Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday Questions

Last Friday Questions for this rather uneventful month.  What’s yours?

Blair starts us off.

Was Martin’s chair designed and created for “Frasier” or was it an actual historic piece of furniture?

No, I think it was just an old junky chair that I suspect came out of the prop department.   The producers probably had several to choose from and just selected that one.  

The idea was for the chair to really look out of place in Frasier’s chic apartment.  Our motto: find ways to make Frasier frustrated. Kelsey plays frustration and angry so funny. 

I believe in time a second identical chair was purchased or made just as a back up should anything happen to it.  

I used to kid John Mahoney “Do you have your blocking down this week?”

From Paul W:

When you did Dancin' Homer, did you know that you wanted Baby Elephant Walk for the music or do you have to give different option in case there are licensing problems?

Yes.  We wanted that song specifically.  The studio had to pay for the rights, which was very nice.  And unusual.

Most studios have a music catalog of songs they own.  And most producers are asked to only use those tunes.  That’s why on Paramount shows you’ll hear “Moonlight in Vermont” on every show.  

Scotty B wonders:

I've seen you mention in a number of your posts about those TV actors who seem to always be *everywhere*. I grew up in the 1960s-70s, and I remember several child actors who seemed to be *everywhere* all the time, too -- often in character roles on Starsky & Hutch or Emergency. Lisa Gerritsen and Michael Link are two that I remember well. Who are some of those child actors that you remember?  

I’m afraid my answer will be shorter than your question.

Moosie Drier, Billy Mumy, Rusty Hamer, Angela Cartwright, Ann Jillian, Moochie, Annette, Eddie Hodges — to name but a few.  

And finally, from  Philly Cinephile:

Have you ever had to change the name of a character because of clearance issues?

Yes, and the extreme example was when were doing MARY, the 1985-86 Mary Tyler Moore comeback vehicle.  We were in the week of production for the pilot and legal research wouldn’t let us use James Farentino’s character name, which I think was Frank DeSantis.  

An added problem was that we had a frosted door to his office with his name beautifully painted on the front window.  Every day there was a new script and new name.  Finally, on the fourth day they let us keep the name, Frank DeMarco, which was good because we were running out of doors.  


Ere I Saw Elba said...

We wanted that song specifically. The studio had to pay for the rights, which was very nice. And unusual.

And you even got "George" from NEWHART to praise Henry Mancini. Nice touch.

Or was that part of the licensing deal?

Anonymous said...

Re: child actors

One actress I remember being on multiple shows/series was Pamelyn Ferdin. She guested on several sitcoms, including being one of the actresses to play Felix Unger's daughter, and one of the voices of Lucy on the Charlie Brown movies.

Roger Owen Green said...

FQ: How did nine voters fail to select Hank Aaron for the Hall of Fame in 1982? As you probably know, he's STILL the RBI, total bases, and extra-base hit leader.

Brian said...

Speaking of songs that Paramount likes, any fan of the old Popeye cartoons can sing or at least hum a part of "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day". It even shows up in non-Popeye cartoon fare, such as the tragicomic "Finnegan's Flea".

Carl Stalling was not only a great composer, but he was not shy about weaving in music that was licensed through Warner Brothers, including the work of Raymond Scott.

Paul Duca said...

Ferdin has her own FB page and shares stories about being a child actor...

Brian said...

Potential Friday Answer to Roger Owen Green:

The nine votes may be explained thusly: Aaron got threatening phone calls and letters when he was nearing Ruth's record and there were those who, at the time, insisted that because seasons were longer or because he took more games to do it, Aaron was not worthy of certain honors, forget about the numbers.

Many years ago, I saw some broadcast which mentioned the "Greatest Baseball Moments of All Time". Aaron's 715th was at the top and the man that was narrating this segment didn't think it rated over Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World".

In summation:

1. Sports, even with numbers and stats is not an exact science.
2. Racism and/or favoritism didn't vanish in 1982.

Curt Alliaume said...

>>One actress I remember being on multiple shows/series was Pamelyn Ferdin. She guested on several sitcoms, including being one of the actresses to play Felix Unger's daughter, and one of the voices of Lucy on the Charlie Brown movies.

