UPDATE: Thank you, folks! This has been fun. I need to log off soon, but I'll check things in the am.

EDIT: Forgot 'Growing Pains'

Twitter: @jay_abramowitz

Info about my new book is at: If you enjoyed this AMA, check it out?

Comments: 630 • Responses: 58  • Date: 

jayabramowitz561 karma

The way the Olsen Twins performed on Full House was strange and, to me, disturbing.  I think they were 7-years-old the year I worked on the show.  Although they’d perform in the tapings, most of what was used for air was shot in pick-ups, which meant that after the audience left we’d shoot those scenes again.  The woman who worked as the twins’ wrangler, coach, whatever you’d call her, would kneel under the camera, recite the kid’s line and perform a gesture.  The kid would then ape the way the line was spoken as closely as she could.  I don’t know if that was why we sensitively referred to them as the Monkey Girls, but I found it discomfiting that the girls were in effect acting like little robots, or performing seals.  Sure made them rich, though.

MayorOfDipshitCity388 karma

Did Mr. Belvedere sit on his own balls and pass out from the pain?

jayabramowitz807 karma

This is controversial.

One day, we writers were in the office of our showrunner, Liz Sage, going through a script and minding our own business.  The director, Don Corvan, burst in, and told us they’d shut down production and we weren’t going to believe why.  According to Don, Chris Hewitt — Mr. Belvedere — had been in the previous weekend’s Christmas parade.  Chris had been standing in a car waving to his zillions of fans when the car broke suddenly.  Chris lost his balance — the man wasn’t particularly steady in the first place — and toppled awkwardly, crushing his cubes in the process.  Ever the trouper, he’d come in for rehearsal anyway, but the pain in his manly member became too much and he had to take to his bed.

Whether he ever passed out or not is, sadly, beyond the scope of my knowledge.

MayorOfDipshitCity236 karma

I truly cannot thank you enough for sharing this information with the world.

MimonFishbaum133 karma

This was the only reason he did this AMA and I approve.

jayabramowitz346 karma

I neglected to mention earlier that the male writers on our staff spent the rest of the day trying to reproduce Christopher’s accident.  We all failed, and were therefore skeptical of his explanation of the cause of his testicular discomfort.  Try it yourself and please let me know if you succeed.

CheeseWeasler375 karma

What ever happened to predictability, the milkman, the paperboy, and evening tv?

jayabramowitz438 karma

They're there... everywhere you look.

derbyvoice71184 karma

In all seriousness, was there a "level" you were told or expected to write to? Like traditionally newspaper stories are written to 7th grade average.

jayabramowitz592 karma

5th grade would be generous. But it’s not like we were “told” to write to a certain level — we just knew. When the big punchline is DUH! as spoken by a 5-year-old, the mission is clear.

When I was writing FULL HOUSE my daughter was 3. I WROTE FOR HER. And she figured out that when the treacly music started it meant the show was almost over. That music signalled what we called the “heart scene,” when one of the brats would get lectured by an adult about how to live their TV lives and the edisode would get tied up in a simplistically near knot.

BeauRobicheaux74 karma

Were you proud of what you were writing? Did/do you have higher aspirations?

jayabramowitz361 karma

Even when I didn’t respect the show I was writing I always did my best.  I always believed any show could be elevated by a good story and dialogue.  

The frustration in the job came from the fact that you were only allowed to write as well as your boss.  I saw showrunners turn many a terrific first draft turned into a piece of shit episode.  Of course, that was only my opinion.  The showrunner was the showrunner because the studio felt he or she was the most capable of turning out a popular show.  I hated every episode of Growing Pains I worked on, but the show was popular, so what did I know?

bckirchoff159 karma

Were you obligated to include "Have Mercy!" at least once per episode?

jayabramowitz278 karma

No, but at least one “Duh!” usually made it onscreen.

drsboston122 karma

Do writers know when they are jumping the shark?

jayabramowitz373 karma

I don’t believe they do, certainly not in my experience.  But you have to give TV writers some slack on that.  It’s very hard to come up with what was then 26 episodes in a season, some of which have to be written very quickly.  That’s a lot of stories.  And after a show hits 100 episodes, 200 episodes…. The Simpsons is something of a miracle, but the reason they go on strongly isn’t only that the writers are terrific.  The cast does not age. That takes a huge story burden off the writing staff.

