Wednesday, April 26, 2017

G-g-g-groin Injury

It’s another catch-up-on-Friday Questions Day. I’m trying to answer as many as I can so I’m squeezing in extra Q-Days.

Joe starts us off:

I admire your whole body of work, but there's one scene of yours that's one of the funniest in TV history. When you were broadcasting baseball, were you ever tempted to do a Sam Malone rap talking about a player had a groin injury?

Tempted? I actually did it once on a Mariners broadcast.  (Maybe that's why I'm not still there.)  The episode Joe is referring to is “Eye on Sports” where Sam becomes a local sportscaster and feels he needs a shtick to go along with reading the scores.

From B Smith:

When shooting outdoors scenes for MASH out at the Malibu Ranch, you were presumably shooting as many bits and pieces for various episodes as you could to take advantage of light, climate etc. But since various episodes were directed by various directors, did you send a number of them simultaneously with you so they could shoot their episode parts? Or did you just go for one episode at a time, and if finishing early shot generic footage that could be edited in anywhere, or even knocked off early?

We would shoot one episode at a time. We tried to have 8 1/3 pages of exteriors to justify a day at the ranch. If an episode had much less we held it back until the fall and just filmed the whole show on the stage – even the exterior scenes.

That way only one director was required.

However, after every three episodes we planned a day of pick-ups on the stage. This was for tiny scenes that never got filmed, scenes we wanted redone, or new scenes we felt needed to be added. In that case, we did invite the different directors to come and do their scenes. But if they were unavailable, either Gene Reynolds or Burt Metcalfe filled in and directed the scenes.

Here’s a first – a reader question and another reader answered. The question is from -30- and the answer is from Andy Rose. I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

How were the syndicated weekly Top 40 radio shows--Watermark, Casey Kasem, Dick Clark--produced? Were they completely scripted in advance? Was there any improv or spontaneity? Were they recorded in real time or were the voiceovers done separately and then put together with the records by an editor? I can't imagine Dick Clark hitting talkovers perfectly for 3 hours or, for that matter, taking half a day to record a show every week.

Re: the countdown shows... The narration was scripted and recorded all at one time, although Kasem sometimes asked his engineer to play the end of a record for him to make sure his segue matched the tone of the song.

In the pre-computer days, the reel with the host's lines had to be mixed with the music, jingles, and commercials in real time on a multitrack. Then the master was put on vinyl, and the show was mailed to each station on 33 1/3 records. Later on, they started shipping CDs instead. Now, they are distributed as computer files via FTP.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know all that. Thanks, Andy.

And finally, Greg Thompson has a question after listening to my baseball-themed podcast episode.

How were you able to simultaneously do baseball play-by-play AND be on a TV writing staff? During their seasons, both are full-time jobs with a lot of evening work. And how did you work it out with your writing partner?

By the way, I listened to your early-'90s snippet of play-by-play on your podcast and thought you were great. Wish you were doing the Angels right now.

Me too. That was great fun.  I could do the groin injury rap for Halo fans. 

But to answer your question...

When I was doing baseball fulltime I would write scripts on the road and send them in. The TV production season started late summer and went until March. Fortunately, I was on mostly bad teams so never had to worry about those pesky playoffs. I was back in LA to continue my TV career during the baseball offseason.

However, for my three years with the Padres I was just doing weekends for them. So that was easy. I’d either drive down to San Diego on Saturday morning, or grab a Friday night flight to wherever they were on the road. The entire week I’d be wearing my "TV" hat. 

There were a couple of times though when the Padres needed me last minute during the week. On several occasions I worked until 4:00 at Paramount. Drove to Burbank airport, hopped a flight to San Diego, got a cab to the ballpark, did the game, went to the hotel, got an early morning flight back to Burbank the next day and was back in the office at 9. That was a little nuts. But for the most part it all worked out fine.

David was supportive. I think it helps that he was a big sports fan too. We always structured our partnership so that there was room if either of us wanted to explore other things.

What’s your Friday Question? I may even get to it on a Friday.


ScottyB said...

FQ for Ken, in light of Joe's question today: "I admire your whole body of work, but there's one scene of yours that's one of the funniest in TV history." What are top 5 or 10 that are *your* personal-favorite funniest in sitcom history? BTW, the g-g-g-groin injury bit cracks me up **every single** time, too. Even just thinking about it.

Stoney said...

On Monday December 8th, 1980 (the day John Lennon was killed) the AMERICAN TOP 40 show for the next weekend had been produced and shipped out. The next day Casey Kasem went back in the studio and recorded a replacement intro and outro for the song "Just Like Starting Over". Another segment on posthumous hits was also replaced. Not sure what medium (vinyl disc or tape) was used but it was rush-shipped to all affiliate stations.

Here is a scoped YouTube of the show featuring both the original segments and replacements.

