Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Questions


YEKIMI leads off:

Do you think these rule changes will help the Golden Globes or is it always going to be a turdfest?

It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but no one is going to really take the Golden Globes seriously. Not when they continue to hire hosts like Ricky Gervais who trashes the event during the event. And not when they have silly categories. And less than a hundred people voting, most of them not even in the industry.

Stars show up because it’s a big drunken party, they get national exposure, SWAG, and it’s more publicity for the Oscars, which are the only awards that really do matter (as far as Hollywood is concerned – for the rest of the world none of it REALLY means shit except for winning office pools).

Dylan Walton asks:

After your effusive praise for Doris Roberts, I wondered that if, in a perfect world, you were given the opportunity to cast a sitcom with your own dream team, who would you choose? Who are the first half-dozen picks in your "sitcom draft"? (Still alive, or all-time living or dead. Your choice.)

Okay, I’ll do two – living and living in our memory. But it’s incredibly hard to narrow it down to just six. I could list twenty in each category and still accidentally leave off a deserving ten. But, for now, here are my lists:


David Hyde Pierce
Louis CK
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Shelley Long
Ted Danson
Dick Van Dyke


Lucille Ball
Robin Williams
Phil Silvers
Jackie Gleason
Art Carney
Audrey Meadows

What’s yours? (I get to ask Friday Questions too.)

From Tammy:

When the opening credits feature scenes from the show next to each actor's name, who picks which scenes to use? (Seems like a fun assignment.) And do the actors have any say in it? Thanks!

Actually, there are very few shows that are allowed opening titles anymore (which is a major pet peeve of mine). However, in those few cases, if actors’ credits are matched with scene grabs usually it’s the showrunner who decides.

Maybe the editor will narrow down some choices. In some cases I imagine the network or studio will get involved. In this day and age, I imagine opening titles (even if they’re only ten seconds) are focus tested.

Unless the actor is also an executive producer, then no, he has no say.

And finally, Cliff wants to know:

With baseball season starting, I'd really like to hear of your pre-game process to get ready to call the game. Some time ago, you mentioned that Dave N. arrived hours before a game to get ready. What is it you do? Read the sports pages or something? If you have other folks that you've worked with that have unique pre-game rituals, those would be interesting to hear about too.

Everyone has a little different routine. I do a lot of work before I get to the park. I spend an hour or so on the computer, reading newspaper stories from both clubs. Then I check out the stories from the team we’ll be playing next and making notes on them.

I also subscribe to a service that provides player profiles and background stories. I’ll go through those, especially that night’s starting pitcher and any new players who have joined the roster. I also need to know why the new players are there. Who was injured or traded or dropped to create the opening? And if it was an injury, what was the nature of the injury, how did the player get it, and when is he due back?

There is a lot of room on my scoresheet for notes, so I begin jotting down notes for that night’s game.

For a 7:00 game I get to the park around 3:00 and get myself set up in the booth. At 3:15 clubhouses are open to the media so I go down and talk with the players. Usually I’ll go to both clubhouses. For the visiting team, I like to talk to the manager or coaches. They usually provide the best info. It’s great when you can sit in the manager’s office and shoot the shit with him off the record. Each clubhouse generally has the starting line up posted. I take that down and if there’s anything unusual about it I seek out a coach or the manager to find out what’s what.

Around 4:15 the home team manager will usually meet in the dugout with the media to answer questions. The visiting manager does the same later in the afternoon. I always attend those.

Once batting practice begins I hang around the batting cage, or in the dugouts just talking to people – other announcers, reporters, players, team PR people, former players, agents, stadium ushers.

Sometimes I’ll knock on the umpires’ door if I have a question about a rule or a decision.

At around 5:15 I go back up to the booth. I fill in the starting line ups and appropriate stats. By this time the team notes are available along with a big stack of statistics. I scan the statistics. Who leads the team in doubles, triples, strike outs, errors, hitting into double plays, etc? I make notes.

Around 5:45 I’ll duck into the pressbox dining room for dinner. Usually there are advanced scouts there. I try to sit with them and get their impressions about certain players.

At 6:15 I’m back in the booth, highlighting notes and continuing to jot down little nuggets. I assemble my player profiles so they’re easily accessible.

At 6:30 it’s time for the pre-game show (if I’m just doing radio). And we’re off and running.

If it’s television, there’s usually a production meeting to go over the opening and any features the director plans on using. Then there’s the on-camera opening to tape. That usually takes about fifteen minutes and we’re told what time to report to the booth.  So I adjust my day accordingly. 

But wait! There’s more!

After the game I’ll try to either go down to the clubhouse to ask a few players or the manager a couple of questions about the game, or (on the road) will head to the hotel bar where there are usually a few players or coaches enjoying a nightcap.

I’ll also watch MLB highlights before going to sleep.

That’s my routine. There are some announcers who roll in at 6:00. There are others who are at the park at 1:00. Some socialize with the players, others never go down to the clubhouse – they get their info from the teams’ announcers. Some bring their scoresheets with them down to the field and fill them out in the dugout. There’s something to be said for that. Players see that you’re preparing too.

Now you may say I put in a lot of preparation, and that’s true, but as a baseball fan, I do a lot of that anyway. I read articles, listen to and watch games on line and on satellite, and check out all the highlights and stories on MLB.COM. At least when I’m calling games I get paid for it.

What’s your Friday Question?


B A said...

"Actually, there are very few shows that are allowed opening titles anymore". BONANZA showed the guest stars at the opening; if it was a villain he'd fidget uncomfortably like a DRAGNET sentencing-scene.THE LOVE BOAT announced it's stars at the beginning, smiling like the Vegas celebrities they are. Bobby Van! Red Skelton!

Craig Gustafson said...

Phil Silvers
Julie Newmar
Carolyn Jones
John Astin
Howard Morris
Raymond Burr (I think he'd be a wonderful straightman for the others.)

Kirk said...


Jason Alexander
Shelly Long
Bob Newhart
Marlo Thomas
John Astin
Cindy Williams


Don Adams
Alice Ghostly
Tony Randall
Bea Arthur
Steve Landesberg
LaWanda Page

Was going to add Charles Nelson Reilly (The Ghost and Mrs Muir) but he did his best work on games shows.

Michael said...

Ken, your preparation for a baseball broadcast brings to mind Vin, who arrives early but no longer goes to the clubhouse for a couple of reasons: the information that is already available, and the fact that because he's a god (he wouldn't say this), more people want to talk to HIM, which keeps him from getting anything done. But he learned from his mentor, Red Barber, to be prepared at all times, and it shows.

Anyway, there's a great story about Lindsey Nelson, who was doing a Mets game one night when the lights went out in the stadium and he immediately said that Jerry Koosman once worked for his local power company, so maybe he could help. Someone asked Lindsey if that was in the notes and he said, no, he had found out at breakfast in spring training with Koosman NINE YEARS BEFORE. As he said, he had no idea how it popped out of his head at that moment, but there it was.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I still say the Golden Globes are pointless. We have Oscars for movies, Emmys for television, Grammys for music, then we have the Golden Globes for . . . all of the above? Either we need to get rid of the Golden Globes altogether, or, get rid of everything else and just have Golden Globes.

John in Ohio said...

The baseball pre-game prep question might be the best Friday question ever. Nice job, Michael!

I was privileged to meet Ernie Harwell once, and it is a lifetime highlight. He was just as nice as could be. In my opinion as a sports announcer he is 2nd only to the incomparable Vin Scully.

Mark said...

How about this Friday Question:

If you were an omnipotent baseball commissioner what would you do? The word omnipotent is crucial to this question!

Tammy said...

Thanks for answering my question! I know clip credits are considered cheesy these days but I like them, they help set the tone of the show.

The sitcom team question is a fun one. From days past I'd pick John Ritter (I hate Three's Company but he was great in it), and Nigel Hawthorne from Yes, Minister - his deliveries and facial expressions were perfect. Living actors - the entire cast of Seinfeld (duh), Rowan Atkinson.

Anonymous said...

Les Charles said they originally wanted Robin Williams for the role of Bobby on Taxi, but he had to decline because he was tied up to the Mork and Mindy pilot.

Houston Mitchell said...

Hi Ken,

I always wondered why MASH kept the same opening screen shots despite all the cast changes. Sure, they would cut in a shot of Mike Farrell, but you could always see the arm of Wayne Rogers in the opening titles long after he was gone. Why do you think they never bothered to shoot something new?

Also, I write a Dodgers newsletter for the Los Angeles Times. I'd love to interview you for it at some point, and you can mention your site or whatever upcoming project you want during the interview. If interested, please contact me by email: Thanks! If you want to remove this last paragraph before you publish the comment, that's fine!

Glenn said...

I always wondered why MASH kept the same opening screen shots despite all the cast changes. Sure, they would cut in a shot of Mike Farrell, but you could always see the arm of Wayne Rogers in the opening titles long after he was gone. Why do you think they never bothered to shoot something new?

I used to wonder that about LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. (Oh, shut up. I was still at home and it was one of my mom's favorite shows.) It was on for years, but kept the first season's opening credits, long after "the kids" seen in them had grown into young adulthood.

Eric Lyden said...


Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Julia Louis Dreyfus
Ed O'Neil
Amy Poehler
Ted Danson


Al Lewis
Andy Griffith
Bea Arthur
Ted Knight
Lucille Ball
Phil Silvers

In both cases I have absolutely no idea what kind of shows these would be.

YEKIMI said...

Thanks for answering. Sort of a related question: Why so many damn award shows put on by other entities? Such as AFI Awards, Critics Choice, WGA Award, DGA Award, People's Choice (and what would they do if the People chose an XXX rated film....would they still show a snippet of it on-air?), Producer's Guild, SAG Awards, American Cinematographers Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, GLADD Awards, etc: [I'd include the Golden Raspberries but you know someone has to point out the really horrendous films that Hollywood wants to pretend never happened]. It seems like they're all saying "Well, screw you! If you can't pick the people WE want to win then we'll put on our own little show!" It's seems almost like the Little Rascals' He-Man Woman Haters Club that only guys can join; if you're not in OUR group, than your group's award shows suck! I mean, how much more specific can these award shows get? Is it going to come down to to Sanitation Workers Awards show for best scene of garbage collection? Postal Workers Awards show for best representation of a Mailman/Woman? Entomology Workers award shows for best use of insects in a film.....I'm guessing their theme song would be "The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati" and they'd probably have to exclude "Silence of the Lambs" since it would probably be voted Best Film every damn year.

z said...

It got me when I saw Shelly Long and David Hyde Pierce in your top 6 list. There was a Frasier episode where Diane visited Frasier in Seattle, and I was quite surprised at Niles's dismissive attitude towards Diane. I thought he would be fawning all over her. What would you think of this angle of stirring up Niles and Frasier, much like when they brought Frasier to Cheers?

benson said...

I'd never heard that Robin Williams on Taxi story. I just can't imagine him fitting in to an ensemble. I just don't think it would've worked centered around the Bobby
Wheeler character. Thankfully the Taxi producers kept Latka to a minimum.

Steve B. said...

Sorry Ken, but MTM simply HAS to be on the list. Fantastic, iconic performances on two of the greatest sitcoms of all time. A no-brainer.

Unknown said...

I worked with Audrey Meadows on one of my first shows. What a pleasure she was!

Couertney said...

A follow-up Friday Question, if you will: an opening title sequence (often with a really good theme song) used to be essential to enjoying a TV show. Care to weigh in on your favorite-ever?

I'd have to go, weirdly enough, with Friends, partly because of that earworm of a theme song, but mainly because the creative team would re-edit the opening montage every year, cutting in the stagey clips from Season One with new ones reflecting the evolution of the characters from year to year (and often cutting the images brilliantly to the tempo of the song; e.g., Joey smashing into the sneeze shield in Phoebe's granny's taxicab right with the cymbal crash going into the chorus).

Earl Boebert said...

YEKIMI 's post is brilliant. May I propose an exercise:

Pick a lobbying group from:

and then suggest what film or TV show they should award a statuette to, and the name of of the statuette.

Ken should judge. Prize is a public "attaperson"

I claim dibs on the American Gas Association and their "Gassie" award.

Cliff said...


Thanks for the great answer on my Baseball Broadcast question. All of your preparations make a lot of sense. I have high appreciation for announcers who have the great skill to keep the mental picture of the game clear (radio), and without seeming to miss a beat insert those bits of information at just the right time to enhance the game, not distract from it.
Enjoy some games this season!
Cliff Corcoran

VP81955 said...

Ernie, Vin and Harry Kalas comprise my baseball broadcasting holy trinity.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

"Preparation, concentration, moderation." Wise words from the great Ron Jacobs. You live 'em.

sophomorecritic said...

The Aaron Paul-Kat Dennings series you teased us with earlier this week is listed as a 2003 TV movie even though you listed it as a failed pilot from "a couple years ago." Did it ever air? It sounds cool enough that I'm sure some of us would be interested in watching it?

sophomorecritic said...

I understand the need for a long list of thank yous in awards show acceptance speeches but sometimes they make the show go long and they're not particularly interesting to people at home. Is there a lot of politics behind this? Have you ever been thanked in an awards speech and did it make that much of a difference in your day? Did anyone ever omit you and you were majorly pissed at them?

sophomorecritic said...

