Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Questions

It’s Friday Question Day.

Jim starts us off.

So here's a sort of Friday question if you want an excuse to talk about old comedy. Are there any actors around today who still have those physical skills? The only one I can think of is Jackie Chan, who's getting on a bit I suppose.

Steve Martin is a great physical comedian. So is Michael Richards. I would add Kevin James. A lot of people like Jim Carrey. Just not a fan. Melissa McCarthy has game. For my money, Kate McKinnon can do anything. Nathan Lane is pretty physical too.

But David Hyde Pierce is a master.

And then of course there are the British comedic actors – from the Monty Python guys, to Rowen Atkinson. And you can throw in Hugh Laurie.

I’m sure I’m leaving a few out. Physical comedy is a true art form requiring grace, coordination, and expert comic timing.

Brad Apling asks:

I call this question "Where Everybody Knows Your Tune (almost)". Some shows have memorable tunes that people recognize instantly; others have to be Googled. Who decides the theme song for a series, any side input from the writers or showrunners?

Well, it used to be the showrunner… back when there WERE theme songs. Most network shows today are deathly afraid you’ll tune out so opening themes are five seconds. Not many people are going to hum five second jingles.

Some cable networks and premium services allow for opening credits and themes. Personally, I think they add a lot. The GAME OF THRONES opening is extraordinary.

But when theme songs are allowed, it’s usually the showrunner’s call although he very well may enlist input from the staff.

I remember the Charles Brothers playing the demo of the CHEERS theme for us and asking what we thought. I rather liked it actually.

From MikeN:

There is a clip from Cheers that gets used at professional sports events. I'll let readers try and guess which one.

My question is, does the studio get paid for use of these clips, and if so do you get a share?

The studio might but we don’t.  And I'm sure in a lot of cases the studio doesn't know about it.  Unless they're alerted, they probably don't know if AA minor league stadiums feature the clip in question.   I’m guessing this is the clip you mean.


And finally, Peter has another CHEERS question.

With so many sitcoms returning for "limited event series" like Roseanne, Will & Grace,etc, perhaps it's only a matter of time that TV executives ask for a limited run of new Cheers. Obviously this can only happen if the Charles brothers and Ted Danson say yes. Do you think they would and if they did, would you and David also get on board?

I don’t think it would ever happen. I can’t imagine Ted or the Charles Brothers ever going ahead with something like that. CHEERS is locked in time. Remember the characters as they were.

As for me and David, obviously I can’t speak for my partner, but the only reason I would participate is to work again with Glen & Les. But again, it ain’t gonna happen. Trust me on this one.

What’s your Friday Question?

40 comments :

Andrew said...

Perhaps we could use this comment thread to name what we consider the best opening/title sequence. Ken has already mentioned Game of Thrones, and the opening song of Cheers.

My vote is for The Sopranos. Pitch perfect in every detail.

A close second place: Cheers.

Third: M*A*S*H.

Peter said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken! I agree. Cheers was perfect in its time and ended beautifully.

On the other hand, I wouldn't object to a new limited run of Frasier episodes....!

Daniel said...

Sadly, some of the best physical comedians are on shows that don't give them many chances to show off those skills: Allison Janney on Mom, Bill Irwin on Legion, Doug Jones on the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery, which I suspect will not be a laugh riot. When they do get the opportunity, it's worth watching for, because they're astonishing.

Justin Russo said...

How about a spinoff of 'Cheers' based around Ruben the busboy?

Anonymous said...

I love Niles' disastrous coin toss from Frasier episode 6.21, "When a Man Loves Two Women". Martin's reaction line is a classic.
https://youtu.be/c6rCpx3XbPA

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Among physical comedians surely Carol Burnett qualifies as one of the very greatest. Sometimes that woman appeared to be made of rubber.

wg

Carson Clark said...

Several years back you mentioned the Cheers episode, "Jumping Jerks." But I would like to know more about how this episode came together. Was it difficult to find a skydiving team to do the jump and find someone to shoot it? What about the airplane replica on the set? When you're writing do you call up someone and say, "hey, can we afford to do this?" Or do you just write it and fight for it?

DwWashburn said...

Wasn't Frazier the first series to have the "5 second theme"? I seem to remember the show getting a lot of negative press for eliminating the opening theme.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think a CHEERS revival would be depressing as hell. What would they do, bring back Diane again? Does anybody really want to see her and Sam as senior citizens, still refusing to accept that, as a couple, they're never going to work? Do we really want to find out that Cliff and Norm are old men who still have no lives outside that bar? Carla, pushing 70, still working as a waitress, grousing about her great-grandchildren and complaining that Medicare won't cover the cost of her hip replacement? Do we need to learn that Rebecca has spent the last quarter century in and out of mental institutions? Hell, no. I say leave CHEERS in the past and remember it the way it was.

