Friday, May 04, 2018

Friday Questions

Who’s ready for some Friday Questions?

KevinC starts us off:

We've been binge-watching Cheers and noticed in Season 9 there was a cold open where Rebecca and Woody had on the same outfit as in the episode before. How often were the cold opens moved around (timing issues, etc.) or did they just shoot the one for the next episode and didn't think of wardrobe?

We moved the teasers around a lot. It depended on the time. We would often swap teasers. The only good thing about the teasers (I hated them) was that they were independent of the story. So if we needed one that was 2:05 and the one we shot that week was 4:00 we easily could trade.

Mel Agar queries:

Are two-part episodes planned to be two-parters or do they grow organically out of a story that's just too big to be contained in 22-ish minutes?

Usually they grow from single episodes. And most of the times they are really 1 ½ parters. Too much story for one episode; not enough for two. Often there is a little padding that goes into two-parters.

But I used to love it when David Isaacs and I wrote a script and it was just too full so they made it a two-parter. BAM! We got paid twice.

My favorite two-parters that we did (not that anybody asked) were “Finally Parts 1 & 2” for CHEERS and “Adventures in Paradise Parts 1 & 2 for FRASIER.

From Dr Loser:

What show (or film, or other engagement) was the best you can remember for catered food?

That’s an easy one. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. Amazing food. A Vegas buffet.

 JUST SHOOT ME was pretty awesome too. When they have an omelet station, you know you’re in for some good eats.

The Mess Tent food on MASH that everyone in the 4077 bitched about -- was actually excellent.  

And Peter Aparicio rounds it out.

Can you identify any actors/actresses who began to act more like their character in their personal life (especially those who played the same character for many years)?

I would have to say Hawkeye became more like Alan Alda and Hot Lips became more like Loretta Swit on MASH. Watch a season one episode and a season ten episode and you’ll see quite a transformation.

What’s your Friday Question?  Just leave it in the comments section.  Thanks much!


Brian Phillips said...

Friday question: I enjoy physical humor. Great sight gags that stick out in my mind:

FRIENDS - Chandler, while handcuffed to a file drawer whacking himself in the back of the head;

FRASIER - "Room Service", seeing Niles come out of his narcolepsy with egg on his face, or the tour de force, (almost) wordless opening to "Three Valentines".

MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK - William Demarest tries to punch someone but a crowd holds him back. The room evacuates and he bypasses the stairs by sliding down a fire pole, scans the crowd and THEN punches his target as the crowd files out.

For you and David Isaacs, are sight gags easier or harder to come up with than verbal ones? Also, do either of you have a better knack for coming up with them?

Hogne B. Pettersen said...

Loretta Swit played two different characters on MASH: For the first years she was the incredibly funny Hot Lips, who was a fascinating character of contrasts. She slept around to further her career, but at the same time she wanted to achieve it on her own terms. She demanded military dicipline only to portray none of that dicipline herself a few minutes later. A great character, full of contrasts. Loved her.

Then she turned into Maaaaaargret. She still could have som fun moments (her speech in MASH Olympics, followed by a calm and smiling "thank you captain" when she sat down is fantastic). But she was a lot duller.

Dhruv said...

I love the food references in the blog/podcast.

Today you said "A Vegas buffet".

I wouldn't have known what it was if I had not found Mike Chen this week on YouTube and watched these videos just yesterday.

How I wish I could visit America once and head straight to a Vegas buffet :)

Roy said...

The question Peter asked was did an actor become more like the character they played, and you gave two examples of characters who became more like their actors. Are you saying it doesn't happen the first way?

tavm said...

On the question of actors becoming their characters: I just remembered that Clayton Moore basically publicly was The Lone Ranger to the extent of always wearing that mask wherever he went. That caused problems later in life when the company wanted him to take it off because of a deal for a new movie of that legendary character (this was in '80 when that flop Clinton Spillsbury version was going to come out) resulting in a lawsuit against him. So for the time being, he replaced it with sunglasses. I think after that movie disappeared, Mr. Moore made one more appearance as TLR on a TV spot for Amoco gas which as filmed in black-and-white with the scratch lines common to fading film stock. Anyway, that's all I can think of concerning that question...

George said...

