Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No, I played Thug #2

A trainer in my gym is also an actor. (I know – knock you over with a feather). He just finished working on the new Showtime series CALIFORNICATION. He played “Hollywood Asshole”. And knowing him, I bet he was good in it. Some of his previous roles included “Jerk at the Bar”, “Thug #2”, and to prove he has range – “Jogger”.

An actress I know has these impressive credits: “Vegas Showgirl” on CSI. Also “Bikini Girl”, “Sheik Girl”, “Cute Girl”, and “Homewrecker”.

Another actress friend boasts these credits on imdb: “Waitress”, “Saleswoman”, “Assistant Candidate #1”, and the part she’s best known for -- “Desperate Woman”.

And one of the most talented comic actors I know lists these on his resume: “Caterer”, “Waiter”, “Delivery Boy”, “Great Great Grandfather” (he was in his 30’s at the time), “Husband”, “Exterminator”, and my personal favorite – “Squid”.

Forget being a star, most actors in Hollywood would be thrilled for a role that actually had a name.

Usually these parts are one or two lines, usually day player roles. But not always. Remember the old guy who used to sit at the bar at CHEERS. His name was Al Rosen. He became a semi-regular. He had lines in probably thirty episodes. His name on the show was “Man Who Said Sinatra”.

“Sinatra” was the first line he was assigned, he got a good laugh, and a few weeks later the writers were looking to give a line to a bar patron and someone suggested, “What about the man who said Sinatra?” And thus a legend was born.

It’s not easy being an actor. And for every one who gets a part as “Punk #2” and “Guy in the Sewer” just remember – there are five others who auditioned for those parts and didn’t get them.

Yours truly,

Schmuck with blog

There have been so many comments about Al Rosen and the other CHEERS barflies that my next post will answer your questions and give more details about them. Stay tuned.

blog schmuck

Monday, July 30, 2007

I'd be more excited if it was bobble-head night

I’m heading off to Dodger Stadium where I could witness baseball history if Barry Bonds hits one (to tie) or two home runs to break Henry Aaron’s all-time record. I couldn’t be more ambivalent. On the one hand it’s great to say you were there for a milestone. On the other, it’s Barry Bonds.

Besides, I’ve already been on hand to see some of the great moments of major league baseball.

I was in Anaheim Stadium the day Seattle outfielder, Kevin Mitchell (pictured left) ate a chili dog during a game and threw up in the dugout so violently that he went on the disabled list for two weeks with strained ribs.

I was in the Kingdome when Mariner pitcher, Eric Gunderson, made an illegal move to first base and a balk was called. Except there was no runner on first. He was on second. So he was balked to third where he scored on a fly ball to win the game.

I was in Tiger Stadium when Omar Visquel bunted into a triple-play.

I was at the LA Coliseum when Leo Durocher kicked umpire Jocko Conlin in the shin.

I was at Dodger Stadium the night Cincinnati pitcher, Pedro Borbon got so mad that during a bench clearing brawl he started swinging at his own teammates.

I was in Olympic Stadium in Montreal the night their paid attendance was higher than 3,000.

I was at Dodger Stadium on “Casey Stengel Night” when a foul ball hit his wife.

And I was in Yankee Stadium the day a fan fell out of the upper deck.

So yeah, what the hell? I hope the Dodgers walk Bonds every time he comes up.

Oh…wait. I forgot. I was also at Dodger Stadium the night Kirk Gibson hit the game winning home run in the opener of the 1988 World Series. It’s not Kevin Mitchell upchucking on his teammates shoes but it was pretty cool.

Tom Snyder

I saw Tom Snyder the day he got the offer to host the TOMORROW SHOW on NBC. It was 1972, Tom had been a local news anchor on KNBC in Los Angeles (with his weatherman Pat Sajek) and the big brass at the network wanted to seal the deal over a power lunch. Tom selected the place.

And that’s where I saw him – standing in line with me at Cassell’s hamburgers in Koreatown. Now granted, they’re the best burgers in Los Angeles, but still, it ain’t the Palm or Spagos.

It was a riot seeing the top executives of the National Broadcasting Company, all in their expensive suits, holding trays, being chided by the counter guys for not yelling out their orders loud enough.

But that was Tom Snyder. Never taking himself or anything too seriously – even his “big break”.

In many ways, Tom was the Jack Paar of the boomer generation. An eccentric personality who wasn’t afraid to show his emotions on national television, he was a master of the conversational in-depth interview. And he did his homework. Unlike Larry King recently, he would never get his Beatles mixed-up.

You would tune into the TOMORROW SHOW one night and Julie Andrews would be his guest. The next night it was Charles Manson. And again, unlike Larry King, he didn’t ask them both the same questions.

There was a touch of Edward R. Murrow in Tom Snyder. He would sit back in a chair, cigarette dangling in one hand, and very formally inform the audience that his guest that night was “Mr. Johnny Rotten”.

Dan Ackroyd enhanced his popularity with a dead-on impression on SNL, exaggerating all of Tom’s quirks, his boisterous laugh, and comb-over that seemed to wrap around his head twice. Tom apparently loved it. Imagine if it were Bill O'Reilly.

In the mid 90’s Tom had a late night talk show on CBS as well as a syndicated radio program. I was his guest once on the radio show, pimping my book. To my amazement he had actually read it (thus making him one of five). The interview was relaxed and fun. No wonder Charles Manson felt so at ease. Off the air I reminded him of the Cassell’s incident and heard that loud boisterous laugh for real. He said he had all his best meetings there.

Tom Synder will be long remembered, especially in Los Angeles, where his back-up news anchor from the KNBC days, Paul Moyer, has been imitating him for thirty years.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Protecting our Kuntry from obscenity

WARNING: This post contains offensive letters of the alphabet!

The FCC is so concerned about protecting the public from indecency that it doles out huge fines for swear words that accidentally go out over the air. And God forbid for one nanosecond America sees Janet Jackson’s breast. Our whole nation could collapse. If terrorists really want to bring down this country they should organize suicide streakers.

Meanwhile, for a yet-unbuilt low-power digital television station in Wailuka, Maui the FCC recently approved the call letters KUNT. This is not a joke! This is actually true! (I sure hope they don’t plan on being an affiliate for the Lifetime Network or Oxygen.) Yes, those call letters were deemed acceptable by the federal decency police. Here's the story.

The same station group applied for and received the call letters KWTF for a station in Arizona. Anyone who has ever typed an email knows what WTF means. You’re probably thinking it now just reading this post.

The President of KM communications, who requested and received those two call letters has since backed-off and will name his stations something more appropriate (KOCK? KLIT? KUM? Maybe KY-JL?)

The KM Prez insists it was a mistake and at the time he didn’t realize those call letters he applied for were offensive. KUNT doesn’t just sorta jump out at you? Was he pronouncing it Koont?

Outside of Aspen, Colorado there is KCUF, which is the F-word in reverse. They’ve been on the air since December. Thankfully no one with high moral standards is dyslexic. Otherwise, KCUF would be in deep TIHS.

They say their slogan is “Keeping Colorado Uniquely Free”. Sure. That’s why they had to have those particular call letters. Just like KUNT could stand for “Kall you next Tuesday.” Who TF are we kidding here?

I once worked for WDRQ in Detroit and used to call the station W-dreck. Dreck is Yiddish for shit. The three Jews who listened to that station were hysterical.

The Code of Federal Regulations allows applicants to request call letters of their choice as long as the letter combination is available. But here’s the kicker -- "objections to the assignment of requested call signs will not be entertained at the FCC."

No, but you can complain, and the station will probably be heavily fined if someone inadvertently utters “tit” on KUNT.

It’s also okay for only three or four major corporations to own all the radio and TV stations in the country. And if the Federal Communication Commission had its way, all internet radio stations – the only true voice of the individual – would pay such outrageous royalties that they would be forced out of existence.

