Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Questions

Wrapping up October with Friday Questions.  What’s yours?

DBenson starts us off:

How accurate was "Frasier" in presenting a radio station? In retrospect, it seems a little odd that they'd have so much original and seemingly unsyndicated programming (Did they play music at all?). Recalling a WKRP episode where Venus was recruited by a station that just needed a local voice to plug into nationally programmed playlists, that being the expanding reality back then.

Radio was mostly local in those days, which is why radio was soooooo much better in those days.

As for the technical aspects of the radio station, FRASIER was not very accurate but they were way better than WKRP in that department.  FRASIER at least was modeled after a real radio station — KABC in Los Angeles.  

Engineers are not also producers in large market stations like Seattle.  Normally there is a producer in a separate booth who screens the calls.  The engineer plays the commercials and controls the volumes. 

The host has a computer screen that tells him who the callers are, where they’re from, and a thumbnail of what they want to talk about.  It was that way back in the '90s.

Rarely does the engineer go on the air as often as Roz did.  If she did she would have to be AFTRA and the station would have to pay her as an announcer. That wouldn't happen.  

The host can’t just break whenever he wants.  He has a log that tells him when commercial breaks or other format elements need to be introduced (like traffic and news).

All that said, no one other than radio people might be bothered by these minor inconsistencies.  Creative license is certainly justified.

Now WKRP was ridiculous.  No headphones, the way they played the music — bore little relation to any real radio station.  But like you, I enjoyed the show.  So what if it wasn’t accurate? 

Do You Do any Wings? asks:

Do former (or current) radio broadcasters make better podcasts?

On the whole I’d say they present themselves better.  Content is king in podcasts, but broadcasters have more polish.  Speaking for myself, when there are episode where I just talk for a half hour it sure comes in handy that I’ve had many years of hosting talk radio shows and doing baseball play-by-play.  I’m comfortable just turning on a live mic and talking. 

Subliminally, I suspect audiences feel more comfortable knowing they’re in good hands. 

But harping on a point, if the subject matter isn’t interesting, the most polished broadcaster in the world can’t make it worth listening to.

Curt Alliaume wonders:

What did you do during the early years when you were breaking into the industry and looking for writing work? How did you search and how much time did you dedicate daily to finding jobs?

Originally, I was still a disc jockey.  I was working in San Diego and would drive up to LA every weekend to write with David Isaacs. 

When that job ended I moved back to Los Angeles and looked for a day job.  I would have taken anything that didn’t require nights or weekends.  I landed a job at the KIIS Broadcasting Workshop, a broadcast school.  The money was crappy, but it allowed me to keep my head above water and write with David several nights a week and every weekend.  I would have worked at Sears selling car batteries if that was the only job available.  Writing was my main job. 

David had a daytime job at ABC in the (now obsolete) film shipping department. 

And finally, from Kendall Rivers:

As you may already know there were two streaming reunions of Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond two shows which you were involved which I thought was funny and was wondering what you thought about them if you've seen them.

Well, since they’re usually fundraisers for Democrats, I LOVE them. 

But seriously, they’re fun, and it’s great to see these casts together again.  It’s also a nice way to thank the fans of these shows. 

I wonder how much money a BIG WAVE DAVE’S reunion would bring in? 

And on that note, VOTE.  Thanks much.


Lemuel said...

I noticed the disconnect between WKRP being a top-49 station and Johnny Fever playing a long Pink Floyd song. But it was in the service of a great joke:
"Do I hear dogs barking on that record?"
"I do."

Michael said...

Friday question: Do you have any insight on why the attempt to replace Lowell on WINGS with a new mechanic when Thomas Hayden Church left didn't work out? The new character Budd only appeared for 8 episodes before simply disappearing. Question occurred to me after happening to see the actor Brian Haley as a contestant on an old episode of Classic Concentration from the 80's hosted by Alex Trebek (he won about $15,000 in prizes).

Troy McClure said...

William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon and the other original cast members of the classic 80s horror Fright Night are having a reunion script reading tonight 8pm ET to raise funds for Michigan Democrats.

Jeff Alexander said...

Today's Friday post where you discuss the inaccuracies about the Frasier radio station and WKRP in Cincinnati makes me wonder if you've ever seen another radio station-based sitcom from 1967, Good Morning World.
I know you're a big fan of The Dick Van Dyke Show and you probably know that longtime scribes for that series created/produced and wrote several episodes of Good Morning World with Joby Baker, Ronnie Schell, Julie Parrish and a pre-Laugh In, Goldie Hawn (the one-season series is available on an official DVD release for around $50 on Amazon). If you've seen any of the episodes, what did you think of them?

Glenn said...

Only in sitcom land could a radio personality have sex with someone on the air, like Frasier and Kate, and still be employed for several more years.

Stormy said...

