Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday Questions

Kicking off the weekend and Jewish New Year with Friday Questions.

June Bug starts us off:

Most sitcom heavy-hitters these days have become famous before joining the series - think Samberg, Janney, Farris, Deschanel. Are we losing out on undiscovered comic talents bc of Hollywood's reliance on bankable names? Do you think this shift is permanent, or is it just another tide-turning?

Networks have always preferred known stars to front their series. Now more than ever. You’re more apt to sell a pilot if you already have a coveted star attached.

So how do unknown actors get discovered? Generally, by being a supporting character who breaks out. Henry Winkler, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards. The casts of THE OFFICE and PARKS AND REC emerged but had Steve Carell and Amy Poehler as the stars.

The bottom line is this: Networks don’t want to take a chance… on anything.

From Mr. Ace:

What are your thoughts on shows that used animated openings like I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, and could an animated opening work today?

Sure. Why not? Today, more than ever, animation is hot.

If you had a live-action pilot with an animated opening, the thing that might prevent the sale is the live-action show.

And of course, the big problem is convincing the network to let you do any kind of opening title sequence.

Kendall Rivers asks:

I love a good Heck family car trips which made me think that The Hecks have got to be the most believable tv family I've seen in years with genuine chemistry. They actually feel like an actual family which most other family shows of this era lack. The Johnson's on Blackish are just too mean and spiteful to each other, The Juangs from Fresh are too...distant? And the families from modern family are just messes. I feel like if their shows did the car trip episodes or scenes The Middle did I'd be bored to tears or change the channel. What about you? Do The Hecks measure up to your favorite tv families?

As I mentioned in my Wednesday post, I love THE MIDDLE. I often found it funnier than MODERN FAMILY. And it was perfectly cast. Those kids were all amazing. And Eden Sher is a comedy goddess.

It used to bother me that there would be a 30 second promo that would be 25 seconds of MODERN FAMILY tagged with “And a new episode of THE MIDDLE.”

And finally, from Rhonda Aghamalian,

Of all the actors you've worked with/had the opportunity to observe over the course of your career, which are the least like their best known roles/characters and which are the most like them?

In our movie, VOLUNTEERS, Tom Hanks played a preppy asshole, and Tom could not be farther from that in real life.

Same with David Schramm who played sleazy Roy on WINGS. David was a sweetheart.

And I would add Ted Danson as BECKER. He’s anything but a bitter curmudgeon.

On the other hand, Harry Morgan as Colonel Potter on MASH was very much like his character, as was Mike Farrell as B.J.

Happy New Year! I’m ready for a new year. Aren’t you?


Lemuel said...

I have a sickening feeling MOM is gone. It wasn't on in its Thursday night slot, and the early afternoon reruns were replaced by Drew Barrymore's show. I don't have access to TV listings so somebody tell me it ain't so.

Brian Farrey-Latz said...

I'm curious by what Mr. Ace means when he talks about animated openings working "today." THE NANNY had one. CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND had one (the first season). They're rare but I don't think they're confined to any particular era of TV. I'm trying to think if they've ever been used outside comedy.

Kendall Rivers said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken. Forgive me for some of the poor grammar including the wrong spelling of the name "Huang" lol. I definitely agree with you that The Middle was funnier than Modern Family, especially in the later years. They both came out at the same time yet Modern Family eclipsed them in press and awards though both did get about the same ratings I read. It reminds me of the Friends\Living Single situation, both produced by the same company yet Friends got all the push and attention while Living Single frankly was the much funnier and better show.

Viscount Manzeppi said...

This year has already seemed roughly three years long.

MellaBlue said...

Eden Sher should have a case filled with trophies ... and her own darn show! I was so excited when she showed up on an episode of Superstore (another underrated gem of a show) and hoped she would join that cast, but alas ... it was just a guest spot.

I guess that raises a Friday question -- what "supporting" actors out there deserve their own starring spot?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Heck? Heck? What the hell kind of a family name is Heck?!

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

When news of Anna Faris's departure from "Mom" became public, I posted on here that the show was doomed. But that disrespected an outstanding cast that is entirely capable of sustaining the show. My apologies and my best wishes to all involved with one of the finest shows on television.

