Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bonus questions

One of my resolutions every year is to answer more Friday Questions. So I’m going to sneak in a bonus day of them.  I'm really on top of this resolution -- it being February and all.

Charles H. Bryan starts us off:

Ken, for the holiday season and because it's free with Amazon Prime, I just downloaded the first season of The Twilight Zone. All 39 episodes. My Friday Question is: How the hell did they make 39 episodes of a show in one year? Doesn't that just seem insane by today's standards? Sure, one could argue that a lot of those shows back then weren't that good, but this is also the time of some classics (e.g., I LOVE LUCY - 35 eps its first season, PHIL SILVERS - avg 35 eps/4 seasons). This was well before the widespread industry-mandated use of cocaine. How did they do it? Just coffee? Really strong coffee?

And it’s worse. Writing staffs were very small back then. Usually no more than four and often fewer. I want to check myself into a hospital just thinking about it.  

The hard part of course, was coming up with stories. 22 is a bitch, much less 39. Call the ambulance.

The difference is -- especially on multi-camera shows -- they didn’t rewrite nearly as much as we did in later years. Starting in the ‘70s there was extensive rewriting that went on in multi-cam shows. After every day’s rehearsal the staff would go back and continue to tinker with the script. Not so when they were cranking out 39. After maybe a rewrite following the table reading, the script was pretty much locked.

When we made MASH, we produced 25 episodes in six months. Today, single-camera shows take eight or nine months to churn out that many. The key for us was preparation. We spent months in pre-production preparing scripts because we knew that once the actors arrived and cameras started rolling, things got insane.

Still, I can’t imagine having to come up with 39 stories a season. If you look back at THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, truly a television classic, you’ll see that in the last season they pretty much redid a few episodes from the first season. Things got that bad.

You had to be incredibly prolific. But I think even Aaron Sorkin would have trouble cranking out 39 episodes a year. Seriously, I’m calling 911.

Kensi Blonde asks:

Would you be able to have such a flagrantly promiscuous character like Sam today? And I realize that pregnancy scares are hard to plumb for laughs, but how does he sleep with "four honeys" (just by season 1) and no one gets knocked up?? Ah, sitcom land...

He used protection. And we only had him sleep with women who were on the pill.

But to answer your question, not only could you still have promiscuous men on sitcoms today (Charlie Harper on TWO AND A HALF MEN slept with four honeys a show), you also could have promiscuous women. Amy Schumer has made a career out of playing that character. Not to mention the shenanigans that go on with the sluts in 2 BROKE GIRLS.

I’d also add CALIFORICATION, but the fact that he was a “writer” who got all that action, that was so completely absurd it doesn’t count.

From Liggie:

With the recent conversation on live TV, Ken, I'd like your thoughts on the format of Neil Patrick Harris' recent variety show, "Best Time Ever". When I first heard of him doing variety, I thought it would be a callback to the '70s shows like Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, Donny & Marie: rotating guests, comedy sketches with recurring characters, musical numbers, a big-production finale. So I was intrigued that Harris eschewed most of that in favor of games with the studio audience (and home viewers), hidden camera events, celebrities surprising audience members, just one set-piece number per show, and a live format. Is this a good way to maintain the variety genre and leave the classic format in the past? (Just the format of "Best Time Ever"; as opinions on its actual quality are divided, let's save that discussion for another time.)

People don’t want variety. Not anymore. If they want game shows they find game shows. There are “Punked” hidden camera shows. You Tube provides thousands of production numbers from various TV, movie, and Broadway shows.

Audiences have no patience for sitting through something they don’t like knowing something they do might be around the corner. Being all things to all people is unfortunately serving no one.

THE BEST TIME EVER was cancelled by NBC. No new variety series are in development.

And finally, from Rashad Khan:

How do you (and Mr. Isaacs) find the "perfect" writers to join your writing staff? Is there an initial interview -- and if so, what sort of questions do you ask to determine whether he or she would be a good fit for you and your show?

Believe me, it’s an inexact science. We read material first. Then interview them. We don’t have specific questions. We’re really just trying to determine their personality, whether they’d be fun to be stuck in a room with for 90 hours a week, whether their sensibility jibes with ours, questions about their background, etc.

