Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Questions

Friday Questions comin’ at ya.

John Leader leads off.

Occasionally I’ll spot an “Easter Egg” in a show I’m watching…something that may or may not be obvious enough for everyone to notice, but it’s there for some (comedic?) purpose. An example would be Les Nessman, the News Director on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” always wearing a bandage somewhere on his person. Week-to-week, the bandage would be in different places, but it was never referred to…it was just there.

Have you and David ever stashed such “Easter Eggs” in any of your creations? And, what do you think of the whole idea of doing so?

On a couple of occasions if a character is reading a book on one of our shows, he’ll be reading my book, “It’s Gone… No, wait a minute” (and we make sure it gets on camera).

On ALMOST PERFECT, anytime Nancy’s character was watching TV at home she was watching CHEERS.

In THE BIG WAVE DAVE’S pilot we needed a bar so called it “Matt’s” for my son Matt. In the ALMOST PERFECT pilot we needed a restaurant and called it “Annie's” for my daughter Annie. She got the better of the deal. ALMOST PERFECT lasted 34 episodes and that set (with her name prominently featured) got used in probably 30 of them.

Other than that, just slipping in names of people we knew for an inside joke. Example: One of the happiest married couples I knew was Bill & Sherry Grand. So in a CHEERS we wrote, Diane was on jury duty about a married couple trying to kill each other. They were named Bill & Sherry Grand. Maybe six people in America got that joke. 

Paul Dushkind asks:

How did it come to be that Admiral Crowe, then head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, became a guest star on Cheers? That has to be the strangest choice of a guest appearance on a TV show ever.

Oh, it goes beyond that. In the first draft, we originally wrote it for Larry Bird. He initially said he’d be interested. But then backed out. So then we thought, who would be the single most unlikely replacement? The premise was that Rebecca thinks he stole her earrings. Absurd choices were batted around and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came up. I think we had a list of four or five crazy options. Our casting director inquired and the good Chairman agreed to do it. We then wrote the second draft making the necessary adjustments.

How often was Larry Bird and William J. Crowe offered the same role?

Admiral Crowe did a great job. There was even talk of a spinoff.

From David C:

I wrote a spec of Kimmy Schmidt a while ago and the newest season did some things very similar, joke setups, themes, in one case a specific plot point. It's not close enough for people to think I stole specifics just close enough that someone may see it as lazy if they were unaware of when it was written. I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time. Should I make a note on my script to say it was written before the latest season or should I not say anything?

No. Just leave it. That will be only one aspect of the script. You’ll be judged for your comedy chops, ability to capture the characters’ voices, and storytelling skills. Let your script stand on its own.

Also, you probably will have some readers who are not so familiar with KIMMY SCHMIDT that they'll notice the similarities. Why alert them?

Best of luck.

And finally, Andrew Radford wonders:

You said some young writers "maybe can’t write multi-cameras". Since you've written for both single and multi camera shows, can you explain the difference in how to write for each format?

For multi-camera shows you have to write more hard jokes. You have 250 strangers in the audience you need to make audibly laugh. And believe me, they’ll tell you whether something is funny or NOT. You can’t just rely on irony or smiles.

On single-camera shows you’re not held accountable. If the showrunner thinks something is funny it stays in. The problem is he won’t always know. And that’s not a knock at him or single-camera shows. Some are very funny. But I’ve been doing this a long time and there are plenty of instances when things I thought would kill died in front of the audience. But at least I then had a chance to fix them, to replace the jokes that didn’t work. Or edit them out.

What’s your Friday Question?


Bill K said...

You should have done that spinoff Ken! Navy spinoffs are a goldmine. Just ask Don Bellasario or Shane Brennan.

Matt said...

Speaking of Easter Eggs:

John Hughes hid an Easter Egg in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" that I don't think anyone has ever caught or mentioned. And Ken, it's radio related!

"Bueller" starts off with a WLS jingle into Fred Winston, and we're off and running. Now to the end of the movie, when a humiliated Ed Rooney gets on the School Bus for the ride home. In the final shot, as the bus pulls away, the bus number is 720. As in 720 WGN!

So in Hughes' biggest love letter to Chicago, he pays homage to Chicago's two powerhouse AM stations: one at the beginning and the other at the end.

