Friday Questions

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  • Friday Questions

    Friday Questions, anyone?

    Mark Harvey Levine (no relation but one of the funniest playwrights in the biz) starts us off:

    Hey I just learned (I'm slow on the uptake) that Nick, the bartender in "It's A Wonderful Life" was played by Sheldon Leonard, the famous producer of sitcoms. I did know that the two main male characters in "The Big Bang Theory" are named after him. And I just found out that his last acting job was a role on "Cheers". What was it like working with him as an actor? Did he threaten to throw you pixies out, t'roo the door or out the window?

    Sheldon was lovely. One of the few guest actors who never threatened me.

    The sad thing is that most people on the set had no idea of his amazing iconic background. I talked to him a little bit, primarily thanking him for THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. It was his company that produced it and his foresight to tell Carl Reiner the show would be much better if Dick Van Dyke starred instead of Reiner himself (as he did in the original pilot). Credit also to Reiner for putting ego aside and going along with that suggestion.

    Darlene asks:


    I saw a promo on TV that Tim Allen's Home Improvement character would be appearing on Last Man Standing this season as a crossover (both played by Tim Allen of course). Question: When that happens, does Matt Williams or anyone from the original series get credit or money? Related, if you write an episode of a sitcom and a character becomes a break out star, are you entitled to any of the credit or money or does that all go to the show? Do writers ever wonder if they're ever creating the next Mork from Ork?

    Good question. I don’t have a definitive answer, but my guess would be yes, Williams would be entitled to some compensation.

    There is a provision in the WGA contract that allows for writers to get a royalty if they create a character that goes on to reoccur or become regulars of a series. No on-screen credit but $$$. David Isaacs and I got creator royalties on Eddie LeBec (which is why weren’t too thrilled when we had to kill him). The money isn’t huge, but it’s sure better than nothing.

    Along those lines, Brian wants to know:


    From what I understand, Reverend Jim Ignatowski was supposed to make one appearance as the officiator of Latka Gravas' paper marriage, but Christopher Lloyd's portrayal was so good, he was brought back.
    Is it easier to get "one-shot" sitcom characters to join the regular cast? Is there less red tape and network approval to go through?

    Usually what happens is if a character really scores he’ll be brought back once or twice to see if indeed they have lightning in a bottle. Usually there’s little network resistance because the actor has already proven he’s an asset to the series.

    Beyond that, it’s all negotiation. Is the actor interested and available? How much does he want?

    Adding cast members can be tricky because the other cast members might resent having to give up screen time to the new darling. They have to be convinced that a high tide lifts all boats. The new guy might bring in more viewers and raise the ratings. Everyone benefits as a result. But it can be a dance.

    And finally, from Bob Gassel:

    During your time at M*A*S*H, did weather ever play havoc with shooting at the ranch? If so, did scenes ever get relocated from the ranch back to the studio?

    We shot mostly in the summer when it never rains so that was not a problem. Heat was. In the early fall we might get some unexpected rain and I do recall a couple of scenes being rewritten to be filmed on the stage.

    More often than not though, we would rewrite to shoot on the stage because they ran out of time (and daylight).

    What’s your Friday Question?



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