Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Questions

Happy Passover to those who observe Passover, or at least are invited to a Passover dinner. This is one of the Jewish holidays where you do eat. Meanwhile, here are this week’s Friday Questions for followers of all religions.

ELS starts us off:

Ken, you noted that Supergirl's ratings aren't so good... but that's on CBS. How would they compare if the show were on the CW? I keep thinking that CBS might bail on "Supergirl" and the CW would take it to complete their "DC superheroes - every night!" (or some such.) I know some shows have jumped networks... any idea if this is viable? (Yes, I definitely like "Supergirl" - I'm the one - and would like to see it remain on the air.)

Last year when CBS was putting together its schedule there was a lot of talk about putting SUPERGIRL on the CW – for the reasons you mentioned. My understanding was that the production budget would be too high to justify for a CW show. There was also the element of SUPERGIRL’S theme (empowering women) that CBS really responded to.

Look, SUPERGIRL got a huge sampling. The fact that ratings have continued to slip clearly suggests fans are not liking the storylines and direction of the show. My guess is that should SUPERGIRL get picked up for a second season there will be a major overhaul in the writing staff and creative direction of the show. I wouldn’t be surprised if Warner Brothers (the studio that produces the show) has to make a big presentation to CBS explaining just how they would fix it before the network gives them a pick-up.

I too hope it comes back, but not in its present form.

The TV Guy has a CHEERS question.

I've always wondered why Shelley Long didn't return to CHEERS until the 1993 finale, 6 years after her departure? Was she invited? Seems like it would've been organic enough for her to pop in during the 6th, 7th, or 8th season. Why the long absence?

A couple of reasons. First: the show wanted to move on. That becomes harder to do when a beloved character from the past pops in from time to time to remind you how much you miss her. Also, everyone felt Diane’s return should be a BIG deal and what bigger deal than the series finale? I think it was the right decision. I also thank Shelley for agreeing to come back. She was not contractually obligated to do so.

I have to say personally, that although I loved the Rebecca years, and Kirstie was a hoot, to me the Diane years were special. Having Shelley back for the final hurrah just made that last episode feel right.  What do you guys all think?

From VP81955:

Could you discuss what a writing staff goes through this time of year, when series that have been renewed plan the next season's story arc (as "Mom" now is planning to do for season 4, though that show almost certainly was to have been brought back). I would think most series have long-range plans, both for the season arc and for individual episodes that aren't tied to an arc but can be shown at nearly any time during the season. And for a show that's renewed by the skin of its teeth, with writers making contingency plans, I'm sure the staff doesn't have its collective mind focused on future seasons.

Knowing you’re already picked up for next year is a real luxury. Some shows handle it differently. A few will begin planning the overall arc and a few stories for the upcoming season. They may even assign script assignments to the staff during the hiatus. That way when they return the show has five or six scripts already.

The most organized show I ever saw was EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. Phil Rosenthal was a master showrunner. When ELR would wrap for the year, Phil had half of next season’s scripts ready to go. He was always a half a season ahead.  I’m in awe.

In most cases, showrunners and staffs are so fried by the end of the season they just set it aside and go off on hiatus. They’ll worry about next year when they return. I’ve even seen shows that end with a cliffhanger and the showrunner has no idea how he’s going to resolve it. He’ll figure something out after the break.

For most of the long-running shows I’ve been on, we tabled any discussion of the following year until we reconvened after the hiatus. We were much likely to come up with good ideas when we were refreshed than plotting out a new season on fumes.

blogward asks:

A friend of mine is working on a production for BBC radio of 50 year-old+ scripts by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson of Steptoe (US Sanford) and Son, and Hancock's Half Hour using, obviously, actors unassociated with these iconic characters. How do you think would you feel (assuming the money was right) about a similar thing happening with yours and David's classic scripts? Are there certain actors you might prefer - or not?

