Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday Questions

Friday Questions for your social distancing pleasure.

Unknown starts us off (please leave your NAME):


OK, FQ, why is it I can see Gilligan Island, the Monkees, Dick Van Dyke, but not the Occasional Wife , "He & She" and "Love on a Rooftop"?


I guess the question breaks down to, is the rights to He & She too expensive? Or in big turmoil that you can't approach it?


The biggest factor is that there are only a limited number of episodes for these short-lived series.  Generally, you like to have at least 100 episodes before something can go into syndication. 


I’m sure in some cases the rights are an issue – the production company has been bought by someone then taken over by someone else, etc.  But that’s rarely the reason.  A bigger factor is that these series have faded into the mist of time.  So unless you’ve got a good memory and are of a certain age, there’s very little demand for OCCASIONAL WIFE. 


Sometimes one of the nostalgia channels will run old forgotten series, but that’s just random.  One airs the old JOEY BISHOP SHOWS and my question is:  Good God WHY? 


And speaking of OCCASIONAL WIFE, Jim has a question.


Vin Scully narrated ‘Occasional Wife’. He would have spoken your words (“...PLEASE stay on script, Mr. Scully...”).


Who most honored you by doing that, per your own list? One name, please.


Okay, this is going to surprise you because you know I’ve been blessed to have written for many sensational actors. 


But if I had to pick one name it would be a non-actor. 


I had a reading of one of my screenplays in New York one time for an audience of about 50 people.  And to read the stage directions I was able to get the great Dan Ingram of WABC radio. 


Dan, as many of you know, was my favorite DJ in all the world.  I idolized him.  He also had a fantastic voice and did hundreds of national TV and radio ads.


So for me, hearing Dan Ingram, read my words was practically surreal. 


Needless to say, he did a truly great job.  The organizers of the event said they had never heard stage direction read so well (and they staged these readings every week for years).  Big Dan was the man! 


Mike Bloodworth wonders: 


In your current plays, have you taken old ideas or plots that for whatever reason didn't make it into a show and adapted them for the stage?


Rarely, but it has happened.  I once took a basic idea from a screenplay of mine and adapted a stage version, but didn’t use a single line of dialogue from the screenplay and changed the characters, setting, and tone completely. 


My laughs come out of character and attitude and not “jokes” per se, so I rarely, if ever, just recycle jokes. 


Jerry Belson, a GREAT comedy writer, worked punch-up on CHEERS and pitched a joke one day in the room.  The Charles Brothers weren’t sold and Jerry said, “Hey, it got a big laugh on THE ODD COUPLE.”  (Jerry had written and co-created the TV version.)  Les Charles asked him why he would pitch a joke from another show, and Jerry said: “Hey, what’s gone before is good too.” 


And finally, from Don R:


I'm stuck in the house, watching Antenna TV, and I just saw a "Becker" you directed. Friday question: when directing a show in front of a live audience that's always switching sets between the diner, Becker's office and his apartment, do you shoot all the scenes needed in the one set, then move on to the next set and shoot all the scenes there, etc. Or, so not confuse the audience, do you move from set to set and shoot in chronological order?


We go in chronological order so the audience can follow the story.  Cameras move back and forth from set to set and the actors change wardrobe if need be between scenes.   It’s very much like watching a play. 


There are also times we’ll need to pre-shoot scenes.  When that occurs we have a hastily edited version ready to show the audience and we play it on monitors in the spot in the show where the scene will appear.


And thanks for watching BECKER. 


What’s your Friday Question? 



Kendall Rivers said...

One of my favorite sitcoms happens to be Becker so it's great that you happened to have written and directed for it. Friday Question: What are your favorite episodes of Becker if you haven't already answered this question before?

JeffinOhio55 said...

I looked up Occasional Wife on Wikipedia. It had only 30 episodes. It also had no laugh track, which was unusual for the time (1966-67 season).

Anonymous said...

“Unknown starts us off (please leave your NAME):”

Could you kindly explain why you so desire this?

