Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Fake Crowd Noise

The World Series starts tonight. Congrats to the Dodgers and Rays (one of the great classic rivalries in sports). 

People ask me what I think about the fake crowd noise in sporting events now that spectators are not allowed in stadiums or arenas.  

As a viewer I find the crowd noise WEIRD.  Especially in baseball and football where you see the empty grandstands in almost every shot.   Where are all these people?  It’s the same argument I always made (in vain) to CBS about the laugh track on MASH.  Are there bleachers on the chopper pad?  

Basketball and hockey are easier to accept because the action focuses on the court or ice and you can forget that they’re playing to the camera only.  

But as an announcer, I would so welcome the fake crowd noise if I were calling a game, especially just calling it over the TV.  Without a crowd it just sounds dead.

I was broadcasting a Mariners game from Cleveland a few years ago on the radio.  It was a make-up game the end of the season.  So it wasn’t on the schedule, it started at 4:00 pm, both teams had already been eliminated, and huge thunderstorms were expected to drench the area.  Needless to say, nobody came to the game.  If there were 2,000 people I’d be surprised.   In one of my innings the Mariners scored ten runs.  There were triples and stolen bases and capped off with a grand slam home run.  

After the game we were flying to Texas.  I asked the engineer if he would email me an mp3 of that inning.  I thought it would be a fun keepsake.  You don’t usually get to call ten run innings.  

When I got to my room in Texas it was waiting for me in my inbox.  I listened to it and was horrified.  It sounded like I recorded it in my living room watching the TV with the sound down.  There was NO crowd noise at all.  None.  I’d say crickets but not even that.   What should have been an exciting inning was C-Span.  And the fact that I sounded so excited (after all, fun things were happening) make me appear like an idiot.

So the crowd noise psychologically helps the announcer get into it.  It’s like a singer who would much prefer a band behind him.   On TV it’s still weird to watch, but on radio you can really suspend belief.  

What they need though is the sound of people doing the wave. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Kirstie Alley's latest idiotic tweet

This pains me because I worked with Kirstie Alley for years on CHEERS and she was always delightful.  A little "out there" but still, easy and fun to work with.  

Since then she's become a Scientologist, gained and lost and gained and lost lots of weight.   Frankly, she's become a little loony.  But I've still been fond of her, and it was nice to see her at the CHEERS 30 year reunion several years ago.  

But then she tweeted that she was all for Donald Trump, listing the reasons MAGA idiots usually list.  

I no longer am fond of Kirstie Alley.  

Granted there are people more tolerant than I, but I can't remain friends with anyone who supports Donald Trump.  To support Trump condones the hatred, racism, greed, dishonesty, and stupidity that he stands for.  Alas, I've broken off some long-time relationships over this.  You can be a Republican, you can be a Libertarian, but if you support Trump that crosses a line for me.  

And that goes for the Beach Boys as well, one of my (former) favorite groups.  They performed at a Trump fundraiser yesterday in Newport Beach, California.  Brian Wilson, to his credit, is NOT associated with this version of the Beach Boys (Mike Love & co.) and quickly denounced it.   And let's face it, Brian Wilson IS the Beach Boys.  What's touring now is the fifth generation cover band.  

But getting back to Kirstie.  I love what Judd Apatow tweeted in response.  As a result #ShelleyLong was trending last night.  And look, readers of this blog know I've always preferred Diane to Rebecca.  Kirstie gave the show new life, but Shelley MADE the show.  

And I would work with Shelley Long again in a second.  I'll never work with Kirstie Alley again.  There you have it, Kirstie.  There you have it.



Saturday, October 17, 2020

Weekend Post

Orson Welles was a larger-than-life figure.  Brilliant director, actor, producer, filmmaker, personality.   He directed and starred in CITIZEN KANE among other movies.   He was a genius and often times impossible.   He also drank, smoked endless cigars, and ate multiple Pink's chili dogs night after night after night.  Not coincidentally, he probably weighed 350 pounds at one time.  

He also could be very witty and charming.  Here is a 1985 appearance on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW, a syndicated talk show.   He tells great stories, performs a magic trick, talks about his 70th birthday.  But there's more to the story.

Six hours after taping this show he was dead.  

Here is the final appearance ever of Orson Welles.



Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday Questions

Halfway through October already.  Here are some FQ’s to get you through the weekend.

George starts off with a question about late night rewrites.

Since I assume everyone is fairly tired and burnt out by that stage, do you ever find that the practice is counter-productive?

Yes, and it’s a balancing act.  The bottom line is the actors return to the stage the next morning and need a script.  To push a day would be hugely expensive and not a real option.  

But you’re right.  Writers are not at their best after writing for eight or nine straight hours under pressure while sleep deprived and gorging on Red Vines.  

When David Isaacs and I were show runners, we would usually send everyone home around 1:00 AM and we had to assemble earlier the next day.  The cast would get whatever we had written and new pages throughout the course of the day.  It was a little harder on the cast, but scenes that might’ve taken us two hours to write at 2 AM we polished off in a half hour at 10 AM the next morning.  

We also tried to manage our time as best we could.  If we knew we had a tough new scene to write as part of our work that night we would do it first.  That way we got the hard stuff out of the way and then just tweaked whatever else needed tweaking.  We wouldn’t bog down on one joke at 8 at night and finally get to the tough stuff at 3 AM.  

Late night rewrites are part of the job.  But there are ways of utilizing your staff and time for maximum productivity.  

Paul D. wonders:

Although "The Dick Van Dyke Show" had done it well, when 'M*A*S*H' was made, flashbacks were jokey things used by jokey sitcoms i.e. how Richie and Fonzie first met.
 

However, since dramas  like "China Beach" and "Lost" started to use the device (along with flash-forwards) so well, do you think you could have successfully used these had it already common at the time? I am thinking in terms of stories/scenes set before the war, not as a way to bring Colonel Blake back.

We never wanted to leave Korea.  That was a creative choice. The members of the 4077th were trapped there, and we wanted to convey that feeling.  There were home movies and letters, but we never went to the mainland.  

There was an episode called “The Party” where relatives of the 4077th put together a stateside reunion and there was some discussion of seeing it.  But ultimately we felt that would be wrong.  We wanted to preserve that feeling of isolation that everyone in the unit felt.  

Now LOST, on the other hand, deliberately wanted to get you off that island.  And flashbacks were a great way to learn about each character and provide some variety.  But remember, LOST was an hour.  A sameness might settle in if you’re in one place for an entire hour.  

I still contend, some of the best storytelling in television was done on LOST.  

From Kyle Burress:

Having been featured much more in the last couple seasons was there a possibility that Paul Willson would have been bumped up to a regular cast member had Cheers continued?


I was pushing for it.  Paul Willson (you see his picture above), was extremely funny.  My guess is things would have stayed status quo unless Paul had an offer to go to another series and then the producers would have had to make a decision.  

I felt bad because just as we were really starting to showcase him more, the series ended.  

But I was and am a huge fan of Paul Willson.  

And finally, from Patrick:

Does an Emmy award even matter anymore now that the general public doesn't watch or care? It seems particularly self congratulatory now that the audience for these award shows has fallen away. Back when an Emmy award could save a show from cancellation it seemed to really matter who won what - now with so many shows on so many platforms - do these awards even matter anymore? (Besides to those who won?)

Well, considering the money that networks and studios shell out for Emmy campaigns I’d say yeah, they do still matter.  

Of course, I like to think they matter since I have one.  

But to the general public?  Just check the ratings for Emmy awards.  Every year they sink to new lows.   So no, I don’t think the general public gives a crap.  Especially now when there are shows and stars they’ve never even heard of.  

But my Emmy is important.  

What’s your Friday Question? 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

EP196: Meet writer Rob Long Part One


Rob Long broke into TV writing by getting on staff of CHEERS when he was 24.  He and Ken have a freewheeling discussion of television comedy, advice on breaking in, theories, the business, the craziness, the fun. 

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West Wing is back

 I used to love shows and movies set in the White House.  WEST WING was my favorite show. Movies like THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, DAVE, FROST/NIXON, 7 DAYS IN MAY, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, etc. were always high up on my list.

But then when Trump got into office I couldn't watch anything that featured an Oval Office.  Even though VEEP consistently made me laugh, I could no longer watch it.  HOUSE OF CARDS had been a binge fave.  I bailed even before Kevin Spacey was dumped.  I was never a huge fan of SCANDAL but caught it occasionally.  Same with DESIGNATED SURVIVOR and MADAME SECRETARY.    And forget about revisiting 24.  