When I finally noticed this on my last viewing of "Bueller" I literally yelled out..."HEY!!"

blinky said...

Hey did you see your best friend in the comedy world, Roseanne, is now an alt right believer? I guess she's gone all Dennis Miller.

Paul Duca said...

Of course, Blinky...all has-beens think they'll get an extension on their 15 minutes if they barnacle themselves to Trump.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Sorry to see that the Crowe spinoff never got past the "talk stage" - I'll guess the Admiral held out of too much money.

Jahn Ghalt said...

FWIW, in computing, programmers/coders/software-developers sometimes put Easter Eggs in their software. The first Win95 version of Excel "famously" had a least one - don't know if that persisted in later versions.

Michael said...

Friday question: Do you think if the CHEERS producers knew earlier that FRASIER was going to be spun off that they would have dropped the storyline of Frasier and Lilith having a baby? As much as I enjoyed FRASIER and understood the show creators desire to have FRASIER set far away from Boston, I always felt it reflected badly on the character that he moved all the way across the country and had very limited contact with his son.

MikeN said...

What's wrong with doing a multi-cam without a studio audience?

benson said...

Speaking of Easter Eggs, computers and radio....

Before Adobe bought it, if you went into "help" and then "about" on Cool Edit Pro (a digital audio editing software that is now sold as Adobe Audition) there was a game of Pong.

B McMolo said...

Cheers for the Bill and Sherry Grand joke - I love knowing stuff like that, although of course I have no idea who they are, it's just fun to know.

"Why don't you go check your little notebook?!"

Ever think about doing a post on the substantial Cheers/ Trek overlap?

Have a great weekend, Ken / everyone.

Cap'n Bob said...

Friday question: My God, is it Friday already?

Exit, stage left.

Jim said...

Ken I thought you would be answering my question on the latest talk of Hollywood and had asked the question :(

Friday Question Ken: What's your take on Daniel Day Lewis's announcement of retirement? And also do you think he is the greatest actor ever?

Please answer next time.

Or better a full post - including what's your take on "Method Actors"? ....... that should get you started and be a fun post ;)

DBA said...

MikeN, have you ever been to a play with no one in the audience? Or, say, a sporting event where the stands were empty? Similar energy, or rather: lack thereof.

Buttermilk Sky said...

On GRACE UNDER FIRE, Brett Butler's character was named Grace Kelly. Her former in-laws were Jean and Emmett, and there was a cousin named DeForrest. Is this considered an "Easter egg"? I thought it was just bored writers having fun, like the Epstein brothers naming characters in CASABLANCA after European cars.

Mike said...

@MikeN: There was a famous multi-cam with no audience: Bilko.

Games & extra scenes hidden in computer programmes are "Easter eggs". Signifying bloated & untested software. To me, the things in TV/film are "in-jokes". And need to be applied with discretion because they break the fourth wall.

PolyWogg said...

I have two ideas for a Friday question, although one is more of a prompt:

a. Ever have a prop that was supposed to do something and just wouldn't?

b. Why do so many shows telegraph plot points...I get say Sam is upset about something, and Carla isn't telling him she did it. So she needs to look guilty for the camera so the audience knows but Sam doesn't. You need that omnipotence for the comedic tension to build. But in drama shows, it takes out all mystery. Is it because they feel if they DON'T show it, they'll violate the camera's omnipotent POV?


Arthur Mee said...


I saw the actor John Chappell in an old Quincy rerun the other day. He pops up now and again on old TV shows, usually playing a somewhat blustery, semi-incompetent mid-level authority figure. And he's reliably funny doing it.

He was, of course, a regular on AfterMASH as the somewhat blustery, semi-incompetent mid-level authority figure Mike D'Angelo. Any stories about him, Ken? I know nothing about him whatsoever ... except that he's one of those character actors who always seems to take a part -- no matter how small -- and run with it all the way to the finish line.

Honeycutt Powell said...

I always wondered about the call letters of Frasier's radio station. Is KACL a sly reference to the sound of a cackling chicken?

Arthur Mee said...

thr original of the call sign KACL is really no mystery. Consider the last names of Frasier show creators David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee....

Honeycutt Powell said...

Aha! Thanks, Arthur Mee!