Friday, January 25, 2013

Will somebody wake up Jane Fonda?

Here are some Friday Questions for your weekend pleasure:

Chris leads off:

Do you get more royalties if you used to be the showrunner of a series or do you get them just for episodes you've written and characters you've created?

You just get them for episodes you’ve written. Showrunners frequently rewrite every draft and most don’t take the script to arbitration to try to get their name attached. They believe that rewriting is just part of the job and why they’re getting a big salary to begin with.

However, some showrunners do like to stick their names on every script. And there are writers in town who won’t work with them because of it.

In all the years my partner and I have been showrunners or head writers we only took one script to arbitration to get our names included. And we won the arbitration. The writer, a freelancer, came back with an outline that was wildly different from the story we sent him out with. As in "What the fuck did you do that for?"  We respectfully told him to go back to the original story we had given him and write a first draft from that. Weeks and weeks went by. No draft. Finally, we called his agent and said if it’s not on our desk on Monday morning we were pulling the assignment. The script arrived that Monday and again, he had strayed way off the mark. I have no idea why he felt the need to do that. We told the agent we were very disappointed in both his attitude and the work. Two days later the writer delivered yet a second draft. And again, it was nowhere near the story we approved. At that point we just threw out all of his drafts, David and I wrote the entire script… from the outline we had given him, and decided to take it to arbitration because it pissed us off that he’d be getting full royalties from a script he had nothing at all to do with.

Meanwhile, we rewrote hundreds of others scripts and always gave the original writer full credit. Some of my best jokes are credited to other writers. 

John T asks:

I would like to get a copy of a script for a spec I am writing. Who exactly should I contact to accomplish this?

If you’re in LA, there are bookstores in Hollywood that often sell TV scripts. You can also go to the Writers Guild Library or the libraries at UCLA and USC. You won’t be able to take them home but you can see and read them.

Don’t live in LA? You may find scripts online for the show you want to spec. Or you may contact the show and ask for a script. Sometimes they’ll accommodate you. Check eBay. You might get lucky.

But however you do it; it’s worth the time and effort to do it right and submit your spec in their template.

Jim S has a question regarding my post about celebrities going to Lakers games to be seen.

Are there celebrities who just attend events because they like the sport. It is my understanding that the Canadian colony in Hollywood show up to Kings games. Tom Selleck seems to genuinely enjoy baseball.

Sure. And I have no problem with them. Billy Crystal has been going to every Clippers game for years. He’s a true fan. It’s the celebs who only show up at playoff games or opening day or to be seen by other celebs that pisses me off.

Remember when Jane Fonda was married to Ted Turner who owned the Atlanta Braves? Jane would only show up during playoff games and several times the camera caught her in stands sleeping. Well, that’s a seat some real Braves fan couldn’t get. Same with Fox sitcom stars they trot out to be seen at World Series games to promote their shows. Give the real team rooters a chance!

And among those rooters are Jack Nicolson who is at every Lakers game. And I used to see Larry King, Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Jane Seymour and other celebrities all the time at Dodger games – even when they played the Pirates in July and it was 100 degrees. More power to those stars.

Interestingly, when Sandy Koufax goes to a Dodger game (which is rare because he lives in Florida) he never sits in the press box or a luxury suite. He always prefers to just sit in the stands with the fans. And when he wants a hot dog and a beer he stands in the concession lines just like everybody else. As if I didn’t love him before.

From sedatedtabloidreader:

I am living in the UK. Is it worth me submitting a spec script, or will I be rejected due to geography?

It’s worth submitting a spec script if you assure the producer that you’re willing to fly to Los Angeles at a moment’s notice if he wants to see you.

And finally, from Todd:

Just this morning I watched an episode of Frasier you directed called, "Roz and the Shnoz." It's heavy on farce, (people with giant noses), but it's fantastic. Any memories of directing that episode?

I did a post on this very topic. You can find it here.

As always, thanks for your questions. Leave yours in the comments section.


Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Looking at that photo, it reminded me of a question:

You were always credited ahead of David Isaacs in any writing credit.

A lot of writing teams seem to do the same, keeping the same order and never the other way around (Jay Kogen & Wally Wolodarsky; Andrew Reich & Ted Cohen; Brian Pollack & Mert Rich). But there are others who can switch names every now and then.

How do they decide who's first in the credits or not?

timmy said...

Is your daughter trying to go the write for tv route or write for features? Also when the Hell are you and David doing another show together? said...

Hello There,

My name is Michelle and I'm a professional blogger.

I have over three years of experience writing for the web and have covered plenty of topics about Technology.

I noticed that you have a blog and was wondering if you would be interested in allow me to write relevant, useful topics about Technology related on your blog at no cost.

At this point in my writing career, I simply want to get more visibility for your writing and I will write for free as long as you are okay with me adding a small author bio section next to each blog post about myself.

