Saturday, December 05, 2015

That's some bad hat, Harry

Ever notice at the end of shows there are those cards that fill the screen with names of bizarre production companies, sometimes animated and sometimes with sound (“That’s some bad hat, Harry.”)? Those are called vanity cards. When writer/creators form their own production company (and they all do) they’re entitled to a vanity card.

The question is: what to do with it? When my partner David Isaacs and I got a series on CBS we had to create our vanity card. First we needed to come up with a name for our so-called entertainment conglomerate. Candidates included “13 and out”, “FU Money”, and “Tina Delgado is alive ALIVE!” We decided to just call it “Levine & Isaacs Productions”, thus extending the outer reaches of our creativity. Look, it’s on screen for like one second, so why not just go for ego under the guise of simplicity?

Some of these vanity cards are so cutesy and pretentious. We wanted to steer clear of that. Maybe the worst was Stephen J. Cannell's. You see him writing at the typewriter with an Emmy in the shot. He takes the paper out of the typewriter, flings it into the air, and its brilliance morphs into an animated version of his company's logo. Yikes!

Now for the visual.

Chuck Lorre fills his card with long fine print rants. That’s an ingenious idea but (a) we didn’t want to copy Chuck, and (b) who wants to do all that extra writing work?

We thought of showcasing our dads waving at the camera as a tribute to them. But then we realized, networks were going to think that was me and David and we didn’t need being blackballed for ageism while we were still in our 30s.

We considered baseball caps from our favorite teams. His was the Yankees but mine would change depending on who hired me to do play-by-play. So that was out. Then we figured, just use caps from our colleges – UCLA and the University of Miami. But UCLA raised my basketball tickets that year and the U of M was undergoing another scandal so we nixed that idea.

To animate something would be costly. And again, there was that fear that we would look incredibly full of ourselves.

So we settled on this. Did it in black and white because there was nothing on TV in black and white then. When it appeared, a little shimmer went across the screen but otherwise this was it. You’re welcome to download it and use it as your wallpaper or screen saver.


This is a re-post from five and a half years ago.

32 comments:

Jim said...

The one with the typing guy that flings the paper is the only one I remember from tv! Except for sit ubu sit of course.

Mike said...

So whose was the card where the boss is leaving the office, grunting at his secretary?

Dan Ball said...

Ken, your vanity card reminds me of the "Lois & Clark" logo.

"Good night, Mr. Walters!" "(grumbling)" That's good one.

Then the Bob Newhart MTM card was fun.

One of the better current ones is the Si Fi Company that runs after "Last Man on Earth" with the two kids that say, "Uncle Stinky!"

Ron Moore and David Eick's cards following BSG were probably overdone, but they were damn fun.



tavm said...

I can't believe you didn't mention the one from Gary David Goldberg's Ubu Productions at the end of his "Family Ties": the one with a dog standing in front of his dog dish bowl with a voiceover saying, "Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog."

Peter said...

Mike, the grumbling guy was The John Charles Walters Company, who did Taxi.

My favourite was Gary David Goldberg's "Sit Ubu, sit. Good dog."

blinky said...

The network gives notes on the card:
It could use more animation.
Can you add a small cute animal?
Can you make it less Jewish?

ScottyB said...

I always like What's For Dinner's card at the end of 'Everybody Loves Raymond'. A new food group every episode. The grumbling Mr. Walters was the best, tho.

Peter said...

"blinky said...

The network gives notes on the card:
Can you make it less Jewish?"

That would be The Mel Gibson Network. Followed by further notes saying "And don't put any blacks, Mexicans and women in that provocative green dress in the show either."

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Being in art, I always try to make my logos (yeah, I'd rather call them "logos" than "vanity cards," makes it sound less egotistical and self-absorbed) look artistic and unique, and they seem to go over really well. This was my first logo I used way back when, which I call the Funky Typewriter:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4FDgyHT8eg

After I got tired of using that one for a while and wanted something more colorful and eye-catching, I introduced this Funky Space one that's still in use:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1b2edOZN1U I recently redid Funky Space in HD, which wasn't too difficult, it was just a matter of not having to resize the original design all the way down to 640x480 pixels (it's 1440x1080 now).

And I agree with Scotty, I love the When's Lunch? logos from Raymond - in fact, I just recently realized that the logo actually reflects whatever was eaten in the episode: for example, the logo from the "No Fat" episode has a plate of steamed veges, turkey breast slices, and some tofu; in "Big Shots," Ray complains about not getting any dipping sauce for his buffalo wings, and that's what was on the logo.

Bill Avena said...

"who wants to do all that extra writing work?" Lorre parlayed his vanity cards into a book, the proceeds of which went to the Dharma Grace Foundation. A good cook uses EVERYTHING.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

MGM. Why not LIP?

Barbara C. said...

Mutant Enemy: Grr...Argh...

It was incorporated in a scene for Buffy season 6 and given a musical lift in the musical episode.

Oliver said...

Maybe you answered this one before, but hey: Why is it "Levine & Isaacs" in that order and not, say, alphabetically, which would have been a sign of equality?

Max Clarke said...

The best "vanity card" I saw was the one that followed Mary Tyler Moore and other shows from MTM, the cat in the lion spot, which imitated MGM.

Meow.

Mike said...

In addition to the UBU and MTM cards already mentioned, two of my all-time favorites:

Guntzelman Sullivan Marshall Productions (they did Growing Pains)
https://youtu.be/DlNu3Mxz7Sg

And this cute Boam-Cuse Productions one, seen after their I think only co-production, Brisco County Jr., a western, so it was especially fitting:
https://youtu.be/u_lCinMJhmg

Michaleen said...

