Wow. Two scary days in a row -- Friday the 13th and then Valentine's Day. For a little distraction here are some Friday Questions.
Michelle L. leads off:
I just recently read "Why Are You So Sad" by Jason Porter. One of the characters is obsessed with M*A*S*H, and is a somewhat depressed man because he didn't grow up to be Hawkeye. The fact that I somewhat related to him freaked me out a bit. What would you say to fans that become too obsessed with TV shows?
First off all, I’m depressed that I didn’t grow up to be Hawkeye either.
Like everything else, when a TV show becomes an obsession it can’t be healthy.
On the one hand you want people to identify with your show but not to where they attach their self worth to it.
This topic was addressed hilariously in my favorite all-time SNL sketch -- William Shatner speaks at a Star Trek convention. This video has snippets of it.
Bottom line, binge watch the shows, buy the companion book, engage in social media discussions of the show, buy a signed script, visit the exhibit if there is one, but don’t have your ears surgically altered to look like a Vulcan.
Joseph Scarbrough asks:
I've noticed on M*A*S*H that a few of Margaret's big episodes ("Hot Lips and Empty Arms," for example) were written by Linda Bloodworth & Mary Kay Place. Is it common among writing staffs for certain characters to be assigned to certain writers?
It’s not uncommon. Writers can sometimes channel certain characters. Linda & Mary Kay really had a great feel for Hot Lips (sorry, I never refer to the character as Margaret – force of habit over many years), and at the time they were trying to give the character more dimension so having two women writers added richness. It also helped that they were two great writers.
(I channeled Radar. What does that say about me?)
From Rick Wiedmayer:
How many writers are on a show typically? Does the show runner make that decision and hand out the writing assignments?
Typically yes, working within the show’s budget. Sitcoms today have much larger staffs than in decades past. There can be ten to fifteen writers on a show. On MASH, David Isaacs and I had a staff of two. On the first year of CHEERS the fulltime staff was Levine & Isaacs and the Charles Brothers.
But staffs have grown to where, in some cases, there are two writing rooms. And I must say I’m all for it – more jobs for writers.
That said, if I ran a show today I would hire a smaller staff of writers who I really trusted. I just think it’s more efficient. Try getting fifteen people to agree on anything. But that’s me and I’m not running a show.
Showrunners do hand out the script assignments, unless it's a show like BIG BANG THEORY that's all room written. Then credits are just "assigned," which is a joke.
And finally, from Ian:
Kelsey Grammer and John Ratzenberger are both outspoken conservatives. Rob Long has written for conservative magazines. Did the cast and crew of Cheers ever argue about political issues behind the scenes?
Not that I recall although I wasn’t on the set most of the time. Kelsey and John were less outspoken back then.
And by the way, just as it’s good to have characters with different points-of-view, so too in the writers room. I’d hire Rob on any show I do. But again, I’m not doing a show.
What’s your Friday Question?