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Brad Kern Interview

Posted: 2/27/2006
By Gord Lacey

I met Brad Kern, the executive producer of Charmed when I attended an interview session for the upcoming Adventures of Brisco County Jr DVD release. He was joined by Carlton Cuse, John McNamara, and a few of the other writer-producers that worked on the show. We started talking talking about Charmed and how the DVDs should have extras, and then Brad agreed to doing this interview.

Most of you know that Charmed has been the most popular show on the site, and we were as surprised as everyone else when the DVDs were announced without any bonus features. I plan on contacting Paramount on behalf of the fans, and asking them to consider delaying future sets in order to get some bonus materials on there. Season 4 comes out tomorrow... without any extras.


Gord Lacey
Hey Brad, how are you?

Brad Kern
I'm feeling pretty good actually.

Gord
Yeah? Are you busy these days?

Brad
I'm feeling good because I just turned in episode 17 and that's always a lucky number for me because I really feel like I'm in the homestretch now.

Gord
You're doing 22 this season, right?

Brad
Yeah, we've done 23 for a few seasons, but we're doing 22 this year. When you get 17 in and you do the math you start realizing that "I'm going to be able to do it!" That's why I'm in a good mood.

Gord
So are you going to have a double-length series finale?

Brad
It really depends on who's in charge of the network. My plan is to cut up a two-parter where episode 21 crests to the big season finale-like battle, but then repercussions occur and that leads us into the series finale. They'll be separate episodes, but one hands the baton off to the other.

Gord
Will there be the possibility of Charmed movies down the line?

Brad
No. You can never say never, but I don't see the girl wanting to get together down the line, maybe 7 years later; 40 year old witches still living in the same house, casting spells, looking for Mr. Right. I doubt it.

Gord
Let's jump back to the start for a second. How did you get involved in TV? How did you break into television.

Brad
I wrote and produced and directed the Steven Spielberg-like student film, sold everything I had, went broke, won 22 international film festivals, amateur film festivals, and thought at 21 years old that I was ready to have someone give me a feature to direct, and when reality hit me in the face I couldn't afford to make another student movie so I picked up a pencil and a piece of paper and I wrote a Hill Street Blues spec script which got the attention of Hill Street, and at the time MTM, which made Hill Street, and there wasn't any room on Hill Street so they sent my script over to Remington Steele, and they hired me. I got the job even though I hadn't seen Remington Steele before I got the job... I lied. I couldn't pay my gas bill, so I had to get a job - I sold everything, I was broke and they said, "So, what do you think of Remington Steele?" I said, "I love it!" So that's how I got into it, kind of backed into it. I wanted to be a film-maker and became a writer, and then I realized quickly in television if you can write you can actually become a film-maker, more-so than in the film world. As I worked my way up the ranks I was able to produce, and then I was able to direct, and right now I'm just doing more expensive versions of what I started off to do in film school.

Gord
You worked on Remington Steele, which is out on DVD now.

Brad
Yeah, I did a couple of interviews for them.

Gord
And then did Brisco County Jr., which is coming out. Then we have New York Undercover, which isn't out yet...

Brad
Yeah, and I did Lois and Clark before that....is that out?

Gord
Yeah, Lois and Clark is out.

Brad
Is it? No one asked me to talk about it. I was only co-executive producer so there were a few executive producers above me.

Gord
[John] McNamara got to talk...

Brad
McNamara always talks. He would talk on a DVD for a show he wasn't even a showrunner on.

Gord
Which show did you do right before Charmed?

Brad
I ran New York Undercover. I was a showrunner for that, and then while I was in New York I was working with Dick Wolf on the Invisible Man pilot, and when that didn't go then I got on Charmed.

Gord
And you've been there ever since.

Brad
Yeah, 8 looooooooong years.

Gord
A lot of stuff has happened on that show, hasn't there?

Brad
Yeah, often times people will say to me only half jokingly that I should write a book, and I keep thinking I could make a lot more on a tell-all than I have over the 8 years of Charmed, but I'm too nice of a guy. I have a million anecdotes, none of them I can share. It has been a war in many ways; there have been so many changes, so many battles, sometimes with the network, sometimes with the cast, sometimes with the studio - the cast meaning Shannen. Everybody that's been on a show for 8 years is going to have the same kind of stories.

Gord
There was a time a few years ago where you were really speaking out against The WB and their lack of promotion for the show, right?

Brad
Yeah, I was very upset because at the time we were the number 2 show on the network, ahead of Buffy, which was still on The WB at the time. Every time I heard one of the executives do an interview they'd always mention Dawson's [Creek] and Felicity and Buffy, and it was as though Charmed didn't exist, and I just thought it was unfair and a slap in the face, and then promotion-wise they didn't give us anywhere near the time and energy that they gave some of the other shows. I later understood that The WB had a very limited budget and any show that was working so well for them, as Charmed was, they felt that they needed to put their money into other shows because they needed to launch and help those other shows. Hindsight being 20/20, from the 8 year perch, obviously everything worked out right, so maybe they were right. We've kinda flown under the radar for our entire run, and maybe that's helped us, but I did feel like it was something I should speak out on, on behalf of the show because I thought we deserved more press from our network.

