Sunday, July 21, 2013

Some random thoughts for the weekend...

A belated happy birthday to Natalie Wood, who would have been 75 yesterday if Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken weren't doing... God knows what. 

It didn’t take Dodger phenom Yasiel Puig long to go Hollywood. Up with the team for a month, he was spotted during the All-Star break at the Playboy Mansion hanging with Chris Brown. I guess the two were comparing hitting styles.

No, I’m not attending  Comic-Con nor do I plan to review the craziness. It’s just too easy.

Registration for this year’s SITCOM ROOM weekend seminar will open before the end of this month. But if you get on the alert list. I will let you know 24 hours before I announce it publicly. As before, only twenty slots are available and I only conduct this seminar once a year. Here’s where you go for info and to sign up for the alert list.

Piper Perabo, who stars in COVERT AFFAIRS was robbed of an Emmy nomination. I’d like to see Maggie Smith run in heels.

More people watched the home run derby the day before the All-Star game than any actual game of the NBA Finals. Chicks still dig the long ball.

The hardest job in America must be the person having to write the Closed-Captions for THE NEWSROOM.  But despite its flaws, I'm still on board.

Sorry to hear of the passing of longtime White House correspondent, Helen Thomas.  She helped arrange press credentials for my partner and I to join the corps in 1980 when we were doing an ABC pilot about the White House Press Corps.   She was lovely and classy and what a trailblazer for women. 

When series get nominated for Best Show but not Best Writing there’s a good chance they’ll lose.

The problem with reading an ebook is when you want to go back and look up something from several chapters ago. I can’t imagine reading a Russian novel on my Kindle. Every nine pages I’d be saying, “Who is Slovorkivavinovich again?”

How come the guest stars in MAD MEN get nominations but not the more deserving regular cast members?

I'm off the RAY DONOVAN train.  How about getting a Fixer to fix this show?   Someone who knows how to tell a story? 

BACKDOOR TEEN MOM, Farrah Abraham, on the "Matty P's Radio Happy Hour" show, was asked her thoughts on Trayvon Martin. This is actually what this moron answered: "I feel like I've met her or something. It sounds so familiar ... I don't know what she is so I can't picture the person with the name right now."   Helen Thomas is gone but this person is still with us.

Watch for a great new sitcom debuting in the Fall on Nick at Nite called INSTANT MOM. Just added to the writing staff are two very talented young scribes named Annie Levine & Jonathan Emerson. I couldn't be more proud. And thanks to our son Matt for surprising his sister and flying down for the taping of their second produced script last Thursday. 

Talk about the torch being passed, that episode that Annie co-wrote was filmed on Stage 20 at Paramount and I've directed episodes on that same stage. 

There will be a crossover episode next year of THE SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY. Please let THE SIMPSONS writers write it.

Some readers have commented lately about PBS pledge breaks – why are they so long and how come they show the same damn doowop and British rock star reunions over and over? I agree the breaks are waaaay too long. We get it. But that’s not as horrifying as seeing these old chart toppers now. Gaaa! These former fresh-face kids now all look like Peter O’Toole. Gerry and the Pacemakers are wearing pacemakers.

But the shows PBS air are the ones their research says brings in the most viewers and contributions. Hey, I watch the black-and-white Roy Orbison every year. The key is to Tivo it.

I’ll be teaching a course at USC this fall on “the Foundations of Comedy.” Screening a lot of old movies and TV shows. Buster Keaton was a genius. If you don’t know who he is go to YouTube or ace your SAT’s, enroll in USC and take my course.


Daniel S. said...

Foundations of Comedy sounds like fun!

Maggie said...

That should read any actual game of the NBA Finals that aired on ESPN. The final 7 games for the title aired on ABC and each rated higher than the HR Derby.

Steve Crooks said...

The reason I love reading books in an ereader is exactly the reason you gave for not liking it. When you wonder who Slovorkivavinovich is, you simply search for that name. Usually the search snippets are enough of a reminder. I do this all the time due to my poor name memory. Can't do this on a paper book!

Jeannie said...

Totally agree with your comment that Buster Keaton was a genius. Chaplin and Lloyd are 2nd and 3rd on the list -- their work doesn't age nearly as well as Keaton's. Hope your class also includes two other geniuses: Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder.

Wayne said...

On Kindle, how can you tell real page number? Hit Menu and look at progress bar. Shows % of book, page number, and location. Page number not enabled for all books.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Sadly, the crossover is being written by Family Guy staffers. However, The Simpsons writers did get a chance to read and review the script. Apparently, they approved it.

It's worth pointing out that there's at least one former Simpsons writer on the current FG staff.

What's far more promising is the upcoming Simpsons/Futurama crossover.

DwWashburn said...

I'm a big baseball fan (go Cardinals) but I've never really gotten into the glorified batting practice that is HR derby. And I lost interest in the All Star game after Pete Rose retired.