No wonder no station is named K-FCC. Those three letters are the most offensive of all.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


By popular demand, more MASH stuff. (I never get this kind of reaction to my Palm Springs travelogues.) Here are some random questions and thoughts:

How did we get the medical jargon? We had a consultant on staff, Dr. Walter Dishell. When writing the script, David and I would just slug in medical nonsense.

HAWKEYE: I think his freebazzber is ruptured.

BJ: You might have to gumenford him and eeknonoogle his interior norgalflagle.

HAWKEYE: Nurse, zignuts. Stat!

Walt would send the script back replacing the zignuts. Eventually we became more proficient in operating procedures and by the end of our tenure we were taking a crack at the jargon ourselves, just calling him and running the scene by him. One of our proudest moments on the show was once writing an OR scene that required no changes. Of course the patient did die.

If you’re writing a spec script like a HOUSE that requires medical-speak, consult a doctor to get it right.

When breaking stories, we would often call Walt and say something like, “Here’s what we need -- a patient that comes in with a bad fever. He becomes delusional that night. The next day he’s better. But that night he dies.” An hour later Walt would call back with Hemorrhagic Fever or some other exotic disease.

At MASH we also had a nurse on stage who served as our technical advisor. That is why you never saw Hawkeye operate with a band saw.

A few people commented on the number of inconsistencies in the show. Yes, a show bible might have been nice. To me there were two BIG inconsistencies: Harry Morgan initially appeared as an insane general (maybe the funniest MASH episode EVER – “The General Flipped at Dawn”) and then later as Colonel Potter. And the other – we’re supposed to believe that eleven years of stories, main characters coming and going, actors aging over a decade, etc. all took place in less than two years.

The theme song, taken from the movie, “Suicide is Painless” was never sung on the series.

The show was shot at Twentieth Century Fox on Stage 9, and on location in Malibu canyon. A later brush fire destroyed most of the exterior sets. The sets from the stage are in the Smithsonian in Washington. I didn’t steal any of the props. I’m an idiot.

It took four days to shoot an episode. One day to read and rehearse, and three to film. One of the three shooting days would be out on location. But only until the end of Daylight Savings Time. After that the days were too short. The final six or seven episodes were always filmed exclusively on the stage, even the exterior scenes.

For my money the best episodes were written by Larry Gelbart and the team of Everett Greenbaum & Jim Frizzell.

I was there for the creation of Charles Emerson Winchester. The idea was to replace Frank Burns with a character that was very much his opposite. We all wanted Charles to be smarter and more gifted as a surgeon than Hawkeye or B.J. and, as opposed to Frank, a worthy adversary.

There were no auditions for the part of part. Producer Burt Metcalfe had seen David Ogden Stiers guesting on an episode of the MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and thought he’d be perfect. It was only after David was hired that we learned he could do that slight Boston accent.

MASH tribute sites have trivia contests. I often can’t answer questions from episodes I wrote.

Friday, July 27, 2007

For you SIMPSONS fans

Never one to not jump on a craze, with THE SIMPSONS movie opening this weekend I thought I'd post some of "Dancin' Homer" -- one of the episodes my partner, David Isaacs and I wrote. I'm also the voice of the radio announcer. Hopefully this will hold you until you get to the theater.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dear Mr. Clavin

The Television Critics convention just wrapped up in Los Angeles. It was rather tame this year. No Aaron Sorkin to accuse me of being a hack. The only flicker of controversy was when ABC President Steve McPherson balked at making the big LOST announcement (Harold Perinneau is returning next season. He left his keys on the island and had to go back to get them.). McPherson was saving the big bombshell (?) for the Comic-Con convention this weekend in San Diego. Needless to say, the ink stained wretches were in a tizzy.

Melanie McFarland, the consistently hilarious TV reporter for the Seattle P-I, summed it up like this:

The very idea that a room full of socially awkward types who get paid to obsess over people and worlds that do not exist would be passed over in favor of a convention center stuffed with socially awkward types who obsess over people and worlds that do not exist -- while wearing costumes! -- was simply unacceptable. We are the true nerd herd, the gatekeepers of stupid information!

And other than that, there was little news worth printing. Not that they really grilled those on the hot seat before them.

During the HBO sessions the big question that everyone was asked was, “What did you think of THE SOPRANOS ending?” They were asking producers of other HBO shows. They asked Larry David. If you were associated in any way with HBO you were asked that question. So I figured, why stop there? I recently emailed both of my senators and my congressman. I also emailed Telemundo figuring that’s where my mayor spent most of his time now. I emailed my Governator. And most presidential candidates. I asked them all the SOPRANOS question.

And not one responded. Nobody. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The big goose egg. I at least expected the standard form reply “Thank you for sharing your view and you can be sure the senator is equally concerned and working tirelessly to resolve this vital matter. “

Not even that.

Even if they wrote back and began the note with “Dear Mr. Clavin” I would have been satisfied. But no.

So I’m guessing it was a really stupid question. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to hear what they think of the new BIONIC WOMAN now that it’s been re-tooled. Stay tuned. Those emails should be coming in any minute. Yep. Annnnnnyyyy minute.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oceans Two

Just back from one exciting night in Vegas. My writing partner David and I are developing a project for Jon Lovitz & Rita Rudner so we popped into town to see Rita’s show.

Flew Jet Blue out of Long Beach because it was HALF of what Southwest Airlines charged out of LAX. “You are now free to overpay for worse service and unassigned seats.”

Happy to say there were no riots in Vegas…even though the NBA Summer League is in full swing.

The big news is that Pamela Anderson is the magician’s assistant to Hans Klok. I guess when Borat stuffed her in a sack her true talent was discovered.

Stayed at Harrah’s – a hotel in search of a theme. They must've thought all the good themes were taken but they were wrong. Someday I shall open the Woodstock Hotel. I’ll put up a big stage, get Richie Havens and Country Joe & the Fish impersonators and charge people $120 a night to lay down a blanket and sleep in a field. VIP accommodations nearest the outhouse.

The Harrah’s slogan is “Oh Yeah!” Rejected slogans were “Uh huh, Baby!”, “Don’t Stop, Ooooh!”, “More like that!”, and “Harder like you mean it!”

Where else can you look out your window, see the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramid, dancing fountains, a tropical beach, King Arthur’s castle, the Statue of Liberty, a pirate ship, and the Gateway Arch of St. Louis? Oh wait. That’s just a partial view of McDonalds.

There is a street bazaar of some sort outside Harrah’s, recreating the great garage sales of Milwaukee.

Rita’s show was hilarious. A lot funnier than this. Almost an hour-and-a-half of great “I wish I had thought of that” material. We hung with her backstage, were led to the best table. It was like being Ray Liotta in GOODFELLAS without having to kill Joe Pesci.

Most cities celebrate history with museums. Vegas pays tribute to our nation’s past with the only remaining Playboy Club.

And there’s now a Hooters Hotel. Call them and ask to speak to John Smith. They’ll ring up 450 rooms.

All you have to do is watch the people who waddle through any Vegas casino, cup of quarters in one hand and a churro in the other to see why THE WIRE didn’t get any Emmy nominations.

Stopped by the Imperial Palace, which quite frankly is neither. If T-Bag from PRISON BREAK wanted to gamble in style on the strip this is where he would go. But they’re no longer owned by that guy who proudly had Hitler’s car on display. And they’re the only hotel with Dealertainers -- celebrity impersonators (Elvis, Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, etc.) who also deal blackjack. Where’s Stevie Wonder’s table?

There is now always a World Series of Poker going on.

An old style Vegas perennial, the Frontier Hotel just closed a few weeks ago. But that’s not to say Wayne Newton isn’t still headlining there.

And good news for old Jews! A Fountainbleau Hotel is coming soon. In no time you’ll be banging your spoons to Mitzi McCall, Rich Little, Abby Lane, and Elliott Yamin.

Swung by the Venetian for some high end Vegas class. First stop was Madame Tussaud’s wax museum where you can “grab hold” of your favorite stars. Play poker with Ben Affleck, marry George Clooney. As the brochure says, “kiss, hug or mug with your favorite entertainers and sports heroes and take all the pictures you want to show everyone you hung with the stars while you were in Las Vegas.” No wonder the Venetian prides itself on its elegance and sophistication.

