Friday, July 16, 2010

Answering your TV questions... I do every Friday.

Let’s start with Matt:

I have quite a few MASH scripts in my collection and in reading through them, none of writers indicate Stage 9 vs. Fox Ranch locations. How did the production staff decide which location to shoot scenes (aside from the obvious: EXT. CHOPPER PAD - DAY).

The key factor was “time of year”. We could shoot exteriors of the Swamp and Mess Tent right on the stage if we had to (they didn’t look as good but we occasionally did it). I wanted to have helicopters landing in Stage 9 but no one was willing to build the giant removable sunroof that would require.

In the summer when it was light from 6 A.M. to 8 P.M. we shot one day for every episode at the Malibu Ranch location. But in planning the scripts we knew that meant a maximum of eight pages. So we laid out the stories accordingly.

And once we went of Daylight Savings Time that was it for location shooting the rest of the season.

If there was an episode that contained mostly interiors (say a poker game show), we held it back. If you have the MASH DVD’s you’ll see a lot more actual exterior scenes in the first half of each season.

sophomorecritic has a question:

When I first saw Mark Feuerstein in Conrad Bloom, I found him to be a likeable actor. Then the show got cancelled and I don't remember seeing him again until Royal Pains where he's really found a niche.
You have any comments or reflections on his circuitous route to stardom? I also thought Conrad Bloom was a good show, what went wrong?

Mark has done a lot of things. I first worked with him before CONRAD BLOOM on FIRED UP where he was a regular.

For some reason he has had the misfortune of being in quite a few series that never took off. In addition to the two I’ve already mentioned there was THE HEART DEPARTMENT (I don’t even remember that one), GOOD MORNING MIAMI, and 3 LBS.

He’s also been in movies with scumbag Mel Gibson and sweetheart Sandra Bullock. I also saw him on stage starring in a Neil LaBute play last year and he was riveting.

As you said, Mark has an incredibly likable quality. He’s also very real. And having directed him numerous times I can tell you he’s a complete gentleman and professional.

I’m happy ROYAL PAINS is starting to catch on. Mark is really one of the good guys. And off the subject, but his wife Dana is equally terrific.

It’s hard to say just why CONRAD BLOOM didn’t work. Probably my directing.

But seriously, it had some good people and good writers. My guess is it came along the year there was such a glut of sitcoms (or as I like to call it – “the Golden Age when we all could make our car payments”) that it got lost in the shuffle.

Aw, who we kidding? It was my directing.

From Vermonter17032 :

Ken, your desire to be Hawkeye raises an interesting question: Is Hawkeye Pierce the coolest TV sitcom character ever?

No. I would have to say the Fonz and maybe Daryl from Larry, Daryl, and Daryl. Not that Daryl. The other Daryl.

Brian Phillips wonders:

Up until the 1990's, I could tell the difference between videotaped shows and filmed shows. Video shows usually looked bright, like news and sports shows, while the filmed shows' colors and lighting are subtler. Are all sitcoms all on film now or have some merely converted to a high quality of videotape?

To my knowledge, all sitcoms – single and multiple camera – are taped in High Def now. With the proper lightening, you can pretty much simulate that softer film look. If only it could make the jokes funnier.

And finally, from Ed Blonski:

Kelsey Grammer just tweeted a show idea about the Crane brothers' sons with guest appearances of Frasier characters.

I'm wondering what you think of the idea and if you would write for such a show?

First off, it depends on who writes it. If it’s Peter Casey & David Lee or the Charles Brothers then I would certainly entertain it. Otherwise, I highly doubt I'd get involved. And I can’t speak for those four gentleman obviously, but my stab-in-the-dark guess is you’d have to put a loaded gun to their heads to get them to consider it. And even then I dunno.

This idea sounds like the MUPPET BABIES but with FRASIER, which brings to mind an idea I always had – CHEERS BABIES. See baby Norm and baby Cliff at the bar drinking beers. I think it would be a delightful show for the kiddies.What's your question???


Darrell said...

It was Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

You should really wear more sweaters.

brigadude said...

Ken, Joe Di Pietro and David Bryan, recent Tony-award winners (for "Memphis"), are working on a musical about the songwriters who worked out of the Brill Building in NYC. Are you involved? Isn't this the subject of a project you mentioned a while back?

Annie said...

It's always nice to read about Mark Feuerstein...even if he did break my heart.

