Friday, April 20, 2012

HBO's GIRLS

Some Friday Questions to get your weekend off on the right foot. Leave yours in the comments section. Thanks!


Chris starts us off:

Any thoughts on Lena Dunham's show, GIRLS?

Do you think a 25 year-old having their own show on HBO (as creator, executive producer and head writer) is a good thing or just a very unlikely accident?

I’ve only seen one episode so my opinion might change in subsequent weeks. I liked it but wasn’t knocked out. Not like the critics. If you believe the hype, Lena Dunham is the greatest thing since Velcro. Reviewers are all raving about how fresh her voice is, but people in the ‘20s I’ve talked to all feel she’s not saying anything new. It may seem new to me and 50 year-old critics but not them. I’d be interested in your review, especially if you’re a member of that generation.

I’m just a little surprised by how completely enamored critics have been with this show.  The plot hinges on Lena’s parents cutting her off financially, which is fine, but they do it effective immediately. I'm sorry but that's not real.  They’d give her some warning -- a month or two maybe.   For a show that is supposed to be so authentic that is just a contrived plot device. And not one critic questioned that?

Everybody is doing backflips over the writing. And it’s certainly good – very clever rhythms and at times fearless -- but you go the whole pilot without knowing anybody’s name or fully understanding the relationships. Um, funny insightful lines are great but these are important elements, folks.

Still, I thought the show was very promising and I look forward to more episodes. Nothing would please me more than to do a follow-up in a few weeks and say I was pre-mature – the show is great!

And to answer the second part of your question – I love that a 25-year-old with such talent and potential has her own show on HBO. Age isn’t important to me. All I care about is that the creator have a strong voice.  Lena certainly has that.  And better tattoos than Diablo Cody.

From Smelvis:

Hi Ken, you mentioned that there are some TV critics you like.
With a trillion websites doing recaps & critiques, whose voice cuts through the clutter for you?

After taking critics to task in the last answer, the ones I admire (even though I don’t always agree with them) are Maureen Ryan at the Huffington Post, Alan Sepinwall at HitFix, Ken Tucker at ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, Aaron Barnhart at KansasCity.com, Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune, Matt Roush at USA Today, and the always hilarious Melanie McFarland at AOL TV.

John wonders:

What show is your biggest disappointment for cancellation because of time slot / time changes?

ALMOST PERFECT, starring Nancy Travis. They put us behind a show called PUBLIC MORALS, a comedy by Steven Bochco that critics loathed, and it became a big cause celebre because they said the word “pussy.” It premiered to horrible numbers and ours were abysmal too as a result. Whoosh! We were both axed. Just like that.

The week before when we had a decent lead-in we got good numbers. In fact, we might have even won our time slot. But we were behind the eight ball from day one because we were an inherited show. The previous regime developed and picked up the series. When we were renewed for the second season (by the skin of our teeth) somehow in the big People Magazine two-page ad for CBS’s fall lineup our show was “accidentally” left out. Every other show but ours made it. Not one person in publicity, programming, or marketing apparently noticed this.

Les Moonves once told me ALMOST PERFECT was the best show he ever cancelled. Somehow that didn’t make me feel any better.

And finally, Kev asks:

Any thoughts on episode titles? I recently read a blog entry somewhere (wish I could remember which blog it was so I can give it credit) where the author was critical of any titles which gave away the direction of the story. Are there anything you aim for/try to avoid when naming episodes?

I’ve never liked when episode titles are made public – either on screen or now on your cable, satellite, or DVR menus. There is the chance they could give away the plot. When we write our episodes we’re always conscious of this and purposely assign titles that are vague. Of course the network promos then pretty much kill any plot points so who cares what the title is?

71 comments:

Brooke McMaster said...

I'm a 24 year old female, so I guess I'm the perfect demo for Lena's new show. I downloaded it the other night and I enjoyed it. It wasn't something that made me gush about it with unbridled enthusiasm, but the writing was just fine.

I completely agree that by the end there wasn't any major moments in regards to characters and learning their names, it was all pretty vague in fact. I also found Lena's acting style and writing really slow, but somehow it manages to work.

I think it's more the gimmick of a 25 year old having her own show and some kind of 'voice' of the generation. Hell, How To Make It In America was a FAR more accurate depiction of our generation in New York with amazing character development and a great script, yet was cancelled.

I think it will be a good show, and having Judd Apatows name attached will also help in ratings. But as far as it being a voice for us, it really is nothing new. Even in Australia away from a huge city life, it's very familiar. Perhaps this is why it's a draw for other demographics, because they're not acquainted with such scenarios or characters. But a very accurate account of the show, Ken :)

Blaze said...

Titles giving away the plot? What about that inane practice of "Tonight, on this episode of ____". Thank goodness this practice seems to be in a down swing. It never quite dies, though. I recently acquired some DVD sets of classic 70's and 80's TV. They all have "scenes from tonight's episode". I had to regain my old quickdraw reflexes of lightning fast forward, or if I don't have control of the remote, slamming my eyes shut.

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Hollywoodaholic said...

Friday Question: I'm watching M*A*S*H on DVD and noticing that the lip synch is off (at least through much of the first two season scenes so far). The audio is often just a hair before the visual. Is this a production error in the mastering of the DVD, or is it related to the way the show was recorded? Was most of the dialogue looped in post, and I'm just noticing a slight off synch because we all have such big ass 55' television sets now? Thanks for any illumination.

