These are the Dog Days of Friday Questions.
Chris gets us started:
Any thoughts on Ted Danson in Fargo? Is it just me or does his laid back "cautious" type of vibe is amazing for a drama, maybe even better than it works for comedy?
Readers of this blog know I’m Ted Danson’s geekiest fanboy. I’ve raised a family thanks to how well he’s made my jokes work. I’ve also had the privilege of directing Ted on many occasions.
So I can tell you first hand that his craft, dedication, versatility, and professionalism are second to none.
And of all the various roles I’ve seen him play, his turn in FARGO was his absolute best. In fact, let me take that a step further. I think his work in FARGO was one of the best character performances ever in a television series.
And for a real change of pace, watch him in the movie BODY HEAT as the tap dancing assistant deputy prosecutor. The man can do anything.
What is the purpose of upfronts, other than providing a red carpet opportunity for the actors?
I wrote a play called UPFRONTS & PERSONAL about the TV industry and had a character ask a studio president that very same question. This was his answer:
Simple. The networks announce their new Fall schedules then the advertisers buy commercial time “up front.” Spending billions on nothing more than blind faith. It’s like if you put an off-track betting window in a mental institution.
John Jackson Miller asks:
Ken, do you see in series writing a reluctance to establish facts about characters' histories that might close off future stories? Obviously the lines about Frasier being an only child whose parents were dead on CHEERS had to be dealt with later on (and were, deftly!) -- but I think there was also something about Martin Crane not having a brother, which later on got undone. Do people look that far ahead, or is it more about what serves the story at hand?
(This was something I ran into writing for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, where my first editor's advice was "When you define, you confine." Today's one-off casual reference can become tomorrow's continuity conflict.)
There are two schools of thought on this. Personally, I think it’s an advantage to me as a writer to know as much about a character as I can. And if you’re writing in a team it helps both partners view the character the same way.
But I can also see the other side. From what I understand (and this is second-hand) Aaron Sorkin believes the “when you define, you confine” theory. He wants the freedom to add information along the way and discover new things about the character himself.
The more you define, the more you risk continuity problems down the line, and that’s a price you have to pay. It used to be a lot easier to get away those before the internet allowed viewers to go back and fact-check every detail of every episode. Now we have to tap dance sometimes. Or we could be like Donald Trump and still ignore inconsistencies while attacking the person who pointed out the problem.
And finally, from Michael who has a question about BRAINDEAD.
It sounds like you are sticking with this show for the time being because it was created by Robert & Michelle King. Friday question: Who are some of the other show creators or actors you would always give benefit of doubt to and sample their new show or give them time to improve?
Writers: The Charles Brothers, Aaron Sorkin, David E. Kelley, James L. Brooks, Peter Casey & David Lee, Vince Gilligan, Graham Yost, Tina Fey, Matthew Weiner, Phil Rosenthal, Larry David, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, Mike Shur.
What’s your Friday Question?