Gord
You've outlasted all the shows you've mentioned.

Brad
Yeah, and they can say, "See, we were right."

Gord
Maybe it's good they didn't promote you.

Brad
Yeah, 8 years later it's hard to look back and say, "Someone messed up!" At the time I was very upset, and I think justifiable so. It didn't help - we didn't get any more mention. We've become the show that flew under the radar from the press, and promotion from the network, but found a loyal following, and even an extended following that kinda cycles in and out of the show every 3 or 4 episodes. It's amazing how many people know about Charmed. It's like this generations Bewitched.

Gord
I watched every episode of the first 3 seasons, but I had to clean my TV slate because I was watching way, way, way too many shows. I had to get rid of a bunch, and unfortunately Charmed was one of them. Charmed aired in Canada on CTV, and it still may be airing there, and I remember they were always moving it around...

Brad
Yeah, they kept moving it!

Gord
It became a hassle to watch.

Brad
They would move it, drop it, pick it back up, and I never knew why.

Gord
Yeah, they would have an episode, and then wouldn't show episodes for a couple of weeks, and then it would be back, or they would move it to another night and you wouldn't know. I'm the kind of person - and I guess this is why I got into TV-on-DVD - I want to see everything. I don't want to know I missed a couple of episodes, and although you can jump back into a story, you know you missed something.

Brad
And on a show like Charmed, even though we do individual episodes that are modular - they begin and end within each episode - it's a story about sisters and the individual women, and they grow and change based upon every episode, and if you miss a whole slate of episodes then you feel as though you missed a whole section of what made them who they are at that time.

Gord
Watching TV shouldn't be a chore. You shouldn't have to research when your shows are on.

Brad
That was a frustration for me. Every time I would get letters from fans or get on the boards and see the Canadian fans saying, "Where's Charmed?! How come it's gone? How come it's back?" I felt helpless.

Gord
I think it was shortly after I gave up on it I ended up getting digital cable that had The WB - an East coast and a West Coast feed. I could watch it 2 times then, and then on CTV. I could watch it all those different times, but I never got back into it. When the DVDs were announced I thought, "Oh, this is great!" I don't know if you know this, but Charmed has been the number 1 most-requested show on my site for as long as I can remember. Shortly after we started up it was number 1, and it's been there ever since.

Brad
Wow. How long is that roughly?

Gord
The site has been around for over 4 years.

Brad
That's amazing. That speaks to the loyalty of the fans, which only adds to the frustration of why Paramount won't look at that or be aware of that to see that there's a huge demand, and market, for extras. It would obviously make a lot more money for them versus the relatively little amount of money that it would cost them to put it on.

Gord
Did they come to you before they....

Brad
No.

Gord
....released the show. They didn't let you know they were working on it at all?

Brad
Never. I knew nothing about it until I found out the Paramount Home Entertainment people wanted to launch the first season with our 150th episode last year. It was a big splash; they put on a huge party - 300 people from around the country and world came - and I was really impressed, I thought, "Wow, this is great! They're really serious about this," and of course the first season sold millions of dollars. I think it was in the top 10 of all shows for most of the year; I was blown away. And then that was kind of it, and I was surprised that they didn't really follow through, especially considering the success of the first season. But they've never contacted me, they've never asked my opinion, or to do extras, they've never contacted anybody. I've called, and I've had the head of publicity call, but there's been no response - no one returns the phone calls.

Gord
How many times have you tried contacting them?

Brad
10.

Gord
Really...?

Brad
Yeah, and the assistant always says they're busy, but they'll call back. It's just all the run-around. I only hear bits and pieces through the grapevine as to why they aren't doing it, so I never really get a straight answer. Here we are in the middle of the eighth season and I can't honestly tell you what the thinking is of Paramount and why they don't want to do it, other than they rarely do it for any show.

Gord
A lot of fans suspected there weren't extras on the first three seasons because Shannen didn't want to have anything to do with it.

Brad
Which is okay if they wanted to use that as a reason, but it's hard to argue that reason, but then how do you explain seasons 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Gord
I couldn't understand how one cast member could prevent them from doing anything on a DVD set, so I was surprised when the fans approached me with that idea - it just wouldn't happen like that.

