Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday Questions

Stay safe and enjoy these Friday Questions.

Richard Pride starts us off:

I recently watched Shelley Long's 1983 Emmy Award acceptance speech. She was eloquent, gracious, and beautiful. She spoke just like Diane Chambers; in fact, that speech could have been delivered by Diane Chambers without changing a word. So my question is, how similar was Shelley Long to the character she played?

Similar enough that Shelley was able to really understand that character and how to play her to perfection, but different enough in that Shelley is not nearly as neurotic and buttoned-down as Diane. 

Diane was too in her head to have a committed relationship.  Shelley was a wife and mom. 

Another difference:  I don’t think I’d like to have lunch with Diane Chambers.  Shelley Long is delightful dining companion. 

From Daniel:

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?

Owings Mills and it was lovely.   There was a great deli nearby.  We lived in a condo complex not far from the expressway.   A nice townhouse and there was a pool. 

Chad Holmes asks:

In which of your jobs did you feel the most pressure? You talked about how Cheers was a low rated show in the first season while you knew it was good material. What kind of pressure was that? Or taking over as the lead people at MASH? Or the struggles with a new show with a big star like Mary? Where did the pressure really hit you the most?

David Isaacs and I were champing at the bit to take over the writing of MASH. 

On CHEERS we always felt we were turning out good shows.  We never felt there was anything more we could have done.  We were on the lowest rated network against a hit show on CBS.  That wasn’t our doing.

But what really took the pressure off was NBC president, Grant Tinker who very much believed in the show.  So we knew we had the network’s back. That is HUGE. 

Creating a show for Mary Tyler Moore was indeed pressure filled.  It was our own show, so we wanted to prove ourselves.  There were the comparisons to her old show, which was a classic.  And CBS put us in a terrible time slot against a top five show.   So for all those reasons, I’d say MARY over MASH or CHEERS. 

And by the way, I’m very proud of the work we did on MARY and stand by it to this day. 

And finally, from Brian Phillips:

Which TV show have you directed that has had the least amount of retakes (a no-reshooter? No-taker?)?

The “It’s a Wrap” episode of ALMOST PERFECT because there was a giant pie fight.  I shot it twice – once on camera blocking day (at the end of the day).  Then crews worked all night to clean everything up and we shot it once more in front of the audience.  

That’s probably a seven or eight minute chunk of the show.  I had five cameras (one a steady-cam) and no second chances.  I shot the pie fight scene then wrapped.   The audience got out probably an hour early. 

Many factors go into retakes.  The director needs additional coverage, new lines are inserted, actors slip up, there’s a boom shadow, a camera missed a cue to move, an actor is off his mark, etc. 

What’s your Friday Question?


Jeff said...

Wikipedia's entry on MTM indicates she was very unhappy with the producers of Mary. Would that include you Ken?

cd1515 said...

Friday question....
you said this about retakes: “The director needs additional coverage, new lines are inserted, actors slip up, there’s a boom shadow, a camera missed a cue to move, an actor is off his mark, etc.”

Serious question from someone not in your business: how many of those things would the average viewer have even noticed or given a shit about?
Sometimes I think TV and movies are too perfect in that no one in real life ever makes a perfect impromptu speech (See: any Sorkin project) without pausing, stumbling over a word, repeating something, etc.

I get that you all want it be as good as possible but is that always completely necessary?
Could some of it just be inside baseball stuff that no one else would see?

Gerald said...

"chAmping at the bit"

Unknown said...

Wow, learned something new today from you. Yes, the Shelly Long thing is interesting, BUT you had "champing at the bit". I always thought it was chomping at the bit, since it refers to a horse biting his reigns. But a little googling, and they both mean the same thing, but champing is the preferred one. Did Not Know that!
Thank you,

Mike Bloodworth said...

Sure. You wouldn't want to eat with Diane Chambers, but would you "do" Diane Chambers?
A lot of men would have sex with a women that they wouldn't want to spend any time with.

VP81955 said...

Mike, many men wouldn't want to have sex with a woman they perceive to be smarter than they are (and while I certainly wouldn't label Diane's character as stupid, I sense much of her "intellectual" nature is a facade).

kitano0 said...

@VP81955 I can see what you mean, but I never thought it was a facade, she was just one of those awkward smarty-pants that didn't know how to socially dumb herself down around 'reglar folks!

Troy McClure said...

Ken, during the pandemic, some stars and writers have taken part in live streamed "watch parties", where they do commentaries on a movie they've done.

Would you and David consider doing a live streamed watch party for Volunteers or a Cheers episode? I'd actually like to see you do a snarky commentary on Mannequin 2! Live streamed snarky Ken would be great fun!

If you're not keen on doing any of those, another script reading of a Cheers episode with George Wendt and your baseball announcer friends would be most welcome.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

kitano0: One of the smartest people I've ever known, a Cambridge computer scientist, was (among other things) well-known for being able to talk to anyone and everyone. The secret isn't "dumbing yourself down". It's being genuinely interested in other people.


kitano0 said...

@Wendy M Thanks. You are absolutely right. That's the secret of all communication.

Dave said...

My Friday questions...

