Friday, June 07, 2019

Friday Questions

I know everyone is excited about the Tonys this weekend, but let’s start the festivities with Friday Questions.

Poochie is up first.

Say they were to recreate this experiment with Cheers (a suggestion tossed by Alan Sepinwall), which episode would you pick and who you cast? It almost assuredly has to be a Sam/Diane centered season one episode doesn't it?

Even if they were going to pick two episodes that David Isaacs and I wrote and pay us in full for the episodes again, I would still strongly lobby to not do a recreation in any form.

Because here’s my question: Regardless of who you cast, would it be any better than the original? And if not, then why do it?

Billy Wilder had a great line about sequels. He said, why remake good movies? Why not remake bad movies, fix them, and make them good movies?

That’s how I feel about CHEERS. Watch the originals. They’re pretty damn good.

There was a stage play in Chicago in 2016 that tried to recreate several episodes.  It did not go on to Broadway. 

Craig Gustafson asks:

Ken - what do you think about the British practice (and I don't know if it is still used) of combining the forms - live action, three-camera shoot until they go outside, then it's one-camera. I first saw it on "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and it was very disconcerting until I got used to it. "Fawlty Towers" stayed indoors for the most part, but Basil occasionally ventured out into the mono-cinematographic world.

After the first one-camera series of "The Black Adder," they decided that being seen on horses wasn't *that* important and the succeeding series were all three-camera, live audience.

I think it’s weird. Different styles can take you out of the story. Monty Python was just quick sketches so it didn’t really matter, but it’s hard for me watching British sitcoms switch back and forth from tape to (what looks like crappy 16mm) film.

Again, how does that mixture of styles improve the show?

From Mary Warwick :

Who is cashing in on the ratings juggernaut that is James Holzhauer? Affiliate stations? The show itself? I don't understand how ad rates are set for syndicated shows. Second question, would you ever want to be on Jeopardy? I wouldn't.

The show itself and the syndicator. But a high tide floats all boats. Local stations make money on the increased advertising sales.

Quite often affiliate stations are required to air programs within a certain time frame. I suspect for JEOPARDY and WHEEL OF FORTUNE, stations must air them between 5-8 PM.  So that helps ratings.  You're not averaging in stations that air it at 12:30 in the morning. 

I would love to be a contestant on JEOPARDY except I would completely embarrass myself since I don’t know shit about geography, poets of the 17th Century, religion, and 16-letter words that also turn into medical conditions by just switching two letters.

And finally, from Frank:

In season two of Bosch, there's a character referred to as "Big Wave Dave." It's not exactly a tribute, as he's a Very Bad Fellow. Was this an intentional nod by someone on the show, or just a coincidence?

None of the vaulted BIG WAVE DAVE’S writers are on that show so I would say it’s a wonderful tribute to us accidentally.

There are a couple of surf shops and I think a restaurant named Big Wave Dave’s. All I know is no one sued us.

But thanks to BOSCH for keeping the memory of our classic six-episode series alive.

What’s your Friday Question?


unkystan said...

Totally agree with Billy Wilder’s remark about not remaking good movies Did we really need redos of Ben-Hur, Sabrina, etc.?
But to remake a bad movie (that had potential) and getting it right? That’s something else. The only example I can think of is “Bedtime Story”, a pretty terrible alleged comedy with Marlon Brando and David Niven. Reworked into the marvelous “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”.

Michael Hagerty said...

The problem of three-camera to one-camera is less an issue today because they're all HD cameras. It was the switch from video (which, in SD form, has a very consistent look) to (as Ken describes it) 16mm film that made Monty Python and Fawlty Towers so jarring.

HOMECOMING on Amazon (with Julia Roberts) actually mixes film and video in an effort to unsettle the viewer---and it works really well.

By the way, Ken, purely on your recommendation in this blog, my wife and I started watching The Kominsky Method last night (yes, it took us long enough). THANK YOU! What a great show!

Tommy Raiko said...

With regard to the mixing video-and-film practice from earlier British TV shows, I think it had to do with the limitations of video technology at the time. Video cameras at the time were too large & cumbersome and required too much artificial light to be practical for exterior shoots, so productions that filmed exteriors did so on easier-to-use film rather than video, even if they were using video for their interior scenes.

Roger Owen Green said...

Sheer brilliance by @James_Holzhauer to change his avatar to the face of @alyankovic, who once sang "I Lost on Jeopardy!"

Matthew Brannigan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I'm for redoing because redoing a classic show/movie has one good thing going for it:
A new generation may see it and wonder what is this about and if the original is better, while an older generation will seek out the better older versions.

