Wednesday, October 30, 2019

EP147: Hollywood Horror Stories for Halloween

Your worst nightmare. The chilling and terrifying tale of what it’s like to be on a TV show that’s an abject failure. Listen with the lights on. 

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

What's your scariest movie?

With Halloween fast approaching, what is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? We all have one. An experience so frightening that it kept you up for weeks, resulted in therapy that is ongoing to this day, and accounts for your aversion to clowns. Could be Freddy or Jason or Chucky or Stephen Miller – but surely there is one horror movie stalwart that still sends shivers up your spine. Maybe a Gothic classic where an old Hungarian actor skulks about in the night shrouded in a black cape. Or a maniac named Jigsaw terrorizes Shawnee Smith through six sequels. (By the way, when a parent names their son Jigsaw, what do they expect?) Perhaps you’re more of a science-fiction buff and Alien makes your skin crawl. Or the Creature From the Black Lagoon still comes to you in dreams and wants to borrow your girlfriend for the weekend. What movie frightens you the most?

For me, it’s one you probably have never heard of. It’s called THE 27th DAY, and it was a low-budget black-and-white film made in 1957. I saw it a few years later during a Saturday afternoon kiddie matinee at the Stadium Theater on Pico Blvd. near Robertson in Los Angeles. It was on a double-bill with a film about giant ants threatening civilization and picnics.

THE 27TH DAY had hardly any special effects and there were no hideous monsters. Gene Barry and no one else I recognized starred. The storyline was utterly confusing and the movie was very talky. I didn’t scream even once. And yet, it scared the shit out of me.

Here’s the plot. An alien from outer space beams up five people from around the world to his spaceship, which I just assume is hovering over New Mexico. They’re each given three capsules enclosed in a clear little case. Today they'd be mistaken for birth control pills.   Only these five can open their cases with telepathic brain waves. Once open, these people have the power to send the capsules anywhere they want and they will destroy everything and everyone within three thousand miles. So let’s say that Pez dispenser you bought from a guy in Florida was cracked and he wouldn’t take it back. Just vaporize the son of a bitch… and, y’know, 40,000,000 other people.

If these five people can go 27 days without blowing up the world then the Alien would either leave or the five people would get a space-age home tanning salon, or something – I forget.

For the next hour these five run around. They’re chased. One opens his case. One commits suicide. In the end, someone figures how to reprogram the capsules and it sets off this worldwide piercing sound that kills enemies.  Don't ask me why Eydie Gorme hitting a high note kills evildoers but in this case it does. 

You’re probably going, “Gee. People have capsules. That’s waaay more scary than a psychopath who cuts out your boyfriend’s entrails and then makes you eat them.”

But it was.

Remember, this was the ‘50s during the height of the Cold War. We lived in fear every day of worldwide nuclear obliteration. This little movie tapped right into our visceral panic and paranoia that we were all going to die. Eating your boyfriend’s entrails would be really gross but seriously, what are the chances that was going to happen to you? But this! The capsules were a metaphor for “the button” and at any moment some guy who looks like a Russian Howie Mandell could hit it and blow us all to kingdom come. Oh yeah, and then there was an Alien from outer space. Those don’t tend to sit well with little kids.

I was traumatized for about a month.

Did not see it again for a long time. It never showed up in old TV movie packages. And then about fifteen years ago TBS had a weekly sci-fi feature and I saw that it was going to be on. Excited, I stayed up to watch it.

Here’s the weird part: I’m sitting with my wife and saying, “Okay, now they’re going to go to the space ship” then “Now they’re going to Gene Barry at a race track”, etc. I hadn’t seen the movie in like a gazillion years and had previously only seen it once and yet I was able to call out scene-by-scene in order. That’s how much it made an impression on me.

Watching it again, I could see why it unnerved me so. The notion of paranoia and leaving the fate of the world to potential idiots is fucking SCARY! Real fucking SCARY!   And that was BEFORE Trump.

So that's the movie I found the most frightening.  I doubt if Wes Craven will ever do a remake. I don’t think the original print will be re-mastered for 3D and IMAX. But these movies have a lasting effect on you. Some people are scared of birds, or showers, or chainsaws. I see Benadryl capsules encased in clear plastic and I have to leave the room.

So what’s your scariest movie?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Fire update

Welcome to paradise.

I can’t think of anywhere you can live where you’re not in danger of something -- brush fires, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, avalanches, tornadoes, ice storms, monsoons, arctic blasts, terrorist attacks, volcanoes, you name it.

Currently we in Southern California are weathering brush fires. We’ve had very little rain and very low humidity brought about by fierce Santa Ana winds. It’s turned many areas into a tinderbox.

Yesterday morning, 10,000 homes were evacuated on the Westside. I was fortunate (as of this posting). The blaze was on the west side of the 405 Freeway and I’m about three miles east. That said, we were awoken early Monday morning with a warning alert, basically saying have a “Go bag” with essentials ready should we need to go. We got the same warning a couple of years ago when there was the Bel Air fire, although that was much closer to us. I’m ready with the essentials – key documents, laptops, and my Emmy.

And that reminds me of idiot Dodger outfielder, Pedro Guerrero, who had to evacuate during the Whittier earthquake. He hurt his back hauling out his big screen TV. What a buffoon.

I will say that at times like this Los Angeles really springs into action. Shelters were set up for people and pets, even horses. First respondents were vigilant and unwavering. LA County has an arrangement with other Southern California counties for shared services so fire units and helicopters arrived from places like Bakersfield. Thank you, guys.  If you ever need our Lifeguards...

Come daybreak, firefighters were able to employ super scooper airplanes (12,000 gallon water drops) and planes dusting with retardant. That and the winds dying down helped contain the blaze – for now.

But more heavy winds are expected tonight into tomorrow so we’re hardly out of the woods. As a precaution, lots of people in potential fire areas might have their power turned off.

Evacuees filled hotels, shelters, workplace offices, and stayed with friends and family members. We put out an invitation to a number of our friends.

Other residual effects: Schools were out so working parents had to suddenly contend with that.

The south lanes of the 405 Freeway were closed in the area, which caused traffic nightmares like you can not believe. Canyon roads like Beverly Glen and Coldwater were the only through arteries and not only did that snarl them, but the residential surface streets leading to them were gridlocked. One friend said it took a half hour to pass three houses. Another had to park three blocks away from his house.

