Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Questions

Closing out another month with NEW Friday Questions. What’s yours?

Dave Wrighteous is up first.

Do you think, in this era of network TV struggling to stay relevant with the rise of cable and premium channels like HBO, that it could/would be a good idea to rerun shows on prime time network stations? It's cheap (no actors, writers etc. to hire and the cheap to make reality shows have proven networks like cheap content!) Popular shows that have been done to death in syndication wouldn't fly, but maybe some shows that never found an audience and were cancelled may find a new life and audience… like Big Wave Dave's!"

No, as much as I’d like BIG WAVE DAVE’S to make a triumphant comeback.

In today’s world networks have to be more competitive, not less. Rerunning even their hit shows tend to be a liability. For decades networks would just fill the summer months with reruns. Their ratings would suffer but all networks suffered equally. But now, with 1000 other channels, many offering original programming, networks can no longer afford the luxury of coasting.

And as for putting reruns or former cast-off shows on during those periods where networks traditionally offer original fare, that would be tantamount to waving a white flag and surrendering. Yes, they’d save money but “penny wise and pound foolish.”

Roger Owen Green asks:

Has the proliferation of these old shows coming back to life pleased you, bothered you, or it depends? Does having the bulk of the original cast make a difference?

And, given the frequency of these, would you now suggest that an aspiring writer consider a script for a Cheers reunion or All in the Family, The Next Generation (Meathead and Gloria's kid is more conservative than Archie!)?

What this new trend of rebooting screams to me is that networks are just out of ideas and will try anything. Old shows are a known entity so at least offer some value in initial sampling.

Ultimately some will succeed and others won’t and after a few years this trend will run its course.

Remember there was a period when Hollywood studios were doing movie versions of TV shows? BEWITCHED, THE BRADY BUNCH, BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, GET SMART, MAN FROM UNCLE, ADAMS FAMILY, etc. A few like ADAMS FAMILY were fun but most fizzled out. That’s what I think will happen here.

Having the original casts back is both a plus and minus. They’re the people you are comfortable with in the roles. But I fear in some instances their advanced ages will be disconcerting. In most cases, it’s better to remember these shows and characters in their original form.

By all means DO NOT do specs of old shows having reunions.  It's a stunt that will backfire.  If you want to do a spec ROSEANNE or WILL & GRACE do the current version.

From Mr. Hollywood:

Could you do MASH today in today's political climate?? In today's "TV climate"?

MASH benefited greatly by the country being in a very unpopular war and a similar war to the one fought in Korea. We don’t have that now.

As for the political climate – we’re so polarized now that the numbers MASH got are impossible to achieve today.

ROSEANNE is this huge “hit” getting 14,000,000 viewers. MASH routinely got numbers that are higher than today’s Academy Awards. You’re not going to find 30,000,000 Americans to agree on anything these days.

So, to answer your question – no.

And finally, from Mark Solomon:

Ken, I just watched, on Antenna TV, a wonderful episode of "Wings", written by you and David, in which Frasier and Lillith Crane are in Nantucket in order for Frasier to conduct a self-help seminar on the island with paying attendees.

I'm curious about the genesis of that cross-over episode. Was it that NBC execs were seeking to bring the cachet of the higher rated "Cheers" to an episode of "Wings", or did you and David initiate the idea, perhaps knowing that your association with "Cheers" would make it likely that all the parties involved would be willing and eager to make the episode happen?

Thanks for another terrific episode.

Thank YOU.

I don’t recall the exact details but networks are always looking for stunts, and one is crossover shows. The creators of WINGS, Peter Casey, David Lee, and David Angell were veterans of CHEERS and both shows were produced by Paramount, so a lot of obstacles were eliminated going in.

I suspect one of the WINGS guys floated the idea by Kelsey and Bebe of guesting and they were agreeable to it. Once the deals were set, Peter, David & David approached David Isaacs and me to write it. We were writing and consulting on both CHEERS and WINGS at the time so we were the logical choice.

We broke the story with Peter, David, and David and wrote the script. I seem to recall that most of our first draft remained. I was very pleased with the final result.