Why leave a name?
From my standpoint,
I’ve neither a project nor a career to promote,
and the thrill of seeing my name in print
rapidly declined during my hijacker days.
And the reasons for anonymity are numerous-
foremost among them being a need to
avoid past and future harassment or violent threats.

Using a Google account to sign in means sharing
even more info with a company that is already likely
tracking our bowel movements
(Bad joke fails are another reason for anonymity)

And fabricating a name in order to sign in -when anonymous is an option-
would make me feel uneasy-, I try to be honest in my comments
and would’t want to be dishonest with my name.

I read your blog AND comments section for the quality of the opinions.
I would only want to know anonymous comment writers’ names
if I were bring libeled by them, and that info could quickly be discovered
by court order. But, of course, by being anonymous, I can't be libeled-
so, another problem solved.

Viscount Manzeppi said...

Another consideration when it comes to releasing old series with a very limited number of episodes is sometimes the condition of the negatives.

Since they were considered deadwood as far as syndication goes by the studios that own them, the negatives (particularly if they were color stock) were allowed to deteriorate beyond the point of economic practicality to restore them for a single DVD release that's not likely to experience huge sales.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Not having 100 episodes never seemed to affect shows like THE ADDAMS FAMILY, THE MUNSTERS, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, or F-TROOP in syndication.

Jeff Alexander said...

When a DVD of the first half of the "I'm Dickens, He's Fenster" series from 1962 was produced, Leonard Stern said that many of the original negatives had deteriorated to the point where it was not cost-effective to reproduce them. That's probably why the second DVD of the remaining episodes never materialized.
That, unfortunately, was the case for "He & She" and "The Governor and J.J.," (both Stern-produced series) where you can only find "bootleg" copies of those series (both of which show up on YouTube.
That may also be the case for "Occasional Wife" and for "Love On the Rooftop," but I can't say for certain about those.

PolyWogg said...

Quick response to Anonymous...there's no desire to identify you as YOU, it's just so someone can say, "Replying to Bob above". If six "Anonymous" post, you can't say which one you're replying to.

It also deters trolls a bit. On many sites, if they get too many "Anonymous", they often also get people just causing trouble because there isn't even a little bit of accountability by asking people to give their name.

For me, it's more of a honesty thing. If I say something, my name goes on it. Period, with my real email address so it can be tracked.

I don't do anonymous ever.

aka PolyWogg

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I suppose you could call NED AND STACEY a remake of OCCASIONAL WIFE...


MikeKPa. said...

I had a similar experience to yours with Dan Ingram. About 15 years ago, the company I worked for had James Earl Jones as its spokesperson. I had written a two-minute video script that required a VO. I contacted our corporate advertising group and found that when Mr. Jones did his radio spots and TV VO in the NYC studio, he was booked for a full 8-hour day. I was able to get an open 30-minutes spot (without cost to my group), watch him prepare and then record it. I was even able to talk to him for a couple minutes and he graciously signed the script and complimented on it. Still have it and a photo with him.

LAprGuy said...

I watched an episode of THE JOEY BISHOP SHOW a few weeks ago. I understand your comment.

katenhor said...

These short run shows can be kinda interesting....Awhile back one of the retro channels aired the Sally Field/John Davidson sitcom "The Girl with Something Extra" Sally and John's characters are newly weds and for fun, Sally has ESP. I believe it was only on for one season. Never knew Sally Field was in a sitcom. Anyway, it doesn't really hold up well but I became fascinated none the less. Its a real time capsule of the early 70s and John Davidson frequently walks around with no shirt on. (Never knew he was such a hottie either)

Saw an episode of the Joey Bishop show - not a fan.

Jeff Boice said...

I think the demand back then (the 1970's) was for reruns that appealed to the after-school crowd- the Sherwood Schwartz shows, Leave It to Beaver, Family Affair, Partridge Family, the fantasy comedies. Even if you thought the shows weren't all that funny, you could always just sit back and gaze at Susan Dey or Dawn Wells.

After the late afternoon time slot there wasn't much open space for more adult sitcoms-not only was there Star Trek and Perry Mason, there were the syndicated talk shows of Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin.

