Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Questions

Closing out April with more Friday Questions. By the way, this was Shirley Temple’s birthday. She was born a day before my mom. But as the years went passed it seems she was born several years and a day before my mom. How does that work?

VP81955 gets us started.

It appears the only genre "premium" or subscription channels such as Showtime, HBO. Hulu, Netflix or Amazon are loath to touch is the multi-camera, filmed-before-an-audience sitcom -- despite their continued popularity, particularly in syndication. Do you believe this is because:

* relatively few showrunners not named Chuck Lorre comfortable with the format?
* filming before an audience requires a weekly production schedule, thus limiting the possibility of "binge watching"? (It's not like a game show, where you can run a week-long strip of five eps.)
* they are more disposed to single-camera series, and don't consider multi-cams "hip"?

Well first of all, there are multi-camera shows on premium platforms. ONE DAY AT A TIME, THE RANCH, and FULLER HOUSE just off the top of my head.

There are plenty of excellent showrunners who are familiar with the format but these networks are not seeking their services.

Production-wise, multi-cameras are easier and less expensive than single-camera shows. A lot of these streaming networks wait until a whole season is in the can so it makes no difference that they’re filmed on a weekly basis.

People binge-watch CHEERS.  Why not ONE DAY AT A TIME?  

And finally, yes, there is definitely the “hipness” factor of single-camera shows. They are less formulaic. But a good multi-camera show can rival a well-made one act play. Yes, a lot of current multi-cams are dumb, but they don’t have to be. CHEERS and FRASIER sure weren’t dumb. And neither was SEINFELD or FRIENDS. Or GOLDEN GIRLS for that matter. It’s the execution not the number of cameras.

And while we’re on the subject -- Donald Benson wonders:

On a show that's close to a stage play like "Frasier" or "Cheers", is there an impulse to cast even the small parts with "overqualified" actors as a sort of insurance?

You hire the best actor you can find. No one is “over-qualified.” I’ve seen big movie stars completely bomb on a multi-camera show. Likewise, I’ve seen Tony winners lay an egg in multi-camera.

The more qualified and professional the better, but it’s also exciting to discover raw talent. Each case is different.

rchesson asks:

I've been listing to (and enjoying) your podcast and have a quick question. How tightly scripted are your podcast comments? I'm sure that you are shooting for a specific run time for each segment so I would assume some level of scripting. Your commentary sounds almost ad libed.

With the exception of my Oscar review, everything is ad libbed. I make notes but otherwise just wing it. My goal is to sound conversational and communicate one-to-one to the listener and I can’t do that when I’m just reading something. That extemporaneous approach stems from all my years in talk radio. You can’t script a four-hour show or three hour baseball game. Thanks for listening. Please subscribe.

From Reesa:

A production company in England is currently reading a pilot/TV bible I wrote. I've been tempted to write beyond the pilot episode (first season) but would that be silly? Any advice is appreciated.

At this point another episode would just be a sales tool and I don’t think that’s necessary. You could write episode two for the exercise or fun of it. But I would think a better use of your time would be to write another pilot. Double your chances of selling something. Good luck.

What’s your Friday Question… besides “Who is Shirley Temple?”


littlejohn said...


I thought of you, as the inside back cover of this week's Sports Illustrated is a column about baseball announcing. If you don't subscribe, or can't find it, please let me know, and I will scan it and send it along.

warm regards,


Brad Apling said...

It's said that 'Practice makes Perfect'. Was there ever a script [TV, Radio, Stage, Sports Announcing] that you thought came pretty close to perfect in its flow?

By Ken Levine said...

Please scan that article or send me the link. Thanks much.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Reesa: From what a friend who works in British TV has said, I believe you'll do better by thinking out what future storylines will be than writing another script because that's a question you might be asked to answer.


Eric J said...

I just googled Shirley Temple to see when she died. The google sidebar listed it as:
Born: March 8, 1826 (age 191 years), Kempsey, United Kingdom
Died: February 10, 2014, Hampstead, United Kingdom
Full name: Shirley Jane Temple

So she was a LOT more than a day older. Your mom would be pleased.

