Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday Questions

Considering the madness of January, March Madness wasn’t that mad at all.  Let’s close out the month with Friday Questions.

Bob Paris starts us off.  

This is a question and follow-up to your "perfect episode" entry. After listing two Frasier episodes, the next day I thought about how perfect the "Palestinian Chicken" episode of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM was. The two Frasier episodes were for a broadcast network and the 'Curb was for HBO which has different standards & practices. In your opinion, is it unfair to compare episodes where one may have had network constraints versus another where "anything goes?”

Not really.  Having the freedom to use profanity or more graphic situations does not necessarily give you an advantage.  

Yes, the styles are different, but an elegant comedy might well be funnier and more ingenious than one with the freedom to be more coarse.    

As good as CURB is sometimes, it still can’t compare with “the Contest” episode of SEINFELD, which was subject to standards and practices.  

And I’d put FRASIER up against any cable comedy.

If you want to talk about an unfair comparison, it’s the number of episodes a network series has to churn out vs. cable or streaming.  Larry David can leisurely make 13 episodes of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM over a couple of years.  FRASIER had to turn out 24 episodes a season.  That’s an unfair advantage for CURB.  

From WB Jax:

Friday Question (really to both you and your partner David): Had either "The Flintstones" or "The Jetsons" (both of which I've always considered well-written series) still been going in Prime Time when you were, say, co-producing "Cheers" (that is, if either or both enjoyed a similar longevity to "The Simpsons") would you have been interested in writing for one or the other/both, coming up with rock/stone puns (e.g., Stoneway piano, Rock Vegas, etc.) for the former, imagining future technology for the latter?

I can’t answer for David obviously, but for myself — no.  Writing THE SIMPSONS was a lark, but I like writing for real people who have real problems and real emotions.  I also hate puns in sitcoms.

There are some animated series that are fairly sophisticated, but THE JETSONS and FLINTSTONES aren’t two of them.  That said, I do like THE JETSONS and maybe the first season of THE FLINTSTONES.

Michael asks:

If you were taking over as a show runner at start of season, how much would you try to resolve existing story lines before starting your own?

I believe I’d have an obligation to the fans of the show to resolve the existing story line.  I might do it in an episode or two and move on, but I certainly would deal with it (and not just explain it away in a couple of offhanded lines).  

John Wells took over from Aaron Sorkin on THE WEST WING and tells the story of the transition between season 4 and 5.  Sorkin ended season 4 on a cliffhanger.  Wells, who was still friends with Sorkin (Wells claims there was no animosity), called Sorkin to ask what he had planned to do to resolve the cliffhanger, and Sorkin said he had no idea.  It’s something he would’ve figured out later.  So it was left in Wells’ lap.   That’s the trouble with cliffhangers sometimes.  Know how to get your hero out of them before the cameras roll. 

And finally, from Brian:

Have you gotten a Covid vaccination shot? If so, how did you feel afterwards? I've heard the second one can be rough, but worse for younger people. Please encourage those who haven't had the shot to hang in there and not start going out. Its tough when all your friends are posting pictures from breweries, but stay home until you have the shot(s).

I have gotten my two shots.  I had a low-grade fever after the second shot that lasted no more than a day.  But it was so worth it.  

I urge anyone eligible to get your shots.  Even Trump recommended getting your shots.  So hopefully the mindless sheep who blindly follow him will now get vaccinated.  But seriously, it’s the right thing to do, the smart thing to do, and the safe thing to do.  And in the meantime, wear masks. 

I always found it curious that people who were happy to wear white hoods over their faces don’t want to wear masks.  

What's your FQ? 


Troy McClure said...

"So hopefully the mindless sheep who blindly follow him will now get vaccinated."

As long as all normal people get vaccinated, I'm fine with QAnon fascists opting out and thereby getting themselves Darwin Awarded.

Covarr said...

My county is going to start rolling out vaccines for general 16+ population soon. My intent is to register the very first moment I can. And as soon as I've got my second shot plus two weeks, I'm gonna find the nearest karaoke bar and sing my heart out.

maxdebryn said...

As a child of the 60s, I grew up watching/loving The Flintstones (The Jetsons, not so much) and the other Hanna-Barbera shows. It wasn't until I was in my teens that it became obvious that The Flintstones was a very bad copy of The Honeymooners. It also became obvious how incredibly bad the animation was on the Hanna-Barbera shows.

russell walks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich said...

Friday Question: I really, really hated "Mank." The biggest reason was that the one vital thing you had to get right about Herman Mankiewicz is his ability to land a quip. He was a world-=class wit, famous for his devastating witticisms. Gary Oldman has many fine qualities a an actor, but he gave out with Mank's famous bon mots like a cat coughing up a hairball. Did you feel the same way? And if so, what's your theory on why Hollywood casts dramatic actors in roles that demand some comedic ability?
Rich Procter
p.s. I always think of Steve Martin's comment when he was up against Al Pacino for a part. "I can do what he does, but he can't do what i do."

Jay Moriarty said...

"I always found it curious that people who were happy to wear white hoods over their faces don’t want to wear masks."

