Friday, January 04, 2019

Friday Questions

New FQ’s for a new year.

The Bumble Bee Pendant starts us off.

I'm always intrigued by how a writer of a show/screenplay/whatever can simply say, "I am going to write a totally new draft and not include anything from the old script."

How does someone's previous version not influence a new version? How do you pretend that anything you thought worked in the previous iteration, not make it into the new one?

Re a teleplay, I just go back to the original outline or make a new one and work off of that, not even consulting the previous draft.

Believe me, I would MUCH rather work off a writer’s draft, even if it’s to save a few jokes or scene that still works. But when a script requires a page-one rewrite it missed the target by a wide margin.

Same with features. In those cases, not only might the structure change but the tone as well. So even if there were some good jokes or moments in the original they would not fit with the new tone.

The big difference between the two is that for a teleplay, if I’m the showrunner it’s my job to present the best script I can no matter how much extra work I have to put into it. With features, if I know the assignment will be a page-one rewrite I ask for way more money than polishing an existing draft.

sanford asks:

I was looking up something about the famous Chuckles episode. I found this clip of Ed Asner talking about how the show was short and they needed another scene to fill the time. As he explained there was so much laughter that it filled all the time they needed. Has anything like this happened with any of the shows you worked on?

The pilot of BIG WAVE DAVE’S. At the dress rehearsal it was right to time. Normally you can count on a two to four minute laugh spread once it’s filmed. On this night we got a TEN minute laugh spread.

That was great until we had to edit the damn show down to time.

Tom Asher has a baseball question.

Why don't we see more stolen bases? Too many managers looking for the three run homer?

That’s the new analytics of baseball. Get used to it.  The thinking now is that it’s not worth the risk of losing an out to steal a base. Do you know that there were some teams that did not pitch-out ONCE last year?

Personally, I think it’s short-sighted. Just the threat that a runner might steal often distracts or even rattles the pitcher. And the infield is a little jumpy too, anticipating they might have to leave their position to take a throw.

But that’s the game today. You could have four infielders on the right side of the diamond, giving the hitter a free single if he hit it to the left side. And instead the hitter swings from his ass and tries to hit a home run.

Pitchers and catchers report next month!!!

And finally, from Stephen Marks:

(This is) the Friday question that will set Friday questions back 20 years. The Friday question where the answer may have me running over to Earl's blog, getting into the fetal position, and sucking my thumb as I rock back and forth. Ken, do you podcast in the nude?

Only when I interview guests.


E. Yarber said...

In the case of a page one rewrite, it may be helpful to think of the script as a rug being woven. If the original writer has not structured his or her narrative very well, the fabric won't hold together. I have tried to work with writers who think that a story is simply a lot of bits and pieces being strung together in roughly chronological form, but that approach prevents the plot moving forward with the necessary narrative logic that pulls a viewer through the action (especially since most of those bits and pieces tend to have been indiscriminately swiped from a variety of other sources anyway). Rethinking the material from scratch involves creating an entirely new foundation for the piece, with each element of the correction firmly conceived within that mesh of ideas. It's not for nothing that writing can be described as "spinning a yarn."

VP81955 said...

If we're going to have a podcast host interview in the nude, I'd rather it be Anna Faris.

Janet said...

Here's a baseball question/conundrum to consider relative to growth in the shift, (too much) analytics, etc.

Yes, teams want to win games, granted. But aren't they also there, essentially, as a form of entertainment?

Too me, the analytics and all are ruining the "entertainment experience" for the fans.

Now I'm not suggesting MLB become the WWF or whatever TV wrestlers are calling themselves

But there has to be a "middle ground" so to speak, where baseball used to be when it really would capture the fans' imaginations.

Peter said...

VP, in the current era, such comments are totally unacceptable in what should be a safe space!

You must now be condemned by everyone, have your entire history of social media posts searched for any other heinous comments, and you have to quit your day job and issue a statement about how you're always evolving as a human being and that you recognize the hurt you've caused and are willing to learn and become more considerate and mindful. You must then close all your social media accounts to show you're cognizant of the gravity of your joke!

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Ken, thanks for answering my question.
You may not have remember, but you answered it back on November 9th, but with a different response.
Both are helpful.

Here was your Nov 9 answer:
If a script requires a page-one rewrite I will either go back to the outline and not even work off the draft, or change the story significantly and write a new outline.

There may be a line or beat in the original draft worth keeping and I’m happy to. Less work for me. But I won’t shoehorn anything in from the original draft.

