Friday, November 08, 2019

Friday Questions

Time once again for Friday Questions.  Are you ready?

MellaBlue starts us off:

You've worked on a couple shows now with much-discussed but never seen characters -- Vera Peterson, Maris Crane. I'm wondering how and why that decision gets made. Is it a case of painting yourself into a corner in terms of description (who could ever look like Maris is described)? Is it just easier?

No. We do it to save money.

But seriously, it forces the audience to use their imagination and I bet what they picture in their heads is funnier than if we ever actually showed it.

And it saves money.

From Daniel:

I'm currently re-watching "Thirtysomething" (don't judge--it actually kinda holds up). The opening title sequence is a montage of shots from episodes in the series, and it has been the same since the second episode. I noticed that there are two shots in the title sequence from episode 10 (which I think aired after Christmas that year), which means that they put the title sequence together (and only started airing episodes) after they shot 10 episodes. Which makes me curious: How far in advance are episodes shot before a series airs? Is it normal to have almost three months of episodes in the can before the series airs?

I wasn’t on THIRTYSOMETHING so I can’t speak with any certainty.

No, shows are usually not that far ahead. But I don’t know the circumstances. They shoot out of order anyway.

Perhaps the producers wanted to get a certain guest star and his only availability was September. So even though the show didn’t start filming until late July, they did the Christmas episode early and just held it back.

On MASH we would film the episodes early on that required time at the Malibu Ranch. But once we went off Daylight Savings Time there was not enough light to justify a whole day’s worth of shooting.

So shows that didn’t require the ranch were held back. On the air we moved some shows up and held some shows back.

Brian asks:

What are some of the silliest, oddest or coincidental reasons that a line you and/or David Isaacs has needed to be changed?

I had a bunch of Arnold Palmer jokes in a play and two days before it opened he died. I had to scramble to write new material. Thanks, Arnie.

The really dumb network notes were from Standards & Practices. They could take almost any word and find it on their list of euphemisms for penis.

Of course, that was then. Now you’re allowed to SAY penis and every slang expression ever invented for it.

And finally, from Edward:

I never seem to hear you discuss certain comedies of the early to mid-1970s such as "Sanford and Son" "Chico and the Man" "Good Times" One Day at a Time" "Welcome Back Kotter" "Happy Days" "Laverne and Shirley" and "Mork and Mindy." Are there any stories with submitting a script for any of those shows?

We pitched LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, but there was another writer waiting to pitch after we got through. She was attractive and wore a see-through blouse. She got the assignment, we didn’t. I knew I should have worn my see-through blouse, especially in those days.

But in fairness, she and the producer we were all pitching to later got married. I’m sorry, I didn’t need a LAVERNE & SHIRLEY assignment that badly.

We tried to pitch WELCOME BACK KOTTER but they didn’t like our writing sample.

Would have loved to have pitched those other shows but never got the chance.

Those were the halcyon days when you could get freelance assignments, and one or two of those a year would mean you no longer had to clean the grease traps in McDonald’s.

What’s your Friday Question?


Glenn said...

On Big Bang Theory, we heard, but never saw, Howard's mom...almost. There is one episode where they had the mom (a very large woman in a mumu) walk by an open door. Not sure why they did that. It was better having to imagine what she looked like.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I always saw Maris Crane in my head as Valerie Mahaffey, who played a very similar character as David Hyde Pierce's wife in the show he did not long before, THE POWERS THAT BE (which still holds up very well; it was about DC politics, and DHP played a suicidal Congressman). I was pleased to read in an interview some time later that DHP always thought of Maris as Valerie Mahaffey in that role, too.


Joseph Scarbrough said...

I read somewhere years ago that when producing a television series, the networks desire a minimum of three completed episodes "in the can" before they will actually begin broadcasting the series, so I suppose as long as you stay three episodes ahead in advance, you're good?

Buttermilk Sky said...

So -- attractive woman plus see-through blouse equals writing assignment. Thanks, Ken, you just explained why ninety percent of television is unwatchable (Sturgeon's Law).

blinky said...

Lately going off Daylight Savings has been a real topic on my social FaceTwitter. Everyone hates it. But I noticed you blamed it for having less light to work. You know there is the same amount of daylight as there was the day before, just the clock moved. Was the issues really just the days were getting shorter and that was a good excuse to pack it in? Or was there a union issue with moving call times up an hour?
It reminds me of the woman who wrote a letter to her Congressman complaining that when Daylight Savings started the extra hour of daylight would increase global warming.

benson said...

I know Carol Ann Susi had a long resume, but I only saw her in a short scene on Mad About You. She obviously looked nothing like how we all imagined Mrs. Wolowitz, but what a voice.

