Friday, September 28, 2012

The stupidest thing I've said on the air

TGIFriday Question Day.

Long Paul starts us off:

What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever said on the air?

Wow. There’s such a long list it’s hard to narrow it down. I once interviewed the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig and asked him about MLB’s pet charity, Stand up FOR cancer. (Should be Stand up TO cancer).

When I was broadcasting for Baltimore I interviewed Angel phenom, Wally Joyner. He was the poster boy for clean living. I wanted to end the interview by wishing him much success and instead I said, “Thanks for the visit, Wally, and I wish you much sex.”

And of course, my botched home run call. Again – Baltimore. I had just entered the big leagues and figured I needed a signature home run call. So I came up with “Ladies and gentleman, Elvis has left the building!” This worked fine for about two weeks until I jumped the gun and my call was, “Ladies and gentleman, Elvis is… off the top of the wall!”

That’s the last time I’ve had a signature home run call. And by the way, you don’t need one.

Alan Duke has a question about my post where the top 5 all-time shows were named.

Other than you and David, is there anyone else associated with 2 or more of the top 5? Probably not. You are in a very special group. Congrats Ken.

Thanks. It’s something I’m very proud of. We’re in a select group but not exclusive. Glen & Les Charles wrote an episode of MASH so they qualify. Tom Reeder also wrote for both shows. Same with Larry Balmagia and David Pollock & Elias Davis. Bob Schiller & Bob Weiskopf wrote for both I LOVE LUCY and ALL IN THE FAMILY.

And of course several actors qualify as well. George Wendt and Shelley Long both did guest stints on MASH. And I’m sure there are character actors who did LUCY and FAMILY. Or CHEERS and SEINFELD. It would take me forever to cross-check but I wouldn’t be shocked if there was an old-time actor who did I LOVE LUCY, ALL IN THE FAMILY, and MASH. You guys, of course, are welcome to track that down and get back to me.

Steve B. asks:

When getting script notes from execs, are there any specific types of notes that you know are always just meaningless BS?

Yes. “Could you make him/her more likeable?” Networks invariably don’t want to even remotely offend anyone. But as Larry Gelbart once said about comedy writing, “If you haven’t offended someone then you haven’t done your job.”

Rhonda Crutcher wonders:

Hey, Ken! I have a question that occurred to me yesterday while watching the wonderful campaign ad for Michigan supreme court that featured most of the cast of the West Wing.

Who owns the rights to characters, like those on the West Wing, which are completely creations of one particular writer (in this case Aaron Sorkin)? I was wondering because Sorkin apparently didn't write that campaign ad, yet characters he created are in it. Would he have to have signed off on them being used? For that matter, Sorkin left the show after 4 seasons and other writers took over. Did he have to give the rights to use those characters over to the show? Does he ever have the rights to use them again?

Usually, the studio owns the copyright on characters. But it depends on the creator and what kind of deal he was able to negotiate.

As for the actors, the studio may own the “character” but not the likeness. Remember that case a number of years ago where several “Cheers” bars began appearing in airports? Paramount sanctioned them, but life-size figures of Norm & Cliff were featured sitting on bar stools. George Wendt and John Ratzenberger sued and won to get those ornaments removed. I’m not a lawyer (nor do I play one on TV) so I don’t know what the line is between when a studio can show photos of the actor in character and when they’re required to get their permission and pay them. Maybe that’s what held up production of those AfterMASH action figures.

What’s your question? Please leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

38 comments:

Tom Marker said...

New reader so I haven't read anything about your association with Jon Miller, whom I really enjoyed on ESPN (not so much the Morgan guy). Can you relate one or two of your favorite stories about Jon?

Anonymous said...

I just read GQ's oral history of Cheers and didn't see your name in the story. Were you asked? Did you choose not to participate? Just curious.
Thanks,
Tony Hoffman

benson said...

Ken, thank you so much for starting my day off with a hearty guffaw.

And I wish you and everyone here much sex.

Rob Poodiack said...

The use of characters outside of show depends on ownership. Apparently, Jerry Seinfeld had to give his blessing for "Jackie Chiles" to appear in several different commercials. (Although the character name wasn't given, Phil Morris was definitely playing him, and the scripts tried to sound like something Chiles would say.)

Rock Golf said...

imdb has a neat area where you can look for overlaps in their "Advanced Search" function. Put in MASH & All in the Family and you get quite a list: James Cromwell, Mary Kay Place, Richard Masur, James Gregory, Leonard Stone, George Wyner, Sorrell Booke, John Randolph, Arlene Golonka, Clyde Kusatsu, Greg Mullavy, Val Bisoglio, Graham Jarvis, and more. Total of 45 names.

Rock Golf said...

