Friday, March 12, 2021

Friday Questions

Let’s continue our March into Friday Questions.

Mark Bosselman starts us off.

Have you ever been starstruck upon meeting a celebrity either by the aura or beauty?

Natalie Wood.  She came into the MGM commissary when I had an office on the lot.  Unfortunately, she was not dressed like the above photo. 

For sheer luminous, radiant beauty — Candice Bergen when she spoke at UCLA in 1968, Suzanne Pleshette on the MTM lot in 1975, and Jacqueline Bisset at MGM in 1980.  

Then, for sheer aura, seeing John Wayne (in costume yet) at Warner Brothers and Sean Connery at the Paramount commissary.  

In baseball, seeing Joe DiMaggio.  

In theatre, meeting Stephen Sondheim.  And Al Hirschfeld.

In life, John Wooden. 

But my all-time is Vin Scully.  There was not a time I was in his presence (and I worked with him and the Dodgers for five years) that I wasn’t in complete awe.  

From Larry:

Carla was often pregnant in “Cheers”, and I know during season 3 it was because Perlman herself was pregnant (as was Shelley Long, though hers was concealed). Were any of Carla’s other pregnancies incorporated to accommodate Perlman’s real-life condition, or were some of them purely for story purposes and she wore padding?

The first season she was actually pregnant.  We saved money on padding.  

Explaining it was tricky though because she had separated from her husband.  So we had to create a “father.”  

Tammy asks:

I've been a Joss Whedon fan for 20 years, so naturally I was very disappointed to learn this week that he'd been creating toxic work environments, both on set and in the writers' room (according to Jose Molina, he would brag about making writers cry). My questions: first, how common are these bully showrunners?

I wouldn’t say it was common, but there have always been a few tyrant show runners, just as there are tyrants in charge of any operation.  

And second, is there really less tolerance for this behavior nowdays, or is it just for the cases that go public? Thanks!

If a tyrant is getting good ratings or bringing in big money, Hollywood tends to look the other way.  Sadly, I would submit that bad behavior is tolerated more in the entertainment industry.   But yes, now there is much less tolerance and awful people who have gotten away with despicable behavior in the past are now getting their comeuppance.  And I can’t say I’m at all upset about it.  

And finally, from Powers:

If you could have written for any of the notable movie comedy teams, who would you have enjoyed writing for?

There are not that many to choose from.

I would have to go waaaaaay back.  First and foremost, Laurel & Hardy (although Stan Laurel wrote all of their material himself).  To this day they make me laugh.  Their physical comedy, reactions, and overall timing is just pitch-perfect.

I would have enjoyed writing a “Road Picture” for Bob Hope & Bing Crosby.  There was a lot of fun banter and great zingers between those two.  

I’d be less enthusiastic about Abbott & Costello.  I loved Lou Costello but thought Bud Abbott was always so mean to Lou Costello I never warmed to him.  

More recently, I’d like to write for Jay & Silent Bob… although no one writes Kevin Smith stuff better than Kevin Smith.  

What’s your Friday Question? 


maxdebryn said...

ME-TV has been running MASH reruns for years, and recently started over, after airing the complete run of the series. There were episodes from the final season that I did not recall from the original broadcast, so I either missed them, or forgot about them (it *was* nearly forty years ago, and my memory ain't what it used to be). Do the broadcast syndications ever leave out certain episodes ? Thanks for being there, Ken.

Anonymous said...

Hate to differ with you, Ken but there are plenty of comedy duos you could have written for - they just aren't necessarily considered "comedy duos"
George and Gracie
Ralph and Ed (alternatively Ralph and Alice)
Lucy and Ricky
Rob and Laura
Felix and Oscar
Oliver and Lisa
Jed and Granny
Fred and Barney (alternatively Fred and Wilma)
Max and Leo
Herman and Lily
Gomez and Morticia
Gunther and Francis
Fred and Lamont (alternatively Fred and Aunt Esther)
Archie and Edith (alternatively Archie and Meathead)

the list goes on (of course some of these are simply takeoffs on Stan and Ollie)

Anonymous said...