Sometimes they will redo a movie with a completely different vision (Tim Burton has done this with Batman, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland).

Honest Ed said...

Funnily enough, over here in the UK, probably the two most iconic moments of Fawlty Towers are 'Don't mention the war!' (studio) and Basil attacking his car (location). The car stuff had to be on location.

Re Black Adder - knowing the BBC as I do, I'd say it's highly likely that it was a budget decision to stay in the studio, not a creative/stylistic choice. The Young Ones, which also had Ben Elton as one of it's writers, often went on location - especially for it's iconic final scene. More recently, Father Ted and The IT Crowd also went on location a lot. Though, as they shot on tape, same as in the studio, it felt more seamless than, say, Fawlty Towers.

Matthew Brannigan said...

Re the UK film/VT mix - it was probably quite difficult to do location work on video back in the 60's and 70's, so I can understand to a certain extent why it was done, however a lot of ITV companies back in the day such as ATV/Central and Granada didn't seem to have any issue with outdoor VT. Growing up in the UK I just got used to the VT=indoor film=outdoor thing but yes it's rather odd looking at it now.

tavm said...

Yeah, I wasn't too crazy when I first heard that "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons" were going to be remade with a mostly-modern cast. Like I implied, there was no way the characters of Archie Bunker and George Jefferson could ever be recast after what Carroll O'Connor and Sherman Hemsley did with them and I was right as Woody Harrelson just did not cut it and Jamie Foxx imitated Hemsley perfectly but that's all it was especially since he would always be too tall for the role. Of course, if the show wasn't really a classic and was more on the came side then one could have a little more fun with it like The Brady Bunch Movie which recast Mike and Carol Brady with Gary Cole and Shelley Long and also had great cameos by Florence Henderson as the grandmother and Ann B. Davis as a truck driver named "Schulte" (here character's name from "The Bob Cummings Show")!

David in DC said...

Hi Ken: I know you posted about how Paul Anka reworked a teeny bopper ditty into the Tonight Show theme song, and that Johnny Carson took a cut of the action by 'writing' the lyrics. I tried to find them-- and couldn't. What ARE the lyrics (I suspect they're `da-da-da-dah-dah')? PS: There's a Big Wave Dave's in San Jan del Sur, Nicaragua!

Matt said...

I was a kid in the 70s and the only DJ I knew was Wolfman Jack. However when you talk about DJs you never mention him. I also notice nobody else does either. Is he not respected in the field?

Kevin Lauderdale said...

Tommy and Matthew are right re: the British practice of shooting on film outdoors and videotape indoors. It wasn’t a style choice, it was a necessity based on technological limitations. Video cameras required so much power and were so huge and heavy, that it was just easier to shoot on 16mm outside.

Mike Doran said...

A Monty Python memory:

As a studio (3-camera) sketch was winding down, one cast member stepped outside - and suddenly became uneasy.
Came the startled realization: "Good God - I'm on film!"
He went back inside (studio) and ran to another door, leading outside; same reaction.
Finally, he said to the other cast members: "Gentlemen, we are completely surrounded by film!"
Leading to a whole skit about trying to escape from film - and ending up in Terry Gilliam's cut-out animation.

My point (?): The audience (us) got it - we understood the differences involved; we got the joke.
It was something we'd been seeing for years; we all grew up on it.
As we got older, we learned about stuff like dubbed voices and sound, stunt men (and women, I know), stock footage, back projection, SFX (long before it was called that), and so many of what Efrem Zimbalist called "the lovely cheats" of filmmaking - it all became part of the fun of movie-TV watching.
And it wasn't that my family and I were all that much smarter than anybody else - it was just common sense … wasn't it?

Well, wasn't it?

gottacook said...

Having been part of the original theatrical audience (that is, 9-year-olds) for Batman in 1966, I wouldn't say that the 1989 Tim Burton version can be called a "remake." The 1966 movie was simply a super-sized, four-villain version of the TV series, which had been on the air for only a half-season (twice a week) when the movie was released.

The only other Tim Burton movie named above that I've seen was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When it was announced, I was glad to hear that this version would revert to the title of the book, but although the Oompa-Loompas were a success this time around, the same mistake was made as with the Gene Wilder version: Willy Wonka has to be an old man, otherwise the story doesn't make sense (he wants to pass the factory on to a new generation, etc.).

Jon88 said...

"None of the vaulted BIG WAVE DAVE’S writers ..." Me, I wouldn't put my vaunted writers in a vault, but maybe it's a Guild thing.

steves said...

