Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday Questions

Remember when this would be the start of a big July 4th weekend?  Here’s some FQ’s to distract you.


benson  gets us started.


Assuming there was a TV writers wing of a Television Hall of Fame and it was similar to baseball's, on you plaque, which "cap" would you be wearing? MASH, Cheers, Big Wave Dave's?


The big assumption is that I get inducted. 


but I would say MASH.  It’s the series that’s most revered, and there’s certainly a special place in my heart for it.  MASH is absolutely the show that launched our career.  I wear that hat proudly.  But can I wear a CHEERS scarf?


scottmc asks:


Antenna TV just aired the BECKER episode 'Drive, They Said', which David and you wrote. The description of the show indicated that 'Becker finds three men(Bill Cosby,Ray Romano and Kevin James) side by side in his waiting room". A couple of questions; were you on the set when it was taped, had you worked on Everybody Loves Raymond prior to this? The scene with Cosby, Romano and James was cut. At first, I just figured it was cut so the station could add commercials. But I read that the scene isn't included in the DVD. Any insight connected with this Becker is appreciated.(Were you responsible for the description of the poetry of baseball. Was the opponent always going to be McGuire and the Cardinals?)


Yes, on the last two questions. 


As for the Cosby/Romano/James teaser – this was a promotion that CBS ran one night.  All four Thursday night sitcoms at that time took place in New York, so they thought “wouldn’t it be fun to have crossover episodes for all four shows?”  Each show would do a teaser featuring all four stars in character.  Each show had to figure a reason for the four to get together.    And if I’m not mistaken, they filmed the one for Cosby on the West Coast.    His show was actually filmed in New York. 


I was on the BECKER set the day they shot that teaser.  This was before I directed Ray so I didn’t know him at the time. 


Here’s what I remember:  Ray Romano and Kevin James were lovely.  Bill Cosby was a giant asshole.  Fortunately, Cosby came with his showrunner, who was basically his wrangler. We'd still be there if it wasn't for him. 


But Cosby questioned everything, balked at everything, and made it a much less pleasant experience for all concerned.  It also took several hours to film instead of a few minutes.


To my knowledge, that teaser has never aired beyond that one night.  I don’t miss it.  I’m sure if I saw it again it would just bring up lousy memories. 


From Troy McClure:


Ken, I've never seen a Natalie Wood movie (I'm sorry). Which do you recommend I start with? Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice?


I would say SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS.  Maybe LOVE WITH A PROPER STRANGER.   She’s delicious in THE GREAT RACE, but I don’t know how well the comedy holds up. 


In WEST SIDE STORY she plays a Puerto Rican, which is a stretch, and her songs are all sung by someone else.  Not her shining hour. 


And finally, from marka:


I'm here listening to your podcast where you're talking about rewriting jokes for your play "A or B" until six in the morning.


Are you mostly coming up with new jokes in a situation like that or rewriting the original jokes - different words, different beats, different dialects, different set ups, but essentially keeping the same joke?


Mostly new jokes.  In some cases I may toss out a run and substitute a new one. 


I’m less inclined to tinker with an existing joke that doesn’t work.  I’d rather shoot for something new.


What’s your Friday Question?



Lemuel said...

I saw a promo for a colorized "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" to air tonight on CBS, if anyone's interested.

Chris G said...

Speaking of Cheers gear, I visited Fenway last year and was sad that the shop nearby didn't have any Mayday Malone gear. Surely that sort of thing would sell!

Anonymous said...

I thought there was a law in California that if you haven't seen a Natalie Wood movie, it is mandatory you start with Rebel Without a Cause.
I'm pretty sure that law is still on the books.

Kendall Rivers said...

I asked this somewhere else but I don't know if you saw it FQ: I know you and David worked on Wings which is a grossly underrated show and yet one of the funniest and most enduring sitcoms for me at least. It also had an incredible writers room filled with some of the best in the "biz" people like Dave Hackel, Steve Levitan, of course Casey, Angel, Lee etc. I was hoping you could talk about what it was like working with that caliber of writers in the room and what the process of a production week at Wings was like?

benson said...

Thanks for using my FQ, Ken. Stay safe.

Also, speaking of Cheers merchandise. I have a coffee mug and beer mug. "Cheers. Detroit."

(Picked up at the Cheers-themed restaurant at Metro Airport, back in the day)

Daniel said...

I guess this could be a Friday question. I'm from Baltimore. When you worked for the Orioles back in 1991, which area of town did you live in during the season? Hopefully you have mostly pleasant memories of the area?

Paul Gottlieb said...

"Love With a Proper Stranger" shows Natalie Wood at her very best AND surrounds her with an amazing gifted cast, a terrific director and cinematographer. The first 2/3 of the picture has a real-life, gritty feel that reminds you of a great Italian film. Almost every minor character is perfectly cast. And Natalie is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Seeing her and Steve McQueen working beautifully together is such a pleasure

Wally said...