WEST WING in particular was hard to watch again.  The stark contrast of how smart, caring, noble, and earnest everyone in that fictional White House was compared to the evil moronic lying shitheads who occupy it now just made viewing impossible.  

But HBO has gotten the cast and Aaron Sorkin back together for a special reunion to Benefit When We All Vote.  It premiers tomorrow on HBO Max and I imagine other places as well.  There will be special appearances by Michelle Obama and others.   This I will watch.  Partly for nostalgia and partly for hope -- that we might go back to that again.  That we might try to uphold the Constitution, Democracy, caring for the American people, justice, security, sanity, healing, equality, kindness, and calm.   At one time WEST WING was a model; now it's a fairy tale.  Let's make the fairy tale come true. VOTE.



Tuesday, October 13, 2020

My Thanksgiving Day

Friday marks the anniversary of when I had to report to Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  I won't tell you how many years ago, but it was more than ten. 

Fort Leonard Wood is up in the Ozarks -- DELIVERANCE country. And in the late fall and early winter it gets COLD.   Its nickname was "Little Korea."  

I got into an Armed Forces Radio Reserve Unit once I saw that my draft lottery number was 4 and I'd be drafted and shipped off to Vietnam before they had finished calling out numbers.  The Reserves were a six year commitment.  16 hours of meeting or training a month, two weeks of summer camp, and Basic Training & Advanced Individual Training (roughly a 20 week stretch).  And you could be called up to active duty anytime.  Does that happen?  Ask the Reservists about Korea and Desert Storm.  

The first week I was in there was some flare-up in Jordan and Reservists were called up. The very first week.  So I was petrified for the entire six years.  

Basic Training was an absolute nightmare for me.  Tall, skinny, bespectacled, uncoordinated, not handy, college educated, Jewish -- 7 strikes and you're out.  Even though my name is pronounced Le-Vine (rhyming with wine) the Drill Sgt. couldn't pronounce it and instead I was "Veen, you fuckin' dud." Actually, that was my nickname.  His real name for me was "Veen, you fuckin' dud, I'm gonna run ya every fuckin' where you go."  

I got through it and graduated.  (There were actually some parents who drove down to watch the graduation ceremony.  Mine correctly considered it a joke and stayed home.)  

But I made a vow.  

As the years go by you tend to forget all the miserable moments and indignities, and when someone asks you how it was you say "Oh, it wasn't that bad."   The vow I made to myself as I was leaving Fort Leonard Wood was that no matter what I forgot, always remember: It WAS that bad.

However, I have to say this.  I owe the army a lot.  That draft number was the best thing that could have happened to me.  Without the army I never would have met my writing partner, David Isaacs.  He had just transferred into the unit from Miami.  We never could have written MASH with any authority.  And MASH was our big break. It absolutely launched our career.  

But Basic Training was STILL that bad.  On October 16th (ironically, also a Friday) is when I had to report.  So since I got my honorable discharge I've always designated October 16th as my Thanksgiving Day.  I stop and think that no matter where I am or what's going on in my life, it's better than having to begin Basic Training.  

Even THIS year is better.  

Happy Thanksgiving Day. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Reporting from captivity...

 I notice more people wearing masks lately.   But then, I’m in a Blue State.

Remember when those motorized Bird scooters were our biggest health hazard?

After seven months of binging, many of my friends are suggesting foreign series — Swedish murder mysteries, Israeli love stories, Australian soaps, etc.  They all seem to be on sub channels of other services.  Acorn TV and the like.  I didn't know these channels existed. 

I’m still not ready to go to restaurants.  

Highlights of last week — I got my flu shot. And I VOTED.  

I’m just as happy there’s no presidential debate this week, aren’t you?   JEOPARDY won't be pre-empted.  

My prediction:  Ken Jennings will ultimately replace Alex Trebek as host.  And by the way, GREAT choice. 

I hate the cheating Houston Astros.  I know that might piss off some readers in Texas but many Texans have already left me for hating the ALL-TIME national cheater.  

Great guest coming up later this week on my podcast.  Hint:  He's a writer. 