Kathy said...

My favorite episode title has to be Breaking Bad's "I.F.T." (the wife f--ed Ted, her boss.) Gave away nothing, but when you saw it afterwards you said, "Oh, right."

Sebastian Peitsch said...

The "Girls" pilot was horrible IMHO.

I'm neither a girl nor in my 20s anymore but they basically SAY in the pilot that they are ripping off "Sex & the City".

This one is for girls, for sure. It is in the same category as S&tC, Ally McBeal, Grey's and PP.

(oh and that german SEO spam in the comments here is hilarious :-) )

So not for me.

But hey, I thought the first four episodes of BBT were a mess as well because they didn't get the Nerd-angle right. They adjusted and then I loved it.

So who knows where this goes.

Can't be any worse than the trainwreck that was the pilot for "Luck".

Seriously who's watching THAT show? And what is this trend of making shows that pretend they have an in-crowd, not giving you all the information and the whole first season all you do is try to find out what's going on? Game of Thrones, Luck, now Girls... it seems not teling people what's happening and why ON HBO is a reason to stick with a show.

I for one can't wait for the next season of "Louie" and that's that.

sanford said...

As regards your list of tv critics, Phil Rosenthal has not been a tv critic for some time. He started out as a sports columnist, then a tv critic. He wrote about media and now writes a business column for the Tribune.

Terrence Moss said...

I love seeing the episode titles. I think "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was the first to do it in the opening credits, but theirs were rather clever such as "It May Look Like a Walnut" and "The Sounds of the Trumpet of Conscience Falls Deafly on the Brain That Holds It's Ears..Or Something Like That!".

"Two and a Half Men" typically uses a particularly clever line from the script for that episode's title.

Richard J. Marcej said...

I always liked the titles for "3rd Rock From The Sun" episodes Nearly all of the episodes had the lead character's (John Lithgow) name in the title:
"Post-Nasal Dick"
"Green-Eyed Dick"
"Angry Dick" etc...
Yes, it's juvenile I know, but it fit the character and really didn't give anything away.

I also like that the titles on "The Big Bang Theory", like "The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem", "The Lizard-Spock Expansion" and "The Hofstadter Isotope" fits the feel of the show without giving away specific plot points.

danrydell said...

1. Ken Tucker is weirdly uneven in his columns, things that he finds great and things that strike him as important.

2. "Girls" is interesting, but it's just not as "fresh" and "authentic" as the people slobbering all over it claim it is. And sometimes "authentic" just means "painfully self-indulgent." (I mean, honestly, tattoos that are illustrations from children's books? Barf.) Hopefully this show doesn't turn out that way.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken said...

"Les Moonves once told me ALMOST PERFECT was the best show he ever cancelled. Somehow that didn’t make me feel any better."

In Hollywood vernacular, that would be akin to someone blowing smoke up your ass -- and then sucking it out again with a vacuum hose.

Aron said...

Going off topic: I wanted to mention that reading your blog helped me to win bar trivia last night. The question was to name the 5 shows other than Cheers where Cliff and Norm appeared.

Raj said...

Like Terrence, I also thought about Two and a Half Men when I read the answer about titles. Their choice is quite ingenious and it gives nothing away - like Castrating Sheep in Montana or Apologies for the Frivolity.

Kev said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken! I guess that since nowadays I'm getting most of my shows on the internet, I didn't even think of seeing the plot given away in promos (and when they do show up before the stream-- I instinctively mute it and open another tab).

And just to add to the list of favorite titles, mine's from News Radio, when they had that run of Zeppelin albums. Silly, but I thought it was damn hilarious.

PolyWogg said...

Thanks for the list of critics -- I've added to my RSS feeds.

Except as noted, Phil Rosenthal is doing broader business stuff now, not "just" media; I couldn't find Matt Roush at all -- they have a totally different corner critic on USA Today?; and AOL TV merged with Huff Post, so Melanie McFarland seemed to be in the wind until I found postings from her over on IMDB.

By the way, I am a voracious TV watcher, used to be big on watching sitcoms (less so now), was in the right demographic when AP was on -- and I've never even heard of it. I went back to IMDB and pulled some pages to see if anything twigged -- absolutely nothing. Nada. I may not always remember names, but I almost always remember basic premises of most shows. Still nothing, even after scouring IMDB. Doubt that is a lead-in issue cuz unlike the weirdos the TV people seem to love for their analysis, I have this thing called a remote plus an onscreen TV guide that allows me to find other shows pretty fast.

PolyWogg

Ben said...

Ken, who controls the edit of syndicated episodes? For example, is MASH edited by the syndicator, Fox, TVLand, etc? It's always frustrating to see the best scenes left on the cutting room floor (one of my favorites during season 2 or 3 is a weekly staff meeting where they vote to end the war). We know the reasons why (commercials, DVD sales) but there's generations of people who won't see this stuff. How do you personally feel when you see your stuff doesn't make it?

Ken Levine said...

Responding to a couple of you...

You can find ALMOST PERFECT episodes on YouTube. Check 'em out.

Just because a critic doesn't review TV at the moment doesn't mean he's not one I respect. I generally don't scour the internet for reviews. But if I were to have a show I wrote reviewed, these would be the critics whose opinions I would seek.

anna said...

