Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Questions

Time for more of your FQ’s and my FA’s.

Eric E. Durnan starts us off:

I've read on here where there have been complaints/comments about the color on MASH. Now that all the episodes save the finale are on Netflix, have you seen the quality presented there? I think the color is very good on Netflix. The episode where everyone dyes their hair and wear red for Hawkeye really stands out compared to syndication.

On a side note, have you ever had MASH scripts rejected, and if so, what were they about? 

That episode where everyone dyes their hair is called "Peace on Us" from season 7 (written by me and David Isaacs) and stemmed from an actual incident we found in the research.   But to your question...

I haven’t watched MASH on Netflix. But I will say this, the color on the DVD’s is considerably better than when the show originally aired.

Don’t know if it’s like that now (haven’t paid much attention) but back in the ‘70s you could tell which network a show was on just by looking at it. NBC was warmer. ABC was a little brighter. And CBS was a tad muted. I think the CBS signal had a touch of red in it.

At the time, we filmed the show in 35 mm. We delivered a 35 mm print and a 16 mm print that CBS would run as a back up. When it left us the color was brilliant. Then we’d see the same episode on the air it never looked great.

It really wasn’t until I saw the DVD’s that I said, “Yes, that’s the print I remember delivering.” I suspect that’s the version Netflix is showing.

On a couple of occasions I complained to CBS about the color and they said I was crazy.

In this digital age it’s hard to imagine that back in those days a network would take a 35 mm print and 16 mm print, physically cut in the commercials, and run both simultaneously off a special projector called a “film chain” just in case the film broke.

As for rejecting scripts, yes. There was usually money in the budget for us to eat one script a year. I don't recall the specifics, but usually it was because we just couldn't get the story to work.  It wasn't the writer's fault.  It was ours for developing a story that just wouldn't come together. 

From blog regular, Hamid:

You often mention Steven Spielberg, notably in your Oscar reviews. So I have to ask the inevitable: have you met Spielberg? And if you have, what did you talk about?

I met him once and he was delightful. It was at an industry charity picnic. Jim Brooks introduced us. I was way nervous to just walk up and introduce myself. To be honest, I don’t really remember what we talked about. I do recall he said he liked CHEERS. I probably said something stupid like, “And I like SCHINDLER’S LIST.” But we must’ve chatted for five minutes. He was actually very approachable and gracious. Of course I didn’t ask him to sign anything and this was before selfies.

Steely Dan (one of my favorite groups) has a question.

Can you explain the difference between an agent and a manager? Are they interchangeable? If not, do they work together? Do you need both?

Also, I've read that Bill Murray does not have an agent. How common is that for someone of his stature in the industry?

Managers can’t negotiate contracts. Agents do that.  In theory, managers have smaller lists of clients and are there to really guide your career, provide more personal attention, and see that your agent is giving you the proper attention and service.

I think a manager is more useful for an actor. Several of my actor friends complain that they’re just “types” to their agent. They’ll be sent out on things along with ten of their other clients who are similar “types.” A manager focuses on you and your needs and desires.

If you’re a big enough star to where you just get offers, then no, you really don’t need an agent. An attorney can negotiate contracts.

And finally, from Jim S:

With Coach returning, Boy Meets World becoming Girl Meets World, the X-Files returning, and Full House Returns rumors hitting the net, what show would you like to see come back, and which show of yours would you like to work on again. If the answer is none, why?

They're also redoing BEWITCHED for the ninth time.  

I understand why the networks do this. It’s the same reason there are movie and theatrical versions of TV shows – because in this era of so much product, any franchise or project with name recognition going in gives you a leg up. That said, as a viewer I would prefer new shows rather than retreads. We really need another version of FULL HOUSE?

I'd I had to pick a show from the past I'd like to see again I'd have to say SHINDIG. 

If I could reboot one of my series I would do ALMOST PERFECT again. I would not want to reboot CHEERS, MASH, or FRASIER for the same reason I would not want to make a hip hop version of “Rhapsody In Blue.”

In general I like to move on, not go back and redo things I've done.

What’s your FQ? Leave it the CS (comments section). T (Thanks).

32 comments:

RockGolf said...

Your comment that of all your projects, the one you'd most like to see remade is ALMOST PERFECT. Assuming you couldn't get Nancy Travis, what actress could you see in the role these days?

Snoskred said...

Re remakes and reboots -

If you could remake/reboot any show that you were not involved with in any way, what show would it be?

Pat Reeder said...

Speaking of bringing back old shows, CBS is really throwing in the towel on the whole concept of originality. They plan to run colorized episodes of "I Love Lucy" during May sweeps. They're not even bothering to remake them to ruin them; they'll just ruin the originals.

Anonymous said...

