Friday, August 02, 2019

Friday Questions

Here are your mid-summer Friday Questions.

Kevin Kozoriz is up first with an interesting FQ:

If you were given the chance to write a spin off of any show, at any time period, which one would you spin off and what characters would you choose?

I know I’m going way back, but I would spin off Eddie Haskell from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. That character would be soooo much fun to write.

Bryan Thomas wonders:

You talked about working with Jenna Elfman when you directed Dharma and Greg. How about Thomas Gibson? He has a bit of a rep now but how was he to work with?

He apparently got into physical skirmishes on CRIMINAL MINDS and was eventually replaced. But I have to say, for me, and seemingly everyone involved with DHARMA & GREG he was a dream to work with.

Totally professional, took direction well, polite with the crew, and delivered on show night.

But the folks on CRIMINAL MINDS saw a different guy.

So the question becomes which is the real Thomas Gibson? I don’t know. Just happy I got the good one.

James Marshall has a question about “Boys in the Bar,” a first year episode of CHEERS that my partner David Isaacs and I wrote.

What struggles did you face when writing sitcom episodes that addressed important social themes and how did you and David keep the balance between seriousness and humor in those episodes?

I’ll start by saying what we didn’t want to do – and that was deliver a heavy-handed message.

We tried to be true to the subject and use humor to make our points.

But I will say this: We were sensitive to peoples’ feelings, but today it’s gotten so ridiculous that you’re always walking on eggshells worried that you might possibly by chance offend somebody. I don’t think we could do “Boys in the Bar”, which dealt with homophobia. We won a GLAAD Award for it, but today there would probably be outrage.

I don't think we'd even attempt it in 2019.

I can’t write on eggshells. I don’t know who can.

And finally, from Kevin from VA:

Ken, You've sure had a varied career. Disc Jockey, Baseball Announcer, TV writer/director, and now Playwright. That being said, whose career of the following four people would you have picked to have had as your own? Howard Stern, Vin Scully, James L. Brooks, or Neil Simon.

This is just career, not personal lives. I wouldn’t want to trade personal lives with any of them. But for careers, it would be a tie between Vin Scully and Neil Simon.  They're the two very best at what they did. 

What’s your Friday Question?


ScarletNumber said...

Luckily for you both Harry Shearer and Ken Osmond are still around.

Jim San Diego said...

Now I'm intrigued as to why you might trade careers (with a couple of them) but wouldn't exchange lives with Howard Stern, Neil Simon, James L Brooks or Vin Scully.

Specifically, why or how is yours so great and/or theirs so train-wrecky would be one super-interesting Podcast or Video-cast. That would make a splash.

E. Yarber said...

Regarding Gibson, it's very hard to explain to outsiders how every job brings its own chemistry. I worked with a guy on a troubled project who was utterly professional at every turn despite the obstacles he had to face. When he asked me to help out with another mess I had no hesitation about going in without a contract, but it didn't take me long to realize he was now a cornered rat with no loyalty to anyone. Some of it comes down to circumstances, some of it individual issues. You have to make your own choices about how much you can accept.

I think the internet has driven the shrillness level of discourse into overdrive. Yeah, shows would get enraged letters written in crayon, but those were generally anomalies that could be laughed at and tossed away. Now people can unleash their id and display the results in public within nanoseconds, both self-righteously or scraping the bottom of the barrel without even realizing how they come across. I'm no fan of the Etruscans, but I guess I've been writing long enough not to let my prejudice show. Those less aware of the effects of writing can ooze racism in the current environment like a guy who doesn't notice his fly is open.

If the scripts I've read are any indication, Eddie Haskell may well be the dominant figure in contemporary culture. Half the guys writing scripts think they've created the new James Dean, but have only poorly emulated Eddie.

Curt Alliaume said...

Interesting that you said Eddie Haskell would be fun to write for on a spinoff. I agree Haskell would be fun to write for - but wouldn't basing a spinoff around a real jerk be a challenge? (For example, I've gathered keeping true to Cloris Leachman's character on Phyllis was a challenge.) I would think you'd almost have to create a super-sympathetic character to costar opposite Haskell (Patty Duke? Shelley Fabares?) to make it work.

E. Yarber said...

And as a quick coda, here's a look at one of John Ford's few television jobs, a baseball story introduced by Fred Astaire, starring Jimmy Stewart with Vin Scully doing the play-by-play.

Bob Uecker is a National Treasure said...

My kids are into all of the Disney shows, especially Bunk'd. Just overhearing the show, it relies on a lot of tired punchlines (like using "duh!!!" for laughs) but my kids (between 8 and 12) all find it hilarious. If you were on the staff of a show like that, how would you balance writing for kids with not writing very tired jokes?

