Friday, May 08, 2020

Friday Questions

How you holding up? Here are some Friday Questions to get you through another week.

Janet leads off.

What do you anticipate what the lockdowns and social distancing is going to do the networks' fall TV schedules?

Wreak havoc.

Very few, if any, of the pilots for the fall are completed. And at this point nobody knows when shows can go back into production. I don’t think there will be a fall TV season. In about another month networks will run out of new material. It’s going to be an interesting summer.

VP81955 wonders:

If social distancing continues for a prolonged period, or even if it doesn't, could it spell the end of multi-cam shows filmed before a studio audience? Having attended four of them over the years, I'd hate to see them discontinued. (Actors I know feel likewise; they feed on the energy found in that environment.)

No. At some point things will get back to normal, sports stadiums will have large crowds (except for the Oakland A's), theatres will re-open, and audiences of 200 (TV tapings) will be allowed.

The big question is when?

From -30-

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.

People forget that when he was a national broadcaster (baseball and golf on NBC, NFL football on CBS) he did have analysts (e.g. Joe Garagiola, John Madden) and he was as great as ever.

Vin Scully was always a play-by-play guy.  Analysts tended to be former players.

Scully came up at a time before anyone had analysts, and he learned to work without them. Truth be told, there was nothing any analyst could say (especially regarding baseball) that Scully didn’t a) already know, and b) couldn’t articulate better.

When Scully began, young announcers were encouraged to have styles and personalities. Very different from today where young announcers are all brought up to be generic and safe (and for the most part, dull).

And finally, from Jim S:

Friday question. I was watching "Bob hearts Abishola" because it was something to do before "Better Call Saul" comes on and it takes place in my hometown of Detroit.

I notice the show is filled with actors from the Chuck Lorre stock company. Got me to thinking, showrunners will often bring actors they've worked with from prior shows. What's the thinking behind that?

You’ll also notice that those actors who appear in his stock company are funny. Yes. Over time, showrunners return to actors they know can deliver. On more than one occasion I’ve had an idea for a guest role and would ask the casting director about a certain actor’s availability.

Movie directors have always done this as well. Preston Sturges had a stock company of actors who appeared in film after film of his. How many times did Billy Wilder use Jack Lemmon? Or Mel Brooks use Gene Wilder?

The danger is that the actor becomes too familiar, but if you have enough of them it’s a God send – like a baseball manager with a deep bullpen.

What’s your Friday Question? Stay safe.

UPDATE:  Many of you have asked -- on Monday I will be sharing my thoughts on the new HBO Natalie Wood documentary.  This will give more of you time to watch it on the weekend. 


Unkystan said...

Vernee Watson seems to be Chuck Lorre’s “go-to” hospital nurse on his shows. Now she’s regularly stealing scenes on Bob ❤️ Abishola.

Fed by the muse said...

I think the networks should air all of the rejected pilots from the last, say, five years, to see if network wisdom aligns with audience tastes. At least they have the shows "in the vault" to broadcast. Also, series' that received one or two airings (such as the reboot of "Ironside") should be shown as weeks of these shows were produced.

Also, it would be fun to have one night a week of retro programming (with the original matter how "un PC"), the idea being if people love hearing old songs on the radio that the idea might work for vintage television programs. This would give fans a chance to see old favorites, perhaps shows that never made it past a single season (including many of the shows not currently broadcast on nostalgia networks or not available on DVD), presented as originally broadcast. It's an idea, anyway.

John Leader Alfenito said...

RE: Vin Scully working "solo" - what about Jerry Doggett and then Ross Porter?

Bryan said...

One of the great evenings of my life, I had checked out of my Vegas hotel, and was waiting to go to the airport. The sportsbook was closed for the night. One big screen had the dodger game on. I sat in the darkened room, had a beer, and listened to Vin booming over the speakers. Unbelievable.

Curt Alliaume said...

I grew up on New York Mets baseball broadcasts, both on television and radio. For the first 16 years the franchise existed, they only used three broadcasters for all the coverage: Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner. Generally they'd have one soloing in the radio booth and two in the TV booth, but that varied (and they'd switch around over the course of the game), with more opportunities for two or three of them to work together on games not televised locally. I guess it's possible Kiner did less solo play by play, but I'm sure he did some. When I moved to the Chicago area in 2000, I was stunned that Ron Santo never worked solo; when Pat Hughes took an inning-long break (usually the fifth inning), the pre- and postgame host would handle play by play.