“If you could have written for any of the notable movie comedy teams, who would you have enjoyed writing for?”

Mr Levine
1. Surprised the Marx Bros went unmentioned.
Just as many share your disdain for Bud Abbott’s persona,
quite a few Marx fans prefer Monkey Business over all their other films
because it starts and ends with them as friends, and because in it
Groucho has no Margaret Dumont to needlessly humiliate or blast out of cannons.
2. Compared with the Marx boys, Wheeler and Woolsey turned out
too many too weak films, and they never road tested their material, but with them you’d be working
alongside Boasberg, Perrin, Ruby and Kalmar, Perelman, and both Mankiewicz brothers
3. Laurel and Hardy were great because of Hardy’s warmth and creativity,
and because Laurel “borrowed” the character of Harry Langdon— who later joined the
teams large gaggle of gag men.

Sean said...

Friday Question: I know you’ve mentioned liking “I Love Lucy” even if you don’t love it as much as some. What is your opinion of Lucille Ball’s later TV shows?

marka said...

Friday Question:

I wonder how shows evaluate themselves after a season. Is it like football coaches going over film game by game at the end of the year and talking about what worked and what didn't? If so is it like we need less of the diner scenes and more in the bus station? Less of this character and more of that? We should stop asking this actor to do this because they're not very good at it? We need to change the apartment set because it isn't working?

If this happens, is it internal or at the instigation and direction of the studio?

Troy McClure said...

Ken, do you know the writing duo Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel? I'm guessing you guys must all know each other.

Lemuel said...

SCTV ran a sketch about "Woody" (Rick Moranis) and"Bob"(Dave Thomas) discussing collaborating on a picture with Joe Flaherty playing the role of "Bing".

Joyce Melton said...

I have to say, I would love to see you write a Road picture. Bob and Bing are of course completely irreplaceable, but what two actors today do you think could pull that duty?

David P said...

Joyce: Tom Hanks and George Clooney.

Norm said...

"Evening everybody"


"What's the news, Norm?"

"I just bought a new house"

"Do the carpets match the drapes"

"You're about to find out, wiseguy"

Mike H. said...

Easy to be in awe of Vin Scully. Met Vin Scully when I did an announcing thing at Dodger Stadium about 20 years ago. He was the nicest guy. Everyone working there said it too. He signed autographs, took pictures and said "Call me Vin" when I said "Mr. Scully." Class all the way

Tammy said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken! I'm glad to hear the tide is turning, and hope none of my other heroes turn out to be assholes.

marka - Great question! Never really thought about how those discussions go and now I wonder too.

Douglas Trapasso said...

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler?

Anyone curious if the chemistry they have hosting the Golden Globes would carry over to a ninety minute feature?

ScarletNumber said...

I was wondering why Jose Molina would comment about Joss Whedon, but it turns out that Tammy wasn't referring to the Angel.


Speaking of comedy duos, how about the famous radio duo of Bob & Ray? Any remembrances or dealings with them? Could you write for them?

Michael said...

At the time Hal Roach teamed Laurel & Hardy, Stan had pretty much gone behind the scenes. He took over for Hardy in a film when Babe, as they all called him, burned himself while cooking, and then they wound up in a film together. It all just sort of fell together.

The Harry Langdon comment is interesting because Roach kept Laurel and Hardy under separate contracts. Finally, Laurel's expired and the two of them agreed they would wait. But Hardy was still employed and Roach teamed him with Langdon. The film, Zenobia, bombed. The sad part is that when they could sign together, Laurel and Hardy wound up at MGM, which destroyed their work.

Danny said...

Stan Laurel didn't write the Laurel and Hardy films single-handedly. The Roach Studio always had writers on staff, though they were never credited in the shorts. He did function as head writer for the team's scripts and, usually, was the guy with final say over what did or did not get into their movies. Not always, as for example, the operettas Hal Roach periodically leaned on them to do.

Many of Abbott and Costello's films strike me as that the team's writers were basically just coming up with scenes to link together whatever vaudeville routines the team was doing in that particular picture. Oh, and dreaming up a big, wacky, slapstick chase for the finale. It's interesting to me that Lou Costello didn't want to do "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" because it was largely missing those vaudeville turns and was much more story-oriented than was typical of their films. (They sent the script to Lou's mother, who convinced him to do it.)

