Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday Questions

As I answered this week’s Friday Questions I couldn’t help notice I’m a little more curmudgeonly than usual. Maybe it’s all the leftover Halloween candy… I’ve eaten.

Charles H. Bryan starts:

This morning, I had a song stuck in my head that was used in the recent finale episode of a well-known and well-respected one hour cable drama (there's some spoiler avoidance) and it made me think: Is using a song a bit of a dramatic cheat? As a writer, do you ever see that choice and think "What? They couldn't come up with dialogue?"

That’s always been a pet peeve of mine. It just seems a cheat and lazy that you can play a song over a scene and elicit the desired emotion. I know she’s revered but Nora Ephron used to do that a lot.

To make a comedy scene work you can’t just play a Weird Al Yankovic record. But in dramas, your lead can sit in his room in the dark and stare into space while Carly Simon sings “In the Wee Small Hours of the Evening.”

Tennessee Williams didn’t resort to playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” to convey Blanche Dubois’ mental state. I'm just sayin'. 

From Cassandra Bryce:

I was just curious to know your thoughts on "talent" and if you think such a thing exists.

Talent refers to this innate ability to do something. However, there are renowned writers like David Mamet who say, "There's no such thing as talent, you just have to work hard enough."

When you watch a show that's unfunny that's on-air, it makes you think that success in show business will depend on two things: 1) Hard work (writing a lot, passion for the material, a thick skin, persistence) and 2) Luck (networking, getting people to actually read your material, knowing somebody in the business). Would you agree or disagree?

I do believe in talent. I could practice 24 hours a day for ten years and never hit a curveball or sing Pagliacci. My ability to be funny is a gift.

That said, I think a lot of hard work and practice is needed to maximize your talent and a whole huge truckload of luck is needed to ensure success. You gotta have those breaks, but you gotta be able to deliver the goods when you get them.

I have what I call THE FUCKIN’ LUCKY CLUB – people who are more lucky than good. Examples would be: any Kardashian, Sean Hannity, Psy, Brent Musberger, Jenny McCarthy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Randy Jackson, Tim McCarver, Britney Spears, Paula Abdul, Pauley Shore, Bret Butler, Ren (not Stimpy), Whitney Cummings, and of course -- Katherine Heigl.

Jason Matthews wonders:

From reading your blog, I get a sense that you still have some great comedic chops.

Just curious, if the right project arose, would you ever consider leaping out of retirement and returning to a writer's room as a consulting producer?

My writing partner, David Isaacs and I have a couple of pilot ideas we’re working on. I’m not excited about jumping back in full-time, but I would be happy to consult for a night a week depending on the show and staff. Unfortunately, very few of those jobs still exist.

Meanwhile, my new book is finally out (available for the absurdly low price of $2.99) and I'm developing a new play. So I’m staying out of trouble. Thanks for asking.

And finally, from Daniel Solzman

What do you make of all these reboots being pitched and picked up by the networks?

Outside of Hawaii 5-0, none have even lasted beyond a season at best. I don't count Dallas since that was more of a sequel than remake.

You mean THE BIONIC WOMAN and IRONSIDE didn’t work? Don't tell NBC.  Even though they're the network that aired both of those bombs, they’re about to reboot MURDER, SHE WROTE.

Billy Wilder once said, "I'm against remakes in general because if a picture is good, you shouldn't remake it, and if it's lousy, why remake it?"

There are not enough original ideas that networks have to chase after MURDER, SHE WROTE?

The thinking of course is that the show will have a recognizable name and thus a head start. But IRONSIDE? How many people even remember the original IRONSIDE? What’s next? TUCKER’S WITCH?

As you know, I have so many problems with the new HAWAII FIVE-O, including the fact that they don’t take advantage of the one distinguishing thing they have that is great and the audience loves – the theme song. Yes, they play a version over the opening titles for fifteen seconds, but I would be playing it throughout every episode. I mean, that’s just a no-brainer. But then again, look at the show I’m talking about.

