I’m getting a backlog of Friday Questions so I thought over the next few weeks I’d sprinkle in extra editions. You keep askin’ ‘em and I’ll keep answerin’ ‘em.
Brian leads off:
I don't remember you having mentioned any opinions about Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm". In particular, I wonder what you think about making a show with only outlines and no script.
I love CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and I love Larry David even though every time he sees me he brings up how pissed he is that I beat him for a Writers Guild Award in 1992. Get over it, Larry!
Those shows aren’t scripted per se, but Larry works out the story to great detail. And often he and the actors rehearse scenes over and over while he sharpens lines and basically scripts it on the fly. He thus achieves the best of both worlds – the actors sound natural and not scripted but the desired jokes are all in place.
Do you have a "one that got away" writing job? Like, a job that you didn't quite land and always wish you had?
I always wanted to write a script for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and one of the producers liked our work. But they had given a freelance assignment to a team who turned in a terrible draft and the other producer decided that that was it for freelance scripts that season. And unfortunately, it was the last season.
We were also offered the COSBY pilot to write but were under contract to do the second season of AfterMASH and couldn’t accept it. That haunted me, but for some reason not so much the last two or three years.
After listening to my podcast, Andy Rose has a question about my baseball announcing:
One thing I've been curious about that didn't get mentioned in the broadcast... why'd you stop doing baseball?
Short answer: Because no one has hired me.
When I was doing play-by-play for the Padres in the ‘90s I was just doing every weekend, thus allowing Jerry Coleman to go off and do the CBS radio Game of the Week. It was the perfect gig for me. I was producing ALMOST PERFECT during the week and calling major league baseball on the weekends. But after three years CBS lost the radio rights to ESPN and Jerry was back full-time.
I did part-time play-by-play for the Mariners a few years ago after Dave Niehaus passed away, but then they decided to hire a young announcer fulltime.
I would love to do more baseball. Someone just has to call.
And finally, B Smith wonders:
I watched the "Abyssinia Henry" episode of MASH last night (one watches it again, and hopes that maybe _this_ time, Henry's plane won't go down), and wondered if, as a screenwriter yourself, you're able to detach yourself from the nuts and bolts of writing and view it as we "civilians" do, or are you constantly analyzing it in your head, seeing how the writers went from A to B, considering how you might have written it, etc?
I try very hard not to do that. And nothing pleases me more than when a show engages me and I can just go along for the ride.
More than the writing, however, I watch with a more critical eye as a director. If shots aren’t matched, or a shot is not well composed it will bump me. Conversely, I’ll see a great shot or well-constructed sequence and tip my cap to the director.
I hate to see bad stage play comedies, because for me it’s like going to a terrible runthrough except it lasts two hours. And in my head I’m going, “You can cut this whole scene.” “There’s a missed opportunity for a joke,” etc.
What’s your Friday Question (or in this case, Tuesday Question)?