"Did an actor become more like the character they played?" Yes, it's called method acting.

E. Yarber said...

I can understand the question about actors becoming like their characters, since it's easy to think of them based on what we see, even if that's fictional. In practice, though, the idea is like trying to fit a watermelon into a teacup.

James Joyce once had a conversation with the artist Frank Budgen trying to prove which classic literary figure had the most dimension. He quickly pointed out that well-known icons like Hamlet or Faust really only had a few aspects to their personalities, all that were needed to suit their stories. Joyce felt that Homer's Ulysses displayed the most rounded set of human qualities, which is why he used the character's adventures as the model for his most famous novel.

Likewise, for a human being to start allowing the relatively limited elements of a character to dominate their real life would leave them kind of cartoonish, like pulling a figure out of a painting and expecting it to become three-dimensional. There's space for someone to incorporate more of their own personalities in the figure they incarnate on screen, which would naturally make the role seem less vivid in some ways but more down-to-earth. Going in the other direction would essentially be someone trying to push a fake persona as their real self, which is common enough in Los Angeles but hardly convincing.

Y. Knott said...

Ken, I think you got the question from Peter backwards. I think he was looking for actors who became their characters. As if, say, Ted Danson slowly morphed into a jock after playing Sam Malone for all those years, or Carroll O'Connor turned into a conservative bigot after playing Archie Bunker. (Not that they did!)

A real-life example I can think of: Kathryn Harrold had a recurring role as a psychologist on Rockford Files. She got interested in the ides, subsequently trained in psychology and now runs her own counseling practice.

Frank Beans said...

Why so down on the CHEERS teasers, Ken? I can understand that they may be hard to write for, but in my view it gave the show a distinct sense of personality and pacing. They're not all winners, of course, but as a fan I've always liked them.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Re: Food on set, Less so with T.V. shows, but most of the time on movie sets they would separate non-union actors from the union people and crew. Union got fancy, trendy, food or "special" treats. Non-union got the basics. On one set, before I became union, one of the crew members would always ask me, "What are you having on the non-union side?" If it was something like potroast and mashed potatoes he'd say, "I wish we were having that instead of..." And he was sincere. However, once I joined SAG I never complained about the food, but I could see his point.
Changing the subject. That photo on today's blog reminded me of how HOT Bebe Neuwirth is. I'm not being glib or facetious. From the time "Lilith" was first introduced I found her attractive. She has a nice face, but I think it was mostly because of her skinny, dancer's body. Of course, I also had a little crush on JoBeth Williams after POLTERGEIST.

Frank Beans said...

Ken wrote:

"I would have to say Hawkeye became more like Alan Alda and Hot Lips became more like Loretta Swit on MASH. Watch a season one episode and a season ten episode and you’ll see quite a transformation. "

I would humbly add to that list Jamie Farr, who seemed a lot more himself once he dropped the cross-dressing shtick in later seasons.

Also, on the other side, it seems like Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan had the reverse, and actually became personally more like their respective characters. That is, more idealistic and concerned, and less jokey. That's just my impression, I wonder if anyone else sees that.

DwWashburn said...

Two parters seemed to always be filled with filler. I remember four MASH episodes in particular.

The first had everyone except Hawkeye Hot Lips and Radar leave camp. In the program there was about four minutes of watching people collapse tents and another two and a half minutes of watching the group return in parade.

The introduction of BJ padded a lot of time with scenes of the jeep driving up and down the road.

Winchester's introduction did the same especially with the three or four phone calls giving you Burns' status even though you knew he wasn't coming back.

And finally Radar's leaving episode had that needless pad of him in the airport terminal and the constant whining of Hawkeye about his finger. After about ten times the audience was saying "We get it. You have a boo boo."

And don't get me started on "Goodbye Farewell and Amen" which could easily have been a 40 minute "supersized" episode.

Anonymous said...

"Can you identify any actors/actresses who began to act more like their character in their personal life (especially those who played the same character for many years)?"

I'll reverse the question. Have you seen anyone's actual personality change and take on some aspects of the character they play?


Wayne said...

Great blog Ken! It's so nice to hear a voice from someone within this industry that actually "gets it"! And your podcast with Blair Richwood this week, was a real treat!!!

ScarletNumber said...


