Friday, April 06, 2018

Friday Questions

Friday Questions comin’ attacha.

DyHrdMET starts us off.

Is it common to see an actor currently starring in one series guest star in another series on another network? And not necessarily when it's a recurring role. Is there a protocol involved in bringing that actor into the other series? I'm assuming they don't need to audition for the part if they're known and already employed elsewhere.

This particular case (on Antenna TV tonight) was the late John Mahoney guest starring on Becker (on CBS, if I remember correctly) in a prominent role in the episode's story while Frasier was still a big hit on NBC. I've seen it a few other times but the specifics don't come to mind right now.

Generally, networks look the other way as long as it’s a one-time or even two-time thing. And if an actor is on one series for one network and is approached to be recurring on another network that’s worked out in advance between all the parties.   Series are getting shorter so I suspect more of this will occur in the future.  

When an actor commits to a series, he is considered in “first position” for that series. That means if there’s any conflicts he’s obligated to the series first. If he can squeeze in a guest spot during a hiatus week then there’s usually no problem.

During pilot season sometimes an actor who is in a current series that is believed to be soon cancelled will audition for other series. And if they’re signed, they’re in “second position” meaning that if the original series does get a pick up he has to bow out of the new project. Jennifer Aniston was in second position on FRIENDS because she was in a CBS summer series called MUDDLING THROUGH. If CBS had picked up MUDDLING THROUGH for another season FRIENDS would have had to re-shoot the pilot with a new Rachel.

Joe asks:

There are no "Cheers" scripts credited to the Charles Brothers between Kirstie Alley's first episode and the finale. I know other people served as showrunners, but how active were the Charles Brothers during the Kirstie Alley years?

They were very involved day-to-day the early part of season five then backed away. But they still read every outline and first draft and gave notes. And they were involved in the story direction before each season. From time to time they also attended run-throughs.  Their presence was certainly felt. 

For the final season they came back and handled the day-to-day showrunning duties for the last half of the year.

From VincentS:

Have you seen the reruns of MASH aired on ME without the laugh track and if so, what do you think of them?

I like them. When I was on the show I lobbied (unsuccessfully) for the removal of the laugh track.

I’m glad ME.TV is doing that.

Seoul City Sue has been tormented by this question for years and years.

Watching 'The Winchester Tapes' in tribute to David Ogden Stiers, are you the 'Bean Pole Levine' referenced in the episode??

Yes, although I pronounce my name “Lee-Vine.” And I was a beanpole – then.

Phil wonders:

Have you ever attended the Oscars? How was it?

Nope. Never attended. Award shows are generally boring to attend. I just go when I’m nominated for something. So I haven’t been for quite a few years now.

And finally, Kenneth wants to know:

Hey Ken, after years of writing for primetime network television, do you live in a mansion?

You decide.  This is my house.


51 comments :

Anonymous said...

Nice house. LA real estate's tough: You always have choices to make, like do I want to buy the Wilshire condo, the Fairfax bungalow, or the entire eastern half of South Dakota. They're all priced about the same.

Thanks again, Ken, for your great blog.

Keith

Glenn said...

So *you're* the inconsiderate jerk who lives next door to me. Keep the noise down.

Curt Alliaume said...

When is the pool party?

Craig Gustafson said...

Larry Hovis and Richard Dawson were (for a while) regulars simultaneously on "Hogan's Heroes" (CBS) and "Laugh-In" (NBC).

Peter said...

What, you don't even have your own theme park at your mansion like Michael Jackson?

Herman said...

Rosebud...

Paul Duca said...

Hovis appeared on the first half-season of LAUGH-IN...when HOGAN was cancelled in 1971 he returned, bringing Dawson with him.

Brian said...

I call shenanigans!

That is DAVID ISAACS' house. Nice try.

June said...

Ken, you wrote for THE SIMPSONS (while it was good!) and that should qualify you as a Ring-Bearer to any estate or godhood you desire.

Tim Dunleavy said...

During the second season of FRIENDS (1995-96), Jennifer Aniston was asked to guest star on the Fox sitcom PARTNERS. (The show starred Aniston's then-boyfriend Tate Donovan.) Aniston had to get NBC President Warren Littlefield's permission to appear on another network's show. Littlefield agreed to let her appear one time on PARTNERS, on the condition that she played a different character than she played on FRIENDS.

tavm said...

I remember sometime during the mid'80s when Peter Scholari was a regular on "Newhart", he was also a guest on "Family Ties". "Newhart" was an MTM show on CBS, "FT" was Paramount on NBC. So I'm guessing "Newhart" was on a week hiatus when his "FT" stint was being taped...

Rick Hannon said...

A recent Paleyfest session I attended leads to this question / invitation: your thoughts / experiencesabout working with children?

The session featured two panels, one for "Young Sheldon," the second for "The Big Bang Theory." YS star, the undeniably talented Iain Armitage, completely dominated the discussion during that panel. HIs contributions commenced as "cute" and rapidly deteriorated to "insufferably tedious and annoying." The adults (and even the other two children from the show) seemed to realize that the kid was essential to their livelihoods and suffered in silence.

