Friday, August 26, 2022

Friday Questions

Wrapping up August with Friday Questions.

Kendall Rivers leads off.

Been watching a lot of Cheers and Frasier lately and I'm curious about writing for Frasier Crane in both shows. Which version of the character did you and David enjoy writing for more?

We wrote him the same way in both series.  I’ve told this story before (by now I've told every story before) but as FRASIER progressed his speech got more florid.  David and I got an assignment and decided to write him the way we always had and figured they could just add the curlicues if they felt they needed to.  When we turned in our script the shows creators said to the staff “This is Frasier.  We’ve drifted away a little.  Go back to this.”  

But as a character, Frasier was certainly richer and more layered in his own series.  

Brian Phillips queries:

Reading about the Dick Van Dyke Show, a show was in rehearsal and word got to the set, President Kennedy was shot. Carl Reiner stopped the show and sent everyone home.

Has there ever been a case where a show you were involved with stopped rehearsals?

Yes.  David Isaacs and I had written an episode of BECKER that was in production when 9-11 happened.   

As with THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, everyone went home for a few days and the show was not shot in front of a studio audience.  I believe it’s the only episode of BECKER not shot with an audience.  

By the way, it’s the episode where Becker has to take an MRI.  The episode is entitled "Get Me Out of Here" if you want to run to whatever platform it's on and watch it. 

Matt asks:

What do you do when you write for a specific actor, but then the actor becomes unavailable?

We were watching COACH one night and it hit me that Hayden Fox sounds like, acts like, probably could've been played by Dabney Coleman rather than Craig T. Nelson. So I looked it up and sure enough, Barry Kemp wrote the part for Coleman. But when it came time to do the show, Coleman was already cast for BUFFALO BILL.

So as a writer or even Executive Producer (or both), what do you do when you write a part for an actor and that actor is no longer available? Do you go out and find a similar actor (as they did with Craig T. Nelson) or do you rewrite the part in a more general way to attract a wider range of actors

You have two choices.  Find another actor who you can slot in, or rewrite to fit the actor you do hire.  

We were casting a pilot once and wrote a part for a specific actor in mind.  He came in and read and pretty much read it exactly as we pictured it.  When he left, David and I turned to each other and said, “I think we can get someone better.”  And we did.

Finally, from Rappin' Rodney:

Ken, what's your take on shows/movies that have long, slow parts? When they linger on a scene or image for far too long without anything further in it that moves the plot forward. What is the writer/director trying to tell us? Is it just to add atmosphere? Is it ever just trying to pad screentime? I think what bugs me most about those parts is not just the slow scene itself, but the implication that as the viewer there's something wrong with me if I don't want to sit through it: that I'm some ADD-addled teen that can't appreciate "art." But if there's a chance that's true, what art am I missing?

For the most part I think it’s indulgent and pretentious.  BREAKING BAD established that and it was fine and somewhat unique for the first few times.  But I didn’t tune in to see the New Mexico desert.  One or two quick establishing shots and I’m like “I’ve got it. Get to the story.”   

That’s one of the reasons I can’t stand Terrance Malick movies.  They’re just filled with long atmospheric beauty shots that mean nothing.  It seems stupid to have to pay to be bored.  

What’s your Friday Question? 



ScarletNumber said...

I'm disappointed that my correction to Matt wasn't noted when I made it the other day, so I will do so again: Buffalo Bill was long cancelled when Coach came around. Therefore, if any show caused the conflict, it would have been The Slap Maxwell Story, which, like Buffalo Bill, was created by Jay Tarses.

ventucky said...

I have always thought Frasier was more charming and funny on Cheers than on his own show, where frankly, he became almost unlikeable.

John Wall said...

On the Breaking Bad/Malick observation. Thank you!. Like most things people get praised for, Gilligan added even more meanndering shots in Saul. We know Cinnabon is boring, why show us dough incessantly?

Lauren said...

Feeling a bit like a tourist among locals as I type this, but I stumbled onto this blog during a late night internet hunt for some evidence of this elusive "TV Movie" called "The Snobs".

Thanks to this blog, I've now read excerpts from the script, and listened to the live podcast version of this pilot-- and have enjoyed them throughly.

My Friday question, however, if I may be so greedy: Is there a place someone like me can watch the Fox 2003 version of this pilot?

Here's hoping my search for screenshots or footage stops here. And my apologies, if this comment is a bit off topic...

Thank you for your amazing resource of a blog!

Covarr said...

I don't mind slower-moving scenes, as long as they serve a purpose (which is rare) and are contrasted by faster-moving scenes. If you have, say, a fast shootout scene followed by a slow scene showing the destruction and death that came from it, that can potentially be really impactful. But if everything is slow, you just have the (in my opinion) borderline-unwatchable GARDEN STATE.

gottacook said...