She's the first actor I thought of. Paul Duca noted her Facebook page, which is filled with fascinating insights--she said if she had to do it over again she would have stayed in her recurring role on The Odd Couple instead of becoming a regular on The Paul Lynde Show, which lasted just a year. She adored both Tony Randall and Jack Klugman; Lynde not so much.

Ferdin also played a different role in a first-season Odd Couple episode that also featured Lisa Gerritsen (Phyllis' daughter Bess on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Phyllis); Ferdin said on her Facebook page they switched roles halfway through rehearsals.

thirteen said...

Hey, I remember "Mary." They also had trouble with the name of the newspaper, which was supposed to have been the Chicago Post. The real Chicago Post was sticky about it, and so it was changed to the Chicago Eagle.

All in the Family had the supposedly fictional Flushing Tribune. They didn't know about the real one, but its publisher was over the moon about it and sent the show copies of the real paper to use. The publisher's name was Gary Ackerman, and I knew him back when he was doing the paper. He turned the Tribune's sudden notoriety into a seat in the State Senate, and was later elected to Congress fifteen times before he retired. I wonder if the Chicago Post guy ever amounted to anything?

Mike Doran said...

In re: why wasn't Hank Aaron put in the Hall Of Fame by acclamation?

Willie Mays didn't get a unanimous vote either, and the NYC crowd wondered about that, very loudly.

The BBWAA voting is a strictly cumulative vote count; nobody voted against anybody.
I'd need to look it up (and I don't know if the BBWAA kept any records of this), but I'm fairly certain that nobody has ever gotten a unanimous Hall Of Fame vote (correction welcomed if needed).

What probably happened was something like this:
Some older writer reasoned that Hank (or Willie, or whoever) was going to get in the first time anyway; therefore, Older Writer's vote wasn't really needed.
On the other hand, OW's old drinking buddy Joe Shlabotnik was in his last year of eligibility; he needed that vote more than Mr. Sure Thing, so what the hell.
It's something as arbitrary - and silly - as that.

When Warner Bros got into TV production in the late '50s, their music catalog was called into full-time service to track the TV scores, particularly for the detective shows.
I understand that this is the reason that 77 Sunset Strip, et al., can't get DVD releases, because the music clearances could bankrupt a third-world nation (or something like that ...).

Troy McClure said...

Regarding child actors, not long ago I watched Audrey Rose, a truly awful 70s horror movie. The only horror in it was the appalling performance by the child actor, Susan Swift. It's easily one of the worst child acting performances ever.

As I'd never heard of her, I googled her afterwards to see if she'd murdered any other films with her shitty acting. And it turns out she's now a staunch, hardcore Trump supporter. I honestly wasn't surprised.

gottacook said...

Regarding names in the Mary series: I saw the pilot (11 December 1985) and could not understand why Mary was given that surname. She just doesn't seem like a Brenner to me.

tb said...

Baby Elephant Walk was indeed an inspired choice, haha, perfect

Craig Gustafson said...

"could not understand why Mary was given that surname. She just doesn't seem like a Brenner to me."

The original name was "Mary Jane Johnson." But you didn't have to call her that. You could call her Mary. Or you could call her Mary Jane. Or you could call her M.J. Or you could call her M.J.J. Or you could call her Smoky Robinson.
But you doesn't have to call her Johnson.

Griff said...

"That’s why on Paramount shows you’ll hear 'Moonlight in Vermont' on every show."

Ken, are you perhaps thinking of "Isn't It Romantic"?

Craig Gustafson said...

"Speaking of songs that Paramount likes, any fan of the old Popeye cartoons can sing or at least hum a part of "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day". It even shows up in non-Popeye cartoon fare, such as the tragicomic "Finnegan's Flea"."

Popeye was borrowing the song as well. It comes from the animated feature "Gulliver's Travels" (1939) - by the Fleishers. It was used in just about every Paramount cartoon series in the 40s and 50s.

mike schlesinger said...

Mike Doran: Exactly right. An old chum at Warner Archive would love to put out "77 Sunset Strip," et al, but the music is the killer. There's one episode, "Six Superior Skirts," that takes place almost entirely in Dino's, and the Frankie Ortega Trio performs almost a dozen standards during the course of the show. It's also the reason why "Murphy Brown" never got past Season 1 on DVD: All those Motown song fees were brutal, and it didn't sell enough copies to warrant continuing.

tavm said...

