Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday Questions

Is it just me or is the summer going by really fast? Here are some Friday Questions to close out July.

VP81955 starts us off.

Ken, did you ever go to any PCL games? I understand the Angels-Hollywood Stars rivalry was fierce, though the passion had apparently waned a bit by the mid-'50s.

I went to a couple of Hollywood Stars games when I was real little. They played in Gilmore Field, which was eventually torn down and replaced by the famous CBS Television City.

Unfortunately, CBS has sold the property although the complex has been ruled a historic monument and the new owner can’t tear it down. The sound stages are still being used on a rental basis.

Recently they took down one of the CBS signs and there was an uproar. They put it back up.

From Viv:

For some reason, I find that older, standard definition sitcoms with brighter lighting somehow seem funnier than today's HD, super sharp, warmly lit affairs. Besides the quality of writing, do you think the method a show is lit and shot can affect how the humor comes across at home?

Most definitely the look of the show is important. 35 mm film is richer and more beautiful than HD. It just is. I saw a comparison once of LOST on film and HD and the contrast was startling.

But as you said, it’s also the lighting and sets themselves. I’ve always maintained one of the reasons CHEERS was so much better received than TAXI (which was an extraordinary show) was that TAXI was set in a grimy garage and CHEERS was set in a beautiful inviting bar.

It helps if you have attractive sets if you’re asking the audience to visit every week. I don’t know of many New York apartments as bright and colorful as Monica’s on FRIENDS but you sure liked hanging out there. Same with Sheldon & Leonard’s LA apartment in THE BIG BANG THEORY. And certainly Frasier’s Seattle digs.

In general, comedy works better in brightness. Darkness creates a mood that often is not conducive to evoking laughs.

marka asks:

How are you given the parameters for script logistics? Like: how many non-cast member actors are you able to write in an episode? How about the sets, are you given directions on how large or how many additional sets you can build for an episode? Does it matter if you can argue that those new sets would be very useful in future episodes?

I just assume there would be guidelines for these things, perhaps in the staff handbook???

Well, first off there is no handbook.

Writers work with the showrunner in breaking stories and the showrunner will give you the parameters. It’s generally in the budget to have guest stars and day players and depending on the episode you may have just one or two or a bunch. Let’s say it’s a wedding episode. Expect to have a large additional cast.

As for sets, certainly for multi-camera shows, a factor is the size of the sound stage. You may only have room for one swing set a show. So it makes no difference if you can reuse the diner set – if there’s no room for it they’re not going to construct it.

Hopefully, all of these issues are determined before the writer goes off to pen his draft.

And finally, from DrBOP:

By any chance, are you a fan of professional basketball? According to many, including Magic Johnson, LA is the new "King Of Basketball" after all the very recent free agent signings.

Being in Ontario Canada, I think Toronto has earned the right to carry that title UNTIL someone takes it from us.

MANY sportswriters are acting like the Lakers and Clippers are the ONLY two teams to watch during the 2019-2020 season. (Blasphemously) I'm a long-time fan of both those LA teams.....but sheeesh! Your thoughts?

The city of Los Angeles leads all leagues in hype. This is one of the reasons why local teams are always serenaded on the road with chants of “BEAT LA!”

Realistically, both teams are better this year and will be very competitive. But last year everyone thought the Lakers were going to rule because they had LeBron. How’d that work out for them?

There are a lot of good teams in the NBA. My prediction: The Western Division Finals next year will not be between the Lakers and Clippers. There will be at least one other team in there. You heard it here FIRST, unless I’m wrong, and then I’ll just deny it even though it’s here in print because now in this country you can do that.

What’s your Friday Question?


E. Yarber said...

I've talked to independent filmmakers who have a visceral dislike of HD, the lower cost of digital filmmaking not enough of an inducement to change their reaction. I never jumped from DVD to Blu-Ray for similar reasons.

