Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Questions

How many different ways can I say it’s time for Friday Questions? I think I’ve exhausted them.

Michael gets us started this week.

Do you think if the CHEERS producers knew earlier that FRASIER was going to be spun off that they would have dropped the storyline of Frasier and Lilith having a baby? As much as I enjoyed FRASIER and understood the show creators desire to have FRASIER set far away from Boston, I always felt it reflected badly on the character that he moved all the way across the country and had very limited contact with his son.

Obviously, it would have been easier and cleaner if Frasier and Lilith were childless, but the decision was made to give them a baby years before a spinoff was even a twinkle in Charles/Burrows/Charles and NBC’s eye.

Lots of divorced couples with children live miles apart, and it’s a heartache for all involved. I think the producers of FRASIER dealt with that issue on several occasions in their usual elegant and sensitive way.

But for my money, ANY time you introduce a baby into a series you run the risk of damaging the premise. Babies need attention so characters are suddenly obligated to provide that attention. Certainly in a romantic comedy that can deflate the soufflé.

Buttermilk Sky asks:

On MASH characters often rhapsodized about their home towns -- Crabapple Cove, Mill Valley, Ottumwa, Boston. Only Toledo was characterized in a consistently negative light. My favorite joke:

Klinger: Toledo is crying out for another four-star restaurant.

BJ: The last one closed when all the pin boys quit.

Did you ever get complaints from the Chamber of Commerce, or from individual Toledans?

No. They loved the attention. We also promoted Toledo landmarks like Paco’s Hot Dogs… although I do have to admit I’m pissed at them. In the late ‘80s when I was calling minor league baseball, we went into Toledo to play the Mud Hens (yes, that really is the name of their team – still is). So I went to the famous Paco’s. On the walls they had hotdog buns signed by celebrities. I introduced myself to the manager, said I was the person who wrote a lot of the episodes Paco’s was mentioned in and I’d be happy to sign a bun. He said he wasn’t interested. So screw you, Paco’s Hotdogs. How much business have you gotten over the years thanks to my plugs on a national TV show? And besides, I had never even heard of half these celebrities you did have sign your stupid buns.

But I'm not bitter. 

From Emma getting ready for some summer beach reading.

Who according to you depicted Hollywood screw-ups better in their novels? Harold Robbins?

Well, can I immodestly say me? My comic novel, MUST KILL TV does a pretty fair job of exposing all that Hollywood bullshit. Please check it out.

Also, ARTISTIC DIFFERENCES by Charlie Hauck. Very funny and unfortunately, very true.

And finally, Stoney has a disc jockey question for the old Bossjock:

What record was the hardest one to stick? For me it was Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me". Knew the intro time but could rarely get it right because it was the same note repeating.

“It’s a Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals.   Ugh! You try it.


Bob said...

I introduced myself to the manager, said I was the person who wrote a lot of the episodes Paco’s was mentioned in and I’d be happy to sign a bun. He said he wasn’t interested.

Maybe some Toledo residents didn't appreciate the negative jokes as much as you think they did. :)

Jim S said...


Interesting point about having a baby on a show. My old editor, who had his third child around the time Ross and Rachel had their kid. He had enjoyed Friends because it reminded him of the time he was 23 and on his own. But as the show went on, the mechanics of keeping everyone together got to him.

He believed that certain premises have a shelf life and that Friends by its very nature was a five-year show. What really drove him crazy was once Rachel's baby was born, they went back to their regular style of show. He pointed out what you pointed out, a new baby is all-demanding of time. We saw Rachel hold her child like two times. He complained there were more stories built around Rachel dating while having a child than there were of her actually being a mother with a newborn.

Long way to get to my Friday question. I am sure that the writers thought they got some great stories out of the baby plot (I agree with my old editor). But they wrote themselves in a corner and never got out of it.

Have you ever gotten yourself into a situation like that, wrote something and realized the consequences put you in a corner?


Keep up the good work.

Justin Russo said...


Ken, with your affinity for classic films and stars of the era, I have a bit of a whimsical question for you. Were you to cast "Cheers" using classic stars, who would you choose for each character? I keep picturing Thelma Ritter as Carla and David Niven as Frasier.

Brian Phillips said...

One of the the best "Posters" was Charlie Tuna. I heard an aircheck of him and "Nobody" by Three Dog Night was the record. After his usual fast patter, he said:

TUNA: Does anybody play more hits than I do?
Three Dog Night: Nooooo-body...

Curt Alliaume said...

