Friday, April 03, 2020

Friday Questions

Hello fellow shut-ins. How about some Friday Questions to give you something to do for ten minutes?

Jeff Alexander leads off.

With everyone encouraged (and almost mandated) to stay at home during this coronavirus pandemic, can you recommend a TV series available on DVD to "binge-watch"?

I'm sure that you would recommend "Cheers" or "Frasier," but I was thinking of ones in which you were not personally involved.



I’m not a sci-fi or horror guy so there are a lot more if you’re into those genres.

From -3- :

With everybody hunkered down to avoid the Trump Flu, is traffic going up on the archives? Or is it just old weirdoes like me reading through?

Just curious.

Traffic has gone up since our National House Arrest, but it’s hard to tell with the archive. The stats will show that someone logged onto a particular post, but it won’t know if it’s a regular reader or someone just finding that post on Google.

Interestingly, more people go back and listen to archive episodes of my podcast, which delights me.

I invite you to dive in to either or both.

Bob Gassel asks:

When MASH episodes were being performed, shot and edited, was any consideration given to leaving time for the laugh track? I always assumed there was, but recall Larry and Gene claiming that wasn't the case.

No. None. The laugh track was always an afterthought and we sprinkled it in as judiciously and unobtrusively as possible.

We never asked actors to hold for laughs when filming.

And finally, from C. Warren Dale:

More and more shows these days - almost all streaming dramas, more and more network and cable dramas, and even a few streaming (The Kominsky Method) and network (The Good Place, The Conners) comedies embrace a serialized story structure. This can make for good television but it makes it impossible to write a spec. Any assumptions you make about the characters, setting, or storyline could be blown apart by the next episode that airs. As television moves in this direction, how do you think new writers will be able to demonstrate their skills in that context?

There’s no question this is a big problem. I always tell young writers to just pick a place in the run and begin your episode there. You’re obviously not expected to know how the series really goes, but if you can find a place in the season where they take a breath, that’s usually the best place to jump in.

Hopefully your writing and handling of the characters and tone will make up for not knowing where their story is going.

I know of one producer who read a spec script of a serialized series and said, “Shit, his way was better than ours.”

Best of luck.

Stay safe. Take a deep dive into the archives.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Stay healthy and safe everyone.
Stay away from the news - it's depressing
Stay up late chatting with friends and family
Stay home
Stay away from my window.
Stay away from my back door too.
Stay with me. Stay with me. Cause tonight you're gonna stay with me.
Stay. Won't you stay. Just a little bit longer. Oh Please stay. Just a little bit longer.

Charles Bryan said...

For dramas, I would add Better Caul Saul (after watching Breaking Bad). It isn't completed yet, but a great show to catch up on. I'd say the same for Brockmire, which is in it's last season.

And, yeah, The Wire. I'm sure that others will add that, too.

Timothy said...

Ken, THANK YOU for mentioning The Rockford FIle as one of your suggestions. I've tried and tried to get people interested in this show, and only a two people have actually followed through and watched more than one episode. I don't really know why, maybe it's the pacing, or just the stigma of being a "70's" TV show? It surely can't be the acting or the chemistry (James Garner and Noah Beery might just have well been real father and son). Any thoughts?

Y. Knott said...

If you look at some VERY early M*A*S*H episodes, from season 1 or early season 2, it's obvious that they are performed and edited with the idea that a laugh track will be part of the show. Turning the laugh track off (which you can do with the DVD), you'll note some odd pauses and disruptively off-beat comic rhythms in some scenes -- these can only be explained by performers and editors "holding" for the laugh track. Over time, these holds become far less frequent, and by mid-season 2, they're pretty much gone.

tavm said...

After Arte Johnson died, I binged-watched all "Laugh-In" eps-the first five seasons on DVD, the sixth on Roku. Johnson was such a unique performer whether doing various foreign character or the lecherous old man Tyrone character that he was irreplaceable by the time he left after the fourth season. The show suffered quite a bit after that and never fully recovered-certainly not after George Schlatter's leaving after the fifth season though it managed to still be quite funny throughout due to Ruth Buzzi, Lily Tomlin, Dennis Allen, and last-minute newbies like Patty Deutch and Willie Tyler and his dummy, Lester. And the show's hosts-Dan Rowan and Dick Martin-were still quite amusing if not hilarious throughout. The fact it paved the way for "Saturday Night Live"-which is where that show's producer, Lorne Michaels, got his U.S. start as a staff writer-is also a good reason to still watch this groundbreaking series.

Daniel said...

Just curious as to why you recommend The Bob Newhart Show (the one in Chicago) over Newhart (the one in Vermont). I liked both but I personally found the Vermont series not only funnier, but also more inventive and more willing to take creative risks.

ScarletNumber said...

You can't go wrong with bingeing The Office. The complete series is always on sale somewhere and you can get for $50 as its usual price. Everybody Loves Raymond, on the other hand, is $83 at Amazon, reduced from $160.

Ted said...

Marta Kauffman always bitches in her interviews about the high salary paid to 'Friends' actors.

What was your view of Ted Danson's high salary for 'Cheers' at that time?

ScarletNumber said...


To me it's because Emily Hartley is a better character than Joanna Loudon.

Cowboy Surfer said...

I've washed my hands more in the last 30 days than Hawkeye and BJ combined during the entire Korean War.

Katie G said...

I would love nothing more than to binge watch Becker, but it's not streaming anywhere except very low quality bootleg versions on Youtube :(

Troy McClure said...

COLUMBO is the perfect escapism for binge watching. A great episode is like a warm duvet on a rainy evening. My favorite one is MURDER BY THE BOOK, directed by a young guy called Steven Spielberg. Terrific performances by Peter Falk, Jack Cassidy and Barbara Colby.

