Hey, kids! It’s Friday Question Day! What’s yours?
Here's Charles H. Bryan's:
I wondered about the directors and so on who come into work sporadically on a series - how do they have knowledge of potential problems with cast and crew? I imagine the EPs, showrunner, writing staff, and the crew might know of any problems, but is there someone whose job it is to talk to that episode's director about any off-stage/backstage issues? "Okay, so-and-so and such-and-such just broke up when so-and-so's spouse found out, this other one had food poisoning and has been vomiting for five hours, and the Grip just lost fifty grand on the Super Bowl - which wouldn't be so bad if he'd had fifty grand to lose. I don't know why he isn't vomiting. Tread lightly, please."
Yes. Usually the showrunner with have a “tone” meeting with the director, going over the script scene by scene explaining what he wants, how it should play, how he envisions the look and tone. At that time the showrunner can fill the director in on any actor or set dynamics that are in play. This meeting comes before the director takes his couple of days of prep.
In many cases, a show has a stable of directors they trust and will rotate them. The directors will know the cast and have some relationship going in.
Being a freelance TV director for any genre requires a special skill. You have to have the technical know-how and ability to get good performances from the actors and also adjust to different casts, temperaments, crews, bosses, tones, time schedules, and usually a hovering producer. Freelance directors do not get the recognition they deserve. (And I don’t just say that because I’m a freelance director.)
Why did FRIENDS take so long to shoot? Was it always like that or did it happen towards the end when they became super famous? Was it because they weren't prepared or were they just having such a great time it just went on forever?
I never worked on FRIENDS, just know from others who did.
Shooting nights did expand over time. And since FRIENDS became so popular they were able to literally bring in two separate audiences. The first one was admitted late in the afternoon. They burned out after several hours and were replaced by a new studio audience. This is a luxury that few (if any) shows have today.
Scene changes started taking forever. Hair and make up and wardrobe changes could eat up hours.
The cast was also thrown a lot of new lines during the filming. If a joke didn't work an alternate would be supplied. Scenes or parts of scenes were filmed over and over.
From what I understand, filming nights were grueling, but hey, look at the final results. Those episodes will be rerun forever.
Are there things you wrote back in the day that you wouldn't do now, just because of the 'climate of the times' nowadays?
But for the most part, no. We try to be responsible and not take gratuitous shots at people, but if you take great pains to not offend anybody then what you’re left with is unfunny tepid results that please nobody.
DwWashburn (which is the title of a Monkees song) asks:
I've always thought that episodes that spotlight second tier characters (Father Mulcahy, Cliff Clavin, Lenny and Squiggy to name a few) are usually some of the weakest episodes in the series. In your experience, is it usually the actor or the agent who pushes for these episodes and are they difficult to write?
Depends on the show but to keep supporting stars happy, especially when they may be very light in a few episodes, you generally try to give each one an episode where they have the main story.
And yes, it’s hard sometimes. Nothing against Bill Christopher, who is a lovely guy and terrific actor, but Hawkeye is a much more dynamic character than Father Mulcahy. He just is.
It was hard to come up with stories for Norm on CHEERS. That’s because his character was always so content. He was quite happy to just sit in a bar for fourteen hours a day. He had a wife that tolerated him, no kids, a job (from time to time), and when he was out of work he was not particularly upset about it. It’s much easier when you have a character who desperately wants something and is constantly thwarted in his attempts to get it.
And for the record, one of my favorite MASH episodes is the one where Father Mulcahy has to perform an emergency tracheotomy.