(Perhaps "Mom" can bring back Sadie Calvano, who was excellent as the granddaughter.)

Mike Doran said...

FYI 'Joseph Scarborough':

Actually, Heck is a perfectly legitimate surname, German in origin.
For many years, DC Comics had a prolific artist (inks mainly) whose name was Don Heck.

Fun Story: Back in '76, there was a comedy pilot called Heck's Angels.
This was a farce comedy set in WWI, with William Windom as Col. Gregory Heck, the idiot commander of an air squadron in France.
It was pretty dire.
Heck's Angels ran as part of a Failure Theater that summer; watching it at home with the family, my father observed "Windom must really need the money."
I told Dad that I'd read that Windom had just gotten divorced - from his fourth wife.
And we all just nodded - slowly ...

Buttermilk Sky said...

MODERN FAMILY had a same-sex couple with a Vietnamese daughter and a Latina woman and her metrosexual son. All THE MIDDLE had was great writing and acting. (Add Neil Flynn to the list of stars who got noticed in supporting roles -- Janitor in SCRUBS.)

cd1515 said...

I had completely forgotten about Michael Richards until you mentioned him, are you surprised he can’t get work still?
Would you hire him or someone like him who had a similar public meltdown?
Or is this just a case of he has millions in the bank and doesn’t need to work?

Lemuel said...

@ Kevin FitzMaurice
Sadie's in the graveyard next to Roscoe and Alvin. Maybe next season will feature Bonnie and Tammy Diffendorf bellowing at each other.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Happy 5781!

Mike Bloodworth said...

Sorry. But I forgot to mention this.
I recently saw on the news where a goat got into a police car and started eating the officer's paperwork. That made me think of the "M*A*S*H" episode, "That Darn Kid" where Hawkeye gets in trouble when Klinger's goat eats the payroll. Coincidently, it was on last night. Not one of Ken's, yet still entertaining.
I guess this is an example of life imitating art.


VP81955 said...

A few "Mom"-related thoughts:

* Anna Faris wasn't all that well-known when she signed onto the series in 2013. She'd had some success in movies, notably "The House Bunny" (2008), but she hit her stride just as the rom-com boom of earlier in the decade faded -- Anna never had the big-screen impact of a Kate Hudson. Movies never quite knew what to do with her, so "Mom" was a wise move for both Faris and Chuck Lorre (the series has earned each millions).

* Season 8 began filming this week at Stage 20, Warners; everyone is production -- including cast and crew -- socially distances when away from the set, in addition to wearing masks. (I'm not certain whether cast members will wear them in character on camera, or whether the series will acknowledge the coronavirus environment.) It likely will premiere in November, in time for sweeps, alongside other CBS Thursday comedies.

* The show at first will seem odd without Faris (I'm a longtime fan of hers, and she was the reason I first followed "Mom"), but it's been an ensemble series for some time now since it transitioned from a traditional domestic family sitcom. Anna's character Christy had become increasingly peripheral, thanks largely to her law school training that kept her away from the action. Fortunately for Allison Janney (Bonnie), who for all her justly-earned awards has never headlined a series, she has a strong supporting cast in comedy veterans such as Mimi Kennedy (Marjorie), Jaime Pressly (Jill), Beth Hall (Wendy), Kristen Johnston (Tammy) and William Fichtner (Adam). The writing staff remains solid, and I have faith they will continue to approach recovery with humor and heart.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

June Bug: Actually, Chuck Lorre has cast quite a few lead actors who were not well known. Most of the cast of BIG BANG THEORY, including Jim Parsons, were not at all known before the show started; same with his latest, BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA (I liked the story of the show's genesis; Lorre had seen Gina Yashere's comedy online and called her agent to ask her to collaborate), which has a mix of new and known actors in its cast. But I assume CBS gives Lorre somewhat more latitude than most, given his track record.

MOM will be fine without Faris. Different, but fine.


Unknown said...

IMOHO, I think Modern Family had sharper writing, created great funny situations, but not really realistic. None of the characters were realistic, but funny! I want to be entertained, not project myself on which character I would be, because I would be Fonzi.

While The Middle was more of a realistic family, realistic situations. And funny.

