Friday, March 31, 2006

How can...?

How can there possibly be a Michael Eisner talk show?

How can the GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW reach 100 episodes?

How can American Airlines charge $4.00 for crackers?

How can El Coyote on Beverly Blvd. stay in business?

How can Rob Schneider keep making a living as an actor?

How can Paula Abdul even remember her name?

How can MAMA MIA still be running on Broadway?

How can George Mason be in the Final Four (not that I’m complaining)?

How can Jessica Simpson want to adopt a child?

How can Jack Bauer’s cellphone always get great reception?

How can Joan Rivers close her eyelids?

How can Neil Sedaka not be in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame?

How can anybody put together a piece of Ikea furniture?

How can Bonnie Bernstein think it’s better to host the Sprint NCAA tournament over-the-phone than sideline reporter for the CBS television network?

How can Barbara Walters be on INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO?

How can the JACK format still be on the air in New York?

How can ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY think Gene Wilder’s performance in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was the 9th greatest acting performance of ALL TIME??

How can Bucky still be on AMERICAN IDOL?

How can oil companies get away with charging almost $3.00 a gallon?

How can baseball commissioner Bud Selig hire a man who is part owner of the Red Sox and involved with ESPN to handle the “impartial” investigation of steroids?

How can the star of TRUE LIES be the governor of California?

And the biggest question of all:

How can George W. Bush actually be the President of the United States?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Who hires directors?

The question was asked: who selects directors for TV shows? I can only speak for comedies but usually the show runners. Unless it’s a pilot and then it’s the network (and some of the directors they LOVE I wouldn’t let behind my cellphone camera). All directors must be studio and network approved but during the season that’s usually just a formality. I’ve never been told I couldn’t hire a particular director. There were a few I wish somebody did. When a director is recommended as “Andy Ackerman on a budget” RUN.

I was lucky enough to be trained by James Burrows, the Mozart of sitcom directors. After observing for a couple of years I asked him what’s the best advice he could give me? He said, “Get the job”. And like everything else he told me, he was right. You need to be thrown into the deep end to learn how to swim.

Yeah, but getting that job is easier said than done. This is where “who you know” REALLY comes into play.

Often times writers get their first directing break on their own shows, or as a reward for being on a series a long time. But I’ve seen First AD’s (Katy Gerritson of FRASIER, Lenny Garner of WINGS, Pamela Fryman, many others), editors (Andy Ackerman, Darryl Bates, etc.), camera coordinators, and line producers (e.g. Jay Kleckner, Tim Berry) get the nod too. On the worst show I ever freelanced for, I was followed by the wife of a studio executive. She showed up the first day and said to the actors “So like what, you walk around and stuff and I say okay?” (After the mutiny she was replaced, probably by the craft services guy.)

My first assignment was on WINGS. To this day I thank Peter Casey, David Lee, and David Angell for giving me the shot. I suppose it’s easier for a first-time director when the project is an indie feature that you wrote. Everyone looks to you since the movie is seemingly your vision.

In television you’re the substitute teacher for the Sweathogs. You do your best to act like you know what you’re doing but the cast KNOWS you’re not a director, not yet anyway. And you can’t blame them. Whenever a cast member wants to write a script we don’t take them seriously either (and God are we right most of the time. GAAAA.). It takes a while to learn actor-speak. Who knew a helpful note wasn’t “NO! Anything but THAT!!”

And then there’s the crew. Especially if you’re not one of them they HATE you first time out. With good reason, of course. You don’t know shit and you’re slow. There is nothing more terrifying than sitting down in front of the quad split (the feed from each camera) for the first time and hearing four grizzled camera operators whose credits include I LOVE LUCY, snarl, “Okay, whattaya want?” That’s the moment it starts coming down both legs. You worked all weekend with your little plastic men, moving them around, writing down your shots, getting all prepared, and now it’s like NONE of that matters. Even writing a block comedy scene for Courtney Thorne-Smith starts looking pretty good to you compared to this. What should take five hours takes eleven. No wonder the crew wants to impale you on the boom mike.

Somehow you get through it…unless you’re that studio executive’s wife. She’s probably an executive now herself GIVING directors notes. (So you like say ‘action’ and stuff and I say okay?) It’s a great accomplishment and if you’re ever hired again the second one can only get easier.

On Monday the tale of my first directing assignment complete with two crew members almost coming to blows and two cameras crashing into each other on show night in front of the audience. Where’s the Valium?????

Why writers direct

Billy Wilder, a superb writer/director was once asked if he thought a director should be able to write. His answer was: “No, he should be able to read.” The question always arises: why do writers want to direct? As a writer who also became a director ten years ago I can tell you the answer. And it’s not the answer you expect.

Most people think it’s to protect your material. That’s a factor certainly but especially in television the show runner is king. The director is his bitch. David Chase doesn’t have to direct every SOPRANOS episode to carry out his vision. David E. Kelley never even goes down to the stage. In features it’s obviously different. There it’s the director’s show and the writer is lucky if he gets a drive-on at the gate. But studios rarely hire writers to be first time directors unless they’re big successes and if they are big successes chances are their material wasn’t ruined. And the independent route is expensive and very risky. Directors have to be turning your period piece love stories into sci fi slasher pictures to make you want to mortgage your house.

No, the real reason writers want to direct is this: directing is easier. Sure there are long hours, a million stupid questions (who gives a fuck what color the floss is? It’s floss!!), difficult actresses, and Faye Dunaway. But your job is to make something that already exists work. That’s a whole lot easier than creating something out of nothing. I wish I knew who said it but supposedly a writer who was sick of always hearing about the “Capra Touch” set 120 blank pages in front of him and said, “Here. Put the Capra Touch on this.”

Directors also have cinematographers to make them look good, special effects guys, second unit directors, Industrial Light & Magic, editors, Judi Densch. But writers just have that blank screen.

Writing is lonely, directing is social. Writing is wishing, directing is making. Writing is losing your credit in arbitration, directing is taking credit for everything.

And yet, in my heart of hearts, I know I’m a writer. It’s my first love, it’s who I am. And if I ever needed further proof, Cedar-Sinai screwed up and billed the DGA health fund as my primary instead of the WGA and I’ve been on the phone trying to straighten this fucking thing out for two months.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Morning radio

Now that Howard’s gone there’s nothing to listen to on the radio in the morning. Certainly not if you’re looking for a laugh. (Sure, Howard is on Sirius but unlike sex, I feel it’s morally wrong to pay for it). Locally there’s Kevin & Bean on KROQ but I can’t take that head banging music at 7 A.M. (When will we finally see the “tender” side of Metallica?). Don Imus has gotten so bitter and craggy he’s morphed into his own face. The hole left by Rick Dees’s departure is no hole at all. The best I can do is XM and their three comedy channels.

But my choices seem to be the old school “classic” comedians station which should be renamed “I dunno, at the time they seemed funny” or the X-rated current comic stations, which is really the “Lewis Black challenge” and no one seems to come even close. Four out of five women comics are lesbians and that’s their whole act. How many times can you hear “If God wanted us to be with men he wouldn’t have invented vibrators” jokes? And if they’re not lesbians they’re Sarah Silverman clones (and even Sarah Silverman is becoming a Sarah Silverman clone these days).

What’s a commuter to do? I’d listen to NPR but then I’d have to hear the news. And the Jerry Lewis book on tape was not nearly as deliciously appalling as I had hoped it would be.

But then last week, a miracle. A great morning show. A great comic. Everything I had been craving all this time, all in one. Elayne Boosler was filling in on the Stephanie Miller syndicated show.

I’ve always been a fan but hearing Elayne handle this show reminded me of just how much better she is than most of her carpet munching or testicle collecting peers. She’s not the current “Flavor of the Month” but she is topical, relatable, quick, and very funny. Here are a few examples of what she said this week:


You know what Al Jazeera means in English? Fox News.

What's the difference between a blog and a diary anyway? Well, I guess the Blog of Anne Frank wouldn't have had as much cachet.

Why are the Muslims so mad about the cartoons? If you can't draw the prophet and they've never seen the prophet, how do they know it was a picture of the
prophet? I thought it was Mandy Patinkin in a turban.

I think gay people should be allowed to marry each other. Just so they stop marrying Liza Minnelli.

On the news I saw two men in their eighties get married after living together faithfully for fifty three years. Who thinks this destroys the sanctity of marriage? Rush Limbaugh and his fourth ex wife.

He calls us elitists? Unlike him, I don't send my maid out when I need drugs. When I need a fix I get in my car at four in the morning and go downtown. And I know my drug dealers kids names.

I don't know if Barry Bonds is using steroids, but he did win the Kentucky Derby last year.

Athletes are upset that Bonds may have an unfair advantage because he distorted his body? Welcome to the world of women. You can't even watch the Oscars if you don't have implants.

Botox? Women spend five hundred dollars to get a shot of animal botulism in their foreheads, yet, they worry about mad cow disease. Eat a bad hamburger for two dollars, see if you like your face frozen like that before you spend
all that money.

The whole country gets ridiculous plastic surgery now. You know women are getting "vaginal rejuvenation"? Do they send it to Miami for a week?

Yes, women are getting their vaginal lips shortened. I can't imagine why. I guess it makes your legs look longer.


Elayne still tours and according to her website is involved in a number of projects, including the “Tails of Joy” animal rescue foundation which she started. (

I wish she toured more. I wish she did more SHOWTIME specials. But most of all I wish she got her own radio show. I mean, they gave one to Mickey Dolenz and David Lee Roth for godsakes. Why not someone who’s good? VERY good.

Monday, March 27, 2006

My best of my worst

I’ve been tagged by Kevin Arbouet of These questions all revolve around “the worst”. And when you think of the worst you naturally think of me.



It’s hard to top (or bottom) AfterMASH. Take the three weakest characters of MASH, put them in the hilarious confines of a Veteran’s Hospital and you have a recipe for classic comedy. I thought at least I’d make a fortune in merchandising on those AfterMASH Action Figures.


From an episode of MASH. A marine says “Radar, you and your rat are okay”. I defy any writer/blogger to come up with worse.


A writing teacher said take the money you would be paid for a script, divide it by the number of pages, and for each page ask yourself “is this page worth $200 (or $300 or whatever it was)?” Just writing this my tic came back.


When Fox wanted us to cast a certain former ALLY McBEAL regular in a pilot of ours. As someone said afterwards, “he not only killed it. He then fucked its empty skull”.


Very early in our career my partner’s friend was a secretary for a certain producer. She arranged a pitch meeting for us. When we got there he accused us of getting the meeting through “Nazi tactics”. It went downhill from there.


Mary Tyler Moore. Wait, let me rephrase that: MARY TYLER MOORE!!!


A romantic comedy about a woman having an affair with Saddam Hussein. I could never find the magic between them.