Such is life in emergency times. For those of us lucky to still have power, we had the TV on all day. Most Angelinos watch KTLA, Channel 5 during these times. Most stations were on it, but  KTLA, Channel 5 has been a local station that has led with news coverage since they went on the air. KTLA had the first helicopters. KTLA was the first station on the scene with wall-to-wall coverage of local stories like when a little girl fell down a well in 1949. KTLA was on the air live during rescue attempts with local icon Stan Chambers reporting, hour after hour. That story unfortunately, did not have a happy ending. (Billy Wilder would take that story idea and turn it into a riveting movie, ACE IN THE HOLE, also called THE BIG CARNIVAL,  a few years later starring Kirk Douglas.)

For radio there’s only one real news station left, KNX. When I was hosting Dodger Talk on KABC I was also the fire coverage anchor. My main objective was to relay information accurately and provide a calming presence. I’ll be honest, I took my cue from KFWB reporter, Jack Popejoy. Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but he was the best disaster anchor of all-time. He was also a friend and I miss him to this day.

Meanwhile, on entertainment sites the big headline is that LeBron James and Kurt Sutter had to evacuate.  

Now in 2019 we get alerts on our phone. There are websites with up-to-the-minute information, and apps so you can monitor air quality, traffic conditions, evacuation zones, etc. I think back to when I was a kid and there was a devastating fire that destroyed much of Bel Air. Back then there was no communication between fire units, confusion reigned, and many more homes were lost as a result. Again, today’s technology and improved aircraft are saving thousands of populated acres.

So that’s the latest. God bless our fire fighters, police force, and other emergency personnel (on TV newscasts they’re being referred to as “heroes”) and for everyone in harms way, stay safe.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Misc. Takes

In no particular order of importance:

Lucy Boynton is going to star in a movie about rock star Marianne Faithful. If you said “Who?” you’re under 60.

But surely all Millennials know who Jean Seberg was. Kristen Stewart stars as her in a movie.

And Peter Coyote will play Robert Mueller in a TV limited-series. Oh come on! You could not have forgotten Robert Mueller already.

Only in LA:
 It's actually a restaurant.  

I went to a taping of JEOPARDY last week. Alex Trebek is an all-time trouper. He taped five shows the day after chemo. I can’t imagine the distress he was in and yet he never lost his energy or enthusiasm. I'm in awe.

Leave it to Fox.  The president of the United States gets booed by 50,000 people, many of whom chant "Lock him up!" at the World Series and they completely ignore it.   But we need 17 replays of a stupid foul ball. 

Don’t find rat droppings in your house.
Rene Zellweger does a great impression of Judy Garland in the new movie, JUDY. Except there’s nothing in the film everybody didn’t know. And it’s a little simplified. If they just let her eat a pizza one time when she was a child none of this would have ever happened. Better to watch the SHOWTIME documentary on her.

Judy Garland and Elvis Presley had the same hairstyle. Maybe even used the same dye.

Coming soon:  A terrifically entertaining movie called KNIVES OUT.  Daniel Craig does a great Kevin Spacey impression. 

A word of warning to all Los Angeles citizens – Felicity Huffman is out of jail and back on the streets. Lock up your college-applying kids. 

When I saw that BLESS THIS MESS was picked up for a full-season I remarked to a friend that that’s pretty good for a new show, and he told it was on last season.  It might be a fantastic show, but the last ABC show I watched was BROTHERS KEEPER (and that's cause I directed it).

This is how silly click bait headlines have become: From MLB.COM last Friday – The Nats’ 13 posteason HR dances, ranked.

Doesn't this look like it says "Wolfgang Putz?"
Okay, I’m one of those geeks who will go see ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD again to see the bonus scenes. And yes, my complaint with the original version was that it was too long.

At the Arclight Theatre in Sherman Oaks they charge an extra $1.50 if you see THE JOKER in .35 or .70 mm. In addition to the ridiculous ticket prices anyway, they’re charging you extra for the best prints. I dunno. I’m sure it will look just fine on my HD monitor at home.

How many people are going as Marianne Faithful for Halloween this year?

Finally! A wall in Colorado. Illegal skiiers have been a problem for YEARS. Will Switzerland pay for it?


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Special Offer!!!

I'll be honest, I'm trying to fill the house with my peeps.  So I've got a special offer to see my play, DATING THROUGH THE DECADES this Sunday night at 9 at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in West Hollywood. 25% off the ticket price if you type in the promo code FLASH48. It's the Short + Sweet Gala Finals and I would greatly appreciate your support.  The cast (Tory Berner & Andrew Steel) have worked so hard on this and I'd love for them to be rewarded with a big laughing crowd (and you will laugh). 

So again, 25% off ticket prices.  Just go here

Thanks so much.  Especially my loyal readers who I know are going to fly in from Iceland just to see this.  And won't the rest of you feel guilty? 

Now scroll down to the Weekend Post.

Weekend Post

I don't know who figured these out but they're pretty great... and in some cases, spooky.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Come see my award seeking play

Some folks have complained that I don't give them enough notice.  But in this case I just found out last night my short play, DATING THROUGH THE DECADES made it to the Finals in the Hollywood Short + Sweet Festival.  The performance is Sunday night at 9 at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in West Hollywood.   Here's where you go for tickets and info.    If you're in any of the western States please come.  It's a terrific production starring Tory Berner & Andrew Steel and directed by Kimberely Cooper.  Because of them it's one of my funniest plays. 

What is DATING THROUGH THE DECADES?   In short vignettes we see what dating was like in the '50's, '60's, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00, and today.  All in ten minutes.   Hopefully see you Sunday.

Friday Questions

Friday Questions pulling into the station.

"Seeking Comedy" has a question following my discussion of Maya Rudolph:

Are there people out there that you could shine a light on that we should check out? Instead of giving more focus to people who are overrated, let's hear about who you love!

Way too many to list. But a few standouts – John Mulaney, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, David Hyde-Pierce, playwright/humorist Paul Rudnick, Robert & Michelle King, Woody Harrelson (other than playing Archie Bunker), Ben Platt, sportscaster Jason Benetti, Rachel Maddow, Ted Danson, Mike Schur, Alex Trebek, sportscaster Sean Grande, Lin-Manual Miranda, Andrew Rannells, Jake Tapper, Tom Hanks, sportscaster Michelle Tofoya, Aaron Sorkin, Elaine May, and singer Nicole Atkins.

