Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday Questions

Let’s dip into the Friday Question mailbag.

Robert Brauer starts us off:

We all remember Kevin McHale's two guest appearances on Cheers. Was there ever any attempt to get Larry Bird on the show? I'm envisioning a Cheers universe where French Lick is located right next to Hanover, and Larry and Woody could trade insider jokes about growing up Hoosier.

Yes. As a matter of fact Larry Bird had agreed to be on the show. So David Isaacs and I wrote the episode. It was called “Hot Rocks” from 1989 and in it Rebecca thinks he stole her diamond earrings.

Even before reading the script he then bowed out. I’ve never been a fan since that day. We got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, William J. Crowe to play it instead. David and I did a rewrite to make the necessary changes and it proved to be a fun episode.

And by the way, Kevin McHale was a terrific comic actor. So good that we brought him back for a second episode.

Keith R.A. DeCandido is next.

You said, "When we went out to the ranch to film the exteriors we would get one day per episode," which prompted a question....

Intellectually, I knew that M*A*S*H wasn't filmed entirely on the ranch, even though it often felt like the entire show was filmed on location. So I'm curious. Obviously, the mess tent and the Swamp scenes were filmed on the ranch, because you could clearly see the rest of the compound from those two locations. Were any other "interior" sets on the ranch, or were the rest -- CO's office, clerk's office, pre-op, post-op, OR, tent interiors that weren't the Swamp, kitchen, etc. -- all interiors?

Ah, the magic of television. ALL interior scenes were shot on the sound stage, including the mess tent and Swamp. They recreated the camp on Stage 9 so you could see people walking in the background and familiar landmarks. But no interiors were shot on the ranch. The interior sets did not even exist beyond what you’d see in doorways.

From Steve Lanzi:

When you've worked in writers' rooms on various sitcoms, did you and the others ever enjoy music in there? Have a radio on in the background, maybe?

No. Never. Can’t think of a show that did.

However, when we were doing ALMOST PERFECT at Paramount our writers room was right across from the studio mill where they were constructing the sets. So it’s bad enough there were buzz saws and drills going constantly, but they used to listen to KRTH on a big boombox. KRTH was the oldies station and played maybe 20 records over and over again. So those blared all day long. We must’ve heard Pretty Woman 10,000 times.

You learn to ignore the distractions. Or you go off and kill somebody.

And finally, from Coram_Loci:

Do you personally know an actor who lost his self-identity and started to think he was the character he played (perhaps a character you created)?

It has not happened to me personally but I hear tell that a number of action heroes want so much to actually BE those characters that they sort of assume the persona.

And then there’s the story of McLean Stevenson, back when he played Dr. Henry Blake on MASH. He was driving home from Vegas one time and there was a car off to the side of the road. He pulled over to see if he could help and someone need medical attention. So he provided the first aid. Imagine looking up and there is Dr. Henry Blake from MASH.

And what’s your Friday Question?


Xenu said...

"a number of action heroes want so much to actually BE those characters that they sort of assume the persona."

I can imagine that little bitch Tom Cruise trying to act like a tough guy. I read that he pissed off a lot of navy officers with his arrogant big star theatrics while shooting the Top Gun sequel aboard an aircraft carrier.

The brainwashed little fart has played action heroes, fighter pilots, soldiers, vigilantes, and even compared his physical training for one movie to being as arduous as combat. The spoiled brat wouldn't last five seconds in a real combat situation and would be demolished in a fight with a real cop, soldier, pilot or vigilante.

He isn't fit to polish the shoes of a naval cook. The men aboard the aircraft carrier should have had a no eye contact policy for HIM.

Vrej said...

A question from Keith R.A. DeCandido, the Star Trek novelist/reviewer? Awesome.

Neil D said...

> Imagine looking up and there is Dr. Henry Blake from MASH.

If it was me, I hope I'd have the presence of mind to ask if I could be treated by Capt. Pierce instead.

Chris G said...

At least it wasn't Larry Linville.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

There were very rare occasions where the interior sets were on the Ranch, mainly because that's where the rest of the action took place. Case in point: in "Henry, Please Come Home," we have a long establishing shot where we see Hawkeye, Trapper, and some of the others walking out of the Pre-Op ward, trekking across the Compound, and into the Mess Tent, where they plot to take Frank out of action, and bring Henry back - all of that was out on the Ranch. There's also the episode where Frank takes a tank for a joyride (the name of that episode escapes me at the moment): all of that was out on the Ranch, including the interior of the Swamp where the gang is playing poker, because we see them barely escape with their lives before Frank flattens the Swamp.

Those are the only two instances I can think of.

Y. Knott said...

Friday question: Conan O'Brien and his staff are being sued for joke theft. A Twitter user claims he wrote and posted daily topical jokes that O'Brien's staff would use the same night. (Google the recent Vanity Fair article for details.)

What do you think -- is it possible? Or is it case of parallel joke development? Accusations of joke theft are common, but does it actually happen?

Love to hear your thoughts, and maybe some thoughts from your colleagues who worked on The Tonight Show, etc.

J Lee said...

