Friday, January 31, 2020

Friday Questions

Closing out January with Friday Questions.

Steve Weed starts us off.

Dragnet has always been one of my all-time favorite shows. I love the stylized acting, the distinct dialogue, and the blatant proselytizing. In all your time working with Harry Morgan on M*A*S*H and After M*A*S*H, did you ever have an opportunity to talk with him about his experience on that show and working with Jack Webb?

I did. He spoke fondly of the experience but did say Jack Webb was incredibly cheap. (It was Webb’s production company that produced the show.) For example, he noted that they wore same suits every episode because they went out and filmed exterior shots of them getting in and out of cars and going in and out of the Parker Center and this way everything would always match. And they could use the same exterior shots every week instead of filming new ones.

Jack also liked to wrap shooting every afternoon around 4:30, and Harry sure enjoyed that.

But often I would see him and say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” He would come back with a typical cryptic DRAGNET line he had uttered on the show.

God, I miss Harry. He was such a great guy – in addition to being an incomparable actor.

Anthony Hoffman is next.

I was watching a YouTube video from a Supernatural convention panel where actress Jewel Staite talked about how you can tell if the main actor(s) are assholes based on how the crew acts. She mentioned how happy the crew on Supernatural is after years on the air but said she’s been on sets where the crew couldn’t wait to go home. Is their truth to this?

She’s absolutely right. The star sets the tone. If the star is a team player and a mensch you can expect a happy set even if the production is a difficult one.

But if the star is a monster it creates a toxic atmosphere that affects everyone down to the craft services guy.

slgc wonders:

Aside from baseball, which you obviously love, which sports do you follow on a regular basis?

Football and basketball primarily. College and pro, although as a UCLA alum I have not had much to cheer about in the last two or three decades when it comes to football (and lately, basketball).

In addition to baseball, I also have done basketball play-by-play. Even got to do part of a game for the Golden State Warriors once.

I love going to hockey games, but I don’t really understand the fine points of the sport. I was at a Kings game once. I went to the restroom between periods and they had the radio broadcast piped in. They were analyzing the previous period, and at one point said “everyone in the arena could see (this strategy playing out)” and I thought to myself, “I didn’t see it. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

But I love all sports. When I was in New Zealand a few years ago I went to a rugby tournament. I didn’t really understand it, but after about a half hour I sort of got it. And enjoyed myself very much.

And finally, from MikeKPa.:

Regarding dating writing partners, I assume that wasn't the case with you and David. However, did either of you ever set up a blind date for the other, or date a former ex of the other? And did any of those dates or situations wind up in a script?

David set me up with a couple of dates. He had a girlfriend at that time. No, neither one of us ever dated the other’s ex. Nothing could break up a partnership faster than that.

None of these dates have made it into a script – YET. There’s one that will at some point, but I’m not saying anything beyond that because I don’t want to give anything away.

Hey LA peeps, the reading of my full-length comedy, AMERICA’S SEXIEST COUPLE is tonight at the Atwater Theatre at 8 pm. A few seats still remain. Come join the fun. I want to see a full house. Here’s where you go for tickets. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

EP159: Things even I didn’t know about FRASIER & CHEERS

Ken’s guest is John Pike, the longtime president of Paramount Television in the ‘80’s & ‘90s. Most people don’t know this but John played an instrumental role in the creation of FRASIER. That and CHEERS take up most of part-one of this fascinating two-part interview.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Won't you be my neighbor?

In 1986, my writing partner, David Isaacs and I took a rewrite assignment for 20th Century Fox. We did a polish on a movie that never ultimately got made. (What a unique story that is in Hollywood.) But we were given an office and writers assistant on the 20th lot.

At one time at that studio we were in a gorgeous Swiss Chalet. Now we were here:
Gives you some idea of where our career was at the time. From a chalet to the Bates Motel.

We had two tiny offices – one for the assistant and one for us. A couch barely fit into ours. Cloak rooms were larger.

And behind us was the editing bay for a new series premiering that fall called LA LAW. For weeks they were assembling the opening titles so we heard five-second snippets of their opening theme 30,000 times. To this day I can’t hear that opening theme without getting PTSD.

But we enjoyed the assignment, it’s always fun to be on a lot, and we liked our no-tell/motel neighbors. They were a young writing team fresh out of USC named Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski. They were working on a broad comedy called PROBLEM CHILD. The four of us hung out, went to lunch a few times.

Everyone moves on in Hollywood so off we went (or they went – I forget which) and wished each other well.

They DID well. Among their screenwriting credits are THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, MAN ON THE MOON, BIG EYES, ED WOOD, and the current DOLEMITE IS MY NAME. And this being Tinsel Town, where everyone has lesser credits: PROBLEM CHILD 2, and THAT DARN CAT (which starred the cat we used on ALMOST PERFECT – I hate when actors jump from TV to features).

They also dabbled in television doing the award-winning O.J. SIMPSON TRIAL for FX.

So obviously they’re terrific writers, but the best thing is – they’re the same unassuming nice guys they were back in the Dust Bowl motel. I hope to get them on the podcast later this year.

Every studio has offices set aside for transient writers who come and go with individual projects. It’s an oddball mix of scribes and genres. Some writers are on the way up, others on the way down. In this case it was two writers on the way up and two writers in a holding pattern (which is still better than on the way down).

Go see DOLEMITE. It’s on Netflix.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

All about Maris

There was an article in the Atlantic by Megan Garber assigning much significance to "Maris jokes" in FRASIER. 

Here is the article.  

I read it and decided to respond by emailing her.  This is what I wrote:

Hi Megan,

As a contributing writer of FRASIER and author of some of those Maris jokes, I must say I quite enjoyed your article but respectfully feel you over-thought the significance of them. If there are reflections of society and veiled commentaries on '90s era women in Maris jokes I can assure you they were not intentional. At least in my case. I’m not that deep. :)

I was not one of the creators or showrunners but my understanding was that they were simply jokes written at a time when America was less sensitive to offending any single viewer. If anything we wanted to clear the way for Niles to lust secretly after Daphne without the audience resenting him for it or feeling sorry for Maris. Beyond that, I for one was going for the laugh.

All that said, I’m so proud to have been a part of a 20 year-old sitcom that is still appreciated and discussed today. So in that regard, thanks again for your thoughtful article.

Happiest of holidays,

Ken Levine

This was several weeks ago.  I was hoping she'd write back so I could include her response, but she never did.   

What do you think? 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant and "passengers"

Like everyone else, I am heartsick over the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and eight others who died in a helicopter crash yesterday.  Among the victims was his daughter and one or two more children.

This isn't a post about Kobe, his accomplishments, etc.  But it's about the "passengers."

When first reported yesterday the story was Kobe Bryant and 5 other passengers perished.  Later it turned out there were more victims and their names slowly were revealed.  And even then they were generally a footnote at the end of the story.

And the truth of course is that no life is more important just because the person is famous.   And yet, that's how it's always been reported.

I almost was a victim of that myself. 

