Time for more Friday Questions. And tonight on TCM I host three more Neil Simon movies. The fun begins at 8 PM EST/5 PM PST. First up is one of his best -- THE GOODBYE GIRL. And I don't wear the brown jacket so cut me some slack.
Michael starts us off with a Neil Simon question:
Will both Neil Simon and the creators of the 70's THE ODD COUPLE tv show get paid for the new remake or just Simon because he created the characters?
Way back in the ‘60s Simon sold off the TV rights to THE ODD COUPLE and BAREFOOT IN THE PARK to Paramount for $125,000. Bad career advice. He hasn’t seen a dime from any of the TV versions of THE ODD COUPLE. And reading between the lines in his memoir, he’s not all too pleased. Can you blame him?
The Bumble Bee Pendant asks:
When you are a guest director on any sitcom, is there anything you do that is considered to be a personal signature. This would be something that an observant and knowledgeable viewer would reveal that this episode was directed by "Ken Levine" or "James Burrows"?
First and foremost, you have to match the style of the show, but I like a lot of movement, a little business, establishing a nice pace, and maybe finding a few interesting shots… usually during pick-ups when I have to get a single of someone and have three other cameras to play with.
Mostly though my job is to get the best performances out of he actors and make sure the story works.
It comes down to writing. The great James Burrows always said if the story works you could just shoot the entire show with one camera getting a wide master and it would work. But if the story doesn’t work, no amount of cool camera angles and fancy editing would save it.
I always go back to the writers room after run-throughs and offer any assistance in that department. That’s something I feel I can provide that most other directors can’t. Sometimes I’ll even get a few jokes in. Once in a blue moon those jokes will work.
But basically my job is to do the best version of their series in their style with their tone. On time and on budget.
As CHEERS went on, did the writers and directors ever let John Ratzenberger improvise his "little known facts" from time to time?
On another blog, I saw this comment about Cheers:
"The writers would purposely give Kelsey Grammer who played Frasier bad lines they didn't think could get a laugh and he would turn around and make them work. "
Is this true? Were you trying to get rid of Frasier?
And finally, from scottmc:
I just read the biography of Bob Hope and wondered if you were a fan. Did you like his movies, his work on the Oscar broadcasts and the television specials? Also, did Larry Gelbart ever share stories from the time he was one of Hope's writers?
I was a big fan of his early film work and the Road Pictures he made with Bing Crosby. He was funny and irreverent. But that youthful character didn’t age well. By the ‘50s his movies were creaky.
Same with his stand-up. Listen to his old radio shows. He had a great delivery and most of his material worked.
But eventually it became dated and he never changed it.
And I greatly admire his going to war zones to entertain the troops; often putting himself in harm’s way. He didn’t have to do that -- year after year, war after war.
Yes, Larry Gelbart worked for Bob Hope and had some great stories. Unfortunately, I can’t share any of them. But they were complimentary to Mr. Hope.
What’s your Friday Question?