Tuesday, August 08, 2006

the night the Warm-up guy got ugly

With Tuesday being election day, I am reminded of the election episode my partner, David and I wrote for the TONY RANDALL SHOW.

I’ll pause for a moment while you say “what the hell was the TONY RANDALL SHOW?" It was an MTM series in the late 70’s starring the late Tony Randall as a judge in Philadelphia. It’ll probably never be shown again but it was a damn funny show.

In this particular episode, Tony’s character runs for Superior Court Judge, his opponent dies during the election but too late for his name to be removed from the ballot. Lo and behold, he wins. Tony was beaten by a dead man. The show played great all week with hardly any changes. We were expecting great things.

And then on show night, in front of the audience – death, nothing, tumbleweeds, crickets.

Needless to say, we were stymied.

One of the executive producers was doing the warm-up, and was so mad he turned on the audience. (It didn’t help that the entire staff was drinking frozen margaritas in the prop room between scenes).

He started saying things like, “Hey, I think your hearse is waiting”, “Hey, wasn’t that moderately amusing?”, and the tag was Tony entering his office which was now completely empty (his furniture moved in anticipation of the certain victory) to which the warm-up man shouted at the audience, “Get it?! What’s different about that room? Anybody?”

It was only after the crowd filed out that we learned the truth. The entire audience was Hispanic, bussed in, and spoke no English.

Remember all the bad things I said about the laugh track? We sure used it that week.


Toby O'B said...

Well, I for one remember this show and liked it a lot. What a great supporting cast! Rachel Roberts, Hans Conreid, Barney Martin, and Alyn Ann Mclerie? (Doing that from memory - I know she later played Mr. Carlson's wife on "WKRP".)

And I think this show introduced the TV audience to Michael Keaton who was a law student at Fred's Law School, where Judge Franklin taught a class.

It's one of those little one season series that I'd love to see come out on DVD. I still laugh thinking of Tony Randall walking through all the pigeons in the opening credits.

misterorange said...

Not for nothing, but did it really take that long to figure out the entire audience was hispanic and couldn't speak a word of english?

The Curmudgeon said...

No need to get ugly. Just go out and tell them that Sabado Gigante is filmed in Studio B....

Anonymous said...

I also remember it, but it was a two-season show. The first season ran on ABC (about a year or so after "The Odd Couple" ended). ABC cancelled it, but CBS picked it up for the second and final season. One thing I remember about the network change: the homely teenaged daughter was recast with a much hotter chick. We got reruns of this on a local station in the 80s.

Anonymous said...

I wrote for a CBS show that never saw the light of day in the early 90s, called, "I, Chihuahua", about an hispanic man who angers a genie (Tom Poston) who turns him into a chihuahua. In close-ups, the chihuahua had the human face of the series star, George Lopez.

This would have been a big break for him, and he was conflicted about it. On one hand, it was a terrible show, but on the other hand, it would, for better or worse, elevate George's profile (this was just before the launch of his own, successful sitcom).

Finally, the whole dilemma was made moot when Rita Moreno (guesting as a female chihuahua, with eyes for George) threw a temper tantrum one afternoon and stabbed Cheech Marin with a pencil. Since this was the only laugh we had all through rehearsal, we all decided to throw a bunch of kerosene around, burn the studio to the ground, and fake our own deaths.

George was under contract with the producers, and went on to fame and fortune with them, but all of the writers, as well as the director, now work using different names on different projects. I myself found work writing on "Whose Got The Time?" and "Sunny and Sons".

Anonymous said...

The Tony Randall show was replaced by Tungsten, P.I. with Jack Cambrey in his career-defining role of Lt. Empersand Douglas. It also introduced the world to a young Shirley B. Ralston, and her catchphrase, "Y'all betta BLEEVE it!" It was a shame the Tony Randall show was cancelled, but flowers grow from rains such as this.

Anonymous said...

I remember that episode. And I remember finding it very funny. But then, I do understand English.

By Ken Levine said...

The young law clerk was played by Zane Lasky and named Mario Lanza. The daughter originally was Devon Scott (George C.'s daughter) and replaced when the show went to CBS by Penny Peyser. The show was getting 30 shares and on the bubble. ABC offered to pick it up for 13 and CBS offered 22 so they jumped ship.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it John Ashcroft that ACTUALLY lost to a dead guy?

Cap'n Bob said...

I recently was in a contestant search for Wheel of Fortune. of the 500+ people vying for a tryout, maybe 35 were randomly called on stage. In this elite group was a woman who spoke only Spanish. You have to wonder what the hell she was thinking.

BTW, I remember fondly THE TONY RANDALL SHOW and Micheal Keaton's part. The law school scenes were great.

Anonymous said...

Very happy to run across your blog. I have enjoyed your work on many shows including this one. Do you know where I can find a list of episodes of this underrated program?