Thursday, January 19, 2017

RIP Miguel Ferrer

Some losses hit you harder than others.  And this one really hit me.  Miguel Ferrer passed away.  He was only 61.   I directed numerous episodes of the sitcom he was in, LATELINE, and became friends.   For the last year or so we worked out at the same gym.  I think I saw him as recently as a few weeks ago.   I had heard he had cancer but was under the impression he had beaten it.  I guess not.

People primarily know him from dramas.  I used to kid him that he's been in every TV drama over the last twenty years.  Even Harry Morgan didn't guest in as many series.  But what folks might not know is that Miguel was a gifted comic actor.  Amazing timing and a pitch-perfect knack for delivering dialogue.  Some actors need to be led to the joke, not Miguel.  He instinctively just "knew" comic rhythms and tone.

He was also, a pro's pro.   I'm sure one of the reasons he worked so often is because so many producers, directors, and actors loved him.

Miguel was also a great storyteller.  And when the stories involve David Lynch (he was in TWIN PEAKS), George Clooney (his cousin and one-time roommate), ROBOCOP, and mother Rosemary Clooney you knew you were in for a memorizing tale.   I was hoping to get him to guest on my podcast.

My condolences to his family and fans.  Damn!  Miguel Ferrer.  This one hurts. 

Reboots are made for walking

One downside to having so many networks and so many shows is that audiences can’t keep up with all the product that’s out there. (Not that they’re making that big an effort to do so.) All these titles sound interchangeable and genres are so blurred that you don’t even know what you’re watching while you’re watching it.

To combat this, the networks are leaning towards known franchises. At least they have some recognition. You may not know what HIGH MAINTENANCE is but you have heard of 24.

So this is the year of reboots.

24 is back but with a different lead character. Still, it’s the same format where the star kills many people and never once goes to the bathroom.

A lot of shows are coming back with original casts. WILL & GRACE just officially announced its return. Up first is PRISON BREAK. (I think there may be budget problems because this time they break out of the Disneyland lock-up.) Last year the X-FILES returned and might return again as the FBI is currently investigating the election being hacked by Martians. And TWIN PEAKS will be back. The ghost of Laura Palmer steals the log lady’s log. FULLER HOUSE is a hit on Netflix. And they keep saying ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is returning for another season, but I think we’ll see that when Mexico builds that wall.

Netflix also has ONE DAY AT A TIME, but with a Latino cast. It’s really a reboot of CRISTELA.

And of course there are the game show reboots. MATCH GAME with Alec Baldwin is kinda fun, PYRAMID is okay, but TO TELL THE TRUTH is sacrilegious.

In the pipeline, LIVING SINGLE is being given CPR. There was a TV version of FATAL ATTRACTION, but I understand that is now dead. (What was the format of that show – she boils a different rabbit every week?) And there may be a new TV movie version of BEACHES with Idina Menzel in the Bette Midler role.  Finally!

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for that call from a network wanting desperately to reboot BIG WAVE DAVE’S.

With all these re-boots I’m reminded of the great line by Billy Wilder. When asked about remaking one of his classic films he said, “I don’t understand. Why remake movies that work? Remake movies that didn’t work and fix them.”

Oh God, what if someone wants to try AfterMASH again? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Episode 3: Take Me To Your Pilot

Ken Levine has been through his fair share of pilot seasons, and if you're not in Hollywood you might not know about the madness that it is. So today, buckle up for some tales of wacky TV pilot experiences. Plus, hear from writer David Pollock about his experiences writing for television, and find out about a time he collaborated with legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky on a sitcom pilot.  


Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

What's on my desk -- revised

A question for writers that has been circulating the blogosphere recently is “what’s on your desk?” It's the same question I answered a couple of years ago but a few items have changed, so what the hell?

My iMac desktop computer (designed by my son and his team at Apple).

Mouse on a UCLA mouse pad.

brother printer.

Froggy Gremlin childhood toy.

Bob Hope in Dodger uniform bobblehead. (next to Koufax he was my favorite Dodger.)

Cup o’ pens.

Microphone and microphone stand for the podcast.  (Please listen and subscribe.)

High end digital ZOOM recorder.  

Fathers Day cards.

Family photos.

Seattle Mariners paperweight. 

A Gary Larson FAR SIDE card showing the BEWITCHED writing staff brainstorming in the fourth season. Brilliant notions like: “What if Endora casts a spell on Darren?”

Allstate accident report I was supposed to fill out in 2011.

Photo in Lucite of my granddaughter, Rebecca. (She's already gotten much bigger.) 

Box of Ralphs market Oyster Crackers. There are some things it's okay to buy the generic brand.

Plastic Bob’s Big Boy (I’m a Bob’s Big Boy fanatic and can never figure out why that checkered jumpsuit look didn’t catch on.)

Five old drafts of my play, GOING GOING GONE (with practically every page dog-eared).

Initial draft of my new play.  (with EVERY page dog-eared).

Ellen Sandler's TV WRITER'S WORKBOOK, which is required reading for my UCLA class. (Note to my students:  BUY IT) 

Lucite encased Real Don Steele KHJ business card.

A hard bound copy of TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT (personally signed) by author Maria Semple. (Fun reading. I recommend it.  Actually, I recommend all of her books.)

My SPORTS ILLUSTRATED 2017 swimsuit model desk calendar. This week it's this picture of Hannah Davis.

A spec pilot from my rabbi.

A spindle of CD’s that includes albums from Frank Zappa and Joanie Sommers.  Who plays CD's anymore?  Why isn't this in the garage?

Dodger Stadium and Pauley Pavilion replica paperweights.  Both very dusty. 

50 GOING GOING GONE promotional postcards (now completely worthless).  

Lucite encased picture of me with AfterMASH writing staff (that includes Larry Gelbart).

Vintage typewriter from 1890 with the carriage return arm on the right side. No FINAL DRAFT version for that. 

93/KHJ Boss Radio mike flag.

Box of brads and paper clips.

My bobblehead collection that includes Harry Caray (pictured), Speedy Alka-Seltzer, and Jesus Christ.