After that we might call a few writers who they worked for and get their assessment. And then, like I said, it’s a crapshoot. We’ve made some inspired choices down through the years and some horrible ones.

For young writers going on these interviews, I recommend you just be yourself. Try to relax as much as you can. Be enthusiastic but don’t try to sell yourself too hard. Just have fun with the meeting. Look, you’re either going to get the job or not. And often when you don’t it’s because of circumstances beyond your control. So don’t put any unnecessary pressure on yourself.

What’s your Friday Question? Maybe I’ll even answer it on a Friday. Thanks.

40 comments:

Peter said...

My question is: Have you seen Deadpool yet?! And if not, why not?!

Yes, there have been a hundred comic book movies in the last few years but nothing like this and nothing anywhere near as funny and clever.

This was one of the funniest films I've ever seen. And trust me when I say you'll like it. Just one reason why you'll like it - the opening credits. As you might have heard, the movie is very self aware and self referential. Now, that's the kind of thing which, if mishandled, can end up either annoying or unfunny. But I could tell right from the start that this was gonna be great. The opening credits, instead of having names, said things like "Starring a British villain, a moody teen, comic relief." It says "Produced by some assets". And when it gets to the writers' credit, it says "Written by..." I won't spoil it! But you will want to cheer what it says there.

The dialogue is razor sharp, the one liners come thick and fast, sometimes so quick that I missed a bunch of them, and the pop culture references are actually witty rather than just forced in out of laziness.

All that and sex scenes with Morena Baccarin in lingerie. What more could you want?!!!

Rashad Khan said...

Thanks for answering my question (which I totally forgot I had asked)!

slgc said...

Ken - I'm holding off on buying tickets to see "A or B?" in Hatboro because I'd love to be able to meet you at one of the shows. When will you be out East to see it?

Steve Mc said...

Re - The Twilight Zone and volume - weren't a lot of the episodes adaptations and a couple bought in?

Which isn't to undermine the achievement of coming up with 36 or so short films per year, even if some are adaptations.

Stephen Marks said...


Lou Costello: Hey Ken, I have a Friday Question. I want to know why my favourite actress Tuesday Weld didn't get the Ann Margaret role in Any Given Sunday?

Ken: Okay Lou heres what you do. If you want to know why Tuesday wasn't in Sunday post your question by Thursday and I'll answer it Friday. If its a Friday Question Bonus Day and you've posted it by Monday I'll answer about Tuesday not being in Sunday Wednesday or Thursday before the actual Friday questions. If you don't get your question in by Thursday I'll answer it the following Friday provided you remind me on Wednesday of that week, okay?

Lou: Okay, um, wait, what? If I ask about Tuesday by Thursday you'll post it by.....

Ken: Look Lou I'll give you the answer when we meet for lunch this weekend okay? I'll see you at TGI Fridays and let you know why Tuesday wasn't in Sunday on Saturday.

Lou: Okay you know what, fuck this, I know what you're doing, you want me to say "I'm a baaaaaaaad boy" but I wont. I wont do it Ken, for you or anybody else, that "Whose on first" shit is over, I told you before it died with Bud, got it? Now what kind of desert can I get at Fridays?

Ken: Sundaes!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW also periodically game themselves a break by inviting everyone over to the Petries' and getting them all to take turns doing dance/song numbers. You can do that when your cast are all old vaudeville hoofers.

The writers also had different backgrounds then - they started as novelists and short story writers (particularly true of SF series like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and STAR TREK), playwrights, and performers themselves.

Do you think it helped that a lot of those old shows were doing things for the first time? There has to have been a lot of lower-hanging fruit when you're writing the *first* domestic comedy, the *first* workplace comedy, the *first* working class comedy...not to mention the *first* Thanksgiving episode. Today, you have to find the gaps where things haven't been done before.

wg

Michael Hagerty said...

"Audiences have no patience for sitting through something they don’t like knowing something they do might be around the corner. Being all things to all people is unfortunately serving no one. "

Which is also why radio is very focused musically as opposed to the Top 40 we Boomers grew up with that mixed genres.

Gregg B said...

Friday question: Have you seen the new Louis CK show "Horace and Pete"? It's a throwback to the Playhouse 90 days. And your old pal Alan Alda is excellent in it. Your thoughts on the show and the distribution method?

Terrence Moss said...

