Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Questions

Ah, the unofficial start of summer and higher gas and airline prices! Let’s get your holiday weekend started with some Friday Questions.

Mark is up first.

I read that they did write a script for Cleese to return to Cheers, but he turned it down. So the character was rewritten and recast with John McMartin for the episode "The Visiting Lecher" (McMartin's character is an old colleague of Frasier's, similar to Cleeses's).

No. Peter Graves was supposed to play that part but flaked out at the last moment – winning no friends among the CHEERS producers.

Joe asks:

Ken, there was a rumor going around for a while that the cast of “Friends” would reunite for a brand new season of the show, ten years after it had gone off the air. I could see this working maybe with monster hits like “Sienfeld” or “Friends”. Do you think something like that could ever really work, years after a highly successful show ended?

First off, it'll never happen with FRIENDS or FRASIER.  Not a chance.   Larry David pulled it off in a sense with the SEINFELD reunion as part of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM but even then they were playing themselves, not the characters.

But Jennifer Aniston is now a movie star, Courtney Cox has her own series, as does Matt LeBlanc. David Schwimmer is off doing theater, and Lisa Kudrow is always busy with some fun project or another. Matthew Perry’s latest series was just cancelled so he’s available, but I hope he winds up on THE GOOD WIFE instead.

There are several problems with resurrecting a series. It’s almost impossible to catch lightening in a bottle twice. The zeitgeist has moved on.

Another issue: will the series premise still hold up? Do you want to see those FRIENDS characters or SEINFELD characters still single, bouncing around aimlessly when they’re 50? Do you want to see Sam Malone chasing hot babes when he’s 60? It's no longer funny but sad.  And if you change the premise and everyone has grown up, moved on, had kids, etc. then it’s not the same show. And the new version is probably not as good.

One final thing: let’s be honest, like with your old high school sweetheart – sometimes it’s better to just hold onto the memory than see them today, if you know what I mean.

HOWEVER… if you bring a series back only a few years after it’s gone off the air it might have a chance. We’ll see this weekend with ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT premiering on Netflix, and next spring when 24 returns. But Kiefer Sutherland can still climb a fence. I don’t think you’d want to see Jack Bauer chasing bad guys when he’s eligible for AARP.

William Gallagher wants to know:

What do you think about stage directions in a script? From what I've read, you and David Isaacs often write quite sparsely but then you'll have a terrific line that the audience will never see.

I'm thinking most particularly of Frasier: Room Service where, having revealed Niles and Lilith in bed, your script says: "And if that's not an act break, we don't know what is."

David and I will do that from time to time just to reward people for actually reading our stage direction. Most people skip over it. So it’s a little incentive.

But yes, keep stage direction brief.  And thanks for noticing!

And finally, from John:

Ken, if I remember right, you said your favorite season of Cheers was Season 1 with the establishment and development of the characters. But since the show tends to be divided by fans into the pre- and post-Shelly Long years, do you have a favorite year among Seasons 6-11 for the Kirstie Alley episodes?

No. I have favorite episodes that are sprinkled throughout those years, and I think that some of our best episodes were written during that period, but no one season stands out for me.

And to answer your next question  -- there are those episodes from that era I consider our best –

“To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”
“The Big Kiss-Off”
“Rat Girl”
“Death Takes a Holiday on Ice”
"Loathe and Marriage"
"Finally Pt 1 & 2"
And the Bar Wars series.

What’s your question? Please submit in the comments section and drive carefully.


PolyWogg said...

Why do I think your answer would change to the re-launch 10 years later if someone suggested it for Almost Perfect?

I mean, after all, you went a whole week without mentioning it. :)


MrCarlson said...

death takes a holiday on ice? isn't that the one where they get rid of Eddie? I never liked it, basically because it completely assassinated his character by giving him a second wife, so that people wouldn't miss him. I get why it had to be done, that story has been told, but still...
I do love the big kiss off. the ending is great, with Sam and Woody kissing. isn't that the one where Al has his scene where he's not holding a glass, but acting like he is? priceless.

Bob said...

Well, wait a second. You say Friends wouldn't work now because it has been gone too long, but Arrested Development might because it has only been off "a few years."

Friends went off the air 9 years ago, AD went off the air 7 years ago. Not much of a difference.

Unknown said...

Matt LeBlanc's series "Episodes" (season 3) is scheduled for broadcast next year. As far as I know, no decision has been made yet for season 4.

MrCarlson said...

