Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Questions

Happy St. Patricks Day.  Oh wait.  That's MARCH 17th.   But Friday Questions come every week. 

Gazzoo starts us off:

Your final writing credit for MASH was “Goodbye Radar”, apparently written as the 7th season finale but held back (at the network’s request) till the 8th season. Did Gary Burghoff or anyone have special requests for the episode in terms of storyline or particular scenes? And by the time the episode was produced you and David were no longer the head writers, did the new regime tinker with your script at all? Any other tidbits?

No one had any special requests, but David and I were very adamant that we didn’t want a sappy ending. That’s why we constructed the final sequence so that all of the final goodbyes were during triage and the farewells had to be quick and on the run.

I’m a big fan of “little touches”. Hawkeye discovering Radar’s teddy bear on his bed says more about how Radar matured from the MASH experience than any speech could have ever done, no matter how eloquently it was written.

We also wanted to send Radar home happy. Henry Blake was killed and Frank went bonkers. We wanted Radar to return home having benefited somewhat from the experience. He grew up and found love in Korea.

Originally it was a just a single episode but when CBS decided to push it back into the 8th season they asked that it be expanded into a two-parter.

The new staff rewrote very very little of our draft (thanks for that, guys). I don’t believe a line was changed from the entire final act. One day I’ll get Gary Burghoff to write about the episode from his perspective.

Mirror James (from England) wonders:

Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies, his predecessor on Doctor Who, often seem to be the targets of abuse from people who claim to be fans. Everything from saying they can't write to accusations of running a so-called "gay agenda", in which the mere acknowledgement that gay people exist is apparently "shoving it down their throats".

Have you ever had a bad experience with a fan who claims to love a show yet can't seem to do anything other than hurl insults?

Only all the time. Fans are passionate about their shows. I got a hate letter on MASH from someone who thought Hawkeye was being too mean to Radar. Other loyal MASH viewers claimed in profanity-laced missives that I was a liberal Commie dupe hell bent on destroying America.

The "gay agenda" complaint was a staple on FRASIER.  Referring to this and the "we're too liberal" charge on MASH, I like to think we had an "open minded agenda". 

My favorite was a letter I received when David and I were showrunning the MARY series. It started out like this:

Dear Producers,

Recently I read an article in TV GUIDE that spoke of the growing cocaine problem in the television industry. At first I thought they were grossly exaggerating, but then I watched an episode of your show…


And of course Roseanne called me an “asshat”.

And finally, from Chris:

How do they shoot/do those scenes when the audience laughs just when the camera zooms on something, like a silent opening with the camera zooming on what a character is reading and just then the audience starts to laugh?

I assume you mean a studio audience. There are always monitors overhead and they will be invited to watch them for particular scenes or moments. Often special scenes will be pre-shot and just shown to the audience. What they see is what you’ll see at home so they receive the same surprise.

What’s your Friday Question?  I think I'm going to eat corned beef today anyway. 

33 comments :

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

"Hate mail" (and it's much scarier brother, "Love Mail") is all about passion. If you haven't made someone passionate about something, then probably aren't trying.

The question is: Would you (or anyone) rather have people who HATE them, or people who desparately LOVE them (think Kathy Bates' Misery character)?
In my mind, they are the same...

Glenn said...

I always liked that Hawkeye's good-bye to Radar was pausing in the middle of a surgery to give him a simple salute.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The subtle changes to Radar in the final episodes are always nice touches. He doesn't wear his hat, so we can see, from his receding hair-line that he's a man now, and his voice is deeper, and more forceful.
I give Gary (and the show's creative team) a huge compliment in introducing us to Walter, the man.

Peter said...

Will you be going to see WONDER WOMAN 1.5 this weekend? That's what I'm calling JUSTICE LEAGUE, because let's face it, Gal Gadot is the only reason to see the movie.

Bob K said...

Ken, may I suggest you invite Gary as a podcast guest? I think a conversation about his perspective on (your) scripts and character development would be fascinating.

therealshell said...

Were you ever consulted about working on the spin-off W*A*L*T*E*R ? I have never seen it, but understand that it's very, very bad (to quote Leonard Pinth-Garnell)

Annie C said...

Oh please, please get Gary to write it!!

Short story:

When my son was very young, I had all the episodes of M*A*S*H on tape. We watched them over and over and he adored the show. One day after we watched the Radar goes home double episode and it was time for his nap, he handed me his "blanky" and said he didn't need it anymore cause he was just like Radar.

Gazzoo said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Any idea why Jamie Farr got into the MASH opening credits in season four, while William Christopher didn't until the following year?

