Well, tonight’s the night. I debut on TCM this evening hosting the Neil Simon film festival. 8 PM in the east, 5 PM in the west. THE ODD COUPLE, THE OUT OF TOWNERS, and COME BLOW YOUR HORN tonight. I haven’t seen any of my intros so I can only hope I don’t come off like Ralph Kramden selling “Chef of the Future” kitchen widgets on TV.
In the meantime, how about some Friday Questions?
Becky has a pair – a twofer on the 2nd.
I've heard that acting drunk is a difficult skill to master. Some of the best I've seen are Jenna Fischer on The Office and Dick Van Dyke. Who are your fave boozers a la screen?
It is hard because most actors make the mistake of playing fall down drunk – staggering around, slurring their words, etc. There used to be a comedian named Foster Brooks whose entire act was doing this. He was very funny but it was the ‘60s when there was much less sensitivity to those who had alcohol-related issues.
The key to playing funny drunk is having the character play against it. They’re trying to appear that they’re not intoxicated and telltale signs only leak out.
The actors you mentioned would be high on my list too along with Shelley Long. David Isaacs and I wrote a first season episode of CHEERS called “Truce or Consequences” where Carla gets Diane sloshed. Shelley played it so Diane never lost her dignity despite being in an unfamiliar inebriated state. It’s one of my favorite episodes and it’s all because of Shelley.
I just started a writing job (in a very different field than TV/ Movies) and am terrified every day that I'm a fraud. Did you ever feel this way and if so, how did you fake (and ultimately develop) your writing confidence? My sponsor says vodka is not an option.
Becky, here’s the dirty little secret – ALL writers are terrified that they’re frauds. And worse, they’ll be exposed for the frauds they are. So you’re in good company. You just have to suppress it.
Experience helps a lot. Knowing how to deal with certain writing problems because you’ve encountered them before instills a confidence that you can overcome hurdles.
Positive feedback is also very helpful. It’s comforting to know you’re on the right track.
But at the end of the day it’s the struggle between believing in yourself vs. your insecurity. And you just have to fight through it.
The good news is that most of us are not frauds.
Is it okay for a writer to recycle his own ideas, even if they were already used on another series or film? Is there an ethical problem with it? For example, a friend has a 16mm print of a 1960s series titled HEY LANDLORD. The episode in question, written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson, was recycled over a decade later on LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY, even to the point of carrying over a lot of the dialogue. If it's your script (and in this case I believe it was Marshall and Belson's series), is there a problem with reusing parts of it elsewhere, even if you're just reusing a few of the jokes?
As long as the writer is recycling his OWN material I see no problem with it. Especially if the material was first used in a project that is now no longer distributed. I’ve heard Broadway composers talk about reusing songs they wrote for shows that died quick deaths. But again, the key is that you are the author.
You mentioned Jerry Belson. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life. He and partner Garry also created the TV version of THE ODD COUPLE. On CHEERS, Jerry came in once a week to help us punch up scripts. He’d usually contribute one or two of the best jokes of the show.
A couple of times though, he pitched a joke, and when the Charles Brothers didn’t put it in Jerry would say, “Hey, it got a big laugh on THE ODD COUPLE.” We all would say, “Jerry, why would you pitch a joke from another show?” to which he would answer with a twinkle, “What’s gone before is good too.”
Also on CHEERS – there were times when good jokes were cut for time and we’d put them in later scripts. The cast would say, “Hey, didn’t we do this joke?” We had to remind them that it never aired.
I have to admit, I’m currently writing a play and I included a joke I first wrote for an episode of THE TONY RANDALL SHOW in 1976. If MeTV ever starts airing THE TONY RANDALL SHOW I’m fucked.
And finally, from Tim Rifenburg:
In an episode of Cheers they had Robert Urich as a guest star when Woody was trying to be an actor. Since they kept mentioning Spenser For Hire and Urich's role in it, I was wondering if there was any push back from the Network. I know they aired it but I was wondering if there was any concern about promoting another network's show. It made sense from a story point since Spenser did some filming and pick ups in and around the Boston area.
There was a time when you were never allowed to mention a show from another network. Same with products. You could never identify a competitive product. It always had to be “Brand X.”
I think the lines got blurred because of late night talk shows. Johnny Carson would talk about NBC and eventually their competition. Guests who were in series on one network would go on competing networks to plug their movies.
And when networks wanted to show sports highlights they had to credit the network that aired the event originally. So you heard "CBS" on NBC and vice versa.
Eventually all networks relaxed the restriction. Yes, we sort of plugged an ABC show but somewhere down the line an ABC show plugged an NBC series.
Audiences also got more savvy. It’s like, who are they kidding with Brand X? Or that a show is on “another” network. We all know what that network is. Why not just say it?
What’s your question? Hope you’ll join me tonight on… that certain cable network that shows movies uncut and commercial free.