Stella said...

Hi Ken,

My friday question to you as a Hollywood insider:

How do you feel when people keep saying that "Jews control Hollywood?"

What's your take on it?

Is it - "they have worked hard so what?" or "It's just a coincidence."

Or is it plain anti-Semitism?

Thanks. Love your blog. I catch up when I can.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken! Oh look! Yet another from movie-to-stage presentation: ALL ABOUT EVE. In London, with Cate Blanchett. To the New York Times:

And I know it's a move about theater people, but actually the plot fits the movie business better than theater, where actors have to be collaborative because it's live.


thirteen said...

Sorry to have to point out that Shirley Temple's birthday was April 23 -- the same as my mom's. I grew up with Mom's continuing insistence that she and Shirley had been born on the exact same day in 1927, and that Shirley was lying about her age by a year. Where she got that from, I don't know.

Jeff Alexander said...

Mister Levine:
In reference to your comment to Reesa about limiting his/her script output to the one pilot, you may have forgotten that the great Carl Reiner wrote about a dozen Dick Van Dyke Show scripts before the casting for that series was in place.
Believe me, since I have NOT seen Reesa's script, I'm not saying that Reesa is in that league and Mr. Reiner may very well be the exception, not the rule. And times for filming pilots certainly have changed.
Just wanted to point that fact out to you.
BTW, who is Shirley Temple? LOL!

Andrew said...

Have you ever had "-bait" added to your name, as in "Levine-bait," a story just begging for you to comment?

They are going to revive ROSEANNE with the original cast. Please post your reaction for our enjoyment.

Ted said...

Hi Ken, I just read that there are plans to bring "Roseanne" back as an eight-episode limited series. This brings up a lot of questions: Will John Goodman's character be revived from the dead? Which of the two, very different-looking actresses who played Becky will return? And will Roseanne hire a whole new writing and production staff, or will she try to gather her original employees from the various PTSD clinics where they now reside?

Mike said...

As mentioned above, Shirley Temple was born on St Georges' Day. Which I celebrated with fish & chips, a pint of warm beer & a cold tea chaser.

DBenson said...

Shirley Temple movies
Abbott and Costello movies
Paramount comedies with any of the following: Hope, Crosby, Fields, Marx Brothers
Universal monsters

Anybody else grow up thinking of those as almost TV series? By the time TV arrived, each of those genres had such a catalog of titles that programmers could -- and did -- give them regular weekly slots and not rerun anything for months.

Tobor said...

Friday Question - Derek Jacoby as Jackson Headley on Frasier. I love the idea of a great Shakespearian actor playing a terrible one. What can you tell me about how that came together?

(Side note - I chose the name Tobor, and now, to post this comment, the site is asking me to prove I'm not a robot.)

Mike Moody said...

Friday question: do you think the stark political divisions in the country (literally, each side has their own news at this point) makes it more difficult to produce a TV show designed to appeal to the country as a whole?

Jabroniville said...

Friday Question, Ken:

I notice that the actress playing the waitress in the Season One finale of FRASIER (Luck Hari is her name, according to imdb) makes a comeback in the next season, appearing repeatedly as a background character with the occasional speaking role. She shows up like this for another season or two before disappearing and being replaced by the usual band of "background extras". I was always curious what the deal was with her. Did she impress enough to get a recurring background role, or was there a push by someone to have a "regular" at Cafe Nervosa for the gang to interact with?

Ed Dempsey said...

Hi Ken,

Wondered if you saw that the Isotopes are ditching the name you created. It's only for one game, but they will take the field on June 16th as the "Green Chile Cheeseburgers". (

Evidently, food-themed team names are a new trend among minor league teams. There's the Fresno Tacos ( and Lehigh Valley Cheesesteaks (

What's your take on Minor League Baseball promos these days?

Ed Dempsey