Friday, February 08, 2019

Friday Questions

Friday Questions anybody?

J Lee has the first one.

Since you've just gotten back from New York, anything that stuck out for you about the logistics of staging a play (or for that matter, a TV show) in New York, versus doing the same thing in Los Angeles?

There’s not much difference staging plays. Some union rules are different but the process is pretty much the same.

However, doing a multi-camera sitcom in front of a studio audience in New York is like reinventing the wheel. I’ve talked about this before in posts about my time directing the Al Franken sitcom LATELINE in Astoria-Queens.

Camera crews are not used to working multi-camera shows. The crew I had worked Mets baseball for WOR, Channel 9. They would whip the cameras around as if following a shortstop. That took adjusting.

As did construction crews striking sets during rehearsal. In LA all of that is done in the middle of the night before the next day’s rehearsal. Not so in Gotham. These were all lovely people, by the way – they just weren’t used to this format.

From J. Lee to Leen:

What I was wondering is if you have ever worked with Craig T Nelson. I loved him in Coach and re-watch it all the time on Antenna TV. He seems like such a nice guy and would be an awesome person to talk to. Thanks!

Nope. Never worked with him. He was also great as the voice of Mr. Incredible.

Interesting factoid you might not have known:  Early on in his career he did improv with the Groundlings in Los Angeles and formed a comedy team with now-director Barry Levinson.

Bob Gassel is next.

More of a Friday "comment" than question...would love to your thoughts: I fear we will soon arrive at the day when no quality shows have seasons longer than 10-13 episodes. So many great moments and supporting character explorations come when they need to do 22.

Networks need product and if they have a hit show they need as many episodes as they can get. So I suspect we’ll be seeing 22 episodes or more for some time now.

Yes, they’re harder to do, but you get paid a lot more money. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Also, the more episodes you amass the better the syndication deal you can make.  And syndication is really the Clampetts hitting oil

Finally, Dhruv has a question for me and my writing partner, David Isaacs:

Did you guys think of creating an animated series like The Simpsons?

No. For me the fun of television is serving it while it’s hot. Even the best run animated shows take months and months to produce the final product.

That said, I love animated shows. My daughter and her husband are working on one for Apple TV and it seems very exciting.

But I like dealing with actors and seeing my words come to life on a stage. And most of all, hearing a live audience respond. Laughter is a big reward for me. (Not as big as money but still very close.)

What’s your Friday Question? You can leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

19 comments :

Jen from Jersey said...

Why aren’t networks consistent as to when they air their shows? For instance, The Good Place had a “fall finale” so it wasn’t on air during the holiday season. Then in January they only aired two episodes. The show hasn’t been on in a few weeks. How is a struggling show supposed to build an audience when they show isn’t consistently shown? Fox also did this with Last Man on Earth.

Anonymous said...

Earl B writes:

Trivia: Mr Incredible wasn't the first animated character Craig T Nelson gave voice to. In the early 70's, he voiced the giant, Harryhausen-like monster (aka the Great God Porno) in Flesh Gordon.

Dhruv said...

Thanks for answering my question Ken :)

goodman.dl said...

Unrelated to today's post Ken, but given your time in Baltimore, do you have any good stories about the late, great, Frank Robinson?

Janet Ybarra said...

My Friday Question is this: have politics (I don't mean office politics, but politics politics) on the part of actors ever become a serious barrier on any projects you and David have worked on?

VP81955 said...

The conditions you described, as well as the natural aging of the cast, may explain why the revived "Murphy Brown," which shot in New York, lacked the energy of the initial series shot in Los Angeles. (For Faith Ford, it was her second sitcom go-round in Queens; more than 15 years ago, she co-starred with Kelly Ripa in the lackluster "Hope & Faith" series, filmed at Silvercup Studios just across the Queensboro Bridge.)

Lemuel said...

I too enjoyed Craig T Nelson in THE INCREDIBLES. He was also great in THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, where he played a sleazy, ruthless New York real estate developer who reminded me of...ah, never mind.

Joseph Scarbrough Puppet Productions said...

Ironic, considering SESAME STREET has been taped at the Kaufman Studios in Astoria-Queens since the mid-1990s, and that's always been a multi-camera show, plus the entire set been moved from one studio to another several times in its almost 50-year run; maybe Franken should have borrowed their camera and production crew.

DBA said...

Jen from Jersey, The Good Place hasn't been on in weeks because it's done for the season. That show only does 13 episodes (by the request of the creator and cast).
NBC had breaks during the holidays for almost all of its shows, but most of them do more episodes. Since TGP only does 13, it came back to finish and is done for the year.

Jonny M. said...

Can you give any insight into how Kirstie Alley was cast as Rebecca?

I don't see her having a long list of comedy credits prior to Cheers, yet she's great and she came in and right away shouldered a big portion of the laughs.

How did she come to the Charles brothers' attention and how did they audition her?

One thing that sticks out to me is the way she gets sad and cries. It's so distinct and funny and I'm wondering is her ability to be funny while sad was part of the requirements of the character or was this something Kirstie brought to the table?

Jen from Jersey said...

Thanks for letting me know. Even when they came back in January they changed the time slot to 930. I don’t understand how they can grow as a show if they’re not off the air and they change the time from 8pm to 930. I know many people DVR their shows but I’m not that vested in it.

Cat said...

Jonny M.--

this may help. It's a great read:

https://www.gq.com/story/cheers-oral-history-extended

Dan B said...

I would like some insight on the episode where Cheers caught on fire. I can't imagine the real set would be damaged, so how did they film it? Whose idea was it to have the bar catch on fire?

ScarletNumber said...

Craig T Nelson's first big role in a movie was as the prosecutor in ...And Justice for All, which was co-written by Barry Levinson.

MikeN said...

Apple makes its own shows?

Unknown said...

Ken, you have said before that your experience on the 1985-86 MARY sitcom with Mary Tyler Moore was tough, to the point where you almost left the business. Since Ms. Moore has been gone for more than 2 years now, could you relate some of the problems on the series, why it didn't work, and some specifics on the creative arguments? I'm sure there's a way you can relate the stories in a way that won't shatter anybody's expectations of what she was like in real life.

Andy Rose said...

@Joseph Scarborough: Frankie Biondo — who is one of 2 crew members who have been with Sesame Street from the beginning — also did some camera work on Kate & Allie. It was shot at the Ed Sullivan Theater. In the 80s, the Sullivan was owned by Reeves Teletape, the same company that owned Sesame Street’s studio on 55th Street. I think Frankie also may have worked on an episode or two of Love, Sidney.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

I enjoy the blog. Thank you.

My question: What are the written (or unwritten rules) for adding parenthetical descriptions to a character's line? For instance, (excitedly) or (angrily.)

Is it an encroachment on the actor's reading of the moment and character or is it a helpful aid as to what the writer intends? And does it differ for TV, movies, and stage?

-Gary

Jahn Ghalt said...

Here's another Craig T Nelson factoid - he's nearly a scratch golfer. I saw him at a January 2007 pro-am round at Plantation (Maui), along with Cheech Marin and Alice Cooper.

Cooper impressed me as a totally professional and congenial celebrity - he was in the last five-some with Vijay Singh.

They exited "stage right". Sonny and I went to go watch. Singh gave everyone the slip. For the next half-hour Cooper pressed the flesh, took photos, and signed score-books, while I snapped photos from afar (my sister really liked those).