Friday, September 09, 2016

Friday Questions

Make a hole. Friday Questions coming through.

Andrew is up first with a question sparked but something I said recently in a post.

" (Robert) DeNiro was in for five minutes but he bailed (probably to take DIRTY GRANDPA or some other truly terrible role)."

Friday question: Why do great actors do this? Why does DeNiro keep appearing in one movie after another that's far beneath him? It's like he's trying to sabotage his reputation. He could star in any movie he wants to. Why choose such dreck at the end of his career? Why not rather retire on a high note?

Several reasons. Actors sometimes want to be in big commercial movies, or get a big payday.

There are some actors who are a bad judge of material.

And there are actors who get bad advice from agents and managers and girlfriends.

Robert DeNiro is one of our greatest living screen actors. But comedy is not his strong suit. And unless he’s got a really good script and really fine director who can keep him in check he is awful at comedy. See him in the Rocky & Bullwinkle movie. He is staggeringly bad. And worse, he thinks he’s killing.

On the other hand, Robert Redford always seems to have good judgment when it comes to material. His movies may not all be great, but most are reasonably intelligent and worth watching. I can’t think of an instance where I saw Redford really terrible. He has a great sense of what works for his persona and range.

The Rocky and Bullwinkle movie was so bad I’m surprised even the cartoon characters agreed to be in it.

From ally:

If you could do a two-hour radio show as a special guest (say, on any Sirius channel), what would the format be? Would you play music, or have the equivalent of a podcast? If you played music, what would you choose and what would be your bumps in/out? If you had more of a podcast, what would you talk about?

I would mostly do a comedy show. I would ideally have a guest or two I could interview, maybe a few prepared sketches, and I would definitely play music (primarily from the ‘60s) and I would talk right up to the vocals.

It would essentially be a fun “morning show” with a lot of goofiness.

Siriux/XM, if you’re reading this – a two-hour show a week sounds super cool. Feel free to ask me to do one.

NickL wonders:

With all this talk about Garry Marshall being such a nice person in addition to being a talent and a visionary, it got me thinking...

Who would you rather work with (or for): a person who has the reputation for being an unbelievably nice person but whose talent is questionable, or someone who is openly an asshole/bitch but is enormously talented?

In a perfect world, you'd want to work with another Garry Marshall, with him being nice and talented. But I guess he was one in a billion. And that's kind of sad.

Thank you!

Early in your career it might (I say “might”) be worth it to work for a tyrant who can really teach you and turn you into a better writer. And if he's running a hot show that looks good for your resume. 

But there reaches a point where “life is too short.” (For me that’s like an hour.) I’d rather work for the mensch. What good are Emmys and lots of money if you’re in ICU?

And finally, from Andy Rose:

As a showrunner, how important is it to you to allow your staffers to have a home life? Modern Family has a reputation for having one of the most predictable production schedules in LA. Writers aren't expected to put in all-nighters at the office. There are no shoots going to 3am because of demanding directors or last-minute rewrites that keep everybody waiting on set for pages. Megan Ganz wrote two episodes of Community that mercilessly made fun of the sitcom-umentary style, but ironically she left that show to join Modern Family. She admitted her move was mostly because she wanted to live a normal life and not spend 18 hours a day on the lot.

This depends on two primary factors. The biggest is the showrunner. If he likes to work at night, if he’s very slow at making decisions, or changes his mind a lot, if he’s very unorganized so everything is done last minute, or he’s recently divorced and lonely you can expect to work all hours and weekends.

If the showrunner has a life, if he has a family he wants to see then you stand a much better shot at leading a normal life.

The other factor is the show itself. Are there creative issues? Is the network throwing out stories and scripts and forcing you to go back to the drawing board every week? Is there a star who hates everything and has the power to make the writers rewrite endlessly night after night? Is the staff burning out so things are taking longer? Usually shows like this don’t last long and you’re put out of your misery.  But shows with slow showrunners or insane showrunners can make your life a living  hell for many seasons to come.

If you’re interviewing for a job, check to see if there are family photos on the showrunner’s desk. If there are just the kids you’re in trouble.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

interesting, All these questions had a common thread:
Options and Decisions.

I have a Friday Question: After regarding Gelbart's book, he made clear M*A*S*H was not an anti-war show but an anti-pro-war show.
But sometime in the show's 13 years, 'someone' had to say, "Hey, we've never actually done a storyline that highlighted how the war was keeping South Koreans free; without military intervention they'd all be living under the crazies of DPRK."

Assuming this was true, would it have been pushed aside?

Andrew said...

Holy s--t! Another Friday question asked and answered!
Ken, do you have an award for "best Friday questions participant"? Could you send me an autographed Cheers script or something?
I can live another month feeling satisfied and fulfilled. The darkness is kept at bay for awhile, and I can stop taking my medication again.

