Friday, July 09, 2021

Friday Questions

Some summer FQ’s for your beach reading pleasure.

Matt in Westwood, CA leads off:

You’ve mentioned on several occasions that during your time on MASH, it filmed on the soundstage next door to CHARLIE’S ANGELS. Given that is an iconic show as well, did you have any particularly memorable encounters with the actresses, JACLYN SMITH especially, or see filming of any memorable scenes that stand out?

I don’t remember the circumstances that led to this, but one day I found myself in Jaclyn Smith’s trailer talking to her for about a half hour.  I think she was considering developing a comedy.  It’s a little hazy.  But what I do recall vividly was that she was very sweet and was wearing a jumpsuit.  

I met Farrah once and Kate Jackson was kind of stand-offish.  No trailer invites from either of them.  

And over a couple of seasons I did see them shoot a few people.  On camera. 

Kathryn queries:  

Is it easier for a playwright to switch to television or a television writer to switch to live theater? Is the answer different for multicamera versus single cam? There was an article in our local paper about some playwrights making the switch.

The key to both writing for multi-camera sitcoms and the theatre is gaining experience writing for live audiences.  The rest is just format and structure differences.  Single-camera TV writers have a tougher adjustment because they're not used to writing for live audiences. 

I think a multi-cam TV comedy writer making the transition to live theatre has a leg up over playwrights going the other direction because he’s used to daily run-throughs and fixing scripts in a timely manner.  Sometimes playwrights have the luxury of a few days or months (after a reading) to determine what needs to be fixed and then execute the changes.  TV writers have been through the wars and can sometimes rewrite quicker and more efficiently.  

But at the end of the day, talent is talent.  If you’re good in one arena you’ll be good in another.  

tb asks:

We've all seen successful, long running shows make big mistakes in an attempt to "shake things up". Whether it's a new character that doesn't work, or a new locale, or baby or whatever. Some shows never recover. So my Friday question is, what would you say to the writers of a successful show that are thinking of "shaking things up"?

I’d say good for you.  I’d much rather see a show strive to stay fresh than just rest on their laurels.  

Hit shows can get stale. I applaud the writers willing to take a risk and shake things up.  

And for my money, no one is better at that than Robert & Michelle King, creators and show runners of THE GOOD WIFE and THE GOOD FIGHT.  Not every change works, but even in those cases, they make midcourse corrections.   The upside is those series are always surprising and the changes at times are inspired.  

From Carter:

Most people know that early “Wings” episodes featured a few “Cheers” crossover appearances, but those ceased after “Cheers” ended its run. Was there ever any talk of doing a crossover between “Wings” and “Frasier”?

Not to my knowledge.  

The purpose of crossover episodes is to get a spike in the ratings for the show hosting the other show’s characters.  WINGS really benefited by having CHEERS characters on their show.  

I’ll be frank.  Characters from WINGS would not have resulted in a big spike in FRASIER’S ratings.  

What's your Friday Question?


John G said...

Would you prefer the challenges of writing the early seasons of a show or the later seasons? Or are there writers who specialize in either? When writing later seasons, there is the benefit of established dynamics and patterns but the obvious story possibilities have been exhausted and there’s the trap of writing variations on the same jokes, as that’s what the audience has been conditioned for. And how long is too long for a sitcom to continue? I hate when shows like Mom get cancelled but, in truth, after seven or eight seasons, almost every show has lost their freshness.

John in NW Ohio said...

Kate Jackson to Charlie's Angels was like Joey Bishop to the Rat Pack. One of these things is not like the other.

Mibbitmaker said...

One example of a storyline (not sure whether it was intended as a "shake-up" per se) that didn't work, and was corrected, was Sam and Rebecca on CHEERS trying to have a baby. I agree it wasn't a good idea, but it was worth it for elderly Lilith's "That damn bar!" scene.

maxdebryn said...

Friday Question Rerun - what is the deal with all the producers listed in the credits on many tee-wee shows ? In olden days (when I was a lad), you'd see one or two producers listed, but now there are usually more than a dozen or more. Executive producer/ associate producer/co-executive producer ?? Do these producers actually do anything, or is it just a vanity thing ? A lot of actors are now listed as producers on their own shows, too. Do that get paid extra for that ?

D. Musick said...

Of the Angels, I got to meet Cheryl Ladd and Jaclyn Smith. While both were friendly and polite with me, Ms. Smith was downright friendly. Very nice and sweet lady.