And now I expect a flurry of comments from readers who absolutely hate every one of them.

From chris dellecese:

Noticed that Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston are producing and starring in something on Apple TV, what is your experience when stars also try to produce?

How much work do they actually do?
How involved are they?
And is it a good thing?

Sometimes it’s a partner you don’t need, it’s a Faustian contract you have to sign in order to get the star. And you just have to determine whether their creative input is worth the trouble.

In most cases I would say it is.

Stars like Alan Alda and Kelsey Grammer can really enhance a project.

But here’s the thing: Stars don’t have to have actual “producer” credit to insert themselves into the creative process. They can balk at everything and make your life miserable, with or without a producing credit.

Some stars take producing very seriously and others see it as a vanity credit and more money for doing nothing. And some stars take the reins completely, rewrite every script, run roughshod over the director and the end result is usually abject failure. And when that happens, guess who the star blames? Hint: Not himself.

Graeme wonders:

MASH had a laugh track but not every joke featured the same level of laughs, i.e. some jokes got louder or longer laughs than others. Who decides how big of a laugh each joke should get?

The showrunner. In the case of MASH, we wanted to eliminate the laugh track entirely but CBS insisted on it. So you’ll notice the laughs are very muted, even the big laughs.

There are showrunners for some multi-camera shows who go full-throttle on that laugh track, trying to mask jokes that suck, and the end result is viewers flee in droves.   As well they should. 

And finally, from Brian:

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has a pretty distinct writing style. Sometimes, at some point in her scripts, a character will start ranting about something.

Are there any writers (save ones you've worked with) that you can tell who has written it without having seen the credits?

This is my week for answering questions by listing people.

A number of writers have very distinctive styles. Off the top of my head (knowing I’m accidentally leaving off a bunch): Aaron Sorkin, David Milch, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Richard Rosenstock, David E. Kelley, Mike Judge, Mel Brooks, Steven King, William Goldman, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Richard Curtis, Paddy Chayefsky, Preston Sturges, Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicole Holofcener, Billy Wilder, Larry Gelbart, and Neil Simon to name but a few.

What’s your Friday Question?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

EP146: This week’s guest: ME Part 2

Entertainment reporter Arlen Peters continues his interview with Ken – interacting with actors, learning to direct, breaking into the feature world, playwriting, anecdotes, and much more.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

El Camino: My sort of review

Writer/blogger extraordinaire Mark Evanier maintains I find every movie, play, or TV show too long. He might be right. Perhaps my patience level has decreased, there’s too much else to do, and I’ve seen enough long beauty shots of the desert.


Movies, plays, and TV shows are, for the most part, too long.

The irony is that today’s generation seems to want their entertainment almost at warp speed. College students don’t respond to the CHEERS pilot because it’s “too slow.” At the time it aired it was applauded for its zippy pace.

But this takes me to the new BREAKING BAD movie, EL CAMINO, now playing on Netflix.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to discuss the plot or any fun surprises that might pop up for hardcore fans of the series.

I’m just going to say it felt too long.

And understand, I think BREAKING BAD was the single best dramatic series in the history of television. Sorry SOPRANOS, sorry MAD MEN, sorry DAVID CASSIDY: MAN UNDERCOVER.

EL CAMINO was impeccably written and directed by Vince Gilligan and the pace and tone was not that different from the original series. But something was missing, and it’s hard to put my finger on it.

Several theories: Jesse was a great side character but not compelling enough to carry a whole movie. They needed other story lines to cut away to. Now I realize that’s hard since most of the great characters in BREAKING BAD are dead by this time. But still, I wish there were something else going on. And finally, there were too many damn beauty shots of the desert.

The Levine Rule: If you can take something out and not miss it, then take it out.

There are some very cool sequences in EL CAMINO, the performances and casting were pitch perfect (as always with a Vince Gilligan project), but I was left feeling oddly unsatisfied.

What did everyone else think? And please don’t discuss specific plot points for those who still intend to watch it.

And one last thing (I hope this post isn’t too long): One of my top five all-time favorite movies that I could watch over and over again is BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. It runs 2 hours and 41 minutes, and for my money is too short.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Another way for young actors to be seen

If you’re a struggling actor in LA or New York, chances are you want to get hired on TV, or movies, or commercials. In other words, jobs that PAY. Even Broadway, as prestigious as that is, can’t compare to being in the supporting cast of a Ryan Murphy TV series or helping Flo hawk Progressive Insurance.  

One of the (many) problems young actors face is being seen. How do they get on casting directors’ radar? I think the best way is through theatre. Even in Los Angeles, there are plenty of small theatres and productions, and more than one successful actor has been “discovered” doing a play in a black box theatre in Reseda.

Two problems though: Getting hired, and it’s a major undertaking to rehearse and memorize an entire full-length play for the 49-seat theatre it’s playing in. That generally requires a commitment of several months. And the compensation is nothing or table scraps. If the actor still has a full-time job to support himself it becomes an exhausting process. That’s dedication.

So I tip my hat to the actors who make that commitment, appear in full-length plays, and oh – improve as actors because they’re plying their craft.

Ah, but there’s an alternate theatre experience that solves some of these problems. Ten-minute plays have really become a thing over the last five/six years. Regional and community theatres are presenting festivals of ten-minute plays. The thinking is: there’s a lot of variety, if you see a play you hate it’s over in ten minutes, and there are usually a lot of actors on the program (and they each bring in audience members so it fills the house).

For the actor it means he only has to learn ten minutes of dialogue, not ninety. Rehearsals are only a few hours and generally you only need three or four of them. And if you’re in the right play at the right time and place you can really get the attention of casting directors, TV and movie folk. I have friends who are producers or agents or casting directors and they come to my plays frequently. Talk about a great showcase.

I’ve seen any number of these ten-minute festivals here in LA over the last few years. (I’ve been in a number of them). And if we’re doing the math – ten plays, probably 2-5 cast members – rounding it off it’s like 40 actors per show.

I must say the thing that struck me is how uneven the acting has been in these LA plays. There are some who are just terrible, amateurish, bordering on painful. And then there are some ringers – super talented young actors whose quality rises above the rest like a phoenix from the ashes.

Trust me, it’s apparent.

