Friday, September 07, 2012

Telling an actress she needs plastic surgery

As always, thanks for the Friday Questions. Here are a few answers and a visual aid.

Jim S. gets us started:

You mentioned that a network might demand an old pro hook up with a novice who created a show. Do you think that is wise, or is it just suits justifying their jobs? Do young guns resent that or are they grateful for the help?

It depends on the individual case. When a network picks up a show from an untested showrunner they’re really rolling the dice. Remember, a lot of money is on the line. If a show implodes millions of dollars are lost.

So why do networks do it? The advantage of a somewhat novice is that he brings the potential of a fresh new voice. And you occasionally strike gold. Larry David is the supreme example.

The “old pros” by comparison, will often bring recycled ideas and methods to the dance.

When the two collaborate there usually are problems. Not always, but more often than not. The young creator can feel that the pro is taking over his show. The pro can feel threatened by the young creator, or resent having to be in this position. Once upon a time the pro created his own shows. Now he’s babysitting some wunderkind.

And of course the sensibilities could clash.

But in the best case scenario, the pro provides stability and experience that allows that young writer to follow his vision. I’ll give you an example of it working:

When my writing partner, David Isaacs and I had a development deal at Paramount, a talented writer who had never run her own show came to us with an idea we really liked. The three of us just clicked immediately. The result was ALMOST PERFECT and the writer was Robin Schiff. It became a great three-way equal partnership where the sum total was greater than the three parts. So it can work. But it’s like that with all arranged three-way marriages.

Marty Fufkin asks a somewhat loaded question:

If you have an actress on your show who wants to get a nose job or other cosmetic procedures, would you advise against it or just let her do as she wishes?

Do that only if you have a death wish. Mere wardrobe or hair suggestions can cause World War III.

In truth, rarely will an actress make any drastic cosmetic changes during the course of a series. Although an actress on one show underwent breast reduction surgery during one off-season. And in her case, let’s just say those breasts were her major asset. No, I won’t tell you who it was. She had good reason to do it, was experiencing bad back pain, etc., but I think it’s fair to say that I and everyone else missed them.

Personally, I don't recommend having that conversation with an actor. That said, I would give anything to see a producer tell Teri Hatcher she should consider a little facial touch-up.

Matt asks:

I am assuming that every writer wants every episode they write to be as great as it can be. However, when the network wants a special episode to promote, such as a 100th episode to be even better, how do you handle it (outside of the clip show)?

Do you try to save the best jokes for that episode?

Do you try to end a story arc on that episode?

Do you just ignore the network and make every episode as great as it can be?

First off, we never save jokes. We try to find the best jokes we can for every episode. And I won’t even save my “best jokes” for my episodes. When I’m rewriting someone else’s script, even though I won’t get writing credit, I still push myself to write the best jokes I can.

Generally, for a “special” episode, there will be some big event in the series (like a wedding) or stunt casting.

David and I wrote the 100th episode of BECKER and we slipped in “100” in the show as many ways as we could.  It was our way of making note of the occasion without making it a big deal.  Here's the episode.  I also directed it.  See what you think. 


Roger Owen Green said...

video is of Part 1, twice!

Tim said...

What happens if an actor needs a sick day? If the actor has a minor role in the episode, do you simply just quickly rewrite his or her parts for the other characters? If possible, do you shoot around his or her scenes? Do you hire a goon somewhere to drag them out of bed and get them on stage?

Cap'n Bob said...

I liked this, but it stopped before I could read the credits. Who was Sandy? She's very beautiful.

Tom said...

"And in her case, let’s just say those breasts were her major asset. No, I won’t tell you who it was."

I'm gonna put my money on Loni Anderson.

Lisa said...

No plastic surgery during the run of series? Jennifer Ansiton's nose would beg to differ. Not that it wasn't done beautifully--that one and the younger Simpson sister's were examples of what a good plastic surgeon can do. And bravo for them, by the way. They made it work.

Wally Bunker said...

Julie Claire played Sandy. The lovely Sandy.

You should have a book signing at the Century Bistro 100...that was difficult to read so that's my guess. Good show, loved Becker!

Max Clarke said...

"You made up a sister named Pepper Becker!"

Very funny.

iain said...

I was going to cite Lisa's example of Jennifer Aniston & I think the writers even worked it in as joke more than once. Patricia Heaton also had work done during "Rayond's" run, although she also talked about it in every media source she could find. & hasn't Bruce Jenner looked more trout-like in every season of that show which features his talented & humble family?

JT Anthony said...

Don't forget Homer Simpson's plastic surgery too! Writers may never admit it, but it seems pretty clear he had a tummy tuck and chin implant...

thomas tucker said...

Friday Question: thanks for your story about Johnny Carson. For follow-up, did you ever work with Merv?

Mike said...

Tough to watch a Becker with Nancy Travis. Her introduction felt rather forced as well.

Liggie said...

F.Q. On various screenwriting forums, I've seen people's pitches include an estimated budget (say, $4 million). How the heck do they come up with these figures? I figure an average sci-fi script would cost more than a rom-com due to special effects, costumes and the like. But wouldn't there be a lot of other variables that throw estimates off track?

Marty said...

Homer Simpson's chin implants were to give him his 4th, 5th and 6th chins.

Brian said...

B100 FM
100 year's war
Linda wins $100
Paind in 100 crisp $1 bills
Margaret said the answer 100 times

Melanie said...

Friday question for you: I know you are a fan of The Good Wife. I've just been catching up on it and love it, but one thing has been bugging me. Why do all the actors say "I'll phone him tomorrow", "Phone me back", "Did you phone?" etc. instead of "call"? In real life I don't think I have ever heard someone say "phone" instead of "call". (except maybe in the UK)Obviously that is what the writers are writing, but doesn't anyone on the show realize it doesn't sound natural? Or is it a regional thing?

Mr. First Nighter said...

Friday question: Why do so many characters address others so formally? In real life, people are less formal, especially years into a relationship. Once example that comes to find was Daphne always calling Frasier "Dr. Crane".

Courtney said...

Hi, Ken; didn't know where else on the blog to contact you, so I hope you don't mind my dropping this off-topic topic here: I was a schoolmate of Lynn Angell, David's wife. With the anniversary of their passing at hand, I wonder if you have any recollections of the great man to share. (I daresay you've posted something to that effect before, so apologies if this is redundant for you.)

By Ken Levine said...

Hi Courtney,

Every year on September 11th I run a tribute to David & Lynn. So you'll see it tomorrow.