Scully certainly did a lot of solo work with the Dodgers, but he wasn't exclusively solo. When he first started doing Brooklyn Dodger games, he worked with Red Barber.

Jim Amato said...

Question for Friday Questions:

-Being a M*A*S*H viewer for a very long time, I've noticed that Hawkeye had similar characteristcs to Groucho Marx. Was this a choice from the writers for the development of the character, or was it something Alan Alda came up with? Was Groucho even a model for the Hawkeye character?

Greg said...

What do you think of the HBO documentary "What Remains Behind" by Wood's daughter?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The Mets TV broadcast booth of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez is terrific. They all know and respect their roles. And there's great chemistry. When other people have filled in for any of the 3 it is often dull and doesn't feel right.
While the Yankees are consistently the better on field team, at least the Mets can be watched (and listened to on the radio) even if the players stink!

Woody Allen had his stock of players. Not just Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow and Louise Lasser but Judy Davis, Julie Kavner, Dianne Wiest, Tony Roberts, Wallace Shawn, and of course David Ogden Stiers and Alan Alda.

Sal said...

Hi Ken,

I was reading some articles on Oscar tickets. I was surprised to learn that not all the members get the tickets to see the show. About half is given to nominees, presenters, media and mostly studios. The remaining half of it is given to the members.

So they have some sort of a lucky draw and then those people get to go. Doesn't that piss off the members? Being able to go to this glitzy show is the main perk of being a member and voting, isn't it?

I am asking since I believe you are a member (though you never mention it).

What about the Emmys? Is it easier to get a ticket?

gottacook said...

Gene Wilder was in only three Mel Brooks movies (and got a writing credit on the last of them, Young Frankenstein, after which he started to write and direct his own movies - none of which I've seen).

tavm said...

I noticed on one ep of "Bob Hearts Abisola", John Ratzenberger was a guest star as a date for Christine Ebersole's character. It seemed to imply he might be recurring if the show returns. I certainly hope so!

Troy McClure said...

Ken, I'm sure lots of us are keen to hear what you thought of the new Natalie Wood documentary on HBO.

This review in The New Yorker says it's basically a glossed over PR job that tries to say there's nothing sinister about her death.

Anonymous said...

Why *not* go to a proven actor you've worked with before, and who you know will deliver the goods?

Barney Miller had a stock company approach, and it worked very, very well. I think Philip Sterling popped up half-a-dozen times, never playing the same character twice!

Unknown said...

What about reruns? When I grew up, summer was just full of reruns, we can catch up on the episodes we missed during the season. Of course, this was before VCRs. And if anyone wants to watch a rerun of Mom, there are 3 places to stream it.
But if memory stands true, there were a few shows that the reruns saved them from cancelation.

Anonymous said...

@ Curt Alliaume
if Ron Santo did the game solo you wouldn't know what was going on.
You might not even know what sport it was.

Michael said...

Mr. Alfenito raises a good point, but Vin didn't do all nine innings for most of his career. When Jerry or Ross did the 3rd and 7th, Vin was off the air; they were off the air for his innings. And so it went when Vin broke in with Red Barber and Connie Desmond, and when Don Drysdale and then Rick Monday and finally Charley Steiner arrived.

A story about that, told by Ross. Don was new to the team and told Ross that he was used to talking with the other announcer on the air, and would Ross be ok with that? Sure, Ross said. Ross introduced Don for the first inning of their first spring training game together, Don started off, then said something to Ross, who responded. They chatted a bit during the first half inning. When they went to commercial, the phone rang in the booth. It was Peter O'Malley telling them to shut Ross' mike while Don was on the air. After the game, Don went to Peter--they'd known each other forever--and asked why. Peter said, we don't have two on the air at the same time. Don said that 25 other teams did that. Peter said, yes, but we don't.

