Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Questions

Friday Questions to scan on your smart phone as you wait in line to return yesterday’s gifts:

Barry Traylor starts us off:

I have been binge watching the episodes of MASH with Harry Morgan as Col. Sherman T. Potter. I am old enough to remember him from Dragnet but I really love him as Col. Potter on MASH. What was he like to work with?

A dream. Had the ability to read a scene once and have it memorized. Could do take after take and give the same great performance.  Always on time.  Always prepared.  Could play any emotion.  Had perfect comic timing.  The consummate pro.

And he always had such great stories. Before television Harry did hundreds of movies. Mention any major Hollywood star and he would have four stories – usually hilarious. Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Elvis – he worked with them all.

Just last week I saw some old movie on TV starring Joan Crawford (she seems to be a recurring theme in the blog this week) where she played a maniacal Broadway diva (big stretch for her) and Harry had a large role playing opposite her. My first thought was, “Damn! I wish I had known about this earlier. Oooooh, the stories Harry must’ve had.”

The last time I saw Harry it was at a local restaurant. It had been years since we’d seen each other. But he remembered my name instantly and at 89 or 90 still had a vice-like handshake.

It was an honor and a joy to know him. How nice that his work will continue to be enjoyed and appreciated long after his passing.

Texas Annie wonders:

How do you create decent comedy in these days of political correctness, trigger warnings, advancing narratives and backlash?

I try to ignore all of that. As long as my comedy doesn’t intentionally try to hurt someone and is not grossly inappropriate for the audience I’m targeting, I just try to write the funniest and sharpest material I can, knowing full well that some people will always be offended. The trolls will resurface as sure as day. So I expect it.

And it doesn’t even have to be a charged issue. I could make the most innocuous joke about orange juice and someone will write in furious because their uncle once choked on a glass of orange juice and I’m an insensitive asshole.

But I keep going back to that great Larry Gelbart quote:

If you write something that doesn’t offend anybody, go back and do it over.

-30- has a radio-related question:

In your multi-station radio career, you never seemed to be the morning man or did I not read the posts closely? It would seem like the comedian should be on in the AM, not 10 at night. Please explain.

Because I had a “youthful” voice, stations always put me in the evening “teen” timeslot. But you’re right. If they were smart they would have assigned me to mornings.

EXCEPT – when I was at K100 in Los Angeles. When I did nights the morning man there was Robert W. Morgan. On my best day I couldn’t carry that man’s headphones.

Truth be told, I never relished getting up at 3:30 every morning. Your life just becomes trying to catch up on sleep. Still, the money was better and the audience was bigger in morning drive. Had I been asked, I’m sure I would have done it (except at K100). Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten fired as often. Unless I slept through my alarm too many mornings.

And finally, from Hamid:

What's your favorite show or movie that Ted Danson has done outside of Cheers and Becker? Mine is Three Men and a Baby, but I also have a soft spot for Loch Ness, a very underrated film.

BODY HEAT, a steamy movie from 1981. Ted plays a tap dancing District Attorney and is hilarious. It’s also my favorite Kathleen Turner movie, but for different reasons.

What’s your Friday Question?







57 comments:

Stoney said...

My pick for the best film in which Harry Morgan had a supporting role; "Inherit The Wind". Also loved "The Shootist" where he gets to say to John Wayne's J.B. Books character "The day they lay you away what I do on your grave won't pass for flowers."

Scooter Schechtman said...

Your first paragraph is a fine tribute to the Dragnet "ping-pong match inside a coffer percolator" style, but I guess Morgan was often reading his speeches off cue cards. And it could get pretty thick there, what with reading long sermons against LSD priests.
I remember his part as a funeral director in "Night Gallery".

Bill O said...

Think Morgan starred in tv's first spin-off, Pete and Gladys, where she was his dreaded, never shown spouse on December Bride. Would be like doing Norm and Vera, or Niles and Maris.

Jim Grey said...

Thanks for telling us about Harry Morgan. It's satisfying somehow to know that he was so good to work with.

Dennis said...

I've heard some 1940s radio shows Harry Morgan announces, a short-lived Peter Lorre series from 1947 titled MYSTERY IN THE AIR. Morgan's voice is unmistakeable, even though he identifies himself throughout the series as "Henry" Morgan.

