Sunday, January 03, 2016

And so ends another holiday season

Well, this is it. Everyone is coming back home. The holidays are over. So are the best two weeks of the year to be in Los Angeles.  It's been great. No traffic. You could get into restaurants. Asshole Porsches weren’t cutting you off. Parking spaces were available. Even on the street.  There were no lines at In n’ Out. And lines at Trader Joe’s were shorter.

As a kid, I always dreaded this day. It meant school tomorrow. No more vacation (even if “vacation” meant working twelve hours a day for the Christmas rush).

Once I became a writer it seemed like every year we had some script or pilot to write during the holiday break. Of course, some of those we volunteered for. We knew that every CHEERS or MASH or FRASIER we wrote would pay off in residuals for years to come. And don’t tell anybody, but the best part of those staff jobs was me and my partner getting together, turning off the phones, and writing drafts. In a way, it was a vacation.

On the other hand, I can imagine there are a lot of people who are thrilled that this day has come. They’re usually the ones who had to spend a week or so with “family.” I’m sorry, but you get any ten relatives in a house for four days and someone will be calling 911. Day one is always great. Day two is when the little annoyances you forgot about reemerge. Day three everyone is struggling to hold their tongues and be on their best behavior. But then Day four someone mentions the “family slight of 1973” and all hell breaks out. God, I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about it.

Traveling today is a bitch. Everyone just wants to get home FAST. But there are places like O’Hare Airport that consider it their holy mission to prevent anyone from getting anywhere on time. Try to take it all in stride. Remember, you’re racing back to return to work or school. And Donald Trump is running for President.

I hope you had a great holiday season -- got all the presents you asked Santa for, didn’t gain too much weight from the eggnog (although, Jesus… it’s eggnog. What do you expect?), are still on speaking terms with your cherished family, didn't break a leg skiing, posted every meal you had on Facebook, saw STAR WARS and SON OF SAUL, watched fifteen meaningless college bowl games, and have the strength to take down the tree and all the decorations.

Starting tomorrow 2016 begins in earnest. I bet NOW you could use a vacation.

13 comments:

Sid said...

I apologize for the incredibly long Friday question(s). But since you are now moderating comments, you don’t have to make everyone else read this nonsense.

Question 1: I had a weird dream last night. I am a famous comedy writer (that is the weird part). I am with several other famous comedy writers. They are famous in the dream, not real life famous writers, so they are just like me in that respect. We have been gathered together to work on some big project. I know this is not a particularly rational dream, but whose dreams are?

So I wake in a cold sweat, and a Friday question pops into my head. There have been a few shows, such as Your Show of Shows, Caesar’s Hour, Smothers Brothers, etc. that were famous for their all-star cast of writers. But in all those instances, the writers were not famous when they were on the show. Rather, they became famous after the fact. To the best of your knowledge, has there ever been a program or project where someone attempted to assemble an all-star crew of comedy writers? (The analogy would be “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” with its all-star cast of performers.)

And if there ever was such a project, can you imagine what it would be like to be the Producer?


Questions 2 through… feel free to ignore these questions. I left out many details from my dream. And it’s not like I could have included them had I wanted to. My dreams tend to be castles made of dust. The details have a half-life of about 15 seconds, even when I make a concerted effort to remember them upon waking.

That said, I am often left with the impression that my dreams are tapping into a wellspring of unfathomable creativity, one that I don’t possess in waking life. Quick example – in the comedy writing dream one of the other writers is famous for his work in Western movies. Upon meeting him, I immediately improvise a parody of the song “Streets of Laredo” that would be perfect for whatever show it is we are working on, in the dream.

In real life, I know about half the lyrics to the first verse of “Streets of Laredo.”

The questions: Have you ever solved a specific writing problem with dream ‘input’? And more improbably, have you ever realized the entire concept for a script (more or less fully formed) from a dream? If so, can you share what that script was? Or upon waking reflection, are your dreams pretty much gibberish?

Sid Montrose (all wrapped in white linen)

Terrence Moss said...

"the family slight of 1973".
that's hilarre.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Because the Universe enjoys a coincidence from time to time, THIS AMERICAN LIFE features an exploration of internet trolls/harassers, etc. There is an interview with one of those people, which was enough to make me switch it off about halfway through. It gave me the creeps, which TAL has frequently done.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org

VincentS said...

"Day one is always great. Day two is when the little annoyances you forgot about reemerge. Day three everyone is struggling to hold their tongues and be on their best behavior. But then Day four someone mentions the “family slight of 1973” and all hell breaks out. God, I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about it." Absolutely incredible, Ken. How could you possibly know what goes on with my family every year? Although now I'm not speaking to them, so I had a wonderful holiday - ALONE!

fred said...