And -- Oh God – I think there’s still a sandwich.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


HIDDEN FIGURES is APOLLO 13 for nerds. I can’t recommend it enough. You probably know the premise by now – it’s the true(ish) story of three African-American women in the early ‘60s who worked for NASA and were key players in getting our astronauts up into space and more importantly, back down again safely.

It attacks discrimination on every front – racial, gender, declared majors – but doesn’t clobber you over the head with it. This isn’t DJANGO for pencil pushers. There’s no Helen Reddy "Hear me roar" anthem. It’s three “BEAUTIFUL MINDS” with a dash of NORMA RAE and THE HELP.  Or IMITATION GAME with a happy ending. 

Probably because the story is true(ish), but I found HIDDEN FIGURES to be a stirring celebration of intelligence and science – two things that many Americans today don’t believe in. Oh, for the days when complicated important decisions were left to qualified people.

And what a perfect movie for the Motion Picture Academy – a film about diversity that audiences are actually going to see. The cast is certainly Oscar-worthy. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae as the Three Mathketeers were superb. And Kevin Costner proved he didn’t have to play an over-the-hill baseball player to be interesting. Also noteworthy is Jim Parsons, who in a big stretch for him played an uptight egghead.  I hardly recognized him. 

For all the hype the Oscar-grab movies are currently receiving, this modest little tale is more satisfying. And it does my heart good to see it doing so well at the boxoffice. So again, go see HIDDEN FIGURES. Travel back to a simpler time; a time where we outsmarted Russia.

Monday, January 16, 2017

"Are you ready for some football?" No.

As you know, I love LA. Pretty much all things Los Angeles (except traffic and CAA) are “groovy” with me. So when I say this it is not with any glee.

But LA is not a football town. Sorry Angelinos, suck it up.

Oh yes, when USC has a good team they can fill the Coliseum. Same with UCLA (on those rare occasions when they do have a decent team). But the NFL? Yawn.

At one time we had two NFL teams. First the Raiders left (leaving drunks and the refuse of Los Angeles nowhere to riot on Sunday afternoons), then the longtime Rams. The city’s reaction: “They left? Really? Where did they go? Are you sure?” The two teams defection left the same vacuum that Fotomat going out of business did.

Decades went by without an NFL franchise in Tinsel Town. Even when the Rams were gone ten years people were saying: “They left? Really? Where did they go? Are you sure? Hey, what happened to Fotomat?”

When Baltimore lost the Colts (the sniveling owner moved them in the dead of night), the city was in mourning. Now they have the Ravens and the town is crazy for them. Same with Cleveland losing the original Browns (although my heart goes out to their fans with that current team). Imagine Philadelphia losing the Eagles. Half the city would move.

But here in LA there was a much bigger uproar when the Frederick's of Hollywood Museum of Bras closed.

Last year the Rams returned… with all the fanfare of a cheating husband slipping into bed quietly so his wife doesn’t wake up. For the first four or five months there were no billboards, no commercials, nothing. Their first few games drew well out of nostalgia, but once it was clear they were terrible the fans stopped going. I’m not sure even Rams fans knew what radio station they are on. You don’t see any Rams bumper stickers around town. No one wears Rams jerseys or helmets in the street. It wasn’t so much a triumphant return as your old Uncle Lester returning after twenty years to borrow more money.

And now comes word that the San Diego Chargers are returning to Los Angeles. Wooo hoo! This announcement has generated the same level of excitement as a new tattoo parlor opening on your corner.

Nobody in LA cares. And I feel terrible for the loyal Charger fans who lived and died with their team for 56 years. It’s like the girl you love leaving you for Gary Busey.

At a Lakers-Clippers game last week they showed the Chargers' new LA logo and the fans boo'ed.  

They’re here of course because two major television networks cover the AFC and NFC and each feels they need a team in the nation’s second largest market. Once the Rams came it was only a matter of time before some AFC franchise followed them to the Land of Milk and Money. At least it’s not the Raiders. Fans who do go to games will not have to fear for their lives.

A new stadium is being built (that both teams will share) and I imagine when that opens interest will rekindle (as long as there are enough luxury suites). But make no mistake, if it’s sunny and 80 degrees on a Sunday afternoon in November that new stadium will be half empty regardless of who’s playing. While at the same time it could be -20 in Philadelphia and Lincoln Financial Field will be packed to the rafters.

LA is not a football town.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Topless Table Readings

Table readings are a necessary part of the production process. The cast will sit around a table and read the script aloud before putting it on its feet and beginning rehearsal. For us writers, it’s the first chance to hear what we have and what might need work. Usually we’re listening to hear whether the story works. We’re less concerned with jokes (assuming that some of them worked) at this stage of the process. The actors are not expected to give full performances at table readings. Plus, we have a full week. If, by day three we’ve just got some jokes to fix we’re in great shape.

Some reflections on memorable table readings:

The network and studio also have representatives in attendance. And usually they’ll grace us with their notes. Page after page of them. Suits must assume that if they left writers to their own devices we would never change a thing. But the truth is most of us are tougher on the material than they are. Except we have a better idea of what’s wrong and how to fix it. Yet, that doesn’t stop them from thinking they’re saving the show with suggestions that are often obvious or useless.

On one show I was showrunning we had a network executive who was terrible at notes. He was a good administer, but script doctoring was not his forte. We’d have a mediocre table read and could see him approaching us. He would practically be sweating. Obviously he didn’t know what the hell to tell us but was obligated to give notes anyway. Before he could speak we'd jump in, saying: “We know. We have some work to do.” That’s all he needed to hear. Like a shot he was out of there. Then on show night he would thank us for taking his suggestions.

Actors sometimes have embarrassing moments – especially when they mispronounce words they should know but don't. One actress pronounced epitome “ep-a-tome”. Another pronounced hyperbole as "hyper-bowl".  Worse was the thirtysomething actress who referred to a famous New York neighborhood as “Green-witch Village.”

One time I was directly across the table from an attractive actress. It was summer and she was wearing a little halter top. She was so engrossed in the reading she didn’t notice that one of her breasts had popped out. I sure noticed it. I tried to silently signal her. She waved me off, essentially saying “stop bothering me during a reading.” Ohh-kay. So for the next fifteen minutes I enjoyed a delightful view. Eventually she realized it, and to her credit, just popped it back in like it was no big deal. No embarrassment, nothing. She did thank me later for trying to warn her though. I said, “oh, you’ve thanked me enough.”

