Monday, May 15, 2017

The Pilot process -- where we stand at this moment

Your heart has to go out to actors. (And this from a writer.)

Getting a role on a pilot has worse odds than winning a lottery (unless you’re Amanda Peet or Judd Hirsch – then you get a pilot every year).

And if you do get on a pilot don’t pop the champagne just yet. Many actors are replaced during the week of production. A bad runthrough and you’re through.

The number of pilots the networks pick up every May are very few. There’s like a 70% chance of a pilot not going forward. And if you’re lucky enough to beat those terrible odds you’re still not out of the woods.

Because networks frequently re-cast and re-shoot pilots after they’ve been picked up. That’s what’s going on now.   Actors are being replaced. 

What makes it even more mortifying is that now with industry websites and social media, these firings are all public. It’s not enough to lose your job, now the whole world has to know about it. It’s a public pantsing.

Cristela Alonzo – just a few years ago starred in a show that bore her name. Now – fired off of THE GOSPEL OF KEVIN. Jenna Fischer, for God sakes, was dumped off of MAN WITH A PLAN for Liza Snyder (boy, there’s an upgrade). And now Jenna will be starring in a new pilot that just got picked up (I assume she’s still in it).

I point out these two examples because both actresses are known and can find other work (Jenna already has – assuming she’s still in it).

But there are other actors and actresses that are not as well known and are being replaced and I see no need to add to their public shame by naming them.

Look, sometimes the firings are justified. They may be lovely actors but just not right for that role. We’ve had to do it ourselves and it’s horrible. And I’ve often told the story of Lisa Kudrow being replaced by Peri Gilpin during the pilot week of FRASIER. Lisa promptly wound up on two shows – MAD ABOUT YOU and that thing about friends (I forget the title).

Make no mistake, showrunners get replaced too. And their curb kicking gets a blurb in Deadline Hollywood. But they’re writers so nobody cares. And the reason is usually creative differences (which is now code for: didn’t take all our notes and thank us for them). But when an actor is fired it’s personal. They didn’t like HIM or didn’t like HER. They weren’t funny enough or cute enough or had chemistry with Matt LeBlanc (like Liza Snyder does). Focus groups rejected them because they didn’t like their shoes (and trust me, that happens). It’s brutal!

So again, to all the actors who are getting replaced, hang in there. You could be the next Lisa Kudrow. Or Jenna Fischer (assuming she’s still in it).


VP81955 said...

Jenna Fischer, the third most-famous comedic actress from Fort Wayne, Ind. (behind the lady in my avatar and Shelley Long). And from 2000 to 2008, married to director James Gunn of "Guardians of the Galaxy" fame.

Mike said...

And I’ve often told the story of Lisa Kudrow being replaced by Peri Gilpin during the pilot week of FRASIER.
Ironically, you've not told that particular yarn in several years. So I've filched it from the golden years of the blog.

McAlvie said...

I don't know what the rationale was for replacing Fischer, but I have to say I do like Liza Snyder in the role. In fact, I like the show, period. Much better than they Kevin James vehicle, or maybe I'm just tired of the character Kevin James always plays.

Matt LeBlanc seems to have landed on his feet and proved he doesn't have to be Joey forever. And the writers have done a good job of creating a show that has the feel of an 80s sitcom without feeling dated. They've even let LeBlanc's character be likeable instead of the recent "jerk who doesn't deserve his wife and family" trope. Really, if you are going to ask an audience to invite you into their home every week, your main character shouldn't be a complete asp.

Jeannie said...

Meantime, "Modern Family" gets a two-season pickup when most of us stopped watching it a few seasons ago. Greed or desperation on ABC's part? Why can't shows go out on top instead of jumping the shark almost every single time?

RMK said...

@Jeannie - The answer as always is MONEY. If a network actually finds something that's a "hit" they will beat it into an inch of death* wrangling as much money out of it. "Going out on top" is a writer/ director/ actor concept, not an executive one.

*Not til death though, because if it is a network hit they'll want to reboot it in the next 10 years. (Will & Grace, 24, Prison Break, etc etc)

VP81955 said...

Another fine comedic character actress, Lindsay Sloane, is now officially available (few play put-upon types better than she). To the surprise of few, CBS has canceled "The Odd Couple" revival.

cwolfe said...

So, what problem do you have with Liza Snyder? Two shots against her in one short post. She's always seemed a decent actress to me, and at least she's not another cookie-cutter, over-endowed, underfed, untalented blonde. I hope this isn't a weight thing with you, as I've noted an unfortunate tendency in this blog to gush over the scarily thin ladies regardless of talent.

By Ken Levine said...

It has nothing to do with weight. I don't find her very good, very funny, very special. She's one of those safe actresses that probably has an okay TVQ and tests okay.

cwolfe said...

Fair enough. I personally find Jenna Fischer mediocre as an actress, indistinguishable from many similar working actors in talent and looks, and I likely could not pick her out of a crowd, but to each his (or her) own.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I actually thought Liza Snyder was the ONLY good thing about YES DEAR. but i don't care for her in MAN WITH A PLAN. I actually don't like anything abt MAN WITH...

Watched all of Fox's new "comedy" trailers.
ugh. Seth McFarlane in a Star Trek parody (though the effects look good).
Craig Robinson in the XFiles means the Odd Couple.
A show about how the flights from LA to Vegas (and back again) are full of drinkers and sex addicts (And that's just the pilots and the flight attendants).

None make it past the 2017-2018 season.

Steven said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one who doesn't think Man With a Plan is as terrible as everyone thinks. Yes the setup is cliche as ever, but the writing on the show steadily progressed from bad to passable throughout the season

I'd argue most of the later episodes have at least 1-2 jokes or scenes where--even if you don't laugh--it's obvious the writers are trying. Unfortunately these flashes of inspiration are usually followed by a handful of predictable jokes, but they are there nevertheless.

The same can't be said for similar shows like Kevin Can Wait, The Great Outdoors or the recently cancelled Last Man Standing.

I agree with Ken that Jenna Fischer is a far better comedic actress than Liza Snyder, chemistry be damned.

Unknown said...

Since you mentioned Amanda Peet, Ken, are you watching Brockmire on IFC? Hank Azaria as a washed-up, very dark Vin Scully-esqe baseball announcer, who climbs out of the bottle (and self-imposed retirement) to call minor league baseball in broken-down Morristown, PA. Peet plays the team (and local bar) owner. They just got picked up for a second season, and rightly so, IMO. One camera half-hour. The pilot is terrific, so if you don't like that, you can probably skip the series.

By Ken Levine said...

I love BROCKMIRE. It's my favorite new comedy.

Mark said...

The one that always mystified me was Paula Marshall:

1994 Wild Oats Shelly Thomas Main role
1997 Chicago Sons Lindsay Sutton Main role
1998-99 Cupid Dr. Claire Allen Main role
1999 Snoops Dana Plant Main role
2000-01 Cursed Katie Main role
2002-03 Hidden Hills Dr. Janine Barber Main role
2005-06 Out of Practice Dr. Regina Barnes Main role
2008-10 Gary Unmarried Allison Brooks Main role