Friday, October 01, 2021

Friday Questions

Let’s kick off the month with Friday Questions.

Jack West has left a new comment about my recent post on radio.

So, when you're a DJ, and you don't have an audience you can hear laughing, how do you know the jokes are funny? The crew? The station manager? It doesn't matter? What?

I guess you have to just believe in yourself.  You may get some feedback from listeners but very little.  

With me it was the ratings.  In Bakersfield at KERN I got a 49 share during my time slot.  In San Bernardino, when I did the all-night show on KMEN, the only hour that was rated was 5-6 am and I got an 85 share.   I should mention that the day that rating was announced I was immediately given a better time slot. 

But all you can do is trust in yourself.  I’ve told this many times.  Most of my early program directors didn’t think I was funny and told me repeatedly to shut up (until the ratings came out).   Thankfully some of my PD’s were supportive.  So thanks again to John Barcroft, Bobby Rich, Tom Straw, Bob Whitney, and Jimi Fox. 

From Patrick Weldon:

The Everybody Loves Raymond set covers two rooms, and often the action shifts from the living room to the kitchen and back again.  If the action moves to the kitchen, what do the actors still in the living room do during that time?  Do they interact with each other?  Do they just sit there waiting for the action to return?  Or are these filmed separately and the actors aren't even on set?

If there’s anything an actor hates it’s to be on stage with nothing to do.  Those scenes are filmed separately.  If there are no cameras and no lines there are no actors. 

BethS wonders.

I wish I could see some of the old TV shows that were one season wonders, but too old for DVDs or not popular enough to rate a DVD - or didn't even get to show everything they had filmed because they were cut off early. I've recently dropped cable and have been enjoying the many old shows that ARE available. I love tracking acting careers by seeing some of their work from before they were famous. Wouldn't you think that the owners of these productions could make a bit of money making their shows from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's available to stream?

This has been a crusade of mine for years — trying to get ALMOST PERFECT on a streaming service.  There are 34 episodes and it went into syndication twice. 

I guess the studios don’t want to spend whatever it costs to digitize these series. 

The other problem is that most of these short-run series are forgotten.   Studios don’t even know they’re in their library.  Or they don’t know where the negatives or final versions are stored.  

Same with movies.  How many movies from the 50’s-90’s no longer exist in any tangible form?  Fortunately, MANNEQUIN 2 is iconic and will run forever. 

And finally, from Matthew Davis:

I am curious about how professionals view others' projects. I listen to a fair amount of tv-based podcasts and they will often say something was directed or edited well. How do they determine that from viewing something they were not involved with? What kinds of things are they looking for?

It works both ways.  Being a writer and director I might admire things most people don’t see.  “That’s a great camera angle.” “What an elegant way to get out that exposition,” etc.

On the other hand, I’m often rewriting in my head.  “This is repetitious.” “There’s a better joke than that.”  “That was a weird edit.” 

I’m not looking to judge.  Things come across my line of vision and I react. 

That said, nothing pleases me more than a show, movie, or play that is so engrossing I can just lose myself in it. 

What’s your FQ?  


Michael said...

There is a party scene in KING OF QUEENS where as a prank Patton Oswalt stands perfectly still in the background for 3 minutes - guess there was nothing planned for him to do or say in that scene.

estiv said...

A possible FQ: As a DJ, what were your favorite songs to use as buffer music? Sometime over the years I learned that if I heard "Green Onions" by Booker T and the MG's, or "Cissy Strut" by the Meters, or "Windy and Warm" by Chet Atkins, etc., it meant we were approaching the top of the hour and the DJ was filling time by playing an instrumental. It would be cut off after about ninety secords or so and the news would start. So did you do this, and if so, what were your go-to cuts for that purpose? Thanks.

Curt Alliaume said...

I get what you mean about short-run series. There have been a few that have lasted because of viewer demand and unusual circumstances--Police Squad! comes to mind--but those are rare exceptions.