I sometimes notice A-list actors appear on TV shows. Jack Black was on Community, Megan Fox was recently on New Girl, and Ed Norton was on Modern Family and pretty much everyone in show business has been on 30 Rock. Are there any correlating factors between a TV show and the caliber of guest stars they can afford?

Could a show like say "Fresh off the Boat" also get Ed Norton, Megan Fox, or Jack Black if they were willing to pay more money?

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Lots of great names, I'm to imagine a situation and the scripts that would fit all those actors together. I would like to see parts for Danny DeVito, Rhea Perleman and Jean Stapleton, with Bebe Neuwirth and Carl "Shut up, Mel!" Reiner as recurring guests

Andy Rose said...

When I got to watch a few Atlanta Braves games from the pressbox, I always eavesdropped on the pre-game conversations of the announcers in the dining room. I learned a ton about the team and the game just listening to guys like Skip Caray and Joe Simpson shoot the breeze.

I've always been interested in the way some TV intros don't change over the years, even though some elements have become outdated. Every actor on Friends went through several hair styles over the years, but the intro always included elements from that shoot they did at the Warner Ranch fountain before production even started.

Likewise, most the The Office intro stayed the same for the first five or six seasons, even as some hairstyles noticeably changed. And I think the first few live-action seconds of the Cheers intro remained the same, even as the cars that passed by the Bull & Finch got more and more out-of-date.

That reminds me of a question: Any idea where the illustrations and photos for the Cheers intro came from? I know R/Greenberg designed it, but I don't know if the source material was specially made for the series or sourced from somewhere else. It seemed that, as new characters were added, the person accompanying each new credit was designed to look like the actor, while the original ones were less literal.

Question Mark said...

Re: SophomoreCritic

In many cases, a big name movie star does TV either just for a chance to do something different, or perhaps just as a lark.

For the examples you mentioned: Megan Fox rarely gets to do comedy, so she probably thought it was interesting to hang out on New Girl for 6-7 episodes....Norton is good friends with Ty Burrell and thought it would be fun to pop on for a Modern Family ep....I think Jack Black was friends with someone on the Community creative team....Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey have worked with virtually everyone via Saturday Night Live so they can call in a lot of favours.

Mike McCann said...

To the comedy casting suggestions, let me add two names (the Yiskor Division)

Harry Morgan
Frank Nelson

They added something special to any scene in which they appeared.

Barry Traylor said...

LIVING IN OUR MEMORY------------------Jack Benny.

Bob B. said...

@Mike -- I'm not Ken but I am an avid baseball fan, so I'd do the following --
1. Stop interleague play
2. Have each league expand by one game, make four divisions per league, and eliminate the god awful wild card system.
3. We always hear that games in September are more important that April so let's do something about it. Make wins in April through July worth one point, August two points, and September four points. Team with the highest points per division goes to playoffs.

Breadbaker said...

Thanks for the insight into your baseball prep. When covering a team that has a lot of roster moves (as the Mariners often did during your times with the club) it must be hard to keep up.

Jake said...


Sam Anderson
Wendi Mclendon-Covey
Edie McClurg
Toks Olagundoye
Eden Sher
Stephen Tobolowsky


Nicholas Colasanto
Selma Diamond
Norman Fell
Audra Lindley
Harvey Korman
Suzanne Pleshette

TV Person said...

I'm a Producer on a sitcom that actually does have opening credits and the room all suggested memorable scenes for each character from the previous season to be used. The Showrunner ultimately worked with the editor to make the final choices.

Frederic Alden said...

Still with us

Judd Hirsch
Bob Newhart
Danny Devito
Betty White
Albert Brooks
Bebe Neuwirth

With us in memory

Paul Ford
Steve Landesberg
Judy Holliday
Jack Gilford
Bob Denver
Paul Lynde

Andy Rose said...

Just realized I got the creators of the Cheers title sequence wrong. It was done by Castle/Bryant/Johnsen, not R/Greenberg. I'll blame the abundance of slashes for my confusion. Anyway, I've since seen some articles that indicate the original sequence consisted entirely of real historical photographs, but I suspect some of the later additions were posed. I find it difficult to believe they stumbled upon an old photo of someone who just happened to have the same appearance and posture as Lillith.

Barry said...

