Wednesday, April 17, 2019

EP119: NBC’s Al Michaels Part 1


In the first of two parts, NBC sportscaster Al Michaels, who has called 10 Super Bowls, numerous World Series, and will be forever known for his “Miracle on Ice” call, joins Ken for an in depth discussion.  In Part 1 Al talks about his baseball career, covering an earthquake, working for the Dating Game, MNF, and moving from ABC to NBC.  You don’t have to love sports to love Al Michaels.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

What were they thinking, Part 2?

We've come a lonnnnnng way since 1962.  Smack dab in the middle of the MAD MEN era comes this actual commercial.  Where was #MeToo when that generation needed it? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What were they thinkin'?

You know how you watch something on YouTube and that leads you to another video and pretty soon you go down a rabbit hole and hours go by as you discover different nutty things? That was me last night.

And I came upon this. It’s so absurd I had to share it.

There was an afternoon show on ABC in the mid ‘60s called WHERE THE ACTION IS. Dick Clark hosted and basically it was a music show consisting of rock groups of the day lip syncing their songs at the beach. The idea was to capture that whole California Myth (which did exist if you had a car and could get to the beach). I recall seeing Paul Revere & the Raiders wearing their heavy felt Revolutionary War uniforms rocking out at the beach.

To my knowledge, WHERE THE ACTION IS was gone long before 1973. But then I found this music video, which is very reminiscent of WTAI. I don’t know the story behind it. But it’s Vicki Lawrence singing her only big hit, THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT IN GEORGIA at the beach. And it sounds like Dick Clark introducing her.

But here’s what’s so bizarre and made me laugh out loud. Hardly anybody at the beach is paying any attention to her. They’re all running around, throwing the football, tackling each other, kicking sand. She’s just standing in the middle of this scene for no reason whatsoever. And the content of the song is about a murder in the south and an innocent man being hung. So the few people who are in the background dancing to this look like complete idiots.

I love Vicki Lawrence and would someday like to ask her about this. But in the meantime, enjoy today's surreal music video.


Monday, April 15, 2019

The WGA-ATA dispute -- Where do we stand?

Too early to tell.

The WGA and agents (ATA) could not reach a deal by zero hour this past weekend so we all are obligated to fire our TV and movie writing agents.

Where does that leave everybody? 

Well, we’re now in the first stage – name calling, posturing, threatening, animosity. Lawsuits and counter-suits.

I think it will be interesting so see if writers can in fact get staffed using only managers, lawyers, a submission website, recommendations, etc. and skirt the agency process. If so, writers will have a lot more leverage.

If not, if it’s very chaotic and just a mad scramble, agencies will gain more leverage.

But for either of those scenarios to play out a few months must go by. Just sitting on the sidelines, that’s where I see things going at this moment.  (But I hope I'm wrong.)

Look, producers, networks, studios, agents, whoever – only make concessions when they have to. And unfortunately, that usually requires a work stoppage or mass exodus or some other major protest that hopefully will have enough of an impact to force compromise and concessions. Deals that could have been made amicably eventually do get done but at a big cost with lots of collateral damage. Welcome to Tinsel Town.

Here’s how I imagine it will end, and this is based on nothing more than my observations from the bleachers (so take them with a grain of salt). Package deals will remain, but writers will share in the profits – significantly enough that they’re willing to agree to a deal. What that percentage is, when that will be, what other compromises will be made – that I don’t have a clue.

Now I’m getting on my soapbox. None of this would be an issue if anti-trust laws were still upheld and conflict-of-interest practices were shut down. Agencies need other ways to supplement their income in this era of mass consolidation and will find them (opening sports divisions, representing products like Coca-Cola, etc.) and writers would still have enough on their hands fighting injustices that were shady but still legal.

There was a time in Hollywood when major players like Lew Wasserman of Universal controlled the town. There could be a writers’ strike for three months and when Wasserman decided enough was enough the strike was settled in two days.

There’s no Lew Wasserman.