Wm. Adams said...

If I were to trade careers with anyone, I think it would be Paul Shaffer. Second City, SNL, Letterman, Rock Hall, etc.

Anonymous said...

Eddie Haskell was created over 60 years ago and he remains one of the best characters in television history.
Refer to someone "an Eddie Haskell" and the listener knows exactly what you are talking about.
There are plenty of people in real life like him.
Yet if you watch enough episodes you realize he is a more complex character.
His insecurities and good nature occasionally come through. The writers make sure not to make him too much of a caricature.
Interestingly there are more malign characters among Beaver's friends in the surreal universe of the Cleaver household.
It's essentially a cross between real life and Twilight Zone with Eddie being a friendly alien.

Rays profile said...

Well, there was a good try with Dabney Coleman's a"Buffalo Bill." I thought it was hilarious but apparently not that many people did."

cd1515 said...

Jason Alexander has said they missed a spinoff opportunity on Seinfeld with the parents of Jerry and George, do you agree?

PS Ken, the captcha/I’m not a robot game attached to your blog is super annoying, if the goal is to make it as hard as possible to post here then congratulations, it works.

Jahh Ghalt said...

Neil Simon's career as a writer? I suppose you'd still do outlines and have fewer 30-page dead-end scripts?

purplepenquin said...

Refer to someone "an Eddie Haskell" and the listener knows exactly what you are talking about

Depends on the group. I did exactly that the other day and two 20something-years olds had no idea who he was/is. They hadn't even heard of the show "Leave it to Beaver", and it had to be explained that it wasn't about an actual beaver.

A while ago I made a reference to Gilligan's Island* while at work. and it got met with blank stares from the all of the younger crowd 'cept one. When asked if he knew what I was talking about he replied "Kinda. Never saw the show, but they talked about that on Friends."

*the classic "Ginger or Mary-Ann?" choice. To which my answer has always been -"Both - and Mrs Howell too."

thomas tucker said...

Speaking of spinoffs and jerks as main characters- can you imagine a spinoff with Alan Brady as the main character instead of Rob Petrie?

DBenson said...

There was an episode where Norm and Cliff gawked at a picture of woman linked to Rebecca's boyfriend. Rebecca insists the woman isn't so hot as that. Norm and Cliff summon an acquaintance over and show him the picture. The man studies it, deadpans "I'd switch" and walks away.

The actor didn't look or play stereotypically gay; just one more yuppie in a suit. But the audience got it big time. Was there any problem getting that gag past?

Footnote: In contrast to "The Boys in the Bar", the bit subtly says that Norm and Cliff are not only accepting gay regulars in the bar, but are on friendly enough terms for that gag.

DBenson said...

As for how an Eddie Haskell show might work, there was a short-lived James Garner series called "Man of the People". The premise was that a borderline con man was appointed to a city council seat after his ex-wife -- upright and honest -- died. He doesn't so much reform as find it expedient to do the right thing, still trying to pull little hustles on the side with mixed results. Sometimes it was mainly a matter of disliking the dishonest mayor (who appointed him, banking on hIs venality). It didn't last, but I liked what I caught of it.

FYI for thomas tucker: The equally short-lived "Jackie Thomas Show" starred Tom Arnold as an Alan Brady-ish sitcom star in very conscious tribute to "The Dick Van Dyke Show". Where Brady was mostly an offscreen presence, Jackie Thomas was front and center being "the man you love to hate" while his more sympathetic staff dealt with his crises.

Cap'n Bob said...

I explain my life thusly: Eddie Haskell was my role model and Satan was my high school mascot.

-bee said...

I was thinking about Eddie Haskall the other day actually...

Has there ever been a character in years since Leave it to Beaver that one could call an adult version of him? There must be but I couldn't think of one. He seems so distinctive somehow.

Tenzing Nonpareil said...

But for careers, it would be a tie between Vin Scully and Neil Simon. They're the two very best at what they did.

And Howard Stern and James L. Brooks aren't? Can't narrow down the list that way!

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

What's Phil Silvers the grown up version of Eddie Haskell?

Ringo said...

Eh... I don't think the gay gags would go over to well these days. Just watched Cheers Rat Girl episode and Cliff comments about chick that shot down Sam, maybe shes one of these women that coaches basketball and does her own carpentry. Far left crowd would boycott the show and demand an apology. Too bad.

Sam Stebbins said...

Here’s a Friday question: Do you think Sunnyside (an upcoming NBC sitcom) is a good example of why sitcoms shouldn’t be given trailers? People in the comments are judging the show based on clips that are most likely only from the pilot. It looks like a potentially funny show with a good premise.