Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My enthusiasm for CURB

I’m getting a backlog of Friday Questions so I thought over the next few weeks I’d sprinkle in extra editions. You keep askin’ ‘em and I’ll keep answerin’ ‘em.

Brian leads off:

I don't remember you having mentioned any opinions about Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm". In particular, I wonder what you think about making a show with only outlines and no script.

I love CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and I love Larry David even though every time he sees me he brings up how pissed he is that I beat him for a Writers Guild Award in 1992.  Get over it, Larry!

Those shows aren’t scripted per se, but Larry works out the story to great detail. And often he and the actors rehearse scenes over and over while he sharpens lines and basically scripts it on the fly. He thus achieves the best of both worlds – the actors sound natural and not scripted but the desired jokes are all in place. 

From Thomas:

Do you have a "one that got away" writing job? Like, a job that you didn't quite land and always wish you had?

I always wanted to write a script for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and one of the producers liked our work. But they had given a freelance assignment to a team who turned in a terrible draft and the other producer decided that that was it for freelance scripts that season. And unfortunately, it was the last season.

We were also offered the COSBY pilot to write but were under contract to do the second season of AfterMASH and couldn’t accept it. That haunted me, but for some reason not so much the last two or three years.

After listening to my podcast, Andy Rose has a question about my baseball announcing:

One thing I've been curious about that didn't get mentioned in the broadcast... why'd you stop doing baseball? 

Short answer:  Because no one has hired me. 

When I was doing play-by-play for the Padres in the ‘90s I was just doing every weekend, thus allowing Jerry Coleman to go off and do the CBS radio Game of the Week. It was the perfect gig for me. I was producing ALMOST PERFECT during the week and calling major league baseball on the weekends. But after three years CBS lost the radio rights to ESPN and Jerry was back full-time.

I did part-time play-by-play for the Mariners a few years ago after Dave Niehaus passed away, but then they decided to hire a young announcer fulltime.

I would love to do more baseball. Someone just has to call.

And finally, B Smith wonders:

I watched the "Abyssinia Henry" episode of MASH last night (one watches it again, and hopes that maybe _this_ time, Henry's plane won't go down), and wondered if, as a screenwriter yourself, you're able to detach yourself from the nuts and bolts of writing and view it as we "civilians" do, or are you constantly analyzing it in your head, seeing how the writers went from A to B, considering how you might have written it, etc?

I try very hard not to do that. And nothing pleases me more than when a show engages me and I can just go along for the ride.

More than the writing, however, I watch with a more critical eye as a director. If shots aren’t matched, or a shot is not well composed it will bump me. Conversely, I’ll see a great shot or well-constructed sequence and tip my cap to the director.

I hate to see bad stage play comedies, because for me it’s like going to a terrible runthrough except it lasts two hours. And in my head I’m going, “You can cut this whole scene.” “There’s a missed opportunity for a joke,” etc.

What’s your Friday Question (or in this case, Tuesday Question)?


Bryan said...

Ken, I'd still love a port-mortem on AfterMASH. I watched it a few years ago and while it took a bit to get going I thought it was finding it's legs in the second season. Yet you seemingly regret it or at least are happy to poke fun at it.

therealshell said...

Tuesday/Friday question: do you think that it's ever "too soon" to make jokes about tragic events ?

Cory said...

Friday Question - In the Werner Herzog documentary "Grizzly Man," it's stated that the film's subject (Timothy Treadwell) used to claim he narrowly lost the role of Woody on "Cheers" to Woody Harrelson. Any truth to that?

Diane G said...

I wish I had any influence with the Mariners. You are a wonderful announcer and I would love to hear you again. Dave Neihaus was the best ever, but in my book you are second.

Eric J said...

If the emphasis of the blog is shifting toward the podcasts, then more "Friday questions" would fit right in. Listeners and readers both have questions, and they are often exactly the information we're here for in the first place. I never pass up a chance to learn something and laugh at the same time.

LouOCNY said...

Love to hear about your experience almost working for Danny Arnold - there's so little anywhere about him and BARNEY MILLER out there.

Brad Apling said...

I truly enjoy these columns of yours! They make me feel like I'm right on the set of a show, setting next to you (quietly of course) and seeing what you do. On another note, it was announced recently that some shows probably won't see another season. One of the reasons given for a couple of them [Elementary and Blindspot] was that they were losing significant share for the under-50 crowd. If you know the writing, acting and directing are good, what is losing the interest of that part of spectrum and can they do something different for in the rest of the season episodes to turn it around?

Andrew said...

I second Eric J. More Friday (or any day) questions. I love reading these. And when a question I asked gets chosen and answered, well, it really gives my dull and mundane life some meaning. My therapist thanks you.

Something else that I'd love to see more of on your blog, Ken, is your opinions about various TV shows from the past. What did you like/dislike about, say, All in the Family, or Happy Days, or Married With Children? What has aged well and what hasn't? What shows are overrated, and what shows are guilty pleasures? If you need an idea for a post, just pick a TV show and share your true feelings.

MellaBlue said...

I was watching Frasier the other night (okay, I will confess that I watch Frasier almost every night on either Cozi or Hallmark), and I was wondering if the writers always had on eye on bringing Daphne and Niles together or whether it was something that sprang from the actors' chemistry or need for a plot to shake things up a bit. How do writers manage these kind of "game changing" plot points? Is it a long game or a whim?

Brian said...

Thanks Ken, for answering my question (again). I loved Curb (another short name) as well and am about to embark on watching them again. I wish Netflix would put them on streaming. Get with it Netflix!

Brian said...

Thanks Ken! I wish Netflix would put Curb on streaming. Get with it Netflix!

Greg Thompson said...


You've probably answered this before, but 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.