Friday, October 07, 2016

Friday Questions

Week two of my play. Come see it. Half price tickets for tonight.  Use Promo code  008.  And now, for some Friday Questions.

Jahn Ghalt leads off with a question about my book.

This reminds me to encourage you to write another memoir as a follow up to

The Me Generation.. by ME

Why not make this a Friday Question:

Ken, how is your outline coming along for the next volume in your Memoir Series?

It may seem contrived, but doing one book for every decade looks like a winner for me - I'd buy several copies for me and all my sufficiently aged, worthy friends.

Thanks so much for the support. Unfortunately, the amount of time it took to write vs. the sales didn’t propel me to just jump right in and begin the next decade. Too bad, because lots of neat stuff happened in the ‘70s. Maybe if I sell a few more copies of THE ME GENERATION…BY ME I’ll feel differently, but for now I’m writing plays.

From Don R:

The basic premise of CHEERS was that Sam Malone was an alcoholic who owned a bar. To my knowledge, there was never a story that had him falling off the wagon, or getting close. Was that a deliberate decision by the producers?

Yes there was. Season one. “Endless Slumper” written by Sam Simon.

Jeff Alexander asks:

When is a "spinoff" not a "spinoff?"

When "Cheers" ended and Dr. Frasier Crane started the 1993-94 season with his own, enormously popular "Frasier" series, that certainly was a spinoff.

But is it a "spinoff" when a series introduces one character as a guest shot and then. lo and behold, next year, that character has his/her own series? I'm going all the way back to "All In The Family"/"Maude" for this one -- Bea Arthur was on AITF twice, first visiting the Bunkers, then in the second spot at her own home in Tuckahoe with husband Walter (Bill Macy) and daughter Carol (played there by Marcia Rodd).

My point is that seemed more like a pilot for the series than a spinoff.

I've read that "Maude" was considered a "spinoff" but disagree. Still, I may be splitting hairs with a meat cleaver, but I'd like to read your thoughts on that, Mr. Levine.

Technically, if a series is launched from another series, even if it’s a one-shot appearance, it’s considered a spin-off. Mork was introduced on HAPPY DAYS. THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW was technically spun off from THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW. In one episode Danny winds up in Mayberry and encounters Andy Taylor.

Obviously though, that’s not the spirit of the term spin-off. Rhoda and Phyllis were integral characters of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW before they were given their own series. The Jeffersons lived next door to Archie and George, Lionel and Weezy made appearances at the Bunker home. Maude was Archie’s relative. And when MAUDE was spun off, her maid, Florida then got spun off on her own (GOOD TIMES).

You see fewer spinoffs from sitcoms these days because quite frankly, there are so few that are big enough hits to warrant it.

Speaking of spinoffs (gulp), Ray has an AfterMASH question regarding credits and Larry Gelbart.

I watched the AfterMASH clip. I remember watching it was on after the original's run, and remember wanting it to succeed just because I'd come of age with so many of the characters. It did raise a Friday-questionish question in my mind, though:

The clip shows Larry Gelbart getting a "developed by" credit. Although I probably didn't pay attention as the years were unfolding, I later interacted with "elsig" on MASH newsgroups and learned that he had little to do with the original series after the first few seasons. So was this development credit for AfterMASH a homage, a negotiated term, or did he have actual input into the production of the sequel?

First of all, Larry had a big involvement in season one. He conceived the series, wrote the one-hour pilot, spent two or three days a week with us, directed some episodes, and helped us break stories and rewrite scripts.

As for the “Developed By” credit: There is a WGA credits manual that specifies the difference between actually “creating” a series and “developing” one. Certain conditions have to already exist in Writer A’s script so that when it is significantly changed by Writer B, Writer A gets Created By credit and Writer B gets Developed By credit.

As for the MASH/AfterMASH situation, I am purely speculating, but Larry Gelbart on MASH got a “Developed for Television” credit (which is somewhat unusual). But of course the characters were already established in the original movie (and the novel that led to the film for that matter).