A question for "The World as Seen by a TV Comedy Writer"
Back in the days of, All in the Family, Jeffersons,etc,etc,etc. They use to say comedies went over so well because of tension in the world. People needed to escape or deflect. But here we are with tons more tension in the world, and less comedy by the networks. One would think they'd be going all out to find comedy. Or is the old saying just not true?

Jeff Maxwell said...

Thank you, Ken, for a wonderful blogging 2015.

The end. Phooey. I will miss the uncrowded freeways the most. Unfortunately, this holiday season came with a lousy health issue for my wife. She'll be okay, but it dictated that any holiday gathering be timed between her treatments. It took lots of planning, but we were able to facilitate her medical schedule and still enjoy most of the normal holiday merry making.

The end of the season is usually an 80/20 mixed bag of relief and nostalgia. But this year, (WARNING: CORNY ALERT) because I almost lost having a season at all, I have a seriously heightened appreciation for my wacky, neurotic friends, my screwball family members...and love.

But Leon is sill a big idiot and may be out next year.

Happy Ending.

Diane D. said...

I am a Tarantino admirer so I went to see THE HATEFUL EIGHT, expecting to be disappointed, not just because of your review, but several commenters had negative things to say and I had read other negative reviews about it, and then there was the issue of a 3 hour movie. I have to say, however, that I LOVED EVERY BLOODY MINUTE OF IT--the story, the characters, the dialogue and performances, the cinematography. The intrigue and surprises were brilliant. It didn't feel anything like 3 hours, and even in the last few minutes, I couldn't imagine how there could be a satisfying (even exquisite) ending.

As many said, the first hour did move slowly, but I loved it---it almost felt like it was in a sublime slow motion (one brief beautiful scene was slow motion).

Diane D. said...

And, BTW, no spoilers in the above comment.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Didn't see THE FORCE AWAKENS, but did catch THE BIG SHORT. Read the book by Michael Lewis and Adam McKay did a brilliant job writing and directing it and making it palpable. Hometown boy, so have to give him some well-deserved props. A great ensemble cast, too. A shame it got lost in the holiday avalanche of releases. If you haven't seen it yet, there's still time.

Mark said...

Hi Ken,

Two Friday questions:

If you name drop an actor in a script do you contact them and ask if it's ok? The line "Ted Danson and I went out that night and got smashed" might tick off Ted Danson, right?

Second, when you are hired to write a script do they give you a budget? LIke, you can use three speaking characters who are not cast members, and no more than 15 extras. We can build one small set. Or are you free to write the Cheers Goes to Australia episode without any concern for costs invovled in such an episode?

Thanks, and thanks for approving comments. Trolls are enough on many sites to keep me away from the whole site, not just the comments. They're just depressing to me. Sorry for the trouble this has caused you, and the time it takes but I appreciate your doing it.

RCP said...

"Asshole Porsches weren’t cutting you off."

Lol. That was exactly who swerved around me two weeks ago as I navigated the speed humps on a residential street even faster than you're supposed to because Big Shot was in a hurry. Black Porsche. Personalized plate. Asshole. Besides that, the lighter traffic was wonderful.

Michael O. said...

Second, when you are hired to write a script do they give you a budget? LIke, you can use three speaking characters who are not cast members, and no more than 15 extras. We can build one small set. Or are you free to write the Cheers Goes to Australia episode without any concern for costs invovled in such an episode?


That's a good question and a very practical one.


Until Ken answers, and just mulling this over on my own, I think if I was writing for an established series I would try to stick to the core cast and the sets seen on the show regularly, whether or not they gave me a budget. Wouldn't want to get a reputation as a budget-busting writer. Somewhere around here I have an old book on screenwriting that also discusses writing for television. Someone who had worked on the 1970s Redd Foxx sitcom SANFORD AND SON talks about how they used scripts from freelancers and about how some of the scripts that were submitted were extremely unrealistic in terms of how much they would have cost to produce. SANFORD, he said, was taped in front of a live audience and 98% of it took place on three sets: the Sanford kitchen, the Sanford living room, and the yard just outside. Nevertheless, they would get scripts from freelancers that required a dozen additional cast members, four new sets, and location shooting. Needless to say, those did not get picked for production.

Something else mentioned on this topic of budgets was that at one point they did an episode that involved the Sanford home being hit by an earthquake. The script called for a lot of sight gags depicting destruction inside the house during the quake. The guy they were talking to said that the episode cost more than usual because it was so heavy on special effects, but they balanced out the extra expense by producing a later episode for less money than usual. I guess as long as everything balances at the end of the season, you can get away with a certain amount of that.

I need to find that screenwriting book. I can't remember the name of it.

Blair Ivey said...

"So are the best two weeks of the year to be in Los Angeles. "

If I ever have a desire to visit LA, I'll know when to go.