Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday Questions

Closing out January with Friday Questions. Oh, and Happy Birthday to Rich Brother Robbin whose internet oldies station is the best on the web.  Check it out here.

Lisa gets us started.

As someone who knows the inside of the business and someone able to know the real creative people who make the difference in making a great movie. Can it be said that Robert Evans is one the greatest Producers of Hollywood? As per his book, he made significant creative contributions in the making of Godfather and Chinatown - 2 of the greatest movies ever. Also uncredited help in the final version of Godfather Part 2.

If you read his book you’ll think he also was the first man on the moon and invented electricity.

Yes, Robert Evans was a major player and no one can deny that during his watch Paramount made some truly great movies.

But he was also a real character. Instead of reading the book, may I recommend to anyone that you listen to the audiobook? He narrates it. And it is HYSTERICAL. I mean, drive-off-the-road funny. And not intentionally.   His marriage with Ali MacGraw alone is worth the price of the audiobook. 

From Nate Lantzy:

I'm watching Cheers for the umptheenth time. Just started again. Pilot, once the bar is full, near the end. Older lady in a wheelchair, one appearance. Sitting all alone. I love to make my own canon on how the hell she got down those stairs, but is there a a behind the scenes story on her?

I’ve talked about this before – I don’t know her real name but that woman was originally a character in the series (Mrs. Littlefield I believe). And she had lines in the pilot. But when the pilot was cut together and was real long the decision was made to eliminate the character. So her lines were cut but there are still a couple of shots where she is still visible in the background.

Gazzoo queries:

Another Friday Question regarding Burghoff,...since he missed so many episodes his final few seasons, how much notice did you have of Gary's absence when writing scripts? I assume you sometimes had to rewrite stuff that was supposed to go to him.

Gary was signed for I believe 18 of the 25 episodes that season. We worked out with him the episodes he would miss before we went into production and then planned our season accordingly.

So if we broke a story where Radar was not needed we slotted it in one of the weeks we knew he’d be absent.

We missed having his presence in every episode, but working around him was not a major hardship.

Brian asks:

Did an actor ever ad-lib a line in one of the shows you worked on that got left in?


And finally, from Steve:

If second episodes are tough because you have to retell the pilot, what about all the viewers who jump on at episode 3, 4, 8, or the second series premiere? Is there a rule of thumb for when you can start assuming people know who your characters are, or do you try to ensure every episode would make sense to someone completely new to the show?

I would say that by episode 4 you can assume most of your audience knows your show. Especially now that people can easily go back and catch up on past episodes.

What’s your Friday Question? You can leave it in the comments section. Thanks.


Peter said...

This question might be a bit left field, but I'm just wondering. When meeting an executive or an agent, is a writer expected to wear a suit as though going for a job interview or can you dress casual?

Lisa said...

Thanks for the reply Ken :)

Yes, his tales are a bit exaggerated.

- Everyone seems to have made money from his efforts except him.
- He seemed to have had fights/problems with so many people, but in the end he says that everything was sorted and now they are the best friends forever (he refers to many beautiful actresses, major actors, directors, producers as his BEST friends).
- If I am not wrong, he was also one of the youngest studio head ever.

Everything said, I felt sorry in the end, that everyone around him became very rich but he had no money to even retain his house. So finally his friend Jack Nicholson helped him financially to buy back the house. Poor Guy!

Brian said...

2 questions:
Is the rumor that screenwriter Joe Eszterhas wrote "The Kid Stays in the Picture" for Evans true?

His wiki entry says that "Odenkirk also attributes Evans as his primary influence on his portrayal of lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad."
What? How is that? I don't get it.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Obviously, the question is: What was the line that Ray Romano ad-libbed?

E. Yarber said...

In the past, some sitcom character identification was practically branded into the visuals. Think of the newsroom set in the Mary Tyler Moore show. Lou had the corner office, Murray was typing, Ted always wore his newsman blazer. If you couldn't tell at a glance who the manager, writer and anchorman were, you shouldn't be allowed to operate heavy machinery. The "home" sequences of the early years established Phyllis as a woman who always wanted to set a pecking order straight, a natural way for her character to identify the relationships there. In the episodes without her, Rhoda would always mention that she came from upstairs, letting us know she was a neighbor and not someone who had just wandered in off the street.