So for AfterMASH, since some of the same characters were used from MASH, I suppose Larry was only entitled to a “Developed By” credit. However, you’ll notice there is no “Created By” credit in either series. So I’m guessing that’s why. But I can assure you Larry and Larry alone created and wrote every word of the AfterMASH pilot, regardless of his credit.

What’s your Friday Question? And thanks in advance for any of you who do come out and see my play. I’ll be there all weekend, so please say hi.


Carol said...

What about writing a play based on your memoir? I can imagine a good 'coming of age in the 60's' story working as a play. Especially if you include my favorite - the woman who was born in the middle of everything and therefore didn't want to be tied down. (born June 15, 1950, for those who don't know. Middle of the century, middle of the year, middle of the month. Awesome)

Carol said...

Oh, I forgot. MeTV had this article about shows that should never be rebooted and MASH and Cheers is on the list:

Would love to hear your thoughts on that!

Also apparently Ken Levine the video guy is working on some kind of Twilight Zone interactive movie reboot or something.

Jeff Weimer said...

"You see fewer spinoffs from sitcoms these days because quite frankly, there are so few that are big enough hits to warrant it."

I would say that there are fewer characters strong enough to develop a spinoff around.

I thought it was a stretch to give Frasier his own show, but some say it worked out fine.

Andrew said...

Just that one picture of Archie and George made me burst out laughing. Maybe it's the memories. But their facial expressions say so much. What great actors.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Jeff's spinoff question is an interesting one. It's splitting hairs but some shows are true Spinoffs, like Rhoda, Gloria, Facts of Life or Benson where a main or recurring character goes off on their own.

Then some are one off pilots, introducing characters for 1 episode and thrust them into a popular show to get people to watch it.
Happy Days to my recollection had FOUR of these types of shows. Blansky's Beauties, Mork&Mindy, Laverne&Shirley, and Out of the Blue. 50% of them were very successful. Of course, Happy Days was a one-off spin-off of Love,AmericanStyle. But that makes sense as it was an anthology series.

Then there are some that are continuations of a show since the main show ended.
AfterMASH, Frasier, Archie Bunker's Place. I guess LouGrant would be thrown into this category too, though it was a drama.

Zappa the Unholy said...

If I remember right, Sam went fully off the wagon after the Christopher Lloyd / Diane debacle. Pretty sure that's when Frasier was introduced. Yeesh, I can remember that but not the birthdays of my wife, pets, or friends.

Mark said...

My Friday question:

There is a commercial where Jay Mohr is obviously playing the character he did in Jerry Maguire. Does Cameron Crowe need to approve that and does Crowe get paid for the use of his character?

Boomska316 said...

Sam fell off the wagon between Seasons 2 & 3 after he broke up with Diane. That's the reason they introduced Frasier was to help him deal with it.

Anonymous said...

"Those" type of pilots, where a character is quickly introduced within one show in order to "launch" a new series, are known as "back-door pilots".

- Gerald

Kirk said...

Aren't they called backdoor pilots, episodes specifically written to sell to a network a new show? As for the two All in the Family episodes with Maude, I read in Norman Lear's biography the first was written with no attention of becoming a spinoff. But Bea Arthur was so good in it, the network asked for a spinoff, and the second episode, which introduces Walter and Carol (the latter with a different actress than Adrienne Barbeau) was a true pilot.

Thomas said...

you recently joked about Thomas Gibson's dismissal being mood lifting for the writers room on Criminal Minds. But it occurred to me you did include in him your list of actors who where good to work with. Was he better on the set of Dharma & Greg?

Mike Doran said...

What Bumble Bee Pendant is describing is called a Backdoor Pilot.

Andy Griffith's appearance on The Danny Thomas Show is a prime example of this: setting up Andy as a small-town sheriff was a complete departure from Danny's big-city format; I've heard that the Griffith Show was already sold before the pilot was even filmed (correction, if needed, welcomed).

