Monday, July 06, 2020

If you produce it, they will come

As a tribute to Carl Reiner, last Friday night CBS aired two colorized versions of classic episodes of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. 


How’d they do? 


They got Friday night’s biggest audience.  3.73 million viewers. 


Pretty good for a couple of 55 year-old episodes of television. 


I found this very heartening.  THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW still holds up. 

And it says something more:  There is an audience for smart sophisticated comedy that is grounded in reality and resonates because it explores universal truths. 


We still can relate to it today because the situations and emotions resonate.  Clearly, there are societal changes, the show was set in a different era, but human nature is still the same, our wants and foibles haven’t changed. 


There are so many shows on so many platforms – why can’t there be one or two that strives for this today? 


If you produce it, they will come. 



Rashad Khan said...

Yeah, but...why did they have to be colorized?

Fed by the muse said...

Me-TV, also as a tribute to Carl Reiner, ran "Coast To Coast" (part of their 'Carl's Favorites') this weekend. As interesting as it was to see a colorized version of the episode it would have been better (and a more respectful tribute to Reiner) to have presented the episode as it appears in syndication, the edits made in the Friday's version, being, IMO, reprehensible (e.g., the entire setup of why Millie is chosen as a game show participant in the first place was excised).

Also watched "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited," this weekend. Not great, but a lot better than I remember.

Kendall Rivers said...

It also says that people still love classic escapist sitcoms in general and need to escape from this terrible reality now more than ever. To your point The Dick Van Dyke Show still holds up as much as I Love Lucy(which they also air on holidays in color and usually gets great ratings), The Honeymooners, Everybody Loves Raymond, Barney Miller, Sanford and Son, Frasier, Cheers, The Andy Griffith Show, Malcolm in The Middle, Roseanne, The Cosby Show, All In The Family, The Jeffersons, The Odd Couple, The Middle etc. All these shows have in common: True to life, timeless well written and acted comedies. The problem with a lot of today's "comedies" is the lack of timelessness because everyone wants to be "trendy" or make a social\political statement all the time. I also think the acting sucks on sitcoms today because the actors are doing it just for the money and the material sucks anyway so why try?

Brian said...

I am heartened by this, but miffed that they cut them slightly.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

"Mom" meets that standard--the best show on network television today.

Daniel said...

I just watched “Show of Hands” again. Wow.

Brian said...

To further your point, it's a testament to Carl Reiner and subsequent writers that allowed both the men and the women to get good, in-character laughs. Mary Tyler Moore has my favorite line in "October Eve". It could have just as easily been multi-talented Dick Van Dyke and his cast of set-up-the-joke people.

Also, considering the current obsession that some people have with some shows, it's nice that Reiner could play several parts (a drunk actor, a verbose author), without any (or relatively little) fan outcry over continuity, a great challenge when one is producing over 30 shows a season. Heck, Buddy had two wives and Rob had several parents!

Finally, it's a testament to Reiner that he mentioned these were two of his favorite episodes and yes, he acted in them, but Bill Persky and Sam Denoff wrote them. They understood the voice of the show so well (and, thankfully, won over the cast) that he could trust them and as time has shown, there was no drop in quality.

Craig Gustafson said...

Before my screed about network TV, something wonderful I observed about character comedy as opposed to jokes.

MEL: Alan, if you're gonna have lunch and get to that meeting, you'd better get going.
ALAN: Shut up, Mel. What are you doing in my chair?
MEL: I don't know.

Richard Deacon's quiet mixture of bafflement and horror was brilliantly done.

Craig Gustafson said...

I broke a huge rule and watched a colorized version of a black & white TV show. Why? Because the person who originally made the show supervised the colorization. And it wasn’t perfect, but it was well done.

So why am I now abandoning all commercial broadcasting?

Earlier the same day, I had the TV on. The Three Stooges. When I was a kid, there would be one commercial break in a 20 minute short. Now, there’s a break every two minutes. A *long* break.

