Friday, November 06, 2009

The night our warm-up guy turned on the audience

Tuesday was election day (I learned on Wednesday). I am reminded of the election episode my partner, David and I wrote for the TONY RANDALL SHOW.

I’ll pause for a moment while you say “what the hell was the TONY RANDALL SHOW?" It was an MTM series in the late 70’s starring the late Tony Randall as a judge in Philadelphia. It’ll probably never be shown again but it was a damn funny show. Below is the opening and closing title sequences. (It's amazing we had any time to actually do the show, the opening titles were so friggin' long.)

In this particular episode, Tony’s character runs for Superior Court Judge, his opponent dies during the election but too late for his name to be removed from the ballot. Lo and behold, he wins. Tony was beaten by a dead man. The show played great all week with hardly any changes. We were expecting great things.

And then on show night, in front of the audience – death, nothing, tumbleweeds, crickets.

Needless to say, we were stymied.

One of the executive producers was doing the warm-up, and was so mad he turned on the audience. (It didn’t help that the entire staff was drinking frozen margaritas in the prop room between scenes).

He started saying things like, “Hey, I think your hearse is waiting”, “Hey, wasn’t that moderately amusing?”, and the tag was Tony entering his office which was now completely empty (his furniture moved in anticipation of the certain victory) to which the warm-up man shouted at the audience, “Get it?! What’s different about that room? Anybody?”

It was only after the crowd filed out that we learned the truth. The entire audience was Hispanic, bussed in, and spoke no English.

Remember all the bad things I said about the laugh track? We sure used it that week.

30 comments:

Jeff Logian said...

Oh...I thought this was going to be about how your warm-up guy "turned on" the audience. In the way David Letterman might "turn on" a staffer...never mind!

Jerry Gibbons said...

I loved The Tony Randall Show! I remember when it moved from ABC to CBS, where I thought it would be a better fit. That is, until CBS scheduled the show in its once-powerhouse-but-by-then-practically-dead Saturday night lineup. Oh, well - at least we got two seasons of the show!

Rinaldo said...

Why all the "nobody remembers THE TONY RANDALL SHOW" every time you mention it? It's very fondly remembered in the circles I frequent. It had that MTM shine that the best sitcoms of the 70s had, and it had a wonderful cast: Besides Mr. Randall, there were Zane Lasky, Barney Martin, the distinguished Rachel Roberts, and best of all the ever-fabulous Allyn Ann McLerie, whom I could watch in anything. (And in fact I think I did watch her in everything -- she played mother to a whole generation of TV stars.)

Larry said...

I loved the show, too. Barney Martin was funny, but above all the stuff with Mario Lanza cracked me up.

Tim W. said...

Perhaps the reason the show didn't last was because of the opening titles, which made me think the show mainly consisted of Tony Randall wondering around Philadelphia.

And why were the opening titles so long when there were only literally three actual titles.
Tony Randall, the show title and created by. A full minute for three titles. That was just odd.

Tom said...

Loved that show. I still remember an exchange Tony Randall's character had with some juvenile delinquent defendant. It went something like:
JDD: How much do you make?
TR: (stuffy) My salary is a matter of public record.
JDD: What does that mean?
TR: (offended at JDD's stupidity) It means look it up!

Patrick said...

I don't remember a single scene from this show. But I have blurry visions of stumbling down all of these Philly sidewalks in a half-drunken stuper.(Except for the shots of the Schuykill River, nobody stumbles around the Skuykill and lives to blog about it.) Thanks for the memories, much more entertaining than that ridiculous sequence from Rocky.

blogward said...

When they were producing the credits, do you think they said, "Hey, we need to make sure nobody forgets who Tony is..."

Questions said...

So did the whole show have that sepia tone filter to it?

And is Tony trying to buy Cigarettes during the end credites?

unkystan said...

Boy, that theme sticks in your head, but great to keep pace with while you're walking. I recently bought the the complete series of The Tony Randall Show. Holds up very well. Thankfully, the MTM shows rarely used topical humor that would easily date them. Watching much of the Norman Lear stuff now is more like a history lesson. I was wondering why Devon Scott was replaced by Penny Peyser for season two.

Donald said...