Still living

Dick Van Dyke
Carol Burnett
Helen Hunt
Alan Alda
Joanna Gleason
Matthew Perry

With us in Memory

Don Knotts
Morey Amsterdam
Phil Hartman
Jean Stapleton
Vivian Vance
Barbara Feldon

Allan V said...

I've recently seen a few articles arguing that MLB needs to take away the job of calling balls and strikes from umpires, and have an automated system (like PITCHf/x) do it. The claim is that there's still other work for the umpires to do during games, and the system could call the pitches more accurately.

What is your thought on this? Without an umpire calling the pitches, it wouldn't seem like baseball to me, and I think bad calls generally even out over time.

Jahn Ghalt said...

To include Louis CK surprises me - probably because I haven't followed sitcoms for many years. I think of him as more a writer and stand-up commedian than an actor (in his eponymous series he's like Cary Grant or John Wayne in that he "plays himself").

It also looks like the lists include brilliant comic actors who were regulars on only one long-running sitcom (Pierce, Williams - for instance).

Finally, these are "best of" lists - not an ensemble. It would be disconcerting, to say the least, to see all those stars on the same set.

For "My" list I cheated, on the theory that recoginition usually works better than access. The classic 1994 New Yorker cartoon pertains - one dog saying to another: "on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog". It looks like anyone can make a list with no chops at all - like Ken. I finally resorted to wikipedia:

Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Then realizing that Ken cited actors known for supporting roles, I found the analogues to the Lead Actor categories.

Of, course I found that to cut the lists to only six approaches impossibility.

Enough hedging - into the breech!

LIVING (with no "duplications")

Sally Struthers
Betty White
Alan Alda
Kelsey Grammer
Bob Newhart
Henry Winkler


Gracie Allen
Irene Ryan
Don Adams
Redd Foxx
Carroll O'Connor
Tony Randall

It blew my mind how much I had to shuffle the lists - because Foxx, Adams, Randall, and O'Connor no longer wake up in bed (what's UP WITH THAT!?!)

And now I'll look above to see which marvelous actors I missed.

Jahn Ghalt said...

For some very strange reason I could have sworn Mary Tyler Moore was in Ken's living-list, so she bumps Sally from my list.

Mary Tyler Moore
Betty White
Alan Alda
Kelsey Grammer
Bob Newhart
Henry Winkler

I didn't know that Carol Burnett had worked in sitcoms - turns out she was in "Gomer Pyle" and "Lucy" before her own show.

Jahn Ghalt said...

@Mark regarding "omnipotent" MLB commish

Nice to see some baseball fans in these parts.

I'm not Ken either, but, I'd arrange immortality, persistent good health, and fabulous wealth for friends and favored relatives (and me). Throw invulnerability in there (like Superman but no Kryptonite). Then resign and do heavy-hitter charity work.

(the fun part would be to not tell them, and let them find the wealth more or less secretly and by accident)

In the sprit of the question:

1) Restore Pete Rose's Hall of Fame eligibility.
2) Twist arms to get Pete elected
3) "omnipotently" stuff the HoF ballot box - change the votes to Rose and watch the moralistic writers bluster.

(you see the definition of "omnipotent" is critical - does it include magic? If so strike three above)

4) Lobby hard to get Ken to guest announce at a few upcoming Mariners at Angels games, maybe hang out once or twice for the 'prep', get a good seat with some avid baseball fans, and tune in during the games.

(I can't imagine the regular announcers would object and three's not a crowd in the press box - if Johnson, Darling, and Ironman can do it, so can Sims, Levine, and Blowers)

(sounds like a legal firm)

(and while on that topic, do radio stations ever do invite returning guest announcers?)

5) Lobby hard to find some "outside" money and twist owner's arms to subsidize "special nights" - with good cheap seats, no-fee parking, and half-price concessions (like we have now in the Alaska League - summer baseball for collegians). One per month (6 times per season) at all ballparks would not be too often for that. I suppose a lottery with up-front parking passes would be required to manage the flood of demand for those specials.

6) Reform the MLB drug-policy. Remove pleasure drugs (none of which, except possibly, amphetamines enhance performance) from consideration for suspension.

More "magic" - change HoF ballots to induct McGwire and Bonds - and watch not only the voting writers but all the other sports-writer splutter in print.

(and I understand McGwire took stuff that was not against the rules - his big sin was to show up when McCain and other over-reaching Senators held illegitimate hearings over a portion of the entertainment business - and then refuse to answer questions)

(plus, MLB does not need an anti-trust exemption - NFL/AFL, NBA/ABA was fine - why be afraid of competition?)