I think it would be interesting. It was great recently seeing different actors play the parts in my play, A OR B? Why not allow new actors to see what they can bring to various roles? It also makes it easier to go along with this if the money is right.


What’s your Friday Question?

41 comments:

andy215 said...

I loved the Shelley years, but something about Rebecca makes me like the Rebecca years more. I think it was the physical comedy and the trainwreckness.

Pat Reeder said...

blogward has an interesting idea there: reshooting great old TV scripts with new casts. It would certainly be better than Hollywood's current practice of turning old TV shows into new TV shows and movies, only with horrible new scripts. I don't think today's young writers would be too happy about that trend, but I would certainly tune in to see Hugh Laurie play Hawkeye Pierce. Please, though, not Cedric the Entertainer as Ralph Kramden again.

Gazzoo said...

As much as I loved the Diane-Sam dynamic, I prefer the Rebecca years of "Cheers"...it's when the supporting characters, especially Frasier, became fully formed, and could carry an episode...

Allison said...

Ken,

Did you and David, or anyone else from CHEERS, work on GOOD ADVICE, the short-lived sitcom that Shelley Long starred in with Treat Williams in the early '90s?

Johnny Walker said...

I completely agree about the Diane/Rebecca years. The Rebecca years were a hoot, especially as they progressed and the show found more and more secondary characters to play with, but the Diane years had so many great moments that just transcended the genre of sitcom. I defy anyone to watch Sam and Diane having one of their classic arguments and not be moved in some way -- there were some amazing scenes there.

"I’ve even seen shows that end with a cliffhanger and the showrunner has no idea how he’s going to resolve it. He’ll figure something out after the break."

Sounds like CHEERS :) The first five years ended with major cliffhangers that I find difficult to believe had solutions waiting for them the following year... Am I wrong?

ScottH said...

Regarding "Cheers" -- I watched its entire run on TV. Then, it was one of the first shows I started buying on DVD. Seasons 1-5, which felt like the "real" show to me. In recent years I picked up season 6, because I do remember some very good Kirstie Alley/Tom Skerritt scenes. If I could get a DVD set of "Cheers" post-season 5/6 that just contained Frasier and Lilith scenes, I'd get that, too. The rest? Eh.

Boomska316 said...

To me the chemistry between Sam and Diane seemed a little more forced than it did during her original run.

Grant said...

Having Shelley back for the final hurrah just made that last episode feel right. What do you guys all think?

All I know is that my wife still hasn't forgiven you guys for having Diane return for the CHEERS finale, but not letting her and Sam have the happy ending together she believes they should always have had.

Hal said...

I wonder why ABC always runs THE TEN C0MMANDMENTS at Easter. Wouldn't it make much more sense to schedule it at Passover? Damn gentiles. It's not all about you guys, you know.

Kirk said...

Nothing against Kirstie Alley, but I prefer the Diane years. The character was so wonderfully out of place in that bar. She was really kind of a sitcom version of Blanche DuBois.

Roger Owen Green said...

So Henry Blake survived, after all?

Ubu said...

I asked this once before, so maybe I'm violating your "pitch something once" rule, but I'm still curious - in a writing room, what is the etiquette when one writer pitches a joke and another writer immediately offers an improved version of the joke (sharper setup, cleverer punchline, etc.). Are there hurt feelings? Different rules for a junior writer topping a senior writer's joke? Is it just an accepted part of the job and no one ever gets upset? Or am I completely misunderstanding how a writers room works?

J Lee said...

The Diane years were all about developing the characters and seeing where they would (or could) go, while the Rebecca years are about placing a new character into a fully-formed ensemble.

There was more of a sense of risk-taking in Seasons 1-5 as the characters and how they interacted with each other were fleshed out. Season 6 (and to some degree Season 7) was about figuring out how Rebecca would interact with the personalities already set, so that she was the one who changed, going from the initial money-hungry ice queen to the flighty, lacking-in-self confidence employee she'd be in the final few seasons.