MesWantooth101 karma

Who the hell had the insight to know that a sitcom with Bob Uecker playing off a British Butler would work?!

First of all, just want to say thanks for doing this - a really interesting read! I recognize your name on many episodes of those classic sitcom - if you get the 'Written by' credit vs. others in the writer's room - is that because you did most of the writing or the premise is attributed to you or some other factors?

If you are a decent writer, what is a good way to 1) learn the format of sitcom writing and how to produce a script 2) to try to break into the business? I used to write fiction all the time, people assumed I wanted to be a novelist (which I did) but I got really tired of writing verbose descriptions of how dark and stormy the night is and that what I really like are premises and snappy dialogue.


jayabramowitz142 karma

That’s a damn good question.  They didn’t think it would work.  The showrunners were caught by surprise when the pilot was picked up.  Now the show is television history.  Sort of.

You ask an interesting question about credits.  The writing credit went to the writer who pitched the story — the premise — and wrote the first draft, even if not one word he or she wrote reached the screen.  Once a freelance writer pitched a story on Belvedere and all we used of it was the idea of stranding Belvedere and Uecker at the top of a Ferris wheel.  We broke a new story with him involving a scene like that, he wrote a first draft, we completely rewrote it and he got the Written By credit.  

Toward the end of a season, if we were in a real hurry to write a script and did it mostly as a group, we’d sometimes share that credit.

jayabramowitz201 karma

MORE: There are more shows than ever but the business is more competitive than ever.  I recommend choosing a show you like and getting very, very familiar with it.  Read a couple of How-To books — I wish I could recommend one but I haven’t read any.  Then come up with an idea for a story that’s appropriate for the series but is different from anything they’ve done before.  Find a script — they’re probably online somewhere — and learn the format.  Write a script.  Then write another, and another.  Eventually you’ll try to get an agent…  But there’s a battle now between the Writers Guild and agents, which is a whole different story.

There’s a famous example concerning how to write a spec sitcom script.  Someone wrote an episode of Cheers in which the Pope visited Boston and used a urinal in the Cheers bathroom, and that urinal became a shrine people flocked to from miles around.  That episode could never have been produced, but there probably wasn’t one producer who wasn’t entertained when he read that script.  Push boundaries in a believable way.

bullz721094 karma

Did you see a side of Joey Gladstone that the audience didn’t that would ultimately cause Alanis to unleash her fury?

jayabramowitz170 karma

He really loved to fart.  Made the girls laugh a lot.  I gave him a copy of a book called “Le Petomane,” about a performer in 19th Century Paris who could do wonders with his butthole.  I’m certain Dave treasures it to this day.

DrHivesPHD93 karma

When will we get 'Empty House'?

jayabramowitz146 karma

From your mouth to God’s ears.

GotMoFans88 karma

How the hell did a sports anchor and lawyer afford a butler who had worked for the Queen!?!

How did a 10 year old have a casino going in the basement!?!

How did Mr. Belverdere keep getting renewed those last couple of seasons but kept changing time slots to the point I didn’t even know when one of my favorite shows was on!?!

jayabramowitz90 karma

Funny you ask about how Uecker could afford Belvedere.  The first sitcom I wrote for, You Again?, was even more ridiculous.  Jack Klugman played a grocer who had an English maid!  The series was based on a British show and no one bothered to have it make sense when they adapted it.  Surprised it last two season.  Fun to work on, though, some terrific people on staff.

We never understood what the network was trying to do with Belvedere’s schedule.  They liked the show enough to keep renewing it but disliked it enough to move it around until no one could find it.  Those network people get paid a lot, too.

GnomeCzar81 karma

How often did actors refuse lines or plot points because they felt that they were too saccharine?

jayabramowitz235 karma

Ha!  That’s rich.  The actors knew well what they were signing up for.  A line too sacharine for Full House?  That line has never been written and never will be.

There were times, though, when actors wanted lines changed because they felt they weren’t appropriate for their character.  Usually they were right.  One time there was a huge problem, though, that almost got a show shut down.  The season I was on Growing Pains — the longest six months of my life — Kirk Cameron’s character was trying to be an actor.  So an episode began with him in bed with a girl — Kirk playing Mike Seaver playing an actor on a soap opera.  But Kirk, who was an is a very religious Christian, did not want to appear in bed with a girl who wasn’t his wife.  The showrunners — correctly, I thought and think — said that was fine, but if Kirk wouldn’t do the episode they’d quit.  Finally, Kirk did the scene — possibly in a slightly altered form, I don’t recall exactly.

