Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday Questions

My God, it’s September already. Getting you ready for Labor Day with this week’s Friday Questions.

Jim S starts us off. 

Heard the podcast. Great, and it got me wondering. How do you guys who worked on different shows over the years stay in touch? Regular poker games, barbecues meeting at the deli?

Delis are always good. Especially if you’re a disgruntled writer. Writers seem to bitch more freely over cured meats.

The short answer to your question is all of the above. We set up lunches and dinners, see each other at WGA screenings, write pithy emails back and forth, follow each other on Facebook, and then there is always the periodic strike where we really catch up with old friends on the picket line.

There used to be softball and basketball games, but we’re getting too old for that shit.

But most comedy writers tend to stay in touch, and why not? They’re great people and they make you laugh. If only they’d pick up a check once in awhile.

Zack Bennett wonders:

I noticed on the last season of "The Office" that the lead cast members (Wilson, Krazinski, Fischer, and Helms) are also listed as Producers on each episode. When this typically happens, do the actors actually do any "producing", is it a power play, or is it just a vanity thing?

Generally it’s vanity, more money, and if the show wins the Best Comedy Emmy they get one too.

DyHrdMET asks:

Have you ever had a case where a sitcom episode's B-story (or even C-story) becomes more memorable than the A-story of the episode? It would be something like a big story involving Sam and Diane on CHEERS but everyone was talking about the crazy antics of Cliff, Norm, Woody and Carla from that episode.

Yes. Whatever episode of CHEERS had Cliff entering with squeaky shoes.

And finally, from David C:

What TV shows do you think are absolutely necessary viewing for an aspiring TV comedy writer? Which more modern ones, which older ones?

My partner David Isaacs answered this on my podcast a couple of weeks ago. (If you haven’t heard it, please do. Lots of great stuff.  Just click here.) I’ll just list some of them. David explains why in more detail on the podcast.

THE HONEYMOONERS, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, ALL IN THE FAMILY, CHEERS, FRASIER SEINFELD, COSBY (without defending the son of a bitch), EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, THE OFFICE, 30 ROCK.

I would add MASH and THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW.

What’s your Friday Question? Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.

19 comments :

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

All of the shows you mentioned Ken are obviously the best.
BUT, with so many shows today being Single Camera shows, I'm surprised you only included the OFFICE and 30 ROCK.

All the others are multi-camera. (with Seinfeld being a hybrid).

Edward said...

I was re-listening to the Gilbert Gottfried Amazing Colossal Podcast with guest Jay Thomas from 2014 and now noticed that Co-Host Frank Santopadre gave you a shout-out at the 34:23 mark regarding your blog entry on Eddie LeBec. I had no idea who he was talking about the first time I heard the show as I have just started reading your blog this year.

Next time you are in NYC, it would be great if you can be a guest on Gilbert's show.

https://soundcloud.com/gilbertgottfried/special-bonus-re-release

Gary said...

One classic I would add to that list would be The Odd Couple with Randall and Klugman. The great jokes were non-stop. Very much like The Honeymooners, it was just two men in a room arguing with each other, but it was often hysterical.

Johnny Bravo said...

One example of a subplot overwhelming the main plot: the episode of "The Brady Bunch" where Marcia joins every club at her new high school because she is overanxious about fitting in. A storyline nobody cares about, because it's also the one where Peter sets off his homemade volcano.

Fred said...

You forgot to mention "Friends"... And your favorite "2 Broke Girls" :)

Andrew said...

Shelly Berman, RIP

blogward said...

Off the wall, a Friday question. I caught a "James Randi Investigates" video just now and was struck by the resemblance of Randi's TV persona to the Niles Crane character so admirably realized by David Hyde Pierce. Probably my imagination, but could this phenomenon be corroborated?

Jake said...

Klinger taking the West Point exam in "Change Day" is more memorable than Charles trying to cheat the Koreans.

Never Give a Subplot an Even Break said...

Maybe a related question for Ken would be whether he's ever "flipped" the main storyline with the B plot in one of his sitcom scripts, because it turned out that the backup story had more to offer?

Johnny Walker said...

Surprised CURB and LARRY SANDERS were absent (although obviously taste comes into it).

Vow Xhing said...

Very few new TV series catch my attention; however, People of Earth is the one exception. It had me at hello Jeff. To me it feels like 3rd Rock from the Sun meets Twin Peaks, yet it seems to be written about and categorized as a comedy. So my Friday question is who decides a show’s genre? Additionally, can/does the genre change as a show matures?

Donald Benson said...

I think it was Hyde Pierce himself who described Niles as what Frasier would have been if he'd never gone to Boston and fallen in with the "Cheers" crowd. He didn't literally play Young Frasier, but while Niles and Frasier were usually on the same disaster-prone wavelength, fairly regularly Frasier would erupt with a semblance of hard-won common sense. Also, Frasier had been through enough relationship warfare to deal with women a shade more maturely than Niles, who still behaved like a prep school boy and was at a total loss when dealing with his passion for Daphne.

Johnny Walker said...

Actually Zack's question made me wonder about something. As I followed BUFFY and ANGEL I noticed the same thing about the Producer type credits, but with regards to the writers. I guess they all loved working with Joss Whedon, and he was a good judge of character, because writers never seemed to leave for the run of either show. By the final seasons of both, almost everyone had been bumped up to a Producer type credit (and some had leap frogged normal progression). I always wondered if that added significant cost to production?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

blogward: I've seen a *lot* of Randi's work and never noticed any resemblance. If there is one, I'd have thought it would more likely come from a common precursor (ie, someone whose work they've both seen). But if Pierce ever had an interest in (stage or close-up) magic as a child, he might have seen Randi's work - Randi was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson, where he did escape artist routines and, in 1987, exposed the techniques in use by TV evangelist Peter Popoff, and he was well known as a magician before that.

wg

Covarr said...

I've been watching THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW lately, and I'm really impressed by the sheer volume of jokes. It's something that a lot of modern shows miss, even if plenty of them have more in-universe justification because of the comedy writing nature of the show.

blogward said...

@wendy: it was this one in particular: I just saw Niles. https://youtu.be/HP5_4x8eBXI?t=89

James said...

Hi, Ken

I am thinking about writing a sitcom that for a particular star - kind of like Curb Your Enthusiasm in that the actor is playing a fictionalized version of himself. Would this be a good idea to help get an agent or get noticed, or do you have to have ties with the actor that you want to use?

Many thanks

Samantha said...

Ken,

I'm curious about the way you would go about writing a spec for a Netflix or Amazon show. I've read scripts for Master of None, Flaked, and Transparent, and they don't call out the act breaks within the script. So, when writing a spec of a Netflix or Amazon show, should you call out the act breaks or should you follow the standard formatting for a TV show?

Anonymous said...

Stupid Question: By COSBY are you referring to THE COSBY SHOW from the 80s or COSBY from the late 90s?