Anonymous said...

Amen to Kathleen Turner! I know it's sacrilege to you, but on her best day Natalie Wood couldn't touch Kathleen in that movie. (insert your own "touch Kathleen Turner" joke here.)

Anonymous said...

Harry Morgan's real name is Henry, but he had to change it because Henry Morgan, the comedian, already had it registered.

Michael said...

I remember reading that Harry Morgan said he got teased a lot about Dragnet and especially the monotone, but he said that was the toughest acting job for that very reason.

For an acting performance of his that goes beyond comedy, since it isn't a funny episode for him, "The Tonteen" still makes me cry along with the cast.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

...maybe you know the answer to this one...
In Robert W. Morgan's tribute video posted in reelradio.com, it says that while in the army, RWM won both his "Sharpshooter's and Sharp Tongue badges."

Did he get into a jam with his C.O. or the MP's during his time in the Monterey area? (Hard to believe, I know...)

MikeK.Pa. said...

From an obit when Harry Morgan died three years ago . Pretty remarkable.

"Mr. Morgan’s television credits were prodigious. He once estimated that in one show or another, he was seen in prime time for 35 straight years."

Also believe Harry once said in an interview that MASH was the most enjoyable time he ever had in TV.

Dan Ball said...

Best Harry Morgan movie: THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE.

Yes, even better than HIGH NOON.

Anonymous said...

And he was also a documented spouse abuser.

Pud said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Todd Everett said...

Mr. Sunshine weighs in with some post-Christmas cheer. Not to excuse spousal abuse, but my understanding was that by that time he was suffering from dementia; not that it was something he'd been doing, intentionally, all his life.

Max Clarke said...

Because of the cable release schedule forf Body Heat, I saw it for the first time after catching a few episodes of Cheers.

Ted Danson was so good as Lowenstein, I didn't recognize him. When his name showed up in the credits, I kept picturing a guy like Sam Malone. His funniest line, of course, "I'll just breathe the air."

Ted has a birthday on the 29th, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I'm not telling you what to do. You want to remember Harry Morgan fondly, go right ahead. I just happen to find spousal abuse appalling and unforgiveable under any circumstances, and I prefer to recognize him as what he ultimately showed himself to be when he beat up his wife.

Anonymous said...

His real name is Harry, not Henry. He was born Harry Bratsberg. He did use the screen name "Henry Morgan" at first then later changed it to Harry Morgan to avoid confusion with a popular humorist with the same name.

Hamid said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken! Body Heat is a great flick. It's put me in mind to watch it again. Haven't seen it in a while but I do remember how hot Kathleen Turner was in it, followed a close second by her smokin hot vocal performance as Jessica Rabbit.

I saw Dumb and Dumber To the other day and while it was nice to see Turner in a movie, it was a bit of a shock to see how she looks now. She must be comfortable in herself, though, as she's the butt of jokes about her appearance.

James said...

Re: Kathleen Turner. I had the same reaction, Hamid, then had to remind myself that "Body Heat" came out 33 years ago and that Turner must be around 60 now. Guess it's just been a long time since I've seen her.

Anonymous said...

Re: Kathleen Turner

Oh, god forbid a woman should have the gall to age and to no longer live up to our society's incredibly sexist, unrealistic, male-dominated standards for female beauty and attractiveness. Hollywood has no trouble casting men as romantic leads when they're old enough to collect Social Security. Just be sure his leading lady is at least half his age, because no one would ever want to look at a woman as a romantic lead once she hits forty.

Dana King said...

The deeper I get into this thread, the easier it is to see why Anonymous doesn't give a name.

Ted O'Hara said...

Question: Have you ever found that you've boxed yourself in on future stories due to some plot detail in a past show that seem innocuous at the time? And if so, how did you get out of it?

Anonymous said...

Yeh well sorry but none of us looks the same as we did 33 years ago. I an also pretty sure Kathleen has had medical issues and is/was on serious medication. I guess she can always get cut up and look as good as Jane Fonda because THAT's not weird or anything(!)
Speaking of Ted, I really like him in just about everything, especially Curb with Larry David. He seems like a real chill guy.
Janice B

VP81955 said...

Jack Webb was familiar with Harry Morgan, as he appeared in various roles on a few "Dragnet" radio episodes.

