Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Questions

This is the closing weekend for GOING GOING GONE! It’s been a huge success and I thank everyone who came to see it. Now to your Friday Questions:

RyderDA starts us off:

Do you think it would be possible to resurrect something like THE DICK VAN DYKE show -- an incredibly funny and very successful sitcom from ~50 years ago -- on an "almost" word for word basis? Many -- not all -- of the stories, jokes and dialog are timeless.

No. Interestingly, I had a conversation with Bill Persky, one of the showrunners of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW on just this very subject.

We both agreed that times and society has changed so dramatically that the show would have to be totally re-imagined.

Laura and Rob would no longer sleep in separate beds for one thing. But housewife Laura getting a job was frowned upon in the MAD MEN early ‘60s.  Today she absolutely would have a life outside of the home. 

There would have to be diversity in the writers’ room. Sally Rogers’ end game might not be to find any decent guy to marry.

The ALAN BRADY SHOW that they wrote for would have to change. There are no more comic-hosted primetime variety shows. So what do they write? A late night show like Fallon or THE DAILY SHOW? Or a sitom?

I agree that many of the themes of the original DICK VAN DYKE SHOW are timeless and universal. And that’s one of the reasons why it still resonates today. But it’s also dated. 50+ years is a long time.

From AJ Thomas:

There was a TON of hype for NBC's THIS IS US. All of the reviews said the show was great, and quite possibly the best thing to ever grace the airwaves. Now, I don't know how many episodes were screened, but I can only imagine it being 1 or 2. Do you really think it is that possible for a show to be that good off of one episode?

Sure. It’s possible, but not always done. Plenty of examples can be cited: THE SOPRANOS pilot was extraordinary. So was the pilot for MAD MEN, THE GOOD WIFE, WEST WING, and ER. Hard to find better sitcom pilots than CHEERS, FRASIER, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, and MODERN FAMILY.

But most series do require time to find their groove and develop. You don’t always hit a home run the first time you swing. But however you arrive at a long-running series, it’s the end that counts.

k2001 asks:

One weird Friday question....I have noticed that MASH incorporates a lot of scenes of people driving in jeeps...there's a lot of scenes with people riding/driving in jeeps..long shots...close ups...no dialogue..no real reason...I was curious if that was padding for time...

No, not at all. If anything we were always too long. But we needed those shots to establish geography and also to give the show a little production value.

Remember, at the time, MASH was pretty much the only sitcom that was not filmed in front of a studio audience. So showing the scope of our show was just one more plus. Every other show was stuck in a living room. 

And finally, a question from an Anonymous source. Please leave a name.

I remember Peter Boyle doing a magnificent range of characters (a partial list- A Brando -Wild One, Human Fly circus character reminiscent of old Lancaster Hecht flics, and then Western hero at end) in "Steelyard Blues' and I never see this on reruns. ( Donald Sutherland Jane Fonda headliners )

Why do some films just disappear while others that are not as good seem to be on a constant play list?
What other obscure films would you recommend?

A lot depends on which company or studio owned them and who is distributing them. Lots of films from independent companies now long out of business are either just collecting dust or are part of distribution companies that either aren’t selling them or don’t even know they own them.  

When I hosted that Neil Simon festival on TCM I wanted them to show HEARTBREAK KID. They had to dig it up, and they told me that was the first time they had aired that movie. They didn’t even know about it until I mentioned it.

Some obscure movies I love: Peter Boyle starred in one called JOE. There’s a real fun comedy from the late ‘70s called BETWEEN THE LINES. The movie version of A THOUSAND CLOWNS is wonderful. Does GOODBYE COLUMBUS still air? If so, check that out. Also THE LAST SEDUCTION, DINER, THE STUNT MAN, RED ROCK WEST, MIDNIGHT RUN, and the twenty others I can’t think of right now but you should seek them out today anyway.

What is your Friday Question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

48 comments:

Carol said...

I have a vaguely formed theory about Sally Rogers being a feminist icon. She did seem to be singularly focused on getting married - the supposed brass ring for any right-thinking female in those days - but she actually had several chances to be married, but didn't, because she'd be compromising her own needs and wants to do so.

And I loved how Sally was an equal part of the writing team, contributing just as much as Buddy and Rob, and they treated her as an equal (even if she did have to do most of the typing).

B.A. said...

