Friday, December 24, 2010

Was Sid Caesar supposed to play the Coach on CHEERS?

Christmas Eve. The night where the family gathers together around the computer and reads Friday questions. The holiday tradition continues.

Brian Phillips is first:

Did Sid Caesar turn down "Cheers"?

No, but CHEERS did turn down Sid Caesar. I wasn’t at the meeting, but this is what I was told. Sid had a sit-down with the Charles Brothers to discuss possibly playing the Coach. Caesar spent the time ripping the script. Needless to say, that was his last meeting.

Around the same time, I had had a similar experience with Sid. I was hosting a radio talk show and he was a guest. He was surly to me and the callers. So the callers stopped calling. What a long grueling hour that was. And so disappointing because Sid Caesar was such an idol of mine.

In fairness, it came out later that Sid had a drinking problem during that period, which explains his less than stellar behavior. I think if he met the Charles Brothers or did my radio show today it would be a whole different experience.

He remains one of my idols.

Gary asks:

Ok, Ken, I just saw a Becker episode that you directed - Toast - I think it was called. I'm sure you've been asked about the orange many times, but not by me and not recently. For those who don't know...Liz goes to Becker's apt. and he offers her "something." He opens the fridge and we can see (from left to right) one orange and 3 beers. The camera goes back to Liz, then back to the fridge. The orange is gone. Becker removes 2 beers and as he turns, it appears that the orange is on the far right hand side of the fridge. Is that a prank you play w/the audience, a little self-entertainment?

Wow, you are a perceptive viewer. No, what you saw is just a matching problem from take to take. Those happen. This sometimes becomes a big question in editing. Do you use the take that has the best performance or the take where there’s not a mis-match? Most of the time, unless the mis-match is really obvious and jarring, we’ll opt for the performance take.

In the show David and I wrote the first year of FRASIER where Lilith returns, the final scene is in a hotel room. Room service breakfast is delivered. As Frasier and Lilith eat they play out the scene. In some shots the cover is over the eggs, in others it’s not. Watch it. You’ll see. But I bet you’ve seen the scene before, maybe numerous times, and you never noticed that before.

We always try as best we can to have things match, and there is a script supervisor on the set who is supposed to catch everything but they’re only human. Re the BECKER, my guess is she couldn’t see inside the refrigerator from her angle.

The script supervisor is also supposed to keep track that the dialogue is spoken exactly as written and that the actors are all on their correct marks. I don’t know how they do it. They’re amazing.

From Carson:

When a sitcom does a two-parter or an hour long episode, do you shoot all in one night. Or do you split it up over two weeks? And are these usually the result of a network request?

Depends on the show and how ambitious the two-parter is. On CHEERS and FRASIER we generally shot both parts in one night. On ALMOST PERFECT we shot a two-parter in two weeks with a week’s hiatus in the middle (so we could write part two).

Studios and networks greatly prefer you do them over one week. It saves a lot of money – two-for-one crew expenses.

TAXI did a two-parter over no weeks. How did they do this? It was a wrap around episode. The cab company supposedly went under so everyone had to get another job. Each actor had an individual scene showing his new job. After each filming they shot one of these scenes. Then they shot the scene where they all came together to share their stories. Pretty clever, huh?

On CHEERS we did something similar when Shelley Long was pregnant. We took advantage of that period before she was showing to shoot scenes of her and Frasier in Europe. Those were shot after episodes and inserted into shows later in the season when Shelley could no longer hide her “motherly way”.

What’s your question?

Okay, you can open your presents now.

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