Likewise, The Bob Newhart Show showed Carol at the receptionist's desk and Jerry in his dentist's smock, typically making some sort of tooth-obsessed remark. You knew Andy Taylor couldn't be married to the woman he lived with, but everyone called her "Aunt Bee" to instantly nail her role. You'd never notice these touches because they were basic elements of the show that used them, but they established basic exposition for new viewers.

Eric J said...

In a character driven series like Cheers, I don't think the audience needs to know everything back to the pilot. If I were to walk into the real Cheers, I wouldn't know everyone there and how they fit with all the others. I'd observe, make guesses or decide for myself. Over time, I get to know them.

In fact, that's what happened. I didn't watch the first season. My reaction to the TV Guide synopsis was, "Who wants to watch a bunch of barflies?"

I might have sampled a few episodes during the summer reruns, but somehow we started watching and got hooked. It became one of my all-time favorite shows. I learned who the characters were by their actions over time. I don't think I've ever seen the pilot or first season.

SailorCallie said...


My question is about the show, Frasier, and it's regarding to the status of Niles Crane's short-lived marriage to Dr. Mel Karnofsky. Was there any mention of their divorce made official or had their marriage annulled?

Thanks in advance.

Brian said...

Sorry, just now I noticed Ken. The question you have answered wasn't from me. Wanted to clarify that.

My question is about Evans in the comments section.

Steven said...

Here's Patton Oswalt's comedy bit on Robert Evans, during which he mentions the audiobook version of The Kid Stays in the Picture.

Ted said...

So many times I read about residuals not being paid properly etc.. in many articles. But what exactly are they talking about in terms of actual money?

Seinfeld creators Larry and Jerry made a billion each till now from syndication residuals is what is rumored.

Forget creators, let's take just writers.

Say for example, for a writer of a movie. Is the residual from a year, like in thousands of dollars?

For a very successful TV show like Cheers, syndication and all taken into consideration - say some 10,000 per annum?

A blog or a Friday question which can give an idea (maybe not the actual amount) about residuals will be great Ken. Thanks.

Mike Bloodworth said...

This isn't a Friday Question, but it is related. Now that I've figured out how to access your archives I've had many potential F.Q.'s answered before I could ask them. e.g. The "rule of threes." I haven't found a blog about "words with the 'K' sound." But I'm still looking. If in the future I ask an F.Q. that you've previously answered, feel free to direct me to that particular blog. I would be more than satisfied with that.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Off topic, but another episode from M*A*S*H's virtually unknown sister show, ROLL OUT! surfaced on YouTube recently:

I'm going to be honest . . . it wasn't funny. It's pretty flat and weak. This is the only other episode I've seen on YouTube; the other one (about an Honor Truck system or something), admittedly, did have a few genuine laughs, and I know it's hard to really dissect a series from just two episodes, but I feel that despite Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds creating and producing this series (after CBS asked them to), it just lacks everything that made M*A*S*H the spectacular show that it is: well-written satire, sharp and clever humor, strong storytelling, characters with depth.

It's too bad, because as more black sitcoms were coming into vogue in the 70s such as SANFORD AND SON, GOOD TIMES, and THE JEFFERSONS, I feel like this show could have had potential if it wasn't so obviously made in the shadows of a superior show to try and bank on the success of that show.

Cat said...

Eric J,

Watch the first season of Cheers. It is a thing of beauty. The pilot is one of the best pilots ever put on film.

David P said...

The first season of Cheers has Julia Duffy delivering the world's greatest poetry.

Mischa the dog lies dead in the bog.
The children cry over the carcass.
The mist chokes my heart, covers the mourners.
At least this year we eat.

Ken said...

What was the funniest sitcom episode/ scene you remember/ sticks out in your mind?

Mine would be the Turkey Drop on WKRB and Sam's and Diane's wedding in the bar as money keeps exchanging hands in the background.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Sometimes knowledge of the pilot is just confusing. The pilot of THE BIG BANG THEORY depicts Sheldon and Leonard as equally interested in their attractive new neighbor. Only later did someone decide it would be funnier to make Sheldon asexual. This was an inspiration on a par with bringing back Nurse Hathaway after her apparent suicide in the ER pilot.

