Friday, September 20, 2013

Who's your favorite Darren Stevens?

Here are this week’s Friday Questions comin’ attcha:

Hamid gets us started:

Who's your favorite Bond?

Sean Connery. I know it’s usually the Bond you grew up with he also established the template. There are no other Bonds if he didn’t make the character a worldwide screen sensation. And he could do things none of the others could. No one could pronounce “Poosie Galore” like Sean Connery. The man is a genius.

I think the bigger more important question is: Who’s your favorite Darren Stevens?

Courtney asks:

Been watching a lot of Everybody Loves Raymond lately, and marveling that, as no show since perhaps The Jack Benny Program, it makes such frequent use of deadpan reactions, often to extraordinary lengths, always to maximum laughter. How can you possibly time your script when you never how long it'll take the audience to stop laughing at Brad Garrett's slightly elevated eyebrow?

You can’t accurately time your script. You have a rough idea based on the number of pages. And the script coordinator on the set will time all runthroughs. But for a show filmed live (like RAYMOND) there’s usually an audience laugh spread. Generally it’s two to four minutes. On the BIG WAVE DAVE’S pilot we had a laugh spread of ten minutes. That’s great until you get into editing.

Ideally, you plan well (we did not with BIG WAVE DAVE’S – we were shocked it got such big sustained laughs), and your first cut after editing is two or three minutes long. Then you can go back and trim and fine-tune and really whip the show into shape.

But there are so many factors. Sometimes you get better audiences than others. Sometimes the air conditioning doesn’t work as well. There could be technical problems which delay shooting and dissipate the audience’s energy. You just never know.

The cast of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND was extraordinary. They all had expert comic timing. They knew how to wait for the audience laughter to die down and they knew how to always react. It’s just a comic sense I believe you have to be born with. I bet Brad Garrett was getting laughs off his reactions when he was five.

I’ve worked with some great ones in that regard. Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce would be two more.

From Charles H. Bryan:

Have you ever worked with people who are funny in the room but not on the page? Or vice versa? Where there's a marked difference, where the script has people crying with laughter but the personal presence is sort of a dud? I have to imagine that there are those who operate better in one environment instead of the other. What do you do with such people?

There are definitely writers who are primarily “room funny” as we call it. Great jokes and they help keep the energy in the room up. But when asked to write a draft and include a little depth they’re out of their league. Their scripts come back very jokey and generally need a lot of work.

On the other hand, there are some writers who are quiet and shy but turn in wonderful drafts. We call them “Neil Simon writers.”

Sure, you’d love to have writers who are both funny in the room and on the page, but each of these specialists can be of great value if you use them correctly. As a showrunner it’s like building a basketball team. You have guys who can shoot and guys who can play great defense.

We won’t give a lot of script assignments to the room funny guys and we’ll let the quiet ones go to their offices and churn out scripts.

Brian has a Friday MASH question:

Did the cast and crew enjoy the days when they got to leave the soundstage and head to Malibu to shoot exteriors or did they view it as a chore? I've heard that the facilities out there weren't exactly considered...modern.

No. They did not like it. First off, they were further away from me and that always unnerved them.  It was a million degrees out there. And the location was in the Malibu Canyon, which was near to nowhere. They shot from sun up to sundown. So the cast had to be there at 5:00 AM to get into make up – meaning they probably had to wake up at 3:00 to get there by 5.

And then they shot in the punishing summer sun until 8:15. We were on a very tight production schedule and they would be expected to shoot eight pages every location day. In contrast, a movie might shoot two.

As for the facilities, well... you wouldn't want the Queen of England to use one of the restrooms.

We allotted one location day per script until the fall when it started getting dark early and was impossible to film more than five pages on any given day. If you have the DVD’s you’ll notice that rarely will you see a location scene in the last six or seven episodes. All those shows were shot strictly on Stage 9 at Twentieth Century Fox and they featured a lot of late night poker games.

What’s your Friday Question? And favorite Darren Stevens?


Anonymous said...

Nobody could do a frazzled, rubber-faced Darren like Dick York. Dick Sargent was too low-key for me. Regardless, Elizabeth Montgomery made the show so much fun to watch. Her "weeellll," and other reactions were so great to watch. Like other kids, I wanted to be like her and twitch my nose and make stuff happen. How many of us tried it? I thought Darren was stupid for wanting to stop it! That was pretty much the show's premise though. Julie

Curt Alliaume said...

Yes, your first Darren Stephens is always your best. (I hope that's the last time I'll say that.)

I didn't start watching Bewitched until it was in syndicated reruns, and for some reason WNEW in New York started out their run with the Dick Sargent episodes. (Possibly because the first two years were in black-and-white.) Accordingly, Dick Sargent is my favorite. Dick York always looks like he's on the edge of a nervous breakdown, which wasn't nearly as funny.

