Sunday, July 19, 2015

My fun new blog experiment

As you know, I’m always looking for fun new things to do in the blog. It’s getting harder now that I’ve been doing this blog for almost ten years. But I think I’ve come up with something pretty cool – starting tomorrow.

I’ve written a spec DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. Wrote it as if it were 1965. I then sent it to Carl Reiner, the creator of the show, and Bill Persky, who wrote some of the classic episodes and was one of the showrunners the last few seasons. I asked for their reaction and any notes.

Carl has said he will read and respond, but obviously he has a lot on his plate. As of today he hasn’t gotten back, but I hope he soon will.

Bill Persky has responded. We had a great conversation, discussed the script at length, and he graciously pointed out the good things and the things he would have done differently. It was a fascinating and enlightening discussion.

So here’s my plan: Over the next four days I will post the script. Then Friday Questions and after the weekend I will share my conversation with Bill Persky. Who knows? I might get lucky and Carl will weigh in by then too and I will add his thoughts to the conversation.  If not, whenever he does I'll post it. 

I will also offer my observations on writing the script – what surprised me, what was easy, my thought process in how and why I constructed the story the way I did, etc.  Hopefully, this experiment will provide a fresh fun look into the process of sitcom writing. 

I was listening to a Kevin Smith podcast recently and he confessed that although he knew about THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, he really had never watched it. He didn’t know the characters or situations. This seemed baffling to me. For my money, if you’re a student of screen comedy in any form you need to watch THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.

So I will be devoting most of this week and a portion of next week to the show – well aware that my traffic may plunge. But what the hell? I had a great time writing the script and hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it, whatever your age. We fade in tomorrow morning.

55 comments:

Chelsea said...

This is exciting. This was one of my mother's two favorite shows. She had so many episodes on tape and I used to watch them all the time when I was about five. My favorite was the flashback to their wedding. It's been such a long time since I've watched the show; I may need to pick up the DVDs.

Oat Willie said...

I don't want to be reminded of the "new" show that appeared in this century, where Rob and Laura spent the episode name-dropping deceased co-stars ("...since Mel's funeral...")

A H said...

I wondered if you were aware of Talk Salad and Scrambled Eggs. I see you are.

A H said...

I wondered if you were aware of Talk Salad and Scrambled Eggs. I see you are.

Thomas said...

In principle this is a great idea. Make sure to provide a little relevant background at the top for those of us who never watched the show and don't know the characters!

MikeK.Pa. said...

"As you know, I’m always looking for fun new things to do in the blog. It’s getting harder now that I’ve been doing this blog for almost ten years."

It's probably not said enough, but we all appreciate you taking the time to do this every day. I'm sure there are days that you think, "Why the hell am I doing this? And how much am I getting paid? Nothing?!"

This is a must stop for me every day. Most days I learn something or at least entertained. The rare times when it's a subject I don't share a passion for, I'll still read it to learn. Thanks again for a decade's worth of educating the less-informed on comedy writing, show business, pop culture and sports. As someone who only discovered you in the last year, even the re-posts are new to me, so it's all good.

Janice said...

I'm looking forward to a fresh baldy joke!

EK said...

Many episodes of The Dick VanDyke Show are available free on You Tube. I'm surprised people haven't seen them. When my son (now 28) was little, he loved the show. It was always in reruns someplace.

Alan Iverson said...

When I posted my Mash script some months ago on you blog, I had to resist a MASSIVE urge to ask for your 'thoughts/feedback/opinions' on it. It was natural to want your constructive criticism and, well, validation.

So I look forward to the next week... reading and analyzing your script... and which blog reader wouldn't??

AND... I've had 150+ downloads of my script from your loyal readers Ken, plus met the lovely and talented Jeff Maxwell, bought his terrific book, and I'm currently writing a new Mash script based around Igor and Goldman (and Rizzo)... and Hawkeye and BJ and Hot Lips.

Terrence Moss said...

i wouldn't mind seeing the occasional week of Friday questions.

Cliff Corcoran said...

I'm looking forward to this. I recently found a re-run source for the Dick Van Dyke show and I'm having a great time revisiting the series. It's one of my all time favorite shows. Good Luck!

BIll Persky said...

It was great fun to have the conversation with Ken and I felt 35 again. I might add that his script, with a few changes would have been shot as he wrote it.

An (is my actual name) said...

Love this. Great idea!

LouOCNY said...

Should send a copy to DVD as well.....

Chester said...

Yes! Looking forward to this very much.

Klee said...
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Joseph Scarbrough said...

I'm still waiting to hear a response regarding the spec I sent in for a show that's still on the air. The producer/director - who, like our own Jeff Maxwell, is good with interacting with the fans - went through a lot of trouble to help me get it to the right people (in this case, a production assistant who is connected to the show's head writer) and seems very enthusiastic about it; their next writing meeting was scheduled for this summer, so it's still a waiting game I suppose. I doubt anything will actually come of it, though I was told that if they get idea/suggestions that sound promising enough, they usually hold to them for the writers to draw ideas from for B-stories and such.

Mike said...

