Friday, March 22, 2019

Friday Questions

As March Madness officially begins: 

Peter asks:

I also noticed that you and David are listed as uncredited writers on Mother, Juggs and Speed. Is that another internet error or did you really work on that film?

We did not work on the film, but ABC commissioned a pilot and David and I did an extensive rewrite on that. The pilot was filmed and aired once (back when networks would show unsold pilots in the summer as “Failure Theatre”).

We did our draft, turned it in, and for some reason didn’t get a chance to see it when it aired. So I have no idea how good or bad it was or how much of our script they ultimately used.

Also, this was before the show was cast so we just went by the characters in the movie.

Bill Cosby was not in the pilot. He was in the movie.

So why would we do extensive rewrites for no credit? The money of course.

YEKIMI has a two-part question.

As a director, it seems that you do all your directing on sitcoms. Has no one come to you to direct any crime dramas [CSI, Law & Order, etc.] or other non-sitcom directing jobs or is that just something you wouldn't be comfortable doing or just not in your wheelhouse? And are there any directors that can handle anything that is thrown their way?

I would like to direct a single-camera show. I’ve shot numerous single-camera scenes but they were within multi-camera episodes. The trouble is you get put in the “multi-camera” category and without a friend as a showrunner of a single-camera show to give you a shot it’s hard to cross over.

And it’s not just me. I read where a current network pilot was originally designed to be a multi-camera show. King of all multi-camera shows, James Burrows, was slated to direct. The network then decided to convert it into a single-camera pilot and a different director was assigned. (Personally, I would have kept James Burrows no matter how many cameras there were.)

Ironically, it’s much harder to direct a multi-camera show. Knowing how to block and shoot with four cameras going simultaneously in front of a live audience is the ultimate Rubik’s Cube.

As for directing dramas, I would need to have a feature film or at least a short that could demonstrate I could handle this subject matter. Although I would certainly enjoy the challenge of directing something way “out of my lane,” I have no burning desire to direct procedurals.

All that said there are some veteran directors who hop back and forth between comedy and drama.  Michael Zinberg is one who jumps to mind.  

Hmmmm, I wonder if I could get an assignment on GAME OF THRONES based on an EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND episode I directed. I’ll put a call in to my agent.

From VincentS:

Several writers - including yourself - have complained about civilians throwing story ideas and in some cases scripts at them and some professional writers remedy that by simply lying about what they do for a living.

One writer not only told people he was in the livestock business, he took the precaution of learning everything he could about the livestock business in case he was tested by a would-be writer!

Have you ever lied about your profession to avoid the aforementioned situations?

Yes. In those situations I tell people I’m a writer of tech manuals. Rarely are there follow-up questions.

And finally, Michael queries:

Friday question in honor of spring training: For many years, the Mets had 3 announcers, Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy, and Lindsey Nelson, who each broadcast 6 innings on TV as part of 2 man booth and 3 innings on radio solo each game. How hard is it switching back and forth from TV to radio within same game and did you have a preference on which to broadcast games on?

I enjoyed switching back and forth. In TV your role is more to provide captions and set up your analyst partner. But I enjoy the whole production aspect of it. You have a whole crew involved, from the guys in the truck, to the stage managers in the booth, to the cameramen throughout the stadium. I feel like Captain Kirk.

But my favorite is radio, hands down. As the great Ernie Harwell once said about calling games on the radio: “Nothing happens until I say it happens.” I love the freedom of radio and the ability to go wherever I want, not where the director steers me. And to me, baseball on the radio is more of an art form.

So best case scenario is when I start a game on TV and then go to radio. It feels like the handcuffs have been removed. It’s just me and you the listener. Can you believe opening day is just around the corner? Play ball!


Jim S said...

Friday question, Ken.

What is the protocol for using personal stories. I imagine it's OK for a writer to think, "I remember a time when I forgot my mother's birthday and there was Hell to pay. Let's make that a story."

But what if Mom objects? And say you remember an embarassing story where a friend or even family member did something that they might not like on national TV? How do finesse that? Or are the lines one doesn't cross?

I know the character Brick on "The Middle" had a habit of looking down and repeating what he just said, and I recall that the show's creator said her son did that. If I were the son, I would not like shown on national TV, and that got me thinking about my question for the day.

Keep up the good work.

DARON72 said...

Ken, I enjoyed your podcast with Dennis Palumbo. I'm a big fan of "My Favorite Year" and was fascinated with how MGM came around to agreeing to cast Peter O'Toole. I don't think Michael Caine would have been as funny even though he's a amazing actor. MGM dropped the ball on many movies from that era. "Diner" was another film that they mishandled with "A Christmas Story" being the biggest blunder. That film has probably made more on merchandising alone than its original production budget.

Dhruv said...

I used to be a writer of Tech manuals :)

YEKIMI said...

Thanks for answering my ?!

Clara said...

Has your agent or agency spoken to you about the negotiations.

How are things? Will you fire your agent in April as it seems the talks are failing?

Michael said...

Thanks for answering my question. Have a follow-up question - how common is it for announcers to switch between radio and TV during same game these days? Both New York teams have had separate radio and TV teams for years that don't cross over.

VincentS said...

This is, I believe, the tenth Friday question of mine you've answered, Ken. Thanks and have a great weekend.

Mike Barer said...

Wow, the new baseball contracts are totally insane, we can only imagine what will happen in the next 10 years.

Peter said...