After watching “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” I was mad enough to do the math. I had DVR’d the show, so I could be as anal as I pleased about it. Here’s how things went originally:

A sitcom ran 25-26 minutes. One commercial break after the credits, one in the middle and one before the tag. That’s it. A total five minutes (or less) of commercials. And your concentration on the story was only broken three times.
Show: 83%
Commercials: 17%

I timed the “Coast to Coast Big Mouth” episode. Every five minutes or so, there were over 3½ minutes of commercials.
Show: 67%
Commercials: 30%
Dick Van Dyke’s Intro: 3%

They cut 30% of the episode. It should have been called “Scenes from the Dick Van Dyke Show.”

1. How can anyone with an attention span enjoy this bullshit?
2. If I want to watch this show, why would I watch it with a boatload of commercials? There are so many other options these days.

The only benefit would be people becoming newly interested in the show and tracking down the DVDs. But consistently watching network TV and wasting 30% of my time? I'm out.

Get off my colorized lawn.

Irv said...

The Antenna TV Carson replay on Wednesday night (10pm ET) had Carl Reiner as a guest.

He spent two segments throwing out bit ideas he hoped would guarantee his inclusion in Johnny's next anniversary show.

Good for Antenna TV for audibling (unless it was just an incredible coincidence).

sanford said...

This is a Friday question. Watch the first five minutes of this interview. They talk about how episodes of some shows are being removed. Wonder what you think. the rest is interesting as far as symbolically taking down statues or renaming buildings. While the guest is not against things, there would be better things to do.

Jeff Alexander said...

I avoided the "tribute" for at least one of the reasons that posters spoke about above -- that, even though Mr. Reiner supervised the colorization process, they were still edited down.
Mostly, I avoided it BECAUSE of colorization, which I have been against for years.
I think, too, in this case, it sets a bad example. Young viewers who may not have seen episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show will think that other episodes ARE in color and will seek those out, only to find that they don't exist in color and therefore decide not to watch them.
The black-and-white episodes were a sign of the times, symbolic of television in the 1950s and early 1960s and should have never been touched for colorizing -- to me, colorizing b/w classic shows actually take me OUT of the era in which they were filmed and wind up seeming MORE artificial than the original black-and-white versions.
But, I guess, I should say at least CBS did take time to pay tribute to Mr. Reiner. To the best of my knowledge, NBC, which was the network for Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, both of which Mr. Reiner was a major player, did not.

Kendall Rivers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin FitzMaurice said...

NBC Nightly News gave short shrift to Hugh Downs, who also died last week. Downs was a fixture on the peacock network for years, often working two shows simultaneously. ABC, where Downs spent the last 20 years of his long career, provided a far more fitting tribute.

sanford said...

Carl Reiner traced his success back to FDR and the New Deal and also his brother. Luck plays such an important part of life.

Anonymous said...

Three legends, gone within one week: Carl Reiner, Hugh Downs and, now, Ennio Morricone.

kitano0 said...

I agree with Mr. Gustafson. I can barely take commercial TV anymore. Hell, it's not fun to "channel surf" anymore...all you see are commercials. It also makes me feel like a chump. I feel like the networks are saying "Look at you just sitting there through all these ads, just so you can watch a mediocre program". It's gotten way out of hand.

Bob Waldman said...

Here is CBS Sunday Morning's tribute to Carl from yesterday:

Dixon Steele said...

Re the complaints about colorizing, it's a known fact that certain audiences will simply not watch black and white. For them it's an automatic turn of the channel.

thomas tucker said...

Minority view, apparent, but I love colorized versions because I love to see the color schemes and styles of the era. However, cutting out portions of the show is a big no no to me.

Dan Reese said...

I’m just glad to see these shows get exposure. I don’t love the editing, but I get that’s the economics of network TV in 2020. And I’m fine with the colorization— I think it looks great, Carl himself supervised and approved, and it’s not like the show was in black & white as an aesthetic choice. Other shows were in color in those years, and TDVDS being in black & white was purely for budgetary reasons. So if technology can make them look like they would’ve if they spent the money back then, great.

Anonymous said...