I discovered silent movies when I was in college. I prefer comedies and Keaton is my number one. Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chase are also very entertaining. I've never really gotten into Chaplin or Arbuckle.

I attended about a half dozen Comic Cons and enjoyed every one. However my last one was 2005. Too crowded, too much non-comic items and the Padres were never in town.

cadavra said...

Ken: If you're gonna run any silent comedies, be sure to show a Max Davidson, perhaps PASS THE GRAVY. Not only side-splitting, but ethnic comedy done right.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Jeannie: when I attended the SITCOM ROOM in 2011, I was introduced to Preston Sturges' son, who was writing a book on creativity.


-bee said...

My theory about PBS pledge breaks is that they really are not raising that much money anymore from viewers - but the primary source of income is that the infomercials that are being aired in those slots are paying PBS stations a good chunk of change for the air time - I mean, they're all marketing some product or another.

-bee said...

I'm one of the few people who revere Chaplin and Keaton equally - will we ever see their like again?

But I'm posting to advocate for a too-little known Harold Lloyd film called "Hot Water". It's maybe the most 'modern' silent comedy I know of. Harold Lloyd lives in the suburbs and has problems with his inlaws - very close to a present-day sitcom and not in a bad way. There is a sequence of him bringing home a live turkey intended for supper that is amazing. He was a genius at working with animals.

Unfortunately I don't see the whole film posted on youtube - but am pretty sure its available on DVD or whatnot.

Victor Velasco said...

If they keep pitching Puig up and away, he'll end up with Hurricane Hazle as a great baseball footnote

Mac said...

"The Foundations Of Comedy?" When I was a student we got a black and white French film with two depressed people smoking and staring out the window for two hours. Then we had to write an essay on the bloody thing. Oh to be a student in these more enlightened times when you can take a class in comedy.

Breadbaker said...

I'd love to hear more about the Helen Thomas story. She had so many dimensions to her life story, but yours is a unique one.

Paul Duca said...

Here's hoping INSTANT MON doesn't lead to the sequel INSTANT GRANDPA.

Jim said...

You want some more modern silent comedy? Try getting to know the works of Russian director Leonid Gaidai, especially his golden mid-sixties trilogy of "Operation 'Y' & Other Shurik's Adventures," "Kidnapping, Caucasian Style," and "The Diamond Arm" (the titles translate pretty badly) which are a million miles away from any stereotypes you might have about Russian films being three hours of meaningful staring out of train windows. Gaidai was a great fan of Keaton and Chaplin, and he comes up with some gags that both would have approved of ( This extended gag which forms the major part of the second segment of Operation Y is pure genius - although beware that the first segment finishes with one of those jaw droppingly wtf blackface gags that were only just being phased out of Tom and Jerry cartoons around that time). All three films are legally available on You Tube, put up by the official distributor Mosfilm, and have English subtitles available if you switch on captions. Not that it matters for the long silent parts.

D. McEwan said...

Wish I could take your course. sounds fun. Keaton was a god. I was priviledged to meet him once, when I was 14 and he was mere months from death.

Vanessa Moore said...

Hi Ken,

I didn't know you still teach.

Would you consider teaching a TV writing course at Woodbury University up in Burbank?

The program is fairly new and lacks the prestige that USC has but we would be so graciously honored for you to share your expertise and experience with young, aspiring TV writers.

Vanessa Moore

Ken Levine said...


Thanks so much for the offer but I think my schedule is just too tight. Happy to guest lecture some time. Thanks.


VP81955 said...

How about Ernst Lubitsch -- "The Smiling Lieutenant" and "The Shop Around The Corner" are gems. There also were some talented female comedic performers in the silent era...think of Clara Bow, Marion Davies and Colleen Moore (far better known for a page-boy 'do than Louise Brooks ever was). And don't forget the lady in my avatar or her first husband ("My Man Godfrey"), not to mention his many films with Myrna Loy.

Pat Reeder said...

There is a terrific box set of Harold Lloyd DVDs available. "Hot Water" is included, of course, but it's surprising to a lot of people just how modern-seeming many of his films are. If they can get past the B&W picture and lack of dialogue, viewers forget they're as old as they are. Besides, I would argue that Adam Sandler has proven dialogue is not necessarily an asset to comedy.

Speaking of Keaton, here's some exciting news: someone recently discovered an alternate European version of "The Blacksmith" with some completely different, unknown footage. Story and a video clip here:

VP81955 said...

My favorite Lloyd film is "Girl Shy" (1924), which is capped with a terrific multimodal chase scene (from horse to streetcar) through various parts of Los Angeles. Brilliant stuff.

yatesy said...

Hey Ken,

I have heard that Helen Thomas was a raging anti-semite, and at one point had said that the Jews should leave Israel and go back to Germany. That's pretty crazy. What are your thoughts on that?

