Friday, April 07, 2017

Friday Questions


Brian has the first:

Ken do you think Matthew Perry will be good in serious roles (he does look serious with that double chin ;)) as Ted Kennedy?

I think Matthew Perry is an even better dramatic actor than he is a comedic actor. I’ve seen him in things like THE GOOD WIFE and have been super impressed. In comedies he is always Chandler, but in dramas he sheds all of those familiar crutches and really “becomes” whatever character he’s playing.

Mark wonders:

When a show has a cliff hanger episode that spans the last episode of one year and the first of the next do they film them together and then take an extra week off before starting up again? Or do they just film the last one and then do the first one on schedule and hope the continuity works out.

Usually they film the resolution episode as the first one back in the next season. Sometimes they’ll do a cliffhanger without knowing yet how to resolve it.

One time on WINGS we had a cliffhanger to end the season and when the cast returned six months later Steven Weber had changed his hairstyle. They had to use a wig to cover.

But at least they could cover. I’ve seen cliffhangers where part two is supposed to be continuous and one of the actors has suddenly gained twenty pounds. Even fudge brownies don't work that fast.

Brad Apling queries:

In the beginning days, when you and Isaacs would get together at night or weekends to write your spec scripts, were you working on separate ones or together on just one? As a follow-up, what kept either of you cemented to finishing a spec script (being as they're not exactly 'flash fiction' in length) and not jumping off to another idea either of you had?

We always worked on the same script. And we always worked together in the room. Lots of teams will divide up scenes, write separately, then return to either polish it together or rewrite each other's scenes on their own.  We wrote head-to-head.  To us the value of a partnership is to get immediate feedback from someone you trust, and more importantly, have someone to go to lunch with. 

Nothing gets done unless both team members are committed to it. Once we began to write a spec there was never any discussion of just junking or tabling it to work on something else. We would struggle at times with the story or certain jokes but we always fought our way through it.  Wrestling scripts to the ground is excellent training for when you do go on staff. 

And finally, from VincentS:

When a producer, writer, or cast member of a show directs an episode do they get paid extra?

Yes, they do. The Directors Guild sort of demands it.

However, if you have a studio development deal it's a little different.  Usually you will be paid an annual guarantee and any services you provide go against that guarantee until you reach it.  If you surpass it you make the additional money.   So let's say a writer/producer has a development deal.  The studio pays a director's fee, but it just goes against the deal so technically he doesn't make extra.  Does that make sense?  

What’s your Friday Question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks!


Wally said...

Here's a good listen from Vox and Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul) on the comedy/drama actor balance and perception + the value of Casting Director relationships

Unknown said...

How do you feel about shows that are on the "bubble" ending with a cliffhanger? Do producers, knowing full well their show is in a precarious situation, do this hoping it will put pressure on the network to renew? From a fan perspective it's really annoying because we are sometimes left never knowing what happened.

Curt Alliaume said...

Speaking of both Matthew Perry and cliffhangers, actors can change in the other direction. Perry lost 20 pounds between the end of the sixth season of Friends and the beginning of the seventh season due to pancreatitis, and the difference between the final sixth season episode and the first one of the seventh season (which take place virtually minutes apart) is definitely noticeable. Of course, Perry admittedly had a lot of other issues going on at the time as well.

McAlvie said...

I always liked Matthew Perry, too. I was disappointed in his version of Oscar Madison as it was terribly overplayed and the character rendered cartoonish. I guess he was trying to hard to not be Chandler. But I remember his turn on The West Wing with fondness. I think going with some dramatic roles will be good for him.

Kosmo13 said...

Here's a MASH question. In Season 6, Peter Riegert played Igor in 2 episodes. Is there an interesting story behind this? Or was Jeff Maxwell just not available those 2 weeks? If the latter, why not just create a different character name for the character Riegert played?

Unknown said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: When I started seeing commercials for the TIME AFTER TIME TV series, I got thinking about the original 1979 film, and that got me wondering about the director Nicholas Meyer. It looks like he hasn't directed anything in quite a while and is mostly screenwriting. In the 80's he seemed to be quite well thought of and was directing some big budget films like WRATH OF KHAN and working steadily - directing VOLUNTEERS etc. but not a lot in the 21st century. I was wondering if you had any insight; was it a case that Hollywood moved on to the next up and coming director, or did he decide that he preferred writing? I liked a lot of his films, including VOLUNTEERS.

Mitchell Hundred said...

I've noticed that when you talk about your days as a radio DJ, you tend to gloss over the actual music that you played (with a few exceptions). So my question is: How much attention do you pay to that stuff when you're on the job, and how much leeway are you given to be snarky about a song that's really obviously terrible?

VincentS said...

Thanks for answering my question. And to answer your question, yes, it did make sense - after I read it twice.

gottacook said...

Greg Gibson: Some of your questions may be answered in Meyer's memoir The View from the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood, which came out in 2010 and is pretty entertaining. Lately he's been reported to be involved in the ever-gestating new 10-episode Star Trek series for CBS All Access, which, together with The Good Fight, was supposed to have enticed people to sign up for that service. If it never does appear, or if it disappoints, or if it's good but fails to draw subscribers, I wouldn't place the blame on Meyer, however.

Alan C said...

You may know that Justin Trudeau joked on Twitter that he'd like a rematch of the grade-school incident where Perry and another kid beat Trudeau up. Who do you think would win? My money's on Trudeau.

Brian said...

Thanks Ken.

Rob W. said...