What would you like to know? I’d answer more questions today, but I’ve got to chase these damn kids off my lawn.


Brian Phillips said...

To me, what is even funnier is the fact that "Murder, She Wrote" is being remade is the fact that it is the same network trying it that failed with "Ironside"!


Friday question:

I just finished watching "Dinner at Eight-ish", the great "Cheers" episode by Phoef Sutton. Everyone was good, but I was and am still floored by Bebe Neuwirth's delivery of a line. Undoubtedly, a great casting coup.

What were the longest and shortest casting calls you have experienced? Who was the greatest after a long search and who nailed it, two or three people into the process? Were any surprises ("I never would have thought S/he would have been right for this.")?

craig m said...

Has anybody ever tried to pitch a (shudder) Cheers reboot? Sam's kid, who he never knew he had, decides to follow in his newly discovered dad's footsteps and... (Possible title: "Cheers Babies")

Mitchell Hundred said...

I do agree that a lack of originality and daring concepts in storytelling is an issue. That said, I think there can be value in remaking a work for a new medium or era. Bad stories are often bad due to poor execution or framing, and can be improved by the addition of a quality creative team or a new aesthetic perspective. By contrast, good works can be reimagined and put in a new context by remaking them. Jacqueline Carey's fantasy book series The Sundering is basically a retelling of The Lord of the Rings from Sauron's perspective. I also heard about a production of the musical Oklahoma! that put the cast's only black person in the role of its main villain, providing commentary on both race relations and the way other characters in the story treat him. Each era situates its stories differently, and seeing how different people interpret the same concept can be an interesting anthropological exercise.

Eager said...

I don't know - if they do it right, "Murder, She Wrote" could be a huge hit among the coveted 60-70 female demographic.

Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

In my opinion, the use of an apropos song over a dramatic scene is more of a compliment to the songwriter/artist than a copout on the part of the episode writer or showrunner. In my experience, it seems that many "creative types" in television have a deep love of music, and they spend hours and hours looking for exactly the right song to play over or under scenes -- and sometimes they hear a song for the first time and will write a scene with that song in mind, almost as a love letter to the songwriter. Since I appreciate both great writing AND great music so much, I enjoy the complementary effect they have on one another. Some shows use them with terrific results ... others, not so much.

RockGolf said...

Actually NBC has failed with remakes of Ironside, The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, & The Munsters. The only NBC remake that succeeded was Dragnet back in the 1960s. But the ABC re-remake failed on ABC.

The Kojak remake failed on cable. The New Perry Mason Show failed on CBS about 40 years ago.

unkystan said...

When I read that Octavia Spencer was going to star in the remake of "Murder She Wrote" the first thing I thought was a more natural remake for her would be "Spencer For Hire"

Carol said...

My biggest WTF of re-booting is The Tomorrow People. That was a wonderfuly cheesy British Sci-Fi family show that aired on Nicklodeon back in the 80's.

I was too old for it, really, but my BFF and I watched it quite happily. Had a good, diverse cast, ridiculous aliens, and a decent moral center. Basically it was fun. Cheesy, British fun.

And now it's on the CW with their standard cookie-cutter, interchangable 20-somethings being attractively moody and taking themselves way too seriously.

Aaron Sheckley said...

I'll have to disagree with you on this one, Ken. I think using Badfinger's Baby Blue in the ending scenes of Breaking Bad was about as perfect an ending as you could want. If you listen to the lyrics, it perfectly describes Walter White's obsession, at least as well as any dialog could have done. I don't consider it a cheat at all. Paul Feig and the other writers on Freaks and Geeks also made great use of music in place of dialog to set a tone or move the story forward. I often find the music in a movie to be more of an annoyance than an enhancement. I hate all the ominous music that plays in a horror movie before something bad happens; I find the scene to be more scary when the music doesn't telegraph that there is a big "boo" coming. Sometimes though, when you pick the right song, it makes a great scene even better for me.

