Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Questions

Since just about anybody can now get the vaccine, GET THE VACCINE!  Here are some Friday Questions while you wait fifteen minutes after getting the shot.

maxdebryn starts us off.

Ken, a few of the other movie/TV/pop culture sites that I read have floated the idea that they will become "pay" sites (ie: subscribers/readers would have to pay upwards of $10 per month in order to access the sites). What do you think about paying to read online content ?

That’s fine for them, but I don’t plan on charging people.  Part of why I do this blog is I feel I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my career, was blessed with amazing mentors, and this blog is a small way of paying it forward.  

Besides, I’d have to write way better to charge $10 for this drivel.  

Bob Paris asks:

Ken: In the past, if an actor got signed to a series they would be working on at least 22 episodes a season. Now an actor may sign for a series where as few as eight to ten episodes are shot for the year. Are these "exclusive" deals where the actor is precluded from taking other work? Makes you wonder if attaching yourself to a series that makes a very limited number of episodes per season makes economic sense.

You’re right.  Since there are fewer episodes produced, the deals tend to be more flexible these days.  Case in point:  Kelsey Grammer is attached to a sitcom project for ABC also starring Alec Baldwin.  At the same time it’s been announced there will be a reboot of FRASIER sometime in the future.   I have zero details on either of the deals other than to surmise he’s permitted to do both.  (I’m actually looking forward to both of them.)  

Ere I Saw Elba queries:

This is a Friday question that is somewhat related to your recent podcast on changes in the TV biz:

When did Standards and Practices become a common part of network television, and how much do they continue to affect the content of shows? Also, do the same network standards and FCC regulations apply to internet streaming?

Standards & Practices have been around since the dawn of television.  It’s just that the restrictions have changed.  But as far back as the ’50’s married couples couldn’t sleep in the same bed.  And when Lucy was pregnant they weren’t allowed to say that word on CBS.  

In the ‘70s ALL IN THE FAMILY got away with racial slurs they could never say today.  But back then they were very prudish about sex.  Now you have shows like 2 BROKE GIRLS that would have no jokes at all if they couldn’t say vagina.

Over-the-air TV stations are held to much higher standards because there are only so many channels and the license holders are obligated to broadcast  in “the public’s interest.”   Not so with cable and other platforms.  I believe their only obligation is to post warnings at the beginning of shows alerting the audience to violence, nudity, or vagina jokes.  

And finally, from Bob Gassel:

Have you ever seen a situation where a writer (or team) has pitched an idea that the showrunner liked, but then assigned it to someone else, thinking it was more suited to their style?

They’re not allowed to do that in the strict sense.  If a writer pitches a story and the show runner wants to do it, he’s obligated to  at least buy him out, if not let him write it.  

However, if a writing staff is sitting around a table just spitballing ideas and random notions, a show runner might say, writer X might be better at writing that one but the guy who pitched it will be given an assignment as well, maybe one he’s more suited for.

Then there are the Chuck Lorre rooms where everything is room written, and in that case credit is just assigned and rotated.  The show that you pitched won’t have your name on it, but another that you had little to do with will.

What’s your Friday Question?


Unkystan said...

Why has no one mentioned that currently CBS has six comedies on the air and five of them are Chuck Lorre shows?
I find this particularly odd since none of these are CBS productions

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I'm liberal-minded and don't shock easily. "Mom" has been my favorite current show for several years. The writing and the cast are extraordinary, I credit it for helping me better understand a close friend who died of alcholism, and I'm sorry to see the show end. But I'm amazed at the explicit sexual humor the show has gotten by with the past eight years, especially on CBS, a fairly traditional network. I'm not offended--most of it has been very funny, clever, and well-delivered, but it makes the old Norman Lear sitcoms and Chuck Barris game shows of the seventies look like Disney productions.

Anonymous said...

I always suspected that Chuck Lorre's writers room is a group/committee style because so many nonsensical or implausible actions by characters seem to get through for the sake of a "joke".

For example, if anybody smokes pot, they don't act like anybody I've ever seen stoned. I know there has to be someone in the room thinking "this isn't right", but is either outvoted or stays quiet. I doubt you can fill a writers room and have nobody that has actually tried pot.

Covarr said...

Maybe it's because I'm too young to have watched it when it was fresh, but I've always found All in the Family to be genuinely fascinating, the way it uses racial slurs in the service of larger, anti-racist stories. And on the one hand, I look around and think society desperately needs another show like this. But on the other hand, I think it's for the better that they couldn't make that show today.

I don't have an answer to this. I'm not sure anyone does. But it's gotta make a person think.

Ere I Saw Elba said...


Thanks for taking my question.

