Monday, April 05, 2010

"That's some bad hat, Harry"

Ever notice at the end of shows there are those cards that fill the screen with names of bizarre production companies, sometimes animated and sometimes with sound (“That’s some bad hat, Harry.”)? Those are called vanity cards. When writer/creators form their own production company (and they all do) they’re entitled to a vanity card.

The question is: what to do with it? When my partner David Isaacs and I got a series on CBS we had to create our vanity card. First we needed to come up with a name for our so-called entertainment conglomerate. Candidates included “13 and out”, “FU Money”, and “Tina Delgado is alive ALIVE!” We decided to just call it “Levine & Isaacs Productions”, thus extending the outer reaches of our creativity. Look, it’s on screen for like one second, so why not just go for ego under the guise of simplicity?

Some of these vanity cards are so cutesy and pretentious. We wanted to steer clear of that. Maybe the worst was Stephen J. Cannell's. You see him writing at the typewriter with an Emmy in the shot. He takes the paper out of the typewriter, flings it into the air, and its brilliance morphs into an animated version of his company's logo. Yikes!

Now for the visual.

Chuck Lorre fills his card with long fine print rants. That’s an ingenious idea but (a) we didn’t want to copy Chuck, and (b) who wants to do all that extra writing work?

We thought of showcasing our dads waving at the camera as a tribute to them. But then we realized, networks were going to think that was me and David and we didn’t need being blackballed for ageism while we were still in our 30s.

We considered baseball caps from our favorite teams. His was the Yankees but mine would change depending on who hired me to do play-by-play. So that was out. Then we figured, just use caps from our colleges – UCLA and the University of Miami. But UCLA raised my basketball tickets that year and the U of M was undergoing another scandal so we nixed that idea.

To animate something would be costly. And again, there was that fear that we would look incredibly full of ourselves.

So we settled on this. Did it in black and white because there was nothing on TV in black and white then. When it appeared, a little shimmer went across the screen but otherwise this was it. You’re welcome to download it and use it as your wallpaper or screen saver.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a hopeful writer, I've fallen victim many times to the "what would my vanity card look like?" circular conversation in my head, and I have to say, I'm a big fan of what you chose to do. My favorites are the simpler ones - Frasier, etc. Though I do like Spin City's, and Jon Stewart's Busboy productions.

-Robyn Witt
@robynmwitt@aol.com

briddie said...

Simple yet elegant.

Anonymous said...

"Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog. Ruff."

Gudlyf said...

Yow, Cannell's got quite a few different renditions of his vanity card. Vanity, indeed! Strangely I only recall the earliest version of it.

Here's a video history of his cards:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEPf9BIf_hM

Lancelot Lovejoy said...

These have been my favorites for quite a while now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ods84mBMY6A

in beta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaime J. Weinman said...

As a kid my favorite was Reinhold Weege's "Starry Night Productions logo, because he used the distinctive laugh (his father's laugh, if I heard correctly) that was heard in the audience throughout the show itself.

Tim W. said...

Who are these people that have so much time on their hands to seek out and upload these clips on Youtube?Truly bizarre.

Very classy, by the way, Ken.

Jason said...

Anyone who gives me Rockford Files has my permission to be as vain as they want to be for 6 or 7 seconds.

in beta said...

Great post. I always found it amusing that Cannell would update his logo every few years. Plus, that ominous music.

And as a little kid, that Ubu Productions bit scared the hell out of me (still startles me to this day).

And what about that one on Growing Pains with that guy jumping out of a house?

YEKIMI said...

Then there's David E. Kelley closing credit, the old lady in the rocker getting knocked over by whatever flies out of the TV screen and yelling "You Stinker!" {Which is actually David's Grandmother yelling that line.]

blogward said...

After reviewing those YouTube collections, I can safely pontificate that those animated logos are devised by nerds for nerds. On the nerdometer, Levine & Isaacs of course scores very low. Battlestar, however, is off the scale.

l.a.guy said...

Sorry, I have to disagree about Stephen J. Cannell's vanity card. In it's hay day Cannell Productions was a legitimate mini-studio that supplied a LOT of network content. I don't think it's a vanity card if you'r Spelling-Goldberg, Glen Larson, Stephen J. Cannell, Steve Bochco, Charles-Burrows-Charles or David E. Kelly, more like a brand.

Personally I liked the little flurry with the paper at the end of the show. You can't beat 13 and out though.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Do you take insurance claims?