Gomer Pyle, USMC was a true spinoff from Griffith.

Bringing the circle up to date, in Matlock's final seasons, Andy Griffith took a back seat to no fewer than three backdoor pilots, as Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove tried to keep their whodunit "empire" going; none sold, but it's the thought that counts.

Michael said...

About developed by credits, an interesting thought: by the end of MASH, the only characters from the movie who were still in the TV series were Hawkeye, Hot Lips, and Father Mulcahy. Which makes Father Mulcahy the only character to go from the movie to the series to the spinoff, if I am correct. And if I am not, by all means, correct me!

I'd add to that, remember that William Christopher's character and approach were far different from the movie and even the pilot, in which George Morgan played "Dago Red."

Jahn Ghalt said...

Ken wrote: the amount of time it took to write (The Me Generation) vs. the sales didn’t propel me to just jump right in and begin the next decade. Too bad, because lots of neat stuff happened in the ‘70s.

and Carol wrote: What about writing a play based on your memoir? I can imagine a good 'coming of age in the 60's' story working as a play

Carol almost took the words out of my mouth: How about a play based on your 70s careers? Radio, the Army(?), writers room for M*A*S*H?

A memoir outline could be severely cut for a play - or a play outline could be greatly expanded for a memoir.

I've been paid to write - if you count dreary specifications and other tech writing or breezy newsletter lingo (which paid maybe $3/hour). All of the rest has been "for fun".

Wasn't writing "Me" fun??

cadavra said...

There are at least three spin-offs that ran longer than the shows they spun from: HAPPY DAYS, THE JEFFERSONS and BENSON. Had FRASIER gone to 12, it would have joined that list.

Ben Kubelsky said...

Would Gelbart have gotten a "created" credit if it hadn't been for Father Mulcahy being in AfterMASH? Because that character was in the movie/book, whereas Potter and Klinger were created for the later TV series, correct? Just curious

gottacook said...

As is probably well known to most people here, Star Trek produced a back-door pilot too: the 1968 episode "Assignment: Earth," in which the Enterprise travels back to 1968, and Kirk and Spock meet Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, played by Robert Lansing and Teri Garr, respectively. Both roles were very well cast, I thought.

Paul Duca said...

Mr. Pendant...Mork from Ork helped to launch OUT OF THE BLUE, but I don't see how BLANSKY'S BEAUTIES is considered a spin off. As an alien it is no great suspension of disbelief for Mork to move from 1950's Milwaukee to 1970's Colorado to wherever BLUE was set--I can't imagine how the Cunninghams and Blansky can be connected across time.

MikeN said...

Had no idea fake spinoffs were so old. I thought it started with NCIS from JAG, which followed up with NCIS LA and New Orleans.

I assume the CSI and Law and Order are also fakes.

Anonymous said...

Arguably, Trapper John also went from the movie to the TV show to a spin-off.


Earl Boebert said...

The narrative arc that began with the Inspector Morse series must set some kind of a record for continuity of spinoffs. Based on the Colin Dexter novels, we have John Thaw as Inspector Morse and Keven Whatley as his Sergeant Lewis from 1987 to 2000. Then Morse dies, and Lewis is promoted to Inspector with Laurence Fox as his Sergeant Hathaway from 2000 to 2015. Lewis retires and Hathaway is promoted to Inspector with Angela Griffith as his Sergeant Maddox. Will there be a new series called "Hathaway?" The last shot of the last "Lewis" certainly implies it.

Kendall said...

Regarding the "created by" vs. "developed By" credit, I've always wondered why the Game of Thrones showrunners get a "created by" when they are using the characters, settings and plots from the books.

Green Luthor said...

"I assume the CSI and Law and Order are also fakes."