"Anonymous source" and your answer framed a question I've been trying to articulate for a while. I like movies and TV from the early 70s and they're usually absent from programming. Schedules showing movies tend to jump between 50s and 80s with no quarter given to the 70s (60s films up to '65 allowed, as well as period Westerns from 70s). Did the cable/antenna chiefs collectively decide that no one from that demographic wanted to see JOE anymore, yet still hungered for BILLY TWO HATS? Is it ideological?("we will shun any artifact from that period of Hippie Unpleasantness). All I know is that movies like JOE were routinely shown on TV at one time and now they're not (also remember how the booby-parts were edited).EASY RIDER was quite the boffo smash and it's never shown. Please bear in mind I said TRYING to articulate...

Tom Scarlett said...

Turner Classic Movies aired JOE a few weeks ago. It's still terrific (and features a very young Susan Sarandon). "Forty-two percent of liberals are queers! The Wallace campaign took a poll." Joe was the original Trump supporter.

Anonymous said...

Peter Boyle' performance in JOE is magnificent, one of the great rarely seen performances in movies. It presaged Archie Bunker in many ways - and if anything he was better than Carroll O' Connor (altho its hard to compare great movie and TV performances).

Two other superb performances by Peter Boyle rarely seen - his campaign manager in THE CANDIDATE. He is actually the most compelling character in the movie and he steals the show from Robert Redford.

Also his hitman in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.Absolutely top drawer .That movie might be the best 1970's movie that most people don't know. His interplay with Robert Mitchum (and its arguably Mitchum's best role) is just great.

Peter Boyle was one of the greatest American actors of his generation. Most people don't don't know that. They just know he was good.

Jason Langlois said...

" Also THE LAST SEDUCTION, DINER, THE STUNT MAN, RED ROCK WEST, MIDNIGHT RUN, and the twenty others I can’t think of right now but you should seek them out today anyway."

It makes me feel old to think that all of these films (excellent all of them) are considered obscure. I remember all of these being fodder for discussion in the video store on Friday night, trying to pick something to watch.

Jeff said...

Regarding The Dick Van Dyke Show: Based on your comments, would that make 30 Rock the modern equivalent?

I also love Midnight Run, but if I recall, the sheer number of F-bombs would make it nearly un-airable anywhere but a premium channel outside of primetime. Redubbing all the swears would cost too much, sound ridiculous and be way too distracting. The language isn't gratuitous -- that's how those characters would talk -- but I imagine it's a big stumbling block.

Boomska316 said...

Friday Question:Has there ever been a show, successful or not, about what goes on in a writer's room? Or about the making of a sitcom? It seems like an idea that would've been tried or at least thought of before.

Wayne said...

Friday question. Now that Mike Nichols is no more, who is the top director of comedy plays?

RyderDA said...

Question answered! That's #5! Makes me proud with all you get asked. Thanks for the answer, Ken!

John in NE Ohio said...

My problem with declaring a show to be something special after 2 episodes is that too many go to crap after the first couple.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

This might be old news but the Dick Van Dyke Show will be colorized according to an article from Orlando:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/tv/tv-guy/os-dick-van-dyke-show-colorized-oh-rob-20161117-story.html

thomas tucker said...

Midnight Run is one of the funniest movies ever. Here's an overlooked movie form the 70's: Sleuth. Excellent movie with just two actors in it, the greats Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier.

thirteen said...

JOE was Susan Sarandon's first film. Back in the '80s there was an effort to do a sequel, CITIZEN JOE, but the thing never quite came together.

As for that reimagining of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, it would have to be set in L.A. unless the writers were working for a late-night chat show. Might be fun to have them in Toronto or Vancouver working on those cookie-cutter Hallmark movies after their L.A.-produced show tanked.

Jahn Ghalt said...

A little "pushback" on the DICK VAN DYKE question - but given that that many of the themes of (the original show) are timeless and universal - these are essentially nitpicks.

Pretty much all of the "differences" are surface:

Replace two fulls with one king.

Mrs. Comedy Writer might still stay at home for "Ritchie" - at least until kindergarten. The wife and I did that on one professional salary - which I daresay did not match what a head TV comedy writer made in the mid-90s.

(which begs a Friday Question. What would Rob, Sally and Morey Amsterdam get paid these days?)

Sally was almost a pioneer (and certainly in minority) in 1962 as a single professional woman. I recall a recent rerun with Rob and Laura fixing her up at their home over dinner. Her "man problem" was that she was awkward (IIRC the "date" was too). For my own part, I'd have gladly dated her.