They started customizing Mimsy the MTM cat for various shows. She wore a police hat for "Hill Street Blues," dribbled a basketball for "The White Shadow," etc. My favorite was "Newhart" where Bob just said "Meow."

For "St. Elsewhere," Mimsy wore surgical scrubs. On the show's final episode after the snowglobe twist, Mimsy appeared in bad shape on the closing credits, hooked up to an EKG, which flatlined as the credits ended. That week, the real Mimsy died as well.

Tammy said...

Yeah, the Emmy bit is pretentious, but as a kid I loved watching the paper fly in the Stephen J. Cannell logo. I also liked "and dance by the light of the moon" (my parents watched thirtysomething). And a lot of kids shows opened with the Thames logo, which was not only pretty but meant you were in for something good (I haven't thought about that logo for about 20 years. Funny how things can just sit there in your brain, waiting for you to remember them).

Diane D. said...

"Funny how things can just sit there in your brain, waiting for you to remember them." What a hilarious and charming phrase; you must be a writer.

Craig L. said...

I wrote (under a pen name) an article for a 'major media website' about Vanity Cards almost 10 years ago

http://www.today.com/id/6746832/ns/today-today_entertainment/t/youre-so-vain-tv-vanity-cards/

that also noted the real old classics... the Desilu heart and Dragnet chiseled-in-stone, as well as Stephen Bochco's father fiddling, Bruce Helford's ultrasound and South Park stealing a defunct airline's logo. See? If you'd something less obvious, I'd have written about you too.

Tammy said...

Diane D.: Wow, what a compliment, thank you! I'm not a writer, but writing is a big part of my job (I'm a research assistant).

Mike Doran said...

Tammy:

Benny Hill was a kid's show?

Because that's where most Americans probably saw the Thames logo.

That, or RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY.

Thames was the commercial licensee for the London region, from Monday through Thursday; London Weekend Television took over for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Don't ask why - the rules for commercial broadcasting in the UK are a strange and wondrous thing (that I'm sure even most British viewers don't entirely understand).

Fun fact: Thames Television lost its license and had to shut down circa 1990 - not long after they dropped Benny Hill (but that was probably a coincidence ...).

Donald Benson said...

If memory serves, the first Gary Shandling Show had a deliberately amateurish card featuring a stock art Statue of Liberty and the name "Our Production Company".

Think it was "Robot Chicken" on Cartoon Network that featured Stupid Monkey, illustrated for a long time by various still cartoons of the monkey about to do something fatally stupid.

One more variation on the MTM logo. They did a strange animated special/pilot starring Carlton, the unseen and presumably stewed doorman from "Rhoda." Carlton became a youngish, long-haired slacker with a bad-tempered cat who figured in the story. At the end, that cat sat in the logo and glowered as Carlton kept telling him to meow or something.

The lady with the lamp in the Columbia Studios logo was often gagged up:
-- In "The Mouse That Roared," she was a live actress who ran away at the sight of a live mouse.
-- In "Cat Ballou", she was an animated character who turned into a gunslinging version of the title character.
-- In "The Man Called Flintstone", she was replaced by Wilma Flintstone.

Tammy said...

Mike Doran: Heh :) I'm Israeli, and we had a lot of British kids shows back in the day. Some Australian ones, too.

halojones-fan said...

A MARK SEVEN PRODUCTION! (BONG BONG)

Jabroniville said...

I always got a kick out of these as a kid. However, I could always tell when I REALLY liked a show, because I would actually get MAD at those little tags at the end- it was a sign that the show was OVER, and therefore, the "Shh!" of Gracie Films' SIMPSONS or the Braniff bit at the end of SOUTH PARK would piss me off.

I agree on the reference to the "Thames" logo- COUNT DUCKULA was a great show, and that little four-note ditty playing with the reflected logo has stuck with me for almost thirty years now.

I remember a bunch from the eighties, mostly from cartoons (the Marvel Productions one with the CGI Spider-Man; even the preamble from Family Home Entertainment, scribbling "f.h.e." in kiddie-letters in front of THE TRANSFORMERS or something). Sadly, as I got older, I either started ignoring these (not that the credits allowed much room anymore), or they got a lot less interesting. Only one I can recall seeing from the post-2000 era was the Chuck Lorre stuff, or Ubu's.

Terrence Moss said...

There is one with the producer's kid (I assume) saying "thank you for watching". That one's cute.

Greg Ehrbar said...

In the new Peanuts Movie, Schroeder plays the piano with the 20th Century Fox logo. Disney's animated castle logo is often themed to the movie that follows it.

Since it's the holiday season, some mention should go to this logo and the company behind it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_65xX86jYA

Diane D. said...

Tammy: I have to confess I've used it twice in the last 24 hours. I thought it was so funny that "it's just sitting there in my brain waiting for an opportunity to be used." Ha!

Tammy said...

Diane D.: Ha, nice :) I don't think I've ever been quoted before, what an honor :) By the way, I imagine you've seen Inside Out but if you haven't, check it out, it's full of little jokes and insights on how memory works.

Orwell said...

Some vanity cards are kind of clever, and some are classy. I don't know which ones are at the end of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but there are at least three, maybe four, which come on back-to-back. It's kind of funny, seeing several in a row in rapid succession.

Diane D. said...

Tammy
I hadn't seen Inside Out, so I found it on youtube and watched it yesterday. I loved it--thanks for the recommendation, I'm ashamed to say I almost never go see animated films, even though I know some of them are great and absolutely able to be enjoyed by adults--Inside Out was certainly one.

deanareeno said...

In case you didn't know where it came from:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSo5fNkNKlw