Right after 9-11 we had a bomb scare at the studio during a table reading. The inspectors alerted us of the situation and advised we just stay put. He told us not to worry. It appeared to be a false alarm. That didn’t stop one of the cast members from freaking, screaming at other cast members who tried to calm him down, and then running out of the room.

One table reading was delayed when the star was late. She finally swept in and said, “Sorry I'm late. I was fucking my husband.”

On another show I co-ran, we decided to have an early table reading so we’d be done by the O.J. verdict that was expected later that morning. That proved to be a good decision. Imagine trying to be funny after that?

On Kirstie Alley’s first table reading at CHEERS she came in wearing a blond wig a la her predecessor, Shelley Long.

My partner and I got our first staff job on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW at MTM. Our first day was the table reading of a script we had written. Just before the reading, Tony stood up, announced that he had just come back from London and was so impressed with British comedies. “Compared to them, everything we have here is shit!” he proclaimed.  With that lovely introduction he neatly segued into our script.

Where you hold table readings is important. We always tried to do them in large conference rooms. Some shows do them on the stage. But laughs get lost in such a cavernous space. Better to hold the readings in close quarters where laughter can fill the room.   The SOUL TRAIN stage was not conducive for comedy it turned out. 

Big laughs at table readings can be deceiving however. Sometimes a line that worked at the table falls flat on stage. When that happens you’ve got to take out the line even if it originally got a big response. Likewise, there are jokes that are dependent on physical performance. Writers need to resist the urge to change everything just because they don’t get laughs.

There is always a crafts-services table set up in the corner with fruit, lox & bagels, Danish, etc. One of my pet peeves is that some actors will eat during table readings. They’re trying to deliver lines with their mouths full of food. You can’t understand what they’re saying, much less whether their joke works. At best they sound like Sylvester the Cat.

And you can always tell which actor read the script beforehand and which actor is just winging it, reading it for the first time.

Usually actors will give so-so table readings but after rehearsal they lock in and deliver great performances on show night. But there are a few who just have great natural instincts and will give sensational table readings. Unfortunately, as the week unfolds they start to over-analyze the script and their performance gets progressively worse.

Table readings have changed over the last few years. The original idea was that actors sit around a table and relate to each other as they read the script. But now there are so many network and studio and standards & practice people at table readings – not to mention agents, managers, and oh yeah – people who work on the show, that these conference rooms can’t hold everybody. So someone got the bright idea to set it up like a celebrity roast. Actors now sit on one side of one long table (a la a dais) in front of an audience. It’s easier and more convenient for the suits but horrible for the actors. How do you relate to someone who is sitting at the other end of the table from you? Not that the executives care.

And pilots are worse. This is how crazy things have become. A lot of studios will want to have pre-table readings before the actual table readings with the network. This was suggested before one of our pilots. We said okay but only we would be present for the pre-table reading. No studio presence. The executive then said, “Well, I want to be there, so if that’s what you want, then maybe schedule a pre-pre table reading for just you guys.”

And remember, this is just the START of the process.

This is a re-post from four years ago.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What's your favorite FRASIER opening?

There were lots of them.  Bet you didn't realize how many.  I didn't and I worked on the show.  Karl Malowned put together a collection of all the FRASIER animated openings.  It's pretty cool.  Take a look. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Oh no! Something's different!

Yes, for the more observant of you, I have changed the template of the blog.  With this new template I'll be able to embed the podcast so you can access it anytime with just one click (that's coming soon).  Otherwise, the look has changed but the questionable content within remains the same.

So for the moment I'm hanging the OPEN DURING CONSTRUCTION sign.  

Thanks for your support.  I'm always looking to make the blog better so everyone gets their money's worth. 

Friday (the 13th) Questions

How perfect that the month when we get our new (God help us) president, we also get a Friday the 13th. Here are this week’s FQ’s:

Julian Brown leads off:

Have you ever encountered a professional situation where the jockeying for position backfired in a big, unintentionally schadenfreude inducing way?

[i was thinking about Edwin EncarnaciĆ³n signing with Cleveland, who eliminated Toronto in the playoffs last season, which begs for some karmic comeuppance. For instance : NHL player Marion Hossa 'chased the cup' with consecutive 1 year deals in Detroit and Pittsburgh, who met in the finals both seasons, and whichever team he was on lost that year.]

In television and movies that happens more on the executive level. I think of Fred Silverman, who built CBS in the early ‘70s, ABC in the mid ‘70s, and was a complete bust programming NBC in the late ‘70s.

On the acting side I can think of one example (I’m sure there are more): McLean Stevenson leaving MASH to star in his own series, HELLO LARRY.

But I’ve found that “revenge” is not a great motivator in show business. Yes, CBS might have canceled my show and it would be great to do the next one on NBC and kick their ass. But realistically I would like the option of going back to CBS with that next one. The truth is the same people just move around, it’s Hollywood musical chairs. It makes very little sense to hold grudges and try to get back at people or networks. At least that’s how I feel.

From suek2001:

Rolling Stone ranked 100 TV shows of all time..MASH came in at #15(should have been higher)..Cheers made the list but Frasier did not..and that's a crime.

Do writers use those kinda of lists to boost their profile or payday?

No, because they’re ridiculous. No one in the industry takes these ranking lists seriously for a second. They’re so subjective and idiotic.

I’m not sure winning an Emmy would even boost your asking price these days.

I remember several years ago the Oscars did a feature where they brought back as many winners in the acting category as they could get. I was struck by how many of them were out of work. And these were Oscar winners.

Boomska316 wonders:

Seriously: Is there some reason why studio executives are usually the last to understand what the public might like?

Well, start with William Goldman’s great quote that no one in Hollywood knows anything.

And then factor in that studio heads have to project several years into the future. Unlike TV where you can eat it while it’s hot, there is a long process in films between development, production, and editing so years go by before the product finally reaches the marketplace.

So which hot trend will endure and which will flame out? All studio executives can do is guess. And generally they guess wrong.

That’s another reason why sequels are so popular with execs – they’ve already been accepted by filmgoers with wallets. They’re much safer bets.