I also read somewhere this week that the new arrested development season was a nightmare to get together, in terms of cast availability, having to resort to lots of green screen where one side of a conversation was shot in March, and the other side with the other actor in November, and they just stringed it together like that. that same article also alerted viewers for some continuity mistakes in the scenes because of it. Of course it's probably not gonna be noticeable in the final product, but that's got to be an editor's nightmare, even more so if you're doing comedy.

Marty McKee said...

I don't know whether you'd like to elaborate on Peter Graves. My impression of him is that he was not comfortable doing comedy (the AIRPLANE filmmakers' stories about Graves not understanding that film's humor are interesting). I don't remember him ever doing a multi-camera show, so I can imagine he may have felt a little vulnerable and nervous about doing comedy before a live audience (though he had done plays as a young man).

Anonymous said...

You know, Star Trek the original series had some perfectly good stories told in an animated series not long after the original run ended. There's precedent. You could probably get some really good looking animation for relatively cheap these days, it doesn't have to look hokey or cartoony at all.

If you still have stories you want to tell about these characters - picking up where they left off, what-are-they-doing-now, anything in between - I'd think price and availability for voice acting would be a lot simpler. There's been a huge wave of animated series aimed at adults (well, nominal adults...). Just as in Japan, people in the states seem to have figured out that animation doesn't need to just be monsters, aliens and superheroes.

Greg said...

Hi Ken,

I was wondering if you met John Schwartzwelder when you were doing your Simpon's episodes, and if so what he was like?

I'm a huge fan of his episodes, and novels, and am intrigued by his apparent relcuisve nature.

Also do you think they ever considered making him showrunner?

unkystan said...

Sorry Ken if this is a stupid question, but..
I've noticed that when a character is writing something he (or she) is usually left handed. I don't know why I notice this or why it bothers me. My question is, is this my imagination?

GTO said...

"And if you change the premise and everyone has grown up, moved on, had kids, etc. then it’s not the same show. And the new version is probably not as good. "

For example, that awful thing Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper did a few years ago.

Curt Alliaume said...

Jack Bauer may not be climbing fences when he's eligible for AARP yet, but he's not far away - Kiefer Sutherland turns 47 later this year.

Tom Berg said...

I was at a casino recently and saw a "Cheers" slot machine. You getting anything from that?

Chris G said...

If you tally up all the presidential elections that took place during the run of 24, something like sixteen years elapse from the beginning of season 1 and the end of season 8...

With the Seinfeld mini-reunion on Curb, I wish they'd filmed an entire episode and then just quietly dropped it into the syndication rotation...

RCP said...

Marty McKee -

Graves appeared on an episode of "The Golden Girls" as well as the ill-fated "Life with Lucy" - He's done well in other roles, but you probably won't see Peter Graves and 'comedy chops' in the same sentence (aside from this one)

BigTed said...

Ted Danson chasing hot babes at 60 was actually pretty funny in the HBO series "Bored to Death."

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to revisit sitcom casts and characters long after their prime. I had a high school reunion last month and opted not to go, for that very reason. It's depressing that all the young girls you remember having crushes on are now grandmothers, and you have nothing in common with people who used to be your best buds. The SOBs emailed me photos of the people who did show up and ruined my week anyway.

PS - Sorry for being anonymous, but I gave them a BS excuse for not attending, so I don't want my name attached.

Ava said...

Hi Ken! Is this the right place to post Friday Questions? I've never done this before! I was wondering, what's your opinion on this season of Once Upon a Time? I loved your most recent Mad Men post (despite never having watched Mad Men ) and thought those flaws can sometimes apply to 'Once' too. Is there a certain point when a show gets so complicated that viewers just give up? How due you avoid that while still writing something engaging?

Greg said...


But when you're a huge fan of someone I guess ou don't need to get their name right...

John Trumbull said...

Ken, I'm really confused about your answer to the John Cleese question. Mainly because I asked you the same question back in 2010, and David Lee said that Cleese WAS supposed to return in "The Visiting Lecher":

So which is it? Was Cleese supposed to be in that episode or not?

Anonymous said...

Glad to see "Episodes" is comming back. It's by far the best comedy series on the air.....

sanford said...

I would hardly call Jennifer Anniston a movie star. While not her fault a majority of her movies have tanked. If she is a star what is Merle Streep or Helen Mirren?

Stephen Robinson said...

Thanks to Netflix, I just completed watching the entire run of CHEERS (great for the elliptical machine) and I've now moved on to FRASIER. I'm impressed by how quickly all the characters and concepts came together and how distinct it was -- right out of the gate -- from CHEERS while still feeling like a companion to it.

