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.”


Unknown said...

Have you ever been far into developing an original series idea when you learn a network has greenlit a pilot with almost the identical premise as yours? Do you put away your idea and start on another?

Bob Waldman

Ben Scripps said...

I can attest to the Dick Clark bloopers thing. Back in the 90's, I was in charge of my station's annual blooper tape for the Christmas party, and Clark's production company contacted me out of the blue one day looking for a copy. They ended up buying one of the clips, and both the two news anchors involved and I each got checks. Not huge checks, but also not bad for something I had only minor indirect involvement with...

And not the first time for our station; ever seen that clip of the woman reporting on the side of the road when the snow plow comes by and buries her? That was us too; that one was a bit before I started there, though Amy and I later worked together many times.

Chris G said...

We've been watching MASH on Hulu and noticed that the episodes aren't in their original aspect ratio. The internet has lots of different stories - some sites say the episodes were remastered and reformatted, others say they just have the tops and bottoms chopped off to make them look widescreen, but nothing looks particularly off about it (unlike shows where the widescreen versions have crew members and mics and such lurking around where they wouldn't have been seen when the episodes were shown in the original 4:3 aspect ratio).

Do you know what the story is with the streaming versions of MASH? And what do you think of how this version of the show looks - does it lose or gain anything?

Dave H said...

Quentin Tarantino was a extra on the golden girls as a Elvis impersonator. It was a two parter. He made 650 dollars. His appearance appeared in best of's as well. His residuals lasted about 3 years and he made around 3000 dollars. A guest star must do even better than that.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

As I understand, for all of those years, Gary Burghoff had been pitching his voice a little higher to give Radar a young and more youthful sound, but by the time they got around to his two-part goodbye episode, he just wasn't up for that anymore.

Mark said...

Ken, thanks for answering my question! Nice to end the week on a high note.

I would like to suggest Bobby Rich as a podcast guest for several reasons. You could talk about old times and how radio has changed. You are an experienced podcaster now, has that changed your view of radio (which I now think of as a live podcast). He just started a new station here in Tucson and I would like to hear him talk about the effect of podcasts on listeners (and ratings) and his view of the future of radio. But mainly it'd be fun to hear you both laugh about old times.

Thanks again.

blinky said...

Random Friday-ish question: Why do actresses refer to themselves as actors? Is that woke or unwoke?

Bob Paris said...

Ken: I have a question about a potential occupational hazard. When you are at a social event where people know you are a comedy writer, do you feel the need to be "on" and funny?

Lemuel said...

Joseph Scarbrough: I've been watching Match Game reruns (because Yes that's my life) and it sounds like Burghoff's voice was normally high-pitched.

Ted said...

At first glance, I thought that Gary Burghoff photo was George Costanza.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Thank you for answering my F.Q., Ken. As always, much appreciated.

I too have never understood the appeal of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." I've always referred to it, and only half-jokingly, as "My Big Fat Greek Disappointment." It's one of those movies where you're waiting for something to happen and it never does. I didn't think the dialog was all that funny either. Maybe if I was of Greek decent I'd think differently.

I'm old enough that I saw Radar's farewell episode first run. At that time the only thing I could think of was, "Look at his hairline!" I always thought that it was intentional to show that Radar had grown up.
I don't remember the exact wording, but in one episode Radar says, "I'm the only one that's going to leave here younger than when I got here." That's one of the things I liked better about the movie than the series. In the movie Radar was just as sly and devious as the rest of them. I guess that for the TV show they wanted more of a contrast between him and Hawkeye and Trapper, et al.

Mike Bloodworth said...

P.S. In that photo Gary looks like a younger version of Kurtwood Smith.

Unknown said...

I know you aren't greek, but I have greek friends. My big fat greek wedding is a real hoot once you know a little about their culture. I think the movie hit a wave making it a mild success for it's sweet depiction of ugly duckling to swan story.

I knew one of the extras, his name was Nick.

But it is easy to understand people not liking the movie. It seems like the type of movie, the more popular it gets, more people dislike it.

Carson said...

Advertisers supposedly just love the "key demo." What are your thoughts on whether this group is the center of too much focus when it comes to broadcast decisions?

MG said...

In regards to Mike Bloodworth's comment about the differences between the movie and tv versions of Radar. Ken has run several times a question post that Gary Burghoff was kind enough to answer about the change to Radar. Just type Radar into the search box and it will come up.
I think the last time Ken reposted it was about three years ago so if you're new to the blog it is well worth looking up.

Alan Gollom said...

Hi Ken,

Have you ever written a joke that to this day you think is positively brilliant and funny, yet no one else gets it? If so, how do you account for that?

Have a great weekend.

Curt Alliaume said...

Here's the link MG refers to (regarding Gary Burghoff's explanation of the change in Radar):

Agreed that Gary Burghoff's receding hairline probably threw viewers off in the Good-Bye, Radar episodes (although Gary had appeared enough on Match Game over the previous few years that many people probably had the idea). Still, Burghoff was in his dress uniform for much of those two episodes while traveling, so the cap would have been inappropriate.

Mark said...

A question no one asked but many would love to know.

Who is the model on your book "Must Kill TV" ?

She is the one who "peeks" at us when we open Ken Levine Blog in one of the tabs and open other tabs too, constantly reminding us to go back to Ken Levine tab and look for new comments.

Charles Bryan said...

First, I love that you (and others, I assume, when their shows were used) made some nice money off of those blooper shows.

Second, about writing characters unlike yourself, do you find a bit of that character in yourself? We've all got habits (or addictions) we struggle with. And Becker's a bit of wish-fulfillment for those times we want to say something tough but can't. I imagine that Larry David gets to live out a lot of conversational fantasies on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Randall Klugman said...


Why are there no multicamera comedy movies? Even SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH and GOOD LUCK CHARLIE changed formats when they made movies.

sanford said...

Ken mentioned the killing off of Henry Blake but he left a lot out. Here is Larry Gelbert talking about killing off Blake.

Lisa F. said...

I agree with Joseph Scarbrough that Gary usually gave Radar's voice a higher pitch to show his youth.

I think Gary's voice might have naturally deepened, or not been able to stay heightened, when he's raising his voice. Radar spent a fair amount of time being angry in Goodbye Radar Part 2. Rightly so, as he was grieving the loss of Uncle Ed, dealing with Klinger's incompetence, and reacting when others told him to go home when he at first decided to stay.

You can hear some of the same, twangy, deeper, vocal quality when Radar raises his voice to Hawkeye from his hospital bed in Fallen Idol.

Gary didn't seem to have a regional accent (Wayne Rogers had a definite southern accent!) until Radar raises his voice to yell at Hawkeye, and then his vowels sound different.

I read that since Radar didn't wear his hat during his final episodes the cast had his hat bronzed, then presented it to Gary as a farewell gift. Is there truth to that, Ken?