Glenn said...

Friday question: I just re-watched the Friends "dirty girl" episode, when Ross dates the sexy woman whose apartment is a trash heap. Do the producers hide a set piece like that from the audience until the first reveal to get a genuine reaction? Or has the audience already seen it before they film those scenes?

Clint said...

I was reading a story yesterday about the 1971 rural purge at CBS where they "killed everything with a tree in it." This included shows like Mayberry RFD which was number 15 that season and bringing in some 30 million viewers. Do you think this was the right move (I'm going to say you agree since it led directly to MASH) and why have the ever desperate TV networks not tried rural comedy again? I don't count My Name is Earl. It wasn't in the same spirt as the original rural comedies.

marka said...

Friday question: I'd love to hear more about David. What does he do when he's not writing with you? I assume we know nothing about him becuase that's how he likes it!

Stephen Robinson said...

"Time to rap about a controversy. Gonna take a stand - won't show no mercy! A lot of folks say jocks shouldn't be a doing the sports news on TV. Well, I don't wanna hear the latest scores from a bunch of old broadcasting school bores. So get your scores from a guy like me who knows what it's like to have a groin injury... ggg... groin... ggg...groin injury."

All from memory -- thanks Mr. Levine for your impact on a then-13-yr-old mind.

John Hammes said...

"Eye On Sports" - also provided a ventriloquism act worthy of Ed Sullivan.

Although, re-creating that on radio, something would be lost in translation: granted, Edgar Bergen HAD proven such an act possible.

blinky said...

OK, Baseball.
Up in SF Giants land we have Jon Miller occasionally doing the games with Mike Krukow. Jon seems to me to be on the level of a Vin Scully. He could easily do a game all by himself with his wit and knowledge of baseball lore all delivered with an super voice.
Did you ever get a chance to work with him in the booth?

Melissa C. Banczak said...

Sam's rap for the news is one of my favorite scenes and my husband and I often break into it just for fun. Or to annoy our kids.

Pete Grossman said...

Friday - or Friday catch up question:

Ken, can you offer some insight about living a smart financial life in show business? (OK, how many people did I just lose?) As a career in the arts is filled with prat falls and high hopes, hot streaks and cold shoulders, what do sharp writers, actors and other people in the biz, in your opinion, do right to stay financially sound? As you came up, you no doubt heard something akin to, ‘Boy, when I get my first big paycheck or sign a deal, I’m gonna get a new car and a new place to live!’ Any thoughts about piercing the perception of the ‘now I’ve finally made it syndrome’ to keep a level head? (Hey, anybody still here?)

Jahn Ghalt said...


Here's a question for any day you want - and for any sport announcer who cares to answer:

Clearly, writing was your "day job" - the one you would choose if push came to shove. And you have mentioned other baseball announcers who worked all year 'round announcing for other sports.

So, the question:

How common is it for sports announcers to have a "day job" - that is non-announcing jobs done "off-season" - or overlapping as you did?

Jahn Ghalt said...

@ Clint,

Interesting question about "rural comedy". I'll guess that most of those that were purged ca. 1970-71 had run their course. Antenna TV has rerun Green Acres recently - which has it's attractions in addition to the lovely Ms. Gabor, not the least of which was to make fun of "city folk".

I was too young to see the first seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies, but some were released on DVD within the last ten years. That started out as a very smart comedy which also made fun of city folk.

(and, very interesting to me, the oil men at the very beginning were almost saintly in their ethics - just as unrealistic as clueless writers portraying businessmen as un-ethical - which is undoubtedly the rare exception in life)

Nowadays I can only think of Farmers Only ads that make fun of city folk - of the a$$#@le variety.

Kevin O'Shea said...

In the early 1980s, a high school buddy of mine was a board operator for the local 5000 watt AM station. Every once and a while he would snag one of the Casey Kasem AT40 LPs. We thought it was like Moses showing up at school with two, four-sided vinyl tablets. But it turned out it was a real pain to hear your favorite song this way because the breaks in the grooves ran with the breaks in the show; meaning you couldn’t just put the “fang in the tonearm cobra” in the groove right before the song. It was easier to just buy the 45.

YEKIMI said...

Back in the mid to late 80s a used record store near me ended up with lots of 1970s AT40 vinyl. Since I was "on the beach" [from radio and any other job] at the time I couldn't buy them and, even if I had money, not sure if I'd would buy them because he wanted a small fortune for them. He refused to say where he got them but I have a fairly good idea since one of the top rated DJs [and a friend] from a station that had played AT40 lived in a small town not too far away from said record shop. He wouldn't even tell me if he had sold them to the record store. Sure that whatever station management told him there was a "penalty of death" clause if he ever told anyone where they had come from. I've "liberated" a few 45s and LPs from stations I worked at over the years that were going to be tossed because of format changes or the artist fell out of favor and were no longer played. Can't listen to the AT40 replays they do today because very often they are mismatched {Casey talking about a song/artist and then the song/artist that gets played is no relation to the song that Casey had talked about} or the songs have been edited to half or less of their original length.