Brad
Even if that's true it wouldn't hold water for the seasons beyond Shannen. I can't see how it's true, but even if it is it doesn't hold water based on what happened next. IT seems to me that Paramount just doesn't do it for their shows, and that's that. Now that Paramount is part of CBS and Viacom splitting the companies and executives being fired, and us being produced by a subsidiary company - Spelling - which is being phased out, that only contributes to the problem of no one really knowing who's in charge of Charmed. There's no advocate at Paramount that cares enough about Charmed that can say, "Hey guys, we should be doing this and it'll make us a ton of money." The frustration is there isn't really anyone to talk to because of the unique circumstances we find ourselves in now.

Gord
They didn't do any extras on MacGyver as well, and it's a bit odd because they did do some extras on certain things, like The Brady Bunch. One season of The Brady Bunch has more extras than all 4 seasons of Charmed combined! It really baffles me because Charmed is one of those cult shows - let's compare it to Buffy's cult audience - the Buffy DVDs have lots of extras. From my understanding they sold quite well.

Brad
At the end of the day if this is just a business and all of us who are creative and get passionate about our shows and care about the fans... if you subtract all of that and look at it as dollars and cents, it clearly makes so much business sense to put money into the extras so you can reap the extra millions in increased sales because of the demand. I sat down with my current writing staff and showed them the unaired presentation before we had Alyssa Milano, when Lori Rhom was playing the role of Phoebe. Can you imagine how crazy the fans would go to see that as an extra? It's 28 minutes, basically a shorted version of the pilot, but there's no Alyssa Milano there. It's amazing to watch, and it was amazing for me to watch it, and that made me think even more, "God, we've got so many extras we've got to put on, and we're still filming." We've got a few months left, we've got the sets up, the cast there, all the stuff goes away after April and then there won't be a chance to film extras and get interviews on the sets with the stars. It's so maddening and frustrating, and I say this with the purest of intentions and thoughts because I don't see a dime from DVDs, so I don't make any money. It's really for putting 8 years on the show and knowing that there are fans that would like to see behind-the-scenes and see interviews, see the unaired pilot - they would love it and Paramount would make a ton of money. It must just be a corporate policy coupled with corporate negligence, at a unique time when the studio is in flux. That's the best way I can explain it.

Gord
You said that season 1 did well, but how did seasons 2 and 3 do?

Brad
I don't have stats on it, other than looking at Amazon.com versus the first season, and getting Entertainment Weekly to see what the top DVD sellers are, and the comparisons are night and day. The first season of Charmed was always in the top 10 in the monthly magazines, and always in the top 50 on Amazon, but I never saw seasons 2 and 3 anywhere in the magazines, and they rank 225th, or something like that, on Amazon. It doesn't look like they're doing nearly as well, and I can only imagine that fans bought the first season, but when they realized there weren't extras, they said, "Why should we invest in seasons 2 and 3?" It's actually season ones success that proves there's money to be made for Paramount, to justify the extras, and the lack of success, relatively speaking, for seasons 2 and 3, shows to me - I'm just a showrunner, not a businessman - that they dropped the ball. They still have a chance to save it because there's still 3 seasons left to print.

Gord
It's really difficult for me to get excited when Charmed is coming because I can only talk about the episodes, and those were talked about years ago. I've stopped reviewing the sets because I don't see a point to it.

Brad
The fans need to inundate Paramount with letters saying, "We'll buy them!" I think that's all Paramount cares about - making money - and then say, "We won't buy them if you don't do it [put extras on] because we already have the episodes on tape." I feel frustrated and helpless, and there's no one to talk to because of all the reasons we've already covered.

    Paramount's Address is:

    Paramount Home Entertainment
    5555 Melrose Ave
    Hollywood, CA
    90038

Gord
I find the whole situation very odd because it's a show that has a lot of support, both online and offline, and it has a cult following, but Paramount is just trying to get the stuff out there, and they're not doing anything to help Charmed stand out from anything else out there. With the huge flood of TV product coming out... if you've a consumer and you have $40 to spend on a day, and you like two shows equally - one has lots of extras, and one doesn't - which one are you going to buy? What makes the most sense for you as a consumer?

Brad
Exactly.

Gord
It sounds like Charmed is getting the shaft again, where it's not the network this time, it's the company that owns the home video rights.

Brad
I completely agree. I think it's a fair analogy, and I think that's in part due to the fact that Charmed has always been an inherited show that Paramount didn't develop, they bought the studio that developed it. I don't think there's an advocate for Charmed at Paramount, and they're looking at their own product and the future as to where they want to put their energies. We don't have an advocate there, and there isn't an executive that was involved in the development of the show and cares enough to push for things like this at the upper levels.

Gord
The problem is that your show isn't called "Star Trek: Charmed." The Trek releases get lots of extras.

Brad
Yeah, that's the problem. This could be a franchise; I think they could push to spin it off, especially with The WB and UPN combining networks and needing product. We still draw 3.5 to 4 million viewers every week, which puts us as the 4th highest-rated show on The WB. That makes us a valuable stop-gap for the new network CW, while they try and develop something to fill in all their other holes. But again, we just don't have an advocate at the studio.

