Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Questions

Here are some Friday Questions, it being Friday and all.

Christine McElfay leads off:

Ken, why do you think Jon Hamm has not won an Emmy? He certainly is powerful in his portrayal of Don Draper.

I scratch my head too. In the past, he’s lost out to actors who have had showier roles, like Bryan Cranston’s character in BREAKING BAD.  But how Jon lost to Jeff Daniels I’ll never know.  Hopefully this will be his year.

Any actor other besides Jon Hamm and I don’t think MAD MEN succeeds, despite the brilliant writing.

Another actor who has a beef is Hugh Laurie, who deserved to win at least once for HOUSE. For many years he wasn’t even nominated.

From Kristina:

I'm currently writing a Goldbergs spec and at the end of every show, the real Adam Goldberg includes a dedication for the inspiration for each episode (usually from one of his home videos). For spec purposes, do I include a dedication? Do I write it in Adam Goldbergs voice? Or do I write a personal dedication for the inspiration for my spec?

I would just leave it out. Producers are evaluating your writing.  Dedications in the tag  are irrelevant.  If they like your writing, by the time they get to the dedication they're already sending a limo to pick you up.  

Arthur has a question about attending Hollywood screenings:

Ken, did you ever attend a screening expecting to hate the movie, and then being pleasantly surprised?

Yeah. I was a weekend disc jockey on TenQ in Los Angeles and we had a listener screening. We were giving tickets away for this new movie opening soon. I knew nothing about the flick except the title and even that was a little vague. The lights went down and STAR WARS came on. Holy shit!

As great as that movie originally was, it was even greater as a surprise.

And kids, that’s why you have to listen to TenQ!

RyderDA asks:

Recently, I saw a "tribute compilation" of the best quotes of Roger Sterling from MAD MEN, each with a photo of John Slattery. When we said goodbye to Robin Williams, there were endless quotes from his shows or movies. But you know and I know that writers wrote all of that stuff. Does is frustrate or annoy you as a writer that an actor playing your character gets credited with "your stuff" in circumstances like that?

Yes. This is a pet peeve of mine, especially with ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Now, I love EW and I especially love EW radio on Sirius/XM (Tim Stack is one of the funniest people on radio ever), but they do a feature in the magazine called “the week’s best SOUND BITES” and attribute pithy show dialogue to the actors who spoke the lines. It’s one thing if FIELD AND STREAM did that. They don’t know. But EW covers the industry. They do know that writers write these lines.

And of course, through the years it has always bothered me when someone would say “Where does Alan Alda or Ted Danson come up with all those funny lines?” and I have to reply, “They DON’T. I do. And other writers like me.”

I’ll stop before I get too worked up. What’s your Friday Question?

39 comments:

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I'm sure songwriters have the same issue. Probably worse. At least when they see a show or movie, it says "written by". You need see a streamed song, or hear a DJ say, "Song written by...".
I, personally, always go back to metrolyrics to see who writes what (Almost everything nowadays is written by Max Martin and his proteges).

How else to know that Ester Dean, star of Pitch Perfect 1&2, has cowritten hits for Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Nikki Minaj, etc.
They get all the credit....

RockGolf said...

I had a very similar movie experience, Ken. A Toronto station near the bottom of the ratings were giving away tickets to a preview of some film with a vaguely religious title starring one of the guys from Star Wars. Yes, it was Raiders. I went into the film knowing nothing significant about it. In those days, there was no saturation ad bombing three weeks before release. I didn't see a preview, saw no promos on Entertainment Tonight. I went in blind.

Wow!

I know I can never have as pure a movie experience as that again. It just can't be done these days.

Mark said...

Why doesn't one network go to creative people (like you) and say, "We'll give you half an hour on Saturday night for six weeks in the summer. Do whatever you want but we're not giving you a lot of money. If what you do takes off we'll give you a full season."

It seems they wouldn't have much to lose and potentially a lot to gain. Are they so driven by fear of failure that they'd never even consider something like this?

Oat Willie said...

Any opinion on the Harry Shearer story?And I thought The Simpsons sucked before...

Igor said...

Ken, I really can appreciate your POV re actors getting credit for lines you (and other writes) wrote. But let's say EW wanted to give credit to the writer. How would EW know who the actual writer was?