Trevor said...

In regards to TV/movie remakes, I think it's true that they're hoping name recognition will get the project a few extra eyeballs -- even if viewers have never actually seen the original. I suspect most people who hate remakes will also take a peek out of curiosity.

Only some remakes/reboots are a financial success (Mission: Impossible, H50, Star Trek, and Dallas come to mind) but the ratio of flops to hits is probably about the same as brand new projects. We just remember these better.

The other reason for doing a remake is that it boosts the sales of the original and keeps the property's name alive with a new generation.

I remember reading that sales of licensed Yogi Bear DVDs and products went up after the god-awful movie. Lots of kids who never knew about the character before that movie now have DVDs of 1960s cartoons.

In 15 years, we'll see another Yogi project, the character's life will be extended, and the current kids will but the stuff for their children because of their nostalgia and need to share a piece of their youth.

It's actually rather brilliant from a business standpoint. It reminds me of the old days when Disney would re-release their big movies in theaters every seven years.

Dan Sachs said...

Let us not forget the Americanized remakes of Brittish series. OK, The Office and All In The Family worked but not Fawlty Towers or Coupling.

Igor said...

"Tennessee Williams didn’t resort to playing Patsy Cline’s 'Crazy' to convey Blanche Dubois’ mental state. I'm just sayin'."

But how great would that be?

(And by "great", I mean hilarious. And by "hilarious", I mean sad. And by "sad", I mean hilarious.)

gottacook said...

Nor did the Americanized Life on Mars or Cold Feet work. (I remember the latter only because it replaced Homicide on NBC Fridays at 10 - the exact same reason I remember Bracken's World because it was NBC's replacement for Star Trek in the same time slot, fall '69.)

Add Madonna to the "Lucky" list. Her initial persona was developed a year earlier by Cyndi Lauper and she just walked into it, helped by the timing of Desperately Seeking Susan.

Example of a good comedy with a scene prominently featuring a song: Wayne's World, the "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene. Those characters bopping around in their AMC Pacer worked just as well as the hypothetical guy in a drama sitting silently as Carly Simon sings.

Dan Ball said...

"Ken Torino!"

I love it that you called out people for using songs to do the emotional work for the audience. However, you'd probably fault me for this too, but I'd much rather use a score to a song any day. But a score need not hit one over the head in order to manipulate the viewer's emotion.

BTW...QUANTUM CHEERS is a great idea for NBC. Rebooting one great series by breeding it with another great series that was never given a fair shake. Sam Malone...Sam Beckett. Traveling back in time to be Vera, telling Norm he can spend more time at Cheers, only to have him be turned on and never leave home.

Mike said...

How about playing Mrs Robinson on Boston Public as the teacher was seducing a student?

I'm willing to make an exception for any playing of 'You miss her like Michael Bay missed the point in Pearl Harbor.'

Covarr said...

In defense of playing songs instead of writing dialogue:

If your character is sitting in an office alone, he's probably thinking. A song can help the audience follow his thoughts and emotions without expressly stating them in a dubbed-in thought monologue.

That said, I'm not a big fan of using it to set the scene itself, because then you have a scene with no content, nor am I a fan of using it for really basic emotions (he's sad, so play a sad song), but when a song has the potential to be deeply analogous to the character's situation, especially if there's a turning point that can compare to a decision the character has to make, it can work.

That's not to say it usually is used this well. I think songs tend to be thrown in lazily in a lot of TV and movies, but when it's used right it can add a lot.

Anonymous said...

Please add to the list of "luckiest people in show business": Tom Cruise, Adam Sandler, Will Arnett, and Brett Ratner.

droszel said...

Love the snark about how Tim McCarver is the product of just plain luck. I'm with the guys from PTI on McCarver. One of the best in the business. But, then, perhaps if I were a broadcaster for 2d rate teams, I'd have license to denigrate his knowledge and his skills

Dixon Steele said...