I like episode titles! Am I the only one? The original Star Trek had some great ones, like "City on the Edge of Forever" and "For the Earth is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky". On the other hand, if you're going to be boring (helloooo Law & Order), you might as well not even bother with titles.

This season I've been following the silly but endearing CW show Ringer, and they use a quote from the episode - like "Shut Up and Eat Your Bologna" and "That's What You Get for Trying to Kill Me". Which is usually funny or intriguing without actually giving anything away. The season finale was titled "I'm the Good Twin," which served as a great little teaser.

Jeffrey Mark said...

May I nominate who I feel is the most thoughtful, cogent, significant TV critic: Tim Goodman, with the Hollywood Reporter. Tim's from my hometown of San Francisco, he used to write for the San Francisco Chronicle for years and he's damn insightful about deconstructing episodes, especially Mad Men and Breaking Bad. But he's always spot-on, right-on in his keen observations of hot new TV shows. You can definitely learn a lot from Tim. When he champions a new show, sit up and take notice: he's really saying something significant. Check out his "Spoiled Bastard" column for great deconstructions of Mad Men right now, along with reviews of hot new programs. Tim's the man. Read him and weep!

Not Matt said...

Matt Rousch - TV Guide. Here's his rave about Girls:

http://www.tvguide.com/News/Weekend-TV-Review-1046009.aspx

Craig said...

FRIDAY QUESTION:

Ken,

How is Frasier so wealthy??

He seems to spend at will and is never wanting for anything. He is a semi successful radio guy, but radio does not pay well at all. Yes, he's single with no dependents to provide for but I'm assuming he makes alimony and child support payments. It seems to me he is living FAR ABOVE his means. I've been wondering about this for years as Frasier is one of my favorite shows. Thanks!

Matt said...

My favorite episode title of all time;

"The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street"

BigTed said...

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Larry said...

A lot of shows have imaginative, even evocative titles (like Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Community, The Sopranos), and it's weird there's no evidence of them on the episode itself. I like good titles--even when certain shows rely on a formula that gets tiresome quickly, such as Friends or 2 Broke Girls--and I generally have no trouble with seeing them. Carl Reiner felt the titles each week on the scripts were so clever that he should share them with the audience. More shows should follow suit. (Maybe the best was Police Squad!, where the announcer would have a different title from what was on screen.)

As for Girls, maybe it's because I'm getting too old for it, but seeing a bunch of privileged young women whine about how hard life is isn't my idea of entertainment.

Kati said...

I watched the pilot for Girls since it's up for free, and watched Tiny Furniture (on Netflix instant, fyi) before that. I can't comment too much on Dunham's predecessors - as usual I've managed to noob into it as much as possible, having never seen Sex and the City OR...okay it's fair if you guys kill me...a Woody Allen movie xD

I'm very glad that Girls exists and I'm rooting for it, just because the girls-train is so heavy this TV season and it's hard watching some of the same ol' bubbly girly stereotypes going down on the sitcoms. Since Dunham loves to parade around naked and has HBO freedom, I'm hoping her grit will balance out some of the other stuff.

And I'm hoping the grit isn't just for shock (which isn't shocking many people) and that it does lead to brave commentary and great character development and insight. One episode in - too early to tell.

I'm 26, middle class (though blue collar first-generation college sort of thing), female. I'm not Dunham but I've met a lot of her friends - the very pretty ones. I think it is fresh to see someone not beautiful Not Apologizing for that. That's cool.

But I think the freshness of the show is meant to be that it DOESN'T feel fresh. It's stale because that demographic's lives are stale. I've always thought there's something extremely self-destructive and tragic to all the "whoo hoo party!" behavior, and that it's not just spoiled-brat selfishness (though it's that too, I know, boo hoo to them). So I think the show is meant to be slow, Dunham's intentionally showing characters as confusing and unlikeable. She's made some concessions - like the formulaic has-it-together best friend who will probably be her bedrock in later episodes. We find THAT formula friend the most entertaining because it's what we're used to seeing on screen, but she's probably the least realistic character on the show.

I agree that parents aren't usually going to yank the rug out from under their kid as abruptly as the protagonist's did. But it's a comedy, and sometimes it happens, and who's to say her mother is well-adjusted and mature or sane, anyway. So I'm alright with that exaggeration for dramatic purposes.

My hope for the show is that it very gradually starts scratching away the layers to all the characters in an analytical way, and that it uses NYC as a backdrop for a broader sociology analysis as well. I think that's why you don't see much character development in the first episode - I think the characters don't necessarily know each other, and understand their relationships, that well. That would imply that they're socially healthy, and they're not necessarily.

Spoiled 20 something year olds are overeducated and idle, too socially dependent, maladjusted, and extremely lethargic. SOME of them. They feel like the training they received was for a world that doesn't exist. For kicks they find ways to hurt themselves or make themselves more vulnerable, because the only way you can have a true adventure or a true "life lesson" is to set up real repercussions, and spoiled 20 year olds are too sheltered for that. But they are wicked smart, and I think if they could figure out who to be mad at and why, they could have incredible focus. But as it is they/we are just spinning our wheels.

Or that's kind of my take on things. The self-indulgent, desensitized, dismal 20 something year old. It's a lot more fresh to me than the usual song and dance, and more truthful - but they have to figure out how to structure it effectively if they want to keep everyone "entertained."

Michelle said...

