Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Questions

Hello from Minneapolis where my holiday play, ON THE FARCE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS gets performed tonight! And yet, I still have time for Friday Questions. What’s yours?

Ryan Hall seeks some writing advice.

I am currently taking a class on comedy sketch writing, and wonder if you have any advice with regard to sketch. Pretty open ended question I understand, just things that you think are important. Thanks.

My two suggestions for sketch writing: Have a definite ending in mind and make the sketch as funny as you possibly can.

The first point is especially important. So many sketches start with a funny idea but then peter out. (See 90% of SNL sketches over the last 40 years.) Part of the problem is that the sketch is built on one joke. See if there is comic mileage in the premise beyond just one joke. Otherwise, it gets very repetitive.

Also, (I know this is more than two suggestions): shorter is better. Don’t let your sketch drag. Be ruthless.

DARON72 asks:

I would love Ken's take on eight turkey day themed episodes of "Friends" being shown at your local megaplex this Thanksgiving as one of those Fathom Events.

I think it’s great UNLESS the writers don’t get paid for it. Because if theatres are charging for tickets, Warner Brothers is making more money off the franchise. And the writers need to be compensated.

Perhaps they are. I hope so.

But there may be loopholes in their contracts. Same with the actors.

This is why it is imperative you have an entertainment attorney go over your contract. There is always tons of fine print. Attorneys will strike most of it and the studios automatically cave. But if you don’t flag those things then the studio’s got you.

Here’s one from Anonymous. Please leave your name.

Friday Question: Ken, do you think sometimes reviewers "grade" a new show more generously when it stars a well-known or likable actor? For instance, I thought the pilot for "Carol's Second Act" was lame and unfunny, and I was surprised that many of the reviewers weren't that harsh. They didn't all love it, but many of them gave tepid reviews or were willing to withhold a harsher final judgment, and even the critical reviews managed to say nice things about Patricia Heaton. I like Patricia Heaton too, but I'm wondering if you had that same pilot with an unknown actor (even if this unknown delivered a similar performance) in Heaton's role, it would get much worse reviews. Do you think this is true, and if so, should it be? Should an actor who's done two great long-running sitcoms deserve more benefit of the doubt that her new show will find its way?

Yes, there is a certain amount of good will that comes from actors who have been kind to the press, agreed to do interviews, etc. Critics like to keep those pipelines open. And it’s human nature to want people you like succeed.

But I don’t know a single reputable TV critic who will praise a show they hate simply because they’re friendly with the star.

On the other hand, I do believe some critics base their reviews not on the relative merits of the show but on its prospects for success. In other words, they don’t want to be caught giving THIS IS US a bad review if they think it’s going to be a hit show. They don’t want to look foolish or out-of-step.

Not all critics do this, but I have seen a few. I suspect more than one or two of the glowing reviews for EL CAMINO were predicated more on the zeitgeist than the actual product.

And finally, from Astroboy (since baseball is just around the corner):

Ken, in your opinion, what announcer working today, radio or TV has the best home run call?

Jon Miller of the Giants. And there’s the knock-off version of his call as stolen by Charley Steiner of the Dodgers.

Y’know, there was a time in radio when disc jockeys would steal each other’s acts. But these stations were local and if you were in Cleveland you never heard the San Francisco DJ who originated some Cleveland jock’s act. So you thought the Cleveland guy was original.

But Jon Miller’s home run highlights are on Sportscenter and MLB TV. Every other night you can hear him and then Charley’s imitation. The only real difference is Jon’s calls are actual home runs. Many of Charley’s home run calls are caught at the wall.


Alan Christensen said...

Regarding home run calls: Back when it looked like the Mariners were going to move, I hated hearing Rick Rizzs call out, "Goodbye, baseball!"

Lemuel said...

I remember Ross's "moistmaker" if only from the Binging With Babish Youtube series.

Tommy Raiko said...

You're in Minneapolis? OK, here's a question: did you make it a point to visit the Mary Tyler Moore statue
while you're there?

R. Larry Dummkopf said...

Now that Disney+ is out, what is your list of "Must See Disney?"

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

We love Pattie Heaton in my house.
But, Carol's Second Act is not funny.
I'm not sure they know what they are trying to say and how to say it.

Pattie is a little over the top (she's often shouting), and 2 or 3 of the secondary cast are just not funny, even with clever lines.

As a METS fan, we have 2 great homerun callers: Gary Cohen, and Howie Rose

Steve Bailey said...

As soon as I saw the promos for "Carol's Second Act," I thought, "Doesn't Patricia Heaton have enough money these days?" Nothing I saw in the first couple of episodes led me to believe her heart is in it.

