Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday Questions

How is everybody holding up? Stay safe and enjoy some FQ’s.

Michael starts us off.

If I recall some game show hosts in 60's and 70's were first disc jockeys in the Los Angeles area - is this something you ever tried to pursue?

No, but it’s something I would have loved to have done. It’s a much harder job than it looks and the great ones make it appear easy. So I can’t say for sure I wouldn’t suck. But I’m pretty quick-witted and can count so I might’ve pulled it off.

However, when I came back to LA after bouncing around the country as a Top 40 DJ, my sole focus was breaking in as a TV writer, so I never pursued it. Who knows? I could be Pat Sajak today.

MikeKPa wonders:

What do you think of the proposed baseball alignments around Cactus (Florida) and Grapefruit (Arizona) locales? Makes better sense than all games in Arizona (enjoy those 100-degree plus games),

If you want baseball this year there's going to have to be some alterations.  The alternative is no baseball at all.  I don't think the Cactus League/Grapefruit League idea is going to fly because players are not going to want to play in hot steaming Florida all summer and take three-hour bus rides to get to games. 

Arizona makes much more sense if they go that route.  Personally, I'd like to see baseball in some form.  What that might be I have no idea.  But I'd bet against the Cactus League/Grapefruit League realignment. 

From kcross:

What is parking like at the studio? Is a special area allocated for each show? Do show-runners get names on their spaces? Are you given a parking pass to hang on your mirror to get past the guard, like we do in college?

It depends on the studio and how important you are. Shonda Rhimes is going to park right in front of her office with her name on the parking space regardless of the studio. I’ll be assigned a general lot somewhere.

Parking is usually at a premium, especially as movie studios have added office buildings and increased the number of employees. Many have erected large awful parking structures. The one at 20th is the worst.

Universal is more spread out so there’s a better chance your parking space will be near your office. On MASH we parked behind our office in the Western town set for Butch Cassidy. Those were the days.

Generally, employees park in big structures. The real nightmare is for visitors.

As for getting on the lot, most studios issue employee magnetic cards that allow them to enter, and all studios have separate entry lanes for visitors and employees.

I think the last time my name was stenciled onto my parking space was 1986.

Vincent wants to know:

I once asked you if you ever lied about being a professional - and Emmy-winning - comedy writer to avoid amateurs pitching story ideas to you. But what about when, like everybody, you are around someone who thinks he's funny but REALLY isn't (they are all over Facebook, BTW)? Have you ever been so irritated by the person's "jokes" that you reveal your true identity?

No. I just find an excuse to get away from the jerk. I never want to use my position as a way of belittling someone.

But more often if someone does know my background and tries to dazzle me with their terrible sense of humor I fake an awful headache and excuse myself (leaving him to wonder if the headache was caused by him).

And finally, from Charlie:

Why to the entertainment guilds allow closing credits in TV broadcasts to be run at breakneck speed and/or shrunk down to a small box? In either case the credits are unreadable on a TV set.

I wish I had a good answer for this but I don’t. It’s a deplorable insulting practice.

My guess is in the grand scheme of major thorny issues between the guilds and the studios/networks this is not one to go to war over. No one is going to strike over this issue. But like I said, it’s disgusting.

What’s your Friday Question?


AlaskaRay said...

Thank God! I was getting concerned about all those headaches you were having when we got together.

Mr. Ace said...

Friday Question: I was wondering when you are on a writing staff how are taxes done? Do you get a tax form from the studio or do you have to do your taxes quarterly?

Linda said...

I saw this and thought you might like to see this

What's your take on it?

Pete Grossman said...

Thank you, Ken, thought I was crazy re: 20th Century parking.

Back in January, after many years, visited a colleague on the 20th lot. Holy shit! Could not believe the hassle in the parking structure. I felt like a pinball being knocked around in a machine that was always tilting. Finally, after traveling ramp after ramp, and bypassing "compact car only" spaces - which seemed to be every one, got a space near the roof - then walked through a labyrinth for 10 minutes to get on the lot. Oddly, and unfortunately, there are a lot of spaces there now.

Honest Ed said...

You think Shonda Rhimes drives herself?!!!

Andrew said...

How weird that you wrote about the topic of game show hosts. I've started watching Wheel of Fortune regularly since the lockdown began. I never watched it that much, always preferring Jeopardy. I've really become impressed with Pat Sajak. He has a gift for comic timing which I never paid attention to. He can roll with the punches of the game, making clever quips on the way. He has the audience eating out of his hands. When he banters with Vanna, he often puts her on the spot.
What I especially like about him is that he never puts a contestant down. When someone makes a big mistake or has a bad night, he uses light humor to address it with empathy. He never gives the impression of being superior or condescending. I never thought I'd be a Sajak fan, but in these days we need more of him.
(Trebek, of course, is still the master. Thank you, Cliff, for saving the game.)