For a Friday Question, I wonder what you think of recording and archiving seasons of shows on a computer, or recording a show and automatically having the commercials edited out. This is separate from Hulu or Netflix which pay a fee to carry and stream the shows over the internet. This is one person with a catalog of shows recorded from cable or antenna in HD (1080 or 720).

Years ago I watched a couple of episodes of Lost without the commercials and it was so much more enjoyable, the show just flowed better. If I had the technical wherewithal to set up such a process, I probably would. It is really convenient.

Jen said...

I love episode titles too. The X-Files had some really memorable ones, and most of the time they gave nothing away. I love the ones where you get the connection after you've watched the episode.

I enjoy it when shows post the episode titles now and it's been one of my favourite things about getting a digital box.

Kirk said...

I would rather know the episode titles myself. As for giving away the plot, there's been thousands of novels, short stories, plays, and movies with titles that somehow manage not to give it away. Or, if they do, they don't give away the ending. For example, "The Great Gatsby". OK, it's about someone named Gatsby and he or she (since the title's gender neutral) is apparently great, but, beyond that, it doesn't tell you anything. So, why should it be a problem for episodes to have equally vague titles? Just asking.

Jeffrey Mark said...

I'm responding to Kati's comment above. Hey, look, we all change year by year in all our lives...hopefully for the better...to better understand ourselves. But that takes time...the natural unfolding of our lives takes time. You know, who we are, our POV of life at 23-25 will change by 35...45...55. So, those so-called "girls" are just going through what they have to go through given each of their unique life's circumstances growing up in completely different environments with completey different parents and parenting styles. Isn't that what it's all about. We merely, and simply, come from unique home environments that mold and shape our unique personalities. When I was 19 I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Not everyone can know this at 19-20...not their fault whatsoever.

That's a good thing that they're all educated...why not? Forget about the way the world is...it just is...the girls will "get it" in their own good time. That's what will make this show work, I think. Let's just sit back and watch them grow up. They'll learn. When it all comes down to it in this life - as it always has been - y'all gotta go out and WORK and stop 'bitchin about what everyone is "doing" to you. Hope the girls will come to realize this as they age day by day. A little "wisdom" will hopefully creep up day by day for all of them. Can only hope.

Jon88 said...

It's worth noting that the critics who raved about "Girls" all had the benefit of seeing the first three episodes before sharing their opinions. Accordingly, I'm reserving my judgment for the moment -- which works in favor of the show, I have to admit.

Mate Famber said...

Ken,
Please ignore if you've already touched on this.

I'm wondering what you think of the "scandal" involving the uproar over cries of nepotism in the casting of "Girls". It's nothing new in showbiz but I can speak for other folks (like me) in the business that are getting REALLY sick of seeing kids of famous people get parts/jobs/gigs all the time.
I know it happens everywhere but it just seems out of control in Hollywood as compared to other industries.

Johnny Walker said...

Craig, that's really going to bug me now. Thanks a lot!

I guess it's the same reason a waitress and an out of work actor could afford to live in Manhattan.

Kati said...

To Jeffrey: I totally agree, the show can be very bildungsroman-y. That could be a great thing to watch. And yes, it's not fair to clump a ton of people together in any situation - we're all individuals and develop in our own due time. But trends and identifying markers do exist in different demographic groups, and marketers pay lots and lots of money to find and cash in on those :p So I think Dunham is trying to reach an audience that can identify with her.

Where I grew up all the guys want to be an auto mechanic and the girls want to be beauticians. My idea of rich and spoiled is drastically different from Dunham's and the other actresses, but I still consider myself pretty spoiled. That's a sliding scale. But even if my high school peers couldn't identify with Girls economically, they still are in the mental framework of looking up to them and wanting to be them. Rich girl in NYC fresh out of a famous college - oh yes. That's why I kind of hope the show has more than just the coming of age arc, that it's darker and starts figuring out Why Young People Are Stalled (some of them) and How to Kick Our Own Butts Into Gear. This'll be for every generation but it's not as easy as just going out to work and "getting" the world because the world's constantly changing. The world is being recreated, so Dunham's characters will be making their own rules, and yes God don't we hope they 'grow up' a bit before they get in a position of power. :p

To Mate's question, I don't want to touch nepotism with a ten foot pole :\ Except to say that I think I read that Dunham went to school with at least one or two of the girls, and that the show is about being ludicrously spoiled, so in this case, as far as getting the authentic voice down, it seems kind of fair.

Dave Olden said...

"...Some Friday Questions to get your weekend off on the right foot. Leave yours in the comments section...."

Ken, I know you meant questions, but for a brief moment I was really tempted to put my foot down.

Anna Liza said...

Kati, since you've never seen a Woody Allen movie, can I suggest Bullets Over Broadway? The thematic heart of that movie is the contrast between the playwright who can't write realistic drama because he has never experienced any, and the mobster whose nasty and brutish life has made him capable of creating great art.

My point being, Woody Allen is worth getting into, which is more than I can say for Sex & the City.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Johnny Walker: those apartments were rent-controlled. You'd be surprised...

wg

Kati said...

Totally - thanks Anna! He's on my list of Very Much Need to See, yes. I should start just plowing through things more auteur style. Just haven't watched him yet because Netflix instant doesn't have much and I keep forgetting to spring for mail order. I just started reading the Annie Hall script the other day though to try to make up for it a bit.

