Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Questions

Once again, here are Friday Questions for your edification.  

Dave Z starts the edifying: 

When a new multi-cam studio audience show is shooting its 2nd, 3rd, 4th episodes (likely being shot before the Pilot has aired), is the audience shown the pilot or explained some of the relationships so jokes that rely on knowing a little about the characters or their backstories don't fall flat?

Yes. Usually the pilot or an abridged version of the pilot is shown well into the first year. We had a truncated cut of the CHEERS pilot we showed and my wife, who came every week to the filmings, pretty much had the pilot memorized by the time the show actually aired. I bet she can still recite some of the lines.

The one CHEERS bit that befuddled audiences before the show aired was the Norm entrance. Those died horrible deaths in the first few episodes. It was only when the audience understood that this was a regular running bit did they embrace it.  By the last season they were laughing just when he entered the bar. 

forg/jecoup asks:

Designated Survivor has been pulling solid ratings but I do wonder if the elections somehow affected its ratings

Based on the "pilot buzz" from Deadline and Variety, ABC is on the fence with the political comedy pilot with Felicity Huffman and Courtney B Vance, this was the first pilot ordered this season and was assumed to be a near lock for a pick up.

Do you think the political climate will affect how networks pick up shows this

Sure. Does the public still have the appetite for political shows? And if yes, can the viewers embrace one more? Between SCANDAL, VEEP, DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, MADAME SECRETARY, HOUSE OF CARDS, and I’m probably forgetting three others – there are a lot of political shows already on the air.

Many factors determine whether a show gets picked up. How are the current political shows doing? Are they on the rise or wane? BRAINDEAD was a political show that bombed. Even though it was on a different network (and politics was not what killed it – ants from outer space did), still networks take that into consideration.

A few years ago we pitched a political-themed pilot to USA and they passed because they said political shows didn’t work on their network. They had aired a series called POLITICAL ANIMALS and it failed, so of course their takeaway was that all political shows fail on their network. No one thought to say, “Yeah, but POLITICAL ANIMALS was a shitty show.”

Meanwhile, politics are sure helping late night talk and sketch shows. Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and the SNL crew are maybe the only people in the entire country benefiting from our idiot president.

And while we’re sort of on the subject of politics, Andrew wants to know:

Over the years I've heard several people compliment Rush Limbaugh for breathing new life into AM radio, despite disagreeing with his politics. I've never seen you post on Limbaugh, or political talk radio in general. What's your assessment of Limbaugh's influence? Do you find anything commendable about him, or do you think he has done too much harm to deserve any accolades?

I met Rush years ago when he was first starting out doing his national radio show. My writing partner and I were developing a pilot and had a Rush-type character so we wanted to meet him. I got in touch and when he next came out to California we took him to lunch.

I have to say he was a lovely guy. Funny, self deprecating – he really seemed to have the whole thing in perspective. Plus, he and I had a lot in common – our background in Top 40 radio (he was a great jock on KQV Pittsburgh as Jeff Christie) and he worked at one time for the Kansas City Royals so we had a baseball connection.

We stayed in touch for a number of years. Now he seems to believe all the press clippings and has turned into a distorted caricature of himself. So I have no idea whether he’s this “new” person or the same guy I used to know.

When he began his show he was very entertaining. A lot of it was a put-on. In time it has morphed into something completely different. I haven’t listened in years. I have no idea what he sounds like now. I do know that his ratings have plummeted.  His act and influence may have run its course.

And finally, from john not mccain:

I was reading in Rob Lowe's first book about his experience being in the cast of a show called "A New Kind of Family." He said that after the studio audience had been there after a couple of hours it was kind of hard to get them to keep laughing. So somebody would throw candy at them and it perked them right up again. Did any of your live audience shows ever need perking up like that?

They all did. And yes, warm up people hand out candy and snacks. My podcast from last week was all about the art of warm up. Do you see right under the masthead of this blog is my current podcast? Just scroll down until you find the one about warm-up men. It's Episode 18.   Click on it.  It’ll tell you all you ever need to know on the subject, along with some crazy anecdotes.

What’s your Friday Question?


John E. Williams said...

Was there ever an episode where Norm entered the bar and the writers forgot to add the "NORM" greeting?

VP81955 said...

In a similar vein to an early-episode situation on a multi-cam with an audience is when there's a major cast or story change from a prior, but not yet aired, ep. The first "Mom" filming I attended was in that mode, as the previous ep filmed featured the heart attack and sudden death of Kevin Pollak's Alvin character (Bonnie's ex and Christy's birth father).

So as not to confuse the studio audience, we were shown that episode beforehand, presumably in an early edit. No one from the series nor the warm-up comic asked us to keep mum about the development, which would later upset many "Mom" fans who liked Kevin's character and hated seeing him go. (Pollak was shown during the new ep in a dream sequence previously filmed with Allison Janney, came out with the cast for the encore even though he didn't need to be there, and drew a warm reception.)

Anonymous said...

When he was young and impressionable in Missouri Rush Limbaugh listened to the 50,000 watt blowtorch out of Chicago, WLS.
He learned his shtick from the best there ever was Larry Lujack.
So much so that he even copied direct bits - "Talent on loan from God"," my formerly nicotine stained fingers" "da da lat da da lat for updates". This was before he was a political creature.
I once asked Uncle Lar before he died about Limbaugh and the fact he copied so much from him and he said in his laconic way, "Just a windbag, now"
The other guy who copied much of his style from Lujack was a kid in college radio listening from Ball state. David Letterma's sarcastic persona drew much from Uncle Lar.