Both were funny, glad they are around, glad I am able to watch. But 90% of the kids in the shows you won't see again. Let's hope we see the Heck daughter on something, she was good.

Michael said...

It's interesting to ponder the actor who is not like the character. Alan Alda and Hawkeye increasingly merged into each other as MASH went on, but he once said one big difference between them was Hawkeye's obvious opposition to romantic commitment, while he had been married to the same woman forever (now more than 60 years to Arlene). Loretta Swit presumably was nothing like the original Margaret, but more like the later one.

Ben said...

Do you watch any reality shows? Not game shows like Survivor. And not Real Housewives or Kardashians. But what about some of the TLC shows, such as the new one with the family with 14 kids and 4 sets of multiples? Do you think there's are lessons to be learned about drama or comedy from the way these shows are edited?

sanford said...

Drew Barrymore's show is on here on the local CBS station. I like her be she is fine in small does. As for unknown actors. I don't know that any of the cast was that well known. I really didn't start watching the show until reruns. But Courtney Cox had to be the most well known as she did 19 episodes of Family Ties between 1987 and 1989. She was in a bunch of stuff that no one probably heard of until Friends aired. Lisa Kudrow had a recurring role in Mad About you. They all acted but it took a while until they all were on Friends. It seems to me it is all a matter of luck. By the way Schwimmer was on the pilot of NYPD Blue. 4 Episodes in total. Not sure if he was killed or just written off. As for Mom. I don't know how you can call the show Mom when there is no daughter. As for Farris. How do you leave just days before the show is supposed to start shooting and scripts have already been written. That has to be tough on the show runner and the staff. I am sure the show will get viewers to see what the show is like with out Farris, but I think this season will be it for the show.

DBA said...

Kevin FitzMaurice: Sadie Calvano asked be released from her contract several years ago. She doesn't want back on that show.

MellaBlue: Have you watched Star vs the Forces of Evil?

thirteen said...

Re Friends, Courteney Cox had broken through in a Bruce Springsteen video ("Dancing in the Dark") and Lisa Kudrow had already been a regular on Bob (Bob Newhart's series about the cartoonist). I've watched Friends maybe twice. Fighting agin the tide, that's me.

Troy McClure said...

I recently rewatched a few Frasier episodes that featured Brian Klugman as Kirby. What a gloriously hilarious performance. "Damn baby, that's cold!"

If Frasier ever does really return in a new series, I hope they work in a way to bring back Kirby and his mom, played to perfection by Jean Smart.

Anonymous said...

1. How many adults could watch more than a few minutes of Friends??? ... so much audience pandering and condescension, like Happy Days Laverne and Shirley Mork and Mindy ...
2. Cast drop outs and replacements were discussed slightly eight years ago in the blog comments:
Has any non-soap series had as many replacement actors as the Burns and Allen sitcom, which had at least four men play “Harry Morton” opposite Bea Benaderet’s “Blanche?”
Hal March (October–December 1950), John Brown (January–June 1951), Fred Clark, (1951-1953), Larry Keating (1953–1958)
(John Brown, like Groucho Marx’s first band leader, was canned unceremoniously because of the blacklist)
Here’s how George Burns broke the 4th Wall introducing Harry Von Zell and Larry Keating to the show
Taking a cue from Burns and Allen, the season opener of Mom should have the producer come out- mid episode- and introduce Ashton Kutcher as Anna Faris’s replacement

ScarletNumber said...


While Cox was the most famous of the 6, she wasn't famous generally speaking, not withstanding her appearance in the Bruce video.

As for Kudrow, no one watched that show, and she was fired off of Frasier before it ever aired. Perhaps Ken can talk about it some day.

The other 4 had regular roles on sitcoms, but nothing breakthrough. The Friends casting people truly put together 6 unknowns for their show and they struck gold. The most famous person by far to appear in season 1 was Elliot Gould.

Mike Doran said...