Could someone tell me why writers are always not getting along with the directors , why?

Michael Hill said...

When did the term showrunner become accepted? What happened to Executive Producer? Whenever I hear showrunner, I think it's someone running between the show and the network, trying to make both happy. Or someone running out for coffee and danish...

Oat Willie said...

Sorta related:
http://www.avclub.com/article/cbs-air-more-colorized-episodes-i-love-lucy-218154

Touch-and-go Bullethead said...

Michael Hill: Someone who actually knows something about the business is going to have to give you the definite answer, but my understanding is that "showrunner" came to be the preferred term simply because it more or less describes the job--a showrunner runs the show. "Executive producer" can mean almost anything: someone actively involved in the production of each episode; someone who was actively involved in the production of the pilot, but who has not had much to do with the series since; someone who produced the movie on which the series was based, and who gets credit in the series purely as a matter of contractual obligation; or maybe just the star, who demanded the title because it makes him feel like more than a hired hand.

Victor Velasco said...

Re: network 'visual components' (for lack of a better term) what you described as muted, bright and warm for the big three still stands today; does anyone know the technical explanation for this?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I notice a lot of people are praising M*A*S*H on Netflix, because apparently it means they don't have to watch it on DVD anymore. Yeah, I can see that . . . having to pull the DVD off the shelf, pop the disc into the player, navigate through the menus to get to the episode(s) you want to watch . . . phew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

As far as color on DVD goes, some shows have been preserved better than others. Yes, the color of M*A*S*H on DVD is good, but the color of HOGAN'S HEROES on DVD is even better, it is so rich and vibrant, it almost makes you think of technicolor. H.R. PUFNSTUF is another show with fantastic color on DVD as well, it makes me wish the Kroffts stuck to film with the rest of their shows instead of video tape, which was still so primitive in the 70s.

@Michael Hill Showrunners and executive producers aren't always the same thing. Showrunners are first and foremost the people who actually run the show and are in charge of it, they are more involved and hand-on when it comes to the actual production of the show. Executive producers are one of three different kinds of people; either they are 1) Someone who finances the show and keeps the budget in check (to wit, Si Rose when working for Sid & Marty Krofft on a number of their shows), 2) Someone of significant power and clout in the entertainment industry who may have had even a tiny little bit of input during the creation of the project (this apparently happens to Spielberg a lot, he'll be given an executive producing credit on a movie for offering input/advice even if he wasn't involved with it), or 3) Whoever the one who created the show from the get-go is often just automatically appointed executive producer. Rest assured, whereas showrunners are heavily involved with the production of a show, executive producers aren't so much (though, that's not to say that they don't get involved as well, just not as much).

David said...

Hey Ken

A Friday question.

So after a lot of work I have finally completed both a an original pilot and a spec of an existing show. Is that enough to submit to agents or should I have more? I'm also concerned of my spec going stale since in my veep Selina is still the Vice President. Any advice?

Thanks for the great Blog irregardless.

Michael Hill said...

For those helping out with my showrunner question: I understand what the term means and why it is in some ways more accurate than the old executive producer title (which often went to creators who had little to do with the show after the pilot). I'm just wondering when it became the accepted word. It just seemed to me like suddenly everyone was using it as if we were supposed to know what it meant when it had never been used before. But maybe I had been away from the biz too long...

Kelly said...

Thank you for the "Peace on Us" episode of MASH! When my husband was in the Army, we threw a Red Party for his birthday one year. We didn't dye our hair but did dye one of his uniforms. It was a lot of fun! Thanks for writing the story that inspired us!

Wayne said...

Wow, colorized Lucy and MASH on Netflix? For both, it's the first time they've been shown in color!

Steve Peresman said...

A few weeks back you mentioned Emmy inconsistencies and even injustices. Have you eve served as an Emmy Judge? If so, what was that like? Did you agree with your panel?

Mike from Montreal said...

For a future Friday question, what did you think of "Too Many Cooks?"

Ken said...

Has the ability to "binge watch" shows exposed some plotting/ scripting weaknesses that were not conspicious when people had to wait a week between shows and perhaps years to see on rerun?
An example of what I mean is that recently I binged on "New Tricks" ( very good British cop show) While watching I started to notice how much family disfunction played out in many of the episodes/ cases they worked on.
I don't know if I would have noticed this watching one show a week.

Anonymous said...

> phew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

You left out having to sit thru piracy warnings and other disclaimers, and maybe even unskippable ads.

Stephen Marks said...

Speaking of MASH I was wondering if Ken has ever posted about all the infidelity on the show. Clearly Burns, Trapper and Blake all cheated on their wives. I just watched a show today that had Trapper cheating, an episode that was only 2 episodes after he and his wife adopted a Korean child. Would this happen in todays sitcoms?