In an early episode, Martin goes on a date and the ending plays with the idea of Daphne and Frasier together (before we learn they were actually talking about doing laundry -- I'm not giving justice to the punchline, I know). Anyway, my FRIDAY QUESTION is this: Was there ever any consideration to pairing off Frasier with Daphne or Frasier with Roz? If not, could you tell us why that was ruled out? I'm glad neither happened, but it's interesting that Frasier remained single throughout the series.

Harold X said...

If [Jennifer Anistion]is a star what is Merle Streep or Helen Mirren?


Nelly Wilson said...

Aniston has been in a lot of movies that have made a lot of money with her name in big letters attracting attention, whether you like it or not that makes her some kind of movie star.

D. McEwan said...

"Do you think something like that could ever really work, years after a highly successful show ended?"

The revivals of Dallas and Doctor who, both coninuations not remakes, are doing very well indeed. Dallas was off for the air for 21 years (Not counting two TV movie continuations, one good, one lame), and it's been renewed for a third season even without Larry Hagman. Doctor who was off the air for 16 years, again excluding one EXTREMELY lame TV movie, and it's heading into its 8th new season, more popular than ever before.

MJEH said...

I've always felt sorry for Matthew Perry because "Chandler" was my favorite character on Friends. It's sad that his shows haven't worked out (3 attempted TV series), and I don't get how the others have fared so well (at least comparatively).

@StephenRobinson: Frasier and Roz "did it" on an ep of Frasier. Don't ask me which ep though, Ken will have to let you know, I can't remember. It was later in the series.

Speaking of Frasier, does Ken really think a Frasier reunion show wouldn't work out? Really? With Lilith still single, Frederick grown-up, and Daphne and Niles still married with David (their son) now grown, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Do you want to see those FRIENDS characters or SEINFELD characters still single, bouncing around aimlessly when they’re 50?"

Or think of the alternative. They all got married, their kids are almost out of the house, and most of them now define their existence by sitting in their underwear, compulsively blogging about successes they had ages ago to their enraptured groundlings.

That wouldn't be sad. That would be a tragedy.

Zirbert said...

Another example of why some series should remain gone and fondly remembered: The New WKRP, which was pretty much a train wreck.

Mike said...

How to do a Reunion Comedy:
The Likely Lads (UK, 64-66).
Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (UK, 73-74).
Same cast, same writers (Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais).
Likely Lads: Bob & Terry: two blue-collar young men, chasing beer, football & girls.
Whatever Happened:: Set 5 years later, Bob is settling into suburban white-collar married life, Terry returns from the army.
Specifically about the changes to the characters & their environment wrought by the intervening years, certainly Whatever Happened... was very successful and is still repeated on the BBC.

Storm said...

@D. McEwan: I'm actually hoping that when BBCA does their Doctor-a-month retrospective on the Eighth Doctor in August, they'll play "The Time War" (what else could they play?), because I've never seen it, so there's a lot about the entire Time War Thing that I'm not hip to. It seemed like it was pretty lame when I saw the ads for it at the time it first aired, which is why I didn't watch it then; I saw Paul McGann and said "Wait, who's THAT ponce? What happened to the Doctor that looked like Kolchak the Night Stalker?!"

I never got over losing the Fourth Doctor. When he became the Fifth, I heard about it from friends at a con, and I was all SORTS of put out about it, until someone said "Uh, you DO know that Longscarf Doctor is the FOURTH, and there were THREE before him?"

(whispers confidentially)I think John Hurt is either Doctor 8.5 (an incarnation between the Eighth and Ninth; he's wearing Nine's coat and Eight's waistcoat), or they just went ahead and re-cast the Ninth for the 50th anniversary because Christopher Eccleston is a butt.

I met the Sixth Doctor at Comic Con '09. He was sweet as pie, but smelly. I don't think he was adapting to the San Diego heat very well; he was schvitzing all over the place.

No one here cares but us, but as my late hippie Daddy used to say, "SCROOM!"

Cheers, thanks a lot,


sanford said...

Nelly her is Jennifer's rotten tomato page.

I was surprised to see how much Bruce Almighty made. And I was surprised to see she was a producer of the Departed. Marley and me made money but certainly not because of her. I don't think she is a terrible actress. She is probably way over paid as a movie actress, but being on a hit series helps.