G8kpr36 karma

What was worse... writing for Kirk Cameron, or his sister Candice?

jayabramowitz8 karma

Both actors were professional as far as I could see. Mike Seaver I never found funny but I hated the show in general. I wrote an episode in which Candace's boyfriend Steve tells her he loves her and thought she did very well with it.

JWWBurger77 karma

Why do you think a show like Full House still resonates with audiences today while a show like The Hogan Family seems forgotten by most? Huge Hogan Family fan here, bitter I can’t stream the hell out of that show.

jayabramowitz124 karma

The common wisdom is that it’s the kids’ shows with the broad that thrive in syndication.  I think The Hogan Family was the best of the sitcoms I worked on.  It had the most sophisticated, realistic, believeable writing.  It had the best actor I worked with on sitcoms, Jason Bateman.  (Sadly, I only worked with the wonderful Valerie Harper three days before she got canned.)  The people running that show were excellent writers and the Exec Producers, Bob Boyette and Tom Miller, let them do their thing.  The year I was on Hogan Family was, I think, the first year of Full House.  After a funny, successful rehearsal, Tom Miller once made a rueful joke about having to leave to go to a rehearsal of a lesser series of his — Full House.  It’s the latter series that will still be running long after everyone reading this is dead.

johnnynoname1261 karma

christopher hewitt- gay or just REALLY british?

jayabramowitz299 karma

Let me put it this way.

The cast was rehearsing an episode in which Mr. Belvedere stops at a diner and performs a Gilbert & Sullivan song and dance with a bunch of rough-looking bikers.  (Don’t ask.)  Our director — Don Corvan, the same guy who’d run in to tell us that Chris had sat on his balls — breathlessly pushed into the writers’ room with a videotape, something we HAD to see.  It was tape of “iso” video — the output of one of the four cameras we used.  This video was an iso of Mr. Belvedere — through the entire scene, it would be focused on only him.  We watched the dance unfold, Christopher doing his thing…. The finale came along, Chris in the center of the bikers, all posing with arms out, all still… and Christopher Hewitt, knowing he was on-camera, knowing he was being recorded, looked down at one of the actors with a light in his eyes and lasciviously wagged his tongue at the dude.

JudgeHoltman58 karma

Are you familiar with the series A Very Special Episode on Youtube?

Statistically speaking, hes' covered at least one of your episodes.

The short version is that many 90's series focusing on a particular social issue of REALLY don't hold up and the family probably could have handled the situation better.

Within the showrunners, who was responsible for proofing the scripts? Did you recognize the flaws then, or were you just trying to make deadline while sticking to orders from on high?

jayabramowitz96 karma

“Proofreading” wasn’t something that terribly concerned most of the producers I worked with, as viewers saw the shows, not the scripts.  But the showrunner would make the final decisions about what went into the script — we called that “holding the pencil.”  And “recognizing the flaws” is a polite way of putting what we did.  Often the writers on staff thought the scripts we put out were crap but there was little we could do about it.  The best way for a staff to write a script is to let people give notes at the beginning — to make sure the story works.  Changing dialogue is easy, we always could do that even mid-performance.  But if the story doesn’t work and a script is written anyway, one of two things will happen.  1. After the table read (the first time the cast reads the script out loud), the writers will stay up all night trying to write a script that makes sense, or 2. The show will be a piece of crap.  Often both.

toxicMountainFrost57 karma

In your expert opinion, who was the boss?

jayabramowitz118 karma

Oh, Mona was the boss.  And I wasn’t on that show, but Tony apparently yelled more.  Although he was very nice the couple of times I met him when I was on BABY TALK, a ripoff of LOOK WHO’S TALKING.  He voiced the baby.