What kind of comedy show would they write for in 2016? It's true there are no more Brady's and Burnett's - but maybe there should be? Does SNL still do the one-week pressure cooker? Even if they do, why shouldn't there be a Sonny and Cher kind of show now - with good writing and attractive stars that could be a hit - at least compared to the dismal network competition.

No doubt THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW is "dated" but an update would not be so tough.

Unknown said...

Some of these old obscure movies are played on broadcast channels now. In Chicago broadcast channels Movies!, The Works, Movie4U, This TV, Antenna show movies that I frequently say, "I forgot about that one". Laff will show comedies.

cadavra said...

Coming to GOING on Sunday. Hope to see you there.

As for why some movies "vanish": The 70s was (were?) the first full decade after the studio system fell apart. An awful lot of films were produced independently and then acquired by the majors for distribution--but a lot of those deals expired after X number of years, and the pictures reverted to the producers. Many of those people are unable or unwilling to make new deals, so the films just gather dust. Some were also distributed by small independents that no longer exist. JOE, SLEUTH and THE LAST SEDUCTION all fall into either of these categories.

James said...

Who is he in THE STUNT MAN? I've seen that movie a gazillion times and I don't remember him in it. And I know Peter Boyle when I see him (I saw JOE).

Also don't recall him in MIDNIGHT RUN.

You want obscure, dig up the short-lived sitcom JOE BASH by Danny Arnold, no less. Saw it first run. I may have been the only one.

Donald Benson said...

Tom Arnold -- in his Mr. Rosanne days -- had a sitcom that consciously mirrored the DVD show. Arnold played an obnoxious sitcom star while his costar played his head writer. The head writer character was positioned as the funny, likable protagonist dealing with the Arnold character's demands, a bit like DVD if Alan Brady had been a regular. Perhaps the network or Arnold himself felt he was funniest as a jerk, but it was intriguing that the show's official star and producer deflected nearly all the sympathy onto somebody else.

Johnny Walker said...

I kind of feel it wouldn't take too much to update DICK VAN DYKE, but I agree that Laura would be the main problem. If she worked with Jerry and Millie somewhere, at least she could have more of a life of her own, and the characters and storylines could be maintained, too. And anything that relied on the Alan Brady show being a variety show would need to be changed (until the variety show inevitably resurfaces at least), but you wouldn't want to lose an amazing character like Alan Brady, so I guess it would be a talk show... but all of a sudden you've landed in LARRY SANDERS territory.

I guess it would take more work than it first seems like... The characters, stories, themes, and even jokes, could survive being translated, but the situation itself (which is tied to the stories and characters in ways that may not be immediately apparent) would need to be altered.

But still, it's amazing that so much of that show stands the test of time. Just incredible.

Related Friday question: Ken, are there any shows from pre-1980 that you think COULD survive today?

Other great pilots: TWIN PEAKS, BREAKING BAD, and, uh, THE COSBY SHOW.

Stoney said...

Ken, I'd be interested in your take on a very odd move that just happened in radio. Station WRCR in Ramapo, New York (a stand-alone, expanded band AM) just began a one-year lease of 24/7 airtime to Radio India. That's not the odd part; if Radio India wants to pay the station for that massive amount of time, it's good business for WRCR to take it!

The odd part is that WRCR will attempt to continue their previous format of local music and personality programming exclusively on their internet stream. I wonder how long they will be able to keep this up before their advertisers completely bail on them! Who wants to pay to have their commercials on a webstream instead of a real radio transmission?

Here is how their manager explains it: http://www.wrcr.com/2016/11/15/wrcr-doubles-programming-on-wrcr-com-and-on-air/

Anonymous said...

two great 1970's movies that even most film buffs don't know:
Mike's Murder
Go Tell The Spartans (Burt Lancaster is great)

Catch them if they ever come on.

Shaun S said...

In Australia Midnight Run and even the Soprano's is shown on what would be our equivalent of CBS, NBC etc completely uncut. I don't understand why you can carry a gun but you can't say F***, C*** or show nudity on network TV. I'm not sure about the swearing policy on the blog.

Cap'n Bob said...

Since someone mentioned Jeeps, I've always had a minor gripe about the Jeeps in M*A*S*H. People just jumped in, turned a key or switch, and they started. I drove a Jeep in the Army and the starter was a button on the floor. To start it you had to depress the clutch to activate the starter. There was a BATTERY ON switch on the dashboard, but not where a key would normally be.

