Friday, May 07, 2021

Friday Questions

Who’s up for some Friday Questions?

Pat Weldon wonders:

You've talked about sitcom writer's rooms many times.  Do procedurals have writer's rooms also?  What kind of atmosphere are they?  I can't imagine them being as much fun as a sitcom room.  Or maybe just a different kind of fun?

Hard to say since I’ve never been on staff of a procedural, but from I understand the room gets together to plot the season and break stories.  Not sure how many laughs there are on LAW & ORDER SVU, but you never know.  Scripts are assigned to individual writers who then go off and complete drafts.

I think the rewriting process depends on the show.  Sometimes the staff rewrites, other times the show runner rewrites.  

Or I’m totally wrong.  

cd1515 asks:

Friday question: loved the podcast about bad reviews, interesting how everyone’s first reaction to a bad review is to say is bullshit but of course if it’s a good review they believe it 100%.
Have you seen or heard of anyone getting a great review and saying “Gee that’s a little overboard, it wasn’t THAT good”?

We’ve had a couple overly effusive reviews like that, and although it’s lovely and fun to send to relatives, we know better than to think we’re comic geniuses.  There are one or two times we fell short.  

From Michael:

How much control do networks have over plot lines once a show has been renewed for a new season? For example, if showrunner decides wants to do long arc where married couple gets separated, can the network stop him/her, short of cancelling the show?

It all depends on the clout of the showrunner.  Unless you’re Chuck Lorre/Shonda Rhimes/Dick Wolf the network is going to have final say on stories and arcs.  Even successful shows like HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, well into their run had to submit outlines to CBS.  

Whether streaming services are more lenient, that I don’t know.  

But networks these days generally own the studios as well, so they have all the leverage.  And use it.

And finally, from Jahn Ghalt:

A Friday Question of speculative interest:

In "The Comedy Litmus Test" (10FEB) you wrote:

Recently, I’ve been asked to assess short plays for several theatre festivals.

Do you ever read something that strikes you as potentially brilliant - but "needs work"?

And if so, would this ever inspire you to collaborate with the writer?

No.  I might contact the writer and offer suggestions if they’re open to them, but I’m not looking for partners.  

When David Isaacs and I had a production company at Paramount there were a couple of times when we mentored young writers through pilots under our banner.  But not for any theatre projects.

What’s your Friday Question?   Have you gotten vaccinated yet?  Get that second shot. 


Craig Gustafson said...

"Do procedurals have writer's rooms also? What kind of atmosphere are they? I can't imagine them being as much fun as a sitcom room. Or maybe just a different kind of fun?"

I can't speak about a writer's room, but I can speak to a different kind of fun.

As a director for community theaters, I generally stage comedies - family comedies, adult comedies, farces, black comedies, musical comedies. After a disastrous production of the melodrama "Angel Street" ("Gaslight"), I said, "Life is too short to direct drama." Then a couple of years ago I directed "August: Osage County." Large cast with a multi-level set and an intense script that runs well over three hours. And the cast never wanted it to end. They were having a blast. There were no Method actors living the roles, everybody got along, put on their shades and took a sunbath in the intensity.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

SVU is, surprisingly, full of little funny moments from time to time - I can't imagine either Chris Meloni or Mariska Hargitay keeping a straight face when they're on a store intercom paging a "Master Baiter." Or the time Robin Williams and Mo Rocca staged a public pillow fight out on the streets, and Munch of all people is out there getting in on the action. Those are the two moments that come up right off the bat.

maxdebryn said...

My Friday Answer: Yes, I am twice-vaccinated (Moderna), and feel fine.

By Ken Levine said...

So Craig,

Why hasn't your community theatre done one of my comedies?


Mark Solomon said...

Hi Ken, have you seen the recently published list “Rolling Stone Top 100 Sitcoms of All-Time?” (Cheers, MASH, Frasier all very highly placed, of course). If so, curious to know what shows you deemed to be ranked way too highly? Or not high enough? Or left off the list entirely? For me, “The Odd Couple”, ranked here at #55, is a Top 10 all-time show. And “Wings” deserved to make the list, but was excluded.
Mark Solomon

Joseph Scarbrough said...

And to answer your question, yes, I have been vaccinated. Opted for the Johnson+Johnson vaccine - just one dose and get it over with; less severe side effects, and it's supposedly more effective against some of the newer strains and variants that are now causing people who've had the Pfizer or Moderna shots to get a third injection now because of them.

Jeff Boice said...

Since you asked: yes, I have received both shots (Pfizer). Tomorrow I'll be "fully vaccinated".

YEKIMI said...

Had the two shot vaccine. The first affected me more than the second one. Nipples inverted, eyeballs turned plaid and three penis' started sprouting out of my spine. Second one cured all that and just left with with a slight fever and a massive four day headache.

Cowboy Surfer said...

When you were the MASH Runner, did you pull for CBS in Battle of the Network Stars?

Anonymous said...

Friday Question: Okay, here’s something that you can probably help out with - On tv detective shows, there’s always the supervisor / captain position whose whole purpose is to say “We’ve got to solve this one, fast!” and after being shown evidence of the crime, says “What else do you got?” and finally “Come on now, let’s get to work.” The whole character could be eliminated and the show wouldn’t lose anything. So, what’s the deal here? (Also - “This guy is a bad one,” “The Brass are putting the heat on this one,” and “For the last time, take off that eye patch. You’re not a pirate!”)

