Thursday, June 29, 2006

Goodbye Radar and June

On Monday and Tuesday I will be co-hosting the STEPHANIE MILLER syndicated radio show with the much-funnier-than-me Elayne Boosler. 6-9 AM on the West Coast and 9-Noon in the East. Needless to say, big audiences are expected for morning drive time radio on the 3rd and 4th of July.

I’m amazed by the huge reaction to MASH posts. You all realize that until they moved the show to Mondays it was getting its ass kicked by THREE’S COMPANY?

GOODBYE RADAR was supposed to be the finale of season seven. When the network talked Gary Burghoff into postponing his exit until November sweeps (it was a very short conversation, they just wrote a dollar figure on a piece of paper and handed it to him.) we decided to make it more of an event, thus the two parter. (CBS was lobbying for a twelve parter.)

Our goal was to make his actual departure as emotional as possible while still avoiding a long maudlin scene. Hence the casualties. Each character said goodbye in one sentence. I’m a big fan of tiny moments. Radar leaving his teddy bear to Hawkeye said more than any speech we could have ever written. (And you know how long it takes us to write those damn big speeches.)

The name we gave his girlfriend was Patty Haven, a former girlfriend of mine who left me to run a kennel in Fresno.

90% of the time two parters should really be part-and-a-halfs.

I think the rapid fire pace of the dialogue and story telling on MASH was much better suited for a half hour than an hour.

Saw myself on MY FIRST TIME on TVLand. What was I thinking wearing that purple shirt? I looked like a telletubby.

For the MARY show we hired newcomer Katey Segal over Kathy Bates.

Most of the real dish on Mary Tyler Moore I have I will save for my book. I will then have to spend the next few years hiding like Salmon Rushdie while Mary tries to hunt me down.

Suffice it to say I can’t watch ORDINARY PEOPLE without having Viet Nam flashbacks.

We did make reference to her in a SIMPSONS we wrote. Patty or Selma decided to wear Mary’s classic hairstyle. The town drunk approaches and asks, “Are you Mary Tyler Moore?” She sprays him with mace and he says, “You ARE. You are Mary Tyler Moore!”

Some guys live right. Minnesota Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer is batting an incredible .456 in June and goes home to former Miss USA, Chelea Cooley. Why opposing pitchers aren’t throwing at his head every at bat is beyond me.

The Twins are one of the most exciting teams in baseball. Too bad they play in that giant jello mold.

Caught the Ringo Starr All-Star band concert last weekend. Ringo was charming and it was “far out” hearing those Beatles songs sung by “the actual guy” but he wasn’t the best musician on stage. In fact, he wasn’t even the best drummer on stage. Sheila E. was absolutely phenomenal!! Meanwhile, Edgar Winters looks the same as he did 25 years ago – middle aged and paunchy. The only instrument he didn’t play was the zither.

The only National League team that can beat the American League is the Colorado Rockies. What this means is that the National League should just trade places with the Pacific Coast League.

I was not involved with the final MASH episode. The story was broken into half hour increments and divided up between the writers, who would then each write their segment with Alan Alda.

Booting Star Jones Reynolds off THE VIEW was a good start. Now get rid of the rest of those hens.

It’s hard to not get swept up in World Cup fever when there are all those heart pounding, spine tingling 0-0 games.

When Germany plays Iran, who do you root for?

Check back tomorrow for one of my favorite MASH anecdotes.


Anonymous said...

I saw Mary Tyler Moore, who was still America's sweetheart at the time, receive her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was standing on the podium waiting for Johnny Grant and the other invited speakers to finish their remarks when she was suddenly dive-bombed by three or four wasps (the flying kind, not the ethnocentric species). Maybe they, along with you, Ken, already knew something about her that the rest of us had yet to find out about.

-- BTW, saw Ringo two years ago when he was touring, and you're absolutely right. Sheila E. steals the show...

Joshua James said...

Mary doesn't have the best rep in theatre, either -

But damn it, she made wearing slacks okay on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW!

Oh well. Sigh. BTW, a friend of mine who is a professional stage manager worked on a show with Loretta Switt and stated, without exaggeration, that the woman was crazy. My friend is not given to pronouncements such as these (SM's like to project a worldly, I've-seen-everything perception) but backed up the statement with ancedontal empirical evidence. If only have of what she said was true, the woman needed professional help.

I caught the show, Ken - pretty awesome - if you had a chance to do it again, would you have gone with Kathy Bates?

Kathy Bates and Mary facing off? That'd be cool!

The Curmudgeon said...

An interesting and eclectic post -- but I'm so glad you've mentioned baseball (even though, as a life-long Chicagoan, I can't stand the Twinkies... which means, among other things, that I'm scared of Joe Mauer.

Is there any chance you could address here how you managed to also become a baseball broadcaster in the midst of M*A*S*H (say, you're right, writing that out is a big pain...) and all your other writing successes?

Callaghan said...

