Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Questions

What better to celebrate the summer than with some Friday Questions?

Keeper Of Records gets us started.

With Atlanta being such a hotbed of production lately, and Fallon bringing The Tonight Show back to New York after 40-some years, LA seems to have lost a lot of its cachet. The rise of Youtube and online video means you can be famous no matter where you are. So how much does "Hollywood" really matter in this day and age?

Quite a bit because shows may be produced in Vancouver and Atlanta but the decisions to make them are made in Hollywood.  Screw the cameras.  That's where the power is.

Plus, don’t kid yourself – there’s still a lot of film and TV production going on in Glitter City. If you don’t believe me, just drive somewhere in Los Angeles when you’re in a hurry and you’ll find a traffic snarl due to some Goddamn filming.

Mark asks:

Being outside the profession, I've assumed that a writer's room would have a variety of talents just like a bullpen will have a variety of talents available (set up guy, hard throwing left-hander, a Jamie Moyer type, etc). Like a writer who maybe can't write a script but comes up with great jokes, or can edit really, really well. Someone who comes up with great stories but isn't great with dialogue. Writer's can't do it all so what deficiencies would you accept, and is it like a bullpen in that regard?

Putting together a writing staff is like putting together a baseball team. There are some players who can field but not hit, or hit but can’t run, or can just pitch to lefthanders, etc. Then there are the rare “five tool” players. They can hit for average, hit for power, field, run, and have great throwing arms. But since there are precious few of those, you sign players who bring certain strengths.

Same is true on a writing staff. Ideally, you want a writer who is a whiz with story, turns out great drafts, and is a joke machine in the room. But realistically, you might hire someone because he’s very funny in the room but weak on drafts, or someone who turns out terrific scripts but is very quiet during rewrites. You might want someone who is extremely clever when it comes to plotting stories or fixing stories but he’s not a good joke man.

The key is accepting that not all writers are five-tool guys. This is why a lot of comedy writers team up. They combine their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Cheryl Marks queries:

Stage version of Cheers, good idea or bad?

Depends on whether I get royalties.

Seriously, I’m not sure it is a great idea. Audiences will be comparing the cast of the stage version to the “reallys” and at best they’ll be decent mimics.

It's not like a play where everyone does Hamlet. There’s really only one Sam Malone and that’s Ted Danson. And even he can't play Sam Malone anymore. 

My other concern is the content. The book writer will be cutting and pasting from existing scripts I understand but if he doesn’t really understand the characters, tone, or style of what we were going for he’ll likely miss the mark. Seems to me it would have been much smarter for the producers to seek out actual CHEERS writers. Not everyone can write this show. And just watching and studying the episodes doesn’t mean you figure it out.

But who knows? This guy could do a spectacular job.

Still, it’s a gimmick, trying to capitalize on a franchise. I wish Broadway and the theater scene would develop more new material instead of remaking movies and TV shows.

Unless I get royalties. Then I think someone should do “MASH: the Musical.”

From Hamp:

What's your take/thoughts on all the "after the show" talk shows like Talking Dead, After the Black, and After the Thrones?

Anything that adds to fan interest in a show is a good thing. And if the recap show is sponsored it gives the network a chance to recoup a little of the cost of the show.

That said, most of these shows bore me. It’s generally cast members and showrunners fawning all over themselves about how great they are. And the hosts are giant toadies.

There’s usually a lot of inside laughter and clich├ęd answers. Rarely do I get genuine insight.

Too bad they didn’t have shows in the ‘80s. Would have loved to have seen AFTER-AFTERMASH.

Way more fun is watching bonus tracks on DVD’s when Vince Gilligan is doing them. I actually learn things.

32 comments:

Justin Russo said...

I highly recommend "GAY OF THRONES" on Funny or Die for hilarious recaps of the latest "Game of Thrones" episodes. It's a solid 3-5 minutes each week of a hairdresser and his rotating customers dishing dirt.

Peter said...

My Friday Q:

I sometimes wonder what sort of TV/home entertainment set-up people who work in the industry have at home. For example, I would assume Spielberg and Cameron have the most expensive and state of the art equipment for watching TV and movies.

