Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Questions

The tradition continues. Here are more Friday Questions.

John asks:

When an audience sitcom does a double-length episode - like Frasier's 'Three Dates and a Break Up' or 'Shutout In Seattle' - are both parts recorded in the same night, or does it still take two weeks to shoot?


Sometimes they are. You need a quick director and a good cast willing to learn twice as much dialogue. Jim Burrows used to do two-parters on CHEERS in one night. Andy Fickman recently did a two-parter of KEVIN CAN WAIT in one night.

Other times the shows will be filmed in two weeks. As a director I’ve never filmed two shows in one night. But I’m sure not Mr. Burrows or Mr. Fickman.

There is another method called a Wrap Around. You break down one episode into scenes and after filming an episode in front of the audience you piggyback one additional scene from that other script. After six or seven weeks you’ve cobbled together an extra show.

TAXI used to do this. There would be wrap around scenes at the beginning and end where the characters would be at a bar. Example: They all got fired, all got new jobs, and reconnected to catch up on each other’s lives. Then each vignette was shown. That way only one actor per week had an additional scene to rehearse and learn. Eventually that story was put together as a two-parter.

Anthony wonders:

How do multicamera sitcoms handle the use of recurring sets that are used over and over again, although infrequently? For instance, Frasier's bedroom looks almost the same both early in the show's run and later. Others that come to mind are Melville's on Cheers and Nemo's restuarant on Everybody Loves Raymond. Are these sets that are created once and recycled back onto the stage, as needed? Or are they created new every time the script calls for it?

The studio has a warehouse where these sets are stored. They’re folded up and transferred to these cavernous structures. Paramount’s was way up in Valencia somewhere. Trucks transport the sets in the wee small hours.

Certain sets, like restaurants, get redressed. So the Italian restaurant you see on NCIS becomes a French restaurant on NCIS: LOS ANGELES.

Johnny Walker has a question after listening to my podcast.  Have you listened?  Right under the masthead is a big gold arrow.  Just click on it.  Thanks Johnny, I was able to sneak in a plug. 

Just listened to episode 14, and now I have some Friday Questions :)

- Have you ever had any blowback from a comment you made on the air? Was the wife of one of the players listening while you slagged off her husband and it got back to them? (Sorry if you've answered that before!)

In the minors once I had a pitcher approach me furious over what I had said about him the night before. He claimed I announced his age was 30. He was right. I did do that. But it was because he WAS 30. Still, he shouted, I had no business telling people that. The irony of this story is that he became my best friend on the team.

There have been stories in the minors of players so pissed at announcers that they actually go up to the booth, in uniform, to beat the shit out of them. In almost all cases, sanity returned and the announcer escaped serious injury. But still. Yikes.

My first year with the Mariners I was calling the third inning and noticed we hadn’t scored a run in the third inning in weeks. So I started calling it the “third inning of death.” Ken Griffey Jr. heard about it and one day at the batting cage he was giving me shit. I said I would stop doing it when they scored a run. He said they were going to score six runs that night in the third inning. But if they did I had to shave my head. I happily took that bet, got Kenny to record a bit for it that I played on the air and then told my audience about it at the start of the inning.

The first two Mariners get on base. Jr. pops out of the dugout and points up at the booth at me. Then the next guy strikes out and guy after him hits into a doubleplay. End of inning. As Kenny took his position in centerfield I stood up and ran my fingers through my long hair.

I don’t think they ever scored six runs in the third inning.

And finally, from Ed:

Bob Miller, long-time LA Kings broadcaster, ended his career on (this month). I know you're not a "hockey guy" but are a sports fan and have been connected to the LA sports broadcasting scene. Any comments on his career? It's not just the end of his era - it's the end of an era where your market had Vin Scully, Chick Hearn and Bob Miller all serving as the broadcast voices of LA teams.

Bob Miller was a wonderful hockey announcer, but more than that he is the nicest most down-to-earth guy you’d ever want to meet. Besides doing a spectacular job of calling hockey play-by-play (at that dizzying pace), he is also so genuine on the air. I know him a little from being in the Southern California Sportscasters Association and that’s the real him. Cheerful, warm, and extremely talented – Kings’ fans were so fortunate to have Bob Miller for the last 44 seasons. And he got to parade around the Stanley Cup twice.

I’m sure he’ll approach retirement like everything else – with zeal and vigor. Thanks, Bob, for thrilling calls and warm companionship.

What’s your Friday Question?


