October 11, 1990
Key to TV Continuity
By Jeremy Gerard
NY Times Service
NEW YORK - For Joel Zwick,
the change was something like trading in a Maserati for a 10-year-old station
wagon. Sure, it starts up every morning and is loaded with personality,
but sometimes it leaves an oil spot on the driveway.
After five years as the
director of ABC's "Perfect Strangers," Zwick switched this season to
"Full House," another popular ABC comedy.
As the sole director of
"Full House," which has just begun its fourth season, Zwick is one of
perhaps half a dozen directors with a continuing assignment on a single series.
That exclusivity is a crucial
factor, he says, in getting his diverse company from first run-through to taping
every week. It also helps that he directed the pilot of the show, and
knows the actors and writers.
was the single most professionally run show I've ever been involved with,"
Zwick says. "On 'Full House,' we have dogs, two 4-year-old twins, an
8-year-old girl, a 13-year-old girl, two stand-up comics who have other shows
and one actor. Directing it is more like real life than a television
show. We have to stop taping because the baby has to go poop.
"It's an organizational
feat to do 'Full House,'" he said.
Zwick, a veteran of 13
seasons as a sitcom director, was determined to make his new show run as well as
the old. His situation was complicated by the fact that two of the
principle actors on "Full House," Bob Saget and David Coulier, serve
double duty as hosts of other ABC shows, Saget on "America's Funniest Home
Videos" and Coulier on that show's spinoff, "America's Funniest
principally a producer's medium," says Zwick, who is unrelated to Edward
Zwick, one of the creator of "thirtysomething."
"The writer is the
producer and the writer has the power and the vision to accomplish things.
Only a handful of directors are involved at the creation of a show, on the
pilot, and wind up in strong enough a position to have their creative input mean
something. Usually, producers want directors they can push around: they
have to behave or they'll get kicked off the show."
But the producers of several
top-rated and critically acclaimed series said they preferred a continuing
relationship with one director over the round-robin that is characteristic of
most shows. They said that having a single director for a series would be
standard if there were enough first-rate directors.
Diane English, the creator
and an executive producer of CBS' "Murphy Brown," said that show's
director, Barnet Kellman, had been instrumental in the show's consistency, one
result of which was an Emmy Award last month as television's outstanding comedy
series. Having one skilled director from the beginning, she said, serves
both the writing staff and the acting ensemble.
She recalled a scene last
season with Corky, the former beauty queen turned reporter, and Eldin, the
iconoclastic house painter, at FYI, the fictitious news magazine that serves as
the show's focus.
"It was the two-part
show where Corky gets married," English said. "Eldin brings
Corky to the bullpen, everybody thinks they've spent the night together and they
haven't. Corky decides then to get married and has to break the news to
Eldin, who just walked over to the elevator and left. It was such a sad
moment, and we didn't know how to fix it."
"Just before we had to
tape, Barnet saw an attractive extra crossing the set and he said, 'What if she
gets in the elevator with him?' and she does, and Eldin just smiles as the
elevator doors close," English said. "It saved the whole run for