Ted said...

Hi Ken,

Just started reading Joe Eszterhas's autobiography.

He says that Sharon Stone slept with him once as gratitude for giving her life's biggest hit. And he is extremely grateful to her for that. Ha Ha Haaa.....

Anyway,

My question: You are a writer whose writing has helped many actors and actresses. Has any one of them shown their gratitude to you in any way - not just "Thank You or Good Job" but say like a gift or something more ;)

P.S.: This might interest you. In a previous blog you said that Paddy Chayefsky was your favorite. Well.... Kim Novak slept with him once too, Joe says, and Paddy was overwhelmed by that throughout his life.....

Y. Knott said...

Cheers is one of the few series I can actually see working in a new limited-run context. It would take a lot of work, but with a cast and crew this talented ... maybe?

I can also understand, however, that nobody has ever said "The Beatles were pretty good in the 60's. But you know what really defines them? Their mid-90s reunion singles."

J Lee said...

Follow-up on the theme song question -- did the showrunner also have control on whether or not the show's theme would be slightly tweaked every season or two? Cheers basically kept the same version of the show's theme for 11 seasons, with only a tweak for the arrival of TV stereo broadcasting in there. MASH was also on for 11 seasons but altered the arrangement of its theme six times during that period. Just a desire to freshen things up every year or two, or were there cases where the arrangement was just deemed to be a little off and something new was needed (i.e. -- The version of "Suicide Is Painless" used the first year you and David were showrunning MASH certainly was the most downbeat one of the series, and only lasted one year).

Jake said...

Eden Sher and Charlie McDermott of "The Middle" have great physical-comedy skills.

Jake said...

My first thought was that a reboot of CHEERS could work, but then I started to figure up how old those people would be now. Maybe the bar could have been relocated to a senior citizen's center.

Mibbitmaker said...

Overall, I agree a Cheers revival wouldn't be so good, with the original shows better standing on their own.

Except...

I always imagined seeing the gang at the bar in 2004, during the playoffs and World Series. There's a bunch of (fictional) people I'd love to see reacting to the Red Sox finally winning the World Series, especially the way they did. (I guess you can tell which part of the country I'm from!)

Ralph C. said...

I'm glad to hear Cheers will never have new episodes. I agree with you, Ken.

Max Clarke said...

I would have no interest in a Cheers mini-series or the equivalent, and I still watch Cheers episodes.My all-time favorite sitcom.

Even a couple of the Frasier episodes with Cheers cast members seem old. The guys, actually. The shows with Diane and Lilith hold up well.

Reminds me of a line from a Kinks song decades ago about "celluloid heroes" in Hollywood. And because Cheers was shot live, it still has the feeling of a live performance.











Eric Lyden said...

I've had a vague notion of a CHEERS reboot where Woody's kids end up owning the bar with Frederick Crane hanging around in kind of the Frasier role with maybe a couple of Carla's kids hanging around with rare cameos and guest shots from the original cast. But I have no illusions it'd be any good. It had 11 virtually perfect seasons. We can't ask for more than that.

Jahn Ghalt said...

What a fun cold open that was! Reminds me that I have a lot of Alley-Era shows that I haven't yet watched.

Mention of Hugh Laurie reminds me of the opener to the Wooster and Jeeves series from Britain.

First five minutes is of a Wooster waking up in the drunk tank and being led to The Magistrate. Five minutes, no lines, just facial expressions, until the Magistrate demands an answer.

The rest of that episode involves Wooster going back to "his rooms", being accosted by Jeeves, who has arrived to answer Wooster's employment ad, and soon gets his hoped-for answer:

"You're Retained!"

At that point I gave the DVD set to a friend - I should get it back.

Jahn Ghalt said...

The reference to "Suicide Is Painless" getting tweaked over the year rings a bell, and might for you too, Ken (as a DJ).

I seem to recall that for a whole season an instrument was badly out-of-tune for the opener - a woodwind?

Do you remember that?

Jahn Ghalt said...

reacting to the Red Sox finally winning the World Series

Which had to be second-best after knocking off the Yankees in four-straight after losing the first three - talk about sweet redemption.

Todd Everett said...

Re: Joe Eszterhas:

"That actress was so naïve, she slept with the writer."

-- attributed to multiple sources

cadavra said...

But would you entertain the idea of a CHEERS revival with an entirely new cast, with perhaps an occasional guest visit by, say, Norm or Carla?

Astroboy said...

My most recent favorite theme music and credits sequence is the opening of "The Good Fight." (Love the horns and vocals and I never get tired of seeing that exploding decanter!). And when it comes to physical comedians, though she is never "big", Julia Louise Dreyfuss can have me in tears just standing up! The way she physically inhabits her characters is a marvel to me, especially on her series "The New Adventures of Old Christine." You see the beginnings of it on Seinfeld, but she really nails it on Christine, I could watch it with the sound off and she would still crack me up.