Going down for runthrough, hearing that the script has problems, and the cast looking at you like you killed their puppy.


Writing a blog when I should be working on something that might actually pay me money.


Created a show for Mary Tyler Moore. (in case you’re scoring -- failed comeback vehicle two of five). As the saying goes: We dragged a dead horse across the finish line to shoot it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

BIG LOVE. Big deal

Have you seen this show yet? Is the thinking “How can we do DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES but only have to pay for one husband?”

This show makes no sense. Bill Paxton plays a guy who has three wives, three homes, a dozen kids, and has only one job…in the easy money making state of Utah. Excuse me but he would be dead by now.

Oh, and there’s this other little wrinkle. It’s supposed to be a secret. How do you pull that off? What do you write on your tax return when they ask for spouse? What picture do you put on your Christmas card? Don’t other mothers get suspicious when there’s a different woman every day driving carpool when it’s their turn? How do they set up their Cingular family plan? What will Jehovah Witnesses think when the same guy answers the door at three houses?

And what’s in this for the wives? Jeanne Tripplehorn is the first wife. She once had him to herself. Why would she give that up? Why would the middle (trophy) wife, Chloe Sevigny, accept this arrangement when she could still nab an unmarried man? How many bad dates on did she have to have before she agreed to this situation? And why would either of them go along with young Ginnifer Goodwin as either wife #3 or jailbait #1?

The deal is he’s supposed to rotate each night between them. Big surprise! He has trouble getting it up each night. So he takes Viagra. He should also take everything that Barry Bonds takes. And these are three beautiful women. I bet in reality a polygamist family’s photo must look like the Green Bay Packers team picture.

If the show’s ratings decline or if his impotence problem continues they could always rename the show DEADWOOD.

There’s a scene in the pilot where the three women are dividing up the nights and fighting over him. (This is Bill Paxton, remember. It’s not Sean Connery.) If my wife was one of the three I bet she’d be saying “YOU take him. Take him for the week. The month.”

He’s got a friend who’s also a polygamist but who cheats? Huh??? What’s his excuse – my wives don’t understand me? I need some variety?

Then he’s got wacko parents who live at the compound. Truthfully, I’d rather see stories at the compound. Maybe there I could learn the philosophy behind this perfect-for-cable-exploitation way of living. And even if not, there’s Bruce Dern and Harry Dean Stanton – far more interesting to watch than Bill Paxton zipping up his fly or three women preparing breakfast for twenty.

At every level this show seems bogus. For a better example of how a series treats a religion with sensitivity and accuracy might I suggest SOUTH PARK?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

the "Elite Ate"

Have these March Madness games this weekend been unbelievable? As a UCLA alum I am over the moon thrilled. But the tourney on the whole, has been spectacular. Duke losing. Texas losing. Cinderella teams. Buzzer beaters. Only thing missing is Bonnie Bernstein. As we nail down the last two spots in this year’s Final Four here is a travelogue from a few years ago when I made my first March Madness trek to Vegas.



What a pathetic way of dealing with midlife crisis. I just got back from four days in Las Vegas where I sat in a sports book and watched 48 college basketball games. It's the first week of March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament. My friend Steve always puts together a group of guys to go for that first weekend. This is usually the same group that played poker the night of their senior prom and still have baseball card collections. How honored that I was invited this year.

I rarely go to Vegas. Can usually do about one day. Two if I'm lucky (and who's ever lucky in Las Vegas??) But being starved for entertainment and having just catalogued my baseball card collection I accepted.

Stayed at the MGM Grand. Was afforded all the personal touches one could expect from a hotel that boasted 10,000 rooms. Prices were determined by whether your room was findable. We arrived at about noon on Thursday and quickly headed down for the sportsbook. It was already packed. No chairs, much less tables. Big screens all around but almost impossible to follow even one game, or remember which game was on which screen. So now I couldn't find a chair, couldn't find the correct game, couldn't find my way to the elevator through the casino, and couldn't find my room. I had been in Vegas 45 minutes.

To insure this seating problem wouldn't happen again everyone in our group had to take a morning, get up at 5 and come to the sportsbook to stake claim to a table and chairs. And then wait four hours for the games to begin. I couldn't find the alarm clock either.

Of the 64 schools participating I really only cared about one -- UCLA. They got knocked out in the first round. (Fire Steve Lavin.) Now I'm supposed to get excited about Coppin State???

Each night after the games ended at about nine we all went out to a nice dinner. Most great US restaurants have a Vegas outlet. So we ate at Smith & Wollinsky's, Chinois, the Palm, and Gallaghers. It was either that or the Chuck Wagon Buffet. Amazingly, we spend twelve hours in front of nine screens, screaming and yelling and tearing our hearts out, slamming the table when we lose our two dollar bets and yet, later when we go out to dinner, everyone is just throwing around money, dropping hundreds like they were nothing.

Saturday night between the games and dinner the guys decided they had to see the Holyfield-Lewis fight on closed-circuit. So we went to the Orleans hotel (the elephant's graveyard for headliners. Melissa Manchester, Frankie Avalon, Captain & Tennille, probably the Cowsills, Karen Carpenter if she were still alive) and for a refreshing change -- sat in a ballroom on card chairs and watched TV...except we had to pay a tidy sum just to get in. If there’s ever a schmuck convention we’ll all be the first invited.

One of the guys in our group (who will remain nameless but you're on this distribution list and you know who you are) is the ultimate waiter killer. Four days and the rest of us were ready to kill him. We had to change tables in every restaurant, he sent back every order (sometimes twice), walked all the way across the casino (four miles) to return a cinnamin bun I had gotten him because there was frosting on it (like he couldn't just SCRAPE IT OFF!!) and almost brought a clerk to tears at Haagan Daz when he claimed she shortchanged him in his waffle cone. At that point me and one of the other sad sacks said we would punch his heart in if he didn't just take the fucking ice cream cone and move on. Yeah, that's how the MGM makes it money, skimming on the ice cream in waffle cones. I made sure I never ordered what he did because I didn't want them spitting in my food by mistake.

Sunday night finally arrived and we headed home. McLaren airport always had this wonderful feature -- recordings of stars telling you to use the people movers. I remember once hearing Totie Fields a week after her leg was amputated. The tradition remains but the level of stars has dwindled. This time I heard Judd Hirsch. Come on guys. Even the headliners at the Orleans are better than that. They couldn't get Vicki Lawrence to record a damn public service announcement??

I wound up breaking even, having a lot of laughs, unfortuantely bumping into a guy I knew in high school who is now an insurance agent and is calling me for lunch, and ultimately saying I was glad I went. But not enough to want to go again next year.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Weekend techno-thoughts

Note to whoever designed the word verification program in the comments section of this and most other blogs. You’re supposed to copy the letters that are shown but half the time you can’t read them. What is that goofy slanted font they use? And why? I apologize to anyone trying to add a comment who has to go through this process more than once because the “q” looked like an “a” or the “ffft” looked like “fltf”. The idea is to eliminate spammers not anyone who doesn’t have X-Ray vision.

Traffic is usually much lighter on the weekend thus leading me to believe that most people log on at work. In essence, it means that if they’re going to read my blog somebody better be paying them.

Anyone know of a website where I can download (legally of course because heck, it’s only right) obscure oldies?

Does anybody actually buy anything they see advertised on the side of a blog? Which brings to mind this question: which is more annoying – commercials in movie theatres or pop up ads? Why would you advertise your product in venues where you’re loudly booed or people pay good money for programs to block you?

There is some on line fantasy stock exchange where blogsites are the “companies”. Could someone tell me where to find it, how the hell it works, and should I be worried that the sites I’ve recommended will stage a hostile takeover?

Thanks in advance to those of you who graciously would like to answer. Just remember the difference between the “v” and the “u” is that what looks like the “v” is the really the “u” and what looks like the “u” is really the “n”.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Where are all the CHEERS scribes now?

A number of you have asked where the various CHEERS writers are these days and what they’ve been up to since the show’s run ended in 1993. The short answer is we were all hot for ten minutes, all got studio development deals, created a bunch of series (a few you’ve heard of, most you haven’t), branched out into different areas, and get together with each other to bitch about the current state of the industry.

Specifically, as far as I know….

Glen & Les Charles have moved out of LA and are living the good life. They’ve dabbled some in features and wrote PUSHING TIN starring Jon Cusak and Angelina Jolie. I saw them recently accepting an award on TV LAND and they both looked great.

Peter Casey & David Lee went on to create and run WINGS and FRASIER. David is currently a very sought after theatre director. Peter is working on a feature project with me and my partner, David Isaacs.

David Angell partnered with Casey & Lee, co-creating WINGS and FRASIER. Tragically, David and his wife Lynn were in the first plane that hit the World Trade Center on 9/11.

David Lloyd consulted on WINGS and FRASIER and wrote some of the best episodes of each, just as he had done on CHEERS, TAXI, and THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. David is traveling and probably gets residual checks in the mail every other day.

(NOTE: Back then every show had at least four Davids on staff. Things have changed. Today it’s four Matts.)

Heide Perlman joined James L. Brooks’ production company, created the ABC series SIBS, and has since worked on a number of series including FRASIER.

Cheri & Bill Steinkellner – With Phoef Sutton created BOB starring Bob Newhart then by themselves created HOPE & GLORIA, the Emmy winning animated show TEACHER’S PET (starring Nathan Lane) and wrote the screenplay for the movie of TEACHER’S PET (which got sensational reviews and deserved a better fate). Currently they are doing the book for two Broadway bound musicals including SISTER ACT which premiers later this year at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Phoef Sutton (pronounced “Feef”) teamed with the Steinkellners on BOB then on his own created a number of series including THE FIGHTING FITZGERALDS with Brian Denahy and a very interesting short-lived sitcom for CBS called THANKS set in pilgrim times. He also has quite a few screenwriting credits including MRS. WINTERBOURNE and THE FAN starring Robert DeNiro. In his spare time he wrote a published novel. Currently he is producing BOSTON LEGAL and wrote and directed a short film starring Joe Montagne that is winning festival awards left and right. I’m sure someday he’ll get around to sonnets.

Tom Reeder consulted on a number of series including THE COSBY SHOW and FRASIER. He lives at the beach and is too happy as far as I’m concerned.

Dan O’Shannon created several short-lived series (including a very interesting one about a married woman contemplating an affair) then became the show runner on FRASIER. Ever versatile, Dan was a producer last season on the Sci-Fi hour show THRESHOLD for CBS.

Tom Anderson – created LIVING SINGLE and is living in Cleveland. I’d rather be Tom Reeder.