The longest Cinnabon-making montage I recall was at the beginning of season 3, and as far as I'm concerned, it was justified by setting it to Nancy Sinatra's record "Sugartown." In general, I really liked the series' inclination to putter around the outer edges of the story. Then again, I never tried to watch it on AMC interrupted by commercials; I can understand how that can lead to saying "Get on with it!" to one's TV.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Conversely, as I understand it, the BEWITCHED pilot was in production during the Kennedy assassination, and both Elizabeth Montgomery and Bill Asher personally knew him; they were devastated to be sure, but they decided that the show must go on.

Andrew said...

I hope this isn't too heavy for this blog, but there's a remarkable audio record of an audience learning the news about JFK's assassination. It was at the beginning of a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert (filled with people who no doubt knew Kennedy and his family long before he became President ). The news was announced by the conductor, and they changed the program to Beethoven's funeral march from the Eroica Symphony. It's haunting to hear the reaction from the audience

If you have time, just listen to the first minute.

Jeff said...

Here's a link to the Becker episode

kent said...

Perhaps ironically, one of my favorite Becker's involves John reluctantly helping a lost out-of-towner find her way to a particular subway stop, not realizing that it is by the World Trade Center where she has finally come to morn a loved one.

Anonymous said...

"when you are in the desert,
you look into infinity....
it makes you feel small,
and in a strange way very big."
David Lean
(then again, even he thought
'Lawerence' was too long...)

kitano0 said...

re: Meandering shots

I like Malick's movies for the most part. I feel the shots are integral to what Malick is attempting to express, which is Man's folly and toil in the Garden. (Sorry to be so heavy)

Denis Villeneuve's pacing, however drives me crazy at times...especially Blade Runner 2049. That is one s l o w movie.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

The best "curlicue" I remember on Frasier was when Niles was competing for a woman's affection with a guy who was to Niles what Niles was to Frasier and Niles told him off with, "Oh, be quiet! You ludicrous popinjay!"

As to the slowness of Gilligan's work, there were moments in BC and BBS when I thought they over did it, but I don't think I ever finished an episode and thought, "That was 45 seconds too long".

My only major critique of BCS overall was the that the character who ID'd Saul in the mall went from being a mysterious guy as menacing as any Big Bad of our Golden Age of TV, from Mike Ermentraut to Richie Aprile, to a hapless and easily manipulated boob who stumbled across Saul by accident. But I digress....

Call Me Mike said...

Also worth checking out is the episode of Becker that did eventually address 9/11, with the great Frances Sternhagen. Love that lady.

Gary said...

If you want to see slow-moving scenes, watch Hitchcock's VERTIGO again, and try to see it through a young person's eyes. I know Alfred was the master of suspense, but wow it is SLOW.

Anonymous said...

In Dr. Strangelove Stanley Kubrick had to dub in "Vegas" for "Dallas" in Slim Pickens's talk to his crew when he is explaining what is in their emergency kits because of the assassination.

Aaron Sheckley said...

Like a lot of cinematic techniques, the effectiveness is pretty dependent on the skill and intent of the filmmaker, and the frequency he uses it. Shaky Cam used to convey a sense of hectic action and danger when used appropriately, until lesser talented filmmakers began to use it for every single action scene until every fight began to look like a series of unrelated film clips. A single scene with a lens flare, like that used occasionally in Firefly, could create the sense of "you're here in the action and this is really happening"; then JJ Abrams became enamored of the technique until that was all you could see when watching one of his movies. Even Spielberg was guilty of overusing his own "people looking with wonder at things offscreen" technique to enough of a degree that it became a subject of parody.

I'm a big fan of both the New Mexican landscape and of Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul, so I might be a little more tolerant of the technique than some, but I agree that the words "get on with it" got uttered in my living room on occasion. That's not something that's ever happened when I watched a John Ford western. Ford definitely loved the west, and he was no stranger to panoramic views of the desert, but I don't believe he lapsed into self indulgence.

Though I also suspect that, rather than as an artistic choice, some of the long scenes of desert terrain, or the focus on the minutiae of something like baking buns, might have been padding for an episode that didn't have quite enough story to fill out the time slot.

Roseann said...

Re: Finding a better actor. I worked with Eugene Troobnick at Yale Rep and he told the story of a casting director who was looking for a 'Eugene Troobnick' type. In fact the casting director was speaking to Troobnick's agent. He said how lucky they were cuz Troob was his talent. That's when they said they weren't sure if Troob was right one for the role.

Roseann said...

Re: Finding a better actor. I worked with Eugene Troobnick at Yale Rep and he told the story of a casting director who was looking for a 'Eugene Troobnick' type. In fact the casting director was speaking to Troobnick's agent. He said how lucky they were cuz Troob was his talent. That's when they said they weren't sure if Troob was right one for the role.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

For me, the New Mexico desert was part of the reason I liked BREAKING BAD and BCS so much. Bring it on!


Ted. said...

Re "slow parts" in TV shows: How many times do they have to remake that scene in cop shows where the officers yell "Hey, you!" to a criminal suspect from half a block down the street, just so he can run away and they can chase him for two minutes? That's the point where I start clicking the 30-second-skip button on my TiVo remote.