"Tennessee Williams didn’t resort to playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” to convey Blanche Dubois’ mental state. I'm just sayin'. "

Seeing as how Williams wrote STREETCAR 15 years before Willie Nelson wrote CRAZY, I can see why.

Just sayin'...

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...


You forgot to mention the biggest member FUCKIN' LUCKY CLUB: President Obama, his Cabinet and almost every member of Congress.
With few exceptions none of them did anything to get to their vaulted power positions, and of course it shows when they get into power.

Sean Farren said...

Thanks for the laugh on the Tucker's Witch reference! I'd completely forgotten about that show.

You could have really pulled another vague reference out of the mothballs with Highcliffe Manor (which, according to IMDB, has apparently never ended by the 1979- indication).

Keith said...

The Beauty and the Beast reboot is in its second season; 90210 ran for five. And the Battlestar Galactica reboot was better than the original.

Not saying that any of the current flurry of proposals strike me as good ideas, but they aren't necessarily guaranteed to be awful.

McAlvie said...

I'm not a fan of remakes, either. Mostly because the folks doing it don't seem to understand why they were successful, and became such classics, in the first place.

I remember Ironside, and I could tell just from the ads for the new show that they were going to screw it up. It wasn't a very plausible set up anyway, and we are much less forgiving of that kind of thing these days. But shows like that are character driven, not gimmick driven; it's a shame they never get that.

Much as I would like to see Cheers come back, it wouldn't be the same. New writers and network honchos don't believe a line is funny unless it's vulgar.

They'll screw up Murder She Wrote, too. Probably try to make Jessica a young bimbo who sleeps around. That said, I'd love to see this kind of format rebooted.

Jeffro said...

"I'm just sayin'."

Oh no! You too, Ken?! You just went down a notch for writing that.

Oh well, as long as you don't start using made-up words that are a combination same-meaning words; E.G. "chillax" and "ginormous". Then I'd lose all respect for you. (I guess I'm feeling a little more curmudgeonly myself, although I didn't eat much candy at all lately. )

Also, maybe remakes like The Bionic Woman would fare better on cable where the standards are a little more lax. Imagine if the writers gave her a bionic panocha (sorry Nell, us dirty old men own the world).

Stuart F said...

I think in regards music/songs, one has to look at it case by case. Yes, it is often a crutch or cheat. In fact, more often than not.

However, in the case of Breaking Bad, I totally agree with Aaron Sheckley. Baby Blue was perfect for that scene. The show was over, there was no more dialogue to come. By playing that song, it gave us an emotional catharsis for six years of Walter White. I watch a lot of TV, and can't recall the last time a song performed as well as that one did, at that very moment in the story.

Scottso said...

In the movies, music can really add a lot and the next time you hear that song, you think about that movie if they are done right).
Think about scenes from Goodfellas with the music of the images (Layla, Then He Kissed Me)
Dazed and Confused (Sweet Emotion, Low Rider)
Pulp Fiction (Girl you'll be a woman soon, Son of a Preacher Man)
Forrest Gump (Running on Empty)
The Graduate (Sounds of Silence)
American Graffiti (most of the movie)

In movie comedies
Dumb & Dumber(The Rain, the Park and Other things)
Wayne's World (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Tommy Boy (Superstar)
Shrek (I'm a Beliver)
Austin Powers (I touch myself, What the World Needs now)
Beverly Hills (The Heat is on)

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I never watch the original Murder She wrote, and woudln't be tempted by a remake, but it seems to me this could be like making a US version of Helen Mirren's Prime Suspect. A perfectly good cop show starring Maria Bello was doomed from the start by setting a bar that would be almost impossible to live up to, then made worse by trying to import the sexism of the London police force in the 80s to the NYPD of 2010. Cagney and Lacey wouldn't have put up with the shit Maria Bello faced. Why not just pick a different name and hype your big star in a new mystery series. THen again, maybe if they make it a little darker and give it some humor, they could do what (I gather) the remake of BSG did.

