Hello from New York. As you can imagine, the whole town is in mourning over Joan Rivers. Funny, fearless, and actually a very sweet person. There was a documentary about her that came out a year or so ago. If you get a chance, see it. You'll appreciate her even more. Here are this week’s Friday Questions.
When an actor announces he wants to leave a show, be it David Caruso wanting to do movies, Rob Lowe miffed he wasn't the star, or Josh Charles apparently just getting bored, it seems like they're accommodated. Does it ever happen where an actor says he wants out of his contract and is told no, because his character is too vital? Or do the writers just shrug and, as with The Good Wife, simply have another attorney show up and start flirting with Julianna Margulies?
Usually actors leave after their contracts are up. In Josh Charles case, his deal was up the end of last season and he graciously agreed to stay on for most of this year. He was a total mensch.
But if an actor is going to be so miserable and make everyone around him miserable (David Caruso from what I understand) generally a settlement can be made.
But not always.
Bob Newhart wanted out of the BOB NEWHART SHOW with one year remaining on his contract. MTM, the production company, held him to that final year. So he had to tough it out. Of course, it didn’t hurt that MTM provided him with Glen & Les Charles as the showrunners. They went on to create CHEERS and are arguably the best comedy writing team on the planet. And to his credit, Bob was gracious and lovely that final season. (Bob is always gracious and lovely).
If you have a scene that plays out in two adjacent sets, can you shoot it continuously if you block it well enough?
The series was shot on film but I also had three tape cameras. When the “show” was on air live I had to cover it with the tape cameras so that when we went into master control there were the requisite variety of shots on monitors. So that’s two sets.
In this one scene a guest hadn’t shown up so a staff member calls him. We cut to him in a disco. I had a camera on him (at the complete other end of the stage). So that makes three locations, seven cameras rolling simultaneously. I can’t believe I didn’t win an Emmy for that. Or get elected to Congress.
And finally, from Mark:
Were there ever any plans for an expanded role for Harry Anderson on Cheers before he got Night Court? I thought he was great as Harry The Hat.
When CHEERS began we were all still experimenting with the format. One idea was to populate the bar with colorful oddball characters like Harry. Eventually it became apparent that the show should focus on the core group. Harry was great but the thinking was that the character and scams would get old if we went to that well too often. It’s like the Bebe character on FRASIER. When used sparingly they really score and the audience is thrilled to see them.
We were all delighted that Harry got NIGHT COURT. He more than deserved his own show.
I’m also thankful he agreed to come back to CHEERS for the last Bar Wars episode (which David Isaacs and I wrote). I believe Harry now lives up in Washington state and is quite happy. I’d visit but I’m afraid my watch would disappear.
What’s your Friday Question? You can leave it in the comments section. Thanks. And do check out that Joan Rivers documentary. Some cable channel must be playing it, and I imagine it's available on Netflix, Hulu, or one of them.