The great Jim Parsons participated on both panels, appropriate given his roles on both shows. During TBBT session that followed the YS one, he slyly but pointedly alluded to this by raising the "never work with kids or animals" trope, citing the unfortunate "Marcel the Monkey" arc on Friends and comparing that animal to a small child.

I get the kids are kids, but when small fortunes (i.e., weekly paychecks) are at stake, how do / how should the adults handle things?

DwWashburn said...

That's a nice little condo.

imwalrus said...


Re. the laugh track question:

I haven't watched them all (but I DO have them all) but the MASH DVDs have the audio option to watch them with or without the laugh track. I also prefer them without the laugh track.

John Hammes said...

Nice house. Pool is a little ostentatious.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I forget, when did 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN originally run? I seem to recall Wayne Knight was a semi-regular on that show the same time he was Newman on SEINFELD (also a semi-regular role). Or maybe it was after, I don't quite remember.

So MeTV is removing the laugh track from M*A*S*H now? I find I can't watch TV reruns of M*A*S*H because they always cut too much out, which is why I stick with DVDs, though I never turn the laugh track off. The show is ghastly without it.

kent said...

You're still a bean-pole.

Y. Knott said...

No, it's Ken's actual house. It's just that the scale is 1:1.

KevinC said...

We've been binge watching Cheers and noticed in Season 9 there was a cold open where Rebecca and Woody had on the same outfit as in the episode before. How often were the cold opens moved around (timing issues, etc.) or did they just shoot the one for the next episode and didn't think of wardrobe?

Jahn Ghalt said...

Alison Brie had a "main role" on Community (110/110 episodes) which overlapped with her "recurring role" on Mad Men (36/92 episodes).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Brie

In a few commentaries Matt Weiner commented about working around her Community obligation. Thinking back, not that many Mad Men shows required a lot of scenes for "Trudy". I suppose that when the shooting schedules did not overlap, the writers considered it to be a luxury of sorts.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Did your Army Reserve Sgt. REALLY call you "VEEN"?

(Great to have a "Sgt. Carter" character for your standup act, BTW)

Jon H said...

Me-TV is very good about NOT cutting much out of the MASH episodes, or most of the shows it reruns. I recently saw "The General Flipped at Dawn" on Me-TV, and I enjoyed seeing its actual tag after it had been cut for years (and probably still is) by TV Land, which used to be what Me-TV is now but has now sold out to running trashy original sitcoms to appeal to "millenials". I honestly hadn't noticed that Me-TV is rerunning the show w/o laugh track. I think that the MASH laugh track is relatively inobtrusive when compared to the laugh track used on other sitcoms.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I thought FRASIER buried the "never work with kids or dogs" cliché. Although Eddie had far more screen time than Freddie.

I always wanted a house they could see from the international space station. Do you have WiFi at the pool?

Mike Bloodworth said...

I've said this before, but its worth mentioning again. While this applies less to M*A*S*H than to other series; without a laugh track how are you supposed to know when to laugh? Certainly not from jokes. And while they're removing laugh tracks from comedies why not ad them to dramas? Think of DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, MADAME SECRETARY OR CHICAGO MED with a laugh track. I might actually watch those shows if they had one.
M.B.

Phil said...

Thanks Ken. Was looking forward to asking a sub question on the after-Oscars party - Governor's Ball or something....

Susan said...

Ok. Whose house is that? Anyone knows...

Peter said...

Susan if you click on the photo, you'll see Hearst Castle in the photo's web address. It's a historical landmark open to visitors.

Ken said...

I always enjoyed the character of Ursala the waitress Phoebe's twin sister in "Mad About You".
Were Friends and Mad About You from same network/production company?
How difficult/easy are these crossover episodes.
I remember that Ken spoke of some difficulty working on a crossover episode with Cybil Sheppard at one time.

YEKIMI said...

@ Susan. It's Elsa's from Frozen. It's her summer getaway.

Alaskaray said...

Glad to see you finally put in that pool.

Frank Beans said...

Ken,

I don't want to come across as irony-deficient, and it's probably an in-joke that I just don't get--but please, PLEASE tell me that obscene "mansion" isn't really your house.

Green Luthor said...

Unless I'm misremembering, Stephen Root was on both NewsRadio and King of the Hill at the same time (for NBC and Fox, respectively), but went uncredited on King until after NewsRadio ended. (Not sure if that was at NBC's insistence, or because Root didn't want to draw attention from NBC that he was doing a show for Fox, though.)

Susan said...

Thanks Peter.

Thanks YEKIMI :)

I thought it would some big star's house.

VincentS said...

Mike Bloodworth - As the one who asked the question regarding laugh tracks, I must ask: Are you serious or just being snarky?

VP81955 said...