I LOVED the Tony Randall Show! How great to know you wrote for it. It never really got a proper chance I think, especially with such a talented cast. Look how much they did before and after.
And that theme! Still one of the best ever written for TV. That's one of the very unfortunate things about today's TV: no time for theme songs. Pack it with 8 minutes of commercials (instead of 6), and have a 10 second theme song. Just look at the new shows Modern Family and Cougar Town: five seconds each. Pity.

Rob Bates said...

I remember the show very well, and quite fondly. I can even hum the theme song without looking at the youtube clip.

It reminded me of the Bob Newhart show and it's a shame it never attained Bob's longevity.

Bob Claster said...

Things like theme songs and long credit rolls harken back to an era when the networks weren't so terrified of people becoming bored and changing the channel. When you had to actually get up to change the channel, they wouldn't worry about a 45 second theme song.

Buttermilk Sky said...

"Judge Franklin? Mario Lanza."

"Any relation?"

"To who?"

See, I remember bits of dialogue, too. Devon Scott (daughter of George C., sister of Campbell) was terrific, but I think I read that she gave up acting altogether and entered a real profession. Hey, it happens. Somewhere there must be a Baldwin or a Redgrave who wanted to be an accountant.

gottacook said...

B. Sky, now that you mention it, I remember the rest of that first exchange with Mario Lanza (Zane Lasky) from episode 1:

"Judge Franklin? Mario Lanza."

"Any relation?"

"To who?"

"Mario Lanza."

I am Mario Lanza!"

Mike Schryver said...

I would bet my last dollar that Tony Randall is not trying to buy cigarettes during the closing credits.

Mike Schryver said...

Oh, yeah - I also really loved the show, remember it fondly, thought the cast was spectacular (and the writing was okay too), and can hum the theme without looking at the clip.

James said...

I remember that show. Saw it first run as a kid, and it ran about 10 years or so ago on TV Land or Nick at Nite, when they used to dig up old shows and it was fun to watch.

I remember it the same way both times, it started off weak but picked up as it went along, and when the run ended I was sorry to see it go. Didn't see it enough to figure if the show itself improved or just took Me time to get into the groove of it.

Was Diana Muldaur *everybody's* girlfriend on tv?

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Hi Ken...
Is that you sitting upstairs in the law building during the opening titles? It sure looks like it.

Baylink said...

Wow. A french horn lead. That took balls. :-)

Missest: wow, I got nothing. Is there a feminine product joke in there, somewhere?

Rich D said...

A good friend of mine who is a TR fan loved this show. In fact a group of us are heading to Philly in a couple of weeks for an event, and I'm thinking it would be cool to swing by the brownstone from the opening credits as a surprise for him. Anyone know the address? (Yes, I'll admit that this is a long shot, but it just sorta popped into my head just now...)

Greg Ehrbar said...

Who could forget Miss Ruebner, Mario Lanza and of course, Bullethead, who believed bowling was fun for everyone?

Anonymous said...

Ditto all the comments above. This was a great show. It's a huge disappointment that it's not available on Hulu.

Chalmers said...

To James' point, during that era, when a smart, assertive girlfriend was being cast, I think casting directors flipped a coin with Diana Muldaur's face on one side and Barbara Babcock's on the other.

Allyn Ann McLerie was my favorite part of "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd."

Anonymous said...

so, what happens after the title sequence? go to commercial?

Anonymous said...

This show was hilarious -- particularly the scenes with Judge Franklin and Miss Rubner.

Lee Goldberg said...

That's gotta be one of the longest main title sequences in history.

Adam-Troy Castro said...

Not only do I still remember the show, I remember it with great fondness. I remember Mario Lanza, I remember "Eleanor and Franklin," I remember one show that had my family and I falling off the couch -- the one where the Judge is driven to distraction by a crazy guy in a turban, who at one point tells a stranger, "Hello. I am David Eisenhower."

Tony Randall: "Who IS that?"

Reply: "Who do you want him to be?"

Lyn said...

Just wanted to say that I, too, remember and enjoyed The Tony Randall Show. You know, that's not the least friendly notice above the comments section I've ever seen, or even the most hostile, but it may be the most intimidating. You guys are doing fine without me.

Matt said...

Ken,

Here is a link to a full "Tony Randall Show" episode, complete with original commercials.

http://www.veoh.com/collection/nostalgiam-tvshows/watch/v16956298fsFNwBTS