Friday, April 08, 2016

Friday Questions

Hello from Hatboro, Pa. Going tonight and tomorrow to see a production of my play, A OR B? Come join me. If you’re anywhere east of St. Louis you have no excuse. ‘Meantime, here are Friday Questions.

Andy Rose starts us off:

I've read that Gary Burghoff preferred not to have his left hand seen on camera because of a slight deformity. Did you ever have to rewrite or toss an idea for a Radar scene because you thought, "There's no way we can make that work without seeing his hand"? Or did you just leave it up to Gary and the director to figure out a way to work around it?

We left it up to Gary and the director. We were sensitive to the issue and didn’t ask him to do anything that might have been problematic, but primarily we left it up to the stage.  Gary covered it beautifully, didn't he?   Bet you watched for years not knowing. 

MikeN is next.

Ken, are you going to try to cash in on the 1.5 million that the State Department is offering for a TV series to combat terrorism?

Yes. I’m calling it HOMELAND.  Where's my money?

An Anonymous person (please leave a name) asked:

Ken - Do you have any memories of this, from when St.Elsewhere filmed on Cheers' set? So odd seeing Cheers characters without a laugh track. Did Cheers' writers provide Carla or Cliff's lines, or have approvals?

First off, here’s the video:



This question had been asked before and I was able to get John Masius, who wrote that episode of ST. ELSEWHERE to answer. Here is what John had to say. Again, my thanks to him for sharing the inside story with all of us.

how st.elsewhere came to cheers: a revisionist history

tom fontana, john tinker and i wrote the episode..bruce paltrow directed it..

the episode had three story arcs..westphal dealing with his autistic son,
craig coping with his mentor's alzheimer disease and auschlander coming to
grips with his own mortality..

we thought it would be fun to write a scene where the three friends met for a drink after work..something we had never done...and obliquely share their concerns and fears...so we thought why not the cheers bar? tartkoff loved the idea, paltow called his old friend burrows and they hashed the production constraints...one day to shoot during a cheers hiatus week...perleman and ratzenberger graciously signed on..

i wanted the coach behind the bar but he was dead...so creatively we decided to go for it and wrote essentially a one-act play that was the entire third act of the episode..due to the constraints of the three-camera set we shot pretty much in one direction..blew through 15 pages,twice our normal load in one day...

i remember it being a great fun day..the show turned out well...it was picked to be aired at our 20th anniversary event held at the paley museum of t.v. and beer-drinking...

the only negative feedback was from the charles bros who didn't like the dialogue we wrote
for carla and cliff...however their bastard step-brother ed charles, utility infielder extroidinaire for the '69 mets, was a big fan of the episode..

john masius

From Mr. Ace:

How detailed and how long should an outline be?

Ours were about fifteen pages and rather detailed. Every show had its own format. This was the CHEERS format. It allowed lots of room for scrawling notes. Here are two pages of a CHEERS outline to give you some idea.


i could be a bob rounds it out.

How about some great movies you've seen but could never watch again? I've got a couple of those.

Those would tend to be dramas that were very powerful but once is enough. I’m sure there are many but off the top of my head, DELIVERANCE (I’ll never go camping), MUNICH, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE EXORCIST, ROSEMARY’S BABY, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, THE MEN, 2001, BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and THE WEDDING SINGER.

What’s your Friday Question?

32 comments:

Andrew said...

"i wanted the coach behind the bar but he was dead."
I wanted Elvis to sing at my wedding but he was dead.

A. L. Crivaro said...

The Wedding Singer???

Michael said...

Friday question: Do you have any theories on why there haven't been any sitcom spin-offs or 'back-door pilots' in recent years? Seems very common for dramas, but can't think of any recent examples for comedies. Given the large BIG BANG THEORY cast, I am surprised they haven't tried spinning off some of the characters into a new show.

Anonymous said...

Is the deformity visible in the picture? I don't see anything, but I also didn't realize Scott McIntyre was blind for many weeks.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Here's another Friday question:

What kind of legal headaches are involved with product placement, and do the rules differ from TV and film? I notice whenever there's product placement on a TV series, it's usually done in a casual manner (such as the SEINFELD characters drinking Snapple and such); in movies however, it seems every single product that's seen or mentioned receives a copyright and trademark disclaimer during the end titles. Product placement in animation seems like an extremely rare occurence, with Honey Nut Cheerios in THE CHIPMUNK ADVENTURE being the only example off the top of my head.

kent said...

