Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Questions

Even rehearsals for my play won’t keep me from answering Friday Questions. What’s yours?

Snoskred asks:

Did you ever listen to the official podcasts for Breaking Bad? Do people in the industry see these kinds of things as ways to engage fans, or as an annoyance?

Would you consider doing a similar podcast for a show you are involved in, even if it meant you had to organize it?

I personally don’t listen to any show podcasts, but if I had a show I would absolutely create a podcast. I would use every social media outlet I could to generate more fan interest in my show. Podcasts, live Tweeting, Facebook groups, Instagram, you name it. This is a resource showrunners never had before. We were always at the mercy of the network and studio to publicize our show. We’d live and die based on the number of promos we got and in which shows they were placed.

Now showrunners have other channels to reach their fans directly. I think you’re an idiot if you don’t take advantage.

That said, I would stop short though of naked pictures of my stars on the iCloud.

Mark B wants to know:

Is there a show you didn't like in the beginning but warned up to it and now think it's a great sitcom?

Avery queries:

You say that The Cosby Show hasn't aged well and I agree. And it seems shows that were shot on tape as opposed to film don't age as well in general. The first season of Newhart was shot on tape and to me it just stands out like a sore thumb. Would you agree?

Absolutely. Taped shows always looked cheap to me. Filmed shows looked rich and were way more pleasing to the eye. Whenever my partner and I had a series we always insisted it be on film. That was non-negotiable.

And at the time we weren’t even thinking about the preservation issue. Videotape does suffer over the years we have since learned. Is there a process that will restore taped shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s to their original sharper-but-still-cheesy-looking selves? That I don’t know. I also don’t know if it’s worth it.

Stoney is up next.

This question is for Beaver Cleaver, the D.J.: Do you agree with Gene Simmons that rock is dead?

Yeah, like KISS kept it alive.

No. Simmons is confusing death with music that just isn’t meant to speak to him. Each generation creates music that is relevant to that generation. The fact that Gene Simmons is not feeling the same emotions or dealing with the same issues as today’s teenager doesn’t mean the current music is any worse than when he was giving the world classics like “Love Gun” and “Christine Sixteen.”

Another "that said" -- I like Gene Simmons.  I find him amusing.  He's a showman and sure knows how to self promote. 

And finally, from Chris:

As far as I know, there's no high definition transfer of M*A*S*H* yet. What did you guys edit the show on, was it film or tape? If it's film, it should be fairly easy to just scan it and re-master. With tape, it's more complicated and we might never see it in HD.

We did it the old fashioned way, editing on film. Stan Tischler was our editor and we’d troop up to his office to watch something on the old moviologa with a screen the size of your iPhone. Meanwhile, there were little strips of film (like confetti) attached to hooks all over the place. The film was edited and a master was then cut from the negative.

Whether a HD transfer is in the works, I have no idea.  I hope so, though.  That would be cool.


Jim S said...

Friday question Ken.

I was watching on DVD the "Breaking Bad" episode where veteran actor Robert Forester "disappears" Walter White. In the director's commentary, the editor comments that Forester always took groceries out of a bag the same way, which made cutting and matching the scene a dream.

Forester commented that he was taught to do that in the old days because having that kind of simple craftsmanship helped get jobs.

Question: Do today's actors, who didn't go through the old Hollywood Machine, lack some of the basic skills. In the old days, when westerns were popular, actors were expected to know how to ride. They might take tapdancing because, hey musicals. Has that basic nuts and bolts technique stuff been lost?

rockGolf said...

You were right not to like Parks & Rec at the beginning. That first season just did not work. I don't know what happened to change it around, but as it moved from The Office territory to Green Acres territory (likeable lead with huge array of eccentric support characters) it's become one of my favorite sitcoms too.

Scooter Schechtman said...

I may be remembering it wrong, but it seems the "George Carlin Show" from the early 90s was hilarious to me first season on film, and rotten the second season on tape. I looked up the program on Dr Wiki and it didn't mention this sort-of issue, only that Carlin hated the show because he couldn't stand Sam Simon.

MikeK.Pa. said...

If rock is truly dead, as Gene Simmons attests, he has a coffin - among the hundreds of other KISS kitsch - he'd be happy to sell you.

Jimmy said...

I've always heard that Norman Lear was responsible for creating the trend of sitcoms being produced on tape. That Lear preferred tape because it gave the look of live television, which he thought worked better for his shows. Basically, that ALL IN THE FAMILY would have been less effective had it been shot on film and looked slicker and more polished.

Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

I'm in the minority, but I've loved Parks & Rec from the beginning. I guess I was more forgiving because I was so hoping that -- because I loved the cast so very much -- it would become what it had the potential to be. And it has. So happy!

As far as podcasts, if any of the shows I watch have "official" podcasts, I subscribe to them. I love hearing from the showrunners, writers and castmembers. I even follow set decorators, propmasters, etc., for my favorite shows on Twitter. It's such a wonderful way to learn more about the shows we love, to feel more a part of things than we've ever been able to before. There are a lot of things to hate about the rise of social media, but none of these things are among them.

Bobby said...

Re: MASH in high def. A lot of studios were watching to see how CBS/Paramount did with their blu-ray releases of THE HONEYMOONERS, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, and I LOVE LUCY to gauge whether or not there's enough interest in older TV shows in high-def formats to make it worth the expense of producing new transfers.