Cambionr56 karma

Did you write the very special episode of Mr. Belvedere where Wesley’s friend got AIDS? If so, did you realize the weight it carried at the time? It was my first real time learning of the disease.

jayabramowitz156 karma

No, the AIDS show was produced before I joined the staff so I can’t speak to that specifically.  But you bring up an important point.  I felt strongly when I was working on sitcom staffs that many writers and producers didn’t take their responsibilities to the viewer seriously enough.  For example, Growing Pains used to contain fat jokes about the teenage daughter, who at one point actually acquired an eating disorder (I mention this in my book).  I wish I felt secure enough at the time to protest, but I kept silent.  

Lpreddit53 karma

When writing for Bob Saget, did you ever create fake lines that were more his style - the one we didn’t know about until well after the show was over?

jayabramowitz142 karma

Bob Saget is known for doing foul-mouthed stand-up comedy.  He once said something onstage about having “a hard-on a mile long,” but it was while the audience was cheering so he knew no one would hear him.  Dave Coulier spoke graciously but enjoyed breaking wind.

UPDATE: We wrote Saget-type lines a lot, knowing we could never use them in a show.  Eventually we’d have to stop and write stuff we could actually shoot.

An_Old_IT_Guy50 karma

Appreciate you taking the time to do this. As a writer, what was it like when Valerie Harper left the show? I image it was pretty much chaos.

jayabramowitz109 karma

It’s my pleasure.  Thanks for your time and interest.

It was indeed chaos when Valerie left.  We’d already written a bunch of episodes for her character, and the ones we couldn’t rewrite we had to trash.  

More significantly, we knew we were losing one of the most talented actors on TV.  That was very demoralizing.  I remember one of the Exec Producers going into a long speech about how we’d be fine, we were strong writers, the remaining cast was good and the show would end up being even better…and tagging with the punchline “OH MY GOD WE’RE FUCKED!!”  Luckily, Sandy Duncan, Valerie’s replacement, was a sweet person and a real pro.

The chaos lingered to a certain degree, though.  The showrunners were preoccupied with legal issues for the rest of the season and writing and production were a lot rockier than they would have been.

emazur46 karma

How was the money in sitcom writing and how did you get into it in the first place?

jayabramowitz131 karma

The money in sitcom writing is fantastic.  You get paid a ton per episode, plus fees if you create a character, plus residuals, plus more.  That’s one reason it’s so competitive.  Another reason is it beats the hell out of dragging your ass to people’s home selling insurance.

khumbutu24 karma

What are we talking here - like plumber in a good year 150k fantastic or 300k+ fantastic?

jayabramowitz98 karma

Per the Writers Guild of America minimum rates, a staff writer with a contract for at least 20 weeks, earns $3,703/week, while anyone at a level above a staff writer earns $6,036/week. Defamer did the math, and because network shows that run for a full season are usually in production for 26 weeks, producing 22 episodes, a staff writer makes just over $96,000, while a higher level writer takes home just under $157,000.

Full article here. These are minimums too. With experience, or if someone is sought-after, it is much higher.

Lasdert91442 karma

First time catching an ongoing ama, I’m quite excited about this, here it goes, how are you on this fine day?

jayabramowitz83 karma

I'm excited you're excited. Truly. I’m having a terrific time telling these stories.  Thanks so much for joining us.

retro_pollo38 karma

What was the one line that had you laughing by your self during your career?

jayabramowitz188 karma

I’m not embarrassed to say that I often laughed at a joke when I wrote it.  A good joke, at least.  I recall one for Full House that, of course, didn’t make it into the episode.  There was a Christmas party at the Tanner residence.  I had Kimmy, perpetually lacking in male companionship, wear a contraption on her head that held a mistletoe branch, so wherever she went she was under a misteltoe.  The Tanner dog bounded up to her and madly kissed her face.  DJ came over and Kimmy said to her, “Can I buy your dog?"

DoritoVolante36 karma

Hey! Man, as a kid i watched all your shows!

As an adult, not so much. What genre of media you working on at the moment?

jayabramowitz82 karma

Thanks for watching!  Recently I co-wrote a novel called Formerly Cool, which is largely based on my experiences in the sitcom biz. 