Please let me know if you're interested and if you'd like for me to submit a sample blog post for your approval.

Thanks a bunch,


Justin Hyde said...

Saw an old clip of Kirstie Alley hosting SNL with the rest of the "Cheers" crew popping up in the monologue, and it made me wonder: How much writing work do show writers do for their stars when they go on talk shows or other off-duty appearances?

gottacook said...

David is not always named second. See the Mannequin 2 writing credit at

PolyWogg said...

Hmmm, let's play "Anticipate Ken's response"...He receives a comment from a professional blogger with three years experience who doesn't know the difference between sending something to the author of the blog they're reading and putting something in the public comments, offering to write relevant posts on technology on a site that has nothing to do with technology?

I'd pass on that great opportunity...or send some sheep to their office.


iain said...

When he was with the Great Lakes Theater Festivial, Tom Hanks could be found watching Indians games at old Municipal Stadium (along with 2 or 300 other people).

Now that's a fan!

PolyWogg said...

New attempt at a Friday question:

Shawn Ryan is being interviewed on the demise of Last Resort and the approval of next year's "Bev Hills Cop" pilot. One of his comments is "It's not a laughs come first show...[Like the movie], a lot of the comedy is played in two shots without a lot of cutting. They just let it play. They don't use the cutting to accentuate the humor, which a lot of modern-day comedy does. It just played."

If you're a network who just approved something "comedic", doesn't a quote saying laughs don't come first scare the beejeesus out of you?


Billy said...

I wish I could click "Like" on PolyWogg's comment.

John said...

There's a version of the Lakers-Dodgers phenomenon in Los Angeles back east in Washington -- when the Expos moved to D.C. eight years ago and the newly-christened Nationals had a better-than-expected inaugural season, the political people turned out in droves for field-side seats at RFK Stadium to cheer them on. After they cratered the following year and spent the rest of the decade lost in the wilderness, not-so-much, since the Nats were more like the Clippers than the Lakers.

Washington has a few Billy Crystals when it comes to backing their team no matter what, but they're few and far between. However, following this past season's trip to the playoffs (the first for a Washington baseball team since 1933) it will be interesting to see how many of the front-runners are back out in force behind home plate or near the home dugout for 2013.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I gotta say it...

As you are to comedy writing
Sandy Koufax is to baseball.

Your magnanimity at not complaining when others take credit for your jokes means to me you understand the the process of the profession...

And Koufax standing in line for a hot dog and beer after sitting with the fans means to me he understands the baseball experience.

Jane sleeping in the stands, well, too bad. But she's still hot, so who cares?

Mike Schryver said...

"Well, that’s a seat some real Braves fan couldn’t get."

I was going along with you up to the phrase "real Braves fan".

Paul Duca said...

Exactly, Barefoot Billy...two Famous Jewish Sports Legends.

Ken, an inquiry more than a pure question. During your time on M*A*S*H, how well did you get to know Gene Reynolds? I realize he was focusing on LOU GRANT during your time there, but were you a young man, he was an MGM contract player and appeared in, among other things, four ANDY HARDY films. My friend who told me this frankly admired how very good-looking Gene was. But I sense he didn't have the certain something that, combined with appearance, could have taken him far...or at least grab people's attention away from Mickey Rooney.

Barbara C. said...

In Jane's defense, I've sat through many a sporting event that I really did not wish to attend in the name of marital harmony. :-)

Murray said...

@PolyWog: not that I'm defending Michelle's clumsy "job application", but there is no other way I can determine to contact Ken. A couple of months ago I had a question/comment about Hawaii I reckoned no one in the Comments section would give two burps about, but I could not find any means to send a private message. Just a small FYI.

Wayne said...

I just had to wait 45 minutes to pick up a prescription for my wife. Thank God I had a Kindle with me loaded with Ken Levine's ME GENERATION... BY ME.

Cap'n Bob said...

I'd rather seen Jane Fonda put to sleep permanently.

When I read the words "professional blogger," I thought, "What a perfect oxymoron."

Hank Gillette said...

So, if Jane Fonda had not gone to those Braves games, a "real Braves fan" would have gotten to sit in the owner's box?

Lionel said...

Friday Question: I live in Boston, Massachusetts and I'm saving up to move to L.A to chase my dream as a sitcom writer. What could I do in the mean time to help my career (send queries to agents? etc)?

Anonymous said...

Friday Question: How do actors playing the butt of jokes, either frequently or always, handle this over time? I'm thinking about actors like John Ratzenberger in "Cheers", or Bob Clendenin in "Cougar Town", or even Tom McGowan who played Kenny on "Frasier". It seems to me that a lot of their roles as foils in the show capitalized on some of their innate characteristics as humans and it could possibly be a little difficult to always have that role in a scene or production year after year.

Jahn Ghalt said...

If you haven't already, you may like reading Jane Leavy's Koufax Bio: