Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Questions

Charging into the weekend with Friday Questions.

David G. starts us off:

Following up on the "Bebe Neuwirth as a regular on Fraiser" question: Was it ever on the ... uh ... radar to have Larry Linville come in as a regular on "AfterMASH"? (Actually, that's a serious question. There was a switchover in the hospital administrator character between seasons, and it would've made an interesting character dynamic for Frank Burns to show up as Potter's boss!)

We absolutely approached Larry, but he wasn’t interested. The studio was big on bringing back anyone from MASH. I remember one of the execs lobbied hard for us to bring Hot Lips back. We made an offer to Loretta Swit who declined. And this exec said, well, does it have to be her? Why can’t we just get another actress to play Hot Lips? I said I’d put an offer out to Diana Ross.

suek2001 asks:

In the MASH episode "Wintchester Tapes"..there is a mention of a "Beanpole Levine"..Was that a shout out to you?

Yes, and no. I pronounce my name Lee-Vine, not La-Veen, but I was in the rewrite when we came up with that. And I was a beanpole… back then.

From Michael:

After the recent Taylor Swift-Apple dust-up, her actress friend Jaime King, who co-starred on HART OF DIXIE, also tried complaining that actors don't get paid anything when their shows are viewed on streaming services. Do writers get royalties from streaming services? Does it depend on how old the show is and the contracts in place at that time?

We supposedly get royalties based on some formula, but it’s all bullshit. We basically get nothing. Between the various series I’ve written for and directed, I must have at least 100 episodes streaming right now. Like I said, even with that sizable number, I make practically zip.

Douglas Trapasso wonders:

Since the launch of the Simpsons, and King of the Hill and (sigh . . . ) Seth McFarlane's shows, animation has become a more common presence in the past two decades on TV. But most of the successful shows have been of the family/sitcom genre. Can you picture a drama with deeper themes e.g. Mad Men, The Wire, succeeding as an animated show?

Well, anything is possible – certainly today. But I think it would be difficult. Lots of adults don’t respond to animation or they think it’s just for kids. The argument can also be made, if you’re going to realism in drama, why not use actual people?

The beauty of animation is that you have the ability to stretch reality. Why not take advantage of that?

Bill Jones is next.

That Harry Coyle video was awesome. But I have a follow-up question: What are the announcers watching in the booth (besides the live game, of course)? Do they have all the monitors, or a subset of the monitors, or just one monitor with the same thing the home viewer sees?

Also, how do the announcers know that an instant reply is about to be shown?

We just have one monitor that shows what is going out over the air. We also have headsets and the director can speak directly into our ear. They’ll tell us when they’re going to a replay or want to show us the bullpen or alert us to a promo coming up.

It takes a certain skill to be talking on television while the director is yammering into your ear. You need great concentration and focus to not be distracted and also to process the director’s instructions.

The best at it I’ve ever seen is Bob Costas. Hosting the Olympics is an Olympian task. He is constantly getting instructions from the director while recapping complicated events and scenarios and trying desperately to pronounce correctly names with twenty-eight consonants.  All live, coast-to-coast to a huge audience. 

What's your Friday Question?


Oat Willie said...

"I pronounce my name Lee-Vine, not La-Veen".
Right, and I'm Jerry Cougar Mellencamp..."

Anonymous said...

Ken Said:

"The beauty of animation is that you have the ability to stretch reality. Why not take advantage of that?"

I think both drama that engages the viewer deeply and animation can work together. I'd guess it's currently hard to get all the people/elements on the same page creatively. Great writing, great voice acting, directing etc, and I think it can work.
Here's a clip from one of my favorites. I wouldn't call the voiceover work seller, but the writer is top notch, and the animation (claymation) is pretty good, as well as the direction.

Best thing about animation is it can tackle big ideas on a relatively small budget. As Ken said, seems like it might be wasted on a closed world like "Mad Men."

– Stewey

Elf said...

I always thought that the most intruiging thing about King of the Hill was that, unlike The Simpsons or Family Guy, it did not have to be a cartoon. They never took advantage of being animated except that the characters don't age. I don't think they ever did anything, except perhaps a dream sequence, that wouldn't have been within the budget of an inexpensive cable sitcom. Of course they wouldn't have had that distinct look and feel, but they intentionally limited themselves to the real-world laws of physics so that the characters would feel like real people.

Come to think of it, Bob's Burgers is in the same category.

Chris G said...

Elf - King of the Hill did a lot of stuff that would have cost money - blowing up the Mega-Lo-Mart, the trip to Bill's ancestral manse in the Louisiana backwoods, driving an eighteen-wheeler backwards down a mountain, etc.

Ken - Right now MASH, Cheers, Frasier, and Wings are all streaming on Netflix. That's probably well over 100 episodes there alone.

Everyone - Cheers has returned to Amazon Prime streaming in an absolutely spectacular HD edition. It's like being right there in the bar.

Jay said...

Mike Judge's "Beavis and Butthead," like his "King of the Hill," similarly stuck, for the most part, to "real world" rules and laws of physics, very rarely doing anything "cartoon-y."

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Ugh, I'm getting really sick of this misconception of what people thing "family" shows are. THE SIMPSONS, KING OF THE HILL, and FAMILY GUY are not "family" shows.

A "family" show refers to a show that's acceptable and appropriate for family audiences, meaning anyone from young kids to older adults can watch the show without worrying about what kind of content the show will present: the above-mentioned shows are nothing like that.

Shows about families are "Domcoms," short for "domestic comedy," and they're not always suitable for family audiences.

michaleen said...

I don't think you're a soccer fan, so you're probably not familiar with the excellent studio host on NBCSN's Premier League coverage, Rebecca Lowe.

She was asked about differences between working here and in England, and said that it was standard over there to have two or three directors/producers speaking through the host's earpiece. She wasn't sure why it's different, but appreciated the transition to just hearing one voice. On the other hand, she said Americans who switch to the UK are driven crazy by the extra chatter.

Scott Whitmore said...

Joseph, I thought "50 Shades of Grey" was a DomCom ... Although the 'Com' part was unintentional on the filmmakers part.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Scott Bah-dum-bum-KSSHH!

Ficta said...

There are some great animated dramas, they're just in Japanese :)

_Kids on the Slope_, for instance, is a fantastic period piece romantic drama.

Tammy said...

Here's my Friday Question, Ken: We all know how hard script writing is, even for professionals, yet you often hear of a movie being "mostly improvised". As these movies usually turn out pretty decent, I have to wonder, are they exaggerating as to how much was improvised? I mean, I can see how it might work with comedians, but sometimes it's regular actors or even non-actors. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

"Lee-Vine sells cartoon balloons in town..." I guess it could work, but about as natural as turning "La-veen" into "Lee-Vine." At least Joe Theismann wanted his name to match the sound of a football award. Perhaps you were inspired by licorice?

This is only for snark. You can say your name however you please (you have my permission).

Jeff Maxwell said...

I Goofed, posted this on Thursday, not Friday. Or something.

Ken, a friend (really true) asked me to ask you the following:

When presenting an original half-hour comedy pilot to a producer, not a network, is it helpful or necessary to also include a show bible along with character descriptions? Or should the script stand on its own without needing the extra material for explanation?

Thank you.

Cap'n Bob said...

I was half right. I said La-Vine.

Ken, do you consider yourself a Jewish comedian? Not in the Alan King or Myron Cohen vein (or vine), but with that certain sensibility of Jewish humor that's hard to define. If this makes no sense feel free to ignore it.

Gary said...

Lee-Vine? Do you also pronounce it Froderick Fronkensteen?

MikeN said...

Haven't watched it recently, but The Simpsons used to be a family show, despite the attacks it got from conservatives.
King of the Hill too, even if maybe a bit more mature.
I've seen much worse on Nickelodeon and ABC Family.
There was one where a sixth grader just comes in and casually mentions she's pregnant.

Andy Rose said...

Talking about speaking into the talent's headset (called IFB, if you want to get fancy) reminds me of a story I once heard Mike Gottfried tell. He's the former college football coach who's been a color commentator for ESPN for many years.

When he did his first game, the "family of networks" was only ESPN and espn2, so as a newcomer he was assigned to a game on The Deuce. The producer knew Mike was inexperienced and a little nervous, so he talked in Mike's ear to get him pumped up. As the play-by-play man was finishing up his call of the first play, the conversation went something like this:

Producer (in IFB): "Alright Mike, now all you've got to do is tell everybody what you think of what you just saw."

Mike (out loud): "Okay, got it."

Producer: "No Mike, you can't talk directly back to me. Everything you say is going on the air."

Mike: "Aw geez, I'm sorry..."

Producer: "STOP TALKING TO ME!!!"

Igor said...

Kostas is impressive, if a bit precious. (Oh, and his 'commentaries' at the Olympics can be cringe-worthy.) But one thing that could help him with all of those challenges you mentioned would be for him to STFU.

I don't mean just him, though he does go on and on and on sometimes. I mean: Some moments on TV are best experienced without the announcer talking. I even have wished that, during the opening/closing ceremonies of the Olympics, the SAP channel would offer just ambient sound - everything but the announcers.

Like, at the end of the last game of the World Series (especially if the home team won), it's great when the network just shows the celebrations and the announcers take a break.

Good announcers are golden, absolutely. But as the old saying goes, sometimes silence is, too.

Igor said...

Well, seems I was in phonetic mode with Kostas/Costas. Mea kulpa.

Cap'n Bob said...

I heard a rookie color man continually saying, "What?" and "Huh?" when the director was talking to him through his headset.

ODJennings said...

If you want a dark animated show with adult themes, check Bojack Horseman on Netflix.

His character description, not exactly standard cartoon material:

An anthropomorphic horse who starred in the 1987–96 sitcom "Horsin' Around" where he played a character called "Horse." Frequently overwhelmed by frustration and self-loathing, he's grown bitter and spiteful since the show ended and often hints at hating what he has become in his later years. Though usually petty and lacking self-control, BoJack has frequently shown himself to be intelligent and level-headed in certain situations, when not overwhelmed by self-loathing or alcoholism.

Rashad Khan said...

Potential Friday Question: If one of the networks ever decided to reboot "M*A*S*H," who do you think might make for a good Hawkeye and Trapper John?

Diane D. said...

I agree totally with Igor that a little silence would be great at those celebratory moments in sports. Announcers aren't needed at those moments to explain, interpret, or comment on anything. Although I will say that when the much beloved Dan Jansen (American Speed Skater) finally won his first Gold Metal at the 1994 Olympics, one of the most touching things I have ever heard was the ecstatic yelling from the Norwegian announcer. Not a word could be understood by Americans since he was yelling in Norwegian, but they could sure understand that the several minutes of screaming was punctuated every couple of seconds with DAN JANSEN!!

Anonymous said...

Becky says: My dad & I were having a conversation the other day and were wondering: how do actors, writers, directors physically get paid for jobs? Do you get checks? Giant lottery-type checks? Bank drafts? Bags of nickels with giant dollar signs on them? And when do you get paid? If you're commissioned to write a movie do you get a check up front or live out of your car until the script is finished then buy a nicer car to live in? When actors are paid $1 Million Dollars per episode do they get all of the money up front or does a production assistant hand the actor $50,000.00 every time the say a usable line on camera? Us mere mortals are very curious about the way the big bucks are passed around in Hollywood. Thanks!

dandy_lio said...

As a follow-up to the AfterMASH discussion, I have one.

As a deaf person who was basically raised on MASH, I found Father Mulcahy's story arch in the finale particularly suitable. The listener becomes deaf. I had never even seen a Deaf person on television except for a Happy Days episode (which is still a pretty big deal to many in the Deaf community).

Anyway, as I say, I found that a particularly important ending for Fr Mulcahy. I was very disappointed that this was immediately thrown away in AfterMASH. Any idea why this happened?


DBenson said...

"Society for the Elevation of Pole Dancing": Good, but too modern. Howzabout:
"The Exotic Dancers' Benevolent Fund. The more funds, the more benevolence."
"Orthopedic Tassels for Aging Strippers"
"The Strippers' Retirement Villa. For fifty bucks they send a thank you note. For a hundred they keep quiet."
"Sweaters for the Overdeveloped"
"The Progressive Dance Conservatory and Bar"