Friday, August 07, 2015

Friday Questions

Here are some mid-summer Friday Questions.   

Norm! starts us off:

What do you think is the best movie that's actually about Hollywood itself? People always mention The Player, which IS a good film but a tad overrated. I have a fascination with Hollywood history, especially the darker side. That's why I love films like Hollywoodland about George Reeves and Auto Focus about Bob Crane.

SUNSET BOULEVARD is the ultimate dark Hollywood movie. But I’m going to recommend a rather offbeat title – THE BIG PICTURE. This 1989 comedy was written by Michael Varhol, Christopher Guest, and Michael McKean and directed by Christopher Guest. So it has that “Guffman/Best In Show” vibe.

Kevin Bacon stars as a college student who does an award winning film and gets sucked into the maelstrom of Hollywood. Standout performances by J.T. Walsh as a studio head and (of all people) Dan Schneider as an insufferable film student. Schneider went on to create iCarly, among other tween hits.

But best of all was Martin Short in his funniest role BY FAR. He played Hollywood agent Neil Sussman. It's the perfect blend of satire and character assassination.

This little gem came and went very quickly. I’m sure it’s available on some streaming service. Check it out. You’ll thank me. And if you haven’t seen SUNSET BOULEVARD rectify that this weekend.

Michael has a holdover question based on stage direction I wrote for my spec DICK VAN DYKE SHOW:

What do "reset" and "continuous" mean, as in

RESET TO:

INT. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS

Do these terms always appear together, or can one appear in a script without the other?
RESET is a camera term, used primarily in multi-camera shows. When the action goes from one set to the next (say the living room to the kitchen), instead of the director saying “cut,” stopping the filming and moving the cameras into the new set, the director calls out “reset” and the cameras move to their new positions while still rolling. At one time that meant some film was wasted, but now with HD, it’s no big deal.

It allows for a dramatic flow, keeps the audience more involved in following the story, and it saves time (which in Hollywood means saves money).

And yes, it’s always “continuous” because it’s just a continuation of the scene.

From Houston Mitchell:

Do you think Cheers and MASH would have lasted as long as they did if the original cast had remained on the show?

They both might have limped to the finish line, but my guess is neither show would have stayed around as long as they did without those cast changes.

MASH in particular because the show was locked into a time and place. The only way to keep it fresh was to introduce new characters and create different chemistry.

CHEERS at least could advance their characters’ lives. Had Shelley stayed with the show, Sam and Diane might have married and then divorced, or she married someone else instead of Sam – I dunno, but I suspect we would have found something.

That said, it was much easier to come up with stories because the series was allowed to evolve and we were able to introduce new characters.

In both MASH and CHEERS I must add that a large reason for their continued success was not just new actors but that the RIGHT new actors were added.

Keeping a sitcom fresh and funny for eleven years with the same cast is almost an impossible feat. Credit to FRASIER for doing just that.

Boomska316 weighs in:

I was wondering if there were any rules on sitcoms about actors reacting to the studio audiences? I've been watching the Dick Van Dyke Show for the first time ever this week and I could pick out more than once where he was clearly looking straight at the audience and reacting to their reactions.

I can’t personally recall Dick Van Dyke ever doing that. Actors are expressly told not to “break the fourth wall” (in other words, acknowledge the audience). It destroys the reality of the show. Actors are also trained to never look straight into the camera.

cd1515 asks:

the Penny Q&A was interesting.  I get that you want to respect actors' wishes, but don't they ALL want their character to be successful, beautiful and hilarious?

What if you need a character to be depressing or a loser or something else unflattering?

The smart actors realize that playing flawed or villainous characters is way more interesting and fun. Especially in comedy. Likeable, beautiful, happy, successful characters are difficult to write. There’s nothing particularly funny or edgy about them.

Who’s easier to write, Father Mulcahy or Frank Burns?

Yes, there are some actors who are vain and their sole objective is looking great and being admired, and certainly networks prefer everybody be nice and likable and test favorably, but the vast majority of actors I’ve worked with understand the big picture.

What’s your Friday Question?

68 comments:

Jeannie said...

Agreed on "The Big Picture." I was one of the 17 people who saw it when it was released and always thought it was an underrated gem.

normadesmond said...

"...if you haven’t seen SUNSET BOULEVARD..."

you've got to be kidding.

