Sliding into the weekend with Friday Questions. What’s yours?
MikeN starts us off:
Ken, do you think there is a difference creatively if you are writing on a computer, typewriter, or by hand?
Absolutely. A computer allows you to revise so much easier than any of the other methods. For me that’s liberating. I try stuff. I over-write just to see what I’ve got, knowing it’s a breeze to cut and alter.
I think for others however, being able to do endless versions is overwhelming.
If I couldn’t use a computer, I would opt to write longhand. Even though my handwriting is so awful and I scrawl so many lines in the margins that I have only 24 hours from composing to transcribing or I have no fucking idea what I wrote – still, I like the flexibility of being able to just cross things out or move things by drawing arrows. Typewriters are way too restrictive for this country boy.
Another option, my favorite option, is to dictate the script to a writers’ assistant. But that’s a real luxury.
J Lee wonders:
Ken, looking at (James) Burrows' credits, one of his earliest directing jobs was on "The Tony Rnadall Show", including one episode, "Franklin vs. McClellan" written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs. Is there anything you remember about that episode, so early in everyone's career, that James added to it though his direction, or anything that, if done a few years later, might have been staged differently?
As far as staging, no. It was totally fine. I would change more of the writing than the directing of that episode (although I have a great fondness for that episode because we wrote it as freelancers and that was the script that impressed showrunners Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses enough to offer us our first staff job).
Here’s one thing I remember about that episode: We opened with a bit about Tony reading on the couch and being tempted by a bowl of M&M’s. It’s a silent bit that takes about a minute. After we turned it in we had second thoughts about the routine. Why would they want to start a show with a one-minute silent bit that was totally off story?
Much to our surprise (and delight), they kept the bit, and Jimmy made it work.
Over the years, Jimmy has probably directed sixty or more of our episodes. I wouldn’t change a shot.
What's it like to flap in the breeze on a show that hasn't been picked up yet? Do you still write stories or at least come up with ideas? Or do you see how the wind is blowing and start looking for something else?
It depends. If it’s a show you love and believe in, it’s excruciating. You find yourself sifting through the ratings looking for any glimmer of hope. (We went up .01 in men 25-49 in Houston.)
As a showrunner, you also have to put on a good face when you go down to the stage so the actors don’t get any more jittery than they already are. You're just waiting for the axe to fall.
Behind the scenes, you’re trying to enlist studio executives to talk up your show and get critics to help your cause. On ALMOST PERFECT, towards the end of the first season we called all of the TV critics who originally gave us glowing reviews and asked if they’d do follow-up pieces. Many did, for which I am still eternally grateful.
But in most cases, when your show is on the bubble, you’re just postponing the inevitable.
After ALMOST PERFECT was cancelled I was doing some freelance directing. One of those shows was also on the bubble. The showrunner came to me with that week’s numbers asking me what I thought, and I said, “You don’t want to ask me because I know how this ends.”
Sure enough, that show was cancelled several weeks later. I was happy my episode even aired.
On the other hand, if I’m being honest, sometimes you’re on a show that’s a nightmare, and a day doesn’t go by when you’re not praying for cancellation to be put out of your misery.
And finally, from Liggie:
A baseball FQ. Which spring training locale do you prefer, Florida or Arizona? Either as a professional broadcaster, or a fan?
Less chance of rain too in Arizona.
It’s also better for the ballplayers. Instead of spending four hours on a bus commuting to and from a game, they can workout in the morning back at camp, hop on a bus in uniform at 11:45 and be at their destination by noon for a 1:00 game.
Spring training is a fabulous experience. If you’re a baseball fan you have to do it at least once. Bring baseballs. You easily could go home with a bunch of autographs.