The other thing that struck me was how many fresh faces there are in this town. The competition is stiff and brutal. I’ll be honest – there are some struggling actors and actresses I know who should be stars by now. They have the looks, ability, youth – and yet they’re still bartending at night instead of riding on Rose Parade floats. So for all the acting classes, there is still a good deal of luck involved. But any of us in the “industry” know that going in.

I personally don’t have the talent or self-esteem to weather the constant rejection. So I’ve never wanted to be an actor. Believe me, Hollywood is not bereft. As I’ve said many times, my heart goes out to actors. Their dedication and perseverance and gift is to be admired.

Now at least they have more places to shine. Ten-minute play festivals. Look into them. And please be great. I’m always looking for terrific actors for my plays.

NOTE:  I have a play in the Peoples Choice Semi-Finals of the Hollywood Short + Sweet this Thursday night at 7.  You'll see two terrific actors in Tory Berner & Andrew Steel, and it's a play I'm really proud of called DATING THROUGH THE DECADES.   Here's where you go for tickets.   Since it's the semi-finals, ALL of the plays are standouts, including ones by my friends Dan O'Day and Andy Goldberg.  Come join the fun.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The upcoming World Series

The World Series begins tomorrow much to the delight of Astros & National fans. They managed to navigate their way through two tough playoff series (and in the case of the Nationals – three).

But for the losing teams, now the outrage begins. Now comes the hate, blasting managerial decisions, turning on players, declaring the entire season a failure.

Before the playoffs these same fans were convinced their team in its current configuration was destined to win. Now they spot glaring holes in the offense, the pitching rotation, you name it. Now they blame Joe Buck.

It used to be fans of losing teams were disappointed. Now they’re angry. MLB does nothing to discourage that. In fact, their new slogan is “We play LOUD.”

Social media provides an outlet for everybody to vent. It’s not just three angry letters-to-the-editor anymore.

I hosted Dodger Talk for eight years, taking listener calls after games. I often needed to be in riot gear. Can you imagine the calls to New York sports stations over the last 24 hours?

So here are some of my observations.

I prefer to save my hate for Trump and anyone who supports him.

The final game of the ALCS was spectacular drama, whoever you rooted for.

For all the notes and stats Fox gave out, they missed that this was the very first post-season game in history where two wife-beater closers gave up two-run home runs in the 9th. 

Fox desperately wanted the Dodgers vs. the Yankees and instead got the Astros vs. the Nationals. Don’t expect big ratings, despite two teams that are the best in baseball.

Baseball has become a slave to analytics but the playoffs prove that they don’t work during the post season. It makes no difference that you win 100 games during the regular year. You don’t face this level of competition every game, you don’t face 3rd, 4th, and 5th starters, hitters don’t see the same relief pitchers day in and day out, slumps get magnified, and unlikely heroes emerge that analytics can’t predict.

And don’t forget the choke factor. Some players rise to the occasion and others just do not.

With this new style of baseball everyone is trying to hit home runs. So the number of strikeouts is shameful. Yeah, you can hit 40 home runs during the season when a bunch are off of rag arm pitchers, but in a seven-game series with the season on the line and future Hall-of-Fame pitchers facing you, only the truly great ones hit two or three.

I am very much looking forward to this World Series. Both teams play with a lot of heart. (Do analytics have a category for that???) Both teams have great starting pitching and starting pitching wins series. The Nationals are a Wild Card team. They’ve had to battle and scratch the whole season. They’re used to pressure games. And they’re giant killers – toppling the mighty Dodgers. The Astros are a cohesive unit with zero quit and they too knocked out a heavyweight in the Yankees.

To me the big question is which team is balanced enough to win? Which team will score runs other than with home runs? Which team will put the ball in play more? Which team will whiff only ten times a game instead of sixteen? Which team will drive in more than two runners in scoring position? Which team will have angry callers in about a week?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Come see the play I haven't written yet

I will be one of 5 playwrights writing 10 minute plays in 3 hours Sunday at the Ruskin Theatre in Santa Monica.   We write from 9-noon, the actors and directors come, rehearse and memorize during the afternoon, and at 7:30 and 9:00 the plays are performed.  It's a high-wire act but great fun and very unpredictable.  Come join the fun.  Here's where you go for info and tickets.  See you there.

Weekend Post

Why I love Los Angeles.

A new restaurant opened on Wednesday in West Hollywood.  THE BREAKING BAD EXPERIENCE.   You can eat in Gus' chicken joint with Walter White's Winnebago spewing blue smoke.  Not sure what's on the menu or whether you can get take-out pizza for your roof.  

But this is a real thing, on Santa Monica Blvd. just west of LaBrea.  If they really want to be authentic they should have one fly buzzing around.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Friday Questions

Let’s deep dive into some Friday Questions.

RMK gets us started.

I've heard you (and Kevin Smith when he guested I think) talk about 'guest' directing on TV shows. Where you're not regular staff, etc. It's always made me wonder if you know any story about a director not gelling with a cast or crew, and being replaced mid-week.

It’s happened twice on shows I’ve been involved with.

The first was years ago. The star really clashed with the director. I was one of the show runners so to avoid shutting down I had to step in and finish directing the actors (I knew nothing about cameras at that time so the hired director came back and did all the technical stuff.)

The second time was on ALMOST PERFECT (our series starring Nancy Travis). I got a call the night before camera blocking that our director was passing a kidney stone and would not be available the next few days.

So I had to go in and camera block on the fly. There was no way to prepare since I didn’t know how the show was blocked.

It actually proved to be a pivotal point in my directing career. The fact that I was able to do it fairly easily meant I was really getting the hang of it, camera-wise.

From Lisa:

As a comedy writer, have you ever written any episodes for a clown character or just any writing for any clown?

Or do you just hate clowns like many others do?

I only hate clowns that aren’t funny.

But I can’t recall ever writing a clown into any project we were involved in. People in animal suits, sure. What writer hasn’t? But no clowns. However, I did direct an episode where someone dressed as a jester for Halloween. Does that count?

Not a lot of room for clowns on MASH.

And speaking of MASH, Unknown asks:

Ken, I have a Friday Question about the lack of smoking on MASH. At the time the show was set (early 1950's) A LOT of people smoked, and I recall reading that the cigarette companies gave every soldier 2 free cartons a months. So why is there very little if any smoking on MASH? Was it a note from Standards and Practices since cigarette ads had recently been banned from tv? Or a decision by the creators?

