Friday, January 27, 2012

Answering questions and dispelling myths

Hello from somewhere between Australia and New Zealand.  You can follow my progress on Twitter if you're bored enough.   Just go here.   Never standing down from my blog watch, even from the end of the earth, here are Friday Questions:

RockGolf is up first:

According to EW.com, there are plans underway for a TV series based on Romancing the Stone. Since you & your partner largely re-wrote the script for the original, can see it working as a regular series?

We re-wrote the sequel, JEWEL OF THE NILE. Big difference. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work if they stuck more to the original and less to ours and cast the show well. A romantic-adventure series sounds fun. The hardest part to cast will be Danny DeVito’s character. He added so much to both films. Hey, maybe Danny could just do it himself. He still looks great in a white suit.


birdie wants to know:

Is it true that Alan Alda's (absolutely hilarious) character in Crimes + Misdemeanors was at least partially or loosely based on him? It is listed in the imdb FAQs but you can't always trust those, so I was wondering if you have any additional insight.

No.  Not at all.  This guy was a pompous egomaniac who took delight in pontificating on comedy despite knowing nothing about it.   Alan couldn't be more gracious, humble, and down-to-earth.  He never lectured, never threw his weight around.  He was a sincere pleasure.  Trust me, if Alan were like that character he brilliantly portrayed in CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS, he would have been killed in his dressing room by season four.



LouOCNY asks:

Does every show make a gag reel up, and do some of the stars and crew get a copy of it? Some of them are so classic: the Trek ones, MASH, the LAUGH IN is funnier than the show was - I could watch Arte Johnson riffing dirty on Tyrone Horneigh (thats Hor - NAY) forever...

Most shows prepare gag reels for either their Christmas party or Wrap Party. Generally, they are not meant to be distributed. At one time the show’s editor would just slap together a montage of outtakes. But over time these gag reels became more elaborate, with graphics and themes. On CHEERS, FRASIER, and the shows we ran we always insisted on a montage of all the guest stars that appeared throughout the season, even if they only had one line. And on ALMOST PERFECT we also included shots of every crew member.

But most gag reels are filled with expletives and it’s not fair to the actors to have them released publicly. I have a couple of ours but they're not for release.  Just for private viewing and blackmail.

Usually, gag reels that are distributed have been edited to remove any real objectionable material. When you see these Dick Clark blooper shows, you’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg.

That said, I love those blooper shows. The first show I ever directed, a WINGS, Crystal Bernard drops a cake in an outtake. That has been shown numerous times and I get a nice residual check from Dick Clark every airing. Keep showing it! The cake slips out of her hands. It’s hilarious! Other blooper shows should show it too. Or maybe THE SOUP. Anyone who can write a check.

And finally, from Tamara @31dates:

I recently heard an interview on NPR with the founder of M.A.D.D. She was talking about the early days of her non-profit and how she wanted to gain public support. She mentioned that she approached Cheers and that the show helped. Can you share that story? Thanks!

As I recall, the cast did some public service announcements for them. And we made sure our characters always acted in a responsible way. We did whatever we could to champion their very worthwhile cause.

What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks! Now I’ve got to get back to looking at...water.

36 comments:

vernonlee said...

It's been a LONG time, but haven't we seen a Romancing the Stone-esque show in BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE? Well of course, not really; just wanted to dust the cobwebs off that name.

LouOCNY said...

Then there are the outtakes from New Zoo Revue:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_it2IrIuquI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9ySgnifxeQ

needless to say, VERY NSFW

nothing like puppets swearing...

Helena said...

Among my favorite shows are both American ones (e.g. M*A*S*H) and British ones (FAWLTY TOWERS). I'm neither American, nor British, but I'm curious about how British sitcoms come across in the US (the ones that haven't been re-made into American versions). What do you think of FAWLTY TOWERS and KEEPING UP APPEARANCES for instance?

Birdie said...

Hi ken, thanks for answering my question. I'm sure your answer would be the same, but actually the imdb " trivia" said Alda's character was based on, or at least somewhat inspired by, Larry Gelbart, not Alda himself. So that was actually the question I was asking (any shades of Gelbart in that character?), although I suspect your answer would still be "no."

Michael said...

