Friday, November 02, 2012

Friday Questions

Okay, here they are.  Today's Friday Questions. 

ScottUSF leads off:

What does it mean in Deadline|Hollywood when they mention a pilot/show has been sold "with Penalty"...penalty to who?

Penalty to the network. Usually in the form of a bonus payment to the writer/producer or studio. But generally the network rolls that over for a future commitment instead. Studios tend not to really press networks to the wall to pay up their penalties because they want to do business with them in the future.  And networks will never pick up a show they don't want just because there are penalties involved. 

Christopher Finke asks:

Who's the best actor you've seen debut in a quickly cancelled sitcom? For example, I don't think Guys With Kids is going to make it, but Zach Cregger has his moments.

David Hyde Pierce in a show called POWERS THAT BE. (Pictured above) Whatever happened to him I wonder?

Christodoulos wonders:

Of all the jokes you have written, which are your favorites? Not necessarily the funniest, but the ones that stand out in your memory because of the circumstances in which they were written or conceived, or their originality, or even for sentimental reasons.

My writing partner, David Isaacs and I did a two-parter for CHEERS that introduced the Eddie LeBec hockey player.  He began a romance with Carla. We established in part one that their song was “Oh Canada” (the Canadian National Anthem) and we got some joke mileage out of that. In part two they break up and Eddie gives her a cassette. She’s alone in the bar and pops in the tape. It plays “Oh Canada.” The audience was both laughing and crying. That’s my favorite because one joke elicited two distinct simultaneous emotions.

From Coco:

What have you got against Nancy Meyers? You're making me question my taste. I like her movies, and I love the prod/set design on them.

I find all of her her films to be by-the-numbers studio formula, shallow, and not funny. But that’s me. If you love them, great.

DyHrdMET queries:

I've concluded that it takes about 4 weeks or so for a sitcom to go from taping in front of an audience to being aired on television. First, am I right about that figure, or what is it (on average)? Second, what goes on during that time that makes it take that much time? Third, if needed, how quick of a turnaround could there be?

The turnaround time is dictated by when the show is shot and when it’s scheduled to air. At the beginning of the season you could film a show in August and it doesn’t run until October. At the end of the season you could film a show and it airs the night before you film it.  (I'm only half joking.)

Usually, the turnaround is two or three weeks depending on how many other shows the post production people are working on concurrently, and how much work is needed with the particular episode.

During that time the show is edited. Sometimes they cut together quickly and in one or two passes it’s ready. Other times things don’t work and you’re forever tinkering.

Time must be added for sending the network a rough cut and getting their notes.

Are there effects or complicated sounds that have to be worked in as well? Then there’s the usual color-correcting, sound, and scoring that has to addressed.

All that said, if you really need to turnaround a show quick, you hire two editors, work around the clock, and you can get a show ready to air in two or three days. But it’s costly and you never like to work with that little wiggle room.

And finally, Anonymous has a question:

Are there certain rules for getting questions answered? I'm not sure if my questions were just stupid, or insulting, or boring, or if you just don't answer Anonymous questions.

I rarely answer Anonymous questions. How hard is it to leave a name? I answer questions I think the readers might be interested in, questions that I know the answers to, questions that lead to fun anecdotes, are informative, offer a variety, and then just blogger’s choice. Sometimes if I don’t know the answer but can ask someone who does, that’s fun to have a guest expert, so I’ll pursue those. But basically, I try to consider what would make a good blog post.

One thing I don’t do is favor anybody. I never give certain readers any priority because they’ve said they liked VOLUNTEERS or attended my book signing. I’m just looking for good entertaining questions.

What’s yours? Try your luck. Please leave it in the comments section. Thanks.  And did I mention "Happy Birthday, Matt?" 


Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to that little kid on Powers That Be?

synonymicious said...

For a Friday further down the line: I was half-watching an old Everybody Loves Raymond episode the other night, and I perked up when I hear Ray refer to Robert as "a stink-footed oaf." First, the audience loved it-the Romano/Garrett intreplay is, I think, underrated in the annals of fine comedy duos-but the language, positively Shakespearean in concept, made me wonder: generally speaking, does lingual comedy trump physical comedy, and how much weight do you, personally, put on the syntax of a joke?

Erich617 said...

One of my favorite moments in TV comedy is the cold open from the second episode of THE POWERS THAT BE. It is David Hyde Pierce alone in a room trying to hang himself, and he never says a word. Amazing.

Also, interestingly, I knew somebody who edited that show, and he said they turned it around in about a week or less.

Mike said...

I was unaware you and David Isaacs wrote the Cheers that introduced Eddie. Did you guys have anything to do with him being killed off? Also, is there any truth to the rumor he was killed as punishment for some not-so-nice things Jay Thomas said about Rhea Perlman on his radio show? That's the story that's been around -- I believe spread by Thomas himself -- but I can't help but think that was more a storyline-dictated move. Carla works better, IMO, as a single character. You can't have her hitting on every hot guy who walks in the bar if she's married (well, you can, but it doesn't work as well).

Johnny Walker said...

*Deletes draft blog praising VOLUNTEERS*

Oh well!

Donna said...

Just looked up that show - "The Powers That Be".
Look at some of those cast members - Valerie Mahaffey, Holland Taylor, John Forsythe, Peter MacNicol, and a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt (thought I recognized him!)

Ane said...

Mike: he wrote a post on that subjekt before, Search for "kiss of death for Eddie lebec" :-)

ScottyB said...

