Saturday, May 12, 2012

A long long Levine & Isaacs episode

This is one of my favorite episodes. Its from THE TONY RANDALL SHOW. David Isaacs and I wrote it in 1977. The premise stems from an article I saw in the paper. The scenario we present actually happened.

In case you're one of the two or three people in the entire world not familiar with THE TONY RANDALL SHOW, he played a judge in Philadelphia. The series was produced by MTM and created by Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses, who were the driving force behind THE BOB NEWHART SHOW and later BUFFALO BILL.

The episode features Zane Lasky as Mario Lanza and David Ogden Stiers just before he got a gig on another show you might have heard of.

So, for the first time in a gazillion years, here's our TONY RANDALL SHOW. Thanks to friend-of-the-blog, Jamie Weinman for unearthing it.

Case- The People Speak by carpalton


Al said...

"What's Kishka?" Fantastic line.

pumpkinhead said...

That big building they keep showing where Tony Randall's character works is Philadelphia City Hall. This is what it looked like under construction in 1881.!/photo.php?fbid=355599061169705&set=a.115711028491844.15594.111031335626480&type=1&theater

Phillip B said...

Thought this series was perfectly set with Tony Randall as a Philadelphia judge. Zane Lasky (as Mario Lanza) will still occasionally appear in an occasional comic nightmare - and is still hilarious...

Keith said...

The blocking in his chambers looked like a nightmare. Camera 3 probably worked on a crossword all night.

The "life is worth living" and "sewage referendum" jokes were laugh out loud funny.

Becca said...

Some random thoughts about this episode:

*Why is there a laugh track on what appears to be a multi-camera show that would've been perfectly suited to being taped "live before a studio audience?"

*A panties joke within the first minute. Yep...that's the Levine stamp.

*Rachel Roberts! Post-"Foul Play," pre-suicide. Awesome!

*That kid (Oliver) has amazing fashion sense, even for the '70s. Blue sneakers, blue tie-dyed fleece hoodie over a rust and brown striped sweater and brown pants. Holy merde.

*Barney "Arthur" Martin. Yay!!

*The chick who played Tony's paralegal was perhaps the weak link in an otherwise stellar cast. Her fake-laughing wasn't very convincing.

*Tom Raper RVs?? This was taped somewhere in my home stage of Indiana! He only advertised in the late-night hours, so "The Tony Randall Show" must've run at least briefly there in syndication. Strange, for a one-season wonder. I wish the original commercials were intact!

*Story Consultant: Hugh "WKRP" Wilson, Story Editor: Gary David "Family Ties," "Brooklyn Bridge" Goldberg. Producers: Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses. What a pedigree. Yet somehow, "Alice" and "What's Happenin'" and "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Jeffersons" were renewed as this show was canceled. Life stinks.

Thanks for sharing this with us!

Donavan S. Moye said...

Boy, there's a term you don't hear anymore: "Fotomat".

Paul Duca said...

Becca...Rachel Roberts filmed in her role in FOUL PLAY in the summer of 1977, in between the show's first and second seasons. I didn't know she took her own sad.

"You wouldn't be the first man to try to kiss me"
"Would I be the second?"

Paul Duca said...

More for I said, the show actually aired two seasons. After ABC dropped it, CBS picked it up, just as they did WONDER WOMAN (and NBC the same for THE BIONIC WOMAN--ABC was so hot then the other networks would even take their castoffs).

And DIFF'RENT STROKES didn't debut until 1978--at this time Conrad Bain was still on MAUDE.

Finally, Allyn Ann McLerie has a very respected resume of her own...she starred in a Broadway musical written by Irving Berlin (MISS LIBERTY, playing Frederic Bartholdi's model for the Lady with the Lamp)

Al...I know what kishka is, and referring to a previous post, I learned it from a show that was cancelled too soon. STATE OF GRACE. It ran on the Family Channel after Pat Robertson sold it to Rupert Murdoch, but before Murdoch sold it to Michael Eisner. It was an unappreciated gem, about two very different young girls growing up in mid 1960's North Carolina--Grace, a budding Southern belle, and Hannah, a sensitive Chicago native relocated to the Tarheel State.
It was touching, tender, wryly humorous, and had great narration by the grown-up Hannah...Oscar winner Frances McDormand. Still, they did give it two seasons, so that is something to appreciate.

Paul Duca said...

Ken...where did you EVER come up with a character name like "Robert W. Cleaver"?