And finally, from 404:

Esoteric Friday question, Ken: based on that, how many different sitcom ideas do you think are really out there? And how many sitcoms are just rehashings of the same things over and over again in just slightly different situations?

I believe it’s less about the situation and more about the execution. You can take an arena like, say, a bar and do numerous series. ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE, SULLIVAN & SONS, some Stiller & Meara thing, and probably seven or eight more. But CHEERS rose above them all due to the execution.

Yes, there are standard tropes – workplace comedies, family comedies, romantic comedies, but people do stretch the rules a lot. How do you fit MASH into any one category?

New things always seem to come along, you just don’t know when or whether they’ll be accepted.

What’s your Friday Question?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nothing's changed

I’ve always felt that in many ways I am still thirteen. Back then I used to sit at a desk and write and draw comic books, dreaming up crazy stories. Today I sit at a desk dreaming up stories for scripts and plays.

When I was thirteen I watched THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. Today I still watch THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.

When I was thirteen I loved Bob’s Big Boy hamburgers. Nothing’s changed there either… except that they now go to my hips.

And of course my crush on Natalie Wood still seems to linger.

Back when I was thirteen I was a radio freak. Still am. In those days I would do bedroom shows. On Saturday nights my parents would go out for the evening. My younger brother would go to sleep and I would set up my record player and Wollensak tape recorder, grab the latest copy of LOOK magazine for commercial copy, and go “on the air.” I would introduce records but mostly I tried to do funny voices and zany comedy bits. None of those tapes exist today, which I’m sure is just as well. Jonathan Winters I was not. Shelley Winters I was not.

But I had my bedroom station. And I would bet that by noon there will be a bunch of comments from other radio freaks who also had bedroom stations in their formative years.

Mine went nowhere. But some had stations way more elaborate. A few even had low power transmitters and were actually broadcasting. I was content to stick the tapes in a drawer (where they shared space with my homemade comic books).

That was then. And now I’m doing a weekly podcast. Not much has changed. I’m not doing it out of my bedroom – I do it out of my office – but I’m still talking into a tape recorder hoping to make people laugh. The big difference of course is that people can hear this. And LOOK magazine is history.

This is amazing to me. Anybody today can “broadcast” all over the world. 24/7 internet radio stations are just computers sitting in bedrooms. Thank GOD these options didn’t exist when I was thirteen. I’d still be living it down.

But the pressure is on, with so many audio options available, I’ve got to really up my game. No interviews with my mailman or discussions about shopping for tires. I’ve got to go out of my way to impress. It’s like when I first tried to attract girls. God, I am thirteen again.

Episode 2 should now be available for downloading.  Stories about MASH, why I got fired so often from radio jobs, and FQ's.    Check it out and please subscribe.    Thanks. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Episode 2: The Warmhearted Writers of MASH

Get a behind-the-scenes look at one of television's greatest hits as Ken Levine discusses how the writers of MASH handled the actors' notes. Plus, we learn about Ken's ersatz radio career, and he uses a popular segment from his award-winning blog by taking listener questions! This episode is filled with insider information on what goes on making a hit show including stories of what the audience usually doesn't see!

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

The survey that should scare the shit out of anyone in TV

A friend of mine in advertising (let’s call him Don Draper) turned me on to this rather startling survey, conducted by the Katz Television Group. They surveyed Americans to see how familiar they were with the ten shows that were nominated for Best Comedy and Drama for the Golden Globes. Here’s what they found, and if I were any network, not just the major broadcast networks, or any producer, I’d be very concerned.

THIS IS US did the best. 33% of those surveyed have watched the show. Another 34% have heard of it but haven’t seen it. And 33% have never heard of it. That’s pretty damn good actually for this landscape.

BLACKISH finished second best. 29% have watched it (although it doesn’t say whether they still watch or sampled it once), another 53% have heard of it but haven’t seen it, and only 18% have never heard of it. Kudos to ABC.

GAME OF THRONES has been seen by 26%, another 68% have heard of it, and only 6% have never heard of it. Boy, that’s a big percentage of folks who’ve heard of it but have no desire to check it out.

STRANGER THINGS is this so-called viral hit on Netflix. Only 15% have seen it (still pretty good for a streaming service), 37% know about it but aren’t seemingly interested, and 48% has never heard of it. Almost half the population doesn’t know this zeitgeist darling exists.

WESTWORLD has been seen by 12%, another 36% are aware of it, but 52% have never heard of it. That’s a pretty high number for an HBO show.

Then things get really shocking. VEEP. It wins Emmys for Best Comedy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins Emmys every year. Big comedy hit, right? Are you ready? 6% of the population has watched an episode of VEEP. 38% know of it but haven’t watched, and despite all the hype and Emmys and HBO and the fact that it’s in its sixth or seventh season – a whopping 56% of Americans have never even heard of it. Wow. Just… wow.

But wait. It gets worse. Way worse.

THE CROWN won the Golden Globe for Best Drama. 5% of the audience has seen it. 24% has not seen it but knows of it. And 71% of America has never even heard of it. 71% of the audience has never heard of the Best Drama (according to the Golden Globes).

ATLANTA won Best Comedy. 3% have seen it. Another 28% have heard of it (although how many of those thought they were asking about the city?), and 69% were clueless of its existence.

Okay, now let’s get to those shows we’re told are groundbreaking and game-changing. Hold onto your hats.

TRANSPARENT – for all the hype, award consideration, Entertainment Weekly profiles, etc. – only 2% of Americans have ever seen an episode of TRANSPARENT. 32% more know about it. And even after several years of the best press a show can get – 66% of the population has never heard of it.

Let me reiterate – this is an independent study by a company that studies media and determines the best uses of advertising.

Finally, there’s MOZART IN THE JUNGLE. 2% have seen it. Only 15% know about it but have yet to watch. And a staggering 83% of Americans have never heard of it.

What can we conclude? Niche shows have tiny audiences. Even excellent niche shows. I’m still gobsmacked that after all this time, 2/3rds of the population have never even HEARD of TRANSPARENT. I get that many don’t watch it. Amazon is not one of the biggies (yet). But how can so many people not even know it exists?

