Friday, January 18, 2013

The Friday Questions Where Lilith Comes Back

Warming you up with some Friday Questions:

Phil Nichols from the UK begins with a FRASIER query:

Today they showed your first season episode with Lilith ("The Show Where Lilith Comes Back"). I gather this was from mid-season - and yet the episode established all of the regular characters so well that it could almost be mistaken for a pilot. My question: was that episode was intended as some kind of mid-season re-start for the show?

No. If I can remember correctly, that episode was held back until the beginning of February to take advantage of Sweeps. Lilith was considered “stunt casting.” Similarly, a couple of seasons later we wrote the FRASIER where Sam came back and that too was slotted for February Sweeps.  I'd stop short of saying they were two "very special episodes" but it was nice to be the guys they called to write high profile episodes.

From Stephen:

When a show gets a pick-up straight away (like Michael J. Fox's new show), is the pilot still shot at the same time of year as all other pilots or are they able to wait until July/August and shoot when any returning series would shoot its first episode?

It depends on many factors. Does the network insist on seeing the pilot early in case they want to make some changes? How soon do they need the show? It’s much cheaper to not do a pilot then shut down for several months before resuming production.

Other variables: Is the star of the series committed to something else and won’t be available until mid summer? In that case there would be no time for a separate pilot.

When is the best pilot director available? It might be worth it to shoot the pilot early if you can get a Jim Burrows to direct it.

By the way, these are all problems as a showrunner that I would love to have (since it means I'm on the air). 

From Michael:

I recently watched the hilarious one hour Cheers Woody and Kelly wedding episode and was wondering for special extra-long episodes, is the filming broken up across 2 weeks or is done on normal 1-week schedule?

Generally, on CHEERS, hour episodes were filmed in one night. This was only possible because director Jimmy Burrows was so fast and so good. The director sets the pace and Jimmy was able to keep things moving while still getting the best performances from the actors. It never felt rushed.

With the exception of the long final scene, the entire final episode of CHEERS was filmed in one night. I remember that distinctly because I did the warm up.

David and I wrote two two-parters. “Never Love a Goalie” (where we introduced Eddie LeBec) that was filmed all in one night. And the other was “Finally” (Rebecca finally sleeps with Robin Colcord). That was not all filmed in one night. For reasons I forget, part one was filmed and then the show went on a one-week hiatus. During that week we wrote part two.

And finally, from Fred:

I'm curious about your reader/commenter ratio. A friend of mine has a blog that gets about one comment for every four blog entries. Are comments like cockroaches? For every one you see are there 1000 behind the walls?

The percentage of comments to readers is very small. I can’t place an exact number on it because the traffic changes daily as do the number of comments.

You can’t judge the popularity of a blog or even a specific post based on the number of comments. Some posts will naturally lead to a lot of comments, like when I ask you guys a question or say something nice about Patty Heaton. But I don’t expect a lot of comments when I share travelogues.

Meanwhile, I love getting comments. They are often more entertaining and enlightening than the posts themselves. My only rule: leave a name. Don’t be anonymous.

The same ratio of ratings vs. participants holds true in talk radio. You can’t judge your success by the number of calls you receive. Take, for example, Phil Hendrie. For years he’s been doing a talk show where every guest has an outrageous position that enrages the audience. His phones light up with irate listeners ready to challenge these insane guests. But it’s all a put-on. There are no guests. It’s just Hendrie putting on another voice. Now you’d think that after awhile the audience would catch on. But nope. There are enough new listeners (or dumb listeners) that he’s been able to continue this charade for probably fifteen years. His total audience is large, which suggests that most of his listeners do get the joke. They know not to call but just enjoy the idiots.

What's your question?   Or comment? 


Foo Fighter Pete said...

Hi Ken,

Long time listener, first time caller!

My Friday Question is whether you've ever known such a thing as good network notes when writing for TV, as far as the quality of the script is concerned.

And are suggestions from execs on how to fix a perceived issue a good thing, or more trouble than they're worth?

Apologies if you've addressed this in the past, please ignore me.

benson said...

To quote Jackson Browne, I'm going to be a happy idiot working for the legal tender.

And the above poster Pete reminded of something my son once said about Dave Grohl's band,"why do they call it foo, and why are we fighting for it?"

Good Weekend one and all. #hockeyisback

Charlie O'Brien said...

I wasn't going to post, but now feel compelled to say something.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'd HATE to have a situation such as the 'Finally' episode. You have something in Part 1, it's on film, so when you write Part 2, you're hamstrung in creating a reasonable conclusion.

chuckcd said...