One of their other great features is the Grand Canal shops. Fake cobblestone walkways, a painted sky (giving the place a sense of nuclear winter), building facades, piped in music, and oh yes, a concrete canal. I don’t know -- being in a gondola in an indoor mall with fat tourists snapping cellphone photos and toting bags from the M & M store doesn’t really set the stage for romance. But maybe that’s just me.

The Celine Dion “Cheese-a-palooza” continues to assault and stupefy audiences at Caesar’s. Imagine the Orange Bowl Halftime show, the Olympics Opening Ceremony, the West Hollywood Gay Pride Parade, and Mt. Vesuvius erupting all rolled into one. And that’s just during the “turn off your cellphones” announcement.

Carrot Top is a Vegas headliner. Somewhere in the great beyond Bugsy Siegal is saying “If this is what I ultimately created I deserved to be shot.”

It is a town unique to the world. Come for the glitz, stay for Rita Rudner, and hang around till Saturday when Gerry & the Pacemakers headline at Cannery Row. Las Vegas truly is Chuck E. Cheese for adults.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


A couple of attendees of the Sitcom Room wrote reports about it in their blogs. If you're interested, here they are. Christina's and Richard's. Otherwise, zip past this blatant self serving plug to my new post of the day.

Break a leg, Barry!

No. Really. In three places.

As Barry Bonds closes in on the great Hank Aaron’s all-time homer milestone I think I speak for all baseball fans (outside of the 415 area code) when I say, I hope he trips on a curb and falls into an open manhole.

I will grant you he’s a superb hitter and deserving of the Hall of Fame but so what? Auric Goldfinger was an excellent businessman. Lorena Bobbitt could qualify as a terrific mohel. And Benito Mussolini got the trains to run on time. Barry Bonds is a bad guy. He probably took steroids (or swallowed a Macy’s Parade balloon), will beat the rap, and will stand by guilt-free as others take the fall for him.

He knows we all hate him and he’s laughing. (He’s like the George Bush of baseball.)

I remember back in the 1962 when the Dodgers were in a tough pennant race with the Giants and Maury Wills was breaking Ty Cobb’s long standing stolen base record. The Dodgers went up to San Francisco for a series and the Giants had flooded the base paths so Wills couldn’t run. At the moment Bonds is playing at home but I was hoping that on the road every team would raise their outfield walls by 100 feet. But I also hope we find Osama Bin Laden.

A related issue is should Bud Selig be there to witness the (yawn) historic event? Of course he should!! He’s the God damn commissioner of baseball! And since Bonds has never officially been charged of any wrong doing there’s no legitimate reason not to go.

Besides, it’s a baseball game. Wouldn’t the commissioner of baseball WANT to go to a baseball game? This is not a state funeral. Other people want to go to baseball games so much they actually pay to see them. And they don’t sit in luxury suites or behind home plate. Selig has been showing up of late but it’s always begrudgingly. Come on, Bud. He didn’t kill any dogs.

The nation rejoiced when Cal Ripken became baseball’s iron man. We cheered Mark MacGwire breaking Roger Maris’ single season homer mark (what did we know at the time?). Baseball is all about history and records and reaching new heights. We have so few things to cheer about these days. Other than who will win PIRATE MASTER, what?? We’d like to be able to celebrate this… but we can’t. Not for a multi-millionaire who during the last baseball strike went to a judge and tried to get a break on his child support payments.

When Bonds hit his 715th blast last year in “Corporate Sponsor’s Name Here” Park in San Francisco, passing Babe Ruth for second place, his mother wasn’t there, nor was his wife and kids, the Giants’ team owner, the so-called “commissioner of baseball” (he was probably trying on new suits deciding which one would be the most comfortable to sleep in), or Willie Mays. He wasn’t mobbed by teammates at home plate. Only a handful of national reporters were there. And these guys go anywhere on their papers’ dime.

So when Bonds breaks the all-time record (unless we get lucky and Tanya Harding decides to go after him) it will be a huge NON EVENT. Just another reminder that in this day and age the villain often wins. Maybe he can have a drink and celebrate with O.J. Simpson.

Hip hip…whatever.

Monday, July 23, 2007

If you're on a new series don't buy a house

Production has begun on fall season shows. And so the upheaval begins. Networks and studios are firing cast members left and right on new series. This comes after they fired actors left and right during pilot season. One of the stars of CAVEMAN couldn’t make the grade.

There must be at least one actor who was hired, fired, hired on another show, and fired again all within the last two months. And actors from failed pilots are replacing actors on sold pilots. At some point it’s going to be like THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE, the Luis Bunuel movie where two actresses played the same role in the same film. You’ll be watching a show. There’s Kim Raver. Now there’s Gina Gershon. Now there’s Kim Raver again. One tests better in outdoor scenes. The other tests better in indoor scenes. WTF??!

Actors are also bailing from hits. Mandy Patinkin quit his fourth or fifth show. Why networks keep giving this maniac more series is beyond me. It reminds me of a few years ago when Savario Guerra quit BECKER because he felt hemmed in in a series. Great career move. He hasn’t been seen since.

LIPSTICK JUNGLE (pictured above) fired its show runners. This coming after one completed script. Of course that show had also fired three previous writers along the way and completely re-cast the show. There may be more LIPSTICK JUNGLE former employees than viewers.

And even if your series is running smoothly with no turnover there’s still a huge uncertainty. Networks are revamping their fall schedules. You could be off the air before you even get on the air. The network executive who championed your show could be fired. Or you took your pilot to Network “A”. They passed. Network “B” picked it up and you got on the schedule. You publicly ripped the executive at Network “A” for his short sightedness, saying “he couldn’t find water in a leaky boat with a paddle in the middle of the ocean”, and he’s now the head of Network “B”. Don't look now but a Bob Saget game show has your time slot.

What all this says is that there is a level of fear and anxiety at the network television level that is palpable. Yes, shows can be improved, and certain actors and writers don’t work out. But such widespread upheaval signals a clear lack of faith in the product, which sets off a vicious circle. It’s hard to create in that atmosphere. The writers are forever second-guessed. The actors are always looking over their shoulders. As a result the shows don’t turn out as well. Networks get more scared, and on and on and on…

It all comes back to this: hire the best people, let them do their best work, and take a chance. 90% of shows are going to fail anyway. But the ones that succeed might be the next SOPRANOS or SEINFELD and you won’t have to bring back THE APPRENTICE and ACCORDING TO JIM.
It all starts with believing…and if you have to fire someone, let it be Mandy Patinkin.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Sitcom Room Report

Thanks to all who participated in and survived the Sitcom Room (or, as the Hilton hotel had posted on our meeting room door – Sitcon Room). I’m sure some of the students will be commenting. I heard a number of them mumble something about revenge.

But it was a jam packed weekend. Saturday’s session began at 9:00 AM. And. depending on the group, ended between midnight and 6:00 AM. And no, I wasn’t lecturing that whole time.

Saturday did begin at 9 with me telling them everything I knew about comedy and writing and life. Then we broke for coffee at 10. After lunch we split them up into four groups of five. Four brave actors performed a ten-minute scene that needed, uh…work. It was like sending soldiers off to combat with nerf rifles. Then the groups were all treated to network and studio notes. And good thing too! No telling what horrendous scenes these people might write without the sage guidance and wisdom of the network and studio!

From there the teams were shown their plush (actually they were) writers rooms. I circulated throughout the day and evening along with my partner, Dan. By 9:00 PM each room looked like a bomb had gone off in it – leftover food, empty Diet Coke cans, Styrofoam boxes, paper everywhere. And the smell of a take-out dinner that will remain in those rooms forever.

The teams really bonded. Imagine THE APPRENTICE if the teams were smart funny nice people instead of Type-A insufferable self involved assholes. I got the feeling that some of the students actually, well…liked each other. Even after 2:30!