Roseann said...

I met Spielberg once on a movie set in NYC. We were standing next to each other and we chatted between takes. Pretty cool, right?

AAllen said...

NBC in the 70s had a dull blue cast to it. You can still see it in the filmed segments in Saturday Night Live reruns. I had always wondered if this was because they were the first color network, and they still had old equipment.

Recently I read The Noble Approach, by animation designer Maurice Noble. He said he designed The Grinch in How The Grinch Stole Christmas in lime green so that it would turn out a pukey yellow green on TV. However, when the show was restored for high definition, the technicians went back to the original cells where they noticed that The Grinch was lime green, so they kept that color. I can't really blame them. When you see a new restored version, you expect brighter colors. Like toothpaste, you expect them to get rid of the yellow.

Liggie said...

Re: "Shindig", I'd love to see more multi-act music shows like it and The BBC's "Later ... With Jools Holland" (a constant on my DVR), "Hullabaloo", "The Midnight Special", "Sessions on West 57th" (or whatever street), and even "Austin City Limits". In an era with homogenized music radio, a TV show with a variety of performers and styles would be appreciated.

Re: DVDs: To many, Netflix and streaming is far more economical than buying DVDs. A monthly $9 to access zillions of shows and movies makes better sense than $40 for a boxed set of just one show.

Since we mentioned showrunning, an FQ: Would a game show's showrunner have a less hectic/demanding job than a scripted show's? There's only one set, a limited "cast" (the emcee, announcer, and occasionally models), and you don't pay every contestant; but are there bigger liability issues for things like a contestant disputing an answer, prize sponsorship mishaps, or a car given away that becomes a lemon?

Hamid said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken!

Spielberg's awesome and it's great to hear that he's a nice guy too.

I wonder if it was from seeing Cheers that led Spielberg to cast Ted Danson in Saving Private Ryan. Even though it was only a small cameo, I remember being pleasantly surprised when he appeared.

Bert Simpson said...

I met Spielberg once in a gas station washroom in Encino in 1982. We did some coke, I blew him, then he blew me, and then he came out with E.T. a few months later.

Coincidence? I don't know.

Greg Ehrbar said...

"We are all out of cornflakes -- FQ"

David G. said...

Ken--

A follow-up question on the question about the color on "M*A*S*H": On the DVDs, any episode's opening or closing shot that at some point includes the yellow-colored director/writer/producer credits information is considerably darker than any of the rest of the otherwise visually brilliant shots in the same scene. I don't recall the image of those credits shots being that dark during the CBS airings. Is my memory off, or do you know of a technical reason why the DVD versions have this problem on those particular shots?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Greg Ehrbar It's F.U., for Felix Unger.

@David G. It's because back in those days, titles (and fades and such) were optical effects that had to physically be created, in the case of the titles, they are overlayed on the film, which is going to darken and distort the film itself layered under the overlay. THE ODD COUPLE has similar problems.

Pat from Bel Air said...

Are actors who play recurring characters on a sitcom paid for episodes they aren't in? For example, on Cheers, what kept Bebe Neuwirth from leaving and finding a new job on another show? How much lead time are actors who play these roles given so that they could work elsewhere that week if they wished?

Greg Ehrbar said...

@Joseph Scarborough -- it's "FQ" for "Friday Questions". See the end of Ken's post.

As Carol Channing once told me, "That's the whole comedy."

Greg Ehrbar said...

Oops, sorry -- it's "Scarbrough." Too many "o's".

Anonymous said...

Friday question: You mentioned once that John Mahoney was cast in Frasier in part because of his guest spot on a Cheers episode (where he played a jingle writer). Is the same also true of Jane Leeves, in regards to her guest performance on Seinfeld? Or was she well known enough anyway? - Andrew

Matt said...

Here's something I notice regarding "Peace on Us." After this episode/season, the surgical smocks were never truly white again. They had a small red tint that never really went away.

Tom Quigley said...

Victor Velasco said...

"Re: network 'visual components' (for lack of a better term) what you described as muted, bright and warm for the big three still stands today; does anyone know the technical explanation for this?"

Victor, this is probably speculation, but it makes sense to me: NBC was owned by RCA which was the leading manufacturer of color televisions in the '50s and '60s, and wanted to over-saturate their broadcast color to (1) make the experience of seeing a color TV picture more impressive, and (2) make up for the deficiencies in the image the technology of the day could produce, so they enhanced the color in the broadcast feed. By the time CBS started to broadcast in color, they may have felt an alternative was needed to distinguish their picture from NBC's; same goes for ABC which didn't really start broadcasting the majority of its programming in color until the late '60's. The standards set back then became traditional and are probably what they've kept to all these years, although with digital and high-def transmission today, there's really no need to.