So what’s yours? I answer as many as I can.
Richard starts us off this week:
While many sit-coms are entertaining with their yuck-yucks, some go above and beyond. Both MASH and Scrubs come to mind as shows that bring death into the mix and let things get real.
My question is, how does a writer's room decide to put the hammer down for such an episode? Having a half-hour of in-law jokes is an ocean away from having someone pass away.
The in-law jokes may get ratings, but the death episodes (not to get too dark) are the ones I remember years down the road.
Same for sentimental and emotional moments. WILL & GRACE was a terrible offender of this. 20 minutes of burlesque jokes (many very funny) but then suddenly a big sappy moment that came out of nowhere and always felt bogus.
Shows need to be grounded in enough reality to have the audience believe dramatic moments are possible in that world. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t do a totally silly show, or establish that the biggest crisis your characters ever face is not getting laid and then deal with genuine grief or heartache.
From Steve B.:
Ken, what are the right and wrong ways to give notes to friends on their scripts? Are you ever concerned about being too easy or critical on them? Conversely, what are the rules to accepting notes from friends?
First off, don’t ask me to critique your script if you don’t want me to be honest. If you’re just looking for someone to tell you how brilliant you are, have your mom read your script. I'm doing you no favors by saying your script is great and you go out with it and get rejected all over town.
When I give notes the first thing I do is point out the things I liked, the areas I thought they did well. Believe me, when I read someone's script I want to love it. It's so much easier giving good news.
Next, when I point out problems, I try to explain why I thought they were problematic and if possible offer alternatives or suggestions. Just saying you don’t like something doesn’t do anyone any good.
I try to be as diplomatic as possible and yes, sometimes it’s tough if I really thought the script sucked.
If I start giving notes and the person is defensive, after this happens two or three times I just stop and say, “Well, good luck with it” and that’s it.
I have a small group of writer friends who I really trust, and whenever I write a screenplay or play on spec I always give it to them. And they, in turn, give me work they’ve written on spec.
I value their judgment and appreciate their honesty. I don’t always take their suggestions but I always give them serious consideration. And conversely, when they like something I know they’re not just blowing smoke up my ass.
For my play A OR B? I threw out the entire second act based on a reader’s reaction. And she was right.
As the writer you have to be willing to at least be open to criticism and re-writing. As the person giving notes, you want to frame them in such a way that the writer will be excited about going back in and making his script better.
Cap'n Bob asks:
There was a show called ROLL OUT, starring Stu Gilliam, "from the producers of M*A*S*H." It was about a group of black soldiers in WWII. Did you have anything to do with it? Not the war, the show.
No. That was before my time. Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart were the creative team behind that. You never see those episodes pop up anywhere and I’d really like to. Any show written by Larry Gelbart commands my attention.
And finally, as the baseball regular season winds down, Liggie has a FQ.
The minor leagues have instituted a "pitch clock", where the pitcher has 20 seconds within receiving the ball to set for the pitch. If he's not in the set position in that time, it's an automatic ball. Yea or nay on this concept?
Yea on any restriction that will speed up the game. Eliminate bullshit walk-up music too.
But if MLB was really serious about speeding up the game they could do it in one rule change. Cut out a minute from each inning break. Instead of 2:30 or more of commercials only allow 1:30. Teams could charge more for the commercials and easily make up the difference. And advertisers would be happy because their message won’t just be buried in a long spot break. Bam! You shorten every game by eighteen minutes. Most games would then finish in under three hours.
But will MLB institute that change? What do you think?