Seriously, what Oliver said to his father was touching. I hope that if Matt ever said something like that to you, you didn't undercut the moment with a joke.

Also, I didn't realize they got rid of Franklin's teenage daughter by the time that episode was made. It was recast when the show moved to CBS...but do you know who was unhappy with the original actress and why?

Larry said...

This is another show to add to the list of those canceled too soon.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Having watched more of the series recently, I actually think Allyn McLerie was the highlight of the show. Miss Reubner could have been (was apparently conceived by Patchett & Tarses as) just the stereotypical prudish spinster, but McLerie brought so much dignity to the character that she became not only the source of some of the best comedy, but her relationship with Randall became the emotional core of the show. The producers must have liked her, because they kept using her on other shows (e.g. Molly Dodd, WKRP, Brooklyn Bridge).

Paul: I think Ken has said that when the show switched networks the producers were asked to cast a better-looking actress, hence Penny Peyser (who was also better in the part). The stuff about Randall's family life, which was the weaker link in the show (Grant Tinker admitted after it was canceled that they should have just stayed at the courthouse and "not gone home with him so much") improved somewhat after the move to CBS, because they added Peyser and also Hans Conried as Randall's father, who was sort of an ancestor of Martin Crane in the way he put down his stuffed-shirt son.

Paul Duca said...

Ken,'re going to be in Boston Monday and Tuesday-are you planning to do anything, have some kind of meet-and-greet? I really would like to know.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Well, I finally got around to hunting down a feed of one of your M's broadcasts. In fact I'm listening to your play-by-play right now. (Third inning, 4-0, Yanks) You're doing admirably well -- damn impressive, actually, for someone who took a multi-decades hiatus from broadcasting to fool around with that writing thing.

Anyway, my only surprise is the sound of your voice. In my head you've always sounded like David Hyde Pierce. In reality, I think you sound more like a cross between Vin Scully and Bebe Neuwirth. Of course YMMV.

Mike Schryver said...

I loved THE TONY RANDALL SHOW. Very disappointed when it was canceled.
What a cast - Randall, Rachel Roberts, Allyn Ann McLerie, Barney Martin.
Hans Conried!
Zane Lasky was hilarious, and even Brad Savage played the kid as much more of an adult than the usual TV kid.
And as has been said, a great pedigree behind the camera.

Thinking back, I seem to fawn over every show that's mentioned here, but it's not my fault that Ken wrote for such great shows.

Mario said...

Jaime, I have to disagree about the second season "improvements." I love Hans Conreid but I thought the addition of his character forced Randall into a less shaded portrayal. Walter Franklin was a little bit subdued and occasionally downtrodden, but he wasn't a "stuffed shirt" until his father showed up and they needed some easy generational contrast. (Also weird because Randall was almost as old as Conreid, but there's the magic of TV.) If Judge Franklin was stuffy, then what was Miss Reubner? The characterizations and the relationships became less uniquely quirky in the second season as they struggled to define Judge Franklin in opposition to everyone, particularly his father. One low point was the once concerned candidate admitting he belonged to a restricted club.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Mario: Those are good points. The thing is, though, that Randall's character did come off as stuffy - maybe that's just Randall's persona, but it's also that he was a rich, entitled guy and everyone else was either an employee or a servant (plus the kids). Adding the father at least added someone who could insult him. What they probably really needed was Jack Klugman, but he had his own show by then.

I do agree that the writers seemed to be hitting the generation-gap themes too hard in the second season, though that was probably partly a recognition of one of its ratings problems: it didn't have much appeal to young people, which was why Fred Silverman canceled it. Also Gary David Goldberg and Hugh Wilson, who were running the show by then, were both pretty obsessed with that theme (they both went on to create shows that began with generation-gap premises).

Toward the end of the show, Patchett & Tarses wrote a couple of episodes which introduced a new setting: Randall teaching a night school of wacky young students (including Michael Keaton). Tarses said this was in response to the network's demands for more young characters, and he was (as you'd expect from Tarses) angry at himself for compromising.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Mario: Forgot to add, another example of what you're saying is that in the first season, Randall's character is fairly liberal about social issues while in the second season premiere, he completely freaks out when his daughter announces she's moving in with her boyfriend -- to the point that he shows up at their apartment with a marriage license and tries to pressure them into letting him marry them. That at least got some conflict into the show, but it's hard for a character to come back from acting like such an ass.

Mario said...

