Monday, September 14, 2015

My favorite scripts

Here’s one of those Friday Questions that became an entire post. Once I start writing about myself things naturally just get lengthy.

David (not Isaacs) asks:

What do you feel is the best stuff you've ever written or been apart of? Produced or otherwise. What are you proudest of? What would you consider to be the essential viewing for a fan of Ken Levine & David Isaacs?

Were someone to stage a Levine & Isaacs film festival (like that’s ever going to happen), here are the episodes I would have them show (in no particular order or ranking):

MASH – “Point of View” – An entire episode shown through the eyes of a patient. Clearly our most unique work. But I can’t mention it without acknowledging the extraordinary job that director Charles Dubin did. We visualized it; he realized it. Nominated for several Emmys. Sorry we didn’t win but still furious that Charles didn’t win.

MASH – “Out of Sight/Out of Mind” – Our first MASH and the script that really launched our career. The speech that Hawkeye delivers explaining what it’s like to be blind was word-for-word from our first draft. It’s the best single speech we’ve ever written.

MASH – “Goodbye Radar, Part 2” – Our swan song was Radar’s as well. I think what made this episode so powerful was that we didn’t give anybody a big speech. The tag still chokes me up. Nominated for an Emmy.

THE TONY RANDALL SHOW – “The People Speak” – Most of you are saying “What’s the Tony Randall Show?” This was an MTM series produced by the same people who did THE BOB NEWHART SHOW. Tony Randall played a judge. In this episode he runs for superior court justice and loses to a dead man. There are some big laughs in it.

CHEERS – “Boys in the Bar” – From season one. Sam defends his old roommate who came out of the closet and the regulars worry that the bar will go gay. Sensitive subject matter for 1982 but it came out great. We received the WGA and GLAAD award and were nominated for an Emmy.

CHEERS – “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” – Frasier’s bachelor party. What I love so much about this episode is that we broke from tradition and wrote it without any outline. Strictly free form. We wanted to create the feel of a real bar experience where conversations were varied and fragmented. The only “story” we had going in was that Frasier would question whether he wanted to go through with the wedding and decides by the end that he does. Wasn’t nominated for anything.

CHEERS – “The Big Kiss-Off” – There’s nothing socially redeeming about this one at all. It was just really funny. Sam and Woody make a bet to see who can kiss Rebecca first.  Just silly fun.  Not even considered for a Peabody. 

CHEERS – “Rat Girl” – Lilith keeps a dead rat in her purse. We won the WGA award for this one, beating out a SEINFELD episode. Every time I see Larry David to this day he grouses about it.

CHEERS – “Death Takes a Holiday on Ice” – Eddie LeBec is killed by a Zamboni machine and Carla learns her late husband was a bigamist. Nominated for an Emmy (and told by members of the blue ribbon committee that we had won, but we didn’t).

FRASIER – “The Show Where Lilith Comes Back” – First season, first appearance by Lilith. Lost another Emmy but in this case we were just happy to be nominated. The FRASIER pilot won, as it should have.

FRASIER – “Adventures in Paradise Part 2” – Might be our single funniest episode ever. Frasier faking an orgasm still kills me.

FRASIER – “Room Service” – Niles sleeps with Lilith. As a comedy writer you dream that just once you write a script that comes out this well.

ALMOST PERFECT – “Pilot” – Written by me, David, and Robin Schiff. I still think it’s a helluva pilot.

BIG WAVE DAVE’S – “Pilot” – We have never written any half hour before or since that got a ten-minute laugh spread.

BIG WAVE DAVE’S – “Him” – Aired once and never seen again (although it’s up on YouTube). The lead character experiences what it’s like to go through childbirth by trying to catch a marlin. How often do you see that storyline on a series?

THE SIMPSONS – “Dancin’ Homer” – Our first foray into animation. I also got to do a voice and create a character (the Capitol City Goofball – I still have my original drawing of it somewhere). This is probably the only credit many of my younger readers know.

Okay, there’s 8 fun-filled hours. If you have other favorites I’d love to hear ‘em and why. Thanks. As for producing, I have no favorites. Just thrilled that I was associated with so many great series.