Please enjoy him in his most captivating, heart-rendering performance to date:

You daughter

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of Royal Pains and I loved Mark in 3 LBS. Could never understand why that didn't catch on. And Good Morning Miami was good. Not great, but certainly watchable. Nice to know that the actor is a nice person. Here's hoping that Royal Pains is around for a long time. There's nothing earthshaking about it, but it's thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

just some guy trying to write said...

I'll throw this question out there again --

Me and my writing partner are starting to get some traction in the industry and since you have had such a long and successful career with your writing partner, could you shed some light on the more technical aspects of your relationship? Stuff like, what is your agreement for solo projects? Do split everything 50-50?

Peri Menopausal said...

Mark Feuerstein is married? Thanks for ruining my day, Levine.

James said...

The Frasier idea sounds a lot like that Mary & Rhoda tv-movie from a few years ago. It's an excellent example of why it's more important to have a solid story than just a clever idea.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken, you're pumping these blogs out too fast for me to keep up! Slow down! :-)

Regarding CONRAD BLOOM, it may have been a better vehicle for Mr. Feuerstein's career had it lasted, but it seemed like it just never settled into a groove that vieweres could get comfortable with -- which is too bad, because there were a lot of talented people working both in front of and behind the camera. Besides Mark, I recall Linda Lavin, Steve Landesberg and Valerie Mahaffey in the pilot, who sadly was replaced by SNL's Victoria Jackson once the series went on the schedule. I worked on the pilot and one other episode and almost got a shot at being in the pilot. The producers found they needed to re-shoot a scene but had already sent one of the extras who was needed home. I volunteered my services, but two things kept them from using me: (1) I wasn't a SAG member (although I was doing extra work at the time), and (more importantly, as it turned out) (2) I didn't fit the policeman's uniform the character had to wear... I don't know what they finally did, since by that point I was also responsible for getting the audience out of the studio when the main filming was finished.

BTW, off-topic (well not really, since it also deals with someone we probably all would like to have seen more of over the years) but Jackie Swanson (aka "Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly") if you're reading today: I caught the tail end of an episode of THE GOLDEN GIRLS several days ago where you played an attorney representing Dorothy and Stan who had been charged with being slumlords at an apartment building Stan owned. Didn't see the whole episode unfortunately, but will try to catch it again the next time it airs. Didn't know you had ever done a GOLDEN GIRLS!

wv: hanyin -- a word that I'm sure "Aunt Bee" would be convinced was a euphemism for something ("Haven't you ever heard the term 'throbbing hanyin'?" "Yes, but I thought it was referring to some species of South American Beetle killing its prey... It throbs it to death.")...

Tom Quigley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Gassel said...

Since it is obvious that Kelsey Grammer wants another network series (how many has he tried since "Fraiser" went off the air?), why doesn't he give his signature character another go-around.

They certainly left the character's future open-ended, so they could do whatever they want with him. Perhaps he's now a national star like Dr. Phil...

The old "Fraiser" regulars aren't necessary, but could make occasional appearances.

Chris Riesbeck said...

Kelsey Grammer just tweeted a show idea about the Crane brothers' sons with guest appearances of Frasier characters.

On a DVD I watched just last night, Joe Flaherty described the first time NBC approached SCTV about doing the show on NBC. To appeal to a younger crowd, Tartikoff wanted them to do new characters, spun off the old ones. "I can still do Bobby Bittman, right?" asked Eugene Levy. "No, but you could do his nephew," Tartikoff replied.

VW: "romax" Cinemax spin-off for women.

Jim Stickford said...


I just saw the Mad Men marathon, and one of the writers was David Isaacs. I assume it's your old partner.

That makes me wonder, how hard is it to go from a partnership to writng by yourself. Are there writers who will only work with their partners, or can they switch back and forth. Does having a partner change the way you write? I'm not saying it's bad, just different.

Anonymous said...

Is there a tripwire moment when the showrunner/writers agree that a previously unpleasant character (Hot Lips, Col. Winchester, Cliff (well not so much Cliff)) is going to be rehabilitated and become one of the guys? Or is it something that just sneaks up? A viewer of the first season of MASH who skipped ahead would be dumbfounded by the way that Maj. Houlihan is portrayed in the final season. Same with Col. Winchester who initially is a fairly unpleasant addition. As for Cliff, he's a lot less annoying at the end of the series then he was on the beginning.

Tim W. said...

