Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Questions

First off, Happy Birthday to my father, who is a young 89 today! Love you, Dad.

Now to some Friday Questions.

Mark starts us off.

What happens to the actors who play regular characters (like Norm or Cliff or Roz or Klinger) who aren't in an episode? Do they get paid even though they're not on that week?

Like all things in Hollywood, it all depends on their deal.

Each deal encompasses one season. Most cast regulars are signed for “all episodes produced.” So yes, if they’re not in an episode they do get paid. But the key is all episodes PRODUCED. If the studio has an order for 13 but the network cancels the show after only 6 were produced, the actor gets paid for the 6 and that’s it.

But if the actor’s deal says “all episodes ORDERED” then he would be paid for all 13 even if they only produced 6. The big stars get that deal. 

All of this is negotiable. There are some actors who are signed for say “10 of 13.” Producers have the option of not using them for those three episodes… although they can.

Usually you make those reduced episodes deals if you have very large casts, or say a character is a bartender at a bar the regulars usually frequent but the producers don’t want to go there every week. Or a new character is starting to catch on and producers would like to increase his use but not be committed to a full season.  Over time they work their way up.  That was the case with Lilith on CHEERS. 

From Michael:

It looks like David Hyde Pierce has largely avoided TV since FRASIER ended, except for a short stint on THE GOOD WIFE. I would assume an actor of his talents would be in high demand - any insights as to whether he is no longer interested in TV or is it a case he hasn't been offered the right part? If Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc can come back, there has to be a place for Pierce.

David was asked a few years ago if television comedy has changed and he said, “Yes, and when it changes back give me a call.” I suspect he’s not interested in returning to a weekly series these days.

Meanwhile, he has a wonderful theater career, both as an actor and director. He’s done many Broadway shows and soon will be seen in the revival of HELLO DOLLY. So he’s okay for now.

kpj asks:

With your radio background I'm interested to know if there was ever any behind the scenes discussion on Frasier about his lifestyle not matching up to his probable salary. Yes he worked in a major market but a hosting gig on a am station most likely wouldn't support his apartment ,car and clothes as well as his social life with wine clubs, fancy restaurant, etc. I love the show and know most people wouldn't even notice but curious if there were talks about it.

We talk about EVERYTHING.  

But that’s simply creative license. It’s the same reason that Mary Richards, working as a lowly assistant on a second-rate local newscast in Minneapolis, never wore the same outfit twice. And each of her outfits probably cost double her salary.

Unless it’s too absurd, the audience is willing to buy the added affluence.

And for the record, if anyone knows you can't make a fortune in radio it's me.

And finally, from Covarr:

I have a question about purely visual gags. In the 30 ROCK episode "Winter Madness", Tracy can be seen wearing a shirt that says "Impeach George W. Ashington". It's never referenced or acknowledged in dialogue and certainly not plot-necessary, but it's definitely plot-relevant. My question is, would this sort of joke or others of a similar nature typically be written by a show's writing staff and in the script, or is would this be something done by someone else such as costume designers (or set designers, or actors, depending on the type of joke)?

Either way. Sometimes directors add bits of business. James Burrows is famous for that. And yes, wardrobe and prop people can get into the act.

And other times these little nuggets are written into the script. For the “Dancin’ Homer” episode of THE SIMPSONS that David Isaacs and I wrote, we put in all kinds of signage jokes for the outfield walls. What you see on the screen (if you look carefully and hit pause) was all in our script.

What’s your Friday Question?


Mark said...


Happy birthday to your dad.

Is your dad Tommy Lasorda?

Steve said...

I always assumed that Fraser had plenty of income coming in from good investments and maybe some books he had written earlier in his career, and was essentially semi-retired. You can probably sock away a fair bit in 20 years as a psychiatrist.

LouOCNY said...

Happy Birthday Mr Levine!

Tony Tower said...

Related to actors' deals and payment for episodes - assuming most cast members of a new show are hired for 4-6 year stretches (which seems to be standard), what happens when their character is written out of the show before the end of the deal for story reasons. I'm not talking about David Caruso/NYPD BLUE situations, but more the regular casualties on shows like LOST or THE WALKING DEAD.

Does the production need to pay out to the end of the contract? Is there a severance deal?

Chris G said...

