Now a whole bunch of Friday Questions. What's yours?
Rhoda Lexington gets us started.
On MASH, it was known that Hawkeye was an only child from Maine, and that Colonel Potter was from Missouri, yet early in their development, Hawkeye had a sister and was from Vermont, and Potter told everyone that he was going to be in Nebraska after retiring. Why do writing staffs change details like this mid-series? Thanks.
Because there wasn’t a show bible to keep track of details like that. So it leads to continuity problems. And sometimes new writers come aboard not knowing those details. For example, I don’t remember Potter telling everyone he was going to Nebraska. I’m sure he did but if I saw that episode it flew right by me.
I do think, it’s easier today to keep track of continuity. So much information is available on line, it’s easier to look things up, and there are fan bases that create their own bibles and keep us honest.
We had an excuse. We did television back in the Pleistocene Era.
By the way Rhoda, your question led me to create the STAR WARS inconsistencies post from earlier this month.
From Jeff Nelson:
A friend was telling me about reading an old interview with a television writer. One of those guys who started out writing for radio sitcoms in the late 1940s, then made the jump to television in the early 1950s and wrote TV sitcom scripts for years. The guy doing the interview asked him if he kept copies of the scripts he'd written. The writer laughed and said something like, "What for? What would I do, sit around reading them and chuckling and saying to myself, 'Oh yeah, I remember the night we came up with that scene. Boy, that was a funny one'?" Which leads me to ask you if you keep copies of the scripts you've written?
I do. Not for me to read again but possibly for grandchildren or writing students. It’s also a nice keepsake of a lifetime body of work.
Will museums want my “collected works?” Will libraries? The Smithsonian? The Nerdist Comic Book Store? I doubt it. But these scripts, especially the first drafts are certainly part of television history.
I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than reading Larry Gelbart first drafts. Or Marshall & Belson scripts. Or Persky & Denoff first drafts. So in the unlikely event there’s some misguided person who wants to read early Levine & Isaacs, the material exists.
Douglas Trapasso responded to a post I did about the days when there were only three major broadcast networks. In the piece I said:
"The Fall TV season debut was a major event. You waited all summer, salivating over the promos for the new fare. Then there was the Mid-Season, right after the first of the year. You studied those promos to know exactly what time slots these new shows would occupy."
Doug goes on to ask:
Since you've have been writing for so long, did you have a pretty accurate sixth sense while watching these legendary promos? Could you tell which shows would go thirteen episodes and out and which ones had the legs for seven or eight seasons?
The promos now are all steeped in desperation. It’s understandable. There are so many more shows on so many more platforms so they have to really grab your attention, but the result most often is a super-hyped frenetic in-your-face shout out. How could you possibly glean from one of those whether a show has any substance, originality, or nuance? Every drama looks like a wild thrill ride and every comedy looks like Jerry Lewis gone amok.
I don’t think on-air promos are as vital today as they were pre-internet/social media. Word-of-mouth can now go viral and platforms like NETFLIX that have no promos can still attract large audiences to material that is worthy.
Showrunners are always pestering their networks for more promos. I always made a big push to get my promos on NFL games. That’s when people who don’t ordinarily watch that network are tuned in.
And finally, from Sid Montrose:
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?
(available here). I woke up, furiously jotted down the steps, and went back to sleep. I was shocked in the morning that it not only made sense but was actually good.
I’m a big believer in letting your subconscious work on story problems. If I’m stuck on a script at night I’ll just put it down, go to sleep, and in the morning I usually have the answer. Well, let me amend that. I usually have an answer. Unfortunately, most of the time that answer is me sleeping with an SI swimsuit model.