I was broadcasting for the San Diego Padres. We were in New York to play the Mets. Superstar Tony Gwynn and I shared a cab out to Shea Stadium. At one point in Queens the driver hit an oil slick, lost control of the car and we spun into a 360 degree turn. He was finally able to bring the cab to a stop, no one was hurt, but we were all quite shaken up. (Tony was so rattled that he only went 3-5 that night).

As we resumed our commute I said to Tony, “You realize if we had crashed there would have been news bulletins breaking into every network, huge front page headlines the next day and they all would say, ‘Baseball star, Tony Gwynn and a passenger were killed in a auto accident’.

My entire life would be reduced to “passenger”.

Tony felt bad. And mind you, this was not a ploy to get him to pay the fare (although it worked). He felt it was wrong that one person should be valued over another just because they’re famous. It was sweet of him to say but I was still feeling bummed out. You can’t change the way the world operates, yes it’s unfair, but some people are special and others are just considered nothing. And I fell into the latter category.

We arrived at the stadium. Tony paid the fare and the driver said there was an additional charge. Why? Because he had a passenger. Yes! It turns out my life is not without value! It’s worth $3.50!

My blessings and deepest condolences to the passengers. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Weekend Post

This is one of those “please indulge me” posts. Like most scriptwriters, I’ve got a drawer full of unproduced screenplays. But now I also have a blog. So if I can’t sell these scripts I can at least occasionally share some of my favorite scenes. Here’s one from a movie I originally wrote in the late 90’s, and have been rewriting ever since. It’s a bittersweet comedy called SATISFACTION and it’s set in the exotic world of Bakersfield radio. (I know what you’re thinking – with that topic and locale how could it NOT sell??? I wonder the same thing.)
Here’s the set up: Barry (picture Jason Alexander) and Jimmy Lizard (picture Zach Galifianakis) were DJ’s together in Bakersfield 30 years ago. Barry left town and the industry and finds himself aimless and depressed. Lizard remained a jock in Bakersfield, playing the same goddamn ten oldies all these years but has a much better attitude about the world…even though he’s now in the hospital battling Leukemia. Barry comes to visit and they have a heart-to-heart.

Y'know, Barry, you lie in bed all day facing your own mortality and listening to oldies, and you start to do a lot of thinking. Stuff you never even worried about before. The existence of God, the meaning of life, that sort of crap. And hopefully you come to some conclusion, something that gives your world a little order. And I'm happy to say I have reached just such a conclusion.


We all spend most of our lives doing stupid shit.

(after a long beat)
That's it?

That's it.

So what's the point?

There's no point. It's just a conclusion. If you take the time we use to do something productive versus the time we spend chasing some girl who doesn't exist or watching "the Amazing Race" the ratio is probably 10-1 Race. Why we're programmed like that? I don't know. I was kinda hopin' being on my deathbed would make me smarter.

C'mon, man, you're not on your deathbed.

Yeah, I know. Just trying to evoke a little sympathy. When I really do go I want it to be at home. On my death futon.

So the point here is to do more with your life. Cut down on the stupid shit.

No, that's not it. Because the stupid shit seems to account for all the fun in life.
But you want a point? Here's a point. Do what makes you happy. I've used my one precious existence to be a fucking disc jockey in Bakerspatch for 32 years, and you know what? I've had a blast. I'm never going to achieve great deeds, or leave a lasting legacy, or even bang those few select women I've always longed for, but Christ, how many of us do? The odds gotta be worse than Leukemia. So you might as well dig on the stupid shit.

(with a smile and nod)
Okay. That's good. Real good.

Maybe the most important words ever written are on that billboard outside of town. "Sun, fun, stay, play".


They sit quietly for a beat. Then:

So who are they?


Those select women you want to nail.

Well, that's a little personal, but...

Lizard lies back and smiles, almost picturing them.

Jessica Alba and Halle Berry.

Alright! Two of the very best.

Jennifer Love Hewitt..

There's more?

Ann Coulter, Jenna Fischer, Linda in accounting...

Linda in accounting?

Bob Harlow's wife, Bonnie Bernstein from ESPN, Cousin Ruth, both Gilmore Girls...

Okay, I think I got it.

Ellen DeGeneres just to see if I can, Sister Mary from church...

And Lizard continues what is sure to be a long long list.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Friday Questions

Who’s up for some Friday Questions? Leave yours in the comments section. Thanks.

Tommy Raiko starts us off.

One recent rom-com success story folks point to is Crazy Rich Asians. It did very well in many international markets, but based on its domestic box office alone it'd certainly be considered a success. What do you think Crazy Rich Asians had going for it, that other recent modern rom-coms lack, that contributed to its success?

Some movies just hit the zeitgeist at the right moment. I couldn’t tell you why because I didn’t love the movie. The same with MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. Huge sleeper boxoffice hit. I always hated it.

I could speculate, but those conjectures would be based on nothing . So I’ll just say luck, timing, and they must’ve done something really right (although I don’t know what it was).

marka asks:

Say I appear on a tv show as a guest star. I get paid for that. Two seasons later my scenes are used in a flashback episode. Do I get paid again for the second use of my work? Still later my scenes are used on a "funniest moments in tv" show. Do I get paid for that use as well?

It depends on how many seconds of your episode they use, and I don’t know the formula.

But the short answer is, YES. You do get paid – for flashbacks, for retro episodes, for Dick Clark specials.

When Dick Clark was doing his blooper show, I made a nice chunk of change because they used several bloopers from episodes I either co-wrote or directed. It was a beautiful thing.  Crystal Bernard dropping a whole cake on WINGS made me a lot of money. 

And when CHEERS and MASH did their retrospective episodes -- Ka-ching!

Now… I don’t know how it works in streaming. Although I imagine if they use part of your episode on another episode as a flashback you still get paid. But streaming is the Wild West.

From Blogger Terry:

I was watching "Goodbye Radar" the other day and I noticed, particularly in Part 2, that Gary Burghoff's voice sounded different. It sounded deeper and gruffer. It didn't sound like the innocent kid Radar that we had come to know and love. Do you know if that was a deliberate choice, either on Gary's part or the part of the director, to make Radar sound older as he was growing up and going back home? Or did Gary just have a cold that day?

Not so much the voice but he refused to wear his hat. And we felt that made him look too old. Obviously the goal was to show that Radar had matured as a result of his MASH experience but without the hat we felt he went from 20 to 40.

Still, I think the episode worked well and Gary was great in it.

And finally, from Mike Bloodworth:

You've mentioned in the past how being in the army helped you write for M*A*S*H. You've also talked about you and other writers using real life situations in their scripts. But surely there were times when you had to write about something with which you were NOT familiar. e.g. I've never heard you mention a sibling. (Maybe you did and I missed it) But, if you don't have a brother how did create such brilliant dialog between Frasier and Niles? I seriously doubt that you're an alcoholic, ex-jock, yet you were able to successfully write for Sam Malone. You're not an asshole, but you wrote dialog for Becker. Etc.