It can happen, though. Among game show fans, there's always been a demand for a 1979-1980 rarity called Whew!--mostly because it's so bizarre, partially because one big game show fan won $25,000 on his appearance. (There's a sad story behind that: the neighbor that was to tape his big win forgot to do so, and he never saw it after the first run. After the production company refused for years to make him a copy--that's standard practice, they'd have to do it for everybody--they relented when he was ill with cancer, only to have him pass as the tape was en route to his home.) Just this month, the production company's representatives (including Wink Martindale, who's been working as a producer and packager in the last few years) got the show on Buzzr!, a digital broadcast and streaming channel dedicated exclusively to game show reruns.

You would think, among all the digital and streaming channels dedicated to "classic TV" (Antenna, Me-TV, etc.), there would be an audience for a lost classics subchannel.

N. Zakharenko said...

"How many movies from the 50’s-90’s no longer exist in any tangible form?"

Have they found a modern version of nitrate film?

With the exception of those filmed on videotape (not many), surely the majority of non-independent films still exist.

Even Dr. Wikipedia can only list a handful of totally obscure independent films - whose original viewing audience could probably be counted on your fingers.

Just because they are not available for the general public to see, does not mean they don't exist!

(Unless you're including Kenny does Kansas - whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the next rally of Donny does Des Moines)

Joseph Scarbrough said...

A couple of one-season wonders I've seen are Desi Arnaz's THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW and Larry Gelbart & Gene Reynolds's ROLL OUT!

The best way I would describe THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW would be to imagine if Fred and Ethel had a grown daughter who married a grown Little Ricky, and neither Lucy or Ethel can stop meddling in their business, much to Ricky and Fred's annoyance . . . that pretty much sums up THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW. Being a Desi Arnaz production, he brought it pretty much the same crew from I LOVE LUCY, so that certainly contributed to the I LOVE LUCY-esque feel it had; Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard definitely had that same kind of dynamic with each other that Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance had.

ROLL OUT! was CBS's attempt to bank on M*A*S*H's newfound success by having Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds create another military sitcom for them, which is one reason why it fell flat . . . it'd be like if NBC went to Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld and asked them to create another sitcom about the personal life of a stand-up comedian to try and bank on SEINFELD's success. That being said, however, ROLL OUT! did have quite an interesting cast consisting of Hilly Hicks, Stu Gilliam, Mel Stewart, Teddy Wilson, Garrett Morris, Val Bisoglio, and Ed Begley, Jr. Still, as somebody on the internet once not-so-tactfully described it, ROLL OUT! was essentially M*A*S*H in the ghetto.

John Schrank said...

estiv... the instrumental I remember hearing on top 40 radio just before the top of the hour was The Horse by Cliff Nobles & Co. It makes sense because when the network news cut in, it would not seem as though a record had been interrupted. In the 1970s, in recognition of this, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina included a short instrumental on one of their albums and titled it Just Before The News

Jeff said...

The Mothers In Law ran for two seasons.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Two befrore-the-news instrumentals I remember from AM radio: Raymond Lefevre's "Soul Coaxing" (1968) and David Shire's "Manhattan Skyline" from the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack (1977). And I bet some of Paul Mauriat's arrangements were used for that purpose as well: "Love is Blue," "Love in Every Room," etc.

mike schlesinger said...

I'm frankly amazed at how many one-season-or-less series have been released on DVD, from early westerns like "Yancy Derringer" to more recent sitcoms like "Out of Practice." Sometimes you just need to know where to search.

I can personally take credit for one: "Quark," the Buck Henry-created "Star Trek" spoof starring Richard Benjamin. I was at Sony and constantly pushed them to release it, stepping up those efforts after they admitted it was their most requested series. They finally did, but they ignored my suggestions to get Henry and Benjamin involved. (They also pressed the bare minimum of copies. It quickly sold out but they refused to make more; used copies now sell for insane prices.) I also pushed for "The Edge," a sketch comedy whose cast included a pre-"Friends" Jennifer Aniston, and the original "E/R," which featured early roles for Mary McDonnell, Jason Alexander and George Clooney, but they didn't think they would sell. Sigh.