A few years back, HBO converted THE WIRE from 1.33 16 mm to widescreen HD, which took the show from a documentary feel to a shrinkwrapped look. There was discussion of it on David Simon's website, with some fans entirely enthusiastic about the change even before they saw the results, one saying something like "It'll make the grittiness grittier." Simon himself felt the original presentation was the definitive look of the series. At the same time, he admitted that HBO owned the show and had carried it through five seasons at a loss, giving them the right to reconfigure it to current standards if they could get something back for their investment.

It used to be that audiences who grew up with everything in color could never be expected to adjust to black and white movies, and we may yet see the day when a generation acclimated to HD won't be able to put up with works on film.

Jonny M. said...

Ken - Really interested in hearing about the TV directing process and have loved your interviews with Jimmy Burrows and the podcasts where you walk through episodes you've directed.

I'd love to hear about how directors tackle big episodes with lots of physical comedy. For example, Woody's wedding in Cheers. Or the pie fight episode of Almost Perfect. There's the actors and all their blocking, but there's also dealing with all the gags that require wardrobe and props and hair and make-up. What goes into coordinating all that?

Mike Bloodworth said...

I've never been to Gilmore field, but I have been to L.A.'s version of Wrigley field. They weren't playing baseball there any more. It was for some kind of carnival that was renting the stadium.

The problem with "Taxi" wasn't the lighting. The problem was that none of the characters we're particularly appealing. They weren't the kind of people you wanted to hang out with. Except maybe for "Jim." And as attractive as Marilu Henner was I never wanted to "do" her. Where as I DID want to "do" Shelly Long.

I'm a life long Lakers fan. However, I wasn't expecting any miracles when we got LeBron. I was just hoping they would show some improvement. Same thing this year. Just demonstrate to me that you're really trying to win and I'll be happy. I just hope that we win another championship before the Boston Celtics do.
By the way, congratulations Toronto.
I'm so happy that the Raptors beat the Warriors. I was getting a little tired of them.

Anonymous said...

I can't look at the logo of the Houston Astros--a star superimposed on a capital H--and think "Texas baseball team." I always think "Hollywood Stars."


Mike Bloodworth said...

Correction: Shelley Long.

Baylink said...

I think it's probably worth pointing out here that "digital film" -- the cameras, that is -- have been getting continuously better over the decade and a half since George Lucas shot Star Wars on an F900; you can light all to way to 15 stops deep on the current generation.

And you *can* shoot 24p, if you're not a moron. :-)

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Yes, summer is going by really fast, and I'm glad about that: it's my least favorite season, so the quicker it can pass, the better.'

As for bright lighting on older sitcoms, I find this is usually the problem when the show was shot on videotape rather than film, and I'm sure part of it was because of how primitive videotape still was back in the 70s . . . but take a look at SANFORD AND SON - especially the later seasons: the lighting is so intense on that show, almost every white character on it looks "neon white," as Sweet Daddy Dee would say. Heck, sometimes Fred and Lamont's truck looked pink instead of red! But then again, I know how challenging lighting can be, but you also have to keep in mind the camera's exposure as well: too much exposure will look like a nuclear winter; too little exposure can look like looking through sunglasses.

Matt said...

I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard a writer of a new book about baseball as the national pastime. Unfortunately I got to the interview too late to hear the writer’s name or the book. But I thought he had an interesting take that you would enjoy. He said baseball was never the national pastime because of the popularity of Major League Baseball. It was Minor League baseball that made it the national pastime. In 1949 there were 540 minor league baseball teams. Every city of a decent size had one. That is what made baseball the national pastime.

Sean said...

It's not about the numbers on film vs. digital.

Film has a quality to the eye which is noticably different. I'll see the beginning of an older movie shot on film on tv, not knowing what it is, and I'm immediately drawn to watch it, just by the look of it. Digitally shot productions don't have the same effect.

Just because the numbers say there should be no difference doesn't mean that there is no difference. There is an objective, appreciable quality that many moviegoers can pick out.

