Not for the superstitious: Friday the 13th Questions.
Jessica Munson leads off:
I was listening to an interview with Phil Rosenthal recently. He made a pretty good point that I never thought of before. He said as good as Friends was, it kind of ruined the types of television shows that made it on-air because executives have never known what's funny, but after the success of Friends they've resorted to build shows around young, attractive people. That's why a grounded, honest show like Raymond would be very difficult to get made today. Do you feel this is true?
I feel that is absolutely true. And of course, at the time they were rehearsing the FRIENDS pilot NBC said they had to make one of the kids the star. Director James Burrows said no, that’s not what he signed on for. The beauty of the show was that it was an ensemble and that all six leads would be equal. Once the show was a hit NBC took credit for its development and success of course.
But a sitcom starring all attractive young people became the brass ring for networks. Especially on Fox. NEW GIRL is their template. Older actors could be the “parents” or “bosses” of the young people but the good-looking kids had to be in the forefront.
I’ve always believed that for comedies you cast the funniest people. And often times those are not the most attractive. Today that would probably result in a big fight.
It seems that when a show goes into syndication while still being on the air it can have a very positive affect on that show's audience numbers for the original shows. Big Bang Theory is a show that I think benefited. Wings could be another example. My question is: have you ever seen the reverse be true. That when a show goes into syndication the audience just loses interest in the older shows as well as the new ones? I bring it up because of Modern Family going into syndication.
Surprisingly, no, I can’t think of one instance where a show that goes into syndication while first-run episodes are still airing has suffered. Maybe I’m missing one or two. But you’d think that lots of them would fall victim to over-exposure when in fact the reverse is true.
Folks discover shows on cable and then become fans. WINGS in particular, got a big boost. When you think about it, with people able to utilize Netflix, buy seasons on DVD, or watch multiple episodes on ON DEMAND, a viewer can easily binge on practically any current show on the air.
The bottom line is the show has to be good. And has to be successful in syndication on its own. Due to its topicality, MURPHY BROWN did horrible in syndication. WINGS did great.
Meanwhile, NCIS has gotten a huge uptick due to syndication. And you can’t kill LAW & ORDER with a stick.
Are you encouraged to use actors in guest spots that are already tied to the studio? Specifically I'm thinking that both Kelsey Grammar and Bebe Neuwirth did Star Trek episodes. And several Star Trek alums did Frasier. Or do you just become friends all working on the same lot?
Usually it’s the latter. Same is true with writers. Several CHEERS writers were friends with STAR TREK producers and got to be extras in an episode. They had just been beamed about the ship after having had the shit beaten out of them in some interplanetary battle. I have to say, they stole the show.
And finally, Professor Longnose asks:
Were you ever tempted to create a baseball sitcom? Or did Ball Four just destroy that genre in its infancy?
The problem with doing a baseball series is that they can be very expensive. Staging baseball games, especially on the professional level where you need big crowds and complicated shooting is a real undertaking. That’s why baseball series generally revolve around little leagues. You get a bunch of kids, six crazed dads in the stands and you go.
However, those problems don't exist in animation and indeed we wrote a SIMPSONS episode (Dancing Homer) that was centered around baseball.
But getting back to your original question – I would love to do a baseball series.
What’s your question? Please leave it in the comments section. Thanks.