I also post short stories, Hollywood-based, at (the founder is Nikki Finke, who founded Deadline Hollywood)

myfreakinears36 karma

How were "very special episode" topics decided, like when in growing pains they dealt with going to a coke party?

jayabramowitz71 karma

“Very special episodes” were like any other episode.  Someone would pitch a story and the EP would decide to do it.  If it was appropriately timely or maudlin or whatever else made an episode very special, the network would promote it as such.  Those episodes were hardly ever funny, by the way.

blondejeep36 karma

How many episodes did you have to write to revolve around The Beach Boys?

jayabramowitz86 karma

The year I was on Full House we did just one.  I barely remember it.  The one with music I do remember had Jesse and Becky having a “bad” fight.  Jesse sings some maudlin piece-of-crap love song to her and everything’s peachy again.  Just like in real life.

pm_me_your_kindwords35 karma

I grew up on Full House. I watched 1/2 of an episode of the reboot, Fuller House and couldn’t finish. Were you involved in that at all? What are your thoughts about it?

jayabramowitz83 karma

No, I wasn’t involved at all and watched only the first promo they produced when it was debuting.  It seemed just like Full House, and I was a few decades too old to want to watch a full episode. 

mikrovision34 karma

My family lives in Venice Beach, several are SAG actors and/or musicians and deeply involved in that "West Coast" scene. Growing up I just knew I had to get the heck out of that craziness asap and now I'm East Coast happy. You write about the insanity in your book. Does it ever get to be too much for you and consider ditching Los Angeles all together...and if so, why?

jayabramowitz182 karma

No.  I’m very lucky in a few ways.  Most important, I married a very sensible, understanding woman a long time ago so I’ve always had sanctuary from the madness.  Also, sitcom writing is largely a young person’s game and I had success at a pretty young age.  I was able to buy a house in Santa Monica, not in the ritzy area but an area close to Venice that I like more.  The monthly payment is low enough so that we’ve been able to keep the house through the inevitable lean times. 

The entertainment industry is a place where you’ll always find people who make more money than you and, if you care about such things, are more famous.  As I got older and matured I learned to define success for myself.  Three healthy kids, a good marriage — I’m a success!

Zer0Summoner28 karma

Did you ever want to do any darker, grittier episodes, but the network or producers shut you down?

What's the darkest episode you think they'd have let you do?

jayabramowitz51 karma

My sensibility has always been much darker than that of the shows I worked on.  The dark ideas that reared their heads while I was on Full House etc were legion — just see my answer to the question about my episode.  Although, now that you mention it, I did pitch an end-of-season story for The Hogan Family where Jason Bateman’s character gets laid.  What a naive fool I was to imagine for a second that they’d do that one.

I actually wrote a story that could function as an answer to your question.

nvarni27 karma

What studio was Mr Belvedere filmed at? And how long did it take to film or tape one episode of a sitcom back in the 80's and 90's?

jayabramowitz67 karma

Belvedere was taped at ABC Studios in Hollywood, just past the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset.  Back then — ’89 and ’90 — the sound stage was state-of-the-art.

We shot most episodes in one evening in front of a studio audience.  Two audiences, really.  Late afternoon we’d shoot what we called “Dress,” which was a glorified dress rehearsal.  We’d have dinner, punch up whichever jokes we could, and do the “Air” taping.  After the audience left we’d do “pick-ups” — reshoots — of any scenes or lines we felt we needed 

Chaosritter26 karma

Did canned laughter play in your head while you wrote?

jayabramowitz141 karma

I find myself staggering along Hollywood Boulevard, aimless, lost, unemployed, wearing dark socks and nothing else.  I hear the canned laughter, softly first, then building to a roar, reverberating between my ears until I leap in front of a speeding ’67 Buick—

Nah, I never hear canned laughter.

grape_jelly_sammich26 karma

Do you think you would have the chops to write a dark satirical version of the types of shows you wrote in the 90s?

jayabramowitz44 karma

Ohhhhh yeah.  That would be big fun.  I’d do it if I though I could sell it.  Instead, I wrote this story.  And a few others on the same website.

Adopteddaughtermargo24 karma

Are there any sitcoms you actually enjoyed watching during that time period that you didn't write for?

jayabramowitz94 karma

I liked Roseanne a lot.  I thought they did a terrific job of making real people with real problems funny.  I wrote two different spec episodes of that show hoping they’d get me on a more sophisticated series than the kids’ shows I did.  Tragically for me and the viewers of our great nation, it didn’t work.

