Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Questions

This would have been my mom’s birthday. I miss her everyday. It’s also Friday Question day.

Charles H. Bryan gets us started.

Is there ever concern in a multi'cam about actors' footwear so as not to make noise on the floor of the set? Clomp Clomp Clomp or click click click would be hard to remove from the mix. (I was watching BIG BANG THEORY and noticed Leonard wearing tennis shoes on the hardwood kitchen floor. That's appropriate footwear for that character, but it can't be so for everyone.)

I must say it’s a question that’s never come up. I do know we did a funny episode of CHEERS where Cliff had squeaky shoes, but I can’t recall ever watching a rough cut of an episode and being distracted by the clacking of shoes. Maybe actors wear rubber souls whenever they can, I dunno.

Here's the squeaky shoes scene:


Unkystan has a question about my play, A OR B?:

Any chance for an off-Broadway run in New York?

I would love that. Just need someone to make me an offer. I’m thinking of changing the title from A OR B? to A OR HAMILTON?  Whattaya think?

From Rashad:

I found a two-act play that I had written approximately 13 years ago, when I was a grad student and still believing I would become a professional writer someday. Should I reread the f**ker in order to refresh my memory...or should I just put it away in another drawer and forget all about it (again)? Thanks in advance!

This is not easy to answer since I haven’t read the play and I’m not clairvoyant. But sure, look it over. What the hell? If it’s terrible you can throw in the drawer, chalk it up to your inexperience and age at the time, but who knows? You might be pleasantly surprised. Or you might see a new way to go and be inspired to rewrite it. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like a CAA agent is going to see it lying around and file legal papers to have you banned from show business. (They tried that with me once but it didn't stick.) 

Timothy wraps it up with a CHEERS pilot question.

In reading reviews and the history of "Give Me a Ring Sometime", it seems that there was another patron character that was intended to be in the cast, an older cantankerous woman in a wheelchair. Several places online it is noted that she was played by Elaine Stritch. The interesting part of this is I recall watching a scene with Diane and Coach where there was a woman in purple sitting in a wheelchair that seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to what was being said, and I thought to myself "Well, there's an extra that isn't really doing her job", and funny enough it was this character. Can you confirm that it was Elaine Stritch (it sure doesn't LOOK like her), and why she was editied and written out?

First off, that was not Elaine Stritch. We tried to use Ms. Stritch in an episode seven or eight years and let’s just say it was not a good match.

In the original pilot there was a character named Miss Littlefield who was a cantankerous older woman. Upon seeing a rough cut the producers decided to take her out of the show, which they did with some deft editing. But as you mentioned, she is still visible in the background in a couple of shots, but she has no lines.

Her character also then had to be rewritten out of the next few scripts, as the plan was to make her a regular bar patron.

Happy Birthday, Mom... wherever you are.

33 comments:

Al Leos said...

We were having a discussion of the "Edith Bunker gets attacked" episode of All in the Family in an online forum, and the question came up whether CBS could have blocked the script from airing. Do you have to clear any scripts ahead of time, if it involves a controversial topic or a vital change to a key character?

Brian Phillips said...

Friday Question: Outside of the network's wanting to get rid of Kevin Kilner's character from "Almost Perfect", what are some of the more outrageous suggestions from the "suits" over the years?

Fred Nerk said...

So she was the Pete Best of Cheers.

richard said...

Shouldn't it be Ham or Tun

Tom Quigley said...

In response to Charles H. Bryan's question:

Back in 1998, I was in a made for TV movie starring Debbie Reynolds, Neil Patrick Harris and (a then unknown) Naomi Watts in which I played a guest at an office Christmas party. For one of the shots in the scene where Debbie Reynolds was talking to Neil Patrick Harris, who played her grandson, they wanted the party goers to be walking back and forth in front of and behind the two of them to give the scene a little background activity, but since they didn't want the noise of so many shoes clopping on the hardwood floor, everyone in the scene had to take off their shoes and walk back and forth in their sock or stocking feet. They rectified the situation by later recording a wild track with us walking with our shoes on and engaging in random conversation which they could then add in post under Debbie's and Neil's dialogue, to add some background noise to the shot (and in fact the whole scene). I know this is not the same as filming a sitcom episode in front of a live audience, but it's also employed sometimes in order to cope with extraneous noises and sounds that are either needed or need to be masked over, and wild tracks will be recorded once principal photography on the episode is finished for the evening.

sean said...

re: shoe noises-oftentimes the heel will have a square of gaff tape on the bottom of it to reduce noise if needed. this is only usually necessary for high heels.