Yes, there's a writer's/writers' name(s) for any one episode, but what if the killer line was from another writer in the room who didn't get the credit for the episode?

Maybe it would be progress if they started giving credit to "the writer", even if in any instance it might be to the wrong writer?

I agree with you about how idiotic it is for someone to say, about an actor in a comedy, "How did he/she come up with all those funny lines?" And, yet, didn't people say the same about (let's say) Carson? If he was at the desk, then sure, it was usually an ad-lib. But the monologue? Is it different for joke writers versus dialogue writers?

In any event, if you were at EW and wanted to change this so the writer got the credit, how would you do it? Or, is this one of those things that "just is" and there really isn't a solution?

Hamid said...

As great as that movie originally was, it was even greater as a surprise.

Not as big a surprise as going into The Phantom Menace expecting/hoping to love it...

Johnny Walker said...

Friday question: Where do you and David come up with all those funny lines? ;)

I had a similar experience as your STAR WARS one with FIGHT CLUB. It knocked my socks off at the time. When do you ever hear anyone say, "I watched all the trailers, the EPKs, read the interviews, and WOW -- it blew me away!"?

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat Reeder said...

Certainly agree with you on Hugh Laurie being screwed by the Emmys, which is my biggest Emmy pet peeve ever. Year after year, he gave both the best dramatic and best comedic performance on TV, on the SAME DAMN SHOW! And he did it while speaking in a completely convincing accent foreign to his own and playing a disabled person, either of which usually guarantees a British actor an Oscar. As the series went on, he would occasionally play the piano or the guitar or juggle. I used to wonder if he was demonstrating all those many and varied talents just as a way of tweaking the Emmy voters by subliminally signalling, "What the hell MORE do you expect me to do?!"

Cat said...

My biggest Emmy pet peeve goes back a ways. I'm still incredulous as to how Ted Danson did not win an Emmy for at least the first season of Cheers. He was sublime! I'm wondering if it was that he was playing someone who seemed like a real person and not a sitcom character. Emmy does like to reward the same people over and over (cough--Michael J Fox) and then snub others for years on end. Any thoughts, Ken?

Anonymous said...

I received free passes to see "Silence of the Lambs" from a book distributor to see a screening. I had read the book and loved it, but was not looking forward to seeing how they were going to butcher it.

Boy was I shocked. The first time I saw Anthony Hopkins as Lechter, I was hooked. One of the last 'perfect' movies.

Pam, St. Louis

Mr. First Nighter said...

I received free advance tickets to the first Alien movie.I was so scared that when, on the subway ride home, a passenger dropped her umbrella, I leaped from my seat.

VP81955 said...

From Kristina:

I'm currently writing a Goldbergs spec and at the end of every show, the real Adam Goldberg includes a dedication for the inspiration for each episode (usually from one of his home videos). For spec purposes, do I include a dedication? Do I write it in Adam Goldbergs voice? Or do I write a personal dedication for the inspiration for my spec?


I would just leave it out. Producers are evaluating your writing. Dedications in the tag are irrelevant.

That would be like writing a "Mom" spec and writing your own Chuck Lorre tag at the end. Not your domain.

Steve Mc said...

Igor... the idea that the dialogue isn't written but is just something the actor come up with is really pervasive. I'm a screenwriter and I was once watching the broadcast of something I'd written with my wife when she was talking as though the actors made up the words! I wondered what she thought I did all day.

And don't get me started on people who think that ALL we do is write the dialogue...

Al said...

When I was a kid my family went to see some movie at the local theatre, I don't know what. When we got there, they asked us if we wanted to see a test screening of a new movie no one had heard of before. Then they showed us Airplane.

I love Airplane now, but as a ten year old I thought I had been given Wonka's Golden Ticket. It was so funny I almost passed out.

And I'm not gonna lie, as a ten year old who spent a good portion of his free time looking for photos of boobs, it was a pretty fortuitous circumstance.

My Mom was less impressed with that particular part of the movie.

Luke Mullins said...