Johnny Walker said...

A lot of anonymous posts these days. Merry Christmas all.

Mike said...

I've noticed that too, Johnny. There are more and more days on this blog when it seems like the trolls and cranks are winning. In the comments section, anyway.

Michael said...

Simple rule of life: sometimes you can't say something because you aren't protected from reprisals (as in a whistleblower), but if you won't put your name on something online, you shouldn't be saying it or you don't have the guts to back it up.

Jeffro said...

Happy Boxing Day, Ken! I hope you took all of your Christmas/Hanukkah gift boxes and took them to a garbage/recycling dumpster instead of leaving them out on your curb so that the thieves (and nosy neighbors) can't figure out all of the expensive stuff you got.

Cheerio,
Jeffro

Ken Levine said...

I'll be deleting more troll comments in the weeks to come. I've gotten crankier. Happy holidays to the non-trolls.

mmryan314 said...

Good idea Ken to start deleting some of these odd types. I would hate to see your blog turn into an IMDB troll board... but, please leave some of the most bizarre ones. They`'re funny and we`ll get "it".

scott O. said...

I hate to admit it but the ending of Body Heat had to be explained to me.

VP81955 said...

Hope some of you saw the Paley Center special on comedy, "Now That's Funny!", on CBS Friday night. I'll have to check out some of the series it mentioned, such as "Episodes." I've never been much of a "Friends" fan, but seeing Matt LeBlanc play himself in the fictional TV world (with the requisite in-jokes) looks as if it may have potential.

Pat Reeder said...

Anonymous: "I just happen to find spousal abuse appalling and unforgiveable under any circumstances, and I prefer to recognize him as what he ultimately showed himself to be when he beat up his wife."

The circumstances were that he was suffering from dementia. What he "showed himself to be" was an Alzheimer's sufferer. He was mentally incapable of understanding that it was wrong to be harsh, unreasonable and abusive toward others.

What's your excuse?

As for lesser-known Ted Danson roles, I always liked the movie "Cousins." A genuinely funny romantic comedy for adults. I still laugh when I think of Lloyd Bridges as the uninhibited old relative whose dinner toast was "I'd rather have a case of the clap than a case of this wine."

Tim Rifenburg said...

Ken,

Friday question. In an episode of Cheers they had Robert Urich as a guest star when Woody was trying to be an actor. Since they kept mentioning Spenser For Hire and Urich's role in it, I was wondering if there was any push back from the Network. I know they aired it but I was wondering if there was any concern about promoting another network's show. It made sense from a story point since Spenser did some filming and pick ups in and around the Boston area. Enjoying the blog as always.

unkystan said...

My favorite line of Harry Morgan was in "Support Your Local Sheriff" when he's talking to James Garner about his dear departed wife. "Oh, your wife died?" "Nope. She just departed!"

Tudor Queen said...

There's a moment in "Body Heat" where Danson's character is waiting on a dock to meet with William Hurt's character, and impulsively does a tap combination under the moonlight. I cite that moment when I talk about the 'grace notes' that occur in good films - things that don't contribute to plot movement at all, but enrich the experience for the viewer in some way. The scene that follows, where Danson tells Hurt what he and JA Preston's character are starting to prove, and notes that Preston likes Hurt more, but will choose to do his duty whereas Danson is more inclined to let it slide, and warns him to be careful, is very important. The tap combination is the grace note and I hate it when it's cut by some time-conscious broadcast network (another reason I don't watch movies on broadcast networks).

Jason Doucette said...

It'll be interesting to see how this "trollban" policy is enacted in the future. I've seen posters on here get excoriated by the regulars for posting something that disagrees with something Ken has said, or that disagrees with one of the regulars' personal philosophies. I've seen D. McEwan go on for five paragraphs criticizing the parentage, intelligence, and the right to merely exist of someone who disagrees with his position; will that sort of vitriol brand a regular poster like McEwan as a troll? Or do we reserve the troll label just for people who disagree with Ken, and those who are not in lockstep with Ken's and the regular commenters' opinions? I don't agree with what Anonymous said about Morgan, but they didn't say it in a way that was overly inflammatory; they stated an opinion that Morgan's personal conduct overshadowed his professional life. They didn't cast any aspersions on people who disagreed, they didn't call anyone any names, etc. Would the poster be a troll if he'd made the same statement about Mel Gibson, if someone in here had expressed admiration for Gibson's body of work? I've seen far worse inflammatory behavior from regular posters on here than these comments about Morgan and spousal abuse. Certainly you can disagree with the Anonymous poster (I certainly do), but will a troll now be someone who just expresses an unpopular opinion?