Congrats to the Lakers.  Driving around LA, I haven’t seen one Laker flag.  In the past, when sports were more than just a TV show,  if the Lakers were in the Finals every car had a Laker flag flying. 

Not much excitement over the Dodgers in the NLDS either.  But winning the World Series this year is like winning a Golden Globe instead of an Oscar.  It’s just not the same.  

Usually when a major sport crowns a champion the president of the United States calls.  To my knowledge he didn't, although how would we know?  No one on the Lakers would ever take his call. 

Zoom technology is going to be so much better during the next pandemic.  

THE RIGHT STUFF on Disney+ is pretty good.  

Why do rednecks refer to COVID as The COVID?   "Yep, he's got the COVID alright."

Can I pitch a TV ad for Joe Biden?  For 28 seconds you just show CALM. New England in the fall with colorful leaves floating down, waves lazily lapping a Hawaiian beach shore, birds chirping.  No announcer, no talking points, just… CALM.  And the last two seconds show the Biden-Harris logo.  I can’t think of a more effective and inviting ad.  

UPDATE: An unknown blog reader made an example:  Thanks much.

Once this pandemic is over and we can safely travel again, I bet there will be far fewer business trips.   Zoom is here to stay.  

Has it even occurred to you that the new Fall TV season is normally underway by now.

Stay safe.  Wear a mask.  Save lives, maybe even yours.  Vote to get our country back. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Weekend Post

I made a comment recently that it was hard to write Norm entrances on CHEERS.  A reader then asked why?  I was going to answer but then found this article by Samantha Highfill of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.  

She had interviewed me and my writing partner, David Isaacs for another piece on EW but the subject came up in both of our interviews.  I suppose our answers were worthy enough of a whole article.   So that's what I'm posting this weekend.  

You can find it here. 

It's me talking but someone else writing. 

One clarification:  A detail was missing from my description of the HONEYMOONERS episode.  Ralph Kramden studied all week with buddy Ed Norton playing the piano.  But to warm up, Ed would play "Swanee River" before every song. Needless to say, it drove Ralph nuts.  And the big joke was that the first song he had to identify was "Swanee River" and that was the only song in the world he didn't know.  

The rest of it is all true. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

Friday Questions

First off, thanks to everyone who checked in on Wednesday and all the nice things you guys said.  I really appreciate it.  Now…surviving another week of insanity, here are Friday questions:

Vincent Saia, a podcast listener, gets us started:

If you and David Isaacs were to run a show and were allowed a staff of six writers - living or dead - who would those writers be?

An all-time dream team?  Okay.  But it’s hard to hold it down to just six.  I would gladly take even one.  

Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, Jim Brooks, Nat Hiken, Tina Fey, and Neil Simon.

For fun – let’s say I had to choose six writing teams, living or dead.

Glen Charles & Les Charles, Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses, Bill Persky & Sam Denoff, Garry Marshall & Jerry Belson, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, and Annie Levine & Jonathan Emerson.

Steve McLean wonders:
          
Since the streaming model is based on acquiring new subscribers, it seems like there's little incentive to continue a hit show for many seasons. Platforms are chasing new customers with the 'hot' new show. Do you think we've moved past the days 8, 9, 10 seasons for a successful series?

Basically yes.  

Only broadcast networks will want to continue that model because their success revolves around ratings, and those are delivered by stacking their schedules with hit shows.   

But who knows if there will even be broadcast networks as we know them in nine or ten years?
 

Kendall Rivers is up next.

You've mentioned Cheers as one of the best pilots ever made. What are your other 4 in your top 5?

THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE GOOD WIFE, FRASIER, THE COSBY SHOW.  

(Don’t hate me for including THE COSBY SHOW.  Separating the scumbag from the series, it’s a sensational television pilot.  You’ll have to seek it out though since you’re sure not going to see THE COSBY SHOW on TV anytime soon.)

And finally, from Bob Uecker Is A National Treasure (which he is, by the way):

You wrote the post about how some dramatic stars were terrible comedic actors. Obviously part of that is timing -- when to wait a beat on a line, not stepping on another actor's laugh, etc. But is some of it that the dramatic actor is trying too hard to be funny? I've noticed that most great comedic actors (take David Hyde Pierce or Ted Danson) are playing the character seriously with very real motivations/flaws and the character becomes funny based on the situation. But the minute an actor tries to be funny, it absolutely flops. For most of the actors listed, do you think they could have been funny if they had some real coaching?