Bottom line: What tips do you have for dealing with subjects you don't know about?

Research. Learn as much as you can about whatever arena you’re writing about.

And even then sometimes you have to let your imagination be your guide. You can’t interview any former Jedi warriors. If you’re writing TOY STORY 5 you can’t interview toys. When we wrote MANNEQUIN we studied a department store but did not bring a mannequin home with us on a motorcycle.

Do the best you can. And then, As James L. Brooks always says, “At some point you’ve got to become a writer.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

EP158: Concerts I’ve Attended: Seeing the great and not so great

Ken recalls some of the music concerts he’s attended down through the years.  From Sinatra to the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band he’s seen ‘em all, or at least some of ‘em.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Don't eat at La Scala

There’s a restaurant in Beverly Hills called La Scala. They’ve been there a million years. It’s an Italian place. Nothing special about the pastas or main courses. But they offer this chopped salad that is very popular. It’s very finely chopped and if you go at lunch you’ll see 9 out of 10 people order it. Like I said, it’s very good, but it’s just a salad. I don’t think you’d need ten chemists to break down its ingredients in order to recreate it. Chop finely, add items, and drench with dressing, put one olive on top. In fact, if you want to make it yourself, here's the recipe. 

But La Scala is one of those chic Beverly Hills eateries that is very status conscious. How you are treated, especially by the host, depends on how important they think you are. I must say that has always bothered me. I never feel I’m considered important enough for them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone and was offered the worst table in the place, despite the fact that the room was half-empty at the time. Either I get push-back that the other tables were reserved or they begrudgingly move me.

No attempt is ever made to make me feel comfortable. And I often think to myself, “It’s just a fucking chopped salad. I can buy a Vegematic and make one just like it myself.”

They have a seating policy where they will only seat you when all members of your party are present. That’s kind of bullshit but okay. If you say another person is coming then 99% of the time they actually do. Why inconvenience the person who arrived first by having to stand in their tiny crowded waiting area? Who knows?  He may even order a drink or appetizer while he's waiting.  But that’s their policy. Whatever.

It’s not a large restaurant. One long room with comfortable booths along the walls and two rows of small tables down the center of the room. Obviously, the booths are coveted. When I go I always get there at noon so they’re still available – and then have to plead with the host who instead wants to seat me next to the host stand where seven people can stand over me while I eat.

Recently, a writer friend and I were taking our friend Liz there for her birthday. Liz arrived first, said it was a party of three. I arrived a few minutes later and Liz asked if we could be seated? It was her birthday. The martinet host pointed to their “policy.” Even the other waiting customers gave him shit. “Come on, it’s her birthday. Set her up.” Bowing to pressure the host begrudgingly sat us at a booth. A few minutes later our third party arrived and joined us. The waiter announced that he wouldn’t serve him.


They don’t serve “guests” and we were a party of two. We said, no, we were a party of three. He said that was impossible because they never seat incomplete parties. We explained the circumstances. It should be down on his list that we’re a party of three. He checked, the host hadn’t entered it so we were obviously liars.

He also kept insisting it wasn’t him, it was the “policy.” I said that was bullshit. These aren’t FAA safety rules. It was a matter of accommodating customers. He would have none of it.

I said I wanted to speak to the manager. This high-strung very young waiter said he was the floor manager. I told him they were going to lose a longtime customer over this to which he replied, “I don’t take kindly to threats!” Things got heated quickly after that and I said we were leaving. People at other tables were cheering us. Guess I’m not their only customers who finds their attitude off-putting.

Before leaving I asked for the real manager’s card. I was given the number of the corporate office. We went down the street to Porta Via, one of the ten other restaurants on the same block and had a lovely meal.

When I got home I called the number, got some woman who intercepted my call and wanted to know the nature of my complaint. I said I wanted to speak to the head guy myself, not have her relay it. She took down my contact info and said he would call me.

That was about a week ago. He’s never called. So I say, FUCK THEM. How many times over fifteen years of doing this blog have I specifically suggested you avoid a restaurant or hotel or anywhere? Answer: This is the first.

Telling this story to a friend last night he said, when his father-in-law was near death but felt well enough to go out for the first time in months they took him to La Scala where not only did they not seat him, they made him stand – an 80 year old man with stage four cancer. Needless to say, my friend now also boycotts the place.

Judging by all the one star reviews in Yelp, we're obviously not alone.  

So to repeat:AVOID LA SCALA.  Tell your friends and have them avoid La Scala.

There are twenty other Italian restaurants in Beverly Hills. And it's just a fucking chopped salad. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

BOMBSHELL: My review

It seems every year Hollywood comes out with another David & Goliath “underdog brings down the reprehensible person or system” movie for your enjoyment (and award consideration). Kick ass Erin Brockovich! Give ‘em hell, Woodward & Bernstein! Bring down the church, whoever the guy Michael Keaton played!

BOMBSHELL is one of this year’s entries. (There are actually a few others.) It’s a very watchable movie with enough star power to light the marquee. Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, and John Lithgow are all wonderful. And the movie’s heart is in the right place (these movies always are). Sexual harassment in the workplace has gone unchecked for decades and victims have suffered with no recourse. Happily, the tide is beginning to turn. But this movie fails to score a bullseye.

First off, it would have been better if Aaron Sorkin wrote it. Charles Randolph’s screenplay was fine but never really popped. There were never any scenes where verbal fireworks occurred. Very smart people in power is Sorkin’s wheelhouse and he’s pretty much set the bar for what crackling dialogue in that arena should be. This screenplay was serviceable but never fun. And never surprising. I don’t think I learned anything I didn’t already know.

The thing that makes this genre so satisfying is when the bad guys really lose. Woodward & Bernstein brought down a corrupt US President. But in BOMBSHELL, Trump is portrayed as a scumbag, FOX NEWS is unconscionable, and Rupert Murdoch is evil personified. And at the end of the movie they’re all still there. They’re all still in place. So Roger Ailes is brought down. That’s nice, but FOX NEWS continues just as loathsome as before. The women we’re supposed to be rooting for – Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly – they were happy to spread the insidious Fox propaganda for their own fame and fortune. So it’s hard to stand up and loudly cheer for them.

Seems to me a more effective movie would be to show the damage that sexual harassment in the workplace causes. What are the residual effects? How do the victims cope? What is the collateral damage? All of that is glossed over.

Gretchen Carlson was courageous for blowing the whistle on Roger Ailes. After she would not comply with his sexual overtures she was exiled to a crappy time slot. But what if Ailes hadn't demoted her? What if she knew this Ailes behavior was rampant but she kept her coveted time slot? Would she still have come forward?  So was this lawsuit to stop sexual harassment or payback for ultimately being fired?   

SPOILER ALERT (but you know the story): Megyn Kelly only goes public when she determines it’s safe for her to do so. (So in a sense she WAS Gretchen Carlson if Carlson wasn’t demoted. She said nothing for years. At least one character does call her on that.)

And these were the HEROINES! Not exactly Erin Brockovich.