Stephen Robinson said...

CHEERS is a great example of effective recasting. Woody introduced story opportunities (his youthful innocence, the big brother relationship with Sam) that weren't possible with Coach. Rebecca revamped the show entirely, shifting it from a satire of working class Boston vs. WASP Boston (Diane) but to a more topical (while remaining timeless) satire of '80s corporate America. It really expanded the world of CHEERS. I recently watched a fourth season episode of CHEERS on Netflix, and while it's entertaining, you can sense that it's trying to figure out where to go -- they've done will they/won't they and they've done the Sam/Diane together and they've done Diane with the false romantic lead. Now what? I recall the dream house Sam and Diane bought and I'm not sure when Shelley Long decided not to stay on the show, but I think the house might have pulled the show from the focus on the "workplace" (Cheers).

M*A*S*H, by the way, took the opportunity to "upgrade" its characters with the recasting -- Charles filled an antagonist role that Frank held but in a more humane and playful way. I recall TWO AND A HALF MEN simply replacing the concept of Charlie Sheen's character without using the opportunity to shake up or revamp the show.

Anonymous said...

there is an episode of Dick Van Dyke where Rob is talking to Sally and calls her Ro, short for Rose ,which must be what he called her in real life.
Never got edited.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Stephen Robinson: I wanted 2 1/2 MEN to cast William Shatner, whose sitcom had failed, so that Alan was finding himself losing women not only to his son but to a returning uncle or something. Probably, I just wanted to watch Shatner do comedy, but I still think it would have been interesting.

wg

William said...

Regarding the question about casting. Have you ever considered dropping or replacing a cast-member simply to shake things up, i.e. without it being a case of an actor being hard to work with or a character having run it's course, but simply to create a fresh dynamic?

Mitchell Hundred said...

Of course, some fourth wall breaks don't involve an audience at all, like the one in the first Alien movie.

Barry Gilpin said...

Yeah, about Cheers, when you watch Season 5, you wonder what at what point the staff knew about Long leaving. They were obviously building to something but it seems like, to me at least, that Sam's proposal came abruptly, and I've always wondered if they had to change course to wrap up Diane's arc at that point or if that was planned earlier, depending on when Shelley had made it known she was leaving.

Unknown said...

I don't know if self-aggrandizing is allowed in your comment section, but if so, may I suggest this short film I wrote (and which Slamdance produced) as another (albeit short) example of lampooning Hollywood? https://vimeo.com/19053229

I'll sign my name in case I mess things up and this gets posted as Anonymous.

Margie Kaptanoglu
p.s. Thanks for the great blog, Ken!

Terry said...

I posted this Friday question a long time ago but it never got answered. I don't know if you just didn't see it or didn't think it was a good question. I think it's a pretty good one and your mention of Frank Burns made me think of it again, so here it is:

When you write insults for one character to say to another (e.g. Hawkeye calling Frank ferret face or, in light of your recent DVD script, Buddy insulting Mel), do you take the feelings of the actors into consideration? Do you ever run the insults by them first to make sure they're okay with it? Especially if it's about appearance? I remember reading years ago about how Tracey Gold from Growing Pains developed an eating disorder in part because of the constant weight jokes that were made about her character on the show.

Rashad Khan said...

Not that "Cheers" wasn't a great show, and not that I don't appreciate the Tracy-and-Hepburn flair that Sam and Diane and their courtship initially lent to it, but I think there is always that point where you must acknowledge that contriving ways to keep a couple apart is just as detrimental to a series as allowing them to marry. For me, that point was halfway through season three. After that, things just grew progressively sillier and irksome between the two.

Joe said...

Ken, Friday question here... have you heard the Kevin Smith/Matt Mira Frasier podcast? They're watching every episode from start to finish and doing commentary. They mentioned you and your blog in episode 006 and talk about having you as a guest. I'm not a huge Kevin Smith fan these days but Matt is a writer who seems to know a ton about Frasier's production. They're both huge fans and Smith repeatedly talks about how it's a sitcom where every cylinder fires perfectly throughout the run. It's a fun listen if you don't mind casual swearing and Smith chain-smoking throughout, with occasional coughing fits.

kent said...

Another great insider movie is THE STUNTMAN with Peter O'Toole and Steve Railsback.

Elf said...

Ummm, Joe, you might want to read Ken's blog entry from Wednesday...