When Cloris Leachman died, first thing I wondered was if now-retired actress Lisa Gerritson would comment online about her passing...

Greg Ehrbar said...

• "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" was written for the Fleischer's first animated feature, the very successful Gulliver's Travels in 1939. The great cartoon composer Winston Sharples co-wrote the song, so that probably helped when he added it into lots of Paramount/Famous cartoons.

• When Danny Thomas was promoting his sitcom "The Practice" on a talk show, he explained how names had to be vetted for characters, and how his character came to be called "Jules Bedford." He said something like, "Is that any kind of a name for me?"

Michael said...

As for music, that's why Warner Bros. started distributing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: To promote their song catalog. One of the people in that catalog was a character named Raymond Scott, who loved odd titles but his work included music perfect for showing a factory, and you hear it in each Warner Bros. cartoon that calls for that kind of activity.

I think of the episode where they got rid of Martin's chair!

Jon said...

There had to have been at least one duplicate of Martin's chair. Didn't we see it accidentally destroyed in one episode? Martin accused Frasier of doing it on purpose, but Frasier made up for it by having an exact copy of the chair built to replace the ruined one. Or am I misremembering?

Music rights are a nuisance. There are several music replacements in the CHEERS dvds, which annoys me no end.

Mike Doran said...

What I remember about that Mary series is that you had to change the name of the Chicago newspaper that was the work place there.
It was originally the Chicago Post, but somebody had registered that as a trademark, so you had to make it the Chicago Eagle.
Too bad the show didn't last longer; I'd have loved to hear jokes about working for "The Big Bald Bird".

Roger Owen Green said...

Mariano Rivera got in unanimously. Jeter was one vote shy, in my memory.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Unfortunately for most sitcoms logic is thrown out the window. Because if the obvious, most simple solution was used there wouldn't be a show.
I had always wondered why Frasier and Martin didn't compromise and get the chair reupholstered. That way Martin could have his beloved chair and it wouldn't be such an eyesore in the apartment. But as Ken said, "Find ways to make Frasier frustrated." Without the conflict, no matter how ridiculous it may be, these shows would be pretty boring.

It's my understanding that the reason "As Time Goes By" was chosen for "Casablanca" was just because it was part of Warner Brothers' catalog.
Speaking of "Baby Elephant Walk," as an adult Pam Ferdin became a hard-core animal rights activist. One of her main causes was getting elephants out of circuses. See how everything is connected?

I think the sports halls of fame have it right in the sense that some years lots of people get in or only a few or no one gets in. That's the problem with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The people in charge have made the induction ceremony a television event like the Oscars, Emmys or Grammys. So, they are forced to have enough inductees to justify the broadcast. I won't mention any names, but I feel there are a lot of artists that shouldn't be in the RRHOF for the reason mentioned above. And don't get me started on whether rappers should be in.

Speaking of "The Simpsons," I can't remember the title of the episode, but there's one where a cool TV character had the same name as Homer. That made him very proud and happy. But then the show changed the character into a dope and Homer became very upset.
There was a character on M*A*S*H named "Bloodworth." But as far as I know that's the only one I've ever seen.


Ron I said...

Mariano Rivera was the first unanimously voted Hall of Famer.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I always wondered about Max Klinger, clearly not a Lebanese name. Was the character originally supposed to be of different ethnicity and changed to fit Jamie Farr (born Jameel Farah)? Was Klinger one of those one-shot characters like Jim Ignatowsi who later became a regular?

Liggie said...

Even Nolan Ryan, the most prolific strikeout pitcher of his time, was three votes shy of first-ballot unanimity. Sportswriter Joe Posnanski looked into those three non-voters to see why someone who should've been unanimous wasn't. IIRC: one person was ill during the voting period and thus unable to mail his ballot on time; another left his ballot blank as a protest against Pete Rose's ineligibility; and the third didn't vote for first-time eligibles as a matter of principle. Ridiculous I think, both in mechanics (why not include email voting?) and grandstanding.

HOF voting is overdue for reform. The Hall needs to rework its morals/ethics clause to clarify if they want that to focus on on-field shenanigans (gambling, steroids) or also include off-field behavior. Should Curt Schilling's vile personal actions (prejudice against racial/sexual/political groups, bankrupting his video game company and leaving its employees in the cold) nullify his Hall-worthy stats and championships?