I can only see an upside in recreating one off episodes of great shows from the past. The younger generation listening to, say, Michael Buble, might lead them back to Sinatra or Bobby Darin. Seeing current stars in iconic roles could/should have them tuning in to the original episodes. I see it as an homage to the time of 3 network, great tv. If the newer version is done well, they will want to go to the source. If it's done poorly, maybe a few will want to see why this particular show was selected. The writing and the performances and the direction made these shows great -- they are not going to better them, they simply can't -- and I don't think anyone involved believes that they can. I think it's simply a unique introduction to classic television. Any path that leads the younger audience to the great television of years past is one worth taking.

Anthony said...

Friday baseball question -

Ken, I've always wondered why ESPN's production of Sunday Night Baseball is almost exclusively made of up National League matchups, or at least contains one NL team. With few exceptions such as Red Sox vs Yankees (obviously), a game featuring the reining AL pennant winner, or a recent World Series rematch, if you look at the pre-determined SNB schedule for the entire season, it's usually a NL matchup. Is there a business reason for it? It can't be purely market driven because surely any game featuring Boston or New York's AL teams would be a ratings draw. For instance (as of now), SNB will air an Angels @ Cardinals matchup on 6/23, despite the fact that the Astros are playing the Yankees in NY that weekend. Very curious if you have any insight into the NL skewing.

Filippo said...

I happened to having just watched West Side Story for the first time (after catching a reference on Curb Your Enthusiasm). Right after, I discovered Spielberg is making a remake.
It's good news for me. I'm all for remakes. It's like a piece of music played by different players or conductors.
I used to read classics in different translations. Since no translation can be exactly as reading the original, the comparison, plus the fact that every translator sees the original in a different way, helps one get more insight on the original.

J Lee said...

Season 11 of Cheers did feature some exterior shots that were actually done in Boston, but since the series was on film for both the interior and exterior shots, the juxtaposition of Frasier out on a ledge or the few others on-site scenes wasn't as disconcerting. But is also was still noticeable (though Paramount didn't follow the BBC's lead and send a camera crew to Boston to get the shots in 16mm).

(Way back in the early, early years of TV sitcoms, CBS allowed Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard to do the very first episode of "The Danny Thomas Show" after the move from ABC to CBS single camera, because they also shot on location, in this case in Las Vegas, and would later have some single camera segments on the episodes Thomas and Leonard filmed in Europe. It also was noticeable, but not jarring, because both the single and three-camera shows were done on film by Desilu, so for most people at home, they might get a sense that something was different from normal, but they might not be able to put their finger on exactly what that was.)

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

tavm! I also thought about the Brady Movies which in my opinion were by far the best of the movies that were created based on sitcoms like Bewitched (Awful), Beverly Hill Billies (meh), dragnet (no), the Flintstones (don't get me started).

Other movie franchises from TV shows have been popular but I haven't seen them, Mission Impossible, 21 Jump Street.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Gottacook, you are right. I shouldn't have included Batman.

But Burton has his vision and I can appreciate it being a lot different from the original movies even if I don't care for the end product.

Mark said...

Can I just put it out here that Brexit is punishment for whatever format the Brits used when the filmed/taped I, Claudius? Such a fantastic show and amazing cast but almost unwatchable becuase of the medium they used when they recorded it. Thus, Brexit. Makes sense, no?

Frank Beans said...

I'll echo the wisdom in the point of "remake bad movies, not great ones". I mean really, THE PRODUCERS without Zero Mostel and Dick Shawn? Are you fucking kidding me?

On the other hand, there are often kernels of greatness in some flawed films, notably biopics. And for television, reboot WHO'S THE BOSS or something similarly mediocre that has potential for growth, but please don't touch MASH or FRASIER. Maybe there's something in them that future generations can discover. But leave films and series that were the best they could be alone.

All that said--people reinterpret Shakespeare and all forms of theater. People reinterpret classical music and jazz standards. There is legitimate creative room for this in many art forms. But as a general rule, I say try doing something original, because we've seen it before.

Myles said...

The Norman Lear shows were very socially/politically relevant today and were selected to hold up a mirror to the country just like his shows always did. They show how little has changed since then. With them diving deeper into the classic tv vault for more of these it'll be interesting to see if they try to find episodes with relevant social commentary or just go for fan faves with great cameos and casts.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The shift in the number of cameras between outdoors and indoors on shows like THE GOOD LIFE, YES MINISTER, and FAWLTY TOWERS never bothered me, but what I *did* find a bit distracting was the difference in the image - flat for video, grainy outdoors. But yes, it wasn't a style so much as a way of managing technological limitations. US sitcoms of the same period finessed it by never going outdoors. Had British TV shows followed suit, we'd never have those wonderful shots of the Goods' garden in a polite London suburb, the minister trying to pretend he's not driving drunk, and, especially, Basil Fawlty beating up on his horrible Mini Cooper with a tree branch.


sanford said...