Speaking of which, why is getting a DVD of the first two seasons in B&W (rather than colorized) nearly impossible nowadays? Every time I see the first season DVD at a low price, it's the colorized episodes. (Perhaps they're being dumped by the distributor.)

Carol said...

Dick York's Darren was much less grumpy than Dick Sargent. I never felt like 2nd Darren liked Samantha very much.

Frankly I'm Team Endora. I don't blame her for being upset that her daughter supressed her natural talent just to keep her man happy.

Mitchell Hundred said...

So is it common for room funny writers and Neil Simon types to become writing partners? Because it seems like they could complement each other's talents quite nicely.

Anonymous said...

Dick York.

Dick Sargent was like trying to replace Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher.

(Too easy?)

LouOCNY said...

Way back when Howard Stern was at WNNNNBC in New York, he did where he would do phone interviews with celebrities as Out of the Closet Stern, an outrageous super swishy gay character (Fred Norris was his 'partner', Mr Blackswell!). One of his interviews was Dick York, when York was in his bed, still trying to raise money for the homeless.

The 'interview' consisted almost entirely of OOTCS asking things like, "Who was the bigger Dick?", "Which Dick do you think Liz Montgomery liked better?", ad infinitum. Dick York went out of his mind laughing, and so did we - 30 years later it still remains one of Howard's funnier moments...

Johnny Walker said...

I've never understood why the facilities weren't improved on the MASH set. Surely there was something they could have done to make them a little more pleasant? They were there for 11 years, after all!

Did they ever make any improvements?

Johnny Walker said...

Curt Alliaume: Both the first and second seasons are available from Amazon in B&W, and they're currently 50% off to boot.

Season 1:

Season 2:

Both are in stock, too!

Mike Barer said...

Dick York, although Sargent should get credit for stepping in and making a difficult transition seemless. Not only are the two Darrens names similar (well, same first name at least), they both passed on in the early 1990s.

Chris said...

Was Paul Willson hired to be on Cheers just because David Angell favored the unnecessary double-L last name?

I prefer Dick York. His hammy reactions were perfect for that show.

Jim K said...

Dick York, although as a kid I wasn't real fond of his overreactions. And couldn't stand why he wanted Sam to curtail the witchcraft. Too much pride.

I'd be surprised if you got any Dick Sargent votes. A nice guy, but that was a huge role to step into.

Also, there is no other Bond, no real Bond, other than Connery. Although Craig is the better, more modern Bond. But that's comparing apples and oranges.

Mike Barer said...

As far as James Bond, Roger Moore was the Bond of my generation, so that is how I see James Bond.

Jake Mabe said...

Dick York. (Although I do like Dick Sargent in the Elvis Presley masterpiece, "Live A Little, Love A Little.")

Jake Mabe said...

Friday question: NBC has announced that it is producing a miniseries about Johnny Carson. According to IMDB, the role hasn't been cast yet. Who would you think would make the best Johnny Carson (besides Johnny Carson, of course)? If they're going to do it, my vote goes to Kevin Spacey. What say ye, Ken?

Thomas said...

Thinking about locations, how was your experience with your work for the Simpsons? How freeing is it to not be tied to any location, and did that affect the stories you wrote?

John said...

Took a walk out to the MASH site from the parking area at Malibu Canyon State Park a few years ago, after Fox sold the ranch to the state. I'm assuming the cast got to drive the full way and didn't have to trudge all the way up that hill, because the location definitely is a tad away from the normal comforts of Southern California civilization (and DO NOT get stuck on the wrong side of the nearly-dry creek bed near the site, if you see it pouring rain higher up in the mountains -- when you get back to the crossing going home you'll find out the nearly-dry creek bed isn't nearly-dry anymore, even if it's not raining where you are).

It may just have been coming in six seasons into the show he couldn't do anything else with the material, but Dick Sargent always seemed more annoyed than panicked that any of his in-laws could turn him into a tree or a wombat at a moment's notice. Dick York's on-edge hyper reactions better fit the situation (and the weaker writing by Season 6 touches on another aspect that made the Bewitched a huge success from the start, in that the episodes with Danny Arnold and Jerry Davis as show runners made a better romantic connection between York and Montgomery beyond the high-concept witchcraft gimmick -- go back and watch the scene in the den from "A is for Aardvark" and try to picture Montgomery and Sargent pulling off the same scene).

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Dick York. No contest.

I did, however, like that unusual guest appearance Dick Sargent made on I DREAM OF JEANNIE the year before he became Darrin where he was that hick lawyer who was trying to screw Tony Nelson over.

Nat Gerter (sitcom room veteran) said...

I never understood what would've made her want to marry Dick Sargent, unless she was that desperate for blandness in her life. So Dick York all the way. (Although I do think that airing the reruns under the title My Two Dicks would be a very, very bad idea.)

ScottyB said...

