Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Questions

Here are NEW Friday Questions. Friday the 13th Questions.  What’s yours?

Sean Savage starts us off:

Might you pull back the curtain a bit on your podcast, specifically the retro theme and bumper music? Where do you find those angelic radio jingle voices? Is there stock library music involved? (Somehow I doubt you hired an orchestra.) And is it matter of cashing in some favors on the production of it? In short, it's very slick and impressive.


The jingles were done by JAM Productions in Dallas. They are far and away the best radio and commercial jingle company in the world and they have been for decades. Pictured above are the singers from my session.

Most of the radio station jingles you hear come from three or four companies.

JAM also will do jingles for podcasts. Just get in touch with Jon Wolfert. And they also own the former PAMS jingle company that made most of the classic jingle packages in the ‘60s. So JAM can make you retro jingles that sound just like the ones you loved on your favorite station growing up.

The instrumentals are from a 1969 package performed by studio musicians.

Glad you like my jingles. They’re my nod to the golden days when radio was fun and hopefully my podcast is too.

Matt asks:

The interior M*A*S*H set was on Stage 9. Did the set stay up all eleven seasons, or was it taken down between seasons and used for other productions?

No. The sets stayed up all year. The cost of striking everything and then putting everything back five months later was way more than rental income for the use of the stage during MASH’s downtime.

Fun fact: The sets for CHEERS and FRASIER stayed up for their entire runs too on Stage 25 at Paramount.

From Chris:

How much ownership do networks retain over series they've aired after the initial run concludes? In other words, could NBC re-run Cheers or Seinfeld nowadays with at no additional cost besides the residuals or do new contracts have to be drawn up? Is that a reason why this virtually never happens? Unless it's some sort of anniversary or eulogy, networks never re-run their old shows, no matter how popular they used to be (and in some cases still are, such as Friends).

Once upon a time networks couldn’t own shows. They’d pay a license fee to the production company (like Warner Brothers) allowing them to air the show twice. If they wanted to rerun it more they had to pay extra for it. But the network got all the money from the commercials. The studios owned the shows but never shared in the advertising revenue.

Then laws were relaxed and networks now can own their own shows. So now they can do whatever they damn well please with them. They also have complete creative control over these shows. It’s one of the reasons why network shows tend to be generic and uninteresting. When the creative “voice” of a show is a corporate committee the end result is usually uninspiring.

And finally, from Sam,

How does camera switching work when filming a multi camera sitcom? Does the director choose which angle to show the audience? Is he physically pressing a button for Camera 1, 2, 3, 4? He is calling out the switch to someone else like during a live sports event?

Also is the multi camera edit used during the edit of the show or do they start over?

In a multi-camera show, all four cameras are recording simultaneously. They’re synced up in the editing bay and then the shots are selected. It’s not done on the fly like tape shows used to be in the 70’s. In those cases the director did sit up in the control room and either called the shots himself or had an assistant director do it.  Normally, multi-cam directors remain on the floor, usually at the bank of monitors showing all four cameras.

But with film and now HD, all of the actual editing is done after the show is in the can.

That said, on any sitcom where there’s a live audience, several monitors are provided so they can see over the heads of the cameramen, crew people, etc. There is a switcher who IS cutting the show on the fly to show to the audience. But that is completely separate. In editing, we never even look at that cut.  And the show director rarely confers with the switcher person. 

I have to say that a few of these switchers are pretty damn good and can cut the show on the fly to where you could air it.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Friday Question:
Multi-cameras have always been my preference for watching a show because it often feels like a play.

That being as a playwright, is there anything you'd love to bring to a multi-camera show that you can only do in a play or vice versa?

J Lee said...

It was pretty cool when XM came on that they went to JAM Productions and had retro jingles cut for their 1950s, 60s and 70s channels (mostly using the packages PAMS had done originally for WABC in New York). Of course, after the merger with Sirius when Mel Karmazin got hold of things, all the retro jingles and the 60s channel tributes on Fridays to the old Top 40 AM stations were out (because Mel didn't want people to be reminded of terrestrial radio at the same time he tightened down the playlists on the decades channels to the same 300-song rotations played by CBS/Infinity oldies channels on terrestrial radio when Mel was in charge there).

Jon said...

The music on Ken's podcast sounds very good and professional, as it is. I'm pretty sure JAM Productions in Dallas also does the music for a local [Dallas] station. After Ken's 7-note lead-in, I hear in my mind jingle singers singing "98.7, KLUV".

