Here are this week’s Tuesday Questions:
cd1515 starts us off with his Monday Question:
In a sitcom, how aware are you of "we have to give each person something to do"? Obviously the stars are covered but if a few episodes go by and one of the supporting actors is kind of ignored or minimalized, do they or their agents get upset?
There are two schools of thought on this. One is that you need to service everybody every week. And usually those shows feature B or sometimes C stories to accommodate everyone. FRIENDS followed that format.
Other shows, like EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, just made it very clear that there would be one main story each week and that sometimes the supporting cast would be heavy and other weeks they wouldn't, but over the course of the season it would all even out.
On CHEERS, the cast understood that some weeks they would be light but that each one would have at least one episode in which they drove the main story.
I think if you let the actors know before you get into production just what the policy will be you will avoid any problems. It’s when you’re in the middle of production and suddenly change the rules that agents start calling you at home.
MikeK.Pa. asks his Sunday Question:
Ken: Curious, if you're now a full-time playwright (when you're not blogging) or do you still get together with David and spitball ideas for sitcoms, flesh them out and pitch to networks?
We’re less interested in pitching ideas and having every step require approval.
But David and I do have a few projects in the hopper.
Longtime blog reader, Johnny Walker has this CHEERS Wednesday Question:
How far into Season 3 did Nicholas Colasanto stop being able to work, and how did it affect the season?
For the Coach’s final appearance, that was a teaser filmed early in the season that we just held back. And for Diane, the Charles Brothers very cleverly devised a trip to Europe for her and Frasier. We filmed those scenes during pick ups in the early part of the season before Shelley was showing and sprinkled them in throughout the latter half of the year. But we had fair warning. Not so with Nick, so we were forced to just give the excuse that he was traveling and Sam would get letters from his various whereabouts. By reading the letters we would keep the Coach’s voice alive.
And finally, Andrew offers this Saturday Question:
It's well-known that Seinfeld became successful under the radar. It developed an audience slowly and incrementally, and the suits didn't mess with it because few people were watching. As the show became more popular, Larry David stood his ground and refused to do the show unless he and Jerry were given unheard-of artistic license. So there was very little corporate meddling.
So the question: why haven't the network suits learned from the success of Seinfeld? Why aren't they willing to hire talented people that they trust, give them as much creative freedom as possible, and allow the show enough time to develop an audience?
Simple. Because they like having the control. And since networks now own the shows, they have that power.
But they are starting to pay a steep price. All of a sudden talented writers are bringing their projects to other outlets like Netflix or Amazon or cable networks that will offer more autonomy. Broadcast networks are no longer the first place to sell an idea. And now in an era when more and more viewers are fleeing broadcast networks and they need hits more desperately than ever, the few talented people who could provide these precious hits are taking their wares elsewhere.
And yet, I hear that this development season nothing has changed. Ohhhh wellllll. Again, it's why David and I now prefer to write projects on spec.
I answer your questions today and every Saturday. Please leave yours in the comments section. Thank you. Happy beginning of April.