So for now we just play it out. For the vast majority of you, this battle will have no impact whatsoever. This is not a work stoppage. Your shows will still be produced on schedule. No DEXTER reruns on CBS to fill some gaps. And considering how many other global and national crises we all face daily, it’s probably a relief to know there’s one you don’t have a stake in.

But for those of us in the industry, these WGA-ATA issues are important and will affect the way business is done for years to come. So however it falls, let’s get it right.

UPDATE:  I thought it was clear from the post but apparently not since a number of you keep asking whether I went along with the WGA and fired my agent?  And the answer is yes.  

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Weekend Post

I thought if might be fun for some of these weekend posts to recommend vintage movies I love that are probably available on streaming services so if you're home alone on Saturday night or looking to kill a couple of hours this might just fill the time nicely.  (But if you're in Minneapolis come see my play, OUR TIME and me tonight.  Here's where you go for tickets.)

Today's recommendation: BODY HEAT.

 I’m going to start talking film noir in a few minutes but let’s cut to the chase – I love BODY HEAT for the sex. That’s why I went to see it, that’s why I went back to see it, that’s why I’m recommending it. There’s noir and great breakout performances but all that is a bonus.  And you don't have to worry about getting caught surfing Pornhub. 

BODY HEAT, released in 1981, marked the directorial debut of Lawrence Kasdan, who also wrote the film. Today he’s known as Jake Kasdan’s dad but back then he was writing STAR WARS sequels and INDIANA JONES movies – enough Hollywood currency to warrant a directing nod.

The movie is very noir. I don’t actually know the definition of that word but it seems to be the genre that encompasses night, mood, lust, guilt, illicit passion, double-crosses, triple-crosses, seduction, and if really done right – a hopelessly confusing plot. BODY HEAT satisfies all of that plus a lot of nudity!

The film stars William Hurt as Ned Racine, a two-bit lawyer in a small Florida town who meets Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), an unhappy rich married woman. There’s an instant smoldering connection. They’re both horny, wildly attracted to each other, and share the same penchant for talking like a Raymond Chandler novel.

It’s hot (100 degrees at night), they’re hot (one reviewer actually used the word “slender” to describe her back then), and the heat is never turned down.

In short order Ned and Matty are in her mansion getting it on as often and graphic as possible. You are so wrapped up in the steamy sweaty animal sex that you don’t ask the question, “Hey, if she’s so rich and lives in a mansion, how come she can’t afford air conditioning?”

Matty eventually talks Ned into killing her husband (that’s how good the sex was) and the plot takes off. If this sounds a little like DOUBLE INDEMNITY that’s because it’s almost a direct lift. But you never saw Fred MacMurray giving it to Barbra Stanwyck from behind.

Some notable other performances: Ted Danson as the tap dancing D.A. (this was well before CHEERS) is a riot and Mickey Rourke as an explosives expert (well before he went nuts) is riveting.

The ending gets very confusing and Byzantine so you might want to rewind and replay it a time or two. Just like guys will be rewinding and replaying the first part of the movie twenty times.

BODY HEAT – see it with someone you hope to get lucky with.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Questions

Hello from Indianapolis where I am attending the opening of my play, GOING GOING GONE and conducting a Q&A afterwards. It’s at the Westfield Playhouse. Come join us. Tomorrow I’m in Minneapolis for OUR TIME and a Q&A. Stop by there if you’re anywhere in the Midwest.

In the meantime…

Janet Ybarra has a Friday Question.

Whether it's one of your contemporary stageplays, a teleplay you wrote with David or what-have-you: how do you come up with good, satisfying names for your characters so that everyone isn't a Jones or a Smith?

I’ve written posts on this before. I try to find names that might fit the ethnicity, personality, and age of the character. If I’m writing a period piece there weren’t too many Beyonces in the 1920’s.

I prefer not having two characters with names that start with the same letter (e.g. Janet & Jennifer). It’s easier writing in Final Draft when I only need one key stroke instead of two when typing the character name.

Many times I’ll use names of people I know. Friends and ex-girlfriends show up all the time in MASH and CHEERS.