And for the record, if you post stuff anonymously, then that's like proclaiming that you don't stand behind your opinion. Better to not post at all, if that's the case.

Ken can ban anyone he wants; it's his blog. But if people start getting banned because they express an opinion in a civil way that runs counter to the majority, then this comments section is going to start sounding like a Hollywood executive meeting full of "yes" men, kissing up to the boss.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I loved Danson's work on DAMAGES.

wg
(If I seem to stop posting, it will be because I can't get past the captchas any more; the current run are impossible.)

Ken Levine said...

Jason,

I'm deleting your comment. Just kidding.

I've generally been very tolerant of comments, even those that disagree with me. I've even changed things in blog posts because the disagreers made good points.

But it's a judgment call based solely on me and my mood. I'm not using this comments section to fish for compliments. So as long as I think there's some value to the comment, delivered in a respectful way, and not posted anonymously I will most likely keep it.

Jason Doucette said...

Thanks for the direct response, Ken. I agree that the key to acceptability is more often the presentation, rather than the message itself.

A commenter telling Anonymous they are wrong about their opinion is fine, and giving them details as to why the commenter thinks they are wrong is totally in the spirit of constructive debate; telling them that they are mentally deficient because of their opinion ("Morgan had Alzheimer's, what's your excuse") is a lot closer to troll behavior than what Anonymous is accused of.

In spite of what appears to be criticism, I do enjoy your blog a lot, and the majority of the commenters are pretty darn witty and engaging.

Terry said...

I tend to agree with Jason. If enforcement of, say, being rude and insulting to other posters is going to be selective, based on whether or not the poster is a "regular" and whether or not Ken "likes" him or her, then what's the point of any enforcement at all?

I agree, Wendy, that the captcha's have gotten worse lately. Sometimes it takes me several tries lately to do one successfully.

Larry said...

Well, my own response has been to just not pay as much attention to the comments section as I used to. I read Ken's post, and then I'll make a quick glance over the comments. If the posts there are interesting, I'll take the time to read them. If it's one of those days when the comments are of little substance, and mostly devoted to sniping and throwing insults around, I don't bother with them.

My own impression is that there has been an increase lately in the number of comments that are designed merely to stir people up. To push people's buttons and provoke angry, indignant responses.

What seems to happen way too much lately is that the people who are doing this are, unfortunately, succeeding in derailing interesting and informative discussion.

There really are people who get their jollies by doing that. I used to work with a guy who bragged about how good he was at stirring up shit on blogs, often posting under multiple identities and playing his comments under each identity off of each other, for no other reason than to stir up trouble. I don't understand it, but there you are.

Having maintained a blog in the post, all I can tell you is that it really is a judgment call when it comes to deleting comments. I had to keep in mind who made the comment, what it was, and their history with the blog. Yes, "regulars" aren't always very nice, either, and sometimes you want to slap them, but you tend to cut them more slack for being unnecessarily rude and insulting than someone unfamiliar to you who makes a hit-and-run insulting post. I'll agree with Jason that Pat's "what's your excuse?" comment was unnecessary and comes dangerously close to the kind of "troll" behavior that would get a post deleted -- at least by me. Pat's a regular here, though, the comments of his posts are of substance, and he doesn't have a history of being like that. And you take things like that into account when deciding whether to keep or drop a post.

TJ said...

So some people can be bitchy and rude and insulting to other posters and get a pass while others can't. Okay, got it. I'm aware that life is inequitable. I just like to know it when that's the situation I'm dealing with.

Ken Levine said...

Seriously, anyone who is unhappy with my comments policy or blog content or anything I do here can just find some other sites that please them more. I won't be offended. Really.

If you're not getting your money's worth from this free blog go elsewhere.

Gary said...

