Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday (the 13th) Questions

How perfect that the month when we get our new (God help us) president, we also get a Friday the 13th. Here are this week’s FQ’s:

Julian Brown leads off:

Have you ever encountered a professional situation where the jockeying for position backfired in a big, unintentionally schadenfreude inducing way?

[i was thinking about Edwin EncarnaciĆ³n signing with Cleveland, who eliminated Toronto in the playoffs last season, which begs for some karmic comeuppance. For instance : NHL player Marion Hossa 'chased the cup' with consecutive 1 year deals in Detroit and Pittsburgh, who met in the finals both seasons, and whichever team he was on lost that year.]

In television and movies that happens more on the executive level. I think of Fred Silverman, who built CBS in the early ‘70s, ABC in the mid ‘70s, and was a complete bust programming NBC in the late ‘70s.

On the acting side I can think of one example (I’m sure there are more): McLean Stevenson leaving MASH to star in his own series, HELLO LARRY.

But I’ve found that “revenge” is not a great motivator in show business. Yes, CBS might have canceled my show and it would be great to do the next one on NBC and kick their ass. But realistically I would like the option of going back to CBS with that next one. The truth is the same people just move around, it’s Hollywood musical chairs. It makes very little sense to hold grudges and try to get back at people or networks. At least that’s how I feel.

From suek2001:

Rolling Stone ranked 100 TV shows of all time..MASH came in at #15(should have been higher)..Cheers made the list but Frasier did not..and that's a crime.

Do writers use those kinda of lists to boost their profile or payday?

No, because they’re ridiculous. No one in the industry takes these ranking lists seriously for a second. They’re so subjective and idiotic.

I’m not sure winning an Emmy would even boost your asking price these days.

I remember several years ago the Oscars did a feature where they brought back as many winners in the acting category as they could get. I was struck by how many of them were out of work. And these were Oscar winners.

Boomska316 wonders:

Seriously: Is there some reason why studio executives are usually the last to understand what the public might like?

Well, start with William Goldman’s great quote that no one in Hollywood knows anything.

And then factor in that studio heads have to project several years into the future. Unlike TV where you can eat it while it’s hot, there is a long process in films between development, production, and editing so years go by before the product finally reaches the marketplace.

So which hot trend will endure and which will flame out? All studio executives can do is guess. And generally they guess wrong.

That’s another reason why sequels are so popular with execs – they’ve already been accepted by filmgoers with wallets. They’re much safer bets.

And finally, from 404:

Esoteric Friday question, Ken: based on that, how many different sitcom ideas do you think are really out there? And how many sitcoms are just rehashings of the same things over and over again in just slightly different situations?

I believe it’s less about the situation and more about the execution. You can take an arena like, say, a bar and do numerous series. ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE, SULLIVAN & SONS, some Stiller & Meara thing, and probably seven or eight more. But CHEERS rose above them all due to the execution.

Yes, there are standard tropes – workplace comedies, family comedies, romantic comedies, but people do stretch the rules a lot. How do you fit MASH into any one category?

New things always seem to come along, you just don’t know when or whether they’ll be accepted.

What’s your Friday Question?


Chris Trella said...

To be fair, Hossa didn't chase the Cup to Pittsburgh as Atlanta traded him since he was a free agent after the season. In the end, I say it worked out, after his 1 yr in Detroit, losing to Pittsburgh in the final, he signed a 12 year deal in Chicago and has won 3 Cups in 6 years.

Carol said...

I watched Hello, Larry, and quite liked it, actually. Although the only reason I watched it was because Kim Richards played the daughter and she was in Escape to Witch Mountain, my favorite movie as a kid. Oh, and looking it up on IMDB shows Joanna Gleason in it! I had the very great luck to see her in the original cast of Into the Woods on Broadway, which I hadn't obviously seen when Hello, Larry was on because it hadn't happened yet but if it had I would have watched the show because of her, as well.

Incidentally, the reason I watched Almost Perfect was because Chip Zien was in it, and he, too, was in the original cast of Into the Woods, and I thought he was great.

I might have had a point when I started this post.

Brian said...

It's fun to see Tom Hanks in an early role in Taxi, or Sherilynn Fenn in Cheers. Who are among your favorite, "...and NOW look at them" people that you and David Isaacs had a hand in getting an early role/assignment?

Michael said...

This MAY be a Friday question or may not be, but Ken's reference to McLean Stevenson made me wonder.