The Killing Fields

Charles H. Bryan said...

I'm not scared by most 'horror' movies, but there are two movies that have creeped me out so much that I could never watch them again: DELIVERANCE and BLUE VELVET. In that order. I tried a second viewing of BLUE VELVET, but couldn't make it through. DELIVERANCE, though, I won't even try. Yeesh, that kid with the banjo, and poor Ned Beatty. Both were certainly well-made movies, but holy crap.

(BTW, the not-a-robot-o-matic wanted me to pick pictures of 'recreational vehicles', and I didn't know whether to pick the ocean liner. I mean, technically, it is a vehicle and it is only used for recreation.)

Johnny Walker said...

Anthony Stewart Head is said to have a similar issue as Gary Burghoff. In a way it's a shame such things are hidden. Makes you wonder if it's a desire not to distract from the character, fear that it could affect future roles, or years of bullying in school.

Films I don't think I'll ever feel like watching again? REQUIEM FOR A DREAM leaps to mind! Absolutely brilliant, but once was enough for me.

I really wish you'd share a complete outline one day, Ken, but I appreciate two pages!

John Hammes said...

"Earnest Goes To Camp". Could only go through that cinematic experience once.

Then again, a person of college age should have been old enough to know better.

Rock Golf said...

The coincidence on the first two comments is priceless.

Big3Fan Will said...

Hello Ken, this is more of a Friday request than a Friday question.

I am watching Jericho on Netflix. I did not watch during its original run. The show seems to have a lot of course changes and abandoned plotlines. I was hoping to get insight from an expert, knowing of course it would be conjecture, on what might have been going on in the writer’s room.

Was it the studio passing down notes, was it the creative staff just getting to know their characters or perhaps reading message boards and responding to fan reaction. I like the show it just seemed to have some direction issues.

So now my funny request can you, with all your free time between the blog, play writing, baseball season and the myriad of other things can you binge watch Jericho and tell me what you think went on.

Thank you,
Will

Jeff Maxwell said...

Ken said..."Gary covered it beautifully, didn't he? Bet you watched for years not knowing."

So true! I worked with Gary for three years and never saw a thing until someone pointed it out. Even watched him play drums and didn't see it. He told me that if he paid much attention to it, so would others. So he didn't.

Myles Warden said...

FREEFORM aka ABC Family just announced a spinoff of their sitcom Young and Hungry using a character that was only seen a couple times and I think will be seen again in a back door pilot. TV Land's Soul Man was a Hot In Cleveland spinoff and had a back door pilot. Disney shows do it often too. I think Big Bang thought about it but it didn't end up happening.

Hollywoodaholic said...

LEAVING LAS VEGAS, UNDER THE VOLCANO, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, BARFLIES

Ugh. Life's too short. I guess you have to be a drinker.

Justin Russo said...

I watch "The Best Years Of Our Lives" once a year with my 90-year-old grandfather; it's one of his and my favorite movies, if only to watch Myrna Loy's PERFECT portrayal and the great chemistry she and Frederich March have together. It resonates.

LinGin said...

You and my late Mom re: Rosemary's Baby. We saw it on it's original run and Mom was so disturbed by it she never set foot in a movie theater again. (Film released in 1968; Mom passed away in 2011.)

Hope you enjoy the weekend in Hatboro. I'm a few townships over; unfortunately I can't make it to any of the performances.

Andy Rose said...

@Anonymous: The fingers on Gary Burghoff's left hand were considerably smaller than normal. It is visible in the photo posted here, but doesn't stand out much. At a glance, it just looks like Gary has his fingers partially curved underneath the paper he's holding, but that is actually the full length of his first two fingers.

It really is remarkable how many performers' physical difficulties were effectively hidden over the years, from Harold Lloyd's missing fingers to Bill Cullen's difficulty being on his feet.

Ted said...

There are movies I love and I've seen probably dozens of times - and then one day I'm done. Guys and Dolls is just wonderful - and finally done.

Dave Mackey said...