Peter Aparicio said...

Just curious - how much do residuals actually pay? I know it varies from show to show and how hot the show is in syndication, but, for example, approximately how much does one episode of M*A*S*H pay in a year?

Bugdun said...

FQ: Ken - Was playing golf last night and my playing partner and I were discussing and wondering why a movie has never been made about the incredible, almost unbelievable life of Ted Williams. Would take a great writer who knows baseball, and is willing to do lots of research, I guess.

rockgolf said...

The info on how Top 40 shows were taped isn't entirely accurate. In the book American Top 40: The Countdown of the Century, Rob Durkee related that for the first few years, the show was indeed recorded in real time.

One week when Casey was on vacation, Dick Clark did the show, and couldn't believe he had to sit through three hours. He explained the process of just recording the intro/outros and having them mixed over the music after, and it was so obviously superior that the AT40 team switched to that process and never looked back.

And, -30-, there's your answer. Now, back to the countdown.

Frederick Herman "Freddy" Jones said...

FQ for Ken...

With a possible writers strike looming, is it an opportunity for non-wga members to get a project made or looked at?

On the flip side, is it in bad taste for a non-wga writer to seek representation or to try to get a foot in the door (any door) during a strike? I would imagine that a non-wga writer, after selling a script or pitch, would quickly become wga eligible and then have to honor the strike.

If a writer got any type of start during a strike, are they actually starting out with a couple of strikes against them, or are they likely to strike up a good relationship with those on strike?

Sorry, "strike" is my desk calendar word-of-the-day and I had to use it in a sentence. I'm a good study.

tavm said...

The question about Casey Kasem-not to mention the John Lennon redo after his sudden death-made me go to YouTube where I found out that the Lennon edit was there but whole shows-minus entire songs-were available on it, Casey's, his replacement Shadoe Stevens, various substitutes including the Dick Clark one, and some of Casey's special countdown including the No. 1s from 1937 to '78 during the 4th of July weekend which was also when his "AT40" shows began airing back in '70! I love the internet!

Tom Galloway said...

Pete, some general hitting it big financial advice, not from Hollywood but from Silicon Valley (with a soupcon from sports and lottery winners).

1) Don't do *anything* for the first 6-12 months after hitting the jackpot other than getting said jackpot into a rock solid financial instrument (bank, money market, etc.) no matter how little that instrument pays. Give yourself time to think about things and get used to the new idea of how well off you are and don't make any sudden decisions. You're allowed to leave in a checking account however much you'd need for those 6-12 months *before* you struck it rich.

2) Realize you've gotten lucky (yes, there are people just as talented as you who made a different choice or didn't have the same opportunity who are *not* as well off as you've just become), and the odds are this will only happen once, at least to this degree. Yeah, maybe you're Michael Jordan or David Boreanez (he's now been the star of a network show for 17 straight years, and a co-star for two years before that) or Marissa Meyer, who've all either had much longer than average periods of significant income and/or have managed to have more than one success (early Googler and Yahoo! CEO for Marissa) with respect to getting a big payday. You *cannot* assume you'll ever do as well as you just did again.

3) And the corollary to 2) is, you want to plan for this money to last the rest of your life...and that amount is a *lot* more than you probably realize. Plan on living to 90 to be safe...if you're 30, that's 60 years. So if your investment return just matches the rate of inflation *after taxes*, each year you can spend a whopping 1/60. Which, for $1,000,000 is a whopping $16,667.

4) Learn the difference between things that generally gain in value (investments, or potential ones such as a house) and things that depreciate in value from the moment you buy them. Such as non-antique fancy cars. Or most jewelry (and stones are going to go drastically down in price as economically produced in a lab gems become common). Go out and buy five sports cars and you might as well have flushed a fair amount of their price down the toilet.

5) Do *not* feel obligated to support anyone outside of your immediate family, and you want to draw lines there as well. You will potentially lose friends and family over this.

6) Do not let peer pressure make you feel you have to keep up with the Gateses or Buffetts. Or anyone who actually has a fair amount more than you or who didn't do the first four things and is blowing their money away via conspicuous consumption.

7) Be careful what level of lifestyle you adapt. It's hard to go from a richer lifestyle to a poorer one, since you get used to the advantages and extra stuff of the richer one.

ReticentRabbit said...

Hi Ken--curious if you, as someone with experience in television and sports, have any thoughts about the day ESPN has had today. The tweets from all who lost their jobs are very moving.

Andy Rose said...

