Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Has it really been ten years?

I've been answering Friday Questions for over twelve years.  That's probably close to 3,000 questions.   And since very few people actually go back and read the archives I occasionally will repost a Friday Questions segment.  I bet it's new to you.  This is from February 26, 2009.

Randall has some questions about end credits:

1. In recent years a lot of television stations have shrunk the end credits in order to show promos for their upcoming shows. Did the stations have to be union approval for this?

2. Some credits go by so fast I don't know how anybody can read them. Conversely, sometimes on talk shows the end credits will stop for a few seconds, apparently to highlight the name of a staff member or company that has provided a product. Are there any rules / restrictions that regulate how fast or slow credits can crawl?

3. Are stations that show movies or stripped television shows required by contract to show the credits in their entirety?

No, there are no restrictions, which is why networks and stations get away with it. Trust me, if there were union rules this deplorable practice would cease immediately. The trouble is, with there being so many more pressing issues for unions to deal with during contract negotiations this indignity gets lost in the shuffle. Not too many members are going to strike over this.

But it is a huge insult to the thousands of people who work tirelessly to make television shows as good as they are. And it’s bad enough these people have to share a card with thirty others and are up there for maybe a fraction of a second, but they’re expected to go that extra mile and really take pride in what they do while the networks can’t give them so much as a full screen. I say a network executive's name on his parking space should be as large as the smallest credit on his network. That would change things instantly.

From Zach Haldeman:

What is the typical relationship between writers and actors? Naturally the show runner gets to know the actors, but is Star #2 gonna be friends with Staff Writer #5, or even know Staff Writer #5?

Depends on the cast, depends on the staff. But usually the staff writers and the supporting cast tend to gravitate towards each other. Sometimes the cast members are a little intimidated by the show runner or the star of the show is a huge time and energy suck so these supporting players will cozy up to the lower tier writers to get their suggestions and concerns heard.

The ideal situation is when everyone in the cast and on the writing staff feel comfortable talking with each other. And that usually stems from show runners who are receptive to actors’ input and actors who view writers as colleagues not waiters.

And finally: D. McEwan has a M*A*S*H question.

In the movie, The Swamp had 4 residents, who were the primary characters: Hawkeye, Trapper, Frank Burns, and Duke Forrest, played by Tom Skerritt. Duke was as important a character as Hawkeye & Trapper John.

So why was Duke conspicuous by his utter absence from the TV series? I've been curious about this for over 30 years.

Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds felt the need to pare down the number of characters since they only had a half hour to work with. Duke was odd man out. In the original TV pilot there was also a Spearchucker but he too faded into the mist.

Another casualty of war was the lovely Marcia Strassman. She was a regular the first season as Nurse Cutler. She of course went on to play Kotter’s wife, Julie and had to look amused anytime Gabe Kaplan spoke.

Strassman is best known however for her hit record, “the Flower Children” in the late 60s.


Pat Reeder said...

I believe I remember reading this when it originally ran. Since then, I have obtained digitized copies of the A and B sides of all three 45s released by Marcia Strassman in 1967-'68. Drop me a line if you'd like me to send you copies so that you can also experience the psychedelic nirvana of "The Groovy World of Jack and Jill" or "Self Analysis" and their respective B-sides. I'll even toss in a scan of the "Jack and Jill" picture sleeve.

Lemuel said...

Marcia Strassman! Our Blessed Lady of the Tight Jeans (she was almost unrecognizable in the 60s movie CHANGES).

Stephen Robinson said...

Whenever I see a first season M*A*S*H with Cutler, I think it's a shame that we lost a recurring nurse character who wasn't just a potential bedmate for Hawkeye but a fellow jokester in her way. Margaret became more of the "gang" later on but it wasn't quite the same.

Curt Alliaume said...

Marcia Strassman had a miserable experience on Kotter, and it didn't help that apparently producer James Komack was pitting her against Gabe Kaplan (they eventually figured it out).

Strassman did appear opposite Mike Farrell in the TV series Providence.

Janet said...

Hi Ken,

You've mentioned that you are finding it harder to write the blog.

Is that due to lack of ideas, lack of research to develop those ideas, something else?

E. Yarber said...

The business of dropping Duke from the Swamp is a basic example of the adaptation process. If a novel takes six steps to get from A to B, you may only have time for four steps in a film of the same story or two in a television show. Sometimes you have to simply drop the process and put the character right in the place you need them to be. This is why William Goldman was so acclaimed as a screenwriter, since he had a brilliant knack for breaking down even the most complex source material into easily accessible forms. I spent a few years doing pretty much the same thing with galleys of books about to be published, like being on the chain gang making little rocks out of big ones.

