Wow. The first Friday Questions of the year.
Longtime reader and Sitcom Room vet, Johnny Walker starts us off from England:
In Sam Simon's amazing Emmy TV Legends interview, he talks about a character that was cut out of the Cheers pilot: A racist woman in a wheelchair. She was supposed to be a regular character, but apparently the Charles Bros/Burrows agreed that her harshness didn't gel with the rest of the show.
Do you know anything about this?
Yes. The character was named Mrs. Littlefield. She was an opinionated old broad from the D.A.R. She was in the pilot and the decision to drop the character was made after it was filmed. Politics just didn't fit with the mix. So they cut out her part, but there are a few shots here and there where she is still in the background. Just look for a sweet white-haired little old lady who used to have lines.
Since several back-up scripts were in the works before the pilot was filmed, we also had to go back and write her out of those episodes as well.
Again, it was a case of an actor being let go not because they gave a bad performance or did anything wrong. It’s just that the character didn’t mesh with the others.
Here is a fun and creative exercise question for you if you wish to indulge: Which character on a comedy show today would you like to spin-off and create a show around (like Frasier from Cheers) and why?
I've not seen Mannequin 1 or 2 but I just read your hilarious post from a few years back about you and David doing rewrites on both (the bit about the 'swell guys' wanting to pay you in TVs was priceless). My question is how much of your writing ended up on screen?
It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of our stuff sprinkled in both movies, but it’s not like they just used whole scenes or sections. There are many times they kept a joke but changed the set-up (which killed the joke) or kept the set-up but just cut the punchline.
In the original MANNEQUIN draft, the department store was set in LA. So we tried to give it a real history and character. We mentioned that the first escalator was introduced at their store. (The first escalator was actually introduced at the May Co., a Los Angeles department store.) We also said that Greta Garbo bought her make-up there.
Then they changed the location to Philadelphia but kept a lot of that stuff. So Greta Garbo went to a department store in Philadelphia to get her make-up?
But along the way there are jokes that work and moments that play that are ours, which is gratifying. We tried to give both movies a little more heart as well laughs. Those are the moments I like the best.
And finally, Albert Giesbrecht wants to know:
I have been to stage plays, so I know that actors project their voices, but I wondered if they did that on TV, or just talked in their normal conversational voices? What I mean is,I used to attend tapings of Canadian talk shows in the 80's ( The Allan Thicke show was one of the shows), and the audience members had to strain to hear the host and his guests, while watching it on TV, the hosts and guests were quite loud. I sometimes wonder if the audience doesn't laugh, because they can't hear the actor. I heard that was the case on WKRP, with Jan Smithers, who played Bailey Quarters.
I notice that a lot on single-camera shows. Jokes are lost because the actors swallow them. I'm always surprised that more producers don't put a stop to that.
What's your Friday Question? God, when is this year going to end?