Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Questions

Are you ready for ‘em? Here are this week’s Friday Questions.

The first one comes from an anonymous source. PLEASE leave a name.

Is there any chance for passed-over pilots to be resurrected/resubmitted by some set of circumstances, or are they just dead forever, despite the fact that passing on them might have been a big mistake, and different current management might take a different view?

UNDER ANDREA, the pilot David Isaacs and I wrote that is now being staged every Monday at the Whitefire Theatre as part of DEAD PILOTS SOCIETY – three very funny passed over pilots  (get your tickets now), was picked up by NBC several years after Fox passed. It does happen… but rarely.

However, let’s say you have a drawer full of unsold pilots (like all writers do) and something you do takes off and becomes a monster hit. All of a sudden, everybody is clamoring to do those unsold pilots. CBS recently revived an old Vince Gilligan pilot, BATTLE CREEK after the enormous success of BREAKING BAD.

Who knows? Maybe someone will want to revive UNDER ANDREA.  David and I would become the envy of every television writer in America -- getting paid three times for the same project. 

YEKIMI asks:

I was watching some M*A*S*H* outtakes and noticed that when an actor fouled up his lines that Harry Morgan [in scenes he was a part of] popped off with that actor's line. So was he one of those actors that memorized the whole script? Is it easier for actors to memorize the whole thing or just their parts?

Harry had an amazing ability to just scan a page and memorize it. I’m not surprised he knew everyone’s lines.

The best at it I’ve ever encountered was Tony Randall (Felix from THE ODD COUPLE). He always had the entire script memorized. He also on occasion would correct some of his fellow actors if they didn’t say a line exactly as written, which you can imagine endeared him tremendously to the rest of the cast.

From Big3Fan:

At the end of season 6 of Frasier (Episode 6.23 - Shutout In Seattle) The three men drown their sorrows at a little bar after each being unlucky in love. It almost seemed as if they were setting up the bar to be the new regular spot, the new cafe nervosa. Was there ever a plan for that little bar that did not come to fruition?

No. The FRASIER series took great pains in trying to go their own way. Establishing a regular bar would cross too closely into CHEERS country.

Dan wonders:

We've seen single-camera comedies do live episodes (30 Rock) or multi-camera shows (Scrubs), but has a multi-camera show every tried the single-camera format? If not, do you think it would work?

I'm sure there are several examples but one I recall is an episode of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND.  Ray's family travels to Italy and I believe the entire show was filmed single camera.  If you know of other examples bring 'em on.  Thanks.

Multi-camera shows routinely will go outside and film multiple scenes outside single camera style. When I was directing DHARMA & GREG we went up to San Francisco and filmed a big crowd scene at Ghirardelli Square. I’ve shot horseback riding scenes at Griffith Park, car chases, numerous scenes on the Paramount, 20th, and Radford New York streets. I always love it. Thirty guys I don’t know named “Dave” all buzzing about with walkie-talkies. Scaffolding. Snow machines. I feel like a real director!

Worth mentioning is that a number of sitcoms started off as single camera but switched to multi-camera. HAPPY DAYS and THE ODD COUPLE are two that spring to mind. And both shows benefited greatly from the switch.

Wayne weighs in:

Do you think one day kids will look back at their classic TV comedy and say "You know they just don't make shows like GIRLS any more.

Remember the episode where that anchorman's daughter got her butt licked between the cheeks? Shows today are just crap. Pure crap!"

Absolutely there will be nostalgia. If those were the shows you grew up with you will remember them with affection. Quality is not really a factor. How sparkling was the quality of THE BRADY BUNCH or SAVED BY THE BELL?

You may look back and wonder what exactly you found funny at the time, but there’s a certain comfort that will always be attached to the shows you loved in your youth. Hey, I still like THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN.

What's your Friday Question?


Norm! said...


Or as I like to call it, The Adventures of Tubby Superman. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's some dude with a beer belly!

Dan Ball said...

One thing that nostalgia's had a hard time keeping alive for me is KNIGHT RIDER. As a kid, I swore by it. As a grownup, nostalgia just doesn't work. AIRWOLF isn't too bad, though. Of course, STAR TREK will never sour before my eyes.

Oat Willie said...

Ghirardelli Square? Where the snack food comes from?
Harry Morgan may have had a good memory but it might not have been used in "Dragnet", when he and Jack Web recited long anti-drug sermons off cue cards.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I remember all the 90s ABC sitcoms going from multicamera to single for their trips to (parent company) Disney land/world.
Full House
Boy Meets World
Family Matters

I'm sure there were more.
These episodes didn't work well mostly because they were just big product placement episodes.

The Everybody Loves Raymond seemed to work better and they would also use the storyline in several other multicamera episodes later on.
Raymond's exec prod said they went to italy because he wanted with his family to go there and CBS surpringly said yes.

TBaugh said...

I was the anonymous; sorry about that. No intent to hide, just lazy. Thanks for answering despite the anonymous!

Ben Scripps said...