Actors press when they don’t have confidence — either in themselves or the material.  So you can’t always blame the actor.  The funniest actor in the world is going to be brought down by a bad script.  And if you have a dramatic actor who’s not adept at comedy, the results are even worse.

Comedy is a lot like music.  The good ones just feel the rhythm.  It’s in their bones.  Intuitively they know how to pause, when to pause, how big a reaction should be, how arch to deliver a line, etc.  

Yes, these are techniques that can be taught to some degree, but if it’s not in your soul it will come off mechanical.  

The ability to play comedy is a gift.  And the ones who have it make it look so easy — and it is anything but.

What’s your Friday Question?  And if you didn't check in last Wednesday, feel free to say hi today.

Stay safe.   Wear a mask.  Follow science.  VOTE. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

EP195: The Voice of God and Eyewitness News


Charlie Van Dyke has one of the most recognizable voices in America although you might not know the name.  From big-time DJ at KHJ, WLS, KFRC, CKLW, WRKO, KRTH, KLIF, and more he transitioned into voice over, and I guarantee he’s the voice of one of your local TV stations and radio stations.  It’s a fascinating journey.  Meet “Oh, THAT guy,” Charlie Van Dyke. 

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Who's out there?

I try to do this at least once a year (as I fast approach 15 years writing this blog).  I ask you to write in and tell me about yourself.  Where you're from?  How you found the blog?  Your age?  How long you've been reading (or listening)?  And any thoughts on what you like or don't like.

Just leave it in the comments section.  I especially want to hear from the "lurkers."  I know there are a lot of people out there who follow the blog but never comment.  And that's cool, but today I'd love to hear from you.

And finally, let me take this opportunity to thank you for reading this blog.  It's getting harder to keep coming up with stuff after almost 15 years but it's gratifying to know you're out there still reading it.

So who are you?


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Sleepless Frasier in Seattle

There’s an article onCracked.com that pointed out the similarities between FRASIER and the hit movie, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.  Both came out around the same time, both are set in Seattle, both feature lead characters who are talk show hosts, and David Hyde Pierce is in both. 

 

So did anyone steal from anyone else?

 

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE was in development for several years before FRASIER was conceived, but here is a true case of coincidence.   Believe me, the creators of FRASIER were not stuck and said, “What is Nora Ephron up to?” 

 

But it does highlight that ideas do originate coincidentally.   You’ll notice that no lawsuits were ever filed by anyone.   And that’s because there was no one to blame. (although that rarely does stop Hollywood from litigation) 

 

And it explains why I, and most writers in the industry with a reputation and track record won’t read unsolicited material. We need to protect ourselves.   If I’ve been working on a spec screenplay set in the dangerous world of contact lens grinding, I won’t want to read your pilot because chances are 90% you’ll have contact lens grinding as the centerpiece of your project.   And my screenplay becomes a huge summer tent pole blockbuster (how could it miss?) starring the Rock and Gal Gadot and yours doesn’t sell and you sue me for stealing your idea.   Obviously, I’m being facetious (write your contact lens grinder movie with no fear I will be coming after you), but you get the point. 

 

I went through a period where I was writing spec screenplays.  At the time, specs were in demand and a sale was worth well over six-figures and sometimes seven (although never for me).  I sold a few; a few I didn’t. 

 

But the scariest day of the year was the third Sunday in January.  That was when the LA TIMES “Calendar” section laid out thumbnails of all the movies that were slated to come out that year.    Close to 300 films. 

 

I would read each synopsis with my heart in my throat just praying that the movie I’d been writing for the last four months wasn’t coming out in June starring Clint Eastwood.   It was like walking through a minefield. 

 

At least FRASIER and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE  were for different venues and featured different tones and styles.   Remember when there were three Amy Fisher TV movies developed at the same time?  Or two SNOW WHITE features?   Or two WYATT EARP movies?   I’d say “great minds think alike,” but it’s hard when I use Amy Fisher movies as an example.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Isn't it Ironic, don't you think?

