Friday, December 06, 2013

Friday Questions

Friday Questions for your weekend shopping pleasure.

Jerry Smith gets us started.

Are series regulars on any level paid for shows on which they don't appear? For example, of the last two Walking Dead episodes, one featured none of the main actors and the next featured long shots of a few of them with no dialog. How do stars feel when they are not the subject of their shows?

It all depends on their contracts. Most series regulars sign for “all episodes.” In that case they get paid whether they’re in an episode or not, although generally they are in every episode.

Some actors will sign for a partial season like eight out of thirteen.  If you have a show with a large cast like THE GOOD WIFE or MAD MEN you will often sign actors for partial schedules.

As for WALKING DEAD, I don’t know whether the series stars all got paid or the producers knew before the season they were not going to need the main cast for a couple of episodes and made deals for say ten of thirteen.

Laura Es asks:

I've been reading many multi cam scripts, and noticed they always jump from scene E to scene H. Is there a reason why there are never Scenes F and G?

Yes, F looks too much like E and G looks too much like C. Camera assignments are marked on the floor with white tape. Example: the third camera move in the second scene would be B-3. Camera operators have to be able to clearly distinguish where they need to go. They can’t be looking down thinking is that C-4 or G-4?

From John Philipps:

I was at the Two and a Half Men recording yesterday. There were 7 pre-recorded scenes showed on the audience screens. I heard laughter on the sound track besides our audience laughter. Did those laughs come from the crew or a test audience during recording, were they added digitally, or did I just hallucinate?

They probably sweetened the scenes (i.e. used a temporary laugh track). Here’s why: when a studio audience reacts to a live performance the actors hold for the laughs. That way the audience doesn’t miss the next few lines. In pre-shooting scenes you have to build in those pauses in anticipation of laughs. So the temporary laugh track fills in those holes.

Also, pre-shot scenes don’t get the same level of laughter as live performances.  They just don't.  The temp laugh track can help prompt the audience a little.

On shows I’ve directed or produced I will sometimes pre-shoot a scene and instead of showing that, have the actors do a dummy version live on the stage. Example: a scene of two people in a car driving. Instead of showing the pre-shot scene I’ll just have the two actors sit in two card chairs and play the scene live. I don’t film it. Just record the audience. We then take the actual laughter and lay it in the pre-shot scene. I know.  Sneaky, aren't we?

And finally, from Hamid:

I love that Cheers always kept its title sequence in an era where every show revamped its titles and jazzed up its theme tune each season, so I wondered if the network ever tried to persuade you guys to change the titles over the years? I know it was slightly altered after Nicholas Colasanto passed away but I think that was the only change. 

Yes. After the first few weeks the show aired and tanked in the ratings the network asked if we’d consider doing more traditional opening titles showing the cast members? To the Charles Brothers and Jimmy Burrows’ credit they said no. There was never any further discussion. New cast members and photos were folded in as the series evolved, but there was never any talk of doing a different version of the titles or the theme song. I’ve always loved our opening and felt it really established CHEERS as special.

The comment section awaits your question. Thanks.

17 comments:

Professor Longnose said...

Were you ever tempted to create a baseball sitcom? Or did Ball Four just destroy that genre in its infancy?

PolyWogg said...

You know, the info about C vs. G and E vs. F? I've wondered about that for a long time, and nobody has ever explained it and it was so simple, even a monkey like me could understand it.

I know all the rest is valuable, and that seems trivial, but I was like "Doh! Of course". THanks for sharing...

Carson said...

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?

Cat said...

I agree. Cheers was total class all the way.

johnachziger said...

Do you believe that comedy is funnier today than in the golden age of TV? Would the Dick van Dyke show be any funnier if the gang at the office swore like, well, comedy writers? Would Lucy be any funnier if they did vagina jokes? Why do writers and comics think they have to be dirty to be funny?

Breadbaker said...

I've wondered if the budget determines the contract instead of the other way around. In other words, are they more likely to be required to write episodes without some main cast members (assuming their contracts allow them to be paid for less than all the episodes) or do they make decisions purely for artistic reasons and negotiate with the cast members for less than inclusive contracts?

Ray Barrington said...

I was thinking about this in the shower ... how much work do you do on the characters' backstories before the weekly scripts start to flow? Some things are obvious because they set up the premise - Sam being an ex-pitcher, Frasier returning home to Seattle - but other little things seem to develop during the series.

Hamid said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken! I've always loved the Cheers theme song and title sequence. And I loved the show's unique trademark of opening with a pre-title joke and the way the piano intro accompanied the punchline.

vic-tori-a valdez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vic-tori-a valdez said...

Have there ever been any actors that you kept in mind for later roles? Correct me if wrong, but I recall reading that Ted Danson was remembered by James Burrows after auditioning for a pilot, which eventually led to Danson auditioning for Sam Malone.

Pat Reeder said...

A good example of it being better to leave the theme song alone is "Mike & Molly." The first season had a brief, bluesy riff on "For the first time in my life, I feel love." That established the bittersweet premise of these two not-very-attractive people finding each other. Now, they've extended it and jazzed it up with a lot of wacky clips, a backbeat and la-la-las, and it comes across like something from a bad '80s sitcom instead of a mediocre 2013 sitcom.

AndrewJ said...

My mother and grandmother both told me that the oldtimey gentleman with the derby and beer in the last shot of the CHEERS opening credits looked *exactly* like my great-grandfather, Jim Upton.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Ah, so Chuck Lorre IS lying about not using laugh tracks, or any kind of sweetening on his shows!

Paul Blake said...

Ken, on the old "Adventures of
Superman", it's been said that Robert Shayne, who portrayed "Inspector Henderson" was credited on all episodes of the show, but paid only for those in which he appeared. Of course, with an average cost per episode of $15,000, there was a LOT of penny pinching being done!

Baylink said...

Same answer, I understand with Cameras A B C & X.

vic-tori-a valdez said...

Hey Ken, I recently downloaded the script for "Give Me a Ring Sometime" and noticed that on the cast list, Cliff's last name was "Claben". How'd this evolve into Clavin?

Metal Mickey said...

@ Pat Reeder re. Mike & Molly

The changes in the opening credits are in line with CBS effectively re-tooling the programme as "The Melissa McCarthy Show". They've lucked into (or contributed to) having one of the most bankable female movie stars of the moment on a 7-year contract, and they're making the most of it... there's now a lot more MM (of course), more slapstick, her character is no longer a schoolteacher (not enough laff potential I presume), and so far no more yucky talk of babies... they've also moved out of the basement for some reason.

KEN - just to put this in the form of a question, have you any experience of having to carry out any drastic "running repairs" to save (or enhance) a show?