Bonus Friday Question: Don't you think that Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan should be in the Hall of Fame?

Thanks, Gary

Gladys Peters said...

How come network TV dramas always get at least a one-hour time slot instead of 30 minutes?

DougG. said...

When you and David wrote the "Adventures in Paradise" episode of FRASIER, was it always planned to be two episodes or did that just happen as part of the writing process? I know from reading your blog that Gary Burghoff's last episode of M*A*S*H became two episodes but that was CBS's idea. Or were the hour-long episodes of FRASIER all decided by NBC ahead prior to them being written? I do remember there were two separate episodes of FRASIER ("Semi-Decent Proposal" & "A Passing Fancy") that were later turned into an hour-long episode of FRASIER late in the 8th season.

Necco said...

I received my second Pfizer two weeks ago. Minimal effects. I'm 59, and would have gotten them earlier, if possible. I believe in science. Interestingly enough, as a child in the 60s, we got some of our vaccinations at CHURCH. But I was a Presbyterian. Evangelicals have lost whatever was left of their minds.

Question for Mr. Levine...did you intentionally create one "slapstick" "Frasier" episode per year. I guess "farce" might be a better term? They are some of my favorites (except for the Season 11 "cabin dream" episode.) "Daphne Does Dinner" is pure brilliance, as are "The Ski Lodge," "Decoys," and "Roz and the Schnoz." Oh, hell, "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz" is one of my 90 year-old, retired-minister father's FAVORITE episodes. Surprisingly, the loudest that I have heard my father laugh, is when Frasier screeches "Je-SUS!," as costumed Niles sneak-runs through the apartment.

To be honest, there is one "Frasier" episode that I refuse to repeat. The one with Michael Keaton, as Lilith's brother. The characters act totally, well, "out of character."

Brendan said...

Friday Question: Last year Decades started showing two episodes of Cheers every night (lovingly nestled between the Dick Van Dyke show and Taxi) and were running them in order from the first episode to the series finale. It’s been wonderful to take a regular, measured journey through the entire series. My question: watching the series unfold over time, something that I noticed was how some of the characters hair (facial and head) changed from season to season. Do the actors get a say in whether they are wearing a beard or a mullet? Or if they want to sport a hairstyle that can be best described as mushroom?

Necco said...

I hear that the ABC-rejected Kelsey Grammer/Alec Baldwin pilot is being shopped around. If it fails, will that mean that Grammer pushes the "Frasier" reboot. Frankly, I don't want to see that happen. The potential details of this "return," do not sound appealing. The original is gold.

I hated the "Will & Grace" reboot, even though James Burrows directed all of the episodes. It was not even close to being as humorous as the original, and they conveniently "negated" previous plot points.

"Frasier" managed to be at the top of it's game for ELEVEN seasons. Amazing. Don't tarnish that. Yes, I would KILL to see new "Frasier" episodes, but is it necessary?

"The Dick Van Dyke Show" is a favorite, but that horrible 2004 "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited" special is cringe-worthy.

The "Murphy Brown" comeback was horrible.

That being said, I hear that a "The Nanny" reboot is lurking. THAT, I can see happening, for some reason.

Jeff Boice said...

In the 1960's the networks were allowed ownership interests in shows they aired (that's what "In Association with the CBS Television Network" meant), and they had no qualms in taking charge of a show by replacing the producer. The first season of "The Wild Wild West" had five different producers as CBS and Executive Producer Michael Garrison quarreled over how "Bondian" the show should be. And if the network still wasn't satisfied, they would just give the show a terrible timeslot to kill it off. An example- ABC slotted the final season of the (Patrick Macnee) Avengers against "Laugh-In".

Unknown said...

"Hard to say since I’ve never been on staff of a procedural..."

Wait, didn't you write a sitcom set in the writer's room of a procedural (Almost Perfect? Surely you did some research, if only to make sure your lead had a appropriatly-sized apartment!

By Ken Levine said...

We actually did do research. We went to NYPD BLUE and spent time with David Milch. But how one show does it is not necessarily how all shows do it. We structured our show the way they did. The writers all worked together on stories and wrote individual scripts.

Bob Paris said...

Ken: Imagine that you are a rookie on the Dodgers ten years ago. You get your first major league hit and for a souvenir you can have only one of these two options: 1) the game ball, or 2) a copy of the broadcast where Vin Scully calls your at-bat. Which would you choose?

Cedricstudio said...

Friday Question: There are some classic and beloved TV shows that to this day are still not available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, etc. THE ROCKFORD FILES and MURDER SHE WROTE for example. Other shows like ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS or WKRP have one or two seasons for sale on select platforms but not the whole series. I've seen all of these shows on streaming (Netflix, Peacock, etc.) so the work to upload them has already been done. Why can't we buy them? I would think it would be easy money for the studios. Do you have any insights?

Kyle Burress said...

When actors or actresses guest star on a show and portray the same character they appear as on another show are there any hoops they have to go through or need permission from the network or show runners? A couple instances I'm thinking of are when Frasier showed up on Wings and when Carla, Norm and Cliff appeared on St. Elsewhere. Are the rules different for spin-offs?