I wish I had saved some of the old countdown LPs and CDs I had access to many years ago. It was made clear in the station contract that they were not to be saved, and warnings on the packaging specifically called for the records to be "destroyed" immediately after air. I guess I took warnings like that more seriously when I was a dorky kid.

In the later years of his countdowns, Casey actually did three shows for different music formats, for a total of ten hours of programming every weekend, plus a daily vignette. Certainly no way he could have done all of that in real time, but computer editing made it a lot easier in the 90s.

@Stoney: That recording of the redone AT40 after John Lennon's death is fascinating... I'd never heard that. Of course, these days it would probably be considered in bad taste to have "only" one reference to a murdered artist who still had a song in the countdown at the time of his death before returning to the normal format. But things were different in 1980. NBC TV announced Lennon's death with a quick cut-in to the Tonight Show. It was done in voiceover by staff announcer Fred Facey because all of NBC News' on-air talent and studio staff had gone home for the night. Fred read about five sentences off the wire, and then it was back to the (pre-taped) comedy.

By Ken Levine said...

Frederick Herman,

What you are essentially saying is are there scabs and is it a good idea to use this to your advantage and break in? The answer is it's an absolute career killer if you. First off, networks and studio are not going to hire non-WGA members. And secondly, if you get caught scabbing, you can forget any showrunner hiring you. And it's not something that is easily forgotten.

Don't do it. Trust me, you'll thank me in a few years.

Wally said...

I know of someone who made low 5 figures 20-30 years after running a show. It depends.

Boomska316 said...

Is it bad that I could tell what episode that photo came from just by looking? I'm pretty sure it's from "Cementing Relationships."

ScottyB said...

A couple of things came to me while reading about AT40, which was a huge deal back when I was growing up and we didn't have anywhere near the broadcasting/entertainment outlets available today. Christ, we still had transistor radios and film cameras, for chrissakes. Anyway, there are stations today who like to do a "from the vault" thing (usually on Sundays), and it's really nostalgic/fun to hear things like AT40. I had it playing in the car a few weeks ago and mentioned to my 18-year-old son that Kasey Kasem was the voice of Shaggy on the original 'Scooby Doo' cartoons. He was totally surprised. As a dad, that little few seconds of trivia/education was a total pleasure. Second, when I was living in rural Missouri last year, a local station also did replays of Rick Dees' weekly show from the 1980s similar to Kasem's AT40. I don't recall any of our Chicago stations running Dees' show back in the day, but it became a source of a lot of enjoyment on my Sunday nights in Missouri, in a place where I didn't know a soul and basically had no life. So in those respects, I think the Kasem/Dees shows today still carry a lot of value, sometimes even beyond the "Holy shit, I totally forgot that song existed!" thing. And last, I always wondered how many kids listening to Dees' reruns have sent in answers to his weekly contests to a PO box that hasn't existed in like 30 years. That still makes me snicker.

ScottyB said...

Another FQ for Ken, in light of the Kasey Kasem segment: Are there any (non-sports) syndicated radio personalities from the 1980s still on the air that you hear while bouncing around the radio dial (yeah, back when our radios had dials) that you go, "Damn, they're *still* on the air?" Not in a derisive way, but just being amazed that they've managed to survive all this time doing the same show with the same format? Dr. Demento used to be my first thought until he went away, but these days it's Delilah with her songs for the lovelorn.

ScarletNumber said...


Ken and Jon Miller worked together in Baltimore. Jon appeared in the video Ken posted recently.

Andy Rose said...

A completely random fun fact about Rick Dees: about two decades ago, he decided he wanted to run a farm and bought land in Kentucky horse country. He did his daily LA morning show and the countdown from there several months out of the year. That kind of telecommuting is not unheard of in radio, but hosts usually just have a small one-person remote setup with everyone else back at the main studio. Rick wanted his whole morning crew to be with him, so he built a full-sized studio on the farm and got all of them to join him and live in Kentucky part of the year.

Ed Dempsey said...

Hi Ken,

Friday question.

I worked on the Orioles ground crew in the early 70s and again with the Colts in the early 80s. I knew every nook and cranny and still considered it a second home growing up.

It just dawned on me while watching your demo reel that you were there for the last Orioles season at Memorial Stadium. Do you have any memories or thoughts about that experience that you can share and how did that experience compare to the other stadiums you've worked in and around.

Thanks for a great blog and podcast.

Ed Dempsey

Brian said...

Just thinking of the groin injury scene made me smile. Thanks for the Friday pick-me-up.

Jimmyjam said...

I started buying copies of American top 40 on eBay back in the 90s. It was great to get these LPs and Cd's. Then, in the early 2000's, I would trade CVR copies of the show. Eventually, I was able to get a hard drive with MP3 copies of every American top 40, Casey's top 40, and the other Casey Kasem shows.
I listen to them regularly.

Kho Health said...

Great Read!

Pulled Groin Stretches