And the big takeaway is the disconnect between critics and viewers. It used to be that winning awards elevated shows awareness. CHEERS winning Best Comedy its first year resulted in way better ratings. Now it means nothing. And I don’t know what TRANSPARENT and VEEP can do to get on peoples’ radar.

Television needs HITS. REAL hits. Not media darlings, not underground favorites. Shows that people WATCH. Or at least KNOW. When no one is interested in even the so-called best that television can produce, it’s time to really take a hard look at what is being produced, how it is being promoted, and maybe (as a last resort) what the viewer WANTS to see. Maybe your show is excellent but it’s not what the population wants. Could it be that THE BIG BANG THEORY is really the Best Comedy of the Year? And GREY’S ANATOMY is the Best Drama?  I bet you've heard of them. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


There was a short-lived sitcom in 1990 called THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. It was way ahead of its time. It was created by Richard Rosenstock who went to win an Emmy for ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and has worked on (among others) FRIENDS, FAMILY GUY, and WILL & GRACE. He also created the cult hit FLYING BLIND for Fox, the series that introduced Tea Leoni. His shows are smart and always very funny. 

I personally have a soft spot in my heart for THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. First off, it was my kind of show. A brainy nerdy Jewish New York kid in high school, complete with all the requisite humiliations and angst. And secondly, my partner David Isaacs and I wrote an episode AND appeared in it. Yes, we were actors. We played two gay guys at a Jewish wedding. I even had to deliver a punchline while I was WALKING. And in front of an audience no less. Proud to say I did it without a stunt double. If James Burrows can get a performance out of me he can get one out of anybody. 

Anyway, THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES is one of those little gems that few remember, but the ones who do remember it very fondly. One such fan wrote in a Friday Question about the show. What I like to do in a case like that is go directly to the source for an answer. And even though this might be a show you’re unfamiliar with I think Richard Rosenstock’s answer will give you a great window into how showrunners think and what they’re up against network-wise.

The question comes from Arthur Mee:

One of your more obscure credits is The Marshall Chronicles, a show I watched and enjoyed. (And a show now most famous for having forced a little show called The Seinfeld Chronicles to change its name, to avoid confusion.)

My question is: how much thought was given to what would happen after the first season? Marshall was taking his SATs, so would the next season have been set in college? (Which would necessitate new sets, new cast members, dropping of some existing cast) Or was is going to remain a high school show for as long as they could stretch it out, Head Of The Class-style?

Or was the thought "let's get this on the air, and worry about second season later"?

Here’s Richard’s answer:

What might be surprising is that for a show that aired in 1990, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever been asked this question. Including by the network back in 1990, which should give you an idea of just how invested and excited they were about the future of the show. If there was any doubt about that, we were told after the second episode aired (and the ratings came in), exactly when we would be leaving the schedule (four weeks hence), and that one of our seven episodes wouldn’t be aired at all. Hence, there wasn’t a LOT of discussion of how we would handle, say, season five.

In theory, since high school was a very particular part of Marshall’s hell, my plan would have been to keep him there until we had mined the milieu and the mindset for as many additional stories as we found, as well as being mindful of not keeping them there past the point where the actors were believably high-school age. Then MARSHALL would have moved on to NYU, which would have continued to leave the city explored and the regulars to be retained even if not necessarily existing in the same physical space as Marshall (and his parents). Of course, if you weren’t in the shower with me when I came up with this plan, you would never know it. Needless to say, no one knows it. But thank you so much for asking. Clearly you are the only one in the entire world (and for twenty-six years) who has.

Thanks to Richard Rosenstock for his reply. Our episode used to be on YouTube until someone took it down. But if you ever come by the house, I’ve got it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

THE FOUNDER -- My review

I saw THE FOUNDER at a WGA screening Friday night and it drew a rather large crowd. But that’s understandable. It was a movie about someone over fifty who was still working.

THE FOUNDER was the story of Ray Kroc who turned a tiny local hamburger stand into the McDonalds behemoth. In short, it was movie about two schmeggie brothers who found a way to build a better mousetrap and the hustler/con man/capitalist who ran with it, took good ideas from other people, and created an empire built on glitz and malnutrition, all the while stealing another man’s wife. It’s certainly a tale of our time. Since they took lots of liberty with the facts they should have just gone all the way and had Ray Kroc run for president and win.

Yes, the McDonald brothers came up with an ingenious assembly line system for turning out burgers and fries at a much faster rate than competitors. And they devised the Golden Arches and the notion that they should cater to families and not the cast of GREASE. But without Ray Kroc there’s no Ronald McDonald and McRibs. So who contributed more to society?
Michael Keaton proved once again that he has the presence and charisma to be a movie star. He absolutely carried this film. And even though he played a douchebag you still couldn’t take your eyes off him. I just imagine say Richard Gere playing the part. The lights would come on after a screening and it would look like a scene from Jonestown with everybody out cold. But Keaton keeps you watching and wondering what stunt he’ll do next.

Meanwhile, Laura Dern has the most thankless role maybe in the history of cinema.  

One way the movie failed for me was in the “power of suggestion” department. How many times have you seen a movie where they’re eating a scrumptious meal and the film ends and you can’t wait to get your own bowl of pasta, or thick steak? I had absolutely no desire whatsoever to go to McDonalds when THE FOUNDER ended. Even after the scene early in the movie when Michael Keaton first encounters McDonalds. He gazes at people climaxing while eating 15 cent burgers. He himself then takes a bite into one and later tells the McDonald brothers that it was the greatest hamburger he’d ever eaten. That’s like someone saying 2 BROKE GIRLS is the greatest sitcom they’ve ever seen. My salivary glands sure weren't firing. 

In short, THE FOUNDER is a very cynical film – achieving the American Dream by squeezing out the originators and ultimately taking credit for their ideas. In stories of this sort you kind of expect the scoundrel to get his comeuppance. But in real life that doesn’t always happen. Ray Kroc gets away with everything. Like I said, a tale of our times. The real title should be THE HAMBURGLAR.

On another note:  If you haven't checked out my new podcast yet, you can find it by clicking here.  Thanks for listening if in fact you did.  

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Tips for Winter Travelers

Traveling is a nightmare anyway, but during the winter it gets even worse. But fear not, blog faithful. Here are some suggestions for winter air travel:

Check the weather forecast. If it’s not 72 degrees and clear EVERYWHERE in the United States, reschedule.