Bill O said...

Big Picture has an incredibly shocking bad taste scene. Following a student film screening containing a Vic Morrow death joke, the scene includes cut-in cast member Jennifer Jason Leigh - Morrow's daughter. Obviously she wasn't present when the joke was delivered.

villagedianne said...

Fran Drescher had a small role in The Big Picture, playing the wife of a Hollywood mogul. During a party she lures Kevin Bacon's pretty in a wholesome way girlfriend to her bedroom for some girl talk. But the real reason is to allow time for a gorgeous starlet to throw herself at Bacon. Bacon subsequently leaves his nice girlfriend for the starlet, and this facilitates his Faustian descent into the dark side.

Norm! said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken!

I'd completely forgotten about Sunset Boulevard when I asked my question, which of course I have seen and is a magnificent movie.

I've heard of The Big Picture but not seen it. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check it out!

On the subject of movies about the dark side of Hollywood, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is a beautiful film on that theme, though done in his unique way.

Chris said...

Re: Flawed/Villainous characters

I've heard the story that Alan Rickman was once asked by a kid "Why do you always play the villains?"

Rickman replied: "I don't play villains. I play very interesting people."

Kind of sums it all up nicely doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

One scene that Boomska316 may be referring to -- MTM: "Darling, I'm a woman." DVD: "Yeah!".

Michael said...

Terry, I'm obviously not Ken, but I recall reading that Richard Deacon and Carl Reiner talked to each other about Buddy, and I think Deacon felt that he needed to have some kind of response. I believe that Deacon came up with "Yecch," which is what he would say to Buddy.

Les said...

Re: actors looking into the camera: I remember that Alan Hale, as the Skipper on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, used to give the camera these looks of exasperation when he was frustrated or angry with Gilligan, a trick he borrowed from Oliver Hardy, who used to do the same thing with Stan Laurel.

Bradley said...

Best movie about the movies: Day for Night

Kosmo13 said...

I agree completely about The Big Picture being a film worth seeing: clever, funny, vicious, sweet and with so many stars in cameo appearances, it is a useful connector in the "Back To Bacon" game. I have the VHS and have watched it numerous times. But the best movie about Hollywood is "In A Lonely Place" with Humphrey Bogart.

Magnum PI broke the fourth wall regularly to the point it became annoying: "Now TC is doing it; now Higgins; now Magnum again...."

I've seen some actors in movies trying so hard and self-consciously to avoid looking into the camera that it is more distracting than if they'd just gone ahead and stared right into the camera and waved.

James said...

Best movie about Hollywood: Day of the Locust.

Dixon Steele said...

I'm also a fan of THE BIG PICTURE. But I always thought that Martin Short's hilarious performance was, tonally, from a slightly different movie. Frankly, a funnier one.

And yes to Bogie's IN A LONELY PLACE, where he plays an unstable screenwriter, who at one point, beats the shit out of his agent!

Charles H. Bryan said...

A Friday Question: First, the link to the article at THR's website: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/fx-chief-john-landgraf-content-813914

I think Landgraf has some interesting things to say about transparency, network branding, and whether there's actually a glut (or bubble) of good tv right now. (I know I don't even try to keep up with all of the lauded shows. A lot of it just becomes, "Well, someday, maybe, but I should occasionally get up and move.") Just wondering if your thoughts mirror his, or diverge?

That was crappy question phrasing. Let's try this: Ken, do you think there's a glut of good tv right now, to the point that it makes it even more difficult to have other good shows get noticed and develop an audience? Do we have more good tv than can be sustained (particularly given the smaller and smaller audiences for individual shows)?

Donald Benson said...

SUNSET BOULEVARD: Where the happiest, most energetic guy in the cast is Jack Webb.

Really.

Was Webb making a conscious effort to shake up his image? Was Wilder making another Hollywood joke by doing the opposite of typecasting? Was he unaware or simply unconcerned that Webb was already well known as the stoic Joe Friday? (DRAGNET was then a successful radio series, going to TV in 1951) He's perfectly fine in the part; for modern audiences not immersed in the 60s DRAGNET there's no disconnect.

Bill O said...

Sunset Blvd is 1950, early in Webb's career. He serves the same positive force in Brando's first, The Men.

Anonymous said...