I remember ABC reran Love on A Rooftop weekdays at 12 Noon in the early 70's- because stars Judy Carne and Pete Duel had made it big on other shows (Laugh-In and Alias Smith and Jones to be precise). Then Pete Duel committed suicide, and Rooftop disappeared for good.

John in NE Ohio said...

Re: anonymous
I don't post with any real identifiable information, in part because I'm not supposed to be reading this at work, in part because of the same reasons given above for anonymity.
I do however use a consistent name, if for no other reason than when I used to comment regularly, others reading it, including Ken, would know previous comments I made.

Brian Stanley said...

I don’t know if you’ll feel comfortable answering this publicly, but I’d like to ask a former “Simpsons” writer - why is that show still on the air?

Yes, I know the real answer is because it still makes a lot of money, but every aspect of what made the show great for the first 15 years has been non-existent for the second. There’s nothing the writers can do with these characters that isn’t an echo of something we’ve already seen.

In your opinion, is there ever a tipping point where the network or creators admit it’s run its course ?

Tudor Queen said...

I grew up in the metro New York area and Dan Ingram was one of my favorite DJs. To this day I can still imitate the melody line of his intro. The end-of-the-year countdown of the year's biggest hits was my annual obsession and he did his segments better than anyone!

I also remember "Love on a Rooftop," "He and She" (the late, great Jack Cassidy stealing scenes from Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss, hardly slouches themselves) and "Occasional Wife"

"I want you to be my wife... occasionally."

Tom Asher said...

Nice answer, Kemosabe!

benson said...

As stated by others, you can find a few episodes of most of these shows on YouTube, thanks to geeks like me who taped these forgotten gems when they got their first (in my case, $950) VCR in the early 80's.

Sally Field actually was a sitcom vet by the time she did the series with Davidson. Gidget and The Flying Nun ran on ABC in the mid to late 60's.

I get the reservations about Joey Bishop's show, but the first season is interesting, with Joe Flynn and Marlo Thomas in the cast, and one episode features Dawn Wells as Thomas' classmate. Also, Madge Blake playing to her age, as opposed to playing Larry Mondello's mother on LITB, when she was old enough to be his grandmother.

Mike Bloodworth said...

As always Ken, THANK you for answering my F.Q. I've often wondered if writers have boxes of notes in reserve just in case they might need them in the future. (Of course today they would be in a computer file)

As for names, if you've ever looked closely at my profile photo you may have guessed that "Mike Bloodworth" is not my real name. My name is Lizardo Reptiliani. But I changed it because it sounds to "ethnic." Actually, "Mike Bloodworth" was my second choice since "Ken Levine" was already taken.


Mike Doran said...

This is a Friday Question that I might have asked in the past, but it is a long-standing curiosity of mine:

When Vin Scully was doing the narration for Occasional Wife, was he consciously patterning his delivery on Pete Smith?
When I was a kid, a Chicago TV station ran the old Pete Smith Specialties as a daily 15-minute show, just before the evening news.
My brother and I did our homework while watching these (this would be the early '60s), and we got a big kick out of them, and in particular out of Dave O'Brien.
Occasional Wife was a few years later, and as it happens, our family didn't watch it; that's neither here nor there.
I did see it some time afterward, though, and since Vin Scully wasn't that well known in Chicago, I got the notion that Pete Smith (who was still alive at the time) might have been the voice (which he wasn't, but there you are).
These days, I do wonder if Vin Scully might have had Pete Smith in mind when he did the Occasional wife stint; just curious, is all …

mike schlesinger said...

Okay, I guess it's up to me to come to the defense of the Bishop show.

Yes, the first season was awful, when they seemed to be changing formats and casts every few weeks in what seemed a desperate attempt to find something that worked.

