Saturday, January 05, 2013

Cliff Clavin explains Yorkshire Pudding

Bonus Friday question: Dana Gabbard asks:

Maybe you could give us a peek at the legal process a script goes through. I know from reading the Making of Star Trek that someone researches whether a character's name is too similiar to an actual person who has the same profession as the character, etc.

There are a couple of research firm that comb through scripts to identify possible legal problems and double-check facts. You mention Hitler and they’ll say, “Former German dictator”, stuff like that.

One time on CHEERS we had a run where Cliff explained the derivation of Yorkshire pudding. The research person called me (since I co-wrote the episode) asking where I got that information. She had been researching it for two days and couldn’t confirm our claim. I said a waitress at Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant told me. The researcher was apoplectic. “You can’t go with historical information based on hearsay from a waitress!” I reminded her it was Cliff telling the story. Who gives a shit if he’s right? She hung up satisfied.

My other research firm story is not so amusing. When my partner, David Isaacs and I were creating the MARY show for Mary Tyler Moore in 1985 we set the series in a Chicago newspaper. We gave the research firm a list of about twenty newspaper names. They came back with five or six that had cleared. We selected the Chicago Post. We filmed the pilot and then David went to Chicago to supervise the filming of our opening credit (yes, we even had opening credits back then). We had posters on the side of buses showing Mary.

At 9:00 the next morning I get a call from a gentleman who said he just saw a bus go by and was very concerned. He was the editor of the Chicago Post. I picked my jaw off the floor and said I’d have to get back to him. I then called Chicago information and sure enough there was the Chicago Post. The research firm had fucked up BIG TIME! MTM contacted him and was willing to arrange a settlement for use of the name.

Fortunately, the words Chicago Post were nowhere in the newsroom set. But the Post editor figured we’d have to reshoot the whole pilot at a cost of several million so he really had us over a barrel. He asked for a fortune. MTM countered with a very fair offer. He said they were bluffing. They gave him a deadline. He didn’t bite. We became the CHICAGO EAGLE. It cost a few hundred dollars to loop Eagle for Post in dialogue and a few thousand to reshoot the bus shots in Chicago. Far less than it would have cost had we settled. FAR less. But can you imagine the hassle? All because the research firm (who we fired, you’d be surprised to learn) didn’t employ as one of their resources the damn phone book.

15 comments:

brian t said...

I wish Cliff was still around, so he could explain government taxation and spending to us. A different kind of "Fiscal Cliff" altogether ..!

PolyWogg said...

Fiscal Cliff...that would be pure gold right there.

Markus said...

Not that the Fiscal Norm is a whole lot better right now...

Great Big Radio Guy said...

And...scene.

Erik said...

Do you recall when an episode of "Phyllis" contained a reference to San Francisco Supervisor Mendelssohn having an affair with his secretary? Apparently, no one had taken the trouble to find out San Francisco did have a Supervisor Mendelssohn. A suddenly very displeased Supervisor Mendelssohn.

healingafterheartache said...

Is this a rerun?

Amanda (first-time comment/Chicago girl) said...

Ken, I don't know if you know it, but that Chicago Post owner was Dick Mell...Rod Blagojevich's father-in-law...just some trivia for you!

media_lush said...

Ken, who was responsible for my favourite Cliff comment of all time - the allusion of brain cells to a herd of buffalo and beer killing off the stragglers to keep the herd [brain] healthy?

Paul Duca said...

someone once described Yorkshire pudding as "a high, curved, empty waffle".

Beth Ciotta said...

Fascinating. I love these behind-the-scene peeks.

Mike said...

@Paul Duca: You may be mistaken. A high, curved, empty waffler sounds like a description of a Yorkshireman. Or Victor Hugo.

Bruce VanWyngarden said...

Cliff did explain the fiscal cliff. I wrote about it here: http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/letter-from-the-editor/Content?oid=3309940

Charles Leo said...

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This has an awesome stuff. I am full satisfied with this.

JT Anthony said...

The avg. man or woman needs help understanding the so-called fiscal cliff. Who better than a "Fiscal Coach?"

Jill Pinnella Corso said...

Am I naive to think that the Chicago Post missed a real opportunity for free product placement?