Daniel said...

I've heard several actors (and a few writers) say that they took a job because they wanted to work on a movie or TV show that their kids will watch.

Jeff Weimer said...

There are some actors who are a bad judge of material.

And there are actors who get bad advice from agents and managers and girlfriends.

Kris Kristofferson. He could have done far better than some of the movies he was in.

OTOH, Ice-T won't turn down a role if he can do it, and some of them have been real stinkers. He does okay, and openly DGAF. Gotta pay the bills. I can respect that.

Dave Wilson said...

I don't like DJs who talk right up to the lyrics. Didn't like it during the 60s when I was a teenager. However, I do admire the jocks who can perfectly time their spiel to end at the exact moment the lyrics begin. Isn't that called "posting"? Not sure.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

One of the main reasons DeNiro got involved with the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie (as well as produced it) was because he was such a big fan of the original cartoon series. But what I find really surprising is that he and Julianne Moore are getting ready to headline a new anthology series for network TV - I still can't help but remember a time when big, A-list movie stars were considered "too big," "too expensive," and "too important," to even think about considering lowering themselves to TV - one of the reasons none of the actors from the movie (sans Gary Burghoff) were approached about reprising their respective roles for the TV adaptation of M*A*S*H.

Kosmo13 said...

Wells Bunyea, the first radio Program Director I worked for 40 years ago, discouraged his announcers from talking over the instrumental intro to a song. When he was training me, he said "sometimes the musicians work longer and harder on creating those few introductory seconds than they do on the rest of the record. It's a waste to talk over it if you don't have to."

Wells didn't come right out and forbid us from doing so, but he suggested we should avoid it unless absolutely necessary. Ever since, whenever I hear a DJ babbling unnecessarily over the instrumental intro, I wince and imagine poor Wells turning over in his grave.

J Lee said...

DeNiro's best comedy work has come where he's basically playing the same kind of menacing tough guy part he perfected in the 1970s and 80s, but doing in relatively straight, while the comedy is set up around him (i.e. -- "Meet the Parents" where the humor comes from the thoughts of what DeNiro might do to Ben Stiller, not from any comedy DeNiro himself is doing).

If you listen to some of the saved air checks from WABC and other Top 40 stations from the 1960s and early 70s that are available online, one of the problems you do notice is many of the DJs went from talking right up to the vocals to talking into them, or even breaking in to talk during the songs. I suppose if you've been playing a song every 1-2 hours for several weeks, the temptation to talk through the 500th repeat was higher than when the song was just breaking, but jocks who weren't at the high end of being verbally witty who started thinking they were as important as the music was one of the things (along with sound quality) that pushed people over to FM radio in the 70s).

GoodScout said...

" I can’t think of an instance where I saw Redford really terrible."

A Walk In The Woods.

That is all.

Stephen Robinson said...

I thought De Niro had great comic timing in his films with Scorsese. RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS, even TAXI DRIVER have moments when he's genuinely funny (the secret service scene in particular). But when he *tries* to be funny, he fails in my opinion. I've noticed the reverse with Woody Allen, who has this self-loathing contempt for comedy and then would produce these dull, turgid dramas devoid of humor (without realizing that some of the best dramas have funny moments because human beings aren't extreme versions of Bergman characters). Yet some of his actual comedies had more legitimate dramatic moments.

Jason said...

Attention Sirius/XM: I will subscribe to your service in order to listen to that show.

YEKIMI said...

@ Dave Wilson. It's called "Hitting the post" or "Hit The Post". Definition: An expression deejays use to describe talking up to the point when the lyrics begin without "stepping" on the beginning of the vocals. It also refers to talking up to an accentuation in the instrumental beginning of a song (the ramp) as in when a large beat kicks in or an instrument creates a predominant punctuation.

Myself....did it a few times but I assumed that the listener would like to hear the ENTIRE tune not just me blathering over the lead up to the vocals.

Ron Rettig said...

The description of your potential Sirius show sounds a lot like he format Bob Crane use on his radio show on KNX back in the day. His show was great and I expect yours would also be.

Mark Murphy said...


I thought of you this week when I saw a commercial for cat litter that featured a performer who looked familiar.

Then I realized who it was.

Katherine Heigl.

I'm surprised you haven't commented on this, or maybe you did and I missed it.

Then again, maybe the combination of kitty crap and Katherine Heigl seems so natural that you feel that any comment you might make would be redundant.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Dave Wilson, Yekimi and the gang,

Hitting the Post is an appreciated skill by all who love radio in the '60's and perhaps The Real Don Steele at 93/KHJ was the best at it. It was not so much what he said, but how he said it. But...

The reality of listeners' appreciation of radio in the era became painfully clear to me this week as the Burbank High School Class of 1966 reunion committee properly passed on my suggestion to have airchecks and jingles of Southern California '60's radio stations interspersed between songs of the decade during our upcoming reunion party next month. Their reason: "We just want the music," which aptly expresses the views of radio listeners for the past five decade.