Friday question: Is the hiring of the writing staff left strictly to the showrunner or does the network and/or studio offer suggestions or maintain veto power?

Enshords said...

Friday question: What do you make of Hollywood's ongoing and never-ceasing discrimination vis a vis the casting of dogs as opposed to cats? Seems to me that I can't flip through the universe of channels without running into someone of the canine persuasion but felis catus is seemingly invisible.

Max Clarke said...

Ken, you mentioned the sliding cake moment from Wings.

What were the worst experiences you had trying to complete a scene, either from actors saying their lines wrong to equipment malfunction or circumstances beyond anybody's control.

And thanks for keeping the blog going from Australia/New Zealand.

Michael said...

I think Alan Alda got some bad press because he didn't put up with stupid or dishonest people in the media. Last night there was a rerun of the late episode where a legendary war correspondent proves to be a phony, and I had the feeling the cast really enjoyed doing that one.

About bloopers, Warner Bros. did one in the old days and the animation unit did one of Porky Pig that includes him swearing. Classic!

Tony_Ref said...

Hi Ken,

I notice a lot of popular shows that hang on a while will have the main star or stars listed as producers. Is this merely an honorary title, something given in lieu of money or do the actors actually have to do extra work as a producer? What has been your experience with this?

John Weber said...

Regarding Alan Alda - I've met him on a couple of occasions when we were doing radio tours for his books. One instance, he showed up in our NY studios all by himself and he could not have been more gracious and nice. As luck turned out, our first station (Houston) had to cancel because they were going thru a hurricane (!). So Alan and I had about a half hour to hang and talk where we talked about his first book (which I had read and LOVED), and about acting, where, as an occasional actor myself, I had some very specific questions I posed to him. It was a great conversation, one I will remember always, and one where we both had to be pulled away to start the tour. But no ego, one of the nicest people I have ever met. I look forward to other occasions where we may cross paths again...

VP81955 said...

The pilot for the Syracuse-based sitcom "Upstate" aired last night in the Salt City, and reactions were mixed (http://blog.syracuse.com/entertainment/2012/01/upstate_syracuse_tv_pilot_reactions_reviews_tom_seeley.html). I didn't get to see it, since I'm part of the vast Syracuse diaspora, but I'm sure if it's picked up, a new pilot will be created, refining many of the elements. (And if it is picked up, I hope you'll have a chance to write an episode, based on your Syracuse experiences.)

wv: "dicar" -- relieves gamblers' upset stomachs.

Kirk said...

Alan Alda once said in an interview that he even though he sometimes chafes at his nice guy image, it's actually proven benefical. Whenever he plays an unsympathetic character, which he's done quite a bit since MASH went off the air, the critics are all surprised and start lavishing praise on his ability to stretch as an actor.

jcs said...

Ken, you mentioned that blooper reels are often filled with colourful words and airing them would be unfair to actors.
I will never understand America's unique obsession with expletives. I rarely use them, but every once in a while life justifies the use of very strong language. Network TV shows should reflect this. I sincerely doubt that anybody has ever been harmed by the use of four-letter words.

Mike Doran said...

In re Alan Alda:

I wonder if you've ever read Jackie Cooper's memoir, Please Don't Shoot My Dog, wherein he paints a decidedly different picture of Alan Alda than you do.
I'm bearing in mind that Cooper worked on M*A*S*H in its earliest days, well before your own tenure with the show; thus, you may have gotten the "broken-in" Alda, who had evolved over time from the insecure, distrustful Alda that Cooper writes about. Still, the differences between the two Alda portraits are so wide ... well, it does make me curious.

In Mark Rothman's Blog, he's written of how he'd used to like Cheers, until he "found out that Shelley Long was really like that." Since everything you've written about her is favorable to her, again I wonder ...

Back to M*A*S*H for a moment:

I wonder if your time on the series coincided with that of Burt Prelutsky, and if so, what you made of him. Again, curiosity ...

D. McEwan said...

"Hey, maybe Danny could just do it himself. He still looks great in a white suit."

Danny does not "look great" in anything, or even worse, in nothing. He's a highly-talented actor and an asset to everything he's in, but he is definitely one of those character actors who has had to overcome the "Eric Stonestreet" problem. In fact, next to Danny, Eric is Hugh Jackman.