What do you have? An HD TV or have you already upgraded to a 4K TV? A DVD player or a Blu-Ray player or 4K Blu-Ray player?

VP81955 said...

Someone out there is a sitcom Bryce Harper, and someone less a sitcom LOOGY. I wonder who...

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The best "revisit" of a classic TV sitcom was the Brady Bunch movies and play. The casting was spot on, the "inside jokes" worked, and it was a send-up and parody.

That doesn't seem to be the case with Cheers.
Magic in a bottle is hard to reproduce...but let's see if they can.
If it will get people to rewatch original episodes then that would be great.

One show that would work as a play would be Frasier, same actors, just older. Any chance the 5 original actors (not sure if John Mahoney would be up for it) would do it?

Aaron Sheckley said...

Loved the answer about the "after the show" talk show. I can appreciate good critical analysis of a show, but the self congratulatory tone of shows like Talking Dead fill me with boredom. And that goes back to when I actually liked the show, around the first/second season; I stopped watching it a few years back, and even at that point, seeing Chris Hardwick get so fanboy-excited over every episode made me think that some sort of controlled substance had to be involved.

Steve said...

So who is a five-tool writer?

Andrew said...

"Stage version of Cheers, good idea or bad?"

This has already been done. There was an episode of Frasier where Diane wrote a play and performed it in Seattle. The character based on her - Marianne - was what kept the bar together. It pissed off Frasier though. :-)

On the subject of actors fawning over their shows, if you have never heard the DVD commentary to the Breaking Bad episode "Bug" (S4 E9) do yourself a favor. Watch that episode with the commentary turned on. Dean Norris is one of the commentators, and he spends the entire time mocking the concept. "Oh, that looks so good. Great job! Shout out to the visual guy. You're so great!" "Thanks for writing this episode. It's like poetry. Such a privilege. It's so great!" Vince and the others get a little annoyed, but it is absolutely hilarious. At the end it turns out Dean was in a bad mood because doing the commentary caused him to miss a game he wanted to watch.

Bob Zirunkel said...

Ken, a Friday question with a preamble:
The best advice I received but did not heed was from a seventh-grade guidance counselor who told our class that now was the time to start developing disciplined study habits, skills that would serve us well in school and beyond.
How did you develop the discipline needed to succeed in so many areas - writing/directing/producing/sports announcing/DJ'ing/parenting?

Arthur Mee said...

FRIDAY QUESTION

So you write a blog post. Two days later, a paid newspaper columnist takes EXACTLY the same idea, rewrites it somewhat (but not that much), and puts it up as her own column.

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/07/13/rick-moranis-and-10-other-actors-who-should-come-out-of-retirement

Is this something that vexes you? Or do you shrug it off and say "that's life"? And did/does anything similar happen in the world of TV?

Anonymous said...

Friday Question:

Is Supergirl still on?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

"The rise of Youtube and online video means you can be famous no matter where you are."

Yeah, uh, I've been producing content on YouTube for nearly nine years now, and I'm certainly not famous, and in fact, YouTube has been doing all it can to sweep me - and other small channels - under the rug, in favor of all these big partner channels.

YouTube, and the internet in general, is very picky-choosy about who it will allow to be seen by whatever masses there are out there, and believe me, for some people out there like myself, it's a struggle just to be seen. Back when I first started, and YouTube really was YouTube, I usually got upwards of 100 views and up to 10 or more comments on a new video within 24-hours of upload; since 2013, I'm lucky if I get up to 20 views and maybe 3 generic comments within the first week of uploading a new video.

If you even look at YouTube right now, notice there's a pattern among what videos and channels are popular right now: they're all reviews. Whether it's standard entertainment reviews like Nostalgia Critic, or countdown videos (top 10 reviews), Let's Plays, or trivia videos, those are the big thing on YouTube right now. And, of course, the channels for TV talk shows, and explicit music videos always get promoted out the wazoo.

So yeah, YouTube may be on the right, but it's no guarantee that you can become successful that way. I'm tankin'.

Peter said...