Imagine looking up and there is Dr. Henry Blake from MASH.

Imagine if Larry Linville had arrived on the crash scene, and the accident victim looked up and saw Frank Burns was working on him....

Chris said...

I have it on very good authority that Cruise vomited all over his seat when the fliers took him up when he was preparing for "Top Gun." When he started to walk away, leaving the mess behind, he was surrounded by some very intense airmen who handed him supplies and told him he would be cleaning up his mess himself. He refused, they insisted (I'm imagining the circle closing in, but that's probably wishful thinking), he refused again, they insisted again, and he then complied. While they watched. My source insists this is absolutely true. I hope so.

VP81955 said...

Ken, if today's KRTH was on, you'd hear "Hotel California" 10,000 times.

DanB said...

Actors wanting to be their personas? Top of mind: Steven Seagal. Christ, what a douche.

Frank Beans said...

Regarding actors becoming their characters, I have this scenario where I meet George Wendt in public somehow, and of course I can't resist shouting "Norm!" And I would have been the millionth-and-one person to do so over the past 30 years, and he finally snaps and loses his shit.

Then I offer to buy him a beer to clam him down, and he shouts "I don't drink beer!"

But then he calms down, and accepts my offer. We're in a CHEERS-like pub and work it our. But somehow keeps calling me "Woody".

Jeff Weimer said...


I've had the privilege of talking with the pilot who played Maverick for the flight scenes. Cruise tried to play the character even to the point of dressing up and eating in the "dirty shirt" wardroom. "Method" acting, I guess.

He was also an insufferable ass, as I am told.

Also, all the rumors about Kelly MacGillis and her substance-abuse issues were true. Also, as I am told.

Peter said...

DanB said...

"Actors wanting to be their personas? Top of mind: Steven Seagal. Christ, what a douche."

Haha! There's an hilarious story from years back about Jean-Claude Van Damme confronting Seagal at a Hollywood party after Seagal had talked shit about him in the press claiming he could kick Van Damme's ass. Apparently Seagal made his excuses and left, only for Van Damme to follow him to the next party and confront him again! And again, Seagal fled.

I hope the story is true anyway. I love the image of Seagal running scared shitless from party to party trying to avoid Van Damme.

On a different topic, I was watching one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies last night and it reminded me of a great joke: What's the difference between Freddy Krueger and Michael Jackson?

One's a hideous freak who wears a fedora and a single glove and is a danger to children, and the other is a character from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Xenu said...

Here's the info on Cruise pissing off those who serve on the Theodore Roosevelt.

My favorite quote: "No one really cares about you or that fuck ass movie you're filming".

Covarr said...

From what I've both seen and experienced myself, the big risk that actors face isn't forgetting who they are, but screwing up their real life relationships because of whatever emotions they put themselves through. When you really get into a role, it can be far too easy to let yourself keep feeling whatever your character is feeling even after you leave for the night.

A few years ago, I played George in OUR TOWN at my local community theatre, and I can't count the number of times I drove home bawling after the show. I never lost reality, never actually thought I was George, but getting myself into the right emotional state for the final scene really tore me apart, and the experience was one of the most painful and difficult of my life.

Currently I'm rehearsing ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, as Mortimer. Though it doesn't get too steamy by today's standards, there is a good bit of passionate romance between Mortimer and his fiancée Elaine. My Elaine and I were already good friends, and we already see a good deal of each other away from the theatre as carpool buddies and, well, I know how easy it would be to screw up my marriage, so I keep my guard up.

I'm just a small-town community theatre actor, so I can't attest to the effects of a television series that runs for several years. But I can say, while I haven't ever seen a loss of literal self-identity, acting can have a powerful, if temporary, impact on a person's emotional identity.

Barry Traylor said...

That is a great story about McLean Stevenson giving first aid.

Unknown said...

Was McLean Stevenson still on MASH at the time? If not, my first question would be how he survived the crash.

E. Yarber said...

Fred Willard did a commentary track for his guest spot on THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, which was one of his earliest jobs in Hollywood. He mentions being a fan of the program, getting excited about getting to actually work in the Hartley apartment, then seeing that the skyline through the window was actually just a huge still photograph.

I have to admit the idea of actors getting too caught up in their parts seems particularly silly to me while I'm going through Richard Burton's diaries. Not only was he completely detached from everything he played, but he could be a real challenge to Oscar Levant in the Totally Jaded department.

"After, shall we say, 10 weeks of playing HAMLET on the stage one's soul staggers with tedium and one's mind rejects the series of quotations that HAMLET now is. Has there ever been a more boring speech, after 400 years of constant repetition, than 'To be or not to be'? I have never played that particular speech, and I've played the part hundreds and hundreds of time, without knowing that everybody settles down to a nice old nap the minute the first fatal words start."

While performing his Oscar-nominated role in ANNE OF A THOUSAND DAYS:

"The thought of going to work in the intolerable early mornings is like a physical pain. It is all so perfectly boring. Anybody can play Henry VIII -- I mean even Robert Shaw who should be consigned for the rest of his life playing ping-pong against ageing former champions -- has played it."