"WKRP in Cincinnati" once did an episode in which Herb Tarlek's family was featured on a pseudo-reality show called "Real Families". That was shot single-camera, both in and out of the studio. (Some of the in-studio shots go a little too far and you end up seeing set edges and backdrops...)

thirteen said...

A contrary (and well-known) example: Newhart started its life as multi-camera on tape, but in its second season it transitioned to single-camera on film, and the benefits were obvious.

Also wanted to say that I will never love a show as much as I loved Adventures of Superman when I was six. Norm! up there with his "adventures of Tubby Superman" -- feh on him. Feh. I'll bet he is a robot.

scott o. said...

"Worth mentioning is that a number of sitcoms started off as single camera but switched to multi-camera. HAPPY DAYS and THE ODD COUPLE are two that spring to mind. And both shows benefited greatly from the switch."

Well, I know HAPPY DAYS became more popular after the switch (Fonzie became the central character and the studio audience went wild!), but I still believe the first two seasons of single camera shows were superior.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

My God, I hope Wayne's question was sarcasm.

Les said...

Herb Tarlek is a hard worker, a loyal husband, and all around fine person. God I loved WKRP in Cincinnati. At its best it is up there with Taxi and Cheers... just too short lived.
Little known fact: After 'Real Families' ended its run, they decided to feature annoying, self-righteous college-aged kids and became the 'Real World.'

A quote I still will repeat to myself from WKRP any time I hear a guest being interviewed on the radio say, "Hello [name of town]:"

English band member being interviewed: "May I say hello to my mother?"
Johnny Fever: "Oh, your mother lives in Cincinnati?"
Band member: "Well there's always a chance, isn't there?"
Johnny Fever: "Sure, go ahead."
Band Member: "Hello mummy, you naughty girl. Don't come home if you know what's good for you."

Gary said...

Be very careful about criticizing George Reeves! I can tolerate almost anything, but not someone messing with my boyhood hero -- and the BEST Superman there ever was!

Brother Herbert said...

ALF was shot three-camera on tape, but in 1986 they did an hour-long, single camera Christmas episode. THE FACTS OF LIFE also did a couple of two-hour movie specials shot in Paris and Australia.

THE ODD COUPLE did certainly benefit from going to a live audience because the original play and its actors had their basis on the live stage. But I agree with scott o. that HAPPY DAYS was better as a single-camera show. What started as a quaint, nostalgic sitcom became just another boisterous 1970s catch-phrase show and the live audience became a distraction, cheering and applauding every character's entrance.

Mike said...

I have to respectfully disagree with a couple posters here re: Happy Days. I really liked the first two seasons of the show as a whole; it does have this quiet charm to it, and some episodes are really very funny. But toward the end of season 2, the episodes started to get a little flat, IMO. The show would be this barely-remembered, if at all, 1970s curio were it not for the switch to three-camera (which, BTW, was the only way the series would get renewed for a third season). And quality-wise, the first couple seasons of the new format were great, with several laugh-out-loud episodes. Toward the end of the 1970s the show took a dive in quality and became decidedly stuck in a rut (Richie and Ralph's departure actually helped refresh the show for a bit), but the initial seasons of the new format were a great success, IMO.

P.S. To les: That scene is pretty much ruined in the network TV version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin's tirade is cut down, and the few F-bombs that remain are replaced with "freaking." Then Edie ends the scene with "you're screwed." Cleaning up that scene just really takes the humor away.

Norm! said...


Just a lighthearted joke. I've kinda got a soft spot for that show too, but no way was he the best Superman. Christopher Reeve all the way.

If you haven't seen it, Hollywoodland is an excellent film about George Reeves and the mystery around his death. Ben Affleck is rather good as Reeves and Diane Lane is wonderful as Toni Mannix.

Les said...

@ Mike, Agreed. That is why if the movie is on TV and I want to watch it I pop in the DVD (hey, no commercials!). My family watches that movie EVERY Thanksgiving night. Years ago when the kids were young we would mute the TV when this particular scene came on. You know what? We laughed harder than ever before at that scene with the sound muted and not just because we know the words Steve Martin is mouthing. It is because of the acting - watching Steve Martin get angrier and angrier and his gestures and facial expressions. He probably would have been an amazing silent-screen actor.

Anyways, next time the 'real' version is on I suggest you try muting the scene and see if you find a new way to appreciate it (and get a new laugh).

Jeff said...

Barney Miller was originally not picked up. When the pilot was shown during the summer (which apparently was a way for networks to get some revenue from unused pilots), it generated enough positive audience reaction to get a series order.

Greg Ehrbar said...

"Real Families" a masterwork of TV sitcom "art."

Edie McClurg is a genius of comic timing.

Lucille: We only allow the children to watch wholesome, family entertainment.

Host: Like what?

Lucille: Well, the Little House on the Prairie. Now that's a fine, wholesome show. It's about blind children out west, and every week they have a fire, or someone gets an incurable disease. We enjoy it very much.

This episode was frighteningly prescient in reality TV hijinks.