Writers for the Marx Brothers used to complain that Groucho invariably read his lines in a bored, disinterested monotone, giving every indication that he hated the material. He only came to life when the cameras were rolling.

DBenson said...

Some what-if scripts I sometimes contemplate, comedy team division:

-- Oliver Hardy as "Father of the Bride". Stan would be the groom's father, attempting to be helpful.

-- Stan and Ollie in the "Ransom of Red Chief" segment of "O. Henry's Full House". Or even Bud and Lou. Casting Fred Allen and Oscar Levant -- intelligent, sardonic, and slightly misanthropic -- was a major mistake, as they couldn't make you believe the kid would outsharp them.

-- Burns and Allen in a full-on Thin Man-type mystery, with Gracie's left-handed logic trumping George's common sense ("Gracie, bodies don't get up and walk away." "Maybe he called a cab. See these tire tracks? And the driver helped him, like I help you on New Year's Eve ..."). They actually did a mystery teaming Gracie with a conventional leading man, but it just didn't work. She needed George, borderline shady, who somehow understood her and didn't understand her at the same time.

-- "Abbott and Costello meet Sherlock Holmes". Suppose Universal knew Basil Rathbone was going to refuse to re-up for more Holmes movies? And suppose they offered him a chance to slam the door with a comedy, the way they slammed the door on the Universal Monsters with Bud and Lou? I see double talk routines where Lou tries to follow Nigel Bruce's British argot ("A sticky what?").

Ere I Saw Elba said...


It's rare that I would would complain about anything in your blog, but could you please not post any photos of sexy, brunette, hot young women in your column.

Let me repeat myself--please do post photos of sexy, brunette, hot young women in your column.

By Ken Levine said...

Hi Ere,

As longtime readers of my blog know, when I can't find an appropriate photo I post one of Natalie Wood. Many readers complain that I don't post enough NW photos.

Anonymous said...

@ DBenson:
I agree Laurel and Hardy would have done a great Ransom of Red Chief but I can't agree Allen and Levant were a mistake.
The point was they were city slickers, not nearly as bright as they thought they were (which came thru in the introduction) and could be easily outsmarted by country folk, who were smarter than they appeared (JB wasn't the only one who outsmarted them, his parents did as well).
The real Allen and Levant wouldn't have been outsmarted but the characters they played were ripe for it. That's what made it memorable.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I always admired Vin Scully, the best play-by-play announcer since Red Barber. (Maybe it's the red hair?) A few weeks ago I saw a concert recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in 2017 with Scully narrating Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait," and he did it from memory. Of course, he was only 90 then. Now I, too, am in awe.

Cap'n Bob said...

What, no Amos 'n' Andy or The Three Stooges?

Dixon Steele said...

Douglas Trapasso,


Jay Moriarty said...

As for celebrity aura, The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. As for pure intellect, Norman Lear. As for Bob & Ray, David Pollock (of Pollock & Davis) wrote an excellent book titled Bob and Ray: Keener Than Most Persons (Applause Books).

Thx for your blogs, Ken!

Anonymous said...

A Friday question
During MASH there was a thread of sexual relations running through the show.
To my knowledge, which is hardly encyclopedic, except for 1 episode involveing Margaret and Radar's rabbit the issue of unplanned pregnancies did not come up.
Considering the time it was set in this seems statistically unlikely.
Did you ever consider the issue of aboration for any of your storiess?
I know it is not a humorous issue but the delicate tauch the writers howed around so many other issues that were delicate ( waiting for one patient to die so as to use arterial transplant to save onother as a single example, or keeping someone alive so the children would not associate Xmas day with fathers death as another)
Was the subject of unplanned pregnancies and the option of abortion ever considered?

VincentS said...

