Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Questions

Getcha Friday Questions here!

Joe starts us off, primarily because it gave me an excuse to post the above photo:

Ken, I know you met Moe Howard and Zsa Zsa Gabor, among many others. Did you ever meet Natalie Wood?

Not per se. I never “met” her or talked to her, but I did see her several times in the MGM commissary. She was filming her last movie, BRAINSTORM, and my partner and I had our office on the lot at the time. I don’t have to tell you my tongue was on the ground.

Brian is up next.

It's fun to see Tom Hanks in an early role in Taxi, or Sherilynn Fenn in Cheers. Who are among your favorite, "...and NOW look at them" people that you and David Isaacs had a hand in getting an early role/assignment?

We gave Katy Sagal her first TV job on MARY. We gave Jenna Elfman her first gig on ALMOST PERFECT. Timothy Busfield’s first national exposure came from AFTERMASH. If I’m not mistaken, we (the staff of THE TONY RANDALL SHOW) gave Annette O’Toole her first job. What made “discovering” them even more rewarding is that they all are really super people. I am thrilled with their success.

Tim B queries:

Ever been asked to be on a sitcom writing staff, or to be the showrunner, and declined?

Yes. Several times, and believe me, I felt incredibly fortunate every time that my career was such that I was able to be that picky.

One example:  In 1997 Arsenio Hall had a sitcom on ABC that was a trainwreck. Supposedly during a runthrough he made the showrunner cry. We were asked to come in and take over the show. There were only a few more episodes left and the money was good, but we had no desire to walk into that propeller. Our agent accepted our decision but said, “If you guys were twice as crazy you’d be twice as rich.” Probably so but I'd be writing this today from Bellevue.

From Frank Beans:

Did Kelsey Grammer sing every single one of the ending credits theme song live on stage in a different take each episode?

No. He never sang it live for the audience. Those were done in a recording studio.

A. L. Crivaro asks:

How come I never read of or hear anyone in Hollywood discussing the utter brilliance that is Galaxy Quest? Especially in the comedy world? Every time I watch it, I am amazed by how good it is in EVERY regard. But it seems like it gets zero love/recognition. Why is that?

Your question has prompted lots of comments from the readers. GALAXY QUEST definitely has its fans. I'm one of them.  I agree it’s very unappreciated.

I was directing Tony Shalhoub in a sitcom episode and asked what he had been up to lately. He said he made this bizarre space movie and was holding his breath. He said “this is either going to be really good or really terrible.” Happily for all concerned, it was really good.

What’s your Friday Question? Or question for my podcast? Leave them here and I will try to get to as many as I can. Thanks much.

30 comments :

Andrew said...

In what post was the question about Galaxy Quest asked? I'd love to read the comments. One of my favorite movies. It should be as respected and well known as something like Princess Bride, but it's not. And the casting is perfect.

By Grobthar's hammer, what a movie.

Fred Vogel said...

"Did Kelsey Grammer sing every single one of the ending credits theme song live on stage in a different take each episode?"

I remember going to an "All in the Family" taping and Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton sang the theme song live to the audience. It was the first time I was able to decipher the word "La Salle".

RockGolf said...

Perhaps the reason Galaxy Quest is underappreciated is that the viewer must go into it with so much foreknowledge. Not just about the original Star Trek, but about the obsessive nature of Trekkers. Otherwise the in-jokes, (everyone hating the Kirk/Allen character, the countdown clock that always stops at 00:01, the fans who can direct you thru a laser maze) just don't resonate.
I loved it! I thought it was Groundhog Day-level great, which is as good a compliment as I can give a comedy.

Astroboy said...

Another Galaxy Quest fan here, never tire of seeing it. My favorite aspect of the film is that it is the 'nerdy' fans of the show are the ones who save the day with their brains and knowledge.

Alan C said...

David Mamet actually described Galaxy Quest as "a perfect movie."

Tyler said...