How’s this for trivia? David Isaacs and I are the only writers to write Frasier Crane in three series. Like Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, I don’t think that record will ever be broken. If only it meant something.


Boomska316 said...

Norm and Cliff had already appeared early on in Season 2 and Rebecca had a cameo in Season 4(I think.)

Glenn said...

I don’t mind all the shows coming back, though the only one I’ve currently watched is Roseanne. I kind of like catching up with characters I watched in the 90s. Part of me would love to see Friends or Seinfeld return, but I agree it would probably taint the memories of those shows. And seeing everyone 20 years older might be tough to take. And while I totally understand not wanting to bring Frasier back, can you imagine if it was successful and ran for 11 years? Kelsey Grammar would have the ultimate “three-peat”.

Rich Shealer said...

According to Wikipedia since 1993 Richard Belzer has appeared as John Munch in 10 different series on five different networks. One his character's writers may have a shot at tying or beating your record for writing for Frasier. :)

Joseph Scarbrough said...

"What this new trend of rebooting screams to me is that networks are just out of ideas and will try anything."

I feel it's less about that, and more about Hollywood and mainstream entertainment just not wanting to chance anything new or original anymore. Gone are the days where it was about quality entertainment, it's all about the numbers now: ratings, revenue, profit, etc. They'd rather play it safe and either bank on nostalgia or franchise something to bring in the back bucks, rather than risk losing money on something new and original that may flop because they don't even give it a chance.

Jeff Alexander said...

Mr. Levine:

Enjoyed reading your weekly Friday questions. Now, if I could only come up with a worthy one.....

One correction: it's The Addams Family, not The Adams Family as you have it spelled.

Just thought you'd like to know!

Keep up the great work!!

Anonymous said...

A Friday question: Considering the freedom and lack of censorship on cable and premium streaming channels which allow for deeper and more adult material as well as fewer episodes each season to produce, should the TV Academy consider splitting the Emmys into best Network shows and best "other" shows? It's nearly impossible for network TV to compete, especially when even the best of Network TV is starting to move to streaming only: The Good Fight, etc.

Trevor said...

I just read that Trump has declared that "THE KOREAN WAR IS OVER." So happy for Hawkeye and the rest of the 4077th. I wish our nightmare was over as well. ;)

Unkystan said...

Hey Ken I have a question about bubble shows. It seems every series’ season ending episodes are major cliffhangers. Are the writers told by the networks to do that? I’ve watched so many finales that have cliffhangers just to see the show get cancelled and leave the viewers without closure. I’ve been burnt so many times that I now try to avoid serialized storyline shows.

Leilani said...

n your scripts, how do you write celebrities in? Do they say first, "I want to be in your show" and you base an episode around them, or do you write an episode with them first, and they may or may not even use it, depending on if that person wants to appear on the show?

I suspect most of them are publicity, but which happens first?

Allan V said...

Given that several other CHEERS characters had done appearances on WINGS, I was once tempted to ask a Friday Question about whether any serious thought had ever been given to have Woody come to Nantucket to meet Lowell. But then I realized it would have been too much of a good thing ... or even more likely, too disorienting.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Friday Question: This is kind of out there, but...When you're trying to come up with a name for a character, what's your process? Is a character's name influenced by his or her personality or status? Do you ever come up with a name first and then write from there? Have you ever been in a situation where some nut with the same name has claimed that a character was based on them and they tried to sue? Have you ever had to use the "small penis rule?"
The reason I ask is because there is an episode of M*A*S*H, I believe it was called, "The Grim Reaper" where there was a character named "Colonel Bloodworth." Obviously, this was decades before we met. Yet, since its not a particularly common name I can't help but wonder how the writer decided to chose it.
P.S. B.T.W., my penis is well within the normal range.

Douglas Trapasso said...

Mike, if it’s the episode I’m recalling, that character was perfectly (maybe too perfectly) named.

Curt Alliaume said...

It seems to me there are already several TV stations that broadcast reruns around the clock, such as Antenna TV and Me-TV. None of them run Big Wave Dave's, unfortunately (although Antenna TV has Becker and Me-TV has M*A*S*H). These stations may be thought of as cable, but they're actually digital subchannels - I believe they should be available to anyone who has a digital antenna (I haven't cut the cord yet).

