Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Questions

This is the Opening Night of my play A OR B? at the Falcon Theatre. And yet, I still have time to answer Friday Questions.   We run until November 16.  Wanna come see it?  Sure you do.  Here's where you go.

Tyler asks:

Do the actors who aren't part of the regular cast but play recurring characters (such as Gil Chesterton or Kenny Daly on Frasier) know at the beginning of a season how often and when they will be appearing? Or do they basically have to keep their schedules open from week to week?

No. Rotating characters are usually worked in depending on the story. And things can shift quickly. Stories change from draft to draft. Gil Chesterton may be in the first draft but not in the second if the story veers in a different direction.

We try to prepare the scripts enough in advance that we can check on the actor’s availability. But if we call last minute for an actor and he’s committed to something else we’re either just out of luck or have to juggle the production schedule to accommodate him. It’s certainly not fair to ask hem to just sit by the phone waiting for us to call.

Sometimes however, actors will know that they’re in a six or seven episode story arc and in that case we lock in their dates. And other times studios will make deals for supporting actors who are really recurring. They’ll sign for six or eight out of thirteen. And in those cases the actors will usually keep their dates relatively free.

For many character actors, it is their DREAM to be a recurring character on a successful sitcom.

And along those lines, Lou H. wonders:

Ken, since you have a foot in both the TV and theatre camps, can you talk about how much a 6-days-a-week play consumes its actors and whether they have time for anything else? A few years ago, Chris Noth was on Broadway and could only appear in a few episodes of The Good Wife. This year, both Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing are in It's Only A Play, and Lane has said he probably won't have any time to appear on The Good Wife.

If you don’t sign the actors to series deals you always run the risk of losing them. If the actor decides a Broadway play takes priority over appearing in your show that’s the way it goes.

However, I’ve seen actors do both simultaneously. I remember Judd Hirsch was starring in TAXI and appearing at the Taper Forum in Los Angeles starring in TALLEY’S FOLLEY. It obviously takes some juggling and accommodating on both ends but it can be done.

Considering his schedule, I would assume Ryan Seacrest could do two plays and star in three TV shows at the same time, and still have four hours a day to host an early morning radio program.

From MikeK.Pa.:

I've been seeing a lot of Will and Grace in re-runs and that show holds up well with a joke a page minimum (granted about half are gay jokes, but still funny). Max Kohan and Mitch Mutchnick, the creators of the show, have had three bites at another series and none lasted more than 9 episodes. Bite Four is coming soon on TBS in a comedy called "Buzzy." My question is how can creators of such a funny show fail miserably in re-creating another one? Did everything just come together between writing and casting for W&G? Were K&M just one-hit wonders (TV version)?

First of all, the planets have to line up for anybody to have a hit show. The most successful writer/producers can have multiple bombs. No one is immune from Normal Lear to James L. Brooks to Aaron Sorkin to Dick Wolf to Chuck Lorre.

But in the case of WILL & GRACE, I think that series benefited greatly by having James Burrows directing every episode and Jeff Greenstein guiding the writing. Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally also didn’t hurt.

gottacook wonders:

Since Alan Alda was brought up: As a director yourself who apparently still enjoys directing, why do you suppose Alda gave up feature film directing? (Or do you actually know why?)

I can’t say for sure. This is purely speculation on my part. But the answer seems simple. His movies stopped making money. Hollywood can be very cold-hearted. There’s an expression called “Director’s Jail.” That means when a director has made three or four bombs he no longer can projects greenlit.

How do you get out of “Director’s Jail?” Do an Indie film that hits, or now just move into television. There are a number of former feature directors making quite comfortable livings directing series or MOW’s.

In Alan’s case, he’s such a gifted actor that he has always enjoyed a great career in front of the camera. So he’s gravitated back towards that with much success.

And finally, Marianne has a question about one of the stars of my play:

Hey Ken! Friday question: Is Jason Dechert single?

Yes. Come see him on stage.

What’s the Burbank equivalent of Sardi’s? Oh hell, I’m just going to want any place that serves alcohol. Wish me luck tonight.

50 comments:

Hamid said...

Good luck to you and the cast for tonight, Ken! Actually, doesn't theatrical tradition require me to say "break a leg"?