Patrick said...

I disagree that Britney Spears should be considered more lucky than good. She may be resting on the publics affection for her early work now but when she first came out and for years there was no better live performer than her. She killed it and worked her ass off for it.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Is there some kind of right wing bat signal that goes out to let people know that someone on the internet has hurt sean hannity's feelings?

Charles H. Bryan said...

And, actually, the song I was referring to was Badfinger's "Baby Blue" in the finale of Breaking Bad, a show that I enjoyed so much that I forgave what very little ever bothered me. (And by very little, I mean there was just one scene in the whole series where I thought "Oh, Vince, why did you do that?") It just made me think about the general use of music, and, in the B.B. case, I thought that there was enough of a 'wink' (as with "Crystal Blue Persuasion") involved that it certainly wasn't laziness. In most other shows/movies, I think it is, particularly when it's played over footage of characters speaking to each other.

THE FUCKIN' LUCKY CLUB: I would watch that show. Please pitch it to HBO.

McCarver: Hey, to each their own, but I shut off the sound and listened to Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser on ESPN Radio, even though it was somewhat out of sync with the video. McCarver has driven me nuts for years, because he just seems so inane. I can't recall the last time I gained any insight to a game from him. (I've heard it said that he was good when he did Mets games.) I might be unfairly dumping on him because Joe Buck has become annoying to me as well.

Just Joshing said...

@Patrick I came to comment that Psy, although arguably more lucky than good because he's been unfuckingbelievably lucky, also put a lot more work in and has a wider range of talent than people see or give him credit for. Britney Spears probably falls in the same group.

For the rest on that list, though, the luck-to-talent ratio is within spitting distance of infinite.

The Ren example leads to another topic: coattails. It's an entire additional section of luck to choose that partner...and have them tag along only to be luckier and better known and have more hair. I'm sure David Isaacs empathizes with Stimpy on that one.

MikeBo said...

How in the world did you fail to add Ryan Seacrest to your "Fuckin' Lucky Club" list? Just askin'.

Hamid said...

Hey! Psy rocks!

When it comes to luck over talent, there are so many to choose from, but I'll limit myself to four.

Jonah Hill - a one trick pony whose one trick wore thin on its first use.

Naomi Campbell - a truly horrific personality, as shown by her propensity for violence and verbal abuse of those she regards as the little people, not to mention she's also rather stupid.

Hugh Grant - an actor of limited range with a thoroughly unlikeable personality and an arrogance that's remarkable given said lack of talent.

And I've ranted about her before but I can't resist repeating my utter disdain for Oprah and her empire of garbage, built on a fanbase of whooping idiots who literally and figuratively buy into everything she peddles, from her mantra of retail therapy, her magazine in which she's the cover star in every issue, the alternative medicine snake oil salesmen she's allowed to use her show as a platform for their bullshit, to her unceasing need to be seen as a serious actress, hence the vocal campaign underway by her glassy eyed acolytes to get her an Oscar for The Butler.

cadavra said...

Gotta disagree with my idol Billy Wilder. You remake a lousy film so you can correct its mistakes and do it better. Prime example: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (nee BEDTIME STORY).

And while this is not about songs per se, I remember going to the 25th anniversary screening of E.T. at the Academy, and as John Williams' music was being hammered into our skulls, I began to wonder how much of our reaction to that film is triggered by that nakedly emotional score.

Victor Velasco said...

So, I guess it's just a rumor that Fox is planning a reboot with the working title "My Mother, The App"?

tb said...

Someone standing up for Britney? She LIP-SYNCS!! But Randy Jackson is a bad ass bass player, btw

Anonymous said...

Not to pile on, but Randy Jackson is really a truly exceptional bass player. I have no idea what other things he lacks since I only watch television shows on DVD.


Alan Tomlinson

bmcmolo said...

@Dan Ball - Quantum Cheers is a genuine LOL. What I wouldn't give to see that!