Arthur Mee said...

Michael Richards was the flashiest, but Julia L-D and Jason Alexander are both very good physical comedians.

* * *

I know for certain if there were a new Cheers series, I'd be checking it out. And desperately hoping that it lived up to the (very, very heavy) expectations.

If it never happens? It's all right -- the legacy is safe.

But Satchel Paige came back at age 59 and pitched three shutout innings for Kansas City. Sometimes an unexpected out-of-retirement cameo can lead to a little slice of magic...

ScottyB said...

>>Some shows have memorable tunes that people recognize instantly; others have to be Googled.<<

I'm a ginormous fan of opening-title theme songs, but none more than were originally full-length songs shortened to adapt to the opening-title theme. The 'Cheers' theme by Gary Portnoy and Andrew Gold's 'Thank You For Being a Friend' (Golden Girls) and while I liked it because I just just out of my tweens and kids my age kinda liked that kinda Top 40 pop fluff, 'Making Our Dreams Come True' (Laverne & Shirley.) But especially, the themes that were great on their own as long-form songs: The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, Sanford & Son (The Greatest American Hero might be debatable, but there ya go). Still, for my money, nobody could beat Earle Hagen and Persky/Denoff when it came to the killer opening-credit theme song.

ScottyB said...

>>But would you entertain the idea of a CHEERS revival with an entirely new cast, with perhaps an occasional guest visit by, say, Norm or Carla?<< Oh God, please no, Ken. This is how 'The Flintstones' and 'Scooby Doo' movies end up getting made.

ScottyB said...

>>But David Hyde Pierce is a master.<< That's 100% true. But y'know who kinda reminds me of someone in the same mold, besides Tony Shalhoub? Hamish Linklater in 'The New Adventures of Old Christine.'

Johnny Walker said...

Makes me wonder what you think of the modern day Dick Van Dyke Show special that Carl Reiner did, Ken? I've personally been too afraid to watch it.

Liggie said...

I think the "Flip Wilson Show" theme is a gem. (Faithful modernisation: https://youtu.be/NUC69MFidPU)

Physical comedians or actors? No one can top the late John Ritter.

Cap'n Bob said...

When it comes to great themes, I go back a ways. Rawhide, The Rebel, The Ballad of Paladin,and The Legend of Jed Clampett are a few of my favorites.

Breadbaker said...

@Johnny Walker, Van Dyke himself said the experience was great but the show wasn't.

Johnny Walker said...

@Breadbaker Thanks for sharing.

Kelly said...

I've been binge watching "Raising Hope," and I'm so impressed with Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt. They're brilliant at physical comedy!

Kaleberg said...

I'd hate to imagine a Cheers remake with everyone sitting around the bar fiddling with their cell phones. Come to think of it, that kind of thing would kill a Friends update just as quickly. Maybe they can do epistolary comebacks on Twitter or Facebook.

Brian said...

I like that Cheers "We will rock you" clip, but I have always thought it would be funnier if Woody called out the first verse to it and then the crowd joins in with the "We Will Rock You" chorus.

I agree on no reunion with the same actors. Maybe a reboot with new actors, but it would need some kind of angle so it wouldn't be just more "bar stories"



D. McEwan said...

"cadavra said...
But would you entertain the idea of a CHEERS revival with an entirely new cast, with perhaps an occasional guest visit by, say, Norm or Carla?"


... and directed by David Lynch, with some episodes not just devoid of story, but downright incomprehensible? And a tree with a throbbing brain playing Woody? And most of it taking place in another city and not in a bar?

David P said...

I want a limited M*A*S*H reunion: thirty years later, Hawkeye and BJ bump into each other in an airport bar and awkwardly talk as we learn that they didn't stay in touch, and slowly catch up with each other before someone has to run to catch his flight.

Then Hawkeye calls for his bill, and we finally see the bartender - and Ted Danson hands it to him. Fade to black.

Anthony said...

Friday Question -

I always enjoyed the Cheers reunion episodes on Frasier for their nostalgia. Was there ever any talk about bringing Ted Danson or Shelley Long back again in the mid/later seasons? I know Shelley appeared 3 times, but obviously 2 of those were basically dream sequences. Since there was Cliff's retirement party in the 9th season of Frasier, it would've been cool to see what Sam or Diane were also up to in the early 2000s. Did the network ask for it, or were those 2 main Cheers characters always intended to have just one big Frasier reunion episode; and that's it?

Brad Preston said...

Ken,

There are thee minutes missing from "One for the Road" on DVD. I know you didn't write the episode, but do you have any idea why that is? It's a shame we don't have an uncut finale of one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.

This message board thread lists the edits and even transcribes what is missing: http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/cheers-series-finale-the-lost-footage.686397/