It's simple. They know these shows and movies are better. One reason is that those currently (emphasis on the "currently") in positions of influence would rather remake or reskin the great old stuff in their image or find a current hot social button to disparage old stuff.

Classics threaten them. They can't take credit. They can't monetize them. At best, they burn them off and the money runs out. At best, they disguise them and fool a generation who has not seen them and convince the same generation that the are "not relevant" or worse, "problematic," or worse "going in the vault." But that will never happen because classics will outlive tentative careers built on creative coattails and legal appropriation.

I have seen the research deliberately skewed. The questions are rigged. They listen to the people they want to and shut down the others. The edit the results. They use dated demographic against people who really spend money but don't reflect them because the choice of one person and their yes people are the real research.

The big monoliths are now years from recovery. Big change is ahead. Maybe they'll take a look at the numbers for The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy and not toss them off so easily. After all, they're showing movies on networks that have been long in the Best Buy bins.

Bob Waldman said...

For anyone who'd like to see a detailed almost line by line analysis of the greatness of the "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" script, here is a link to Max Wylie's 1970 book, Writing for Television. I've cherished my copy for years. FYI...this is the full script not what CBS aired Friday,

Jay Moriarty said...

Sitcoms of Substance - Modern Family was funny, timely and substantive--a classic. As are Curb, Fleabag, Catastrophe (no commercials) and, oh yeah, Better Things.

Disbelief said...

They edited content out? Are you freakin' kidding me? The man dies, they say it's a tribute and show this on primetime network TV, only to give it the same chop-shop treatment reserved for syndicated channel showings at 1am? Come on, CBS. Thanks for the effort, but you were already taking a risk of the young demo tuning out, you might as well have showed it in its entirety.

Barry Traylor said...

I watched THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW when it was first on so being in black and white does not bother me a bit I enjoyed it being on and liked seeing it in color. After all the original shows are still available.

Fed by the muse said...

To be fair to both Decades and Me-TV (cable channels), they appear to broadcast their nostalgia series with minimal cuts. By comparison, what CBS did with this airing was a downright travesty (though "October Eve" seemed to fare a bit better than "Coast to Coast").

tavm said...

Now, add a fourth legend we've lost today: Charlie Daniels.

blinky said...

So you think that you've got troubles?
Well, trouble's a bubble,
So tell old Mr. Trouble to "Get lost!".

Why not hold your head up high and,
Stop cryin', start tryin',
And don't forget to keep your fingers crossed.

When you find the joy of livin'
Is lovin' and givin'
You'll be there when the winning dice are tossed.

A smile is just a frown that's turned upside down,
So smile, and that frown will defrost.
And don't forget to keep your fingers crossed!

Kendall Rivers said...

@Jay Moriarty The only one I've seen out of that list is Modern Family. While I loved the first six seasons the latter years were proof of a show that lived way past its prime which hurt the legacy of it for me imo. But I'd like to add The Middle as a modern classic. Now I don't know if you've ever heard or seen it but that was a show that was hilariously funny, well written, acted and had incredible chemistry between the cast that actually felt like a family unlike most family sitcoms these days. I highly recommend it. Btw, loving your book Honky in The House.

DougG. said...

Ken, I would like to agree that "If you produce it, they will come," except that Hollywood has been convinced that only the 18 to 49-year-olds (supposedly) are the only ones worth advertising to. The problem is that crowd (which my Driver's License says I'm a part of) doesn't appreciate quality television. However, in the Spring of 2004, I was far more interested in the FRASIER series finale than the FRIENDS one even though I watched both. Makes me wonder if anyone has actually done a study to see if the 18 to 49 year-olds are really that influenced by being marketed to and don't actually have brand loyalty.

I'm sure, to an extent, that advertising probably has affected me buying Nike shoes but I don't recall growing up in a house that was loyal to any one shoe brand to begin with. I did grow up in a Pepsi household and no amount of Coca-Cola advertising has changed that when I moved out on my own. I already had "brand loyalty" from a young age when it comes to soft drinks. I also know this is anecdotal evidence which is why I wonder if studies have ever been done to show that type of advertising really works. I hope it doesn't really; maybe then we might have a shot of getting quality shows like FRASIER again. I miss laughing at smart jokes like when Frasier had a rough day at work and says, "Abe Lincoln had a brighter future when he picked up his tickets at the box office!"

