Hello from Silicone Valley. God, I’m stuffed. Here’s today’s Black Friday Questions:
I just watched one of my favorite Frasier episodes, "Dinner Party", in which the entire episode is shot in real time. I always enjoy these types of episodes because I feel like I'm right there in the room. Are they easier to write? And if so, why don't we see more episodes like this on television?
It really depends on the story. Most require the passage of time. But when you can do a story all in one scene it is great fun to write. Essentially you’re doing a one-act play.
Farces work well in this format. Farces are built upon a lie and the more the liar tries to cover his tracks the deeper the hole he digs for himself. Doing a farce in real time keeps the pressure applied. Ideally, the lies and stakes should build and events happen faster and faster. That’s why you see people running in and out of doors, or a character constantly in motion from one end of the room to the other. Farces are hard to do and no show ever did them better than FRASIER.
Do you think it's easier to write for network shows or cable shows? It seems to me writing for network shows is more about planning for commercial breaks (i.e. moments that will keep the viewer tuned in), whereas for cable shows it seems more so planning for a big ending (i.e. a moment that will make you tune in next week)
To be honest, the biggest factor is how much network interference you’re going to get. I’m so used to working around commercials that that’s not even an issue for me.
Obviously if you have a larger budget you can do more things, and that generally means a broadcast network. Expect a ton of scrutiny. Sometimes you may have to trade budget for freedom. Depending on how ambitious your show is or your tolerance for input you might have to make a choice.
Ironically, some cable channels are more ham-fisted than broadcast networks. Do your due diligence first.
I'm reading MUST KILL TV (and really enjoying it!) and had a question: you have said on this blog that you usually try to write your scripts so they are "timeless"--purposefully lacking contemporary references so that they can survive in syndication, make sense to people seeing them later, etc. And yet, MUST KILL TV is the exact opposite. I'm only about a third of the way through, and it's chock full of contemporary references that won't work in ten years or so. Was this an intentional choice, you thinking that was the only way the book would make sense?
Humor is very specific, and to make the satire work I felt it necessary to be as realistic as possible. For this project, I’m going for the laughs now.
Besides, in twenty years, who knows what the TV industry will look like? Just the fact that there are “networks” in the book might make it anachronistic.
So I invite you to get it and read it before 2033. Thanks.
And finally, from Lorimartian about EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND:
Ken, I noticed you directed the following episode in which a man sneezes on Ray in the airport restroom. IMDB says you directed three episodes. What was your experience on the show or have you talked about this previously? Did you ever write for the show?
I LOVED working on that show. Great cast, very mellow set, terrific scripts, and showrunner Phil Rosenthal knew what he wanted and every single suggestion he made was helpful. Everyone involved collaborated in the best sense to make the best possible show. To me that’s the ideal situation.
I never wrote for RAYMOND, but during my directing stint I did go back to the writers room and pitch in during rewrites. So I have a joke or two in there.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend. Good luck getting a parking space at the mall.