Mike Botula said...

The "Squeaky Shoe" sketch made me laugh until the tears ran! It reminded me of a real "squeaky shoe" incident that happened early one morning at KMPC way back when. Dick Whittinghill's engineer, Bob Maryon, was wearing a brand new pair of mail order shoes. They squeaked! You could hear Bob coming down the hall well in advance of his arrival in any part of the building. One of the newsguys followed Bob around with a portable tape recorder gathering the natural sound of his squeaky shoes! Naturally the squeaks became a wild track that Whit used all morning long and the fabric of our engineer's squeaky shoes was woven into every news and sportscast as well as Whittinghill's morning show. Bob never wore those shoes to work again. Seeing this clip somehow makes me think that the guy that wrote the Cheers sketch may have been listening that morning.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

This is off-topic, but I guess blogging really is dead nowadays: of the dozen or so blogs I'm subscribed to, Ken's appears to be the only one I ever receive updates for in my Blogger dashboard.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

CAA tried to have you banned from show biz!? Now, there's a post I missed...and if it wasn't there, tell us all about it!

...and Happy Birthday to moms everywhere...

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Joseph: blogging isn't dead, but lots of us don't use Blogger or other aggregate/host platforms. I, for example, have published a column every Friday since 2001 called net.wars...and many other blogs of interest (at least to me) are at NGOs, personal domains, and other individual domains.

wg

YEKIMI said...

My question is regarding the woman in the wheelchair. How'd she get in the bar? Every shot I've seen shows steps coming down from Melville's and it seems you had to go down steps to get into Cheers from outside. I don't seem to recall an elevator on Cheers. Was she carried down the stairs? Shoved the wheelchair down the stairs and she scooted down them on her ass? Guess it's a good thing thing they did remove her character because it would have to have been explained someday how she got in there.
[By the way, I actually saw a guy in a wheelchair do that. We hear a tremendous clattering, see a wheelchair come bouncing down the stairs and we all run over expecting to see a body laying somewhere along the way only to see a man scooting down the steps on his ass. Everybody's gawking at him and his only response was "What? I needed a drink." This was in the days before the ADA act and it was an old bar. He figured once he was down there he'd get back in his wheelchair and trundle up to the bar. No one wanted to ask him how he planned to get back upstairs if no one was there to carry his wheelchair up.]

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

My teenager saw "Outta Sight" for the first time.
She LOVED it.
It was the first time she watched a whole MASH episode. (I've obviously failed as a father).

She said that not only was it a great story but gave her a great introduction into all the characters.
Every main/minor character is shown.
She understood who everyone was (though Klinger in a dress was a mystery to her that had to be explained). She laughed so hard watching Radar acting as a general whiling holding his Teddy Bear.

VillageDianne said...

" It’s not like a CAA agent is going to see it lying around and file legal papers to have you banned from show business. (They tried that with me once but it didn't stick.)"

I'd like to add my voice to the previous commenter on this. It sounds like a rather egregious abuse of power on the part of CAA. If you have already written about this please provide a link. If you have not yet written about this, I am certain we would all be interested in your experience.

I have worked as a background actor (extra). If your shoes make noise that can be heard on the microphone, it's definitely an issue. They will tell you to walk more softly, or take your shoes off.

Anonymous said...

My mom's birthday is today as well... 89 years young. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate her everyday.

John Hammes said...

The clomp clomp and click click of footwear could be detected here and there on the original "Dark Shadows" series. The show was recorded live to tape on a tight budget and even tighter shooting schedule. The occasional off camera noises were just going to have to happen. Footwear (actors scurrying from set to set), something falling down, something slamming shut, something this, something that. Gilda Radner was right... it's always something.

The joys of early television.

Gage said...

If noisy footwear is a problem on set, you just put something on the bottom of the shoe or boot to muffle the noise. They used to use felt for this, but anything that deadens the "clomp clomp clomp" will work.

Diane D. said...

What a sublime tribute to your mother--you think of her and miss her every day. I bet, wherever she is, she knows.

MikeN said...

Cmon, people, you can't tell when Ken is joking?

thevidiot said...

Any good Sound Department has foam soles that can be attached to the bottom of noisy shoes. Prop departments should also have a supply of felt "brown bags" to eliminate paper bag noises too.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Thanks, Ken (and other commenters). You've honored a very random observation.

But it does lead me to one other live audience question: What happens if an audience member has a coughing fit or loud sneeze? (I know a woman who has sneezing fits. If she sneezes once, it I'd reliable that five or six more are going to show up in rapid succession.)