We're watching through old MASHes on MeTV, how did they shoot the "home movies" we saw in some episodes? Radar, Frank, and Henry all had home movies that were shown during the run.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I was stupidly disillusioned in my younger days when I realized that WJM-TV did not represent most small television news departments. At the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Ky. in 1970 (the year MTM premiered), the station had a six-person news staff, including one woman, a la Mary Richards. The newscasters had no dressing rooms and wrote and produced their own broadcasts (no Murrays),the sportscaster doubled as the 11 p.m. weatherman, and the news director covered fires, accidents, and luncheons himself with a Bell & Howell 16mm film camera.

The only similarity to WJM is that the male newscasters did sometimes wear blazers with the station insignia sewn on the breast pocket.

Only later did I appreciate that do-it-yourself is really the way it should be in the TV news business.

Darlene K said...

I noticed that the little airplane flying a banner for station KACE at the opening of some Frazier episodes. Was that intentional as in a psycho case?

Dusty said...

Hi Ken!

I'm watching How I Met Your Mother and there's a clear point where Alyson Hannigan is pregnant. Every scene she's sitting behind a table or holding a prop in front of her belly. They also did a bit where she was so offended by a joke that she refuses to hang out with the gang and isn't on for a few episodes. What are your favorite ways you've seen or used to cover an actress being pregnant and then going on maternity leave? I think Cheers and Seinfeld both had the characters go to Europe? New Girl had the character sequestered in jury duty which I thought was clever.

Troy McClure said...

A movie about a screenwriter is the front runner for the Oscars!

MellaBlue said...

I've been watching old episodes of WKRP -- a show I've always loved but always forget how much until I watch it. Anyway, I've noticed that a lot of writers and crew people show up throughout the show as various bit characters. My question is do those writers/crew members need to be unionized? Do they get paid scale? Or is this just a handy way to save some money on a show that was constantly under the threat of being canceled?

Ben K. said...

The Paley Center, along with various entertainment publications and conventions, have been staging cast-and-creator TV-show reunions for years. (I think at least some of them were filmed and are available for streaming.) I've attended a few in person, but time and expense made it difficult -- so it's nice that they're now being done in a way that allows anyone to view them from home.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I produced a live celebrity talk show at what is now Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. There were floor-to-ceiling windows so the park guests could watch as we worked, and to see the guest stars. I screened the calls, and counted off the contest entrants ("caller number seven wins free tickets"), and wrote the trivia questions. We had an engineer (the unsung heroes). We also had a "person on the street" interviewing guests but that was pre-recorded. We all wore headphones.

We had the ability to cue music that was related to the guests. For June Lockhart, we played "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise" because it was written by her father, Gene Lockhart. She was surprised and delighted because she was close to her father and because she was involved with NASA (because of Lost in Space) and they played astronauts were awakened to the song one morning during an Apollo mission.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Do former (or current) radio broadcasters make better podcasts?

Is it not plain that Ken is a top-notch announcer with great content?

I'd say Ken edits his podcast - but I'd guess one of those credited at the end does that.

I'll guess editing is an easy gig here, since Ken (and many guests) self-edit as they speak.

Mike Bloodworth said...

When I was in college my broadcasting professor would often say, "This is NOT WKRP!" Mostly because he didn't want us to imitate what we saw on TV, so we didn't learn bad habits.

There's a lot more flexibility on a non-union station.

One time I had to cut to an unscheduled break when I got the giggles. I was reading some Reuters news copy and I hit the word "hooligan." (They use British English.) For some reason I just lost it. My board-op had to play some PSA's until I could get it together. Not very professional, but the lesser of two evils.

New topic. I've noticed that when writers are together for a long time they have a tendency to start writing for each other with a lot of inside jokes.

FRIDAY QUESTION: Have You and David ever inserted an "inside" joke into a script that no one else would get, but that makes you laugh every time you hear it?


Liggie said...

A lot of sports talk shows will have the producer converse with the host on air, like Roz does on "Frasier". So even if the show's named after the host only, the producer essentially becomes a co-host.

Anonymous said...

So what do you think about Tony La Russa signing as White Sox manager?

scott said...

You mean to tell me Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton took part in something to help Democrats?

scottmc said...

The information regarding Roz being on air so often and the host being locked into breaks were informative.

A USA TODAY article just popped up on my phone. It is by Zan Dubin-Scott and is about her father, Charles S.Dubin. The article is titled MY DAD DIRECTED M.A.S.H,HIS HUMOR,HOPE AND OPTIMISM IS WHAT AMERICA NEEDS NOW.
The article conveyed a lot of information. It mentioned that he was a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist. He directed the Lesley Ann Warren made for television Cinderella in the 1960's. Did he direct any of David and your MASH scripts?

By Ken Levine said...


Not only did Charles Dubin direct some of our MASH scripts, he directed the BEST script of ours -- POINT OF VIEW. That show only works because of his expert directing.

Charles was a wonderful, gentle, kind, incredibly talented man. I loved him.

Troy McClure said...

Scott, the Frasier reunion was to raise money for The Actors Fund. I don't know about the one for Everybody Loves Raymond.

Breadbaker said...