Damn, there sure is a lot of crankiness around here. Everybody stressed out from Christmas, maybe. This blog is one of a handful I read most days. Some days I'm too busy, but I usually at least glance at it to see what the topic du jour is. Okay, I always skip the baseball stuff, but it's Ken's blog and he likes baseball, so he can write about it if he wants to. I just don't understand everybody getting all bent out of shape though. A was mean to B and C gets to be rude so why can't I? It's just a blog. It doesn't really matter. A lot of fun stuff shows up on here, and for aspiring comedy writers, some very useful stuff, but ultimately most of it doesn't matter. It's just a fun way to pass a few minutes. Chill out and relax and if you're not having a good time here, that's about 62 million other blogs out there and one of those will probably suit you better. Or start your own.

Diane D. said...

It is the snarky tone and that ever detestable sarcasm that makes Anonymous' posts so unpleasant. And I have noticed a decided increase in that type of comment lately, so I am glad that Ken is going to weed some of them out. Hopefully it will discourage the type of trolls Larry describes who do it for the sole purpose of stirring things up.

Although I detest sarcasm, I love wit used to make a point: Todd Everett said, "Mr. Sunshine weighs in with some post-Christmas cheer." (loved that) And then he continued to make his point in a manner compatible with civil discourse.

All that said, I sometimes disagree with the blog post or some of the regulars, and I have a slight worry that I may have expressed myself in ways that could be misunderstood.

Christopher said...

Well said, Diane D.

mmryan314 said...

Diane- I really like your comments. Sometimes people try to use satire that slips into sarcasm- I know I do- but in print it doesn't work. Some of the anonymous posters seem to want to stir up a negative discourse. I often disagree with Ken`s take on something. Those are the days I`m silent. Beware Ken- if you don`t hear from me.

cadavra said...

Back on topic, another favorite exchange from SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF, when Morgan hands Garner the sheriff's badge, which has a noticeable bullet dent in it:

Garner: "Well, this must've saved the life of whoever was wearing it at the time."

Morgan: "Well, it sure would have if it hadn't been for all them other bullets flyin' in from everywhere..."

cadavra said...

BTW, not that anyone asked, but Doug McEwan and I have become friends as a direct result of our mutual posting on Ken's blog. And we often disagree vigorously on a variety of topics, but I find him in the main to be a fine and decent man who maybe gets a little too passionate at times, but is definitely no troll.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I loved Harry Morgan's small role in "State Fair" as a barker -- often quote the line because of its statement of frustration behind the barker "boilerplate."

Dick Haymes keeps winning things at Morgan's game of skill, making Morgan increasingly exasperated, yet he insists:

"But I LOVE the game!!"

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (by Becky) says:
I have 2 Qs, answer as you wish.
1. I've heard that acting drunk is a difficult skill to master. Some of the best I've seen are Jenna Fischer on The Office and Dick Van Dyke. Who are your fave boozers a la screen?

2. I just started a writing job (in a very different field than TV/ Movies) and am terrified every day that I'm a fraud. Did you ever feel this way and if so, how did you fake (and ultimately develop) your writing confidence? My sponsor says vodka is not an option.

Thanks, Ken! Your content is worth much more than you charge!

Carson said...

Why do you think the broadcast networks gave up on made-for-TV movies? It can't be that they were too expensive or unprofitable. Hallmark and Lifetime appear to have struck a gold mine with them.

CarolMR said...

Ken, the movie you recently saw was Torch Song with Joan Crawford, Michael Wilding, and Harry Morgan. It was on TCM the other night. Kind of campy - not one of Joan's best.

Allan V said...

Ken, I don't have a question, but I thought you might enjoy this article; it's written by an American writer who's trying to write a sitcom for the first time --- for Croatian TV. The article appears to be a mixture of serious and tongue-in-cheek.

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/12/cracking-the-sitcom-code/384068/ ("Cracking the Sitcom Code")

Tom Galloway said...

"If you write something that doesn’t offend anybody, go back and do it over."

So, I'm confused. If we don't offend someone by our comment here, do we need to post a modified version? : -)

Karen C said...

Anonymous: Everything I've ever heard/read about Harry Morgan tells me that he was a lovely, talented man. Dementia often causes major personality changes. Perhaps you could take some time to learn more about dementia, rather than taking pot-shots at anyone who holds an opinion you don't agree with. And you don't even have the guts to leave a name :-( Not cool.