Jay Roach’s direction is slick and well-paced. But BOMBSHELL was like watching IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE without the final reel so the movie ends with everyone miserable in Pottersville.

Monday, January 20, 2020


I know a lot of readers log out the minute they see “baseball” in one of my posts, but I do feel the recent Houston Astros scandal deserves some mention.

For several years the Houston Astros were stealing their opponents signs and relaying them to their hitters. Knowing what pitch is coming gives the batter a big advantage. The Astros won the World Series a few years ago while employing this scam and almost won again last year. The bench coach of the Astros at the time then became the manager of the Boston Red Sox and they won the World Series. Was this sign stealing the reason both teams won? No. Not entirely. But it sure helped.

First let me say, both the Astros and Red Sox won their World Series championships against the Dodgers. And Dodger fans are now claiming they were robbed and deserve to have the titles given to them. A) It’s not going to happen, and B) the Dodgers lost because of poor managerial decisions and big star players choking and not delivering. If Clayton Kershaw pitched like a Cy Young pitcher, if Cody Bellinger hit like an MVP, if Corey Seagar hit at all, if manager Dave Roberts didn’t bungle match-ups and substitutions the Bums might have won even if they told their opponents what pitch was coming.

So why is this sign stealing affair such a big deal? Simply this: The one thing baseball can not compromise is the integrity of the game and the perception that the game is not rigged. Period. That’s why everyone even remotely involved in the 1919 Black Sox gambling scandal were banned for life. That’s why Pete Rose will never be in the Hall of Fame. That’s why steroid use is so prohibited. If Major League Baseball loses its credibility it’s dead. Everything else – overshifting, an over-reliance of statistical data, bad umpiring, increasing length of the games, inflated ticket prices, the juiced ball (every team deals with that equally), inequities in arbitration and free agent signing, the “Wave” -- all these the game can handle. But the minute the fans think MLB is as fake as TV wrestling you can turn off the stadium lights.

Here’s what the Astros did. They had a monitor in the corner of the dugout and a camera from centerfield trained on home plate so it could see the catchers’ signs. It’s the angle you see most of the time when watching a game. They would decode the catcher’s sign (players are sophisticated enough to do that) and then a player would relay what sign was coming by banging on a trashcan. Nothing meant a fastball, one bang meant a breaking ball, two meant a change up. Very high tech.

The end result: The Astros General Manager and Manager were suspended for a year, the team loses its top draft picks for the next two years, and they were fined $5 million (the highest penalty baseball could issue). Supposedly, this was a player scheme, but the bench coach knew about it and maybe even was the one who concocted it. And the manager certainly knew.   He could have said "We don't do that" but didn't. 

Here’s the fall out: The Astros fired their GM and manager. That bench coach became the manager of the Red Sox and he too was fired. Both managers – A.J. Hinch of Houston and Alex Cora of Boston – were rising managerial stars. Both were young, popular with players, and the media. I’ll be interested to see whether they ever get another managerial job or at least how many years go by before this scandal blows over. Mark McGwire, who took steroids to inflate his home run total became a hitting coach in later years. (Think about that.)

Some thoughts: MLB has become so competitive and cutthroat that every tiny edge is exploited. Analytics now drive the game. Teams are crunching numbers and doing anything they can to gain even the tiniest advantage. Payroll numbers are so high, and team profits are so high that the stakes have been raised to an insane amount.  Still, does that justify cheating?  I say no.

And interestingly, so do the players.

You'll notice that players weren't punished by MLB.  The Players Union would have to sign-off.  At first I thought the union would take a hands-off stance.  But I've seen numerous players tweet their disgust with the cheating players.  To me this is unprecedented.  Will Astro players be disciplined?  I don't know.  They certainly should.  And I suspect this will get ugly as more details are revealed.

And trust me, players have a long memory.  Those few players who were scabs during the last strike were never ever accepted by their teammates.  Brendan Donnelly was a key pitcher for the Angels in 2002 when they won the World Series and yet his teammates did not vote him a full World Series share.  

And finally, how in the hell did they think they would get away with it? Especially today when players move from team to team like musical chairs. How long before the Astros traded a player to another team and he spilled the beans? Even Rudy Giuliani might have said this plan was folly.

The investigation continues from what I understand and more shenanigans from more teams might be uncovered. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Personally, I long for the days when baseball was a simpler game. We’ve gone from BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY to BANG THE TRASHCAN LOUDLY.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Why I won't try out for JEOPARDY

As you know, I'm a huge JEOPARDY fan.  At the end of this month the show is holding tryouts, offering an online test.  People ask me, "Why don't you try out for JEOPARDY?"   I think the contestant on the right explains it.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday Questions

Friday Questions are just a scroll-down away.

I’m honored that radio legend,Tom Leykis has the first one.

I have a question for discussion and I think there's no one better to ask.

Just as you enjoyed Parasite, I have recently seen some amazing TV comedies that all have one thing in common with Parasite: none of them were made in the United States.

Through the magic of streaming, I have been delighted at the quality of shows like Fleabag, Catastrophe, Motherland, Episodes (England) and Kim's Convenience (Canada). There are so many of them that I can't remember them all!

Do you enjoy any of these shows? Why can other countries make shows like this, but US studios apparently can't (or won't) anymore?

I'll hang up and listen.

I like most British comedies. FLEABAG and EPISODES are way better than the current U.S. fare (it pains me to say). And among my all-time favorite sitcoms are three from the U.K. – COUPLING, FAWLTY TOWERS, and BLACK ADDER.

So why are international comedies better than ours? The short answer is that foreign showrunners aren’t subjected to the insane level of network and studio interference. And testing.

And unlike here, where networks are just chasing Millennial writers hoping to get a Millennial audience (that has already abandoned them and is never coming back) foreign TV networks and platforms welcome age and experience. Who knew that writers over 40 were still funny and knew their craft?

My sense is international broadcasters are open to trying new things. American broadcasters operate solely out of fear.

Cedricstudio is up next.

Tonight I watched 'Arthur' (the 1981 original starring Dudley Moore). Writer Steve Gordon was nominated for an Oscar and deservedly so. However, the writing strikes me as a bit *too* perfect, at least by modern standards. What I mean is, characters constantly toss off sparkling banter that I find way too sharp and clever to be believable. Hobson the butler is especially witty, almost supernaturally so. Every time he opens his mouth out comes the perfect stinging quip (John Gielgud won an Oscar for the performance). Yes it makes me chuckle but it also takes me out of the movie. Nobody speaks like that in the real world and it strikes me as artificial. Do you think that's a fair criticism, or am I putting too much value on "authenticity"?

I think you are. The dialogue is stylized but so is Edward Albee’s, and Aaron Sorkin’s, and Neil Simon’s, and Paddy Chayefsky’s, Larry Gelbart’s, Quentin Tarantino’s, Woody Allen’s, and on and on.

It's a creative license to elevate the experience.  

The trouble comes when the writing is bad. Then the fact that it’s stylized exacerbates the badness.

