Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday Questions

Last FQ’s of August. Get ‘em while you can.

Chris Dahl starts us off:

I'm watching a ball game on MLB tv tonight and I've seen between inning ads for Applebee's that use the Cheers theme song.

Do you know how music rights work? It must have come up in your TV career and it seems a bit blasphemous to have Applebee's co-opt the good will built up by Cheers.

I’m sure Paramount, Charles-Burrows-Charles, and Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo (writers of the theme) all had to sign-off on it. And I’m sure they were all handsomely compensated.

I seem to recall the CHEERS theme used for a State Farm campaign as well. And an InnovAge commercial.

So this is not the first.  

From 71dude:

What are your favorite emotional sitcom scenes that you didn't write that you think are well-earned?

The final moments of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. And my favorite of all time -- the Father Mulcahy speech in the “Interview” episode of MASH.

Cedricstudio asks:

I was just listening to a podcast with a college instructor talking about a lecture he gave on comedy and joke structure. He said he played a six-minute scene for the class featuring Sam and Diane from the first season of Cheers. While the students enjoyed It and saw value in it, they felt the scene went on far too long and that you couldn't get away with that today. The consensus was that if today's young audiences (who are being conditioned by Snapchat, TikTok, etc.) had to sit through a six minute scene of nothing but two people talking, no matter how good the writing was eventually they would start to squirm. Do you agree? Any thoughts?

I’ve heard that too. It’s certainly true for some people. But I think you have to consider the context.  If the students had followed the show and really were into the Sam & Diane relationship I suspect the scene would have seemed more compelling.  

I also wonder if those college students would have the same reaction if the characters were their contemporaries instead of OK Boomers. Would they be more apt to listen and follow if they related more on a personal level?

So it’s not necessarily the pace.

Younger audiences do have a shorter attention span, or at least the need to multi-task when something isn’t hugely riveting, but I’m finding (especially during this pandemic) that lots of young people are discovering CHEERS and really connecting with it. Obviously, some episodes hold up better than others, but I’m quite proud of the work some thirty years later and still feel the series works, even at its less-than-frenetic pace.

And finally, Rory Wohl has a question about my long-time partnership with David Isaacs.

Even though you both are off doing things individually, do you still consider yourselves partners?

If CBS called today and said, "Ken, baby, the zeitgeist is ready for a reboot of 'Big Wave Dave's,'" would you immediately be on the phone to David with "David, dust off the ol' typewriter, we're back!"?

We do still consider ourselves partners and have reunited to do some pilots together over the last few years.

Despite our current schedules, we’re always on the lookout to find projects we could write and produce together.

Interestingly, when we do sit down to write a script, even after some time has passed since our last one, we fall back into our familiar rhythm and shorthand almost immediately. It’s like we just finished our previous script the night before. There’s no awkward “getting back into the swing” period.

If you know anyone at CBS, we have some great ideas for the BIG WAVE DAVE’S reboot.

What’s your Friday Question?


Troy McClure said...

Talking of Big Wave Dave's, you've said before Hawaii is your favorite place to visit. I recently rewatched the original Jurassic Park at a theater and it still holds up as a classic. In the end credits (yes I'm one of those who stays to the end of the credits), under the Hawaii unit, I noticed the location manager was named Ken Levine.

Coincidence??!! Or did you secretly work on a Spielberg movie?! Lol.

Pat Reeder said...

I think the idea that young people won't sit still for anything that isn't structured like a Twitter thread is the same condescending nonsense as the claim that they can't relate to a black-and-white movie unless it's been vandalized with electronic crayons. Take a look at interior design today: they've grown up in a world that's nothing but black, white and gray!

Mike Doran said...

My name is Mike Doran, of Oak Lawn, Illinois, a southwestern suburb of Chicago.
I've been commenting here for some number of years now, and I've never resorted to an alias.
What follows is a sort of Friday Question - or not; I'll leave it to Ken to call it.

On January 17, 2017, you posted a piece called The March Of Dames.
I posted several comments therein, which taken together were my argument against the Electoral College, with respect to how it backfired in the 2016 Presidential Election.