Dick York was clearly the "best" Darren. He clearly had that "Holy fuck -- I married a goddamn WITCH and NOW I find out???? lots of manic crazy-shit about him that Dick Sargent clearly did not.

Two observations from today's post:

1. Is there a thing that says people in the room need to be funny IN the room as well, and if they're not, that maybe they're not too funny of a writer? That's kind of like thinking every amazing comedian must go thru every minute of their day being "on". Seems to me that true funny is the proof of what's on script paper.

2. 'Everybody Loves Raymond' was carried by a stellar cast who I think had the gift of taking words on paper and making them come alive with just an inflection of their voice or a move of their body in subtle yet amazing ways that were beyond the greats like Lucy, Jack Benny, etcetcetc. Well, at least until Brad Garrett started trying to make everyone think he was the reincarnation of Jackie Gleason, anyway. Happily, he was back to normal in 'Til Death' -- which was wickedly funny.

ScottyB said...

I totally lost all interest in 'Bewitched' when I was a kid and Dick York was replaced by Dick Sargent. Sargent's Darrin was smoother, less flappable, more I dunno ... white-bread suburban. Basically BORING, which York's Darren clearly wasn't. For me, Sargent's Darren just wasn't *funny* like York's Darren -- and I was only like 8 years old at the time.

The best Bond? Christ, that's like asking who was the best Playmate of the Month. The world will never know.

ScottyB said...

To quote Ken Levine on Davil Angell every September 11:

"I first met David the first season of CHEERS. He came in to pitch some stories. He had been recommended after writing a good NEWHART episode. This shy quiet man who looked more like a quantum physics professor than a comedy writer, slinked into the room, mumbled through his story pitches, and we all thought, “is this the right guy? He sure doesn’t seem funny.” Still, he was given an assignment (“Pick a con…any con”) and when the script came back everyone was just blown away. He was quickly given a second assignment (“Someone single, someone blue”) and that draft came back even better. I think the first order of business for the next season was to hire David Angell on staff."

Word up.

chuckcd said...

Gotta go with Dick York.

ScottyB said...

I know I'm just being flippant here, but re the "room funny" post:

1. Can you imagine what the room must've been like for the writers for 'Webster'? Either it was full of all sorts of truly disturbing jokes that we don't even want to *know* about especially in this PC world, or it was the most dread- and despair-filled place on the lot.

2. If you ever get hooked up writing for a sitcom, count your lucky stars. Can you imagine what the writer's room must be like for a serious TV drama? I can only imagine it must not be the same, unless maybe everyone's cracking wise to break the monotony of being *serious*. How anyone writing during the '70s for stuff like 'Family' and 'Apple's Way' and those ABC After-School Specials didn't end up with substance abuse problems is beyond me.

ScottyB said...

@Nat Gerter: I hear ya. Hence the reason I believe people like Dr. Bombay, Clara and that wacky Paul Lynde became more and more relied upon to carry the show ... which pretty much jumped the shark of death once they started making Tabitha an awwwww-cute centerpiece.

Dana Gabbard said...

Al Martinez has just posted his memories of the Korean War. Did your interviews of veterans when showrunning MASH have this level of gut-wrenching memories? Were they gratiful for a chance to share what they saw and experienced?

McAlvie said...

Huh. I'm probably in the minority, but I liked Darren #2 best. Darren #1 never seemed like much of a match for Samantha's family; he was bound to be the butt of too many jokes. #2 made a much better straight man. You need a good straight man to balance out whacky characters. Also, if the transition had been reversed, I don't think #1 could have carried the show through as seamlessly as #2 did.

Regarding the Raymond cast, I don't think Brad Garrett ever got the recognition he deserved for what he brought to that show. The parents were almost too annoying, and Raymond was, fact it, kind of a shmuck. Garrett hit a sweet spot that balanced out the cast.

benson said...

Best line regarding Bewitched. Don't remember where I heard it on the radio. May have been from Stern, though I've never listened to him.

Bewitched, the only show ever to have a dick replacement.

cadavra said...

But let's get down to the really important issue--Who was the better Roger Buell on THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW: Roger C. Carmel or Richard Deacon?

Steve the Creep said...

Friday Question: I've been rewatching the entire run of CHEERS on Netflix, and it makes me wonder what you would think if they wanted to reboot the series. To me it's the perfect location for a sitcom. The bar gives you regular characters that don't all have to be related or work together. There's a built reasoning for new characters to pop up all the time. Plus it gives the audience that feeling of "I've come home from a long day of work and I'm going to relax with my 'friends' at CHEERS."

Hamid said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken. I totally get what you say about how there wouldn't have been a Bond franchise without Connery, but my favourite is still Timothy Dalton, which I know puts me in a small minority of Bond fans.

To be honest, the only Darren Stevens I remember is Dick Sargent, so I'll have to go with him. It's been many many years since I've watched that show. I preferred I Dream of Jeannie anyway, except on the matter of lead actress. Barbara Eden could never compete with the sweet but sexy girl next door beauty of Elizabeth Montgomery.

