Tuesday, January 10, 2017


There was a short-lived sitcom in 1990 called THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. It was way ahead of its time. It was created by Richard Rosenstock who went to win an Emmy for ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and has worked on (among others) FRIENDS, FAMILY GUY, and WILL & GRACE. He also created the cult hit FLYING BLIND for Fox, the series that introduced Tea Leoni. His shows are smart and always very funny. 

I personally have a soft spot in my heart for THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. First off, it was my kind of show. A brainy nerdy Jewish New York kid in high school, complete with all the requisite humiliations and angst. And secondly, my partner David Isaacs and I wrote an episode AND appeared in it. Yes, we were actors. We played two gay guys at a Jewish wedding. I even had to deliver a punchline while I was WALKING. And in front of an audience no less. Proud to say I did it without a stunt double. If James Burrows can get a performance out of me he can get one out of anybody. 

Anyway, THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES is one of those little gems that few remember, but the ones who do remember it very fondly. One such fan wrote in a Friday Question about the show. What I like to do in a case like that is go directly to the source for an answer. And even though this might be a show you’re unfamiliar with I think Richard Rosenstock’s answer will give you a great window into how showrunners think and what they’re up against network-wise.

The question comes from Arthur Mee:

One of your more obscure credits is The Marshall Chronicles, a show I watched and enjoyed. (And a show now most famous for having forced a little show called The Seinfeld Chronicles to change its name, to avoid confusion.)

My question is: how much thought was given to what would happen after the first season? Marshall was taking his SATs, so would the next season have been set in college? (Which would necessitate new sets, new cast members, dropping of some existing cast) Or was is going to remain a high school show for as long as they could stretch it out, Head Of The Class-style?

Or was the thought "let's get this on the air, and worry about second season later"?

Here’s Richard’s answer:

What might be surprising is that for a show that aired in 1990, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever been asked this question. Including by the network back in 1990, which should give you an idea of just how invested and excited they were about the future of the show. If there was any doubt about that, we were told after the second episode aired (and the ratings came in), exactly when we would be leaving the schedule (four weeks hence), and that one of our seven episodes wouldn’t be aired at all. Hence, there wasn’t a LOT of discussion of how we would handle, say, season five.

In theory, since high school was a very particular part of Marshall’s hell, my plan would have been to keep him there until we had mined the milieu and the mindset for as many additional stories as we found, as well as being mindful of not keeping them there past the point where the actors were believably high-school age. Then MARSHALL would have moved on to NYU, which would have continued to leave the city explored and the regulars to be retained even if not necessarily existing in the same physical space as Marshall (and his parents). Of course, if you weren’t in the shower with me when I came up with this plan, you would never know it. Needless to say, no one knows it. But thank you so much for asking. Clearly you are the only one in the entire world (and for twenty-six years) who has.

Thanks to Richard Rosenstock for his reply. Our episode used to be on YouTube until someone took it down. But if you ever come by the house, I’ve got it.


Jahn Ghalt said...

Our episode used to be on YouTube until someone took it down. But if you ever come by the house, I’ve got it.

Great Idea - have a "TV Night" just like Hef and his Movie Nights! Let all of us know.

Bobby Rich said...

Oh boy, I'll be there and will bring my VCR dubbing unit I bought in 95 and still have never used. (Guests will need to supply their own blank tape for the dubs.)

Steve G. said...

Just a short Friday-like question. From the Golden Globes I really enjoyed the Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig bit before the best animated feature award. It seems to have been a lot of folks favorites and their delivery was great. When I mentioned how much I enjoyed it to my wife, I added, "I wonder who wrote that bit." and her response was "I thought they did." Perhaps they did, but I suspect it was one of the writers for the show. My question is, assuming it was a writer, is there a way to give them credit other than the names flying by at the end of the program?

Enjoy the blog. Looking forward to the podcast that I hope to listen to soon.

AlaskaRay said...

I have very fond memories of the show, and not just because you named a character after me.

Rob Greenberg said...

Loved this show. I remember the SAT episode (which I believe had Adam Sandler in it), and had one of the funniest scenes I had saw. Was really rooting this one, as well as 'Flying Blind,' which I was excited about the minute it was announced.

Kosmo13 said...

I didn't realize FLYING BLIND was a cult hit, but it was certainly worthy. A very funny show. A few years ago, I complimented Mary Woronov on FLYING BLIND and she said no one had ever mentioned it to her before.

Jay Livingston said...

I never saw the show, so I wonder: was there anything more in the Ray Bradbury reference than just the title?

Brad S. said...

I watched the show back then and loved it. Have the Randy Newman theme song - "Falling in Love" -- on my iPhone!

Johnny Walker said...

Ugh. If there's no way to legitimately buy old episodes, why take them down?

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks to Richard Rosenstock for stopping by and sharing this insider information. Looks like TMC is something I should track down!

DARON72 said...

This was a great show! I wish the complete series would land on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu along with "Brooklyn Bridge", "Open All Night" and a little gem of a show called "Big Wave Dave's."

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I have a few episodes of BROOKLYN BRIDGE a friend taped for me at the time. Quite a cast - Marion Ross, Louis Zorich, Amy Aquino, and, in one of the episodes I have on tape, Carol Kane as an unhappy aunt causing trouble because she wanted to divorce her husband and hang out with the Beats.


By Ken Levine said...


Do you have the episode where the kid is watching the World Series? I'm the voice of the announcer.

Don Kemp said...