I caught a couple of negative responses, which in my view were ill-reasoned and illogical, and to which I tried to respond in a civilized fashion.

I was just wondering if you, Ken, or anybody else around here, might want to go to the archives and check those comments of mine out again - because in the three-and-a-half years since, not a damned thing has changed.

Caveat: if any of you do take me up on this, you need to be aware that a glitch in this blog's management caused my name to be eliminated from the byline, replaced with Unknown.
It made it just a bit hard to find the comments in the archives, but I did locate them, and with a little effort, so can you.

If absolutely necessary, I suppose I could restate my whole anti-EC diatribe, but at my advancing age, I'd like to avoid that.

Anyway, I have identified myself at the top of this comment, and I am just a trifle curious as to how far back any of you are willing to go in this matter.

And remember - I am NOT "Unknown".

Kendall Rivers said...

Speaking as a 27 year old super fan of classic tv and movies, which is 90 percent of what I watch and always find enjoy much more than even current shows I do like, I'd say you're right that a lot of younger people just appreciate good tv or movies from any era, but especially the golden ages of film 30's-90's and television the 60's to late 90's.

Unknown said...

Many current shows follow the short attention span of laugh every line (even when it's not funny). Shows seem to last a few years, then fade off into the distance not to be remembered.

What comes to mind, Man with a plan, The neighborhood, Two Broke girls, 8 simple rules, etc.

Seems every ship has a port. And the ports all have laugh tracks.

No said...

Friday question:

One of my favorite MASH episodes from Season 5, "Movie Tonight" incorporates a scene of live singing. Specifically, the "Gee Mom I Want to Go Home" song. As a single camera show, how did they pull that off? There are multiple angles, yet with a continuous soundtrack. Was it done in one take, or was was it stopped and edited for each part?

mike schlesinger said...

I just went back and timed the scene in Alan Brady's office in "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth." It runs seven minutes and 21 seconds. When was the last time a network sitcom had a scene anywhere near that long? "Big Bang Theory"'s scenes often lasted 21 seconds, period. So maybe there IS something to that short-attention-span theory.

Mike B. said...

"I'm watching a ball game on MLB tv tonight and I've seen between inning ads for Applebee's that use the Cheers theme song."

More like you're seeing the ad twice per ad break in a game with at least 18 ad breaks. You think Applebee's would have more than one ad."

Anonymous said...

A Friday Question or two
Baseball writer Roger Angell
(son of the New Yorker’s Katharine Sergeant Angell White
and the ACLU’s Ernest Angell; step-son of E B White)
turns 100 on September 19 .... unless there’s a rain-out.
Ever meet him/any stories?

Breadbaker said...

The last question fits in with my day. Someone asked me (a recently retired lawyer) to look at something pro bono, and I brought in a less-recently retired former partner of mine to help. And we too just fell into our old patterns of work. I'm the big idea guy and he's the practical guy who actually did the court appearances and knows how things go down in front of a judge. It's been nice to revisit old and pleasant work patterns.

Max said...

It's ironic that there's a prevailing belief that...

>>> if today's young audiences (who are being conditioned by Snapchat, TikTok, etc.) had to sit through a six minute scene of nothing but two people talking, no matter how good the writing was eventually they would start to squirm.

...because the trend lately, at least in dramatic series, is not an episodic approach (each show pretty much a self-contained story) (but, uh, I'm guessing you knew that) but an overarching storyline that runs over a whole season or several seasons.

It's ironic to me because when this came up in a few chat groups devoted to STAR TREK: PICARD, and someone said they missed the episodic approach of earlier TREK series, it was YOUNGER FANS (you know, the ones with the short attention span who supposedly can't sustain interest longer than a few minutes) who said they preferred the trend toward serialized shows and overarching multi-episode plotlines.

As Spock said to Dr. McCoy once, "it is NOT fascinating. However, it IS interesting."

Kendall Rivers said...