I went to the first taping of The John Larouquette Show and thought it was the best pilot I’d ever seen.  I immediately wrote a spec script, before the show ever aired, hoping to get a job there.  That didn’t work either and America is the poorer for it.

jennyro023 karma

I don’t have a question really (and I think this is over now?), but I just wanted to say that those were all my favorite shows, The Hogan Family was tops!! Wish I could watch it again. Belvedere was a close second. I miss watching that one, too! Thank you for enriching my youth!

jayabramowitz23 karma

Great to hear. Thank you.

ArmyOfDog22 karma

Do you have any cool behind the scenes stories about Comet?

jayabramowitz56 karma

Um, I get my sitcom pets mixed up, and I took drugs in the late-‘60s.  Which one was Comet?

Ameisen21 karma

Did you know Herb Kazzaz?

jayabramowitz38 karma

I don’t know Herb Kazzaz but I sure like his name.

necromundus20 karma

Who would win in an all-out fight between the Tanners, the Hogans, and the Owens'?

jayabramowitz61 karma

The Hogans would kick ass and they wouldn’t have to throw a punch.  Sandy Duncan would take out her glass eye and Danny Tanner, Uncle Jesse and The Other Guy would run like little girls. 

TheFotty16 karma

Did you come up with any specific episode plots, or were those already done up, given to you and the other writers, to flesh the story out and write the dialog? If you actually got to come up with story lines, from all the ones you personally did, which one was your favorite?

jayabramowitz58 karma

Writers on staff are required to pitch story ideas, either in writing or verbally, and if the showrunner doesn’t use any of them you won’t be on staff very long.  Once you sell a premise, usually the staff will “break the story” together, creating a scene-by-scene outline of the script.  The writer who pitched the idea fleshes out the outline and submits it, gets notes, and writes a first draft.  

My favorite of the sitcom episodes I wrote is probably one for Mr. Belvedere called “Anchors Away.”  Bob Uecker played a sportscaster on a news show; I had the anchorman get sick and Uecker take his place.  Ronald Reagan had just had a well-publicized colonoscopy and we decided to satirize the loss of privacy he’d undergone.  So we had the anchorman go through a colonoscopy on live TV.  Later, of course, fiction became truth, and Katie Couric had her colonoscopy televised.  And after the procedure, I had Uecker get the job permanently, which forced the anchorman to get a job as the host of a cheesey horror TV show for kids.  Loved writing that.  By the way, one critic called “Anchors Away” the worst sitcom episode he’d ever seen.  I was proud of that and wish I still had the review.  I’ve always felt that he couldn’t deal with a show like Mr. Belvedere doing sharp satire.

actionboy2113 karma

Was any cast members being so toxic, it almost became unbearable to work there?

jayabramowitz66 karma

That’s really a question for the other actors and the stage crew.  As far as writers went, only a few at the top of the food chain had to work intimately with the actors.  But no, I never had the displeasure of working with asshole actors.  Occasionally a guest kid actor would be a “bad influence” on one of the kid regulars, and that guest soon became an ex-guest.  

I did, however, work with writers who brutally alienated the rest of the staff.  One writer once told me she’d mapped out an escape route in case a certain writer ever decided to visit everyone’s office with a gun.  And that was before mass killings became commonplace in our great nation.

KanayatheTroll12 karma

Who was your favorite character to write for of all your shows and why?

jayabramowitz86 karma

I’ll cheat and say that it was a slave named James Armistead on an episode of Liberty’s Kids.  But for sitcoms, it would be Mr. Belvedere.  Chris, to his credit, was up for anything.  And that series was darker and more bent than most people realize.

Another reason I enjoyed that show was because I got to talk baseball with Bob Uecker.  I love the game and Uecker played with all the stars from when I was a kid.  He had great stories.  Like the fact that he, somehow, could always hit Sandy Koufax.  He’d smack a line drive off the best pitcher in the game and players in both dugouts would burst out laughing.  We even got to do a “very special episode” with seven Hall of Famers.

dg4vdo12 karma

Favourite condiment? Thank you

jayabramowitz61 karma

YOU CAN’T EAT A HOT DOG WITHOUT MUSTARD.  Yellow mustard, not brown, like we used at the Roxy Deli near Yankee Stadium where I grew up.