My favorite is SOB by Blake Edwards. Very broad, really out there, but Robert Preston is hilarious.

Pam, St. Louis

Bill O said...

SOB's based on Blake Edwards' version of the events leading to his sxile following DARLING LILI.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Always watch THE BIG PICTURE whenever it pops up on TV. It's right up there with MY FAVORITE YEAR as far as little gems about the industry.

Gary said...

The amount of misinformation about the Dick Van Dyke Show is starting to rival the JFK assassination. DVD never broke the fourth wall, and never called Rose Marie "Ro" during an episode.

Mike Schryver said...

I've always loved THE BIG PICTURE and I'm glad Ken called it out.

Donald Benson:
At the time of SUNSET BOULEVARD, Webb was probably better known for PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE, which was a detective show played for comedy with a snappy, fast-paced style. Not very similar to Joe Friday.

Rashad Khan said...

Further thoughts:

I have heard it said (many times, in fact) that had Shelley Long decided to stay on "Cheers" past the fifth season, and the writers had allowed Sam and Diane to marry, the show would not have lasted as long as it did without her. The reason being, of course, that Sam and Diane together were not as interesting as Sam and Diane apart. But, you know, being the unabashed soap opera fan that I am, I think a show -- that is to say, a GOOD show -- is greater than any one character or couple.

You might tune in initially to see what all the fuss was about over this pairing; but if you enjoy the show at all, you'll keep tuning in, because you also enjoy watching the OTHER characters. (Similarly, if you are writing and producing this show, you know better than to put all your eggs in one proverbial basket. If you're smart, you use your big couple as bait, hooking viewers into the REAL show: the rest of the ensemble.). Having your centerpiece pair -- in this case, Sam and Diane -- as a happily married couple won't make a difference -- and if it does, then the rest of the show wasn't strong to begin with.

All this to say: yeah, there might have been some growing pains had "Cheers" been allowed to evolve with the original cast (including Ms. Long) left intact. However, I feel confident that it would have evolved AND that it still would have lasted as long as it did, too. The dynamics between Sam and Diane might have changed -- less Tracy/Hepburn, more Myrna Loy/William Powell -- but as long as the rest of the ensemble stayed strong (which it did) and subsequent additions had been as delightfully off-beat as the core players (which they were), we still would be here, in 2015, marveling over how "Cheers" was such a solid, consistent, long-running show.

Unless, of course, Sam and Diane had had a baby -- in which case, all bets were off.

Simon Moon said...

Re: Frank Burns vs Francis M.

I always found the father a much more interesting compelling character with levels of depth than Frank Burns. Francis could be tempted and might do the wrong thing. He would struggle with matters of doing the right thing or doing the *necessary* thing. He could be angered (or frustrated) to the point of violence (once even punching a patient). But he was still a good person, doing the best he could.

Frank could not be tempted to do the wrong thing. He was already going to be doing the wrong thing. Nor could be tempted to do the right thing. I found him to be the most boring character ever. He was always wrong no matter what. He was never kind or nice or anything. There was never any internal conflicts for him (apart from maybe *which* wrong thing to do).

I know which of the two I would prefer to write and it wouldn't be Frank Burns.

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy Inside Daisy Clover and the yummy Christopher Plummer and Natalie Wood. Wondered if you ever watched Episodes on Showtime. Very funny centering around Hollywood and sitcoms. Janice B.

Diane D. said...

To Margie K.
Wow, I thought your film was extraordinary! And I wonder how many writers have felt like doing that. It seems like a brutal world.

Eric Lyden said...

There was an episode of Dick Van Dyke where he was making a phone call and he started dialing the number before he remembered to look in the phone book because he didn't know what the number was. he didn't quite break the fourth wall, but he did smile and chuckle to himself. So the idea that he would play to the audience isn't far fetched.

And yeah, I thought that Woody replacing Coach on CHEERS was certainly sad for why it happened, but it did give Sam a whole new dimension as a character.

Mike said...

The last run of Episodes was good (Series 4). Not a programme I'd ever accuse of being funny (rambling aimlessly until some arbitrary point when the end credits roll), it managed to entertain with well-told stories.
But there's nothing about the act of writing itself. There's no writing team, no executive notes. While the mechanics of writing are of no interest to the punters, surely there's scope for running jokes and to inject some bite into the satire. Instead, the programme sticks to its comfort zone of LeBlanc's ego (a brilliantly-played absence of sense of self) and the mental disintegration of the then-current network executive.
Highlights: Series 1 Episode 1 (the transformation of Lyman's Boys to Pucks) and Series 3 Episode 4 (Castor Sotto).

