“May” I interest you in some Friday Questions?
Brad Apling starts us off with an FQ about audiences for multi-camera shows.
Did you ever have an episode that you thought was really good but the audience acted ho-hum about or one which you thought was average humor yet the audience reacted as if it was the greatest piece of humor the world has ever known?
Yes. Sometimes you just get a bad audience, but when you watch the show edited together it plays great. Steven Moffat, the great writer of SHERLOCK, DR. WHO, and one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, COUPLING said there was an episode very early in the run of COUPLING that died before the audience. Part of the problem was that there was going to be subtitles through a large part of it. When the show was assembled and the subtitles were in place the show played so well that Steven feels that was the episode that really launched the series.
And the flip side of your question is also true. There have been times when a show played gangbusters in front of the audience and then when we watched the rough-cut we scratched our heads and said, “This is terrible. What are they laughing at?”
From John J:
Sometimes when I watch a show I will wonder where I know some random actor from. On IMDB I will see that he does a couple of episodes a year plus some smaller movies. So my question is, can he make a living like this? How does the average non A-lister pay the bills?
Uh, he has another job. He’s a waiter, an Uber driver, a real estate agent, a carpenter. Character actors who support themselves and their families on acting alone are very fortunate. Most have to supplement their incomes.
That’s why I always say if you want to be an actor you have to really really love it.
Johnny Walker wonders:
Thinking about the realities of having to produce work on demand, have you ever been given an assignment where you were really unhappy with the story? Obviously I guess your job as the writer is to do the best job you can, but how do you reconcile the fear that your name is going to be on something you may not even like?
But writing every line was like pulling teeth. Finally, David had a good idea. He said, “Let’s shake things up. Let’s get out of here and write somewhere else.” So we drove down to San Diego, got a hotel room, and pretty much locked ourselves in while we powered through the draft. If he hadn’t made that suggestion I think we’d still be on page three.
I never worry about my name being on something that's not outstanding. That's the breaks of the game. There are episodes we've written that got rewritten and I felt made worse. You live with it.
And finally, Jim S. asks:
Do you have any special phrases for baseball that you use in non-home run situations?
For example, the late, great Ernie Harwell used to say, when a player took a called third strike, "he stood there like the house on the side of the road."
I will use that phrase when I just might sit stunned and not do anything for a couple of seconds when something surprising happens.
No, I don’t. That’s kind of a folksy style that was perfect for Ernie and a few others like Red Barber, but it’s not me.
I also never developed an exclamation phrase either like “Holy Toledo!” or “Holy Smokes!” or “How about that?” I wanted to use “Fuck-a-doodle-do!” but for some reason radio stations frowned upon it.
What's your Friday Question?