Regarding what time Jeopardy is on. In Chicago it is on at 3:30 and Wheel at 6:30. In Milwaukee Jeopardy is on at 6 and Wheel follows. We live in Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Chicago so we get all the Chicago stations. We watch the 3:30 Jeopardy, But it is nice having it on again at six since some times 7 interrupts with news bulletins. And in the case of the Cubs for the rest of the year some Friday games are on 7. So we can always watch at six. In Minneapolis, Jeopardy is on at 4:30. I would imagine there are not many other cities that televise Jeopardy out of that 5 to 8 slot.

Tommy Raiko said...

I was trying to think of some non-British examples of the filmed/taped thing. I dimly recall seeing it done on The Odd Couple (The Randall/Klugman one...) and then there's the famous Rhoda episode where she has to take the subway in her wedding gown, where they shot her on actual NYC streets and subway.

Cat said...

I have to be honest, I would really like to see a Cheers live episode. It would just be once, and the stunt casting would be fun. Woody Harrelson could play Coach!
Jason Sudeikis would be good as Norm (George Wendt is his real uncle).

Madame Smock said...

I think the use of multi-cam videotape and single camera film worked great on The Larry Sanders Show.

Curt Alliaume said...

Regarding game show air times, Wheel of Fortune is indeed locked in between 5 and 8 PM, but Jeopardy! is not - it's been running at 3:30 PM in Chicago for decades. My guess is this a leftover from when they both premiered in syndication in 1983 and 1984, respectively: NBC was running a five-a-week daytime Wheel of Fortune, so contractually stations couldn't run the syndicated version until 4 PM; the NBC daytime version of Jeopardy! was long gone by 1984, so the syndicators were willing to take any time slot.

And yes, Jeopardy! currently looks for people with a broad base of knowledge, rather than deep dives into individual, estoeric subjects. That wasn't always the case - a friend of mine tried out for the Fleming version and was doing well in the first part of the test, and then the next subject came up: Metallurgy. Bye!

D McEwan said...

"it’s hard for me watching British sitcoms switch back and forth from tape to (what looks like crappy 16mm) film.

Again, how does that mixture of styles improve the show?"

It didn't. It improved the budget. And often those were 16mm film shots they were using. And the 1970s video looks like crap nowadays also. Most Doctor Who shows from the 1970s were shot like that. I've got Sherlock Holmes TV episodes with Peter Cushing from the 1960s shot that way. Just awful. Fortunately, they've long since abandoned the practice. Most everything these days is shot digital, and this the film vs video demarcation has vanished.

thirteen said...

For some reason or other, the Brits didn't go outdoors with tape in the Python/Fawlty era. (Doctor in the House didn't do it, either.) I think it must have been a question of technology, not technique.

Jeff Weimer said...

I thought the Wheel/Jeopardy block was much more strict. I've lived in Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Jacksonville FL, and Norfolk, VA and in all those markets (at the times I lived there) they were on in the 7-8 PM programming block.

Anonymous said...

I have read that an miiscule percentage of actors actually make a full time living.
Withe the advent of so many semi 'docu dramas' and "recreations" on a number of low budget shows about historical, or mythically historical events, ( i.e Gunfighters) has this opened up new jobs and incomes for performer or, like you have cited for writers. are they getting scammed in the name of getting "exposure"?

Morgan Van Lent said...

Have you watched Chernobyl? I was wondering what your take is on the British accents. The writer of the show said it was a decision they made really early on to avoid both poor acting from non-russian actors struggling with the accent as well as unintentional comedy resulting from Russian accents being perceived as inherently kind of silly. What is your experience/observations with actors and accents, do they "act the accent" instead of just acting, and does it harm their performance? And what would you have done in a similar position?

Morgan in Petaluma, CA

Stephen Robinson said...

Shows such as ALL IN THE FAMILY, THE JEFFERSONS, CHEERS and FRASIER have sparkling scripts that *feel* like great theater so there's the belief that they should endure beyond their original productions -- sort of like the work of Simon or Mamet. If we can have multiple versions of FENCES, why can't we have more versions of CHEERS?

The problem with this thinking is that classic sitcoms exist in the original form. They aren't lost to time. I can hop over to Netflix and watch CHEERS or FRASIER whenever I want. It's also next to impossible to remove these characters from the actors who originated them. Ted Danson IS Sam Malone. Shelley Long IS Diane Chambers. Kelsey Grammar IS Frasier Crane. And no one but David Hyde Pierce is Niles Crane.