Hi there Ken, my name’s Luke Mullins and I’m a senior writer here at Washingtonian Magazine in Washington, D.C. I hope this message finds you well. Say, I was hoping you might be free for a phone call? I’m working on an oral history of Joe Theismann’s leg injury because this fall will mark the 30th anniversary of the event. In addition to speaking at length with Joe about the injury, I’ve interviewed a number of former players, coaches and staff members from the Washington Redskins and New York Giants who were present for November 18, 1985 game, including: Jeff Bostic, Don Warren, Clint Didier, Rick Donalley, Gary Reasons, Harry Carson, Mark Moseley, Dexter Manley, Charles Mann, and others. Among other things, the story will explore the following question: Why has this injury has remained so prominent in American culture three decades after it occurred?

I saw that you and David Isaacs wrote a 1991 episode of The Simpsons titled “Saturdays of Thunder,” during which Homer watches a video of “America’s greatest sports injuries,” which includes the Theismann injury. I’d be real interested in chatting with you about why you chose to include the Theismann injury in the episode, as well as any other thoughts you might have on the injury. Do you remember how you felt when you first saw it? Why do you think the injury has remained so prominent in American culture?

Is there any chance you might be free for a phone call to discuss this? If so, please email me at lmullins@washingtonian.com. I’m more than happy to work around your schedule to find a time that works best and I’d really appreciate your time. Thanks so much, Luke

Igor said...

@Steve Mc

You mean, your ex-wife?

I don't recall if Morey Amsterdam's character on the Dick Van Dyke show was married, but (if so) I can imagine your story coming out of his mouth.

thomas tucker said...

Yes, Morey Amsterdam's character was married to "Pickles".

thomas tucker said...

Friday Question: I have a great idea for a movie, but I'm not a writer, I'm not in show biz, and I don't live in New York or LA. What do I do with this great idea? (And I'm sure you've never heard this question before, right?)

Anonymous said...

When living in Kansas, I won four free tickets to go see a strangely titled movie "American Graffiti." Loved it. When living in L.A., my girlfriend said some guy at the supermarket was giving out free passes to the PREMIER of a movie, at the (old) Director's Guild building. I thought, man, it must really suck if that's how they needed to fill seats, but I did want to see the Director Guild's theater. The movie was Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. (Not in league with Star Wars or Raiders, of course, but clearly the studio thought they had a dog on their hands and were dumping it)

Gary said...

There have been many other Emmy snubs in the past that defy logic. Two that quickly come to mind are Jackie Gleason and Andy Griffith -- total Emmys: zero.

Graham Powell said...

I heard about a reporter for a Chicago newspaper who could dig up information that no one else could get, but he couldn't write worth a damn, so a rewrite man always had to writer the story.

One day the two of them won a Pulitzer. The reporter got up on a table in front of a cheering newsroom and said, "I wish (the writer) was here to tell you how great I feel."

Anonymous said...

@Luke, Doesn't the injury resonate because it was so gruesome, that it happened on live TV on perhaps the most watched (sports) program of the year (MNF) involving one of America's most beloved/reviled teams and involving one of America's most beloved/reviled quarterbacks? And ABC kept showing the leg snapping over and over and over and over again, analyzing it like the Zapruder film to the extent that it became etched in our memories?

And the reason it lasts is that nowadays the first thing networks due is cut away from the gruesome and controversial (i.e., the Louisville basketball players leg breaking in the Final Four was never replayed, Fox cutting away from Randy Moss's full moon dance and Joe Buck commenting how "disgusting" the action was). And this new standard is ALL because of MNF showing the injury over and over again -- so it became a turning point in what was shown on live tv. The audience did not like becoming voyeurs to tragedy, violence, and blood.

Just a guess??

Igor said...

@Anonymous

Sure, you can say that about Theismann, and I can say that about him, but a reporter needs a famous and/or credentialed person to say it - even if the famous/credentialed person says exactly what we've said.

Oftentimes, reporters aren't looking for 'answers', they're looking for POVs (not that there's anything wrong with it).

And even if you'd say the same thing Ken would say, you're not Ken Levine. (Oh, unless you're that other Ken Levine.)

Anonymous said...