Sheila E. is part of a VERY talented music family. Her uncle's name is Alejandro Escovedo, who records as a solo artist and is one of America's unknown treasures. In fact, he's a step above treasure. What's better than treasure?

Alejandro Escovedo....remember the name and pick up one of his albums if you love music. A good one to start with is "A Man Under the Influence". Buy it. Buy it now.

alkali said...

Ringo was charming and it was “far out” hearing those Beatles songs sung by “the actual guy” but he wasn’t the best musician on stage. In fact, he wasn’t even the best drummer on stage.

I once heard on NPR a segment where a rock critic(*) played clips of the Beatles with Pete Best on drums back-to-back with the same songs with Ringo on drums. It was astonishing. Ringo may not have been any better at playing the drums, but he was a far better drummer. The band just worked much better with him in it. Chalk it up to his Ringo-ness or something.

(* It might have been Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick, whom I've also heard do the same thing with early Elvis clips. The upshot of the Elvis demonstration was that Elvis really became Elvis when he added back some R&B and slowed down his tempo -- compare his breakneck cover of Blue Suede Shoes with the more measured pace of Don't Be Cruel.)

Anonymous said...

I like this post!
It sounds like one of Burt Lancaster's columns in "Sweet Smell of Success"!!!
you giving Sidney Falco to work?

man, I can't WAIT to eat a big bowl of ice-cream while reading about MTM!!

Blondie said...

I finally got to see the "My 1st Time" episode, and may I say what a handsome man you are. You look so much younger than I expected for a man who was successfully writing for TV in the 70's. Wow!!

Anonymous said...

"you giving Sidney Falco to work?"
no, this is not a mistake. It is my tribute to the late Vito Scotti.

Tom Dougherty said... an ETA on that book, Ken? No pressure or anything, but I usually read on my lunch break, and it's already 11:45.

Oh- and did you see the eps of That 70s Show with MTM as a TV harpy colored with a generous marbling of Cruella DeVille? THAT must have brought on the shakes.

Anonymous said...

Ken, thanks for the MASH memories. Any chance of some more anecdotes from working on Cheers?


Anonymous said...

The scene when the woman suffocates her child because she is afraid if Hawkeye still haunts me

Beth Ciotta said...

Have a great time with Ms. Boosler. Between the two of you that show ought to be a hoot.

Adored the breakdown of GOODBYE RADAR. Each character saying goodbye in one sentence--brilliant.

Sad to say I missed THE FIRST TIME hence your purple shirt. I'm sure you looked fab. 'Cookinblonde' confirmed.

Um, so you guys are telling me that Laura Petry/Mary Richards is not a real-life nice-girl?? I so hate when illusuions are shattered. *sigh*

Looking forward to your fave M*A*S*H anecdotes. Woo-hoo!

Anonymous said...

masb being trounced by three's company is not surprising. Its always the case. Brain dead and "simple" comedy tend to win out over war comedy.

Ken, have you ever considered writing a BOOK about TV COMEDY? about the craft? and your experiences in writing for cheers and mash? i know i would buy it.

You spoke about tiny moments. Can you give more examples from your writing of Mash? Or Cheers?

I just re watched a mash episode where dr winchester saved a patient's legs but the patient was still devastated because it wasn't his legs he was worried about losing, it was his hands, for he was a concert pianist, and he was bitter when winchester told him that he will never recover full dexterity in his right hand. Winchester later made a speech to him about how the gift was not just in his hand but inhis heart, mind, was pretty touching. The patient was a guy who eventually played a law student in the paper chase.

After all these years, i still get a lump in throat watching mash!

thanks for sharing with us your mash experiences,

and please, KEEP THEM COMING!

Anonymous said...

Regarding Ringo and musicianship: I was present at a 1992 taping of an episode of "Dame Edna's Hollywood" at NBC in Burbank. Ringo was the "Bandleader", mostly so Edna could say "Ringo Starr is twirling his baton in my vestibule." Ringo stood in front of a band waving a baton about. Out of camera range sat another man with a baton and a music stand with all the music they were using on it. He actually conducted the band, who had to watch him around Ringo and his flailing baton.
Caught your "My First Time" appearance. I had utterly forgotten "Mary", though I'm sure I saw every episode broadcast.
Loretta Swit IS crazy. She may not have been back during MASH, but I wrote a never-sold movie project with her about 14 years ago, and she's, let us say, not a warm woman, nor a sane one. She has talents as a story editor, but she is seriously off-the-planet. I think my favorite moment was when she rejected a plot point in a gay-themed subplot on the basis that it would offend gay people, whose thought-processes she explained to me at some length. Having been actively homosexual for then-30 years, I found being lectured on what gay people think by a straight woman curiously un-illuminating.

Anonymous said...

Ken..will David wake up at 4 in the morning as well, because the two of you are THAT much in synch?

By Ken Levine said...


You made my week.

Poor man,

More CHEERS anecdotes are coming.


Someday I do hope to write a book...if there's enough interest. As for a "how to" book, Alex Epstein and Lee Goldberg both have covered that subject very well. Check 'em out.