Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Radar, google General Hammond for me."

Busy weekend ahead. Sitcom Room 3 begins Saturday at the LAX Hilton. Looking forward to meeting the attendees and putting them through two days of Hell-arity.
It's Friday question day. Dana Franks has asked me a number of them for an industry site called Media Scribbler. Thought I’d kill two birds…

Some of the most famous shows you've written for came years before the Internet. Do you ever wonder how things might be different these days? Would Radar become a huge MySpace hottie, and would Sam be picking up women on AdultFriendFinder? Heh.

Well, I don’t think MASH would change appreciably since it was set in 1951. Although the outgoing administration believes THE FLINTSTONES were an accurate representation of the Prehistoric Era so I’m sure if we did say the internet existed in the 50s there would be a sizable portion of the audience that would believe it.

CHEERS would obviously change considerably. But the big technical advancement that we wish we had back then was the cellphone, not the internet. The bar phone always got in the way. You’ll notice that at times it's at one end of the bar and other times it's on the opposite side. Otherwise, anytime there was a call it seemed characters had to walk across the set to answer it. Thank God for the age we now live in. Any character can get and receive calls anywhere they are. Except AT&T subscribers.

People are often asking you for stories from the stars associated with your shows, like a recent post you did about Jane Leeves from "Frasier". Do you find yourself skipping over unflattering stories you could share, and what kind of feedback do you get from the actors themselves?

For the most part, yes, I avoid sharing those unflattering stories. I’m not really interested in using this forum for celebrity gossip. But catch me after a few Border Grill margaritas.

A few actors have responded to me about something I wrote about them. Kelsey Grammer, in particular, was quite touched by all of the get well wishes you guys sent that I forwarded to him.

Your blog has now evolved into the Sitcom Room seminars you've conducted in LA. Has it shocked you that there are so many people not in the biz who are interested in learning about the process of writing for a sitcom?

A little bit. I’m not surprised that there are people in LA looking to break in to the industry. Just go to any Starbucks or call any Escort Service. But when I started my blog three years ago I figured no one outside the 310 area code would be remotely interested. The surprise is how many readers nationwide and even worldwide I have. But it makes sense. Writing is something you can do anywhere. And it doesn’t take sitting in Los Angeles for someone to watch a show and say, “Hey, I could do better than that.” One of the things I like best about the Sitcom Room is that it gives these out-of-towners a chance to really experience what it’s like to be on a show. And that preview can be very helpful should the person be thinking of chucking his great job at Lehman Brothers and moving out here.

Got a question? Leave it in the comments section. Or sign up for my next seminar. Whatever is easier.


Anonymous said...

I would think that cell phones would hurt farce rather than help. If a character can ALWAYS phone for help, it's harder to isolate them in a tight situation, or so it seems to me.

I would enjoy seeing an episode of M*A*S*H as written by somone with no concept of different eras, so you do have the 4077th equipped with the Internet and cell phones, and the war being run by President Lincoln, and Sherman Potter a vet of the Revolution as well as being the father of Harry Potter.

Wait, didn't President Bush submit that as a treatment?

Anonymous said...

Here's a bit of an offbeat question: How much credence should you give to *other* people encouraging you to write?

Pretty much everyone at some point tells me (unprompted) "you should be a writer".

I enjoy writing, but I'm a little hesitant to give it a shot - fear of failure and all.

Should I take their comments as an indication that I have potential, or should I just figure that people have pretty low standards and they think you can be a writer if you don't end sentences in a proposition?

R.A. Porter said...

Sitcom Room attendees, a bit of advice from a grad...

- Be sure to bring two forms of ID for the Hilton's restaurant. Their loan officer will need them to pre-approve your lunch.

- Remember the three 'T's of working in a comedy writing room: Timing, Teamwork, Tums.

- When hour seven rolls around and Ken and Dan call you from the comfort of an exclusive cigar bar with another twist to resolve, remember how much fun you're having.

- Just because you paid for wifi for the hotel grounds, don't think you'll have wifi in the conference rooms. (That's not a joke; that's me being bitter about the LAX Hilton.)

- Deodorant.

- No matter how hard you try, you'll never beat the record my teammates and I set in the first Sitcom Room. You will NOT be at it until 5am!

- Have fun!

Eric Curtis said...

Kind of a weird question, but I'd love to know the answer.

One of the things I remember the most about Cheers is the scene where Kirstie Alley hid a lit cigarette in her mouth. How did you find out she could do that? I can't believe it was in the script before hand.

I also can't believe I made it through college without trying it at least once.

Unknown said...

Hi, Ken -- it's Isabel from Sitcom Room The First. Tonight I got to go to a free seminar for those of us who were in the top 5% (but didn't make the finals) of the Warner Brothers Writers Workshop. It was so much fun to be on the lot, and see fresh Big Bang scripts lolling provocatively in the hallway. (Is that typical? They were just lying on the floor! No respect.)

Even better, next semester I get to take a class at UCLA extension with the very famous And David Issacs.

Life is rich and good, and I owe it all to The Sitcom Room, and modern psychoactive pharmaceuticals.


Anonymous said...

I came across something that would be of interest to you and your son Matt...there is a new documentary called "Holy Land Hardball" about the struggles of setting up a pro baseball league in Israel. Matt might be aware of this, as one of the principals involved is a former Red Sox general manager.

Anonymous said...

You schedule one, and I'll sign up for it. :-)

Anonymous said...

I came to this site for the war stories. I stayed for the stories about the process.

As a non-entertainment writer, I enjoy hearing about other writers' tales of woe.

Logical structure of the story appears to be something we all deal with.

Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I'm the Anonymous guy asking about whether he should be a writer because everyone tells me I should. Sorry about that, I thought I was using my usual pseudonym.

Anonymous said...


I wouldn't be surprised at the effect of your blog.The internet flattens the world, and hence good writing attracts, rather than status,power or location.

I can't remember how I first stumbled across your blog, but I keep coming back because it is entertaining, interesting and fun.

VP81955 said...

The problem with doing "Cheers" today is the whole "Red Sox nation" thing, which frankly has become rather obnoxious. Now, the Bosox are as hated as the Yankees. Were the show starting up in 2008, maybe Sam Malone would have been a former Phillie or Tiger running a bar in Philadelphia or Detroit. (The cast would be more urban and ethnic, too.)

Anonymous said...

Question: If you have a spec script that you like, but you wrote it before a story arch happened, should you go back and fix it to include the new dynamics of the series?