Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Questions

Ending the month with Friday Questions.

SwiftPope leads off.

Norm on Cheers seems to drink quite a lot of beer. I don't mean he must, given the level of his glass, I mean he is seen to be drinking a fair bit. Assuming that some scenes require a few takes, I have to wonder whether Norm was drinking real beer or non-alcoholic beer?

George Wendt drank near-beer (3.2 alcohol) that was warm. Delicious it was not. Especially by the fourth take.   George earned his money on that show. 

notworthreading asks:

Ken, FQ, even thought it isn't going to happen, would you ever consider a job at a network, something along the lines of VP of Development? If so, how would the job look and what would you do?

No. I’m not a corporate guy. The thought of putting on a suit every day, “answering” to someone, dealing with office politics, and ultimately not having the power to make any real decisions is not for me. I suspect I would be a loggerheads with the other executives because my style would be so different from theirs. I would buy scripts from people I trusted then leave them alone. This would cause a major kerfuffle I’m sure. Better to just let someone who really wanted the job have it. 

From Rod:

Whose idea is it normally to re-cast a pilot when it gets picked up? The new Cedric the Entertainer sitcom "The Neighborhood" recast two central roles, the new neighbors, played by Josh Lawson & Dreama Walker to Max Greenfield and Beth Behrs. What does a re-shoot cost? Did the showrunners not think their original choices were not strong enough? Was there pressure form the network to get a more "name" star?

The network makes those calls. They either test the show and replace actors who didn’t test well, or if they get a chance to get more well-known actors like Greenfield & Behrs (let’s say the pilots they were in didn’t get picked up), they’ll often make the switch.

At one time it happened very rarely. Now it happens all the time. Unless the show has your name on it, you’re no longer safe.

And finally, Bob Paris asks:

I have been watching GLOW on Netflix and noticed that the episodes are various lengths. I imagine that in your career you have had episodes run long where material that you deemed too good to cut had to be eliminated in the final edit. Since there are no time-slots on a streaming site, this allows episodes to run "long." Do you think this is good or bad - it allows stuff to make it to the final cut that maybe would have been rightfully left on the cutting room floor.

It would be nice to have the flexibility, but the truth is cutting shows down to time usually improves them.

However, on the BIG WAVE DAVE’S pilot we had a hot audience, which resulted in a ten-minute laugh spread. Cutting that down was a bitch.

And there were some MASH episodes that I thought suffered by having to edit them, but normally less is more so I’m okay with adhering to a set time.

Don’t you wish someone forced Judd Apatow to keep his movies down to 90 minutes? Oh, how much better they’d be.

What’s your FQ? Have a safe Labor Day Weekend.


Tom Asher said...

Ken, there's probably a reason... but why was the beer warm? Logistics of the set?

Janet Ybarra said...

The need for the "near beer" low alcohol content suds is obvious so George wouldn't get plastered by the end of a scene.

But why did it have to be warm? Why couldn't he at least enjoy a cold one (or two or three or four) while shooting a scene?

Peter said...

Not just Apatow. I wish most directors would be forced to bring a movie in at 2 hours or less. It used to be that 140+ minute movies were prestige epics or auteur films. But in the last decade, even summer blockbusters have become bloated. The Dark Knight Rises was 160 minutes for crying out loud. Michael Bay's Transformers films averaged at 150 minutes.

Just yesterday I saw the glorious Happytime Murders. It's hilarious and only 90 minutes. The wonderful Teen Titans Go to the Movies is 90 minutes. The Spy Who Dumped Me is great fun and just under 2 hours. I had more of a good time watching those three than Avengers, which is a fantastic 2 hour movie stuck inside a tiresome butt aching 150 minute movie. Even Deadpool 2, which I enjoyed, made the typical sequel mistake of going bigger and longer than its far superior and shorter first film.

I'm dreading the running time for next year's Avengers. Given the number of characters and plotlines to resolve, it wouldn't surprise me if it comes in at 3 hours.

David Fincher's masterpiece, Zodiac, is one of the few times I didn't want a film to end. It's 150 minutes and it justified every single one of those minutes. I could happily have watched a 4 hour cut.

Peter said...

Forget warm near beer. I recently finished watching Insatiable on Netflix. One episode ends with a two minute shot of the lead character stuffing her face with chunks of sheet cake. All I could think of was I hope they just did one take for that scene. I can't imagine how gross it would be to have to do that again and again. It would also mean having to use a whole new sheet cake for each take.

Rich said...

Ken -- Friday question, hiding in plain sight. TV networks are always under pressure to cut costs and boost the bottom line. Why not just get rid of the entire development staff? Why not hire someone like you who would hire talented people and leave them alone?

3 notes on this:
1) This is pretty much how it worked in the 'golden age.' It produced Your Show of Shows**, The Honeymooners, Bilko, Burns & Allen, etc.
2) It couldn't possibly produce worst results than what they're getting now.
3) It would be much more likely to produce a "Seinfeld" level hit.

** I heard Pat Weaver speak about "Your Show of Shows." The network had one question -- did the producers want 30, 60 or 90 minutes? Nothing on writing, casting, content, etc.

Andy Rose said...

Don’t know if this is true, but I once read that Norm’s beer had to be salted because that was the only way it would produce a head that resembled real beer.

Terrence Moss said...

Judgement at Nuremburg was 3 hours and worth EVERY minute.

But that's great writing, acting, directing and filming.

Andrew said...

Das Boot was another movie that was extremely long but never boring.

