Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Questions

Ho ho ho. Last Friday Questions before Xmas.

Mike starts us off with a (holiday) CHEERS question.

When did the Charles brothers step down as showrunners? I had been under the impression it was after season six, but Warren Littlefield, in "Top of the Rock," said they dialed back their involvement toward the end of season two, and were barely involved by the start of season three. I noticed a few other mistakes in that book, so this may be one of them. But I figured if anyone knew for sure the answer, it would be you.

Warren wrote a terrific book that I recommend, but no, his recollection in this case was not accurate. The Charles Brothers didn’t dial back their involvement until season six when the super-capable team of Peter Casey, David Lee, and David Angell took over. (Casey, Lee, and Angell went on to create WINGS and FRASIER.) Glen & Les still received outlines and were involved in the direction of the show. They came back and reclaimed the reins the final season.  And of course, they wrote the final episode with that wonderful last scene late at night in the bar with everybody reflecting on their lives. 

Judith wants to know.

I read today in the H'wood Reporter that Jean Smart was attached to a role in the NBC series, Mr. Robinson, but "opted to move on when the series was shifted from single-to multicam."

I'm not asking you to read Jean Smart's mind, but, just in general, why would a shift from single to multicam be a reason for an actor to exit a show?

Some actors don’t like having to perform every week in front of a live audience. In Ms. Smart’s case, she had done quite a bit of multi-cam and single-cam so I suppose she just prefers single.

But the dirty secret is, multi-cam is a much easier gig for actors. Five day production schedules. For three and sometimes four of those days you’re done by 5:00. Single camera shows often require actors to work punishing twelve or sometimes fifteen-hour days. For my money, there’s no contest. But I’m not an actor (by mutual agreement of the industry).

T Harris asks:

Do you think the mood you are in influence your enjoyment of a film or TV show? Years back I saw The Royal Tenenbaums in the theatre and HATED it. A short while ago, I saw it on TV and enjoyed it. Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I saw it in the theatre.   In a similar vein, I hated The Middle when it premiered and didn't watch again until recently. Now I think it's rather well made with decent acting by all.

Your mood is key. Dan O’Shannon talks a lot about that in his book, WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING AT?   Imagine pitching a comedy pilot the day after 9-11.  David and I had that unenviable task and we actually sold it.   How good do jokes have to be to work that day? 

On the other hand...

When we were doing that series for Mary Tyler Moore we were supposed to shoot a show the night the Challenger exploded. We wondered whether we should postpone since the studio audience probably would not be in a mood to laugh. But we reasoned that by the evening they’d probably be so happy for a couple hours escape from the story that filming that night might be welcomed. (Okay, we also were told how much postponing a day would cost.) So we shot the show that night. The audience was dead. It was painful. And we had a funny show. And then it hit me. The show’s primary set was a newspaper bullpen. We had photos of news events that ringed the set. One of them was the Challenger. Ooops.

And finally, from Andrew Parker:

If you were doing BIG WAVE DAVE'S now, would you do it single cam or multi-cam?

Single-camera DEFINITELY. I think the show was hurt by not being able to show Hawaii. But back in those days every sitcom was multi-camera. We had a big fight with the network over the opening titles. CBS wanted us to do the quick ten second opening. We argued that to do a show about Hawaii and not at least see 30 seconds of Hawaii made no sense. They finally relented. Of course, they then cancelled us. But hey, we won that one.

What’s your Friday Question? Deliver it in the comments section.  You can't depend on Santa. 


Anonymous said...

Hey, Ken. Where are you on the SONY hacking incident? Too busy with other things or reluctant to beat up on an organization where you hope to peddle your stuff?

Mike Clark said...

Hey, Anonymous, are you an a**hole all the time, or just when you're certain nobody has any idea who you are?

Angry Gamer said...

Friday question of sorts...
Lately, I have been asked by five or so 20 somethings what to do job career wise. They all have degrees 2 Creative writing, 2 English and 1 Journalism. The most recent advice seeker is a Creative Writing graduate who is now a coffee shop worker and my part time baby-sitter.

I have paused in giving any advice because in my heart of hearts I know that answer should probably be: "Gee, I don't think writing is a good career right now, probably time to change fields. I hear computers are hot now. Perhaps computer programming? Apple Engineers get paid well."

(Side note, this is why I bagged on the advice a few days ago. It's absurd to tell people to learn about trivia to get ahead. Sorry just is... I mean what is the upside if a person follows such advice and NEVER MAKES IT? Are they now to use that encyclopedic knowledge of credited writers in say marine biology? Would it not be better to utilize the non script writing time to gain other skills? And have that skills/knowledge be a fertile ground for stoylines?)

So here's the question. What would your advice be (honestly with no BS) of someone who is working menial jobs but has Creative Writing education at the college level. AND they are getting NO traction on getting a job in their field of study? And remember these kids are struggling... they need advice that can help them in weeks not months/years.
Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

A Friday question for you.

In your multi-station radio career, you never seemed to be the morning man or did I not read the posts closely? It would seem like the comedian should be on in the AM, not 10 at night. Please explain.


YEKIMI said...

I have known plenty of funny DJs who never worked the morning shift. Wrote jokes for a few of them, and only worked as a morning jock once for fill in.....they can keep that shift, didn't like having to get up at 3 or 4 AM to be on-air at 5:30 or 6 AM. One of the best was Bob Vernon "with a V" who was on evenings in Cleveland back in the 70s. I think he did mornings as a fill-in every once in a while.

Ron Rettig said...

