Friday, November 23, 2012

(Black) Friday Questions

Here are some Black Friday Questions to read on your smart phone as you stand in line at Kohl’s.

Johnny Walker has one about writing spec scripts:

I was watching an episode of MODERN FAMILY the other day, the Emmy winning "Caught in the Act". It's a very enjoyable and farcical episode, but I was struck by how simplistic the plot was. In particular, the initial misunderstanding was not particularly original (Gloria accidentally sends a rude email to Clare), but the execution was excellent. This got me wondering about Spec scripts that wannabe writers might put together. Could someone get away with such an obvious plot choice, provided their execution is superb, or is a script you've spent months crafting expected to be brilliant across the board?

Yes. In a spec script execution is the key. Can you write the characters? Are you funny? Do your jokes advance the story? An ingenious story no one has ever done is a plus but the search for that can be a trap. Better than a complicated story is a simple one that allows you to give the characters some depth.

And by all means, I strongly recommend against doing any “special” episodes. Don’t break the format. Don’t do that “What if the Dunphys went back in time to Antiquity?” Don’t write ANCIENT FAMILY.

From chalmers:

My Friday question to Ken is whether you've ever been in a situation where a network or someone else pushed you to revise a show you worked on to highlight a successful one-time or occasional character?

No. But as a showrunner I’m always on the lookout for a breakout character. If I happen to have the next Fonz or Urkel or Akex Keaton I won’t need the network to tell me to utilize him more. I’ll happily do it myself. Those gifts come very rarely.

The hard part though is getting the actors who thought were the stars to go along graciously, but the argument can be made that they will now be on a much bigger hit show and a high tide raises all boats. That generally works unless you’re Cybill Shepherd.

JT Anthony asks:

Would you mind taking a stab at comparing Hollywood spin on a movie and the spin political parties put on its candidates, especially this year? And especially when the reality is much different--weaker--than the perception they are trying to shape for the audience.

It seems to me that movies and political campaigns are similar in that their shared goal is: “how do we attract a specific audience without chasing away a general one?” The difference is that movie campaigns just stand on their own. A trailer portrays a movie as being a certain way, you either respond to it or you don’t. But you assume that’s what that movie is (although sometimes you are seriously misled). The trailer is not followed by two commentators explaining the studio’s strategy.

On the political front however, you’re always hearing how Romney is trying to appear more folksy to get the folksy folks vote. It sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Isn’t it saying in essence, “he’s not really like this but is only pretending to be to get supporters?” It’s as if Warner Brothers announced publicly, “We know this movie isn’t a comedy but we’re putting the two jokes of the film in the trailer to make people believe it is.”

For political candidates these days it’s like you’re playing poker and there’s someone standing behind you calling out to everyone else at the table, “Hey, he has two-pair, looking for a queen or a three!”

Austin Edwards wonders:

What do you think about the news that Disney is going to start a sequel series to "Boy Meets World"?

What is your opinion on TGIF from ABC in the 90s and the possibility of a return in the near future?

I didn’t watch BOY MEETS WORLD much when it was on but my kids loved it. There were some terrific actors in that show including Tony Quinn, William Daniels, Alex Desert, Willie Garson, and two of the Monkees (Peter Tork & Mickey Dolenz).

TGIF is back. It’s called the Disney Channel. And there are some good jokes on some of those sitcoms.

What’s your question? Let me know and I’ll put it on layaway until after the holidays if you’d prefer. And if you're going to Kohl's, I could use a sweater.  Thanks.


Kirk said...

I like your response to JT Anthony's question.

Ironic (or maybe not) that political analysts don't seem to notice that themselves.

Jon88 said...

"If I happen to have the next Fonz or Urkel or Michael Keaton ...." Alex Keaton?

Ron said...

I'm waiting for Desmond's to open. . .I must say that, oddly, there is no line

Doug R. said...

My sister-in-law grew up in Woodland Hills and was Taft High School Class of '67. I want to buy her your book for Christmas. Any chance I could get you to inscribe it to her?
(you can email me at

Mac said...

Yes that always intrigued me - when a political party talks abut its rebranding and what it's supposed to mean. If you explain how you're trying to influence us, surely you're not going to influence us?

Cap'n Bob said...

Do non-actors like Judge Judy need to be in an actor's union? How about non-actors who make one-shot appearances on TV shows?

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks for that, Ken. I have to say it's not the answer I was expecting, but it WAS the answer I was hoping to hear! That's great.

Liggie said...

As a former radio guy, can you speculate why the (opinion) talk format has been a bonanza for conservatives but a non-starter for liberals?

KenNYC said...

"It’s as if Warner Brothers announced publicly, 'We know this movie isn’t a comedy but we’re putting the two jokes of the film in the trailer to make people believe it is.'"

Isn't this basically what they do for every Paul Thomas Anderson movie ever made?

Stephen said...

Have you been watching Go On? I have been enjoying it more and more, but it still feels like "The One Where Chandler Goes to Grief Counselling". I like Matthew Perry a lot but his voice/movements/line deliveries just keep reminding me of Chandler Bing. I thought he did nice work on Studio 60, and he more than wowed me on The Good Wife, so maybe doing another half-hour show about friendship where he plays a sarcastic, insecure character wasn't the best way to go? NBC picked it up for a full season, so I doubt anyone is losing sleep, but still, what do you think?