou Grant" have a DVD release. I was addicted to it all over again on Hulu four or five years ago.

Mark said...

Columbo -- as part of the NBC Mystery Movie -- was also had short seasons, only partially made up for by longer running times.

DwWashburn said...

Some companies are going into something called Video on Demand where they take movies or shows with limited appeal and offer them on a made-while-you-wait approach. Warner has done this for years with Warner Archive. They have released plenty of movies and TV series such as Night Court in this manner. I think Sony does this too.

So if any of the shows you would like to see are owned by one or more of these companies I would suggest writing a letter. I have written Warner three separate times about an item and each time they have positively answered my request. Great customer service.

michael said...

Warner Archive also has a streaming service that includes a few TV series. One of those has never been released on DVD, Steve Gordon's "The Practice" with Danny Thomas.

Mark P. said...

Ken, I've been enjoying the Frasier episodes being run on the Hallmark Channel. I noticed they cut the audio for naughty words like "ass". If you were running a sitcom on a network today and expected it to go to syndication, would you shoot separate "clean" scenes, or just leave it up to the syndicatee to edit it however they wished?

D. McEwan said...

Blessed Warner Archive (I have several of their releases) puts out Falcon Crest also, I was glad to learn.

Keith, thanks for the head's up on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Do you know if Forever Fernwood will be included, as it was the third season, renamed because Mary was gone? Man, I loved that show.

I was onset the day Louise Lasser's final episodes were shot. I have a photo a a very young me, in a hideous 1970s liesure suit, standing in Mary Hartman's kitchen set. In a vase in front of me are the daisies Sergeant Foley brought Mary when he proposed and they ran off together.

David G. said...

-I'd- buy an official "AfterMASH" DVD. I've been waiting about 28 1/2 years to see the final episode (which CBS never aired)!

Make sure to toss in the "Walter" pilot, too!

A couple of the episodes are not available on YouTube -- and the great one with Ed Winter wonderfully reprising Col. Flagg has several minutes randomly missing.

I wish Fox had a "Manufactured On Demand" setup like Warner Bros. has for many of its lower-interest TV series.

Anonymous said...

Ken,

I thought you would be interested in this interview with a writer for Modern Family. She discusses her former job writing for Community.

I have read the blog long enough to know where you would want to work.

http://splitsider.com/2013/09/talking-to-megan-ganz-about-modern-family-finally-having-free-time-and-her-undying-community-fandom/#more-35521

sanford said...

Dana and Wendy, You can find all the 50's shows on Wickipedia. I researched a few that were on for a number of years. Yes many shows did 30 or more shows. But I think it may be kind of an urban myth. EPven I Love Lucy never did 39 episodes. Gunsmoke for about 4 or 5 seasons did 39 episodes. Perry Mason did one season of 39, the rest were over 30 until I believe the last year. Amazingly 77 Sunset strip had one season that was 41. The Lone Ranger had 3 seasons of 52 episodes. I looked up shows like Make Room for Daddy and some other shows that I could think of or saw on the Wikipedia list. I looked up Lassie which was on forever and there were 3 seasons of 39 and one of those was 40. Bachelor Father and Dobie Gillis has seasons of 39 but not the entire run. I am 66 and hard pressed to think of many shows back in the 50's that had a lot of 39 program seasons. It is too bad there is not some data base that would tell us which programs had 39 program seasons.

Keith said...

D. McEwan, it looks like it will not contain Forever Fernwood (but will have 10 episodes of Fernwood 2 Night). Most recent news I've seen is HERE.

That's fantastic that you were on set. I'm so jealous. When I was seven I was really into Looney Tunes. Then I sat with my mom while she was watching MH, MH. After a few minutes I said "This is the funniest show I've ever seen".

Jean said...

My question isn't comedy related. After watching a SVU marathon, I was wondering about these shows using children. What is done for the child actor to prepare him or her or protect him or her from the nasty things the character has befallen?

I would think just telling them it's make believe wouldn't be enough....

Jake Mabe said...

Warner Archives' Manufactured On Demand service is fantastic. I ordered both seasons of "Harry O," the classic canceled-way-before-its time David Janssen detective series, this summer. It was worth every penny. His scenes with Anthony Zerbe are superb.

Brian said...

Friday question Ken - How do actors cry? Can some just summon tears on demand? Is some kind of irritant placed in the eyes?

Allan V said...

Ken, since we are entering another baseball postseason, I was wondering what you think of the current playoff format. For instance, do you like or dislike having wild card teams in the postseason? And in the World Series, do you prefer the designated hitter or would you rather see the pitchers bat? (Or have the home field determine it, like it does now?) Or any other thought you have.

Stark said...

Do actors know more about their characters than is in the scripts?

I mean, obviously they will come up with little bits of biography and suchlike (they can't help themselves) but on occasions where the writers have more detailed knowledge of the characters' backgrounds (some of which may make it into future episodes, some of which may never get to the screen), do the actors generally get given such material, or are they left to create their characters just from what's in the scripts?

Actually come to that, do the directors (when they aren't also members of the writing staff) get to see such material?

Dale said...

Was the horse a Senator? :-)