Allan V said...

Ken, You once said (4/21/10) in your blog that "WINGS was supposed to be a Fall show but the producers had a bitch of a time casting it. They wanted really special people, and faces you hadn’t seen on seventeen other shows."

I was wondering if you could go into more detail about the casting process --- I think it would be really interesting to hear how they chose the cast members. (Disclaimer: I loved them all, but Steven Weber was my favorite!) Thank you!

Kyle said...

Dick York. His twitchy, high-strung take on Darren seemed to fit the show better. Sargent's Darrin was too sour and glum.

I also thought York and Montgomery made a much more believably affectionate couple. With Sargent, I got the feeling that Darren and Samantha had been reduced to an occasional warm handshake.

Felt a little sorry for Montgomery. As the writers settled into a preference for "Darren vs. Endora" storylines, Samantha was increasingly sidelined into functioning as the show's Mighty Mouse. Swooping in at the last minute to save the day for Darren and to rescue the $5 million dollar account of the week for McMann and Tate. For an actress with considerable talent, it must have gotten old, standing on the same sets year after year, yelling, "Mother, you get back here and take that spell off Darren immediately!" Or having to explain to Darren, time after time, "Aunt Clara cast the spell, so she's the only one who can remove it." Don't you think he would have remembered that at some point?

When Danny Arnold was involved with the show, early on, he approached it as a series about a young couple from very different backgrounds trying to make their marriage work. He didn't see the witchcraft angle as being relevant to what the show was really about. And maybe that foundation was why the show was able to succeed as well as it did. Early on, though, a conflict immediately arose with ABC, who just wanted the show to focus on the magic.

The show had a history of replacing actors. Two actresses played Mrs. Kravitz, the nosy next-door neighbor. Two actresses played Louise Tate, wife of Darren's boss, Larry. Two actors alternated as Mr. Stephens, Darren's father.

Bill Asher told a story about stupid network interference. When Sargent joined the cast to replace York, the network remembered an episode the series had done in its second season, in which Endora splits Darren into two halfs: his fun side and his work side. It's a very funny episode and a nice showcase for York's talents. Well, ABC remembered the show and insisted that BEWITCHED do the same story with Sargent, as his series debut. Asher said he argued and argued in vain with the network that it would be unfair to Sargent. Dick York had played Darren for nearly two years when he did that script, and he knew the character. Sargent, he tried to point out, was new to the series and new to the character. It would be unfair to him to expect him to not only play Darren for the first time, but to play Darren at two extremes of his personality. But the network insisted, so they went ahead and filmed the script. The results, Asher said, were a disaster, though no fault of Sargent's, who did the best he could. Rather than kicking off the season, as the network had wanted, the episode wound up being buried late in the season.

hollphoto said...

At the risk of revealing my age, who was the better Harry Morgan on the Burns & Allen show - Fred Clark or Larry Keating. It's Larry all the way for me

Rick Wiedmayer said...

In a previous post you said that you wanted to become a director while David wanted to remain just a writer. How did you make the transistion to director. What hoops did you have to go through to become a director?

DBenson said...

Roger C. Carmel over Richard Deacon on "The Mothers in Law."

The original setup was two almost opposite couples dealing with their children's marriage. Eve Arden and her lawyer husband were very WASPy; Kaye Ballard was a volatile Italian whose mate was a loud TV writer. The main comedy was two mismatched women thrown into assorted fine messes.

Carmel was a perfect fit: Safe enough for a 60s sitcom, a plausible husband for Ballard, yet giving off a vibe of non-WASP Hollywood vulgar that would never quite mesh with the neighbors.

Deacon, on the other hand, meshed too well with the neighbors. In fact, he registered as more square and dour than Arden and hubby (and the character became a cheapskate, making him even more of a fuddy-duddy). Now both couples seemed much more alike, and most of the original comic friction dissipated. The married kids seemed to fade back a bit and the focus was Arden and Ballard getting into scrapes.

It was still a funny if old-fashioned show, thanks to the cast (Deacon certainly wasn't bad) and slick old-school writing by a lot of Lucy alumni. One could argue the two ladies didn't need the plot-dictated friction of the early days, but I missed it.

RCP said...

Dick York was far more likeable and funny, though I have nothing against Dick Sargent. Ironically - since most people seem to prefer York - Elizabeth Montgomery preferred Dick Sargent. Credit goes to EM for her dedication to "Bewitched." Maybe it's my heart talking, but even after 8 years - the last five or so already becoming repetitive - she never gave the impression of being bored or "above" the material. She then went on to sink her teeth into juicy roles like "Lizzie Borden."

Sean Connery remains the ultimate Bond as far as I'm concerned. As for the better Roger on The Mothers-in-Law - Roger C. Carmel. I liked that show as a kid, but could barely get through 10 minutes when rewatching it in recent years.