Mike Schryver said...

You still haven't gotten over your old competition, TUCKER'S WITCH, huh, Ken?
I remember reading at the time that the working title was THE GOOD WITCH OF LAUREL CANYON. Maybe the show would've lasted longer with that title.

I'm with the folks that say McCarver was pretty good in the '80s. He was sharp, but even then had a habit of making the same points over and over. His bag of tricks hadn't become tiresome yet, and he could be entertaining.

Hank said...

THE MUNSTERS has had two reboots. In addition to the recent revival, a new version of the series ran in the made-for-syndication market as THE MUNSTERS TODAY in the late 1980s and early '90s. Though largely forgotten, THE MUNSTERS TODAY somehow managed a three season run, longer than the original series.

chuckcd said...

Tim McCarver, better known as Captain Obvious.

RCP said...

"Murder, She Wrote" only ran for 12 seasons - high time for a remake.


I'm hardly a fan of Madonna the Person, but like her or loathe her, she is responsible for some of the best dance music of the past quarter century. She has managed to remain in the public eye for nearly 30 years and is either the highest-earning or one of the highest-earning celebrities of 2013. If that's all due to luck, she must be the luckiest person in the world.


Just curious: Did Oprah dump you when you were just a tender young thing?

DBenson said...

I fantasize about remaking a lot of awful movies or shows. If you're going to remake something good, you better bring something new to the table.

"You've Got Mail" was promising, but two big things:

-- After making much of the movie about big chains versus mom & pop stores, they ultimately blew it off as not important. Much of the original's charm is in the fact these folks as just getting by. Love has to be thought out and even budgeted. We've seen too many romcoms where pretty people have nothing to worry about except hooking up with other pretty people.

-- They missed a huge bet by cloning the original's last act: Boy figures it out, and sets about gently winning girl over before revealing the truth. What if the GIRL figured it out first? How would she handle it? Even if she went the same Jimmy Stewart route, it would have justified a remake right there.

Mike said...

You remake a lousy film so you can correct its mistakes and do it better.

I'll agree with that. The problem is that Hollywood has a tendency to want to remake films that were done right the first time around.

John Williams' scores were easier for me to tolerate back when he was Johnny Williams and was writing music for Gilligan's Island and Lost in Space.

Jen said...

I get the impression that John Williams prefers to pretend that part of his career never happened and acknowledges only his huge, sweeping, Oscar-bait motion picture scores. Sort of the way that Kevin Bacon is loathe to admit that he appeared in the first FRIDAY THE 13th movie early in his career.

D. McEwan said...

"Outside of Hawaii 5-0, none have even lasted beyond a season at best."

The Doctor who reboot is in its 9th year and doing better than ever.

It's a good thing John Huston didn't share Wilder's opinion, as his version of The Maltese Falcon is a SECOND remake!

Murder, She wrote was tailered specifically for Angela Lansbury. There is no earthly point to remaking it with someone else when they could just as easily create a New whodunit for Miss Spencer. It's not like the basic whodunit formula is any great secret or at all difficult.

So what's next? Gabourey Sidibe in the title role of The New Donna Reed Show? Jorge Garcia in The Many More Loves of Dobie Gillis? RuPaul and Dame Edna in Bosom Buddies? Steve Martin as Sargeant Bilko? Oh wait. They did that, and it stunk up the room.

An (is my actual name) said...

Agreed re: the song thing on general principle, but even Cheers threw to Irvin Berlin's "What'll I Do" at the end of Shelley Long's last episode and I'm still recovering (n.b. I will never recover).

An (is my actual name) said...

*Irving. (Doh.)

Bamboo Harvester said...

I'm not sure Madonna was largely responsible for her better music, somebody else played it, somebody else produced it and somebody else wrote it and the song writing credit she insists on is not necessarily deserved.

Igor said...

@Jeffro -

Yes, "ginormous" is a combo-word, but it's vintage: Per the nice folks who bring us the OED, it's from the 1940s.

gottacook said...