Earl Pomerantz produced the first year of COSBY, created TV’s only multi-camera sitcom Western, BEST OF THE WEST, MAJOR DAD, and an ABC series about his own life. He also guested on BUFFALO BILL as the “Human Salmon”. Recently he consulted on ACCORDING TO JIM, and currently writes magazine articles, and is a commentator for NPR.

Sam Simon co-created THE SIMPSONS. He too has a bunch of credits but shit, he co-created THE SIMPSONS. Who cares about the others?

Ken Estin co-created the TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, the TORTELLIS (spin off of CHEERS), produced ALMOST PERFECT with David Isaacs and I, and currently has several TV and feature projects in the works.

Rob Long & Dan Staley – created the obligatory number of short-lived series including GEORGE & LEO starring Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch. (I’m the only former CHEERS writer who did not create a show for Bob Newhart). They worked with David and I on BIG WAVE DAVE’S. (We tried to get Bob Newhart but settled for Jane Kaczmarek.) Rob wrote a hilarious book on the TV industry called CONVERSATIONS WITH MY AGENT. In addition to his work with Dan he also contributes political articles to magazines and newspapers, does weekly humorous commentaries for Public Radio’s KCRW called “Martini Shot”. He’s the funniest Republican in the country.

Kathy Ann Stumpe – went on to produce EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND and write quite a few episodes. She too likes to go to her mailbox.

Janet Leahy is currently the show runner of BOSTON LEGAL. Whenever there’s an article about the top women writers in television she’s always included.

Let’s see, who else? Oh yeah, Fred Graver became the President of VH-1.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Writing the outline

The story is hatched. The staff has written the beats on the board. Now the writer writes the outline. How long should it be? How detailed?

Each show has its own format and requirements but at CHEERS outlines tended to be about ten or twelve pages, single spaced on one half of the page leaving the other half blank for notes.

Make the outline as detailed as you can. In sitcoms that means suggested dialogue, and some of the jokes. This is always a little tricky because you don’t want to write too many jokes – the outline becomes too dense and you want a few new jokes to surprise and totally delight the staff when you turn in the script – but do provide a fair amount. Especially in the big comedy scenes.

Here’s what not to do: “Carla enters, says something hilarious to Cliff, he comes right back at her with a killer topper, they argue about Florida or the Red Sox or something, everyone else chimes in zingers until finally she konks him on the head with something funny.” Believe it or not, I’ve actually been handed outlines where the writers did this – writers who I suspect are painting houses today.

Usually you will turn your outline into the producer and staff who will then give you notes. Soooo many script problems can be solved at this point in the process. If your outline is detailed enough the story problems will become evident. If new scenes or different turns are required it’s much easier to flag them at this stage than later when you’ve written an entire draft.

Once the outline is approved don’t use every joke you’ve submitted. Use most, certainly the ones the staff specifically pointed out that they liked, but always be looking to beat your jokes. Trickier is when there’s a joke that someone on staffed pitched. It’s a judgment call but still, if you think you can do better as a rule I say go for it. When David and I started out we brought a cassette recorder to all our note sessions. We then went home and felt compelled to jam in every joke the producers pitched. Most of them were later taken out…by the producers who pitched them in the first place. And here’s a secret: most of the time the person who pitched the joke doesn’t even remember it.

One thing I always tell writers – don’t be afraid to question something in the story you don’t like or get. Don’t kill yourself forcing something to work you feel doesn’t. Just because the staff pitched it out to you doesn’t mean it’s right. Feel free to speak up in the notes session. Also feel free to point out your concerns in the outline.

At the end of the day, before you can go off and write the script you need to know that (a) everyone is on the same page, and (b) you know what the hell you’re writing.

Questioning also applies once you’ve begun your draft. If you get stuck at some point, realize once you’re into it that something doesn’t work don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole Pick up the phone. Even if you have the solution but it veers from the outline, check in and let someone know your plans. Producers rarely love surprises.

A good outline is a writer’s GPS system. Don’t leave home without it.

Tomorrow: Where have all the CHEERS scribes gone, long time passing?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Breaking CHEERS stories

Okay, I’m in a CHEERS mood. So for the next three days my posts will be CHEERS related. Today I’ll answer a reader’s question on how we broke stories for CHEERS. Tomorrow I’ll discuss how much and what we included in our outlines, and Friday I’ll answer another reader’s question about where the various CHEERS writers are today.

Breaking stories was easily the hardest thing we had to do. Believe it or not, writing the jokes was comparatively easy.

Breaking the stories was always a group effort. The entire writing staff would gather to pitch ideas. A good many of them would stem from personal anecdotes that happened to one of us. Something about a writers room, in two days you find yourself revealing the most embarrassing incidents and traumatic events that ever happened to you to a group of still virtual strangers. But anything for a story idea. And the personal ones tended to be more real and certainly more bizarre.

I always loved when an actor would say “no one would be that stupid to do this” and it was something I had actually done.

For every story we used there were always twenty or thirty we threw out. The core of every story had to present a substantial problem for one or more of the characters. And it had to have some comic spin. When an idea is on the table and the writers are able to come up with possible scenes and twists and jokes that’s a pretty good indication that we may have hit gold. And very often a story will evolve into something completely different from what you started with. You begin with Sam has to hire a new bartender and an hour later it somehow becomes Lilith’s pet rat dies and she keeps it in her purse.

A point of pride on CHEERS and FRASIER was that they wouldn’t do any story that another show had done. If you pitched something and someone said, “Oh, I saw something like that on TAXI we’d junk it.” Same with the actual story telling. We were always looking to tell stories in a fresh way.

Once we had an area we liked this is how we generally broke the stories: Our first question was always “what’s the act break?” Then “what’s the ending?”. Then "when's lunch?" Once we had the big midpoint turn and the ultimate conclusion we’d go back and fill in the acts. Sometimes we would lay out a story and see that two or three characters would be excluded. So in order to service them we would do a B story that usually could be told in two or three scenes.

We also tried to make sure each character got a few central stories each season – even Norm and Cliff. We tried to mix up the stories – not all romance related, not all work related. But early on, especially in the first year, we always tried to have at least one Sam-Diane run to keep their relationship alive. It might only be a few lines but we knew that their dynamic was at the heart of the series.

Stories took anywhere from a couple of hours to several days to we still haven't solved it.

Which brings me to my final point -- storytelling is a very inexact science. Some weeks the stories played great and other weeks we wrestled the damn thing to the ground every night. The learning curve only takes you so far.

But somehow the series managed to tell over 200 of them (many I'm quite proud of), which to me is a testament to how good the premise was, the actors were, and the vision set forth by creators Glen & Les Charles and James Burrows.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The World Baseball Classic?

And so ends the first World Baseball Classic – which is really no more than “Bud Selig’s X-games”. MLB and the commissioner would tell you it was a huge success. Of course he’ll also tell you steroids are not a big problem and he doesn’t sleep in his suits. So did you care? Or did it just seem like an ESPN event? Excuse me -- ESPN-2 event. In the LA TIMES Sports section on Monday even the Lakers came before this story.

Here are some thoughts:

There are a lot of Yankee haters like me who found it hard to even root for the US team. The biggest fans of the WBC have to be the Red Sox Nation because Johnny Damon hurt his shoulder.

Bragging rights are nice but for real incentive, the winning team should replace the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the American League.

Great that the championship game was held at Petco Park because there’s a huge Cuban and Japanese population in San Diego, California.

Maybe I’m a little bitter because I couldn’t get a job announcing for Finland.

If a Cuban player is missing I would check George Steinbrenner’s house first.

Most of the big All-Stars passed on the event. It’s like putting on Woodstock with Herman’s Hermits as one of the headlining acts.

Canada beat the US team. As comic Elayne Boosler said, “they weren’t even wearing skates”.

Please don’t let the final game of Roger Clemens’ storied career be the US vs. Mexico at Angel Stadium.

My favorite moments were watching managers and umpires yelling at each other in different languages.

All any major league ballplayer had to do to be eligible to play for Bhutan or Cameroon was fly over their countries once.

I’m surprised Pete Rose didn’t try to latch on to some country’s team. Even if it meant defecting TO Cuba.

There were ties in the WBC. That’s sac religious. Crying is allowed in baseball before ties.

There could also be suspensions if the pitching staffs got depleted. It’s the “World Kissing Your Sister” Classic.

And then when they DO have an exciting game -- that kid pitcher from Panama hurling a no-hitter -- they stop it after 7 innings because of the ten run mercy rule they’ve instituted.

There’s an expression that applies here – “Bush League”, meaning small time, inferior thinking. It was inspired by our President.

Here’s a wacky idea: schedule the tournament in January or early February when baseball fans really need a fix, not during March Madness and the return of PRISON BREAK.

Oh, by the way, Japan beat Cuba 10-6. At least there’s a Disneyland in their country to go to.

Let’s now get back to baseball that has some REAL meaning – the Cactus League and Grapefruit League results.

Tomorrow: How we broke stories on CHEERS.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I've Been Everywhere, Man

The Sunshine Boys hit the road. My writing partner, David and I (only hours away from actually BECOMING the Sunshine Boys) headed for Naples in the sunshine state to do research for our latest ersatz pilot. I then moved on to New York.

We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale then headed across Alligators Alley. Didn’t see any gators but apparently at the first light of day they do come out to the highway. The dumb ones try to cross. The smart ones stand along the side selling tickets to the world famous Sarasota Clown museum.

South Florida has two of my favorite things – great weather and GOOFINESS. If you love Americana, Jimmy Buffet, stone crabs, early bird specials, and spectacular beaches this is the place for you.

Were a studio paying for this trip we would have stayed in Naples. But since it was our own dime, Bonita Beach was our Gateway to the Gulf home. In the 20’s there was this cult, the Koreshans, who believed that Bonita Beach was the center of the world. They were a celibate tribe so unfortunately no longer exist. (Darwin works) Just a state park in their honor. And if I’m not mistaken, the Hampton Inn we were staying at is at the center of Bonita Beach, and room 229 just to our left is the absolute DEAD center of the world.”

No wonder the Holiday Inn across the street is proud. Their marquee proclaims “Number one guest rated shower heads.”

Favorite store name (maybe ever): “Master Bait & Tackle Shop” on Bonita Beach Rd. Yes, I purchased t-shirts.

You drive down Whippoorwill Lane and come to an intersection. On the left is a hospice, on the right is a nudist colony.

Everyone here is from somewhere else. A native is someone whose had to renew their Florida driver’s license.

Florida is the home of many fun attractions. Disney World is okay but even better, in Naples, is “Jungle Larry’s Safari”. It’s a seedy zoo with drugged animals. During Hurricane Wilma last year some of the animals escaped. The spider monkeys got into the nearby Athletic club. The club wanted to get rid of them (their membership charter is very specific on qualifications) but you can’t kill monkeys in the city limits. I can almost imagine a rep from the club addressing a city council meeting. “In order to offset the damage of Hurricane Wilma and help our high school majorettes get to this year’s Rose Parade, as a fund raiser we’d like to propose a cookout/monkey shoot.”