Following a luxurious night’s sleep of between four and zero hours the teams re-assembled in the meeting room at 9 A.M. The actors returned and performed their rewritten scenes.

And that’s where things really got fun.

I’m happy…and relieved…and thrilled to say that each group kicked ass. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. For all I knew it could have been PROJECT GREENLIGHT: THE SITCOM. But each scene was funny, inventive, brimming with great ideas. I could not be more proud of these dedicated talented exhausted people.

They went back to their rooms to polish their scripts based on the runthrough. Most accomplished in two hours what it took six hours to do the night before.

The seminar concluded with a panel discussion. I was joined by Sam Simon (THE SIMPSONS, TAXI, CHEERS), Fred Rubin (NIGHT COURT, ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE), Marley Sims (HOME IMPROVEMENT), and David Isaacs (see my credits). For two hours we shared advice, war stories, and answered questions. Topics included James L. Brooks, spec scripts, the state of comedy, nightmare actors, the process, Q scores, animation, Mary Tyler Moore, ageism, getting started, Captain Kangaroo, new delivery systems, first jobs, Standards & Practices, the problems women writers face, viewer complaints, the GIMME A BREAK theme song, partnerships, Drew Carey, fat stupid husbands and way too attractive TV wives, the Fat Albert Show, agents, Garry Shandling, the Disney Channel, Sam & Diane, WEBSTER, fanatic viewers, and big breaks.

Thanks again to Andy Goldberg, Jeremy Licht, Kimberly Wallis, KerriLee Kaski, my esteemed panel, Dan O’Day, “studio head” Cliff Levine, Kevin Gershan, Annie Levine, the guy who set up the coffee pot, and mostly the twenty terrific students who made this weekend come off so well.

I look forward to holding another Sitcom Room seminar, although I look forward to a nap more.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hawkeye's speech

Here’s the speech from our first MASH, “Out of Sight/Out of Mind” that took us a week and at least fifty drafts. But launched our career. Hawkeye was temporarily blind, with no guarantee he’d ever see again. He dealt with it by staying very busy, even being a little manic.

Finally, B.J. sits him down in Post Op and they have the following exchange:

Listen, Hawk, why don’t you just settle down for five minutes? I know what you’re trying to do, and I know how you really feel.

No you don’t.

You don’t want to have time to think about what might happen to you.

That’s not it. Sure, when Overman walks in tomorrow and unwraps my package, I hope to God I’ll have my sight back. But in the meantime, this crazy accident has taken on another meaning.


One part of the world closed down for me, but another part opened up. Sure, I’ve been seeing myself sitting on a corner with a tin cup selling thermometers. But things are happening that take me away from that. This morning I spent two incredible hours listening to a rainstorm. I didn’t just hear it, I was part of it. I’ll bet you never realized that the sound of rain hitting the ground makes the same noise as steaks when they barbeque, or that thunder seems to echo forever. And you can’t believe how funny it is to hear someone slip and fall in the mud. Had to be Burns. Beej, it’s full of trapdoors, but I think I’m using this thing to my advantage. I’ve never spent a more conscious day in my life.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Our first MASH

As I conduct my writing seminar this weekend here are a couple of MASH related posts. This is the story of how David Isaacs and I got our first MASH assignment.

We had sold a JEFFERSONS and a couple of episodes of another series, JOE AND SONS, cancelled one nanosecond after we turned in our second script. (Surprisingly, there are no JOE AND SONS tribute websites.) Our agents moved up to the agency that also represented MASH executive producer, Gene Reynolds. He read and liked our JEFFERSONS and invited us to come in and meet. My partner and I had met in the Army Reserves so we were very comfortable writing a military show. This was season five, Larry Gelbart, had just left, and Gene was looking for new writers. Forget for a moment that the two of us together couldn’t carry Larry Gelbart’s pencil sharpener, we jumped at the chance.

We had a good meeting, were loaded down with research material, and told to come back when we had some stories to pitch. I asked how many stories? At the JEFFERSONS writers were allowed to pitch only three. Gene said as many as we had.

A week later we were back in his office with FIFTY stories. There was no way we were going to walk out of there without a sale. Needless to say, he was a little overwhelmed. By idea number fifteen he put two of them together and gave us the assignment.

We were over the moon. (Quick aside, a little over a year later we became head writers of MASH and wound up using most of those fifty stories.)

The two stories for that initial assignment were:

A gas heater blows up and Hawkeye is temporarily blind.

And Frank bets on baseball games aired by Armed Forces Radio live in the middle of the night then rebroadcast during the day. Thus he bets knowing the outcome. (This came from a true story I heard about from the Far East Network in Viet Nam.) Our spin was that Hawkeye discovers this and he, B.J., Radar, and Klinger do a recreation of a game to fool him.

The episode was called OUT OF SIGHT/OUT OF MIND. Our draft was very well received and proved to be the turning point of our career.

It took us two weeks to complete -- one week to write just one speech. But that speech was key to the episode.

Tomorrow – that speech.

Things to avoid when writing your screenplay

The Sitcomroom seminar is this weekend and we're putting together the final preparations. Making sure the hotel bar is open after sessions, etc. So for today I have a guest blogger, my daughter Annie. She's spending the summer doing coverage and volunteered to write a piece on things spec writers should avoid.

As a development intern, I have spent the past month reading scripts. Some good. Most bad. And now that the man at the Paramount commissary knows my name, I consider myself qualified enough to dispense advice. So this is my sagacious advice based on my first month of script reading. I present these as a public service because I want YOUR spec screenplay to be great.

Format. The format doesn’t need to be perfect, but seriously don’t switch back and forth between stage play and screenplay format.

Concepts. If it has been done before, don’t it again. I have no desire to read My Big Fat Mexican Wedding. What’s been done is done. And if you’re going to steal an idea, for G-d’s sakes don’t use anything that grossed over $360,000,000.

Characters. I don’t care if you’re trying to be cute, do NOT name all of your characters something similar. It is incredibly frustrating to read…and after the first few pages, I wouldn’t even try to differentiate.

Dialog. While characters’ dialog should be distinct, that does not just mean that all teenagers say “like,” all preteens say “shut up,” and all children say “you’re stupid.

Setting/Time. If you’re going to create your own little sci-fi world at least set it up in the wall-to-wall. I am not just going to “guess” that it’s the year 2028 and robots rule the earth. Left to my own devices I’ll think it’s 2029.

Length. You have a much better chance of selling your script if it is 115 pages or less. You're not submitting it to Random House.

Voiceovers. Voiceovers can really make a movie (e.g. The Opposite of Sex). But do not use voiceovers instead of or alongside action. I don’t want to read “And then I walked down the street. It was dark outside and…” I CAN SEE THAT! And if I can’t, then please fix that, because I should.

That’s all I have for now, but if I can think of anything else that will keep you from that million dollar spec script payday I will let you know. Best of luck everybody!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Emmy nominations 2007

The Emmy nominations are out. Since most of them were leaked two weeks ago there weren’t many huge surprises. As expected, STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP got the most nominations in history. Well… in Aaron Sorkin’s world. But for the rest of us here on earth….

THE SOPRANOS was nominated for everything including best cartoon. Here’s what I hope happens. David Chase wins, goes up to the podium, starts to speak, and the screen just goes black.

In the drama category I was happy that HOUSE finally was recognized, and since I know the producers of BOSTON LEGAL I was thrilled they got a nod. Not that any of them have a chance against THE SOPRANOS. But three of my favorite dramas didn’t make the cut. LOST, DEXTER, and THE SHIELD. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was a surprise snub but I contend the way they shoot that show, with the jiggling camera, is annoying and when academy members hurl their lunch they tend not to vote for you.

The academy got it right by not nominating last year’s winner, 24. They had a horrible season and unfortunately many voters live in Valencia and resent being nuked and incinerated.

I didn’t realize they still had a Best Comedy category but apparently they do and 30 ROCK and UGLY BETTY were the new darlings. George Lopez must be saying, “how could they nominate THE OFFICE instead of me?” I think ENTOURAGE is going to sneak in and win.