On both M*A*S*H and Seinfeld: Philip Baker Hall, Edward Winter, George Wendt (our first triple), Peter Reigert, John Randolph (our second triple - but he played George's father, and his scenes were re-flimed with Jerry Stiller when he became permanent), Jack Riley, Gail Strickland and George Cheung.

Rock Golf said...

There are 3 actors who even appeared on both I Love Lucy and Seinfeld: Bill Erwin, Elliot Reid and Bart Braverman.

An (is my actual name) said...

I read the online version of the GQ piece and found it fascinating in a Rashomon kind of way. I was hoping you could clear up a few discrepancies in the history provided. First, there's the Rhea Perlman/Jay Thomas thing about which you and she have completely different takes (I believe you). Second, the Kelsey/Shelley drama, again, two totally different perspectives. I find it very hard to believe she was asking for his funny lines to be cut. Also, any idea why Rhea refuses to discuss Shelley? She still seems angry after all this time. Anyway, I don't mean to get into gossip-mongering, especially about Shelley (a goddess no matter what-- lovelovelove her) but think you might be the guy to set the record straight on these disparities. Seems like this oral history might be worth a whole blog entry. Thanks!

Here's the link: http://www.gq.com/entertainment/movies-and-tv/201210/cheers-oral-history-extended?printable=true&mobify=0

Rock Golf said...

Two other notes: M*A*S*H director Gene Reynolds had a role on an I Love Lucy episode, and Bart Braverman makes the third triple, appearing on I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H and Seinfeld.

Andrew Morton said...

Hi Ken,

For Friday Questions:

Could you discuss how those cold openings for CHEERS, which were shot on location in Boston outside of the Bull and Finch pub, came to be? I imagine that, due to the travel, they had to be expensive to produce, so what was the process for getting those approved by the studio/network? And were they all shot at one time, or was more than one trip to Boston made per season?

Thank,

Andrew Morton

Rock Golf said...

Last note: Philip Baker Hall also makes the triple. (All in the Family, Cheers, Seinfeld).

So that makes actors in 3 of the 5 series: George Wendt, John Randolph, Bart Braverman and Philip Baker Hall.

Markus said...

Probably as good a place as any to post this here. I just encountered this ("Cheers Oral History"), enjoyed the read, and thought maybe others might like the pointer. Oh and Ken's in it too:

http://www.gq.com/entertainment/movies-and-tv/201210/cheers-oral-history-extended?printable=true

Joseph Finn said...

"but I wouldn’t be shocked if there was an old-time actor who did I LOVE LUCY, ALL IN THE FAMILY, and MASH. "

I did find an Elliott Reid who was on I Love Lucy, All in the Family and...After MASH. I can't find anyone who was on all three of those, though.

Paul Duca said...

I have to know more about the Bart Braverman triple, as I only know (and like) him as Binzer on VEGA$.

Mitchell Hundred said...

In your review of The Mindy Project, you mention that it's a show being carried by the star, Mindy Kaling. You later mention that 30 Rock is an example of the opposite of this, a show carried by an ensemble. Can you flesh out the differences between these two types of shows a bit more?

Rock Golf said...

@Paul Duca: According to imdb, Braverman play Pvt Habib in the M*A*S*H ep "Dear Sigmund", Zubin in the Seinfeld episode "The Betrayal", and Giuseppe in I Love Lucy's "Lucy Gets Homesick in Italy" when he was 10 years old. In the latter he used the screen name Bart Bradley.

Ben Kubelsky said...

@Andrew Morton: Ken can probably confirm this, but those exterior shots were probably all shot at once in 1982, and then used in the show and the open for the next 11 years. That's why you'll see a new-looking late 70s Honda driving past the bar in 1993! (for example).

Tom Adams said...

Also looking forward to what you have to say about the GQ/Cheers article.

DC said...

@rock golf Was Giuseppe the one who said "It's my birthday too" ? That line pops up in my circles a bit.

Not-Dave McNally said...

Ben Kubelsky was here? Oh, Rochester, tell Beetlejuice he has a visitor!

KEN: looks like the Orange and Black will make the post-season for the first time since '97. I still hesitate to state the name and risk jinxing them as too many folks have done to the Pirates, but, it must make you feel pretty good to see the Boog's new birds do so well. And to the M's, shame, shame on you for trading Adam Jones! A terrific young man who happens to be one baseball's best, certainly a rising star for many many years!

Gareth Wilson said...

My question: what makes a TV show or TV characters "relatable"? I've noticed that lots of shows about say, Broadway, alien invasions, or settlements in Jurassic Era have characters with teenage children. The relationship between the parent and child is supposed to be something the audience can relate to despite all the other weirdness. But I've also noticed that these shows don't seem to do very well. So are the teenage characters actually helping the show be relatable?