Bamboo Harvester: Yes, exactly.

Carol said...

@ D. McEwan - regarding Doctor Who, I wouldn't consider that a 'reboot' so much as 'a continuation'. It didn't start the series over, it just picked up where it left off.

Now the Paul McGann Doctor Who movie, that was problematic, but he was a good Doctor, and at least we got to see 7 regenerate into 8. /nerd talk

Mike Schryver said...

Off-topic question for Ken: I got Must Kill TV as my Amazon Prime book for the month. I believe you get the same benefit as if I had bought it in the regular way. (I've self-published a couple myself there.) Let us know if I'm wrong, and I'll gladly go pay the $2.99

Jeff said...

Sort of the way that Kevin Bacon is loathe to admit that he appeared in the first FRIDAY THE 13th movie early in his career.

What the hell has Kevin Bacon ever done that gives him the right to be so snotty? It's not like he did porn. A lot of actors have done work they're not particularly proud of and, granted, FRIDAY THE 13TH was crap. Actors do have rent to pay, after all. I just don't understand the ones who who cop such an attitude

Greg Ehrbar said...

Using songs underneath scenes can be just as precarious as character singing songs in musicals. If they shouldn't be there, they don't work. But when music enhances the impact in ways that words can't (sorry Ken, I'm a writer too), music and songs can be powerful.

But not when used as a crutch or shortcut. In the last years of E.R., I was getting weary of ending montages in which each character would (1.) Wistfully get ready to leave the office; (2.) Walk in the harsh cold of Chicago; (3.) Lie in bed with a partner but clearly have his/her mind elsewhere; (4.) Sit alone at a deserted Denny's; (5.) Fill in the blank.

My other beef is the sameness of so much of the songs, either because the show runner likes them or the network wants to sell a compilation album.

I much prefer music that stands out from the commonplace. "Mad Men" used to do that more frequently its early '60s setting. Now that it takes place the late '60s, there's the temptation to use the tried and true classic rock playlist (though I give kudos for their use of The Monkees/Carole King/Gerry Goffin's "Porpoise Song" over the end credits last season.

"The Neighbors" sometimes takes chances with incongruous music. In the pilot, the climactic moment did not have the usual dramatic music, but instead the placid, plaintive "We'll Meet Again" by Vera Lynn.

Commercials make use of the incongruity as well, using songs that break through the clutter. The more out of the mainstream they the songs are, the more they gain attention.

TV shows don't do that as much, partly because there are some execs who fear that anything but the most recognizable musical styles might lose channel surfing viewers (or even believe, from their personal opinion and taste, it "stops the action").

If that's the case, more power to the show creatives who toss offbeat tunes into the scenes anyway.

Brian said...

Syndication can have bad effects on song-tracks. WKRP had to have whole scenes left out or music altered. A "Newhart" episode lost its punch line because they couldn't use a famous TV Theme.

And "Frank's Place" may never make it to DVD because of the music rights. The jukebox always had some hip and pertinent tune on it.

Aaron Sheckley said...

Jeff, why so upset that Kevin Bacon is loathe to acknowledge he was in Friday the 13th? I imagine he doesn't like to admit it for the same reasons a non-actor might not like to recall that he at one time had a really sucky job (like maybe he was the guy who had to go around and pump out the contents of the porta johns after a Metallica concert). If I was the porta john guy, I wouldn't want to be reminded of that job thirty years later after I'd gone on to bigger and better things; why would Bacon be any different? Not every acting job is King Lear. Actors know when they are making crap, and I'm sure they don't like being reminded of some crappy movie they made when they were just starting out. In a way, they have it worse than we do; we only have to worry about a few people knowing about the crap jobs we've had in our lives, but in the case of actors, their career valleys live on forever, for the whole world to see, over and over.....

Paul Duca said...

Doug...I thought MURDER, SHE WROTE was created with Jean Stapleton in mind.