Having babies figure into sitcoms is always appealing (especially for sweeps) because it usually means up to a year of new plots and subplots (plus an episode or two of wacky hospital hijinks), but then the question is: what do you do with the kid? Modern Family has made pretty good use of the kids, and Full House lucked out with the Olsen twins, but other shows (Friends, Mad About You, Murphy Brown) seemed to ditch the kid as often as possible because they were a drain on the stories. Since they're sitcoms, it was amusing to assume Avery Brown, Mabel Buchman, and Emma Geller Green were all in the same 24-hour daycare; in real life their parents would be considered neglectful at the very least.

It's true that Frederick would have been miserable in real life with his parents living 3,000 miles apart, but at least in Cheers and Frasier his character portrayal was somewhat more realistic than the ones mentioned above.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

If you think Frasier moving across the country was a poor reflection on him, I'd say what reflects worse is that he becomes a new father and spends all his time either at work or hanging out at a bar with his degenerate buddies.

C'mon Frasier! What would Freud say?
(According to Niles, he was the Jungian)

kent said...

I wonder how Toledo feels about John Denver?

Jon said...

I think Ken's referring to Tony Packo's, which is known for its signed buns. Klinger was seen looking into its window in the S8 "Dreams" episode.

What does "stick" mean in DJ context? Intro to a song? I don't think I remember seeing that term here before.

McAlvie said...

I have to agree with your comment about characters having children. There is always a point where I wonder what they did with the baby because it hasn't been mentioned. I think Friends had the right idea. It was a show about twenty somethings at loose ends, so the show could go in many directions. They avoided giving any of the characters a family life until the end of the show, because at that point life changes and so the premise of the show was gone.

There seem to be two premises for sitcoms: either they are family-life centered, or there are no kids. I think one of the reasons the new Kevin James show didn't work for me is that his kids and home life seemed like an inconvenient obstacle to get around so his character could be a jerk. It would have worked better if he wasn't supposed to be retired. The Matt LeBlanc vehicle, oth, is actually ABOUT this character having to be more "Mr. Mom" and how he adapts to that.

Chuck Warn said...

I was born and raised during the 50s in Toledo when Danny Thomas was our Hollywood star and Packo's sold great chili dogs. Things change.
Offended by Packo's passing on your offer to sign their bun?
Get over it.

Emma said...

Thanks a lot Ken. Sure will check out your book.

john not mccain said...

"ANY time you introduce a baby into a series you run the risk of damaging the premise."

Don't know if it's true or not, but years ago I heard a story about Bob Newhart being presented with a BN Show script wherein they have a baby. Supposedly he said "Who are you getting to play the part of Bob?"

Frank said...

The Player is also a pretty good Hollywood screw-up novel.

Frank said...


Jahn Ghalt said...

Bob said...

Maybe some Toledo residents didn't appreciate the negative jokes as much as you think they did. :)

I'll risk taking a joke seriously and say that, although that clueless, indifferent (poorly paid) manage was a Tolodeo resident, he had no idea about MASH and the Paco's plugs.

I'd guess the absentee owner was older, knew MASH, and much more likely to be pleased to get a signature from a MASH.

littlejohn said...


I have been watching the Bosch series on Amazon Prime videos, and think it's been terrific. However, since I read your blog every day, I became curious about something. They start listing about a dozen producers singly, then show two names together, then go back to listing the names one by one. What the world does that mean ?

I understand if you and David produced a show that you might be listed as co-producers. But what the hell is the difference between a producer, a co-producer, and an executive producer ? The amount on the check ?

Thanks !


JAhn Ghalt said...

Charles Warn said...

Offended by Packo's passing on your offer to sign their bun?
Get over it.

MR. Warn,

Speaking of "getting over it", your blog is subtitled:

musings of a boomer in the time of Obama.

Are we STILL " in the time of Obama"??

(I suspect you're still "a boomer" who loves World Art - that's some good stuff)

Arthur Mee said...

How many ways can you say it? Hmmm....have you tried:

Il est temps pour les questions du vendredi...

Es hora de las preguntas del viernes...

Estas tempo por vendredo demandoj...

Det er tid til fredagsspørgsmål...


Google Translate is a wonderful thing!

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

JOHN not McCain said: Don't know if it's true or not, but years ago I heard a story about Bob Newhart being presented with a BN Show script wherein they have a baby. Supposedly he said "Who are you getting to play the part of Bob?"

I don't know about you, but as soon as I saw a Bob Newhart quote, I had to automatically say it with a stammer.

Anonymous said...

I Love Lucy did the kid thing pretty well, I thought. They always had to get Mrs. Trumbull to take care of him when on a whacky adventure, even though she hated the wailing one at first, and they even wove him into the story sometimes.