They should also consider the football HOF model, which looks solely at on-field accomplishments and disregards whether a player was a monster or a second Mother Teresa in his personal life. (Which explains why cretins O.J. Simpson and Ray Rice are in but the late Pat Tillman, who left the game to enter the military, isn't; the former were all-time greats at their position, the latter only played four pretty good but not great years.)

Finally, I think they need to remove incentive for the writers to grandstand. There were a number of intentionally blank ballots sent, probably as a protest about Pete Rose, and with votes on at least 75 percent of ballots cast required, that's an injustice to the other nominees. Personalities and vendettas against players also shouldn't figure into it. Dave Kingman was one of the most prolific home run hitters of the '70s, but the writers didn't vote for him as much for his being a jerk and treating reporters (particularly females) boorishly as for his high strikeout rate. Boorishness is a bit different than cheating or committing felonies.

Steve Bailey said...

To the list of memorable child actors from the past, let me add the name Pamelyn Ferdin. She guested on a wide range of shows in the early '70s, including "The Odd Couple" as Oscar's daughter, and the most memorable "Lucy" voice in the Charlie Brown "Peanuts" specials. She now has a Facebook page where she welcomes visitors and fans.

Rohun S said...

Hey guys! This is going to sound like a dumb question, but how do I submit a question for Ken to (hopefully) answer? Is it through the blog or is there a contact email?

VP81955 said...

Rohun S, just do it right here.

Kyle Burress said...

I have a question about the use of money in television. I've noticed that in some shows they use real money but in others the money is clearly fake. Is there some stipulation on being able to use real currency or is it just up to the show itself?

Mark Solomon said...

Friday Question...
Ken, I just watched on ME -TV an episode of “Wings” which you directed.
Given your extensive history as a writer primarily (including past episodes
of “Wings”), did you have the latitude during table reads and rehearsals to
suggest or even unilaterally execute script or dialogue revisions that other
episodic Directors-for-hire may not have been granted?
Mark Solomon

Brian said...

Hi Ken I have a question couple of questions: how about a review of Mr. Mayor? Also do you have any stories about bad celebrity first pitches? OK three questions: have you continued to watch Brockmire and what do you think of it?

Scottmc said...

I recently saw Volunteers for the first time in several years. A couple of things caught my attention this time. 1) The film was rated R. Was there a discussion about editing it so it could receive a PG rating? 2) Did you or David have a role in casting Alan Arbus? 3) The score was by James Horner. He had previously worked with Nicholas Meyer on the second and third Star Trek movies. (Recently I watched most of the Hitchcock films scored by Bernard Herman and several of the Fellini films scored by Nino Rota.). I have noticed when music enhances a scene/movie and I have seen when the wrong music ruins a scene. What has been your experience with music which accompanied something you wrote? Is there an example where music enhanced what you had written, or had undercut it? When you are directing, how much thought goes into the music?

Mike Doran said...

Final note on the Baseball Hall of Fame:

For some years now there's been a movement afoot to remove certain members from the Hall, for reasons like those mentioned above.
Reasons not limited to overt racism, substance abuse (including alcohol), moral turpitude, and other fun stuff like that there.

In Bill Veeck's second book, The Hustler's Handbook, a full chapter is devoted to stories of Veeck's boyhood heroes: "Where Are The Drunks Of Yesteryear?"
All those who want to "clean up" the HoF ought to track down this book and give it a read - and then consider what Bill Veeck might think of current efforts to make the membership more "family friendly", as it were ...

Brian T said...

That chair led to possibly my favourite “callback” joke of all time: “it’s Eclectic”!

Brian said...

Friday Question: How real is typecasting? Has anyone ever accused you of ruining their career by typecasting them into a role? Ralph Macchio is making the rounds on podcasts and talk shows talking about how it was hard to get other gigs after the "Karate Kid" movies. I think its more the actor than the role. The ultimate example is Ted Danson and all the things he has done, even after being "Sam Malone" for eleven years.

Kendall Rivers said...

Friday Question: Do you watch Blackish anymore? Does anyone? I have to say this is definitely another of a show that fell apart after the creator left the series ala Larry David with Seinfeld or Community with Dan Harmon. To be honest Blackish hasn't been as funny or well written after the second season but without Kenya Barris it really feels like it's been dragged to death like Modern Family and desperate for "relevant" material.

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