Friday, November 06, 2020

Friday Questions

Ready for some Friday Questions?

Dusty starts us off.

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?

When Shelley Long was pregnant on season 3 of CHEERS, very early on (before she was showing) we had her go on a European trip with Frasier.  We would film one scene from the trip each week after the audience had left.  I think this went on for four or five weeks.  We then banked those episodes. 

Once Shelley started showing a little we did all the tricks — hiding her with trays, etc.

My favorite was the episode where she somehow got trapped underneath the floor and we just saw her head.  

When we couldn’t hide the baby bump anymore she toddled off to Europe. 

Chakkuri queries:

I noticed that the song “Isn’t It Romantic” occasionally was played, sung and hummed in “Cheers”, “Frasier” and “Wings.” Was this a favorite tune of the producers?

No.  They were free.  Paramount owned the rights to those songs so any Paramount show could use them without paying a license fee.  You also heard “Moonlight in Vermont” a lot.

From MellaBlue:

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?

You can act in an episode once under the Taft-Hartley Law without having to join SAG.  More than that you do have to join the union. 

However, from what I understand, if a writer is “producer” level or higher, the show has to pay a substantial penalty fee if the writer is in an episode.  This is to dissuade producers from just hiring themselves and making a little extra cash.

This rule was not in play when I was a show runner.  I never put myself into a show though because I didn’t want to take a job away from a real actor. 

Finally, from Chuck:

Should the National League keep the Designated Hitter, or get rid of it?

They should get rid of it, but they won’t.  Having the pitcher bat adds a whole level of strategy that makes the game more fun.

The National League resisted for years but had to cave this past ridiculous season.  And now the genie is out of the bottle.

Why won’t it be back?  The Players Union.  The Designated Hitter allows for each team to have one more high salaried ballplayer on their books.  Older players who can still hit but no longer field can still command big bucks as a DH.

Baseball keeps changing the rules and it’s never to improve the quality of the game.  It’s to generate more money. 

What’s your Friday Question?  


Brian said...

OH, wow. I'd forgotten about Diane getting stuck in the floor. Now I have to go rewatch that ep.

Dixon Steele said...

Always thought the DH thing was to make the game more interesting, since pitchers are usually an automatic out.

Am I missing something?

slgc said...

There is nothing more exciting in baseball than a pitcher hitting a home run to help his own cause.

Bartolo Colon's home run in 2016 was one of the most joyous moments I have ever seen in a game -

Mike Barer said...

I liked the brand of baseball in the National league, where I always saw more speed. Without the designated hitter, the manager could decide whether to keep a good pitcher on the mound or put in a pinch hitter.
I also remember the great Bob Gibson, who recently passed away, a great pitcher, who could also knock it out of the park, including in a couple of World Series games.

cd1515 said...

According to this, there are 4 DHs making big money:

Like Ken, I am also in favor of the NL staying no DH, it actually fits way better in today’s game where the starter only goes five innings anyway. That’s about the time you would pinch hit for him.
The argument that “I hate to see pitchers hit because they’re an automatic out” is kind of dumb, if you think about it they never hit in a big spot, they are always pinch hit for, so what are we talking, 2 at-bats a game where the pitcher actually is up?

Anonymous said...

NO DH adds a level of strategy but also takes out a level of strategy.
Hypothetically - Game 6 of the World Series if Cash left Snell in for the sixth but he was due to bat in the bottom of the inning, with no DH, he probably pinch hits for him automatically and they have a new pitcher star the seventh.
With the DH, Cash has to determine at what point to pull Snell based only on pitching decisions. More judgment involved

VP81955 said...

This Nationals fan would love to see Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg hit again. Both are reasonably good with the bat.

Roger Owen Green said...

I've loathed the DH, but only since 1973. It didn't bother me before that.

Troy McClure said...

John Lithgow said in a newspaper interview a few days ago that he was told by James Burrows in the early 90s that the producers of Cheers had wanted him for Frasier. He didn't know it at the time. He says in the interview that had he known, he would have refused because doing a TV show would have been beneath his dignity. He then jokes that when he did Third Rock From the Sun "I had no dignity left."

Ere I Saw Elba said...


This may have been sarcasm that flew way over my head, but is the Taft-Hartley Law really the basis for what writers and actors are allowed to do in the industry?

Cowboy Surfer said...

I am pro DH.

However, the missed opportunity of jokes centered around Sam Malone at the plate is a strong argument against it.