Happy binging.

35 comments:

Jerry Krull said...

I've mentioned on your blog in the past (and you informed me you and David wrote the episode) on Wings "Noses Off" episode 3 season 4. The guys in the terminal have a conversation on who they consider the best looking male celebrity. Funny, crisp dialogue and great acting and directing. The timing is superb too. Also Fraizer's Room Service is killer for me.

Jerry Krull said...

Da#n it! I know it's spelled F-R-A-I-S-E-R. I work iwth a guy who uses "Z"instead and force of habit had me type it in my response!

Bill Avena said...

Regarding your Simpsons episode: ever see it syndicated (and cut for ads natch) on a station like FXX and notice how their "must fill the new TV screens" format cuts out the outer parts of the original picture? A lot of visual gags lost this way, not to mention the fine composition of the original frame.

IdleHacker said...

@Jerry - It's actually FraSIer

TF said...

FRASIER – “Room Service”

I only watched that the other day and was very impressed by it!

tavm said...

About "Cheers"-"The Boys in the Bar" ep: I first saw that one when NBC reran it after the first season. That one had Carla mention her upcoming baby and voicing it's reaction to gay revelations but was cut off when syndicated. Loved Norm's last line when he found out the real gay patrons were next to him and kissed him, "Better than Vera."

CamrioKid said...

“Death Takes a Holiday on Ice” is, hends-down, the best title ever for a sitcom episode.

CamrioKid said...

*hands

Gwendolyn said...

Room Service is my favorite Frasier episode… an absolute gem. Recently, I was watching Frasier on Netflix and saw some episodes that were only written by David Isaacs. Did you ever go solo on Frasier?

Ken Levine said...

Gwendolyn,

No. David wrote those when I was out directing. My only solo TV credit was a BECKER episode (that I also directed).

Jeff Maxwell said...

My wife and I recently had one of those miserable days handling a family emergency. Outta gas, a little depressed, we ate dinner and turned on the TV - to Fraiser - to Room Service. We laughed out loud for twenty minutes and felt better.

That's what funny is all about. Thanks Ken and David.


Joseph Scarbrough said...

"Out of Sight, Out of Mind," was always one of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes, so major kudos to you and David delivering gold-standard work your first time. Ditto with "Point of View," which was also a great episode - though I think the only thing I would have done differently was less visual effects for great realism: no cuts, fades (though reducing the camera's focus was great for emphasizing Private Rich's fluxuating consciousness), zoom-ins and outs, and such.

Oooo-kay said...

Speaking of "Room Service," which also one of my favorites... FRIDAY QUESTION... I love when there is a great or quirky performance by an unknown actor in a bit part, and I always think of the room service waiter in that episode as one of these. When we see one of these stand-out bit part performances, is it usually because this is how the director envisioned the performance and guided the actor, or is it more likely that the actor brought the special touches that made the performance stand out, and perhaps won the part in the audition process because of the unique take on the character that we see in the final product? In the writing process, do you envision these bit roles generically or think about and write stage directions to help shape the performance?

Peter said...

"Topes lose, Topes lose, Topes lose..."

Peter said...

Oh gosh, this is too funny. Ken, were you aware you're a downloadable soundbite?

http://movie-sounds.org/tv-series-sound-clips/sound-clips-from-the-simpsons-s2e5-dancin-homer/topes-lose-topes-lose-topes-lose

Jake said...

I'll add:

The Most Unforgettable Characters
The MASH Olympics
The Merchant of Korea
The Billfold Syndrome
None Like It Hot

Boomska316 said...

"Point Of View" might be my favorite MASH episode. I personally think 'Room Service' is funnier than "Adventures In Paradise Part 2."

Breadbaker said...

Austin Jackson is the only major league player ever whose first and last names are the names of U.S. state capitals (I ran though all the likely combinations; there was Mike Lansing and Darryl Boston and Madison Bumgarner, but never the two combined). I often thought he should use the "Capital City" song as his walk-up music. And who else uses Tony Bennett as walk-up music?