But the second and third seasons--the ones in color--are remarkable. Director James Kern treated the show as if it were live, seldom doing a second take or even coverage. As a result, there was a torrential amount of ad-libbing and breaking up, which gave the show something of a wild west feel where anything was possible. (Abby Dalton was so good that sometimes it's impossible to tell if she's really laughing or acting.) And one episode, "My Son, the Doctor," featured the unthinkable: someone in the studio audience yelled out something, and Bishop replied to her! And the rest of the cast, even the patient who was supposedly anesthetized, cracked up. On any other sitcom, they would have stopped and reshot the scene, but Kern left it in, and it just made the scene that much funnier.

Alas, when the show moved to CBS, reverting to B&W and with Kern leaving, they tried to turn it into a more "typical" sitcom: no more ad-libbing, multiple takes and coverage, an injection of sentiment, and although there was still a live audience, their reaction was far more muted, as it should have been. And while the NBC iteration took place in the real world, with Joey working for NBC and frequent references to actual celebrities and events, the new version took place in another universe where even hit Broadway shows had to be fictional.

But for those two glorious years, "The Joey Bishop Show" was a bold and unique experiment, one far ahead of its time and not really repeated since, at least in terms of filmed sitcoms.

J Lee said...

The sitcoms that only ran for 2-3 years and then did well in syndication tended to be the ones most targeted towards kids, because kids love repetition, and didn't have a problem re-watching the same episodes, even if it only took three months or so to rotate through the entire series on Monday-Friday airings. The less geared towards kids a show was, the more having only 1-2 seasons of episodes was a problem in re-runs.

There are airchecks available on YouTube of Dan Ingram from the 1950s in Dallas, where he's pretty much full-formed, and sounds exactly like he would in the heyday of WABC Radio in the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s (this particular one from the fall of '59 has the full Dan Ingram Show jingle, which he couldn't use on WABC, because he was their afternoon drive guy, and the jingle was created for his morning show in Dallas).

Bob Paris said...

Ken: I was a fan of the hour long LOU GRANT series and thought the writing was top-notch. Expecially liked the banter between Lou and the reporters which had comedic touches. Was there ever a show that you thought you could write a good script for but were precluded from submitting since you were under exclusive contract to another series?

Tom Galloway said...

Re: Google tracking bowel movements. So *that's* why we had those fancy tricked out Japanese toilets in the Googleplex clear back in 2004!

Anonymous said...

I know you're unhappy and uncomfortable with the new Blogger template. As a reader, so as I. There's a guy up north at Apple, same last name as yours. Maybe if you slip him a few bucks he'd help.


Joseph Scarbrough said...

@J Lee, That's one of the reasons why Sid & Marty Kroffts' shows were so successful. Even though most of their shows (H.R. PUFNSTUF, THE BUGALOOS, LIDSVILLE, among others) only lasted for one season and 17 episodes, the networks would repeat the runs of those shows the following fall seasons - and since those shows were targeted at kids anyway, they continued to receive nearly primetime-level ratings.

VP81955 said...

Kristen Johnston just posted on her Twitter a photo of a notepad with this inscription: "'Mom' -- table read, Aug. 17." Hooray! (A friend of mine who's a fan of "Supernatural" notes its final few episodes should be filmed in August.) Episodic TV is coming back; please do likewise, MLB!

Edward said...

In addition to the 100 or close to 100 episode inventory needed for syndication, there was also a problem with residuals. Many shows license fee plus residuals were too expensive for the cable network or local TV station. The 2014 SAG agreement (link below) changed the costly fixed fee residual schedule to a simple 10% of the license fee.

I believe shows like MASH that started before the fall of 1974 were only obligated to pay residuals for a limited period of time. Licensing MASH without the additional residual payment makes the show attractive to cable networks and local TV stations.

Ken - can you fill us non-Hollywood in on limited v. perpetual residuals?

Big Murr said...

All this talk of re-watching old classics makes me comment. We scored a couple of garage-sale sets of "The Bob Newhart Show" and the "The Mary Tyler Moore Show". The pandemic spurred us make use of them. I watched both as a pre-adolescent and thought them quite enjoyable. NOW...not so much. "Bob" still registers on the laugh-o-meter, but the timing is so sloppy and loose. The lines/gags can be really weak. Characters wander in, same some unfunny thing, and literally just wander away. But, we're plugging away.