Norm: Coach why did you give Sammy the signal to bunt with two strikes in game 5 of the playoffs?

Malone: Yeah Coach, I'll never live down that foul ball strike three.

Coach: Sam we've been over this, a fly landed on my nose just when that mosquito bit my ear.

Mike Doran said...

I grew up watching soap operas, so creative staging is something I've learned to appreciate over the years.
It's not limited to pregnancies.
An actor on Edge Of Night was nailed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing a street in Manhattan; both his legs were smashed up, and the actor was laid up for more than a month.
Since his character was in the midst of a major storyline, a substitute actor was engaged to temporarily hold the role.
Rehab was inevitable, so when the actor - his name was Larkin Malloy - was able to come back to the studio, the directors staged his scenes so he wouldn't have to be seen walking.
Malloy was always already in the room, having just arrived or being about to leave.
Standing up or sitting down was always worked around.
Eventually, the character started using a cane, and all was (more or less) back to normal.

In recent times, 30 Rock was hit by the pregnancies of Jane Krakowski and Tina Fey, neither of which could be written into the show.
My understanding is that Jane Krakowski, who came from soaps, was able to pass along the tricks she'd learned from that part of her CV to help the 30 Rock cast and crew shoot around the baby bumps.
Such stories are legion throughout the business.
It's one of the things I love about it.

Ere I Saw Elba said...

foul ball strike three

Even though a batter can't strike out on a foul ball, no matter how hard they try, I wonder if Sam just didn't know the rules of the game.

Mark said...

Ere I saw Elba, a foul bunt is strike 3. That IS one of the rules of the game.

Michael said...

Ere I Saw Elba, a fouled bunt with two strikes counts as strike three. A bit of rulebook weirdness.

When the AL added the DH and stopped playing baseball--obviously, I have a position--Red Smith began a column, "The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville ten that day ...."

On Paramount having musical rights, Warner Bros. actually got into cartoons to promote their music catalog, so the early ones always had a full song in the middle. Over the years, Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn at Warner and Scott Bradley at MGM used a lot of music the company owned. Stalling fell in love with the music of Raymond Scott, who wrote a lot of quirky stuff, including "Powerhouse," which is the assembly line music in every Warner cartoon. Another thing: No matter where someone was traveling, "California, Here I Come" always showed up.

Anthony Adams said...

Rule 10.15(a)(4): "The official scorer shall score a strikeout whenever a batter: bunts foul on a third strike..." I didn't know either but I assumed that Ken did, and as a retired librarian, I had to look it up.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Sally Field was "great with child" during the third season of Ken's beloved show, The Flying Nun. Of course, the producers had to conceal her condition as was the television tradition. The great comic actor Vito Scotti was added to the cast that season as the Clouseau-like Captain Fomento, and maybe one of the reasons was to reduce Sally Field's screen time. Her flying scenes were already mostly done with a double.

Lemuel said...

WKRP used the character of Bucky the engineer a ouuple of times and he stole each scene he was in. Turns out he was on the show's production crew. "Speed kills, Del,"

Buttermilk Sky said...

If baseball had had the DH from the beginning, would anyone have guessed that Babe Ruth could do anything but pitch?

Dave-El said...

One problem with hiding a pregnancy is that a woman's body can change beyond just the pregnant belly. No amount of oversized coats and purses could hide Dana Scully's rounder face when Gillian Anderson became pregnant in season 1 of the X-Files. During season 5 of Supergirl, I noticed that Eve Teschmacher's face was noticeably different than before; a quick check online confirmed actress Andrea Brooks was pregnant.

Jane Leeve's pregnancy was explained on Frasier as Daphne having a weight problem after she ran away from her wedding with Niles. For some reason, this plot device to explain why Daphne looked larger kind of bothered me. Ken, I wonder if there were any other alternatives to addressing Jane's condition that were considered?

Max said...

Interesting re "Isn't It Romantic?" That song also appears in a STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION episode where Dr. Crusher gives Data dancing lessons, one of the most beautifully funny scenes in the series.

Matt in Westwood, CA said...

FQ: with all the recent comments about Shelley Long, including the hilarious reaction by Judd Apatow in response to Kirstie Alley’s tweet, it’s reminding me about her enormous contribution to CHEERS and all the nice things you’ve said about her on your blog. Any chance she would do one of your podcasts? I think it would be a great opportunity for you to do commentary together on ANY FRIEND OF DIANE’S and TRUCE OR CONSEQUENCES.

sanford said...

