Time to roll up my sleeves and answer more of your Friday Questions.
Between networks, basic cable, pay cable, and now streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, etc), there are more places than ever for show creators to pitch new shows to. What factors do they consider when deciding where to pitch?
Well, first off all, which ones of those places want YOU. Beyond that, I would say it depends on the project itself. If you have more of a mainstream sitcom you would probably approach the networks first. Or TBS.
And even if your show is for a network, which one? CBS tends to be more traditional. Fox favors single-camera. ABC is always looking for the perfect companion to MODERN FAMILY. And NBC is sort of a mix of all of them.
If your project is geared more for an older audience you should consider TV LAND as your first stop.
A younger skewing show might find a home on THE DISNEY CHANNEL or NICHELODEON.
If your project is more edgy you might steer towards FX, or one of the premium cable channels. And streaming services are a complete wildcard. They seem to be accepting a wide range of ideas and comic styles.
But you’re right, Michael. Back in the Dark Ages there were three buyers – the major networks, and that was pretty much it. Today there are way more options, and as a result, a lot more variety for the viewer. You could never do LOUIE on CBS. Or HOT IN CLEVELAND on FX.
From John G:
How did you get Johnny Carson to do Heeere's Cliffy?
I think, in our case, the planets just aligned. This was his last year as TONIGHT SHOW host so he may have been more receptive to the added attention a CHEERS appearance would bring. He also was a big fan of the show.
I don’t know the exact logistics of who specifically approached who (did we go through NBC or his representatives?), but he agreed to do the episode based on hearing the idea. It’s not like we had to write the script first and then have him decide. (We wouldn’t have done that.)
Once Johnny was on board everything fell easily into place. And as I’ve mentioned before, he couldn’t have been nicer, more respectful, and easier to work with. A complete pro and gentleman.
Anonymous has a question (please leave your name, guys):
Ken: there was an article this week on one of the writers for Late Night with Seth Meyers who was hired based solely on the jokes on his Twitter account (it's actually a cool Cinderella story. Other showrunners and stars, like Parks & Rec's Mike Schur and Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Andy Samburg, have come out and agreed that they've found writers via Twitter. Other showrunners like Mindy Kaling agrees that this is a useful tool but also feels social media could be deceptive, because it can be easy to come up with a quick quip or joke, but that's not the same as crafting 22 minutes of character-driven story. What's your take on this? Thanks.
If you can get noticed and make a positive impression from your Twitter Tweets I say more power to ya. Any legal avenue you can find!
But I agree with Mindy. Tweets wouldn’t tell me if this person can write character comedy, has any sense of story or can write for different voices. If there was someone on Twitter I thought was really funny I might contact them and ask for a script sample too. But what a leg up that person would have. Obviously, I would read their stuff before I got to the pile of submissions. So Tweet away!
And finally, from Charles H. Bryan:
Have you ever thought about creating a baseball sitcom?
I would LOVE to create a baseball series. But there are some problems.
First off, baseball shows are very expensive. You have to show the games, and ideally big crowds. CBS tried to get around that in the ‘70s by adapting Jim Bouton’s classic book BALL FOUR into a multi-camera sitcom set entirely in the locker room. It was a total cheat and audiences didn’t buy it.
Fox once did a baseball series that was a knock-off of MAJOR LEAGUE and it never got numbers worth the expense.
CBS aired an adaptation of the movie LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN and that too bombed.
There have also been a couple of series centered on Little League baseball. A BAD NEWS BEARS knockoff in the ‘70s and just last year BACK IN THE GAME with James Caan and Maggie Lawson struck out on three pitches. Interestingly, in both of these cases, producers were told to de-emphasize baseball-themed stories.
Another problem for baseball series is that they tend not to do well internationally. They play as well overseas as a CBS sitcom about Australian Rules Football would play here in the U.S.
Still… if there was a way, I’d love to do one.
It’s easy to post a Friday Question. Just submit it in the comments section. Have a great Mother’s Day weekend.