Friday, July 07, 2017

Friday Questions

Hello from Seattle. One of my one-act plays, LOVERS LEAP, is being performed this weekend at the Edmonds Driftwood Players “8th Annual Festival of Shorts.” So I’m back in the great Pacific Northwest (where maybe five people will remember me).  But no matter where I am, Friday Questions come with me. 

Ken (not me, another Ken) starts us off.

You have mentioned the issues some actors have when they have been overly identified with a single sole/character.   You mentioned George Reeves and the woman on the Progressive commercials (Stephanie Courtney) as well as the Coffee lady from Folgers commercials (Virginia Christine).

On the flip side does it affect a performers career when they are almost unrecognizable because of costume/ make up for a role. i.e. Worf ( Micheal Dorn ) Neelix ( Ethan Phillip) or Smaug ( Benedict Cumberbatch - yeah right).

Are they overlooked because they are not "familiar"?

As long as they don’t do future shows in that make-up and those costumes they should be fine.

Honeycutt Powell queries:

I always wondered about the call letters of Frasier's radio station. Is KACL a sly reference to the sound of a cackling chicken?

It stands for Angell, Casey, and Lee. The three creators of FRASIER are David Angell, Peter Casey & David Lee. And WLS stands for World’s Largest Store. At the time it was owned by Sears. I know you didn’t ask that but what the hell?

Bevan Hickling wonders:

When you write a great joke that gets filmed but then cut from the episode for timing, do you reuse that joke in another episode?

Absolutely. It just goes in what we used to call at CHEERS the “s.o.s. file.” Some Other Show.

Songwriters do this as well. Many songs that have gotten cut from Broadway musicals reappear in other ones.

And why not? It’s not like we’re stealing.

From Tom Foolery (if that’s his real name):

Nosy Question.... for your 50+ TV Director jobs...did you get the DGA minimum? How does an agent negotiate for a TV Director job? Does anyone get more than the scale? Are TV Directors interchangeable, thus no leverage to get $$$??

I command the DGA minimum, which is not pocket change. But the really accomplished, highly-sought-out directors command a lot more. As well they should. I can only imagine what James Burrows makes per episode these days. But he’s worth it.

Directors now also sometimes get a producer credit, so they get a fee for that.

Just as there are few really good writers, the list of truly excellent directors is even shorter. They contribute enormously to a show’s success and should be compensated accordingly.

So when do they start getting more?  Usually when there's a bidding war for their services.  

And finally, from Jim:

What's your take on Daniel Day Lewis's announcement of retirement? And also do you think he is the greatest actor ever?

My take is a big “yawn.” I believe the entertainment industry will soldier on. Is he the greatest actor ever? No, but he may be the greatest at promoting that theory.

Give me Brando in his prime, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Paul Newman, Laurence Olivier, Forest Whitaker, Peter O’Toole, Bill Holden, Christian Bale, Ben Kingsley, Richard Burton, Sidney Poitier, George C. Scott, (the young) Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro (except for ROCKY & BULLWINKLE). And those are just actors. There’s an equally long list of actresses.

So no, it’s not like Sondheim is retiring.

What’s your Friday Question?  If you're in Seattle, come see my play.


JW said...

WLS, of course, competes with WGN, which stands for World's Greatest Newspaper. (No false modesty for the Chicago Tribune.)

Fred Vogel said...

Christian Bale???

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Enquiring Minds might want to know the DGA Contracts/Rates for 2017-2018.

Daniel said...


What are your thoughts on motion-capture performances? Should it judged (and rewarded) the same as traditional film acting? There's a new Planet of the Apes movie coming out, and every time a film like that is released there is always talk of how Andy Serkis is never properly recognized for his mo-cap performances (King Kong, Planet of the Apes, Gollum, Tintin, etc.) when awards season comes along.

Anonymous said...

Olivier, Brando, Poitier, Scott are all of a slightly older generation.
And others like Newman did their best work before 1975.
If I had to name the best actor of the last 40 years, in terms of consistently good work, variety of roles, longevity, and stage screen and television, it would be someone who rarely gets mentioned - John Hurt.
He at least holds his own against and probably surpasses any of those - especially in terms of movies,stage and television

Brian Phillips said...

Also WSB here in Atlanta, originally stood for "Welcome South, Brother".

Edward said...

What's your take on the Asian actors leaving Hawaii-5-O due to "pay parity" ??

Stoney said...

Have you ever watched, or are familiar with, THE RED GREEN SHOW? (I searched your blog archive and didn't see any mention of it.) It was a C.B.C. product that got some play here in the states on P.B.S. stations. Steve Smith played the title character; the leader of a backwoods lodge who gave humorous advice on manliness and being handy. The show had elements of "Home Improvement" mixed with SCTV's "Great White North" sketches. I'd say it was one of the funniest, best written shows I'd ever seen!

VP81955 said...

