First Friday Questions of the new year. What’s yours?

John Royal leads off.

I have a question about “Becker” (which I still believe to be one of the funniest shows ever). Why didn’t Becker wear a lab coat? Every doctor I’ve ever had has worn either a lab coat or scrubs. And how is working with Ted Danson?

Especially in private practice, there’s no law that a doctor has to wear a lab coat. Becker was a great doctor who also did things his own way. Not wearing a lab coat was more in his character. To answer your second question: Of all the actors I've ever worked with, Ted is my favorite. So a "thumbs up" on that.

Brother Herbert asks:

Reading the Q&A about when filming for M*A*S*H started and wrapped, you mentioned having a "stable of top notch directors" and it got me wondering: How were/are directors assigned to helm episodes? Is it more or less a rotation depending on availability and specific needs for an episode?

All of the above. Because directors were given a few days to prep, plan their schedule, arrange for particular things required in their episode, etc., they couldn’t direct back-to-back episodes.

Our primary director was Executive Producer, Burt Metcalfe. And we had several directors we’d used and liked and depending on their availability we folded them into the schedule. We also tried to bring on a couple of new directors each year.

Additionally, some of the actors directed. Alan directed several episodes, Harry Morgan did one a year, and Mike Farrell also got behind the camera.

Occasionally we would marry a particular episode with a director we felt would be strong for that subject matter. Case in point was getting Charles Dubin to direct our “Point of View” episode. It still pisses me off that he didn’t win an Emmy for that. He did an absolutely masterful job.

From Sparks:

Have you ever done product placement in one of your shows? Been asked to? How about dropping in a name of a business you like as a free plug?

I mentioned this several times in the blog and on the podcast, but for the movie VOLUNTEERS we do a scene where Rita Wilson drinks a Coca Cola, but that was only because it was organic to the story. Later, Coca Cola owned the studio and we were accused of pandering. But that was eight or nine years after we wrote the scene.
As a show runner, I’ve never been approached to insert a product for payment or a favor. Nor would I entertain it.

And finally, from curious Craig:

Friday Question about an actor prepping ancillary skills for a role. I just read that Riz Ahmed spent seven months learning how to play drums for an upcoming movie. I suppose that makes sense if he's the main character and his drumming is a main plot of the film. What about when it's only a smaller part? I've heard lots of stories about actors learning skills before shooting began...I can't think of many right now except Cary Elwes and the grueling sword training he had for The Princess Bride (in which his swordsmanship was just a few scenes in the film). Who decides (studio, the actor, the director) how seriously the actor needs to learn this stuff, and is the actor paid for it all even if it's several months of training before shooting starts?

Sometimes the director will request it, but most often it’s the actor taking it upon himself to really prepare for the role. I don't know who pays for it. But the dedication that some actors have to their craft is simply amazing. And hey, it’s always handy to have fencing skills.