Friday, February 26, 2021

Friday Questions

Wrapping up February.  Are you staying safe?  Here are this week’s Friday Questions.

-30- is up first.

"You're not writing for you; you're writing for them."

That raises the question--Can you write comedy that you don't think is funny? Is it possible because you're trying to please the audience, your showrunner, get or keep your job? Can writers serve an audience by writing to a formula and turn out jokes to fit a template? Is "hold your nose and type" really possible, no matter how the bills are piling up?


When you start out you’ll take any job.  I would have written on any sitcom that would hire me.  And I’d do my best to give them the type of material they wanted.  Yes, I would not feel comfortable, but I’d still be way more comfortable than holding out and waiting tables and writing spec scripts for shows I admired.

At this point in my career, no.  I would have no interest writing a show I didn’t think was funny, no matter how popular it was.  

But I think it’s less about the quality of the humor and more about the sensibility and characters of the show.   I could not write not a show about today’s high school students.  I don’t really know them, I don’t know their voice, I don’t know what they’re thinking.  

What’s somewhat ironic is when my partner, David Isaacs and I were young we got approached to write a movie about comics during the Borscht Belt Era and turned it down because the characters were too old and we had no handle on them.    I wonder if that assignment is still out there. 

Anthony Strand asks:

Cheers season 9 has several cold openers that take place outside of Cheers on the street. Did the cast actually go to Boston to shoot those scenes? Were they all shot at once?

Yes.  They spent about a week there and filmed a bunch of scenes for multiple episodes.  I don’t think I was on that trip.  And if I were I skipped the shooting, probably to get lobster.  

Here are two from Anonymous.  Please leave your name.

Mr Levine, how much of your writing that was filmed/broadcast no longer survives?

Quite a bit.  Let me know if you ever see JOE AND SONS (pictured: above), THE TONY RANDALL SHOW, AFTERMASH, THE TORTELLI’S, BRAM & ALICE, THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES, IT’S ALL RELATIVE, and the pilots of SNOBS and CHARACTERS.   Same is true with shows I directed.  KRISTIN, LATELINE, ASK HARRIET, BROTHER'S KEEPER, ENCORE ENCORE, STARK RAVING MAD, FIRED UP, CONRAD BLOOM. 

None of the three series we created (MARY, BIG WAVE DAVE’S, and ALMOST PERFECT) are currently in syndication although ALMOST PERFECT was for about ten years and you can still see episodes of all three series on YouTube.  

How many of your appearances on radio or TV, including your work as sportscaster or DJ, survives ?

Very little.  I have a few airchecks of my DJ work, and a few of my baseball play-by-play games.  But considering I was doing it every day for years, only a very small percentage remains.  

From time to time I play portions of my radio work on my podcast.   

On the one hand, I wish I had more.  On the other — when would I listen to it  all?  

But I do have the Dodger game I broadcast with Vin Scully.  That baby is a keeper.  

And a Mariner game I did with Dave Niehaus is an exhibit in the Baseball Hall of Fame (because of him, not me).  And fortunately, I happened to be good that night.  

And finally, from Phil:


David Isaacs was listed as the sole writer for Frasier’s season 6 finale, “Shutout in Seattle”. How come you weren’t involved with those episodes?

He did WHAT?  

No, actually, I was off directing in New York during that period.   Those are two really good episodes.  Turns out he’s a pretty great writer without me.  

What’s your Friday Question? 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

A couple of things

 Lots of you have asked me about the FRASIER reboot.  I will discuss that in the Weekend Post.

My Zoom play reading of AMERICA'S SEXIEST COUPLE with Tim Daly & Joely Fisher is getting rave reviews and lots of traffic.  If you haven't seen it, I invite you to check it out.  You can find it here.

In days to come I deal with ALLEN V FARROW, Disney + adding disclaimers on THE MUPPETS, and much more.  


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

EP213: Elton John Sings Jingles


Jonathan Wolfert, president/founder of Jam Creative Productions is this week’s guest discussing why today’s music is different from yesterday’s (you decide which is better). Also, the unique business of radio station jingles and how they have ties to both Clayton Kershaw and Elton John. Hear Elton John sing radio jingles.

More podcasts on Wave!


Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

No pictures tell a story

I had occasion to look back at photos from 2010 to see who was at a particular party I attended.  While there I swiped through my other photos of that year — most I haven’t looked at in a decade.  Memories came back (mostly good), but the thing that struck me was how much I had done during that one random year.  And nothing spectacular.  I won my Nobel Peace Prize a different year.  But it was a year filled with travel, family gatherings, milestones, sightseeing, meeting with friends, ballgames, concerts, restaurants, theatres, rehearsals, writing rooms, TV tapings, improv shows, holiday events, weekly visits to the gym, pretty much everything but a selfie.  

And then I thought about last year.  I did none of that.   Went nowhere, saw no one.  Nobody did.  For the world this has been a lost year.  My photos are very few from 2020, most of them screenshots.  This will go down as the period in our lives of the least nostalgia.  No one will want to relive these “good old days.”

You live long enough you’re going to face some crises.  Wars, the Depression, natural disasters, pandemics.   And as tough as this has been, it’s still only a year and hopefully over by the end of this year.  Wars and Depressions have lasted longer.  

But my point is, to return to all those things we’ve missed, we’ve got to all, collectively, do the things that will get us there.  Get the vaccines when you’re eligible.  It won't result in chips inserted into your brain. Wear masks.  It's not denying your First Amendment rights.  You can still say stupid things with a mask on. Social Distance.  Wash your hands.  Stay out of Mosh Pits.  We know a lot more about the virus than we did a year ago.  We also have an administration that sincerely cares about you and your welfare.  Listen to the experts.  Follow their advice.  They won’t tell you to drink bleach.  Scientists know things.  Their warning on climate change -- ask someone from Texas if he now thinks that's just a hoax. 

These are all a small price to pay to remain healthy and be able to take pictures you’ll actually want to see again in the future. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Rush Limbaugh is (or now was) really Jim Morrison

This is a repost from June 1, 2017.  In light of Rush Limbaugh's passing (at least he lived long enough to see Biden inaugurated), I've gotten a number of hits on this post.  And I thought you'd find it amusing.  There was a claim in 2017 that Jim Morrison didn't die.  He reinvented himself and Rush Limbaugh was in fact the Lizard King.  That prompted this essay:

Yes, this absurd conspiracy is indeed going around the internet.  Instead of trying to prove that our US president is guilty of obstruction of justice and helped Russia subvert the national election, people are instead insisting that Doors' front man, Jim Morrison, faked his own death in 1971 and resurfaced as right wing talk show host, Rush Limbaugh.  

I'm not kidding. 

No.  Seriously.

You can look it up. 

Okay, forget that Limbaugh was born in 1951 and Morrison was born in 1943, for this to happen, Morrison would have begun his new life as a top 40 disc jockey in a Pittsburgh suburb.   Later, as all rock stars aspire to do, he worked in the promotions department of the Kansas City Royals.   Later, of course, using a completely different voice he became the radical talk show host he is today.   

What psychedelic drug turns you into a Reagan conservative?

What makes this conspiracy so much fun is that there are nimrods out there who actually believe it.   There are some bizarre YouTube videos claiming to PROVE this theory.  And of course they're all Mad Hatter Productions.  But I'm sorry, unless they can show a bill of sale to Rush Limbaugh for size 50 leather pants I ain't buyin' it. 

Now if you want to claim that Donald Trump is really Captain Beefheart, then hey, I'm listenin'.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

Confessions of a night person

 

The U.S. Army once had a recruiting slogan that proclaimed, “We do more by 9:00 in the morning than most people do all day!” Excuse me, but… that’s an incentive? By 9:00 in the morning I’m hopefully still sleeping.

I must admit I’m a night person. Always have been. Practically every job I’ve ever had since high school was a night job. Of course, now that I think about it, I bet I would have sold more Amway products door to door if I didn’t start out every night at midnight.

I know a lot of writers who are morning people. They get up at dawn, go right to work, and get as much done as the Army without cleaning toilets. Notice in that Army slogan they never specify exactly what they do? The truth is, a lot of potatoes get peeled, floors get buffed, and trenches get dug before 9.

But I prefer working late at night. It’s quiet for one thing, and when I write during the day I’m always wondering – what’s going on out there that I’m missing? I never feel that way when the option is watching "A Little Late with Lilly Singh."