Johnny Walker said...

Re: Warmup guys. You mentioned on the podcast that you never want them to be more entertaining than the show itself (hearing groans from the audience when the actors were ready), but I swear I remember feeling something similar when I was BECKER being filmed (and I think you were there, Ken). But as much as I may or may not have groaned that the warm up guy couldn't finish his story, I was still super excited to be there watching a show being filmed (and not just because Kimmy was in it). So maybe don't worry too much if there's groans :)

Terrence Moss said...

I really liked "Political Animals".

Howard Hoffman said...

...and always without fail while Diane was in the mix, she followed the NORM chorus with a proper "Norman."

littlejohn said...

Kan, As a follow-up to Andrew's post and your response...Did you and David ever convince a network that your show would work, even if a Political Animals type show was just a shitty show ?



thirteen said...

Designated Survivor was picked up yesterday. Have to say I'm pleased. I'm really enjoying this fourth version of the show.

Unknown said...

I grew up outside of Pittsburgh (UNIONTOWN)in the early '70s..
So I remember him from KQV.
Also: Before.....I remember him from "WICZ.....1360"
His only saving grace.....a HUGE Steeler fan.
I remember him wearing Steeler jerseys on his TV show in the early '90s.

Peter said...

It's a funny paradox about people like Limbaugh. It's a similar thing with Ann Coulter. She comes out with bonkers statements, but in interviews there's a humour and a charisma which is kinda appealing, and even amidst her deluge of opinions there'll be the occasional sensible comments.

Brian said...

This might be good one for the podcast - I'd like to hear more about camera blocking. Is that making a list of where the actors and cameras will be for every scene? If a actor or actress walks out onto a scene, how do they know where to stop?

Anonymous said...

"Jeff Christie.....1360......WICZ Radio"
McKeesport, PA 1972
His only saving grace.....devout Steeler fan.

littlejohn said...

I guess Kan is your alter ego ??

Sorry for the typo


Andy Rose said...

Speaking of Norm's entrance, there was an episode in (I think) the second season where Norm comes in after the bar is closed, and Sam and Diane are the only people there. He crosses the threshold, takes a couple of steps... then stops short and stares at them like, "Well?" Sam and Diane look at each other, sigh, and yell "Norm!" and the scene continues.

Rush Limbaugh was actually funny during the Clinton years, but got awfully bitter during the George W. Bush administration when, by his own later admission, he was "carrying water" for a lot of Republican proposals he didn't actually agree with. I think the point at which the self-important act became real was, ironically, right after he returned from drug rehab. I can't remember his exact words about the experience, but it was something to the effect of how he learned to let go of self-doubt, ignore critics, and do what was right for him. Which is fine as far as it goes, but "I am the most important thing in my life, and only I know what's right for me" is not really the lesson you're supposed to take out of rehab. By all accounts, Rush has redoubled his hedonism ever since then, just without the painkillers.

Anonymous said...

Was a big Rush Limbaugh fan when he was on KFBK (50k, clear) out of Sacramento. Used to time my car trips to S.F. so I could catch him all the way up the I-5 after the Grapevine. At a party one night I told the then GM of KABC, "you've got to hire this guy". Of course, he had Michael Jackson on mid-days who was doing great. But another ABC exec., Ed McLaughlin, discovered him and brought him to national fame.

Sparks said...

When a show uses a supporting/character actor that they like, how long will/should they wait before bringing that actor back in a different role?

VP81955 said...

There is joy in the Levine household and detractors of vagina jokes -- "2 Broke Girls" has been canceled by CBS!

Think any of its writers will be hired by "Mom," which films at the soundstage next door at Warners? Nope, I don't either (though I could be wrong).

Doug said...

I've always felt Sen. Franken summed up Mr. Limbaugh perfectly with the title of his 1996 book "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot".

forg/jecoup said...

Thanks for answering Ken

ABC passed on Libby & Malcolm but they did pick up accidental political comedy THE MAYOR

Andrew said...

Thanks as always, Ken. Very interesting to hear your story about Limbaugh. I enjoyed his show in the early 90s, before he started taking himsel so seriously. He's a genuinely talented man, but pride goeth before the fall.

Jerry Smith said...

Friday Question, Ken:

As a fellow lover of Brockmire, I really didn't like the abortion episode. I'm not giving up the show but I thought it was in terribly bad taste, even for Brockmire. Did they go too far? Your thoughts?

Unknown said...

Here's a Friday Question: I read today that Fox is bring New Girl back for an abbreviated season and that it will involve a time jump. Several shows in recent years have utilized this device -- Parks and Recreation, Jane the Virgin. I'm wondering what you think of the device. What challenges does it pose to a cast and staff?

Fred McIlwane said...

Melissa Agar's post reminds of a trivia question that I find stumps most people: What was the first television series to use a time jump?

Think a little longer....

It was the Western series THE VIRGINIAN. The ninth and final season, in which the title was changed to THE MEN FROM SHILOH (reputedly because new star Stewart Granger did not like the title role belonging to someone else), is set eight years after the previous one. The Virginian (James Drury) returns from fighting in the Spanish-American War to discover that most of the old cast has moved on and Granger now owns the Shiloh Ranch.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

KFBK comes in loud and clear in Vancouver, BC after sunset.

Evan said...

Here's my Friday question:

Timeless was cancelled and then renewed two days later. I'm assuming you don't necessarily have any inside information but can you explain how something like this can happen? They always talk about the fan's reaction being the catalyst but (call me cynical) that seems a little difficult to believe.