Interesting that DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES was ignored. And to make matters worse, Felicity Huffman did get a nomination. I’m sure those other women are going to be real fun to be around the next few weeks. Teri Hatcher-induced heart attacks should reduce the crew by seventeen.

Hugh Laurie finally got a Best Actor nomination. Hooray! It’ll be a two-man race between him and James Gandolfini. Michael C. Hall as DEXTER deserved a nod. He made a serial killer seem more sympathetic than any of our current elected officials. Missing was Eddie Izzard. If he played his character in a dress he could have gotten a best actress nod.

Patricia Arquette got nominated again for Best Actress. And so did Debra Messing. Even if they slept with every voter twice I still can't fathom why they got those nods. Oh, add Sandra Oh to that list.

If there’s one lock it’s Alec Baldwin for 30 ROCK. If he’s not there I’d love his daughter to accept the award for him. America Ferrara will take home the comedy gold for the leading ladies. It’s not easy playing ugly when you’re pretty.

Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven, Neil Patrick Harris? Too tough to call for best Supporting Actor in a Comedy. Dillon isn’t really stupid, Piven isn’t really an asshole, and Harris isn’t really straight. All three deserve the hardware.

And no one deserves an Emmy more than Jenna Fischer.

Mini-series? Tele-films? Whatever.

For the guest acting categories the academy just selects the biggest movie stars that qualify that year. Robert Duvall. Helen Mirren. Gena Rowlands. Martin Landau. Forest Whitaker. Eli Wallach. Salma Hayek. Hey, what a shock!

At least this year all of the nominated actors had more than thirteen seconds screen time like Ellen Burstyn did.

Here’s who I’d like to see win Guest Actor in a Drama Series: a tie between David Morse for HOUSE and Tim Daly for THE SOPRANOS.

Is it Stephen Colbert’s year or Jon Stewart’s? It won’t be Jay Leno’s.

The Emmy Awards telecast will be on September 16. I'll be reviewing them on this blog as I always do. Scheduled not to appear: Aaron Sorkin.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Scott Baio is 45 and single

Does ANYBODY give a shit? Including him?

This is the subject of yet another tiresome reality show as poor Scott Baio wonders why everyone doesn’t love Chachi.

Maybe because….

As a serious actor he’s the poor man’s Tony Danza. For 45 years he’s been the luckiest man on the planet. He’s fucked a gazillion hot women. He’s fucked over a gazillion hot women. He has money. He has independence.

But now middle age is setting in. The boyish looks are starting to fade. It used to be that banging Liza Minelli was a lark. Now she’s the ghoulish ghost of Baio future.

One day he wakes up and realizes his life is empty and he has commitment issues. He is racked with pain and confusion. This is not a problem he can solve himself. He needs highly qualified professional help. So he does the only rational thing a marginal celebrity can do – he sets up a reality show.

He hires a hot looking life coach (who I assume he’ll be banging by the final episode) and goes on a soul-searching journey to discover why he is screwed up. I bet this licensed life coach has an agent, manager, and PR person.

We meet his posse. Yes, even with no career anymore Scott Baio still has an entourage. So you can imagine THEIR self esteem.

We find that he loathes his fans. Spending twenty minutes in an autograph session is worse than what they do to Elisha Cuthbert in CAPTIVITY.

By now you so hate this guy that the instrument has not been devised that can measure your indifference to his problem.

He’s told he has to break up with his girlfriend for two months and remain celibate. So he plans an intimate dinner to break the bad news. Just the two of them and a full camera crew. It’s a scene that would bring a tear to a glass eye.

He seeks out old girlfriends to discover what went wrong. I guess his life coach saw HIGH FIDELITY. It seems he cheated on all these women. This stuns him. Why? He didn’t remember doing any of this? Or was he just shocked that they KNEW? In any event, he’s now reeling. Oh, the trauma of losing these women he hasn’t thought about in twenty years.

He meets up with Erin Moran. I let out an audible gasp. She now looks 65. “Joannie” lets him have it. He’s a narcissist. Stop! Stop! Too many revelations in one day!

She tells him he has a small penis. Ouch! I imagine Donny Most watching this and falling off his chair laughing. Scott seeks an objective opinion – his entourage. They’re aghast she could think such a thing. Of course, even if his penis is small it still has to be a kielbasa compared to theirs.

The series is more pathetic than fun. The show should be called SCOTT BAIO IS 45 AND HAS MADE-UP PROBLEMS. My guess is the life coach will not be successful in getting Scott to commit to marriage. But she may get him to agree to be her partner on the next AMAZING RACE.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Only in LA

We’ve come a long way since the LA TIMES’ Marc C. Bloom tire ads and J. C. Penney white sale announcements. Here in Los Angeles we have the LA WEEKLY. Check out some of these ads.

Dr. Pam Mirabaldi offers Vaginal Rejuvenation for only $2500! (Does one choose from various styles? Where can I get a catalog?)

On your next lunch break, instead of hitting Quiznos, stop by Epione for a “one hour face lift” only $3900. I imagine it’s a Joan Rivers daily ritual.

Or, you can spend your lunch hour getting a dental implant for only $699 thanks to Meir Agaki D.D.S. Before you say no just remember this: He’s a UCLA graduate.

Natural Beauty offers 25% discounts on Botox & Restylane injections. Prices like that would put a smile on your face if you could smile.

Mens Renaissance offer hair transplants, just $3 per graft. And there’s plasma TV’s in all rooms along with complimentary chauffer services.

But Crown Cosmetic Surgery allows you get your hair back for just 67 cents each! Perfect if you only need say twenty hairs.

“Don’t be a gas-hole” proclaims the classy ad for Vespas.

Hey, there’s a Cosmoplast special over at Dr. Michael G. Franco’s. And it’s Zyplast season too! The good news gets even better. No skin test required!

No more unsightly vascular blemishes, gals! Starting for only $100 you can get rid of those Cherry Hemangiomas that have kept you home Saturday nights with that Rabbit Vibrator that everyone is talking about for only $99.

Depressed? Call the Schuster Medial Research Institute. You could even MAKE money – up to $320 for being in a study group. You could put that towards your vaginal reconstruction and really perk up your spirits.

Southwestern Research Inc. will pay up to $500 to depressives willing to be studied. But you have to be $170 MORE depressed than the Schuster groups.

“The Theraputic Power of Water” says the slogan. It’s for colon hydroptherapy. Also in the ad are illustrations of healthy and unhealthy colons so you can compare them to yours and see if you need their services.

DNA testing for Immigration is offered. Must use real hair, not the $3 grafts.

Livingreen store & gallery has Rainshow’r Filters “for softer hair, smoother skin, and healthier lungs”. Most respiratory problems can be traced back to shower nozzles.

Buy a mattress at Sit & Sleep and get free concert tickets.

At Pacific Support Services they say you can “get marijuana with this card”.

Star Strip Beverly Hills features the only shower stage in town. Hopefully they use the Rainshow’r Filters.

Eros Station gentleman’s club in Van Nuys says “If she’s not in your face, you’re in the wrong place.”

Meanwhile, 4Play boasts Tally Stevens who does flips in 9 inch heels! Hey, that one’s only five minutes from my house. I better start wrapping this up.

How could Marc C. Bloom compete with all that? Even if they were to advertise in the LA WEEKLY there’d be a competing ad that says, “Are your tires bald? Try our tread restoration treatment. Rubber grafts just $49.95 a tire. And whiten those white walls for only $69.95.”

The "play"

Okay, one last highlight I promise. Later tonight the humorous posts resume.

But this is that wacky play I talked about. It happened ten minutes after I got on TV for the first time in ten years.

Monday, July 16, 2007

For those who wanted to hear what I sound like...