The film's loose structure was based on Hawkeye's temporary rotation within the MASH unit, during which he gravitated from Duke to Trapper. For television, those relationships needed to be fixed right away because the rotation was indefinite and the dynamics within the tent may not have mattered in the course of an individual episode.

zapatty said...

Regarding the early episodes of MASH: wasn't Ugly John a character for a while ?

JonCow said...

My fav Marcia Strassman song is the b-side of Flower Children, the song "Out of the Picture" with a very credible Phil pector/Ronettes vibe to it.

Peter said...

You must be amused by some of the more bizarre or, to put it politely, less than intelligent questions you get. My favourite is the one who asked if an actor or actress gets paid if their character is mentioned by another character in an episode they don't appear in. As I recall, your reply was along the lines of "are you nuts?!"

Frank Beans said...

The Ugly John character was on MASH for at least the first two seasons, then disappeared. The actor who portrayed him came back much later as an Australian MP who gets into a tussle with Winchester over whiskey at Rosie's bar.

Sidenote: Interesting how "ugly" is equated with having a big mustache. Wonder what BJ would have to say about that.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Yes. This blog was from before I became a regular reader, so it is new to me.

Thank you for the pick of Marcia Strassman. I know it's not very P.C., but I LOVE skinny women.
There! I said it.

I remember 'Spearchucker.' The thing I found odd about eliminating him from the T.V. series was that they passed up a great opportunity to add some diversity to primetime. Even more ironic since at that time more and more shows were about breaking new ground. "All in the Family" being a good example. There were blacks on the show, but most of them were only extras. The one exception was Odessa Cleveland as nurse Ginger Bayless. Even so she was only a minor character.

As for minimizing credits, the only logical rationale I can think of, besides squeezing in more commercials, is the idea that most people that watch these shows have seen them a thousand times. They've previously read the credits and already know who's in the show. Although, there have been times when I've said, "Who's that,?" but the credits go by too quickly. Plus, so many people watch on devices other than traditional TV's they probably figure that one could pause and/or zoom any credits they've missed.

Keep the archived stuff coming. I don't mind.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Dear Ken,

Congrats on a million questions asked, answered and raised (since many questions and answer lead to many more questions and answers and raised...)

You're podcasts are wonderful, and your posts are entertaining.
(and of course your books...GET THEM AT AMAZON>>>>)

Thank you for continuing to do this for OUR entertainment and possibly your sanity.

Ben K. said...

Hi, Ken -- I'm not sure if you've addressed this in past years. This morning I noticed that a lot of news and entertainment websites had articles revealing the latest Emmy nominations, but only provided lists of "featured" categories -- which consisted of nearly every category except Writing and Directing. (To get the complete list, some of them provided a link to Emmys.com -- where, surprisingly, you have to search even further to find it.) This was true of major news sites such as CNN's, and even industry sites such as the Hollywood Reporter's. (Meanwhile, Variety's site managed to provide the full list, so it couldn't have been that difficult.)

Did the Emmys organization put out a press release with this truncated list, which most of these sites followed? Or is it just that they believe nobody cares enough about the writing and directing categories to waste a few extra lines of space on them?

TimWarp said...

Never knew Marcia Strassman had a record. Learn something new every day.

ScottyB said...

Hi, Ken. Been following your blog for a couple of years (rock on, dude!), and having read quite often about your relationship with David Isaacs and how that came about and progressed, I have a scriptwriting/partnership question. To make a long question short, how is someone out in total rural cowtown with half-done scripts that have hit a brick wall (because working by yourself in a vacuum runs its course sooner or later) find someone of like mind? (And really, that’s my problem here.) A middle of nowhere place where there’s no community college/night creative class courses to hook into, etc etc etc day a good 50+ miles away from the closest Craigslist outlet, at best.

Jahn Ghalt said...

As a child I read M*A*S*H and a sequel M*A*S*H Goes to Maine.

I remember Spearchucker Jones in "Maine", as a surgeon that Hawkeye recruited to his hospital/practice in Maine. Hawkeye warned him that he was likely to be called "Boy" by some of the locals, but not to take offense, because any male, up to age 80 or so was also likely to be so-addressed.

I also remember the origin of Hawkeye's nickname, which came from his father. Dad read only one book, The Last of the Mohicans in which Hawkeye was a character.

Francis Dollarhyde said...

