Friday, March 03, 2017

Friday Questions

Thus begins the March of Friday Questions.

Edward begins.

Is your IMDb profile and/or production credits accurate? Do you care? Do you check? Have you made corrections?

It’s way incomplete. Lots of credits are left off and for some reason they have me as one of the writers of a Richard Pryor movie. But that’s better than it was.

At one time they had me as the location manager for JURASSIC PARK and (believe it or not) the dialogue coach for FLIPPER.

I haven’t corrected anything. I think my daughter Annie did go in and clean up some stuff.

If she goes back in again I want her to make sure to include the episode of BRAM & ALICE I co-wrote.

Richard Pride has a question regarding the CHEERS set.

Wasn't Frasier filmed on the same set? Can you describe that set in relation to the Cheers set? Where was Frasier's apartment, radio station booth etc?

Yes, FRASIER was filmed on Stage 25 at Paramount. Here’s the way it was laid out:

If you were sitting in the audience – on the far left was the radio station (modeled originally after KABC, Los Angeles). The apartment was in the center. Designed by Roy Christopher, I think that was one of the greatest sets in TV history. And to the far right swing sets were erected. Those are sets that change from week to week. One week there could be a wine club, the next a restaurant, etc. It was harder for the audience to see, but monitors were situated above their heads for easier viewing.

Now what about Café Nervosa? Interestingly, there were two Café Nervosa sets. If there wasn’t a large swing set (say a ballroom or ski lodge) a larger Café Nervosa set was placed between the apartment and the non-permanent set. It’s the one you see most weeks. But if there was a swing set that required more space a smaller version of the Café was utilized. It’s as if Frasier took a table near the back so you don’t see a lot of depth and extras. That’s why when they used the larger set they usually placed Frasier at a downstage table so you could see all the activity behind him.

From Gary Bainbridge:

Ken, a Vulture article about the writers' room on Girls talks about the quiet and intimidating writers' room on Frasier. How did the Frasier room compare with others with which you've been involved?

Well let me first say that magic came out of the FRASIER writing room so you can’t knock success. Most of the rooms I’ve been in were a little raucous. And rated X. Actually, loud boisterous rooms are more intimidating than the quiet thoughtful FRASIER rooms. Try getting in your joke when six Mel Brooks are firing in lines all at once.

The Vulture article depicts the GIRLS room as more of a therapy session, where the writers reveal their deepest darkest secrets and fears in order to create stories that were emotionally raw and honest. I was in one room like that, for the show SIBS, produced by Jim Brooks. I found it enlightening, stimulating, and often really creepy. You talk about “too much information.” I learned things about my co-writers that were way too private and intimate. And I even revealed to them that I still talk up to vocals to records when I’m alone in the car. Now I can't face them.

Rick Wiedmayer wonders:

When actors, directors, writers etc get paid residuals for their work, do their agents also get a percentage of this payment?

No. Not a dime.

And finally, from Dave Bittner:

I wonder if you ever crossed paths during your radio career with Johnny Holliday, former DJ and current sports broadcaster for the University of Maryland?

Yes. Numerous times. We have a lot in common. Johnny Holliday was a Top 40 DJ who transitioned into sports play-by-play. Ironically, both of us were jocks at one time on KYA in San Francisco (although years apart).

Another similarity, we both ended up in the Washington/Baltimore area. I called games for the Orioles at one time and he’s still in the area. We would connect at O’s games.

We actually had a long phone conversation recently catching up.

He’s a great announcer and justifiably beloved in that area.

Another DJ who made the switch to play-by-play was Joe Angel, now back with the Orioles. How’s this for weird? When I was a Top 40 disc jockey I replaced Joe on KMEN, San Bernardino. Then, when I was a baseball announcer, I replaced Joe on Orioles broadcasts. Joe needs to become the DAILY SHOW host so I can replace him on that too.

What’s your Friday Question?


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I have in my collection a few episodes of SIBS. Loved the cast, particularly Margaret Colin. I was sorry it didn't last longer.


Bud Wilkinson said...

Do you mean to say that most people don't talk up songs when listening on the radio? I thought everyone did.

Jeff Alexander, Stuart, Florida said...

Mr. Levine:
In 1983, I attended a taping of the second season opener of Newhart with guest star Elke Sommer -- when it aired, the guest star was replaced by Stella Stevens although the script was, as far as I could tell, virtually the same.
For some reason for which I never was able to get a clear answer, they had to reshoot the entire episode (a two-parter!) and Elke Sommer was not available.
Was there ever a time on Cheers or Frasier (both having live audiences) where an episode had to be reshot in full or in part? And, if so, why?
I am enjoying your weekly podcasts and found myself agreeing with your Oscar review podcast almost all the way through!!!

Andrew said...

Fascinating answer to the Frasier set question. Follow-up: How on earth did they create the Seattle skyline in the background of Frasier's apartment? It was really a work of art. The city looks completely real and three dimensional, especially in the evening scenes. (Were there 1,000 tiny light bulbs in the tiny fake windows that alternated randomly?)

VP81955 said...

I'm a University of Maryland alumnus who's known Johnny for years -- terrific guy. He's enjoying life in the Big Ten; I know; I talked to him after the move from the ACC was announced, and he was all for it. His Top 40 resume also includes WHK in Cleveland (he did PA work for the Browns for several years) and he was at Westinghouse's WINS in New York when it left Top 40 for all-news in 1965. Enjoyed his time as the morning man at WWDC in Washington.