If I remember correctly, they did the "backdoor pilot" thing for CSI:Miami, and then used an episode of CSI:Miami to backdoor pilot CSI:NY. I think.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit should probably be more of a "real" spinoff, I'd say. Actually, it was a spinoff of *two* shows. Dann Florek reprised his role as Don Cragen from the original L&O series (although he had left that show years earlier), and Richard Belzer reprised his John Munch from Homicide: Life on the Streets (which had just ended). (And no episode of original L&O set up SVU as a backdoor pilot.) Law & Order: Trial By Jury was also more of real spinoff, featuring Jerry Orbach as Lennie Briscoe. Criminal Intent, on the other hand, just started with its own pilot, unrelated to the other series save for the franchise name and Dick Wolf creating and producing, and crossovers occurring later in the run.

(Other than L&O:SVU, were there other shows that were spinoffs from two different series like that? L&O and Homicide weren't even by the same producers, although they had crossed over before, which makes the situation seem even more unusual...)

SER said...

Spinoffs of dramas have become more prevalent lately than spinoffs of sitcoms. I think of FLASH and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW spinning off from ARROW. There was also ANGEL from BUFFY. I can't recall a recent sitcom spin off but I confess to not watching a lot of current sitcoms.

FLASH was "set up" on ARROW, so almost a "backdoor pilot" within the same "universe." ANGEL was somewhat riskier because like RHODA and PHYLLIS, a key member of the show's cast was removed for their own series.

I've also wondered whether FRASIER could have worked even if Kelsey Grammer had chosen to *not* play the same character from CHEERS. He could have just been a successful radio host whose estranged father moves in with him. Does Niles still work if he's not a psychiatrist but just a doctor or lawyer or any successful white collar professional?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Jeff Weimer: Howard from THE BIG BANG THEORY, maybe? Simon Helberg has much more than the show has time to showcase.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Ken, the "developed by" credit is NOT controlled by the WGA and its rules are not codified in the MBA.

I always assumed it was.

I learned the truth the hard way.

Because I wrote a remake of a TV show. There were multiple parties involved, a network and the original IP holder. Despite our contract having us being guaranteed a "developed by" credit by the network, the greedy, egomaniacal IP holder refused to grant it.

Well, we called up the WGA to force the issue.

And we were told, somewhat sheepishly, by a WGA rep that, in fact, there are no actual written rules about the developed by credit. The WGA claims they have the jurisdiction to grant it, while the studios claim they do. (the latter assumption seems flatly absurd on its face, since the WGA has jurisdiction over ALL OTHER FORMS OF WRITING CREDIT - how could there be this one exception??)

In almost all cases, though, it's never an issue and is worked out amicably.

However, every once in a while (as happened in my case), someone wants to dig in and be an asshole about it.

So I got screwed.

But, if you look closely, you'll notice a lack of uniformity in "developed by" and "created by" credits.

In some cases, the creator of the original IP has their name right before or right after the "developer" in the opening credits. In some cases, they are shunted to the end credits (See the new "Battlestar Galactica.")

In other instances, the TV developers get a full on "created by" credit, even though the show is based on existing IP. See "Game of Thrones"...

So, there really aren't any firm rules about it.

Which can lead the occasional writer - in this case ME - getting hosed by jerks.

This seems like the kidna thing the WGA should have settled eons ago....but, as we all know, their leverage against the studios is not what we wish it was.

Sam said...

Paul Duca said...
Mr. Pendant...Mork from Ork helped to launch OUT OF THE BLUE, but I don't see how BLANSKY'S BEAUTIES is considered a spin off. As an alien it is no great suspension of disbelief for Mork to move from 1950's Milwaukee to 1970's Colorado to wherever BLUE was set--I can't imagine how the Cunninghams and Blansky can be connected across time.