James said...

"I would stop short though of naked pictures of my stars on the iCloud."

Not even Frances Sternhagen?!

Jeff C in DC said...

No such thing as film OR tape anymore, so it's a largely design decision now. It's all file-based video that gets processed during shooting and postproduction...and even later, to look whatever way you want. I have a friend who prefers to config his home television to make feature films look like video. Very sad.

H Johnson said...

I agree on the film vs. tape query. Was that what happened to Happy Days after the first season? It went from movie-like to cheesy.


Terrence Moss said...

I like that shows such as "All in the Family" and "The Cosby Show" look of their era. Tape versus film are irrelevant to me as long as I'm enjoying the show. Hell, I even like the old kinescopes.

Unknown said...

Robert "Forster" not Robert Forester.

I'm sure he hates that particular mistake, like Fredric Brown's eternal battle with proofreaders and typesetters correcting his name.

sanford said...

I don't think Simmons meant the music of today is bad. People ask him all the time on his twitter feed about groups. He seem to like a lot of groups and people I have never heard of. I think he was talking from a money standpoint. If you haven't read the interview with his son, it is on the Esquire site. You might have to google it as it was on the site about a week ago.

jbryant said...

What Terrence Moss said. If a shot-on-tape show has solid writing and acting, we might wish it also had a rich filmic look, but it would still be a good show. Likewise, crap is crap, regardless of format.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Would Three's Company be any funnier if it had been shot on film?

VP81955 said...

Robert "Forster," not Robert Forester.

I'm sure he hates that particular mistake, like Fredric Brown's eternal battle with proofreaders and typesetters correcting his name.

Fredric March concurs.

Belle said...

Another Friday question for you: Is all the extra footage from old shows (possible blooper reels, deleted scenes etc.) doomed to never see the light of day because studios don't believe they'll make enough money?

It's likely that they wouldn't make much, I know, but it seems such a shame to waste it all.

Snoskred said...

Thanks for answering my question Ken! ;) I'm assuming that if and when you are on a podcast, you'll put a link to that here?

I'm re-watching Breaking Bad and blogging about it - click on my name for the link if you want to join in. It is two episodes a week which is a fairly sedate pace, and this allows people to listen to podcasts or commentary tracks and get full coverage of each episode - binge watching can mean you miss out on that. :)

Once the official podcasts start in Season 2, I will be posting links to the MP3 files for the non-apple people. :) - said files can be somewhat difficult to find but I saved links to them all way back when.

Mike said...

Parks & Recreation
No, completely disagree, quite possibly for the same reasons.
Pilot episode was excellent. Lead character - single-minded in her idealism and completely useless. (Essentially The Brittas Empire (UK, 91-97), but being American adds that extra dimension to the blind optimism.) Eg: the community meeting - a thankless job in which she's assaulted by the overwhelming stupidity of the community. Her staff despise her and undermine her. A colleague survives the misery of public-sector employment (not defined) through ? (not defined). Her public-sector manager is fundamentally opposed to the concept of the public-sector & the state. But a common fight against adversity will unite this motley crue - building a park over an eyesore. And the programme's highlight - the gratuitously offensive historical paintings showing the pioneers' victory over the natives. If the attitude in these paintings can be transposed to represent the entire town... After decades of bland, an American programme worth watching. And what happens?
The rest of the first series wanders without direction, then disaster - the lead character becomes capable and her staff become supportive. A new fall-guy Jerry is introduced to spare the lead. The unpleasant colleague Tom is now shown as a victim. The manager Ron is a nice guy after all. So new villains have to be introduced to cut the budget and lay-off staff. Then Chris & Ben are nice guys after all. Finally the programme centres around that most tedious of staples: the office romance, twice. The eyesore park is forgotten. No more historical paintings. The sausage factory is in full production.
Similar for Better Off Ted.

Norm said...

It is surprising to me that with all the technology out there, reruns of shows originally done on VIDEO TAPE look as bad as they do - generally, washed out. Why VIDEO TAPE restoration doesn't hold weight with FILM restoration is puzzling.

The one show that stands up and was done on VIDEO is ALL IN THE FAMILY. The show is so strong - characters, actors, writing, etc., it could have been carved in stone on the walls of a cave and you'd love it.

To a point (and with some exceptions), tape, film, vinyl, CD, it doesn't matter how you captured it! If the show "has it," you will stick with it and enjoy it forever!

It is great that, in most instances, "stations" (cable/broadcast and DVD's) went back to the original 35mm masters for syndication/DVD releases.

And YES: shows are still shot on FILM or VIDEO, albeit they are replayed and stored DIGITALLY. And you can tell the difference. There are some shows shot on video and "made to look" like a film!

Norm said...

Bonus comment: I've seen those 1/2-hour commercials for THE DEAN MARTIN ROAST/VARIETY HOUR and CAROL BURNETT SHOW packages and the video looked as GREAT as it did when it first aired decades ago, so some VIDEO restoration/clean-up exists, unless they have masters that have been preserved to perfection.

Ron P said...

Have you ever considered changing the pronunciation of your last name from Le-Vine to Le-Veen ?

Kevin said...

Friday question...Why are more shows from the 50s through the 70s not available to stream? I understand not every show is going to be available but it seems like once you get past the 80s the selection of shows to stream becomes very limited. Is there any reason for this?