Friday Questions as you book your holiday travel:
Covarr is up first.
What do you think of "Very special episodes"? Are they good or bad, or does it depend on the show?
Well, it depends of course, but most of the time they're bullshit. There’s something promotable in the show so the network makes a big deal of it. I mean, how could there ever really be a "Very Special Episode of 2 BROKE GIRLS?" (Kat Dennings deserves so much better!)
What I really hate is when “a very special episode” means a “particularly maudlin episode.”
Networks have used this gambit so often now that “very special episodes” pretty much mean nothing.
SITCOM ROOM vet Brian Warrick asks:
All of the writers on this year's panel were, at least primarily, part of a writing team. Is there a high percentage of writing teams in writing rooms these days? Does writing with a partner help or hinder someone's chances of being hired?
There are advantages and disadvantages to being in a partnership. It's easier to get hired because the show runner is getting two for one, but you're making half of what sole writers make. That said, just getting the job can be worth its weight in gold.
Also, I prefer the social aspects of being in a partnership. Writing by yourself can be lonely. Especially with comedy, it's great to share the burden with someone who makes you laugh everyday.
Charles H. Bryan has a question going back to a recent post on chemistry.
In addition to chemistry on camera, isn't chemistry also important throughout the production?
Absolutely. When putting together a writing staff I think back to a great line from comedy writng icon, Bob Weiskopf: “What six people would you want to be stuck in a Volkswagen with driving across the country?”
When a show is in production you spend more time with your fellow writers than your family. And always under pressure conditions. It’s a big plus if you don’t want to kill each other.
That’s one of the reasons why show runners tend to hire the same people over and over. Good teams are hard to assemble. People you like, people who are funny, people who bathe – they’re not always easy to find.
On the stage, chemistry is usually determined by the star of the show. Crews take their cue off of him or her. If the star is a monster the set will be filled with tension. If the star is a sweetheart the set will be relaxed and fun. Directors can help steer things in the right direction, but ultimately it’s the star who sets the tone.
Houston Mitchell has a question about the fact that on season 7 of MASH, whenever we needed a name for a patient, corpsman, etc. we just went down the roster of the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers.
While you were doing it, did anyone on the show ever catch on that you were using the names of Dodgers players as the names of guest characters on MASH? If they didn't, do you think they would have made you stop if they had caught on?
No one said anything. Unless we had a big Giants fan in the cast, I don’t think anyone would have objected.
It’s hard to come up with names, and on MASH every week we always had five or six new characters coming through the 4077th. The last thing we wanted to do was spend half the morning coming up with names.
Former girlfriends frequently made their appearance on Levine & Isaacs episodes. The problem there was that between us we had maybe three.
And finally, from Michael:
Of all the shows currently on the air, which one do you think you and David would have the easiest time quickly writing an episode for?
MODERN FAMILY or THE MIDDLE.
What’s your question?