Thursday, December 10, 2009

Am I related to Chuck Lorre?

Aloha from Hawaii. It’s Friday Question Day, even observed here on the islands.

Sacul wonders:

I always like to read the credits on my fave shows. Are any of the Levines (or Lorre) related to you or each other?

Nope. Not related to Chuck Lorre (Levine is his real last name), Laura Levine, Emily Levine, or actor Kenny Levine. I wish I was related to Chuck’s money though.

Scott Siegel is looking for dish:

Did you and David ever have a no-holds-bar disagreement about the direction of a script?

We’ve argued but it never got personal. Usually if one of us can’t convince the other we’ll just back away from the issue and try something else entirely. You can’t make somebody write in a direction they don’t believe in. Try it. It’s torture and the results are never productive.

As with jokes, we’ve found that it’s easier and faster to just come up with a completely new one rather than to argue for a half hour and ultimately one of the partners is pissed.

Three keys to a good partnership: You respect and value the other’s opinion. You don’t take arguments personally. You both have cars so you can give the other rides when his car is in the shop. The first two you might be able to live without.

From Terry Collier:

In Frasier, I love David Hyde Pierce and his choice of reactions to comments. So often, it's his reaction that makes the joke. The same with watching him do more physical comedy, such as falling. How much of that is written in the script, and how much is his choice?

Sometimes a reaction is written in because it’s key to his motivation to do something or another. But most of the time we just left David to his own devices. I can’t tell you how many times he saved our bacon by making lines and moments work that really shouldn’t have. As I’ve said before, of all the comic actors I’ve had the privilege of working with, David Hyde Pierce is the best. And here’s the thing, I’m sure there’s a lot of technique and craft going on in there but he makes it all seem absolutely effortless. I just marvel.

Richard Y asks:

Of all your pitches you and you and your partner prepared were there any that were not accepted that were more serious in nature or at least partially? Such as doctor (besides M*A*S*H and Becker), lawyer firefighters, police type shows?

We never pitched an hour series so no in that regard. There were some MASH pitches that we all decided in the room might be a little too dramatic. “Hawkeye killing everybody” and stuff like that. We tended to table that for Hawkeye throws a party.

And then there’s the spec screenplay I wrote about nine years ago that was strictly a drama. We were represented by one of the major tenpercenteries (I love that expression) and I called my agents to tell them about my new project. They were very excited. I then mentioned it was a drama, not a comedy.

Silence on the phone. For thirty seconds. You could hear crickets.

Their lack of enthusiasm was palpable. One said, “Well, why’d you go and do THAT?” I suggested that maybe I’m more than just a comedy writer and the other agent said, “Yeah, but that’s what you SELL.” A month later we left the agency.

And finally, from Rory L. Aronsky:

When you directed "Becker," how many scene transitions were available to use? Obviously you had to hew to daytime or nighttime scenes, but did you have free reign to choose what you wanted, or did they have a set list so that, say, one that appeared in an episode before yours wasn't used again in your episode?

If you mean those stylized transitions between scenes I never concerned myself with them once. That was all post-production magic. I assume show runner Dave Hackel, line producer Tim Berry, and editor Darryl Bates made those decisions. I never even knew how many transitions there were or exactly what they were. I’m sure there’s some BECKER fanatic out there somewhere who has kept track of what transition was used when and he’ll sell his Guide to BECKER Transitions book before I’ll sell one of mine.

Leave your question in the comments section. Mahalo.


Anonymous said...

MASH presented a sort of moral equivalence between North Korea and the U.S. Now that we know that Kim Il-sung, the man who ruled North Korea at the time, was of almost Hitler-level evil, do you regret this?

awespishus said...

Hey, Ken. Missing you guys! What do you think of Randy heading for Milwaukee and Nick's "demotion"? It certainly was not the latter's fault that the team folded at the end there. Why doesn't management simply demote MANNY? Andy Ross, Stanley Ralph's son.

charlotte said...

@Anonymous: Wait. What? Didn't M*A*S*H take place in [i]South[/i] Korea? And the North Korean (and Chinese) communists were the bad guys in the show?

Or am I totally misremembering/didn't follow what was going on correctly as a kid?

Dude. Now I gotta go look it up....

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Much obliged, Ken. You're a mensch above most mensches.

blogward said...

Now that we know that Kim Il-sung, the man who ruled North Korea at the time, was of almost Hitler-level evil, do you regret this?

If I might take the gross liberty of replying on Ken's behalf: "almost".

DJ said...

Now that we know that Kim Il-sung, the man who ruled North Korea at the time, was of almost Hitler-level evil, do you regret this?

Written as if the person's only perspective of war, or anything else, was gained from the view from mommy's basement.

scooter said...

Thanks to Anonymous, I now understand why Ken prefers his commenters to be nonymous.

Richard said...

I can't imagine that you haven't addressed this question before, but I don't seem to find it anywhere when searching the blog (love the blog, by the way).

You've been both a writer and director. Are there any key points that you learned from one of those roles that really helped you in the other, that you feel you wouldn't have gotten any other way?

Hopefully I phrased that clearly enough. Obviously, I'm not a writer myself!


Richard C - Milwaukee, WI

Rock Golf said...

Ken: That Dharma & Greg ep you directed and had on the site made frequent references to the then-upcoming final episode of Seinfeld. IIRC, D&G was an ABC show, and this episode was actually first shown the same week as the last Seinfeld. Were there any complaints from the network that you were practically providing a half-hour ad for a show on a different network?

WV: wrome - when there, do as the wromans.

Francine just ate her foot said...

Ken, you may have covered this at some point, but how did you and David become partners and what was your first project together?

Stephen said...

I have discovered Cheers for the very first time through DVDs, and I am currently watching Season 11. Seeing Frasier's marriage to Lilith break down, I wanted to ask: Do you remember if the writers decided to break the characters up just because by that point you all knew that Kelsey would be doing the 'Frasier' spin-off and that Bebe would not be a regular on the show?

BigTed said...

Hey, Ken, here's a seasonal-related question:

Did you ever get a note that a character, joke or show was "too Jewish"?

Conversely, did you ever encounter a network exec worrying that something would be offensive to Jews?

Jim, Cheers fan said...

Did you ever get a note that a character, joke or show was "too Jewish"?

you remind me of one of my favorite Cheers lines that always gets cut out of syndicated showings, when Frasier and Lilith explain to Woody and Kelly how their inter-faith marriage works: ("Yes, dear.")

IIRC: "The family celebrates Channukah, Frederick delights in his dreidl, and lighting the minorah. Meanwhile, Christmas passes with out so much as a tree. 'ooh, look everyone! A fir tree! Five thousand year old religion and Frasier Crane's gonna bring it down with some tinsel and a plastic star!"

KG's delivery, building from syrupy sentiment to angry sarcasm is fantastic. I always wonder if it was cut out for time or being "controversial".