And usually the reason for a total rewrite is the original writer didn’t have a good sense of the characters. So none of their dialogue will be useful.

But look, I once threw out a whole act of a full-length script that I wrote. There were some wonderful jokes but the story didn’t work so I threw it all out and came up with something else (that proved to be way better). Writing is rewriting.

Tom Asher said...

Woo-hoo! Thanks, Ken!

Dennis Hartin said...

Not stealing bases is not a new thing. Earl Weaver, who managed the Orioles in the 60's, 70's, and 80's avoided stolen bases, hit and runs, and bunts. He felt that giving up an out was not worth picking up an extra base. "On offense," he said, "your most precious possessions are your 27 outs." He also said, "If you play for one run, that's all you get." He had some success an a manager. He would be very pleased with the current state of the game, I suspect.

Dana King said...

The Beloved Spouse and I have become addicted to BROOKLYN 99 on Hulu. What are your thoughts on this type of comedy, a mix of one-liners and slapstick, as opposed to shows like MASH, CHEERS, and FRAZIER?

Mike Bloodworth said...

You left out he must become the brunt of jokes for all the late-night T.V. hosts.

VP81955 said...

Since I currently have no day job, that angle is moot.

VP81955 said...

We had a similar situation in the '50s, when stolen bases were relatively few and station-to-station baseball was predominant. However, batters' strikeouts were nowhere comparable to today's rates and more balls were put into play.

Kal said...

Anyone who ever saw Rickey Henderson play knows the value of an outstanding base stealer, and knows how having him on base -- even if he doesn't steal during that inning -- can completely disrupt the rhythm of the opposing team.

Henderson's statistics are pretty awesome, but the stuff that doesn't show up in the stats is also amazing.

Astroboy said...

Nothing frustrates me more about major league baseball now then seeing a lead off batter get on base and then have the manager do nothing with his batters to try to move the runner to second. And then three outs later then runner is still on first. Ugh!

Mike Bloodworth said...

Here's a perfect analogy for starting over fresh:
"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins." (Mark 2:22 NKJV)

On the other hand, using E. Yarber's fabric analogy, I've seen some very beautiful quilts made up of scraps from other projects.
I guess it all depends on how well one can sew.

Tom Asher said...

You all bring up good points about baseball, the stolen base, and the entertainment value. Thought I heard in our Charlie Manuel days (Philly guy here) that Weaver was the godfather of playing for the three-run homer.

It helped us a ton when we had Howard, Utley, Werth, Burrell / Ibanez, etc... but we also had Rollins and Victorino (and Utley) stirring things up on the bases. Those teams, with Davey Lopes as first base coach, had tremendous SB success rates. With that in mind, Astroboy nailed it, that leadoff batter gets on, and then goes nowhere as the other hitters display awful situational hitting along with no intent to swipe a bag. I don't know why they don't test more catcher's arms.

Dhruv said...

Hi Ken,

My Friday Question is about DGA awards. You had said in a recent post that your were a member of the Director's Guild, so could you please tell us about the awards ceremony. There is not much info or awards ceremony video of the same.

Just a brief post on how long the ceremony is, anything of interest in the ceremony, perhaps some anecdotes from the ceremonies that you attended.


Greempa said...

I used to love watching Rod Carew hit. He would step up to the plate, study the positions of all the fielders, and effortlessly slap a single in the gap. Now THAT was hitting! You just don't see that today.

mike said...

The notion that the front office tells the club manager to do what the computer says has sure taken a lot of fun out of the grand old game. Station to station ball, like in the 20s after the Ruthian revolution, and again in the 50s as a commenter posted, and again now. Short sighted, I think, for what if E Weaver is wrong? What if your most precious commodity is runs? And I saw R Henderson loaf on the ball field many a time, in person and on television, as well as steal for his records as opposed to in a meaningful game situation. Truly great players do neither of those things.

Daniel said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Have you ever read any of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker screenplays (Airplane!, Top Secret!, The Naked Gun)? You've mentioned before that most people don't like to read (and often skip over) stage directions in scripts. But the humor in the ZAZ films is so visual and so specific in regards to what's happening in the foreground and the background at any given moment (which often contradicts what's being said in the dialogue). So I'm wondering: 1) Do their scripts (or scripts like theirs) read funny on the page?, and 2) Is it difficult to get executives (and talent, too) to read scripts like that where the stage directions are so important?

MikeN said...

This is not new analytics. Earl Weaver published in his book about how it is important to get 3,4,5 run innings rather than giving up outs to get one run across.

