Friday, June 10, 2011

Diana Ross as Hot Lips

One of my regular features (actually my only regular feature) is Friday Question Day. You ask. I answer. I try to be right.

Lou H. gets us started:

Ken, on the shows you've produced, did you ever have to do something against your better judgment, such as stunt casting, because of pressure from the network during sweeps?

On the ill-fated AfterMASH there was tremendous pressure to keep bringing back MASH cast members. (We did bring back Gary Burghoff as Radar and that proved to be a series highlight). But at some point you have to live or die with your actual cast.

We got a lot of pressure to bring Loretta Swit back for a guest appearance as Hot Lips. We were totally on board with that but Loretta declined. (She probably watched an episode of the show.) But here’s my favorite part of the story. One of the idiot studio executives said, “Well, just cast somebody else and call them Hot Lips.” Yeah, that makes it a real event. So I suggested he check on Diana Ross’ availability.

What a moron.

Carson wonders:

What's the fastest you've seen or had one of your scripts go from the writing to production to air?

On BIG WAVE DAVE’S for CBS we received no lead time. They wanted the show rushed to summer. I remember an episode my partner, David and I wrote over one weekend. It went into production the next day, was filmed the end of the week, and aired a week later. So from the time we came up with the idea for the story until the finished product aired on CBS was less than three weeks. By the way: it was my favorite episode. You can see it here.

From OneAndAHalfWoman:

For an hour long drama shot in multiple locations the schedule is much harder, correct? Especially if there is one star who is in almost every scene. I'm basing this on some extras I've watched, specifically Veronica Mars. Just wondering.

Yes, it’s much harder. Network hour shows are generally shot in eight days. On cable sometimes less. That means lonnnng hours, often fifteen or sixteen hour days. Hugh Laurie earns his money on HOUSE. So did Kiefer Sutherland on 24. There were times he was probably praying that Jack Bauer got killed.

Not sure this still goes on but I believe it does. The SAG contract requires that you must give an actor twelve hours from when he wraps one day of shooting to when he starts the next. Otherwise, it’s a huge penalty. So to get around that, if there is night shooting, the production staff will schedule it for Friday night since there’s no shooting on the weekend. So an actor might get a 7:00 AM call on Friday morning and work until 5:00 AM on Saturday morning since his next call won’t be until Monday. Imagine doing this for seven months. No wonder House is always cranky and has livers removed needlessly.

And finally, from Michael:

When you were a showrunner, how much input or say did you have in selecting the clothes the characters wore?

Not a lot on MASH. From time to time I got involved but only to make sure the wardrobe was right for the character. I don’t know crap about women’s fashion. Thank goodness on ALMOST PERFECT we had Robin Schiff who (a) was a fellow showrunner, and (b) had great taste. Whenever there was a wardrobe issue we happily let Robin handle it. For me to go up to an actress and start telling her what to wear is like me diving out of an airplane with nothing but a parasol.

Nowadays, like with everything else, the networks are getting more involved in making these calls. I hear on some shows that for every costume change you now have to send photos of the actress in three or four selections and the network picks one. Like I said, I have zero fashion sense, but I’d still rather make my own decisions thank you.

What's your question?  Please leave it in the comment section.  Many thanks.  

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