Primarily Standards & Practices. And I was okay with that. Why glorify smoking? Yes, it was a little unrealistic that they didn’t smoke. But it was also unrealistic that they spent eleven years fighting a war that only took two.

On BECKER, same network, we did have the main character smoke and just floated the message from time to time that it was bad for you. Same on the MARY show. Katey Sagal’s character smoked (primarily to annoy Mary), but there too mention was made of the dangers of tobacco.

And finally, from Bob Paris:

Ken: Here is a Friday question involving a joke I heard a standup comedian do years ago on the Letterman show. "My wife and I met online. We didn't think our parents would understand so we told them we met at the University of Phoenix." My question is would the joke be better or worse if the punchline was: "... so we told them we met in college... at the University of Phoenix." Please analyze, if you don't mind.

It works either way, but I would probably opt for not adding “we met in college.” University says that. What the audience needs to know is that it’s a correspondence college. So I might say “we met on the campus of the University of Phoenix.” If you know it’s not a real school that might help the joke.

But it was probably fine as is.  Did it get a laugh?

What’s your Friday Question?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

EP145: This week’s guest: ME Part 1

On this week's Hollywood and Levine Podcast, Ken switches things up and invites entertainment reporter Arlen Peters to take the reins and interview him. We hear all about Ken's lengthy career in the world of comedy and entertainment as a Writer, Director and Producer.

Spoiler Alert: He does not make Ken cry.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

It's Thanksgiving Day!


You’re thinking, “What country?”

No country. It’s my personal Thanksgiving Day.

On October 15th, many years ago, I had to report to US Army Basic Training at Ft. Leonard, Missouri (way up in the delightful Ozarks).

And since that day, every year on this date I give thanks that I’m no longer there. Basic Training was brutal for me. I was skinny, uncoordinated, couldn’t hit a target with a bazooka, couldn’t build or fix  a fucking thing, and I’m Jewish. I was truly, as my Drill Sergeants graciously reminded me hourly, a “fucking dud.”

So no matter how bad things are for me on October 16th, they’re still better than that year.

I made a vow to myself when I graduated Basic Training (there was actually a ceremony and some parents actually attended), that as time goes by and you start to remember only the good things and new friendships and eventually start to think “it wasn’t that bad” – no matter what I remember or forget it WAS that bad.

My draft number in the lottery was 4, which meant I was off to Vietnam unless I got my ass into a reserve unit QUICK, which I did. At the time I thought that draft number was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

But in truth it was a blessing.

I met my writing partner in the reserves. Having knowledge of how the military worked I was able to write MASH. MASH launched my career. Who knows where I would have ended up had I never been a grunt?

So I have that to be thankful for too.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!  Blow up the giant Snoopy balloon.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

An all too-typical Hollywood story (but with a happy ending)

Great article in the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER about Darren Lemke. He has a writing credit on GEMINI MAN although not a word of his script is on the screen.

So how can that be?

I’ll summarize the article.

Back in the ‘90s Lemke lived in New Jersey. He got a script to a guy who knew a guy who knew another guy who was a movie producer who liked it. Lemke was flown out to Hollywood, quickly got an agent and lawyer, and in a whirlwind sold two pitches.  It's the stuff of dreams.

One of the pitches was essentially GEMINI MAN – an assassin is hunted by his clone.  He sold it.  The dream continues. 

The project was on the fast-track. It looked like a sure thing. This was 1997. This Hollywood game is EASY!

But then Hollywood reality struck. There was concern over how to pull off the CGI. The script went through numerous directors, stars, and other writers. At one time Mel Gibson was going to play the lead; another time Clint Eastwood.

Lemke moved on, found success writing animated features, and GEMINI MAN went through more directors, studios, and writers. I may have been the only writer in Hollywood NOT to have done a draft.

So finally, 22 years later, the movie came out. The basic premise was still his idea and story elements of his draft remain and so in arbitration he was award shared story and screenplay credit.

I offer this today because this is almost the normal life of a feature project. For every story you read about a writer turning in a screenplay and the movie gets made six months later with no other writers attached – there are a hundred of THESE stories. One of the reasons I always preferred television and stayed in television even when I had a movie career was that things move slowly in the feature world. Endless drafts are written, thousands of screenplays are bouncing around in some stage of development.

And what writers learn is this: Don’t get too excited when you hear good news and don’t get too despondent when you hear bad. It’s a rollercoaster.

To be a successful screenwriter in Hollywood you need talent, perseverance, and motion sickness pills.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Defensive interference

Here’s yet another Friday Question that became an entire post (because I’m long winded).

Alex asks:

Any thoughts on effectively engaging with people who are providing a writer feedback on their writing samples? Back in the day when I hoped to be a writer, I always struggled to make people understand that I wasn't trying to refute their feedback, but that I was trying to get some good back-and-forth going to help me better understand how something came off compared with what I intended, and why. It wasn't my intention to defend the script, but it somehow always seemed to come off as defensive. (I guess I could have been specific with people about my intentions, but I didn't really even become that conscious of it until long after I'd stopped writing.)

I can’t speak for your encounters since I wasn’t there and don’t know you, but yes, often times (MOST times) engaging the critic comes off defensive because it is.

Are your questions – “Okay, what do you mean by that?” or “What bothered you about that?”

Or, are your questions -- “He’s her husband. Shouldn’t he pissed when she comes home late?” or “I explain that in the first scene. You didn’t get that?”

Whenever a writer answers a critique with “Yeah, but…” he’s being defensive.

As a writer, when I’m getting feedback the first thing I need to determine is how obligated am I to do these notes? If they’re network notes on a pilot there’s more of an expectation that these notes be carried out. And if you feel they will severely damage your pilot then you very well may want to dig in your heels. You’re fighting for the integrity of the project.

But if you’ve got a spec screenplay or stage play and you’re getting notes from colleagues or friends, you are under no obligation to carry out these notes. So why get defensive?

I’ve been to play readings where there’s a talkback after and the writer receives feedback. I’m amazed at how defensive and angry the playwright sometimes get. Look, a lot of the notes are idiotic. But you don’t have to DO them. So why get worked up? Nod, smile, say thank you. And some of the notes might be excellent and you come away with valuable input.

Another thing to consider about notes, and I saw this a lot with network and studio notes: The note itself may be bad but maybe there’s something underneath it that is worth paying attention to. Their “fix” is wrong, but obviously something bothered them. It’s often worth the time and effort to try to figure that out.