Which is another thing I wonder about with big actors. Is their taste barometer off, or do they just plain go for the cash after a while? Dick Van Dyke can carry on forever about the virtues of "Diagnosis Murder." But if you were on that storied desert island with only one show to choose from, would you rather watch "Diagnosis Murder" or "The Dick Van Dyke Show" for the rest of your life?

VP81955 said...

We want Ken pictured with the Mary Richards statue!

And for the best home run call, no one's beaten Harry Kalas' "this ball's outta here!" (though as a Nationals fan, I'm partial to Charlie Slowes' "bang, zoom go the fireworks!").

Michael said...

How about Jaime Jarrín's "¡Se va, se va, se va, y despídala con un beso!” Or, "It's going, it's going, it's going, and you can kiss it goodbye!"

More seriously, I think John Sterling's calls may surpass, in reverse, Charley Steiner's. But I also think of Jon Miller saying he grew up with Russ Hodges saying, "Tell it bye-bye, baby!" and Lon Simmons saying, "You can tell it goodbye," and hearing The Vin for the first time. He said, "It's gone," and Miller thought, "He'll never make it with that call."

Then there's The Vin's successor. Someone asked Joe Davis what his home run call would be and he said, it should depend on the kind of home run. I like that.

But isn't the greatest one, "It's gone! No, wait a minute!"

benson said...

Growing up in Chicago, we had "Hey, Hey" and "Holy Cow". And haters gonna hate, but I loved "Put it on the boarddddddd. Yes!"

Brother Herbert said...

Love Miller's "Adios, Pelot-aaahh!" but I'm more partial to Duane Kuiper's "Hit well...high and deep to HERE!!" Duane's kid brother Glen, who works across the bay calling A's games, has a call of "That baby is gone!" which comes off more like a last-minute "I need something cool to say here."

Context is key though. Any of these calls become spine-tingling with the passion of, say, a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback behind them.

Victor Velasco said...

Best home run call: Jon Miller, worst: Joe Angel

Unknown said...

In Chicago, Harry Carrey's "Holy Cow!" and Jack Brickhouse's "Back back ..back..HEY HEY!" are classics

Mike Bloodworth said...

Freezing your ass off? That's not a Friday question, but the following are.

FRIDAY QUESTION #1: Directing. How would you handle a multiperson scene where the action/dialog is divided between different groups? A party scene is as good an example as any. In a multicam sitcom or play those off camera can't stop doing something until the focus is back on them. Do you give them specific blocking or do you tell them to just improv some pantomiming until it's their turn again? You need movement, but nothing too distracting.

In your opinion, how interconnected should A & B storylines be? Or do they need to be connected at all?
One of the things that was great about "Seinfeld" at its peak was the way all the stories came together either directly or under a single theme. However, on the last few seasons of "The Big Bang Theory" the storylines became so divergent that is was almost as if you were watching two different shows. You could name a couple of specific episodes from your shows as an example.
Break a coccyx.

MikeN said...

"the problem is that the sketch is built on one joke."
Sean Penn celebrity roast had nothing beyond the premise.

"Also, (I know this is more than two suggestions): shorter is better. Don’t let your sketch drag."

Like 90% of SNL sketches over the last 40 years. The Simpsons made fun of this back in its fourth season with Krusty in The Big Ear Family.

JED said...

Jaime Jarrín may have "borrowed" his call from Bob Prince of the Pirates. I don't know who was first but Mr. Prince started earlier.

Bob prince also popularized the "Green Weenie" (which was really a plastic pickle from the nearby Heinz factory tours) as a hex on opposing teams in the mid 60's.

David Arnott said...

"Many of Charley’s home run calls are caught at the wall."

OMG, LOL! So, so true. When you listen to him on the radio, at least two, three times a game he'll totally fake you out. In either direction: excited, like it's a home run... and then it's caught, often well in front of the warning track (by his own words!);or he'll sound like it's a routine fly out... and then it goes over the fence.

I actually really like Charley Steiner, but this is so NOT what a radio announcer is supposed to do.

Cap'n Bob said...

Someone has to mention Hall-of-Famer Dave Niehaus of the Mariners. His home run call of "Fly away!" was good, but his grand slam call was unique: "Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it's a grand salami!"

Anonymous said...

1. Anonymous posters choose to post as anonymous for many fine reasons and
would prefer sharing as little info with Google, Facebook etc as possible.
Ask the whistleblower.
2. Great old baseball broadcasts - and homer calls- from 1934 onward, here

Mark Murphy said...