I also consult my high school yearbook.  Lots of great names in there. 

On MASH we always needed patients and visiting military personnel so my partner David and I in season 7 just went down the Los Angeles Dodgers roster. You’ll find Cey, Garvey, Rhoden, Rau, Hooten, Russell, Lopes, etc.

To be honest, I try not to spend too much time on this because you could devote three days coming up with just the perfect name when all you’re really doing is procrastinating.

Brian Phillips asks:

What are your thoughts on physical humor in a script that you write/co-write?

I love physical comedy and even in shows with sophisticated humor like FRASIER I will try to fit in some physical comedy. The key is having the actors who can pull it off. FRASIER had that in spades.

But even in my plays, which rely on dialogue to get the lion’s share of laughs, I will find spots for physical comedy.

If there’s any form of comedy that is universal and guaranteed to stand the test of time, it’s physical comedy. Laurel & Hardy make me laugh hysterically to this day.

From MikeN:

Would you write episodes differently for Netflix because there are no commercials?

Not really. My act break might not come directly in the middle, but good dramatic structure is good dramatic structure.  I still want a strong act break even if its purpose isn’t to retain an audience through a commercial break.

What excites me more about writing a show for Netflix is not having to squeeze a half hour episode into 18 minutes. I can better tell stories when I have a little more time.

And finally, Frank Beans has a FQ in a similar vein.

Curious, Ken--are there any episodes that you have worked on from any show that you wish could have been longer, or even multi-part so that they could tell a story arc better and in more depth?

Yes, primarily on MASH because we would always weave at least two storylines into every episode (sometimes three). There were instances when we had to cut the show for time and lost good stuff.

I always loved when script assignments that started out as a single episode expanded into a two-parter. Easier to tell the story and twice the money (the latter being the BIG incentive).

But here’s the dirty little secret: Most two-parters you see are really part-and-a-halfs. There is generally padding to fill out the whole hour. I’ve written any number of two parters and could take fifteen minutes out of any of them.

But did I mention I get paid twice for two-parters? I can’t love ‘em enough.

What’s your Friday Question? Leave it in the comments section. And hope to see you this weekend on the theatre circuit. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

EP118: More Celebrity Dish w/ Arlen Peters


Entertainment reporter Arlen Peters is back with more tasty inside stories and profiles of celebrities, famous writers, and iconic movies.  You know you love this stuff!


Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

I'm going to miss Ralph Lawler

Tonight is the final regular season broadcast of longtime LA Clippers announcer, Ralph Lawler. For 40 years he has called Clippers games. And during that time no team in the NBA has lost more of them. Other than maybe being the announcer for the Washington Generals (the team that loses every game to the Harlem Globetrotters), I can’t think of a tougher assignment.

And yet, every broadcast, every year (even the year they only won 13 games all season) is a gem. Not only does he know the game inside and out, his play calling is superb, his voice is rich, enthusiasm infectious, and he has a great dry sense of humor. Ralph is retiring at 80. He sounds as good as he did at 40. Maybe better.

I have always been a Clippers fan. I loved the Lakers when Chick Hearn was their voice and Magic was their star, but there’s the draw of the underdog, and tickets were so much cheaper for Clipper games. I was an original Clippers season ticket holder. So I’ve seen my share of horrific basketball myself. Benoit Benjamin?  Give me a break!

I only gave up my season seats when I started to learn how to do basketball play-by-play and the Clippers graciously gave me a press pass. Back then they played in the old LA Sports Arena (now demolished) and I would have entire sections to myself.

That’s when I met Ralph. Not only was he gracious and supportive, he was also a mentor. He would sit with me and listen to my tapes offering great critiques. Some teachers point out what you did wrong. He always pointed out what I could do better. He showed me tricks, things to look for, ways of approaching game situations, and how to use my voice to tell the story. Even though I never called games professionally, I owe him a great debt. He had his work cut out for him because I was never that good. 

