Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Questions

Yes, it’s time for Friday Questions. Leave yours in the comment section. Thanks.

Bob Sassone is up first.

I can't watch older sitcoms on TV anymore. The stations either chop them up so much to add commercials that it drives me crazy (I know every Dick Van Dyke Show episode by heart and I know every line they take out) or they speed up the episode so much that the pacing is all wrong and the jokes don't land the same (very noticeable with Friends). Do the producers/studios have any say in what happens to their shows when they're syndicated?

To my knowledge, no. Even independent producers like Norman Lear have undoubtedly sold their companies. I imagine most of the producers of those shows are just happy they’re still on anywhere. Especially if there are still royalties involved.

Thank goodness a lot of these series are also available in their original form on streaming services or DVD’s. MASH in particular. Some of those episodes are so hacked up they now make absolutely no sense.

Andrew Ross is next.

Would you recommend any kind of voice coaching if you wanted to give sports announcing/PA announcing a try? I mean in a "do the job better" sense, not "make it easier to get a job" sense.

Absolutely. Breath control, speaking from your diaphragm, diction, inflections – these are all important. Unless you’re born with Jon Miller’s voice a little coaching couldn’t hurt.

Kirk asks:

The Grammar Police made me think of a Friday question. There's no omniscient third person narrating a situation comedy. The dialogue should be true to the character speaking it, not Strunk and White. Good grammar might be expected from Diane Chambers, but not necessarily Carla Tortelli. When writing dialogue, did you ever PURPOSELY have a character split an infinitive, dangle a participle, etc?

My apologies for any grammar errors contained in this comment.

When I write dialogue all I’m interested in is that it sound conversational and true to that character. My English teachers may hate me for this, but I don’t give a shit about grammar unless, like you say, it’s a character such as Diane Chambers or Frasier Crane who do speak the Queen’s English.

People generally don’t talk in perfectly formed sentences. They talk in sentence fragments, they drop pronouns, let sentences trail out, employ crutches (you know), stammer, use slang, go off on tangents, don’t finish their thoughts, etc.

Good dialogue has a flow. It sounds natural – like real people speaking.

I always say to young writers, go to food courts in malls and just listen to conversations around you. What expressions do people use? What words do they leave out? Are there “literally” crutches they use over and over? Ideally, every character in your script should have his or her own distinctive voice. Dialogue helps define them. Let ‘em dangle all the participles they want.

From Mitchell Hundred re my post earlier this month about claiming to be God during my Clippers PA announcer audition:

Are there any other kinds of job interviews at which introducing yourself as God would be (in your opinion) a good idea?

Yes, head of any committee investigating and/or impeaching Trump.

And finally, from jcs:

LA is the entertainment capital of the world. There must be thousands of tourists that visit the city every day. The metro area has a population of 13 million. Why do you think is it so tough to fill theatres in LA with paying customers? Why isn't there a thriving theatre scene when there are actors, writers and producers galore?

I think because movies and television are the two dominant industries here. There are very few major theater venues and they usually feature roadshow versions of past Broadway hits. By the time HELLO DOLLY arrives in Los Angeles Roseanne will be playing Dolly.

And the small theater scene is taking a beating from these new Equity rules. So a lot of the really fun, daring, experimental, original theater productions that several years ago would have found homes, today are cost prohibitive. It’s a shame.

The LA TIMES rarely even reviews theater in LA anymore. They have one theater critic and most of the time he reviews New York shows that will never even get to Los Angeles. A typical Friday in the LA Times Calendar section will include fourteen movie reviews (many for obscure films that are playing in one or two art theaters) and zero theater reviews. Not one. So is it any wonder the theater scene is an afterthought?

Like I said, it’s too bad. There are some wonderfully gifted playwrights, directors, and stage actors in Los Angeles. They deserve a larger audience than they’re receiving. Live theater is special. Even in the entertainment capital of the world.  


Wendy M. Grossman said...

Re LA Theater: what's happening with critics and the LA Times is mirrored in many other areas. Many newspapers are dropping film critics, too.

It does occur to me, though, that here you are with a large audience, many of whom are based in LA. Why not start a fashion for occasionally reviewing local theater productions the way you do movies and TV shows and thereby trying to give them a boost? Even just offering a blogroll link to local theater listings would probably help.


Andrew said...

This was very well said: "People generally don’t talk in perfectly formed sentences. They talk in sentence fragments, they drop pronouns, let sentences trail out, employ crutches (you know), stammer, use slang, go off on tangents, don’t finish their thoughts, etc."

It reminds me of this wonderful Steve Bridges impersonation of George W. Bush (at the Jeff Foxworthy roast). One of the funniest moments is when he trails off and forgets what he was talking about.

Mark Potts said...

Wasn't there an early Cheers episode that had a great joke that turned on Diane getting angry because someone ended a sentence with a preposition? Those of us who work with words for a living were on the floor over that.

Kirk said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken.

Mark said...