Andrew said...

My favorite moment from the "Goodbye, Radar" episode is when Hawkeye, in the operating room, gives Radar a goodbye salute. Radar returns it through the door window. So much emotion is packed into that scene.

For a comedy, MASH sure did pack a wallop. I grew up with it as a pre-teen, and was often moved to tears.

Cowboy Surfer said...

The "Goodbye Radar" episode was excellent. Loved the chaotic ending as everyone tried to say goodbye. The look from Hawkeye as he salutes Radar from the OR was perfect.

Tudor Queen said...

I would think being called an 'ass hat' by Roseanne would be a kind of honor.

VP81955 said...

Last Saturday, I attended a Producers Guild seminar at the CBS Studio City complex. It was in the lower floor of a two-story building. Posted on a window were instructions for the writing staff of the revived "Roseanne" show to meet upstairs.

Parking in front of the building had metal nameplates, and as you might expect, two of them were inscribed "R. BARR" and "J. GOODMAN." Someone had parked an SUV in the Roseanne spot; perhaps that's what she drives now (though she likely took Saturday off). If not, I hope the lady has mellowed in recent years -- otherwise, one more TV writer may be searching for employment.

Peter said...

I forgot to add, you'll be pleased to hear that Justice League is apparently only 2 hours. I was really dreading a bloated 170 minute ordeal. So I'm looking even more forward to it now.

A 170 minute Wonder Woman 2 would be another matter, however. I don't think I could get bored of watching Gal Gadot in that outfit.

Anonymous said...

One line in that episode always bothered me - when informed that Radar would be going home because his Uncle Ed died, Hawkeye said "I'm happy for you, Radar," which kinda sounds tone deaf to me. Sure, he was happy that Radar would be getting out of that hellhole, but the circumstances cry out for a different way of expressing that.


Xwordz

Kirk said...

Although there's plenty of shows I like after that, I consider "Goodbye, Radar" the last GREAT MASH episode. I always felt the going away party interrupted by the helicopters bringing wounded was a commentary on how war can get in the way of a sappy moment (please don't tell me it's not.) In a way it's a bookend to "Abyssinia, Henry", in which Hawkeye and Trapper can't even take the time to mourn Henry's death because they're in the middle of operating on a patient.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Friday Question: First of all thank you for answering my previous ? What is your opinion on incredibly stupid, extraneous and/or annoying characters. e.g. I know from reading your blog that a lot of people liked Becker. It was O.K., but not great. However, the character of "Linda" is one of my ALL TIME LEAST favorite characters from any sitcom. (nothing against actress Shawnee Smith) She's a hot mess. She's incompetent, scattered, generally usless. She had her moments, but in general her only purpose on that show seemed to be as an irritant to Becker. Apparently the only reason he didnt fire her is because he owed her dad a favor. Another character that irks me is "Adam Rhodes" from Rules of Engagement. In the world of hackneyed, formulaic sitcoms, that character was always the "dumb one." But, eventually he became so stupid that it made you wonder how could do let alone keep the white-collar job he was supposed to have. Finally, "Klinger" on M*A*S*H. Granted, he could pull it together when there were wounded, but in general he just seemed incongruous. i.e. Any commanding officer would have said, enough is enough and transfered or court-martialed him. I understand that there is a certain amout of "dramatic license" and suspension of disbelief with a sitcom, yet I can't help but wonder why they create characters like this in the first place. There are many others that I simply can't stand, yet are extremely popular with most viewers. (I know that Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin are incredibly stupid, but they're cartoons. There's a different standard of reality there.) Is there something wrong with me or do I have a point here? Sorry for the length of this.

Steve said...

The great thing about that salute Hawkeye gives Radar is that it's a proper, sharp salute, and Hawkeye doesn't do those. Every other time he salutes someone, whether its Henry or Potter or a peer or a visiting general he does it floppy or upside down or backwards. That's the only moment of his whole time in Korea he felt someone was worthy of that particular genture of respect.

Angela Niles said...

The idea of "Frasier" being the recipient of hate mail amuses me greatly for some reason. Obviously, as noted, people will find anything to rant about, so it's not surprising on that level, but "Frasier" just doesn't really strike me as the type of show that would get people THAT riled up.

Every time I hear somebody complaining that a show is "shoving an agenda down their throats", I always want to go, "Gee, I didn't realize your remote control was broken/you're being forced to watch the show Clockwork Orange-style." Truly amazing how some people seem utterly incapable of just ignoring shows they don't like. And it's especially funny to hear people making those kinds of complaints today, considering how many channels are available and how people can pretty much watch anything they want on their own time via their TV/computer/phone.