I'm Facebook friends with Lou Costello's daughter, Chris, and one of her raw nerves is when anybody implies that her dad and Bud Abbott had anything but the deepest affection for each other. "Did they have fights? Of course. All brothers have fights (I can attest to that)," is a point she concedes but stresses that they were always caring and protective of each other. She defends Bud Abbot not only in relation to her father but attests that he was a gentleman as well as a gentle man. She reports that, like her dad, Bud owned a club that employed several of their friends when they were out of work and, unlike her dad whose club lost money, Abbott had many opportunities to sell his club for a profit but refused in order to keep their friends employed and that when Lou appeared on WAGON TRAIN as his first role without Bud Abbott that Abbott was the first person to call their house the night the episode aired to congratulate Lou so any "meanness" perceived from Bud is a tribute to how great an actor he was..

Mike Doran said...

Fun Facts:

The Gracie Allen Murder Case, referenced above, was written by 'S. S. Van Dine' (Willard Huntington Wright) on special order from Paramount Pictures.
Wright wrote the story as an official Philo Vance novel - and George Burns was a character in the book. (I've got a copy, which is how I know.)
What happened when they made the movie? Somebody at Paramount didn't like George Burns; this suit bought into what was even then the 'convential wisdumb' that Gracie was the Whole Show, and George was ballast.
So in 1939, George Burns was cut out; it happened.
Two years later (1941), MGM decided to film the Lockridges's Mr. And Mrs. North, with Gracie as the Mrs.
Again, George Burns was cut out of the deal, and a long-forgotten lead played Mr.; no go.
Not long after that, Gracie Allen made it clear that George Burns was her partner, period.
And so it went.

Ere I Saw Elba said...


I've been reading your blog for many years, and I'm just concerned that all these pics of Natalie Wood might be giving me a medical condition that my doctor calls a "boner" so I'm just a bit concerned. But please keep it up.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Read somewhere--maybe in Larry Gelbart's memoirs--that there was to have been an episode in which a couple of nurses attempt to get even with a philandering Hawkeye by pretending that he impregnated them. The idea was nixed.

Jay Moriarty said...

Love me some Abbott & Costello. Mention in my book that Bud Abbott was the best straight man ever. Hands down. TV funnyman Steve Allen was not far behind.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Speaking of "The Gracie Allen Murders," Steve Allen and the fictional casting of a celebrity duo in a mystery, Steve Allen wrote a series of novels that he promoted earnestly during the seventies in which he and his effervescent wife -- actor and quiz show panelist Jayne Meadows -- solved whodunits in various glamorous showbiz settings. I assume he would have been delighted at the chance to see them filmed with the two of them as the stars.

Mike Doran said...

Just For The Record:

Among mystery enthusiasts, it's long been common knowledge that Steve Allen's mystery novels were mainly ghostwritten by a writer named Robert Westbrook.
Allen of course vetted all the books, but the whole idea was to keep his name alive in bookstores (and if you take the time to check it out, Steverino was hardly the only celebrity to put his name on someone else's novel).

Robert Rosen said...

Friday question: I recently watched HGTV’s A Very Brady Restoration which I read was the network’s highest rated show ever. And I have to admit there were a number of legitimately moving moments. The now near elderly “kids” seem to genuinely care for one another and have very fond memories of Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, and Ann B. Davis. There have been a number of Brady reunion projects over the years but it really is amazing that this one has come a full half century after the premiere of the original series. For a show that nobody considers any kind of artistic achievement what explains the continuing interest?

Matt said...


We were watching the MASH episode "Peace on Us" and I remembered a question I've always been curious about. How did NBC's "Little House On The Prairie" Doc Baker (Kevin Hagen) do a guest shot on CBS' "MASH", twice? (The other MASH being "Some 38th Parallels). I'm guessing he was still under contract for "Little House."

Mike Doran said...

What follows is guesswork, based on having just read Kevin Hagen's IMDb roll:

Little House maintained a large ensemble cast in reserve, to be used as Michael Landon needed them on a week-to-week basis.

A check of Kevin Hagen's credits shows that during the Little House years, he racked up quite a few guest spots on many other shows, such as the MASH shows mentioned above.

That's why actors liked working with Landon; he could always work around you whenever you had a good gig coming up.
The rising tide raises all boats ...