A local talk station was talking about the passing of Jay Thomas last night, which led them to a Cheers story. They claimed that Rhea and Danny D. were insensed that his character was upstaging Carla and getting more laughs than she was. So much, that they fought to have him written out of the show. Give us the real reason he left the show.

Steve Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Bailey said...

Regarding the question about reruns of sitcoms: I remember that in the mid-1970's, CBS ran ALL IN THE FAMILY reruns in the daytime while the original show was still on the air. Only problem was, they'd cut out either the first couple of minutes or the "bumper" of each episode in order to get more commercials in. Lear was so incensed, he had his name taken off of the daytime reruns of the show.

Peter said...

A rather random Friday Question from me:

What's your favourite food?

Hey, who said every question has to be comedy/TV/movie related?!

Hawkeye Trump said...


Listen to Jay Thomas in his own words discuss hiring/firing from "Cheers" (and many other great stories)

Feel free to listen to the entire episode when Jay was a guest on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast two years ago.

Joey in DC said...

On the subject of “bad cuts,” movies have had to put up with this for years, but now it’s even worse. Top of mind: AMC occasionally shows “The Princess Bride,” which still holds up. But one cut that just destroys one of the best jokes and surprises of the film comes as an indirect result of inserting commercial breaks. (Cue “I’m old enough to remember when AMC showed films uninterrupted.”) It’s the beginning of the wedding scene in the church. In the film (spoiler alert!), there’s a long, solemn, dignified slow pan (feels like a good 60 seconds) from the rafters to the close-up of the bishop…then a beat…and then, “Mawwage!” The cut version leaves out the pan, so when it returns from the commercials, all you get is the close-up and “Mawwage!” without the buildup. Sad!

Brent said...

Regarding the question about reruns of sitcoms: I remember that in the mid-1970's, CBS ran ALL IN THE FAMILY reruns in the daytime while the original show was still on the air. Only problem was, they'd cut out either the first couple of minutes or the "bumper" of each episode in order to get more commercials in. Lear was so incensed, he had his name taken off of the daytime reruns of the show.

CBS had a long history with daytime reruns of prime-time sitcoms and had always edited them. Lear was naive if he thought ALL IN THE FAMILY would be spared that indignity -- groundbreaking or no.

CBS ran MASH in daytime for awhile, too, which is when I first saw and became a fan of it. My dad didn't like the show, and since we only had one TV set in the house, he got to make the final decisions about what we watched. Since he wasn't around during the day, I got to spend summer vacation catching MASH reruns every weekday afternoon.

Ken said...

Rewatching Law and Order in its various permutations I have noticed several of the "regulars" had appeared in different roles in earlier episodes ( i.e. S. Epatha Merkerson appeared as gieving mother of a murdered child before she became Lt. Van Buren) do show sometimes do this as a audition?

Second question is how is it some actors have an entire career in roles of an Older man. Henry Morgan was an "older" character in "December Bride" for gods sake.

Karen said...

Friday Question:

Why does Hollywood tolerate Seth MacFarlane?

Have look at this video I found on net:
Specifically at 1:07

Lois's mom's family name is Hebrewberg Moneygrabber.

MikeN said...

Karen, because he gets ratings, and no one's bothered to complain.
Gregg Easterbrook was fired from ESPN under orders from Disney because he
made a comment like 'Jews have suffered so much violence, how can the studios produce such violent movies?'

Ted Kilvington said...

I had seen all episodes of M*A*S*H in syndication. When the series came to Netflix, my wife and I rewatched all of them. Many times an episode would start and I would see bits I had never seen before, since they were cut from the syndicated episodes.

Peter said...

Karen, read this article in the Jewish Journal that defends MacFarlane.

Poochie said...

Friday Question:

One of the main criticisms (from yourself and others) of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 was that the sketches for the in-house show were just plain not funny. Let's say Sorkin hired professional comedy writers to write those sketches and those sketches only. How would the writing credits go? Especially for someone as control conscious as Sorkin? Has any scripted show ever done anything like that (ie hired steady writers to work on a segment or two and never anything outside that)?

D. McEwan said...

Yes, characters must speak as the characters would. One of the advantages of writing my novels in-character means even the narration must be how the characters would speak, not Stunk and White. (Also, I never plan out dialogue. I let the characters write the dialogue. I listen to them and type up what they say. Sometimes the conversations go to unexpected places, but I always let it do so, and follow their lead.)

But when I write a non-fiction book, I do have to care about proper rules of grammar. And then I find myself wishing I paid more attention in English class. I did a rewrite pass on my most-recent non-fiction book that was 90% just removing split infinitives. (I took a lot of split infinitives out of my new novel also. The character narrating it is well-educated and a tad pretentious, so he has to speak properly.) So Strunk & White sits here beside my computer, where I can consult it whenever necessary.

DBenson said...