AND I preferred Julie Newmar over Eartha Kitt as Catwoman.

Richard Rothrock said...

I'm afraid I am one of those people who preferred Dick Sargeant over Dick York. York was just too broad and blowing his top too much. Sargent actually seemed to be playing a human being (to me).

The two Dicks remind me of one of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 jokes: "Dick York. Dick Sargeant. Sargeant York. Think about it."

As for James Bond: Sean Connery hands down, though Daniel Craig is a close second. And, yes, I think Timothy Dalton was horribly underrated in the role.

My question though is:
Who do you prefer as your commanding officer: McLean Stevenson (Henry Blake) or Harry Morgan (Sherman Potter)?

D. McEwan said...

hollphoto said...
At the risk of revealing my age, who was the better Harry Morgan on the Burns & Allen show - Fred Clark or Larry Keating. It's Larry all the way for me.

Hollphoto, first off, it's Harry Morton, not Morgan. Secondly, you omitted two of them. There were four Harry Mortons, in order of playing the role, they were: Hal March for 15 episodes, John Brown for 7 episodes, Fred Clark for 75 episodes, and Larry Keating for 199 episodes. I have to agree with you, Larry was the deifnitive Harry Morton even though he was the fourth. He had, after all, the weight of having done twice as many episodes as Harry than his three predecessors combined.

I'm in the Dick Sargent camp, but for personal reasons. Frankly, I stopped watching Bewitched altogether after the first season, It seemed to me then like pretty much the exact same show every week, and I found Dick York's wet blanketness about his wife's magic tiresome and pointless.

But I knew Dick Sargent. Not well, but I knew him. I first met him in a gay bar in the late 1980s, and he came and saw me perform in cabarets a few times, and he was just a really swell person. Lacking in ego, unassuming, friendly, generous, brave, and warm. Plus he really enjoyed my act. I very much liked him.

Connery and Craig are my Bonds, though I do like Dalton & Lazenby in the role. I disliked Brosnan's Bond immensely. (And his movies are a mess. Frankly, though I saw all four, I can not, by their titles, distinguish one from the other, as the titles had zilch to do with their content. No one ever says: "Now Goldfinger, what was that one about? Was that the one where SPECTRE films him in bed or the one in the Japanese volcano?")

And I LOATHE Roger Moore's Bond. I thought he was just AWFUL! Smarmy, smug, way too jokey, and not remotely sexy. (There's a reason why he never takes his shirt off after his first Bond film. Not sexy! And that repulsive way he kissed the ladies, with his lips puckered out about a mile from his face. Ew. Also well before he got the role, I had read all the Ian Fleming Bond novels, and I felt that Moore was no where near the tough and sometimes ruthless and cold character in the novels. Roger Moore was no more James Bond than Robert Downey Jr. is Sherlock Holmes. (I should add then, that Roger Moore was also a wretched Sherlock Holmes in one abysmal TV movie, watchable only for John Houston's interesting performance as Moriarty.)

A more interesting question is: who's your favorite Bond Girl? Such a wide variety: Ursula Andress setting the mold? Divine Dame Diana Rigg as Tracy, the only girl Bond married? Shirley Eaton's drop-dead gorgeous iconic golden girl? Honor Blackman's famous Pussy Galore? Once again, my choice is a personal one: Martine Beswick, as Martine has been a friend of mine for almost 30 years now. (I'll be getting together with her in just two weeks, as she bops over from London.) Martine could be seen as the first Movie Bond Girl. (The first-ever Bond girl was Linda Christian on the 1953 TV adaptation of Casino Royale, memorable mainly for Peter Lorre's terrific performance as the very first Bond villain.) Martine could lay that claim because, although you don't see her face until From Russia With Love, nonetheless, in the opening credits for Dr. No, the woman who's colored silhouette is seen dancing behind the titles was actually Martine.

Rich D said...

@LouOCNY - I remember that Stern bit, though I only heard as a "Best Of" bit once he had moved over to KRock (and I was listening in college outside of Philadelphia on WYSP). Admitedly, it was juvenile, but I did like the capper to the whole run of jokes, i.e., Dick York leaving the show due to back problems and "What good is a dick that can't stand up straight?"

Sorry to delve into TWO BROKE GIRLS territory Ken, but that bit still does make me chuckle.

Matt said...

As a fan of Ian Fleming my favorite bond film is Casino Royale as I think the writing captured the actual character better than any of the other films. Though, Daniel Craig is far too good looking, though he never competed for Mr. Universe as Connery did. But than again, all the actors were far too good looking. The Roger Moore movies were the worst as they almost killed the franchise by making it too campy like the 60s Batman TV series.

Even though George Lazenby wasn't much of an actor On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of my favorite films, though that may be do to Diana Rigg. I am hoping they will actually remake that movie with Daniel Craig and have Bond marry. Though it ay be too repetitive since Skyfall had Bond becoming a drunk as he was in OHMSS.