I briefly visited the FRASIER set when I took a tour of Paramount Studios in Sept. 2000. I only remember seeing the apartment set and thinking it looked tiny. I received this tour ticket free as an extra incentive for attending a filming of BECKER episode "One Wong Move" the previous night. I remember SURVIVOR winner Richard Hatch making a cameo appearance on that episode, and the producers introduced him to the audience before the filming began so that we wouldn't be "too excited" during filming. Those were certainly the days of reality show winners receiving instant fame. Nowadays, AMAZING RACE champs, who still win $1 million, don't even appear on the CBS morning show anymore.

I've read before about how networks weren't allowed to own their own shows in the past, but I watch lots of shows on Me-TV, and I see how CBS produced (and I assume owned) at least parts of shows like PERRY MASON, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, while NBC produced BONANZA. Did the networks not actually own any part of these shows that they produced? I thought that production included ownership, but maybe in some cases it doesn't.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

When I worked for PBS in the 2000s and we would tape our own in-house programs, we had a three-camera setup, and even though the programs were being pre-recorded, the taping process was done in a similar fashion as "on the fly" live programming: we had our headsets, and we'd hear the director in the control say, "One." "Three." "One." "Two." And whenever he did, that corresponding camera's red light would come on. I was an intern at the time, so they usually put me on Camera 3 since it took the least amount of direction: it was the middle camera that was usually used for wide shots of the entire area we were shooting.

E. Yarber said...

Looking back at the Golden Age of Television (or what one might call its Neanderthal stage), you also had shows that were produced by studios but financed and owned by corporations that were the sole advertisers of the program. There were anthologies like KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATER, THE US STEEL HOUR or BOB HOPE PRESENTS THE CHRYSLER THEATER, the latter running into the late 60s even as the system changed to spot commercials. HALLMARK HALL OF FAME began as a radio show and managed to survive the decades until becoming its own cable channel.

This was a carryover from radio show sponsorship, which had been created by William Paley for his fledgling CBS network. NBC was owned by RCA and originally launched so that people would have something to listen to on the radios the company manufactured. Paley didn't manufacture anything, but got a cigar company to pay for the production costs of a show while he provided the airwaves for it. Radio stars would spend years identified with their sponsors, like Jack Benny for General Foods and later Lucky Strikes; or Bob Hope (again) with Pepsodent toothpaste. On early TV, it wasn't unknown for Marshall Dillon to end an episode of GUNSMOKE sucking down an L&M cigarette, or even the later-horrifying spots of Fred and Barney showing the kids how WInston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should as a tag to the FLINTSTONES.

The proprietorial rights sponsors held in programming could be good if they had the nerve to stand behind controversial programming, like the famous DEFENDERS episode about abortion, but also led to some strange moments of its own. There's a famous story that Rod Serling had written a drama about the WW2 Concentration Camps. The sponsor, a gas company, asked that the prisoners be shot instead of gassed so it wouldn't reflect badly on the product being sold. Looks like there's always someone to throw a monkey wrench into the creative process no matter who owns the program.

Pat Reeder said...

Not surprised to hear that your jingle package was done here in Dallas. This was the jingle capital of the world. I started out in that industry right after college and worked as record librarian and production coordinator (two offices in different ends of the building) for TM Productions, where I met my now-wife, Laura Ainsworth, who was writing jingles.

She followed her late dad, Bill Ainsworth, into the business. He was a sax and clarinet prodigy and backup harmony singer who played with many of the top big bands and Vegas and Dallas showroom bands starting at age 17, and later settled down in the jingle business in Dallas, playing, arranging and acting as vocal group session leader and middle male voice for classic jingle sessions at PAMS, CRC and other companies. I wouldn't be surprised if he's playing on some of your jingle tracks. The singers now are different, but Laura can often identify the individual voices on the old tracks, even when they're singing in harmony, and has helped people researching that topic.

Laura is a retro jazz singer who inherited perfect pitch from her dad and grew up in that world, where the most accurate pro singers in the business were like aunts and uncles to her. Her dad was a renowned perfectionist who insured that every note was spot-on perfect in pitch and synchronization, which earned him the nickname in the jingle business of "The Judge." So when people hear her CDs and marvel at her smooth, pitch-perfect vocals, that's why.