I still have to scratch my head in wonder--who in the hell didn't know what pregnancy was in the 1950s? It was the FUCKING BABY BOOM. What, did children think their mother was carrying a bowling ball under her dress?

Sorry for raising my voice there, but I just don't don't get how antiseptic and hypocritical so many people were. Maybe today's standards are just swinging to the other extreme.

ScarletNumber said...


> CBS has six comedies on the air and five of them are Chuck Lorre shows

Chuck Lorre seems to have a pre-existing relationship with Warner Bros. As for the sixth comedy, do you mean One Day at a Time or The Unicorn? The former has been canceled while the latter seems to have aired its last episode.

Unkystan said...

ScarletNumber. His current 5 shows are Young Sheldon, Bob ♥️ Abishola, Mom, B Positive and United Stated of Al. Only The Neighborhood is not his

Poochie said...

Friday Question:

So I've been watching a series of Youtube vids where a real lawyer breaks down courts scenes on TV. As you can imagine the majority of these shows and movies get it wrong. Just totally and not remotely how it operates in the real world wrong. My question is could these productions staff lawyers for the pure purpose of writing/dialoguing ONLY the court scenes? Is that allowed by the WGA? Would the lawyer/writers need to be credited? Residuals? Is this something remotely possible? How would it work? And why don't more productions at least try to get this remotely accurate?

Tudor Queen said...

I'm with you, Ken. If Kelsey Grammer has a new series I will try to at least sample it. (Actually, I more than sampled both "Boss" and "The Last Tycoon" (he was the best thing in the latter, I think). And if Alec Baldwin is doing something with him, I'm setting a reminder!

Mike Bloodworth said...

You forgot to mention that they would never show a toilet on television either. I believe the first time I saw a toilet on a sitcom was on "All in the Family." Yet another groundbreaking moment for TV.


Cap'n Bob said...

The first toilet shown on TV was in a Leave It to Beaver episode.

Sue T. said...

MB - An early episode of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER in the 1950s showed Beaver and Wally stashing a pet baby alligator in their toilet tank.

Dixon Steele said...

"Now you have shows like 2 BROKE GIRLS that would have no jokes at all if they couldn’t say vagina."

Thank you.

sanford said...

To Scarlett Number. Lorre had nothing to do with either One Day at a Time or the Unicorn. One Day at Time was very good. It was too bad it was not given a few more seasons. I liked the Unicorn but I have a feeling that is not coming back.

thirteen said...

"All in the Family" was the first time you *heard* a toilet, from the upstairs bathroom. The first time you *saw* a toilet was in the Dom DeLuise series "Lotsa Luck." Someone's pointed out a toilet tank scene in "Leave It to Beaver," but the judges say it wasn't the same thing. I thought it was astonishing that Wally and Beaver had their own bathroom. I grew up in a family of seven in a small apartment with one pretty awful bathroom. (There are just the two of us in our house, and we have three bathrooms. That's one of the reasons we bought this house.)

Some offended old lady explained to me in the 1990s that showing pregnant women on TV in the '50s would have led to all sorts of questions from children, and What About the Children? I responded that, in the neighborhood where I grew up in the '50s, most of the moms were carrying, and we all knew it wasn't bowling balls.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I watched a show on Netflix that carried a warning about "nudity, violence, smoking." Smoking? I remember when everybody smoked and the stars did ads for the tobacco company's product. Tom Snyder was barely visible through the smoke. Doctors smoked IN THE HOSPITAL and nobody worried about How To Tell the Children. I think the turning point was when you began to see Johnny Carson stash his cigarette under the desk as they came back from commercial.

Mike Barer said...

Even as a boomer, I was shocked to see cartoon characters like the Flintstones doing cigarette commercials.

Brian said...

The original script for “Lucy is Enciente” actually used the word pregnant everywhere - it wasn’t until after the first draft that CBS stepped in and vetoed its usage. Hence the popularisation of the term “expecting”. They were, however, able to use the word in the title for the following week’s episode - “Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable” - because the titles were never shown on-air.

The support for Lucy’s pregnancy arc was overwhelming, with the Arnazes receiving thousands of letters of support...along with 26 letters scolding her for having the “bad taste” to be pregnant on television.

Bryan Price said...

Friday Question:
Back in 1981 I have a pretty good recollection - but not for the details - that I really enjoyed CHEERS - so much so that I joined the "CHEERS Fan Club" and that I received, I think from NBC, a yellow fan club membership card (probably worth something now if I found it.) But, my memory of almost 40 years ago is hazy. Ken, I wondered if you recalled anything about an official fan club?

Anthony Strand said...

I’ve been watching Cheers, and I just got to the season 11 episode where Lilith leaves Frasier to live in an Ecopod. Do you know if that story was done specifically to get Frasier ready for his own series?

