The great thing about Friday Questions is I don't have to think of a new subject title. Here are this week's:
Wally starts us off:
A Friday Question based on what Wikipedia says:
Did NBC only allow Ratzenberger to attend Nick Colasanto's funeral in RI since it occurred during the season?
No. As shocking as it is to learn that Wikipedia is wrong, that is incorrect.
There was a funeral for Nick in North Hollywood that I along with the entire cast, and staff attended.
I still miss him. And as wonderful as Woody was, nothing could top Nick as the Coach.
Brian Phillips asks:
Not a lot has been written about the "Cheers" spinoff, "The Tortellis". I noticed you and David Isaacs contributed a script. What was it like working on "The Tortellis"?
Well, David and I were never on staff. The Charles Brothers asked us to write an episode, which we did.
The pilot script by Ken Estin was terrific.
But the spinoff fell into a familiar trap – making second bananas your stars. Nick & Loretta were funny characters but very broad, so they worked well when used sparingly, but on their own they could not carry a show.
I remember David and I meeting with the Charles Brothers to hammer out a story and it took two days. I asked Glen Charles, “What number episode is this?” He said, “Four,” and I said, “If we’re having this much trouble coming up with the fourth episode there are some serious problems with the premise of the series.” He agreed.
And indeed, the show lasted only 13. I don’t have a copy of our episode so I don’t really remember how bad or good it was.
Random memory of THE TORTELLI’S: it was shot at Paramount in front of a live studio audience. And visible from the living room set you could see a swimming pool in the backyard. An actual swimming pool (or at least a great facsimile) was constructed on the stage. For that alone the series should be considered a classic!
From Laura H.:
I have been watching reruns of Barney Miller, a show I loved as a kid. Happily it still stands up. It occurs to me now that virtually all of the action takes place in the squad room - only once or twice throughout the long run of the series did they step out of that setting. Cheers, of course, was the same way, although they left the bar a bit more often.
After reading your recent post about writing sharp dialogue being a lost art, I started wondering about working on shows like Barney Miller and Cheers. Do those static settings make it harder or easier to write for? Clearly you can't slack on character development and dialogue, since the story itself plays out in that one room. (Not that you should ever slack on character development and dialogue!)
The first season of CHEERS we never left the bar. The first time we deviated from that was the season premier of season two when we went to Diane’s apartment. (Remember all the stuffed animals?)
The problem with never leaving the bar was that anything that happened away from CHEERS had to be told to the audience, and it’s always better to see it.
BARNEY had less of an issue with that because their format was bring in three or four different oddballs and have them interact with the regulars. So all the action was right in front of you.
I personally like shows that basically center in one location, especially if the setting is inviting (like CHEERS). In those shows the emphasis is clearly on the characters, their interaction, and dialogue, and if done well you can really mount a smart show. Also, the location itself almost becomes a character.
And finally, long time friend of the blog, Johnny Walker wonders:
How do you feel about taking the time to write a character's bio before starting writing? I've heard some people swear by it, but others (including Sorkin) consider it a waste of time. I think I fall in the latter camp now. Provided I know what makes the character tick, I don't need to know what school they went (if the character is well defined enough, you should be able to infer it afterwards - in fact things like that should start to become obvious). What do you think, Ken?
For my UCLA students I recommend writing character profiles. It helps them answer the questions – what do these characters want, what’s interesting or unique about them, what’s funny about them, what are their attitudes, and what are their backgrounds? Answers to all of these questions are a must, whether you write out a bio or not.
For myself, I do a modified profile. I’ll list key traits, objectives, and generally try to come up with an actor prototype (although I don’t expect to get him).
So bottom line – is it worth doing? Sure. What could it hurt?
What's your Friday Question?