Wish I could see it but living in London makes it a little difficult!

Many Mazel tovs for the post-play celebrations.

David P said...

Ken,

Since you mentioned Nathan Lane earlier in the post:

It's bad luck to say good luck on opening night. If you do, you are screwed...

Commentor $305 said...

Break a leg, hopefully, somebody else's.

Marianne said...

That's exactly the answer I was hoping for, Ken! If Jason is up for a long-distance relationship (I live in Melbourne, Australia), maybe we could give it a shot.

Good luck with your play, I'm sure it will be an absolute smash!

MikeK.Pa. said...

Good luck and much success with A or B? Let's hope you follow Garry Marshall from the Falcon Theatre to the Vineyard Theatre in NYC. TV's loss is the legitimate theater's gain.

Pete Grossman said...

Knock it outta the park, tonight. Ken!

Tammy said...

Good luck to you and the cast & crew! Really enjoyed hearing how it all came together.

John Lenin said...

Good luck, Ken!

My question, totally unrelated: Do you ever watch British sitcoms oder British comedy altogether? If so, do you have favourite shows? Actors? And do you think, US-shows could profit more from "Britishness" (like "You're the Worst" did)?

Stephanie said...

Good luck.

Cat said...

I know Glen and Les Charles had at least one other show after Cheers began, but I don't remember anything else. Did they choose not to continue creating shows? Do you basically stop creating new TV shows after you've created the greatest sitcom there ever was?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Ken, best wishes to everyone involved with the show tonight and every night it runs! Hope the theater asks for more.

Glenn said...

Best of luck and congrats, Ken. Too far away to see it live but am holding out hope for a shaky 6 part YouTube video of “A or B?” by 3A.M. tonight with subsequent blog post on YouTube piracy outrage. And for the record, my guess for the answer is “B” as in boffo box office.

Brian said...

When shows went into syndication, they were generally edited from ~24,25 minutes down to 22 minutes. Did the producers have any say in what material was cut? It was such a shame that the theme song for Cheers was cut in half for syndication!

chalmers said...

I don't think Alan Alda ever directed a feature film that he didn't also write and star in. I don't know if he ever got the chance or had the desire to switch and direct exclusively like Richard Benjamin or Penny Marshall did.

His films also seemed to reflect situations familiar to him and his peers at that time of his life.

Break a leg!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Best wishes, Ken.

If you find opening night tough to cope with, remember that Moss Hart spent every opening night of every one of his plays in the men's room and William Goldman said he couldn't do theater because the reaction was too immediate, so you're in good company.

wg

Scooter Schechtman said...

"Gentlemen, it is magic time. Good luck, good luck. Tonight, Broadway. Tomorrow..."

Donald said...

Scooter:

It's a torrent,it's an avalanche, it's the biggest hit in Burbank!

Touch-and-go Bullethead said...

A little anecdote related to one of today's topics:

Before Hammer Studios became known for its Gothic horror movies, its specialty was low-budgeted thrillers made in London but with American stars. One of these, CLOUDBURST, starred Robert Preston. As Preston would tell it in later years, he was impressed that many of his co-stars were simultaneously appearing in plays, and would go straight from the movie set to the West End. This led him to feel that he was missing out, and so he told his agent to get him a role on stage. He was cast in a Broadway revival of THE MALE ANIMAL, and this started him in a career that soon led to THE MUSIC MAN.

Kevin said...

It's not the equivalent of Sardi's but Burbank has Sardo's not far from the theatre. Hope you like karaoke.

Steve McLean said...

This will be an exciting night. Wishing everyone involved with the show much success.

Mike Carlin said...

Congrats, Ken... do good tonight!

And skip Sardo's... MO'S is closer!

iain said...

Good luck!

cshel said...

Break a leg, Ken!!!

Johnny Walker said...

Break a leg! (Or whatever you're supposed to say in theatre.) I'm sure it's going to go great!

Lorimartian said...

All best tonight, Ken. I'm looking forward to attending in a few weeks.

Scott said...