Vin did the NFL for seven seasons on CBS and worked with about eight different analysts. The story that Terry O'Neil, who was the executive producer in his final season, told was that CBS had agreed John Madden would be the lead analyst, and Vin and Pat Summerall would each do four games with him to determine who would do the Super Bowl. After the eighth game, O'Neil and the top staff met, and everybody, with the exception of the division president, voted for Summerall. He then called Vin to tell him the "exciting" news that he would be doing the NFC Championship, and Vin basically hanged up on him--and O'Neil said he will always regret making that phone call and saying it the way he did. But his argument was that Scully and Madden both liked to talk, so there was no breathing room, while Summerall took the Ray Scott approach of saying as little as possible, which helped Madden. Maybe. But if you check out You Tube for Vin's football broadcasts, or have watched the classic reruns of NBC games recently, he talked much more than most play-by-play men do now, and more's the pity that they don't talk more.

Rick Hannon said...

The upside of the COVID-19 shutdown is that I am able to finally get to the podcasts. I'm doing so in order, and just finished #33, your conversation with partner David Isaacs. In it you describe how you transitioned to dictation of scripts using a writing assistant. My (Friday) question (with apologies if a subsequent podcast covered the matter): have you further transitioned to using automated voice recognition transcription? My iPhone provides me with transcriptions of voicemail messages. The differences between what I read and what I hear when I listen to the message can be startling. And if you continue to use a human to transcribe, is that person permitted to interrupt with questions for clarifications? Does the person ever dare to offer suggestions, alternatives, solutions, etc.?

Mike Bloodworth said...

It's a funny coincidence that I was going to ask a question about casting similar to Jim S's. Yet, it's different enough that I'll ask it anyway.

Over the years I've noticed that some new sitcoms throw together casts of well known actor's from other shows. (You would often see them listed in the TV GUIDE, Fall Preview Issue) Ironically, these shows usually aren't very good and don't last long. Even though it seem counter intuitive, all these "stars" didn't seem to benefit these sitcoms.
FRIDAY QUESTION: What is the thinking behind this kind of casting choice? Is it to try to compensate for a weak premise and/or poor writing? Is it the idea that if they liked the actors in other shows they'll like them here? Is it because the networks demand these stars because they don't have confidence in the pilot they okayed? It's strange, but good or popular actors don't always mean good chemistry. I'm not singling out sitcoms. Movies do it too.

James Cameron and Paul Verhoeven are also well known for using the same actors over and over.


Steve Weed said...

Talk about stock companies .. Jack Webb repeatedly used the same group of actors and actresses throughout all the TV runs of "Dragnet". Episode after episode, you'd see the same players -- sometimes as cops, sometimes as crooks. But their performances always fit the story. In fact, I recently watched a 1953 Dragnet epsiode I hadn't seen before, and discovered he completely recycled the story for a 1968 episode, using the same actors and the same dialogue!

Lemuel said...

I don't know Lorre's "stock players" background but I noticed on MOM there were two actors from THIRD ROCK and two from MY NAME IS EARL.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Unkystan: I know! The number of times Vermee Watson has played a nurse on Lorre shows is amazing. I was really glad for her that she got to be a cast regular on BHA.

On MOM, Mimi Kennedy is not just a returning guest star, but a returning *regular* - she was Dharma's mom on DHARMA AND GREG.

Can you really fault Lorre for reusing these actors? The list includes Laurie Metcalfe, Johnny Galecki, and Sara Gilbert (Lorre started in sitcoms on ROSEANNE), Christine Baranski (CYBILL), Kathy Bates (TWO AND A HALF MEN, DISJOINTED, BIG BANG THEORY), Teller (DHARMA AND GREG, BIG BANG THEORY), Casey Sander (GRACE UNDER FIRE, BIG BANG THEORY), William Fichtner (now on MOM, and I see he was on GRACE UNDER FIRE, too), Nicole Sullivan (DISJOINTED, BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA)...and Jon Cryer made an appearance on MOM recently.

I mean, really, which one would you kick off a stage?


Anonymous said...

I'm so old I remember Vernee Watson from Welcome Back,Kotter! Janice B.

Nick Jonas Fan said...

Vin Scully was *great* with Joe Garigiola. Garigiola was great when he was with Scully, and good, but not great, with others.

