Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday Questions

Let’s get right to ‘em, shall we? Here are this week’s Friday Questions.

Carol Winter starts us off:

Hey Ken. I loved your work on M.A.S.H. and Cheers! You, and other writers on M.A.S.H., have frequently mentioned how you had a Doctor as a Technical Advisor on the show to make sure the actors were holding the scalpels correctly and the writers were accurate on the medical jargon. They were also a source for some story ideas from what I remember.

My questions is did you have a Military Technical Advisor on staff that you could use as well? If so, do you recall any episodes or stories that they contributed to? How about a Technical Advisor for Cheers (bartending and baseball)?

No advisors on CHEERS although Ted did go to bartending school and I believe Woody did as well.  There were enough writers who knew baseball to cover that aspect of the show. 

At MASH we did have a Military Technical Advisor and he was a trip. He would furnish all the necessary names for forms and procedures. But he would also pitch insane story ideas and occasionally call my partner and I “sweetie.” Imagine if Colonel Flagg wanted to be a director.

From Gary:

What are the written (or unwritten rules) for adding parenthetical descriptions to a character's line? For instance, (excitedly) or (angrily.)

Is it an encroachment on the actor's reading of the moment and character or is it a helpful aid as to what the writer intends? And does it differ for TV, movies, and stage?

Many actors do find interior direction an encroachment, but personally, I don’t care. As long as I don’t do it excessively or give indications when the intention of the line is already crystal clear, I employ them a lot.

My main purpose is to communicate to the reader my intention. And if there is any way that lines can be mis-interpreted or ambiguous I clarify with internal direction.

And here’s the other thing – for the most part your script is to be read. It’s not the actor you have to service; it’s the reader. So the clearer I can make things for the reader, the better.

I would say it's more of an issue in the theatre but that's because dialogue is so much more important in the storytelling process.  

With baseball season underway, Michael has a question about announcers:

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.

It’s very uncommon. The Giants do some form of this.

A few teams however rotate announcers between radio and TV but between games, not innings. The Pirates and the Royals have that policy.

There is also some crossover with the Reds, I believe, as well as the Mariners.

And finally, from Glenn:

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

We shot that on the stage in front of a live studio audience. A rain effect was rigged so it just rained when we were shooting. For the most part, during the week I rehearsed without the rain effect.

Fortunately for the actors, they knew all their lines and we didn’t have to redo scenes more than once or twice.

I love being able to shoot rain scenes where I don’t get wet.

What’s your Friday Question?


Mark said...

How do I submit a Friday question? Thanks! Mark

E. Yarber said...

I once worked with an actor who decided she wanted to be a writer. As a sign of artistic purity, she insisted that she didn't want the script to influence the performer's interpretation of the part in any way, to the extent of not even using any punctuation beyond a period and occasional comma. Thus if the line was "What do you mean by that?" or "Who are you?" she'd demand it go on the page as "What do you mean by that" and "Who are you."

I pointed out that this gave the impression that the writer was illiterate. As usual, I was overruled and my sanity questioned, but for some perverse reason the people reading the screenplay pointed out the same thing I did.

You need to work with your audience at each stage of development, including a text that brings the material to life before a single voice has uttered a line.

Michael said...

As for announcers rotating, first, enough teams seem to have trouble finding announcers who can do the job properly on whatever medium they're on. Sigh.

Second, in ye olden Dodger days, which Ken will remember, the team of Scully and Doggett (not quite the same as the X-Files team, though that's who they're named for) used to switch every three innings when they televised, and it was funny that when they did, Doggett would often start his first TV inning and The Vin his first radio inning as though it was still TV, then they'd remember where they were. In the 9th, Vin would simulcast while Jerry went down to the field for the postgame interview. And the broadcasts were much better, and not simply because of the greatest ever. They were cleaner, and properly done.

blinky said...

I hate the Giants radio to TV mid-game switcheroo. I want Jon Miller on the TV for all 9 or 19 innings. He is as close to Vin Scully as we will ever come. The other two guys are way to aw shucks country cornballs for me. Nice guys but....

Bob Gassel said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: "Temporary Duty" is the one MASH episode in which Alan Alda barely appears, he's only in the first scene and the tag...I also see that it was the final episode filmed in season six. Was Alan's token appearance the result of his working on a film, either "Same Time, Next Year" or "California Suite"?

Ted said...

Natalie Morales, who stars in the new NBC sitcom "Abby's Place" (about a bar in a suburban backyard), said she learned bar business like slicing limes by watching Ted Danson in the first episode of "Cheers."

BTW, the show has a good cast, but a weird concept and not a lot of laughs, so I wouldn't expect it to last very long.

Big B's Random Blog said...

A MASH point of view episode from the viewpoint of Colonel Flagg might just have been the trippiest thing ever.

Andy Rose said...

