Friday Questions anybody? Oh, and Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln.
Cathal O'Brien leads off:
On Frasier you and David Isaacs were listed as Creative Consultants. What exactly did that mean? Where you in the Frasier offices every day or just reachable at the end of the phone? Did you read over all the scripts and offer input or rewrite?
Am just curious what that title meant compared to the other titles staff had such as producers etc.
The title can mean different things. In our case, it meant that once a week we worked on the show as script doctors. We would go to the afternoon runthrough and come back to the writers’ room and stay for the rewrite that night. Usually this was the first day the script was on its feet and thus needed the most work.
But anytime there is a part-time position, the writer is usually assigned some sort of “consultant” title. In some cases a writer lives outside of LA and is sent scripts. He then suggests jokes and changes and sends it back. In others, a writer may work two days a week, or work the table reading day instead of rewrite night.
Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of these gigs. Shows are tightening their budgets and consultants are deemed a luxury. It’s unfortunate because “consultants” offer two very valuable things: They contribute great jokes (the good ones do), and they offer a virgin perspective to the material. Is a story point confusing? Are they over-explaining something? Writing staffs can easily get too close to the material. It helps to have fresh eyes take a look.
I was fortunate enough to work with three of the very best – David Lloyd, Jerry Belson, and the incomparable Bob Ellison.
My question is: as TV episodes are usually made one after another without a break, how does that work with regards to the lead actor sometimes directing? Don't they need prep time?
When, for instance, Alan Alda directed M*A*S*H, which he did often, did he work his prep around acting in the previous ep, or would there maybe have been a production break of some kind beforehand so that he could prepare for directing?
What made it a little easier was that he knew the location and tone of the show. And often he directed episodes that he also wrote so he had a pretty good idea going in just how he wanted to shoot it.
Besides your daughter Annie and her partner, are there any writers that you helped mentor that have become successful comedy writers?
Yes. Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, Robin Schiff, Boyce Bugliari & Jamie McLaughlin, Tom Straw. I’m sure there are others that I can’t remember. And I’m sure there are young writers who I mentored that didn’t realize I had mentored them.
On the directing side, I taught Jerry Zaks camera-blocking. I guess that counts.
Have you ever been tempted to call, or have you called any basketball games? Do you have any favorite basketball announcers ; and/or any Vin Scully level b-ball broadcasters?
Yes. When I was learning how to announce baseball I would also go to the stands of basketball games with a tape recorder and call those for practice. I would go to Clipper games, and back in the ‘80s I had entire sections all to myself. That was sweet. Not so easy to isolate myself across town at Laker games with Magic and Kareem and "showtime" happening every night.
The only time I ever called a basketball game on the air was when I filled in one night on a Golden States Warriors game on KNBR radio, San Francisco.
As for favorite announcers: My all-time favorites are Chick Hearn of the Lakers and Bill King of the Warriors. Honorable mention to Marv Albert.
Today, for TV I like Ian Eagle, Gus Johnson (you either love him or hate him; I love him), Mike Tirico, Kevin Calabro, and Mike Breen.
Dan Hoard does a great job calling University of Cincinnati basketball. On a national level: Dave Sims, John Sadak, Kevin Calabro, Ted Leitner, Dave Fleming, and Tom McCarthy.
What’s your Friday Question? Don’t get all crazy tonight celebrating Abe’s B-Day.