When Alanis Morissette had her big hit record “Ironic,” there was some discussion over whether her use of the word was correct in the context of the song. 

 

Here is the actual definition of ironic:  happening in the opposite way to what is expected, and typically causing wry amusement because of this.

 

A perfect usage of the word could be President Trump contracting the coronavirus after downplaying it for his own political gain and causing over 200,000 American deaths.   A case could also be made for another word that would apply:  Schadenfreude.  

 

No need to wear masks.  No need to social distance.  No need to listen to scientists.  No need to protect children or anyone if it can get the economy moving.   Pack supporters into an indoor arena with no protection.


And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?   

 

So here we are in yet ANOTHER preventable extreme National Emergency caused by this irresponsible embarrassment of a leader.   His utter disregard for anyone and anything other than himself has plunged us into chaos, crisis.  Or should I say FURTHER chaos and crisis? 

 

He and his White House have lied so often and wantonly that many people don’t even think he does have the coronavirus.  They think it’s yet another desperate political ploy for sympathy votes.   Were this to be true, considering the National Security Risks his illness is presenting, that is definitely grounds for treason. 

 

For the record, I do think he’s battling the virus.  But even then, he’s squandered the opportunity of national sympathy by lying about when he caught it and how serious his condition is – at a time when we need transparency the most.   I’m supposed to feel sorry for this guy?  Reports are he knew that he and members of his staff possibly were  infected BEFORE going to rallies and fundraisers in Minnesota and New Jersey, thus KNOWINGLY putting many innocent people at risk.  One indoor fundraiser cost attendees $200,000 to mingle, shake hands, take pictures, and potentially get sick and die.  What a nice way to support your supporters.  

 

People have been convicted of manslaughter for that.   So just add those charges to treason, felony tax evasion, money laundering, perjury, and sexual abuse. 

 

And I’m supposed to send out my thoughts and prayers to him?

 

Fuck no.  

 

Wear the damn mask!

 

You want to know fake news?  It’s when commenters on every network but Fox begin every Trump story with their best wishes for his full and speedy recovery.    It’s lip service at best and by Saturday they weren’t even trying to sell it.  Their best wishes were delivered in the same tone as “Any replay or accounts of this game without express written permission of Major League Baseball is strictly prohibitive.” 

 

This is a time when we need to rally all Americans.  That’s what true leaders do.  And they do that by telling the TRUTH.  That’s how Roosevelt convinced the country to go to war, that’s how Kennedy kept us on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that’s how Bush brought us together after 9-11. 

 

So let’s analyze this sad excuse for a president.  First he lied about when he got the virus, then he put people at risk, then he lied about the severity of his illness (bad vitals, needed oxygen, heart palpitations, required immediate experimental drugs, 103 fever), taken to the hospital (very reluctantly although on his Saturday video he said he chose to go and that he could have stayed in quarantine at the White House but a leader gets out there), lied about his mental state (he claimed he was in good spirits, insiders said he was spooked and got progressively panicked), and even his own chief-of-state disputed the official rosy bullshit medical report to the press. 

 

It’s staggering to me how at every single opportunity to do the right thing that ultimately would benefit HIM, Trumpster Fire chooses to do the opposite. 

 

That said, I do have great sympathy for the over 7,000,000 people battling coronavirus – most of them needlessly (an increasing number of them -- his supporters).   My heart aches for the friends and families of the 200,000 people who have needlessly died.   And for the selfish moron whose duplicity and incompetence put them there, let him fight the deadly virus himself.

 

And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?    

A little too ironic, and yeah I really do think.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Weekend Post

 

I love when I can sometimes go to the source.  Reader Michael Rafferty submitted a Friday question.  Here's the question and the answer from the man himself, Gary Burghoff.  My EXTREME thanks to Gary for his time and very illuminating response. 

On MASH, first season, Gary Burghoff played Radar pretty much the same as he did in the movie version. But,over time, Radar was softened and became more gentle and naive. Was this a decision of Burghoff or was this a creative decision of Larry Gelbart et al.?