Zane said...

I know David Lee (of Grubstreet Productions) once said in an interview that he jokingly suggested a theme night for Wings and Frasier - “Ebola Tuesday” - which would’ve seen Joe and Brian accidentally spread the disease via flying, causing it to make its way out west and culminating in Frasier and the gang catching it. Naturally, this was long before Covid and wasn’t meant seriously.

I see what you mean about the Wings gang not benefitting the Frasier show in any major way, but the opposite could’ve been interesting had they been able to finagle it.

maxdebryn said...

Obviously, Ms Ladd needed to work on her downright game.

Liggie said...

If I were in high school during "Charlie's Angels", Cheryl Ladd would've been my big celebrity crush. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for Rachel McAdams and Kaley Cuoco.

FQ on product licensing. In Vegas casinos I've seen slot machines based on "Game of Thrones" and "The Big Bang Theory" among others, with character photographs as symbols (e.g. get five Daenerys or Sheldon windows in a row, win 100 times your bet). Also, at a recent comic convention I bought Frasier and Martin/Eddie figures from the popular "Pop! Funko" line (see for an example).

Do the actors get a say in what their character likenesses can be used for? In these cases, would Emilia Clarke and Jim Parsons have been able to ask off of Daenerys and Sheldon on the slot machines if they were morally opposed to gambling, or would Kelsey Grammer have nixed the Pop! Funkos because he disapproved of Frasier collectibles?

Lorimartian said...

To Liggie:

Yes, they do if it's a contractual obligation. I worked on securing actor approvals for the SNL slot machines back in the day when I worked at NBC. The only refusal to participate I remember was one of the primary female actresses. Also, one of the actors didn't want another actor appearing on his machine because it would reduce his royalty payment.

Roger Owen Green said...

I saw some disparaging remarks on Quora yesterday and in the comments here today about Kate Jackson's looks. I respectfully disagree; I thought she was lovely, starting when I first show I saw her on, The Rookies, as a nurse and spouse of a young cop.

Michael said...

I saw an ad for new CNN "History of The Sitcom" show this Sunday - any chance you were interviewed for this?

Mike Bloodworth said...

Trying new things can and often does result in a show "jumping the shark." Two notable examples are "Married With Children" season 7 when they added a new kid to the cast. "Seven" was not popular and didn't last.
"The Simpsons" season 9 when principal Skinner turns out to be an impostor. Both series were past their prime, but they really went down hill from there.

FRIDAY QUESTION: Had you ever considered writing an APRIL FOOLS episode for any of the series for which you wrote? I don't mean an episode where the characters play tricks on each other. I mean an episode, using "Frasier" as an example, where the characters are in a completely different situation. Working in a restaurant maybe. Or an entirely different cast at the radio station, etc. I suppose it wouldn't make much sense of the episodes didn't air on April Fools Day.
But, in the past some radio stations have done that on April 1st. e.g. A Country station plays Top 40 or a Classic Rock station plays Easy Listening. You know what I mean.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

John G: Interesting you mention MOM because it went through more changes than the average show in its 8-year run. First it phased out most of Christy's workplace, then her kids. They added Kristen Johnson as Tammy, which was inspired, and William Firchtner and Rainn Wilson. My guess is that if Anna Faris hadn't quit it would still be going. I will miss it.


Kirk said...

When I first clicked on the post, I assumed it was your fall-back image, Natalie Wood, and I said to myself, "Boy, I never realized before how much she looks like Jaqueline Smith!"

Tim G said...

Too bad that the producers of the old show Dallas didn't hire Jacqueline Smith to replace Victoria Principal as Pamela Ewing. Would have redeemed several years of sucky story lines.

Nick Hopkins said...

When the 'Martin Does It His Way' episode of Frasier was being worked on, was there any concern or discussion about what would happen if Sinatra passed away before it aired?

And have you ever had any experiences of having to do massive re-edits/reshoots/rewrites due to real life events?

(Btw, it would be great if you could interview Dan O'Shannon at some point about the challenges of being in charge for Seasons 8-10)

Many thanks!

Mike said...

Barney Rosenzweig, who produced some of the early “Charlie’s Angels” episodes, said he wanted to fire the makeup people after he met Kate Jackson in person. He said Kate was a real beauty and that was not coming through on screen. And he realized it was because she didn’t want to be all glammed up, unlike her costars. But if you look at her face and her fine bone structure, you realize that he was right about how pretty she was.