YEKIMI said...

@ estiv
Station where I live absolutely infuriated me by doing that. ALWAYS close to the top of the hour an instrumental played and was cut off anywhere from 10 seconds into it to a minute or two and *BAM* into the news. It's laziness on the part of the DJ or he doesn't know how to backtime. They dumped music for a few years for sports talk and recently dumped that and went back to music. They added an FM translator so that's probably why they went back to music. Things were great, they apparently had someone that knew how to program a computer correctly because almost always song ended and then straight into the news at the top of the hour. However they've been getting sloppy recently, quite a number of times a song has ended only to be followed by a minute or more of dead air before the news pops in. Either their automation is fucked or whomever is on duty just doesn't give a shit. Tried calling the station [I have access to the numbers that aren't available to the public] and NOBODY answers even those numbers anymore. Could be it's only one person there nowadays and he's too damn busy board op-ping all their other stations they have to bother answering or has been told to NEVER answer the phone.

Jeff Boice said...

One season series? Maybe "Calucci's Department" which was on CBS fall 1973. Critics liked it, but it aired Fridays at 8PM which back then was a sink hole for CBS. Or maybe "The Texas Wheelers" - I see one episode's on YouTube. I rather liked that one.

Before-the-news instrumental: I remember one station would play the piano coda from "Layla". This would have around 1980.

DBenson said...

I'm surprised "The Duck Factory" never got a video release. It popped up on cable when Jim Carrey became a star, and while it had its problems (the old sitcom convention of an impossibly understaffed workplace, in this case a cartoon studio) it boasted a great cast and serious potential.

Also surprised the 1960s "The Green Hornet" never got a legit release, what with a pre-superstar Bruce Lee. Maybe it was the same tangled rights/ownership that kept "Batman" out of home video for decades.

A lot of my old holy grails eventually did get quality releases -- mostly vintage animation and silent / early sound comedies. I still dream of serious box sets of the old Disney hour, having hoarded such episodes as were released in tins or as extras on movies.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I know how much you like to keep politics out of your blog...Ha ha.
But FRIDAY QUESTION: Do you have an opinion about "Missing White Girl Syndrome?" I didn't realize there was an official term for it until the recent news coverage of Gabby Pitito. Her disappearance and subsequent murder have become worldwide news. Yes, it's very sad when anyone is a victim of homicide, but the second I saw her I thought, "Another pretty blonde girl."
And it's not just missing girls. Several years ago when blonde, surfer girl Bethany Hamilton had her arm bitten off by a shark she became a national celebrity. Before that she had been known within the surfing community, but after she turned up on TV shows and they even made a movie about her.

It's not my intent to disparage anyone. My condolences go out to the Pitito family.

But Ken, I'm sure you must have something to say on this issue.


Liggie said...

The streaming service/app Crackle, free to sign up, is a godsend for those looking for those one-season wonders. I found that they had "The Famous Teddy Z" there, and there's a lot more short-lived or unknown series.

Liggie said...

A couple of questions springing from the contract impasse between studios and IATSE, the union representing the crews (cameras, makeup, lighting, etc.)

1) I heard that productions for streaming services pay the crews considerably less than comparable network productions. Is this accurate, especially with Netflix now a behemoth and Amazon Prime owned by the world's richest person?

2) Is it possible to get any sort of job in Hollywood if you don't want to join a union? Note, I personally have nothing against unions, but virtually almost everyone I know or have worked with dislike unions; in their view all they do are enable lazy employees and prevent entrepreneurs and companies from making money. So what would happen to someone who writes a fantastic screenplay/kills an audition/designs a stunning lighting set, but refuses to join the Writers Guild/SAG/IATSE because they philosophically oppose unions?

For the record, my jobs (retail, teller, office work, and now my family's five-person machining company) have never involved unions, so I have no experience labor negotiations, paying dues, or whatever.

Call Me Mike said...