Do not call the airline for a weather update. You’ll learn it’s cool and overcast in New Delhi.

Allow two hours before the flight, ten hours for the tarmac, two hours for the unscheduled fuel stop, and two hours to retrieve your luggage. And if you’re flying from LA to San Francisco, 45 minutes for the flight itself.

If you print your ticket on one of those self-help stations realize that the chances of it working are the same as five cherries coming up on a slot machine.

Best to print your ticket at home the night before along with the flight schedules of every other airline going to your destination, airport shuttle schedules, Amtrak schedules, and the 1-800 numbers for Ramada, Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott, Quality Inn, Best Western, and the YMCA.

Never turn in your rental car until it’s the final boarding call on your flight.

Never fly to, from, or around Chicago.

Always use skycaps. And if you choose to ever see your luggage again, tip.

Remember: “the white zones are for assholes in SUV’s only”.

You are allowed several little three-ounce bottles of something but not one three-and-a-half-ounce bottle of the same thing.

You might want to put that Astroglide into a nondescript little bottle.

Don't book connecting flights in the winter, even in Hawaii.

Don’t have children if you plan on flying anytime in the next fifteen years. Even if it’s one trip.

If they announce they’re overbooked and are looking for volunteers to take a later plane for free trips take it. The flight is going to be cancelled anyway. And you’ll have a jump at getting reservations at the airport Hilton.

Have your laptop, ipod, cellphone, iphone, Gameboy, camcorder, transistor radio, electric razor, hand held fan, and pacemaker fully charged. Ten hours on the tarmac is a long time and those electric outlets at your seat never work.


Before you get on the flight take Airbourne, water, Xanex, Oscillococcinum, Clariton, Ambien, and tequila.

Fake a limp so you can pre-board and guarantee there will be room in the overhead compartments for your stuff.

Bring your own DVD’s, music selection, food, blankets, pillows, reading light, water, magazines, newspapers, coffee, toilet paper, and generator. And just to be on the safe side, your own oxygen masks and floatation devices.

But it’s not a good time to catch up on SULLY.

Play the drinking game. Take a swig every time you hear “we apologize for the inconvenience”. Not recommended for those unwilling to get completely shitfaced.

Drinking game #2: “We thank you for your patience.”

Don’t kid yourself. EVERYONE is flying “stand by”.

The scary part used to be the landing. Now it’s pushing off from the gate.

Beware of free WIFI hotspots in airport terminals. Hackers use these to break into your computer. Not a joke.

It’s quieter and smoother in the front of the plane. And screw what they say, if you’re in Coach and you want to use the bathroom go to the ones in First Class.

And finally, always remember: it’s NEVER the airlines' fault. It’s the weather, air traffic controllers, mechanical problems, baggage handler strike, FAA rules, homeland security, airport restrictions, lawmakers, the billy goat curse, lunar eclipses, and most of all -- the media.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Podcast Episode 1: Hollywood & Levine's Maiden Voyage

Okay, here it is! Episode 1 of my weekly podcast.   Please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.  It's a work in progress, but so is this blog... and my life.  Thanks for your support.  And a special thanks to Howard Hoffman for that super cool logo.

Enjoy the show while on the treadmill. 

Friday, January 06, 2017

It's coming tomorrow!

As promised, I am going to begin a weekly podcast 

The first episode arrives TOMORROW.  

Meanwhile, check out the awesome logo done by Howard Hoffman.

Check in here to listen to HOLLYWOOD & LEVINE. 

Friday Questions

Fresh for the New Year. Here are Friday Questions:

Harold Peteresen starts us off:

TCM recently showed an hour long tribute to Robert Osborne. In it they showed a "blooper" reel where he flubs introductions to movies. Did you experience any flubs when you hosted TCM? Any you'd like to share?

Yes, and I would usually try to cover by goofing on myself. When you screw up making a radio promo nobody hears you. You’re alone in the production studio. But on television, there is an entire crew there to watch me fuck up like an idiot.

But the truth is, everybody screws up, even on live TV or live theatre. You’ve just got to roll with it (as long as it doesn’t happen every time).

From Joe:

If you today were to watch a MASH or Cheers that you didn't write but contributed to in the writers room, would you remember which jokes were yours?

Sometimes but not always. Because often times one person will pitch something and someone else in the room will refine it. So I’ll see a joke and remember I had a hand in it but don’t remember how.

But other times, yes, I remember distinctly that certain jokes were mine. It’s always easier to recall the jokes that worked and got a big laugh, however.

Peter has a long question for which I have a short answer.

Someone jokingly asked the other day if you're going to review Hacksaw Ridge, which has brought on my Friday question. You've written before about your feelings on Mel Gibson and your refusal to watch anything he's involved in ever again. My question is if you extends that to others who work with him, i.e. Andrew Garfield and Vince Vaughn are in Hacksaw Ridge, William H Macy was in Blood Father, and Kelsey Grammer was in Expendables 3. Do you lose respect for or stop talking to people who agree to do a movie with Gibson, or do you view them as working actors just earning a paycheck?

No. Just Mel.

Unknown wonders:

How come Frasier & Lilith didn't end up together on Frasier??? By their last episode together I thought it was pretty obvious that they would always love each other and they were soulmates.

I would argue that they weren’t right for each other, and that all the many issues between them would keep resurfacing. The plan was to give Frasier a fresh start. It wasn’t my decision but I agree with it.

And finally, Aaron Hazouri asks…

Kind of a specific Friday question but what the hell... I met with an exec at a studio recently who asked if I had anything to pitch to him, but mentioned they'd need it fast, so I got something to him within the next 10 days. If he hates the pitches, should I expect a response? "Thanks but no thanks?" Or is it like the comics world where you assume the answer is no unless you hear otherwise?

It used to be there was courtesy and consideration in Hollywood. Not anymore. At one time you could expect at least a phone call. Eventually that gave was to email rejections. And now, they often just never call back. Yes, it’s the height of rudeness. But it’s the age where people break off serious long term romantic relationships with a text.