Brian said...

Emma: Harold Robbins?

Try Jackie Collins... She ripped Hollywood apart and showed the world for what it was... a shit hole....

Ken's book gives a good insight into Hollywood, but in a different way.

Stephen Robinson said...


Ross becomes a dad after FRIENDS first season and he continues to live like a single 20something for the next few years. It never even felt like he got weekends or summers. He also should have seen a lot more of his ex-wife. They are raising a child together. Oh, and I think Ross married without his new wife even meeting his son.


I thought this was handled well. I especially liked how Frasier and Lilith grew to become great friends/coparents. I'd even go so far as to say that the distance between the two right after the breakup was perhaps best for the entire family. Frasier also was taking care of his father (even if he hadn't moved there for that purpose intentionally).

Blair Ivey said...

"How many different ways can I say it’s time for Friday Questions?"

Live, from the Southland, it's Friday Questions!

You could say that over the intro to "Ken Levine, he's so fine. I've got Questions on my mind."

MikeN said...

The Friends portrayal is close to criminal. For all the PSAs and positive messages that Hollywood tries to sell, saying that having a child is no big deal, just another lifestyle choice, probably led to a number of kids growing up with mothers unhappy with how things worked out. At least people figure out how much New York costs very quickly.

Peter said...

Ken, I don't know if you've been following the Frank Darabont saga but emails he sent to various people while he was working on The Walking Dead have been published and they make for rather entertaining reading. To say they're angry doesn't begin to describe the ferocity.

This is an excerpt from just one of them:

Please let’s stop invoking the “writers room.” There IS no writers room, which you know as well as I do. I am the writers room. The lazy fucking assholes who were supposedly going to be my showrunners threw that responsibility on me after wasting five months of my time.

If it were up to me, I’d have not only fired Chic Egles and Jack LoGuidice when they handed me the worst episode 3 script imaginable, I’d have hunted them down and fucking killed them with a brick, then gone and burned down their homes. I haven’t even spoken to those worthless talentless hack sons-of-bitches since their 3rd draft was phoned in after five months of all their big talk and promises that they’d dig deep and have my back covered.

You're such a nice guy, I can't imagine you've ever got that angry. What do you think of his emails and what's the angriest you've ever got at someone?

cadavra said...

Perhaps I'm showing my age, but nobody has ever written a better Hollywood-sucks novel than Budd Schulberg with WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN? (I have a personally-inscribed hardcover among my most cherished possessions.)

Cap'n Bob said...

My takes is that whenever a show is running on fumes they either have a baby or a marriage.

Arthur Mee said...

TVLand used to run a great promo for the Dick Van Dyke show. They had a clip of Richie closing the door under the kitchen sink to use as a hiding spot. Then the announcer intoned, over clips of Rob and Laura:

"The Amazing Boy In A Box! Disappears For Entire Episodes At A Time! Then, When You Need Him..." "...He Magically Reappears!"

Mike said...

A Friday answer for Ken:
They're mixed up.
What's the question?

Mike said...
A little rom-com insight.

Immigrants: they're over here and they're after our women.
Although we said the same about Americans in the UK during the war.

CRL said...

They went the baby route in Archer, which seems to be a strange and ill-advised choice for a cartoon.

Liggie said...

I always thought of Ross and Frasier as dads who didn't have custody over their kids and rarely got to see them. Granted, Ross didn't know his ex was pregnant until after Carol dumped him, and she raised Ben with her new girlfriend Susan. Lilith I assume had access to the best child care, schools and whatnot in Boston for Frederick, so she operated as a single parent quite well.

Littlejohn, to use baseball metaphors, an executive producer would be like a general manager (signs the talent, arranges financing, negotiates business deals) and the producer is like the manager (The actual running of the day-to-day activities on set beyond the director).

Ralph C. said...

The Cute Kid Syndrome is a phrased I coined when a tv show brings in a kid to freshen things up, either after the kids on a long-running show grow up or a show without them starts to go stale.

Brian said...

Friday question: What do you think of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"? I thought the first two seasons were pretty funny, but its getting repetitive in season 3.

I also recommend Ken's book, "Must Kill TV".

Unknown said...

I'm just curious to when you do radio, how do you not feel like a nut talking to yourself.

ADmin said...

Here's a possible Friday question. A Fantasy Draft: If you had the proverbial gun to your head (and anything was possible), which modern day actor(s), from a current or very recent show, would you use to replace 1 actor on MASH and 1 on Cheers? (No disrespect to the original actors intended). E.g.: Jim Parsons as Father Mulcahy / Jane Lynch as Carla.