If Friday Questions are here can the weekend be far behind?
Rod is up first.
What did you think of the recent Modern Family episode that took place entirely on Claire Dunphy's laptop?
As a computer illiterate, and a fan of the show, I enjoyed it immensely. As a writer, are these "gimmick" episodes hard to conceive? I'm thinking all the way back to the MASH episode "The Interview" which was also completely different than the standard MASH format at the time, but highly successful.
I enjoyed it and applaud their willingness to experiment and break the format. My only issues with it are it’s impossible to have FaceTime with two people at once. And there were times things flashed on and off so fast I had trouble keeping up.
On MASH we did the "Point of View" episode, which worked out well. The key to a successful gimmick episode is that a) the gimmick doesn't wear thin in five minutes and b) underneath you need a good solid story the audience can be invested in.
Oh... and only do gimmick shows on rare occasions.
COMMUNITY was another show that took chances, sometimes with inspired results.
Julie has a question about extras:
Are extras told to say anything in particular in case of lip readers? And are they given any special requirements regarding how to act (act natural?), how to sit or stand, how much they can move, don't look at the camera (I noticed some do, and that some laugh at what the characters are doing or saying; are they told to?) The camera caught one extra wiping her eyelid with a finger as she was sitting next to Cliff at the bar. Made me laugh.
Extras are not told specifically what to silently say. But they are told exactly when to cross or where to sit. If not, invariably an extra will cross in front of the star just as he’s delivering a punchline.
Extras are also told not to look at the camera under any circumstances and not to bring attention to themselves. Doing so will result in almost immediate dismissal.
The real problem is when extras need to react. Cliff sets his nose on fire. The extras should take notice and silently react. Diane announces she and Sam are getting married. The extras should react. Some don’t. They just ignore what’s happening and go about their business.
I remember in an episode of the old ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN series there was a scene in the Daily Planet. Two crooks, wearing full lead helmets (because as everyone knows, Superman can’t see through lead) in business suits with fedoras walk down the hall. Two extras pass them and neither takes any notice. A pair of executives in lead helmets and that doesn’t catch their attention.
There are some people who make their living as an extra. They generally work for one studio or another. We did MASH at 20th and I saw our extras pop up all the time on 20th shows or movies.
KG has a question all the way from Germany.
Given the chance to choose, what kind of show would a network prefer: a successful drama or a successful comedy?
This is an easy one. No format of television is as potentially lucrative as a big hit sitcom.
First of all, they’re cheaper to produce than hours. And fans will watch repeat viewings. Once you know what happened in many of these serialized dramas you’re done. But you’ll watch favorite episodes of sitcoms over and over (and thank you by the way).
And you can slot comedies any time of the day or night. Dramas tend to do better at night. Sitcoms are more versatile for filling holes in your schedule.
Ultimately, this is why sitcoms will never die. In success they’re just too profitable.
Ken - if my community theatre ever got the rights to do your show A OR B?, think you'd be able to come to Pennsylvania to watch it? Would you even want to?
I would LOVE to come! A real good way to get me to come to your town is to have your local theater do A OR B? Seriously, contact me if you’re interested.