Watching it is always bittersweet, however, as Cassidy and Colby both died tragically.

Unknown said...

Ozark on Netflix. Friday question for Ken - What do you think of this show?

Gary said...

Very off-the-wall Friday question, something I've always wondered about: When a character in a show is reading something aloud from a piece of paper (such as a poem or a letter), are the words actually on the paper he's reading, or has the actor just memorized those lines too?

To me it always seemed like it would be easier if the text was written there, and the actor could simply read it aloud, rather than having to memorize it and pretend to be reading it.

Or perhaps this would be based on the actor's preference?

Anonymous said...

Best Columbo episodes:
Any of the early ones with Patrick McGoohan (Columbo should just arrest him as soon as he sees him), probably the best of them is By Dawn's Early Light (with Bruno Kirby Jr.)

But it's hard to top Johnny Cash in Swan Song (directed by The Coach for you Cheers fans). Besides singing one of Hank Williams best songs, Johnny Cash does a great acting job. Ida Lupino has a small but wonderful role and John Dehner and John Randolph (Emily's father in Bob Newhart) are quite good. And you can never go wrong with Vito Scotti and Bill McKinney.

Andrew said...

My favorite recurring villain in Columbo was Robert Culp. He was perfect in every episode that he appeared in. My favorite was the one in which he himself was a detective, in the employ of the victim's husband (played by an older Ray Milland).

I'll be honest, though, the later Columbo episodes (seasons 8-10) never really worked for me. They certainly weren't the same level of genius as the originals.

As I was writing, I remembered my favorite episode of them all, mainly because of the sympathetic villain. It's the one with Ruth Gordon, "Try and Catch Me."

PJ said...

The majority of the podcasts were on my "when I have time" list. Well, guess what? I have time! I've been listening to them while I walk in the little park near me, keeping at least 6 feet away from anyone.

Also, I second the vote for 30 Rock, it's such a great show. I wish they'd done "Black Frasier" more than once!

Charles Bryan said...

The Writers Guild Foundation just got a new, although modest, monthly donor. I'm looking forward to seeing the panel you were part of last night (when the recording is posted). Be well!

-3- said...

After reading through a great deal of the archive, i feel that i should point out that -3- is how i've been credited professionally since the mid 90s or so, but i'm not related to -30-. (Barring a time travelling descendent, wisely avoiding contact, of which i am unaware)

I might suggest avoiding outright binging on the whole. We're in for a bit of a haul, so pick some good shows and make them your regulars. Be your own network programmer and set up some loose schedules.
For example, i've been watching a couple episodes of Cheers every evening at dinner time. I'll run a movie later in the evening, one each night if i'm watching through a franchise.

If you pick a few series you want to catch or re-watch, you can build a nice viewing schedule and avoid the burn out from endless episodes while binging. It has the added advantage of creating a framework of 'Normal' for your mind to relax within while viewing.

Throw in something new for variety every now and then, and if you like that one, add it to the schedule. After all - you're the programmer.

MikeN said...

The Magicians is a combination of Narnia and Harry Potter, but for adults.

I say again Babylon 5 is an excellent show that belongs in the conversation for best show of all time.

Matthew said...

“A Very Secret Service” is a French comedy. James Bond meets the French Monty Python group...

Very subtle, very French, very funny...
My favorite bit, anti terrorist training....

Bing on Netflix

DwWashburn said...

R/E Cowboy Surfer

I heard this on the Paula Poundstone podcast

Person 1 My word you're hands are so raw!
Person 2: Yeah I've been following CDC guidelines and washing them
Person 1 20 Seconds at a time? You're singing "Happy Birthday" twice?
Person 2 "Happy Birthday"? I've been singing "Hey Jude".

Too Worn Out to Make up a Name said...

FRIDAY QUESTION - What do you think will be the COVID-19 fallout on story-telling when TV shows finally go back into production? For example, on Carol's Second Act, will they be forced to incorporate the pandemic into an episode, into all episodes? Will Last Man Standing deal with Mike's store in danger of failing from several months closed? Will we find Nora from Queens having lost her mind from self-quarantine? Will people no longer shake hands on TV? Will they have to try to predict what things like social distancing will look like two months down the line from when they write and film to seem authentic by the time the show airs? Will this permanently change the face of nearly every show that takes place in the present? Should it, or should they parallel universe all these shows and tell stories business as usual?

Jeff P said...

Hey Ken...
I just read the new Woody Allen book this weekend....
The first 200+ pages were great show biz behind-the-scenes nuggets.....I skipped over the Mia/Molest stuff.
Your thoughts on Woody?

Unknown said...

Another good binge is Monk. Turns out, Monk had the right idea about social distancing. We can learn from him

Fed by the muse said...

Hey, Ken. Was wondering what are the three or four MASH episodes that persist in your memory/ memories of the blog readers (not necessarily your favorite or what you consider the best segments) and a brief reason for the choice(s) made.

Really been enjoying 'binge reading" your blog.


WB Jax said...

One could do worse things with his/her free time not binge watching these shows:

Car 54, Where Are You? (Nat Hiken's follow-up to "Bilko')
Green Acres (Jay Sommers' marvelous array of supporting characters makes this still very watchable)
The Bill Cosby Show (1969-1971 NBC series, comedy minus laugh track, revolutionary for its day)*

* - if you can separate the role portrayed from the person portraying him.

Brit Coms

Only Fools and Horses (recommend start with S3)
Dad's Army (available on Netflix)
People Like Us (BBC "day in the life of a" mockumentary series, first beginning on the radio)