For what it's worth, Galaxy Quest is beloved not only by many Star Trek fans, but a significant number of cast members of the various Star Trek series, like George Takei, Patrick Stewart, and Jonathan Frakes, to name a few.

Rob D said...

"Did Kelsey Grammer sing ... the ending credits theme ... in a different take each episode?

The end credits always sounded identical to me. I thought the same recording was used every time.

Leticia Austria said...

Actually, Kelsey DID sing the ending credits song live before an audience once. It was the 1000th episode, the one they filmed on location in Seattle.

Chris G said...

As a man who traces his lifelong weakness for redheads back to seeing Annette O'Toole in Superman III at the age of 7: Thank you for casting her way back when.

Mike said...

Friday question: A friend recently gave me a book chronicling unsold pilots from 1955-89. (You're in there a few times. Lo siento.) One thing I noticed is how many of them actually were shown on TV -- with many being shown in the summer during those "CBS Comedy Playhouse" types of anthology shows. Those types of shows have died out in recent years. Why do you suppose it is? It seemed like a smart economical decision on the part of the networks; they can at least get some sort of return on investment. The cynic in me feels that part of it is networks don't want to show off series they've rejected in case the public thinks they're better than series that they bought, but I figure there's gotta be another reason. Got any ideas?

ScottyB said...

Speaking of 'Galaxy Quest' (I'm a fan) and Tony Shaloub, Enrico Colantoni -- like Shaloub -- is one of those really talented, versatile actors who does comedy and drama really, really well. Both of them are a joy to watch.

ScottyB said...

>>The end credits always sounded identical to me. I thought the same recording was used every time.<<

I've always noticed that with each new season of a show that keeps the beginning and end-credit songs the same, there will be still be subtle differences between them to make the new version a tiny bit fresher. A little drumbeat added, or the piano itself or the same singer's voice sounding slightly different. You almost have to binge watch and really pay attention to notice, tho. I don't know about 'Frasier,' but I've noticed it with programs like 'Cheers' and even 'The Andy Griffith Show'.

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

Leticia: are you sure you didn't mean the 100th episode of Frasier? ;-)

The Simpsons has been on now for almost 30 years and they're only up to episode 650, about.

MikeN said...

Andrew, from Friday Questions a few weeks ago. There's only a few comments.

Jon B. said...

My first memory of Timothy Busfield is that he played Trapper John's son on "Trapper John M.D.", starring Pernell Roberts. How about that!

Fred Nerk said...

Annette O’Toole played the girlfriend of Keith on the The Partridge Family, appeared on shows like Gunsmoke, My Three Sons and Hawaii Five-O from 1967.

Paul Duca said...

Steve Lanzi...that's the one where Frasier's radio show marks its 1000th episode

rockgolf said...

Steve Lanzi:

There were at least a million and a half episodes of Frasier!

Andrew said...

Thank you, MikeN.

Tom Galloway said...

Yeah, IMDB has O'Toole steadily getting parts from 1967 on, with what I'd think was her big break, co-starring in the movie One On One, listed as just a bit before The Tony Randall Show.

As for Galaxy Quest appreciation at the time, it did win the 2000 Hugo Award (SF & Fantasy) for Best Dramatic Presentation, beating out fellow final ballot (there's a nomination phase first where, at the time, the top five after it are on the final ballot, with each nominator able to nominate up to five items per category) members Matrix, Sixth Sense, Being John Malkovich, and The Iron Giant.

Andy Rose said...

Tony Shalhoub was the MVP of that movie. As I recall, he just decided to play his character as someone who always acted stoned on his feet, and it made an otherwise forgettable character very memorable. "That was a hell of thing."

Patrick said...

When a show gets cancelled and picked up by a different network the way Nashville was (cancelled by ABC - picked up by CMT) does that void the actors contracts in any way? Could they use that as a "get out of jail free card" and leave the show with no penalty or recourse from the new network? Im sure their contract specifies the network they are under contract for. Thanks!

