They’re stacking up so let’s get to some Friday Questions, shall we?
Rob W. starts us off:
I recently had the distinct pleasure of watching the "Frasier" episode, "The Show Where Sam Shows Up," written by you and David (and directed by Jim Burrows). I was blown away by the remarkable sequence where you guys filled in the major inconsistencies of Frasier's backstory that carried over from "Cheers" to the new show. A number of fantastic lines also brought us up to date on life in Boston. That says nothing of the incredible payoff to Sam and Tea Leoni's storyline. I'm curious what it was like to write this episode-how you balanced the backstories and the payoffs for fans of both shows.
The amazing thing about that episode is that they pretty much left it to us to fill-in the CHEERS backstory. We knew we had to cover CHEERS establishing that Frasier’s father was dead and he had no brother. But we also figured we needed to update the audience on what was going on with the other Cheers regulars. And to that end, there was not a lot of discussion. So David and I just made up what we thought might happen and turned it in, figuring the FRASIER producers were welcome to change it or run it by the Charles Brothers, or whatever. But for the most part, they kept it.
I also remember we had to write the episode quickly. The producers approached us during the Christmas party. Ted had signed on but NBC wanted the episode ready to air for February Sweeps so they needed the script pronto. We were all too happy to oblige. The chance to write Sam Malone one more time was a great incentive. And we always loved writing FRASIER episodes. How could you not?
I was also thrilled that they cast Tea Leoni. She’s wonderful in comedy. I’ve been a fan of hers since FLYING BLIND, where she really shined.
J Lee asks:
Ken -- When you were show-running in Season 6 on MASH, there were two guest-stars -- Bernard Fox and George Lindsey -- who were extremely well-known for their supporting roles on previous sitcoms, who were asked to play more serious roles here (Fox's as the taciturn major a little more than Lindsey's surgeon). Is there ever a concern when casting that the viewers aren't going to be able to see that actor in a different, and more serious role, than what they had been used to seeing them in for 5-10 years or so, and that's going to impact the ability to get the story across as best as possible?
No. It’s quite the opposite. We like casting actors in roles they’re not known for. First off, they are good actors with more range than people give them credit for. And secondly, it’s much fresher to see George Lindsey when he’s not playing Goober.
Adam Chase queries:
How do you feel about shows that are on the "bubble" ending with a cliffhanger? Do producers, knowing full well their show is in a precarious situation, do this hoping it will put pressure on the network to renew? From a fan perspective it's really annoying because we are sometimes left never knowing what happened.
That’s the problem with all serialized shows. You get invested in them, the networks cancel them, and you’re left hanging. Frankly, that’s why I now prefer to wait on new serialized shows until I know they’ll be around next Tuesday and then binge watch them if I’m interested enough.
Cliffhangers are a tricky subject because a show must be in some contention or the network won’t approve the story. So if a network lets a show that’s on the bubble do a cliffhanger then a lot of weight is placed on how well that episode does in the ratings. That’s the REAL cliffhanger.
And finally, Jahn Ghalt has a couple of FQ's after listening to last week’s podcast about my baseball career. (Have you heard it yet? What are you waiting for?)
Loved this podcast, Ken (I like all of them, actually). I would tune in, with notice, if you could do a guest spot for an M's at Angels game with the M's announcers - radio, TV, streaming, whatever.
Would it be gauche to sic your agent on this?
I would be happy to do it if they ask and my schedule is free. I guess I should get an agent too.
You left out a good minute on this one (maybe three) - how did you get the Mariner's job?
When I was broadcasting for the Orioles there was a night we finished a road trip in Kansas City and the Mariners flew into Baltimore for our upcoming series. As the M’s were busing in from the airport, their announcer Dave Niehaus was listening to me call the play-by-play on his transistor radio. When I saw him the next night he was very complimentary, which blew me away. Dave Niehaus was one of my radio idols.
After the season, the Mariners’ number two guy, Rick Rizzs accepted a job replacing Ernie Harwell in Detroit so there was an opening. Niehaus remembered me and called. I then submitted my tape, was brought in for an interview, and happily was offered the job. So I owe it all to luck and Dave Niehaus.
What’s your Friday Question?