Not a Sex in the City type, no xD I mentioned Woodie because all the reviewers have been citing Dunham's influences as Sex in the City and Woody Allen. I've been "studying" TV lately so I've been watching snappier stuff like New Girl :\ Not as "deep" as my little literary mind is used to, is all, so I'm rooting for Dunham.

cadavra said...

Probably my favorite episode title was a NAKED CITY: "Robin Hood and Clarence Darrow, They Both Went Out With Bow And Arrow." Odd, lengthy titles like that were a brief mini-trend in the early 60s, which is what the Van Dyke show was spoofing with "The Sounds of Trumpets..."

BTW, that episode featured a barely-out-of-his-teens Christopher Walken, billed as "Nick."

D. McEwan said...

"Blaze said...
Titles giving away the plot? What about that inane practice of 'Tonight, on this episode of ____'."


Oh man I used to find that SO annoying. Dallas and Falcon Crest, to which I was addicted (To the point that I bought the DVDs of seasons 1& 2 of Falcon Crest and await season 3's release), and I used to mute the show and hide the screen from my eyes, except for a small bit at the top, so I could see when "Tonight on" was over and the show began. They routinely gave away every big twist of the night.

I like episode titles, as I like chapter titles. (I argued with my original publisher about using chapter titles and a Table of Contents. They're like menus, though my publisher thought them passe.) No title that is any good gives away the plot. Obviously, titling an episode of Dallas "Kristin Shot Him!" would be a terrible idea, but a title like "The Truth Comes Out" is perfectly okay.

Conan O'Brian has been doing episode titles for his talk show, and they break me up. The whole idea of episode titles for a talk show is funny. Last year, his Christmas show was titled: "Fa La La La La La La La --- MURDER!" Made me laugh harder than anything else on the show.

I don't really find I like Ken Tucker's reviews much. He often misses the point of shows, he sometimes seems a bit shallow, and his attention-span seems, well, short.

"Craig said...
How is Frasier so wealthy??
He is a semi successful radio guy, but radio does not pay well at all."


It does when you're a star, and Frsaier is clearly portrayed as a local celebrity. I'm sure Bebe got him star money. When I was producing "Sweet Dick" Whittington's radio show, which was local, not national, I know he was pulling in 6 figures annually from the show, and that was in 1974. Frasier's lifestyle semed not unlike several radio stars I have known.

"Michelle said...
For a Friday Question, I wonder what you think of recording and archiving seasons of shows on a computer, or recording a show and automatically having the commercials edited out. This is separate from Hulu or Netflix which pay a fee to carry and stream the shows over the internet. This is one person with a catalog of shows recorded from cable or antenna in HD (1080 or 720).

Years ago I watched a couple of episodes of Lost without the commercials and it was so much more enjoyable, the show just flowed better."


I agee about commercial free Lost, but have you thought of just buying or renting the DVDs? The whole run of Lost sits on a bookshelf in my living room, taking up shelf space rather than more-precious computer space or DVR space. In fact, last week, I finished rewatching Lost beginning to end for the fourth time. I have a few other favorite shows on my DVD shelves: Doctor Who (which NEEDS its episode titles!), Red Dwarf, The Avengers with Diana Rigg, and others.

D. McEwan said...

Kati, choose your Woody Allen carefully. I'd hate for your first Woody Allen movie experience to be The Curse of the Jade Scorpion or Another Woman, Alice, Shadows and Fog, The Mighty Aphrodite, Everyone Says I Love You, Deconstructing Harry, Small Time Crooks, Hollywood Ending, Melinda and Melinda, or, God forbid, Interiors or Stardust Memories.

Anna Liza's suggestion of Bullets Over Broadway is an excellent choice, a masterpiece. Also recommended by moi: Annie Hall, Love and Death, Sleeper, Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, Zelig, or The Purple Rose of Cairo. His recent Oscar-winner Midnight in Paris is vastly overpraised. It's not as bad as the bad ones I listed above, but neither does it approach the excellence of the ones I've recomended.

Ned said...

who controls the edit of syndicated episodes? For example, is MASH edited by the syndicator, Fox, TVLand, etc?

The distributor (Fox, in the case of MASH) does the editing for the versions seen on local stations. "Networks," such as TVLand, are usually supplied with uncut masters and do their own cutting. Sometimes, though, an edited-for-syndication master is all the distributor has available to anybody.

71dude said...

I recommend James Poniewozik at Time.

http://entertainment.time.com/category/tuned-in/

Bud Zelig said...

"Deconstructing Harry" doesn't belong on that list-- it's disjointed, yeah, but there's just too many good pieces in there, including 2 or 3 of Allen's best gags.

Craig said...

Johnny: ha sorry! It bugs me too, I really wanna know if Ken can provide an answer. Oh and also, the Friends apartment everyone always talks about was I think either Monica's or Rachel's grandmothers and they inherited it, rent controlled.

D Mcewan: I said he's semi successful. Yes he's a "star" I guess, if that means he's a local celebrity, and even then i dont understand how he's so well known. You mean to tell me that many people know about a radio shrink with a show from 2-5? Not buying it. He is constantly worrying about his ratings, sometimes losing his job because of them. I would definitely not call him a big star. He's basically a regular working radio guy, living like he's Howard Stern. It doesn't make sense!

Please explain Ken!