Anonymous said...

"And as attractive as Marilu Henner was I never wanted to "do" her."

One reason a previous poster, in retrospect, might not have wanted to- as he so romantically phrased it-
"do" Ms Henner, is the fear that her preternatural memory would've eternally retained every detail
of the performance issues he undoubtedly would've experienced in the unlikely event she'd
have consented to such an encounter.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

1) Frasier's sets were amazing. I know it was built on the Cheers set but it just seemed real. Almost as if Frasier really lived there. And Niles' apt was even better!

2) Has anyone listened to the SPORTS WARS PODCAST. The Shaq v Koby series has been quite good.

Frank Beans said...

The earliest episodes of MASH are so dark and grainy that they may as well have been produced by The Tabasco Film Company of Havana. The later seasons are so bright, that they come off as bland mainstream TV.

The show really hit its stride in season 2-8, in my opinion. That goes for film quality, but also writing and acting.

Peter said...

Ugh. Don't get me started on digital versus film. I could write a whole essay, so I'll keep it brief. I'll try to anyway.

Almost every time I go to the cinema now, it's a dismaying experience because almost every movie is shot digitally. And digital looks fucking hideous. Nothing can match the look of 35mm film. The latest Spider-Man movie is entertaining but I hated its bright, antiseptic, video look. Marvel's early movies, like Iron Man, were shot on film, but they gradually moved away from it and are now completely digital. It's hard to get excited about their slate of future films when you know they're all going to look like feature length videos. And that's before we get to the complete lack of practical effects, meaning we're watching a ton of CGI on video.

I long for the days when action blockbusters like True Lies had real explosions and stunts, beautifully shot on 35mm. Now look at the hideous trailer for Hobbs & Shaw. CGI vehicles, CGI explosions, CGI buildings, even CGI shattered glass for Christ's sake. Not a single frame of anything tangible and real. Why should I be impressed by something that's generated entirely in a computer? In Raiders of the Lost Ark, a real stuntman held on to the front of a truck. In Terminator 2, a stuntman rode a motorbike out of a window and smashed against a real helicopter. What's exciting about a CGI car flying through the air, landing and exploding into CGI flames?

Spielberg, Nolan, Tarantino and Scorsese are just about the only directors who still shoot on film and I'm grateful to them for keeping celluloid alive. I just wish more directors would do the same.

Jeff Boice said...

Re: the Lakers- It isn't just L.A. The NBA had as Commissioner one David Stern who once said his idea of a dream final was Lakers vs. Lakers. And I remember living in the Northwest in the late 1970's watching Portland and Seattle win NBA titles only to have the national media go on and on about how unwatchable the league was. A few years later the final is Celtics-Lakers and of course all is right again. It took Michael Jordan to change the perception that having teams outside of Boston and L.A. dominate the league was bad.

J Lee said...

The 12th Precinct set used for virtually all the scenes in "Barney Miller" was deliberately grungy, but the lighting of it got brighter after the show's first couple of seasons (not sure if that was a creative decision, or one tied into a lessening of concern after the original OPEC oil embargo in 1973. "Barney" debuted right after that, and IIRC, the networks were making a point in 1974 of saying their shows were cutting down on lighting as a way to save energy).

Ken Hommel said...

I would hang out with any of the characters on TAXI (which was a huge hit the first years), whether I would want to "do them" or not. (Yikes, people still talk like that?)

I would not hang with Cliff Clavin. Or probably, Carla.

Breadbaker said...

I'm not sure if there's a Friday question in here, but I heard something last night while watching "Big Brother After Dark" (I had to stay up late while a bread was rising; sue me).

An ad came on that a female voiceover announcer. I can't recall what it was for; the announcer was just fine.

The immediate ad after it (again, I wasn't noting the product, which may say something about the quality of the ads) and the voiceover announcer was the exact same woman.