Richard J. Marcej said...

Not sure if these would be considered vanity cards, but I always likes the MTM cat logo, especially how it would change per show.

If memory serves, the MTM cat:
• Meowed at the end of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"
• Wore glasses and looked at a newspaper at the end of "Lou Grant"
• Dribbled a basketball at the end of "The White Shadow"
• Wore a policeman's cap at the end of "Hill Street Blues"
• Used Bob Newhart's actual voice to meow at the end of "Newhart"
• Wore a Sherlock Holmes hat & coat and had a pipe in it's mouth at the end of "Remington Steele"
• Wore a surgeon's mask at the end of "St. Elsewhere" (and as a bonus, on the final episode the cat flat-lined!)

Did I miss any?

LouOCNY said...

Of course, Weege's 'Starry Night Productions', was an inside joke from Barney Miller - coming from the BM where Harris had to make a porno flick for undercover purposes - he went overboard, and used 'Starry Night Productions' as a brand.

Anonymous said...

I liked DEK's hockey panel as well. I think his dad owned the now moved somewhere south team (nashville??) - The Hartford Whalers. That's why DEK had a lot of hockey in his shows.

Michael in Vancouver said...

Ken, there must be another story behind how it came to be Levine and Isaacs, and not Isaacs and Levine. How was that decided? Coin toss? Age?

Michael said...

It wasn't funny, but Jack Webb's production logo at the end of his shows became legendary.

Artemis said...

My favorites are the Battlestar ones and the Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon) ones, which would occasionally change, depending on whether the episode was particularly sad, or a musical, or set during Christmas.

Anonymous said...

"That's some bad hat, Harry" is a line in "Jaws." The chief (Roy Scheider) says it to an old guy coming out of the water.

Anonymous said...

Am I an idiot?

I don't get "13 and out"...

Ben said...

Oh, you young kids today; "13 and out" was a saying from the '50s, back when the baseball post-season consisted of just the World Series and the two championship series (instead of divisional series, wild card series, and whatever else MLB has devised now).

Back then, in order to extend baseball as long as possible, the NLCS and ALCS were best of 25 affairs, with the loser being forced to play on into November.

And what with the whole global warming thing not kicking in yet, you better believe teams tried their best to not have to play into October, when temperatures would dip into the single digits. Thus, "13 and out" was the rallying cry for teams to be allowed to stop playing for the year.

Maybe?

KEN LEVINE said...

13 is usually a series order. So 13 and out means you're cancelled by mid season.

Steve Weed said...

I do like Chuck Lorre's mini-monologues, the challenge being to try and read it all without rewinding and freezing the picture.

Kirk Jusko said...

@Richard J. Marcej--At the end of the final Newhart, the cat opened his mouth, and you heard Darryl and Darryl scream "Quiet!". They had shouted that earlier in the episode to their New Jersey wives, the first time their voices were heard on that series.

Susan said...

Grrr. Argh.

Chalmers said...

As a Jerseyite-I must note that the wives of Larry and the Darryls were from Lon-Gisland (though they met in Atlantic City). One of the wives was a brunette Lisa Kudrow.

My favorite vanity card is Taxi's "Good night Mr. Walters." "Uh uh." I think it was Ed. Weinberger playing the tired producer.

te said...

You don't need a "pause" button and a magnifying glass to see Chuck Lorre's vanity cards if you have a computer.

in beta said...

I found this quasi-wiki at www.closinglogos.com. Wow.

Gusto said...

Abso-lutely!

(Tim's Dad)

Sebastian said...

"In Front"...

Haven't watched that show for 10 years and sometimes I sit in my car and say that.

And Stephen Colbert's is great too...

Anonymous said...

Look closely at the Bad Hat Harry card and tell me if he should say "That's some bad tits, Harry" ;)

Anonymous said...

Off topic slightly but "that's some bad hat harry" is a scene from the movie Jaws. Clever using it for a vanity card.

Anonymous said...

Just for historical accuracy, it should be noted that the quote is unusual in that the original use from Jaws the movie, would make more sense if Scheider had said "That's a bad/ugly/awful hat, Harry. But in fact, Scheider was referencing the combined use of LSD (very popular in '73) and heroin. 'Hat' was slang at the time for LSD, and 'Harry' was slang for heroin. I know because I was doing both substances at that time. Look it up, you'll see!