D. McEwan said...

Craig, I started in radio and worked in radio for a decade, all of it in Los Angeles. Frasier is not "Semi-successful"; he's successful.

As for his being "so well known," it is clearly established that he's promoted like mad, his face on Seattle bussess, billboards, etc. And clearly, his show has high local ratings. His sincome, at the least, would be in the mid-to-high 6 figures. I have known many local radio stars who lived as well as he does.

Of course he worries about his ratings; EVERYONE in radio, and in TV, worries about ratings. You live or die by them.

That you're "not buying it" merely shows you know little about the successful income range in radio, because it's thoroughly believable, at least to folks like me who actually worked in the medium.

Becca said...

Craig: Partway through the run of Frasier, his show goes into syndication. There are two or three episodes throughout the run that are all about Bebe strongarming management into giving him huge raises. He also does endorsements.

Beyond all that, it's called willing suspension of disbelief. Virtually all the characters in TV and movies live lavishly with no explanation of why they apparently earn in excess of a quarter million dollars a year. Apparently the belief is that audiences only want to see pretty people living the good life. Strange how different things are from the '70s, when virtually all the top-rated shows featured people who were poorer than the average American (Good Times, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, Welcome Back, Kotter, All in the Family...the list goes on). Nowadays supposedly middle-class people in movies and TV have kitchens you could land a plane in and they're filled with marble, granite, and gleaming, restaurant-grade stainless steel appliances. Hmmm. Considering the current economic situation, perhaps it's time for the pendulum to swing in the other ('70s) direction...

Damian1342 said...

I saw "Girls" and I didn't get it, but I'm a 34 year old male, but I do believe the characters and I've met people like that before. The show is like a televised version of Lena Dunham's Sundance winning "Tiny Furniture." Which is very much a typical Sundance winner you'd either love or hate. That said, I thought it was decent for that type of movie.

What I didn't get about "Girls" is I didn't know what it wanted to be, it was like a 30 minute Drama, more than a Sitcom. Maybe it just had to be funnier. I'm one of the few straight males that has seen the entire series of Sex and the City, and that show was funny. Maybe "Girls" is supposed to be Dunham's memoirs (like her character peddles in show), and each week is an episode and she shoots it like a short? It even ended with credits that I was more accustomed to seeing in a movie. I did like the actors though, many of them from her debut "Tiny Furniture." I'll keep watching and see where it goes. Lena herself is worthy of following and maybe she is (also like the main character) the voice (a voice) of her generation... What's Diablo Cody up to these days?

Craig said...

Haha love it! People getting fired up over Frasier!! Of course it's suspension of belief, I'm not an idiot. I was simply wondering if there might be another possible explanation, one that is steeped in some reality. However, I shouldn't even be discussing this because... I'VE NEVER WORKED IN RADIO. Let's all bow down to radio veterans, for they know all!

I like the syndication explanation, but that wasn't nationwide, wasn't it just Tacoma? And yes of course everyone worries about ratings, but didn't Frasier actually get fired a few times? I don't know, I still think he's living like a king on a commoner salary. I guess it's just a sitcom being a sitcom. Lord of all things radio, what say you?

Damian1342 said...

Oh, sorry I meant SXSW Film Festival winning, and Sundance Select. But still follows very much the indie style obviously.

Don K. said...

I've never worked in radio, but I feel compelled to respond to Craig.

Whether or not you choose to believe him, McEwan is right. A radio personality such as the fictional Frasier Crane WILL get paid a handsome salary that would allow him to live like he did (or presumably does now in San Francisco if we keep suspending disbelief). A casual, but ongoing reading of the Trades would bear that out. That McEwan has worked in radio and well, knows a few things about the business should lend credence to his answer, not give you another opportunity to look bad. Yours was an honest question, and it got answered the same way.

Moreover, Frasier Crane had a ton of his own neuroses, played out through his worry about relationships and yes, ratings. He was a psychiatrist who was insecure, in other words, a plot device. There might be a few things to question about how the Frasier show was done, but questioning his income would be low on that list.

Jeffrey Mark said...

Sheer unadulterated brilliance...Woody's early films, Take The Money And Run, Bananas and Sleeper for all out funny lines and great story telling. 1969-1973 were very strong years for the "funny" Woody. See those classics first and foremost. And certainly a must see: The brilliant MANHATTAN - 1979. Best line...Woody at a snobby-snooty over intellectual cocktail party where an airhead woman says, "I once had an orgasm and it was the wrong kind." Woody replies confidently, "Mine have always been right on the money." I liked this movie far more than Annie Hall...much edgier. One last great scene in the film...Woody running and running through the streets of Manhattan rushing to Mariel Hemmingway, his 18 year old former girlfriend, at the moment she is leaving for London to go to school. Woody desperately hopes he's not too late to see her once last time. The running scene is great...it just goes on and on and we feel his great anxiety. See Manhattan soon.

D. McEwan said...

"Craig said...
However, I shouldn't even be discussing this because... I'VE NEVER WORKED IN RADIO. Let's all bow down to radio veterans, for they know all!"