Watching the early episodes of M*A*S*H, it's interesting how many supporting characters from the film made the transition to TV, only to be phased out during the first season: Spearchucker Jones, Lt. Dish, Ugly John Black, Boone the Orderly, General Hammond... Even the Painless Pole got mentioned a couple of times (but was never actually seen). Thank God Father Mulcahy didn't meet the same fate.

And it's not hard to understand why Duke Forrest wasn't included in the series. The show had enough trouble giving Trapper John enough to do, let alone having a *third* lead. If anything, the series took a cue from the film re: the relegation of Duke, who has roughly equal screen time with Hawkeye in the earlier part of the film, but his presence diminishes after Trapper comes in and becomes co-lead. (Duke doesn't even accompany Hawkeye and Trapped to Tokyo, so there's a whole act he's absent from.) I can understand why Gelbart and Reynolds decided to drop Duke. Not that he would have been a dull character; just that he was unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

1. Marcia Strassman & Penny Marshall (Foreword) (2008). Life with a Side Order of Cancer. Richmond, VA: Palari Publishing.

Because of the relative obscurity of its publisher, few know of the memoir by Marcia Strassman unless they attended the Book Expo at which she promoted it

2. "Peter said...
You must be amused by some of the more bizarre or, to put it politely, less than intelligent questions you get. My favourite is the one who asked if an actor or actress gets paid if their character is mentioned by another character in an episode they don't appear in. As I recall, your reply was along the lines of 'are you nuts?!' "

Performers might get paid if the character mentioned is one they created and/or to which they own the rights.

3. End Credits

Sony routinely lops off the end credits of its classic Columbia films that get televised

Jeff Boice said...

I remember reading in TV Guide in early 1973 about M*A*S*H dropping some characters during the first season because of budget constraints and mediocre ratings.

Pat Reeder said...

To Tod Browning:

This is from research done by fellow record collector and music writer Tony Sclafani (www.tonysclafani.com)

"Out of the Picture" was written by Jerry Goldstein, a member of the Strangeloves, who also co-wrote the hit "My Boyfriend's Back" for the Angels. Goldstein also had a hand in writing the A-side and produced both sides.

Sclafani also notes that "Flower Children" spent nine weeks on the Billboard Bubbling Under Chart, but never made it to the Hot 100, topping out at #105. But it was a hit in a few regional markets and even made it to #1 on the most-requested chart at KMEN in San Bernadino, whose listeners must've been smoking a lot of weed at the time.

And to TimWarp: If you find this sort of minutiae as fascinating as I do, you should swing by my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/hollywoodhifibook

The latest entry is about Bob Denver's disturbingly surreal surf tune performance in "For Those Who Think Young." That's the movie where he co-starred with Tina Louise a year before they were both cast on "Gilligan's Island." Sadly, she doesn't sing (happily, she strips instead, but still ends up wearing more clothes than a Kardashian wears to a funeral.) But she did put out an LP in 1957 called "It's Time for Tina" that had jazz giant Coleman Hawkins on sax. They should've called it "Have Sax With Tina Louise" and sold a million copies to horny nearsighted men.

Francis Dollarhyde said...

I knew I was forgetting someone - Ho John, the Swamp's houseboy, was another character from the film who made recurring appearances in season 1 of the series.

Unknown said...

"But it is a huge insult to the thousands of people who work tirelessly to make television shows as good as they are."
What about the tireless people who get the show to the TV? Shouldn't the TV station program director get a shout out? What about the guy who sweeps the floor at the TV station? What about the cable installer? sniff sniff Why does the guy who supplies the donuts get a credit? Just saw spiderman, close to 7 minutes of rolling credits, it's a blur after 30 seconds.

Paul Duca said...

I understood Tom Skerritt turned down the opportunity to do the series...

Dan said...

Tough job Marcia Strassman had, having to pretend to find Gabe Kaplan funny week after week.

Anonymous said...

I know I write weird questions. Forgive me another one!

We are nearly 50 years since man landed on the moon. The papers are starting to mention it.

A story around it was to get the film of it to here in NZ the NZ broadcasting service hired and airforce plane to do a special flight over to Aus and pick up the film. (No satellites obviously) and fly it back within a certain time frame so they could show it.

It is probably before your time professionally as well, but was wondering whether you had heard any "The legend of that bit of film" stories where all hell broke lose getting physical film to a location because there was no other way?

NZ story about the moon landing film https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/113989110/moon-landing-auckland-pilot-had-just-about-forgotten-delivering-tape-to-nz