I disagree that people don't want variety. People want to be entertained. Simple as that -- regardless of format.

The problem with "Best Time Ever" was idiotic scheduling at 10pm on Tuesday nights and then two hours earlier in an insanely competitive time slot.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Thanks, Ken! I imagine the writing staffs from back then would look at today's 10-13 episode seasons for some shows and just laugh and laugh until they decked somebody.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with British television production, but I wonder if this same pattern took place with the BBC (and its related networks) and ITV? The British short season has been the model there for far longer than in the U.S. (Just looking at the episode listing for The Avengers - Steed and Mrs. Peel variety -- it looks like they did about 26 eps per season in the 60s, which seems comparable to U.S. television.) Maybe one of the other posters has some info?

Peter said...

D'oh! That was supposed to say the credits said "Produced by asshats"! Damn predictive text on my phone changed it to assets!

Ken Levine said...

slgc,

I'll be there on the 8th and 9th.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER also had 39 episodes a season and that seems a wee bit much too . . . but are you ready for this? Up until 2001, SESAME STREET did 130 episodes a season. And it's an hour-long show. By 2001, however, the number steadily decreased due to budget cuts and other fiscal problems within PBS - it dropped to 65 in 2001, 50 in 2002, then 26 in 2003; there were talks of decreasing it to 24 like normal TV seasons, but the head writer argued there are 26 letters in the alphabet and would therefore have to "fire" to of them.

Conversely, on the other hand, cable shows tend to have seasons that only last anywhere from 6 to 15 episodes a season . . . however, they crank out two sometimes three seasons in a year, so it's not difficult at all for a cable series to achieve 100+ episodes in maybe a couple of years.

That said, we had a relatively dumb question today: "Would you be able to have such a flagrantly promiscuous character like Sam today?" To the person who asked this . . . uh, have you seen any of television today? Practically every single show on television today has entire casts of characters like this. THE BIG BANG THEORY? UNDATEABLE? I defy somebody to mention one show - comedy or drama - on television today where sex isn't one of the driving factors of the show's premise or characters. Years ago, I was so hoping SUBURGATORY would be a refreshing change from all that because it looked different (in a good way) from everything else on TV . . . then a box of condoms showed up in the trailers for the pilot, so all hope was lost. Even being a fan of David Alan Grier isn't enough for me to check out THE CARMICHAEL SHOW, because I'm just sure it's got a lot of unnecessary sexual content in it as well.

Oh, and thanks, Ken, for including an image of Krystal in the CAPTCHA today: screw White Castle!

Diane D. said...

I agree that promiscuous characters like Sam Malone abound, but what shocked me when I first started watching CHEERS again after many years was the way Sam manhandled Diane occasionally. I don't think that would happen today. The way he grabbed her arm and marched her rapidly into his office when annoyed was hilarious and offensive at the same time. He also threatened her physically at times---in the last episode of Season One he threatened to "bounce her off every wall in this office" and said, "I've always wanted to pop you one; maybe this is my lucky day." Of course, being Diane, she threatens him in return, "Try it and you'll be walking funny tomorrow." Again, a very funny scene but I don't think threatening to hit a woman would be allowed today (not by a character who is supposed to be likable).

BA said...

A Friday question: I saw a bowdlerized version of the NatLamp documentary on the History Channel and I thought there was a lot of comedy talent on the East Coast. What was your experience as a DJ with West Coast counterparts like The Credibility Gap, the Committee, and the Ace Trucking Company? I know there's a few alumni out there like Shearer/McKean, Howard Hesseman and Fred Willard.

H Johnson said...

I have to disagree with you concerning variety shows. The Best Show Ever didn't make it because it was the worst show ever. There was actually very little variety and less talent. The stunts were stupid and ill-conceived, and the rotating announcer bit took up way too much time.

Just give us professional entertainers introduced by a somewhat unattractive host and keep the chatter to a minimum. I think stating what the audience wants based on the shit that hasn't worked is folly. And the commentator's example of modern radio doesn't apply at all. Radio isn't programmed with anything in mind but low costs.

As far as so many episodes being written a year back in the day? I think the writers pool was smaller and stocked with bigger fish. They were just smarter back then.

Aloha.

RR said...

