Friday, September 06, 2019

Friday Questions

Friday Questions with several MASH-themed ones this week. But not the first one.

Frank Beans has a question about attending TV tapings.

"Some shows have an age requirement..."

Could you elaborate on that a bit more? Is it too young, too old, or some other random criteria, and on what kinds of shows typically? Do you think this is a practical, ethical, or wise practice?

For adult oriented shows the age limit is 16. Time is money and the show doesn’t want to hold up filming for screaming babies and unruly children. And since we’ve all seen this behavior tolerated by parents in movie theatres and fine restaurants, and considering tickets to TV filmings are free, they have every right to set restrictions. Take kids to Chuck E. Cheese, not CHEERS.

However, if the show is a Disney Channel show or one that is geared to kids and pre-teens, the age restriction is either eased or eliminated.

Chris Thomson wonders:

At the end of MASH are big part of the story is dealing with him and BJ probably never seeing each other again, after their time together.

And BJs difficulty with saying good-bye.

I just wondered after a long running series like MASH, Cheers, and Frasier, especially given in interviews everyone seems to get on with each other, how much people do still meet up when in town etc, cast and crew etc.

I think it’s a lot like college. How many of your close college friends do you still see on a regular basis? People move, they drift out of the business, they establish new families with new long-running series, etc.

I’m still friends with all the writers on MASH, CHEERS, and many on FRASIER. We email, get together for lunch occasionally, help out on each other’s pilots, etc.

From time to time I also meet up with actors from these shows and especially the shows I co-created. And they’ll pop up from time to time either as podcast guests (like Jamie Farr recently) or guest bloggers.

But it’s difficult to maintain as close a relationship with someone when you no longer see them every day.

From Wayne Carter:

My agent submitted a spec script of mine to MASH in 1979-80. Though well received, we were offered only $500 for the story instead of a chance for me to sell the script ($10,000?) and get a chance for revisions or credit. We were basically told the writers' staff was locked and no outside script assignments at this point of the show were available (except supposedly one by a producer's girlfriend). Do you remember such a situation at that time? It's always bugged me, but I can understand staff writers locking the gates once hefty syndication residuals come into play. It was just frustrating. We didn't accept the deal.

First of all, this was after my time. We never bought a spec script during my tenure. So it’s hard to speak with any authority. I’ll tell you what I think happened just reading between the lines.

They liked your story but not the writing. And they didn’t like the story enough that it was worth it to them to pay for a full script and then do a page-one rewrite. That’s just my guess.

My policy was never to buy a spec unless it was so good and the story was so good that I could keep most of it. And I never found one of those.

However, if I really liked the writing I would bring the writer in and give him another story and script assignment. So the spec didn’t sell but it got his foot in the door, which realistically is a home run with spec scripts.

And finally, from Edward:

In the scheme of things, wasn't CBS' decision to have Radar leave at the beginning of Season 8 a smart move? Ending the season with a cast member leaving might take the wind out of a show during the hiatus.

It was a smart move but not for that reason. The key benefit for CBS was that it had an event show to promote for November Sweeps. Lots of shows lost characters at the end of a season. It’s less of a big deal than one exiting in November.

CBS was also able to make it a two-parter to really take advantage of the situation with double the programming and double the commercial intake.

November, February, and May Sweeps are not as big of a deal now, but back in the broadcast network-only days they were HUGE. Imagine movie studios during summer and Christmas breaks. That’s when everybody gets out their big guns. Radar leaving MASH was a big deal as was reflected in the ratings I’m happy to say.

What’s your Friday Question?


Michael said...

Friday question, I know there are multiple examples of characters that were intended to be one-time appearances or short-term arcs that were so effective/popular they ended up becoming regulars (Lilith and Frasier on CHEERS being examples), but were there any characters on shows you worked on where reverse was true - characters whose appearances were cut short because they just weren't working out? (Eddie LeBec on CHEERS doesn't count since that was due to another issue).

E. Yarber said...

This is no reflection on Wayne Carter personally, and I am speaking here with just the bare bones of his account, but buying his story yet keeping him out of the loop may have been the studio's way of making sure no screaming babies and unruly children interfered with production.

I used to fix material for wannabe writers, but found that it was a recipe for disaster to bring someone who had never worked in any capacity within film into a project. They did not understand how the process worked or their place within the team, and even if they were willing to listen to the producers it was still needless time spent teaching them ABCs while the deadline grew closer.

Carter may have been no problem for them to work with, but based on whatever experience the studio saw, they had no way of knowing that. From their perspective, it could have looked easier to give him a flat fee for the idea and then develop it with writers the staff knew would deliver a finished script on time. Maybe that explains what happened.

Tom Asher said...

Where's your favorite place to get a cheesesteak in Philadelphia? Or better yet, a crabcake in Baltimore?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

A great question about spec scripts leads to this FRIDAY QUESTION (or podcast story)...

Ken, since you've talked about your spec script experiences, can you expand on all the spec scripts you've received and selected or people you've helped with this process.

You've talked about it before but perhaps not in such detail.

Or maybe for the podcast we can get Annie and Jonathan to get their take on specs/pilots/etc????

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken: you've often talked about how writers' rooms need to be spaces in which the writers need to be free to say anything. I thought you might have comments on this story from the New York Times:


Ted said...

Ken, can you please give the latest on WGA - ATA standoff?

I read this article and the comments, it seems the big players are not affected. Just the new writers are finding it difficult.

thirteen said...