Congratulations, Ken! Another feather (in this case, a quill) in your cap.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I thought Partners was wel written and funny. Something was wrong, though. Maybe the cocept. But they knew how to work it and might have made a succes of it. Good Morning Miami I certainly liked and after a year I saw where they were taking it and believe it might have worked if the network had stuck with it. Is is because they do not make 'bingable' comedies in a time when hype is everything? Or were they judged by the succes of Will and Grace? I will certainly give their new coemdy a look (walthough I passed in Four Kngs because I didn't like the cast).

Largo161 said...

@Ger Apeldoorn

I felt the "something wrong" with Partners was the female lead. Not funny. Otherwise, I enjoyed it (for the month it lasted).

Largo161 said...

...oh, and break Alex , Mr. Levine!

Largo161 said...

Aagh! Break a leg, that is.

Max Clarke said...

Very happy for you, Ken.

Reading your essays this year about the play reminds me of my favorite Canadian tv series, "Slings And Arrows." Very funny stuff about staging Shakespeare's plays.

Can't wait to read you tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Good Luck!

Hope all of the actors (and some of the audience for backup) break legs.

Pam, St. Louis

Curt Alliaume said...

Good luck tonight!

chuckcd said...

Break a leg!
Hope your play has much success!

Michelle said...

Break a leg! I wish I was on the West Coast to see it. And thanks for still fitting in Friday Questions and posting on a regular basis during such a busy time. It's much appreciated.

Diane D. said...

Please don't keep us waiting long!!!

D. McEwan said...

Break a leg tonight. (Can you get drunk at the Bob's Big Boy across the street from the theater?)

Diane D. said...

Break a leg, one and all!!

Anonymous said...

Baba says:

Bweak a Wegg, Mr Wevine!

David Baruffi said...

Okay, I'm sure I know the answer, but this is annoying me. Recently I ran through all the episodes of "Cheers" on Hulu. It was great, loved the show since I was a kid, etc. etc. But, "Cheers" was listed under Hulu as a CBS show. And it's listed on CBS's website as well. I know, "Cheers" was on NBC for all eleven seasons; how does it get qualified as a CBS show instead? Is there an ownership standard that's irrelevant of what channel the show was on, and how is that decided? How often does that happen?

cd1515 said...

pardon my ignorance but how do we send Ken a question?
is there an email link I'm not seeing?

Mark said...

@cd1515, just put it right here (like you just did...)

mmryan314 said...

Hey Ken- What a coup. I`m certain your wife has a stake in this effort and bless her for not wanting to kill you right now (been there) because of your focus. Tell her we all appreciate her patience and your wIt.

cd1515 said...

Ken-
saw a Big Bang Theory rerun where the woman in the broken-up couple wants to make a parent happy so she asks the guy to pretend they're still together... and of course romantic hijinks ensue.
seems like a direct ripoff of a Cheers with Sam & Diane (with Diane's mother) from ages ago...
and I'm guessing 20 other sitcoms have done something similar too.
do you think writers are unaware they're jstealing something from an old show?
or do they know and not care?

Albert Giesbrecht said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Albert Giesbrecht said...

In Canada, The Movie Channel has the documentary Grass seemingly on auto-play. Grass is narrated by Woody Harrelson.

When you were writing for Cheers, did it ever occur to you in the writers room, even as a fleeting temptation, to have Woody Boyd spout off an anti-marijuana monologue, just to see what Woody Harrelson reaction to it would be?

Mike said...

Did you ever consider having some Cheers people show up on Becker? Like say Becker in a bar, and as he's leaving we see that Norm is sitting there.

Bradley said...

Friday question:
Without naming names (obviously), has the abundance of drugs/alcohol/parties in Hollywood ever sabotaged one of your projects or episodes?

Anonymous said...

I have the same question, only name names.

Stephen Robinson said...

FRIDAY QUESTION:

How did you come up with the idea for "The Monster Mash" gag in the CHEERS Halloween episode BAR WARS V: THE FINAL JUDGMENT?

It's brilliant and works because there's no explanation of how Gary accomplished it.

Of course, if you watch the episode on NETFLIX, the gag is ruined -- and the song replaced by something called "The Transylvania Twist." It's not nearly as funny. (There's just something about the "Monster Mash" or Sam picking up the phone and hearing, "Mash!")

Are writers consulted about what gets removed from an episode for syndication (songs or scenes)?

Oh, and is there any way to watch the episode with the original song intact? Does iTunes sell the episode with the original song?