"Helena said...
Among my favorite shows are both American ones (e.g. M*A*S*H) and British ones (FAWLTY TOWERS). I'm neither American, nor British, but I'm curious about how British sitcoms come across in the US (the ones that haven't been re-made into American versions). What do you think of FAWLTY TOWERS and KEEPING UP APPEARANCES for instance?"


I can not answer for all of America, or even for Ken, but I can tell you confidently that Fawlty Towers is enormously popular in America, which is why they keep trying to make an American version of it. I've seen every episode many, many times. Have the full series DVDs.

Keeping Up Appearences runs here, and Heaven knows I've seen every episode at least 4 times each, maybe more, but I do not know how generally popular it is here. I do know though, that I get laughs now with stuff like:

Willy Wonka: "Hello, Charlie Bucket."

Charlie: "[Sigh] It's Bouquet."

Downton Abby is huge here, as is Doctor Who. Are You Being Served never stops being run here. Monty Python is, if anything, more beloved here even than in Britain. Lots of Americans are avidly awaiting season two of Sherlock.

Lots of British shows are big here. Some are huge, like Doctor Who and Fawlty Towers are enormously beloved, and some have smaller followings, and are more cult status, like Red Dwarf. The Graham Norton Show airs here, and I know I watch him every week, but when he tried doing his show here, it failed in the ratings, though the show itself was terrific.

(WV: "Peedly": The name of my incontinent butler.)

Loosehead Dave said...

D.McEwan wrote:
"Downton Abby is huge here, as is Doctor Who. Are You Being Served never stops being run here. Monty Python is, if anything, more beloved here even than in Britain. Lots of Americans are avidly awaiting season two of Sherlock."

D., you are in for such a treat with the first episode of Sherlock S2. I don't think I'll see anything better on TV this year, and January isn't even over yet.

gottacook said...

Perhaps 10 years ago, one of the PBS affiliates here in the DC area ran Lenny Henry's series Chef!; I saw several episodes then and enjoyed them. In my yet-to-exist copious free time, I will probably seek out the entire series as well as the British Coupling.

As for Monty Python and Fawlty Towers: Twenty years ago I purchased and still proudly own both volumes of Monty Python's Flying Circus: All the Words as well as The Complete Fawlty Towers, all handsome trade paperbacks published in the US by Pantheon in the late 1980s; it's been some time since I actually viewed the shows. In fact I owned the Another Monty Python Record LP before ever seeing an episode - and I highly recommend it (and the other albums) for the album-only material, such as the "Gumby Theatre" radio program.

WV: "hetnest" - I guess that describes our home.

D. McEwan said...

"Loosehead Dave said...
D., you are in for such a treat with the first episode of Sherlock S2. I don't think I'll see anything better on TV this year, and January isn't even over yet."


Oh goody! And so I hear from London friends. It makes the BBC America's decision to delay the American airings until It think April, all the more vexatios. after loathing the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie (I haven't bothered to see the secnd one), seeing Sherlock was pure joy They moved him forward a century and yet made it vstly truer to Doyle's Holmes than that Guy Rictchie mssahpen abortion of a movie. Sherlock did everything right, even if the second episode wasn't all that hot.

I have forbdden my London friends from hitting me with spoilers. Can't wait to see it.

Sounds like your head is screwed on more than tight enough, Loosehead. But before you declare it the best TV all year, don't forget there's another season of Doctor Who lying down the road this year also.

So does anyone besides Steven Moffett turn out great TV in England anymore?

D. McEwan said...

Yikes! Boy did I forget to proof that last posting. I'm not semi-literate, honest.

Harold X said...

So does anyone besides Steven Moffett turn out great TV in England anymore?

Richard Curtis wrote the Van Gogh episode of Dr. Who, which I thought was about as rich a piece of television as I've seen.

And i think he continues to write occasionally for TV.

D. McEwan said...

"Harold X said...
So does anyone besides Steven Moffett turn out great TV in England anymore?

Richard Curtis wrote the Van Gogh episode of Dr. Who, which I thought was about as rich a piece of television as I've seen."