Diane D. said...


Speaking of CHEERS, Rashad Khan said: "…you use your big couple as bait, hooking viewers into the REAL show: the rest of the ensemble." As good as the other characters were, for many fans of CHEERS, it was the Sam and Diane show. Your perspective is very interesting, however.

I wonder, in DVD sales, how many sets of Seasons 1 through 5 are sold compared to Seasons 6 through 11. Even though the show remained enormously popular right up to the end, I would bet that it's enduring popularity through the decades is more a result of the Sam and Diane dynamic---both the casting of Shelley Long and Ted Danson and the extraordinary writing.

Cat said...

I own own seasons 1-5.

mmryan314 said...

I realize Long wanted to leave to persue other avenues in her career and who could blame her, but they should have brought her back for guest appearances over the last six years of the show. The writers could easily have maintained that " Same Time Next Year " sexual attitude and written some very funny and poignant shows while carrying on the shenanigans of the other characters. Viewers would have gotten a glimpse into the reasons " Diane" had moved on as well as the Sam/ Diane innate love for one another.Had they done that the finale would have ended quite differently. Why didn`t they?

Dave Olden said...

I just called Netflix and requested they get THE BIG PICTURE (1989) for the US and Canada. They do have a 2010 movie with the same name, but the rep assumed that was - at best - a remake and he's requested the 1989 version.

He said the more Netflix subscribers that call in and ask for it the likelier it is they'll get it.

Steve B. said...

Ken, I was wondering about your process for writing your DVD spec. How long total did it take to write, and how much time did you devote to breaking the story and writing the actual script? Plus, when was the last previous TV spec script you wrote, and how did it feel to be writing another one?

Diane D. said...

I couldn't agree with you more, mmryan, and since they already had footage of Sam and Diane growing old together, I'll never understand why in the finale they did not have them end up together.

Cat, I also own only seasons 1-5.

Loosehead said...

In my opinion, the best breaker of the fourth wall was Frankie Howerd. His series Up Pompeii just wouldn't have worked without it.

Astroboy said...

I like all the films mentioned that are about the movie biz, I would also add "The Bad and the Beautiful" as a favorite of mine. Starred Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner; directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Rashad Khan said...

IIRC, "Cheers" did do a "Same Time Next Year" kind of story, except instead of Diane, it was a previously unknown woman played by Barbara Feldon.

Karl said...

With all due respect, I think some of you guys are missing a lot of awfully good comedy by interpreting CHEERS as being nothing more than THE SAM AND DIANE SHOW, and seeing everything in the show that isn't Sam and Diane as being mere filler: stuff you have to sit through to get to the next Sam and Diane scene.

Diane D. said...

Barbara Feldon was only in one episode of CHEERS. The story (for that episode only) was that she and Sam had been getting together every Valentine's Day for 20 years. It was nothing like an annual visit from Diane Chambers would have been--that could have been truly outstanding.

Jake Mabe said...

I only own seasons 1-4 of "Cheers." I've been watching the rest of the show again, off and on, on Netflix, but I gotta tell ya, I didn't like the show nearly as well after Shelley left. She and Ted Danson had a chemistry that was just incredible, one of those rare gems that can't be faked. I don't know how much longer the show would have lasted had she stayed, but to me anyway (although I watched it until it ended), it was never the same. And I missed Coach. Woody was very well written, well acted and added a great dynamic between Sam and he, as an earlier post said. But he wasn't Coach. When Nic died, something went out of "Cheers." He (and NORM!) is my favorite character, and I miss him still.

As for "M*A*S*H," I'm one of about 5 people who think the show got better as it went along. The early episodes (most of them) are funny as hell, but the show really grew, evolved, and delved into deep waters as it went along, and -- although I think I'm in a minority here -- the actors who replaced the original cast members were improvements (sometimes major improvements).