Mibbitmaker said...

It's been said about Frasier, and I think the same thing, that when we first meet him on CHEERS, he was more like Niles. I'll add somewhat naive as well. And that he evolved as a character through his time on CHEERS due to his experience there, esp. getting left at the alter by Diane (bar experience-related) and spending so long with more salt-of-the-earth type people. He could be a darker personality, more prone to anger, though not excessively. Great writing (and acting) helps.

Once he arrived in Seattle on FRASIER, you could see not only qualities he and Niles had in common, but the differences as well. And Martin's presence kept some of the less elite elements of Frasier's Boston compadres around as well.

Jay said...

Hi Ken,
Friday question for you: what's your opinion of the current trend for TV shows to have single-word (and often bland) titles? I'm talking "See", "The Boys", and "You". I'm seeing this more and more, and as a TV fan, I think it's lazy and kind of dumb. Won't these plainly-titled shows get lost in the gaggle of content that exists nowadays? Wouldn't show creators and/or the network executives want their shows to stand out to attract attention from potential viewers? I know there's a show on one of the streamers that's called "Cheer", and when I first saw it mentioned in the trades I assumed the article's author made a typo when talking about "Cheers". What's next, shows named "Friend" or "A Golden Girl"?

Mitch said...

If you watch Chicago Fire, half the shots are just reaction shots. Some discussion, then they show the actor staring at the other actor, then that actor staring at the other. Back and forth like that for sooo many segments during the 1 hour. Had to stop watching.

JS said...

My Friday question - NBC is considering giving up the 10:00 p.m. hour to local affiliates to run the news. Fox already does this. I think it is a terrible idea. My local affiliate already has plans to expand the already 2 hour 5:00 p.m. local news to 3 in September and put it in place of Ellen. In your opinion, is it solely economics, or can't they find good scripts for new shows, or both?

Anonymous said...

Regarding "Frasier": That was from the hilarious "Mixed Doubles" episode in the fourth season in which Daphne briefly dates a Niles double whom she met with Roz's help at a singles' bar, much to Niles's horror.

Kevin Farrell was superb in the guest role.

D. McEwan said...

"David and I turned to each other and said, 'I think we can get someone better.'"

A playwright friend of mine once, many years ago, wrote a play in which he based one of the characters on me. I auditioned for the role of Me, and they cast someone else! (What really pissed me off was that I had turned down the role of the emcee in a stage production of Cabaret to do my friend's play. The emcee role was handed to me on a plate without an audition by a director who'd worked with me before and wanted me in that role. DOH!)

"Ken, what's your take on shows/movies that have long, slow parts?"

You're asking this of Ken, a man notorious for looking at ten second spots and saying "I'd cut eight seconds from that"? Ken hated 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"Gary said...
If you want to see slow-moving scenes, watch Hitchcock's VERTIGO again, and try to see it through a young person's eyes. I know Alfred was the master of suspense, but wow it is SLOW.

Well I had a young person's eyes when I saw Vertigo the first time. I was 14, and I LOVED it. But then, it's been a while since I've seen it, the better part of three weeks. I watch it on average about twice a year because I never tire of that masterpiece. I've bought it 4 times : VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and now my 4k HDR UHD copy. It's up there with Citizen Kane, as one of the greatest movies ever made, and I would not cut one frame of it, which means Ken would NOT be allowed near the editing bay.

On the other hand, I'd cut easily ten minutes from David Lynch's Eraserhead.

"Jay said...
Friday question for you: what's your opinion of the current trend for TV shows to have single-word (and often bland) titles?"

Psycho, Vertigo, Frenzy, Notorious, Suspicion, Rebecca, Downhill, Champagne, Blackmail, Murder, Sabotage, Saboteur, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rope, Marnie, Topaz. It seems Sir Alfred Hitchcock did all right with one-word titles, though having both Sabotage and Saboteur in his filmography does cause confusion. For a while he was going to title Family Plot as Deceit, which I think would have been a better title. I wonder if he titled a movie Amnesia, and then forgot he made it?

Brandon in Virginia said...

I watch a lotta MST3K and its sister show Rifftrax. The other day I watched the Rifftrax episode where they ragged on the movie Birdemic. You haven’t seen pointless, meandering shots until you’ve seen Birdemic.

msdemos said...


Friday Questions

As a baseball man yourself, who were/are some of the play-by-play and/or color analysts you consider the most "fun" (as opposed to most technically proficient) to listen to ??


DanMnz said...

NBC just announced it's getting rid of its 10pm time slot. What are your thoughts on one of the original three finally throwing in the towel?

Brian said...

Friday Q: For the Frasier episode “The Show Where Lilith Comes Back”, which you and David wrote, Bebe Neuwirth received hearty laughter and applause when her voice is first heard calling into Frasier’s show. Was Bebe’s appearance kept secret from the studio audience to prompt a genuine reaction of surprise?

JoeyH said...

If you're using the "idiot, jerk" definition of nimrod, why would you use that pejorative to describe people just trying to have a nice vacation?