My wife and I tried watching THE BEST TIME EVER once. We thought it would be more like those old-fashioned variety shows we grew up with. And with Neil Patrick Harris as host, how could it lose?

Boy, were we disappointed. They seemed to be making it up as they went along. I also reached the conclusion halfway through that they were less introduced in producing a variety show and more interested in coming up with situations that would make great clickable moments to put on Youtube.

We never watched again.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Neil Patrick Harris just needs to . . . go away. Seriously, I'm sick of him constantly being shoved in our faces all the time, I get the feeling like Hollywood wants us to worship him like a god . . . I mean even every little thing in his family life is always treated like earth-shattering news. "This news just in: Neil Patrick Harris's kids dressed in costumes for Halloween (unlike ordinary kids who do the same, but just aren't worthy of media attention)! Details at 11!"

Ben K. said...

I would argue that "Saturday Night Live" is a variety show. So, to some degree, are the late-night talk shows, especially with musically inclined hosts such as Jimmy Fallon and now James Corden. I think that these days a lot of people watch these shows the way I do: DVR them, fast-forward through the slow parts and watch anything that looks entertaining.

Ben K. said...

I would argue that "Saturday Night Live" is a variety show. So, to some degree, are the late-night talk shows, especially with musically inclined hosts such as Jimmy Fallon and now James Corden. I think that these days a lot of people watch these shows the way I do: DVR them, fast-forward through the slow parts and watch anything that looks entertaining.

GS in SF said...

Friday Q: Every so often you post a letter Mamet wrote to the writers of the Unit. But at that time I do not think you had watched Breaking Bad yet. Now that you have seen Breaking Bad, I wonder how you view his memo and Breaking Bad? It seems like everything he says is executed perfectly by Breaking Bad, except instead of his use of "hero" it would be "anti-hero."

Do you think anything needs to be updated from that memo to fit in today?

(P.S. Breaking Bad is on Sundance every Wednesday so it has been on my mind).

John Hammes said...

September through June broadcast seasons go back to radio's "golden age" 1930s-1950s. Writers, technicians, talent, etc. spent a generation learning how to creatively entertain - or at least fill - those radio airwaves 39 weeks a year, so this routine was pretty much understood and expected to carry over during the transition to television. Thirty nine weeks still being thirty nine weeks, after all. Speaks volumes to all who thrived, yet alone survived, those grueling schedules.

James said...

One of the writers, I believe (I'd credit if I could remember who), said that on Van Dyke and Andy Griffith (and probably other Sheldon Leonard shows), they'd first have a table read of next week's script. The writer/producers had a week to work on it while the current week's script got it's second table read and went into production.

euphoria0504 said...

Nobody has mentioned the single biggest reason that TV series used to be able to produce 39 episodes a season: They weren't serialized. Regular characters weren't expected to grow and change; that was what guest stars were for. As a result, many episodes could be written by freelancers, which vastly reduced the workload for the staff writer/producers, and enabled the shows to get by with much smaller staffs.

Andy Rose said...

The memory of those 70s variety shows tend to benefit from nostalgia and heavily edited "best-of" clip presentations. The best of those programs was Carol Burnett, but a substantial portion of each episode was taken up with musical numbers that were deadly dull. Even some of the comedy got to be very self-indulgent. People remember the "Siamese elephant" blooper, but forget that it was part of a not-terribly-funny Family sketch that was almost 20 minutes long! There's a reason most of the "highlights" you see are unscripted bits involving Tim Conway making people corpse, even though he was only a regular for the last 3 seasons.

I remember in the late-80s when people thought the first SNL cast was unfailingly hilarious because the reruns being shown were 30-minute clip shows. Once Lorne Michaels allowed the full episodes to be seen again, people got disabused of that idea pretty quickly.

D. McEwan said...

"If you look back at THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, truly a television classic, you’ll see that in the last season they pretty much redid a few episodes from the first season. Things got that bad."

If you look at the first episode of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and the final episode, they're clearly the EXACT same story, with slightly altered dialogue, and a different rich kid/family.

"Audiences have no patience for sitting through something they don’t like knowing something they do might be around the corner. Being all things to all people is unfortunately serving no one."

