Same Producers--Different Products

Several sitcoms illustrate the impact of actors on producers/writers.

Producer Chuck Lorre created Two and a Half Men, which I can't stand. He also created Dharma & Greg, which I adore, and Big Bang Theory, which I greatly respect.

Along the same lines, David Lee was a producer on Cheers and later on Frasier. I find Cheers well-written but not all that appealing. I adore Frasier, own several seasons, and rewatch it every fall. 

Now, the role of producer/creator is rather ambiguous. As Rock Hudson states in the supremely sardonic The Mirror Crack'd, "The, uh, producer supplies all the money; the director spends it. Then the producer yells that the director is spending too much money; the director doesn't pay any attention, and goes right on spending. The director gets all the credit; the producer gets an ulcer. You see, it's all very simple; excuse me."

Still, in the world of compartments, shouldn't a producer produce a single vision in all his/her works?


One reason is obviously that with any new show or movie, other producers, directors, and writers are involved. But there's another reality that makes television and movies quite different from books. In television and movies, the actors themselves--their interactions, their skill level, their sense of humor, their abilities, their skill-set--impact the creation. Story-lines are influenced as much by what the writers see on the set as what they imagine in their heads. Although early seasons of Friends establish Chandler and Monica as "just" good friends, their natural chemistry made a future relationship possible.

The cast not only impacts future plots but the tone of the show in the first place. In both Two and Half Men and Cheers (which latter I consider better written than the former), the use of sexual innuendo becomes its own joke. Ha ha. We made another dirty joke. Ha ha. It's juvenile and eventually tiresome.

In Frasier and Big Bang Theory, the jokes are legitimately funny.

So how much of this is the new context and new writers, and how much is the available talent--who the writers are able to write for?

1 comment:

Joe said...

The jokes are funny in "Big Bang Theory"? Too bad I didn't get the memo.