Your friend Kevin Cremin was of course both a producer and an engineer for the Mariners broadcasts for decades. But his on-air time was nearly nil. I was always a fan of his and was tickled pink once when he replied to a comment I had put on your Facebook wall. I literally called my son to tell him, "Kevin Cremin just replied to a comment I made on Facebook!"

DougG. said...

Ken, I'm guessing you haven't watched Hugh Wilson's interview for the Emmy TV Legends website because WKRP in Cincinnati was based on a radio station that Wilson spent a week at getting to see how a radio station actually works: WQXI in Atlanta.

Jerry Blum was the General Manager at the time and he was fired from a radio station in Texas for giving away free turkeys in the same manner as they did in the WKRP episode "Turkeys Away."
Wilson said his reaction to Blum telling of the story was "You just won me an Emmy Award."

He said the sales manager was in all polyester and he became Herb Tarlek on WKRP. Arthur Carlson was based on a former boss of Wilson that he won't identify. WQXI didn't have an equivalent for Jennifer Marlowe.

The most interesting probably has to be that some records made their broadcast debut on WKRP IN CINCINNATI. Wilson said that Tim Reid knows which ones did that. And it happened because some record companies started treating WKRP as if it was a real radio station.

Check it when you get a chance:

Mark said...

When it comes to radio broadcasters flying solo -- no records, no partners, no guests – just one person alone talking into a mic late into the night, who would be in your hall of fame? Arthur Godfrey? Henry Morgan? Jean Shepherd? Possibly Phil Hendrie though he’s kind of in a genre to himself.

Who am I missing?

Don Kemp said...

Phil Hendrie is really never alone.

Charles Bryan said...

And, when it comes to podcasts, even interesting material can become unlistenable in the hands of people who are unpolished or are poor presenters. I sampled one the other day that sounded like it was recorded in a barn and I just couldn't go on with it. It's a great medium, with a low entry bar, but sometimes the results just don't work.

benson said...


God's honest true story. Working in the late 70's-early 80's in small market in Illinois, we had a wonderful sales manager, very nice man, but slave to fashion he was not. Everyone wore polyester back then, but even before there was casual Friday, he'd wear these butt ugly golf pants on Fridays that looked like bad quilting project. I'd also tease him there was a Nash Rambler running around town without seat covers.

But the funniest thing was, this guy was bald and wore a toupee. Unfortunately, either his head grew over the years or his toupee shrank, as it was just a little too small, and it gave him a "halo" effect.

As always, I remind everyone. WKRP was not a sitcom. It was a documentary.

Viscount Manzeppi said...

When it comes to radio broadcasters flying solo -- no records, no partners, no guests – just one person alone talking into a mic late into the night, who would be in your hall of fame? Arthur Godfrey? Henry Morgan? Jean Shepherd? Possibly Phil Hendrie though he’s kind of in a genre to himself.

Who am I missing?

10/31/2020 1:10 AM

Ah, Phil Hendrie. The man of a thousand voices. All of whom apparently sound just like Phil Hendrie.

VP81955 said...

To Dusty:

On "Mom," Jaime Pressly's pregnancy (with twins!) as Jill was disguised by having her gain weight, then go to a fat farm, where she'd periodically check with Christy and her AA pals via Skype. Everyone associated with the series was probably a bit nervous over all this because the previous season, Jill (not Jaime) became pregnant, but the character miscarried.

Years earlier, Katey Sagal became pregnant, and the situation was written into "Married...with Children." Unfortunately, Katey miscarried, not good for a pure farce such as "M...wC," and that angle was dropped as if it had never happened. Thankfully, Jaime successfully gave birth to twin boys and soon returned full-time to the show.

Looking forward to Thursday's debut of "Mom" season 8, the start of the post-Anna era, and am wondering what specifically will happen with Faris' Christy character. We've been told she will be sober and successful in her new life -- good news for the many "Mom" fans in recovery who identify with the characters -- but the series has such a solid ensemble and superb writing that it won't miss a beat without Anna, and I say this as a longtime Faris fan who began watching "Mom" because of her. (I think it's the first time in a long while that Allison Janney, as great as she is, has been top-billed in any project.)

Its 8:30/7:30c lead-in is another Chuck Lorre sitcom, "B Positive," which I'm looking forward to, especially since the cast includes such favorites from the Lorre repertory company as Sara Rue (Candace on the early years of "Mom" and so many other roles).

Mike Barer said...

I love the living room podcasts like yours, rather than the ones that are done by the ones in the radio studio and are sponsored by the station.

Kyle Burress said...

I can't recall which episode (there may have been more than one) but when Carla was shown drinking beer while pregnant on 'Cheers' was there ever any backlash for doing that? Was there ever any discussion about it before filming or was it just a different time? I'm guessing that something like that wouldn't fly today at all.

slgc said...

I just watched the pilot of B Positive. The premise is that a divorced therapist is in kidney failure, and the only match available to him is a high school friend who was and still is a party girl. The storyline is a bit thin, but I think this could make it on the strength of Annaleigh Ashford, who plays the ditzy but good hearted party girl.

How challenging is it for a showrunner when a sitcom has to focus on one strong actor as opposed to one with a more balanced cast?