Can you tell lack of quality shows is a pet peeve of mine, too?!?!

Charles Bryan said...

The colorized episodes don't bother me, especially when the color seemed "vintage", like a hand-painted B&W photo.

In a little coincidence, one of the rerun channels started showing The Untouchables this weekend. That show holds up! (At least these early episodes.) Also, Jerry Paris as second-in-command to Elliot Jess.

No said...

I've always had mixed feelings about colorization of old television shows/films, as I would guess most discerning people do. On the one hand, from the network point of view, there are large swaths of the viewing audience that simply will not watch anything in black and white. Better to have more new people discovering the show, so I would go with colorization if I were a programming executive.

But come on, we all know the real answer: It's always better in its original form. I only want to see THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW in black and white.

Jay Moriarty said...

@Kendall Rivers I must admit I haven't seen much of the latter years of Modern Family, but I do think the early years justify calling it a groundbreaking show. I've heard not-so-complimentary things about the writing process on the show, which, if true, makes the impressive results even more impressive and somewhat baffling. I am familiar with The Middle, a hilarious representation of life in the Heartland, where both co-creator DeAnn Heline and I grew up (Cincinnati). Glad to hear you're reading Honky in the House. Quite a few writers got their first writing credit on The Jeffersons, including Ken Levine & David Isaacs, who went on to create "Almost Perfect," one of my favorites; and Peter Casey & David Lee (who went on the create Wings and the classic Frasier). Michael Moye & Ron Leavitt met on The Jeffersons and went on to create another classic, Germany's favorite American sitcom, Married With Children. I wrote Honky in the House with the goal of explaining what a writer, producer, exec producer, showrunner actually do on a sitcom series. Wondering to what degree you may feel that goal was accomplished.

James Van Hise said...

I watched that the first time it ran. Those episodes were already edited within an inch of their life for syndication but with "October Eve" they censored a scene which can easily be seen in the syndicated version where Rob is in the art gallery looking at the painting of Laura and he gets so close to it to examine some detail (I assume) that his eyes cross. That visual gag was cut out. It was only mildly risque in the early 60s so I don't know why it was edited out now. We never see the painting so it only exists in the viewer's imagination.

J Lee said...

Anonymous Dixon Steele said...

Re the complaints about colorizing, it's a known fact that certain audiences will simply not watch black and white. For them it's an automatic turn of the channel.

7/06/2020 10:11 AM

That's a problem that goes all the way back to the mid-1970s, when TV stations started removing the B&W episodes of long-running 1960s shows in syndication, because even just a decade after networks went to full color broadcasts, viewers were already balking at looking at the B&W seasons of the shows -- the only show that avoided the purge was "The Andy Griffith Show", since if they had done that, the local stations would have been left with just four episodes in color with Don Knotts. (OTOH, when Viacom started up Nick at Nite in the late 1980s one of the advantage they had was in running the B&W episodes of shows like "Bewitched" and "My Three Sons" that had been out of syndication by then for 15-20 years, so they almost came across as 'new' episodes, and were new to anyone who had discovered the shows in syndication and only knew of the color episodes).

The quality level of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" as with "I Love Lucy" allowed it to survive the anti-B&W bias better than other older shows. They were the last of the all B&W shows to be purged from syndication, but 45 years after non-color episodes started to be yanked by local stations, you can see why CBS didn't want to take a chance at running the original ones, though it would be interesting to see the demographic age breakout on the ratings for the Reiner tribute episodes, and how many in the 18-to-49 group were watching. (i.e. -- if the bulk of the viewers were 50-and-up, odds are they would have watched the show if it was in B&W or colorized.)

PolyWogg said...