Max Clarke said...

Good baseball question/answer about stolen bases.

Watching Rickey Henderson on first was a treat. Just his presence created defensive mistakes that were often comical.

By the way, Rickey was a Christmas baby, born in 1958.

DyHrdMET said...

I'm watching the first season of CHEERS on Netflix (I feel like you once recommended it). How do you and the other writers write a uniquely funny character like Coach? It feels like only a certain type of joke would work on Coach, and those jokes wouldn't work on anyone else (such as "they called me 'Red' because I once read a book"). Was it difficult to continually come up good lines for him?

Janet said...

Yeah, but he and a certain pitcher by the name of Jim Palmer had a bit of a prickly relationship as I recall.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the commenter who said there is nothing more frustrating than having a lead off hitter stuck on first for 3 outs. My son was so good at stealing (little league and high school) that the coach always gave him permission to decide for himself when stealing was appropriate. His games had a LOT of entertainment value, and he never got stuck on first. The pitchers wore their arms out trying to pick him off. I miss those days!

Anne Elliot said...

Great picture from BIG WAVE DAVES! What a cast! If that show had been given half a chance, i can’t believe it wouldn’t have been as popular as some of the best.

DBA said...

Re: "nobody steals", watch Noah Syndergaard pitch. He is terrible at holding runners. Managers send guys who never steal and they succeed against Thor. It's embarrassing.

David Goehner said...

A future Friday Question: Ken, this month marks the 35th anniversary of the airing of the episode you co-wrote (two of them, actually) in which Gary Burghoff came back to TV as Radar on "AfterMASH." What's the story of how that came about? Did you have the script idea first, or was Burghoff first contacted to inquire if he'd want to participate on the show? Since it had been a few years since Burghoff had left the character, how easy or hard was it to get him on board to do the role again? And, since you co-wrote both the "AfterMASH" appearances of Radar and the earlier "M*A*S*H" one where the character left the 4077th, how much consideration was there about including the Patty character that Radar had met at that airport in Korea?

Jeff Boice said...

Babe Ruth summed baseball's dilemma in 1946 when he commented on the "Williams Shift" then in vogue:

He said the American League tried that on him one year, and added he could have hit .600 punching singles to left. When asked why he didn't do that- he responded "That wasn't what the public paid to see".

goodman.dl said...

Baseball also used to be filled with lousy guys batting leadoff solely because they ran fast. On the idea that they could steal second -- if they ever got on. That's over too.

There are some players who still steal bases. Washington's Trea Turner, for example. But the days of sending a runner who gets caught 40% of the time are over. You can't let your guy run yourself out of a big inning anymore.

AndrewJ said...

My Friday Question: Did you ever cross paths with the late Bob Einstein? If so, what was he like in real life?

Anonymous said...


I'm curious to know if you have any thoughts on a different sort of "shift" in baseball--MLB's embracing the gaming industry.

Any chance Shoeless Joe can be reconsidered?

As always, enjoy and appreciate your work.


Jen from Jersey said...

Friday question: What is your opinion about sitcoms and dramas that add topical references to the show? Any show that uses Trump jokes will seem dated in 20 years. The old and new Murphy Brown used topical political humor and it doesn’t stand the test of time. Even The Golden Girls has an AIDS episode. Also, when you’re lecturing to the audience, you’re bound to lose viewers who don’t hold Hollywood values. Cheers, Frasier, Friends and The Office are examples of shoes that stayed away from current events and topical humor. Even The Good Place has to lecture the viewers about Nationalism.

Unknown said...

My mother and I are currently running through all of Frasier and Cheers and can't help but notice the older woman in the background of nearly episode of Cheers and appears on Frasier frequently too. Older lady, just a barfly and coffee shop woman, but she is EVERYWHERE! Any story there?

Jahn Ghalt said...

Despite all the "metrics" and "analytics" these days, you rarely see a lefty drop a bunt past the pitcher when the 3B is playing in the shortstop hole.

Why not? At least try it for awhile to give the stat-nerds something to measure - no play, no analytics to see how it works.

If I were a pull-hitting lefty facing a shift, I'd have a chat with the manager and start practicing bunts - and bunt the hell out of the shift until they stop.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Even the lightning fast Dee Gordon set a "personal record" for the M's last season - fewest attempts per game (and per plate-appearance). After he returned from an injury, the M's manager demoted him from leadoff to No. 8/No. 9 in the lineup. The only reason I can come up with was to limit his exposure to injury - but if you have a horse - why not ride him?