Ficta said...

OMG, those shrunk down, sped up talked over credits. What blows my mind is when they've clearly paid a lot for, say, an expensive classic rock tune, and then blare some promo over it. Even the streaming services bigfoot the closing credits by dumping you into the next episode unless you're really quick with the remote and remember how to disable the autoplay for that particular service. I mean, you've already paid for Netflix/Hulu/Whatever; why do they care if you watch the next episode RIGHT NOW?

CRL said...

I guess it's Friday, huh?

Anonymous said...

The studio parking talk reminded me of "Episodes", where many scenes were by the cars right outside the studio.

Did that show seem realistic from a writer's perspective? I mean overall, not the parking.

Anonymous said...

A Friday question:

Dodger broadcasting legend Vin Scully always worked solo during his entire career, never with a partner on-air at the same time. Do you think he would have become as famous and respected if he had been just a play-by-play or just a color guy? I don't think he would had a chance to shine, that he would have been JUST a solid professional


Michael said...

About lying about what you do ... I love the comic strip "Pearls Before Swine." The artist, Stephen Pastis, draws a dirty, scraggly version of himself, and there's one strip where he's at a bar and says something to a woman like, "I see you're reading the comics. I do a comic strip." She looks interested and says, "Oh, really, which one?" He pauses and says, "Calvin and Hobbes." The final panel is her asleep in bed and him sitting in bed thinking, "That was so wrong."

Bill Watterson, who drew Calvin, loved it, and wrote to Pastis to tell him. They ended up collaborating on some strips they then auctioned for charity. That was perfect.

As for hosting game shows, I remember in the late 1990s when the networks suddenly rediscovered them, someone asked Regis Philbin why he was now in prime time, where everybody is supposed to be young, and all of the game show hosts were in their seventies, and he said because we all came up in radio and live TV and learned to ad-lib, and that's what you need to be able to do to host a game show.

Troy McClure said...

Friday question

I often read about former stars who've fallen on hard times with medical and financial problems, living destitute and lonely. People like Valerie Perrine from Superman and Susan Richardson from Eight is Enough. What I never understand is why none of their co-stars and friends from back in the day offer to help. I know that some people might be too proud to ask for help, but surely people can reach out? Are people in the industry that uncaring? With all the wealth they have, you'd think they could give their fellow actors support. Why do you think impoverished or sick actors are so easily forgotten?

It particularly pisses me off when stars line up to tweet their tributes and memories whenever one of these forgotten celebrities dies. I'm like, where were you when they were living in a trailer park or couldn't pay for medical treatment?

Andrew said...

Off the subject, and sorry for posting twice, but I thought this was funny. Especially the third video: the words of Trump spoken by a female lounge lizard holding a drink.

McTom said...

(Everybody's got an opinion...) Worst garage to me is Laemmle at Universal, hands down. Always an extra 10 minutes just driving in or out of the garage labyrinth. I don't mind the Galaxy garage Fox. And they have guest EV charging, which most don't. But the Zorro garage at Disney is depressing just because it's the former backlot. Parking under Passamaquoddy...

David said...

I know you never reply to questions on salary and residuals but this is about the general feeling in the writer's room when a star gets a massive pay hike.

Example : Kelsey Grammer got somewhere around 1.6 million per episode of Frasier and for the last 2 years took home some 75M.

How did the writer's room react to that? Writers too deserve deserve a substantial hike at those times right?

Anonymous said...

At CBS, Columbia Square, even the Account Executives (sales people) got thier names on their parking place. When I retired, they framed mine and it hangs in my man cave. I should take it with me when I visit other CBS lots, so I have my own space. Go to the Studio Center (Radford for you new guys) and occasionally had to park in the new structure. That was nightmare. Used to go to TV City and they always had a hand printed name tag for me. Not anymore, not owned by CBS.

Rebounding said...

I was wondering if there is pressure put on actors to bring their previous cast members along for the ride. Do you think that Zachary Levi gets calls from Ryan McPartlin or Sarah Lancaster asking him to get them into his next movie?

Ellen's Ungenerous said...

Yikes! Ken, did you see this twitter thread from last month in which people were invited to share their horror stories about Ellen DeGeneres? She sounds like an appalling person! The way she's treated her writers is especially awful. And she even tried to get a waitress fired for having a chipped nail.

J Lee said...

Warner Bros. did a cartoon back in the mid-1930s that was a parody of movies, where the credits rolled at breakneck speed ... at least they rolled at breakneck speed compared to 1930s credits. Fast forward 85 years, and that parody would look slow compared to how quickly some credits zoom past (which is still less annoying than the credits rolling as the final scene of the show/movie plays out on screen).