... doing baseball play-by-play, a friend posted this on YouTube. It's a half inning of my Seattle Mariners radio broadcast synced to the TV picture. I'll dispense with all the disclaimers and just let you listen. Thanks again to the M's for the opportunity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back from Seattle

The Seattle Mariners graciously invited me to fill-in for a couple of nights on their radio broadcast, reuniting me with one of the most picturesque, romantic cities in all the world -- Tacoma. But Seattle’s pretty keen too.

I arrived Wednesday during a record heat wave. 100 degrees. Who gets sunstroke in Seattle? It was like Tucson with ferries.

Seattle has only two things going against it – relentless rain in the winter and that God awful Perry Como song.

Stayed at the Silver Cloud Inn. I know it sounds like the name of every character Iron Eyes Cody ever played but it was an excellent hotel. Rooms so comfortable you can sleep right through the freight trains going by all night. For whatever reason I always get the room by the elevator, or ice machine, or train.

Hey, they have Starbucks in Seattle too! Who knew??

As I do every trip to the “Emerald City”, I hit Elliott’s Oyster House on Pier 56 for their amazing chilled cracked crab. Although with the heat, people were ordering them to put on their heads and down their pants.

The plan was for me to fill-in for beloved Mariner broadcaster, Dave Niehaus. For M’s fans that’s like going to see a play and learning that Marlon Brando’s part would be played by the understudy.

I was to do play-by-play for three innings on radio. But on Thursday morning one of their other announcers came down with laryngitis and I wound up doing half the game alone on radio and the other half on TV. This particular telecast was also carried nationwide on Direct TV and worldwide on AFRTS. I hadn’t done a television game in ten years so there was already an arctic breeze blowing up my sphincter. As expected, my first half inning featured a freak play that no one had ever seen including the longest tenured umpire in the history of baseball. It involved four runners, three missed tags, a missed base, three runs, a bad call, an appeal, all hell breaking loose, everyone scrambling for their rule books, and me calling it live. My FIRST half inning! I may be the only announcer to ever go to commercial break saying, “And the score after five – your guess is as good as mine.”

Next night’s game was much better. I did radio only and got a foul ball. It came into the booth, crushed our crowd mic and almost killed our engineer but I got the ball so that’s the important thing.

It is worth a trip to Seattle just to see Safeco Field. It’s an architectural marvel – old time charm, modern amenities, spectacular views of the skyline and mountains, and a retractable roof. Players are begging to be traded to the Mariners instead of from. Traditionalists will enjoy the hot dogs, Crackerjacks, and Shiskaberrys (chocolate covered strawberries on a stick just like Ty Cobb used to eat). All that’s missing are vendors going up the aisles yelling, “Lattes here!! Get your caramel machiatos!”

My wife thinks Safeco Field should be renamed “Coffee Grounds”. City appropriate but I vote for “Niehaus Field” in honor of their great announcer Dave Niehaus. Or simply the “Haus that DaveNie built”.

The musical of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN has its tryout in Seattle next month. Instead of spending $475 for a ticket to see it on Broadway, take $400, fly roundtrip to Seattle, pay $75 for the same ticket and have a nice weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

See the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. They have Captain Kirk’s command chair and ET. It’s like having dinner at Faye Dunaway’s house.

My wife, Debby arrived for the weekend and the temperature went from 100 to 75. This is one of the many reasons why I travel with her.

The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.” Damn, I can’t get that idiotic Perry Como song out of my head!

There’s a local Ford dealer that features the “No dicker, sticker”. Much better was the Minneapolis car dealer who once had the slogan, “Bring your wife so we can dicker”.

Got my daughter, Annie a nice souvenir. She’s into pirates so we got her a t-shirt that says “Seattle”, and shows a skull & crossbones with the caption: “The beatings will continue until morale improves”.

If you ever have to use the bathroom in Seattle, stop by the Icon Grill. In the men’s room there are three TV sets with videos of rushing waters – rivers, waterfalls, floods, dams bursting – accompanied by the “Ride of the Valkyries”. Who needs Flomax? For you ladies there’s an old high school health film warning of the dangers of inappropriate thoughts and evil deeds. Not that your date will be in the mood after going like a racehorse for twenty minutes.

Radio in Seattle has gone to crap since Frasier Crane left the airways.

I didn’t have a car. Was hoping Ichiro would let me use the Chevy Tahoe SUV he had just won as MVP of the All-Star game but he declined, claiming he had no idea who the hell I was. So it just sat there.

Being a Mac guy I felt like I was behind enemy lines. But every store and gallery seemed to have an Apple computer. Bill Gates is not taking this lying down. A kid in Western Washington was hit by lightening listening to his iPod. Let that be a warning to you, Seattle!

Was going to go coho salmon fishing but they wouldn’t let me clean the fish in my hotel room.

Also, didn’t get down to the Tacoma Dome to see “Walking with Dinosaurs” -- a stage show featuring 15 life size dinosaurs (45 feet high, 75 feet long) making its US debut after trampling through Europe. Finally a cast that Robin Williams can’t upstage!

But I did get to Utilikilts in Pioneer Square for some new summer kilts. Yes, they’re expensive but I save a lot of money on underwear.

Also in Pioneer Square, there’s the State Hotel with a neon sign that boasts “Rooms 75 cents”. But check with Expedia, you might get a deal.

The Space Needle has a rotating restaurant on top so tourists may hurl while viewing any of Seattle’s stunning attractions.

The bearded sea captain with Popeye hat look is still in. As are tattooed Joni Mitchells.

Stopped by Pikes Place Market, where the fish fly and the tourists buy. Did not go to the Adult Superstore right across the street. I did that once when I broadcasting fulltime for the Mariners. Was with a friend, just browsing, and as I held up an Ass Master, wondering just what the hell it did, it occurred to me – I’m on television every night. This is probably not a place I should be seen in.

The 520 floating bridge was closed all weekend for annual maintenance. So to get from Seattle to Bellevue you could only take the 90 bridge. A faster alternate route was just to go around the world.

Special thanks to the Mariners, Dave Niehaus, Rick Rizz, Kevin Cremin, Randy Adamack, Chuck Armstrong, Dave Sims, Marcy Waldman, KOMO radio, FSN Northwest, and Adrian Beltre for a great week in the great Northwest.

And okay, yeah, well…the bluest skies I’ve ever seen ARE in Seattle.

Next up: a sample of my baseball play by play.

The romantic comedy I've always wanted to write

As I fly home from Seattle I am reminded of my idea for a romantic comedy screenplay.

You know the old third act convention -- GIRL goes off to the airport to fly away for good, to marry Ralph Bellamy and ruin her life. GUY realizes he loves GIRL and rushes to the airport. Start the clock! He’s driving like a madman. She’s leisurely strolling to her gate. In the time it takes her to walk twenty yards he drives twenty miles but that’s okay, he’s on “Jack Bauer” time. He parks right in front of the terminal. Races in. She’s at the ticket counter with two people in front of her. He’s leaping over people like OJ. Just as she’s about to enter the jetway he arrives. They embrace, declare their undying love. The end.

My movie would start with GUY realizing he loves GIRL and heading off to the airport. She’s looking at the TV monitors trying to figure out which of the many concourses her gate is at.

He is stuck in terrible traffic.

She is wondering where the fuck is K-26 and how come the direction arrows say concourses A,C,G are one way, B,K, H, D another, E still a third and why there’s no F?

He’s now approaching the airport. There’s construction blocking two lanes. This is the weekend they’ve decided to repave the main thoroughfare. And just for fun, they’re backing in a cement mixer so all traffic is held.

GIRL’S flight has been delayed. It says only 15 minutes but how can that be when the plane isn’t even there yet? Could the major airline be lying???

GUY’S car is inspected after waiting at a checkpoint. The Hummer before him with a gun rack got waved right through. He’s asked to open his Kia trunk.

GIRL realizes if she wants to eat anything on the long fight she needs to buy it. So she gets in long line at the CHILI’S TOO take out stand.

He can’t leave his car unoccupied at the terminal. Only people allowed to get really close to the terminal in these terrorist prevention times are cab drivers, none of whom have first names shorter than 38 letters. GUY has to find a space in one of the parking structures. There are none.