I thought Wayne Rogers was fair at best. As another poster mentioned, David Ogden Stiers and the writers were able to take Winchester to a place Frank Burns couldn't ever go. (One of my favorite episodes is the one in which Winchester takes a special interest in a patient who stutters, and we later learn why.) As the late Larry Linville said, one reason why (he says) he left the show was that he thought he'd gone as far as he could, that Frank was kinda cartoonish. I'd definitely say he was Johnny One Note. There wasn't much depth to Frank, and I don't know how much of that was because the writers wanted him that way or the limitations of Larry Linville's acting (and I mean no disrespect by that at all, sincerely).

Where you get into a gray area is McLean Stevenson vs. Harry Morgan. Both were great. Mac was absolutely hilarious...and sadly he never found another good outlet for his talent. I still have nightmares about "The McLean Stevenson Show" and especially "Hello, Larry" (although the sadist in me wants a complete series DVD release of that show, and I'll admit to a huge childhood crush on Kim Richards).

Harry Morgan brought a different dynamic, and a perfect one, IMHO. He was sardonic, funny, grouchy, warm, able to rattle off the word play that became the show's trademark, and again, brought a depth to the show that wouldn't have worked with Mac. I go through spells of watching various episodes, and I find myself laughing harder at Potter than I did at Henry Blake, which is the opposite of what I used to do years ago.

And I'm going to take an exception to the earlier comment that "Magnum, P.I." broke the fourth wall to the point it was irritating. The other characters rarely did it, and having Magnum do it was a stroke of genius. It was like we were along for the ride, and Tom Selleck had a hilarious reaction look, kinda similar to Bugs Bunny, oddly enough. Those moments are some of the best of that series.

And I'll echo the vote for "My Favorite Year." I watched that after Peter O'Toole died. First time I'd seen it in 20 years probably. I laughed so hard, I nearly fell off the couch.

My favorite line is when O'Toole is in the women's bathroom. Lady walks in.

LADY: "This is for ladies only!"
ALAN SWANN: (unzipping his pants): "So is this, madam, but every now and then I have to run a little water through it."

Diane D. said...

I think Karl is right, and I didn't mean to imply that it was only about Sam and Diane. The other characters are also some of my all time favorites, especially Coach, Woody, and Fraser, but even the creators (in an interview I read) said the show wasn't originally supposed to focus so heavily on Sam and Diane. It evolved into that very quickly, however, because of the magic that was there, and that's what people wanted.

After Shelley Long left, the writing was still great, the show was still hilarious, but that indescribable element, that chemistry between Sam and Diane could not help but be acutely missed---not to mention Shelley Long's comedic brilliance.

Johnny Walker said...

Ken, did you pick THE BIG PICTURE because it's a film you really enjoyed, or because of how accurately it skewers the reality of Hollywood?

Great job, Dave Olden! I hope the request goes through!

Would love to know (FRIDAY QUESTION): Re-watching CHEERS again and I'm onto Season 4. I think I really got spoiled with the previous three seasons because Season 4 started quite rockily, IMO. Admittedly the first episode had a LOT of loose ends to tie up from the previous season -- AND introduce a new character to boot!

Who was helming the show in the different seasons, and when did the Charles brothers leave? It was you and David in Season 1. Simon and Estin for Seasons 2 and 3. It appears to be Perlman and Angel for Season 4 -- but already I've noticed Casey and Lee in the credits. Would love to know. Thanks!

Johnny Walker said...

Also, I have to agree with what Jake Mabe said about CHEERS and M*A*S*H. Although I think the final run in CHEERS was fantastic at times (I thought Sam's sex addiction episode was great), CHEERS was best during Season 1, and still great in Seasons 1 to 3. I felt it faltered a bit in Season 4 -- no criticism directed at the writers, there was a lot of upheaval, and where do you take Sam and Diane after so many turns?? Plus they were already approaching 100 episodes.

And with M*A*S*H, I still find Frank very difficult to watch. He's a great buffoon, but there's only so much buffoonery I can take in one go. I really wish they'd added some realism to his character, and agree that Winchester was a great addition (just like BJ).

Christopher Drazenovic said...

That's odd.....I just turned on the TV to see if The Big Picture was on Netflix, and it just happened to be on cable at that very moment, right at the scene pictured in the posting, with Martin Short.

Diane D. said...