In that case you might ask some questions. “What bothered you?” “When did you start to feel that?” “Were you okay with this?” The back and forth should not be an argument, it should be you asking questions and he answering them. And presented in a tone that says you are genuinely interested in his answer.  Not patronizing or begrudgingly. 

I find that when writers become defensive eventually people stop giving feedback. Yes, that’s what the writers want but they’re then defeating the purpose of the exercise.

There is one school of thought that says for talkbacks writers should prepare questions beforehand and just listen to the answers. That doesn’t work for me because many of the questions I have when they’re reading my script are things I’ve noticed during the reading itself. A section didn’t seem to work for me – did it work for others? Hearing it aloud, was the boyfriend too whiney? They’re things I wouldn’t necessarily know beforehand.

At this point I should say a word about getting notes from a showrunner. If you’re on staff and the showrunner gives you notes, just DO them and do them without resistance. A quick way to get fired or not picked up for the next season is to be defensive during notes. You’re not going to win. The script is going be done his way whether you make the changes or he does them later, and all you do is piss him off. You think the showrunner is an idiot? Fine. Pay your dues and in a few years you can become showrunner and your staff will think you’re an idiot.

In conclusion, the best thing a writer can do is get feedback from people he trusts. Whenever I write a play I always give the first draft to three or four people I respect and welcome their comments. I don’t do every note, but generally my script comes way up on the second draft because of their suggestions. And I never argue. Hey, they’re doing ME a big favor.

I’m not Mozart. I miss things. I am not as clear as I could be on certain points. I took a chance on something and it didn’t work. I tried to cover up a plot hole with a band-aid and got busted. I over-wrote a scene. I under-wrote a scene.

Yes, it’s frustrating when you have to go back in and fix something, or find a new story element, or (in the case of one of my plays) conceive and write an entire new second act. But that’s just part of the process. And the professional writer accepts that. That’s why there are second drafts. That’s why there is alcohol.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Weekend Post

Ed Sheeran sure knows how to pick a partner. Check out this "Perfect" version of his song along with Andrea Bocelli.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday Questions

Friday Questions served up here.

Paul B leads off:

The hilarious British TV comedy "Coupling" from the early 2000's (think Monte Python meets Friends) was written single handedly by the creator, Steven Moffat. It was only 28 episodes over 4 years, but still seems like an enormous undertaking. If that weren't enough, his wife was the director. Would you ever consider such an effort?

First of all let me just say that the British COUPLING is one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, and Steven Moffat is brilliant.

If I had an idea that good and the freedom to write the episodes at my own pace and hire the actors I wanted (not foisted upon me by a network), I would certainly consider it.

Again, if you’ve never seen COUPLING, go find it and watch it.

Robert Brauer asks:

What is it that differentiates one of your ten minute plays from a comedy sketch? I am presuming that there are differences, I just cannot make the leap of logic to determine what they might be.

Comedy sketches tend to have funny premises and then as many jokes as they can get to service that premise.

A ten-minute play has a real beginning, middle, and end. Just like a good short story. A character will have to make a big decision, an event will cause change, there will be some revelation, etc. Storytelling drives a ten-minute play, not jokes.

Matt wonders:

Was Mako Iwamatsu cast on the FRASIER first season episode "Author Author" due to his connection with you and David on MASH?

Nope. I always like to take credit for things so actors can feel beholden to me, but the truth is we had nothing to do with that casting choice. Mako got the FRASIER gig because he’s terrific.

And finally, from Douglas Trapasso:

Paraphrasing a question from the recent candidate debates, if -you- were made Baseball Commissioner, and had full autonomy, what three changes would you make in your first 100 days?

Pitchers would have to face at least three batters or finish an inning.

Eliminate interleague play.

Not allow any TV deal that doesn’t guarantee the games be available to at least 70% of the local market.

What’s your Friday Question?

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

EP144: Writing Advice and a Rant

Ken deals with two difficult aspects of writing – structure and exposition along with helpful tips for each. And he has one of those rants of his.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Him or her again?

Along the ones of my rant of last week:
She’s probably a lovely person. I’ve never heard otherwise. And it’s not like she’s nails-on-a-blackboard. But for whatever reason, I just don’t get the appeal of Maya Rudolph.

No matter what I see her in I just find her ordinary. She’s never made me laugh. And she gets a million jobs and appearances on every award show, so it’s not like she hasn’t had chances. I just always feel there are a 100 other actresses who could do it better. And when you see her in a movie like BRIDESMAIDS with the very funny Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy it becomes even more apparent she’s not in their league.

I know there are people who love her and find her funny. I suppose it’s just a matter of personal taste. My son Matt is not a fan of Amy Poehler. I love Amy Poehler.

But every time I turn around it’s announced that Maya Rudolph has a new project. And I scratch my head. In this town there are so many truly funny ladies who don’t have the resume, connections, whatever and can’t even get in the front door to be considered for all these opportunities that Maya Rudolph snaps up.

And again, I have nothing personal against her. I just wish she were… funnier.

On the other hand, don't get me started on Mindy Kaling. 

I imagine we all have someone like that. You see them appear in a comedy sketch and go “why?” So I’d be curious. Just based on their act (not politics, not what they look like, not any kind of racial or gender bias), who is somebody that makes a good living in comedy that you just don’t get?

Should be an interesting day in the comments section. But again, nothing mean, no personal attacks, and no attacking each other (since I’m sure names will come up that some hate while others love). Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even me.


Tuesday, October 08, 2019

How to make stupid money in television -- at this moment of time

Let’s see how long it takes for this business model to implode. Because it will. 

TV is undergoing more changes now than it has in decades, perhaps five decades.

In the old days, here’s how the few lucky talented (but still fortunate) writers got rich:

Networks couldn’t legally own shows. So studios would make development deals to tie up the best talent. That resulted in multi-year seven-figure deals. The idea was that those writer/producers were exclusive to that studio and if they created a hit show everyone stood to cash in.

Additionally, writer/producers owned part of the shows they created. And in those days the goal was to make at least 100 episodes to sell into syndication. A smash hit like CHEERS or SEINFELD could be worth hundreds of millions to the writer/producer.