TheInimitableGizmo12 karma

How did you get into this highly competitive field? What do you think prepared you the most?

jayabramowitz97 karma

I was lucky.  I originally wanted to be a director and started in production.  Worked some big variety shows as a production assistant, like the 1979 Oscars, in which I delivered scripts to people like Cary Grant.  (He lived in the Hollywood Hills and I could not for the life of me find his house.  I wandered through an empty field, past a “Beware of Dog” sign and finally found it.  Knocked on the door of a small, unmarked house — it was more of a trailer, really — and after a few seconds the door opened and there was CARY FUCKING GRANT in blue pinstripe pajamas.  I said, “Here’s your script, Mr. Grant.  Glad the dog didn’t get me.”  He laughed his Cary Grant laugh.  “Ha ha ha!  There’s no dog!” he said.  But I digress.)

I decided directing TV wasn’t something I wanted to pay dues to get to and remembered I’d always wanted to write.  A couple of friends, one from college and one from film school at UCLA, were already trying to write movies.  We wrote a spec comedy pilot that HBO bought but didn’t produce.  That script got us a staff job on a show with Jack Klugman and John Stamos — in his first acting role after General Hospital, or whatever soap he was on — and we went on from there.

JournalofFailure11 karma

Did you ever work on any pilots that didn't get picked up by a network?

jayabramowitz31 karma

Sure.  A friend of mine sold a pilot called Get That Python Out of My House and I was part of the table read to punch it up.  1991 or 1992.  Sadly, the pilot was the end of that one.  And I sold three of my own.  The first was a spec script about a tween daughter of the president, before any movies on that subject came out.  It was inspired by Chelsea Clinton in the White House.  That got me a two-script deal with Warner Bros.  The first was about a female medical student in Boston who marries a fireman.  The third was based on the life of a 10-year-old Australian blues guitar prodigy who Scott Bakula’s production company got me together with.  Kid was hugely talented, I had Taj Mahal interested in playing his mentor, Scott was a great guy and so was his second-in-command.  I was real sorry we couldn’t get it made.

Groovy_Chainsaw9 karma

With the exception of "Full House" I'd call myself a fan of the shows for which you wrote. Thanks for doing this - it's a fun read.

Did the writing staff on "Full House" really refer to the Olsen twins as the little orangutans ?

jayabramowitz23 karma

The year I was there we called them the Monkey Girls. Tragically, I mention that in my book.

original_greaser_bob9 karma

Who had to write all the mispronunciations of mr belvederes name? Also which actors had the foulest mouths off camera? Also what happened with Kirk Cameron?

jayabramowitz29 karma

Heather’s friend Angela would always mispronounce Belvedere’s name:  Mr. Beelzebub, Mr. Bell for Adano, etc. Whoever wrote an episode with Angela would get first crack at the names, but inevitably all the writers would end up sitting around a table pitching dumb names that began with “B."

TirelessGuardian8 karma

Full House was my childhood. What do you think of fuller house?

jayabramowitz17 karma

I have not seen the show.  I watched a promo when it first started and it looked and sounded just like Full House, which one would expect, as the showrunner at the time was the creator of the original.  

II-MooseMan-II8 karma

Do you still write for television? And if so, (I’m sure this is a definite yes), has TV changed much?

jayabramowitz97 karma

No, I write fiction now.  A lot less lucrative and a lot more gratifying.  

I do want to mention my favorite TV writing job.  It wasn’t a sitcom and I didn’t make a lot of money doing it.  But I was head writer for half the forty episodes of Liberty’s Kids, an animated PBS series for kids about the American Revolution.  I really enjoyed combining comedy and fictional characters with important true events, and I took very seriously the responsibility of very possibly introducing generations of children to a key part of American history.

As far as how TV’s changed…. Much too big a subject for right now, I’m afraid.  But I do think the fact that we have a reality TV star as our president is a fact worth mentioning.

habituallydiscarding8 karma

How did you forget Growing Pains?

jayabramowitz9 karma

It wasn’t my favorite.

jayabramowitz3 karma

It wasn’t my favorite job

OriginalIronDan7 karma

My 14-year-old loves Full House, and binge watches it regularly. What show would you binge watch? Which show that you wrote for would you binge watch? Also, I spent many happy hours watching Mr Belvedere in southwestern Pa, and always wondered:?why was the show set in Beaver Falls? Oh! One last question: did you work on the episode where the little person told a fairy tale where he alluded to Mr Belvedere being a “fat and flatulent giant”?

jayabramowitz30 karma

Ha!  I’m learning a lot doing this.  I came along for the final two seasons of Mr. Belvedere, and the only time I wrote anything that referred to its location was when George and Marsha went to Pittsburgh to see a musical.  By the way, did you know that Ilene Graff is a lovely singer?  She performs in clubs regularly.  Her husband, a very sweet man, is her musical director.  Her daughter, whom I met when she was 5, has performed on Broadway and in clubs with her mom.