Well, we know all about working in radio! I would never argue with a plumber about what a plumber makes, I would never tell a doctor what I think his income is, I would never tell someone who actually knows about something from actual experience about matters of HIS business of which I myself am ignorant. I see you take the opposite tact, Craig, and feel that your ignorance makes you an expert on the industry I worked a decade of my life in. (And still contributed to occasionally after I left full-time radio.) How odd that my knowng what I'm talking about somehow makes me less qualified to speak on it than you, spouting from ignorance. it's like a typical Republican voter: they feel their ignorance is somehow superior to people who actually know what they are talking about.

Jeffrey Mark said...
Sheer unadulterated brilliance...Woody's early films, Take The Money And Run, Bananas and Sleeper for all out funny lines and great story telling. 1969-1973 were very strong years for the "funny" Woody. See those classics first and foremost. And certainly a must see: The brilliant MANHATTAN - 1979."


Those early 3 are all very funny movies, but, Take the Money and Run, though very, very funny, is not really a movie, just an overlong, poorly structured sketch full of great jokes. Woody was just learning how to direct a movie. Bananas was an improvement, but still clearly the work of an amateur director, though the work of a brilliant screenwriter. Sleeper was his first movie that is a good movie as well as very funny.

As for Manhattan, It is extemely well written, gorgeously photographed, has magnificent music, and is certainly a fine "movie."

BUT it makes my skin crawl. It has one likable character, and she's the jailbait Woody is screwing in the film, which presents this illegal and inappropriate relationship as GOOD AND HEALTHY! It's the story of a child molester told from the molester's point-of-view, and recommending it.

I could never see why people were surprised by the Soon-Ye scandal, since back in Manhattan Woody made it perfectly clear that he felt the healthiest romantic relationship for a middle-aged man was an underage high school girl. Yuck!

That the high school girl should be with someone her own age doesn't seem to occur to Woody.

Manhattan is in many ways a fine movie, but it is also creepy and vile.

Kirk said...

The actress Stacey Nelkin, who played the female lead in HALLOWEEN: SEASON OF THE WITCH and had a small part in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, claims to have been in a relationship Woody Allen in the 1970s when she was just 17.

Jeffrey Mark said...

Hey...dancin' with Mr. D:

Don't forget in Manhattan that Woody fell for Diane Keaton, even though she was a deeply conflicted character. And so was Woody's character. Woody is only human...a typical man who longs for his lost youth - his teenage years that all us guys miss because we were all so young and free and chasing and kissing all the girls, right? Woody at 40 felt, inwardly, sad that life was passing him by...his youth was gone...Mariel Hemingway's character gave him joy for his lost days...c'mon...all of us guys surely must feel this way down inside, but would never admit it. We all think of young love when we were 18...our old girlfriends...bittersweet memories we keep alive inwardly. So Woody is like this, and he deeply, emotionally needed a very young girlfriend to make him feel happy about his life. Woody merely took "poetic license" and threw this kind of relationship into a great story.

Oh, and by the way, I, too, worked in radio as an on-air talent in San Francisco for five years...best time of my young life...and I made pretty nice coin, too. I had a good life in radio...but, as you know, sometime in the late '80s-early '90s the fun-fuse went out. Party over for me. Radio broke my heart.

Phil Rosenthal said...

I am a big fan of the former Star-Ledger team of Hit Fix's Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz of New York magazine (and Press Play).

I greatly appreciate the mention, obviously. But these days my TV criticism, such as it might be, comes mainly in talking back to the screen via my Twitter feed @phil_rosenthal.

An (is my actual name) said...

Friday question:

I'd love to know where these Cheers images came from. Do you know the story behind them?

http://tinypic.com/r/2z6ij6h/5

http://tinypic.com/r/2wgar90/5

Thanks!

Craig said...

Fascinated you all seem to believe Frasier had all this money as other people I've talked to including Johnny above tend to think that he is living pretty far above his means. Like I said before, there are many references in the show that say his ratings kinda suck and also he was fired at least once. Drives a BMW, has one of the nicest apartments in Seattle, pays alimony and child support, drinks the finest wines, eats out at the nicest restaurants in town many nights a week; all in all lives a pretty grand lifestyle. If you all say his salary as a semi successful radio host in the 3rd best timeslot working in the 15th biggest American radio market qualifies for this lifestyle than so be it. I'm just gonna have to go with suspending belief.

RCP said...

Becca said...

"Virtually all the characters in TV and movies live lavishly with no explanation of why they apparently earn in excess of a quarter million dollars a year."

I have to laugh at this - especially regarding characters living in NYC. Yes, it's conveniently explained that so-and-so has a rent-controlled apartment inherited from Granny, but even that won't explain paying NYC expenses while working in a place like a coffee joint. It becomes absurd - my rent-controlled "apartment" in NYC was about the size of Seinfeld's kitchen.

Becca continues...

"Hmmm. Considering the current economic situation, perhaps it's time for the pendulum to swing in the other ('70s) direction..."

I'm not sure if audiences want so much to relate as to escape. Well, Roseanne at least lived in a believable struggling middle-class home.

Eddie said...

For what it's worth to Craig and his interrogators, Kelsey Grammer has asked the same question about Frasier. ("I know I make more money than he does, but he lives much better than I do...")