The woman in line ahead of GIRL is asking questions about the chicken pesto wrap? Is it white meat? When was it made? The girl at the counter doesn’t speak English.

GUY parks in a handi-cap zone. Fuck it. He races for the terminal. The parking structure elevator is out of order.

GIRL begins her two mile trek to her gate.

GUY can’t get past security unless he has a ticket. He races to the ticket counter.

Oops. Gates K20-26 are in a different concourse than gates K1-25.

To avoid the long line, GUY goes to First Class desk. There are still three people ahead of him. No biggie except there is only one agent serving First Class passengers. The other line moves faster.

GIRL wanders through the maze of concourses.

GUY reaches the ticket agent. Is given flack for being in the first class line. He’ll buy a first class ticket for GIRL’S flight. Sorry. Sold out. There are no more seats on any flight to her destination. He’ll buy a ticket for ANY flight going anywhere. There’s room on the Tokyo red eye. He’ll take it. First Class only. Shit! He waits as she gets approval for his card. It’s denied. He gives her another card.

GIRL reaches her gate. Flight still delayed. Why? One rep says bad weather. Another says equipment problems. Could the major airline be lying???

Now that GUY has spent his grandmother’s inheritance on a flight he doesn’t intend to take he races to security. Another long line. People are practically stripping down to their underwear.

GIRL’S flight finally arrives. They have trouble getting the jetway to the plane. It’ll only be another few minutes. Scheduled time for her flight was ten minutes ago although the airline maintains that time still stands.

Because he’s flying one-way he’s singled out for extensive examination. He has no luggage, which is mighty suspicious. He could be hiding something. What, he wonders, if he has nothing to hide it in?

GIRL stands in long line at ticket counter.

GUY’S car is towed.

GUY is asked a series of questions. The thought here is that terrorists who would think nothing of blowing up a jumbo jet with 200 people aboard would not tell a fib to a TSA agent.

GIRL reaches the ticket agent and learns her seat is double-booked. This is the new airline policy. They fear that businessmen who book reservations cancel thereby leaving empty seats. So the policy is to double book. The solution is not just put people on stand-by for the few vacant seats. No, it’s to inconvenience those people who did dutifully make their reservations and give the airline their money way ahead of time.

Now GUY is trying to figure out where Gate K-26 is.

GIRL and the other passenger assigned to her seat play game of chicken over who will agree to take a later flight. They’re offered a voucher for a free trip anywhere in the US. GIRL knows that there are only a certain number of seats allotted for these vouchers and they’re always full. So the voucher is essentially worthless.

GUY races to her gate.

GIRL is about to step into the jetway.

GUY reaches her gate. He calls to her. She spots him. Tears in her eyes, she almost swoons when she sees him. An alert siren sounds. The terminal is being evacuated. Bomb scare. Mass confusion as everyone tries to leave. Closing music swells as they embrace and are trampled. The end.

Hopefully it’s not too sentimental. But I’m sure Nora Ephron will find just the right balance. Watch for my movie coming to a theatre near you…or maybe as part of some major airline’s in flight entertainment.

ANTICIPATED LOGIC PROBLEMS: Why don't they have cellphones and just call each other or why doesn't GUY follow her later? GUY ran out of the house so fast he forgot his cellphone. Ralph Bellamy had justice of the peace waiting with him at GIRL'S destination to perform the ceremony at the baggage carousel. All these and any logic problems will be deftly explained in the script by one of the many writers the studio gets to rewrite me...and then each other.

Fly carefully!

Friday, July 13, 2007

MASH bloopers

Always a crowd pleaser, here are some MASH bloopers from one of our seasons. We would always produce a gag reel for the wrap party. You can sense from these that the cast had a good time. And they did. MASH was a very happy set... despite the fact that we filmed a new episode every three days. By contrast, an hour show today has a nine day shooting schedule.

So a belated welcome to our sixth season wrap party.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My mother the stripper

Hello from Seattle, home of the weirdest plays in baseball. Here’s what happens next in THE SNOBS. For the set-up, please see yesterday’s post.



I guess I got into stripping after my junior year in college. I was told I had the body for it. And all the good summer jobs were taken.

(SUDDENLY FULL OF LIFE) So what exactly did you do? Did you have a specific theme or motif?


Of course she did. You don’t become the “Indiana Stripper of the Year” just by sliding down a pole.

Now, Karl, don’t brag. (THEN) My motif… well, I was a literature major. So, I’d… ask the customers questions and for every right answer I’d take something off.

What kind of questions?

Well… on stage… a typical question I’d ask the sailors might be: What are the names of the daughter in Balzac’s classic, “Pere Goriot”?

Oh, I know that. Delphine and… (SEARCHING) Oh, come on, Evelyn, you know this.

I’m not helping you.

Wait a minute. I know Balzac, that…


I’ll get Isabel.


At this point Karl must put out several other comic fires.



There’s a certain freedom to being up on that stage naked, moving, giving yourself to the moment, to the music, to your body. And knowing that you – that shy little girl from Fort Wayne, Indiana – are driving all of those men absolutely mad. That they can look all they want but they can not touch.


You know, this is the latest Aaron’s been out in a while. And we’ve got a long drive back.


Aw, I can sleep when I’m dead.


I was just –


(EMPHATIC) Aaron, we’re leaving now!

What? Wait! No!


Thank you for an interesting evening.

Oh, goodnight.


Wait! Don’t leave!

Can I say something?


I must admit I had my doubts about whether you were Stanford material. But as the evening unfolded I changed my mind. I’d love to see you and especially your wife at our next pool party.

Thank you. That means a lot.


We did it! He wants us!

He wants me.

Who cares? We’re on our way!


(IMPRESSED) Oooh, Karl. You haven’t kissed me like that in years.

(EQUALLY IMPRESSED) And you. You’ve never kissed me like that.

Well, let’s say this evening was … liberating. Want to go try out the gris-gris bag (Clay’s voodoo gift to improve their sex life)? Clay said put it under the pillow and good things happen.


Clay… He’s a good boy, isn’t he?


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Checking in on THE SNOBS

Self serving program note: I will be broadcasting tonight's Seattle Mariners game on both radio (KOMO Seattle, XM, and MLB.com) and on television (FSN Northwest). I will do this without the benefit of Eric Brynes and his dog in a kayak outside the stadium in the bay. Wish me luck.

Thanks for the very positive reaction to the scene from our pilot, THE SNOBS that I shared recently. Here’s that post in case you missed or purposely skipped it.
So I’m posting more.

Quick refresher: THE SNOBS was a pilot we did a few years ago for Fox. It starred Paget Brewster about a family of snobs that lived in very modest surroundings. Karl is a professor at a community college dying to get hired by Stanford. His very prim wife, Beverly (Paget) is the admissions director of an exclusive private school. In the pilot, Karl has invited over Dr. Shapiro, the dean of history at Stanford (and his ticket out). This is Karl’s chance to impress.

At the same time Karl’s bastard teenage son (the result of a one night fling with a stripper in New Orleans) arrives. Karl ushers him into the kitchen as we pick up the scene:


Karl, I have a question. Your curriculum vitae stated only two children.

Yes, that’s true. Clay is not my child with Beverly.

Oh, I see. You were married before.

Uh no, I wasn’t.

Oh… So you had a child out of wedlock?

(FLUSTERED) Well… no. Of course not. He’s really Beverly’s.

(TO BEVERLY) Oh, the boy is your son?

Uh, yes. Before Karl and I were married, I was involved elsewhere and had Clay. He’s lived with his real dad all these years.

His father was a senator.

Now, Karl, don’t brag. Could I see you in the kitchen?




Karl, are you daft?!


Excuse me can we have a little privacy here for a moment?

Oh, sure. By the way, beautiful kitchen. Is somebody in this house gay?

Why does everyone think that? Just because a man has a flair for the finer things in life, doesn’t automatically make him gay.

Oh, this is waaaay more than a flair.


My God, Karl, what were you thinking? He’s my son?!