Thanks for answering my questions two weeks in a row! I appreciate it!

Michael said...

About the broadcasting question: Nelson, Kiner, and Murphy, were the longest-running three-man broadcast crew ever in baseball (17 years), and maybe anywhere. But while Kiner did color for Nelson for a couple of innings on TV, for the most part, each flew solo, at Nelson's direction.

Which reminds me of when Don Drysdale succeeded Jerry Doggett with the Dodgers. Of course, The Vin and his partners always broadcast alone. Drysdale told Ross Porter he was used to talking on the air, and could they have both mikes open? Ross said sure. At the end of the first half-inning they did together in spring training, the phone rang in the booth. It was Peter O'Malley telling them to shut the other announcer's microphone. After the game, Big D saw Peter, who of course he had known since both of them were teenagers, and said, "Peter, 25 teams let their announcers talk to each other." Peter said, "We don't." And I wish that genius McCourt (and his hired gun Lon Rosen, who should have been fired by the current regime for having fired Ross without so much as talking to him) had stuck to that, at least on radio. I don't mind on TV.

Beth said...

Catching up on your blog and re: the 3/15 question about Eddy: is there any reason writers or shows don't go by the animal's real name? Does it just not matter since they are going by cues?

Glenn said...

Ken, you directed the Pet Cemetery episode of ELR, right? At the end, Ray is outside digging the hampster's grave in the rain. What's it it like to shoot extended scenes in the rain for sitcoms? Are the logistics an issue?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Even Chuck Lorre, with all his success, noted last year in one of his vanity cards that network executives tended to panic whenever they heard the words "single camera". Suggests he, too, has been pigeonholed. (Which to me at least partly explained why THE KOMINSKY METHOD was not on CBS.)


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

regarding Directors:
There are plenty of sitcoms that seems Multi-camera but are single shot.
How I Met Your Mother and Seinfeld (on and off cameras).
Couldn't those directors do both kinds of shows?

John in NW Ohio said...

Ernie Harwell's priority, first and foremost, was letting you know where the ball is. There are plenty of fine baseball radio announcers today that simply do not do this.

Peter said...

I'd be disappointed if Frasier was to return as a single camera. It wouldn't suit the character. Fans are used to the natural energy that comes from the live studio audience reaction to the dialogue, especially in the scenes with callers to his show. Moments like Frasier responding to a boring caller with his electron tunnelling microscope riposte wouldn't be as riotous without the audience reaction.

Friday Question

You've previously written about working on Mannequin 2 and how awful it was. I particularly cracked up at your anecdote about the producers wanting to pay you and David in big screen TVs. My question: do you ever get residuals from Mannequin 2? I know the movie tanked but surely every movie must provide some residuals, however small.

ScarletNumber said...

In case you weren't aware, this week the Mariners and Athletics opened the season in Japan. The Mariners swept the two-game series.

Scottmc said...

Actually the baseball season has already started. The Mariners and the A's played two games in Japan. Ichirio (I probably misspelled his name) retired after the second game. He'll now need to wait a year longer before he reaches HOF-maybe unanimous choice. Were you still broadcasting M's games when he arrived, or were you with Dodgers by then? If you have any Ichirio stories they would be nice to hear.

therealshell said...

Mariners are the next big thing in Seattle. Unless they get a hockey team.

Ryn's Sistehr said...

Friday Question: It seems like sitcoms and reality shows are so much less expensive to produce, get the highest ratings, and give the most bang for the buck in syndication, versus hour-long dramas. How and why do cash-strapped networks still mount something like 911 or The Orville, or all these cable networks I've never heard of mount period pieces, or Siren on Freeform? (Not that I think it's a bad thing that they do - it just seems so unlike money-grubbing networks to do it.)

therealshell said...

Wow ! Deja vu.

thirteen said...

I remember seeing the pilot for Mother, Juggs and Speed. (I'd previously seen the movie, too.) Nothing from the pilot sticks to my mind except for the very end, when the three of them are in the ambulance, and they get a call. Juggs yells "Show business!", the lights go on and the siren wails and off they go, riding into oblivion.

"Which one is Juggs?"

Kirk said...

Here's a somewhat self-indulgent Friday Question. The fact that I, who's nobody, can leave a comment and someone who's name I've seen in TV credits for years will actually read that comment, is to me nothing short of amazing (which is why I went overboard when I first started reading this blog and left a comment every time out, even when I had nothing to say.) But I wonder, how does that feel from the other side? I know you can tell very little about us from reading our comments, but, that said, is there anything about us or what we regularly have to say that you find amazing, or at least mildly surprising?

b said...

@John in NW Ohio: Having lived my first more than 50 years of conscious life having Ernie, Ned Martin with the Red Sox and Dave Niehaus as the lead announcer on my home team's broadcasts, I didn't realize until I started traveling by car in the summer and tuning into other broadcasts that there were broadcasters who didn't do that all the time.

Of course, the worst is listening to football on the radio and not getting down and distance on every single play. Do they think we're listening to them while watching the game on TV?

Chris Thomson said...

Hi Ken

Probably a silly question, but one I have always wondered.

When you were making MASH, was it easier with operating theater scenes to film, as I would imagine you could almost film it once and then re-write at will, as they were wearing masks and no one could see their lips. Basically just reusing the same take?

Following on from that. If this was true, was it tempting to put extra scenes in there if time was tight (sunlight at the park running out etc)?