So that's 5-minute bursts of programme interrupted by 24 hours of adverts. Typical network programming.

Persky: "I'll level with you, Ken. You're a little young for our team. We like our writers to have been around the block once or twice."

Johnny Walker said...

This is great! I can't wait to read what you came up with!

(Didn't you dream an entirely episode once? Is your story based on the dream?)

I have my Blu-ray set of Dick Van Dyke. It's a show that still holds up wonderfully, and makes great late-night viewing. Everyone should check it out.

sanford said...

Nice to see Mr Persky comment. I think he spoiled it a little bit with his comment. But it will be fun to read his remarks on your script.

Gray said...

Submitting your script to Carl Reiner, you must feel a little bit like Rob Petrie now, waiting for Alan Brady's approval on a script. Very surreal!

RockGolf said...

You say spoil, I say whet my appetite.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Simply hearing the theme from The Dick Van Dyke Show instantly elevates my spirits. :)

Clyde King said...

Hi Ken, Just had an idea for when you post the scrip. If it's not to difficult, try and insert a link so we can hear the theme music before we start reading it. Thanks, JL

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

So my Burbank high school pal grows up to become a journeyman musician, very dedicated and focused on his work. One day, the union calls and sends him to a nearby home to accompany a woman working on her singing. The woman's name is Estelle Reiner - a name that meant nothing to Ron. It wasn't until the practice session was over that Estelle's husband came bounding down stairs with a fist full of tickets. Carl said, "Let's all go to the Dodger game!" Ron declined. He had to go practice.

He'll always be my pal (he's gone now), but WHATTA DOPE to miss such a fun experience.

Rob said...

Really looking forward to this, Ken. I grew up on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Easily one of the five best sitcoms of all time. If someone were to say it was the best of all time, I wouldn't argue.

Since you sent the script to Carl Reiner, you must know him. I'm trying to rack my brain and think of anytime you may have worked together. Did you?

Mike Barer said...

Love the blog experiments! Fun!

fred said...

So now you know what Alan's crumple looks like ....

Kirk said...

I remember a couple of years ago you asked us to come up with our 10 favorite sitcoms, and I left DICK VAN DYKE out because I thought there was one too many let's-put-on-a-show episodes. I now regret leaving it out (not that my 10 best sitcoms were legally binding or anything.) I must have just been in a contrarian mood that day. Truth is, episodes I haven't seen in years but can conjure up in my memory still bring smiles to my face. As for the lets-put-on-a-show episodes, at least it was usually a GOOD show they were putting on.

Glenn Eibe said...

Looking forward to this week's blog Ken. If it's as entertaining as Mr. Persky's book, My Life is a Situation Comedy, we are all in for a treat.

Ron Rettig said...

Please give Morey some great lines.

Cap'n Bob said...

Talk salad and scrambled eggs? I always thought it was tossed salad.

One plea about the DVD script: no Richie.

Griff said...

What a terrific idea, Ken! I can't wait for the week to begin.

D. McEwan said...

Well, that explains a lot about why Kevin's Smith's movies bore the crap out of me.

Igor said...

Ken, I recall you recently posted in the comment section asking Bill Persky to contact you, so had you already written it by then? I'm as interested in your motivation to write it as I am in the script itself. Like, would you have done it without any shot of sending it to Reiner and Persky? Your post today suggests it was kinda for Show & Tell here, but I'm thinking there must be more.

GC said...

I'm really glad to hear this, thank you again, Mr Levine for this blog.

i also would like to thank Mr Persky for his great work. I can't count how many times i watched "The lady and the babysitter" or "My mother can beat up my father"

Marianne said...

Looking forward to it!

Jeff said...

I think I know which Kevin Smith podcast you're referring to- like A H posted earlier, it's "Talk Salad and Scrambled Eggs." I was wondering if you'd given it a shot. I'm enjoying it. You should go on it, or tweet at Kevin Smith (@thatkevinsmith) or Matt Mira (@mattmira) or something. They'd know a great idea when it's in front of their faces.

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of Kevin Smith's work at all although I did like Chasing Amy a little. I wonder if Kevin indicated what shows he watched growing up. I have seen Bill Persky's name so often over the years I feel I know him personally! Good for you. Janice B.

Rachel said...

My 12-year-old son has been watching THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and likes it a lot. One thing he doesn't get about it is why Mel gets so bent out of shape about Buddy's jokes about his baldness. Times have changed and my son knows way too many men who are happily bald, either by choice or by embracing their loss of hair, for the sting in "baldy" jokes to make much sense to him.

Ike Iszany said...

For my money "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was the best show ever. You can watch a season one episode and a season five episode next to each other and there is no difference in tone and the characters feel like the same characters. Many/most sit coms change drastically over the first five years. And to their credit they quit before they jumped the shark. All TV hows need to know when to get while the getting is good.

Hamid said...

"Hi Ken, Just had an idea for when you post the scrip. If it's not to difficult, try and insert a link so we can hear the theme music before we start reading it. Thanks, JL"

Hi Clyde King, if it's not "to" difficult, try to waddle your fatass over to youtube and listen to the song yourself before you start reading it. Thanks, Hamid.