The weirdest announcer rotation I ever saw was when I worked for the flagship radio station of the Braves. Most of the games were still being televised on Turner networks back then, and Turner employed a 5-man rotation: Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Chip Caray, Don Sutton, and Joe Simpson. Every game, a seemingly random pair would be selected to call TV (unless the game was on a non-Turner network), and another random pair would call radio. It was so random that, from time to time, the two former players -- Don and Joe -- would end up together.

With four guys calling each game, one would always have the day off, which was nice. But the rotations always lasted 3 games, which would quickly get weird once the Braves started playing 4-game and 2-game series, throwing the pattern off. There were times when one group would call the last game of a series in Atlanta, then fly out to San Francisco to call the first two games of that series. For Game 3, the new rotation would take over and then go back to Atlanta. Sometimes an announcer would have 3 days off, then have to fly across the country to call one away game before flying back for a home stretch.

Even more awkward was the fact that my station's contract called for us to do a quick interview with a Braves announcer every weekday morning about the previous night's game. But that was done in a rotation that had no connection to the broadcast schedule. So sometimes we would end up talking about the game with the one guy on the crew who hadn't actually been there. Other times, we would have to call up a guy who had just flown cross-country overnight and was going on two hours of sleep.

benson said...


I got to watch most of the White Sox opener yesterday and your boy Jason Benetti is doing just fine. Steve Stone seems to be a lot happier, too. He was doing schtick yesterday.

I'm guessing his and Hawk's relationship wasn't to the level of Impemba and Allen, but he does seem a lot happier.

Peter said...

Mark, you just post your question in any thread! To clarify that it's specifically a question you'd like answered, just start your post by stating it's a Friday question.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

(Sincerely) Thank you for taking the time answer my question.

Frank Beans said...

Friday question:

On MASH, what was the role of Stanford Tischler? I see his name in the show credits all the time. I know that he was a veteran sound editor, but what did he do on a working basis? Was it all post-production, or did he contribute to the music in other ways?

Blair Ivey said...

Andy Rose: Good stuff

The Mariners have the same play-by-play guys for radio/TV, but will often switch the color guys between the two during games.

Janet said...

I have two FQs.

One is a follow-up from filming rain scenes. How are downpours simulated (which happened in several MASH episodes) and what are the extra logistical Issues involved?

My second question is less technical. Whether it's one of your contemporary stageplays, a teleplay you wrote with David or what-have-you: how do you come up with good, satisfying names for your characters so that everyone isn't a Jones or a Smith?


John E. Williams said...

The question about script directions reminds me of a story about the filming of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. The scene is Catherine Hicks and William Shatner having dinner in 20th century San Francisco. Shatner as Kirk reveals that he is from the future.

That's what you think.
Okay...Truth... I'm from what, on
your calendar, would be the late
23rd Century. I've been sent back
in time to bring two Humpback Whales
with me in an attempt to...
repopulate the species.

Well, why didn't you say so? Why
all the coy disguises?

You want the details?

Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss
this for all the tea in China!

I have read that Hicks didn’t understand that her character’s lines were supposed to be sarcastic, so she read them straight, as though she was believing what Kirk was telling her. Director Leonard Nimoy had to take her aside and explain. So I’m assuming the script didn’t indicate the tone, and Hicks just went with what she read.

Madame Smock said...

Aloha Ken,
I listened to the "How did i get talked into this ?" podcast Ep. 116.I thought the Rocky Mountain Writers Guild story could have been a story premise on Frazier. Do writers use their personel experiences to come up with a story line ?

Beth Thompson said...

One of my favorite "Friends" episodes is the Joey character with Jeff Goldblum. They do the first reading, and Joey says, "Oh, I want to (Long Pause), but I can't." -- reading it verbatim.

Mark said...

This is a FRIDAY QUESTION - please answer!!

On Cheers, we all know about the black & white photo of Sam Malone that was hung behind the bar. Of course, when Sam lost the bar it came down. And when Sam regained ownership, it went back up. However, I have noticed that in random episodes along the way the photo is missing. Nothing replaces it - it's just gone for no reason, then reappears in the next episode. Then, in Season 9, without explanation, the original photo is replaced by a different color photo. The photos look similar, but they are clearly different photographs. No explanation is given for the switch. I know it's nerdy, but this is driving me crazy - why did the original photo periodically disappear? And why the charge to the different color photo?

Thank you, Ken!!


Sean said...

I have a Friday Question re: opening credits. I'm not sure if you have any insight, but I figured it was worth a shot.

While binging Game of Thrones recently, I noticed something new. The opening credits only feature the actors in that particular episode. I've been an avid TV nut for decades and have never noticed that before. Is that common? It seems to me that even if Jamie Farr or William Christopher didn't appear in a particular episode, they were still credited in the opening.

Have I missed out on something?