Yes, Jaime, he did always sound like that. What I so enjoyed about the first season is that the show allowed the character to be more than your first impression of Tony Randall. By the second, that was it. And the stuff with his daughter and her boyfriend is another great example.

I actually liked the law class episodes. It made him a reactor again, and let him interact with a variety of young people in a believable way. He could also be more legitimately judgmental of such misfits, while still ultimately caring about them, than he could with his straight As daughter and him-as-a-kid son.

By the way, I still enjoy many of the second season just went, for me, from a great show to a good show. And I also agree with you that the difference in executive producers could explain the changes as well as anything.

Craig Edwards said...

Eddie is the great Charles Cyphers - who went on to horror movie fame appearing in several John Carpenter movies - with his Sheriff Brackett in Halloween and Halloween II a highlight role. Also nice to see Barney Martin popping by!

By Ken Levine said...

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be in Boston or Cleveland long enough to even unpack. Two quick games then gone. So I can't arrangea meet-and-greet. But hopefully the next time through I will have a little more time. If so, would love to meet all you guys.



Anonymous said...

Looking forward to watching this! One thing: Was the title of this post supposed to be "Long Lost"?

jcs said...

Tom Patchett? Forget about THE BOB NEWHART SHOW and BUFFALO BILL. He co-created ALF which could've run a lot longer here in Germany than in the US. ALF was a huge hit in Germany during the late 80s.

ShyPoster said...

Interesting (to me at least): I thought the opening exchange was going to end like this:

WALTER: Ah, Miss Reubner, building a fort I see?
MISS REUBNER: I'm cleaning out your desk. It's a disgrace!
WALTER: A man's desk is his castle.
MISS REUBNER: I thought you said it was a fort.

But the Reubner's response actually was:

MISS REUBNER: This man's desk is his pigpen.

They're both pointed, sarcastic responses, but the one in the script moves the scene along. A reminder (to me, at least) to keep an eye on the story when you're writing jokes!

Johnny Walker said...

A radio DJ with "Cleaver" in his name? ;)

That was a great show! Thanks for sharing.

Rinaldo said...

I'm a big Allyn Ann McLerie fan. She's one of that 1940-sh wave of ballet people who moved into acting (others like James Mitchell, Joan McCracker, Bambi Linn), and she moved quickly from chorus work into leading roles (starring opposite Ray Bolger in Where's Charley?, also in the movie) and into nonmusical acting. During the 1980s she seemed to play mother to a whole generation of TV stars. She's always great, and she was great as Miss Reubner.

Becca said...

Paul Duca and assorted others: Thanks for all the info on The Tony Randall Show. I didn't see it when it first aired (no doubt it was past my bedtime), but I thought I remembered Ken writing here that it ran a single season circa '79, which is why my timing was off. Still, I think my point is valid: this was off the air in two seasons while "Alice" et al lasted more than a decade. Wha-a-a-at...?

My apologies to the Allyn Ann McLerie fans. My remark was partly tongue-in-cheek, though I did think the scene in which she was supposed to break up was a bit unconvincing. No matter...we all have our weaknesses and off-nights. If she's had that long and sustained of a career she must have known what she was doing.

I love the idea of listing shows we think ran too long. I'll come up with some others to add to the ones I've already mentioned and post them Monday. Maybe we'll set off another comment avalanche!

Paul Duca said...'re referring to Joan McCraken, talented but ill-fated. You may know she was married to Bob Fosse. Before that she was married to a man named Jack Dunphy. He subsequently became the decades-long companion of Truman Capote.

cadavra said...

Ken, what a bizarre coincidence! I recently picked up a faded 16mm print of this very episode, and was going to ask you if you wanted to borrow it to transfer. Obviously not necessary now.

I adored the show. My assistant did, too, so naturally I started calling her Miss Reubner--she had some of the same attributes--but she called me Mario Lanza! (And her husband, who was a high school music director, actually arranged the theme song for the marching band! I can only imagine what those people sitting in the stands wondered what they were listening to.)

Dave said...

To this day, whenever I hear the name Mario Lanza, I say (out loud, mind you) "Mario Lanza, your honor."

buckyswider said...

I know this is a zombie thread, but I just wanted to say that whenever someone mentions Fotomat these days, I run through the gag done in this episode. I loved the show!

buckyswider said...

I know this is a zombie thread, but I just wanted to say that whenever someone mentions Fotomat these days, I run through the gag done in this episode. I loved the show!