Dave Arnott said...

LOVE THIS IDEA.

emily said...

Carl has a lot on his plate? THBBFT!!

scott o. said...

Just don't write a sequel to the Alan Brady Christmas show episode.

Anonymous said...
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John said...

Kevin Smith may fall into that demographic that has frightened stations since the early 1970s of "People who won't watch a show because it was filmed in black & white". Shows that went into syndication which had early seasons done in B&W and late seasons in color often never aired the B&W episodes out of fear viewers would tune away, based on the fact that color TV had just gone mainstream in the late 1960s, and people did turn away from shows that didn't make their new color sets work to their fullest.

In the case of Dick Van Dyke, the strength of the show tended to offset the fact that five seasons were in black & white -- the show received more airtime in syndication than other B&W shows, but that didn't mean you could force monochromephobes to tune in (and the fact that Kevin Smith grew up in the NYC media market means he had gobs of chances to watch the Van Dyke show on WPIX even into the late 1970s and early 80s, but apparently opted not to).

Rashad Khan said...

This should be fun. Any chance you might write a "Kate & Allie" spec as well? I'd love to read Mr. Persky's comments about that one, too. (Also, Mr. Persky, in case you read this: thank you so much for the laughs you and your former partner, Mr. Sam Denoff, shared with us over the years. Watching "Dick Van Dyke" reruns on Nick-at-Nite made my junior high and high school years tolerable.)

Christopher said...

I didn't get to see THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW until we got cable TV in the 1980s. We had no independents where I grew up. Only the three network affiliates, and in the 1970s/early '80s, they all steered away from all black-and-white off-network syndicated series, with the exception of I LOVE LUCY. Other than LUCY, the only black-and-white episodes were from series which also had episodes filmed in color, like GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. The station that aired BEWITCHED and I DREAM OF JEANNIE never ran the black-and-white episodes. The station that ran THE LUCY SHOW similarly always skipped the first season, which was in black-and-white, and only aired the color shows.

Trivia: After it finished its prime time run, CBS aired reruns of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW as part of its daytime schedule. In 1969 the network reruns were dropped and the series put into syndication, not because ratings were down but because CBS had adopted a policy that all daytime programming on the network would be in color.

Chris said...

Friday question: Vince Gilligan got a very weird credit on that CBS drama he did this spring, Battle Creek.

He created the show and wrote the pilot with David Shore, yet they were listed as

Teleplay by Vince Gilligan and David Shore
Story by David Shore and Vince Gilligan

Doesn't that mean they get a "Written by" credit?

MikeK.Pa. said...

Heads-up to Ken, a big Natalie Wood fan as am I. All Natalie movies on TCM Monday.

Pat Reeder said...

I'm really looking forward to this, since the Dick Van Dyke Show had a huge influence on both my wife and me, watching it in syndicated reruns when we were kids. It made us both want to become comedy writers, plus I got to marry a hot chick named Laura, so that was gravy. We now have the entire DVD series on DVD. I even got Carl Reiner to inscribe one of his books to us as "To Pat & Laura, a real-life Rob & Laura."

Here's my question: if you wrote 12 more Dick Van Dyke show scripts, could you get CBS to put them into production and replace "Two Broke Girls" with it? I'd sign the petition.

ScottyB said...

I think this will be an interesting exercise to read, especially in light of "what is funny?" discussions that surface in Ken's blog. That said, especially since Bill Persky has been referred to and has commented, isn't it "easier" — theoretically — to create "funny" with a 'DVD Show' script than, say, a script for 'That Girl' (which Mr. Persky co-created with Sam Denoff)? Don't misunderstand here: I don't disagree whatsoever that *any* kind of script writing is very, very difficult, and that being amazing day in and day out is a superhuman ability few are blessed with. But the essence of my point is: Is it not "easier" to be hysterically funny with a show like 'DVD' as opposed to 'That Girl' simply because that show was considerably more broader overall (and therefore with a bigger canvas to paint on) and probably with far fewer societal considerations/implications to worry about in the first place?

ScottyB said...

My own comment of "and that being amazing day in and day out is a superhuman ability few are blessed with" made me think of a Friday Question for Ken:

What's the big downside of being blessed with a superhuman ability like that?

In writing that question, I was thinking of Sid Caesar, whose 'Your Show Of Shows' was the holy grail of comedy back in the day — not just of comedy presented, but of comedy written even tho Sid never wrote a single line of script. I can't even imagine living the sort of pressure 24/7 that he dove into, and undoubtedly helped fuck his life apart from the addictions he developed in the course of things. But yet, we have guys like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner (writers on 'Your Show') whose lives didn't turn into a smoking crater and went on to be amazingly successful, but I imagine still had to be funny every day to stay on staff.

Maybe the answer is to just be consistently funny enough, keep your head down, and don't be *too* funny until you have enough knowledge of the business end of things to be able to run your own circus and become fabulously wealthy and powerful on your terms.

pmoshay said...

One who hasn't watched TDVDS show doesn't qualify as a student... of Life!