Recalling a time on All My Children when one of the platoon of ingenues left the cast to get married IRL, and had to be replaced on short notice.
The episode began with a scene wherein Actress #1 shared a two-shot with TVMom.
Closeup of Actress #1.
Closeup of TVMom.
Closeup of Actress #2, picking up the dialog as if nothing had happened.
Back to two-shot of TVMom and Actress #2, and the show went on.
Audience reaction?
Everybody loved it!
Audiences get a kick out of being backstage with the magician.
They always have, as far back as I can remember (going back to George Burns in 1953).
Some day, perhaps within our lifetimes, the Industry may very well catch on to this ...
(... but I doubt it ...)

Curt Alliaume said...

The second Burns and Allen link above isn't working; try this one instead:

Curt Alliaume said...

>>>The most famous person by far to appear in season 1 was Elliot Gould.<<<

Jennifer Grey and Jon Lovitz might have something to say about that. George Clooney definitely would.

Anonymous said...

So true about stars. However, for The Office, Steve Carell wasn't really a known star when he was first cast. He had the small role in Anchorman and The Daily Show, but by no means was he at that point a name that Americans were going to turn in for He becomes "Steve Carell" with the 40-Year Old Virgin. It comes out after season 1...NBC thankfully had faith in the show, and hopes in the movie boosting its appeal, and picked up season 2. Luckily, that all worked out and we have many seasons after. (I'm getting much of this from the great Office Ladies podcast, which I listen to when I'm not listening to Hollywood and Levine...loving the Batman stories this week!)

Kendall Rivers said...

@Anonymous Okay, maybe you could explain this to me because I frankly don't get it. Why the hell is The Office so popular? I have tried but it's just so damn stiff and too weird, I don't get how anyone can put this on the same list of such high caliber sitcoms as Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld etc. It just seems run of the mill I don't get what makes it so much better than any other modern office comedy.

Charles Bryan said...

The solution for MOM is simple: A son that she gave up for adoption years ago shows up at the door, needing someone to take him in, played by Ashton Kutcher.

VP81955 said...

To Sanford:
While the announcement of Anna's departure wasn't made until two weeks ago, she made her intentions known to Chuck Lorre and the producers early on during the show's extended hiatus, and from the start, season 8 scripts have been written without Christy. (According to Nick Bakay and Kristen Johnston, Christy will have a successful and sober in her new environment. Fans of the show, who love its message of recovery, wouldn't want it any other way.)

To Anonymous:
Anyone who knows Anna Faris would never compare her to Charlie Sheen. She's too much the professional for that. (I'm sure you were being facetious.)

To Lemuel:
You can find "Mom" all over the place if you have cable or satellite. Its repeats are carried on FXX, the Paramount Network, CMT and Nick at Nite, in addition to local syndication packages. Over the years, it's developed a very loyal fan base.

Anonymous said...

Hi Curt and thanks for the correction
I think I meant to post this

I am a jackass!
Take care.

Lyense said...

Friday Question:

Ken, the other day I was watching an old episode of the Simpsons, and noticed that the episode was written by you and David Isaacs. What was it like writing for the Simpsons?

Unknown said...

Re. actor not like the character: George Jefferson is an aggressive, boisterous, cocky dude with a black chip on his shoulder holding what he (and others) would consider to be a legitimate grudge against "Whitey." Sherman Hemsley was none of those. Sherman was a quiet, shy, unassuming individual for whom color distinction did not exist and who signed autographs (and never refused) with the salutation, "Peace & Love."

Re. casting leads for TV series, Norman Lear liked to hire experienced Broadway actors such as Sherman, Bea Arthur, Carroll O'Connor, Bonnie Franklin because those multicam shows were to be performed as plays in front of live audiences.

Kendall Rivers said...

@Unknown YES Sherman Hemsley is another perfect example of an actor so far removed from his characters(Deacon Ernest J. Frye who was George Jeffersonesque though less angry and more shady) and yet played the character so convincingly that people assume he just was that role. Same with Carroll O'Connor who was the antithesis of one of the greatest tv characters of all time Archie Bunker as well as Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton who enjoyed playing Alex because of his more "darker" and self absorbed attributes.

D McEwan said...

"What are your thoughts on shows that used animated openings like I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, and could an animated opening work today?"

Ah, the opening for Game of Thrones was animated. It was not a cartoon, but it was animated, and it "worked" and won Emmy for Best Opening Titles.