Just here to help the ratio...

Mac said...

God, that ep where Niles ends up in bed with Lilith is so funny. Lilith was an aloof, imperious, over-analytical ice queen, which made it all the more baffling as to why she was so damn sexy. And of course it had to be Niles - as if he wasn't neurotic enough. Time to haul out the box set, I think...

Michael said...

Ken, thanks for answering my question. I have a follow-up question regarding pay. Are the crew, actors, and/or writers paid extra for the extra work involved in shooting longer episodes in a single week?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Back in the CompuServe days, it was estimated that lurkers:posters averaged at about 10:1. (And perhaps 10% of the 10% who posted were responsible for 90% of the posts...)
If anything, the numbers have gotten worse since the Internet has become more mainstream.


Max Clarke said...

"Congratulations, Frasier, you've done it again."

One of the top lines of all the Cheers and Frasier episodes, and there were many.

MY FRIDAY QUESTION: Ken, what are your plans for the year? When do you return to covering baseball games? Do you have anything in the works, such as another book?

fred said...

Friday Question;
Work really has wrecked havoc with prime time tv watching.So my recollection is fuzzy to say the least. But I have researched DHARMA&GREG and according to internet info I've found, the demise of that show was brought on by FRASIER. Who chased "Dharma" to different slots/nights. I'm thinking if anyone knows for sure what happened to "DHARMA"it would be you..

i could be a bob said...

The M's hired Aaron Goldsmith - his twitter says he's "the new #2 for Seattle." What does this mean for you?

gjs said...

For me, read everything. Comment infrequently.

Thanks for the blog.

Michael Stoffel said...

Comment ratio bumper, c'est moi!

Unknown said...

I was going to leave a comment until I read it might be like a cockroach.

cjdahl60 said...

It was announced yesterday here in Seattle that the Mariners have named the new permanent partner for Rick Rizzs on the play-by-play team and unfortunately, it was not you.

Local media says that out of hundreds of applicants there were four finalists. Did you apply for the position?

LouOCNY said...

Friday Question, Ken:

Outside of shows you have worked on, what do you season of a sitcom do you think is the best you have seen? I ask that because I am currently going through the third season (actually 2.5) of Barney Miller, and its reminding me just how great a season that was for that show - every episode - most written or co-written by either Tony Sheehan or Weege - crackles with funny stories, acting and dialogue. The 'worst' ones are funny, but the best are almost breathtaking hysterical, even after God knows how many times I have seen them.

Best episode: "Hash" - mooshy mooshy!

txutxi said...

Read every day, comment once a month? once every two months?

And since I'm commenting, I'm hoping you do the sitcom room this year, 'cause I think I could actually come!

Jason Roberts said...


Are you still writing for TV? Do you still have an agent that represents you for that? I guess my question is about ageism. Is it harder for you now to find work as a writer on sitcoms? Either creating your own or being a hired gun. Are you even trying? I would imagine that most of the showrunners and writers weren't even out of grade school when you were doing it. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. As a follow up I would like to know if you feel that because of your age do you feel that you don't have your finger on the pulse in today's comedy? NBC excluded of course since they don't have any pulse on any comedy.
Thanks for a thoughtful answer.

Annie said...

I've got a question:

My favorite episode of Cheers is Showdown, where Sam and Diane first get together. My question is why wasn't Sam's brother shown? And more generally, when creating a show, how do you decide that a character will never be seen, like Vera or Maris? Were there attempts to find actresses to play them for a few episodes, or were they written as unseen characters right from the start?


ChicagoJohn said...

Friday question:
Not too long ago, I was writing a sketch show. It had a running gag involving a talking stuffed bear. I was in no rush to finish it when the movie TED came out. Although there wasn't a parallel to my gag beyond the talking bear, I didn't want to be accused of poaching another writer's idea.
It made me wonder: Have you ever been working on a script only to find that someone has put up a very similar idea on another television show? What do you do? Do you hold onto the script until time passes (since all gags eventually come around)?

Anonymous said...

Friday Question for you: what does it mean when a show is said to be 'a vehicle for (insert name of actor/actress)' as was the case with Howard Hessman and Head of the Class? Is it meant to position the actor for bigger things ie leading roles in movies? I mention Hessman because while he's worked steadily since Class it's been mostly in guest star roles.

Zach said...

Phil Hendrie is on twitter.