Not to be outdone, there is also “Jungle Erv’s Airboat World” – see the everglades mangrove jungle. With gift shop. I’m surprised funeral homes in South Florida don’t have gift shops.

Other local attractions I missed: “Weeki Wachee”, a live mermaid show and the “Dinner Train Theatre” where shows open out of many towns.

Never got to a spring training game. The traffic on US. 41 and I-75 was so bad it would have been faster to drive to Scottsdale, Arizona than Ft. Myers.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, all the palm trees in the area tilt south. As do some of the people.

A consultant to the local tourism board suggested they never mention the “H” word (hurricane). Instead, just say it’s their “windy” season. Cows blowing across the highway kind of wind.

Forget the cost of homes. Dockmaniums, to store your boat cost $200,000. Used to be free.

South of Naples you get into DELIVERANCE country. Everglade City. In the 80’s it was the hub of a huge marijuana smuggling business. Eventually they were busted and 80% of the men in the town were indicted and sent off to prison. Well, now they’re back and very bitter. It’s a rough town. DEADWOOD with shrimp boats. It’s the only town with a mayor with a mullet. Not the place for David and I to go to for lunch and ask which theatre is showing BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

Big Collier County museum attraction: an old tank just sitting on the lawn. What makes it such a unique attraction is that it has a parking space.

There’s a guy in Naples who looks like he’s right out of the SOPRANOS named Johnny. Since he has an auto repair shop on the same street as a hospital he calls himself “Doctor Johnny”. His local commercials feature him in scrubs standing over a sick engine barking out orders to a buxom nurse. “Nusre, wrench! Stat!” Johnny’s other job is city councilman.

Naples has a bandshell but no concerts because of noise restrictions.

This is a big Republican area. Billboard spotted: a cute baby with the words “Please don’t abort me.” Excuse me, but HOLY SHIT!!!

And under construction nearby is a whole new town funded by pizza czar Tom Monaghan, to be named Ava Maria. Center of the town will be a Catholic University (are you picking up the theme here?) that will proudly feature the largest crucifix in America. Jungle Jesus’ Church Tour.

I spotted a Confederate flag bumper sticker that read: “Heritage not Hate”. Why not just “Oktoberfest not Holocaust”?

They love their festivals in S/W Florida. Among them is the wine festival, the harvest festival (who will be this year’s Miss Vegetable?), and my favorite -- the Swamp Buggy Festival featuring the “Mile ‘o Mud” race, and the Swamp Buggy Queen. One lovely tradition is that once she’s crowned she’s then thrown in the mud.

Best restaurant in Ft. Myers – Cru.

Did not personally see the dreaded Skunk Ape, but a local resident claims this creature does exist and coincidentally resides on his property. He even has a blurred video. He’s hoping to attract tourism. Jungle Larry in incensed.

There are 103 golf courses in the Naples area. Only 8 are public courses. If your ball goes into the rough just leave it. The Skunk-ape might get ya.

Visited a good friend who lives in Gulf Harbour, near Ft. Myers. Gorgeous gated community. There’s one house that has its own casino. Amazingly it’s not owned by an Indian.

Drove back over Alligator Alley. I knew I was in Miami when I saw my first driverless Cadillac.

Stayed in Ft. Lauderdale next to the “Fishing Hall of Fame”. This actually exists. Who are the inductees? The Old Man from OLD MAN IN THE SEA? Ted Williams? Captain Ahab? The crew from PERFECT STORM?

Thanks to Jungle Maggie, Jungle Randy, Jungle Arnie, Jungle John, and Mayor Bill for making our stay at the center of the earth so enjoyable.

On Thursday David returned home and I flew to New York to continue work on the musical I’m co-writing. The flight was like being trapped in a Haddassah meeting. “Morty, here, I brought some Craisins for the trip.” “I’m not hungry.” “Eat something or you’re gonna have gas!!”

It was 85 degrees in Florida, 40 in New York.

Stayed at the Hotel Wales on the Upper East Side. It was the smallest room I’ve ever had. Too bad I was alone. I could have easily qualified for membership in the Mile High Club.

Around the corner was Woody Allen’s place. I left a note saying the next time he goes to London to film a movie I’d be happy to house sit and baby sit Soon-Yi.

I was the only person in Manhattan with a non-spray tan.

Saw RING OF FIRE, the music of Johnny Cash. It was a hoot (and a nanny). My only criticism: they didn’t include his jingle for the Victoria Station restaurant chain. No study of the Man in Black is complete without it.

Also saw JERSEY BOYS, the story of the Four Seasons. Not your typical Broadway crowd. Every goomba of New Jersey was in the audience. There must’ve been 100 women named Carmella. I thought I saw Dr. Johnny from Naples. The show was SPECTACULAR. It was so good that after twenty minutes I stopped fearing for my life. JERSEY BOYS will win every Tony Award there is…or next year there will be a lot of missing Tony voters.

Whether you prefer to “Walk Like a Man” or “Walk the Line” you can’t go wrong with either of these shows.

Friday was St. Patrick’s Day. 40 degrees is not ideal weather for wearing kilts. I do hope that guy was going to the parade. Because of all the celebrating rowdy drunks needing rides it was impossible to get a taxi…from 10 AM on.

I met Phoebe Cates and she was gorgeous. How nice to see someone I’ve had a crush on for twenty years and not go “GAAAAA!”

All in all, a great trip. I got a lot of work done, saw some terrific shows. My only regret is seeing JERSEY BOYS the night before I met Phoebe Cates. I so wish I didn’t sing “Can’t Make My Eyes Off of You” to her in the middle of Madison Avenue.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Reality Bytes

Now that we’re in March, networks start carting out their reality shows. People locked in a room, AMERICAN IDOL with inventions, etc. So as a public service, here are a few of my suggestions for reality shows:

DONNER PARTY SURVIVOR: every week the losing tribe votes someone off the island then eats them.

THE BOSS – interning for George Steinbrenner thus combining the Apprentice with Fear Factor.

CELEBRITY POSSE SWAP – Bette Midler’s fag hag entourage switches with Alan Iverson’s.


JOE WELFARE – Women with bad judgment compete for Mr. Wrong.

THE UNBELIEVEABLE RACE where people from Iowa have to take the subway from Woodlawn to Bay Ridge.

CELEBRITY MAKEOVER where every week Diana Ross gets something else done, and finally:

THE BACHELOR IN PRISON. Be careful where you put the rose.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Cranks, we get cranks

If you’ve been following the comments section on this blog lately you’ll notice I have a disgruntled crank who seems to take issue with everything I post. Fortunately, the criticism is much less harsh than the hate mail I used to get on MASH (conclusively proving that you can’t please everybody).

The obvious response is just stop visiting here. There must be crank-friendly content elsewhere. The content on this blog will not change. Expect more travelogues (past and present), anecdotes, advice, anything that gets in my crosshairs. I try to post everyday. It’s a self imposed policy. So there will also be oldies but goodies when I travel or on traffic light weekends to give myself a break. If you find all or any of this entertaining or informative, stay. If not, move on.

I’m an opinionated guy so I expect from time to time to ruffle some feathers. If you’d like to voice your displeasure that’s fine. But you must leave YOUR NAME. Otherwise, I’ll delete you.

Onward and sidewards.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Part II

Here’s part two of the article I wrote for ESPN.COM on the best sports related episodes of CHEERS.


In season six David and I wrote “I on Sports” again going after one of our favorite targets. Sam is given the opportunity to become a local TV sportscaster. Feeling he needs a schtick, he resorts to hard hitting editorials on rooting for the home team, a commentary on groin injuries delivered in rap, and finally – a puppet.. My favorite line in the show was delivered by Cliff to Sam: “Why don’t you do something really different like just read the scores

Later that season my partner and I were huddled with the show’s producers mapping out an episode involving a practical joke war between Cheers and their dreaded rival, Gary’s Old Towne Tavern. One twist would be a famous sports personality coming into the bar, the gang thinking he’s a fake, and running him out. I suggested Wade Boggs, then at the height of his career. Great idea but it was March. He was in Spring Training in Winterhaven, Florida. We decided to inquire anyway and sure enough, a half hour later word came back that he was in, he’d gotten a few days off from the Grapefruit League. Boy, did I feel important! All I had to do was mention a name, snap my fingers and poof, in a few days he’s on a plane.

Later I learned the truth. He was really excited to get a free ride to LA to spend time with his mistress, Margo Adams. She writes about the incident in her Playboy Magazine expose. She also reports that Boggs asked her for a pair of her undies because he promised the guys on the team he could get a pair of Kirstie Alley’s panties. I HAD to be on the stage the day Kirstie read that. To her credit she just laughed. Kirstie is the ultimate good sport. A year later I approached her and said, “Kirstie, this Saturday night is my high school reunion and I’m sure my classmates won’t believe that I work on Cheers. So could I borrow a pair of your panites?”

It’s always risky to let sports stars guest star. Although supremely gifted they are traditionally enemies of comedy. (Luis Tiant notwithstanding). And generally they come off stiff. The wooden Indian at the door has more life. The trick is to give these jocks very little to do and never ever ever give them big jokes. One exception was Kevin McHale of the Celtics. We used him in an episode called “Cheers Fouls Out” by Larry Balmagia in which he’s recruited by the gang as a ringer in a basketball game against Gary’s Old Towne Tavern. Kevin was such a natural we actually kept giving him MORE lines and jokes over the course of the week of production. He did so well we brought him back for a second episode. Even in comedy Kevin McHale is the best sixth man in the game.

The following year David and I wrote “Where Have All the Floorboards Gone?” Kevin goes into a slump (that novel plot device) when he becomes obsessed with the number of bolts in the floor of Boston Gardens. (Don’t tell me you haven’t wondered yourself.) Cheers is filmed in Hollywood in front of a live audience but for this episode we actually went to Boston to shoot at the Garden. That’s the real reason we wrote it -- a free trip. (With no mistresses waiting for us of course. We’re writers) There was also a short scene in the show where Kevin is in bed with his wife and calls the bar. We used his real wife, Lynn and, like Kevin, she was great. If this VP of Basketball Operations for the Timberwolves thing doesn’t work out for him I’m sure he and his wife have a career as the next Osbournes.

We once tried to a write a show for Larry Bird to guest. The premise of “Hot Rocks” was that Sam and his good pal, Larry show up at Cheers after a big charity benefit. Larry goes into Rebecca’s office to use the phone. After he leaves the bar Rebecca discovers that her expensive diamond earrings, which she had left in the office, are gone. Larry Bird is accused of stealing her earrings. For “whatever reason” Larry decided not to do the show so instead we got Admiral William J. Crowe, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (When you think of one you just automatically think of the other.) Amazingly, we altered very little of the script. Changed some Celtic jokes to nuclear destruction gags but otherwise the drafts were almost identical.