Some info from past posts that may or may not fully answer your questions:

Kendall Rivers said...

@Paul Gottlieb I have only ever seen Natalie in one part and that's West Side Story. Last summer after Doris Day passed I finally saw a bunch of her movies. I'd love to do the same with Natalie. What's your top five best of hers you'd recommend?

scottmc said...

TCM pays tribute to Carl Reiner on July 28th. It appears they will be showing Where's Poppa, Oh,God and All of Me. Thank you for the backstory of that episode of Becker.

WB Jax said...

It always surprises me that what most critics consider "best of" episodes of this/that series rarely fall into my top ten (that is, the segments that persist most in my memory). Thus my favorite DVD and MTM shows are not, respectively, "Coast To Coast Big Mouth," "Chuckles Bites The Dust." If Carl Reiner, were he alive today, asked me to name a couple of favorite DVD eps I would probably name three: "The Curious Thing About Women,""Go Tell the Birds and the Bees," and "Talk To The Snail." If Jim Brooks/Allan Burns similarly inquired about fave "Mary Tyler Moore" shows these would (probably) be "Thoroughly Unmilitant Mary," "Lou's First Date" (MTM, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, guest star Florence Lake, all absolutely shining in this episode) and "I Was a Single for WJM." "MASH" is a good bit more difficult, as they produced so many truly outstanding episodes, but, getting it down to four: "The Late Captain Pierce" (written by the Charles Brothers) "The Novocaine Mutiny (Burt Prelutsky, beautifully walking the "dramedy tightrope"), (Ken's and David's) "The Billfold Syndrome" and "Sons and Bowlers" (a terrific, affecting latter season entry by Elias Davis and David Pollock), The one series where I can't name "best of" eps (because there were too many "gems") is "Frasier," which, IMO, from "go," hit one "home run" after another, season after season. As for my favorite series of all time, "Star Trek," my top episode picks, S1's "Balance of Terror" (an "Enemy Below in Space" story) and S2's "Mirror, Mirror," tend to be among most fans of the show's top five (though the other series mentioned had double, and in the case of MASH, triple, the number of eps produced, making it a good bit harder to "narrow down" a couple of examples from those earlier mentioned shows).

What are your favorite DVD/MTM and MASH (and, if a sci-fi fan, Star Trek) segments?

Kendall Rivers said...

@Wally Thanks! I appreciate that.

Troy McClure said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken!

mike schlesinger said...

Not a fan of SPLENDOR; IMHO, it's a drag and the character does her no favors. INSIDE DAISY CLOVER covers the same territory far better. And REBEL is indeed a key film.

Comedy-wise, GREAT RACE holds up very well, though it's no MAD MAD WORLD (RIP Carl). I'm also partial to the grossly underrated SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL. She's very good in PEEPER as well, though the detective spoof may be a little too inside-baseball for casual viewers.

Finally, mention must be made of two classics she made as a kid; they're supporting roles but must be seen anyway on general principles: MIRACLE ON 34th STREET and THE SEARCHERS.

WB Jax said...

Wanted to make an addition to my own DVD "best of": "I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All." The "twist" in this story being beyond ingenious...and it's just one 'very fun" half hour of vintage TV (courtesy of Persky and Denoff).

Michael said...

First, I just fine it impossible to believe that Bill Cosby was unpleasant. Um ....

Now that we're done with the sarcasm font, a thought on "The Great Race." I honor them for dedicating it to the memory of "Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy," and a lovely little fact is that the Oscar winner for sound effects that year was for "The Great Race": Treg Brown, who was the genius behind the sound effects in Warner Bros. cartoons. Therefore, there's some genius involved.

But I always recommend that first you watch one of the great moments ever conjured by Carl Reiner: The episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob, as Professor Alan Brady, gives a lecture on slapstick.

blinky said...

My Friday question is about the trend of cutting episodes from old series that are now offensive. Tina Fey cut 4 from 30 Rock due to black face (and white face). Community cut one with Chang in black face as an Elf. Now Elfs are offended??
I wonder when they are going to start cutting shows that make fun of gays, women or any of a hundred things that are now un-PC. When you watch 30 Rock there are literally jokes in every episode that would never be done today. Are we headed to a world like the South Park Christmas episode where everyone was so offended by everything that they ended up doing the Christmas Pageant in grey sack cloth chanting monotones.
What's Halloween going to be like when nobody can dress as anything but themselves?
Knock, Knock
Who's there.
You can't ask that, it's offensive to doors!

Janet said...

That's a shame about that teaser but of course I'm not surprised about Cosby.

It's reflective of a wider phenomenon which is pretty common these days for series in syndication.