Mark said...

Friday Question:

I wondered whether, when doing single camera shows, if takes are mixed together. Do they use one take completely, or take one line from take 3 the next line is from take 1. Don't know why exactly but I've wondered that for years!

thevidiot said...

I parked in the water tank at Paramount (used for filming water scenes like most of "Lifeboat") when there wasn't something shooting there. No name on my space & often someone else took it, even though it was assigned to me. Studio life!

thevidiot said...

Each line is considered from the individual takes as long as action is a decent match so takes are definitely mixed together.

Edward said...

@Troy McClure Your reference to Valerie Perrine is incorrect. The actress you meant to identify is Margot Kidder.

VP81955 said...

I've been at CBS Radford several times for screenwriting seminars, including one in a building that hosted offices of the planned "Roseanne" revival (which of course is now "The Conners"); a parking spot in front was reserved for Ms. Barr. Since it was on a Saturday morning, I didn't see her (although I bet a few of her writers were there).

At one of the two "Mom" episode filmings I saw at Stage 20 at Warners -- the same soundstage where Bette Davis filmed "Jezebel" in 1938, for which she'd win an Oscar -- I saw a nearby parking spot, car already there, reserved for writer/executive producer Nick Bakay. He'd come a long way from Salem Saberhagen (the animatronic cat he voiced on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," where he was head writer).

VincentS said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken.

Stu R said...

Pat Sajak might have been a DJ, but he got the wheel job from his work on KNBC in LA. He was the weatherman on the newscasts and was a freaking riot. He had the late great John Schubeck in tears of laughter with his spots. The best was the bandage that moved everytime the camera was on Pat. Its weather in LA...who cares. Must watch TV in the late 70s in LA.

RyderDA said...

I saw this really interesting vide regarding popular TV shows through the ‘80’s & 90’s and thought that not only would you like it, yo might have some insights on the trends.

Troy McClure said...


No, I definitely meant Valerie Perrine. Whilst Margot Kidder certainly had her problems, she continued to get work, she frequently attended comic cons, and she lived independently. Ultimately her ongoing battle with depression took its tool and she decided to end her life.

A friend of Valerie Perrine had to start a GoFundMe to raise funds to pay for her medical expenses. She apparently lives in a tiny apartment and is bedridden from the effects of strokes and Parkinsons. This after a lifetime as an actress.

John said...

I'm in the UK so have limited context. But was just reading Warren Littlefield's book Top of The Rock (mentions a show called Cheers - wonderfully written, not sure by whom...). In the book, post-Cheers, an NBC exec named John Miller talks of moving credits so they were "not full frame but off to the side". This was in the 90s. Of course it was to do with maintaining audience from end of one show to the next. "Research indicated that we would cut down on our audience loss - from 25 per cent to 5 percent". Shame on them, though. Miller goes on to say, "Then I had to go to the guilds and tell them...". He doesn't state their responses, presumably as they were unprintable. From googling, he's still around to be challenged on this, making sure to avoid accidentally haranguing a great baseball commentator.

Nick Monk said...

I am a big fan of the Clue movie (1985). Do you enjoy that movie? If there is a re-boot, who would you cast? Who do you think would be a solid writer/director?

Y. Knott said...

(T)his is about the general feeling in the writer's room when a star gets a massive pay hike. Example : Kelsey Grammer got somewhere around 1.6 million per episode of Frasier and for the last 2 years took home some 75M.

David, I was never a writer on Frasier, but I'm going to say it's pretty safe to assume the attitude was this:

A) The show is called Frasier;
B) The guy who plays Frasier is the reason we're all employed;
C) If he can hold up the suits for 75 million, good for him; and
D) We're all doing pretty well off this, all things considered.

And no, there isn't a writer in the business who would think for a second, "Hey, maybe if he'd only asked for 74 million, they'd have divided up the extra million amongst the writing staff!" If you've been a screenwriter for anything more than about twenty minutes, you'd find the very notion hilarious.

James Van Hise said...

Regarding credits, in the 1980s Warner Brothers almost got into trouble over missing credits. This is when movies were released on videotape and the tapes were of a finite length. Superman The Movie was so long that even on a 2 1/2 VHS tape it didn't fit so they cut off a lot of the end credits. Someone who was working on the video master pointed out to Warners that by leaving off several minutes of credits at the end they were in violation of their contracts with the guilds. Warners quickly had the full credits printed up as a paper insert to put in the package when the film was released on home video.

Melissa C. Banczak said...

Yes! Please tell us what you thought of Episodes. I couldn’t get enough of that show.