Anonymous said...

How about a remake of Becker, but this time without the government mandated propaganda about smoking. Oh sorry, the messages encouraged by the network to save money on PSAs

Hank Gillette said...

Top of my "lucky" list would be Ringo Starr.

Second would be Bill Gates. Not that he didn't have talent, but if IBM hadn't hired him to develop an operating system for the IBM PC (which he promptly bought from an acquaintance) and then allowed him to sell it to other people, nobody would remember him.

Storm said...

D. McEwan said: "...RuPaul and Dame Edna in Bosom Buddies?"


Cheers, thanks a lot,


Hamid said...

Jen and the others claiming Kevin Bacon doesn't like to talk about Friday the 13th:

He's done a series of comedic adverts here in the UK for a mobile phone network, and in one he appears as the character he played in Friday the 13th.


If you do a quick google, you'll find there are many, many of us who don't buy into the Oprah hype and her self-congratulatory narcissism. I guess they all too were rejected by her. As for myself, I'd have needed a time machine, seeing as I was born more than two decades after her.


I'm with you 100% on the song in Shelley's final episode, but even more emotional was Sam's line as he watched her go up the steps: "Have a good life". To this day I still find that an incredibly moving moment.

Jeffro said...

Igor, I don't care if it's in any dictionary and has some history behind it, the word is still stupid and idiotic* and should be boycotted.

*: Notice I didn't say "stupiotic". It wasn't that much extra effort to enumerate both words on their own. Which goes to show how ridiculous this habit of combining like-meaning words is.

RCP said...

Bamboo Harvester and gottacook:

Maybe 'responsible for' is overstating it - but I believe there's something other than just plain luck or being surrounded by outstanding talent involved.


I know your opinion is shared by many. I was joshing you because I think you do tend to go overboard at times. I know Oprah viewers (including myself on occasion) who are hardly 'glassy eyed acolytes'. Yes, I'm having surgery to look like Oprah, but this was MY decision.

D. McEwan said...

"RuPaul and Dame Edna in Bosom Buddies?"

I'd watch this in a snap!

Some remakes work: I prefer the second "A Star is Born" to the first and third versions. Others like the remakes of "Halloween" and "Psycho" not only sucked but were totally unnecessary.

Hamid said...


I agree about the Halloween and Psycho remakes. The remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw, though quite efficient, were totally unnecessary. The remake of The Hitcher, however, was both unnecessary and dreadful.

On good remakes, Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear is magnificent and far superior to the overrated original. Ditto Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Regarding Oprah, I may seem hyperbolic at times but only because she is so perceived mainly by herself, as some sort of heroine. The tipping point for me was years ago when I saw her interview Julia Roberts and spend several minutes discussing each other's private jets. There's nothing wrong with having your own jet if you can afford it, but that was a despicably crass, shallow and emotionally unintelligent display of arrogant self-obsession.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

If there is a remake of Murder She Wrote, would that mean there would have to be a remake of Magnum PI, as the characters revolve in the same universe?

Allan V said...

What did the people associated with the M*A*S*H movie think of the TV series?

RCP said...


Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of other decent remakes: "Dawn of the Dead" and "King Kong."

I may not agree with all of them, but I can appreciate your points about Oprah. I think she has a talent for connecting with people and when she's at her best, has done a lot of good. On the flip side, I've yet to recover from her interview with war criminal Condoleeza Rice, in which they discussed little more than hairstyles and piano playing. She let Rice off the hook; treating her as if she were a role model.

Lorimartian said...

Another addition to the "lucky" list: David Caruso.

Tracy Tran said...

Two people in the Lucky Club: Ringo Starr and Christian Laettner.

Sam Silva said...

Hi Ken,

I'm just starting out here in L.A. but I've heard a lot of working writers say that "agents don't really get you jobs," they do at least get writers meetings with showrunners and development execs, don't they?

What exactly does a good TV literary agent do for you that you couldn't otherwise do by yourself?