Peter said...

To the Ken asking about funniest scene that sticks in the memory...

There are lots of great lines I remember but one that always comes to mind is Diane losing her cool and yelling "People, people! Work with me! Work with me!" Genius performance by Shelley Long.

Breadbaker said...

I totally second the idea of listening to that audiobook. I'd read the book first (I got hte audiobook at a library book sale for a buck so figured why not?) and still found it was like going on a Magical Mystery Tour.

Michael Hagerty said...

Buttermilk Sky: True. The pilot to the Bob Newhart Show (wisely not played until the holidays when viewing levels were low) had Emily wanting desperately to have a child and Bob as the head of the homeowner's association in the condo tower they lived in. Both story lines were ditched when they got around to shooting the actual series.

Joe Blow said...

The funniest sitcom scene (from CHEERS) was when John Cleese played a world renowned marriage counselor who said Sam and Diane should never marry. Diane (dragging Sam with her) drives him nuts insisting that he is wrong, until he finally goes berserk in his hotel room (wearing a robe and shower cap) running around like a wild man, throwing up the window declaring to the world that they are the most perfect couple of all time! Diane turns and smiles slyly at Sam and says, “Seeeee.” The whole episode was hilarious, but that last scene with those incredible actors would be hard to beat.

Andy Rose said...

The blooper reels from Everybody Loves Raymond show that Ray Romano sometimes ad-libbed multiple punchlines to a particular joke setup.

My favorite was for the episode in which Robert tries to liven up his personality for a date and wears a mustard-yellow suit. Ray makes fun of him, but Robert says it's hard to find stylish clothes in his size. He asks Ray, "Do you know where I had to go for this suit?" The scripted response was, "Big, Tall and Tasteless?" But in one take Ray ad-libbed, "Gulden's?" and the audience laughed so hard, it threw off Brad Garrett.

Gary said...

As noted, Ray Romano would often ad lib a different punchline in several takes of the same scene, to break up his cast mates. His ad libs were usually racier than the scripted lines, and almost always funnier. So when he finally said the actual scripted line, it would be a letdown for the audience. I wonder if the producers had to do a little sweetening then, to make it appear they got the desired laugh.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I forget that Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart collaborated on other shows during MASH's run.

Another was "Karen," a short-lived ABC sitcom in 1975 in which Karen Valentine played a Washington lobbyist.

I think Ms. Valentine and Reynolds had worked together on "Room 222."

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Question for Mr. Levine:

CBS has announced a revival of "Murphy Brown" scheduled for next fall.

Candice Bergen, Faith Ford, and the show's creator, Diane English, are slated to return, and perhaps others from the original cast will follow suit.

A revival does seem a natural in the Trump era. Any thoughts?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Excellent observations E.Yarber

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Ken (the blog reader, not the blog writer) this is a great question. What is a scene that can be watched over and over and shared with people who don’t even know the show.
I’d have to say I have a few full scenes always work.
Taxi’s “what does a yellow light mean” is flawless
Cosby Show’s “dad sits down to explain life to Theo” in the series pilot
Fraiser’s “Niles sets fire to the Apt”

ScarletNumber said...

@The Bumble Bee Pendant

Considering Ken is not listed as a credited writer on Everybody Loves Raymond, I don't know if he is allowed to say.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Scarletnumber... thanks. That could be.
Ray, of course being the co-creater and a writer of the show (though not always credited) had a right to ad-lib.

I remember Patricia Heaton said that she never ever ad-libbed on any of her shows because the writers know what they want and how something should be said. "not an 'and' or 'the'"

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Mel made Niles attened social events with her and act boorish in front of her friends to ruin his repertation, in exchange for a no fuss no muss divorce.

cadavra said...

IMHO, the funniest scene in sitcom history is the second act (in Alan Brady's office) of "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth" on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.

Really going out on a limb here, but I think the best sitcom episode ever was "The Censor" episode of the short-lived THE ASSOCIATES. It even received an Emmy nomination for writing long after the series had been cancelled.