DBA said...

sanford, I read an article a while back, doubt I could find it now, but it was about how profitable a movie star Aniston is. Even if her movies don't make a ton of money or aren't critically acclaimed, they tend to make more than they cost, apparently more so than many other high profile actors. She has fewer giant-budget box office bombs as well as fewer giant hits, but apparently, her movies tend to run in the black. So...I suppose to an extent it's a matter of opinion whether that qualifies or disqualifies her as a movie star.

VP81955 said...

Ken, in the old days of the studio system, places such as Paramount and MGM had rather palatial dressing rooms for their stars under contract. Those days are long since gone, of course, as all film stars are independent contractors -- but I'm wondering if such rooms now house stars on TV series, particularly those that have proven to be hits.

D. McEwan said...


I did see Doctor Who: The Movie,the 8th Doctor's one-and-only adventure. It has nothing at all to do with The Time War. It dealt with trying to prevent The Master (Played by a mis-cast Eric Roberts) from pulling shenanigans in San Francisco at the turn of the 2oth Century into the 21st Century.

The Time War was invented by Russell P. Davies when he revived the series. We never saw it except for what little we saw of it in The End of Time. But you were very, very right to suspect that the 8th Doctor's one show was lame. It was indeed, excruciatingly lame, and I have never watched it a second time, and I rewatch Doctor Who shows until they're practically memorized. That said, the 6th Doctor remains my least-favorite Doctor. I've always heard that Colin Baker is charming and entertaining in person, but I HATED his Doctor.

In any event, since there is only one 8th Doctor show, it will have to be the one they run in Augist, unless they don't have the rights to run it, in which case, they're screwed.

I'm waiting on figuring out which Doctor John Hurt is for when we learn more, come 11/23/13. He is not the 9th Doctor. I just wish I'd known Hurt was The Doctor when I met him, 19 years ago. That's the trouble with time travellers.

Eccleston is, indeed, a pain, and has said many impolite things about having been The Doctor, though the show's representatives never say anything about him that isn't respectful and nice. Apparently, he has a problem taking direction. But there were brief clips of him in The Name of the Doctor, so they are not going to pretend John Hurt is him. After all, "The Valyard" incarnation of The Doctor has never been dealt with (and never made sense). Maybe he's The Valyard.

Gad, the other commenters must think we're screwy little fanboys, and I'm 63. (Well, 63 come Wednesday.)

D. McEwan said...


Unless Chris Eccleston was not The 9th Doctor, but was the 10th Doctor, making David Tennant the 11th Doctor and Matt Smith the 12th Doctor. Since we didn't see The Time War, and we didn't see the regeneration into Eccleston, maybe McGann's 8th Doctor regenerated into John Hurt during "The Missing Years," and then it was Hurt who regenerated into Eccleston.

Mmmm. Possible.

Storm said...

HA! That's pretty much what I was trying to say earlier, but was entirely too high to articulate it correctly! My Vulcan husband thinks it's either that, or he's the Valyard.

Re: the Eighth Doctor Movie: Colour me embarrassed, because since I've never seen it, I'd been assuming that's where all the Time War stuff happened! Eric Roberts as The Master..? Sweet Mother of Bowie. (Who should be the next Master, BTW!)

I ADORE John Hurt, for as long as I can remember. I'll always love him for both of his Quentin Crisp biopics, if nothing else. Once again, you're a lucky ducky, ducks; I'd love to hear That Voice in person!

Cheers, and happiest of birthdays to you, darling; you give me hope that I can grow older without growing old.


D. McEwan said...

Thanks, Storm.

Mike said...

Under the show's timeline, Jack Bauer would have to be at least 60 years old in Season 8.
Just think of how many presidents they've had, plus he would be in his 40s to be head of CTU at the beginning.

The Mischievous Mister Mouse said...

Having a bit of extra free time this year, I planned to watch all the episodes of Cheers (I’m almost through but season ten is a little bit more work than the first season). While looking for more background, I came across your wonderful and informative blog. I’m working my way from the very beginning and I’m right up to... this post! I’m very much looking forward to reaching the present. Although, looking at the last few years, maybe I should stay in 2013

Isn’t it strange how things have changed in the last 8 years, that we’re getting a Friends reunion *and* a new Frasier series

As a television loving little queer kid, Cheers was the first sitcom I remember watching. And boy did I watch an awful lot of M*A*S*H (back-to-back episodes, over-the-air, at 1am weeknights). So I imagine you’ve had an bit of an impact on my (at the time) still-growing brain!
Thank you for the writing, the television, and the blogging!

–Robert M. Nelson, Detroit