Speaking of owners wanting to make more revenue. If you like reading about the labor aspects of baseball, he is a good read.

I hate the DH. True most pitchers suck at hitting. The thing is many pitchers were good at hitting when they were in high school and even college. I am guessing they were made to focus more on pitching than hitting. I suppose the starters lose something when they only pitching 30 to 35 times a year.

I have a recommendation. I watched What the Constitution Means to Me last night. It is on Amazon. It was on Broadway. Great show.

Cap'n Bob said...

I love the DH. Without it, it becomes a manager's game and all those little strategies when a pitcher is due up, say, during a rally are a pain.

Tom Galloway said...

In these days of analytics, I'm not sure that many players have a significantly over replacement hitting value for that long after their fielding falls off. Of course, there've always been players who could hit a *lot* better than they could field.

Liggie said...

There's one great reason for the DH: Ken's former co-worker, Edgar Martinez.

(David Ortiz, too, but Edgar was there first.)

JAS said...

FQ: I was reading an article about Norman Lear's reluctance to continue All in the Family after season 9, even though Carroll O'Connor wanted to continue. It seems like there was a bit of going behind Lear's back to get Archie Bunker's Place on CBS. But Lear said of O'Connor, who had taken a lot of creative liberties with Bunker in the final years of AITF and onto ABP, "He didn't understand the character..."
When an actor becomes so powerful on a series or important to a network's bottom line that they can pretty much dictate the creative direction of the show or order a spin-off/continuation series over the objections of the creator, how do you deal with that? More broadly, as a writer/producer (especially a creator), how do you deal with actors who think they "understand" their characters more than you do?

VP81955 said...

The brilliant Max Fleischer black-and-white "Popeye" cartoons were released via Paramount, so quite a few of the songs in its catalog were used. Perhaps the most memorable was one where Popeye was baby-sitting Swee'Pea, and the radio broadcast an anonymous crooner singing "Out Of Nowhere" (a widely-recorded standard most associated with Bing Crosby). Popeye, annoyed by the crooner's loud voice while the baby was sleeping, punches the radio speaker, and it goes through the wire, to the studio and the microphone, and knocks the crooner cold. Splendid gag.

ScarletNumber said...

@Ere I Saw Elba

Reason being, if that rule wasn't in place, a batter could intentionally keep bunting the ball foul to increase the pitch count.

@Buttermilk Sky

Because pitchers weren't expected to be good hitters, no one bothered to try to coach Babe Ruth out of his batting style.


I don't think Carroll O'Connor thought he knew Archie Bunker better than Norman Lear did. Rather, his personal politics were diametrically opposed to Archie's and he wanted his character to be more like him personally. The same thing happened with Alan Alda vis-a-vis Hawkeye Pierce. Compare the late seasons to the early ones, or even better compare him to Donald Sutherland's/Robert Altman's interpretation in the movie.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Lear was right; "All in the Family" should've ended at the end of the 1977-78 season, when Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner left.

Mike said...

Carroll O’Connor wanted “All in the Family” to go on as “Archie Bunker’s Place” for one major reason: money. He was a co-owner of the sequel series (unlike the parent series), and profited from the syndicated reruns.

Had “All in the Family” ended in 1978, as Lear intended, the final episode (where Gloria and Mike move away) would go down as the best sitcom finale of all time. It has everything - laughs and tears and nostalgia. I still can’t watch without getting tears in my eyes, and I’ve seen it at least a dozen times. If you listen closely during the quiet moments, you can hear members of the studio audience sniffling and crying at times. It’s that good.

I love the “Cheers” episode where Diane is trapped under the floor of the bar. At one point, she calls out from the floor and starts giving Norm advice as if she were behind the bar. And Norm and Cliff just kind of look around puzzled. It’s a riot.

Mike Doran said...