A number of shows would have "crossovers" on other shows which shared networks in first run but when separated in syndication don't make as much sense anymore.

That always irks me....

CRL said...

C'mon. Everyone goes in wearing the M*A*S*H* hat.

Big Wave Dave's continues to be underrepresented.....

Mike Bloodworth said...

I've never seen you in any kind of hat let alone that M*A*S*H cap. Was that a cast/crew souvenir or did you buy it online?

Did Cosby try to quaalude anybody?

"The Great Race" still holds up pretty well. And though I haven't watched it since I saw it in the theater "Brainstorm" was a pretty good film. (extracurriculars excluded)

Referring to your "Dick Van Dyke" script, I'm guessing it was just a personal exercise. But it inspired a FRIDAY QUESTION.
Would you advise students and wannabe writers to practice writing scripts for old/classic TV shows to develop the skill? Or should they concentrate on current shows? Or should they do neither and work on their own material?
And in terms of getting work, is there any benefit to pulling out a "Barney Miller," "Green Acres" or "Married with Children" script? Or would you be laughed right out of the office? And not the good way.
Did you and David write practice scripts before you got into the business?
I'd like to know.


D McEwan said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but I love The Great Race, and watch my DVD of it at least annually. Sure it's a dis-unified bag of odd parts, but it's a fun dis-unified bag of odd parts.

When I saw it with my dad in a theater in its original release, when Ross Martin's stunt double dove out the castle window into the boat he instantly destroys, well, never before or since, did I see my dad laugh harder than he did at that. He practically exploded.

And it's always worth watching if only to hear a drunken Jack Lemmon say, "You great Leslie, you."

Steve D said...

Ken, please give credit where credit is due. The singing for Maria in West Side Story was done by Marni Nixon. Who also did the singing for the female leads in My Fair Lady and The King and I. Some also speculate she did some post production work for Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

TimWarp said...

As a kid I loved the Natalie Wood comedy "Penelope" where she plays a kleptomaniac (haven't seen it since so I don't know if it holds up either). "Miracle on 34th Street" is a must watch every Thanksgiving+ season. And "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" just evokes the end of the 60's so well (not that I as a high school freshman in Texas had anything in common with Beverly Hills millionaires) - and I get lost in how gorgeous she was and what beautiful clothes she wore.

My favorite DVD show has to be "The Impractical Joke" - "Scream like a chicken" has been a catchphrase in our house for 55 years.

kkozoriz said...

The Great race holds up very well for me as well. Sure, the rest of the cast is great but it's worth it just for Jack Lemmon just letting go and looking like he's having the time of his life.

And the pie fight.

Breadbaker said...

Let me throw in a little love for "Gypsy". Natalie not only sang her own songs, but "Little Lamb", which is a lovely and effecting, was shot live on film, rather than dubbed from a recording. Most of Rosalind Russell was dubbed from Lisa Kirk. Natalie is obviously second-billed, but she gives an excellent performance is a pretty difficult role.

Fed by the muse said...

Glad to see someone mention Ross Martin (can still remember hearing the announcement of his 1981 death on a New Orleans radio station). Catching most of a recent Wild Wild West marathon it's hard to imagine a more appropriate pairing of two actors than Martin and Bob Conrad, the personalities of the characters Artemus Gordon and Jim West, from what I've read, being quite similar to the actors who portrayed them.

A good show, one with superb, well-matched leads. Could have easily lasted into the early seventies (ala Bonanza, Gunsmoke).

JS said...

Friday Question - A lot of buzz about Netflix's new reboot of Unsolved Mysteries.

They went host-less. I think it needs a host. It's like every other crime-show without it.

The host makes it stand out. They rely on the music to make it seem like the old "Unsolved Mysteries."

I understand no-one wants to try and fill Robert Stack's shoes. But, it just seems like every other show of this type.

It is well produced and the episodes are good, but. IMO, it needs a host.

Your opinion?

WB Jax said...

Friday Question for you, Ken. Recently watched the S5 MASH episode you and David wrote in which Radar seeks to improve his writing skills via a Las Vegas-based correspondence course. In the episode there's a scene where Frank Burns confiscates Igor's tapioca pudding, only to discover, after first bite, a "surprise" in the pudding (you guys must have been proud of yourselves when coming up with the "surprise"). We all know what a talented actor Alan Alda is, but I wondered if there were certain scenes like this where the "payoff" was unknown to the "reactors" in the scene until the cameras rolled (so as to generate on film a seemingly spontaneous reaction) or are people like Alda simply masters at "cracking up on cue" even after a scene is rehearsed/blocked?

Unknown said...

Were / are you a fan of the TV series Bones? How would you like to have been a writer on that show? Talk about throwing around some medical terms! What do you think of the gross looking, maggot covered corpses?

Bob Waldman said...

Hi Ken,
Is there a certain length you aim for when you write a one act play?