Ken, I was just on the IMDB home page and saw a movie that opens today in the States which you might want to check out. It's a baseball comedy called Undrafted. Surprisingly, it's written and directed by Joseph Mazzello, best known for playing the annoying boy in Jurassic Park.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3172126

Though, having had a quick look online, it doesn't seem to be getting great reviews.

Hiram Bithorn said...

Speaking of baseball.

I'm a fan of the 2001 film "Bleacher Bums".

Then I found this rare Chicago performance for their local WTTW channel 11, starring the writer, Joe Mantegna and actor Dennis Franz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siVUq-NGNzk

Jerod Butt said...

I read somewhere that Jane Leeves wasn't really interested in a revival. (I don't know where I read that, but if I'm wrong, then good.)

David said...

Hi Ken,

A Friday question.

When pitching a story for a show how much of it do you generally have? Do you come in with a few beats? The act breaks? A very fully detailed outline of the A, B, and C stories? Or somewhere in between? If you're having trouble breaking a story on your own do you ever bring the three sentence pitch to the room to help flush out an idea? Or is that inappropriate? Does it differ depending on the show or the show runner?

Thanks in advance.

David

Wendy M. Grossman said...

THE AMERICANS had some excellent post-show podcasts this year, done by Slate.

Peter: years ago the drama critic Walter Kerr had a home screening theater (film!), and one of his friends gave him a row or two of genuine old theater seats that had been ripped out. It looked great - you can see pictures online because he and his wife, the comic writer Jean Kerr, had one of the wackiest houses ever known, and when it went up for sale the local paper did a huge article about it, with a full complement of pictures of its most notable features.

wg

James said...

I dunno--people get used to other actors playing parts when they're exposed to it. Everybody plays Hamlet, but "everybody" plays Sherlock Holmes, too. James Bond was Sean Connery, but enough actors have played him that people don't bat an eyelash every time the part gets recast. Lemmon and Matthau were Felix and Oscar, until it became Randall and Klugman, and it was Carney and Matthau first. And there's the Sunshine Boys. and and and and and.

If you had a Cheers play, there would be comparisons, but after awhile people would just accept it, especially after the first few groups broke the ground.

cjdahl60 said...

Are you doing undercover work for the Mariners? If so, it's a little obvious when you leave an identifying calling card:

Diekman hits DL after cutting finger on 'Cheers' mug

http://www.thescore.com/news/1059775

MikeK.Pa. said...

"And the hosts are giant toadies."

When I read the word toadie, I immediately envisioned Scut Farcus's little sidekick, Grover Dill, all grown up and hosting one of these shows. Maybe still as Scut's wingman on the couch.

Pat from Salem said...

Friday Question: What are your thoughts about actors receiving royalties for having their character mentioned in an episode even if they don't actually appear? For instance, if Frasier refers to Lilith doing something in an episode, and even though Bebe Nuewirth doesn't appear in that episode, I still get to enjoy her "performance" because I can't really imagine any other actor in that role. Its almost like she did perform in that episode.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Re: Vince Gilligan. I have listened to his commentary tracks and the podcasts that are available on iTunes (hosted and wrangled by editor Kelley Dixon) for both BREAKING BAD and BETTER CALL SAUL. I have learned a lot about production, but mostly I've learned that Vince is a charming, funny,and modest guy who eagerly gives credit to his colleagues. Cool damn dude.

Beth said...

This has nothing to do with Friday questions but I was so excited when I saw that my favorite podcast How Did This Get Made was doing Mannequin 2. I immediately thought of you and almost sent out my first ever tweet to alert you to see if you could contribute. I'm so excited to read your interview for the companion slash film piece as I feel my fave blog and podcast worlds are colliding. I can't wait to hear or read what you have to say

Beth said...

This has nothing to do with Friday questions but I was so excited when I saw that my favorite podcast How Did This Get Made was doing Mannequin 2. I immediately thought of you and almost sent out my first ever tweet to alert you to see if you could contribute. I'm so excited to read your interview for the companion slash film piece as I feel my fave blog and podcast worlds are colliding. I can't wait to hear or read what you have to say

Beth said...