Now a tough question is who is your favorite Dr. Who?

Morris said...

MASH question. We know that Robert Altman didn't like the TV version of the show. What did you think about the film?

As for your question: Dick York! You had to ask?

Sami said...

Dick York is the best Darren--hands down. The dude was always believably wacky and unnerved about the witch thing. Dick Sargent didn't seem happy to be there. He also seemed sort of "meaner" and pissed off--like "What am I doing in this ridiculous show?" Even as a child I picked up on it. Sargent episodes were never as much fun. The second Darren never really seemed to get into the "spirit of the show." His Darren was just too grown up. Sargent was a sarcastic eye roller. York was always comically
bug-eyed due to anxiety or surprise.

Thanks for asking. I still feel very strongly about this. And I still get hungry whenever I see Bewitched because it came on every evening just before dinner. It's a Pavlovian response, I guess.

Pat Reeder said...

Dick York is the best Darrin. Sean Connery is the best Bond, although I also go against the grain and pick Timothy Dalton as the second-best. Maybe because, like the Craig films, his movies were an attempt to make 007 grittier and more realistic after the horrendous cartoons of the Roger Moore years. (Doug McEwan is right about the Brosnan films; the plots were such mishmashes of stunts, I can't clearly recall one from another). Fred Clark was my favorite Harry Morton. Julie Newmar was the best Catwoman. Daniela Bianchi was my favorite Bond Girl (I don't care that her voice was dubbed, she could speak Pig Latin for all I care). And Martine Beswick was the best Mr. Hyde. Now the really burning question: Who was the best Tin Man? Jack Haley or Oliver Hardy?

Your comment about the different types of writing room guys is interesting. One of the reasons my wife and I write our own radio comedy service out of our house and never even tried breaking into TV is because neither of us the "writing room" type. Laura once took a class with Danny Simon, and he insisted that the only way to be a successful comedy writer in TV was to be able to bark out jokes off the top of your head in a writing room. Neither of us work well that way. We each work quietly in opposite parts of the house, and she brings me her stuff to me to incorporate with mine. I do my best work overnight, after she goes to bed and the house is dark and silent. I'll never win an Emmy, but it works well enough for us that we've made a good living out of writing humor for over 20 years.

BTW, I really resent this page telling me, "Please prove you're not a robot." Just because I'm not overly demonstrative about my feelings doesn't mean name-calling isn't hurtful.

R Khan said...

Friday question: You appear to be such a fan of hour-long shows like "24" and "Lost" that I'm surprised you haven't, either by yourself or with Mr. Isaacs, transitioned into writing and producing more dramatic series. Is comedy more in your wheelhouse, so to speak, or have you just not had the opportunity to "branch out"?

Favorite Darrin Stephens: Ted McGinley. Hands down.

Mike said...

@D McEwan: Ah yes, Sister Hyde. Beswick denies the Dr No story here. You'll have to ask her when you see her. And give her our best regards from the UK.
Bond girl: Luciana Paluzzi.
Bond: Connery, if only because Fleming would have hated a working class Scotsman playing Bond, instead of an English gentleman like David Niven.

Storm said...

@D. McEwan: I have a bunch of nudie pics of Martine in my SlideShow (thank you and goodbye to!) Cor, what a cracking bird! Give her a squeeze for me? Let her know that it's not just the penis owners who'd like to give her a bit of how's your father? Ta!

I've never stopped to consider it before, but yeah, York's Darrin always acted like he was about to lose his mind from all the weirdness, while Sargent was always sorta bored and annoyed by it. He also seemed to have a general dislike/disdain of everyone on the show, including his wife. Every Hollywood queen I know agrees with Douglas, that Dick Sargent was a lovely, spectacular person, but now that I have to choose, I'd say I enjoyed York looking like he was about to have an embolism; it was somehow funnier.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Mike said...

Judging by some of the above comments, it's time for a second helping of Innuendo Bingo, featuring a particularly fine vintage of innuendo. Served chilled.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Over the years as I have often pondered the Darrin dilemma I have become more appreciative of both performances, though Dick York originated the character and had the blessing of the earlier, more solid scripts.

"Bewitched" was not just about magic and what some feel was the suppression of power and talent. It was, as mentioned above, about love between two very people of very different backgrounds and privileges. Samantha could have been very wealthy and given it up for Darrin.

The point of the show, again mentioned above, was in the seminal "A is for Aardvark" episode directed by Ida Lupino. Magic didn't solve everything and it could cause more problems. Earning something made it more valuable.

The journey of the couple together was through life was richer than if it was handed to them (Sam says something like "I could arrange to have the memories of our vacations so we wouldn't even have to go" as an example of how easy and yet how hollow it would be.)

"Bewitched" became more cartoony over the seasons, with or without Tabitha. Some of the scripts could have been written on a form: name of spell, name of crazy relative, name of client and product, etc.