GREAT line! Can't wait to use it!

Michael said...

I have great regard for John Wells, but I was reminded of my mother, a voracious reader of detective fiction, who also loved James Bond novels and claimed she could find the exact spot where Ian Fleming died and someone else finished for him. The West Wing lost something. That said, I also thought the best episode--or at least the best one other than "Bartlet for America"--ever may have been under Wells, when they achieved the dream of appointing two Supreme Court justices who really should have been named Ginsburg and Scalia.

And I've had Moderna #1 and I don't relish the side effects I may get next week. But I'll take them.

No said...

I think some shows just have their run, and have had said everything they need to say after a few seasons, or even one season.

BEWITCHED - A brilliant comedy and satire of 60s American suburban life... for one season.

MASH - The Best Show Of All Time, but really ran out of new plots by the end of season 8. Still the cultural landmark of American society and military, as it continues to be.

WKRP - Had a perfect run of four seasons, and never jumped the shark. Got it all said before it was fully appreciated in syndication.

CHEERS - Consistently brilliant during the Shelly Long years, then just sort of gradually ran out of steam, still with some good episodes.

One show that I think is a bit obscure--FRANK'S PLACE, a one-season show that was on CBS, created by Hugh Wilson and Tim Reid (WKRP fame). The show was gold, and was cancelled after its first season (1987-88), and I think it was a wise move.

Short version-- I think American television could benefit from more mini-series.

Breadbaker said...

I had my first Pfizer shot on St. Patrick's Day and my second is scheduled for week after next. My wife had her second two days ago and is all recovered from the minor fever and arm pain. Looking forward to being able to get together with cousins we haven't seen in years. Or even our neighbors. We just moved to Iowa a year ago and haven't seen a neighbor closer than ten feet since we moved. Other than our kids and granddaughter, the only people who have passed our threshold are repair people, masked and distanced. It will be nice to invite someone inside for a cup of coffee.

Breadbaker said...

To echo No's comments about shows running out of things to say, the British of course operate on a different scale than we do (in part because of the BBC's charter and revenue structure). But there are only a few episodes of Fawlty Towers and Blackadder, and that's it. If The Simpsons had something new to say, how many of its original viewers are still around to watch? I haven't seen a new episode in years.

YEKIMI said...

I had my first shot and wasn't expecting any side-effects but, boy-oh-boy. 1/2 hour after I got it got incredibly tired, lay down and slept for 3 hours and woke up feeling like I was on the verge of coming down with a major cold and the fact that my damn arm I got the injection in hurt from elbow to shoulder blade and felt like someone had hit it with a sledgehammer. Can't wait to see what reaction I have to the second one. In case I don't make it.....nice knowing you!

ScarletNumber said...


I always thought the conservative justice, William Fichtner, looked like Alan Colmes, but no one else sees it.

OrangeTom said...

Friday Q: Any thoughts on Superstore which aired its last two episodes Thursday evening after a six year run? I'll go first. America Ferrara was consistently great; was bummed when she left for most of the final season. Also liked how the writers tried to put a different perspective on standard sitcom plots, but as the series went on, quality of individual episodes really started to vary.

DwWashburn said...

The Flintstones "jumped the shark" when they introduced Pebbles.

Tudor Queen said...

I'm a vaccine crusader. Got my two shots and had absolutely no ill effects. I know I'm overstating the obvious, but the virus is real. I'm a teacher, and one of my students buried her husband because of COVID-19.

To commenter "No" - I, too, loved "Frank's Place" (also one of the few comedy series my mother loved from start to finish) and wished it had lasted longer. To this day I get a special twinge of pleasure whenever I hear "Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)?"

D. McEwan said...

I've had both Pfizer injections, and suffered no side effects whatever. Not even a slight soreness at the injection spot. There's been so much space given to side effects, it's scaring some folks, so the point must be made that MANY, probably most, of us have had no ill effects at all.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone think of many/any actors besides George O’Hanlon and Penny Singleton of The Jetsons
who were primarily known as Film/TV STARS when alive (i.e. Behind the Eight Ball and Blondie)
but who are known today— if only by their voices— primarily for their work as
CONTINUING CHARACTERS in film or on TV? Wally Cox?

Kyle Burress said...

Who are your favorite actors/actresses that you've never worked with that you've always wanted to? (Besides Natalie Wood obviously) Or, which ones did you come so close to but just didn't work out for whatever reason?

YEKIMI said...

Wally Cox! Now I'm thinking of Underdog and the theme song from that show will be stuck in my head for the next 6 weeks! That was one of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid. Probably because it was Superman but as a dog.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I never knew Penny SIngleton voiced Jane Jetson. I think to the extent I ever thought about it, I assumed it was Bea Bernadaret.

(checking her IMDB, she voiced Jane Jetson well into her eighties, and it looks like she had an interesting life, from vaudeville to a union president, and getting sued for calling another union leader a "dime store Jimmy Hoffa"...)