And then, worlds colliding, when Norm Peterson's real life wife (Bernadette Birkett) playing Cliff Clavin's date, on Cheers.

Craig Russll said...

And in true crossover fashion, there was a character for the first 8 seasons of a popular show you never saw, but after the show "jumped the shark" she was seen...Jenny Piccolo. Cathy Silvers was a fine character actor with impressive genes, but it totally ruined the "imagination" of the character. Once you saw her, thats all you ever saw. Cathy Silvers. When you would go back and watch earlier episodes of HD, I could ONLY picture Cathy as Jenny...the bit was ruined. Better to never have seen her, then to have....

Robert Brauer said...

Vera Peterson did briefly appear at the end of "Thanksgiving Orphans." After the gang had their big food fight, Diane threw a pie at Sam, which missed him, and sailed through the open doorway, creaming Vera right in the face. Of course, I guess this would not technically count, since you couldn't actually see her face.

Mike Bloodworth said...

You probably didn't get the "Kotter" job because your writing was too intelligent. I watched that show despite the fact that it was dumb even compared to other ABC comedies at that time. It greatly benefited from there being only three networks. And of course Marcia Strassman.

One time when I was an extra I worked on Venice beach in the dead of winter. We all had to wear shorts, t-shirts, sandals, etc. We had to pretend that it was summertime even though we were freezing our asses off.
I forgot which show it was, but it wasn't "Baywatch."
I've also worked on locations where we had to arrive before before sunrise so they could make the most of what little daylight they had.
However, various unions do have minimum turn around times. That may have had something to do with it.

I'm amazed that the feminists and "me tooers" haven't bombarded your blog with hatemail for that "see-through blouse" comment.
But, I can empathize. When I was in college the broadcasting students were all vying for jobs and/or internships at the most popular radio stations. One girl I knew got a job at one of these stations. Now, to be fair she was an excellent D.J. She was definitely qualified. But then, so was I. The deciding factor was that she was a gorgeous, curvaceous, blonde. In fact, she was so hot she even made it into Playboy as part of a "Girls of FM Radio" or similarly titled pictorial. (Lingerie only. No nudity.)
(Sigh) If only I had the big tits!

Tom said...

More worlds colliding: Valerie Mahaffey's lone appearance on Cheers was in an episode Ken and David wrote.

Jon said...

I've read that Bernadette Birkett also played Vera Peterson in "Thanksgiving Orphans", but this was with her face covered in pumpkin pie. I hope she was paid for that, at least scale.

Cap'n Bob said...

Harry Morgan had the role of Pete in September Bride. His wife Gladys was mentioned but never seen. Then the spun off the character and the new show was called Pete and Gladys. The idea of keeping her under wraps made no sense now so Cara Williams was cast in the part.

thirteen said...

I've just read in Deadline that the creators of "Thirtysomething" are pitching a revival featuring the now 30-something children of the original characters.

Oh, yeah, and "Pete & Gladys." They hired the notorious Cara Williams. I still wonder which CBS executive thought she was worth the trouble.

Inkstreet said...

Hi. Sorry if this is the wrong place, but I can't figure out where to post possible future Friday questions. If this is the wrong place, please tell me where to re-post this. Thank you.--Inkstreet

Question: In many Norman Lear comedies, black characters on occasion used the N-word (Fred Sanford, Aunt Esther, James Evans, both the Jeffersons, etc.) Today, people would probably have a problem with this, but during the run of the shows, was there any public reaction or backlash for the use of the word?

Anonymous said...

Just saw Bye Bye Birdie again and was struck by three things two of which are questions.
1) Though I am familiar with cultural references in the sho I wonder how many people can still remeber Ed sullivan, CBS new man ( Timex spokesman just keep ticking), the draft, or the whole Elvis phenonona
2)The fact that what today we recognize as "speed" ( methadrine etc) is invented by hero (Dick Van Dyke) and saves the show. Have you written things such as that that appear to be "promoting" dangerous practices etc when viewed from later perspective? Alcoholism in Tugboat Annie's Wallace Beery comes to mind?
3) Having grown up in a time when more mature women were cast as ingeunes when did the pendulum swing from mamie van doren playing a high school student v. now when women in their 20's are used to portray accomplished scientist's etc and reference back ten or more years of experience?

Sean said...


During the 80's, I remember seeing a lot of syndicated shows being rerun with new titles - Happy Days Again; Jim Rockford, Private Investigator; Emergency One. (I could have sworn there was one for MASH, but I can't find a reference to it anywhere). We don't see many of those today, however. Was this done just to avoid confusion with new episodes? Is it still in use today?

mike schlesinger said...

Sean, I believe it was a contractual requirement so the reruns wouldn't be confused with new episodes. Once the show was finally cancelled, they could go back to the original title. The practice finally died out when common sense sank in.