Ralph Lawler also had the misfortune not only of bad teams but being in the shadow of some iconic broadcasters. Here in Los Angeles we had Vin Scully, Chick Hearn, Dick Enberg, Bob Miller, Tom Kelly, and for a few years when the Raiders were here, Bill King. So Ralph never received the appreciation he deserved. He was inducted this year into the NBA Hall of Fame, which was maybe the best decision the NBA has made in five years.

I only wish he got to call a Clippers championship. Who knows? He’s got one last shot. It’s ironic that in the future the Clippers will be better, but with the loss of Lawler, not as good.

Have a great retirement, Ralph. And thanks for 40 years of championship broadcasts.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The world's worst jingle

Years ago I did a post about the worst, most annoying songs of all-time. (I stand by "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro.)   I still get readers offering their suggestions.  During a recent Lyft ride to the airport I was forced to, heaven help me, listen to terrestrial radio.   The ride took twenty minutes; at least ten of them were filled with commercials.

Side note:  Why does anybody listen to terrestrial radio?  With all the other options available now, why subject yourself to ten straight minutes of commercials?    End of side note.

Anyway, one of those commercials (I think the 15th one) inspired today's post.  It's the follow-up to worst song.  It's "the worst jingle."

And in this case, the winner was clear by a mile.  No lengthy debates here.

The KARS 4 KIDS jingle.

You know it.  You hate it.

This little ditty is like an airhorn pressed right against your ear.  It's so insipid and so annoying that I will immediately click off any station that is playing it.  I don't understand why any product would want to be associated with such a turn-off.    If I had a car to donate I would set it on fire before giving it to them.  And yes, it's a worthy organization, but I don't care.  If I gave them a car they might think the jingle is working and keep it another ten years.   No one can afford to take that chance.

Now normally in a rant like this I would just post the jingle so you could hear for yourself.  But I care about you way too much to do that.

I'll be interested to see in the comments section whether anybody actually likes that jingle and defends it.  I'm also curious as to what other advertising jingles annoy the crap out of you.

Who knows?  This may be the first and only topic everyone in America can agree on.  But probably not. 

Monday, April 08, 2019

WGA vs ATA update

Here’s where we stand:

??????????

The good news is at the eleventh hour both the WGA and ATA agreed to extend the deadline from last Saturday night to this Friday.

No talks were scheduled before the Saturday deadline so it seemed pretty bleak that there would be any movement.

At least this is a sign that both sides would like to work something out and avoid the uncertainty that would arise should WGA members all fire their agents at the same time.

The issue – well, there are two really – are packaging deals that the agencies make which skims money off the license fee and goes directly into the agency’s pocket, and agencies becoming studios themselves, which would appear to be a conflict-of-interest if you’re negotiating on behalf of your client against your studio.

WGA members overwhelmingly, (over 95%) voted to support the Guild’s efforts in trying to work out an agreement. Such a show of strength sends a powerful message to the agencies that the WGA members sense the importance of these issues and are willing to sacrifice on their behalf.

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe agencies will give up two major sources of their income, especially in this age of consolidation and corporate greed.

So far negotiations have been little more than posturing and grandstanding. And that is typical of Hollywood labor disputes. There are formal talks and then there are back room talks with the major players and those are usually where things get resolved.  

How will it ultimately come out? I truly have no idea. I imagine both sides will have to make some concessions, but what they are and will they be enough for the 95% of pro-action WGA members is yet to be seen.

I have friends and people I respect on both sides of this issue. But I will say this, the president of the WGA, David Goodman, is really a mensch. I truly believe we are in great hands. As an introduction to David Goodman, if you don’t know him, he was a guest on my podcast. I invite you to listen to this episode.

And hold your breath. All of this in uncharted territory. How it will play out is anybody’s guess. And we don’t have the benefit of tuning to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, hearing analysts and experts give their predictions and know they’re wrong and the exact opposite will occur.

Anyway, this extension is the first positive sign. Let’s see if we can have a happy ending – Hollywood is known for those too.

Thanks to Deadline Hollywood for the image. 

