This is your last chance to see A OR B? at the Hatboro Village Theatre. Tonight and tomorrow. Be there or be square.
When you ask a Friday Question I copy and paste it into a file and try to answer as many as I can. But a few I never get around to. And over time those have started piling up so today I’m going to dig deep and pull out some FQ’s that were asked some time ago. Sorry for the delay.
Ernie asked this in 1974:
What qualities does your writing partner, David Isaacs, bring to your collaborative work that you have trouble doing or can't do; likewise, what do you bring to the partnership that David Isaacs doesn't do or doesn't do as well (i.e. what are some of your strengths and weaknesses both in your writing and in your business partnership)?
More than anything else it was our speed. Especially early on in our writing career, I would tend to go too fast and David would sometimes be too deliberate. He slowed me down and I sped him up until we reached a good working groove, which happy to say, we’re still in.
But in terms of story and joke ability, I think we were pretty even. Having a trusted partner just helped us both grow as writers much faster than we would have each working alone.
Sid asked this question in 1957:
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.)
I can’t speak for the current crop, but back in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s All-Star line-ups of comedy writers were routinely assembled to help out on pilots. We would pitch in on rewrite nights of each other’s projects.
There were times when it was hard to believe I was there because I’d be in a room with Jim Brooks, the Charles Brothers, Sam Simon, Jerry Belson, David Lloyd, Harvey Miller, and Treva Silverman and think, “Holy shit, this is the ’27 Yankees.”
Oh, and did having that amazing collection of talent always result in the pilot being picked up? Uh, that would be no.
Johnny Walker wondered this in 1985:
In the best Bar Wars episode (you know the one), I remember "Monster Mash" playing when Gary pranked the bar. It's a memory that's stayed with me since I was a kid -- it just seemed like the perfect song, and was SO funny. But unlike every other song used in Cheers (which is the same as it was when first broadcast), "Monster Mash" has been changed to cheaper sounding alternative for home video (even Netflix). Any idea why? It's maddening when I watch that episode. (Also, if the music wasn't played on set -- allowing them to switch it out, what did the audience react to?)
I’m guessing it was just too expensive to get the rights. That song was on an independent label owned, I believe, by Gary Paxton, and the artist, Bobby Pickett, passed away several years ago. I don't know how complicated it was to secure permission. It's too bad, because that song was perfect.
Mark wondered this in 1947:
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?
You’re allowed to mention celebrities since they are public figures. If you do so in a derogatory light you do run the risk of a defamation suit (although those are rare).
But let’s take Alan Alda for example. He has maybe the best marriage of any celebrity I know. He is a very faithful husband. If one of the girls on 2 BROKE GIRLS said she was having an affair with Alan Alda I could see where lawyers might be called. But if one of the characters just took a shot at Alan Alda's hair I don’t think litigation would result.
If in writing scripts we have any question as to whether a reference is acceptable we could always consult the studio legal department. We rarely did that because their knee jerk reaction was always “No!”
Mel Agar goes back to 1937 to ask:
Have you ever written a show off only to "rediscover" it later and find it has found its stride? What shows do you feel have managed to do that recently?
PARKS & RECREATION. And MOM.
And finally, we go back to 1911 when Oliver asked:
What do you think about comedies being ordered straight-to-series, skipping the pilot process?
I wish it had happened to me. Actually, it did happen to me. THE MARY SHOW.
Cable networks and streaming services are more willing to take that gamble, but they often dole out fewer episodes per order. Ten or sometimes six. I think the order for Michael J. Fox was 22. That was a big financial hit for NBC to take.
What’s your Friday Question? I promise to get to it by 2057.