I watched "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome on Nov. 23, 1963. Believe me the mood in the theater was somber and not very well attended. For you younger folk that was the day after President Kennedy was assassinated and war was a strong possibility as it was not known if Russia killed him.

Hamid said...

You have to wonder either how creatively bankrupt or how completely stupid someone must be that they can't even come up with a fake name instead of posting anonymously.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I can really attest to T Harris's question that yes, your mood canaffect your enjoyment of a movie or a show.

Case in point: 2006. Probably one of the worst years of my life... I was battling depression brought on by government-controlled acne medication (I'm not kidding), so it was like for almost an entire year, I was just quite a funk... M*A*S*H, as always, was just about the only thing that could lower the bucket into the well of my dispair and raise me to the light of day, but that was about it. I remember some of the movies that came out around that time that I saw were ICE AGE 2 and OVER THE HEDGE... I can barely bring myself to even think about either of those two movies because they're associated with a very dark point in my life (that, and I thought ICE AGE was fine as a standalone movie and didn't need a sequel, and now we're getting ready to get a fifth movie).

Interestingly, the only thing I remember first seeing from this period that I actually brought myself to see again later was the Burt Lancaster movie BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, if only because I wasn't able to see the whole thing the first time in 2006 (that's a long movie) and I wanted to see the rest, because it was an intriguing and engaging movie, albeit not entirely historically accurate movie.

And that's just me... I can imagine what it would be like for an audience to be dead at a taping the evening of a disaster... I remember reading Tom Bergeron's book about when the 9-11 attacks happened, and how he and his wife tried to make the day as calm and collected for their family as possible, then they bump into one of Tom's former neighbors at a restaurant that night, and she was actually pretty desensitized by the events of that day, and was put-out that Tom seemed so blank during their encounter.

Anonymous said...

Not a writer, but a friend of mine is. She has been trying for, oh, about 15 years to break into writing for television. She FINALLY got her break for the current season and wrote a script with the showrunner and another with the BIG Cheese. It is her dream come true and she can't stop giggling about it.

My point is to just not give up. Do what Ken has said before, keep writing, keep reading other screenplays, just put in the time & work and it will come.

Pam, St. Louis

Steve Bailey said...

In regard to T. Harris' Friday Question about watching movies in theaters vs. TV, sometimes it's not only about the mood you're in. On his commentary for the "Police Squad!" DVD, Leslie Nielsen made an interesting point about we often don't really "watch" TV -- we'll get up and go to the kitchen or whatever and leave the show running so that we can keep up with the dialogue. Nielsen also pointed out that you might the TV version of a theatrical movie because, when watching it on TV, you can mentally "edit" out the bad parts. If the movie gets to a part you don't like, you can think to yourself -- "Hmm, that chair leg needs a repair" -- until the offending scene is finished.

D. McEwan said...

"When we were doing that series for Mary Tyler Moore we were supposed to shoot a show the night the Challenger exploded. We wondered whether we should postpone since the studio audience probably would not be in a mood to laugh. But we reasoned that by the evening they’d probably be so happy for a couple hours escape from the story that filming that night might be welcomed. (Okay, we also were told how much postponing a day would cost.) So we shot the show that night. The audience was dead."

I had an improv class that night. Our teacher was very show biz and not too attuned to anything else. We had a rotten class. No one was funny and no one laughed at anything.

After class, Bill (Our instructor) said to me: "Gee, that was a lousy class tonight. I wonder why everyone was so off their game tonight."

I replied: "Well, a national tragedy will sour everyone's mood."

Bill replied: "What national tragedy?"

I said: "The Challenger explosion, you know, the only thing anyone was talking about off stage all night?"

Bill said: "That? But that was just something on television. None of them know those people."

I said: "Bill, most everyone but you started their day today seeing a group of brave Americans blown to bits right in their faces. It's not a happy thing to see."

It wasn't in show biz so it hadn't penetrated to him as something real or emotionally involving. He was genuinely surprised that it had upset people. He was a lovely guy (Dead now 21 years), but he was myopic about anything but show biz.

D. McEwan said...

Oh, and for really bad timing, tragedy-wise, some years ago, I was showcasing for Mitzi Shore at The Comedy Store, the big audition that determines if you get work there or not. While I was onstage, someone came and whispered in Mitzi's ear, and I saw her get up and hurry out, right in the middle of my act that she was there to judge.

Turned out that what was whispered in her ear was the news that Richard Pryor had set himself on fire. Needless to say, that audition was a no-go. I'd had incredibly bad timing.

Rob said...

The Melba Moore sitcom entitled "Melba" premiered on CBS the evening of the Challenger disaster to abysmal ratings and was cancelled the next day.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Reminds me how much I admired David Letterman's careful resumption of his show after 9/11 - toned the volume and jokes way down, cold opens, etc.


D. McEwan said...

Doctor Who premiered on November 23, 1963, the first non-assassination-related broadcasting on the BBC in about 36 hours. Needless to say the ratings were dismal, hardly the stuff of a show that would still be on the air, new, 51 years later. The next week, instead of airing the second episode, they reran the pilot, as no one had seen it the week before. Once they got to the Daleks, 6 weeks in, the show became a massive hit.

The release of Doctor Strangelove was delayed a few weeks also because of the JFK assassination.

A friend of mine was in Reefer Madness: The Musical It opened on Broadway on 9-12-01. Boom. That didn't run. Fortunately, an excellent film of it was made, and my friend was in the film as well.

Larry Schnur said...

Hi Ken,
Apropos nothing, I'm wondering if you're hip to the Big Wave Dave's Bar and Grill in Kapaa on Kauai? It's not a surf shop, but I'm figuring you can drink free there.