What’s your Friday Question?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The value of research

In an earlier post I mentioned how my writing partner, David Isaacs and I traveled with the White House Press Corps for a few days while doing research for our erstwhile pilot on the same subject. It was the highlight of that particular pilot experience. (It was the only thing GOOD about that pilot experience.) 

But it points out something worth noting. Research is an invaluable tool when you’re writing a script. Any script (except maybe for a SON OF ZORN script because that show is just completely idiotic). But for pilots especially (and agents and studios want spec pilots today from young writers), the more authority you have over your world the better.

And the good news is, many writers are lazy and don’t bother to do research. It’s a way that your script can shine.

Any writer who has been on staff of a show can tell you the hardest part of the process is coming up with stories. Research, in many cases, eases that problem. Instead of having to dream up stories out of thin air, they’ll fall right into your lap. And they’ll be richer and more true to life.

On MASH, Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart began a policy where doctors, nurses, corpsmen, soldiers, anyone who was in the Korean War were interviewed. We had thousands of pages of transcripts from these interviews and during our tenure we interviewed many more. We even flew to Phoenix to spend a day with the doctor "Hawkeye Pierce" was modeled after.   Each episode of MASH contained between two and three different storylines. So over eleven years that’s roughly 600 separate stories. We could not have done the show without that research. Ironically, some of the stories we took from those real life interviews were so bizarre we had to tone them down otherwise no one would have believed us.

CHEERS of course was the best. I wrote off my bar tab for eleven years.  Donald Trump would be so proud. 

Obviously, you don’t always have the time or funds to do extensive research. If you’re writing BRAINDEAD you might not be able to fly to Washington DC for a week or spend any quality time at ant farms, but there’s plenty of literature and research material just a click away.

And if the subject of your pilot is accessible – let’s say you’re writing a pilot about the Department of Motor Vehicles – take a day or two to just go there. Observe what happens. Talk to employees during a break.

If your show centers around an AA group go to an AA meeting. How exactly are they conducted? What really goes on there? What does AA mean to the participants? And like I said, most writers won’t bother. So their AA scenes will seem very surface, stereotypical, or wrong.

It’s worth the time and worth the effort. And if you’re writing about subject matter that interests you (which you should), doing the research should be fun.

Being in the White House Press Corp. was way cool. We went on a campaign trip with President Carter and wound up in someone’s backyard in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. Who says writers don’t lead romantic lives?

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

They can sing 40 of their greatest hits in one minute

Here's one for radio geeks (and music lovers).  Very few people appreciate the precision that goes into singing radio jingles.  You have six singers, different harmonies, and they have to be absolutely in perfect sync.  It's a very specialized field.  (Clayton Kershaw's father used to sing radio jingles for many stations around the country.)

Radio jingles are the signature of a station -- the Golden Arches.  Mention KRTH to anyone in Los Angeles and they'll automatically sing "K-rth 101."   I'm sure there are stations in your market that you identify by their signature jingle.  

Jhani Kaye, who was the program director of KRTH in Los Angeles, videotaped a jingle recording session from 2007.  He just recently uncovered the tape and posted it on YouTube.

Leading the session is Johnny Mann.   Sad to say he passed away a few years ago.   But he was quite famous for creating radio jingles in the '60s (e.g. the famous KHJ "Boss Radio" package)  Additionally, he recorded albums (the Johnny Mann Singers), and hosted a syndicated flag waving/patriotic sickeningly wholesome syndicated series called STAND UP AND CHEER.

Don't know the names of all of the singers, but I do know the lead singer (the blonde on the left in the green top) is Grammy winner Darlene Koldenhoven.  (There are a couple of shots when they show the people in the control room and you might spot me for a second or two.) 

Darlene is a friend and there have been times she's been in my car, I'll have KRTH on the radio, a jingle will come on and she'll sing along with it.  Everyone sings in the car, but rarely do you hear the actual person singing live with herself.  If only I could get Adele in my car.  (Maybe if I said I was James Corden.)

Now a note about watching this: You (hopefully) will find it fascinating to watch the precision of these fine musicians as they weave through very complicated vocal charts very quickly.  (Brian Wilson, if you're reading this, you're welcome.)  But the repetition might start driving you bonkers.  I suspect many of you will watch for a couple of minutes, get the gist, and move on to your Facebook page or porn.   But some radio nerds will stay with the whole twelve minute video and then watch it again seventeen times.

In any event, you'll be singing "K-rth 101" in your sleep.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The most easily avoidable mistake young writers make

You’ve worked on your spec pilot for months. You’ve taken a course in pilot writing. You’ve read two books. You’re so desperate for information you’ve read through the archives of this blog.

You’ve got a dynamite premise. It’s EXACTLY what every network is looking for right now. How’d you tap into the zeitgeist five minutes before everyone else? And those characters -- they just jump off the page. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are even willing to audition.

Your story is ingenious, shows the unlimited potential of your series, and has a inspired twist. Think: THE USUAL SUSPECTS but better!

And it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Move over Mel Brooks. There’s a new sheriff in town and it’s YOU.

If ever there was a slam dunk, a home run, a can’t miss – THIS IS IT.

So how come readers stop reading on page three and toss it into the reject file?

Answer: Typos.

You could write the greatest spec pilot of all-time and if you have typos on the first three pages you’re dead. It’s just that simple.

It’s amazing how many writers will pour their hearts and souls into their scripts and then skim over the proofing process. The message typos send is that you lack dedication and judgment – even if we both know that isn’t true.

So before you turn in your masterpiece, go over it with a fine tooth comb, and then have a friend or two do the same.

Now you may be saying, “Well, wait a minute Levine – you have typos in your blog all the time.” Yes, but I’m not turning it in to CBS. We all make typos and we all overlook them. That’s why it’s so critical you go that extra mile. You enlist some help. The competition is steep. Give yourself an edge by presenting a proofed-proof script.

As always, best of luck!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Happy New Year AGAIN

It's always weird to me when New Year's Day falls on a Sunday and they postpone the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl until today.  I always wonder:  is it for religious reasons or just an excuse to lengthen the holiday period and give us all an extra day off? 

Other things I wonder:

How many idiots didn't get the memo and were sitting out all night on Colorado Blvd. freezing their asses off on Saturday night?   Did any of think it was odd that only fifty people planned to watch the Rose Parade?