If you go to the PAMS website, they have a ton of info on their history and the jingle business in Dallas. This page includes a couple of photos of Laura's dad in the studio during jingle sessions:

Pat Reeder said...

To Jon H: I know that "98-point-7, K-Luv!" jingle quite well. I used to be the production director for KLUV when it was "Your Oldies Station," and the music ranged from the '50s to about 1972. It was depressing when they started playing songs of the late '80s as "oldies."

Unknown said...

After reading E. Yarber's comment, I went to IMDb to see if my own memories were accurate.
For the record, the show involved was Judgment At Nuremberg, the original production on Playhouse 90 in 1959, as written by Abby Mann.
Those who are as old as I am will recall that 'Your Gas Company' was one of P90's major sponsors for its entire run.
What happened on camera (this was one of P90's taped shows) was this:
In the concluding scene, the American judge (played here by Claude Rains) and the German magistrate (Paul Lukas) have their major conversation about the Holocaust and its "morality".
At one point, Rains asks Lukas point-blank about "sending human beings into gas ovens ..."
And on the indicated words, the sound went off, returning on Rains's next word.
According to people who worked on the broadcast, it wasn't the Gas Company who demanded the bleep - they, along with all of P90's other sponsors had vetted Mann's script in toto long before air time.
Who it was, was some middle-management CBS drone who panicked and hit the "cough button", rendering Rains mute for two words.
And I guess that's the real point - this was just two spoken words, not a graphic depiction of ugly death.

Are we headed in this direction these days, from whatever impetus?
Only time will tell ...

Jon said...

Thanks, Pat Reeder. I agree about KLUV. I thought even back in the 90s it played too much modern music. When I first moved to the DFW area in the late 80s, I listened to KLDD, 570 AM, for oldies that didn't go before the early 70s, so it avoided disco and anything newer than that. About a year later KLDD became KKWM, and then KLIF moved down the dial from 1190 and took over its frequency, which KLIF still has to this day. I have had to settle for KLUV for most of my music listening, and I won the original 4-tape set of HULLABALOO from KLUV in 1995 for knowing that Marty Robbins' "El Paso" was the last #1 song of the 1950s. Several years ago I started listening to KAAM, 770 AM, but that recently has abandoned its eclectic mix of oldies & show tunes for an all-Christian radio format, so I had to go back to KLUV for music. About the oldest music it plays now is from the mid-70s, no Beatles music either. However starting mid-November it plays solid Christmas/Winter music through Christmas Day, so I can look forward to that at least.

other ken said...

I've noticed that over the run of Mom that each year not only tends to revolve around a theme ( violet's pregnancy, Bonnie's relapse, etc) that seem to have a revolveing cast of characters. Chef Ruddy, Baxter and new wife, etc.
What happens to those characters when year runs out? Or they retained at all under contract obligations if story line reappears? Some clause about availability for new episodes etc?

E. Yarber said...

I don't mind being corrected. My memory of the gas company anecdote comes from an interview where Rod Serling used it as an example of sponsor interference amid some of his own experiences, not identifying the play or author. The "war" stories writers tell about the business tend to be more allegorical than historical, but they certainly ring true to what I've seen.

Mike Bloodworth said...

The 80's are "oldies" by today's standards. Just as 50's music was "oldies" when I was in high school. Face up to it, WE'RE OLD! In college I took some T.V production classes. We did it the old fashioned way with a technical director at the switcher and the director in the booth telling, "camera one, camera two," etc. Speaking of old fashioned, like Ken, I also used to be in radio. All the skills I mastered including tape editing (with a razor blade!) can now ALL be done on a computer. Its hard not to feel archaic and obsolete these days.

Michael said...

Ken - I know Elizabeth Montgomery was one of your favorite actresses - thought you might enjoy this article that shows how her wardrobe evolved during the eight seasons of "Bewitched". Interested to learn that for budget reasons, she wore a lot of her own clothes on the show.

TooMuchTV said...

Jon H
The FCC rule prohibiting network show ownership was adopted in 1974. After a 20-year legal battle a court decision overturned the rule in 1993. You can read more about it here:

VP81955 said...