On using language correctly: Bob Newhart is a master of starting a sentence and realizing he's not going to nail the landing, whether it's a matter of absurd subject matter, a no-win linguistic trap, or a cliche that doesn't quite work. On "Newhart" he's live on TV and has to announce the sudden removal of his predecessor. He comes up with something like, "He has left us to pursue ... other pursuits."

J Lee said...

Back in ye olden days, before syndicated re-runs were sent out on video pre-sdited, it was interesting when you were in a different city from your own to see how the local channel chose to cut their specific film copy of a show's episode. Living in NYC in the 1960s and 70s, sometimes the station would simply hack off the first minute or so coming out of the first commercial break -- whether or not the dialgue there was important to the setting up the rest of the plot -- but occasionally they'd be thoughtful about actually picking a section that could at least be trimmed without causing the rest of the story to make no sense.

And very, very occasionally, the shows themselves would make the edit spot easy to determine. When MASH went to syndication, our local station cut the end tag from the Season 3 finale, with the McLean Stevenson highlight clips, added their own commercial break when Henry's helicopter left the 4077 and turned the final scene in the OR into the end tag before the closing credits. But I did see that episode at another station once where the highlight clips were left in, and they found an earlier part of the episode to edit out to add more commercials (at lest they weren't stupid enough to edit out the final OR scene....)

Burt said...

What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

Mike said...

Norman Lear didn't have his name taken off the CBS daytime All in the Family reruns. He did ask CBS to leave the show intact in return for lowering the license price. But CBS insisted on showing a shorter version, so Lear edited the shows himself.

Stuart Best said...

Being a linguist, I can tell you that grammar police are full of themselves. One of the unfortunate side effects of academia is that it creates language nitpickers. Those without formal educations tend to be better observers of how language is actually used, and because of that they can be interesting writers. Ken, what you just talked about in your answer is exactly what gets discussed in Linguistics MA programs -- the differences between written and spoken English. Grammarians and English teachers focus on written language, while fiction writers focus on spoken language. However, writers like yourself know the difference. This makes you a better language expert than the average author of a graduate thesis. Grammar and perfect English should not be confused with "communicative competence".

Andy Rose said...

Another show that was relatively easy to cut for syndication: Mama's Family. The original NBC version started with a standalone prologue by a character called Alistair Quince, played by Harvey Korman. When the program went into first-run syndication, Korman left the show. So they dropped the Quince character from new episodes and cut his bit out of all reruns.

James said...

Thank God for DVDs. I recently bought a couple of early seasons of M*A*S*H on DVD; I'd been avoiding it because they're played all the time on TV and I know most of the dialog by heart. But it's turned out to be very rewarding to watch them uncut, without being broken up in odd places, and especially--without the laugh track.

Interesting watching without the laugh track. A lot of season one looks odd because of the editing--weird cuts to characters looking odd and doing nothing, because the void is supposed to be filled with canned laughs. By season three, the editing seems cleaner and it doesn't look awkward while they cover the spread.

I wish more shows were released with a no-laugh-track option.

Jake said...

Antenna TV shows the prints that are handed to them, which are usually syndication cuts from the 80's. FAMILY TIES and WEBSTER still air with the Paramount blue-mountain logo instead of that CBS Television Distribution nonsense. Somehow MR. BELVEDERE is the only show to air unedited, even with the "will be right back" slide.

I'm even more annoyed by the trend of converting videotaped shows like MAMA'S FAMILY and NIGHT COURT to film. How is that supposed to look better? It looks awful.

MikeN said...

Buying DVDs is important, because you never know what might stop being shown.
Dukes of Hazzard, Cosby Show, who knows what else will be banned in the future?

Anonymous said...

Neither Dukes nor Cosby were banned. Broadcasters have the good sense to know that rape and racism are not a good association for ads. In fact, advertisers let them know it.

Nicholas said...

Dukes of Hazzard, Cosby Show, who knows what else will be banned in the future?

"The Cosby Show" runs weekday afternoons on Bounce TV and has for quite some time now. Don't know if anyone is running "The Dukes of Hazzard" since it left TV Land a couple of years ago, but it remains available for download via Amazon and iTunes.

I'm even more annoyed by the trend of converting videotaped shows like MAMA'S FAMILY and NIGHT COURT to film. How is that supposed to look better? It looks awful.

Nothing is on film anymore. Everything is recorded, edited and shown digitally. Every movie and TV show you see. People still use the terms "taped" and "film," but it's actually all digital. That being the case, why in the world would anyone go to the trouble and the expense to convert old shot-on-tape sitcoms to film when film itself is obsolete? I don't know about "Mama's Family," but I've seen "Night Court" on Laff TV and it looks like 1980s low-res videotape, just like it always did.

Bryan Thomas said...

Friday question (I hope you can get to even though I am posting on an old post): With streaming services like Hulu, which carries the entire run of MASH commercial free, have you noticed any improvement in the issue of bad edits (shows chopped for length with lines eliminated or convoluted)? I certainly enjoyed rewatching MASH recently and didn’t notice anything too confusing.