I should note he's been the Washington Nationals' pre-game and postgame show host (usually with Ray Knight) on MASN since they played at RFK, and occasionally fills in for lead TV announcer Bob Carpenter on Nats games.

Michael said...

Between gigs, Joe Angel took up real estate and, as I understand it, made one sale: to Jerry Doggett, who had just retired from the Dodgers and moved to northern California.

I don't know if that means Joe has to sell you his house, Ken, but it might be worth a shot.

Covarr said...

Have you ever seen a movie that you thought didn't work, but could have with a different cast? What movie was it? Who would you have cast instead?

Carson said...

I've noticed that after the 3rd season, the smaller cafe set on Frasier was no longer used. I'm not sure why, but you don't see it in the later seasons.

tb said...

A dialog coach for Flipper...haha

Charles H. Bryan said...

Ken, I thought you should know: According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC is looking at bringing back The Battle of the Network Stars.

Do the networks still have stars?

Unknown said...

What is it like to work with Flipper? Did he take voice direction well, or did he splash you a lot?
Why did flipper do the voice of the gopher in Caddy Shack?

Orangutanagram said...

I'm curious about Niles' apartment set. It seems too large. Did anything need to be taken down for it to appear?

Tyler said...

Frasier's apartment always looked like a set to me---a *beautiful* set, but a set nonetheless.

But I'll be damned if both Cheers and Cafe Nervosa still don't feel like absolutely real places to me, to this very day. Like, for Cheers, I feel like the stairs really would take me up to the street, the door really leads to Sam's office and the hallway leads to a real poolroom and bathrooms. The only time Cheers ever did feel "fake" to me, ironically, was the one or two times early on we saw that 4th wall. It felt jarring and didn't look right at all.

As for Cafe Nervosa, I'm guessing the fact they were able to have different versions of the set so that Frasier and Niles could sit in different areas was what made it feel real. Next to the counter in one episode, way back by the bookcase in the next, and so on.

cjdahl60 said...

I don't know if you saw this announcement, but I think your comments on this might make a good blog post:

YEKIMI said...

If you haven't read his autobiography, try and find a copy of it. Not sure if it's still in print: Johnny Holliday: From Rock To Jock. Fascinating read. He was gone from the area by the time I moved to NE Ohio but knew of him and a few of the old timers around here still talk about him to this day.

Andy Rose said...

I assume limited space is also the reason that Seinfeld occasionally did its restaurant scenes from an unidentifiable window booth instead of in the center of Monk's.

I remember Johnny Holliday primarily as the anchor of the ABC Radio morning sports updates. He did that daily for about three decades on top of all of his other work.

Chris said...

Can we update the trivia section on IMDB about your comment re inaccuracy?

Alan Light said...

Um, I don't think you answered Richard Pride's question, which was "Can you describe (the Frasier set) IN RELATION TO the Cheers set? You told us where the Cheers sets were located - left, center, right - but not the Cheers set.

Andy Rose said...

@Alan Light: Ken has discussed the dimensions of the Cheers set before. The bar took up the full width of the studio, with the outer wall of Sam's office on a pivot to reveal the interior when needed. When they had a swing set, the pool room on the far right would be removed to make way.

One thing that is interesting about watching older Cheers episodes online is that the digitally remastered shows appear to be cropped at the full 4:3 overscan rather than at the "safe area" that the camera operators were using as reference. As a result, you can see a boom mic, camera, set edge, crew member or errant shadow in nearly every episode of the first two seasons.

Wayne said...

What's your favorite theatrical memoir?
Mine is Act One by Moss Hart. I especially like the story about how he'd been struggling writing serious plays, only to realize the only parts anyone responded to was the comedy relief. So he sat on the beach in Brooklyn with a blank pad and wrote Once In a Lifetime, a comedy by Moss Hart. And when he had it done, the miracle of George S. Kaufman liking it and working with him as an equal partner, only to have it die in act three and even the master constructionist Kaufman couldn't figure out why, but then when there was no hope at all for a solution, one came to Moss Hart and he saved it.
Have you read any theatrical memoir with a better story than that?

Cedricstudio said...

Friday Question: I saw that Steve Martin is now offering an online Master Class on comedy:

In the brief promo video I watched, Martin claims that he never thought he was funny and that when he first started out he had absolutely zero talent. Setting aside the debate about whether comedy (or any creative ability) is something you are born with or if it is purely a matter of training and discipline, do you have any thoughts or inside info on Martin's class? Is it something you would recommend?

Cedricstudio said...

EDIT: Here's a better link to the Steve Martin online comedy course:

Tim Fox said...

We took my son to a Washington Nats game a few years back, and wandered into the stadium while the pre-game show was on the air, live from the concourse. My son was a Syracuse Chiefs bat boy at the time, with dreams of being a sportscaster. When the pre-game ended, Johnny Holliday spent 20 minutes or more chatting with my son, encouraging his dreams while also letting him know how much hard work you need to succeed. He couldn't have been nicer.

Ted McCarthy said...

Since checking IMDB on Sibs, I noticed it starred Alex Rocco. Did anyone/everyone know about his past in Boston? If you don't, go to Wikipedia.

Goldendreams said...

For Friday Questions:
I was talking with my husband about TV series endings. We both loved how Six Feet Under wrapped up every main character in keeping with the series (but I know some people hated it). We both thought Seinfeld and Friends were very weak. Also on our top favorites list was the GOODBYE in MASH and Sam turning off the light for Cheers, which made me think of you. How do you approach a series ending episode? What are some of your favorites?

RussellM74 said...

How did you pick the numbers for the M*A*S*H units, such as 4077?