WGN, the Chicago Tribune radio (and TV) station for decades, had call letters that stood for "World's Greatest Newspaper," its longtime slogan. I'm surprised the Los Angeles Times (later a Tribune property) didn't use KTIF as its call when it owned a station...the "TIF" would have stood for "True Industrial Freedom," the then strongly anti-union paper's front-page slogan until the early '60s.

Covarr said...

"Songwriters do this as well. Many songs that have gotten cut from Broadway musicals reappear in other ones."

This is kind of a pet peeve of mine. It can work for jokes, each of which are usually only a very small part of the show they're in, individually, but when musicals do this it can significantly diminish the identity of any particular show.

Rodgers and Hammerstein did this a lot. Occasionally they would even reuse music that hadn't gotten cut. It ultimately led to most of their shows feeling stylistically interchangeable. I think it's no surprise at all that their very best, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, is also the one with the most songs that are intrinsically inseparable from the show itself. Compare to another show of theirs, CINDERELLA, which had some good original songs, but later productions added songs cut from SOUTH PACIFIC and OKLAHOMA, and, while they weren't bad songs, it made the final product weaker.

For contrast, look at something like FIDDLER ON THE ROOF or SWEENEY TODD. Each of these shows has a very strong musical identity, with songs that could absolutely never be transplanted into anything else.

SWEENEY is filled with musical themes and ideas that repeat themselves and mutate throughout the run of the show, such as "The Barber and His Wife" bookending the whole thing, "Poor Thing" being interwoven into the score for the beggar woman's scenes and into "City on Fire" to clue foreshadow and eventually reveal her identity, or "A Little Priest" being used to tie Mrs. Lovett's decision and manipulation early on to the consequences at the end leading to her eventual downfall.

FIDDLER had a lot of repeated and mutated themes also, but even songs that didn't end up reusing themes or being reused still fit better than in most musicals, because of careful use of genre and styles to make sure everything sounded distinctly Jewish. For Joseph Stein to bring in something he'd cut from another musical would've been horribly out of place, and would've stood out all the more for how consistent the musical's own songs were.

When you mix and match songs the way many musicals do, it can be all but impossible to create this kind of musical cohesion, which really hinders a show's ability to make that leap from good to great.

...And I see that this has become somewhat of a half-rant, half-essay. Whoops. The short version: cutting and later reusing a joke is far more okay than doing the same with a song, because a single joke doesn't usually have nearly as strong an impact on the overall identity of a given work. When done right, a great song in a musical will go beyond itself and weave itself into the rest of the show in a way that a joke simply does not need to.

Michael said...

WSM in Nashville is known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry. What do those call letters have to do with that? Nothing, except that the station was started by a now merged insurance company, National Life, whose slogan was ... We Shield Millions.

The father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, was on the Opry for almost 57 years and his full name was William Smith Monroe. He started at the station after it went on the air, but those of us who love bluegrass think there should be a connection!

iain said...

Contrary to the strongly held beliefs of some of my late 1970's classmates, WMMS did not stand for "Weed Makes Me Smile."

Jim said...

Thanks a lot Ken. I was hoping for a complete post with a snarky takedown of DDL, but this was also so good.

"a big “yawn.”"

"greatest at promoting that theory."

Ha Ha Ha Haaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Kate said...

William Holden, Ben Kingsley ????? Pedestrian at best.

Agree with Fred Vogel - Christian Bale?

He and Jared Leto are a poor imitation of DDL. Same method acting shit and all PR hype about losing weight for the role and such non sense.

Unkystan said...

WKRP. 'nuff said.

Astroboy said...

EXCEPT for "Rocky and Bullwinkle"?! His greatest performance, my dear sir!

Dave Creek said...

A lot of call letters have those "hidden" or sometimes just forgotten meanings.

WLKY-TV got its call letters from Louisville, KY.

The station I retired from, WDRB-TV, picked its call letters to evoke the word "derby," as in Kentucky Derby.

And some were established early enough that they formed words. WAVE-TV in Louisville is one example. They're never known as W-A-V-E.

WAKY Radio is now an FM nostalgia station. But what it's nostalgic for is when it was Louisville's AM powerhouse back in the sixties and seventies. Notably, it was known as "Wacky" Radio, except at the top of the hour, when it presented W-A-K-Y News.

Big B's Random Blog said...

See you Saturday night. Looking forward to it.

ScarletNumber said...

@Barefoot Billy Aloha

Thank you for that link.


WPLJ is a hot-adult-contemporary radio station in New York named after the 1956 Four Deuces song.

D. McEwan said...

"On the flip side does it affect a performers career when they are almost unrecognizable because of costume/ make up for a role. i.e. Worf ( Micheal Dorn ) Neelix ( Ethan Phillip) or Smaug ( Benedict Cumberbatch - yeah right).

Are they overlooked because they are not 'familiar'?