Morning writers contend that they can enjoy the day more knowing they’ve already done their allotted work. That makes great sense to me. Until the alarm clock sounds. Then I’m thinking, “What the fuck?! I don’t get up this early to go to the goddamn Rose Parade. I’m going to drag myself out of bed to write five pages for this play when there's no theatre until maybe the fall?”

Back when I was hosting Dodger Talk on XTRA 1150, I filled in on the morning show for about a month. The program director then offered me the position full-time. I graciously declined. He asked why? I’d be done at 9:00 and then have the whole rest of the day to write and direct. I said, “Yes, but see, here’s the thing: by 9:00 I’M FUCKING DEAD!!!” I don’t know how morning men do it.  I’m just now catching up on the sleep I lost.

There’s also a practical reason why I like to write during the wee hours. Lots of writers feel they have to finish a scene before they can put it down for the day. So they’ll sit for as long as it takes to wrestle that bad boy to the ground.

I’m the opposite. If I’m stuck on a tough story point or a long character speech I just stop – in the middle of a sentence even. I find that it’s much easier to solve story problems when I’m relaxed. So I’ll go to sleep and let my subconscious work on it awhile. Invariably, in the morning, after just mulling it over in bed or taking a shower, the solution will present itself. Then I’ll return to the script to finish the scene.

So maybe I don’t get that much done before 9:00 but from 9:15-9:25 I kick ass!

How about you? Are you a morning or night person, and why?

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Weekend Post

My play, AMERICA'S SEXIEST COUPLE is now online!  It's a romantic comedy starring Joely Fisher and Tim Daly.  Also featured is Erik Odom.   

So what's it about? 

Two actors, who were "America's Sexiest Couple" on a popular '90s sitcom reunite for the first time in 25 years.  They face a lifetime of unresolved issues, longings, resentments, and regrets.  Like I said -- a comedy.  

My thanks to the New Works Theatre and Kevin Pollack for hosting this Zoom production.  It's a benefit for the Actors Fund so if you like the play we hope you'll donate to this very worthy cause.  

Thanks much.  Now sit back and enjoy AMERICA'S SEXIEST COUPLE. 



Friday, February 19, 2021

Friday Questions

What?  No holiday this weekend?  Guess you’ll have to settle for Friday Questions.

Matt gets us started.

I noticed David Ogden Stiers did three episodes in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" final season (as station manager) around the same time he was brought onto MASH. Was he doing both shows at the same time? Or was it a matter of MTM ending in the spring and then joining MASH in the summer/fall? If it's the latter, was he on the radar for MASH because of his appearance in MTM?

David did the MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW the year before he began on MASH.  In fact, it was his appearance on MTM that got him the job on MASH.  Producer Burt Metcalfe saw him on that show and thought he’d be perfect for the new character of Charles we were preparing.  

David Isaacs and I were on staff of THE TONY RANDALL SHOW at MTM at the time David was on MARY TYLER MOORE, and we used him in an episode of TR we wrote.  In ours he was a talk show host — Robert W. Cleaver.  

Jason V asks:

How does it affect an actor to be the punchline character in a show? I'm thinking Cliff in Cheers, and of course, Screech in Saved By the Bell.
 
They cry all the way to the bank.

From Jeff:


Ken, I believe you mentioned you were in the audience for All in the Family one time. Being that it's my favorite sitcom ever, would love if you would write about that sometime.

I was in the audience for the episode where Archie and Michael were stuck together in the cellar.   We were out of there in less than an hour.  Both actors knew their lines and as I recall, they went straight through as if it were a half-hour one act play.

One the one hand, I didn’t see a typical episode with all the characters in the living room, but on the other I saw a special episode.  

And I was very impressed.  

I only attended two Norman Lear tapings — that one and THE JEFFERSONS we “wrote.”  In both cases, the actors knew all their lines and the level of professionalism was unmatched.  

And finally, from Brian:


Have you continued to watch Brockmire and what do you think of it?

I watched every episode of BROCKMIRE.  Absolutely loved it at the beginning, liked it in the middle, and hated the last season.

I give them credit for taking a big swing at the plate, but going into the future and making him the commissioner stretched all credibility and reality.  

The first season was magic.  By the end they went off the rails.  That said, I loved Hank Azaria in the role.

What’s your Friday Question?