I agree that the early episodes of Season 4 of CHEERS were not quite as great as seasons 1-3, but as the season goes on it quickly improves, and actually has some of my favorite episodes---especially "Cliff's Big Score" where he takes Diane to the Postman's Ball, doubling with Carla, whose date is one of the most hilarious guest characters they ever had on the show (IMHO). The last scene in that episode showcases Shelley Long's talent like no other--what she can do with just a stare and gestures, without saying a word is incredible.

Cat said...

I must descent--I love all of season four. I kind of hated season three, and season four just brings me back to the reason why I love Cheers, great laughs and wonderful scenes between Sam and Diane. And I'm pretty sure "Triangle" is the reason why Kelsey Grammer got a spinoff series. He was brilliant in the last scene. The final episode of the season also has one of the greatest Sam and Diane fights there was.

Johnny Walker said...

Diane, you're not wrong. Things are rapidly improving -- although Diane is a little different this season. (She seems to have suffered the same fate that Frasier did on FRASIER, for one thing; talking like she swallowed a thesaurus.) It's great seeing names pop up that I know are destined to do great things in the future, though: Peter Casey, David Lee, Phoef Sutton, etc.

Diane D. said...

Johnny
Ha ha! Do you mean like this: "….I'm just a ODALISQUE in your SERAGLIO!" Very funny, however! Especially Long's delivery of the line.

For anyone who doesn't know what that is---it's a concubine in a Turkish harem. (I had to look up odalisque :) I had heard of seraglio.

Cat, I agree that Kelsey Grammer's finest moment was in the "Triangle" episode, followed by an amazing silent scene by Sam and Diane in which they wordlessly admit their love for each other (sigh).

Mark Fearing said...

I stumbled across The Big Picture a few years after its released and was amazed that I had heard nothing about it. Ever. A very good film.

Diane D. said...

AN odalisque! I hate that mistake.

Stephen Robinson said...

I love discussions of CHEERS! I agree that the series is in many ways two separate series (Diane era and Rebecca era -- the first "Rebecca" episode could even play like a pilot, with Sam returning to the bar after having sold it as simple backstory). What I also find interesting when watching an episode from the "Diane" era, especially the fifth season, is how it feels like more of a seamless link to FRASIER than the 11th CHEERS season. The tone of FRASIER is more like the Diane episodes.

Over lunch, I watched "Dinner at 8-ish" on Netflix. Brilliant episode that I loved when I was 12 and I love when I'm 41. Such great writing and performances. It's also an episode that just couldn't have been done in the Rebecca era. It's an episode very much about relationships and romance, just as the series was at the time. It also makes me think that a married Sam and Diane could have worked.

Diane D. mentioned the episode "Triangle," which is another favorite of mine. It reminds me of how the series's larger theme at that point was that Sam and Diane were meant for each other, no matter how seemingly different and incompatible they were. The CHEERS finale seemed to puncture that theory definitively and end with the theme that *Cheers* the bar itself was Sam's true love.

Cat said...

I concur with everything you said, Stephen Robinson. Season four is my second favorite season, after season one. I think it's masterful.

mmryan314 said...

I`ve so much enjoyed checking back and seeing the Cheers comments- young and old(er).The possibilities of Cheers continuing on with Shelley Long`s presence are endless and could have worked. She did want to leave though for family and career reasons and to release some time to spend on both. I believe that if egos had not gotten in the way, the show could have carried off many very funny guest appearances.

Diane D. said...

Really mmryan? Was it egos that prevented those guest appearances? What a shame, because I agree with you completely that Shelley Long guest appearances over the years could have been amazing, and could have helped considerably with the anguish many fans felt over the end of Sam and Diane's relationship.

mmryan314 said...

Diane- I don`t know if it was egos at all but no one was nice to her when she left. God forbid, a woman in the 80`s wanting it all. If Ted had announced he was leaving to spend more time with his child and explore other avenues, the world would have applauded him. By admission, they hated her for leaving. So sad- that time frame in history.

Pete Grossman said...

Indeed, The Big Picture. Thanks for mentioning that one. Great stuff. Short is just painfully funny. JT Walsh (paraphrasing) 'If kids want to see their parents they can just go home!' And the payoff with the porches. Just great.

Mike said...

I knew about Fred MacMurray shooting all his scenes in My Three Sons in a shorten time span but I also found out that Brian Keith had the same deal to shoot all his scenes in Family Affair in just under 60 days total. Besides the other actors and the crew, that must have been tough on the writers. Did you ever experience this type of situation?