Not a Friday question but was so excited to hear that my favorite podcast How Did This Get Made was doing Mannequin 2. I was going to send my first ever tweet to you in the hopes you could chime in and then was so excited to see that their companion piece slash film is doing an interview! I feel like two of my favorite worlds are colliding!

Dan B. said...

Those after-the-show panel discussions: Four people sitting around and, aside from a few seconds of clarity here or there, they're all shouting over each other. Whatever they're saying must be hilarious because they love to laugh at whatever it is they're saying. Occasionally an actor or staffer from the show will be there, in which case they're all shouting all over each other in the direction at their guest-hostage. I guess people like this, there must be an audience, there's so many of them. They seem pointless to me.

Breadbaker said...

Last year, we were spending a weekend in Vancouver and we noticed a stage version of Fawlty Towers. We were not particularly familiar with the show, but we watched it that weekend online and then went to the show. It was fun. Mind you, it was a small theater, though a professional Equity theater, with an audience where, I suspect, we were the least familiar with the show. Everyone had a great time.

There was a play made of "Yes, Minister" in the UK that led to a reboot of the series after three decades, with the London play's cast.

Charles H. Bryan said...

It'll be on the CW this Fall.(Why do we call it "the CW"? We don't say "the HBO".)

Production is moving to Vancouver, creating international concerns about fewer appearances by Calista Flockhart.

Charles H. Bryan said...

First, Ken, a thank you for blog. You post every day and it's always enjoyable. (And you pull reposts from a few years back, so they can be fresh looks for new readers.) It's a regular part of each day, and it would be easy to take it for granted. So thanks.

A couple of potential Friday Questions:

You mention five tool writers. I'd love (as another poster asked) to hear who you think fits that description, but also which tools do you think you're weakest in and what you or other writers could do to build those into strengths.

I just bought the boxed set of IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S SHOW, which is almost absurdist (but entertaingingly, to me) in it's self-reference as a TV show. I think of it in the same way as I think of early Letterman. I was just curious about your views on that approach.

Thanks!

Albert Giesbrecht said...

You should watch the Archie Luxury Channel on YouTube. High quality content that is!

Anonymous said...

Joseph Scarborough Said:

"Back when I first started, and YouTube really was YouTube, I usually got upwards of 100 views and up to 10 or more comments on a new video within 24-hours of upload; since 2013, I'm lucky if I get up to 20 views and maybe 3 generic comments within the first week of uploading a new video....
So yeah, YouTube may be on the right, but it's no guarantee that you can become successful that way. I'm tannin'."

Uh... I was around when YouTube was first getting going, and was acquainted with quite a few people who became pretty darned successful. I know one guy who dominated youtube just taking still photos on his cell phone. He was a talented comedy writer, and his stuff shined. Everyone loved him. He got shitloads of views from the get-go.

If you only managed to get 100 views, and ten comments back in the day, either your video's sucked, or you had zero skills on how to work YouTube world. Or maybe a little of both.

I'm not trying to be obnoxious, I'm just telling you the truth.

There are strategic ways to get views, if you pay attention to what's going on around you, you can figure some of it out. Again, that's assuming your vids don't suck. If they do, then the problem isn't being seen on YouTube. Your problem would be actually BEING seen on YouTube.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Again, one of the main problems is YouTube clearly caters to the big partner channels, and not the smaller channels like mine. For instance, YouTube retired tags (keywords) a couple of years ago, so that's a blow right there, because no matter what keywords you tag on your uploads, they won't show up in search results. That's one problem. Really, like anything else, it mostly all boils down to money: you put money in YouTube's pocket, they'll promote and advertise you; otherwise, you're essentially nonexistent on YouTube. And I'm not about to put any money in their pocket, considering they're owned by Google, and Google's the Hitler of the internet - they've been screwing us over for too many years to get any support from me.

Johnny Walker said...

"This is why a lot of comedy writers team up. They combine their strengths and minimize their weaknesses."

Do you and David have any strengths and weaknesses that complement each other? And if you don't now, did you when you started?