1. I loved Becker's fifth and sixth seasons with Nancy Travis as Chris because er sunny disposition was such a perfect counterpoint to Becker's grumpiness. I would've loved it if such a character had been there from the outset. Was there a pressure to avoid a will-they-won't-they theme with a Danson character as it might be compared to Sam and Diane?

2. I'm currently enjoying the John Allen Hill episodes of Cheers and think that conflict for Sam really brings up the energy to the show. Could you tell us anything about that scenario - perhaps how it came about or why it ended?

Also, I love your 'Wheels of Fortune' episode of Frasier. A bright-spot in a troubled season.

Best wishes.

Todd Everett said...

BUT you had "champing at the bit". I always thought it was chomping at the bit, since it refers to a horse biting his reigns.

“reins” 😏

Sparks said...

Have you developed an opinion about which streaming services do the best job of presenting your shows (or shows generally)? As in, restoring cuts made for commercials, using or deleting laugh track, video quality, etc. Maybe the same question regarding your movies.

Jay Moriarty said...

When I think of Diane's character, I always think of the episode where Sam goes to her apartment (I think it was the first time he ever went to her place) and when he rings or knocks at the door, we cut inside to see her watching TV. And when Sam announces himself, she quickly turns off the TV and picks up a book.

Aaron Sheckley said...

The expression was originally "champing at the bit". Chomping at the bit started to appear as a variation much later. The original meaning of champ is to show impatience at restraint. It wasn't just about the specific action that a horse was doing when he was chewing on the bit; I imagine a prisoner in the Bastille could just as easily have champed at his restraints in 1780, and it wouldn't have meant that he was chewing on the manacles around his wrists.

Both expressions are acceptable now as far as Websters is concerned, but "champing at the bit" was first.

Kendall Rivers said...

Friday questions:

1. I came upon your wonderful David Schramm tribute, I didn't even know he died until I saw It yesterday. You mentioned that you felt that while all the cast was wonderful that the inspired casting choices were Tony Shaloub and David. You said such nice things about David I was wondering since you listed Tony on his level could you share your memories of working with Tony and why you think he was so perfect on the show?

2. One of my favorite Becker episodes is The Usual Suspects. Can you share any interesting tidbits about that episode and the making of it? Also why the hell Sargent Burkow wasn't added to the series as a regular? He would've been a great replacement for Bob.

Mike said...

I always enjoy reading Ken’s recollections of Shelley Long, because I think she’s so unfairly maligned when Cheers is discussed. People seem to resent her for having the nerve to leave a successful series. I admire people who have the guts to take chances in life.

Mary was a solid show, with a lot of potential. It’s a real shame CBS didn’t nurture it into the successful series it should have been.

Sogn said...

In MASH very often we see Radar, and later Klinger, using the PA system, but all other announcements come from someone who's never seen in the entire course of the series. There's also no credit for the voice. Was this intended from the beginning as a running joke akin to Maris and Vera never being seen on FRASIER and CHEERS? Of course the analogy breaks down because the voice was never referenced by the characters, but the absence is very striking.

Ray said...

This is a long lead-in to a simple question, but bear with me. If anyone would remember this, it would be you or a reader.

I am happy to say I have found myself safe from the most oft-cited examples of the Mandela Effect. I am quite clear on how "Berenstain" and "Flintstones" are spelled; there was no genie movie starring Sinbad; and Mandela himself did not die in a South African prison.

But now I've got one, and it's driving me bonkers. Perhaps it was Carl Reiner's recent death that dredged it up. I recall, plain as day, that he, or Norman Lear, or maybe both of them, developed a short-lived television experiment in the 80s. In my mind, it was called "Sunday Dinner," and the premise was that it would bring the family back in front of the television set on Sunday nights the way we all did in the 60s with Ed Sullivan or the Wonderful World of Disney. It was a clip show featuring the best moments of other shows that had been on in the previous week- on just its network (CBS, in my mind) or all programs, I can't remember. If it existed, I didn't watch it more than once, and my recollection is it was canceled in short order because the ratings proved we couldn't go back to that kind of family viewing anymore.

So far, so bad. But here's the thing: there WAS a Norman Lear show called "Sunday Dinner" on CBS in 1991- but it was nothing of the thing I remember. It was just a conventional sitcom starring Robert Loggia and Teri Hatcher. I got the "short-lived" part right, too- it lasted just six weeks in what used to be called "summer replacement season." I've also checked Lear and Reiner's filmographies, and see nothing of the "clip show" variety that is as real in my mind as Sinbad's genie movie is in others.

So am I mistaking this title and provenance for something else that WAS on? Or has my brain been Mandela'd?

Mike Doran said...


The Carl Reiner clip show you describe was called Sunday Best.
It ran on NBC for three weeks in February '91, several months before the Lear-CBS sitcom.
I saw one of them at the time, and it was every bit the compost pile that you recall.
(By the way, Norman Lear had nothing to do with Sunday Best; in fact, if I recall correctly, he almost had to change the title of his own show because of it … but the early fail made that unnecessary.)

Dene said...

Watching and enjoying some late 80s Cheers at the moment.

Woody Harrelson's mullet always throws me a little though. I don't think Woody Boyd would wear his hair like this.

Was this a case of the actor growing his hair that way and it wasn't considered a big enough deal to ask him to change?

Or, maybe it's just me and there's nothing wrong with it.