The late Jay Thomas used to tell a story about Clayton Moore coming to his rescue while dressed as the Lone Ranger.

Max Clarke said...

About the great food at EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND....

One of my favorite audiobooks is You're Lucky You're Funny. Phil Rosenthal wrote and performed it. He was the creator and showrunner for Everybody Loves Raymond.

One of the reasons for having great food, especially in the writers' room, was the way it stimulated conversation. A couple of writers would talk about how great the pastry tasted, and the writing staff would remember events, and suddenly they had an idea they could use in the show.

And, of course, Phil had suffered through shows where the food has been lousy.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Well, I’m now a damn good cook.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if my answer to the question about an actor morphing his/her character falls within the norms of this site, but I've always thought of Sarah Jessica Parker as an actor who became her character, Carrie Bradshaw.

Todd Everett said...

The late Jay Thomas used to tell a story about Clayton Moore coming to his rescue while dressed as the Lone Ranger.

Letterman invited him back every year, just to tell the story.

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

Ken, interesting food comes up this week. I was just debating whether to ask you about it...

In particular, I've read that on-set food is always very bland and lukewarm, so it doesn't distract the actors while they're working. But I've often wondered: like in the old Taster's Choice commercials, what if someone were to *switch* the cast's normal boring icky food with something that actually tasted good?? Do you think most of the actors you've worked with could have stayed on top of things? Also, do you know of this ever actually happening during the filming of an episode of a sitcom, whether you were involved or not?

Finally, I've heard that there was at least one classic actor/comedian, not sure who, that was notorious for always eating the entirety of set food after the show was wrapped, no matter what it was or how it tasted; all it had to be was *real* food. Wonder if there's any truth to it, or who it was. Jackie Gleason maybe?

DBenson said...

There are actors who try to become their characters, or at least present the persona. William Boyd and Roy Rogers reportedly took their juvenile role model duties very seriously. Buster Keaton maintained the famous stone face in public, but in "Buster Keaton Rides Again" he relaxed in the presence of the documentary crew. We see him deadpan as he accepts a key to a city; away from a real audience he laughs, grumbles, jokes, and gets excited over a baseball game on TV. Alfred Hitchcock was not an actor, but in later years diligently maintained the character that had been crafted for him on his TV show.

That brings to mind the peculiar case of Suzanne Somers. When she left "Three's Company", either the network or the production company claimed she couldn't play a similar silly blonde anywhere else and deployed lawyers. That would still be a career-killer to a lot of actors (Somers did keep working, but never at the same star level). Has that kind of legal sabotage been attempted since? NBC claimed ownership of a lot of Letterman bits when he decamped for CBS, but so far as I know they didn't threaten him for keeping his wise guy persona and comedy style.

Liggie said...

Follow-up food question: Which major league baseball stadiums have the best press box food?

Anonymous said...

I thought about Jeff Maxwell when I read the post. I'm glad you saw it, Jeff. Julie, Burlington, Iowa

Kosmo13 said...

Didn't Van Williams pursue a career in law enforcement after he stopped playing a crimefighter on TV on THE GREEN HORNET?

blogward said...

If I were an actor in a long-running series (remember them?) I would hope that my character would grow, develop and become fuller (notwithstanding the catering truck), rather than be a static collection of predictable responses. Even if that was what I was like.

And not to be rude, but I did feel that the direction that was taken with the Frasier characters, particularly when Niles and Daphne married, was a bit of a stretch.

Chris T said...

Hi Ken

I have only just discovered your blog and have been trawling through backwards and reading all the past posts. I keep thinking of questions and then coming across old posts where you have answered them all ready.

Eg. I was going to ask what your thoughts were on the differences between US and British comedy and low and behold there is a post featuring Stephen Fry on it.

So I thought I would ask a completely self indulgent patriotic question.

I saw you have been here to NZ and was just wondering if you have worked with many Kiwis or Aussies behind the scenes in your career, and are there many in the business behind the scenes in general?. Kind of a "Are we taking over the world as we should be thing!"


Rich said...

Hey Ken, do you think that rebooting sitcoms from the 80s and 90s is just a fad that will eventually fade away soon?

Would you agree that the circle of life is almost a full circle for some of the former stars like Candice Bergen?