Interesting quote from Herb: "Nothing you see on TV is real -- not even the news."

michaleen said...

Neil Simon wrote a great explanation of nostalgia at the end of "Biloxi Blues." After an entire movie complaining about the indignities of basic training and his fellow recruits, he says that now they all love each other and the time they spent together, even facing the threat of going to war. Why?

"We loved it for the most selfish reason of all. Because we were young."

Elliott said...

A contrary (and well-known) example: Newhart started its life as multi-camera on tape, but in its second season it transitioned to single-camera on film, and the benefits were obvious.

NEWHART remained a multi-camera series, filmed in front of an audience, even after they switched to film. I know because I was in the audience once later in the series' run.

MikeK.Pa. said...

"He also on occasion would correct some of his fellow actors if they didn’t say a line exactly as written, which you can imagine endeared him tremendously to the rest of the cast. "

But I bet the writers loved him. How long until the next Natalie Wood photo? It's been awhile. :(

Jim said...

Which did you like more: the NY Times article on the rediscovery of a missing Laurel and Hardy silent, or the photo of Natalie Wood that accompanies it? Here's the link:


MikeK.Pa. said...

It's a toss-up, but Nat by a nose. I think I remember reading in one of the bios on her that she had a difficult time on the set with Tony Curtis, but what great legs she had and a winning smile that just wanted you to hug her. Thanks for the tip on the story and the photo. Ken's off the hook.

Roger Thomason said...

UPDATE UPDATE Jared Fogle Thinks Middle School Girls are "Hot" UPDATE

Well I guess he is going to prison where he belongs. NY POST has update that woman wore wire to expose Jared from Subway lusting after the young stuff.

Mike said...

Chico and the Man had a single camera episode, after Freddie Prinze's death, where Ed Brown's young charge ran away to Mexico and Ed went after him.

The cold open of the Grace Under Fire is single camera/film, while the rest of the episode is multicamera/tape.

Mike said...

Meant to say the cold open of the Grace Under Fire pilot.

David said...

Tony Randall freely admitted to his habit of correcting other actors. Apparently it was a career-long habit. He once talked about working on the early television series MR. PEEPERS with actress Marion Lorne, best remembered today as Aunt Clara from the '60s sitcom BEWITCHED. One of Lorne's stock-in-trade bits was to stammer and stumble all over her dialogue when her character got flustered. The first episode where they worked together, during rehearsal, Randall corrected Lorne when she failed to stammer and stumble and instead delivered her lines letter perfect. She explained to him that she had to be able to deliver the lines correctly before she could deliver them incorrectly, the way the script called for her to do. Randall recalled that he left her alone for the rest of the series, presuming that she knew what she was doing.

I'd be curious to know what the first multi-camera sitcom was to venture outside the studio and do a single-camera episode. I know HERE'S LUCY did a handful early in the show's run. And at least one of the 1957-60 LUCY-DESI COMEDY HOUR shows devotes a lengthy part of the episode to footage shot outdoors. And Ball's THE LUCY SHOW did an odd one-hour special in 1966 titled LUCY IN LONDON, filmed on location, which had Lucy Carmichael touring that wonderful city with the owner of a run-down travel agency, played by Anthony Newley.

DBenson said...

I believe the short-lived Bob Denver sitcom, "The Good Guys", started out as multiple-camera and switched to single-camera, reportedly because Denver simply wasn't comfortable with the multicam format.

"The Muppet Show" PRETENDED to be a multicam show, but for obvious technical reasons couldn't be. Were there other series shot without an audience that nonetheless tried to imply a live studio audience?

On Randall: There was a blooper show featuring outtakes from "Love, Sidney", where Randall played an implied gay man who takes in a single mother and her small daughter. Randall evidently had a nice relationship with the kid. She'd flub a line and he'd get a giggle out of her by politely threatening to break her fingers. The payoff was Randall flubbing and the kid gleefully grabbing his hand and trying to break it, laughing as he obligingly registered pain and agony.

Bradley said...

Sad about Roger Rees. Do you have a good story about him?

Prairie Perspective said...

"Happy Days' was a smart, funny show that became a loud, hit show.
Today, the first few seasons are shown more frequently and their quality is clear. I was a teenager in the 1970s and watched the "Fonzie" seasons with glee but once I compared the two, it was readily apparent the early seasons are far superior.
This perceptive AV Club article makes the case well, while explaining why Garry Marshall felt the need to make the change:

Bernadette said...

I've been re watching Frasier and also reading many of the scripts. I was surprised to discover that the three creator producers of the show only had writing credits for two or three episodes out of all of the nine (?) seasons of the show. As producers would they have contributed material to the other shows? Their pilot episode is one of my favourites of all time.

StoicJim said...

Here's a question for next Friday. Did you ever have an actor/actress foisted on you who turned out better that you expected?

Jeff :) said...

,You're the head of a new major network. Let's call it XYZ. What are the types of shows you'd green light? Just saw some network promos for upcoming shows and literally rolled my eyes at how bad they were.