Personally, I love ARTHUR and love that the dialogue crackles. And that seems to be a lost art in today’s romcoms. Studios are more concerned with mounting a movie that can score overseas and clever dialogue doesn’t always translate globally.

It’s another reason why I now write for the theatre and not the silver screen.

Cowboy Surfer asks:

Ken - I'm wrapping up my CHEERS binge on Netflix. I noticed former KLOS disc jockeys Mark & Brian sitting down the bar from Norm in S9 - E10 Veggie Boyd.

Any other stories of famous people as bar extras?

Well, the most famous of all was my father, Cliff, who appeared in a number of episodes.

We tried not to have any celebrities who would be recognizable so they wouldn’t distract from the story.

But some notables included a Hall-of-Fame sportswriter named Allan Mallamud. He joined the barflies several times. The man who hired me for my very first radio job as a sports intern at KMPC, Steve Bailey, bent elbows with the gang.

Warren Littlefield, then-NBC president appears once, and the final season all of the writers show up one time or another. I’m in the final Bar Wars episode.

And finally, from Chris Gumprich

Are there any actors who, if they came to you with a new project, you would agree to sight-unseen, just because you trust the actor implicitly? Conversely, are there any that you would turn down flat, even if you enjoy working with them as an actor?

Obviously I don't expect examples, and I don't mean someone like Roseanne who isn't likely to approach you with a new project, but someone like an actor from Cheers who asks you to work on the remake of The Tortellis.

There are actors I would consider doing a project with, but I’d have to be on board as to what that project is. Especially if I’m the one in the writing room until 2 AM fixing the scripts.

And yes, there are actors I would have nothing to do with regardless of their talent, star power, influence, popularity, etc. I won’t name names but you know who you are, Rosanne & Bret Butler & Cybil Shepherd & Teri Hatcher (among others).  

Come join me in San Pedro tomorrow night at the Little Fish Theatre for the Pick of the Vine Festival and Sunday night in Santa Monica at the Ruskin Theatre for their one-day play festival.  And if you're in San Juan Capistrano this weekend, I have a play in the Camino Real Show Off Festival.  Come see it and enjoy one of the prettiest towns in America.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

EP157: Analyzing Comedy with David Isaacs , Part 2

Ken and longtime writing partner David Isaacs discus genres of film and TV comedy. Why FRIENDS and other successful sitcoms work. 

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Oscar Outrage!

So yesterday I talked about Oscar snubs and how every year there are deserving artists or films that get screwed. Cary Grant and Peter O’Toole had to be content with “Honorary” Oscars. They never won them in competition. And how many times has Amy Adams and Glenn Close been bridesmaids? And as a reader pointed out yesterday, Kobe Bryant has an Oscar.

Add to that, over the last few years, the Academy has taken heat for lack of diversity, or gender favoritism. Not sure what the acceptable number on both are, but the Academy is way below it.

So a shit storm has resulted that there are no women directors nominated this year. Do they have a legitimate beef? You bet. Greta Gerwig for one should have been on the list. (She was nominated for her screenplay however. And a Best Screenplay Oscar is pretty neat, isn’t it? Sorta?)

Trevor Noah on THE DAILY SHOW weighed in on only men landing Best Director nominations. “How the hell does that happen!” he exclaimed. And he wasn’t as outraged as other pundits and organizations I’ve seen. Not to mention a few of my blog readers. 

Here’s my perspective (although no one asked).

It’s just the fucking Oscars, people. SO WHAT???

With all the shit that’s going on in the world today, is the best use of our outrage to rip the Motion Picture Academy for not being woke enough?

If the Oscars are so important how come no one watches them anymore? Or watches the movies that are nominated?  Too bad the JEOPARDY G.O.A.T. tournament won't go seven days. I bet by day seven JEOPARDY would have higher ratings than the Oscars. More people know who Ken Jennings is than 80% of the nominees.

We’re on the brink of a needless war. We have a president and senate trying to destroy the Constitution of the United States. We have disastrous climate change that might become permanent. Who gives a fuck that any super fortunate Hollywood A-lister didn’t get a precious Oscar nomination?

I’m looking forward to February 10th after the ceremony when people are all up in arms because the wrong white men won.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My thoughts on the Oscar nominations

The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday.  Yawn.   I’m still waiting to see if I get any lifetime achievement awards. I hope I don’t confuse their offer with a robocall.

The big story the minute the nominations were announced is the snubs. No women directors. Not enough diversity. Will Smith. This has become the new annual cry. There have always been snubs; deserving artists and films that unfairly miss the cut. But now racial and gender issues are the cause celebre (or in the case of Hollywood, cause celeb).

I miss the good old days when the Academy just didn’t like specific people.

Another perennial – there is no relationship between Golden Globe winners and Oscar nominees.

Personally, I was and wasn’t surprised by some of the snubs. Adam Sandler seemed a lock to me in UNCUT GEMS. It was the role of his life. But I think too many voters found the movie itself annoying. I couldn’t sit through the whole thing. So that hurt him.

Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN may have suffered from male voters not interested in the subject matter and not willing to watch the movie. Likewise, THE FAREWELL, supposedly excellent, but dreary as hell and I have CNN if I want to be clinically depressed.

Eddie Murphy deserved a nomination, but I think DOLEMITE had two strikes against it – it was a comedy (you can’t nominate a movie that audiences merely enjoy) and it was for Netflix. I sense a reluctance to shower love on Netflix movies since Academy members know damn well they’re TV shows disguised as motion pictures.

That said, you get Marty Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino together for a gangster movie and it could be for Pornhub and the Academy would nominate it.

Plus, let's be real.  Hollywood studios aren't making films where the hero doesn't wear a cape or the sequel number isn't in the title.  Netflix is the only place making decent movies that aren't aimed at 12 year-old boys. 

The cast of PARASITE deserved some nominations, but nobody in the US knows who they are and the Academy has been burned before by nominating no names. Remember, it’s ALL about the TV show and delivering a big audience for ABC. I can’t believe they haven’t asked Alex Trebek to host it.

A lot of people are outraged that Taron Egerton wasn’t singled-out for his portrayal of Elton John in ROCKETMAN. The problem there might be – the movie was ridiculous.

Others are in a tizzy that HUSTLERS and JLo were shut out.   Maybe the fact that it was a terrible movie had something to do with that?  

1917 got some nods due to its scope and execution and Hollywood loves war movies. You put a guy in a uniform with a rifle running through a field and you go to the Oscars. Whether it actually wins anything is another story.

As in years past, most Americans will not have seen most of the movies honored. As phenomenal as PARASITE was, I don’t see that becoming a boxoffice sensation. Same with JOJO RABBIT.  (I think a lot of voters are mixed on JOJO.  That may hurt them.)

Lots of nominations for THE JOKER. It’s the Academy’s desperate attempt to attract viewers by nominating a movie some of them have seen. I’d be surprised if it wins much.

Most of the Best Picture Nominees are too long. But length is a plus when it comes to awards season.

Meanwhile, there's no real buzz on anything.  