His left hand fingers were not fully formed.

Mike Barer said...

James Duhan had a missing finger. Marty Brill had missing fingrs. You could watch their show and not even notice.

Dylan Walton said...

BRIGHT STAR, directed by Jane Campion, about the poet John Keats. An absolutely beautiful, moving, heartbreaking film which I have no desire to ever see again.

And @LinGin, regarding ROSEMARY'S BABY, I recommended it to a friend of mine, not knowing she was pregnant at the time. I don't think she spoke to me for a year afterwards...

Charles F said...

While GRAVITY was a thoroughly immersive moviegoing experience and a technical masterpiece, I have no desire to sit through it again.

It's Me, Newton, It's Me, Newton said...

Friday question: Have you seen the new sitcom The Carmichael Show, and what do you think of it? I never thought I'd see that kind of topical humor on a network sitcom again (although I do think Last Man Standing has a little also).

scott said...

"Anonymous said...
Is the deformity visible in the picture? I don't see anything, but I also didn't realize Scott McIntyre was blind for many weeks."

I swear to god I had a college professor at San Diego State I didn't know was blind until more than halfway through the semester. I thought he was a leech or drunk because he was always holding some girl's elbow outside of class, always running into maps in the class, and he wouldn't call on me when I raised my hand in class.

MikeK.Pa. said...

I probably watch THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES at least three times a year on TCM. Just a great film, one of my Top 10 favorites, with an equally great cast. Fredric March is underrated as an actor. Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright gave terrific performances, as did Myrna Loy as the understanding wife and mother.

After watching the clip of ST. ELSEWHERE, I caught a 30th reunion piece GMA ran four years ago. Amazing that the show was nominated for 62 Emmys in 6 seasons. Even more amazing that Norman Lloyd is still with us at 101.

I cackled at the opening lines of Norm in the outline you posted. Classic.

Jabroniville said...

Haha, wow- what a coincidence. I just recently decided to watch the MASH repeats on the History Channel, and was thinking of that very thing with Gary Burghoff. You really do have to actively look for it to see it- otherwise you'd never notice that he "just happens" to have his hand inside his shirt or underneath something as part of the stage direction. And he will show his hand occasionally- it's not really that noticeable a difference, so if you're not looking for it, you won't notice the size difference between his hands.

ELS said...

Q1: James Doohan had the same situation on Star Trek. He was missing the middle finger of his right hand, but it was almost never shown. (I think it's seen best with "Trouble with Tribbles"). Most viewers never noticed that either, I'll bet.

Q2: The Cheers/St. Elsewhere crossover was a fun idea... but when St. Elsewhere was invalidated as the dreams of an autistic child, it also canceled out Cheers, and other shows ad nauseum.

Q3: I was able to watch "Schindler's List" once. It was brilliant, and well deserves to be viewed... but it's pretty potent for me to try to watch again.

Karl said...

Comedian Harold Lloyd lost the thumb and index finger of his right hand in 1919 when a prop bomb exploded during a photo shoot. He wore a special prosthetic glove on that hand to disguise the loss, and never let the injury stop him from performing his own stunts, as in this moment from SAFETY LAST (1923), one of silent comedy's most famous images:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Lloyd#/media/File:Safetylast-1.jpg

VincentS said...

Jumping on the BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES band wagon. Of all the old movies - made in the days when they were made BY adults FOR adults - this one really stands up despite the excruciating score - corny even for its day which the director hated and, ironically, won an Oscar.

Tyler said...

My Friday question...

For sitcoms that are produced before a live audience, what do cast members who aren't part of a given scene do while that scene is being shot? Do they just hang out back in their dressing room, watch the performance off-stage or even with the audience, or something else?

Do You Do Any Wings? said...

I'm a big fan of the Frasier Quotes Twitter feed - brightens up my day a whole lot. Do you ever look at these things and go "That's mine", "That's David's", "That one we did over late night Tacos..." and sigh sadly? Or do you indeed ever look at them at all?

Pavar Snipe said...

Hey Ken- I'm finishing a spec of The Goldbergs. I'm hearing from a teacher that the spec should be 25-26 pages. This is a single camera 30 minute sitcom. Right now my draft has 32 pages.