I can’t claim either credit or knowledge of the “fat and flatulent giant” line.  But I’ve said before that the show was a lot darker than most people give it credit for.  The writers actually created a bent mythology for poor Belvedere that often had us in stitches in the writers’ room, focused largely on all those bodies he’d buried under the floorboards of the house…

As far as binge watching, I must tell you that I worked on kid shows and only watched completed shows for professional reasons.  The show I’ve binge watched, the show I consider one of the best ever on TV, is Mad Men.  Subtle, surprising writing, wonderful casting, a great look.

drumsum18186 karma

Was the sitcom audience laughter dubbed in for the tv broadcast or is it real?

jayabramowitz32 karma

Some of it’s real, but only when something was actually funny.  Even when there are real laughs, the laughs are “sweetened” — which is a euphemism for “faked” — in post-production.  Of course, some of the real laughs are fake — the writers, trying to help the actors with their rhythm and to convince the audience that something that isn’t funny is funny.  There’s a lot more about sitcom laughter in my book.

vinteragony6 karma

Was there ever anything controversial that you wanted to do but we're not allowed to by a network?

jayabramowitz5 karma

Sadly, we largely censored ourselves because we knew what limitations the networks imposed upon us.

NCTrumpFan4 karma

1) How much of an impact did moving The Hogan Family from NBC to CBS have on its cancellation?

2) How much of the Alanis/Dave relationship did everyone on set know about?

3) Why did the last few seasons of Full House revolve so much around Michelle (at the cost of other characters' development)?

jayabramowitz16 karma

  1. The Hogan Family changing networks was a symptom, not a cause.  NBC felt the show wasn’t strong enough but CBS thought it still had potential.  Low ratings on CBS were then the show’s final death knell.  But by that time I’d moved on.
  2. I assume everyone on the set knew pretty much everything about everyone else’s private life.  We in the writers’ room really didn’t care and didn’t discuss it.  What we did discuss is why Dave didn’t give a shit about his performances and pretty much phoned them all in.  But I digress.
  3. I will paraphrase Jeff Franklin, the creator of the show:  “Remember, it’s not Full House, it’s Michelle’s House.  That character was the main draw of the show.  People really loved that kid and small children identified with her.  Anything she did got a laugh.  Anything she said was a free joke.

Lemmywinks19783 karma

Did Kirk Cameron tried to spread his Jeebus talk to the writers?

jayabramowitz11 karma

I must tell you that I generally avoided talking to actors unless I felt I really had something in common with them.  Too often they just want to pump you for what stories are coming up, or lobby for more lines.  Kirk was 15 years younger than me and I didn’t have much to do with him.  We did once talk about Van Morrison, one of my favorites.  Kirk liked Van’s current album, which I thought was bad spiritualist muzak.  I wasnt able to interest the lad in the great stuff like Astral Weeks or Moondance.

Also... The only time I heard Christian talk from Kirk — and I only got this through the producers — was when he refused to do a scene in which his character was playing another character on a soap opera who was in bed with a girl.  Almost closed the show down.  I went on at greater length about this incident earlier this evening.

Howcanidescribeit-10 karma

Sitcoms now seem very different than the Golden Era of sitcoms. They all seem to be delivery vehicles for played out political jokes. "Orange man bad"/raised eyebrow/sarcastic comment at flamboyant character

Was there a political focus in any of the writers rooms you were in? How did politics play a role in your job?

jayabramowitz11 karma

The shows I wrote for were kids’ show and we didn’t consider politics appropriate ground.  Even if we had, the networks didn’t.  But even when you work on kid shows — and even stupid kid shows -- you work with bright, engaged people.  And as writers like nothing more than to procrastinate, we talked politics a lot when we should have been working.