Johnny Walker said...

@Andrew Here you go, but I think this post generated more GQ comments overall:

http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2017/01/friday-13th-questions.html

Question Mark said...

Alan Rickman somehow went his entire career without an Oscar nomination, and you can make a great argument that he should've had at least four. "Galaxy Quest" was absolutely on that list, his deadpan was a perfect weapon for a comedy.

Pizzagod said...

Ken-
Your podcast gets better every week.

How sad is it that you have to "introduce" Bob and Ray? My god, am I that old? The fact that so many people have no idea who these two comedy Gods are makes me sad.

I feel lucky that I've listened to so many of their bits.

Regards!

suek2001 said...

A really obscure Friday question...I saw where Kevin Geer passed away...He played Sgt. Jerry Neilson in that unforgettable episode of MASH with the medic that lost his brother and protected himself through amnesia. Your name(along with David Isaacs) is on the writing credits. How did that come about? Neilson had a meaty scene(and IMDB lists that as his first role) under hypnosis. Usually those types of cathartic scenes are reserved for the main players but a bit player got that scene. Are there some bit players on MASH, Cheers and Frasier that stick with you?

Greg said...

Friday question... What's the practice for referencing famous people living or dead, specifically in comedy writing, whether it's on screen or in book form? Do you have to get some kind of clearance beforehand, especially when they're used in a joke that might not be entirely flattering? Maybe drawing on a commonly held stereotype for that person (i.e. alcocholic, adulterer).

BobinVT said...

I know that you’re a baseball guy, but since the NHL All Star game is in LA this year, I thought this might be of interest. I was watching some of the coverage last night and they showed clips from the 1980 All Star game. It was Gordie Howe’s last, and he was nearly 52 at the time! It reminded me of a story about Gordie that is kind of stunning. Just a bit of background: Gordie Howe at the time of this incident (1969…pre-Gretzky) was undisputedly the Babe Ruth of hockey. He had compiled six MVP awards and six scoring titles. He was by far the all time league scoring leader, and had just completed his highest scoring season ever. The player’s union was in its infancy, having been founded less than two years earlier. During the recently completed season, Howe’s team, the Red Wings, had acquired Bobby Baun, a good, but not great player who had a reputation for understanding the business side of playing in the NHL. Other players would seek his advice about their contracts and salaries. Howe asked Baun “how much do you think I make?”. About $49,500 Baun responded. Pretty close, said Gordie (his actual salary was $45,000). Howe then inquired about Baun’s salary and was told it was $67,000. Upon further inquiry he found that both he and Baun were paid less than fellow Red Wing Carl Brewer, another good but not great player who bounced around the league for 12 seasons. By contrast, Gordie had just completed his 23rd season, all with the Red Wings. Red Wing management had for years assured Howe that as the league’s best player, he was also the highest paid. Now he finds out that he’s only the third best paid on his own team! Despite being a fearsome hockey player, off the ice he was a well mannered and trusting person who never questioned the salary the Red Wings paid him. Armed with the knowledge of Baun’s and Brewer’s salaries, he angrily confronted team owner Bruce Norris, who immediately raised his salary to $100,000. Reportedly Howe said to Norris “Here I’ve been playing all these years for you and you just give me that now?” Norris replied, “Gordie, you never asked for anything more. I’m a businessman.” Norris later blamed Howe’s wife for the salary demand.

While many argue that today’s sports salaries are out of control, keep this story in mind next time you read about some baseball player getting $20 million per year.

Kyle Bird said...

When a shiw moves from broadcast to cable or first-run syndication, contracts generally need to be negotiated down because the budget is less. That's an opportunity for cast members to move on if desired, because they are only obligated to the contracts original terms.

Pete Grossman said...

Re: Galaxy Quest: "Miners! Not Minors!" The distain from Rickman's character just puts me on the floor every time.