You Can't Do That on Television: Writing and Shooting

Figure 1.--The show had many skits dealing with humiliating clothes. This was fairly easy for the boys, but more difficult for the girls. This is sisters Jill and Amy in identical dresses. Jill said she didn't like dressing like her little sister.

Creator and producer Roger Price explains how the scripts were written and often changed during the shooting..


In the early days Geoffrey Darby and I wrote the scripts together. When he left after about three years, to go and work for Nickelodeon in New York, I wrote them alone for a while with contributions from some of the kids. Then I hired Adam Reid, who at 16 had grown too old to be on the show as an actor, to be my co-writer and we worked together. Usually he came about 8.00 pm when he had done his homework. We went to a Chinese to eat. General Tso's chicken was one of our favorites, and then we returned to the office and wrote for a couple of hours on back to back word processors until about midnight. We wrote about 60 minutes of material for each half hour show.

Cast Meetings

The cast came in after school on weekdays and read through the scripts round a boardroom table. At this stage many alterations were made, mostly to the dialogue or performance business. About 15 to 20 minutes of what we had written was discarded as unfunny or unworkable, and suggestions by the cast or technicians for other sketches were worked up.


We never rehearsed as such, at least not in the way that a play might be rehearsed. We just talked about actions, movements and business. Kids did not take the scripts home and made no attempt to learn their lines because the scripts kept altering up to the moment of production. Also I wanted to avoid parents or relatives putting in their pound's worth of amateur direction and advice.


We recorded about 35 minutes of comedy material and edited it down to 24 minutes per show for the USA and 22 minutes for Canada. There were more commercials in Canada. Right up to the take and even during it kids could and did alter the scripts. The only rule was that they should not stop or dry. If they forgot they should ad lib. Sometimes it was better than what was written. In the early days the shows were done live to air anyway. I remember one live to air moment when Les Lye as the Dad had Vanessa, dressed ready for bed, on his lap and throughout the sketch kept calling her Lisa. They went right through the sketch as written, except with Les mistakenly calling her Lisa. Then, after just the right amount of pause Vanessa said: "Actually dad, my name is Vanessa." And Les Lye immediately looked panicky and said "Oh no! I picked up the wrong kid from school!" In the control room we were all falling about.


Adult team members, the props, make up and costume people were nearly always present at these read throughs. We worked the costuming out together.


It was a tenet of mine that; while the audience at home enjoyed seeing kids like themselves on TV it was important that they should not become green with envy at those kids for being on TV. So we had the Green slime, which truly was an un pleasant experience and we did not fake it, and we had humiliating costumes. The idea was to humiliate the TV star in the eyes of the audience. It was a subtle psychological point. I remember one time saying to a Read Through meeting that it was easy to humliate a boy, you just had to stick him in a dress, but it was not so easy to humiliate a girl. Jill said: "Well I feel pretty humiliated when I have to dress the same as my little sister Amy." I had never met her little sister, but Amy joined the cast for the next show and stayed with us for a long time.


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Created: 8:12 PM 9/16/2009
Last updated: 8:12 PM 9/16/2009