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

Shaun - in the USA there's concerns about kids (anyone under 18) watching, even well into the night. Although over the years, standards have certainly loosened. Some of the plots of "Law & Order: SVU" would have been unimaginable in the 1960s/70s, and today's late-night talk shows have even less restrictions (or at least, the FCC isn't hassling them).

Also, in a way it's unnecessary for all the standards on American non-pay TV to go out the window, as they've peacefully co-existed for over 20 years by now with HBO and other cable networks that don't have to follow FCC rules. If those options weren't available, I'd bet that by now the major networks would have lobbied for and received permission to provide an "adults only" block by now, most likely after 10pm.

Craig Gustafson said...

My top 25 Slipped Through the Cracks movies:

The Tall Guy
Start the Revolution Without Me
The Party
The Ruling Class
What’s Up, Doc?
Skidoo
The Front
The Cooler
The President’s Analyst
The Strawberry Blonde (Not just my favorite James Cagney film. It's my favorite film; period.)
Son of Paleface
The Time of Their Lives (Lou Costello is shot & *killed* on screen, comes back as a ghost; haunts Bud Abbott)
Little Murders
Cold Turkey
Diplomaniacs
7 Faces of Dr. Lao
Smile
The Wrong Box
The Hospital
Eating Raoul
State and Main
Pandemonium
The First Nudie Musical
A New Leaf
The Freshman (Marlon Brando & Matthew Broderick. I was the only one in the theater who laughed – loudly – when Matthew Broderick learned his new identity was to be Rudolpho Lassparri.)

suek2001 said...

Thanks Ken for answering my question..When I think of something else equally weird, I shall ask again...In the meantime, I will enjoy your blog..

Andy Rose said...

@Stoney: Giving AM stations over entirely to brokered foreign-language programming is becoming a lot more common. I don't know if WRCR can be successful as a online-only station, but if they were making money from advertisers on their over-the-air signal, they wouldn't be selling their time in the first place. Here in Atlanta, WQXI is one of the most famous heritage AM stations in town, first as a Top 40 station and then doing sports talk. They're ratings have gone so far downhill in the past couple of years that they recently converted to brokered Korean language programming.

@Steve Lanzi: The Safe Harbor rules from the FCC say that stations can broadcast just about anything they want between 10pm and 6am as long as it's not "obscene." (In other words, no pornography.) So broadcasters could air most cable shows virtually uncut after 10:00 if they wanted to do so. They don't because of a concern about community backlash and advertiser threats, not FCC rules.

mark bosselman said...

Mikes Murder came out in the 80's

Robert Rosen said...

Ken, if you had a great idea for a commercial or series of commercials, would there be a realistic way for you to sell that idea and write the commercial and see it get made? Or would you just have to use your idea in a different project ("Woody auditions for a commercial!"). I know Stan Freberg did distinguished and innovative work in this area so I am assuming you wouldn't look down on the format.

Mike Schryver said...

Andy Rose's point is dead on about the Safe Harbor rule and why broadcasters don't air bad language and mild nudity after 10PM, even though they legally could. The situation is similar with basic cable networks, which legally could air anything they want, but limit themselves for fear of advertiser or viewer backlash.

Barry Traylor said...

Ken, there are some movies that I would enjoy watching again (or in some cases never seen) that are darn near impossible to find on video.

DARON72 said...

I like Craig's list (not the site but the actual list above) and I'll add a few of my own: "Harry and Tonto", "Brewster McCloud", and "Charley Varrick."

Jerod Butt said...

I'm sure there are examples to the contrary, but todahy child actors are generally better in sitcoms than in the past. Or maybe Richie is just the worst...

Does he get better past the first half of the first season?

AndrewJ said...

The roommate of one of my (sadly, late) college friends in the 1980s pointedly stopped watching Dick Van Dyke reruns after watching one episode where Rob Petrie mentioned, in passing, having to give Laura her weekly allowance. He couldn't bring himself to watch the show after a sexist comment like that.

Shaun S said...

I still think it's weird that a country where you can so easily get a gun and so easily get hardcore pornography is so prudish when it comes to nudity and swearing on network TV. Does anybody know how many of George Carlin's 7 dirty words you can say on American network TV now, I've heard them all on Australian TV. I think on British TV you can say them all and have the nudity as well. I guess the most confusing thing to us is how in America they want to ban violent video games and songs and movies but allow such easy access to guns most of us tend to think why don't you just ban the f***ing guns?

John said...