Are the stage microphones directional enough to not pick up those sounds?

Johnny Walker said...

Of all the bars in Boston, Miss Littlefield couldn't have picked one that was less wheelchair friendly.

The original script is online, and well worth reading along with the show itself. She was too cantankerous for CHEERS, but you'll also see the little tweaks to the script, and unscripted glances between Sam and Diane, that made their relationship spark from the offset.

VincentS said...

Know how you feel, Ken. My mom died 1/4/00 and not a day goes by when I don't think about her. PS - Would love to audition for your play if you ever bring it to NYC.

Rashad Khan said...

Thanks, Ken, for answering another one of my questions. I apologize if you felt put-on-the-spot to answer. However, I felt I needed advice from someone who 1) was a professional writer, and 2) wasn't a relative or friend (who all seem to say the same thing -- specifically, that I SHOULD re-read my thesis and shouldn't be hard on myself about it).

Andy Rose said...

A friend of mine got annoyed by the sound of people's shoes when they walked quickly or ran through the office on Mad Men. Like most single-camera "office suite" sets, it was built above the studio floor on top of a wooden platform in order to accommodate the electrical wiring underneath. (You usually can't run electric through the set walls because they're designed to be removed quickly.) So running through the halls produces squeaking and thumping sounds rather than the tapping you would get on a standard poured concrete office floor. I've never met anyone else who noticed that just from watching the show, but he did.

thirteen said...

I think Miss Littlefield's wheelchair might have become A Thing. You'd always see her sitting there, but you'd never see how she got downstairs to the bar, or how she got out of there at closing time. It would always remain a mystery.

My mom's birthday was last week. Thanksgiving will make it twenty years since she died. You never get over it, but you do get used to it. Eventually.

Ben Devine said...

Friday Question:

I've been re-watching old Seinfelds and noticed possibly a reference to you in Season 1, Episode 2. At a gathering of relatives in Jerry's apartment, a cousin appears into the conversation. Jerry says, "Elaine, this is my cousin Artie Levine," pronouncing it "Leveen." Artie, looking annoyed, barks, "It's Le VINE!" After he exits, Jerry says, "Yeah, Le VINE, and I'm Jerry Cougar Mellencamp." Was this a friendly dig at a fellow NBC writer?

Bernadette said...

I liked the first line of Miss Littlefield in the pilot script (available online) where she is being pushed too roughly down the steps and complains to her nurse, "Easy, you're shaking my jowls". It's a good lesson in putting the essence of the character into their opening line. I often think of Miss Littlefield when I sense a little movement in my own jowls.

Dixon Steele said...

About the CAA reference, I thought Ken was kidding...

Ken?

Cat said...

The Charles brothers constructed that pilot with the utmost care. Everything was perfect, whereas on some sitcoms, for example, there is a sibling who is gone by the second episode, or the set is different, not Cheers. I believe Ken said they changed the lighting, and that was it. Mrs. Littlefield did not belong there and the Charles brothers knew it. I think they are TV geniuses and they don't get enough credit.

Marc Wielage said...

Sound recording people generally bring along some thin rubber strips that can be glued on to noisy shoes, particularly high heels or hard-soled shoes. Standard procedure in Hollywood.

JOhn said...

The discussion about the lady in the wheelchair in the pilot got my wife and I to watching the first season of Cheers again over this weekend. The first very obvious thing to me was how great the writing was from the very first second of the pilot and on out from there. Very, very solid. It made remember reading how it took Cheers awhile to catch on and become a hit, which has always amazed and dumbfounded me a little. Was it too good for tv? Is there such a thing? I believe so, especially when I think of a smart, very well written show like Futurama (I know it's a cartoon, but it really was incredibly well produced) being cancelled while "reality" shows are still being picked up and piloted by many networks.

Other things that have jumped at me from that first season are how they managed to plain-Jane the beautiful and always very funny Julia Duffy (other than Bob himself, her and the Darryls made Newhart), how many of my very favorite episodes were written by Levine & Issacs, and once again I noticed that someone had written "God Save The Kinks" on the men's room wall in "Coach Returns To Action." I always wondered who wrote those things, as it's something I definitely agree with!

Will Leitch said...

Friday question: Hi Ken, was there a reason a book of Cheers scripts was never released (and could one ever come out) during the show's run? It would be a great tool for aspiring sitcom writers (myself included!). Love the blog!

Will Leitch said...

Friday question: Hi Ken, was there ever a discussion of releasing a Cheers script book during the show's run (or could one ever be released)? I believe it would be a great resource for aspiring sitcom writers (myself included). Love the blog!