Hi Ken,


I recently had the distinct pleasure of watching the "Frasier" episode, "The Show Where Sam Shows Up," written by you and David (and directed by Jim Burrows). I was blown away by the remarkable sequence where you guys filled in the major inconsistencies of Frasier's backstory that carried over from "Cheers" to the new show. A number of fantastic lines also brought us up to date on life in Boston. That says nothing of the incredible payoff to Sam and Tea Leoni's storyline. I'm curious what it was like to write this episode-how you balanced the backstories and the payoffs for fans of both shows. You touched on this earlier in the week when talking about MASH, but what made this so fascinating to me was that it was across two enormous, long running, hit shows.

And thanks for all the joy your work has brought to so many.

Mike said...

"The One Where Chandler Drives Off A Bridge."
Don Rickles - the Alan Carr of Vegas.

I'm not at all familiar with Rickles, so I watched some YouTube clips of chat shows & roasts. The best joke was this:
Angie Dickinson to Dean Martin: "I hear you're guesting on my programme: Police Woman. They're calling it: Pepper & Schlepper."

J Lee said...

Ken -- When you were show-running in Season 6 on MASH, there were two guest-stars -- Bernard Fox and George Lindsey -- who were extremely well-known for their supporting roles on previous sitcoms, who were asked to play more serious roles here (Fox's as the taciturn major a little more than Lindsey's surgeon). Is there ever a concern when casting that the viewers aren't going to be able to see that actor in a different, and more serious role, than what they had been used to seeing them in for 5-10 years or so, and that's going to impact the ability to get the story across as best as possible?

DBenson said...

On the cliffhanger question: I've heard various stories involving actors' physical appearance (or condition) changing between TV seasons (and occasionally during a movie shoot). To what extent can showrunners / networks presently control actors on these things?

I recall there used to be a lot of talk about young actresses (and actors) under major pressure to stay skinny. I would guess there were /are similar (albeit smaller) battles over haircuts, piercings, tattoos, and probably cosmetic surgery. What would happen if a Jane Leeves showed up with a nose ring, or a George Wendt began cultivating major facial hair?

Orangutanagram said...

I have two Friday questions about Cheers.

1) Early in the pilot, there's a discussion on football. Coach keeps agreeing with whatever he's told. Was that discussion originally meant to segue into the reveal that Sam used to be a football player? As it is, a comment shortly follows, something like "Sox lost last night, they could use you coming back".

2) What's with all the political figures that guested on Cheers? Off the top of my head, they've had the Speaker of the House, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, then-Senator Kerry, and I think some more. And the 200th episode clip show was hosted by a political talk show host. Was there some intention of bringing a government element to the show?

MikeN said...

Matthew Perry's comedy skills will come in handy when he is explaining to the police what he was doing as his car was sinking with the woman inside.

Scott O. said...

I just noticed when watching MASH in HD that Harry Morgan wore a hearing aid - one that I never noticed on regular TV and obviously a model that wasn't available in 1950. It's also more noticeable that many scenes in westerns such as Gunsmoke which are supposed to take place outdoors are obviously shot on a sound stage. Are there any scenes in any particular vintage series that you find jarring in HD? l

Thomas said...

Hey Ken,

Do you have a "one that got away" writing job? Like, a job that you didn't quite land and always wish you had?

Andy Rose said...

@Scott O.: In the digitally remastered versions of the original Star Trek, there are a number of scenes where you can clearly see the outline of Bill Shatner's hairpiece. And the faces of the stunt doubles are often very obvious, even in wide shots.

HD anachronisms don't just happen in older shows. In the most recent episodes of The Walking Dead, there were several extreme close-ups of the character Sasha's face where I could see her contact lenses. This seems a little unrealistic in a post-apocalyptic world.

Frank Beans said...

@ J Lee

"When you were show-running in Season 6 on MASH, there were two guest-stars -- Bernard Fox and George Lindsey"

Reading that I thought, "Hmm, I've never heard of those guys' names, but were they perhaps, respectively...the stuffy British major who got on Hawkeye's nerves for his pseudo-harsh treatment of his wounded soldiers, and the drunken good ol' boy stereotype guest surgeon?" And then I quickly looked them up in imdb, and found that I was right on both counts.

I think I scare myself sometimes.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

McAlvie: I agree, re Perry and Oscar Madison. He played Oscar - and the role in a recent play he had in London's West End - like he was standing on shipboard in a gale and struggling to make himself heard.

He's doing OK on THE GOOD FIGHT in a reprise of his Mike Kresteva character from THE GOOD WIFE, but it has to be said that he does not look well (as in healthy).


Brad Apling said...

Thank you for your excellent reply about you and Isaacs working on spec scripts! In re-watching many of the shows, I see that what we see is the end result of a lot(!) of writing and rewriting, but gives the appearance of a smooth flow for the audience. I appreciate all the hours you guys have given and give.

Graeme said...

Friday question: What's the reasoning behind many shows that now split the season into two, with a "fall finale", a two month break, and then a "spring premiere"? Is it just a way for them to get away with producing fewer episodes per season, or do they simply bunch all the rerun weeks together instead of spreading them out? Or are there other reasons behind this recent trend?

Anthony said...

Friday question -

How do multicamera sitcoms handle the use of recurring sets that are used over and over again, although infrequently? For instance, Frasier's bedroom looks almost the same both early in the show's run and later. Others that come to mind are Melville's on Cheers and Nemo's restuarant on Everybody Loves Raymond. Are these sets that are created once and recycled back onto the stage, as needed? Or are they created new every time the script calls for it?

John Hoare said...

Hi Ken,

I have a Friday Question. When an audience sitcom does a double-length episode - like Frasier's 'Three Dates and a Break Up' or 'Shutout In Seattle' - are both parts recorded in the same night, or does it still take two weeks to shoot?