I vaguely remember this show so sorry to say that's the extent of my recollection. Back in 1990 I was 32 and when I wasn't working I was (I later found out) wasting time in a relationship that ended in 1991.

What I really wanted to say was I read on here within the last ten days or so how a reader went to Random Content and was able to purchase a book custom signed by Carl Reiner. How neat, I thought, so I gave it a try. I found out it's TRUE. I ordered a book by Mr. Reiner about the Van Dyke show and asked that he sign it to me, and also "thanks for helping the needy bald people", a reference to Laura's Petrie's response when Alan Brady asked the Coast to Coast Big Mouth what he should do with all his toupees now that she spilled the beans.

He did it!! He signed it exactly that way and also "Love, Carl Reiner, 2017". I ordered the book January 3 and had it in my hot little hands by January 9. I consider myself a somewhat sophisticated guy, I deal with well known people now and again in my work, but I was so genuinely thrilled to open the box and see this inscription. Now I don't know whether to order a few more books for family and friends and risk the possibility I'll seem greedy. I realize I simply received what I ordered, but this just was one of life's little episodes that made me very happy.

In the past year, I've attended a screening of Blazing Saddles where Mel Brooks came out for an hour and talked about the movie afterwards. I was fortunate to see a rather rare full show by Dick Van Dyke's group, the Vantastix. Now, I was able to get this signed book by Carl Reiner. Next month, for what I think is about time number seven or eight, I'm seeing Bob Newhart. I saw Bob at the Golf Mill Theater in Niles, Ill in 1972 for my 14th birthday. Florence Henderson was his opening act. Last November I saw John Cleese and Eric Idle together. The common thread here besides a nonagenarian existence? They all laugh for a living.

Thank you for indulging me. I'm off to figure out a suitable inscription for "Carl Reiner, Now You're 94".

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Oh! Yes, it it's the one where the kids beg to be allowed to watch the game but it's Sukkot and the grandmother is all insistent on family values?


Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken: I had to go look it up. First, when the World Series was, then which episodes I recognized. Result: I think I *don't* have the episode you're talking about. The Aunt Sylvia one was the Sukkoth one; it was one of the first few episodes. The second-ever episode, one of the kids had a date to see "the game" with a girl he liked. I suspect there were a lot of episodes where the kids wanted to see "the game".

So I don't know which episode might have been yours. I'm afraid I can't tell one baseball game from another without coaching.


Chris said...

I think I watched all the episodes that aired and I really enjoyed them. The two things I remember best are the Randy Newman tune that opened it (or at least that steel drum riff, at least) (thank the gods for the internet so I could look that up eventually) and a joke I still riff on to this day.

As I recall the girl Marshall had a crush on decided, as an act of rebellion to get a tattoo. This being the '90s, the tattoo parlor was of course some hellishly grotty dive that would have given members of the Hell's Angels a case of the screaming meemies. She's having second thoughts and freaking out, Marshall's trying to talk that line between "reassuring" and "you're right, we should just get out now ARE YOU CRAZY!?!" when the tattooist walks out from The Back, wiping his hands on a towel saying:

"The neck is such a tricky organ."

Don't know who wrote it but to this day I quote that when things to just a little cockeyed, especially when cooking.

Joe said...

I never saw "The Marshall Chronicles" but loved "Flying Blind."

The show was very funny as Tea Leoni may have been as hot as any woman on TV ever.

Arthur Mee said...

Thanks for answering my question Ken and Richard! I'm stunned that NO-ONE asked it for a quarter of a century ... I'm either a genius or hopelessly behind the times.

Or possibly both, now that I think about it.

cadavra said...

I remember "Marshall" very well and loved it--especially Meredith Scott Lynn--and was saddened that it got axed so quickly. As for "Flying Blind," it seemed to change formats every three or four weeks, to the point that even Leoni couldn't save it anymore. And yes, it did introduce us to her, but as wonderful as "Madam Secretary" is, she hasn't done comedy in ages. Kind of a waste.

John Jackson Miller said...

I've said this before here, but MARSHALL is one of my favorite limited-run series, and endlessly quotable. The episode where he goes to the nightclub as third wheel to Melissa and Johnny remains one of my favorite sitcom episodes.

And yes, it was very cool that Meredith Scott Lynn's character from MARSHALL turned up on FLYING BLIND as the lead's cousin. Nice touch.

I have all the episodes — save the unaired one, naturally; sorry that we'll never see the seventh. I've been happy ever since to see Richard Rosenstock's name on a show.

mike said...

Don Kemp, thanks for the heads up on Random Content! My hopefully signed copy of DVD's autobio is winging its way to me as we speak, only $40 plus $11 for shipping for a signed first of a legendary comedian? Yes please.

no said...

This show was absolutely hilarious. I remember I was probably like, 14 or 15 and I saw every episode. What I loved about this show is, like the original Garry Shandling Show, there was a lot of breaking the fourth wall and talking to camera. That was kind of an old school thing, like with Jack Benny or whatever but certainly the 70's didn't do it in a sitcom, so it was fun to see the irony brought back.
As for Marshall, well, I don't know what happened to him after this show ended. Maybe after Head Of The Class, people were just tired of precocious school kids?
I remember one joke in particular where Marshall is helping a "bully," by tutoring him. And the bully clearly doesn't want help, he's there because he has to be. And Marshall asks a history question and the guy answers: John C Fremont. Marshal is so impressed he asks another question but the guy gives him the same answer: John C Fremont. Hilarious.
I need to find this show again!