Bar bets and football pools were a staple on Cheers. In “Fools and Their Money” by Heide Perlman Woody bets his entire life savings on a ridiculous long shot. It was based on the real life experience of every writer on the staff.

The inevitable Sam comeback episode arrived in season nine. “Pitch It Again, Sam” by Dan Staley & Rob Long contained one of my favorite moments of the series. Sam and Carla are alone in the dugout. Sam is thrilled to be back but says there’s one thing missing -- the Coach.

Cheers was never really the same without him.

The inevitable second Sam comeback episode was hatched a year later. This time, in “Take Me Out of the Ball Game” by Kathy Ann Stumpe Sam gives the minors a shot. I had spent three years broadcasting in the bushes and was able to provide some key inside information that I think helped the show immensely. It was my idea that when Sam’s team was on the road they should stay in a “motel.” I earned my keep that week.

All in all there were 270 episodes of Cheers produced. Sports was pretty much mentioned or interwoven into every one of them. And yet, there was one sports-related moment that we never could get into the show despite our trying for eleven full years. Before the series aired, co-creator and director Jim Burrows went to Boston with a camera crew to film establishing shots. Those are the exterior shots of the bar and various locales that tell you where the next scene will take place. One of these shots was taken at Fenway Park. With the camera in the centerfield bleachers what you see is sprinklers watering the outfield in an empty stadium. When we all looked at the footage we said “When the hell would we ever use THIS?” So it became a running joke throughout the course of the series. Sam & Diane have just made love.. Quick! Let’s cut to the sprinklers at Fenway. Carla just learned her husband has been killed by a Zamboni machine. Go to the sprinklers. Frasier discovers a rat in Lilith’s purse. Fenway time. Somehow we could never make it work.

Eleven years. That’s quite a run. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t miss Cheers. It was like being part of a storied dynasty. And just as players long for one more year, just one, so do I. Because I know, deep down in my heart, there HAS to be a way of getting that damn sprinkler shot in the show.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

For all you CHEERS fans...

A number of readers (viewers? blogniks? I dunno.) have asked me to talk more about CHEERS. Last year ESPN.COM asked me to write an article about the series. Since I’m traveling today from Florida to New York it seemed like the perfect time to share it.


Few comedy series incorporated sports more or better than Cheers. If it was devised today I’m sure Cheers would be set in an ESPNzone. I’m a comedy writer and sportscaster so working on Cheers was like dying and going to heaven. Page Three asked me to share some of my favorite sports related episodes and memories and I was happy to as long as I didn’t have to rate them in any order. I leave that up to you. (And I’m sure if you turn on TV Land one is airing right now.)

Everyone knows that Sam Malone was a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. But in the original draft of the pilot, written by Glen & Les Charles, Sam was a former New England Patriot. It was only when Ted Danson won the role that he was traded from the Pats to the Sox. Few linemen weigh 165 pounds.

And the switch to baseball also helped explain the Coach’s addled character. Too many fastballs to the head. Originally I think it was a Frank Gifford type accident. I don’t really recall.

Ted wasn’t much of a baseball fan. The first year of the show when the Red Sox came out to play the Angels we took Ted to Anaheim to get a picture with him and Yaz. Neither knew who the other was. I’m not sure if either does today. By the way, the framed picture hanging on the bar of Sam supposedly in action is really Jim Lonborg. Both wore #16. For Mayday Malone that’s his perpetual age.

Early on we knew we had to deal with the intense Boston-New York rivalry. In our third episode, “the Tortelli Torte” written by Tom Reeder, Carla encounters an obnoxious Yankee fan (you can imagine the nightmare of THAT casting session) and smashes his head into the bar. The audience went nuts. And that was before A-Rod. It got one of the biggest laughs in the show’s history. Screw sophisticated comedy! It was pretty funny. Trivia note: for the voice of the TV announcer we used ESPN’s Jon Miller, then a broadcaster for the Bosox. In later episodes I did the announcing. I’m sure it will be the last time anyone will be stupid enough to replace Jon Miller with me.

Later that season David Isaacs and I wrote “Now Pitching: Sam Malone” in which Sam gets hired to do beer commercials. We see one of the TV spots featuring Sam and Luis Tiant. El Tiante was a great pitcher but had a little trouble with English. And diction. And memorization. It must’ve taken fifty takes to complete the thirty second scene. Afterwards, David and I showed Luis around the set and he said (at least I think he said, it was hard to really decipher) “that was fun, I should give this acting thing a try”. Yeah, right. Maybe if they ever get around to “CSI: Cuba”.

Later that season we wrote an episode based on the Glen Burke situation. Glen was a former Dodger who became the first big leaguer to publicly announce he was gay. In “Boys in the Bar” Sam’s former roommate comes out of the closet and Sam’s standing by him causes the bar patrons to assume Cheers will go gay….complete with ferns even! We won a Gay Image Award for that show, thanks in large part I’m sure to removing the big “tug-of-war” scene we had originally written.

Former L.A. Ram, Fred Dryer, was used in several episodes as local sportscaster/buffoon, Dave Richards. (Patterned after practically every local sportscaster in every market). Fred was actually one of the three finalists for Sam Malone. William Devane was the other. Will anyone remember the runners up on “Dream Job”?

One of my favorite sports related episodes comes from the second season. “Manager Coach” written by Earl Pomerantz. The Coach manages a little league team and becomes a Nazi. Nick Colassanto, (Coach) was such a sweet guy he had a little trouble playing such a mean character. We said it’s just like the guy you played in Ragin’ Bull but only with little children.

Remember that old rummy that always used to sit at the bar? His name was Al Rosen and in the 50’s he was a TV wrestling champion. TV wrestling is still considered a sport, isn’t it?

David and I did a two-parter called “Never Love a Goalie” in which Carla hooks up with Boston Bruin goalie, Eddie LeBec. It was love at first save. What other couple would have “Oh Canada” as their “song”? Unfortunately, their romance was proving to be a huge jinx on his career. They resolved the issue by breaking up just before every game. Radio morning man Jay Thomas was cast as Eddie and was so popular we kept the relationship going, eventually even marrying them. I was thrilled. Having created an on-going character meant royalties every time he appeared. But then Jay took some unflattering shots at Rhea Perlman on his radio show. And she happened to be listening. In “Death Takes a Holdiay on Ice” David and I wrote the episode that killed him off.

In “Dark Imaginings” by David Angell, Sam winds up in the hospital after playing raquetball and realizes he’s not as young as he used to be. Watching that episode now he looks nine years old. Note: when you have a room full of Jewish comedy writers sooner or later you’re going to get around to the hernia episode.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March Madness

It’s the first weekend of March Madness. Go UCLA!!! This year I’m on the east coast but usually I’m in Vegas for the first round of insanity. Here’s my account from a couple years ago:


March Madness has arrived again -- the NCAA basketball tournament. Thus the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for me and three of my middle aged sports nerd television executive buddies. Slater, the Banger, and Mr. Syracuse. Slater brought his girlfriend (who goes by either Karen or Valerie -- long story) thus increasing his chances of "getting lucky" by maybe 1%. Mr. Syracuse brought his wife thus decreasing his chances. My son, Matt flew in from Boston. He's now 21 so what better way to see Las Vegas for the first time than with his dad and three guys who look like the Pep Boys?

We stayed this year at the Paris Hotel. The theme is French hospitality (an oxymoron). I'm sure I would have been given a nicer room if I registered as Himmler. The casino features a low ceiling that is painted to look like the sky, a la the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. It's an odd shade of blue however, one that suggests nuclear winter. There are cobblestone streets and carpeting. A replica LePont Alendre III bridge overlooks the nickel slot machines, and there is an Eiffel Tower that is fifty stories high. Tours are offered. There is a sign at the entrance that reads "No food, beverages, smoking, weddings" (true story).

I don't know why these hotels opt for these elaborate themes. The truth is: NO ONE CARES. People schlepp around in t-shirts and shorts and flip flops. If I ever put up a hotel in Las Vegas I would use as my theme the HOME DEPOT.

Matt and I went to Le Cafe for breakfast. They said "inside or outside?" What??? Outside of course meant under the sky painted ceiling. We chanced that it wouldn't rain and took the outside.

The in-house cable had a channel that spelled out emergency exit procedures. Leave it to the French to provide a surrender strategy.

Remember when Frank Sinatra used to play Vegas? This weekend it was Carrot Top and (at the Riviera) "America's Tribute to Neil Diamond". Not even the real Neil Diamond, an impersonator. In two weeks the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (true) will be appearing. I'd love to see Shecky Green open for them.

Of course you could always pay a gazillion dollars to see Celine Dion screech out five songs a night. Or is that just a Barbra Streisand impersonator??

The Paris had "Arabian Nights Spectacular", something else to make the Jews feel comfortable.

This stunned me: The Mirage features "Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat". The ad says: "come face to face with Royal White Tigers". How drunk do you have to be or how much money do you have to lose to want to do THAT??

One thing you can say about Vegas, it has the most amazingly beautiful women in the world. And so where did we spend 90% of our time? At the Sportsbook, the one place that none of them would ever be caught dead in. There were 48 games in four days. At times four were going on simultaneously. I'm betting on teams I've never heard of. The place was packed with rowdy men and good old boys chugging long neck beers. We ordered White Russians, Tequila Sunrises, and Rusty Nails. No one messed with US.

One hazzard: you see the same commercial seventeen thousand times. Especially the one for "Cialis", designed to keep a man ready for 36 hours. Too bad I'm not single. One of those magic pills would be perfect for me. 35 1/2 hours to find a woman then a half hour to perform.

The Banger bet on exhibition baseball. Even Pete Rose never did that.

Matt was carded at the Sportsbook for ordering a Sprite. If you bet $500 a day on horses by the way, you get a coupon for a free drink. Again, French hospitality.

Interesting that it is politically incorrect for colleges to have team names of Indians but it's okay to have the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Manhattan Jaspers.

In keeping with the French theme, accordion music came out of the urinals. Finally, the correct venue for that music.

Elegant dining = no Keno boards.

I rode down the elevator with a beautiful girl who was wearing a white top with two Chinese letters on it. I said, "Do you know what that means?" She said, "No, I bought this because it looks good with the pants." "So you have no idea what that says?" I repeated. "What does it say" she asked. "Kill me!" I said and stepped out of the elevator leaving her aghast.