Gord
What material do you have? You mentioned the pilot presentation, what other stuff do you have kicking around that could be used as-is?

Brad
Well, we have lots of gag reels. We have scenes we had to take out of certain key episodes because we were way too long. "Morality Bites," one of the audiences favorite episodes from season 2 was 11 mins long when we first got it, and there are some terrific scenes we had to take out. We've got that...

Gord
You could make a director's cut of that.

Brad
Yeah, absolutely. Because we had to squeeze into 43 or 44 mins; you can go shorter but you can't go longer. There's added scenes, gag reels, unaired presentation, and still the possibility for behind-the-scenes interviews with producers, cast, guest stars....Julian McMahon, Billy Zane, and Nick Lachey.....we've had an amazing array, Charisma Carpenter coming in from Buffy...there's so many different people that have come and gone on the show that would be glad to say a few words. There are a lot of opportunities out there.

Gord
So are the actors questioning why they haven't been approached for DVDs? Have they ever brought it up to you?

Brad
I know Alyssa has.... as with so many things on the course of a show you kinda shrug your shoulders; what do you do? It takes so much of our collective effort just to produce the show, even 8 years later - it's no easier today than it was 8 years ago, or 5 years ago. We only have so much time to put our energies into the other battles, and I think that's her attitude.... you can't keep spitting into the wind. I don't think anyone, cast or producers, make any money on the DVDs, so it's always pure coming from us. It's just something that should be done for the fans and there has yet to be a good reason why not.

Gord
What would be the ideal situation for you? If you could have Paramount do anything right now, would it be to delay season 5 and the rest of the seasons so they could come in and shoot material for the DVDs?

Brad
Absolutely! Again, we have the girls, the stars, we've gone the sets, we're still shooting. Follow a director around during the behind-the-scenes making of an episode of Charmed. We've got the series finale coming up, there's a whole bunch of extras while we're doing the end of Charmed. Let's meet the writers and watch them flesh out all the different ideas for a series finale, because you can go 16 different ways. There's still so much that is still available, and all of it goes away when sets get torn down and stars scatter, and it's in the rear-view mirror suddenly. As we found out on the Brisco DVD, just coordinating getting everyone back together again, at once place and one time, took 3 months.

Gord
And that was just 6 of you!

Brad
Yeah, that was just 6 of us. It's hard enough to get 3 people to decide on one movie to see on a Saturday night, let alone get 6 people working on different shows in different cities to get together to reflect on what happened 10 or 12 years ago. That's another problem, you're spending a lot of time trying to remember what happened instead of something that's current and fresh in your mind.

Gord
I have to tell you, being a fan of Brisco County Jr, just being in the room with you guys... watching you talk about the show... it was amazing. I think a lot of time the studios figure that if they can't get the stars then there's no point in doing extras, and I disagree with that completely. None of you guys were stars...

Brad
Except McNamara...

Gord
Yeah....but you guys had some of the most entertaining stories. It's a shame the whole thing won't make it on the DVD.

Brad
The truth is the writer-producers have their hands in every aspect of the show, including the stars world, and you can talk about the stars and what they went through and had to overcome. Not to say what the stars would talk about wouldn't be interesting, because of course they would, but the breadth or what can be talked about on the writer-producer level, and what you went through before the stars were even hired, dealing with things the stars weren't aware of... the making of the show, I think it is interesting. That's what the savvy audiences of today, unlike maybe 15-20 years ago, they want to see the inner-workings. They don't want to pretend there isn't a wizard behind the curtain, they want to see the wizard behind the curtain and enjoy what went into making something they love.

Gord
With Charmed wrapping up, what's next for you?

Brad
6 months off. Definitely 6 months off. That's what I've committed to... I have a little 6 year old at home, who I've taken great care of to spend as much time as possible with, but not nearly enough, and I have a wife that's been amazing about holding the fort down with everything else in our lives while I do this, and recharge my creative juices. I'll probably keep writing during my time off - pilots, a movie or two - and then come back and look at what opportunities are waiting for me, and hopefully I'll have written some projects about that, hopefully, I'll feel equally passionate about, that I'll be able to get made.

Gord
If you get another show picked up are you going to talk about the DVDs right away?

Brad
Yeah, absolutely. I didn't know how to run a show 8 years ago when I took this gig, I had no idea, and I've learned so much over the course of this run, of what it takes to keep a show on the air for a long time, and again, things I didn't know before, now I do. There are lots of things, DVDs being one of them, that would be part of contract negotiations up top. I'd be silly not to use this experience, on all levels, to help launch the next series.

Gord
Well Brad, thanks for taking the time for this interview!

Brad
Thanks Gord, it was nice chatting with you.

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