As I get ready for tomorrow's SITCOM ROOM seminar, here are this week’s Friday Questions.
GS in SF starts us off:
A few weeks ago you wrote about the favorite episodes you wrote -- what about the favorite episodes you *directed* without writing? I know pie fight may be number 1, so please start after that -- show, episode, and perhaps why.
Actually I did co-write the pie fight episode of ALMOST PERFECT. Beyond that, I’m very partial to a FRASIER I did called “Roz and the Schnoz” written by Jeffrey Richman. It was a great script and I’m very proud of how that show came out. I think it's one of the funniest FRASIER'S ever -- and that's saying something.
I have a question about the 7th season of MASH. There is an episode titled "None Like it Hot" about a heatwave. It was followed the next week by an episode you and David wrote called "They Call the Wind Korea." It was about a freezing windstorm. Then just two weeks later an episode titled "Baby It's Cold Outside." Why were there so many weather related stories so close to each other?
The episodes were shown out of order. We began filming that season right after the 4th of July and new episodes didn’t premiere until late September. So we had eight or so episodes in the can before the season began. Usually the network determined airdates, not us.
We did do a number of weather-related episodes that year and here’s why:
We were locked into that camp site and felt that after six seasons we needed to find ways to create some variety. Weather was one. That year we also did the Point of View episode, another set primarily in a cave and an episode entirely in Rosie’s Bar.
But it would not have been my choice to air the weather episodes so close to each other.
Moving on to CHEERS, Justin asks:
Three not-so simple opinion questions as I re-watch "Cheers" for the umpteenth time:
1. Diane or Rebecca
Each brings a different quality and was wonderful on the show. If I had to pick however, it would be Diane. Shelley Long was extraordinary playing a very difficult character. It would have been so easy to hate Diane. But Shelley made her warm and funny while still keeping her snootiness and edge. She walked a fine line every week and did so with precision and grace. I’m in awe of some of her performances.
2. Was there a favorite guest star on the program?
Hard to beat Johnny Carson, especially since we wrote that episode, and got to be on THE TONIGHT SHOW stage while he did our monologue and it got actual studio audience laughs.
3. Favorite recurring non-lead character or barfly (mine will forever be Al)?
Al (Rosen) would be mine as well. And by the way, he was never billed as “Al.” He was listed in every script as “Man Who Said Sinatra.” (“Sinatra” was the first line he ever had on the show and the name stuck.)
And finally, from SITCOM ROOM alum, Wendy Grossman:
In the Previously TV thread for the latest episode of NASHVILLE (S04e02), a poster indicates that they've been asked to be on an "ABC advisory panel" for the show, apparently to indicate what storylines they like/don't like etc. It sounds like a focus group, but they haven't given further details. Is this a new low for "network notes"? (I imagine something like, "The advisory panel doesn't like Juliette being so fucked up that she abandons her husband and new baby; can you get them back together pronto? Oh, and do something about Gunnar's hair. They don't like it.")
This is just another example of how networks are operating out of fear and desperation. I would pay way more attention to such research if it ever proved to be accurate. But it's not and never has been. Remember, every terrible new show you see this fall tested well.
As a showrunner, I would use this as one source of feedback, utilize anything I thought was helpful, and ignore the rest.
God forbid creative people and artists determine the vision and execution of a television show instead of focus groups.
What’s your Friday Question?