Slater's girlfriend Valerie/Karen is vegan, which means there are only six things she can eat and she's allergic to four of them. She and Slater are the two nicest people on the planet but I have dubbed them "America's Waiter Killer Couple". Slater switches every table and sends back every order while Valerie/Karen has the kitchen prepare items not on the menu every meal. I would give anything to see these two on SURVIVOR.

Valerie/Karen's back was bothering her so she toted around a pillow to make sitting more comfortable. But a hot girl walking through the casino with a pillow -- she looked like a hooker who advertised.

On Saturday night Mr. Syracuse and his wife hosted a dinner for sixteen of us. They got a private room in the Paris restaurant. I was sure Slater was going to walk in and ask if there was ANOTHER private room for sixteen?

Late one night we went to the Bellagio for a drink. Easily the classiest hotel in Las Vegas, but that's like saying hard salami is the king of luncheon meats. The crowd was the same as everywhere else. We were sitting on an overstuffed couch enjoying a drink (Slater sent his back twice) when a guy who looked like Jerry Garcia plopped down on the easy chair across from us. Told us all about his plans to buy a little shack on the river in an area known as the "California Ozarks". He said he didn't bet on any of the basketball games because of all the "Unsavory element". I asked him if he was there at the Bellagio to see the Monet collection on loan from the Boston Museum? Yeah, the Bellagio is really the Algonquin Round Table West.

Spotted at the Paris pool -- a guy in a ball and chain. I'm guessing (hoping) it was a bachelor party but there he was with a bowling ball attached to a chain handcuffed to his arm. Either that or the hotel was presenting "Les Miserables" poolside.

What is Pai Gow poker???

My sincere thanks to the Banger for getting down to the Sportsbook every morning at 5 to reserve us some seats. Personally, I think he was "In-Seine".

Never, NEVER take America West (America WORST) airlines if you can avoid it. Truly the most inept "shitbirds" in the sky. ALWAYS late, sardine cans for planes. And when you finally do arrive to Totie Fields Field (or whatever the Las Vegas airport is called) it takes a good hour to get a cab.

What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas primarily because you can't count on an America Worst flight to ever get off the ground.

Featured at the Paris Hotel: drinks in plastic Eiffel Tower glasses. $12.50 (true). There was a line. I wonder how many of those people thought they were buying the "actual" Eiffel Tower?

At the end of the weekend all of us either made a little money or broke even, Stanford and Kentucky got eliminated, and the waiters at the Paris hotel got together and paid for Slater's cab to the airport. It was great great fun. Go Jaspers!!!

Kenny "the OTHER gambler" Levine

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tuesday or Friday?

Multi-camera shows that film before live studio audiences generally shoot on Tuesday or Friday nights. That way two shows can share one camera crew. I’ve been asked which of those nights I prefer and why? My answer is Tuesday and it stems from my first foray into playwriting.

A hundred and ten years ago my writing partner, David and I wrote an evening of one-act plays. It was more of an exercise really. We did four one acts in four different comic styles. The small theatre scene in LA was booming at that time. Melrose Ave. had ten or fifteen 99 seat theatres, one more charming than the next. To get to OUR theatre you continued east on Melrose until you heard gunfire then you turned right. Once you got to the first building that wasn’t on fire you turned into the lot and you were there. The 5th Street Studio theatre on 5th and Western over a pizza parlour. We were practically on Broadway.

Our shows ran Friday and Saturday nights for a month. We wanted to close before the summer and any riots. Amazingly, we had good crowds. (These are the same people you see on FEAR FACTOR.) On the first Friday night things were going great. Each act worked. Lots of laughs. The finale was an all out farce – people running in and out of doors, hellzapoppin’. It was 45 minutes long. For the first half hour the audience roared and then suddenly…they just stopped laughing. We couldn’t believe it. The last fifteen minutes (the big wild finale) was greeted with stone silence.

David and I were so thrown we didn’t know what to change. So we decided to just leave it, watch carefully the next night and see just where the play goes off the track.

On Saturday we had another good house. (Must’ve been a GREEN BERET convention in town.) The farce started, the laughs started, we braced ourselves…but this time they didn’t stop laughing. All the way through. In fact the laughs were bigger at the end.

Tremendously relieved, we concluded we just had a bad crowd the previous night (all of their cars had been broken into and they were bummed) and left the script alone.

But the next Friday night the same thing happened as the previous Friday. At the half hour mark the laughs stopped. But on Saturday night they were there wire to wire. And this pattern continued throughout the run.

What it taught us was that Friday night audiences are tired. It’s been a long week, they’ve just come from work and at a certain point they’re just pooped. Saturday crowds had a day to relax.

Since then we’ve always shot our shows on Tuesday nights. It’s the middle of the week, it gives people something to look forward to, and most importantly, they have more energy.

I’d feel bad for those four Friday night audiences but hey, they got home alive. You can’t ask much more from theatre in Los Angeles than that.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Have a SUN-sational day

One of many catchy sayings here. Greetings from Bonita Springs, Florida. My writing partner, David and I are in the “the Gateway to the Gulf” (the Gentile side of the state) to do research for a spec pilot we plan to write. And hey, who knew, spring training was going on at the same time? But the important thing is to capture this world as honestly and accurately as we can. Of course if the pilot were set in Alabama we’d just wing it from home.

It’s the same kind of dedication that led to a drinking problem when I was on CHEERS. But worth it of course for my “art”.

On Thursday I head up to New York. I’m collaborating on the book for an upcoming musical called THE 60’s PROJECT. It will be performed this summer at the Goodspeed Theatre somewhere in Connecticut. I don’t know much about that area. I just picture this quaint theatre surrounded by thousands of gift shops selling syrup and turquoise everything-else. The project, (conceived by Janet Brenner, book by Janet and me, and directed by Tony winner, Richard Maltby Jr.) follows a generation through the decade and is filled with great 60’s songs like “If You Wanna Be Happy For the Rest of Your Life, Just Make an Ugly Woman Your Wife” and other Dylan hits. Hopefully there are a lot of old hippies hiding in the woods who are also musical theatre buffs and have disposable income.

A workshop of the 60’s PROJECT was held last November at CAP 21 in New York and went over very well. And we think it’ll play even better this summer when we make some changes and it’s performed for baby boomers who are so stoned they think they’re watching BRIGADOON.

I’ll try to keep posting while out here on the road. And a full travelogue of my adventures will appear sometime next week.

But for now I must put on plaid shorts with the belt right underneath my armpits, a short sleeve shirt with huge flapping sleeves, a visor, tennis shoes and black socks, and go search for the best early bird in Bonita Springs. I hope that doesn’t mean Shoeneys.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

An oldie but a goodie

Since I have quite a few new readers (and I’m flying to Florida today) I thought I’d re-post one of my most popular entries. From last November, this is PORN STAR KARAOKE. Enjoy or re-enjoy.


There’s a bar tucked away in a Burbank strip mall between a cleaners and donut shop that on Tuesday nights presents “Porn Star Karaoke”. My friend Kevin and I checked it out and needless to say it was a classy affair. Laminated signs listed the rules, one being “No oral sex in the bathrooms”.

I knew we were in for a great evening when I saw the “Porn Star Karaoke” banner on the stage next to a menorah.

The adult world’s elite showed up – twenty gum popping smoking bimbos in halter tops and hot pants, raccoon make up and (as Kevin said) enough silicone in their bodies to be legally considered a Mattel toy. They were accompanied by the usual assortment of buff porn kings who dyed their hair even though they're 25, and fat middle aged guys in pony tails and billowing Hawaiian shirts. They were probably the girls’ dads.

The stars started filing in around 10. Ron Jeremy was there at 6.

The D.J. set the elegant tone for the evening by saying to the first porn crooner, “You’re not allowed to talk about how hot your pussy is”. She took it in good spirits and mimed choking on the microphone. It’s how I always pictured the Rainbow Room.

Musical ability is not why these girls are known as Golden Throats. Not one of them could sing a note. But they did find other ways to bring home their songs. One did Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back” and demonstrated by dropping her pants. If Diana Degarmo did that she’d be an American Idol today.

Two more made out with each other on stage (how else are you gonna fill that instrumental bridge?), while a porn king who looked like Eric Roberts in "Star 80" only sleazier walked right up to the stage with a digital camcorder and filmed extreme close ups of their breasts ("someday I hope to direct").

I was disappointed none of the stars sang Janis Joplin’s heartbreaking classic “Down on Me”.

The place was rocking and yet there was some guy at a table just reading a book. That must've been a helluva book.

They gave away prizes and I won one! It’s the first time in my entire life I’ve ever won anything. How fitting it should be a porn DVD -- the 2 disc collector’s set of ETERNITY starring Stormy Danials, Jessica Drake, and a horse. Plus, it comes with a director’s track. ("I began by shooting extreme close ups of breasts".)

Unfortunately, we had to leave before I could get up and do my medley from “Fiddler on the Roof”. But there’s always next week…and the following week…and the week after that.

Friday, March 10, 2006

America's REAL first family -- the SOPRANOS

Finally! The SOPRANOS return on Sunday night. God, it’s bad enough Teri Hatcher had to contend with her DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE co-star, Felicity Huffman getting an Oscar nomination, now THIS. Anyway, in anticipation of the new season of the best dramatic series television has ever produced (it’s also maybe the fifth best comedy) here are some random SOPRANO thoughts:

The pressure on creator David Chase to live up to expectations must be enormous…although I’m sure Jon Stewart would say “waaa waaa”.

Interesting that most members of the writing staff are in their 50’s. You mean you don’t lose your talent at 32??

One of the show’s producers should serve as a real inspiration to writers. Matthew Weiner. He was a half hour guy. I worked with him for several years on BECKER. Super talented and funny. A few years ago he decided to reinvent himself and write an hour drama pilot. The networks of course were not the least bit interested but David Chase read it. Matt is now in his second season with the SOPRANOS after having written some of the best episodes from last year. And as a P.S., AMC just gave him the greenlight to make that pilot.

Reprieved from an earlier post – some past credits of the SOPRANOS staff (not saying these are all bad shows, just somewhat different from what you might expect…so I don’t want a lot of comments saying how great Secret Squirrel was.):

The Magician
2 Stupid Dogs
Batman (the animated series)
Cover Me
Swat Kats
The In-Laws
Baby Blues
American Gothic
The New Flipper
The Naked Truth
Living in Captivity
Sister Sister
..... and of course – the Secret Squirrel Show.

Paulie looks the grown-up Butch Munster.

Meadow is now old enough that I don’t feel like a pervert for having a crush on her.

How is Tony going to listen to his oldies in the car now that WCBS-FM is gone? What he SHOULD do is whack all the stupid CBS radio executives who decided to change the station’s format.

More BADA BING scenes. Or at least new episodes of that Cathouse series.

What’s worse than death? Going from the SOPRANOS to the cast of JOEY. RIP Adrianna.