How many people will watch the parade live for the first time since it was last held on a Monday?   I'm one of those.  On the east coast the parade airs at 11:30 but here in the west it kicks off at 8:30.  I'm usually asleep through it.  Most people who were up late for New Years Eve sleep through it. 

How come it rarely rains on the Rose Parade? 

What are Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards doing this year? 

Why does every float win some award?

And finally, is there an excuse to hold the Rose Bowl on Tuesday so everyone has one more day before having to return to work or school?

One year, in the late '70s, I was in New York for New Years Eve and January 1st fell on a Sunday.  I went to a Broadway show on New Years Eve (SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM -- see it if it's still playing although it might have closed last month), and then walked through Times Square to get to the subway I needed.  It's the only time I've been in that mob scene, and my question to those folks is: WHY???  

Anyway, I flew home to Los Angeles on Sunday (on the same flight as Dick Clark -- guess he couldn't get out of there fast enough), and was in front of my TV on Monday to see the Rose Parade.  It was weird.  Usually the time gap between the ball dropping and parade is eight hours.  Maybe the Flash could normally attend both events, but it felt like there was a suspension of time.  I don't know about you, but I love when I can be in two places at the same time. 

In any event, enjoy New Years Day 2.0.  

Sunday, January 01, 2017

In celebration of Carrie Fisher

Happy New Year.  I can't believe how many wonderful people we lost last year, including Carrie Fisher.  As I mentioned earlier we were casual friends (until shock treatments erased any memory of me.)  I had forgotten but nine years ago I did a post showcasing her then-just released autobiography, WISHFUL DRINKING.  Reader ScottMc  reminded me of it and suggested I re-post it.  Thanks, ScottMc, that's a great idea.  So here it is. 

These are just a couple of brief excerpts to give you a taste of what a wonderful, perceptive, and hilarious person she was, and the insane shit she had to put up with growing up in Hollywood royalty.  And I don't mean to be callous but when I heard that Debbie Reynolds had died the day after Carrie my first thought was, "Are you kidding?  She upstaged Carrie again?"  Now why would I think that?   Read on.  (And now we learn they're having a joint funeral.  Carrie doesn't even get her own memorial service.)

When I was born, my mother was given an anesthetic because they didn't have epidurals in those days. Consequently, she was unconscious.

Now, my mother is a beautiful woman - she's beautiful today in her 70s, so at 24 she looked like a Christmas morning. All the doctors were buzzing round her pretty head, saying: 'Oh, look at Debbie Reynolds asleep - how pretty.'

And my father, upon seeing me start to arrive, fainted. So all the nurses ran over saying: 'Oh look, there's Eddie Fisher, the crooner, on the ground. Let's go look at him.'

So when I arrived I was virtually unattended. And I have been trying to make up for that fact ever since.


Mom and Dad were great friends with Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Mike Todd. Mike died in a plane crash in 1958, when I was two, and my dad flew to Elizabeth's side, making his way slowly to her front.


He later wrote his autobiography, Been There, Done That - well, he called it an autobiography, but I thought of it more as a novel. I like to call it Been There, Done Them, because it really was just about the women he'd slept with and how the sex was and what their bodies were like (so it is a feelgood read).


There was also my mother's closet - which I always thought of as the Church Of Latter-Day Debbie because it was the magical place that she entered as my mom and emerged as Debbie Reynolds.


At a certain point in my early 20s, my mother started to worry about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.


Some years later, I was in London en route to my mother's wedding to Richard Hamlett, her third husband (I don't like to miss any of my parents' weddings). She called me at my hotel, and when I didn't answer she became concerned.

So she let the phone ring and ring - until finally she panicked. She knew I was in the room so, in her mind, probably the only reason I wasn't answering the phone was that I had overdosed.

So she did what any normal concerned mother might do when troubled about her daughter's well-being. She called Ava Gardner. And she asked Ava to make sure I was not dead.


I live next door to my mom now. She is still a little eccentric.

Whenever she calls she says: 'Hello, dear, this is your mother, Debbie.' (As opposed to my mother Vladimir or Jean-Jacques.) My brother and I talk this way to each other now: 'Hello dear, this is your brother, Todd.'

Another example of her eccentricity: she suggested several times that I should have a child with her last husband, Richard, because 'it would have nice eyes'. It hadn't occurred to her this might be odd. I think she just thought, you know, my womb was free and we're family.


When I spoke about my mental illness publicly, I won great acclaim. I waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything (OK, fine, not acting, but what about a tiny little award for writing? Nope), I now get awards for being mentally ill.


Remember the white dress I wore all through that film (STAR WARS)? George (Lucas) came up to me the first day of filming, took one look at the dress and said: 'You can't wear a bra under that dress.'

'OK, I'll bite,' I said. 'Why?' And he said: 'Because ... there's no underwear in space.'


Among George's many possessions, he owns my likeness, so that every time I look in the mirror I have to send him a couple of bucks. That's partly why he's so rich.


When I was about 16 and my brother Todd was about 14, my mother took a part in a musical in New York, so we moved there for a year. I was out one evening when someone told me my mother was on the phone.

'I'm at the hospital with your brother,' she said. 'He shot himself in the leg with a blank.'

'What?' I said. 'He'll be fine,' she continued. 'He's in surgery now. Anyway, the police are here and they want to come to the house to examine the gun.

'I need you to get to the house before them to let them in, but also I need you to hide all the guns and bullets and - what else ... Oh yes! I need you to flush your brother's marijuana down the lavatory.'

It was Saturday night and you would think that this wouldn't be a particularly slow night for crime in New York. But you wouldn't know it looking at our living room because we had five policemen milling around, asking my mother pertinent questions such as: 'Did you know John Wayne? What kind of guy was he?'

Finally they told us they had established the gun could discharge live ammo, so my mother was in possession of an unlicensed firearm and had to go to the police station.

We got home just before 6am and there was a knock at the door.

Mom went to see who it was and came back laughing. 'It was a couple of reporters,' she said. 'They heard Todd had been shot in the leg and they wanted to know if I had done it for publicity for the show. I so badly wanted to tell them, "Yes, and now I can only do one more Broadway musical because I only have one child left to shoot for publicity."'

"Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher, is published by Simon & Schuster and available here.