Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Getting you ready for the Emmys

With the Emmys only a few weeks away I thought I'd get you in the mood early.  This is an episode from the second season of ALMOST PERFECT.   The story hinges around the Emmy ceremony. 

A couple of things to note:

There's an establishing shot of people arriving to the event.   We got it from ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT.  As luck would have it, I'm in the bottom corner for a couple of seconds.

I directed this episode and it was written by the wonderful Sue Herring (who left us way too soon). 

It was the last ALMOST PERFECT ever filmed.   We found out we were cancelled mid-week.  And yet everyone rallied and turned in great performances. 

It's one of my favorites. 

This is an example of a premise built on miscommunication.   The characters think one thing, but we the audience know something else.  So you get laughs from the dialog, not because jokes are being said, but through the misunderstanding.   Seemingly "straight" lines suddenly have two meanings.  And we laugh because we see how the characters are mis-interpreting the lines.  We know what the characters "think" they're saying and we also know how the lines are being perceived. 

This is one of those comic tropes that has been around since people wore togas.  But it works.  What it requires is setting up the misdirection -- finding a way to tell the audience what's going on but not the characters. 

To me a good sitcom will find as many different ways of making an audience laugh.  Not just zingers.  Not just set up/punch lines.  Not just pop culture references.  Not just irony. 

Yes, it's harder to break these stories, and they're a little bit more ambitious -- but for my money, they're worth it.   I wish more sitcoms today stretched themselves. 

See what you think. 


Peter said...

I thought you'd be posting about today being the 40th anniversary of Elvis's death! I was hoping to read about your memories of that day and which, if any, of his songs you like most.

Rashad Khan said...

Thanks, Ken. We certainly needed some hilarity after the past several days.

Andy Rose said...

I assume you had to get permission from the TV Academy to use the Emmy name and statue likeness in the show. Was that any trouble?

Nancy said...

Ken, a very long Friday Question on Oscars and EMMY :)

Are you a member of the Movie Academy (Oscars) too? I ask this because you have talked about going for free movie screening and getting movie DVDs too.

Also since when have you been a member of the TV academy?

Can you share your experiences of being a Academy member? I have read a few posts where you talk about getting free DVDs, but any other sort of campaigning done? Any other method to woo you for your vote?

Regarding campaigning, I can understand the need to get nominations and a win, which gives the movie a new life at the box office and also boost the DVD sales.
But why campaign for TV shows? Just bragging rights and maybe a little bump in DVD sales?

Roseann said...

"My socks are back on....."

To a wardrobe person that is the FUNNIEST. And I'm glad the editors got blamed.

David said...

Question, Ken: near the end, when Nancy's character is saying goodbye to her boss, she shows us in just a few seconds how she THINKS he is saying he wants to date her again to when she realizes he doesn't. It's a brilliant sequence that she completely owns. How much of that is your direction and how much is her obvious comedic talent? Do you work on that moment together or do you just say something as simple as "show me the elation followed by the disappointment" and then just rely on her comedic talent. Or is it a combination? Curious how the process works.

Breadbaker said...

@David, having read this blog for many years and having met Ken on a couple of occasions, I'd be shocked if he didn't give all the credit to Nancy Travis's comedic talent. I suspect if we asked Nancy, she'd give a lot of credit to the direction.

Anonymous said...

Actually Ken, this episode does rely on irony. In the literary / dramatic world, this is known as dramatic irony: "a device by which the audience's or reader's understanding of events or individuals in a work surpasses that of its characters."


Jeff said...

Here's a Friday question candidate: I recently read TVLine's interview with Carrie Preston about the ill-fated Emeril Lagasse sitcom, and she said when they arrived on set, and there was Emeril, saying that he couldn't sleep last night so he made a big pot of gumbo for everyone.

Have you worked with any actors who would show up with gifts for the cast and crew? Home cooking, or something else they made or bought?

Klee said...

Sorry Ken, I gave up on this show when they changed format. I can now witness it remained very funny, too bad they cancelled it.

msdemos said...


GREAT !! Though now when I think of 'comic misunderstandings' as it relates to sitcoms, do I ALWAYS automatically think of "Three's Company"?? Seems as though (almost) EVERY single one of their episodes always hinged on this same bit....

Really enjoyed this Mr. Levine......for someone who grew up on, and enjoyed sitcoms most of my life, you can almost always tell the decent ones, simply by just watching a minute or so of it.....usually it only takes that long to sniff out a 'dog', whereas one like this draws you in almost immediately.....even though you don't know any of the characters or what have any idea what it's about. I'm very sorry I missed this when it actually aired.

And, btw Mr. Levine, I SO agree with you on the lovely Nancy Travis (as you've mentioned a number of times in the past)!! Obviously a talented woman who is also a treat for the eyes, I'm SO pleased to have read your personal comments about her and the fact that she not only is a 'Pro's Pro', but a good person that is a joy to work with!!

Thank you not only for this, but ALL the other great work of yours it's been my pleasure to enjoy over the years, particularly on M*A*S*H and Cheers !!

Oh....and ALSO your blog and podcasts (And NO, I'm not buttering you up in hopes you may have a potential role for me on one of your future shows/plays!!) !!