The final years drew more comedy out of situations, while the earlier years drew it more out of clashing personalities within the ensemble. Both are funny, but the Rebecca years wouldn't have worked as well without the establishing stories that came before those years with Diane.

Steven Moffat said...

Loved Diane, preferred Rebecca. Possibly because I didn't expect it to work, so it was a joyous surprise. Also loved the way the show was restructured - Sam as bartender, Rebecca as boss. I just thought that was so clever. Less a recast, more a sequel.

Michael said...

Friday question: Were there are other serious contenders to play the role of Rebecca besides Kirstie Alley similar to how Julia Duffy and Lisa Eichhorn were finalists for the role of Diane?

CK said...

Ken, do the old network rules of pilot pitch season in June and July still apply? With all the new platforms, do you see pitch season as year around opportunity now? Are networks loosening their rigid rules?

Paul Duca said...

Where do you stand on the 10 minute Seder?

The TV Guy said...

Ken, Thanks for answering my Shelley Long question!

I agree that the Diane years were more special. The Rebecca years were great, and the entire ensemble cast certainly stepped up and made the show more situational in years 6-12. But to Kirk's point, Diane was so out of place at that bar that the comedy was outstanding. The Diane episodes definitely have a more "classic sitcom" feel to them.

Diane D. said...

Like many past commenters on this blog, for me, the real CHEERS was the first 5 years with Shelley Long. I watched the entire first run and thought the final 6 years were still brilliant and hilarious, but I have never been interested in re-watching them, whereas I can (and do) watch the Sam and Diane years over and over. Many of my reasons have already been mentioned in the above comments, especially Johnny Walker's, "the Diane years had so many great moments that just transcended the genre of sitcom." I read an interview with James Burrows in which he said of all the shows he worked on (and you all know how many that was), there was never one where the fans cared so much about the characters as they did about Sam and Diane. That is such a testament to the great writing (thanks, Ken Levine), and great acting by Ted Danson and Shelley Long, as well as that famous "chemistry."

Having the amazing Shelley Long back for the final show would have been a perfect ending for the series IF the creators had allowed Sam and Diane to have the happy ending they deserved. I agree with Grant's wife that it really is impossible to forgive them for that mistake, and I would still love to know why.

Andy Rose said...

Friday question: Preston Beckman recently said that NBC was very excited about the upcoming debut of Friends in 1994, but had a problem. Jennifer Aniston was still in first position on a show called Muddling Through that CBS was airing as a summer series. If CBS renewed it, NBC would have to recast Aniston's role on Friends and reshoot the pilot. So they made a point of sandbagging Muddling Through with strong counterprogramming to make sure it was dead by the end of summer. It worked out great for NBC and Jennifer Aniston. It sucked for everyone else on that show since it might have survived if NBC weren't so intent on getting Aniston for themselves.

Have you ever had a show that you knew was being targeted for failure for reasons beyond your control?

Cat said...

I agree with Diane D. I think the Charles Brothers, as much as I admire them, dropped the ball. Cheers fans who happen to love Sam and Diane together got the cold shoulder, but I can't figure out why. The final scene could have taken place the night before Sam and Diane's wedding, and nothing needed to change.

VP81955 said...

Aniston has been the recipient of so much Time Warner corporate logrolling. She may be a nice person in real life, but I'very had it to here with all the talk about her personal life. Just act and be done with it.

Amy B said...

I don't know if this is the correct place for this but here goes: a friend of mine is the artistic director of a small theatre company in Chicago. He is interested in seeing your script for A or B?. He'd like to know how much the rights are and all the details you would be willing to provide. He just wants to know if it's a fit for his company.

Ken Levine said...

Amy B. Email me at bossjock@dslextreme.com and I'll fill you in on all the details. Thanks for your interest in A OR B?

cadavra said...

Hal: ABC runs THE TEN COMMANDMENTS at Easter because, as John Kasich explained, Jesus was there helping Moses free the Jews.

