Here’s a Friday Question that became an entire post.
It’s from Susie:
Do writers get letters from fans addressed to the show? Say like "to the writers of Cheers or Simpsons"....
I do remember that you once talked about actors getting letters, so what about writers? Have you got any fan mail or hate mail for that matter, when you were working on a show?
Very rarely do writers get letters that aren’t complaints. But it does happen every so often. On MASH in particular I would occasionally get a note from a fan saying a certain episode really touched them. I didn’t get too many of those on BIG WAVE DAVE’S.
Rarely did I get outright "hate" mail. Even on AfterMASH.
More often I would get letters asking for things – would I read their script? Would I send them a photo? Would I give them Kirstie Alley’s home phone number? Fans would send story suggestions or unsolicited scripts. For legal reasons, those were always sent back unread.
More than once I received a letter from someone saying they looked just like so-and-so and we should do an episode where she could play that actor’s sibling. Never ever ever did the picture of them even resemble the actor. Maybe if they ever did a series about the Elephant Man.
As showrunners we would get letters, but again, they were usually negative. When we were doing that series for Mary Tyler Moore we once got a missive that began like this:
I read in a recent issue of TV Guide that there was rampant cocaine use in Hollywood and thought they must be exaggerating. But then I saw your show.
It went on from there. On MASH we were always accused of being liberal Commie bastards. I imagine in today’s climate those same letters would now include death threats.
On CHEERS we were always accused of promoting alcohol use by always showing people drinking. In other words, did we have to spend so much time in that bar?
If I saw there was no return address I just threw the letter away unread. I had a pretty good idea of what was inside.
A terrific sportscaster, Bob Starr (who was the voice of the Angels, Rams, and Red Sox) had a very novel way of handling hate mail. He would write a letter back addressed to the person alerting them that some utter cretin was sending idiotic letters and using their good names.
The takeaway here is that there have always been trolls. They just had to pay for stamps back then.
TV writers work in relative obscurity, but if there’s a show you particularly like, a nice note to the writer would be greatly appreciated. The only positive reinforcement we usually get is more Red Vines for the room.