I only knew Mark Feuerstein from West Wing, but a glance at his IMDB profile shows he's had a busy career.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Possible questions:

I just listened to a Slate Culture Gabfest podcast that discussed the dustup between the Jezebel website and the Daily Show about the lack of women writers (a criticism I've also read directed at other talk shows). It can be found at

Ken, have you noticed the same patterns in scripted shows, and, if so, why do you think it exists? Are there some great female comedy writers that you've worked with (who maybe haven't received the recognition that they deserve)?

Rashad Khan said...

Years ago, when FRASIER was still on the air (and didn't annoy the hell out of me), I had an idea to spin his son, Frederick, off on his own series about life at a prep school for "gifted" children. Frasier would make the occasional appearance, of course, as would Lilith.

The only way a David Crane-centric series would work, though, is if Jane Leeves and David Hyde Pierce were regulars -- and somehow, w/ Pierce's pronouncement that he'd never do another series, I just don't see it happening.

Rashad Khan said...

Bob Gassel: "They certainly left the character's future open-ended, so they could do whatever they want with him. Perhaps he's now a national star like Dr. Phil..."

Or back on the East Coast, teaching psychology at a university. Just saying.

BigTed said...

Speaking of Mark Feuerstein, and of Fonzie: On the most recent episode of "Royal Pains," they showed a Photoshopped picture of Feurstein with Henry Winkler (who plays his father) as they would have looked about 25 years ago. I saw it and thought, "What's that kid doing with the Fonz?"

Cap'n Bob said...

When did Major Winchester get promoted to colonel?

D. McEwan said...

I believe I saw every episode aired of both CONRAD BLOOM and GOOD MORNING MIAMI. I enjoyed the shows, and it doesn't hurt that Mark is also very hot.

l.a.guy said...

Hey JustSomeGuyWithTooLongOfAName

From time to time Ken has written about having a writing partner, if you search the archives I think you'll find some interesting stuff.

Click Here for previous posts.

rita said...

i was just watching "out of sight, out of mind" the other day and was wondering for the first time, how much did alan alda actually see under these bandages?

WV: "changshe" -- wasn't that an actual korean word on MASH?

Dave Scharf said...

Corner Gas was a successful sitcom written and filmed entirely in Canada. I know it has been syndicated to an obscure cable network. Any of my U.S. brethren ever seen it? What are your thoughts? Does the humour only play in Canada?

Tim Susman said...

Watching CHEERS season 8 and was just wondering how Rebecca's favorite song was chosen... was it picked with the idea that the Righteous Brothers would be available, or was it someone else's favorite song?

MIkeN said...

DO the cast while filming an episode ever say this part of the script makes no sense?
For example during BattleStar Galactica in the last season, the humans want Xena to identify the final five, but she says they will come to her. Then about 20 minutes later, she says she will keep killing hostages until they hand them over. Shouldn't someone on the cast have said, hey wait a minute, how can they hand them over if she won't identify them?

Anonymous said...

You're a real writer so I know you'll want to know. It is correctly called Daylight Saving Time, no "s."

Easy to remember as you save time the way you'd save money and you'd never think Money Savings Time.

Thank you and I love the blog and have for many years.

brickben said...

Ken, I saw this article in my Sunday Chicago Tribune about Felicia day's internet series "The Guild" The writer asked three questions at the beginning:
Will the Internet save or kill TV?
Is the entertainment Industry sexist?
What's the future of scripted entertainment and will Hollywood change it's ways fast enough to embrace it?
Out of curiousity I watched a few episodes of "The Guild" on Youtube and found them pretty funny. But as I was reading this I instantly wonder what you thought about this. I would love to hear your reactions given your experience in the field.

Matt said...

I never liked the setup for Bar Wars VI, thought it was too far-fetched and hokey, but the payoff was one of the more memorable moments. It was hysterical.

Alessandra Z said...

I love sitcoms and Frasier is the absolute best. My husband got me the complete series for Christmas and we are watching a couple of episodes a day. Is there any other series that makes you laugh out loud even though by now you know the script by heart???? I doubt it. I really liked Friends but if I see a rerun now I usually change the channel. With Frasier, changing the channel is absolutely out of the question. The writing and the acting are superb. After each single episode I find myself telling my husband: "Niles is a genius." No other TV series ever came close to Frasier. Since I don't want Frasier to be forgotten I thought it would be nice if they made a Frasier movie. I've had a great idea about how it would go. Could I pitch the idea to you? or is there anybody else you could suggest?
Thanks. by the way I'm also a huge fan of Wings and Cheers.