Jim S said...

Friday question. Heard your No School in Borneo story. Got me to thinking, do you have any special phrases for baseball that you use in non-home run situations?

For example, the late, great Ernie Harwell used to say, when a player took a called third strike, "he stood there like the house on the side of the road."

I will use that phrase when I just might sit stunned and not do anything for a couple of seconds when something surprising happens.

Brad Apling said...

Have you ever written an episode to slip yourself in as a sportscaster, even for a few seconds in the background? I'm sure there's some unwritten rule about writers plugging themselves in a show but, it seems a nice opportunity to get a quick visual on the screen aside from the credits.

Jahn Ghalt said...


In the unlikely event a ballplayer wants to rearrange your glasses, remember, you're a big guy - tall, anyway, if not "tough".

Go for the baseball version of the Primate Bluff. Snarl and say "don't make me go Nolan Ryan on you!"

(not that today's late-generation of ballplayers know what that means)

Watch Robin Ventura charge the mound for his Texas ass whuppin'. Slo Mo replay about 4:50:

John J said...

Sometimes when i watch a show i will wonder where I know some random actor from. On IMBD I will see that he does a copple of episodes a year plus some smaller movies. So my question is, can he make a living like this? How does the average non A lister pay the bills?

Philip said...

The fact you trolled THEE Ken Griffey Jr. makes you even that much cooler, Ken.

Legit never done anything half as cool as that in my life

Andy Rose said...

The most interesting Taxi wraparound was its first, Memories of Cab 804. The producers had the seed of the idea at the beginning of production, and shot a scene on the real Queensboro Bridge with Tony Danza convincing a guy (played by Ed. Weinberger) not to jump to his death. It was actually the first scene of Taxi ever filmed, and the only one filmed in New York. That's also why Tony Danza is behind the wheel in the show's opening. They filmed that as an establishing shot for this scene, but ultimately decided it worked better as an opening than the introduction they had originally planned.

The episode got its title because that happened to be the number on the taxi they rented for that NY shoot. If you look closely at the cab in the end credits, you'll see it is #804.

Unknown said...

DBenson said...

At least some of them do a lot of stage work. I recognized a waitress on "Frasier" as having played lead roles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; cast bios for professional stage productions inevitably show some TV and movie roles laced into lengthy stage credits.

That sort of leads to a related question: On a show that's close to a stage play like "Frasier" or "Cheers", is there an impulse to cast even the small parts with "overqualified" actors as a sort of insurance?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,
Just wanted to say thanks for putting me onto Brockmire. Not a baseball fan but thoroughly enjoying Hank A's Brockmire.

Craig Russell said...

Fun Fact about Bob Miller. From my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

MikeN said...

Griffey's teammates were much better, particularly Mike Blowers, called by Dave Niehaus.

VP81955 said...

A question for next Friday...

It appears the only genre "premium" or subscription channels such as Showtime, HBO. Hulu, Netflix or Amazon are loath to touch is the multi-camera, filmed-before-an-audience sitcom -- despite their continued popularity, particularly in syndication. Do you believe this is because:

* relatively few showrunners not named Chuck Lorre comfortable with the format?
* filming before an audience requires a weekly production schedule, thus limiting the possibility of "binge watching"? (It's not like a game show, where you can run a week-long strip of five eps.)
* they are more disposed to single-camera series, and don't consider multi-cams "hip"?

That Guy said...

I'd note both streaming and premium have given the in-front-of-an-audience a go (Netflix has "Fuller House" and "ONe day at a Time", Netflix had "Lucky Louie"), but, yes, they are not the preferred format for those platforms. I think a lot of the shows with these services are more creator-driven rather than network driven, and for whatever reasons, the creators they choose to work with generally don't go for studio audiences.

opimus said...

With a possible WGA strike pending by being a producer and a writer. What's your opinion on going on strike against your self?

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks Ken! Still listening, still enjoying the podcast!

By Ken Levine said...

In this case, "producer" means mega-conglomerates. Disney, Viacom, Comcast, etc. I have no qualms about going out on strike if that's our only option to getting a fair deal.

rchesson said...

Hi Ken,

I've been listing to (and enjoying) your podcast and have a quick question. How tightly scripted are your podcast comments? I'm sure that you are shooting for a specific run time for each segment so I would assume some level of scripting. Your commentary sounds almost ad libed.

Unknown said...

I too have met Bob Miller, and I can confirm that he is a kind, down-to-earth guy.