Here's Gary's answer:

In the original feature film MASH, I created Radar as a lone, darker and somewhat sardonic character; kind of a shadowy figure. I continued these qualities for a short time (review the Pilot) until I realized that the TV MASH characters were developing in a different direction from the film characters. It became a group of sophisticated, highly educated Doctors (and one head nurse) who would rather be anywhere else and who understood the nature of the "hell hole" they were stuck in.

With Gelbart's help, I began to mold Radar into more Innocent, naive character as contrast to the other characters, so that while the others might deplore the immorality and shame of war (from an intellectual and judgmental viewpoint), Radar could just REACT from a position of total innocence. This made RADAR super ACTIVE, free and very interesting on a primary "gut" level, which at times delivered the horror of war (as well as the dark humor we became known for) in an effective, universal way that anyone could understand.

Larry, in one interview, was quoted as saying that Radar was his favorite character to write for. I think he liked the fact that the character lacked guile and he could write from his own honest "child's-self" as apposed to having to create "clever" intellectual hyperbole.

ACTING IS RE-ACTING. LARRY gave Radar "permission" to REACT IN SPADES!! in a free, delightful and direct manner. Once these decisions were made, RADAR became PURE JOY to play!! God bless Larry Gelbart and his talented writers such as your most excellent SELF!

I hope this helps.

Love "Ya~ Gary

Love ya, too.  And P.S., Radar was one of my favorite characters to write as well.  It was a true honor to pen the "Goodbye Radar" episodes.  

Friday, October 02, 2020

Friday Questions


Wow.   Into October already.  Where has the quarantine time gone?

 

Phil starts us off:

 

The MTM show spun off no less than three shows, all reasonably successful (Lou Grant, Rhoda, Phyllis). Do you think this reflects the good genes those characters inherited from the The MTM Show? Or were those shows so different from MTM that they were, in effect, whole new creations?

 

They were mostly worthy of spin-offs but remember, back then spin-offs were the rage – the way reboots were a few seasons ago.   Between the Norman Lear shows, MTM shows, and Garry Marshall/Paramount shows there must’ve been twenty spin-offs or more. 

 

So all you needed was a popular supporting character on a hit show and you were off to the races.

 

As for the MTM spin-offs, this is just my opinion but none of them were nearly as good as THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.   RHODA married too quickly in its first season and became a series of course corrections the rest of the run.  PHYLLIS was snake-bitten.  One of the stars was murdered coming out of a restaurant in Venice.  The funniest character on the show died (although she was probably in her 90’s), and the second (and final) season they changed the whole premise.   LOU GRANT became a drama.   That was an excellent show but Lou Grant wasn’t Lou Grant. 

 

And speaking of spin-offs, Kyle Burress wonders:

 

How soon was it after knowing Cheers was coming to an end that a spinoff (Frasier) was in development? Were there other characters considered and how did it ultimately come down to Frasier?

 

Kelsey Grammer had a series commitment for 13 episodes upon completion of CHEERS. But at the time the deal was signed it was not specified that he would play FRASIER.  Another premise was originally developed for him before he agreed to play Frasier Crane.  

 

For the real inside story, check out my podcast episode with series co-creator David Lee.  You can find it here. 

 

NBC also wanted to spin-off Norm & Cliff but that never materialized. And there was THE TORTELLIS, spinning off Carla's ex-husband Nick.  That was short-lived.  

 

From Brian Phillips:

 

I just finished watching a movie that put all of the credits, save the titles, at the end as opposed to the beginning. I understand that from an artistic standpoint, you can set up your universe faster, etc., but from a practical standpoint, if I wrote a movie, I'd rather it be out front first, with the bulk of the titles at the end.

 

What is your preference?

 

The beginning because when they appear at the end, other the first few credits (director, producer, writer, star) everyone in the audience bails. 

 

If the credits are in the beginning, people actually see them.  

 

And finally, from Michael:

 

I know you were a producer on CHEERS the first season and then left to work on other shows. When you returned to CHEERS in later seasons as a writer, were you and David full-time staff writers involved with the show every week or was it on a free-lance basis?

 

We were on staff but not exclusive to the show.  We consulted a day a week so were involved with all scripts.  We also wrote numerous episodes.  And we had an office and assistant.  But we were able to pursue other projects like developing pilots, consulting on other shows (notably WINGS for me), and writing movies. 

 

It was the best of both worlds.  Another reason why I so love CHEERS.

 

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