"Mary Tyler Moore"...I don't know how that was ever considered watchable. After two seasons, we just quit. Nostalgic loyalty just couldn't sustain us thru the flaccid, lazy, pointless stories. The worst part is that they keep explaining the gags. Murray zings Ted in an amusing way. Then Murray turns to Mary and explains why he said what he said. Lou Grant and Rhoda are the only two characters with any "snap" in them, and we know Rhoda is about to leave the show. And it's not excusable by being an Olde Show. My mind sees Mary Tyler Moore being boringly unfunny and it casts back ten years earlier to "Dick Van Dyke", which still invokes belly laughs and merriment.

I guess my thinking is some of these vintage shows that people remember as being pure gold are actually gold foil wrapped around really cheapass chocolate.

Mike Barer said...

Shows I remember are It Takes A Thief, Run For Your Life, Ironsides, T.H.E. Cat, The Saint, The Man From Uncle. Those are shows that I can remember from the 60s.

Mike Barer said...

Star Trek, also!

Steve said...

With streaming taking the place of traditional programmed TV I'm sure there are loads of great tv shows from the vaults that didn't quite get to that 100 episode mark that could find a whole new audience now. I have no idea what they are, since anything from before 1990 that didn't get into syndication I haven't ever had a chance to see, but I'm sure they exist. What are some great older shows that are forgotten because they never get rerun?

Charles Bryan said...

Friday Question, ripped from today's headlines (well, tweets): Have you seen the Zone System safe-production proposal floating around? Any reaction? I've seen it in some writers' Twitter accounts and they seem very wary of it - a way, perhaps, of diminishing showrunners' and writers' predominance in television production.

gottacook said...

Murr: I'd advise you to cue up season 3, episode 16, of MTM. It should satisfy your need to laugh, especially the second act. It's the one where Lou buys and operates a bar.

As for short-run old network series, I'd like to rewatch Arnie with Herschel Bernardi, which ran two seasons in the early '70s.

William C Bonner said...

I'm currently watching the TV show Broke and the divorced father character was introduced around eight episodes into the series.

Is introducing a new charterer in the middle of the first season usually because of network notes, other feedback, actor availability, or something else?

Kendall Rivers said...

@Bill Murr I'll admit I've seen only little of MTM but The Bob Newhart Show is pretty funny to me. I didn't grow up with either show and haven't seen much of them so I'm no expert on them but having been watching such gems like The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, The Odd Couple, Sanford and Son, All In The Family, The Jeffersons, The Golden Girls, Amen, 227, Frasier, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Married with Children, The Steve Harvey Show, Green Acres, Hogan's Heroes etc. I can certainly recommend that you go back if you have seen them before and see how truly timelessly funny and wonderful these shows hold up beautifully. And if you don't find any of them good then unfortunately for you, my friend, you have may just not like anything before 2018 and have zero taste in comedies lol.

Liggie said...

@Steve: I'd recommend the 1988/89 "The Famous Teddy Z", with John Cryer as an unwitting Hollywood talent agent. Cryer said on Twitter that it was the most fun he had had as an actor.

Gooch said...

Two MASH questions, please... enjoyed your zoom read of Night @ Rosie's. I think John Orchard was in that one. Did you talk to him about recurring as Ugly John early in MASH's run? Anything he shared with you about that experience? I think he was on even more than Tim Brown or Patrick Adiarte or some of the other recurring characters of the 1st or second season. Second question... your first episode with David was in season 5, I think. Richard Cogan wrote an episode that season (Mulcahy's War) and never wrote another thing, according to IMDB. There must be a story to that - isn't that unusual for a writer to write an episode of a hit series and never write anything else again?

Cris43130 said...

Shows have producers and directors. When did the term "showrunner" come into being and why is it necessary? Wasn't that always a producer's responsibilty?

JS said...

My Friday Question - Why, in your opinion, have movies gotten SO LONG?

I am not alone in this. My friends and myself - 90 minutes - ideal 2 Hours - depends Over that - it had better get great reviews.