Perhaps the divorce agreement with Lilith included alimony payments to him. It's not inconceivable that she was making a lot more money than she was while and after they were married, as I'm remembering their seasons together on CHEERS.

Lou W said...


Happy birthday to your dad. I had the privilege of finally getting to meet his great-granddaughter Rebecca yesterday (I work with Kim) and I can attest that, as a father of three who has met many babies, Becca is in fact remarkably adorable and I can't imagine a better present. So congratulations to you both!

Graham Powell said...

Ah yes, Dancin' Homer signage. "Clothing for the obese or gangly gentleman."

Jeff Alexander said...

And Happy 89th b'day to your dad. Don't let him reverse the figures this year -- he'll be 98. Next year when he turns a healthy-and-happy 90, he can do it then to be 09!!!

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Who even listens to AM anymore anyway? I know way back when, however, it was actually the reverse, it was AM that everybody listened to while nobody listened to FM . . . at least, that's how Tom Bergeron remembers it in his memoir.

Ted said...

My Friday Question: Everyone says Vin Scully is the best in the business - and I do too! So why don't more sportscasters imitate his style? All we seem to get are the two and three-man teams that just yammer away with cliche after cliche throughout the games. Maybe there won't ever be another Vin, but can't they hire someone who at least aspires to his style of sportscasting?

Paul Duca said...

And some actors just don't want the commitment, at a particular time. In the wake of the passing of Ann Marie Guilbert, someone posted a statement she made about how she didn't want an ongoing contract for appearing on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, if it meant being at the studio all the time even if her character didn't appear on the episode being made. She had some kind of deal (at will/per diem?) that let her be home with her family whenever the script didn't have Millie in it.

Bliff Blaven said...

"It’s the same reason that Mary Richards, working as a lowly assistant on a second-rate local newscast in Minneapolis, never wore the same outfit twice. And each of her outfits probably cost double her salary. "

YES... I remember thinking that, the first time we see Diane Chambers' apartment in CHEERS. She was adamant about not taking money from her mum, but she sure has a nice place for a Boston barmaid/grad student!

YEKIMI said...

@ Joseph Scarbrough: I listen to AM still, although not stations in my area. I tune into AM 740 [Zoomer Radio] out of Toronto, Canada [about 300 miles from where I live] and WCBS AM 880 out of New York [about 451 miles away] as well as several others. Not as fun nowadays since most of them all have the same cookie-cutter programming going on and a lot no longer play music.

VP81955 said...

Midway through the run of "Murphy Brown," I mailed Diane English a "BRING BASEBALL BACK TO WASHINGTON" bumper sticker, and on a few eps, you can find it on the wall behind Murphy's desk. If her character hasn't left D.C. in ensuing years, I presume you can see her at Nationals Park, cheering on Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and company.

Dixon Steele said...


Thought you'd like to know the following...

Andy Rose said...

Like Steve said, I assumed Frasier was already independently wealthy from his private practice and books. There's a syndicated financial advice radio host named Clark Howard who started a travel business straight out of college and also had other successful investments. He was able to retire as a millionnaire in his early 30s. He then fell into the radio business by accident and wound up making a second career of it, even though he really doesn't need the money.

One interesting recurring actor in a series was J. Alan Thomas on Taxi. He played Jeff, the assistant dispatcher. He appeared in the cage with Louie in most of the episodes and occasionally had some lines. But my understanding is that he never had a contract. He was just a day player for all five seasons.

CRL said...

I believe the source of Frasier's wealth was the Crane Train to Emotional Well-Being.

RSK10580 said...

Hi Ken! I asked this question via Google+ a while back, but I'm not sure if you ever got around to answering. I understand Bebe Nuewirth valued the stage over television. Was it her choice to not be a regular in Season 11 as she was on Season 10? Was it her decision to not be in the finale? Her absence didn't make sense to me from a story aspect especially since her and Frazier reunited.

Paul Duca said...

Bliff...her dad may have left her money of her own.

KCDennis said...

Here's a Friday Question--Longmire started on A & E and then moved to Netflix. Nashville was on ABC and has been taken over by TNN or whatever they're calling themselves now. When these kinds of things happen, I know the cast and crew move, but do they have to build new sets and use a different shooting studio, or is that part of the sale by the original network?

forg/jecoup said...

David Hyde Pierce will be part of ABC's upcoming LGBT themed limited series WHEN WE RISE next year