I hearily agree. That episode was wonderful, and made me blubber like a baby. But of course, that undoubtedly had an uncredited Moffett rewrite before shooting,so it doesn't represent a total no-Moffett great show.

WV: "outurge": What I felt prior to announcing I was gay.

D. McEwan said...

My comment was merely ment to compliment the Moffett output, not to denigrate other writers who are doing good, if less omnipresent, work.

Mark Gatis has certainly written some stuff I've loved. I really liked his take on HG Wells's First Men in the Moon, which hasn't aired here. I had to have a London spy convert it from PAL to NTSC and burn me a DVD of it, as she had done before for me with the recent Day of the Triffids with Eddie Izzard.

And since I am crazy for Little Britain in all its permutations, and for the recent Come Fly With Me, I'd have to add Matt Lucas & David Walliams among current writers in England doing work that reaches me in my sweet spots.

(WV: "Glambilt": usage: "Rupaul's home is the house that ..."

Chris said...

Here's one for next friday: Sometimes shows mix up the fictiona; universe and the real world when they mention movies actors playing characters have been in. They did that on purpose on 30 Rock this week (They had Jack say: She's bigger than Maulik Pancholy on Whitney and he used to play Jack's assistant for a number of seasons). How do you feel about writing stuff like this?

Shawn said...

When you see characters eating on a show, is the food really cold and really bad?

Helena said...

Thanks for all your input on British shows, guys!

An (is my actual name) said...

Mike Doran wrote: "In Mark Rothman's Blog, he's written of how he'd used to like Cheers, until he 'found out that Shelley Long was really like that.' Since everything you've written about her is favorable to her, again I wonder ..."

I don't know Shelley Long personally, but she strikes me as a professional who really cares about her work and process, which doesn't sit well with some. I think people take shots at her because she's an easy target and way too classy to respond in kind.

As for Mr. Rothman, if his bitchy blog entry (or imdb) is any indication of his taste and judgment, I wouldn't spend a lot of time wondering. He should be so lucky to know a Diane Chambers (or a Shelley Long) IRL.

Mike said...

MADD probably sounded like a good idea at the time, but it is not worthy of support now. There goal appears to be to reinstitute prohibition. They are pushing for and getting blood alcohol limits that are way too low to be considered drunk. A woman with one drink would fail a breathalyzer, and will if MADD gets their way on more drunk driving checkpoints.

Mike said...

Have you ever gotten complaints about a show that has a character of a certain nationality, and the character can't even pronounce his own name?

I just noticed this yesterday on The Firm.

Kirk said...

Terry Gilliam once said in an interview that the Pythons got no money from PBS when they started airing their shows in the early 1970s, but it didn't matter because they gained a huge audience that paid off big time when the movies were made.

Three Britcoms not mentioned so far: ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS was a cable TV hit over here on. I'm not sure how popular DAD'S ARMY and 'ALLO 'ALLO are, but I find them pretty funny.

Mike said...

Hi Ken, I just read a bio of Dennis Hopper (The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel) and was shocked that Natalie Wood was quite the party girl while making Rebel Without a Cause. Going the other direction, was their an actor that had a horrible reputation but when you worked with them you found wonderful?

The Inquisitive One said...

Ken, a question for Friday: On Frasier, did you have someone to consult about Psychology? I know on sci-fi shows when they want to get the science just so, they sometimes consult professionals in the field, and I was wondering if something similar ever happened for Frasier, or really, in sitcoms in general.

kevin said...

Hi Ken, I'm currently reading an advanced copy of Warren Littlefield's new book, "Top of the Rock," about his time at NBC. The entire first chapter is about the creation of Cheers (unfortunately neither you nor David Isaacs get a shout out). It did say that the part of Sam came down to Ted and Fred Dryer. Any thoughts on why the network would push so hard for Fred? Lastly, director James Burrows is mentioned as having a profound effect on the show's success. What was it that James did so well and are there other TV directors of his caliber working today?

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actually the imdb " trivia" said Alda's character was based on, or at least somewhat inspired by, Larry Gelbart, not Alda himself. So that was actually the question

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actually the imdb " trivia" said Alda's character was based on, or at least somewhat inspired by, Larry Gelbart, not Alda himself. So that was actually the question. thanks..