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Weekend Post

I have a number of theatre events coming up in the next month or so and want to let you know about them should you be in Indianapolis or Sydney looking for something to do.

Next weekend I will be making my “apolis” trip.

On Friday night I will be in Indianapolis for the opening of my play, GOING GOING GONE that will be playing at the Westfield Playhouse from April 12-27th. I’ll be there opening night (the 12th) at 7:30 and will do a Q&A after. You can get tickets here.

The next night, April 13th I will be in Minneapolis for the staged reading of my play, OUR TIME at 7:30 at the SPNN Production Soundstage in St. Paul. I’ll be doing a Q&A after that one too. Here’s where you can go for info and tickets.

My ten-minute play, AVOCADO TOAST is in the Gala Finals of the Sydney Short + Sweet Festival and will run April 27th & 28th. Info and tickets can be found here.

AVOCADO TOAST will also be performed in May on Long Island and Michigan. For info and tickets for Long Island here is where you click. 

But wait, there's more.  My short play THE FUGITIVE will be part of the CBE "Unleavened Play Festival" on Sunday, April 14 at 6:00 pm in Brooklyn.  Info and unleavened tickets here

And finally, I have a twenty-minute one act comedy/drama called SIGNING OFF that will be part of EST Los Angeles’ One Act Festival at the Atwater Village Theatre with previews April 27, and 28th, opening the following weekend for four weekends. I’ll be there a lot. Here’s the Facebook page.
My thanks to all the theatre companies, actors, directors, and crew members for making me look better than I am.

Hope to see you sometime this month.

And remember, you can purchase or license any of my plays. Just go to KenLevinePlays.com and browse. And as you can see, if at all possible if you produce one of my plays I will make every effort to attend. I’m even going to Atwater.

So that’s what I’m up to. How ‘bout you?

Friday, April 05, 2019

Friday Questions

If the best part of your weekend is Friday Questions you need more fun in your life. But here they are:

Peter leads off.

You've previously written about working on Mannequin 2 and how awful it was. I particularly cracked up at your anecdote about the producers wanting to pay you and David in big screen TVs. My question: do you ever get residuals from Mannequin 2? I know the movie tanked but surely every movie must provide some residuals, however small.

No. And the movie has aired on TV and cable channels. I'm actually owed a good piece of change.

The problem is the company was run by a guy who later went to prison and another guy who once swindled Columbia Pictures (when he was their president) by writing bogus checks and forging Cliff Robertson’s signature. So the company and its principles are long gone.

Ryn's Sistehr asks:

It seems like sitcoms and reality shows are so much less expensive to produce, get the highest ratings, and give the most bang for the buck in syndication, versus hour-long dramas. How and why do cash-strapped networks still mount something like 911 or The Orville, or all these cable networks I've never heard of mount period pieces, or Siren on Freeform? (Not that I think it's a bad thing that they do - it just seems so unlike money-grubbing networks to do it.)

Networks felt there was a glut of multi-camera sitcoms and that viewers were turned off by their formula rhythms. So to re-energize the genre they felt there was more nteresting things in single-camera and major audiences would return.  They haven't.  

Networks were right that there was a sameness to multi-camera shows – but just the bad ones.

Meanwhile, the most successful sitcoms in syndication (save for MASH) are multi-camera. THE BIG BANG THEORY, LAST MAN STANDING, and FRIENDS are juggernauts. Single-camera sitcoms (save for MASH) don’t do nearly as well. And they cost quite a bit more.

So why don't networks commission more multi-camera shows?  Why do networks do anything

Chris Thomson has a MASH question.

When you were making MASH, was it easier with operating theater scenes to film, as I would imagine you could almost film it once and then re-write at will, as they were wearing masks and no one could see their lips. Basically just reusing the same take?

Following on from that. If this was true, was it tempting to put extra scenes in there if time was tight (sunlight at the park running out etc)?

Only one time did an actor ad lib during an OR scene and we just removed his dialogue. As you said, it’s easy because they're all wearing surgical masks.