Also, silent films are the best, Harold Lloyd is amazing.

Nelly Wilson said...

That porn star would appear to be a shallow repulsive moron devoid of self-respect, but not knowing who Trayvon Martin is does not indicate anything other than a lack of interest in following everything the media report.

slummingitforthelord said...

yatesy, here is an analaysis of the Helen Thomas situation, written at the time, by a (no doubt the rabid zionists would say) "self hating" jew.

Helen Thomas' comments were valid, and to anyone who is not a rabid zionist, should make sense. Of course, anyone who makes comments critical of Israel, not matter how factual & or accurate & or logical, they may be, is an automatic anti semite. Even if person was of Lebanese background, and therefore semitic herself, such as Helen Thomas. I am not sure why Anti-semitic has become so much more common than anti jewish (in these situations) when the latter is more precise, and in many cases, such as any dealing with people from the Arab world, much less absurd as well.

John Josephson said...

Helen Thomas has been called many things by many people, but I doubt she has very often, if ever, been called classy very often.

She did say that the Jews should go back to Germany.

And . . . sorry, Ken Levine is a giant talent, and phenomenally successful writer who writes an often-excellent blog for free. I do wish, though, he would learn that prepositions take the objective case. If only for the children.

Chris said...

“I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter. Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?’ ” Helen Thomas in a NY Times interview.

Ah, Helen, you weren't that good an actress. It was pretty clear what you thought. Thanks for so many years of "objectivity."

Anonymous said...

Hi. Sorry you don't love Ray Donovan. We won't miss you.

Dixon Steele said...

RAY DONOVAN is, for my money, the best new series on TV.

slummingitforthelord said...

John, she said the jews should go back to Germany 65 years after the end of WWII. She said nothing about going back in time. Way to wildly misinterpret something.

gottacook said...

slummingit: What was misinterpreted? An excerpt of an account of the June 2010 incident from Politico:

"Asked what Jews in Israel should do, Thomas says 'go home.' Asked where that home is, she replies: 'Poland. Germany. And America and everywhere else.' "

Because she has to be referring to European Jews, some her own age, who largely arrived in Palestine in the 1930s and '40s - and not their Israeli-born grandchildren and great-grandchildren - her remarks are tantamount to saying "they should go back to the death camps." (Where, incidentally, my late father-in-law lost his whole family - he left for New York in 1938 at age 21, but it soon became impossible for his parents and brother to follow. He was in the U.S. Army during the war in Europe and tried to locate them then and afterward, through the early 1950s.)

Whether she simply said something stupid, or truly believed it and had been careful until then not to say so, I neither know nor care.

MikeN said...

After calling for a boycott of Mel Gibson, I'm surprised to see this praise of Helen Thomas.
"I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter," said Thomas, who is now a columnist for Hearst News Service. "Now I wake up and ask myself, 'Who do I hate today?

And suddenly she is saying the Jews should get out of Palestine and go to Poland and Germany.

"Congress, the White House, Hollywood, and Wall Street are owned by the Zionists."

She quotes Martin Luther King in the same speech, but perhaps she didn't know this statement of Dr King:
Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — make no mistake about it.

Mike said...

Wasn't Ray Donovan the name of the prison guard in Alcatraz?

Anonymous said...

“Thank God for Hezbollah,” Thomas told a CNN cameraman in 2002, according to the Washington Post.

She kept William Safire out of the GridIron club for many years, so it sounds like Mr Levine was lucky. Or perhaps we should wonder if Ken was required to pass certain loyalty oaths before being let in, a la CNN covering up for Saddam as the price of staying in Baghdad?

Storm said...

Last week, I got to see my favourite Harold Lloyd film again for the first time since I was a kid; "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock". I first saw it on late night TV as an insomniac child, coming into it about 15 minutes in, just as he meets Wormy and goes into the bar to have his first drink; it descends into utter Sturgesian madness as soon as booze is involved. I was laughing so hard/loudly, I woke my mother up; when she found out what I was watching, she laughed and said "Get to bed when it's over, and try laughing into a pillow so I can sleep?" Holy cats, that movie is crazy funny, but I know a lot of people hate it. I was afraid that I wouldn't like it now as a pseudo-grown-up, but I watched it 3 times before I erased it for DVR space, minus the first 15 minutes for the second and third viewings (WHAT were they thinking, starting it with silent footage from 1923's "The Freshman" mingled with 1940's SOUND footage of crowds reacting? It made my logic centers hurt. NORMAN, COORDINATE!) and straight to the boozing and braying.

Too bad the beautiful Frances Ramsden was never in anything else, with her sweet voice, lovely smile, and Bettie Page hair.

Go ahead and make fun of Comic Con all you like; it really is a tremendous joke now. Just take it easy on us costumers, 'kay? It's our passion/hobby, and in some cases, our career.

Cheers, thanks a lot,