Thank you for mentioning A Thousand Clowns; it's one of my favorite movies that no one seems to have even heard of. I even used a clip from early in the movie in one of my (as yet unreleased) songs:

Murray: Nick, you are about to see a horrible, horrible thing.
Nick: What's that, Murray?
Murray: People going to work.

Ken said...

I am the one who asked the question about Steelyard Blues.
You know my name.
It is yours ( well first name at least) so here's Ken saying to Ken now that you ken my name I no longer am unknown to thou.
Trying hard for alliteration and failing miserably.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I think the "Jackie Thomas Show qualifies, if you think NAMBLA jokes are funny.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I was an extra in one of those "cookie-cutter Hallmark movies, "Love Is Never Silent."

Albert Giesbrecht said...

The Sopranos was shown on CTV in Canada before Canada got HBO.

Ed Dempsey said...

Just wondering if you'd seen either of these posts from Cory Edwards and your take on one or both.

TO THE CREATORS - http://coryedwards.com/?p=1278
DO YOU REALLY WANT TO PITCH? - http://coryedwards.com/?p=1266

Thanks again for the great insights and stories. Always entertaining.

Ed Dempsey
San Jose, CA

Ray Barrington said...

Thank you for mentioning BETWEEN THE LINES. At the time, I was in college and working on the college newspaper which was undergoing a bit of a funding crisis (spoiler: it survived). And I felt after watching that movie that I had worked with all of those people.

I love it when they take something I've been intimately involved in and render it correctly. (I also covered a minor league baseball team, and Bull Durham got it pretty much right ... although I never saw Susan Sarandon at the ball park.)

Diane D. said...

I wonder if anyone besides me saw "IF I WERE YOU" (unfortunate title). I loved that movie. Marsha McCreadie from The Village Voice was the only positive review I read, which is why it only opened in a few theatres I presume. I would love to know why so many critics disliked that movie. The Director was the Canadian, Joan Carr-Wiggin. McCreadie called it a screwball comedy, Canadian style, and I would agree with that. Marcia Gay Harden stars and she is just wonderful, IMHO. It also has a young Spanish actress. The best part of the movie is that M.G. Harden accidentally gets the part of (Queen) Lear in an off-off broadway production of KING LEAR. She is so good in the brief parts of the play that we see in the movie, it makes you wish they would do an entire production of that play with a woman (Harden) in the role. It's on NETFLIX if anyone wants to see it. And if anyone has seen it and could explain to me what is wrong with it, that would be great.

Andy Rose said...

@Shaun S: None of Carlin's Seven Dirty Words are regularly used on American broadcast television, unless you count the phrase "pissed off" (angry), which is considered a pretty anodyne term these days. But those specific words are just words that Carlin chose for his routine. Contrary to popular belief (and even what some professors teach), the Seven Dirty Words are not expressly forbidden. It all depends on context. All of those words have been put on the air accidentally at one time or another. Shit and piss have been used deliberately a few times, including on Chicago Hope, NYPD Blue, and On Golden Pond. Even fuck has been allowed on network TV as part of the Naudet brothers 9/11 documentary and Saving Private Ryan.

Probably the biggest change on broadcast TV in recent years is that "dick" used to be forbidden. But it's usually allowed now as long as it means someone who's being a jerk. It's still not allowed to be used to refer to a literal penis.

On prime time basic cable, you can get away with just about anything now except the f-word, although those networks prefer that some words be used only occasionally. On The Walking Dead, Negan swears quite a bit, but not as ferociously as the character does in the original comic. The producers of Breaking Bad said they were allowed one "fuck" per season, but even that was usually muted on air.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Cosby maybe the greatest sitcom pilot of all time. It had all the elements there. And they may never have done a better episode.

BillS said...

Does "Bye Bye Braverman" count as an obscure movie .I saw it once,years ago,here on English TV .I remember it as very funny but I've never seen it again.

Shaun S said...

I saw the Jeff Daniels speech from the first episode of The Newsroom on youtube (the font of all knowledge) again recently and as far as I can tell a lot of people completely miss what I think is the point of the speech. To me it is that America is a great country with a few problems but that they can be overcome if Americans aspire to be great like their ancestors were. I think it is an incredibly patriotic speech. Do you agree with me and have you ever written something that people have completely misunderstood? I'm not American by the way, I'm an Aussie.

WendyT said...

Here's the Wikipedia page about that Tom Arnold sitcom that was supposed to be an homage to The Dick Van Dyke Show...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jackie_Thomas_Show