And finally, I must say, skimming through the list of nominees I couldn’t find one I thought really didn’t deserve to be there. It’s a numbers game and certain people are Oscar’s darlings. Meryl (even if she's not in anything), Robert (Bobby to his friends so not Trump), Quentin, Marty, Charlize, Margot, Leo, Tom, Adam (Driver not Sandler), Scarlett (for sure), Rene, Pixar, and Greta will win for Adapted Screenplay.

The ceremony is February 9th. It’s getting earlier every year. Soon we’ll have DICK CLARKS ROCKIN’ NEW YEAR’S OSCARS.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Linda Ronstadt documentary

See the new documentary, LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE. It was playing in some theaters. CNN showed it. It’s around. Find it.

You don’t have to be a long-time fan to appreciate this flick (although that doesn’t hurt). What’s so impressive is how she challenged herself as an artist and took on all kinds of different and demanding genres. She sang Gilbert & Sullivan, she sang the Great American Songbook, even authentic Mexican music. And of course, not without constantly risking her career.

Linda Ronstadt truly did travel to the beat of a “Different Drum.”

This wasn’t the profile of a rock star; it was the profile of a pure singer. Let’s see Mariah Carey tackle PIRATES OF PENZANCE.

For those who grew up loving her music (and having a huge crush on her – like someone I know), the film was also a nostalgic trip back to the ‘70s It was fun to relive those days of the Troubadour in West Hollywood (which is still there) and concerts in stadiums where the performer just sang and was not the center of pyrotechnics and Orange Bowl Halftime gaudy productions.

My personal favorite era was when she sang standards arranged by the great Nelson Riddle. She pours such genuine emotion into each song that it gets you right in the kishkes.

The film is a celebration of her talent, music, and success, but it’s also very bittersweet. Linda Ronstadt today has Parkinson’s Disease and can no longer sing. What a cruel unfair turn of events. Linda is in her early 70’s and hopefully still will have many years – fulfilling years – to live.

Thank you for enriching my life with your music. From now on whenever I go to Lucy’s Adobe Café (her old hangout in Hollywood) I will lift a margarita to you.

I believe this documentary is on Amazon Prime. If not, find it. What a sweet, charming, inspiring, rocking little movie it is. Linda has topped the charts again.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

My busy month

I have a number of things coming up this month and wanted to alert you (read: use my blog to plug things).

Tonight I will be on Sirius/XM Channel 106 from 7-9 PST/10-12 EST, guesting on THE DINER hosted by Lou Simon.   We'll be talking music, primarily from the early days of Rock n' Roll.

Today and next weekend my short play, SHE DIED WITH HER PUMPS ON will be performed in San Juan Capistrano at the Camino Real Playhouse as part of their Show Off Festival.   It's a beautiful theatre, beautiful town, and if you don't believe me, just ask any swallow.  Here's where you for info.  

Today, two short plays of mine close at the Gallery Players Theatre in Brooklyn.  SORRY SHAKESPEARE (above)  and FINAL JEOPARDY (right).   Last minute tickets for the matinee can be found here.

Next weekend I have a short play in the Little Fish Theatre "Pick of the Vine" one act festival in San Pedro, Ca.  The play is DATING THROUGH THE DECADES.   I'll be there Saturday night.  Here's where you go for tickets and details. 

The next day, January 19th, I'll be participating in another Ruskin Theatre one day play festival -- the Cafe Plays.  I get the topic and actors at 9 AM, write a ten minute play by noon, and then it's performed at 7:30 and 9:00.  It's live theatre at it's most live.  Spend Sunday night in Santa Monica.  And say hi.  Here's where you go for info on that.

And then the one I'm really looking forward to -- a reading of my full-length romantic comedy, AMERICA'S SEXIEST COUPLE at the Atwater Village Theatre in Atwater (a lovely community to raise your children) on Friday, January 31st at 8:00 PM.  Tickets are limited.   And it's ONE NIGHT ONLY.  I have a great cast and it should really be a fun night.  Would love a full house for that one.  It's all part of ESTLos Angeles' Winterfest Play Reading Festival.

But wait, there's more.  Starting January 23 for several weekends, Theatre68 in North Hollywood is staging a festival featuring three of my short plays -- OPEN TABLE, TWO IN THE BUSCH, and DIGGING UP DAD.  Here's their website. Details aren't posted yet.  

And other than that I got nothing other than the blog and weekly podcast.

Thanks much.   End your month with me and laughter and Atwater. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Weekend Post: Buck Henry

Buck Henry died on Wednesday. He was 89. When I pay tribute to people I admire I try to include personal stories and share things you won’t get in any obit. But unfortunately I never met Buck Henry. I know people who did, and they always spoke highly of him, but it’s not the same thing.

So all I have to go on his body of work. His list of credits was enormous – as a writer, director, and actor. Among them: he wrote the screenplay for THE GRADUATE. That alone puts him on the Mt. Rushmore of screenwriters.

Henry traveled in the “high rent” district when it came to show business. Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Mel Brooks, Warren Beatty, Lorne Michaels. Who can ever forget Henry’s appearances on SNL in the early years of that show when he played the lecherous babysitter (a character that today would spark outrage)?

Without listing his credits (which you’ve probably seen in fifteen other tributes), all I know is that whenever I saw his name attached in any way I knew it was going to be a high class production. Even GET SMART (which he co-created with Mel Brooks). God, it was funny and “smart” in its early Buck Henry period. Even a silly spoof was elevated.

From the outside it looked like Buck Henry had a fabulous life (and 89 is a pretty good run). He was well respected in his field, accomplished many things, and entertained millions of people. I hope he did have a fabulous life. Fabulous or better. I’m only sorry I couldn’t thank him personally for all the joy and inspiration he provided me.

RIP Buck Henry

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday Questions

Let’s dive into some FQ’s, shall we?

Charles Jurries has one about having to throw out your whole script and begin again.

With time and practice, does it get easier to do a Page 1 rewrite, or does it hurt the same every time?

Well, it never gets easier. It always hurts.


If I throw out a script because I know what’s wrong and now have the fix, it can also be energizing. And in those cases, the writing goes way smoother than the original draft.

Chances are if you have to throw out a whole script you were struggling with it from the get-go. Something wasn’t right. You were always fighting the story. There was always some virus in there you couldn’t eradicate. Rarely are you surprised when ultimately you have to start again.

But if I might make a suggestion – before you dive back in, step away from the project for awhile. You’re probably too close to it. Put it in a drawer (if you have that luxury) and let it breathe for awhile. You’ll get a new perspective when you tackle it later on.

Mike Doran wonders:

I've read that members of the Writers Guild can register a pseudonym, which they can place on a screenplay in lieu of their own names, when they wish to decline credit for a bomb, but still keep any payments (past or future) due them for the project.

When Mannequin II was made, were either you or Mr. Isaacs made aware of this option (if applicable); and if so, would you have taken that route?

No, we never considered it. Honestly, we thought that no one would see it anyway and to take pseudonyms is a real slap in the face to the creative team. Most of them were lovely people and they did pay us well. We saw no reason to insult them.