D. McEwan said...

"Jeffrey Mark said...
Don't forget in Manhattan that Woody fell for Diane Keaton, even though she was a deeply conflicted character. And so was Woody's character. Woody is only human...a typical man who longs for his lost youth - his teenage years that all us guys miss because we were all so young and free and chasing and kissing all the girls, right? Woody at 40 felt, inwardly, sad that life was passing him by...his youth was gone...Mariel Hemingway's character gave him joy for his lost days...c'mon...all of us guys surely must feel this way down inside, but would never admit it. We all think of young love when we were 18...our old girlfriends...bittersweet memories we keep alive inwardly. So Woody is like this, and he deeply, emotionally needed a very young girlfriend to make him feel happy about his life. Woody merely took "poetic license" and threw this kind of relationship into a great story."


Excellent lengthy, not uncreepy defense for statutory rape. Woody would agree with you, but a jury might be somewhat more mature, and reject that pathetic defense with a simple: "GUILTY!"

So, if the high school girl were your own daughter, and you found Woody Allen, even a merely 40-years-old Woody Allen, were schtupping her to regain his pitiful feelings of lost youth, would you say: "Well, we all feel this way deep down inside"? Or would you just shoot the child-molesting bastard? (BTW, we do NOT "all feel this way deep down inside." For many of us, it's stomach-turning.)

Dan Tedson said...

Not one mention of the perfect game in 60 comments. I'm out of place on this blog.

D. McEwan said...

Well Dan., it wasn't a baseball post. For many, the only "perfect" game is one that is rained out. Don't worry. It comes up in tomorrow's posting.

Mark said...

Would you ever consider trying the other Ken Levine's game out (even like, the first ten minutes or so), and sharing your reactions?

Also, do you think that videogames can tell compelling stories?

Kirk said...

Could one reason that TV apartments are so big is that these shows are shot before a studio audience? Someone mentioned Good Times. That was somewhat big for the tenaments. For that matter, so was The Honeymooners.

alex said...

Hey Ken, here's a friday question for ya--

How does layering in diegetic music work in a show with a live studio audience? I assume it's still put in afterwards, not live (you mention in a halloween episode of Cheers they had to rip a song after first run and replace it due to licensing, so I'd guess that nothing was actually playing during recording)... but what happens in regards to the studio audience when a joke or plot point hinges on the actual song playing, not reactions to it? (e.g. "Well, that juke box will never play another record again!" *Music plays*)

What the heck is the audience laughing at if there's nothing playing on set?

jbryant said...

Actually, for what it's worth, in MANHATTAN Hemingway's character is 17, which is the age of consent in New York. While I'm sure this would be of no consolation to the parents of 17-year-olds daughters who date middle-aged men, it's not against the law.

Dan Tedson said...

"Well Dan., it wasn't a baseball post. For many, the only "perfect" game is one that is rained out. Don't worry. It comes up in tomorrow's posting."

That's my mistake. I actually thought this was Sunday's post. So my figurative "out of place" went all literal on my ass.

And while I appreciate baseball posts aren't everyone's cup of Old Style, some of us enjoy them the most and wish they'd get more time alongside the Spago and Four Ways to Cup your Agent's Balls posts.

Craig said...

Great quote Eddie! Thanks

Even Kelsey Grammar believed Frasier had a lifestyle that was out of his range. Mcewan, what say you? Still think this middling radio guy in small market Seattle was a rich man??

I wish/hope Ken answers this and clears it all up! Mcewan definitely needs to be cleared.

D. McEwan said...

"Craig said...
Even Kelsey Grammar believed Frasier had a lifestyle that was out of his range. Mcewan, what say you? Still think this middling radio guy in small market Seattle was a rich man??

I wish/hope Ken answers this and clears it all up! Mcewan definitely needs to be cleared."


Kelsey Grammar also believed that George Bush should be president, and that McCain & Palin should have won in 2008, and gives the Republicans big fat wads of cash, so what he believes and Reality are two highly different things. His opinions on anything is valueless to me.

But Ken's isn't. Ken and I both worked in radio at the same time, know many of the same people (aside, from knowing each other as well), and of course, Ken is still far more than "dabbling" in radio. (My baseball-loving Cousin Fred who lives in Seattle and loves the Mariners thinks Ken is a star. I doubt he's alone in that.) So his opinion I would give weight to, as opposed to yours, or Kelsey's.

But if you up 6 figures a year in 1974 money to the 2012 equivilent, it's still a hell of a lot of money, and I knew personally six or seven local radio personalities in Los Angeles in 1974 who were pulling in 6 figures in '74 just for their radio work. (Obviously, in a case like Gary Owens, his income was also boosted by his TV and voice-over gigs, but he was certainly pulling in 6 figures just at KMPC alone back in the days of which I speak.)

And Frasier Crane was not a "middling guy"; he was a local star. I'll let Seattlans reading this defend your assessment of their great city as "small market."

chuckcd said...

I like the titles "The Big Bang Theory" uses.
They are funny in and of themselves.

Chris said...

I am a member of Lena Dunham's generation and I would love to write a lengthy review about Girls, especially since I asked the question and I like to think you were asking ME for an opinion in the answer (makes me feel important and I can brag about my Hollywood connections now), but I'm way too lazy to do it and don't have much to say about girls in their 20s living in New York, since I'm neither one nor the other.

However, I do want to say I've laughed watching the second episode more than I've laughed this whole season watching all the TV comedies combined. The show is certainly an acquired taste, but the fact it made me laugh without having to process the jokes 2 or 3 times has to account for something, right?

Doesn't everybody who watches a lot of TV comedy just stop laughing at some point and saying "that's funny" at a good joke and just laugh at really funny stuff?