But no, we didn’t favor OR scenes. We just tried to tell the best possible stories in the most original way. There were weeks when we had multiple scenes in OR, and other weeks where we had no OR scenes at all.

What I liked best about the OR scenes is they really were the best depiction of the reality of the war and its price. Yes, we were a comedy, but we always felt our primary responsibility was to convey the horror and senselessness of war.

And finally, from PolyWogg:

Any "I remember seeing..." tributes to share about great plays that you've seen where they came out of nowhere for you, totally unexpected diamonds in the rough?

I saw CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD at a small theatre in LA and thought it was brilliant. I saw an early production of SPRING AWAKENING in some church in lower Manhattan and knew that was extraordinary.

Another musical that I loved early on was FOREVER PLAID.

In a small theatre in Soho I saw KILLER JOE  in 1999 and was knocked out by the writing. That was my first introduction to Tracy Letts. It was also my first introduction to Sarah Paulson. I happened to see her after the performance standing on the street and said, “You’re not only terrific; you’re also one of the bravest actresses I’ve ever seen.” Getting completely naked for fifty audience members eight times a week took a real commitment to her art. 

A play that’s kind of faded into the mist but was remarkable was ZOOT SUIT and I saw an early production of that in Los Angeles.

Sadly, I can’t think of any comedies. I saw early productions of Neil Simon and Herb Gardner plays, but they were already major names.

We need more comedies!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

EP117: My Mount Rushmore of Radio: Four greats radio stars


Ken introduces you to four of his all-time favorite radio performers.  These are the voices that inspired him and made him laugh.   Vin Scully, Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, and Gary Burbank.


Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Why are network sitcoms different from streaming sitcoms?

Writing a sitcom for broadcast television is very different from writing one for a streaming service. And not for the reason you might think.

No, it’s not because you have more freedom. You can’t say fuck on CBS (yet) but you can on Netflix. It’s not because you don’t have to worry about lead-ins and time slots on Amazon. Or even that all episodes drop at once vs. being doled out one a week.

The big difference is storytelling.

In broadcast TV your series needs to be fairly open-ended. You create characters and a world and hopefully things for them to do for 200 episodes. The audience develops an attachment to the characters and just likes spending time with them. One of the reasons multi-camera shows do so well in syndication is that the viewer is so familiar with the show he doesn’t have to pay full attention. You can have FRIENDS on and go into the laundry room to throw the clothes in the dryer while still following the show. You know what the apartment looks like. We always used to say that CHEERS was really a radio play. There’s a comfort food element to most successful traditional sitcoms.

For short-order sitcoms for streaming services you need an overall arc. Broadcast TV wants stand-alone episodes but streaming platforms prefer serialized storytelling. You’re asking the audience to go on a four or five hour journey (depending on how many half-hours you make). And to me, that’s very liberating. You really have the time to develop stories and relationships. And you don’t have to happily resolve every episode.

The trick though is to have an overall story arc that really drives the series from beginning to end. I go back to the difference between THE KOMINSKY METHOD and BARRY. There are some wonderful scenes in KOMINSKY and some laugh-out-loud moments. And even though Arkin & Douglas each have their problems, there’s still no real engine propelling the series forward, as opposed to BARRY (a hit man wanting to become an actor and how that desire jeopardizes him and everyone around him).

The perfect example is THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. It’s so clear what Midge’s quest is. As opposed to “comfort food,” the goal is to get viewers to binge. You want them to want to watch “one more” before they call it a night. If KOMINSKY had that big hurdle to conquer in addition to all the wonderful character touches I think it could be a home run.

That said, if the show were for ABC I would plot it exactly as it is now.

Streaming platforms are still the Wild West. Writers are still experimenting and trying to find what really works. To me that’s the exciting part. Hopefully in the near future there will be a new “Golden Age of Comedy.” Even if we have to pay monthly to get it.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Abby's

First of all, a disclaimer: I really want this show to succeed. I’m a big fan of Mike Schur. I think the world is ready for the next CHEERS. And I believe strongly in multi-camera shows. For all the knocks on multi-camera series, what’s the most successful sitcom in syndication worldwide – and it isn’t even close? FRIENDS. A whole new generation has connected to FRIENDS; a generation that wasn’t even born when it first aired. Like I said, no other show comes close. And FRIENDS is as standard a multi-camera show as there has ever been.