Would be great to see a streaming service that specialized in short-lived shows, new and old. Like a library of lost gems, and less-than-gems.

Philly Cinephile said...

QUARK was released on DVD????? How did I not know that? I would have bought it in a heartbeat!

mike schlesinger said...

DBenson: Yes, "The Green Hornet" is trapped in a hornet's nest of rights issues, mainly because the estates of the co-creators hate each other's guts. Sadly, it's now owned by Disney, so don't expect it anytime soon. I do know bootleg copies are out there if you really, really want it.

kcross said...

Speaking of one season TV shows, there are 2 episodes of Big Wave Dave on YouTube. Do the other episodes still exist and is there any way we can see them?

Also, the show. “Best of the West” would be another good short run series to re-show to the current generation.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Correction: PETITO.


Danny-O said...

Question for Ken,
Like you I’m a huge fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and feel it separated itself thru consistently great writing and an ensemble that was equal to the scripts. I also am a big Lou Grant fan and credit it partially for why I pursued a career in journalism. Through your illustrious career in comedy, was there a character who was extremely fun to write and who you thought could work in a more dramatic show as well? Did the opportunity ever come up, and why do you think it has been such a rare occurrence? Excluding AfterMASH (rimshot!)....
Lotsa Luck and Holmes & Yo-yo top my 1-and-done sitcom list; Lotsa gotta DVD release

Stephen Cudmore said...

Sounds stressful waiting for those ratings to come out if they are tbe first piece of feedback you get about hiw you are doing. Wake up on ratings day and you don't know whether this is the day you get fired kr the day you get moved to a better timeslot.

mike schlesinger said...

KCross: "Best of the West" is yet another one-seasoner that has indeed been released on DVD.

benson said...

If you have access to digital sub-channel Decades TV, they do a weekend programming block "Weekend Binge", and they do bring back some obscure shows. Right now they're doing Time Tunnel with James Darren. And they rotate in some show that haven't been in syndication for more than a few years.

Steve from England said...

My brother and I loved the six episodes of Empire, a 1984 US comedy about corporate America.

First-rate cast: Pat Macnee, Richard Masur, Ed Winter, Dick O'Neill etc. Directed by Terry Hughes. I understand the production company went bust, but presumably ownership still rests with MGM/UA.

Is it ever repeated in the US?

Gary said...

Many people (meaning me) think the Holy Grail of DVD releases would be the single 1967 season of HE & SHE, starring Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss. I remember the show being hilarious, although I was just a kid at the time. But I'd love to see if it still holds up. I know there are several episodes available on YouTube, but they're the earlier ones, and I recall the show getting funnier as the season went on. I still smile when I think of Jack Cassidy as Oscar North.

Thomas Mossman said...

There's a YouTube channel that has the first 12 episodes of He & She available to watch. Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated for seven years.

Janet said...


It's a shame that you and David don't own the rights to ALMOST PERFECT. If you did, between that and BIG WAVE DAVE'S, you could almost set up your own little streaming service (or at least boutique YouTube channel).

And don't completely scoff about YouTube. These days I watch almost all my YouTube on my television.

All my best,


thomas tucker said...

Two old shows that were very good, and did not last long: Bridget Loves Bernie, and Run Buddy Run.

Jeff said...

Friday question: Ken, do you get personally annoyed when you watch modern shows and the credits list half the cast as a "producer" or "executive producer"? Are you worried these stars and their agents will next push for writing credits?

ScottyB said...

BethS wondered >> I wish I could see some of the old TV shows that were one season wonders, but too old for DVDs or not popular enough to rate a DVD ..."

Her post brought me to remember an interesting one-season sitcom from the early-'70s: "Lots Luck," starring Dom DeLuise. He played a NYC transit employee working in the lost and found department. His co-stars -- Kathleen Freeman (she was a scream as his mom), Beverly Sanders and Wynn Irwin -- were outstanding in their characters.

The show was canceled after one season, but it was great to see how funny Dom DeLuise could be.