As for short-run series (13 episodes or less) - that's a long debate. For now, it seems programmers at these stations prefer shows with longer runs.

Andy Rose said...

Reruns have been a harder sell now that everybody can see any episode they want to see of their favorite old series without commercials -- either streaming or on an old DVD collection. TBS makes a fortune with long blocks of Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Family Guy, but they've also been investing heavily into original comedy shows because they know the rerun gravy train won't last forever.

VP81955 said...

Many of the "Mom" characters share last names with Raiders football players -- Plunkett (Christy and Bonnie), Biletnikoff (Alvin, Christy's father who ran out on Bonnie, reunited with her then died of a heart attack while they were, er, intimately involved) and Janikowski (Adam, Bonnie's wheelchair boyfriend), a placekicker. He's named Sebastian, and now plays for Anna Faris' favorite NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks. The character played by Rosie O'Donnell, a former lesbian lover of Bonnie's in a few episodes, also was named for a Raiders player, though I can't recall who.

Y. Knott said...

Mike....Linda Bloodworth was a writer on M*A*S*H from 1973 to 1976. Can't imagine that the character's name was a coincidence.

(And of course Linda Bloodworth became Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, and went on to create Designing Women, Evening Shade, Hearts Afire, etc.)

E. Yarber said...

I remember I was skeptical when SURVIVOR first appeared. In response, a fan of the show gushed, "But the BEST thing is that now we won't have reruns in Summer."

"You're right," I replied, "We'll start seeing fill-in programming year-round."

Buttermilk Sky said...

Every series eventually has a two-part episode, usually as a pretty transparent ratings builder during "sweeps." As a writer, do you find these fulfilling to write (more time to develop plot and character) or a nuisance? Whose idea is it to go two-part, the show runner or the writer(s)? It seems as if they might be more expensive, with extra sets, actors, and maybe a helicopter. (I just watched the MASH two-part "Bug Out.") Do the writers get paid more?

DBenson said...

I recall both of those. Did any of the Wings characters drop into the Cheers bar on either series?

Favorite cross-over moment: Diane turns up on "Frasier" to ask him to back her play. The curtain rises on a community-theater version of the Cheers bar.

Wally said...

Naming characters can be one of the most frustrating parts of writing -- believe it, or not. When you're a new writer trying to break in - and probably for most of the time even after - 1 'rule' is to change up the 1st letter of characters' names. Of course, Ross & Rachel blew that rule out of the water. But -- again -- believe it, or not, it's a note you get ("Mike should be Brian because you've already got Michelle"). Sometimes, of course, notes are given just so they have *something* to say re: the script.

Anonymous said...

I had to look up "small penis rule." LOL!!!! Men.
Julie, Burlington, Iowa

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Andy Rose TV Land started doing that long before TBS, but like TV Land, TBS's original shows suck ass. I don't even see how they're "comedies," none of them are funny, they're all just lewd, vulgar, raunchy, and unfunny.

VP81955 said...

At least TV Land gave us "Hot in Cleveland," essentially a sitcom alumnae show (Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick), and one of the first cable series to warrant a syndication package. And a short-lived TV Land sitcom, "Jennifer Falls," gave Jaime Pressly work until it was canceled and she jumped to "Mom." But the more recent TV Land single-cams have little going for them.

Edward said...

Hey Ken,

Now that the Korean War might actually be over, I say let's have a reboot of "After M*A*S*H" since it might be the appropriate time to air that show.

Ralph C. said...

There’s a second season upcoming for the revival of my favorite television show ever, Mystery Science Theater 3000, on Netflix. The concept is still the same but there are different actors/voices for the characters. That revival has gone over well. I was one of the backers for creator Joel Hodgson’s Kickstarter campaign to bring it back. You’re welcome.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Hawkeye and BJ would be 98 years old now.

Pseudonym said...

"Remember there was a period when Hollywood studios were doing movie versions of TV shows?"

The opposite seems to be trend now. FARGO, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, 12 MONKEYS, WOLF CREEK, WESTWORLD...

Clearly M*A*S*H was ahead of its time.