Dick York had remarkable range, as evidenced in his performances other than as Darrin. So the needle leans more in his direction.

However, Dick Sargent often does not get the credit he deserves for offering his own take on Darrin, as a more subtle, sardonic and knowing persona.

And even though the last seasons did not always the best shows, there were some gems in there. Ms. Montgomery eventually felt that the show had gone its course, but even in the later episodes, you could tell when she was throwing her sense of fun into them.

Besides "Aardvark," I always loved the episode which really featured neither Darrin, where Serena and Arthur lost their powers and had to make frozen bananas. It was right out of "Lucy" and William Asher, but just as funny. Montgomery and Lynde made it seem spontaneous.

gottacook said...

I used to watch The Mothers-in-Law occasionally when I was a preteen (along with Bewitched, Jeannie, and many other sitcoms of the era, some with rather short runs - I still know the whole title song of The Pruitts of Southampton with Phyllis Diller).

Last month I saw a few Carmel episodes of TMiL on one of the over-the-air digital oldies channels; producer Desi Arnaz himself had a guest role in one of them. A vastly weird experience after so many decades, so different from the single-camera shows of the era. (I know Deacon was in the second and final season but don't recall him in it.)

Of course I know Carmel best from his comic role on Star Trek as Harry Mudd. Just those two appearances really enlivened that series in my opinion. Would that there'd been a third-season Mudd episode as well.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I have seen very few Bond movies, but might have seen more had the original choice for Bond accepted the role: Patrick MacGoohan.


tb said...

Which Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace?

Kirk said...

I agree with Kyle about the "Darren vs Endora" storylines. Since Samantha couldn't undo any other witches spells, she was as powerless as a mortal much of the time, which really wasn't the point of the show. At least not originally. I can understand why they did it that way though. Comedy is about things going wrong. It's hard to find things to go wrong if your main character has godlike powers. I Dream of Jeannie solved that particular problem by having Jeannie perform some feat of magic, and then go off somewhere, leaving Tony Nelson to pick up the pieces. Barbara Eden was a great comic actress, but, really, if you watch those shows closely, it's really Larry Hagman who gets most of the laughs.

I vote for Dick York, for the reasons cited, though I also agree it must have been a thankless task for Sargent. As for Elisabeth Montgomery preferring Seargent, she rode in the car with him when he was Grand Marshall of a gay pride parade. Nice gesture.

Dennis said...

Talking about Bewitched years later, Sargent said he deliberately played the part of Darrin in a more restrained, low-key manner than Dick York had done. His thinking was that Samantha and Darrin had been married for five years by that point, and Darrin would have become largely accustomed to the magic. He'd no longer be jumping out of his skin whenever Serena or Endora popped in out of nowhere. He might be annoyed, but not startled.

Always thought it must have been pretty difficult for Sargent. It's hard enough coming into a successful series at all when it's several years into its run, but it has to be that much harder when you're not just joining the cast, but replacing one of the show's leads as the same character. (Imagine if Kirstie Alley had been brought onto Cheers to play Diane Chambers!)

I always thought Sargent's Darrin seemed less intimidated by his magical relatives. He seemed more comfortable going nose-to-nose with Endora, witchcraft or no, than York's Darrin ever did.

One of the things that fascinates me about Bewitched is that by its last season, the writing staff was mostly just dusting off old scripts and giving them a light rewrite to change the details. Years later, when William Asher was asked about that, he would always just wave the question away and mumble something about how "everybody does it." But honestly, I can't think of another long-running television series that fell into the habit of simply rewriting and refilming old scripts. I've always wondered if they did it because the writing staff really was that starved for original ideas by that point, or if it was just laziness.

Regarding the Serena/Uncle Arthur "banana dipping" scene someone mentioned. Obviously inspired by the famous candy factory scenes from I Love Lucy, it even lifted some dialogue straight out of that episode. Bewitched "borrowed" from I Love Lucy on at least one other occasion. An episode about Samantha hiring a maid lifted one of its scenes from a Lucy episode that had the same premise. William Asher had directed both Lucy episodes.

Dennis said...

Since Samantha couldn't undo any other witches spells, she was as powerless as a mortal much of the time, which really wasn't the point of the show. At least not originally. I can understand why they did it that way though. Comedy is about things going wrong.

Bewitched kicked off its fourth season by having Samantha crowned Queen of the Witches. It didn't take the staff long to realize the mistake they'd made. As queen, Samantha was all-powerful. All other witches and warlocks had to obey her. She also had the power to undo, at her choosing, any other witch's spell. One of the "witchcraft rules" the show established early on is that only the witch who had cast a spell could remove it. By making Samantha Queen of the Witches, they'd eliminated most of the complications witchcraft caused Darrin and Samantha. No more begging Endora to come back and take that spell off Darrin. Samantha was Queen. She could either order Endora back to undo it, or simply remove the spell herself. As a result, the whole "Queen of the Witches" angle was quietly dropped a few episodes into the season.