Ted O'Hara said...

Friday question: Actors on a series tend to get very protective of their characters. When is this helpful, and when is it counter-productive?

Ann said...

My Cheers is the Diane era. Hilarious as it was, the show also ran deep those first five years. Sam and Diane were its heart and soul, respectively. I enjoyed the Rebecca years, but as someone above said, the re-watchabilty is very low to nonexistent for me. It's a different show. I also have to agree with everyone who was let down by the Sam/Diane wrap-up. It was magic seeing Shelley back in the bar, and Sam and Diane still had it in spades, but then there was that ending. I remember reading something about Glen and Les Charles not wanting to tie things up too neatly, but real life is messy and miserable enough. Sam and Diane should've finally won one for the rest of us. I absolutely hated that Sam ended up with the damn bar while everyone else went home to their loved ones. Huge wtf. It really is the one big disappointment I have with the series.

Johnny Walker said...

All this talk of Sam and Diane makes me think of another Friday Question:

What did the writers make of Sam and Diane's relationship? Did you ever have any faith in it? Or did you all agree it was a train wreck waiting to happen? Having to write it, I'm sure you all must have analysed it to death :)

Joseph said...

I may be putting myself at risk of getting lynched here, but I thought the way CHEERS ended, with Sam and Diane realizing that they were never going to work, was entirely consistent with the way the characters and their relationship had been developed. The thing about Sam and Diane is that, despite their enormous, undeniable attraction to each other, they never really clicked in the way couples need to click to work, long-term. Just because two people are drawn to each other doesn't mean they're destined to be able to build a workable commitment to each other. Yeah, Sam and Diane were attracted to each other from the beginning. Yeah, they probably even loved each other. But that doesn't mean that marriage wouldn't have been a disaster for both of them, and I think it showed an enormous amount of maturity on the part of both characters that they realized that before they made a big mistake. Honestly, the way we had seen their relationship progress over five years, with its constant ups and downs, is it all realistic to think anything would have changed after they married? No, it wasn't the "fairy tale" ending, but I think it was the best, most appropriate, most realistic ending for these two.

john brown said...

The first five years was Hall of Fame great. The rest was fine but not special.

Diane D. said...

I wouldn't lynch you, Joseph; I just think you're wrong. In season 5 after the court scene when they became engaged, there was never another episode when they even considered breaking up. Issues popped up, of course, but they dealt with them in a much more mature way than they ever had before. The writers seemed to purposely give that message to the fans. Think of the hilarious scene in "One Last Fling" when Diane storms out of the bar, but the next day they talk about it like two mature people and resolve it. That "enormous, undeniable attraction" they had comes from more than just chemistry. Despite their differences, they loved and admired each other. They should have ended up together.

Mike said...

Cheers during the Sam and Diane era is more literate, more witty, and has more heart. The first few years of the Kirstie Alley era were decent, but I didn't like how they dumbed down her character, and dumbed down Sam.

Dawson and Long were magic together. I felt that failing to reunite Sam and Diane in the finale violated the premise of the show (remember the flash-forward scene in Long's final episode?) It kind of wrecked the show for me - they went to all the trouble to get Shelley Long back, but they didn't craft a decent ending for Sam and Diane.

Kyle said...

I like the way CHEERS ended. It just seemed right to me. For Sam and Diane to have ended up together living happily ever after just feels wrong. At least to me.

mmryan314 said...

I am a late comer to the whole CHEERS thing in that I watched it sporadically in my busy years but have come to enjoy it in my not so busy years. The fans were robbed of a satisfying ending. Shelley Long could have made several appearances prior to the finale that were non-threatening and funny and the show might have been able to play off of some of the material. I suspect egos were in play here. The finale did great justice, in my opinion, to only Shelley Long and Woody Harrelson.Rebecca was made to look pathetic, Sam too. Norm and Cliff portrayed as morons, Frasier as still obsessed. The rest? Almost sad figures.Not a good ending to this love story.