Once networks could own shows those development deals began to dry up. A few high-end deals still remained but the parameters of those deals were different. At one time writers only created shows and produced pilots. Under the new model, the network or studio (often the same thing) could assign you to work on whatever show it wanted.  You don't have a pilot?  Guess what?  You're Co-EP of THE NEIGHBORHOOD. 

Now we’re in a totally different universe. Streaming services are the future. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are getting competition from Warners, Disney, Apple, CBS, and more to come. They don’t need 100 episodes. They don’t want 100 episodes. Syndication is drying up. Soon there won’t be shows with 100+ episodes.  Series used to go seven years; in the future they'll go three.  Producers once produced 22 episodes a season.  Now they produce 12.  Or 8. 

So why should writer/producers go to Netflix or Hulu when their shows won’t go into syndication and they won’t make a backend killing if the show is a smash? Good question.

The answer is that these streaming services are now paying huge upfront money to A-list writer/producers but owning the shows outright. J.J. Abrams, Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Greg Berlanti, and a few others are making deals for over $300 million upfront. And the deals are not even exclusive. Pretty nice signing bonuses. 

Get it while you can, boys and girls, because this model is bound to collapse. Why? Compare it with the old model: Yes, everyone got rich IF the show became a big hit. If it didn’t, well, the studio was out a couple million for the development deal. Here, if shows aren’t hits the streaming service is on the hook for $300 million. How many of those hits can they absorb before they realize they made monumentally bad deals?

How has a similar model worked out for MLB? How does that Albert Pujols’ ten-year $240,000,000 deal look to the Angels now? How many championships has he led them to? How many additional fans has he put in the seats?

But at least he’s exclusive the Angels.

So Greg Berlanti, for example, has a $300,000,000 deal with the Warner Brothers/HBO streaming service, and also gets a show on NBC. If the NBC show becomes that rare hit he can make a ton in success. If the show he creates for Warner Brothers does well, so what? He’s gotten his money. Which of the two shows do you think he’s going to concentrate on more? And which of the two shows do you think he’s just going to hire a showrunner and basically attach his name to the project?

The problem for the streaming services is they have to pay stupid money to entice A-list writer/producers, especially at a time when there is a lot of competition. But here’s what will happen: Some of the competitors will fail, or more likely merge with other services. Now we have three or four big players. Next year there will be seven or eight. Five years from now there will be five again, just maybe not the same five. And once that settles, gone will be the need to overpay producers. Broadcast networks will erode even more. Netflix, Disney+, and a few others will no longer feel the need to throw insane amounts of money to a select few individuals.  They'll be the only game in town.

So like I said, get it while you can. Is there a chance if you take big money upfront and forfeit any ownership rights that the show will become the next FRIENDS and it will air over many platforms, still go into syndication, and make the studio wildly rich while you’ve left millions on the table? Sure. But in this marketplace, I’ll take the upfront money any day. When they call it stupid money, the person receiving it is never the stupid one.

Monday, October 07, 2019

MLB is striking out

WARNING:  This is one of my rants.  

Major League Baseball wonders why it's losing audience. After all, these are the PLAYOFFS. These are the games that mean something (after 162 other games). The World Series used to be a huge event. Now an episode of THE VOICE can beat it.

So what are some of the factors?

Imagine you’re plotting a movie and you decide to put your most suspenseful scenes right at the beginning and your least suspenseful scenes at the end. Kinda dumb, huh? Well, that’s the baseball playoffs.

They begin with two Wild Card games (one for each league) that is sudden death. All the marbles – ONE game. Can’t get higher stakes than that.

Then comes the four Division Series. Those are the best three of five games. So again, the stakes are pretty high. You lose one game and you’re really in a hole. If you lose the first game and don’t win the second then you have to win three straight while the other team only has to win once. That’s pressure, kids. Even if both teams win one, that game three is pivotal. And one pitcher who has a bad inning or one first baseman who lets a ball go through his legs can ruin the entire season.

And now the two league Championship Series. Best four of seven. Each single game takes on less importance. You can weather a bad game or two and still win.

Finally comes the coveted World Series. Also the best four of seven.  By now you’ve had a possible 36 playoff games (if they all go the distance). But let’s be realistic. Say there have only been 29 playoff games. That’s still a lot.

It also used to be that the World Series was the only time teams from each league would play each other. So there was a real novelty factor. Now we have inter-league play so who cares? This year the Dodgers have already played the Yankees. And who gives a shit if the Astros play the Padres?

Starting the games at 8:30 and ending them well after midnight doesn’t help generate fan interest either.  Good luck attracting kids. 

So by the time the World Series ends you’ve sick of baseball, and besides, Thanksgiving is the next day.

Another problem: There are like seven networks carrying the games and it’s not even consistent within a playoff which network is carrying which game. Many of the games are farmed out to lower-tier networks like FS-1. Game times are staggered and not announced until last minute. Fans can’t find the games on TV. Even if they WANTED to watch they had trouble. There’s no continuity.

Then there’s the game itself and the way it’s played now. Friday night the Dodgers lost to the Nationals. They struck out 17 times. That used to be an astonishing number. Not anymore. Saturday Astro's pitcher Gerrit Cole struck out 15 Tampa Bay hitters.  Everybody now swings for the fences. Home run totals are through the roof. But the game is boring. There are seventeen pitching changes. Good hitters foul off nine pitches. That’s exciting to watch. With the added commercial load and the current method of play, these games take upwards of four hours to complete. It used to take two-and-a-half.

Yes, along the way there are some spectacularly entertaining exciting games, but the majority of them aren’t.

I love baseball. I used to live for the playoffs. I would hang on every pitch. And now I’ll watch a game or two if it’s convenient or the Dodgers are playing. For the rest I'll just watch the highlights (guys homering and guys striking out). 

There was a great line when iconic playwright and director George S. Kaufman went to see a play he had directed after it had been running a couple of months. Over that time the cast added things and changed little things. Kaufman put up this announcement on the backstage bulletin board:


Baseball needs that same rehearsal.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Weekend Post

People have asked whether I’m gong to see THE JOKER this weekend, and the answer is God NO.

Will I get around to it someday? Maybe.

And I know it will make a shit ton of money this weekend. But here’s what’s holding me back:

It’s yet another comic book movie.

If I’m going to see a Batman movie I at least want to see Batman.

I understand it’s a celebration of guns.

There are deep concerns that some fucking idiot might want to shoot up a theatre that’s showing it, a la the 2012 Aurora massacre when THE DARK KNIGHT RISES premiered.