We’ve never used pseudonyms.

Larry Gelbart did once. For the movie ROUGH CUT, the writer is listed as “Francis Burns.” (That’s Frank Burns for you MASH fans.)

From CD:

Do you think the presence of cell phones today makes it harder for writers to come up with weird scenarios for their characters to be confused in?

Do you wish you had cell phones around when you were writing Cheers, MASH and other shows like it?

Here’s the downside. No longer can you get plots from characters unable to reach other characters or call for help. How many misunderstanding movie and sitcom plots have their been when one character gets hung up and doesn’t show up for something and the person he’s supposed to meet mistakes that for a snub and is pissed and thus goes off and does something he otherwise wouldn’t do, which leads to complications?

Another oft employed plot point. Someone calls for somebody who isn’t there. The person taking the call takes the message. Then he either doesn’t give it to the intended person or gives it wrong, thus leading to complications.

You look at the movie 1917 where someone has to get a message to the front lines or the whole troop will be wiped out. So he goes through a harrowing journey to complete his mission. Today you call and leave a text. So in 2020 that movie would be over in 1917 seconds.

On the other hand, cellphones solve the common problem of “How does this character learn this information we need him to learn?” Now, wherever he is, he can be briefed. So unless that kills a whole movie, it eliminates a lot of hoops.

MASH and CHEERS were of a time and place.  I wouldn't want to go back and rework stories to accommodate modern technology.  

And finally, from YEKIMI:

Has your daughter/son-in-law come to you yet with a script that she wants your opinion/help on? Or do you tell her/him/them to work it out between them? And if you do help them out, do you charge them a "consulting fee" or would she cut you off from the grandkids?

When Annie & Jon were writing spec scripts trying to break in I would give them notes the same way I gave my students notes when I was teaching at UCLA and USC. Mostly they were story notes. I never pitched a joke. Everything in the script had to be theirs because if someone hired them they would expect the same level of work.

Once they broke in and started working on shows (which I believe is eight years now), I never read their scripts. They deal with their showrunners and the demands of whatever show they’re on, and I stay as far away as possible.

And no, I never charged them. If I did I was afraid they’d find someone who offered a better price.

What’s your Friday Question?

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

EP156: Analyzing Comedy with David Isaacs, Part 1

On this week's Hollywood and Levine podcast, Ken’s writing partner David Isaacs returns for a lively discussion on comedy – theories, genres and romcoms. It’s a fascinating study of what it takes to evoke laughter. 

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

PARASITE: My review

So far PARASITE is my pick for movie of the year. A Korean film with subtitles. Mic drop Hollywood.

Writer/Director Bong Joon Ho has achieved the near impossible – making a movie so engrossing that no one in the theater had to tell someone to turn off their fucking phone. Now, THAT’S filmmaking.

Happily, PARASITE doesn’t fall into any one genre. It cleverly and stylishly combines a few, bends a few, and creates a few into one compelling cohesive film. I was knocked out by the storytelling. I guarantee you won’t be able to predict what happens next. You’ll laugh, you’ll shriek – and isn’t that what entertainment’s all about?

Beyond that I’m not going to say anything about the plot or characters other than it’s about two families. A parasite is an organism that lives in an organism of another species. How it applies and to whom it applies is ingeniously at the heart of this film.

After seeing a glut of superhero and space sequels, PARASITE will renew your faith that movies can still be good, still be smart, and in the hands of a skilled artist with a true vision, still a thrilling experience.

But here’s my fear: There will undoubtedly now be a Hollywood studio reemake that will be star-studded, cost fifty million to produce, and be a steaming piece of shit.

Go see the original before the guys who did MAN OF STEEL get their hands on it.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

This is why I know I can never be on JEOPARDY

I'm a JEOPARDY addict.  I admit that up front.

And like everyone else watching, I try to call out the answers before the contestants.  Some days are better than others.   If the topic is the 1991 Baltimore Orioles I can run the board.  But if it's 3rd Century Harbors I'm toast.

Still, in the back of my mind, I wonder -- could I maybe not embarrass myself if I went on that show?

Then last week happened.

I was in the studio audience about two months ago when the episodes that aired three days last week were taped.

And I STILL don't know the answers to a lot of these questions.  I couldn't remember for two months, much less "know" these factoids.

THAT'S when you know.  

I mean, if nothing else, the value of seeing JEOPARDY taped is that you can watch those episodes with friends and dazzle them with your supposed "knowledge."

And now, if I'm going to be on that show it would have to be to replace Johnny Gilbert, the off-stage announcer.  And even that might not work.  Some of those contestants have long confusing tongue-twisting names.

As a JEOPARDY freak this is Superbowl Week.  The three greatest champions going head-to-head on ABC starting tonight.  So it should be extra great even if I feel extra stupid.  

Monday, January 06, 2020

No, I didn't watch THE GOLDEN GLOBES

I now never do. The Golden Globes to me means Wilshire Blvd. near my home is closed for two days. (NOTE: Please clean up quickly, remove the bleachers, etc. I need to go east.)

The Golden Globes are always a joke. Foreign Press favorites and international artists receive favored consideration. Plus, winning a Golden Globe bears no relationship on whether you’ll win an Oscar. Or even be nominated for an Oscar. So you can’t use them to handicap. And for television, the awards come after the Emmys so the same people who won in September often win one of these in January. Gee, CHERNOBYL, and FLEABAG won. What a surprise!

I also find Ricky Gervais now repellent. Once upon a time I admired him. I thought his version of THE OFFICE was one of the freshest, funniest sitcoms I had ever seen. His early hosting duties were edgy but with a twinkle. And now he’s just a bitter, unfunny, sad guy whose only act is shock humor. For me it’s gotten to the point where even if I agree with the targets he’s skewering I still hate him.

But the message is clear: When you hire Ricky Gervais to host the show (considering his track record) you are forfeiting any class and stature and thus cheapening your awards even before the show begins. The Foreign Press would gladly sacrifice dignity for trending.

So why should I care? And why should I watch?

If there is a good moment or memorable speech I’m sure there’ll be clips of it on line. I’m told they used a clip from VOLUNTEERS in the Tom Hanks montage so sorry I missed that three second portion of the 3+ hour self-lovefest. I’m sure Tom’s speech was classy (and thus out of place). I’ll see a clip.

For great television on Sunday, those two NFL Playoff Games were fantastic. Drama, suspense, great moments – only thing missing was the gowns.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Weekend Post

I can’t speak for the accuracy of these Goldwynisms, but Jesus, if only half of them are true at least that’s a majority!


Samuel Goldwyn (1882–1974) was an Academy Award and Golden
Globe Award-winning producer, also a well-known Hollywood
motion picture producer and founding contributor of several motion
picture studios. His inferior English language skills led to many of
his malapropisms, paradoxes, and other speech errors called
Goldwynisms. Having many writers in his employ, Goldwyn may
not have come up with all of these on his own:

“Keep a stiff upper chin.”