I read years ago that he left MASH for several reasons, including the treatment he and the cast and crew received from 20th Century Fox. He said something along the lines that he might have been more patient about it if he hadn't been doing all of the other things he was doing, but he felt strongly about it. Did he actually, then, leave MASH to do another show, or was the offer out there and he left MASH anyway?

Paul Duca said... are thinking of THE CORNER BAR, which ran on ABC in the summers of 1972 and 1973--a solo Anne Meara starred in the revamped 1973 version.

And I don't think of actors as being "out of work" in the way others in employment can be...they do one project, then if need be they wait for their next one. A single movie role can generate enough income to pay the bills for an extended period of time if that is the case. Those on TV series, though they do punch in every day for months on end, get an extended break in between production seasons

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Carol, that was hysterically funny post

Carson said...

I would like to read your opinion on the current state of American cable networks. They all seem to start with a certain niche, but then devolve to the point where they look like every other cable channel. They have all become reality TV and/or competition channels. Why do I need 500 channels when 450 of them basically have the same programming?

Ryan E said...

I have kind of a follow-up question. One of your answers this week talks about studio heads having to project several years into the future due to the long development and production timeline for films. I understand why CGI-filled blockbusters can't be done very quickly, but hasn't modern TV shown that it doesn't always have to take so long? There have been some spectacularly well-made hour-long dramas in recent years, some of them even starring and directed by movie stars, with extremely high production values and much more original, compelling stories than any recent movies. If they can do ten or more episodes of that on a TV production schedule, why couldn't a movie studio get the best people from that realm to do the same thing for the big screen?

VP81955 said...

Paul, my late friend Francine York, who we lost to cancer a week ago today, had a profitable career through numerous film and TV roles, especially during the 1960s, though she never had her own series (she appeared on several pilots; none were picked up). said...

Regarding McLean Stevenson, what I recall is that he left MASH as a consequence of signing a long-term contract with NBC, which included frequent guest-hosting for Johnny Carson as well as a failed sitcom, The McLean Stevenson Show; Hello Larry (also NBC) wasn't until the very late 1970s. However, it's unclear how long the NBC deal lasted, as between those two series he also starred in a failed sitcom for CBS (In the Beginning).

cd1515 said...

Stevenson allegedly had a great quote years later, admitting it was dumb to leave MASH:
"I thought they loved McLean Stevenson. Turns out they loved Henry Blake."

Brian said...

Carol: I remember part of the theme and precisely one exchange from "Hello, Larry".

Larry is in the booth and a wino is next to him. The wino remembers a girlfriend that he had and says, "...she was a 10!". Larry responded, "Sort of a Bo Derelict?"

BA said...

Brian: Here's the one exchange I remember from LARRY: "Tie a can to it, Ruthie."

DwWashburn said...

I had always heard that Stevenson left because it looked like Carson was about to step down and he had been promised Tonight if that happened. I've seen him on the Carson repeats (none with him hosting) and his humor didn't do anything for me. A lot of rambling sentences and stares at the host.

Dave Mackey said...

Joanna Gleason is the daughter of Monty Hall....

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Friday Question: This is a peculiar question. Nowadays when a sitcom enters syndication they are often played in a block of 2 episodes. The replays are either in episodic order, or the first 1/2 is from season one and the second is from season 5 (I guess to keep things fresh). Do you think that creators and writers are purists and care about how their material is shown?

Andy Rose said...

Mark Evanier wrote some interesting thoughts on the McLean Stevenson career arc a few years ago. It's a quasi-defense of his choices.

DBenson said...

I faintly recall that Gabriel Dell, a Dead End kid who ended up a fairly successful adult actor, starred opposite Meara. Fellow Dead Ender Huntz Hall guested as an old friend / con man. Stiller was a producer and I don't remember him being on camera.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Here's a sports announcer question:

Many of us think we know the difference between calling a game on TV and calling the same game on radio, but what do YOU think, Ken?

Once I was watching a basketball game that lost the video feed but the audio was intact. The announcer was a real pro. He slipped into the radio call - which was considerably more desrciptive of the ball movement - and did it smooth, no hesitation, no problems.

Very Impressive.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

If it wasn't for The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, a lot of older actors wouldn't have any work.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

The Everybody Loves Raymond Channel!

Albert Giesbrecht said...

All I remember is Ruthiyour walking around in a towel. Actually that may have been just a dream.

scottmc said...