Jerry Krull said...

idelhacker - today is not my day! I need to get spell check on my Kindle Fire! FRASIER! My grade school english teacher is spinning in her grave.

Steve Bailey said...

I couldn't agree more about the speech that you and your partner wrote for Hawkeye when his character went temporarily blind. I first saw that episode when I was a teenager, and I was so amazed when you went for the "positive" angle -- Hawkeye delighting in sounds and smells, etc. Contrast that with a similarly themed "Happy Days" episode a couple of years later, where Fonzie was temporarily blinded, and the script did everything it could to milk the situation for pity.

Otto said...

Ken: Count me in as one person who knows exactly what "The Tony Randall Show" was and LOVED IT!! I was terribly upset when it didn't come back for a third season. I have very fond memories of "Mario Lanza" and I'm not talking about the singer. Barney Martin, Rachel Roberts, Allyn Ann McLerie - sheer brilliance!!!! And as for "The Boys in the Bar," I interviewed Ken Tigar a few years ago and we struck up a friendship and have stayed in touch. Great guy and a really terrific actor. He's one of the men who kisses Norm at the end. As an FYI, Ken Tigar also played "Mr. Kopechne" (the werewolf) on "Barney Miller."

Wallis Lane said...

Of all those, I think "Room Service" was the funniest. I've rarely laughed so hard at a TV episode. The panic in Niles and Lillith's faces when they woke up in bed together. The waiter's constant refrain of "ohhhh-kay" The three psychiatrists all trying to analyze the ridiculous situation they find themselves in. Great stuff.

David said...

Thanks for answering my question Ken. I also love your other Simpsons episode Saturdays of Thunder. I've got some stuff to check out.

Anthony Host said...

I have to add Any Friend of Diane's to this list.

There were some great early Sam/Diane moments and I especially loved the way you two set up the "No!" response Sam gave to Rebecca when she asked if he would object to having a day of "unbridled passion" with her.

And also a wonderful ending, quite possibly one of my favorite endings to a Cheers episode.

Michael said...

I watched “Adventures in Paradise Part 1” last night and saved Part 2 for tonight. Was it your idea to have Bebe Neuwirth wear that bathing suit?

Ray Morton said...

In "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," I have always loved the brief throwaway line in Hawkeye's big speech about hearing someone slip and fall in the rain: "It had to be Burns." It was done so casually but was so right on that it actually humanized Frank for me. So great.

michaleen said...

I don't know what the intersection is among serious baseball fans and Simpsons watchers, but as part of the group, it's poetry when Homer changes the last word in the time-worn "You can't fire all the players..." cliche.

Mario Lanza? Any relation?

I'm glad to hear Ken Tigar is such a nice guy. "Barney Miller" seemed to have a little repertory group of guest actors whom they'd bring back to play different roles from season to season. He played a few other roles besides Mr. Kopechne.

Igor said...

Ken, I love MASH – “Point of View”

But, please don't use "most unique".

That is all.

Donald said...

Actually, this Levine-Isaccs binge-fest sounds much more fun than Telluride and Sundance. I'd go!

Mel Agar said...

I'm disappointed you didn't include any of the Bar Wars episodes of Cheers. Those are among my favorite episodes of the show, especially episodes V and VI.

Ray Morton said...

The Tony Randall Show was awesome. Especially Mario Lanza.

Mel Agar said...

A potential Friday question (and maybe one you've answered before): You've been blessed to write for some of the greatest television shows in history. Is there a show -- either from the past or a contemporary series -- that you wish you'd written for?

Jake Mabe said...

Here's a Friday Question (and one I think about every time I see the real "Odd Couple" on TV.

Why isn't "The Tony Randall Show" on DVD?

In the days of MOD (Manufactured on Demand), the old line about, "This won't sell well," isn't as valid. Maybe I've been spoiled by Warner, which made available the most underrated detective show on TV history, "Harry O," and -- FINALLY! -- "Spenser: For Hire," both MOD.

aronpol1 said...

Cheers "I on Sports" - for three words: "A groin injury"

Diogo Casquilho said...

I like Cheer's "I On Sports" How often do you have the lead of a show rap a song about a groin injury?