Well, if you're Garry Marshall and could care less about anything making sense, contriving a connection between BLANKSY'S BEAUTIES and HAPPY DAYS is easy. The Nancy Blansky character was identified as being Howard Cunningham's cousin. She visited HAPPY DAYS in the episode aired a week before BLANSKY'S BEAUTIES premiered. But wait, you say, HAPPY DAYS was taking place in the early 1960s at that point, while BLANSKY'S BEAUTIES took place in present day 1977. How could Nancy Walker's Nancy Blansky possibly make a cross-over appearance on HAPPY DAYS, playing a character exactly the same age as her character on BLANSKY'S BEAUTIES? As I said, if you're Garry Marshall, it's easy. So, no, I don't think BLANSKY'S BEAUTIES really qualifies as a spinoff of HAPPY DAYS, since the connection between the two shows was only created so BLANSKY could trumpet itself as a spinoff of the older show.

Ted said...

Just snagged a couple of tickets to your show, can't wait!

Chet S said...

Ken, I would like to hear your thoughts on the FOS series PITCH. I'm actually enjoying it so far.

Jonathan said...

Friday question: Are there any "written-word" comedy writers (novelists, essayists, etc.) you particularly enjoy?

Francis Dollarhyde said...


" the end of MASH, the only characters from the movie who were still in the TV series were Hawkeye, Hot Lips, and Father Mulcahy. Which makes Father Mulcahy the only character to go from the movie to the series to the spinoff, if I am correct."

Radar guest-starred in "AfterMASH" (and had his own TV pilot, "W*A*L*T*E*R"), so he's a character that went from the movie to the series to *two* spin-offs...and unlike Houlihan and Mulcahy, he was played by the same actor the entire time.

Michael said...

Francis, you are right. I should have taken into account his guest shots and the pilot.

Kirk said...

In my comment above that should be "intention" not "attention".

I was a big fan of Happy Days in high school, thus have a good memory of "spinoffs" like Blansky's Beauties. In that show's first episode, Pinky Tuscadaro shows up, looking, and dressing (short shorts, midriff-baring top)just as she did on Happy Days, even though 20 years had presumably passed. In addition, Eddie Mekka played Joey DeLuca (I had to look that name up, so it's not all memory)cousin of Carmine Regusa, the character he played on another Happy Days spinoff Laverne and Shirley. Presumably there's a twenty-year age difference between these identical cousins. Wait, there's more. Pat Morita, Arnold on Happy Days, joined the show about halfway through its short run playing...Arnold, and not looking a day older than he did in the 1950s. Finally, there's a flashback episode that takes place in the 1950s in which Penny Marshall, as Laverne DeFazio, shows up, reestablishing the premise that Nancy Blansky was doing the exact same thing, acting as a den mother to a bevy of showgirls, 20 years earlier. Casino thug Mr. Smith (Garry Marshall himself) also appears in the flashback, but with, naturally enough, a '50s haircut.

DrBOP said...

As I thought about your answer to the first question, a vision of George S. Kaufman looking up from his newspaper at The Lambs, giving a slight nod of his head as he glances your way.....

......and Groucho loping into the scene, stage left, saying "Get your nose outta the light, kid.....'yer blockin' the light!"


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Thank you Mike Doran for the "Backdoor pilot" phrasology.

I remember the Matlock spinoffs that did work: Diagnosis Murder and Jake&theFatMan

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Paul Duca
I did some research. There's a site called
It calls Blanskys a "crossover" and Out of the Blue a "spinoff" although the first episode of the show appeared a week before the main character's appearance on Happy Days. I will admit the happy days episode that launches Mork, LaverneShirley and Out of the Blue were all extremely memorable and well done.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Never before has Blanky's Beauties warranted such august exploration.

On "Sabrina, the Teen-Age Witch," Nell Scovell received a "Created By" credit even though Sabrina, Hilda, Zelda, Salem and Harvey appeared in the comics and on TV since the '60s. However, the series contained many elements that never existed before, like the "other realm" and Mr. Poole (Paul Feig).

Also in the credits was "Based on characters appearing in Archie Comics," so perhaps it was arranged that way for both parties.