Kate said...

That final episode of CHEERS still makes me angry when I see it. Not letting Sam and Diane have their happy ending together was a slap in the face to those of us who had spent five years rooting for them, pulling for them, living through their ups and downs with them. We loyal fans deserved better. I still think the Charles brothers owe us an apology for that massive "screw you" they gave us.

benson said...

I don't remember where I read it, but I read right after the finale aired that the ending was in keeping with the basic premise that no one won on Cheers. None of the characters "won". Sam and Diane getting married would have been a win.

And yes, Sam and Diane was pure magic. Just look at the reaction here after 34 years.

And this idea popped in my head, based on Blogward's question.

Wouldn't it be fun to see an American version of Judi Dench's As Time Goes By, with Ted Danson and Shelley Long as Lionel and Jean? If nothing else, it would give the Sam and Diane fans some closure.

Diane D. said...

To Benson:

What a charming idea! Shelley Long and Ted Danson would be great in those roles. And obviously Sam and Diane fans do indeed need some closure :)

Barry Gilpin said...

I didn't hate the Cheers ending. In the end, the bar and the people in it was Sam's true love.
The only way Sam and Diane works is if Diane returns to Cheers, and why would a successful "CableAce Award Winner" go back to her old life? I thought it was a good slice of real life, how people change.

Stephen Robinson said...

I think the final six seasons of CHEERS was about Sam learning that the bar was his "true love." When the series began, he hadn't accepted this -- trying to resuscitate his faded fame as a sports star. Then he tried to be in a serious relationship with Diane, which failed. Objectively speaking, the Sam/Diane relationship was poisonous for both parties: It briefly cost Sam his sobriety and his bar. And it was an emotional and professional distraction for Diane. At *no point* during the first five seasons were Sam and Diane ever depicted as a stable relationship, but arguably a form of personal addiction. A "happy ending" for the two in the finale would have been a cheat.

Chris Muir said...

I didn't hate the ending, but I sort of hated the drunken after show.

Tracy Downey said...

Oy! It's 2:30 am west coast day after 4th of July and "one for the road" played on Hallmark Channel. No offense:I hated the ending, yet I respect your reasoning. The Long Goodbye had Sam's fantasy of being married to Diane, and living a life till they were old and gray in the house they never bought. That to me, gave closure to their love story. However, once Glen and Les wrote Shelley in for "one for the road" the entire episode felt different, not the chemistry between Ted and Shelley, but the dialogue. It felt personal, cruel. There wasn't any growth to Sam & Diane and felt empty compared to how Diane was written in S1-3, and how Long Goodbye ended, "I'll be back in six months." "Have a good life." That was poignant. The second was just mean and felt like a gimmick. Then Sam showed up on Frasier saying, "Rebecca's divorced and now spends time at the bar, (albeit drinking) woody was no longer a councilman and at the bar, Carla still at the bar, Norm's still at the bar," etc. Sam still hadn't matured. Frasier did. After ten-14 years analyzing his life and others, he finally listened to himself and knew what he wanted. In fairness, and regards to Frasier, the three acts were complete. The final episode gave closure, except IMO Frasier should've went back to Boston and to Lilith instead of flying to Chicago with Laura Linney (I love her don't get me wrong). I just believe in the power of full circle arcs. It should never get personal with writers because audience senses the distance---always. Sam&Diane should've ended up together and Glen and Les should've given the audience their payoff. Sam could've got on a plane after He said, "I'm sorry we're closed," and flew to California to be with Diane (like Frasier flew to Chicago) open ended building story in either direction.
Just my two cents. When MASH ended---audience got closure and a heartfelt goodbye written by Honeycutt. Glen and Les didn't do that. The Long Goodbye was the final episode of Cheers, at least for me.Shelley, despite her difficult moments,, helped the writing team create an iconic character.
Thank you for your blog, I'm always reading and learning (less than 2 yrs to go in film school).