The thing about actors continuing to see each other after their series is done reminded me that Donna Reed, Carl Betz, and Paul and Patty Petersen used to go out to dinner once in a while, not only to see each other but (according to Paul) just to freak people out.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I'm pretty sure that single, middle-aged men attending the taping of a "kids" show would raise a few eyebrows.

For me the most difficult aspect of show business is networking. I'm a loner by nature. I'm not comfortable collaborating. Many of the connections I've made in the past have long since dissolved. Even with people that could have potentiality helped me with my career. Or worse, even with people I genuinely liked.
I'm not an "army brat," But I have a similar mentality. I don't get too close to people because you never know when they'll go.
On the other hand I still have friends from elementary school and Jr. high. So, who knows.

As for spec scripts, this could be a FRIDAY QUESTION.
I've been told that when one is trying to get on a staff he or she should not submit a script for that show, but samples of other shows they've written to demonstrate their skill, I guess this is to avoid the old, "Hey! You stole my idea!" accusation. Is this true? Or was I given bad information.
A follow up to the above. Have you or a show you've worked for ever been accused of stealing someone else's idea? In other words, have you i.e. you staff ever come up with a story so similar to someone's who's spec script was rejected that it caused problems?
And I've aksed this about your plays, but It's also applicable to TV scripts. What's the best way to protect a submission from being plagiarized?

Shawn Steele said...

Ken - JK Studios (currently on Bring The Funny and formerly part of Studio C) recently started a video podcast called, "Do Your Worst".

In the podcast, they read the bad sketches, that they have written.

I was wondering if, in the future, you could dicuss, the not so good things you've written, and how they made you a better writer.

I included a link to the video podcast so you could see what they're doing.


Anonymous said...

If you were a major league baseball player, what would your walk-up music be?


Rob D said...

The question about age requirements for studio audiences reminds me of The Honeymooners. Watching that old show, it is always jarring to me to hear a large number of kids laughing in the audience. So obviously young kids were allowed into taping in those days... better behaved than today, presumably.

Jon said...

If CBS planned to hold "Goodbye, Radar" for November Sweeps, the network messed up, since "Goodbye, Radar" was originally aired Oct. 8 & Oct. 15, 1979. I guess Radar couldn't be on R&R forever, or CBS wanted to build momentum going forward by moving the shows earlier. The shows were produced 10th & 11th for the season, so if CBS had aired them in production order, they would've fallen during November Sweeps. Radar appeared in the 1st & 3rd episodes of the season before his goodbye shows aired 4th & 5th. Some of the episodes produced before "Goodbye, Radar", like "Private Finance", had Klinger as Company Clerk, so they had to be aired after Radar left, so this could be another reason for having Radar leave before November Sweeps.

Liggie said...

A baseball question. I've heard MLB would like to expand from 30 to 32 teams, to consist of two leagues with four divisions of four teams each a la the NFL. Which cities would you like to put these hypothetical two teams, and in which league? (Assuming they can get a stadium built, of course.)

PolyWogg said...

In a recent post, you mentioned about some control for characters you create in the series. But what does that control/credit look like? Just residuals or does it actually give you creative control?

I've always been curious about ex-producers/story writers for Star Trek writing stories about the characters they introduced in episodes they wrote...sometimes they seem officially licensed, other times they seem to just be publishing it themselves.

If you wanted to, could you write stories based on characters you created on Mash or Cheers? Or Almost Perfect?

Orphan Black is continuing stories from their show set a few seasons later, although doing them as audio books with the original actress (Tatiana Maslany). But I've often wondered if shows that were cancelled without a wrap up episode could ever do a book form of an episode. Might be more challenging with comedy I suppose...

Just curious what rights you have afterwards for the characters you created...


Y. Knott said...

Micheal, Ken has previously written about the character Mrs. Littlefield, who was in the initial filmed cut of the Cheers pilot and was intended to be a regular series character. But the character wasn't meshing with the others, and she got the axe. You can read about it here:

Tom in Vegas said...

For those of us not in the business, what exactly is a "Spec Script"

E. Yarber said...

It's necessary for a writer to be able to show an example of their work in order to get hired. A spec script is written on "speculation," not pay. It's either a general writing sample or a submission to an established series. Very few of them actually get filmed. If a producer likes the spec script, they'll typically give the writer work on something else. The manuscript is basically a writer's audition.

ScarletNumber said...


I would give Montreal an NL team and Portland an AL team.

Y. Knott said...

Also, because there's some misinformation floating around out there, the character of Mrs. Littlefield was played by Margaret Wheeler, and the character of her nurse (who had exactly one line in the pilot, before it was edited out) was played by Elsa Raven. Both had solid careers playing character parts both before and after being cut from Cheers. Raven in particular worked very steadily for a long time (IMDb has credits for her ranging from 1963 through 2011), and you've probably seen her in a bunch of things.

Alex said...

FRIDAY QUESTION - Any thoughts on effectively engaging with people who are providing a writer feedback on their writing samples? Back in the day when I hoped to be a writer, I always struggled to make people understand that I wasn't trying to refute their feedback, but that I was trying to get some good back-and-forth going to help me better understand how something came off compared with what I intended, and why. It wasn't my intention to defend the script, but it somehow always seemed to come off as defensive. (I guess I could have been specific with people about my intentions, but I didn't really even become that conscious of it until long after I'd stopped writing.)

Rocketman said...

I've got a weird question. For characters you've created, do you ever think about what those characters would be doing after the series concluded? We know a little about some MASH characters; Radar, Klinger and Colonel Potter because of spin-off series. In your imagination, did you have 'after lives' for your creations?

Jen from Jersey said...

Friday question: why do you dislike Kevin James so much?