@Rich, I've always wondered that. To name one example, I would think that the Blue Collar Comedy guys (Jeff Foxworthy et al) could come up with a far superior sitcom if they were allowed to just do their own show with minimal restrictions. But the actual Jeff Foxworthy Show and the Bill Engvall Show were awful, because they were shoehorned into a typical sitcom family template. Suppose all the characters that they talk about in their act were turned into TV characters? Suppose they were given complete freedom to come up with ridiculous plots that were based on their own experiences? Yes, it would be a chaotic mess, but at least it would be original, and probably funnier than the junk that's on now. Or am I being naive?

Jake said...

90 mins or 9 mins, Judd Apatow's movies are crap. It's just that no one wants to say it for the fear of being "Katherine Heigled".

Alan said...

Ken, corporate world is a stinking one. You are better off without being part of that cesspool.

Here is the latest about one of the scums - Noah Oppenheim - who was trying to brown-nose up to Harvey Weinstein by killing the expose.

Teetotaler said...

Most "near beer" beverages contain less than 0.5% ABV, not 3.2 (which is close to normal beer)

Mike Bloodworth said...

She probably used a spit bucket. Often with scenes that require eating large amounts of food and/or multiple takes they have a bucket near by so the actor can take a few bites and then spit out the food. And yes, in a situation like that the cake was considered just another prop. More than likely they had several, identical cakes prepared.

Peter said...

Thing is, it was an unbroken 2 minute shot. No cuts. She wouldn't have been able to use a spit bucket

E. Yarber said...

The rise of Hollywood Suits is a history all its own. After Edison and Biograph began the idea of film companies at the turn of the century, the movie business settled into a situation where the money came from New York and the creative personnel were more or less left to their own devices in LA. The 1910s-1920s were a pretty freewheeling period as the medium began to develop. By the 1930s, however, some studios were handed over to administration by bankers, either for over-extending themselves (as Universal had) or being mismanaged (like Paramount).

What really changed the playing field, though, was in the 60s and 70s when large conglomerates bought up the major studios, which were now small pieces of their owners' holdings and expected to produce geometrically increasing profits to justify their division within the full operation. That's when the industry began to fill with executives who came from business schools, not snake-oil salesmen accustomed to working the crowd. Since these bean-counters were now the ones in power, they could set the norm, which now included an entrenched level of supervisors with little to no feel for the creative process, just a ruthless need to pull more profits from a shrinking audience.

In a similar way, TV was a smaller operation in the 1950s because it was a minority product. In 1950, only 25% of homes had television sets, while the device was almost universal in 1960. As viewership increased, so did corporate oversight.

On the subject of editing, I used to know a guy who was obsessed with deleted scenes in movies. This may have been because he was not particularly astute about deeper elements within storytelling, but could posture as though he had some special insight into a given film by focusing on the moments most people hadn't seen. He used to act as though editors should never be allowed to cut redundant or digressive scenes from movies, though I came to suspect he would rather just see the outtakes himself and tell everyone he was getting the "good" stuff alone. After dealing with him, it took me a while to get away from the notion that films should be slashed even further to the marrow. Luckily, I've managed to balance out again, so the world will never be threatened by my 55-minute cut of LAWRENCE JUST BACK FROM ARABIA.

DougG. said...

I'm well aware of the significance of the call letters- KACL- of the radio station Frasier works (or is it worked?) at in Seattle (Angell, Casey, Lee) but is there any significance to 780 AM? Somebody's birthday is July 8th? You worked at a station that was at 780 AM? There's a 780 AM radio station that was a favorite of someone on the FRASIER staff?

I'm done guessing; what's the real answer?

Buttermilk Sky said...

D.L. Hughley talking about the length of LINCOLN: "I ran out of the theater yelling 'Free at last! Free at last!'" Have to agree with him -- a good movie but like so much of Spielberg, too long. I've read that directors in the 1940s had to tell a story efficiently because of wartime restrictions on celluloid. No such problem with digital, alas.

Joe said...

Ken, what's the best gift you received from a show that you worked on?

imwalrus said...

Friday Question:
I am currently watching DVDs of the Lou Grant series and am amazed by the number of now famous actors who had bit parts in the series before they were famous actors. Ed Harris, Danny Glover and Matthew Broderick were three "unknowns". And the second episode of season one had Richard Sanders, Gordon Jump and Tim Reid in the same episode prior to WKRP. Was there anyone you worked with over the years that was unknown but later became famous?

Anonymous said...

Friday Question(s):

Please tell me about storyboards. I am assuming the movies you worked on had storyboards. Who is in charge of getting them produced? How detailed is the art? Where do they end up after the movie is produced? I would assume there would be a market for some of them. Do any tv shows use storyboards?

Great blog!

sam said...

Hi Ken,
I just watched Out of Sight. Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson were both in it, but uncredited. Any idea why this happens?


Lawman592 said...

Peter said...
Not just Apatow. I wish most directors would be forced to bring a movie in at 2 hours or less. It used to be that 140+ minute movies were prestige epics or auteur films. But in the last decade, even summer blockbusters have become bloated. The Dark Knight Rises was 160 minutes for crying out loud. Michael Bay's Transformers films averaged at 150 minutes

I think Apatow was singled out because he directs comedies and comedy, in general, is a genre that does not benefit from excessive length. There's a lot of truth behind the Mel Brooks quote that the optimum length for a comedy is 100 minutes because that's when the audience runs out of Raisinets.