I never understood that strategy at all. It NEVER worked at our house when I was growing up. A show with "Something to please everyone" was a show with "Something to annoy everyone." We seldom watched The Ed Sullivan Show or The Hollywood Palace,because someone in the family hated something in each show. If I wanted to see The Smothers Brothers, for a random example, on Ed Sullivan, I'd have to put up with my mother bitching all the time Cab Calloway was performing about how she "Can't stand him. He gives me the creeps." (I loved and love Cab.) When Nelson Eddy was on Hollywood Palace, naturally, Mother wanted to watch it. This meant hearing Mother bitching all through Diana Ross and The Supremes ("Is that noise supposed to be music?"), and then, my revenge (I'm a great deal like my mother, so we always locked horns), me bitching all through Nelson Eddy's performance. ("What on earth do you see in that stiff? My God, he's got the sex appeal of over-cooked spaghetti. How can you stand that horrible signing?") She'd then complain back: "Can you please be quiet? I'm trying to enjoy Nelson." "No. You wouldn't shut up and let me enjoy Cab Calloway or Diana Ross (Etc.) so let's see how you like it!" This would then escalate. So we almost never turned on a Variety type show because all it ever did in our house was start big family fights.

And don't get me started on what happened whenever I tried to watch Jackie Gleason (Whom I loved and my mother loathed), when Mom was in the room, but it usually ended up with my doing all through Perry Mason what she did all through Jackie Gleason's American Scene Magazine, complaining constantly, to prevent her being able to enjoy, or even follow, it just as she had bitched aloud all through Gleason. (We were a lively family.)

Nope, I never got how "Variety" was supposed to work. Even today, I always pre-record SNL so I can fast-forward through the musical acts and, when a sketch proves tiresome, fast-forward through that also. Same with Colbert. Sometimes I'm so uninterested in his guests, that his show takes me only 15 minutes to watch.

On NPH's recent debacle they had something to bore everyone. Good Grief that show was terrible. It really had no format. It was just a heap of unrelated ideas thrown at us in hopes that something would work. Nothing did.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

This is why the Honeymooners is often referred to as "The classic 39". As a series, it only lasted one season, but by today's standard, those 39 episodes would stretch out to almost 2 seasons, or 3 13 episode seasons.

Anonymous said...

First Dobie :
Caper at the Bijou
Great episode. The number caller was Jason Wingreen in an early role.

Anonymous 4 said...

When I read some comments, I think they are in a different language that uses our alphabet. What on earth does this mean and what does it refer to in this thread:

First Dobie :
Caper at the Bijou
Great episode. The number caller was Jason Wingreen in an early role.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 4

from MacEwen: If you look at the first episode of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and the final episode, they're clearly the EXACT same story, with slightly altered dialogue, and a different rich kid/family.

The first episode of Dobie Gillis was Caper at the Bijou. It is indeed the same plot as the last episode four years later.
It is a brilliant piece of writing.
And Jason Wingreen, who died last month, and was the voice of Boba Fett played a key part in the episode in one of his first performances.

Same language.

Anonymus 4 said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I apologize for being grumpy….. and dense (I had forgotten McEwan's comment when I read yours).

James Van Hise said...

The thing about The Twilight Zone was that Rod Serling was required to write many episodes, and he sometimes lifted plots from sci-fi magazines without attribution. One of his main writers, Charles Beaumont, once got into a huge argument with him about this. A writer named Michael Shaara (who in the 1970s wrote a civil war novel The Killer Angels which won the Pulitzer Prize) was a struggling writer in the 1950s and saw a short story of his titled "Citizen Gel" outright stolen by The Twilight Zone from the main plot right down to the surprise ending, but he didn't have the money to sue them and remained angry about it for many years). It was the story about an old man who could shape change and who befriends a young crippled girl. It turns out he's a monarch from an alien planet who didn't want to be king and fled to the primitive planet Earth to live a quiet life. When people from his planet track him down he changes into an exact copy of the little girl so that both of them have to be returned to his home world.

RCP said...

There was a short-lived variety show hosted by Howard Cosell in the '70s called "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell" - all I remember of the premiere was Howard coming out in a tux and welcoming the audience to the show - after two minutes we changed the channel.

D. McEwan: I always have a good laugh when you describe locking horns with your mother. Nelson Eddy was apparently a decent fellow but rather silly at times - he had a crush on screenwriter Frances Marion and used to send her dramatically lighted headshots with captions like "To Frances, who tore the mask away."