Here's a Friday one for Ken: Other than having characters become romantically involved with each other or have a baby, what's the top ways you know of to irreversibly fuck up what was, up that point, a perfectly good sitcom? Or is the Jump The Shark moment pretty much inevitable if the show doesn't decide to turn out the lights and go home when it's relatively still on top?

Christodoulos said...

Hey, Ken, thanks for answering my question. And since the answer involves Carla, let me share one of my favorite Cheers scenes. We see her come in the bar in the morning, and she starts singing a song in a really sunny, cheerful mood while doing her chores -- and then the others begin to arrive and she reverts to her usual gruff, mean shelf. But for a while, she was the personification of innocence.

YEKIMI said...

How often do personal matters of an actor derail a show, maybe something the general public doesn't know about. I'm thinking more along the lines if a popular actor came to you and said "I'm gay and I'm thinking of announcing it publicly". Would you say "For the love of all the TV gods in history, don't do it, you'll destroy the show!" Nowadays, I don't think many people would care [I mean, look at NPH on HIMYM, most everyone knows he's gay but doesn't seem to hurt the popularity of a show but when Ellen came out her show tanked quickly] but 30-40 years ago would it have been the kiss of death? Personally, I don't care what a persons sexual orientation is, if they can make me laugh, they've got my vote. {I swear, google's about ready to lose me leaving comments on blogs, I had to cycle through 9 captchas to finally find one where I could make out the number AND the word!}

Elf said...


I don't think Ellen the show tanked because Ellen the actress came out. I think it tanked because Ellen the character came out and the focus of the show completely changed to accomodate that.

Stephen Robinson said...

Didn't realize until seeing the cast photo that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in POWERS THAT BE. Previously, he was in the 1991 DS revival and after PTB, he was in THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN and now, he's a movie star. Good work.

Muzza said...

I think I know that 'Anonymous'. I recognise his font.

Carl Tyler said...

Hi Ken,

Thank you for writing your blog I find it one of the more entertaining things to read each day.

I am not in the entertainment industry so I have a question for you. Have you ever written a script so that you could screw people up who were playing drinking games? Say for example, you had to do a shot every time someone said Sam on cheers, or every time someone suggested a a disease ended in -osis on House. Have you ever worked in a word knowing that people do these silly games?

By the way, thank you, I loved Cheers. I was around 11 when it first came on TV in the UK, it was on if I remember rightly at 9PM Friday nights on a new TV Station we had, channel 4 (a whopping 4 channels). It also made me want to visit Boston, which I moved to 16 years ago, so thank you.

Keep up the great work,


Jan said...

My husband and I absolutely loved The Powers That Be, and a line from that show has become a catch phrase of ours. Valerie Mahaffey was in some state of confusion and/or anonymity for some reason. She went to get into a cab or limo and was surprised to find her parents in the car. She looked at them oddly and said "Mummy! Daddy! What am I doing here?"

Jerry F said...

Hey Ken! Big M's fan, love listening to you and am rooting for you to get the full time gig.

What is it that attracts you to calling games? Beyond the obvious free tickets and travel and other perks. Clearly you love baseball, but a full season of radio work requires more than just a love for the game. And what do you think distinguishes the great broadcasters (Dave and Vin and the like) from the not-so-great guys? Do you try to do anything in particular to stand out from other announcers?

Thanks for the blog and good luck!

YEKIMI said...

@ Elf
Yes, you're right, I think them changing the focus of the show did help do it in [even I thought it got a little heavy-handed]. But I bet there were others that said they'd never watch it again even before the focus of the show switched.

Lorimartian said...

Assuming Marty Short, who impresses me as a sensitive individual, and Fred Willard are acquaintances, if not friends, could you write the scene in which Marty calls Fred to get Fred's blessing on becoming his replacement as the voice of Old Navy?

Oliver said...

With the re-emergence of multicamera comedy, do you think the much maligned multicamera drama should be brought back too?

Roger Owen Green said...

I watched The Powers That Be religiously, because of the Norman Lar connection. I looked up the Wikipedia piece on the show and one of the footnotes is a 2006 Ken Levine column.

Roger Owen Green said...

That should be Norman LEAR, of course. And the interesting thing about the Ken Levine column I cited is that it wasn't written by Ken Levine but Peter Casey, the middle of a trilogy of stories about Cheers that actually brought me to Ken's blog in the 1st place!

D. McEwan said...

I saw every episode of The Powers That Be when they aired (as did my late mother, who loved that show, whcich began her adoration of DHP also), but I had utterly forgotten Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in it until I saw the photo you posted.

But not just members of the cast like DHP and JGL went on to other fame, so did the set. That staircase on The Powers That Be went on to be the staircase on The Nanny. Poor stairs. Something else Fran just walked all over in her climb to the middle. (It really was the same staircase.)

Thomas said...

Could you possibly ask a question to David Isaacs for the blog? He was credited in some episodes of Mad Men as "consulting producer". What does that job entail, and how did it work in regards to Mad Men?

David said...

A Friday Q: WIth the Kid and the Hawk already in the Hall, do you think any other Expos will ever make it in? And do you think any others deserve to be in the Hall?

Austin Edwards said...

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?

soulstice said...

On the front of NBC Fail Season, can we find out what in the heck is up with Deception?
Why is NBC dragging it out until season's end without cutting the cord? Why are they making excellent actors deliver such clunky and unconvincing line readings? Who in the heck is this terrible show appealing to anyway?

Deception is mystifying me, not because of the show's actual mystery but as to how the show got as far as it did being so consistently terrible.

YS said...

Hi Ken,

You wrote that Comedy has to be played straight.

Does this apply to all comedy? To stand up comedy? Telling Knock Knock jokes? etc