In an attempt to preserve the form and give it some spin, ABBY’S is filmed outside. Still not sure whether that’s a big plus (audience laughter disappears when not contained, and there are the weather problems to contend with) but points for trying something new.

I don’t know how many episodes they’ve filmed, how much they can correct midstream at this point. My guess is most or all of the episodes are now in the can.

As for the execution, it feels like the writers are not really experienced yet in the form. But they’ll learn. The audience will tell them what works and what doesn’t and they’ll adjust accordingly. There are not many opportunities for grooming young writers since there are not many multi-camera shows on the air. Still, that’s just growing pains. All shows need time to find their way.

But in the pilot of ABBY’S they did something that might prove to be their fatal flaw. And for all their reverence of CHEERS they seemed to miss the single most important aspect of it. CHEERS was where “everybody knows your name.” More than anything else it made the customers (and VIEWERS) welcome.

Diane Chambers enters the bar for the first time. She is clearly not the sort of person who frequents that bar. And yet, everyone made her feel at home.   Diane essentially was us viewers. 

In the pilot of ABBY’S we learn that new customers are not allowed to sit at the bar. They’re not even allowed to sit in chairs just off the bar. New customers are banished to hard benches along the fence and only after a certain amount of time and approval can they earn their way up the ladder. So new customers are essentially dismissed. They don’t want to know your name. It’s not CHEERS, it’s the high school lunch room where only the cool kids sat at the good table.

So let’s say Diane Chambers entered ABBY’S for the first time. Dressed way too formal, clearly a square peg. How would she be treated? My guess: “Excuse me, you can’t sit there. You have to go over to one of those benches.”  Not very welcoming. 


They also made a point of saying there were 164 rules you had to adhere to. That’s a pretty exclusive club.

ABBY’S ratings were not great for its premier. Chalk that up to all kinds of things (they were up against March Madness, etc) but I think subconsciously that exclusivity might have turned off a lot of viewers.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks the creative team moves away from that and people find and like the show. Or, it’s just me and no one else was bothered by that.

In any event, I wish them well and hope they’ll save a spot at the bar for me.

Monday, April 01, 2019

The Real Don Steele

The Real Don Steele would have been 83 today. You've probably heard me talk of him before. He's one of my idols.

He passed away on August 5, 1997. For thirty years The Real Don Steele ruled the Los Angeles airwaves, most notably on 93/KHJ “Boss Radio” in the 60’s and 70’s. Outrageous, electrifying, thrilling – that was Real on…and OFF the air. If you want to hear the greatest cookin’ jock to ever crack a mike in the heyday of top 40. You can check him out here.

Real also appeared in some highly prestigious films such as EATING RAOUL, DEATH RACE 2000 (starring Sylvester Stallone), ROCK N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, and Ron Howard’s first directing effort, GRAND THEFT AUTO. Television credits are equally as impressive: TALES FROM THE CRYPT and HERE COMES THE BRIDES.

I had the pleasure of working with him at two radio stations, K100 and TenQ in LA in the 70’s. He also fell off my couch stinking drunk one night and my wife still invited him to dinner again.

His catch phrase was “Tina Delgado is alive, ALIVE!” shouted by some unknown frenzied girl. No one ever knew the story behind it. Who Tina Degado was. How he came to use it. Even what the hell it meant. But it didn’t matter. It was all part of the excitement this larger-than-life personality created for “the magnificent megalopolis of Boss Angeles” three hours every day…and especially on “Fractious Fridays”.

Every year on his birthday, April 1st, I wish that maybe his passing is just an April’s Fool joke. That would be so like him. And at 3:00 I could turn on the radio, “Devil with a Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder would come blazing out of my speaker and I would hear “The Real Don Steele is alive, ALIVE!”

He is in my heart. And always will be.