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...
The first episode of Dobie Gillis was Caper at the Bijou. It is indeed the same plot as the last episode four years later.
It is a brilliant piece of writing."


Many, if not most, Dobie Gillis episodes were brilliant pieces of writing.

"RCP said...
D. McEwan: I always have a good laugh when you describe locking horns with your mother. Nelson Eddy was apparently a decent fellow but rather silly at times."


My mother had the hots for Nelson Eddy from age 14 (When Naughty Marietta was released and my mother saw it 14 times in one week; they stopped charging her admission after the fourth consecutive night she showed up) to the day she died. She thought he was hot. She was insane. I have her autographed photo of Nelson and the hand-written letter he wrote and sent her in 1959 (When she was perhaps his last living fan, and he had nothing else to do but write long letters to his only fan) in a frame in mdy hallway, not because I liked Nelson, since I did not, but because it was important to my mother. We fought, but we loved each other.

bj said...

@Charles H. Bryan said... (Just looking at the episode listing for The Avengers - Steed and Mrs. Peel variety -- it looks like they did about 26 eps per season in the 60s, which seems comparable to U.S. television.)

I seem to remember that when Diana Riggs was brought into the Avengers, there was a move to have it shown in the US, but the US channels who were interested in showing it demanded 26 episodes a year, and so the Avengers production team changed their shooting schedule to accommodate...

Ade S said...

I completely agree with bj's comment, I tried to post a similar observatioin, but it disappeared into the ether.
Although the Avengers with Steed and Peel was not made by ATV,
ATV, part of the ITV network, was a major player in British TV in the 1960s.
Run by the flamboyant Sir Lou Grade, ATV made a lot Television aimed at the US market.

Puppet shows
Stingray and ThunderBirds,

Action/Adventure
Man in a suitcase, great theme tune.
The saint, with Roger Moore.
The prisoner
The persuaders, with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis.
All of these shows were shot film and most in colour, at a time when TV in Britian was black and white

Entertainment shows on tape
witn Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck
and the original 1970s Muppets.

Ade

Mike said...

@Charles H. Bryan: I can't post an authorative answer to your question. This is my recollection:
Over its first six years (1963-69), Doctor Who was produced as one episode per week, around most of the year. It averaged 42 episodes per year.
Story arcs were typically over 4 episodes, so if Hartnell appeared in Episodes #1&4, but not in #2&3, it was because he was at the seaside, on holiday.
UK TV doesn't use writing teams. Freelance writers submitted scripts, which were hammered into something filmable by the Script Editor & the Producer. The order of production was determined by which script needed the least work to be filmed. During filming, very few retakes were allowed and the mistakes & fluffed lines were left in.
The second story arc introduced the Daleks. The script arrived late without the writer and a physical description of the Daleks. The Designer had to raid the prop cupboard for something suitable (egg cartons, sink plunger, whisk...).

Earl Pomerantz has a saying: "In the US, you need programmes to make money. In the UK, you need money to make programmes." The different population sizes of the two countries give different economic models for TV production.
In the UK, small production budgets limit both the number of episodes per series (season length) and the number of different series (different programmes) that can be made. Doubling the series length quarters the number of series.

Yes, Lew Grade made programmes aimed at the lucrative American market, under the banner ITC.

Mike said...

Or doubling the series length reduces the number of series by a quarter, or something.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

THE BEST TIME EVER was cancelled by NBC. No new variety series are in development.

Maya Rudolph and Martin Short have one coming:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/maya-rudolph-martin-short-variety-864878

Grant Goggans said...

I realize this is quite a late comment, but I wanted to follow up on what BJ posted above, as it's not accurate. The first three seasons of The Avengers each had 26 episodes, but they were videotaped and not filmed. When Diana Rigg was hired, the requirement from the ABC network to consider purchasing the series was not "make more episodes," but "shoot it on film, not tape." So season four, the first one shown here, was 26 filmed episodes. The length of the remaining seasons was each based on the number ordered by the ABC network.

Seasons 2-3 were finally shown on American TV in the early 90s, when A&E bought them. Season 1 is mostly missing, as the production company wiped the tapes, but three full episodes, and the first act of episode one, have since been recovered.