You heard Shapiro’s tone. I couldn’t admit that Clay was my illegitimate son. How does that look? What does that say about my character?

What does it say about mine?! I’m the mother who abandoned him!

Ooooh, wasn’t thinking. Bev, this is Stanford! This is position. This is money. All the things we say we have? We’ll actually have!

(DISGUSTED) Karl, there are some things money can’t buy. Like someone’s dignity.

How about a BMW?

I want the Z-4.






Oh yeah, my mom used to be a stripper.


Oh God. (SOTTO, TO KARL) Now I’m a stripper?

More tomorrow.

Will Reilly and Silverman save Fox and NBC?

As I wing to Seattle, television critics from around the country are flying to Los Angeles for the annual Television Critics Association convention. For the next couple of weeks they will be subjected to endless press conferences from networks and creative teams hyping their new shows. By the time they get to the CW they should all be ready to hang themselves.

Not that it’s a bed of roses for the creative teams, sitting on the stage facing a room full of world-weary TV reporters who just spent an hour hearing how CAVEMAN will be the new savior of comedy.

Usually there are one or two themes that emerge each year. Last year it was Katie Couric and STUDIO 60. It’s always grins & giggles to predict what the themes will be.

My guess is Kevin Reilly and Ben Silverman will be the two hot topics this spin-fest.

Why did Kevin get fired from NBC? Is he bitter? Does he still believe in STUDIO 60? How much money is he making? Is Jeff Zucker really the Hannibal Lector of television? What does Kevin plan to do at Fox? Reunited with FX alum, Peter Ligouri does this mean more shows like THE SHIELD and reruns of SPIN CITY four times a day? Might STUDIO 60 now appear on Fox? Is it okay to pet on the first date? Would he have renewed PRISON BREAK? Is it true fifteen bloggers knew about his firing before he did? And one of them was a quilt club in Sweden? Can we expect more great fare like THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE and GREASE: YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT from Kev? Is Jeff Zucker’s template for work conditions “Hostel”? Is Kevin trying to get Aaron Sorkin to take over TIL’ DEATH? Taking HEROES off the air for two months and killing NBC’s only breakout hit – was that his idea or Zucker’s? AMERICAN IDOL is slipping. How does Kevin plan to fix it? The World Series numbers are down. How does Kevin plan on fixing baseball? What was the name of the guy he replaced at Fox again?

And from Ben Silverman (right), they’ll want to know: Is he really the next Brandon Tartikoff (left)? What will he do differently from Kevin? Has he read Brandon Tartikoff’s book? When Ben says he’s going to “sexy up” NBC, does that mean LAW & ORDER: SORORITY CRACKDOWN? Had he ever met Brandon Tartikoff? Will he buy any show that wasn’t a hit first in Argentina or Norway? Does he know people who knew Brandon Tartikoff? Is it a conflict-of-interest to program against UGLY BETTY? What would Brandon Tartikoff program against UGLY BETTY? How much money is he making? Is he getting Brandon Tartikoff’s parking space? Can we expect him to reinvent network television by the February sweeps? Can he name Brandon Tartikoff’s kids? Is the one thing that can save sitcoms product placement? Does he have the same shirt size as Brandon Tartikoff? How much did Trump pay him to renew THE APPRENTICE? If he doesn’t know who Brandon Tartikoff is does he at least know who Warren Littlefield is?

Answers to all these questions will appear in your local morning papers along with in-depth interviews with the models from DEAL OR NO DEAL.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Beisball been veddy good to me*

*an old SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE reference. Garrett Morris as Chico Escuela, former ballplayer and... you had to be there I guess.

Baseball is in the air. The All-Star game is Tuesday. Home field advantage for the winning league hangs in the balance although no one gives a shit, especially the players. The Giants, hosting the mid-summer classic, had to stage a big campaign to get the fans to vote for Barry Bonds. He’s soon to be the all-time home run champion and hometown fans still had to be persuaded to vote for him.

And then tomorrow I fly up to Seattle to announce for the Mariners Thursday and Friday nights. (New posts will continue. I understand they have the internet in Seattle.)

So I thought this would be a good day for a humorous baseball related post.

I learned how to announce play by play by sitting in the top deck of Dodger Stadium, up there with the drunks, the skinheads, Cub Scout troops, escaped convicts, booster clubs, Freddie Kruger, and the guy with the pinwheel hat. The players were ants. I'd be saying, "He's really got that palm ball working tonight" and couldn't even see the ball. You’d think that would be my worst broadcasting vantage point. But it wasn’t. Some of the actual press box facilities when I was a legitimate working announcer were worse.

During one spring training with the Mariners we played the Angels, who at the time were still in Palm Springs. Since they were also televising that game there was no room in the actual press box for visiting radio (us). So they set up a long table in the stands and that’s where we did the game. I’m on the air to a thirty-station radio network, sitting on the aisle, and calling a very exciting inning. Hits and double steals and rundowns. Forget that I can’t see them because the six LaKishas in front of me stand up, but as I’m calling a triple I feel a tap on my shoulder. I glance over to see a vendor with a two beers. He wants me to pass them down the row. I do, continue to call the play, and then feel a tapping on my other shoulder. I’m to pass the money along. I do, keep announcing, another tap, I have to send along the change. This was the big leagues!

When I was in the minors we played the Denver Zephyrs in Mile High Stadium (capacity 70,000, typical Zephyrs attendance: 2,000. The place was EMPTY). There was no baseball press box per se but they set us up in one of the luxury boxes. Behind us were four rows of seats…THAT THEY SOLD. We’d be calling the game and people would tell us to shut up, we were annoying them. Or they would shout and cheer loud enough to be heard on our broadcast. “Thompson, you fucking pussy! Throw a fucking strike, you piece of shit!” (If anyone actually listened to our broadcasts I just know they would have complained.)

At old Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines they had a huge civil defense speaker and would sound a siren half the county could hear anytime one of the Des Moines Cubs hit a home run. The speaker was right next to our booth. The first time it happened it almost blew me out of the booth. After a three game series in Des Moines, considering our pitching staff, I couldn’t hear for a week.

When I was with the Orioles we played two exhibition games at Joe Robbie Stadium (or Dolphin Stadium, whatever they call it now. It’s the “other” one besides the Orange Bowl.) This was before the Marlins (who now draw worse than the Zephyrs did), there was no baseball press box so they just put us in the football press box, a thousand miles from home plate way down the right field line. Every ball hit looked like it was going to right. You had to take your cue from the fielders. But you could be fooled. “There’s a fly ball to center field…foul.”

Later that same spring, we played two exhibition games against Boston at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Same story. No baseball press box. Just a luxury box. In this case, one box for both our broadcast and the Red Sox, separated only by a flimsy riser. I could hear Boston announcer, Bob Starr as loud as I could hear myself. And so could the Baltimore listeners. All I could do was have fun with it. I’d say, “And now for the 1-1 pitch, here’s Bob Starr” then point the mic to him in time for my listeners to hear “low, ball two.” Then I decided to mess with Bob (who was a GREAT guy by the way and a good friend). Every time he called a pitch a fast ball I called it a curve. Every time he called a slider I called it a change up. Listeners don’t believe announcers can accurately call pitches anyway. This just confirmed it. I would pull these little pranks to amuse myself, and the Orioles listeners. Is it any wonder I only lasted a year there?

I feel it’s only fair to also mention the best press box I ever worked in. That would be the broadcast booth in old Tiger Stadium. It hung suspended over home plate, high enough to see the entire field, but low enough that you could actually hear players and umpires. Sure, four announcers a year were killed by foul balls but it was a small price to pay. Jon Miller of ESPN told me the first year he did games in Tiger Stadium, Oakland player, Gene Tenace fouled a pitch off his foot and was hobbling around the home plate area trying to walk it off. Jon said on the air, “Tenace is still in a lot of pain, “ and Gene looks up at the booth and yells out “Brilliant fucking deduction!”

Now that’s close!

Talk to you tomorrow from Seattle.