As long as they don’t do future shows in that make-up and those costumes they should be fine."

Well, Michael Dorn went on to play Worf in subsequent series and in movies. It's really a shame. He was a very good-looking man 30 years ago, but you couldn't see it under that ugly Klingon make-up.

LouOCNY said...

Just about every meaning of every call sign in America:

VP81955 said...

To ScarletNumber:
For those who don't know, WPLJ stands for "white port lemon juice," one of many R&B songs dedicated to the joys of alcohol (e.g., "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-o-Dee," "One Mint Julep").

WMMR in Philadelphia is an abbreviation of "mummer," the annual Philly New Year's Day string band parade tradition.

My hometown of Syracuse had three word call-letter stations: WAGE (620), which changed in the '50s to WHEN. (A Leesburg, Va. station adopted WAGE, though that station is now defunct.) And at 1490 in the Salt City was WOLF, where Dick Clark worked in the early '50s while at Syracuse University, before Philly and "American Bandstand"; when Marv Albert attended SU in the early '60s, he also spent time at WOLF. It was a noted Top 40 station in the '60s (save for a few years when it had a country format), and last I heard was a Radio Disney affiliate.

After Syracuse, my family moved to Washington, D.C., which naturally had WASH, a popular FM station owned by Metromedia for many years. And I know of at least two radio stations whose call letters are its entire city's name -- WACO in Waco, Texas (even though it's west of the Mississippi and really should start with a "K") and WARE in Ware, Mass.

Jon said...

For CHEERS fans out there, Me-TV will be rerunning CHEERS episode "Here's Cliffy" this Sunday night, 7/9, at midnight (technically Monday morning, 7/10) ET and 11 PM CT. I have my DVR set to record it, since it looks like fun and I've never seen it before.

sanford said...

Just Rocky and Bullwinkle? Meet the Parents? Fokker? take a look at his IMBD page. He has not been a real good movie in some time.

Johnny Walker said...

I've wondered the same thing about certain roles. "Hurrah! I've been cast as a series regular on a prime time sitcom! Oh wait, I'm Wilson in Home Improvement."

Yes it myst be fantastic to have regular work, but good luck landing another role off the back of a gig like that.

Liggie said...

Seattle is unusual that three of its network TV affiliates can be pronounced like words: KING (NBC), KOMO (ABC) and KIRO (CBS). Also, the secondary NBC channel is KONG.

Re: the Driftwood Players showcase, Ken, will your play be shown on the Sunday afternoon event? If so, I'll try to get up there to see it.

ScottyB said...

The segment on the Frasier call letters caught my eye. I grew up on Chicago radio, so naturally we all knew that WLS = World's Largest Store and WGN = World's Greatest Newspaper. But there were a few other city-famous acronyms: WCFL (WLS's competitor) = Chicago Federation of Labor, WVON = Voice of the Negro, WBBM = We Broadcast Better Music. Today, anyone who watches Chicago's PBS station (ya OK, it's not radio, but still) knows WTTW = Window To The World. Pretty cool stuff when you're curious enough to find out shit.

Andy Rose said...

I appreciated the fact that KACL was on 780, a legitimate AM frequency. I understand why a TV show or movie can't use existing call letters for a fictional station, but I never understood why so many use nonsensical frequencies, like 520 AM or 95.8 FM. That's like giving a character a six digit phone number.

You mentioned earlier once offering your services as a radio technical consultant to Hugh Wilson to WKRP. Did make the same offer to the ACL team?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken. FQ. Could you please explain how dialogue is recorded on a multi cam sitcom? I assume there are a number of fixed overhead mics. If a cast member is moving around the set throughout the scene does a mic 'follow' them?
On a related note, do the cast re-record dialogue during editing and for what reasons? Thanks,
Tom, Australia

thevidiot said...

WSM in Nashville: We Sell Millions (an insurance company originally owned them). KFI was Farm Implements (Earle C. Anthony sold them as well as cars).

Craig Russell said...

Hi ken. 3 Friday Questions (If I may)

1. Who did the paintings that Col. Potter "painted" on MASH? Was it Harry Morgan?

2. Recently watched "Our Finest Hour" episodes of MASH. I have noticed between the 2 Clete Roberts "clip show" episodes "The Interview" seemed way more ad-libbed, and the latter was much more scripted. You had said in the past both were completely scripted. Between the end of season 4 and season 7 the tone of the show had changed. Was that the reason for the difference?

3. Also speaking of "Our Fibest Hour" it seems to have the look of "film on video tape" to it. All the other 250 episodes were shot on film. Why did that one seem to be edited on videotape? Has a different feel to it (Like if Cheers had been on tape and not film)

I'll hang up and wait for the answer.

DetroitGuy said...

WBBM stood for World's Best Battery Maker.
The Mallory Battery Company.

VincentS said...

TOTALLY agree with your assessment of the Daniel Day Lewis retirement.