And while no one whatsoever can possibly care, I have to admit that moving from Thucydides to Xenophon in the Peloponnesian War has been better than I expected. T. was so good I didn't think anyone could pick up the baton. It certainly helps that a writer named Rex Warner crafted some absolutely marvelous translations of both historians back in the 1950s to give some continuity to the transition. After the military stuff I'll go on to Xenophon's writings on Socrates.

Mike Bloodworth said...

A lot of method actors get caught up in their characters. I read that on the set of "Lincoln" Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn't acknowledge anyone unless they referred to him as "Mr. President" or "Mr. Lincoln." I don't know if he answered to "Abe." Then there's Clayton Moore, TV's "Lone Ranger." After the series ended he continued to dress like and make appearances as "The Lone Ranger." In fact, the company that owned the rights had to sue him to make him stop. That's how he wound up as the spokesman for Foster-Grant sunglasses. But, that's another story.

Today's question inspired my own in a similar vein.

FRIDAY QUESTION: Have you worked with and/or personally known an actor (or writer) who has resented his success? Specifically, for being stereotyped as a character. (Or for a genre) I'm thinking of Jim Parsons. I wonder if he will be a victim of Gilligan/Spock syndrome. That is, will he be so closely associated with "Sheldon Cooper" that he won't be able to get any work for the foreseeable future. Ed O'Neill had that problem after "Married with Children" went off the air. He went years before "Modern Family."
P.S. Not that Parsons needs the money. But, unlike me most people can't sit around the house all day doing nothing.

Unknown said...

What about Harrison Ford doing rescues with his helicopter?

You'r afraid for your life lost in the wilderness, and Indiana Jones picks you up.

Gary said...

I always thought it was a tricky balancing act for M*A*S*H to depict Henry Blake as sort of an affable bumbler on one hand, but also a skilled surgeon on the other. Sometimes it was hard to buy Henry as brilliant enough to be doctor, but for the most part the show got it right. I think the early years of the series with Henry and Trapper are the best ones, although the first two years with Potter and BJ are also excellent.

Frank Beans said...

Regarding MASH and character identities, another one that comes to mind is William Christopher as Father Mulcahy, who would meet who fans who insisted that he was really a priest. I think he was asked to do communion or a confession by some people who recognized him. It could be a colorful tall tale for all I know, but I would believe it.

Harry Morgan, on the other hand, was definitely Colonel Potter--I had him remove my gall bladder once.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Apparently you can be an excellent surgeon and a total incompetent in other areas. We have this Secretary of Housing and Urban Development...

Anonymous said...

I always thought of Bob Denver as Maynard J Krebs. Gilligan was a momentary aberation.
"WORK aghh"

Frank said...

Friday Question: IIn season two of Bosch, there's a character referred to as "Big Wave Dave." It's not exactly a tribute, as he's a Very Bad Fellow. Was this an intentional nod by someone on the show, or just a coincidence?

Andy Rose said...

Speaking of what you can get away with on sets, I was always amused by sets that made no physical sense. Logically when someone walked out of Sam's office on Cheers, you should see the bar directly in front of them when they open the door. But instead (because of the way they had to fly that wall to fit the cameras in) you saw the raised area that was a 90-degree right turn from the door as seen from the other angle.

On WKRP in Cincinnati, they kept adding new radio station sets without a clear plan for how they all connected. If you think hard about how the hallways were depicted and where the windows were, their high-rise building would be like something from an Escher painting.

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

Thanks for answering my question and the shout-out Ken! :-)

Todd Everett said...

I always thought it was a tricky balancing act for M*A*S*H to depict Henry Blake as sort of an affable bumbler on one hand, but also a skilled surgeon on the other.

Yeah, who could believe that a skilled surgeon could be a bumbling, oh, secretary of housing and urban development?

Dave Creek said...

I would hope that the helicopter rescue would involve not the Indiana Jones version of Harrison Ford, but the Han Solo version.

VP81955 said...

To Mike Bloodworth:

Few remember that Ed O'Neill was cast as uber-cop Joe Friday in Dick Wolf's short-lived revival of "Dragnet" (the master of modern police procedurals' homage to Jack Webb, who started it all back on radio in 1949). However, O'Neill (a talented actor) either couldn't shake off the ghost of Al Bundy that quickly or people expected him to go Dan Ackroyd in his Friday, a la the "Dragnet" comedy feature.

Craig Gustafson said...

Friday question: What do you know about Bob Colleary?

I was watching a rerun of "The Photographer" - an episode of "Barney Miller." Most "Barney Miller" episodes are terrific, but on this one, EVERY joke was hilarious. It was written by Bob Colleary. Never heard of him. Looked him up on IMDB, where his bio is mixed with (apparently) his son. Trying to find out *something* about him, I found a blurb that said he wrote "Captain Kangaroo" for twenty years, then went on to write for "Barney Miller" (Emmy winner) and "M*A*S*H" ("Guerilla My Dreams"). Or - was it the father? Or the son?

AndrewJ said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Ken, did you see the Netflix LAUGH-IN tribute? Your thoughts?