D. McEwan said...

@Matt, my favorite "The Doctor" (Doctor Who is the title of the show and a question, not The Doctor's name) is Tom Baker, for the usual reason people have a favorite Doctor: he was my first, and I'd seen everyone of his adventures twice before I ever got to see another Doctor.

@Pat Reeder, re: Martine's Sister Hyde. I have the honor of having been Martine's second Dr. Jekyll. We did a comedy sketch together onstage one night around 30 years ago, that was titled Dr. Jekyll's Brother Meets Sister Hyde's Sister, a joke sequel to her Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, in which I played Dr. Jekyll. I took my potion, thrashed about a bit, dropped down behind the sofa, took off my dressing gown and passed it to Martine, who had been crouching there since the sketch began. She put it on and rose up as me. Towards the end of the sketch, we reversed it. Twas great fun to transform into Martine Beswick. (And my favorite Catwoman was Ertha Kitt. No Catwoman has ever been so feline.)

@Mike, I read the interview you linked to, and I do find it puzzling, since my source for that story was Martine herself telling me that to my face over a quarter of a century ago. Maybe my memory has proved faulty. It's failed me before. I will ask her when I see her, a fortnight from today.

Mike said... "Fleming would have hated a working class Scotsman playing Bond, instead of an English gentleman like David Niven."

Mayhaps. It was reported that Fleming's initial reaction to Connery was "Oh no, not him." But Fleming certainly changed his tune. Numerous photos of Fleming on the set of From Russia With Love, posing with Connery, exist, and he seemed, when all was said and done, to have been satisfied with the choice. I'm sure he preferred Connery's Bond to Barry Nelson's American "Jimmy Bond," as those were the only Bonds he lived to see.

@Storm, I'm certain Martine would reciprocate. She enjoys her female admirers. She used to have a bumper sticker on her car that read "Goddesses Unite!"

Jake Mabe said...

Re: Which Mr. Wilson on "Dennis the Menace"?

It's clearly Joseph Kearns without much of a contest.

Shawn said...

Darrin was an asshole. You've got a wife who can do all kinds of cool shit but all he is stand around bellowing, "There will be no witchcraft under my roof!" Jerk. Somebody drag the stick out of this guy's butt. At least Major Nelson seemed to enjoy the stuff Jeannie could do.

Mike said...

@D McEwan: I think you're absolutely right. (There's a little article here.) Supposedly, Terence Young 'knocked the rough edges off of' Connery and Fleming probably appreciated the money Connery was bringing him.
Thanks for replying. Always a pleasure to read your well-researched blogs.

Dale said...

Thank you for your informative post. Very interesting.

cadavra said...

Doug, spot on about Moore. With the single exception of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, his Bonds are all in my bottom ten. Recently re-watched SPY WHO LOVED ME and can't believe it's among so many people's favorites.

And Martine was always my fave, too--and not just in 007 films. Tell her I said hello; last time I saw her was WonderFest about three years ago.

D. McEwan said...


Yes, For Your Eyes only was by far the best Moore Bond movie. The Spy Who Loved Me is just bloody awful, but it's worst sin is what it does with Sir Christopher Lee as opposed to what it could have done with him. Lee was born to play a Bond villain, and when his turn came, it was in this dreck.

Cap'n Bob said...

Been away so tuning in late. I, too, prefered Dick York. He injured his back making the movie THEY CAME TO CORDURA and it bothered him the rest of his life. The pain got so bad he had to quit show biz and died a rather broke and broken man.

Anth said...

So Ken, what's your take on this Cracked article (see entry #1) that claims that the character of Frasier Crane stuck around on Cheers only because Shelley Long despised Kelsey Grammer and the writers in turn despised Shelley Long and wanted to see her suffer? Seems like bull to me.

Anth said...

Would help to include the link...great, now I have to face the CAPTCHA again...

Anonymous said...

New Friday: Hi, Ken. I definitely have my own financial and creative quibbles with this new practice of tv shows like BREAKING BAD and MAD MEN splitting their last seasons. But I'm surprised that agents and unions aren't making more of a fuss. If, say, John Slattery's deal gets him a raise for a sixth season of MAD MEN (with an expected or established bump for a seventh), and then AMC/Lionsgate decides to shoot and air two sets of seven episodes a year apart from each other, but call them "the sixth season". . . well, *I* think it's somewhat dirty pool, fiscally. Do you anticipate this becoming an issue for the industry if the trend continues?

- Tony Tower

Anonymous said...

(new Friday QUESTION, that is, above) - TT

Splenda said...

I have been watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns and noticed that there was never a B-story on the show. Every episode focused solely on one story. Does that make it easier for the writing staff or more difficult than writing a script with a B or even a C story?