Excuse me while I go outside to our horse pasture...and hit a post.


Dave Wilon said...

@ Yekimi & BBA

Thank you!

Jahn Ghalt said...

Not a Friday Question but a short baseball story.

We attended a 2006 A's Spring Training game at home in Phoenix. Frank Thomas was brand new to the team that year. H came up to bat and watched several pitches including a called strike three.

Next time up he watched two more called strikes. At this point the A's fans around me started to grumble. I said:

"He's waiting for a pitch to hit."

Next pitch, BOOM, solo shot over left center.

I love it when I'm right like that.

Thomas went on to have a helluva season for an "old guy" - finished 4th in MVP balloting.

Peter said...

Ken, if you haven't seen it yet, I recommend Bad Moms. It's very funny and also has heart, which you've said is the kind of comedy you like. 

For anyone who hasn't seen it, it's not to be confused with the Christian"comedy" Moms Night Out, which had the protagonists go on a wholesome evening's adventure of hilarious antics like getting their dinner reservation wrong, talking about god and learning the importance of staying at home. Aren't you laughing already?!

bruce said...

A little more than 50 years ago, my father was on a variety show whose head writer had family problems and didn't like being home. The staff worked well past dinner most days of the week, nominally so the star would "love" the material.

Andy Rose said...

At the dawn of Rock 'n' Roll radio, Alan Freed used to talk over records all the time, usually while beating on a phone book or keeping time on a cowbell. He's a legend, but his airchecks are real chores to listen to.

Here in Atlanta, the biggest R&B station still does live shows every Friday night from a local club where the DJ is constantly talking over the music.

Scott O. said...

Friday question:

Next time you go to lunch with Shelly Long, can I go too?

I'll buy.

Hank Gillette said...

Dick Biondi did a very nice job “hitting the post” on the album Cruisin’ 1960. He said that his boss had called him in and told him that and at that point the lyrics to You Talk Too Much started. Maybe that was a pretty obvious joke to do, but I was impressed when I first heard it 40 years or so ago.

John R. said...

Regarding DeNiro and comedy, I would say I'd agree about it not being his strong suit. However, I always thought he was riotously funny in Midnight Run. He and Charles Grodin had an undeniable chemistry onscreen. He is so funny in it because he is essentially the DeNiro you'd expect: kind of that "hard guy", very rough around the edges, who is constantly vexed by the actions of the equally funny Charles Grodin. Then you have Yaphet Kotto (also fantastic in MR), Joe Pantoliano, John Ashton (as the block-headed Marvin Dorfler), and Dennis Farina rounding out the cast of this underrated movie. But to get to the point again, I found Robert DeNiro VERY funny in Midnight Run, and it was a film that showcased his many talents as an actor. Not only did he make you laugh, you genuinely feel his pain that was inflicted on him in the past. I'm honestly surprised that no one brought this movie up before me. Surely my wife and I can't be the only two people on the planet who love Midnight Run!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I can't come down too hard on DeNiro, and the comparison to Redford in the reasoning is illustrative of the reasoning.'

DeNiro's choices in film roles really 'loosened' and he took on more and lesser-quality roles beginning in 2002. The reason is retroactively obvious - after 9/11 he and producing partner Jane Rosenthal began the Tribeca Film Festival and associated Tribeca Institute. They did so, via private financing, the majority of which DeNiro was personally putting in and liable for, in order to re-boost and support the film industry in NYC, which he (do I even need to say it?) loves so much. In 14 years, it's become a successful and popular NYC institution - and far more lucrative for NYC and its culture than for DeNiro/Rosenthal personally. He's done so in a third of the time it took Redford to do the exact same thing with the Sundance Film Festival and Institute.

Another stark difference is that it costs Redford a *fraction* of what it costs DeNiro to do the same thing because it is Park City, UT costs compared to NYC. Its not as if attached-producer "Jane Rosenthal" is the money-engine of the partnership - DeNiro needed to bring in more paychecks, and has the star-status and leverage to maximize his income. I can't begrudge him doing that: in many ways it's far more noble of him to care and invest more in Tribeca being his proud legacy, and less concerned about "tarnishing his renowned acting resume". (Even *without* all that - the guy's a working actor who wants to keep working and acting, and the *majority* of his projects are still pretty good. Oh my!!)

So if the cost I pay for Tribeca (and Bob) enduring is that films like "The Bagman" and "Killing Season" dare to *exist* (and don't require my viewing), that's a cost I can easily pay.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

John R. said...Surely my wife and I can't be the only two people on the planet who love Midnight Run!

John...this is one of my all time fav movies. Really entertaining. I can watch it throughout. One of the great last lines too, "I guess I'm walking"...