A possible Friday question: Your podcast story about the MASH writers & the actors questions reminded me of another MASH writers story. You once told a great Larry Gelbart story-the one that ends with him saying 'just get half of it'. I love that story. I would have loved to have been in the room when that happened.I was wondering if there are any moments from television,music, sports or radio history that you wish you had been at when they happened.

Unknown said...

The Corner Bar ran two summers in a row on ABC.

In Season 1, Gabe Dell was Harry Grant, and the bar was called Grant's Toomb (sic).
There was a regular cast of drunks, which included what was supposedly "the first openly gay character" in a prime-time show.

In Season 2, the bar was called The Corner Bar (clever, what?), and was run by Anne Meara and Eugene Roche as Mae and Frank (siblings, if I recall correctly). Most of the drunks from Season 1 were back (with one exception - guess which one).

Joanna Gleason, daughter to Monty Hall, was married for a time to Paul Gleason, an actor best remembered as the idiot cop who keeps fouling up Bruce Willis in the first Die Hard movie (most of his other roles were in the same vein).

McLean Stevenson (who was a cousin to all the Adlai Stevensons of Illinois) wasn't the only one that Johnny Carson double-crossed by not following up on his endless threats to retire.
The others included (in no fixed order) Garry Shandling, Martin Mull, Joan Rivers, Pat Sajak ... and you might as well include David Letterman; there's no record anywhere that Carson ever promised anything to Letterman regarding the Tonight seat - or that he could have in the first place (NBC owned Tonight outright and Carson had to pay a bundle to get his reruns back).

A. L. Crivaro said...

Friday Question: How come I never read of or hear anyone in Hollywood discussing the utter brilliance that is Galaxy Quest? Especially in the comedy world? Every time I watch it, I am amazed by how good it is in EVERY regard. But it seems like it gets zero love/recognition. Why is that?

Unknown said...

Friday Question (Sort of): I was a just on a Facebook clickbait list of "20 facts the producers of M*A*S*H HID from you" and it turned out to be 41 (about 17 not including the slightly reworded repeats) basic facts of the show that anyone watching would know. However there was one: "THE SHOW WAS LONGER THAN THE ACTUAL WAR" 'The Korean War lasted only 3 years, but the series lasted 12 [sic]' So, as an insider how did the staff of the show manage to keep this a secret?!?!

Kaleberg said...

Galaxy Quest was the best of the Star Trek movies, but it was a little film at heart, like 'Breaking Away', not a true blockbuster. I often wonder if that is why it has been more or less ignored.

Jabroniville said...

Friday Question:

You've answered many questions (including one of mine) about various Hollywood types pushing through their favorite stars (ie. getting involved in the casting process), and holding back ones they didn't like. So I was wondering: what's the hardest you've ever seen someone push a pet product? And the hardest you've seen a STUDIO push through a pet project?

And similarly, what's the most you've seen a studio or person hold back someone they didn't care for?

-Grant Woolsey

D. McEwan said...

Well, I always thought of M*A*S*H as a workplace comedy.

Dave Olden said...

What's your take on Norman Lear's Latino reboot of One Day at a Time on Netflix?
I'm on my second binge. Loved it better than the original.

Carol said...

A. L. Crivaro - Galaxy Quest is a fantastic movie. I got to see Terry Pratchett once, years ago, and the guy in front of me was called Brandon, and Sir Terry said 'oh, like the character in Galaxy Quest' and the kid had no idea about the movie and Sir Terry went on for a few minutes as to what a good movie it was, and he envied Brandon because he now had it to look forward to. Don't know if you're a fan of Pratchett's works, obviously, but if you are I thought you might like to know this.

Anonymous said...

I recommend Galaxy Quest to everyone, not just ST,SW, or SciFi fans. It's a fun pun intended.

Pam, St. Louis

Harrison from Albany said...

Friday Question:
The Cheers episodes that feature Harry the Hat are among my favorites, and "Pick a Con... Any Con" is my all-time favorite. Did all of the many cons originate with the writers, or did they solicit Harry Anderson for anything he thought would work well, given his extensive background in magic (and television). I'm thinking of the smaller cons he'd pull, not the ones that plots were built on.

Tim B said...

Friday question: ever been asked to be on a sitcom writing staff, or to be the showrunner, and declined?

A. L. Crivaro said...

I know my father is a fan, as I've often heard him talk about the Disk World books, but I haven't read any myself. I'll have to check them out now. Thanks for letting me know though.