Friday, August 09, 2019

Friday Questions

Friday Questions coming at ya.

Bryan Thomas starts us off:

When a new character is introduced to an existing series and becomes a regular, are the writers of the episode in question credited as creators of that character and given residuals or can a producer or someone else create it, assign them to write it, and take credit and any pay?

Usually it’s the writer of the episode. David Isaacs and I got creator royalties on the Eddie LeBec character of CHEERS. We wrote the episode that introduced him. And then he was a hit and eventually married Carla. We thought we were in the money.

But then when the actor playing him, Jay Thomas, said something very unflattering about Rhea Perlman on the air and she heard it; that was it for Eddie LeBec. We wrote the episode that killed him. RIP our money.

Colin Stratton wonders:

Have you ever thought: "Wait a minute! This asshole is getting a $100,000 for acting out lines that I wrote! Why I aren't they paying me a $100,000? Motherfuckers!"

Nope. Not ever. I marvel at great actors and know I could never do what they do. I’m just thrilled they’re making my script work.

Also, the commitment and amount of rejection an actor faces would kill me. I don’t have the temperament for it. Nor do I have a burning desire to get in front of an audience. So I’m fine with the actor making $100,000 reading my lines as long as I don’t have to be the one to pay him.

From Tammy:

I once wrote a fan letter to a screenwriter (I cringe thinking about it now). I didn't necessarily need him to reply (though he kindly did), I mostly just wanted him to know how much his film had meant to me. I think in this kind of interaction, the fan's need to give praise is greater than the artist's need to receive it, as the latter has heard it all a 1000 times already. As an established writer yourself, what's your take on it, if you don't mind sharing? Thanks!

I’m thrilled when my work moves someone or really entertained them. And I’m delighted when they tell me so. Never feel shy about reaching out. That’s why I have an email address I give out on my podcast.

I love to hear from people. When shows I wrote go out on television I never know how of if they affected people, so by all means, I wanna hear from you. And I’m very flattered that someone would take the time and make the effort to get in touch.

When I give out the email address at the end of the podcast I always say that I will write you back.

And finally, from Janet:

You've mentioned that you are finding it harder to write the blog.

Is that due to lack of ideas, lack of research to develop those ideas, something else?

After almost 14 years of daily posts, it’s hard to keep finding new things to talk about. And fewer people are now reading blogs. They’re less of a “thing.” I love doing it but I don’t want to be the last blogger on the net.

That’s why I’m devoting a lot of time and effort to my podcast. At least there I can elaborate more and add things I’ve never shared before. Also I can interview people and bring you different perspectives besides just mine.

What’s your Friday Question?


Max said...

Friday question - Do you have favorite fan theories or unofficial back stories on shows or characters you've written? Is there a secret reason Daphne had to leave England that she's terrified one of her crazy family members will spill to Niles? How did Noel end up with those restraining orders against him? Is the real reason that Diane left Frasier at the alter that she feared she could never live up to his standards, and she chose Seattle to stage her play in desperate hope of finally gaining his approval? Did Bebe Neuwirth secretly break character in her final Frasier scene and say goodbye as herself?

Ed said...

Friday Q: When you create a series, you obviously come up with the initial characters and premise, but eventually other writers will start contributing their own ideas and stories. What's it like as a show creator to see others take your characters and story in directions that may not have occurred to you? I'd imagine it could be exciting to see your creation take on a life of its own beyond what you'd initially conceived.

Jeff Alexander said...

Friday question:
Has there ever been a series (don't need to name names) where a script -- either from freelancers or staff contributors -- got as far as a complete "table read" where everyone admitted that it just wouldn't work? If that has happened, what's the recourse? Is there a "backup" script or is that one sent back to be reworked in a great hurry? I ask because that apparently happened on The Dick Van Dyke Show once -- script name was Art Vs. Baloney by a freelancer whose name is now forgotten. The script was apparently trashed and I honestly don't know what they did to replace it.

Jim Grey said...

I get it, the blog can be a grind of sorts and as audience dwindles you have to wonder whether it makes sense to continue.

I'll say this: I vastly prefer blogs to podcasts because I can read blogs on my phone anywhere, anytime. It's not true of podcasts. I subscribe to about 4, which I listen to in the car on my commute. That's all I can manage. I subscribe to something like 200 blogs.

E. Yarber said...

Actors are not just mindless dopes reciting the lines the brilliant writers devise for them. I've heard wannabe scripters say that, but they also didn't have much appreciation for the set designer who gave the actors more than a bare stage to perform on, or the crew that lit and photographed that stage, the producer who pulled the entire project together or the director who made a finished piece of everyone's work. And don't forget how many projects were ultimately saved by the editing.

In fact, the best writers have all those people in mind when they're working and try to consider the practical concerns of everyone charged with making the script a reality. They get their due appreciation within the team, but the ones on an ego trip who consider the group mere chess pieces enacting their "vision" don't get very far because they really don't understand the basic nature of what they're supposed to be doing, as tends to be the general weakness of wannabes.

Used to be that a songwriter would be thrilled that a top-level singer like Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley would cover one of their songs. not just for the potential sales but because at their best those stars could interpret the material in a way far beyond someone who just followed the melody and managed to remember the lyrics. Only when the performer was able to make the work seem to come directly from themselves, as the best singers have done with their songs or the best actors have done with their roles, does the writing become more than chicken scratches on a page. If you're really lucky, you'll get someone who can deliver your words that way.

Lisa said...

Hi Ken,

My question about the blog and the podcast.