Friday Question: I don't know if you covered this already but what did you think of the Live Norman Lear shows last year of The Jeffersons and All in The Family? I've seen mixed reactions and besides the performances of Jamie Foxx and Marla Gibbs I found them mediocre. If you didn't care for them do you think it was just the casting of it or just can't replicate the magic of those shows?

ScottyB said...

Here’s a FQ for you @kenlevine. Although it must suck to have pedestrians avalanche you with scripts uninvited more than occasionally, what do you do if, on some afternoon with nothing better to do, you plucked one just for the heck of it, and it ended up actually being good? What would you as a studio/writing veteran do if gold (or even a rough diamond) was sitting in your lap?

My 15 Minute Show said...

@Max brought up a good thought:

“It's ironic that there's a prevailing belief that...

>>> if today's young audiences (who are being conditioned by Snapchat, TikTok, etc.) had to sit through a six minute scene of nothing but two people talking, no matter how good the writing was eventually they would start to squirm.”

Methinks that’s a good cause for debate. Is everyone these days just been dumbed down that much by the media/networks/etcetc — because that’s how we got that way in the first place (horse to water) — or is everyone that way because they’re just secretly dying for something better, like an actual 32-week series instead of a 10-episode “season” of (insert name of show here) and that’s it see ya later until next year ... maybe.

And yeah, get off my lawn you damn kids.

My 15 Minute Show said...

If you ever want to know who’s serious about the craft and who’s not and whose attention span is what, have them sit thru the film ‘Diner’, which is pretty much 95% dialog — BUT relies on performance of those written lines. ‘The Deer Hunter’ also strikes me likewise. Either way, that seems to me the true test of a scriptwriter: Keeping a whole lot of people engaged for 60 of those 90 minutes, at least.

ScottyB said...

Hi, @kenlevine, here’s a FQ for you that might on the surface seem really simpleton but here goes anyway: At what point, age notwithstanding, are you officially washed up in the business? For some reason I thought of the Dick Van Dyke Show episode with the tie salesman and the Cheers episode where Sam hired John Mahoney (he is totally missed) to come up with a jingle for the bar.

ScottyB said...

Followup to @kenlevine re my previous FQ about being washed up, and this time it concerns age: At which point do you not even try, even if you have a good script? The business runs on youth, and it just seems to me that that is valued over everything else. Yes, guys like you who have been in the business since the 1970s are one thing, but — and this may seem like a stupid thought — what place whatsoever is there for mature people who have good chops? Do you know of any success stories like this, rare as they might be? Or do old folk like me just pass our scripts in the desk drawer down to our kids who are theater majors in college and hope that maybe they can do something with them after we’re dead?

Mike Doran said...

Over at Lee Goldberg's Blog, he tells of when he and his partner Bill Rabkin were showrunning Diagnosis: Murder.

It occurred to one or the other of them to seek out scriptwriters whose work they admired as young tyros.

One such writer was Ernest Kinoy, whose career went back to the Golden Days (the '50s and '60s), but who wasn't getting offers lately.

On a flyer, Goldberg & Rabkin called Kinoy, who showed up with a story idea that Diagnosis: Murder could use; Kinoy got the assignment, wrote the script, and it all went so well that a year after that they all got together and did another one.

When Ernest Kinoy passed away a few years later, Lee Goldberg paid him tribute in his blog; he subsequently heard from Kinoy's son, who reported that the old man enjoyed being "back in harness", for a while, anyway.

- Which, I guess, is the lesson here, isn't it?

McTom said...

My Friday question - A college professor of mine (who was a first-year associate prof way back then, and is now a frequently-quoted expert on pop culture in the news) talked about character naming, and used the examples of Sam Malone "M-Alone because he's a lone wolf type", Diane Chambers "her emotions are chambered", and Norm because - "norm". Reading too much into it, or are characters sometimes actually subtly named for personality traits?

Edward said...

Since "Cheers" was a "Sophisticated Adult Comedy" as Warren Littlefield likes to say, the college students were probably not a good poll. I was finishing High School in 1983 when Cheers started and prefered to watch sports and never warmed up to Cheers until the end of the run when I was in my late 20's.