Michael said...

Ken, if it makes you feel better, a Brooklyn Dodger announcer whom Red Barber would refer to on the air as "Young Scully" once tried to say hot shot hit foul, and didn't.

Storm said...

Just a nerdly interjection about the subject of likeness rights; when an actor is in a project that is deemed "toy-worthy", he/she is asked to sign off on a likeness clause in their contract, that says the studio can use their likeness (as that character) for merchandising. The good news: you get a crap-ton of money. The bad news: they can do ANYTHING they want with it, however useless/bizarre/humiliating, so some actors choose not to sign off. This is why you'll sometimes see an action figure or other merchandise that looks NOTHING like they actor that played them.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

vw: seedsOC-- were The Seeds from Orange County? I dated Sky Saxon for about a minute in the 90's, until I realized he thought I was dating him, and I thought I was just hanging out with a cool old dude the same age as my DAD. What a lovely spirit he had, bless him.

Legal Guy Too Long said...

The way it usually works is that the studio has the right to use an actor's image when it's tied to advertising for a film or television series, but they generally can't use it for non-advertising related purposes. For example, Universal is free to use Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's images in any way they want so long as that usage is specifically advertising their films (or DVDs of such). Universal cannot, however, license anyone to sell a tee shirt or poster, for example, that just bears the images of Bud and Lou. For that, you have to go through their estates.

In the case of the Cheers airport bars, Paramount legal proceeded on the assumption that using the images of "Cliff" and "Norm" fell under the classification of advertising for the series. Obviously, a court disagreed.

marc jaffe said...

Wanted to let people know of a few opportunities to meet the people in and behind some sitcoms as part of a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. If they go to www.charitybuzz.com/shakingwithlaughter they can bid on meeting Jerry Seinfeld after one of his shows, Having a "Full House" lunch with Bob Saget and Dave Coulier (Sure to be much more fun than the show itself was) Have lunch on the set with the director of The Big Bang Theory and more. Hope some well to do fans will support this for Parkinson's research.

Matt Dawdy said...

Friday question: when you create a character, do you think of someone likable, then try to make them interesting, or the reverse?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

There are many samples of comic books made of movies or television series, where they could't use the likeness of the mai character, because that would cost extra money. Or only one of two main characters.

Dale said...

Thanks. I need all the help I can get!

Anonymous said...

Stand up for Cancer is pretty common. I get asked at the grocery store, do you want to give money to support muscular dystrophy?

Steve said...

Celebrities maintain a degree of control over the use of their likeness (or even 'lookalikes') through Right of Publicity laws which are decendable and transfer to their heirs upon death. This is why,for example, one could not open an Elvis themed business without payment and permission of his estate. The laws differ by state (Bill Cosby was behind changing Massachusetts' law just this year. ) http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/08/22/bill_cosby_law_extends_publicity_rights_digicon_and_marilyn_monroe_s_estate_fight_over_her_digital_image_.html

Rick said...

Michael Richards was, of course, Kramer on Seinfeld. On Cheers, he played a guy who made a bet with Sam years ago that Sam would give him the bar if he hadn't married Jacqueline Bisset by a certain time.

Dave Allen said...

Friday question: I was watching the Dodger game on TV and Vin Scully mentioned that one of the player's parents were at the game to see him for the first time in the majors. Do the managers ever consider the kids' parents or friends when they make out a line-up or manage the game? It would be nice to think that there is some humanity in the world of professional sports.

Dave Allen said...

I was watching the Dodger game on TV and heard Vin Scully mention that a player's family was at the ballpark to watch him play for the first time in the majors. Do the managers ever consider such things as they make out the line-up or manage the game? It would be nice to think there is some humanity in professional sports.

Ellie said...

Question: When you taped an 'on location' episode, such as Cheers at the Boston Garden, did you tape it with no audience and then play it on monitors in front of an audience to get the laughs? If so, how does that work with the timing, as I know the actors usually wait for the laughter to stop before saying the next line? Thanks!

Tom Reeder said...

Another person who was involved with two of those five honored shows was Andy Ackerman. He initially worked as an editor on Cheers and went on to direct several episodes. Later Andy was the director of a whole bunch of Seinfelds.

chuckcd said...

Or as Steve Martin said "Comedy is not pretty".

Steve Murray said...

Friday Question: When in a writing partnership, how did you deal with telling your partner that their idea was the worst thing you had heard? I'm dealing with this right now!

AAllen said...

One thing I remember you saying on the air was when you were reading the Mariners phone number: 421-HITS. Then when you spelled it you got the words mixed up: "That's 421 S-H-I-T-S." I've always wondered what happened in kangaroo court that night.