Switched at birth: Tony Soprano and UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland.

Is there a better actress on television than Edie Falco? And if the SOPRANOS was being cast by a network they would probably have insisted on Mel Harris.

Also, if the show were being done for a network the name “Pussy” would have to be changed to “Happy Place”.

I can’t imagine any season being better than the first. How are you going to top Tony’s own mother trying to kill him? I’m still not over it when it happened to me.

I hope Frankie Valli is back.

No wonder sister Janice is such a mess. Tony got the looks in the family.

My favorite character is still Christopher. I hear this year he sees SAW II and is inspired to write a gang related slasher movie. What scares me is that if Christopher were a real person he’d probably be a regular to this blog.

I bet in real life the scariest cast member is Lorraine Bracco.

Even in HD Silvio has no neck.

I don’t care if Cousin Junior ever faces trial or not. I just want the state to take away his drivers’ license. Believe me, he’ll kill more people with his car.

The inside word I hear is that this will be a great season, filled with lots of twists and turns. I can’t wait. It’s been two years…which is probably a longer sentence than Tony would serve for whacking those CBS radio execs.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Lucky Stars Club

Lots of talk this award season over whether this person or that deserved his honor? It reminded me of my “Lucky Stars” club. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Not that these aren’t lovely wonderful people but here are my charter members. Who’s on your list?

Keanu Reeves, Debra Messing, Regis Philbin, Brent Musberger, Ben Affleck, Charlie Sheen, Courtney Cox, Sean Hannity, Rick Monday, Dave Wanstadt, Ashlee & Jessica Simpson, Eric Schaeffer, Andy Rooney, Jennifer Lopez, Jar Jar Binx, the entire administration, Paul Moyer, Debra Messing (deserves to be mentioned twice), Kim on 24, Paris & Nicky Hilton, Tim McCarver, Britney, Craig Kilbourn, Brett Butler, Phil from “the Amazing Race”, anyone hosting “the View”, Bill O’Reilly, Gallagher, Paula Abdul, Paula Marshall, George Lopez, Bob Eubanks, the cast of “Yes , Dear” (especially Anthony Clark), Betty Rubble, Tom Arnold, Don Johnson, Fran Drescher, David Lee Roth, Rick Springfield, the “Govenator”, Richard Gere, Sharon Lawrence, Ren (not Stimpy), Lee Majors, Robin Quivers, Michael Bolton, Tanyon Sturtze, Pat O’Brien, Randy Jackson, Ann Coulter, Kevin Federline, Fergie, Summer Sanders, Suzanne Sommers, Three 6 Mafia, Tony Danza, Phil Simms, George & Carolyn, Nick Lachey, Amarosa, David Caruso, David Brenner, Paul Anka, Matt Clement, Lisa Guerrero, Estaban Loiza, the guy who says “get ready to rummmmble!!”, Pamela Anderson, Ann Heche, Opie & Anthony, Hee-Sop Choi, Nicollette Sheridan, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and of course – the President of the Lucky Stars club – Mr. Charlton Heston.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Diss 'n dat 5

Will someone tell Melissa from AMERICAN IDOL to please cover up her midriff? No one likes to look at that muffin top.

Judging by the even MORE goofy way Paula has been acting lately I wonder if that red Coke glass in front of her is filled with an “adult beverage”. And then refilled every commercial break.

Lost in all the Oscar hoopla is the fact that Paul Haggis has won the best screenplay award for two years running now on SPEC SCRIPTS. It can happen. See ya at Starbucks.

So Barry Bonds has been taking every steroid known to man. Big surprise. Didn’t you notice his head had gotten so big that the only helmet that could fit it is the one on the little bullpen car?

Barry had previously agreed to be the subject of a new ESPN reality show, following him around this season. It’s going to be much more fun now. BEING BONDSADUCE.

I’m still mourning Edgar from 24. Unless you’re an actor with a “co-executive producer” credit in front of your name don’t buy a house. The good news from a writer/producer perspective is that I bet actors don’t say “boo” when they get their weekly scripts. The words “I don’t know if my character would say that” have never been uttered on the 24 stage. And I wouldn’t raise much of a ruckus on LOST either.

More terrifying than the threat of nerve gas killing millions of people on 24 is the possibility of a romance between First Lady Martha and Secret Agent Pierce. ICK!!!!!!! Please Agent Pierce, save it for Kim.

Great acting by Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) by the way. When told her father was alive she reacted to this momentous news by just standing there with a blank mongoloid expression, as if waiting for the director to yell “Action”.

Have you noticed that all the new pilots are being cast with recycled TV stars? Oh boy. Justine Bateman, Greg Germann, Jonathon Silverman. They’re back!! Give me the fresh faces. Give me Chloe on 24, those workers on THE OFFICE. Maybe one of the reasons people are so attracted to reality shows is that Paula Marshall isn’t on any of them.

The only reason CRASH won is because they sent out DVD’s to every member of practically every Hollywood union. I think I got three of them. So next year all you studios would be wise to send out those DVD’s to all of us. Even if you think a movie is marginal, play it safe, send a copy to me.

How starved for baseball am I? I drove around yesterday listening to the Venezuela/Dominican Republic game. Since they waited for me to get in the car before starting I’m guessing they’re not drawing a big audience.

Why are the producers of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN so upset? Sure they lost the Oscar but they did win the even more prestigious Golden Globe.

Thanks to Mark from and Howard from for the shout outs. Welcome new readers. I hope you'll stick around.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My Oscar rant continues

No wonder everyone turns down hosting the Oscars. It’s like walking into a propeller. Jon Stewart did as well as could be expected for any rookie. And yet, I see he’s getting a shitload of criticism.

First complaint: He was nervous at the start. Well, DUH!!!

He was playing to an audience of 5000 clenched sphincters.

He was totally out of his element.

Half the viewing audience was Red State idiots who would have only been happy if the cast of HEE HAW hosted the event.

A billion people who can’t speak English were judging him worldwide.

And the blood of big name past hosts who bombed is what gives the red carpet its color.

Second: He caused the ratings to be down this year. This only reinforces Hollywood’s total disconnect with the public. The ratings were down because no one saw the nominated movies or gave a shit! The Oscars have become the Tonys (except if they were the Tonys BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN would have won).

Third: He’s being blasted for his best line of the night – “Number of Oscars…Three 6 Mafia 1, Martin Scorcese 0”. It’s a racial slur, shows a lack of respect, yada yada.

Gosh, have we learned nothing from our vaunted Best Picture CRASH??? Why can’t we all just learn to get along, people???

Here’s the truth: “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” is a horrible song. Maybe the worst Oscar winning song EVER. And as for not receiving their proper respect, Three 6 Mafia are the same wordsmiths that gave us such timeless gems as “Slob On My Knob”, “Pussy Got You Hooked”, and “Sippin on Sizzurp”.


I hope Jon Stewart is asked back. Next year he’ll be less nervous, maybe a movie that isn’t a big lesson will be up for awards, and Martin Scorcese will at least tie the score.

Oh, and one other thing while I’m ranting. All through the show the Academy’s message was bludgeonly clear – see movies on the big screen not on DVD’s. So what do they do? Show montages all night long of classic movies that are ONLY available on DVD. When was the last time you saw KEY LARGO at your local Cineplex?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hawaiian I

Back from a long weekend getaway to the Grand Wailea Hotel in Maui. Please keep watching those CHEERS reruns. Please!!!!

First thing spotted upon leaving the airport – the “Bad Ass Coffee Company”. Yes!! I’m in Hawaii!

The Grand Wailea is now managed by Hilton. In order to give it that Hilton “signature” they’re starting a major renovation – making the walls between each room thinner.

Can Neutrogenia soap be far behind?

Lots of conventioneers here this time of year. You can tell because…
…the bars are always packed.
…you see grown ups going down the water slides …fully clothed.
…at 10:15, noon, and 2:30 you hear “BI BI AMERICAN PIE” coming out of every room.

There are also a lot of 50 year old guys with gorgeous 30 year old blondes who are SAYING they’re at a convention.

A local newscast featured a ski report. To get to Aspen from here you need more than chains.

We commandeered a secluded vacant cabana. (They go for $200 a day. A major GNP in Hawaii is shade.) I was very relaxed but my wife acted like it was 1938 Vienna.

Big doings: The magnificent Queen Elizabeth II was here for a day. She asked directions to Australia then headed out.

Hard to say who’s more famous here – Captain Cook or Captain Morgan.

Sunday night we suffered through the Academy Awards and ordered room service. I asked the waiter if this was his busiest night of the year? He said not even close. It’s worse every night that AMERICAN IDOL is on. Hmmm. Maybe Simon Cowell should host the Oscars.

The Maui newspaper (the Herald-Macadamia I believe) had a big story on which four contestants got voted off of AMERICAN IDOL. News on Iraq came three pages later.

This is whale watching season. It’s a sight not to be missed. There are excursion boats for $30 or you could go out on the QE2 for $25,000. The QE2 provides snacks.

Meanwhile, Britney Spears is vacationing next door at the Four Seasons. Excursion boats are $30.

We were lucky. Fabulous weather. Meanwhile, on Oahu on Thursday one side of the island got no rain while the other got 11 inches in like twenty minutes. The story was on page three because Paula Abdul getting past airport security in Las Vegas was the big headline.

We missed the Maui Celtic Pipes & Drums concert. When you think of Hawaii you naturally think of bagpipes.

Now that Hilton runs the Grand Wailea if you stay here for two weeks you get one free night at the Des Moines Airport Hilton.

I was the only one on the beach reading “Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair with ‘50s Pop Music” by Karen Schoemer. All you ever wanted to know about Patti Page including who she is.

The Aloha Spirit is alive: Supposedly Maui police have shot more civilians than all other Hawaiian island police forces combined. “Book him, Dan –“ BANG!!!

Saw a sign on the road that said DOLLARS FOR COLLARS. At first I thought it was a pet shelter but maybe it has something to do with police arrests.

I wonder if Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle is aware of this. (Even elected officials sound like they’re lounge singers at the Lahaina Marriott.)

But I don’t care if it’s a police state, has floods, local news even worse than Fox, and is overpriced – Hawaii is heaven on earth and someday that’s where I want to live. And if you ask what would I do there? The local McDonalds has a big banner that says ALWAYS HIRING.


Kahuna Ken

Oscar Review 2006

If I were in Bhutan or Croatia I’d be watching the Oscars live but here in America’s 50th state they’re on a four hour tape delay. So I was going to go on the internet, see who won, then bet all the Hawaiians. Trouble is, none of them gave a shit. Maybe if even one of the Best Picture nominees played here they’d be remotely interested.

Did I like Jon Stewart because I like Jon Stewart? Or was he really good and fresh and funny? I hope so. Because if they don’t ask him back, next in line is Larry the Cable Guy.