I guess that this blog generates no income as there are no ads. And I am not aware if the podcast does. But I am sure there are a lot of expenses like the many pics that you post here must be from some site to whom you have to pay. And the podcast needs the services of a few professionals who need to be paid. So the whole exercise is an expenditure for you.

I feel sad that you are spending so much and was hoping that at least you break even. Do you?

Brian said...

Ken, sorry but I think you got Colin's question wrong.

He was asking like if actors are overpaid or if writers are underpaid.

Writers, who are the creators, are underpaid right?

Peter J. said...

I enjoy your podcast interviews, particularly your interviews with other writers. (You know/have worked with a *lot* of people!) If you're taking requests, J. Michael Straczynski would be great---and he's got a new biography out that would give you scads of topics to discuss.

Keith R.A. DeCandido said...

Friday question:

I've been on a kick where I've been watching the Sidney Freedman episodes of M*A*S*H. He was such a great character, and Allan Arbus did superb work with him, from his first appearance asking Blake what he's supposed to do with Klinger ("ask him if his seams are straight???") to the finale where he helps Hawkeye with his psychotic break.

I notice that you only wrote one of his appearances, "The Billfold Syndrome," but since you were a story editor, you might know the answer to this more general question: how much research went into Freedman's appearances? I know that Army psychiatrists weren't really as much of a thing in the Korean War as they were Vietnam and after, but were Freedman's cases ever based on actual psychiatric cases in Korea or Vietnam (or World War II or another conflict)?



kent said...

I've been reading your blog since just after you started and I'll miss it if you decide you've had enough. I'm not a podcast guy so I appreciate the blog. Thanks for keeping at it, I know it must get old at times.

A Guy Named Stacy said...

Friday Question... How did the appearance of George "Spanky" McFarland on Cheers come to be?

Tammy said...

Thanks Ken for answering my question, and especially for the heartwarming answer. And speaking of communicating with writers, I love that we have this opportunity to ask you questions, it's not often you see that.

Annie C. said...

Friday Question:

Last night, while flipping through channels, I came across minor league baseball. I think it was the Texas League since it had the Frisco Rough Riders playing the Amarillo Sod Puppies. And dear lord, I really don't want to know what a sod puppy is.

The were two men in the booth and a lady on the field. It was so interesting to listen to them. One of the gentlemen was smooth and glib and sounded great to my untrained ear. The other was a yes-no, mumbling mess. So I wonder...

What is it inside a person that makes them able to step up to the plate as it were? Where does the courage come from? Is it a natural talent, or can it be learned? How do you know if you have it? Or if you don't?

Mike Bloodworth said...

Friday Question(s):
You've probably answered this before, but...
When did you first want to become a writer? Was it a dream from an early age? Or was it something you just fell into? Did you want to be a writer more than your other professions; D.J., sportscaster, etc.? Did you practice writing mock scripts? And what was the first piece that made you say, I think I can do this for a living?

sanford said...

I am getting so old. I saw the reference to J. Michael Straczynski. I just read a review of his book yesterday and already forgot the name. I had to look it up just now

Mike said...

Sorry... posted in some old post.

Here is a re-post.

Ken, do you agree with so much importance being given to talk show hosts or other Hollywood celebrities?

Many say that Jimmy Kimmel is being used out by the Government to reveal about aliens existence. You can see his interviews with many Presidents where he pointedly asks about them.

Sort of preparing us for the day.

Why not openly give a statement to the public? Why use a talk show host?

This topic came to my mind when I read what Bernie Sanders said today.

Brian said...

I enjoy both the podcast and the blog. My favorites lately have been the Jeopardy posts and the mention of the Eli Marks novel series on your podcast. And admit it - you had fun killing Eddie.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Friday Question for you and E. Yarber and any other writers out there:

Are there certain words, terminology or phrases that you completely avoid when writing because they rub you the wrong way?


Colin Stratton said...

Thanks Ken for answering my question. But actually it was more of a rant. I was equating writing with everyday routine work where somebody does the work while another takes the glory. But you make a great point. Actors get paid for a reason. As a fan of Cheers, I cannot think of anyone else delivering those lines. But a paycheck will still make you wonder: why them and not me?

Derek said...

Friday question about the connection between professionally funny, and regular funny.

Do you find that good comedy writers are invariably funny people in their regular life? As an example, suppose I was at a party with 10 people I did not previously know, and the next day I found out that 5 of them were successful comedy writers. Would it be pretty obvious to me who 4 or 5 of the comedy writers were, or do you think I would be surprised?

Thanks A lot!
Derek in Calgary

Todd Everett said...

Funny you should mention verging on running dry. Mark Evanier had the same notion today.

Gareth Wilson said...

There was a recent negative review of a Netflix show where the reviewer said the problem was Netflix doesn't have pilots. An entire season was ordered, filmed and released before anyone realised how terrible it was. Do you think the pilot system does a good job of filtering out obviously bad shows?

Doug Thompson said...

Love your podcasts Ken. Thanks for doing them.

PolyWogg said...

Regarding your preference to be the writer behind the scenes than the actor in front of the camera, I read a quote recently from some writer suggesting that one of the best things for a play or TV or movie writer to do is to take some acting classes so they better understand what they need to do.

My feeling was that, based on the TV idea of seeing what works and what doesn`t in table and rehearsals, you know what works and what doesn`t already.

Did you ever take acting classes to improve your own writing skills?


msdemos said...


Hmmm.....the fact that it becomes difficult to come up with fresh, new ideas after many years of writing for the same 'project'......where has that thought been discussed before ?? ;-)