My mother loved "3rd Rock" and only knew of Wayne Knight as the sheriff, not as Newman (she thought "Seinfeld," in her words, was "too Jewish").

VP81955 said...

Ken so enjoys living with Marion Davies. (As would I.)

Brian said...

Speaking of the Rebecca years, I think the episodes were still plenty funny compared to the episodes with Diane and coach. At first, I was worried about loosing a major character like that.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Man. The upkeep on Hearst, I mean, Levine Castle, must be a bitch!

Diane D. said...

Brian
On this blog you’ll mostly get sympathy for your opinion of the Rebecca years vs the Sam and Diane years. It means you just don’t get it and you never will. There have been lengthy discussions about it over the years—the last time was less than 2 years ago. I have loved most of the shows for which Ken has written, especially the two shows he and David created—-ALMOST PERFECT and BIG WAVE DAVE’S, but the first 5 years of CHEERS will always be his crowning achievement (IMHO). Of course, the second 6 years are also great.

Johnny Walker said...

One of the worst things that ever happened to me was seeing M*A*S*H, a show i worshipped from my childhood, with a laugh track. I'm just about able to watch an episode now and just about scrub it from my memory.

Without the laugh track it was a sombre, wry show about people trying to deal with a horrible reality, with moments of warmth, humanity and genuine laughter. With the laugh track it's The Flintstones. I can't believe America watched it like that for the whole run (although I understand they turned it down in later seasons).

I guess it's what you're used to, but I pray I never catch another re-run with a laugh track again.

therealshell said...

As a child in the 60s, I loved The Flintstones, laugh track, and all. I was able to view MASH and ignore the laugh track. It's not that difficult.

Edward said...

Heather Locklear was a regular on "T.J. Hokker" and semi-regular on "Dynasty" at the same time. It was workable since Aaron Spelling was the executive producer of both shows and they were broadcast on the same network (ABC).

Douglas Trapasso said...

Late to the party again. My guess is that ken’s “house” is actually the Falcon Crest property.

Tim Dunleavy said...

Ken, here's a Friday Question for you, a sort-of follow-up to your recent "Cheers Conspiracy" post.
You mentioned that the Charles Brothers had a rule that "if we learned an element even approximated something done on another show we automatically threw it out." Given that, I was wondering your thoughts are about this story regarding "Instinct."
https://quartzy.qz.com/1245791/an-episode-of-the-cbs-show-instinct-appears-to-have-copied-an-episode-of-foxs-bones/
How common is something like this? Are other showrunners you've worked for as strict about that rule as the Charles Brothers were? And how do you think the "Instinct" showrunner could have avoided this problem (aside from not hiring that writer in the first place)?

Liggie said...

I also remember Helen Hunt and the other female lead from "Mad About You" appearing in the first season of "Friends". They stop for coffee at Central Perk and confuse Phoebe for Ursula.

Ken said...



"I also remember Helen Hunt and the other female lead from "Mad About You" appearing in the first season of "Friends". They stop for coffee at Central Perk and confuse Phoebe for Ursula."

I remember that episode but wasn't there another episode with Paul and Helen Hunt interacting with Phoebe and thinking it was Ursala?

Poochie said...

Friday Question: For procedural shows like ER or Law & Order, I know they have technical consultants to help. But how does it work when it's more than just technical jargon that's quickly spit out but instead but actual conversations or plot points. Even with someone to walk you thru it, it seems a lot to write about something you know nothing about.

Andy Rose said...

Big emerging stars can sometimes work out special deals with their first position series when the showrunner wants to keep them happy, especially when it comes to movies. Gary David Goldberg eventually relented and allowed Michael J. Fox to film Back to the Future as long as the shooting schedule didn’t directly conflict with Family Ties. So Fox worked a whole lot of nights and weekends on the movie while doing the TV show in the daytime. When George Clooney played Batman, he shot that film while still working on ER. That situation was helped by the fact that both productions were owned by Warner Brothers, and both were shot on the WB lot in Burbank.

@Green Luthor: You’re right about Stephen Root’s lack of credit in the early King of the Hill episodes. I once asked Paul Simms about that when Newsradio was still in production, and he kind of ducked the question. I couldn’t tell if he really didn’t know what I was talking about, or if he was being deliberately evasive.

Donald from Chicago said...

I, for one, would be very interested in your opinion of Nell Scovell's book, "Just the Funny Parts."

Donald from Chicago said...

I remember that episode but wasn't there another episode with Paul and Helen Hunt interacting with Phoebe and thinking it was Ursala?

Ken, Lisa Kudrow had a recurring role on "Mad about You" as a waitress. A twin sister for Phoebe on "Friends" would explain "her" appearance on "Mad about You."

Steve said...

Friday Question: I have a story idea that seems ideal (and others I have polled agree) for a particular sitcom, but I'm not a writer, and already have another career.

I could go through the effort of writing an entire episode spec script, but I understand those are pretty much ignored now for new shows.

What's the best way to get that story idea in front of the show? Try to contact one of the existing writers for the show?