Sunday, July 31, 2016

What the cameramen covering MODERN FAMILY talk about

The conceit in MODERN FAMILY is that everything is being filmed for a documentary. So I thought, imagine if some of the cameramen got together after work for a drink to compare notes.


In a popular Italian restaurant.  Bob and Jim sit at the bar. Tom enters.

TOM: Hey guys. Sorry, I’m late. But I got a good one. Phil and Claire were knocking one off before lunch and the kids walked in on them.

BOB: Wow.

JIM: What did they do?

TOM: The kids? They screamed and ran out. And after that I don’t know. Seth was assigned to them. I stayed back with Phil and Claire. They couldn’t have been more freaked.

BOB: Wait a minute. You were inside their bedroom?

TOM: Uh huh. Got the whole thing.

JIM: Even before the kids interrupted?

TOM: Yeah. Why?

BOB: Why? So you were in the room while they were fucking?

TOM: Y’know, now that you mention it – that is a little weird, huh?

BOB: Uh… Yeah.

TOM: That explains a lot.

JIM: What do you mean?

TOM: Phil wants to have sex all the time.

JIM: I guess when they all sign that release form giving us full access that means full access. Even the bedroom.

BOB: Which probably explains why the Dunphy crew is two people and the one covering Gloria is now up to ten.

TOM: And Mitch & Cam are on their own after 9:00.

BOB: Hey, I can top that. I worked the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills the first season.

TOM: They let you into the bedroom?

BOB: They blew me.

JIM: Speaking of Mitch & Cam – my day off was yesterday and when I got to their place this morning it seemed like their baby grew two years.

BOB: So it wasn’t just me? Last week she was just an infant. Suddenly she tripled her height and weight and now speaks better than Gloria.

JIM: Can you understand a word she says?

BOB: Who cares?

JIM: You got a point.

BOB: The Beverly Hills Housewives want to run her over with their car.

TOM: Maybe Cam just picked the wrong baby up from the park. That’s the kind of thing that happens to these people every week.

JIM: That’s not typical of most families, is it?

BOB: The Real Housewives leave their kids in parks on purpose.

JIM: I want to follow them.

TOM: Hey, how old do you think Manny is? 16?

BOB: 14.

JIM: 50.

They laugh.

JIM: You laugh but at the rate the baby is growing they’ll graduate high school the same year.

TOM: Which will be one year sooner than Haley?

BOB: Well, I gotta go. Phil is learning how to walk a tightrope.

JIM: I’d ask why but it’s Phil so what’s the point?

TOM: And I’ve got Jay helping Manny make a science project.

BOB: See you at the E.R. around 11:00.

TOM: (spotting someone) Hey, guys. Isn’t that Haley?

They turn and look.

JIM: Yeah, what’s she doing here with another family?

BOB: The way they’re acting, you’d think she’s their daughter.

TOM: Boy, they’re sure having fun here at the Olive Garden.

JIM: Maybe I better get my camera.

BOB: Me too.

TOM: Hey, I saw her first!

All three scramble out of the room to get their equipment.


Here's the footage they shot:


B A said...

Hilarious! It seems this hackneyed style is fading away as people think through the circumstances of the premise (so many times in PARKS & REC or THE OFFICE where characters gave away crucial info that would send the "crew" scurrying to police etc). Also nice takedown of MODERN FAMILY. Before I gave up on it, the show seemed entranced by Sofia Vergara's Charo bit.

Igor said...

"My day off"?

Anyway, Friday question:

In your recent post about your first Simpsons episode, you wrote, "Also, if you watch the episode, freeze frame the outfield signage for more jokes."

My question: If you think of details like that while you're writing, do you put them in the script?

I ask because with screenplays I've been told that's a bad idea (subtext: in a spec script) because "it slows down the read."

I suppose there are different types of background funny bits: 1, primary stuff that helps carry the scene, tell the story, make a fg joke work; 2, things that aren't required for the story, but they play off something else happening in the scene & make it funnier; 3, things that are freestanding bonus jokes.

I realize it might be different with Simpsons scripts since that show's known for hidden bg jokes. But do you have any general suggestions on this?


blinky said...

Good work! I assume you saw the ad and worked backward to the set up premise of the camera crew conversation. Very clever.

Wally said...

Your buddy Roseanne will be on Marc Maron's WTF podcast tomorrow (Monday)

Wally said...

Obviously, I can't answer for Ken, but in an animated show, everything visual would need to be in the script. At one point (and maybe it's still the case), The Simpsons was animated in Korea and took 9 months from script-to-air

Wally said...

veracity confirmed by Al Jean

BA said...

Thanks Wally! For the first time divine ambrosia flows from Twitter

Andy Rose said...

This reminds me of something that might make a good Friday question: As a showrunner, how important is it to you to allow your staffers to have a home life? Modern Family has a reputation for having one of the most predictable production schedules in LA. Writers aren't expected to put in all-nighters at the office. There are no shoots going to 3am because of demanding directors or last-minute rewrites that keep everybody waiting on set for pages. Megan Ganz wrote two episodes of Community that mercilessly made fun of the sitcom-umentary style, but ironically she left that show to join Modern Family. She admitted her move was mostly because she wanted to live a normal life and not spend 18 hours a day on the lot.

Question Mark said...

In regards to Modern Family's relaxed production schedule could be due to the fact that they essentially have two writing staffs --- the two showrunners apparently hate each other, so they split the creative team in half and each gets 11 episodes to produce. It creates an interesting environment and if you're a Megan Ganz, I can see why this would be more attractive ('only' having to worry about 11 eps) than a complicated gig like Community.

My question to Ken is, could other shows emulate the idea of having two (or even more) creative teams working under the umbrella of a single show? It seems like a novel way of keeping writers from burning out and keeping things fresh on a set. Or is this practice actually done quite a bit in Hollywood, it's just that Modern Family stands out due to the unusual enmity between the showrunners?