I do find it odd about Jon Hamm. Maybe people just don't like him personally? Look at Pacino's record. Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Godfather all ignored for political or personal reasons. Come on, Art Carney won over him!! He finally got it for that horrible Scent of a Woman? And Buddy was married to Pickles.
Janice B.

Richard Y said...

Next Friday Question File : (or sometime after). When a series ends for the season on a cliff hanger and then starts from that point with next season epi 1 – be it a graphic shooting of a character, a fire/explosion, or similar. How is that done? Do they continue to film the scene to follow the story line to its conclusion since all the cast, crew, etc are already there at that location? Would seem like a lot to exactly replicate, especially for a fire scene several months later. Then keeping it quite all that time regarding the outcome that so and so, did or did not, die. (Having nothing to do with contract negotiations.)

Terence Towles Canote said...

Here's a question for some Friday. Do you think situation comedies have declined in quality since the Eighties?

Paul Duca said...

You mean Beaver Cleaver isn't reason enough to listen to 10Q?

Abe said...

@Luke, do you think that anyone outside of DC gives a rat's patoot about Joe T's injury? I just wish the inconsequential piss ant would get off my TV and stop selling those phony drugs!

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I figured at the time that Hamm and Cranston split the smart vote and that's how Daniels got the Emmy.

Igor said...

@Abe wrote: "@Luke, do you think that anyone outside of DC gives a rat's patoot about Joe T's injury?"

Uh, does that matter so much? After all, he's writing for 'Washingtonian Magazine'.

Mark Patterson said...

Reading this recalls the episode of Studio 60 where the three girls at the party were talking to Matt Perry's character (who was head writer of the show). One of them kept acting as though he was subservient or inferior to the actors who said the words he wrote, and he yelled, "THEY WORK FOR ME!!"

If you saw that, Mr. Levine, I would imagine that it resonated.

Berry Canote said...

I have a Friday Question. My brother is somewhat of a TV historian, and we often have discussions on the topic of TV history. One question we have often had is why do the broadcast networks keep trying with certain genres, even when it is clear that genre has not produced many successful shows? The genre my brother likes to bring up is that of the legal drama. According to him the failure rate for legal dramas is higher than that for Westerns (a genre the networks gave up on long ago).

Question Mark said...

It's kind of incredible that Hamm has never won, though admittedly Best Actor In A Drama is always a loaded category every year. He's lost to...

* Cranston, four times
* Kyle Chandler
* Damian Lewis (for S1 of Homeland)
* Jeff Daniels

Chandler and Lewis were amazing in their roles, so those wins were justified. You could argue that Cranston didn't need FOUR Emmys, yet it's hard to argue that he didn't deserve every last one of them for a performance and character even more iconic than Don Draper. The Daniels win, however, was a joke.

Perhaps even odder is that Mad Men has cleaned up in the Best Drama award but has never won any acting awards --- nothing for Hamm, Moss, Hendricks, Jones or Slattery. Vincent Kartheiser has never even been nominated, which blows my mind.

Question Mark said...

Ken, what do you think of some actors withdrawing themselves from Emmy consideration after several wins in a row (a la Candice Bergen or John Larroquette)? While I think this is a nice gesture for the actors, should the Academy itself have a rule in place limiting the number of wins for one performance? Maybe a "three times and you're retired"? type of thing?

Oliver said...

How do you feel about actors getting showrunners fired? There's been plenty of examples over the years. Sometimes it's down to personality clashes and production issues but other times it's pretty clearly down to the creative direction of the show. Is it right for the actors to make such an intervene in such a way in how the show is written?

cadavra said...

As for Emmy snubs, here's one a lot closer to home: George Wendt.

I've often felt there should be some sort of rule regarding the number of wins. Three times maximum for the same character, with a max of two in a row. Thus Bergen or Larroquette would be nominatable (is that a word? It is now) for subsequEnt shows, like BOSTON LEGAL (on which both co-starred).

BTW, Ken, at my group lunch last Friday, I was thrilled when one of the regulars brought a guest: Burt Metcalfe. What a lovely man!

Steve Mc said...

@ Igor... don't tempt me...

Kristina said...

Thank you for the response to my Friday Question! For the first draft I sent to my writer's group, I included a small dedication, but I'll take it out from now on. Saves me some space as well.

Thank you!
Kristina