In re Carroll O'Connor and Norman Lear:
Just back from checking on O'Connor's memoir,I Think I'm Outta Here, which devotes much space to calling Norman Lear a credit thief and a hack jokesmith (not in those words, exactly, but that's the idea).
In O'Connor's account, Americanizing 'Til Death Do Us Part was the idea of a man named Howard Edelman, who initially sold ABC on doing the show.
ABC recommended O'Connor for the lead role, and brought Lear and Bud Yorkin into the package, leading to a pilot that was then called Justice For All (Archie's original surname).
That first pilot is on YouTube; you can see that Mr. Edelman gets a producing credit.
O'Connor's account continues through to the second ABC pilot, Those Were The Days, noting that one of his conditions for doing it was Edelman's continued involvement.
Except - somewhere in between Pilot #1 and Pilot #2, Lear aced Edelman out of the project and took it over in toto.
O'Connor, contractually committed, had to stay on board; when Lear took what was now his show, All In The Family, to CBS, and the rest is history.
All of this is from O'Connor's book, and should be regarded in that light, as any accounts that Lear has given over the years should be as well: "You pays your money, and you takes your choice."
And another quote:
"Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan."

Jay Moriarty said...

In the early episodes of All in the Family, Norman and director John Rich had to struggle with Carroll (Archie) to get him to mug for the camera. O'Connor thought he was above that as an actor and initially refused. They finally convinced Carroll to just try it. When he did, and when he heard the live audience's joyous laughter, Carroll not only changed his mind, but proceeded to mug every chance he got--establishing a comic trademark of the character. Carroll later sued Norman for the rights to the character, saying he (O'Connor) had created the character of Archie. Although the relationship between the two became seriously strained for a while (all rights remained with Lear), they were able to reach a reconciliation of sorts in later life.

Jay Moriarty said...

Re. the casting of Archie Bunker, Norman initially offered the role to Mickey Rooney. After reading Archie's lines in the pilot script, Rooney, who liked to refer to himself in the third person, responded to Norman apologetically: "The Mick can't say this."

VincentS said...

I used to be a big opponent of the DH. But realistically it can't last. For one, pitchers look pathetic at the plate and risk injury on the bases since they (I believe) even use the DH in little league and as far as taking away strategy from the game, be honest: Is the double-switch REALLY that vital to the excitement of the game?

Anonymous said...

Friday question:

Was the Frasier episode "Beware of Greeks" a backdoor pilot? I know backdoor pilots were no longer in vogue in the 90s, but that episode had all the earmarks of one.

Frasier Fan said...

Friday question:

Was the Frasier episode "Beware of Greeks" a backdoor pilot? I know backdoor pilots were out of vogue in the 90s, but this episode had all the earmarks of one.

Big Murr said...

The ultimate pregnancy cover-up happened a few months ago on the Canadian police/procedural show "Hudson and Rex".

The Forensic Scientist played by Mayko Nguyen was being put thru all the belly-hiding moves, some with an interesting twist or two. But in the final episode of the season, they pulled their coup. The plot-crime revolved around a one-stop pregnancy-midwife-fertility clinic. To get the inside dirt, it was decided some undercover work would be needed. Hudson and Dr. Truong were tapped to be an expecting couple.

We cut to a washroom door and Dr. Truong's voice complaining that she felt ridiculous with this foam rubber belly and the straps pinched. And then she finally stepped out in all her pregnant glory, saying this wouldn't fool anyone. Her team assured her she looked perfectly natural.

It's not often I applaud a TV screen, but I surely did at that moment.

Astroboy said...

Geez, I've lost so much of my love of baseball, that until I read these Friday Questions I wasn't even aware the National League used designated hitters this season!

Unknown said...

What was the most political script you ever wrote/episode you directed?
In a sitcom like MASH, Almost Perfect or Big Wave Dave, were there times where you felt, 'I'd like to squeeze a topical political issue into this for the laugh value'?

Chakkuri said...

Thank you for answering my “Isn’t It Romantic” question! Your blog is my favorite place on the ‘net these days.

John (formerly) in NE Ohio said...

RE: DH in National League.
Best proposal I've seen/heard, don't remember where it was.

1. Expand rosters to 28. 13 pitchers, 15 position players.
2. Every pitcher when placed into the game will have a DH attached to them. They are effectively 1 person. Change pitchers? DH changes too. Pinch hit/run for DH? Pitcher changes. Pitchers are not allowed to bat for themselves. DH is not optional, even if you intend to only use the pitcher for 1 batter.

I think this does a few things.
1. Keeps the union happy with bigger rosters and added high dollar contracts.
2. Keeps the fans of strategy happier than a straight DH like the AL.
3. Keeps the TV people happy with added homers.
4. You wouldn't even need to have the 3 batter rule, because if a manager is pitcher happy, he will run out of even the expanded bench if the game goes to extra innings.