As the son of an ad man, I'm familiar enough with the way the business operates to know that this was very unlikely to have been planned or anything, but it almost brought one back to the early days of television where there was just one announcer (and unlikely a woman).

I'm sure the announcer was glad to get both ads, and as I said, she did a fine job with each of them. But it was jarring.

YEKIMI said...

Was watching "Newhart" on Antenna TV [I think] which shows them in chronological order and happened to tune in when they showed the very last episode and then followed that with the very first one. Talk about jarring! The first season, on tape, looked way overlit, almost washed out and cartoonish [at least to me] By the second season that had switched to film and it looked way better, more natural in tone. Nowadays, with digital, it doesn't look as bad and I assume with all the technological stuff they can do with it they can make it look as crystal clear as a mountain lake or "dirty" it up to make it look like film.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I also wrote about my thoughts on film vs. digital years ago - from the perspective of an independent producer - if anyone is interested in reading them (granted, I know there are some technical mistakens in my write-up, I still have to find the time to correct them):

I've never had the experience of shooting film, but I've been going to great lengths to make my recent work, which is shot in digital HD, look as if it was shot on film: my camera has a setting to help pop the color in the footage, giving it a richer, bolder look as opposed to the muted and cold look digital generally captures; also during the editing process, I add a filmstock preset that's included in Adobe Premiere (specifically Fuji Eterna 250D Fuji 3510), as well as an additional 35mm film grain overly . . . I know the results aren't perfect, but it is asthetically pleasing to my eyes, anyway.

Saburo said...

Any thoughts/remembrances of Jim Bouton? "Ball Four" shaped me in a profound way and was saddened to hear of his recent passing.

mike schlesinger said...

I've shot all the Biffle & Shooster shorts digitally, but my editor has a program that can degrade them slightly to make them resemble film. We also did a faux 1928 Vitaphone short that looks and sounds so grungy that people actually think it's genuine. Even the actors who are in it couldn't believe their eyes and ears. Bottom line: You can easily make it film-like if you really want to.

kanana said...

MAJOR LEAGUE david s ward

like it?

in drama a character has a goal, what is your take on bizarro goals like "wanting to lose"
then the obstacles are they win!

best r,


Mike Barer said...

Do they still shoot The Price Is Right at Television City?

bmfc1 said...

For the Frasier reboot: there's a Seattle Mariners documentary in the works (similar to the one that just aired on MLB Network) and the Mariners hold a public casting-call for the #1 Mariners fan to do the narration. Naturally, Frasier and Niles want the job because of the fame and publicity so they compete against each other even though they know nothing about baseball. When Fraiser gets the distinction he can't help mispronouncing names and saying things like "This Lou fellow isn't very nice, I don't understand why they call him 'Sweet Lou'".

Anonymous said...

“What's exciting about a CGI car flying through the air, landing and exploding into CGI flames?”

I love riddles. Is the answer “A reduction in stunt performer doctor/funeral expenses?”
(This answer goes over like gangbusters in accounting)

PS. All hail Biffle and Shooster

Jasper said...

FRIDAY QUESTION on a specific aspect of story-writing. I used to read books on screenwriting and they always made a point of saying to never include anything that isn't absolutely necessary, which in theory makes sense. But what I find from years of watching TV and movies is that following that rule also tends to give away the story, because you hear a seemingly unnecessary detail and you say, okay, well, now I know what's going to happen, because they wouldn't have included that detail unless it was to set up this plot point.

Case in point, the episode of the Golden Girls that we just had on where Sophia works in the hospital and has informed the women that a mean artist they once met is there dying, and they are discussing the ethics of buying one of his paintings at auction to capitalize on his imminent death. As soon as Sophia adds the detail that she heard the doctors talking, and he "needs a rare blood transfusion," you immediately know what's going to happen, because we already knew he was dying, so why add that detail unless….

I'm interested in your thoughts on following this rule on necessary information only while preventing it from giving away the course of the story.

Clipping Path said...

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