“In two words: im-possible.”

“Gentlemen, include me out.”

“They stayed away in droves.”

“Let’s have some new clichés.”

“There is a statue of limitation.”

“Tell them to stand closer apart.”

“Gentlemen, listen to me slowly.”

“That’s our strongest weak point.”

“A hospital is no place to be sick.”

“Modern dancing is old fashioned.”

“The harder I work the luckier I get.”

“I read part of it all the way through.”

“Flashbacks are a thing of the past.”

“You fail to overlook the crucial point.”

“I paid too much for it, but it’s worth it.”

“I have been laid up with intentional flu.”

“God makes stars. I just produce them.”

“Our comedies are not to be laughed at.”

“He treats me like the dirt under my feet.”

“You’ve got to take the bitter with the sour.”

“A bachelor’s life is no life for a single man.”

“If I look confused it’s because I’m thinking.”

“That’s the kind of ad I like, facts, facts, facts.”

“What we need now is some new, fresh clichés.”

“This makes me so sore it gets my dandruff up.”

“What nerve. Not even a modicum of originality.”

“You’ve got to take the bull between your teeth.”

“I had a great idea this morning, but I didn’t like it.”

“It’s absolutely impossible, but it has possibilities.”

“Never make forecasts, especially about the future.”

“A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad.”

“For your information, just answer me one question!”

“For your information, I would like to ask a question.”

“Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day.”

“A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

“Every director bites the hand that lays the golden egg.”

“Plenty of room for a tiny brain and a huge ego, though.”

“Don’t worry about the war. It’s all over but the shooting.”

“Can she sing? She’s practically a Florence Nightingale.”

“If I could drop dead right now, I’d be the happiest man alive.”

“The trouble with this business is the dearth of bad pictures.”

“Don’t pay any attention to the critics — don’t even ignore them.”

“Put it out of your mind. In no time, it will be a forgotten memory.”

“I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.”

“I never put on a pair of shoes until I’ve worn them at least five years.”

“Color television! Bah, I won’t believe it until I see it in black and white.”

“We have that Indian scene. We can get the Indians from the reservoir.”

“Let’s bring it up to date with some snappy nineteenth century dialogue.”

“I don’t think anyone should write his autobiography until after he’s dead.”

“I’m willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”

“Anyone who would go to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined!”

“Why did you name him Sam? Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named Sam!”

“Give me a couple of years, and I’ll make that actress an overnight success.”

“If I were in this business only for the business, I wouldn’t be in this business.”

“Go see that turkey for yourself, and see for yourself why you shouldn’t see it.”

“Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.”

“When someone does something good, applaud! You will make two people happy.”

“That would doubtless be a dank and dark and a desolate and dreary place to dwell.”

“From success you get a lot of things, but not that great inside thing that love brings you.”

“I hate a man who always says yes to me. When I say no I like a man who also says no.”

“That’s the way with these directors, they’re always biting the hand that lays the golden egg.”

“I don’t want yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell the truth, even if it costs them their jobs.”

“I don’t care if it doesn’t make a nickel. I just want every man, woman, and child in America to see it.”

“Why should people go out and pay to see bad movies when they can stay home and see bad television for nothing.”

“True, I’ve been a long time making up my mind, but now I’m giving you a definite answer. I won’t say yes, and I won’t say no — but I’m giving you a definite maybe.”

Friday, January 03, 2020

Friday Questions

Wow, where has this year gone? Here’s some FQ’s.

First up is Lisa who has two questions:

Ken, I was looking for the list of all the awards which you have won. Wiki list is short and here on the blog too no list is given. Could you please post a blog with the list of all the awards that you have won?

Not to toot my own horn, but…

One Primetime Emmy
Two WGA Awards for Best Comedy Script
One People’s Choice Award
One GLAAD Award
Peabody Recognition
Humanitas Recognition
Two Southern California Sportscaster Awards – Best sportstalk host
One Virginia Sportscaster of the Year Award

And numerous nominations.

Also can you please share your experience of some of them. I am sure they are interesting. So far, apart from the Emmy, you have not written about the rest of the awards.

Okay, Lisa, here’s one of my favorites:

My writing partner, David Isaacs, and I had been nominated a few times for WGA Awards and lost. They were presented at dinners that were black tie optional. We each would spend a hundred dollars and rent tuxedos and never go on stage.

Finally, we decided to just dress in dark suits. Why waste the money?

We won. David got up to the microphone and said, “Sorry. We dressed for nomination only.” It brought down the house.

1955david wonders:

My wife and I are binge watching FRASIER. We are loving them. My question, how were the guest callers lined up? And how were they recorded? We always watch to the end to see who they were. Thank you.

They were lined up by casting director, Jeff Greenberg. And then recorded after the episode in question had been filmed.   I don't know who in the sound department handled the actual recording, but since they were phone calls, the celebs were able to just call in and record it over the phone.  They'd be sent the script and a time was arranged.

In front of the audience we just had an actor off-stage pinch-hitting for the celebrity actors. And the actually recording was done later at the actor’s convenience.

As a writer, I had no idea who was going to be the caller when writing episodes.

A few of the celebs who voiced our call-ins were Kevin Bacon, Art Garfunkel, Linda Hamilton, and Dr. Timothy Leary. Not many people can say they wrote comedy for Timothy Leary.

And finally, another Lisa. LisaDins asks:

Been re-watching the first Season of Cheers this week and man, does it still hold up. Shelley Long and Ted Danson have such great chemistry. Did they screen test together or was it just a miracle of casting?

There were three candidates for Sam and three for Diane. They were paired up and the plan was to mix and match. Ted & Shelley happened to be paired together in the first round. Once they did it it was clear they were the ones.

What’s your Friday Question?

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

EP155: Making MANNEQUIN (& MANNEQUIN 2) Come to Life

The wild stories of the making of these two Hollywood films (one a huge hit, the other a colossal bomb). It’s a saga filled with colorful characters, scoundrels, wacky decisions, and overall craziness. In other words: a typical Hollywood story. And Ken was right in the middle of it all. 

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

As we move into yet another dark year

I used to have a New Year's tradition.  I would say "May the new year be for you what the previous was for...." and then I'd list all the people who had exceptional years.  Award-winners, breakout stars, championship teams, etc.

But these last three years have been so horrendous, so soul-crushing that I can't look back with any fondness. 

My hope for the new year is that we rid ourselves of everyone who is trying to destroy Democracy and that these these evil unconscionable scumbags rot in hell for all eternity while history portrays them forever as the villains and traitors they are.   Short of that I don't know what to be "happy" about.

UPDATE: Remember I moderate the comments.  For Trump supporters, save your time and effort.   I delete all of your hate comments.  I'm under no obligation to be fair and balanced.  It probably takes you three or four minutes to compose and submit and it takes me literally two seconds to skim and delete.  There are better uses of your time.  If you disagree with my position, that's fine.  Just don't read and follow my blog.  It's not like I'm dependent on ratings. Happy New Year to everyone.