After that point, no other justifications are necessary but…

The movie got a wretched review in the NEW YORK TIMES.

The movie won the Venice Film Festival. That’s always a warning sign.

I’m not in the mood for a dark cynical empty heartless movie right now.

I don’t give a shit why some outcast becomes a serial killer. I just want to take his guns away.

And finally, the real Joker is in the White House. Why pay good money to see a pale imitation?

Friday, October 04, 2019

Friday Questions

10-4 good buddy. Here are this week’s Friday Questions.

From Brett Bydairk

I was listening to your latest podcast earlier, and a question occurred to me: how does one become a script doctor, those (usually) uncredited folk who rewrite scripts to polish them or fix mistakes?

Well first of all, there are not many of those jobs left. Shows would now rather spend the money for lower level staff writers than once-a-week consultants. There are arguments for both sides. Having a seasoned pro come in can really move things along or solve story problems during rewrites. When you’re in the trenches it’s nice to have someone you can really trust.

On the other hand, this now gives young writers more chances to break in and that’s a very good thing.

You get those jobs by spending years on staff and proving that you are good in a room – pitch lots of jokes that make it into scripts, offer story fixes that work, and present a positive energy that can keep the momentum going or jump start things when it's not.

Eventually you build a reputation, friends in the industry hire you, and you’re on your way.

Proud to say I’ve worked with three of the best: Jerry Belson, Bob Ellison, and David Lloyd.

From Mike Bloodworth

I've asked this about your plays, but it's also applicable to TV scripts. What's the best way to protect a submission from being plagiarized?

Copyright it. Register it with the WGA (you can do that on line). Make a copy and send it to yourself.

Registering with the WGA is probably the easiest.

Gareth Wilson is next.

There was a recent negative review of a Netflix show where the reviewer said the problem was Netflix doesn't have pilots. An entire season was ordered, filmed and released before anyone realised how terrible it was. Do you think the pilot system does a good job of filtering out obviously bad shows?

Every ten years or so a network will decide that making pilots is a waste of money. The result is they have a horrible development season, the shows they air generally tank, and the following development season the pilots are back.

Pilots are helpful. You can tweak as a result. Although shows do evolve and improve over time, you can tell from the pilot whether a certain show just isn’t clicking. No chemistry, the premise doesn’t hold up, the execution sucks, whatever. What sounds good in a meeting, and what looks good on paper sometimes doesn’t translate. Nor is a big star any guarantee of success.

Personally, I would love a series order without a pilot. But I would still really analyze that first episode (pilot) and make changes before charging into the season.

And finally, from Lairbo:

If you were to revive Big Wave Dave's, would you do a straight-up reboot or change it up with some sort of Next Generation twist (the kid Adam Arkin and Jane Kaczmarek find out their going to have now all grown up and in charge, or something)?

It’s not like anyone remembers this show or these characters. Truthfully, I would recast everybody but Kurtwood Smith as the ex-patriot. We would make the others younger and more age-appropriate. I say “we” because I co-created the show with David Isaacs who would join me in showrunning the reboot.

BIG WAVE DAVE’S is about three guys having a midlife crisis. We would have to rewrite and adjust the characters. Today’s 40 year-old is different from the 1990’s 40 year-old.

Meanwhile, no one is clamoring for a reboot of BIG WAVE DAVE’S despite the fact that I still have the sign.

What’s your Friday Question?

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Favorite CHEERS episodes

Yesterday I shared my favorite MASH episodes. Several of you have asked that I do the same for CHEERS. For MASH I chose from the whole series, but David Isaacs and I wrote 40 episodes of CHEERS so I think I will list my Top Ten episodes written by Levine & Isaacs.

TO ALL THE GIRLS I’VE LOVED BEFORE – We wrote this without an outline and it actually turned out really well.

RAT GIRL – Lilith keeps a dead rat in her purse. We won a WGA Award for this sensitive episode.

ANY FRIEND OF DIANE’S – Our first CHEERS and the last scene with Sam & Diane is one of my faves.  And Jim Burrows' father, Abe Burrows said he really liked that episode so that's cause for a swelled head. 

TRUCE OR CONSEQUENCES – Our second CHEERS. Shelley Long and Rhea Perlman were both stellar in the episode where they tried to be friends.

JUMPING JERKS – The guys skydive. Just silly but fun and a fan favorite.

BOYS IN THE BAR – Another first season show. The guys fear the bar will go gay. I doubt if we could do this episode today, but it earned us an Emmy nomination, WGA Award, and GLAAD Award.

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY ON ICE – We had to kill off Eddie LeBec after Jay Thomas insulted Rhea Perlman on the radio. Happy with the result and it earned us another Emmy nomination.

BAR WARS – The first of what became a series. We wrote this last minute over a weekend and then the WGA went on strike. Paramount was allowed to film existing material but not change it, so what you see on the screen was our rushed first draft. It could’ve been better with polish, but considering the circumstances it didn't suck. 

BREAKING IN IS HARD TO DO – We built an entire episode to payoff one big joke at the end. It was very risky but thankfully it worked. The laugh was about a minute.

THE BIG KISS OFF – Another very frothy episode but lots of laughs another fan favorite. Kirstie was particularly good. 

We wrote so many that I could also do a Bottom Ten… but I won’t. And even those might be better than I think. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Favorite MASH episodes

Here’s an FQ that became a whole post.

Roger Owen Green asks:

REGARDLESS of whether you were involved or not, what are your:
10 favorite MASH episodes?

There are a couple of our episodes I wouldn't put in the top 100.  But to answer your question:

I present these in no particular order. Most of these were written by Larry Gelbart and Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum. Only three are ours. (Out of Sight/Out of Mind is a sentimental favorite because that was our first and pretty much launched our career. It’s probably how the Beatles felt about “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”)

I’m sure you’ll notice that the final episode is not included. Sorry. Just not a fan.

In my opinion: “The General Flipped at Dawn” is the funniest. “The Interview” is the most poignant.

Since there are well over 200 episodes I’m sure if you polled 1000 different people you’d get 1000 different polls. But this is mine (although another 20 just missed the cut).

The Interview

The More I See You

The General Flipped at Dawn

Point of View



Out of Sight/Out of Mind

Abyssinia Henry

Sometimes You Hear a Bullet

Goodbye Radar Part 2