Wednesday, March 01, 2006


For those who wanted more MASH stories here’s a good one.

When my partner, David and I were head writers a precedent had been established during table readings whereby after the cast read the script out loud we went page by page asking if anyone had a problem or issue. Often times these notes resulted in better shows. And we were a collaborative effort.


Sometimes someone in the cast would have a real ticky tack issue with some line. And not to be upstaged, another cast member would have a “problem”. Pretty soon, they all were having “problems”. Page after page after page. We loved and admired the cast and would always be accommodating but inside we were IRKED.

This happened a couple of times and finally we got smart. The next time it occurred we went back to the room, addressed all of their minor concerns, and then made a one other little change of our own to the script. We made it a cold show.

The next day filming began at the Malibu ranch. Summer temperatures were routinely in the 90’s and 100’s. Now the cast was all in parkas standing over fire barrels delivering lines about how bitterly cold Korea was in the winter.

This happened maybe twice and we never got a ticky tack note again.

If only we could do that today with networks and studios.


Cafrine said...

Ha! Well that explains the millions of winters on that show. I always wondered why it was winter so often. It wasn't to do with the story! It was to do with the actors.

Very smart move on your part. Silly actors.

Russman said...

Long time reader first time poster. I love everything about MASH and you'll definately keep me as a reader if I get more working stories like this one. Reguardless if it's MASH or Volunteers, keep'm coming and I'll keep reading.

Anonymous said...

More stories, more stories!!!

Anonymous said...

I heard (thru other actors) that Burgoff was the opposite of his character and next to impossible to deal with. True or false or can you not dish on specific folk?

Treasure Island Oldies said...

Ken, after years of receiving your emails of your travels and stories, I am so pleased to see you are sharing your memories and experiences with a larger number of folks. Consider me hooked on your blog!
And thank you for listening and being a fan of my own Internet radio show,
All the best!
Michael Godin

Simeon said...

Dear Ken,

Discovering your blog has made my afternoon (although truthfully the competition wasn't that fierce today).

I am so impressed that you would take the time to do this. You are making a lot of bored, misguided writers seriously happy.

One question. Would I be right in thinking that the likelihood of an Englishman getting work on a US comedy show these days is marginally less than zero? Was Laurence Marks just a rare exception to the rule?

Anonymous said...

I loved the Cheers episode, Bar Wars,
was that the one about Gary and the joke ?

Or was it the episode Robin buys out Sam's

both great, and as an aspiring writer, I think
you're blog offers a great inside perspective,
and my interests include writing about classic
TV, yo the history of great TV in the heyday,
do you think Hollywood will ever wake up and
start making great shows again?

Grubber said...

Thanks for the story on one of my (and obvioulsy others) favourite shows of all times.

Julie O'Hora said...

Love your war stories. ;)

Speaking of specific CHEERS episodes, were you at all responsible for Sam's "gr-gr-groin injury" rap?

By Ken Levine said...

Gary had his "actor" moments but basically was a good guy.

Yes, Julie, the episode you're thinking of is called I ON SPORTS and David and I did write that one.

Julie O'Hora said...

I knew it! Probably haven't seen that episode since it originally aired, but I can still hear Ted D. doing that rap -- god, that was funny...

doggans said...

That does explain all the winters...although it doesn't explain why after 8 seasons, a few Christmas episodes, and several cast changes, the first year of the war finally ended in the episode "A War For All Seasons". :P