More Friday Questions and questionable answers:
Brian Phillips gets us started.
Every so often, a TV show will run a "live" episode. "Hot in Cleveland" is kicking off this season with one and, of course, at one time, much of TV was "live".
Have you ever directed a live episode or been on set for one?
No. Never have directed a live episode. That takes a different skill than I’m used to. You have to edit on the fly. I haven’t done that since college and I remember it drove me crazy. We were supposed to give prep commands. “Ready camera two? Take camera two.” I never got the hang of that. In one minute I'd be yelling, “Camera three! Now God damn it!”
The best part of doing a live show though is the taping takes a half hour and then you are done. No conferences. No pick ups. Assuming you aren’t hospitalized for an anxiety attack, you can make dinner reservations the night of the show.
One last note, how amazing that 92-year-old Betty White can still do live shows and KICK ASS!
Joseph Scarbrough asks:
Being a television writer, you're pretty much the real deal, so I'm just curious, what is your overall personal opinion of fanfiction? Have you ever read any fanfics of some of the shows you've written for? I must admit, I've read some that were really well-written and felt as if they could have been actual episodes of the show, but I've also read some that were so bad, I felt as if I needed therapy after reading them.
I’ve been reading fanfiction my entire career. It’s called “spec scripts.” Most are honestly not very good. I’m glad that there’s now a forum for fans to try their hand at writing their favorite shows, and I’m sure a few great new writers will be discovered as a result, but I prefer to read something else.
From another Joseph – Joseph M.:
How do you deal with seeing a bad episode of a show you worked on? I imagine that even the best ones occasionally put out clunkers.
Just like every graduating class in medical school has someone who finished last and that person becomes a doctor – there are going to be episodes of even good series that ultimately came out disappointing. The trick is to have as few of these as possible and then schedule them against the Olympics or Academy Awards.
There are episodes I co-wrote that I wasn’t pleased with the final result – either because it was rewritten or poorly directed or acted or the story wasn’t that great… or it just wasn’t our best work. I merely choose to not watch them again.
A few years ago I was channel surfing and came upon a CHEERS we wrote that I never really liked. So I hadn’t seen it in years. I decided to watch and was pleasantly surprised. There were some nice laughs in there. When it was over I wondered -- did I like it better because it was a funnier episode than I gave it credit for? Or is the bar just so low these days that a mediocre episode of CHEERS gets elevated in comparison? Probably a little of both.
And finally, from Bob Summers:
Because there are really great shows doing only 13 episodes a season (running 5-6 seasons), should many regular network shows switch to planning to do three or four really good years, then folding? I think it seems better than figuring out how to stretch something like CSI out until it breaks.
Networks feel the opposite. Big hit shows are hard to come by and networks want to ride those nags until they collapse. Many times a show will hit its stride in the first couple years then coast, jump the shark, and get worse. But their ratings those last years are better than when the show was good. So networks can eke out another few years of big profits despite a show’s decline in quality.
I see this is multi-camera sitcoms all the time. Once a show becomes a mega hit they don’t even have to earn the laughs anymore. One of their beloved characters enters a scene, says hello, and the entire studio audience is in convulsions. It’s undeserved laughter to us, it’s “kaching” to the network.
What’s your question?