Not sure about storylines, but Baxter did reappear for an ep this season where he bought a car for Christy after hers went kaput. What was weird was that nothing about their son Roscoe was discussed during their scenes. The whereabouts of Roscoe and Violet are frequently asked about by fans at the show's Facebook site. While I think focusing on the AA group makes the series unique -- there are so many domestic sitcoms on the air -- I would like to see them return for at least one ep, just to know they haven't gone Chuck Cunningham on us. ("Mom" will close season 5 with a two-part ep on May 10; perhaps that's when we'll learn what's happened to them.)

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Michael If there's one perk to the later seasons of BEWITCHED, it's that Liz's skirts kept getting shorter and shorter. And that's about it, lol.

Greg Ehrbar said...

@E Yarber The infamous Flintstone Winston commercials were made not to entice kids to smoke (though there's no denying they did), but because that show was the first prime time animated sitcom and -- at least for the first few seasons -- was aiming at a more adult, sophisticated audience.

The show's success broadened its audience so much that it became more of a family/kids' show toward the end of its run, so the sponsors were Welch's grape jelly and juices. It was the longest running animated primetime series before The Simpsons.

ABC's "The FBI" had a sweet deal with Ford. Every car on the show was either a gleaming new model or a sturdy earlier one. Viewers might see an actor walking on a sidewalk, offering the viewer a full pan across a shiny new Fairlane. Less frequent were Fords falling over cliffs. In the early seasons, the cast was often seen puffing away because American Tobacco was another sponsor.

Billy G. said...

Whenever I watch FRASIER, I wonder which set was built over the area where the bar on CHEERS used to be. I assume the bar was where Frasier's living room is since that's the largest set, with Marty's recliner occupying the same spot where Norm's barstool was. Do you remember what was where?

E. Yarber said...

Hey, I'm sure Marshall Dillon inspired some kids to start Gunsmokin' as well.

Actually, thinking about the Flinstones brings up an interesting link that proves how small the world of show business can be.

Because William Bendix had a movie contract that kept him from doing television, Jackie Gleason was enlisted to play Chester A. Riley in the original TV version of Bendix's hit radio sitcom THE LIFE OF RILEY. During that season of shows, guest stars included both Alan Reed (a regular on the audio series) and Henry Corden. Thus the first two Fred Flintsones each appeared with Ralph Kramden before there was a single episode of THE HONEYMOONERS.

Andy Rose said...

There are a handful of YouTube videos out there showing old jingle sessions, but this is a nice one showing the full scope of what goes into the production.

It probably goes without saying, but it's worth mentioning that the instrumental part is only mastered once. They then use the same backing track for all future versions for different stations. It's actually a pretty interesting business model: deficit finance a new package for a big-city client, then resell the same package to dozens of other stations (at a more affordable price) to recoup the investment. All they have to do is bring singers in (usually the same ones for decades) to overdub the new vocals.

In terms of the use of stages during a hiatus, obviously it's easy to leave the M*A*S*H set up on the Fox lot and Cheers on the Paramount lot since those shows were owned by the company where they were shot. Doesn't make much sense to pay for a strike since that's coming out of their pockets. But what about shows that are shot on a rental lot, like Seinfeld at CBS or Golden Girls at Sunset Gower? I assume the landlords are not letting those shows lock up a stage all summer for free.

John S. said...

Last night, MeTV aired a Columbo episode from 1995 starring George Wendt as the villain. I am just wondering if you ever saw it and who else among the Cheers or MASH casts would have made a good Columbo villain.
Oh, and just one more thing, did you ever meet Peter Falk or the creators of Columbo; Richard Levinson and William Link? Thanks.

Mike Doran said...

From December 2020:

I'm blastin' from the past here, and I come across John S.'s comment about George Wendt's guest appearance as a Columbo villain in 1995.

Here's a Fun Fact about that show:
Peter Fischer, Columbo's principal writer for many years, didn't want Wendt in that role; he wanted a more conventional leading-man type (in his memoir, Fischer mentions James Woods or James Spader or Jude Law as examples).
By the way, this was the Columbo that featured Rod Steiger as a Mafioso emeritus who "helps" Peter Falk solve the case.

Anyway, ABC insisted on Wendt, and so Peter Fischer pulled his name from the script, subbing his registered pseudonym, 'Lawrence Vail'.

And the reason I'm bringing all this up - the reason I'm scrolling through the archives - is that I'm trying to find a comment I may have put here years ago, on the subject of registered pseudonyms (and whether Ken and/or David had ever used one).

I'm not expecting an answer after two and a half years, but what the hey - maybe some other archive-scroller might see this and be amused by it ...