Now, like a remounting of, say, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? or GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, you could try taking a CHEERS or FRASIER script and trying to interpret these characters so you aren't doing a SNL sketch, but it's arguably impossible. After a point, sitcom scripts are written with the actors in mind.

DBA said...

The earliest airing of Jeopardy is (I believe) 9:30AM. Most markets get it between 5p-8p, but there are a whole bunch that get it in between that early one and the bulk of the rest.

Bob Paris said...

Could the producers of say, FRIENDS, have developed a secret script and filmed scenes as part of other episode's script. Those scenes would intentionally not make it into the episode but would be assembled later to form a "lost" episode? Obviously there would be continuity and payment to crew and actors issues, but it would be quite a TV event if it was "discovered" and broadcast years later.

Tom Galloway said...

To be specific, 0930 Central Time in Montgomery, AL is when/where to go for your first in the morning J! fix. Some stations also show it twice a day, usually as a rerun from a previous season in the afternoon and the current episode in the more common 7-8 pm block with WoF.

Btw, if you're in the Santa Monica area on a Wednesday night and want the experience of playing trivia against J! champions, Pub Trivia at O'Brien's is pretty much the regular hangout for them. Teams of five or six, questions written on a rotating basis by the regulars. Played there twice when visiting the area and the folk are friendly (while competitive). 4-time J! champ Jackie Fuchs (who I had the pleasure of being on the same team with the last time I was there) recently wrote an article about it for LA Magazine:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken: I thought I'd flag for you a piece in this morning's GUARDIAN on the slow death of rural radio in the US. The piece particularly profiles a small station that's barely surviving in the Arizona desert, but it's clear the pattern is being repeated all over the country:


Michael Hagerty said...

Matt: You're joking, right? Ken's podcast just last week was called "Filling in for Wolfman Jack and other radio adventures". It's at the top of the home page of this site! And if you type the word "Wolfman" into the search box at the upper left, there are SIX articles in which Ken mentions Wolfman.


To answer your question---Wolf was loved and revered.

Greg Ehrbar said...

@David in DC
Paul Anka wrote the song in 1959 for music legend Tutti Camarata and Disney's Buena Vista label as "Toot Sweet" and it was first recorded as an instrumental.

He added lyrics for his then-sweetheart Annette Funicello for her "Annette Sings Anka" Buena Vista LP and it became "It's Really Love."

This is Annette's version:

It reverted to an instrumental when it became "Johnny's Theme" in 1962, though Carson did write new lyrics to get half the royalties. Sorry, I don't know what those are.

MikeN said...

>JEOPARDY except I would completely embarrass myself since I don’t know

But surely you would ace the categories of Directors, 60s Music, Surfing, New York Doctors, Baseball, Aviation, Cop Shows, Beer, Bar Trivia, Mothers and Sons, Celibacy, Stamps from Around the World and Civil Servants.

Anonymous said...

Mel Brooks remade To Be Or Not To Be, Neil Simon rewrote The Odd Couple for women stars, Billy Wilder remade The Front Page/His Girl Friday, Nora Ephron reworked Ship Around The Corner.......All worse than the originals,
as are, often, USA remakes of non US series/films.

Filippo said...

Speaking about remakes, this is an example that in my opinion defends their opportunity.

Recentely I happened to have watched various time this video ( in which Nathan Lane and Faith Prince perfectly act a scene from Guys and Dolls called “Sue me”. After watching it many times I became eager to know the whole story, especially Nathan and Adelaideʼs. What scenes precede “Sue me”? What scenes follow it? How does it end?

I got of the movie Guys and Dolls with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. (All right, I downloaded it with Utorrent, but donʼt worry, sometimes I buy stuff too).
I watched the beginning just to understand who is who and what is going on, then I jumped right to the “Sue me” scene.
Needless to say, Frank Sinatra is very different from Nathan Lane.

But thereʼs one particular thing I want to point out.
When Nathan Lane says the words: “So new?”, he says them in a way that carries a lot of meaning, and which produces a reaction in Faith Prince/Adelaide, so that by such a reaction we can see deeper into Nathan and Adelaide relationshipʼs tenderness.
No such thing with Sinatra. The way Sinatra says: “So new?” is totally meaningless.

Try and watch it. Itʼs about a nuance. But it describes very well what I mean when I say that watching different versions of the same play enrich oneʼs knowledge of it.

slgc said...

For some reason I was thinking about the awful 70s song Pilot of the Airwaves ( - if you don't remember it you probably don't want to even hear it) and was wondering - when you were working in radio, were there any songs about disc jockeys that were memorable or meaningful to you?