Tom Hanks spoofed longwinded winner speeches but his own two lasted hours. Is there a teacher of his he did not thank?

You were not allowed to dislike any of the Best Film nominees this year. If you didn’t root for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN you’re homophobic, CRASH --you’re a racist, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK -- you’re a right wing Fascist, CAPOTE -- all of the above. And if you didn’t root for MUNICH you’re Jewish.

George Clooney is the classiest man in Hollywood. I admire him so much I no longer want to kill him.

Russell Crowe is the anti-George Clooney.

Let’s face it, Steven Spielberg has become all about Oscar grubbing. He makes a mediocre movie (well, two), whines loud enough when critics and audiences yawn to still get five nominations, and then has the chutzpah to say, “I guess I’m just so proud of the academy for the courage it must have taken to give us the best-picture nomination.” Courage???!!! To kiss up to the 800 pound gorilla? Real courage would have been for the academy to admit this was an overblown Hollywood misfire and nominate WEDDING CRASHERS instead.

Stevie, instead of making two mediocre movies in one year how about making one great movie every two years?

I loved Charlize Theron’s shoulder purse.

Hilary Swank came as the Corpse Bride.

Philip Seymour Hoffman has deserved an Oscar since BOOGIE NIGHTS.

Did you notice that everyone thanked their mother this year?

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams both lost so their marriage should be okay for another year.

Rachel McAdams is a star in training – she hosted the technical awards. Next year maybe she can present the short subject animation award.

When they introduce Tom Hanks why don’t they play the theme from VOLUNTEERS?

KING KONG was a technical triumph. But maybe they should have devoted five less minutes to the effects and focused on the story. Case in point (one of MANY): this film crew goes to a remote island, discovers DINASOURS and brings back a big ape instead. Huh????

Kelly Clarkson? Did you see Dolly Parton? That’s you in thirty years.

They should have run the M&M collagen commercial before the Dolly Parton number.

The set was Maestros without the steaks.

I was hoping the movie about strippers won Best Costumes.

Sandra Bullock’s gown had pockets. And I thought I saw a Snickers in one.

Every year some beautiful woman looks like a raccoon. This year it was Kiera Knightley. Just roll out of bed and show up! Trust me, you’ll still be the prettiest girl in the room.

My vote for best supporting actor: the guy who played Joseph McCarthy in GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK. He was uncanny!!

When Felicity Huffman lost Teri Hatcher cheered so loud I could hear her across the Pacific Ocean. C’mon, Teri, you had your chance in FORD FAIRLANE.

Jennifer Aniston was there to remind everybody she’s still in movies. See you next year at the Emmys.

William Hurt’s Oscar nomination means he won’t have to guest star again on KING OF QUEENS.

Mazol tov to winner Rachel Weisz. Even seven months pregnant, she looked better than 90% of the women.

Yeah Jennifer Garner is nursing.

Michelle Williams came as Big Bird.

I heard “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” and didn’t know whether it was a Best Song nominee or an academy tribute to Harvey Weinstein.

And then it won. I’m amazed it did and even more amazed that no one in Three 6 Mafia said “motherfucker” in their acceptance speech?

It was painful and heartbreaking watching Lauren Becall.

But not nearly as excruciating as having to sit through Meryl Streep & Lily Tomlin’s endless introduction to Robert Altman.

Matt Dillon’s nomination was a make up for his work last year in HERBIE: FULLY LOADED.

Reese Witherspoon is the new Julia Roberts. In ten years she’ll be the new Meryl Streep and in twenty the new Joanne Woodward.

I miss Randy Thomas as the announcer. Chris Rock was the problem last year not Randy.

Sid Ganis, the President of the Academy, gave an impassioned speech on storytelling and the need for Hollywood to strive for excellence. Mr. Ganis is the producer of DEUCE BIGELOW: MALE GIGOLO.

Salma Hayek looked gorgeous but is a terrible presenter. She even had trouble pronouncing the Hispanic names.

I don’t feel bad that Judi Densch lost. You know she’ll be nominated again next year…even if the only role she plays is M in the new James Bond film.

Leave it to a writer to show up in jeans.

How could SYRIANA, the most confusing movie in history get a best screenplay nomination?

Okay, we get it. Hollywood wants us to see movies in the theatre and not on DVD’s. Make better movies. We’ll pay to see them. Otherwise, it’s Netflix.

I don’t care that Jessica Alba has never been in a movie I’ve seen, I love her.

CRASH over BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN? Wow. That was a stunner. Now comes the real fun – the lawsuit among producers over which of them are entitled to the Oscar. Wonder if there will be name calling and racial slurs.

Interesting that the Best Picture of the Year has more coincidences than the Junior Mints episode of SEINFELD.

But I was rooting for them.

In fact, since I’m not a racist, homophobic, or a right wing Fascist I was hoping all FIVE would win. Okay, not MUNICH.

Time to order a Jessica Alba movie on Netflix.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Oscars in Hawaii

I'm in the only place in the world that TAPE DELAYS the four hours. Is that even possible??? So my review will appear early tomorrow morning. Don't tell me who won.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar Flashback Weekend continues

The Oscars and Joan Rivers are almost upon us. My annual review to follow (assuming I can get online from Hawaii). To get you even more geeked up for the big show than you already are, here’s my Oscar review from 2003. Amazingly, some of the people mentioned are still in the business today.


The theme for this year's Oscarcast, of course, was that darn pesky war. Agonizing question for the creative community -- how do we recognize the men and women giving their lives overseas without letting it spoil our good time? And remember, this IS Hollywood. When President Reagan was shot the morning of the Academy Awards the blazing headline in the next day's Variety was "OSCARCAST POSTPONED". Underneath, in much smaller letters, was "President of the United States shot". Gives you some perspective of this town.

So we had the obligatory ribbons and subdued black prom dresses...although I was expecting some to have duct tape as an accessory.

The real effect of the war was the lack of the red carpet arrivals and thus the pre Oscar warm up show. Personally I'm against the war but if it means keeping Joan and Melissa Rivers away from celebrities then perhaps I should rethink my position. However, I sorely miss Channel 5's local coverage. Hollywood fluff boy, Sam Rubin and his co-host, the obscure Toni Senical, were forced to stay in a studio while rocket scientist Mindy Burbano could only report from the bridge overlooking the entrance. No one-on-one interviews this year, no free Altoids to nominees, no idiotic questions...although Mindy did say, "This is something we haven't seen before -- the limos dropping people off, so that's very unusual."

Let's end this war so we can get back to welcoming celebrities properly!!!

Thank God for Steve Martin. An Oscar host who was actually funny. Not that it was hard to top Whoopi Goldberg. Dustin Hoffman was funnier. I think I liked this year's broadcast because (a) no Whoopi, (b) no Debbie Allen, and (c) Nia Vardalos lost.

Someone tell Cameron Diaz to wash her hair before the show.

The set looked like a bad M.C. Escher drawing.

How could the Visual Effects award go to a picture with talking trees?

Jennifer Connelly seemed somber, supercilious, and humorless this evening. Oh, must be the war.

J-Lo was wearing an actual dress. I look forward to her new revealing dress and new husband every year. .

Not since Bob Hope has an Oscar host lusted after more women.

Mary Steenburgen looked fabulous. Another advantage of Whoopi not being there was that Mary's husband, Ted Danson was able to attend.

The Chicago dance number was very subdued. Only 25 dancers and Wayne Newton's light show. Again, the war.

Jennifer Garner looked even better tonight than she did earlier in the day at the gym. And she looked amazing at the gym.

It was nice that the winner of the Short Film award brought up the writer. We could use some respect. Too bad the writer was wearing a ridiculous pink suit.

Mira Sorvino IS Romy (or was she Michele?).

The winner of the Best Costume award wore the ugliest dress of the evening. It's like she was wrapped in a cat house drape.

I miss Revlon sponsoring. Some good Cadillac commercials however, trying desperately to update their image. I suggest the following new slogan: "Cadillac, it's not just for Jews anymore".

Paul Simon was robbed. Bono was robbed. Was I the only one who found it curious that the one song NOT sung on the broadcast was the one that won. Bet you the "f" word was in it....and I'm not talking about "fictitious".

Congratulations to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Maybe now that she's a distinguished Academy Award winner she'll stop doing those cheesey radio commercials for cellphones. Michael Douglas must be breathing a sigh of relief. As part of her pre-nup if she didn't win an Oscar he had to pay her a million dollars. Makes it easier on him when he ultimately has to pay up for cheating on her.

Whose idea was it to have Instant Replay? The show isn't long enough?

Actors seemed to be walking across the stage slower this evening. Wanting more airtime or the war???

Tough night for Julianne Moore. I think her two nominations cancelled themselves out. She'll be back.

And I hope Diane Lane is back. It kills me that Helen Hunt, Kim Bassinger, Goldie Hawn, Geena Davis, and Cher have Oscars while she doesn't.

"Gangs of New York" was up for a gazillion Oscars. Did you like this movie? Did anyone you ever met like this movie?

Martin Scorcese is starting to look like Woody Allen.

Not enough see-through gowns or slits up to arm pits this year. Considering the crop of movies you gotta give us SOMETHING.

If Peter Jennings talked too long during the news breaks were they prepared to start the music under him?

Halle Berry sure took Adrien Brody's kiss in good fun, didn't she? I hope when he's heading home she'd not driving the car right behind him.

I'm sure you asked it. I'll say it with you: "What is Harrison Ford doing with Calista Flockhart?"

And how many times did they cut to a reaction shot from someone in the audience and you said, "Who's that?" More this year than ever.

The tribute to Oscar winners was awesome and depressing. To me it said this: look how many Oscar winners are out of work."

Is it now an Oscar tradition that the Best Actress winner has to babble and blather on interminably? Let's hope Michael Moore is never nominated for Best Actress.

I love how Olivia de Havilland received a standing ovation. Based on the looks on the faces of the celebrities applauding however, it was clear that most of them had no f'ing clue who she is.

Notice a trend? The serious picture gets Best Director, the popular film gets Best Picture. Same with "Private Ryan" & "Shakespeare In Love".

My pick was "Chicago" although I was hoping "the Hours" won because they sent DVD's to all writers. It's a trend I hope continues.

But as long as Nia Vardelos lost I'm happy.

Next year's Oscar race has begun. Chris Rock's "Head of State" opens Friday along with Delroy Lindo's "The Core".

It just occurred to me, there are dozens of swank Oscar parties going on right now. I'm not invited to any of them. My place in this industry is sitting off to the side writing Oscar reviews for everyone on my email list. Is it any wonder I'm so bitchy?

Until next year because I'm sure I won't be invited to any parties then either....

I wish us all peace and no sequels to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

Ken Levine