D. McEwan said...

Speaking as a Doctor Who fan, I love both Davies and Moffatt, and Moffatt's work on Sherlock delights me also.
But I've certainly encountered fans of the show who feel that one or the other "ruined" the show. What they mean of course, is that the writers are writing the show they want and not the one the fan's imagine. They're really saying, "The show should be more like my fan fiction!"

Liggie said...

As someone who has experience in both industries, which do you think us harder: Casting for a TV series, or scouting/drafting players for a sports team?

ScarletNumber said...

I felt that Radar was turned into a loser in AfterMASH. I went to look up who wrote the episodes "Yours Truly, Max Klinger" and "It Had to Be You" in which Radar appeared and I was horrified that it was you (and David and Dennis Koening).

Why, Ken, why?

Gary said...

Regarding Hawkeye saluting -- didn't he and Trapper also give Henry Blake a proper salute at some point? Possibly in Henry's last episode?

Mike said...

With all due respect, Ken, I think the teddy bear ending for Radar’s last episode was pretty saccharine. You would have been better off without that scene.

AndrewJ said...

My father wept at the end of the first airing of the "Goodbye, Radar" episode.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

As I mentioned on here recently, there seemed to be a conscious effort in the second half of MASH's run to make the characters less cartoonish and more dimensional.

I assume this was largely at Alan Alda's creative direction.

In Klinger's case, it begins in a scene in an episode early in the sixth season when he confides to Sydney Freedman that trying to get discharged on a Section 8 is rooted in a fear of death.

By the time he replaces Radar as company clerk two seasons later, Klinger has further evolved. He is rarely seen in dresses or costumes and is almost always in uniform.

Poochie said...

You talk alot about plays on your blog. You talk alot about Cheers (obviously). So maybe I missed it, but have you ever discussed Cheers: Live on Stage. It sounds like it came straight out of Diane Chamber's guest stint on Frasier. My mind is blown that such a thing exists. I'd love to see it, but apparently they canceled plans for a national tour and the reviews were mediocre, putting it kindly.

Can you comment on this? Had you seen it or read a script? What did you think about the show itself or even just the concept of a bunch of look a likes recreating snippets from Cheers? Were there royalties?

Poochie said...

Friday Question: You talk alot about plays on your blog. You talk alot about Cheers (obviously). So maybe I missed it, but have you ever discussed Cheers: Live on Stage. It sounds like it came straight out of Diane Chamber's guest stint on Frasier. My mind is blown that such a thing exists. I'd love to see it, but apparently they canceled plans for a national tour and the reviews were mediocre, putting it kindly.

Can you comment on this? Had you seen it or read a script? What did you think about the show itself or even just the concept of a bunch of look a likes recreating snippets from Cheers? Were there royalties?

Steve said...

Gary, I think you're right about Henry's last episode.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Hawkeye and B.J. salute Potter as a goodbye "gift" in the finale.

In Blake's last episode, Radar salutes him at the helicopter pad just before Henry takes off.

Earlier, in the morning assembly,when Blake says goodbye to the other personnel, Hawkeye kisses Blake on the cheeks European style, telling him, "I'm afraid a handshake just won't do it, Henry."

(Hawkeye also saluted Radar when he was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded while driving to Seoul.)

Michael said...

Hawkeye and B.J., as I recall, also saluted Potter in the final episode. In that same episode, Winchester told Potter that what he learned from him about leadership would be important to him as he went back to Massachusetts General. That always moved me, because I had read years before that David Ogden Stiers said he worshiped Harry Morgan, and that there was more to the scene than just that exchange.

Brad Apling said...

I had to come back and ask another question, just in case you weren't getting enough for the next few Fridays.
Earl Pomerantz wrote in his most recent post about the 'recouped losses' for "Major Dad" were reduced to something in the much lower $4mil range as opposed to the previous lower than middle range; indicating that it would take 41 years before the TV show is considered profitable and his "contracted profit kicks in." Are you and David also waiting for the various shows you've worked on to reach profitability? This almost sounds like how many years it takes for a country to pay off its debt from hosting the Olympic Games. Which level of writer (senior or long-term vs the newbie) gets this written into their contract? And just to throw in another angle, is there a similar profit plan available for sports announcers or are we talking apples and Tasmanian kumquats here?

David said...

In how many episodes of Cheers does Cliff Clavin show off vegetables that look like people? I've counted 5 so far.

Bar Regular said...

Why does Norm always wear a tie at the bar, even though he's usually unemployed?