I have to strongly disagree on this one. A big turn out doesn't mean it's any good, it just means it has buzz and something that attracts people. In this case, a lot of people are at home and not out somewhere else (summer is normally a TERRIBLE time for ratings). The only way to know if it's good is to run another couple of weeks of it and see if anyone tunes in again.

People agonize over this week's ratings, but the majority of viewers watching in prime time are going on either what happened last week or the trailers, not on whether this week is any good. I find it hysterical that anyone would use same night metrics as having ANYTHING to do with this week's show.

IMO, ratings this week are more an indication of a rolling average of the last three shows than anything else. 3 stinkers in a row and people are like, "Meh, what else is on?".


Kendall Rivers said...

@Jay Moriarity oh you nailed it for me. I'm a sitcom writer myself trying to break out and while I'm mostly self taught I have learned how to refine my work thanks to my sitcom writing bible Phil Rosenthal's brilliant autobiography\screenwriting guidebook You're Lucky You're Funny, Ellen Sandler's The Tv writer's Workbook and now am happy to add your book to that high esteemed list.

Edward said...

As I have said in posts over the past few years, I support colorization for 90% of movies and TV shows. For TV shows, if the studio audience was able to watch the show in color, then so should the home audience.

The only upside of B&W from my perspective is that there is no distraction from any visual and the viewer can remain focused on the show. Colorizing a comedy or musical should not be that controversial.

For unique shoes, I confess to watching several Twilight Zone episodes last night. B&W is ok for Si-Fi.

Jay Moriarty said...

@ Kendall Rivers, appreciate your kind words. Nice to know you found Phil's book "You're Lucky You're Funny." I always recommend that book to USC students or other aspiring sitcom writers I run into.

Kendall Rivers said...

@Jay Moriarty A really great book that I got back in 2009 for a crazy deal 99 cents online. I'm glad you recommend it to your students and other aspiring writers because It's very crucial reading I think.

McAlvie said...

My thought on black & white shows and movies - I do understand that if you didn't grow up with it, the b&w format might feel odd. But I also note the trend towards b&w photographs. So there is a quality to the b&w format that has an attraction. Not an expert on the subject, but I believe it has to do with the use of shadows and contrasts that make for a more striking image, and evoking tone, an atmosphere that color can't match.

Re colorizing shows and movies, I am largely against it. Some are very well done, some aren't. The best of them aren't bad, and I think The Dick Van Dyke Show episodes are actually fairly well done. But, when something was originally filmed in b&w, I'm sure great thought went into how to make the best use of those contrasts and shadows. When you colorize them, you lose those elements, and the overall effect is flat. It simply doesn't look right.

Understand that I grew up during the time when shows were making that shift to color, when color tv was only just becoming a thing. So my feelings about colorization are not rooted in nostalgia.

Chuck said...

The Dick Van Dyke show didn't catch on until it's first summer of reruns. It actually managed to find an audience then.

Maybe that's what ABC is hoping for with the new Will Sasso show, "United We Fall".
Has anyone seen the commercials for this? Do writers today not watch the news, be it local or network?

Because the ad features a little girl - perhaps 5 years old - trudging sleepily through the front door and tells her parents, "You left me in the car." (To which I'm sure the laugh-track howls.) Are writers/producers today so desperate for a laugh - or so ignorant of current affairs - that they think leaving a child sleeping in a car is humorous? Lives are being lost. Lives are being destroyed. Parents are going to prison for this awful, horrible mistake.

And the writers of "United We Fall" apparently think it's a hoot.

Maurice M. said...

It's too bad whoever colorized it didn't do a bit more research into the set colors. There are some color photos of the sets out there. The way the sets were colorized was too garish. And they apply the flesh tones with a towel so everyone looks like this weird slightly non-human color.

Maurice M. said...

I'd also like to add that my issue with colorization is the after-the-fact decisions made by people who weren't the original creators. Color literally "colors" the mood of a scene or the image of a character. I've seen beautifully colorized photos from a century ago that paint people in colors that were not in fashion, so it adds this subjective layer to the work that is often inaccurate or changes the tone of the image.