This ties into the discussion of George Segal's status as TV Star vs Movie Star. Were Penny Singleton and Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride movie stars? Weren't those serials-- I'm sure there were lots of others the UHF channel I grew up with didn't air on Saturdays-- the TV stars of the pre-TV era? I vaguely remember a Ma and Pa Kettle movie where they (briefly?) got rich and bought one of them new-fangled television machines.... I wonder if that's where they got the idea for The Beverly Hillbillies

Greg Ehrbar said...

Actors were "tiered" in the golden days of Hollywood just as they are today. One actor wrote in his bio about the struggle he had just to get further up in the order of names in a film's cast list. Sometimes it was more important than the paycheck.

Studios would raise actors' status depending on how things worked out after they played smaller roles -- like Jimmy Stewart in a featured role in a "Thin Man" movie -- and go from there. Some would get their shot at leads and hit, some would not.

Penny Singleton, Marjorie Main and hundreds more were usually in the "B" movie category. They might have supporting roles in "A" movies or star in "B" movies. (It was very similar to the way television and movie stars were usually given different status, though that is in a state of change now of course).

Studios avoided TV at first (except Walt Disney) and the biggest stars made only rare appearances, if any, unless they had not had a hit in a long time. However, a "B" star of movies like Eve Arden was an "A" star on television, just as she had been on radio as "Our Miss Brooks." Same with Ann Sothern, and her best friend, "Queen of the 'B's" Lucille Ball.

Movie stars did not do cartoon voices very much until after WWII, and even then it was mostly radio-friendly stars like Bing Crosby and Ed Wynn. Radio actors were the backbone of animation acting and that is what helped Hanna-Barbera tremendously. Say what you want about the animation, but the music and voices were almost always superb.

Joe Barbera had a knack for casting and was such a perfectionist that he would recast while a show was in production. He recast Michael O'Shea as Top Cat and they re-recorded several episodes with Arnold Stang. John Stephenson played Dr. Benton Quest for a few Jonny Quest shows before Don Messick took over -- the thought being that Stephenson sounded too much like Race Bannon's voice, Mike Road.

Barbera also had to answer (increasingly over the years) to sponsors, networks and other interested parties when shows were sold and produced, so they also had a hand in casting and recasting. In the original sales film for The Flintstones, Wilma is the only voice that was not recast.

Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll sued because they were signed as the original voices of George and Jane Jetson. It may have been a sponsor issue, a business conflict, a creative decision or all of the above, but George O'Hanlon and Penny Singleton played the roles for the rest of their lives.

As for The Flintstones being like The Honeymooners, that was common knowledge since day one of the series premiere, not denied and not some dark secret. Gleason thought of suing but the show was so beloved that he did not want to be known as the person who sued them. Plus if you watch "Sons of the Desert," "Unaccustomed as We Are" and several other Laurel and Hardy films in which they have wives, let's not cast the first flintstone.

Fred Allen said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of television."

Greg Ehrbar said...

Oh -- and speaking of Hanna-Barbera cartoons and George Segal, he was the voice of Dr. Benton Quest in the '90s reboot "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest."

LMNtrees said...

How are some states going all the way down to 16 year olds already? In my state they are not even halfway through phase 1a. I am very frustrated!

tavm said...

One thing about the first season of "The Flintstones": Barney Rubble's voice sounded much different then. Did someone other than Mel Blanc play Barney that initial year?

Mike Doran said...


If memory serves, Mel Blanc had his auto crash during Season 1 of The Flintstones.
A number of substitutes from the Hanna-Barbera bench filled in while Blanc was recuperating.
Mark Evanier can give you the details.

Greg Ehrbar said...


You are correct that Mel Blanc indeed gave Barney two different voices in very early Flintstone episodes. The first voice was nasal and the second the more familiar goofy one with the laugh. There is one first-season episode called "The Prowler" in which he seems to drift between both approaches.

It's been difficult to pinpoint exactly why he changed it exactly, as Barney was one of Mel Blanc's lesser profile voices when compared to the Warner characters (he as much as said that on The Merv Griffin Show). It doesn't seem to have been asked of him.

However, the change had nothing to do with his auto accident (I used to think that too). After that, when Blanc was bandaged from head to toe, Daws Butler stepped to play Barney in as a favor (gratis) in several episodes that still run (including "The Rock Quarry Story"). Butler's Barney is the same Art Carney-inspired characterization he used for the Warner Bros cartoons like 1956's "The Honey-Mousers." Butler also voiced Barney for several albums when Hanna-Barbera had its own label.

When Blanc was well enough to act again, Barbera set up recording equipment in Blanc's home and the voice cast recorded the episodes at his bedside. One of the great things about Hanna-Barbera dialogue is that they were almost always done as an ensemble, radio-style. Even the theatrical features were done that way.

What makes the Barney voice issue confusing for the viewer is that Hanna-Barbera produced them in a different order than ABC and syndication ran them, so you might hear a different Blanc Barney or a Butler Barney with no relation to when Blanc changed the voice and/or had the accident.

Bob Gassel said...

You don't like puns in sitcoms? Well I guess that answers my question of what you thought of M*A*S*H after you guys left...

tavm said...

Thanks, Mike and Greg!