Ken: Sorry to be off-topic, but given your ties to my hometown, the Chiefs (now the Mets) and broadcasting, I thought you might have known this guy, or been familiar with his work, so I'm passing this along....

Francis Dollarhyde said...

Ken: You mentioned the Charles Brothers removing inappropriate audience laughter from a heartfelt scene in the CHEERS episode "Coach's Daughter," to preserve the emotional core of the episode.

Last night I caught a re-run of the S1 episode "Let Me Count the Ways." In the climactic scene, Shelley Long knocks it out of the park delivering Diane's tearful monologue about her recently-deceased cat, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and what the cat meant to her. Sam tears up...and there's *laughter* from the audience (not uproarious, but it's there). It doesn't ruin the take, but it's awkward because it doesn't seem like the scene is played for laughs (at least not until Diane points out Sam's crying and he deflects with the excuse of being "allergic to cat stories").

My question is, was the audience intended to think Sam's reaction was comical? The scene takes Diane's loss of the cat seriously and expects us (and Sam) to take it seriously, but the audience seems to be primed to find it funny. Was this reaction deliberate or surprising?

mike schlesinger said...

Well, I think CAROL is the best new sitcom of the season. The writing is excellent (particularly the "Night Float" episode), the cast is terrific (really love Ito Aghayere) and with the plethora of hospital shows right now, it's nice to see a comedy that punctures their pomposity.

This has been an opinion. It is no less valid than those that think it's a lousy show.

Mike said...

I think “The Middle” is greatly underrated, but I only need to see a few clips of “Carol’s Second Act” to know that it is far below Patricia Heaton’s previous efforts. I’m sure she has enough money. But my guess is she loves her work, and doing series television, and she doesn’t want to give it up. Lucille Ball loved to do series work, too, and she continued with two successful series that followed “I Love Lucy”, even though those shows were not in the same creative league with her earlier work. And Dick Van Dyke tried several times for a follow-up to his classic 60s show before hitting on another long running hit. You can’t blame them for wanting to continue to do something they love.

Don K. said...

Growing up n both Los Angeles and Chicago I got to hear Vin Scully, Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray.

Scully has said his calls were not loud and excitable because once a ball was well struck to the outfield, he would turn is attention to the outfielder. If the outfielder looked like he was positioning himself for a catch, he wouldn't do anything like "back, back, back" or the like. It was going to be an out and he'd call it that way. Balls where the outfielders never moved or gave it a half hearted effort to catch, his "it's gone" would be more emphatic.

Harry Caray's Holy Cow was not something he said to signify a home run. Harry said Holy Cow if the ballgirl was cute or the beer was cold. His call was more along the lines of "it's a long drive, way back, it might be, it could be IT IS! a home run!" Then maybe the Holy Cows would come out. Jack Brickhouse did however employ "Hey! Hey!" to signify a ball was over the wall, preceded by something like "it's a long drive, deep left (or center or right) field" then the Hey! Hey!".

All three announcers in my opinion are among the game's best.

Edward said...

I have not watched "Carole's Second Act" but today there is drama. Blogmaster Ken can you weigh in on the news story regarding female writers quitting due to P. Heaton's husband's "hands-on" approach in the writer's room?

Two Writers Quit Patricia Heaton’s CBS Show, Carol’s Second Act, After Misconduct Complaints

Two female writers have quit the freshman CBS sitcom Carol’s Second Act, starring Patricia Heaton and a silver-fox Kyle MacLachlan, due to misconduct complaints against one of the show’s executive producers — who happens to be Heaton’s husband. Per the New York Times, writer Broti Gupta accused David Hunt of inappropriately touching her on two occasions, which included stroking her thigh and forcefully shaking her shoulders. When Gupta told the network’s human resources department about the incidents, she felt she was “penalized at work” as a result, and subsequently quit the show.

Link to the entire article:

Andy Rose said...

MikeN: I always wondered if "The Big Ear Family" was based on "The Widettes," a fourth season SNL sketch in which the one-and-only joke is that every member of the family has a ridiculously huge rear end. Not really funny at all, but they apparently liked it enough to include it in the 30-minute version that used to run on Nick at Nite all the time.

VP81955 said...

Look at Thursday's overnights for CBS:

8:30 p.m.: "The Unicorn," 0.7 ages 18-49
9 p.m.: "Mom," 0.9
9:30 p.m.: "Carol's Second Act," 0.6

The "Mom" audience is not only very loyal, but it's tuning out Patricia Heaton. Not a good sign for her.