One of Scully's other under-appreciated talents was getting out of the way. Sure, Vin knew baseball as good or better than someone in the next seat, but he would tirelessly and beautifully set his partner up to perform, every time. There are other hosts like this, who don't mind when the spotlight moves, or who like it when other's shine. Vin was one of the best.

VP81955 said...

The wonderful Wendie Malick has guested on "Mom" (as Adam's ex) and "Bob [Hearts] Abishola" (which I'm thrilled was renewed) as a society friend of Bob's mother. Matt Jones also has both Lorre series on his resume, in the goofball supporting roles he does so well.

71dude said...

Hector Elizondo appeared in every movie (17 in all) directed by Garry Marshall, from "Young Doctors in Love" (1982) to "Mother's Day" (2016).

George Wyner was in six Steven Bochco series, as well as multiple MTM shows.

Tom Galloway said...

Given the prevalence of them at the moment, I'm wondering if any network will get desperate enough to do a series consisting for the duration solely of table readings of scripts?

And on hearing that, I believe, Blindspot will finish it's last episode via animation, I'm wondering if any show has considered using animation for love and fight scenes (or any scenes normally requiring close physical proximity).?

Saburo said...

Any empty baseball stadium meme/punchline has to lead off with the Marlins.

blinky said...

Director that almost exclusively used his pals: Tim Burton. Johnny Depp and Helen Bonham Carter are in a;most ever one of his movies.

Jim Amato said...

Being a lifelong fan of M*A*S*H I've noticed that Hawkeye shared some of the same characteristics as Groucho Marx. Was this by design from the creators and writers, or was it happenstance? How much of a say did the actors have in the characteristics of the in their roles?

I'll hang up and listen. Thanks!

Troy McClure said...


Carter hasn't been cast since they got divorced.

bmfc1 said...

I think that I'm preaching to the choir here but it pisses me off when people have to justify or explain why they were watching a sitcom on network TV. It happened here last Friday when a reader felt obligated to explain to you why he watched "Bob Loves Abisohla" while waiting for a prestige drama to start. Bob is a funny show with heart that gives insight to a culture that isn't shown on network TV so no excuse is necessary! This extends to critics and the Emmy voters who ignore these shows.

Mike Doran said...

This is not so much a Friday Question as it is a suggestion:

I'm returning to an ongoing hangup of mine, The Edge Of Night, the best daytime drama (OK,soap, if you insist) ever.

The Decades channel is rerunning Dark Shadows nightly, in original broadcast order; for 50+ years old, the shows don't look bad at all.

Over at YouTube, some folks have found Edge Of Night shows from 1979-1984, more or less complete; apparently Proctor & Gamble has preserved them pretty well.

As a test, I'd like some of you to check out some Edge episodes - specifically three eps from 1983: Thursday October 20, Friday October 21, and Monday October 24.

Actually, Ken, I'd like for you to watch these three shows - for their story content, of course, but also because some very interesting people turn up in the cast (no spoilers - you need to see for yourself).

Edge Of Night was only a half-hour, and the YouTube posts mostly edit out the commercials, so watching these comes to less than a movie-of-the-week, under an hour and a half.

All I ask is that you (any of you) just watch these shows, to see if you think that Edge Of Night might be useful as a placeholder on some station that needs one for nightly use.

Who knows - you might actually enjoy what you see …

cd1515 said...

Best thing I can say about Vin Scully is I don’t care at all about the Dodgers and I’ve watched a million Dodger games over the years, ONLY because of him.
Also haven’t watched one since he retired.
Can’t imagine that ever happening with any other broadcaster.

Janet said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken!

You're right, it's going to be very interesting to watch.

Studios are also going to have more decisions to make about their releases.

Kendall Rivers said...

Friday Question: What do you think about this current reboot\revival trend? It's a very polarizing issue with some actually liking these shows while more seem to despise and ridicule them. Personally if I want to watch Magnum, PI I will watch Hallmark Movies and Mysteries or if I want to watch Roseanne I will watch it on Tv Land etc. Same goes for the Norman Lear live show things. Woody Harrelson as Archie Bunker imo was a tragedy and I really like Woody.