Was it ever considered to do a spin-off about Frasier and Lilith as a couple instead? Perhaps one that Bebe Neuwirth declined?

Greg Ehrbar said...

Taboos are cyclical. One set of "nevers" is replaced by another set of "can'ts." Some seem silly and contradictory in retrospect but in their time are sensitive territory and taken seriously more often than not.

Laurel and Hardy movies were made before and after the motion picture code, so some of their classic films, like 1933's "Sons of the Desert," contain pre-code elements that would have been deleted by the Hays office.

But perspective changes over a decade or two. 1934's post-code "Babes in Toyland," considered, to quote WKRP's Lucille Tarlek to be "wholesome family entertainment" when it was first released, was re-edited for television in the fifties to take out close-ups of the scary bogeyman, and also to delete the entire "Go to Sleep" sequence because Tom-Tom is lying too close to Bo-Peep. The TV version, renamed "March of the Wooden Soldiers," was broadcast that way for years until the VHS cassettes were released with the restored scenes.

Wilma Flintstone was the first expectant cartoon mother. She wore a maternity outfit, but they also did not say the word "pregnant" on The Flinstones in the early sixties, they said "having a baby." A few years later, Jean Vander Pyl, the voice of Wilma, did the commercial voice-over for the Playtex disposable nurser, a then-revolutionary type of baby bottle with a plastic outer shell that held disposable inner sleeves for formula. The slogan was that it was "the most like mother herself."

Greg Ehrbar said...

I must credit Randy Skredvedt's "Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies" for the Toyland info. A great book.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I stand corrected.


James said...

A Friday Q, something I always wondered: Was it a conscious decision never to mention Sam's ex-wife on Cheers? She's mentioned (and fleetingly seen) in the pilot but never afterward. It seems like an ex-wife could have made for some interesting complications in Sam's life, especially in later episodes when the writers are struggling for ideas.

Issa Kelly said...

The problem is the message would be obscured because of the racial slurs. Take Blazing Saddles, it's a movie about an intelligent black man who has to deal with the absurd racism he faces in the old west. But all people focus about--especially on the right--- are the racial slurs. Blazing Saddles was condemning and ridiculing bigotry, but edgelords focus on how it's edgy because of the slurs. People nowadays want to use those slurs and get a measure of release when they hear them so much so the lesson the show is trying to teach is lost.

Anonymous said...

@Issa Kelly

Mass entertainment is a huge gamble because when it tries to institute social change in a skillful way, in the manner of shows like M*A*S*H or All in the Family, the odds are that a majority will not be swayed. Those who laugh "with" Archie Bunker will continue because he's the one who gets the big laugh, and Mike is often the voice of reason and that isn't as much fun.

You can't fix the world, and it's crazy to expect TV shows or media in general to teach people how to behave, nor should it. The most leaden, self-congratulatory socially-conscious popular entertainment fails miserably when it tries.

Michael Douglas has aaid that people thank him for his Gordon Gecko character in "Wall Street" all the time, that this character waa their role model in business. He is horrified because Gecko is hideous, yet the movie tries to show the opposite. Same with "The Wolf of Wall Street," which some idiots might take as a "how-to" rather than a fable of moral decay. Movies and TV shows are not mass lobotomies.

However, when these things are done well, the correct message can get through. Maybe to just a handful, but nevertheless it gets through. To people on the fence, to impressionable minds, to people who feel that their side is not being heard. So yes, even with the warts of an Archie Bunker as a bad example, let's keep in mind that there are some out there identifying him as such, maybe to kids. If everything is completely hidden away, how can it be expressed and understood, even for its own ignorance?

Movies and TV are not going to stop showing 99% wrong followed by 1% right anytime soon (some don't at all), but the best examples are intelligent attempts to depict exactly why and how each of us make choices that affect others and perhaps that is all we should expect.

maxdebryn said...

Ken - this is my tardy "thank you" for responding to my Friday question.

ScottyB said...

Sometimes I wonder if Standards & Practices also extended to cartoons. I remember one of the *early* Woody Woodpecker reels (before they made him all "cute" years later) in which Woody went to rent an apartment from a walrus-character landlord. Right there on the lease was a short list of tenant activities that were prohibited. And there, plain as day was "No opium smoking." Those guys truly had their shit together back then.

S.R said...

Friday Question:
Hi, Ken! Apologies if this has been asked before. Just out of curiosity, whenever a character from Cheers appeared or was mentioned in Frasier, do their storylines have to be checked and be approved by the Charles Brothers first or did the writers of those particular episodes (such as yourself, of course) had all the creative freedom?