Friday, October 22, 2021

Friday Questions

It’s getting dark earlier.  I don’t know anyone who likes that.  Here are some Friday Questions to enjoy by candlelight.

JS  starts us off.

What is your Favorite show that lasted awhile but got lost in Time? Mine is "Early Edition" -that show was so good and different and launched Kyle Chandler into a great career. William Devane was really good in his guest appearances.

Since it’s lost in time you probably won’t know it, but there was a show called THE PRACTICE in the mid-70’s that starred Danny Thomas as a crusty but lovable neighborhood doctor that was a treat.  The creator and primary writer was Steve Gordon, who later went on to write and direct the movie ARTHUR.  

Sadly, Steve passed away very young.  But he wrote crackling dialogue that was effortlessly funny.   He's one of my comedy writing idols.  The show lasted a year.  It too was gone before its time.  

Neil wonders:

What's your opinion of the proposed Additional Literary Material credit for all participating writers who do not otherwise receive writing credits on motion pictures.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  Why should everyone who works on a movie including craft-services assistants get credit except for the writers?  That's the way the system is set up now. 

From Tom Asher:

LOVE Christine Baranski... you ever work together, Ken?

I love her too.   I never really worked with her.  She was a finalist for a part in one of my pilots and I got to spend the afternoon with her.   Ultimately, she wasn’t totally right for the part, but I really wanted to work with her.  

By the time we had our next series she was already on CYBILL, but I’d still love to do something with her.   

She’s also a very classy and lovely lady.

And finally, kcross has a question about the HISTORY OF SITCOM debacle that CNN ran.

How would you have approached the assignment? If someone came to you with a lot of money and a really good staff, what would your sitcom history look like?

Very simple.  I would treat it like a history course.  I would start in the late 40’s and work my way up through the decades.  I would immerse the audience in the various decades, sprinkle in some news and societal norms for context, and maybe God forbid mention a writer or two.   

I would show trends, I would praise the shows that were genuinely funny or innovative.  

Along the way I would show sitcoms evolved and how they reflected society as a whole.

What I wouldn’t do is spend half the series pointing out all of sitcoms failings because they didn’t adhere to 2021 sensibilities in 1955.  

What’s your FQ? 


Brian Phillips said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Have you done any or were you ever asked to do any work for the BBC or any other entertainment concern outside of the USA?

Malcolm Burns said...

After 5 episodes it turned out it was actually Cybill on CHRISTINE, then the fireworks started.

I live in Canada so I have no choice but to love hockey and I want to congratulate those of you from Seattle on your new NHL team. I believe they play their very first home game this weekend at the brand new Energy Saving Tree Hugging Something Arena. Perhaps one of you can enlighten me on what a Kracken is. Thank you. Didn't Ken do Mariners baseball? Maybe he knows what a Kracken is.

Darwin's Ghost said...

I see on twitter that those compassionate conservatives are falling over themselves to make jokes about the tragedy involving Alec Baldwin, a horrible accident he'll have to think about for the rest of his life.

Stay classy, psychopathic ghouls, stay classy.

ScarletNumber said...

A wise man once observed that the past is a foreign country. Therefore, it is absurd to judge the past using modern sensibilities. Everyone likes to pretend that they would always have been on the right side of history, but I think people like to give themselves a little too much credit.

John in NW Ohio said...

Here's a Friday question for you, Ken: Is it possible to be an enormously successful star such as Danny Thomas, AND be underrated? I think he may have been, and I would be interested in your take on the topic, including others who may fit into this category.

Back in my high school days (1970s) his niece, Cheryl Jacobs Waters, was one of my English teachers. She was super cool, and really, really nice looking. Made it difficult to focus on Chaucer and Shakespeare, for sure.

Lemuel said...

My favorite Baranski quote (from BBT): "I have to urinate".

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I'm glad DST is almost over. As a night owl and an insomniac, I hate it when it doesn't get dark until 10:00pm and the sun's already out by 5:30am.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I remember Danny Thomas's "The Practice" on NBC. I think it aired the same season as "Doc," an MTM product on CBS with Barnard Hughes. Elderly, crusty physicians were all the rage that year.

Incidentally, I watched on YouTube last night a 1981 episode of "Lou Grant" titled "Cameras" that was written by David Lloyd. The story dealt with cameras in the courtroom--a novelty then--in the trial of a gunman who took children as hostages during an armed robbery at a fast-food place. After seeing so much of Lloyd's sitcom work ("Mary Tyler Moore," "Frasier"), it was interesting seeing a dramatic program he wrote. And he wrote it well--it was a compelling episode.

Ted. said...

I also enjoyed "Early Edition," which was a perfect showcase for young Kyle Chandler. But since it was based on the idea that people's main source of news was a once-a-day print newspaper delivery, I think kids might find it very confusing now.

cd1515 said...

Friday question: as a writer, if you have a well-established character with a well-known trait—-ie, Charlie Harper drinks a lot, his brother is cheap, Monica on Friends is neat, Norm likes beer, etc—-where is the line between giving the viewers what they want and beating the horse to death?
After a show is on for a long time, they always seem to go back to jokes regarding the same things over and over again.
Did you battle that as well?

Vincent said...

It's been announced that character actor Peter Scolari has died at age 66. Best known as Tom Hanks' co-star on the early '80s sitcom "Bosom Buddies," he also appeared on "Newhart," "Girls" (for which he won an Emmy in 2016) and in the Rick Moranis role as Wayne Skalinski in the underrated TV adaptation of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," one of the few hour-long comedies. Did you ever work with him, Ken?

JS said...

I love Early Edition too. It is different and the acting was great. They only had 1 set so everything was filmed on location in Chicago. The location shots alone are terrific. While I am thinking about Kyle Chandler - another show I loved was Homefront. It only lasted a few seasons but it was really good. He played a young baseball player on the CLeveland Indians who fell in love and how it presented a lot of issues.

The obvious Friday question - how does something happen like what happened on the set of Alec Baldwin's movie. Aren't those gun props checked at least twice?

Mitch said...

Since "Early Edition" was filmed in Chicago, almost all plays in Chicago, actors put down an episode of "ED". It really got a lot of actors work in Chicago. Now, Chicago Fire, PD, ER, LMNOP, etc has a lot of work.

mike schlesinger said...

Scarlet: The full quote is "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there." Now more true than ever. It's from L.P. Hartley's "The Go-Between."

Lemuel: My favorite Baranski quote, from the short-lived sitcom "Welcome to New York," in which she's trying to break up an argument between two middle-aged men: "I've worn a diaphragm for 30 years to avoid conversations like this one." Honorable mention from the same show: "This is New York. We wear black. And we'll continue to wear black until something darker comes along."

Gregg said...

If "The Practice" ever shows up on a streaming service, I'll check it out. I'm not too familiar with Danny Thomas, outside of his appearance on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." I remember my dad used to say he didn't like his sitcom ("The Danny Thomas Show" or "Make Room for Daddy" or whatever it was) because Danny always seemed to spend most of every episode yelling and screaming and ranting and raving.

Given that he and Tom Hanks started out on the same dopey sitcom, I wonder if Peter Scolari spent many evenings wondering what Hanks did right, career-wise, that he did wrong.

KLAC Guy said...

And I thought I was the only one who had fond memories of The Practice. I loved that show and never understood why it didn’t make it.

Darwin's Ghost said...

Friday question

As well as you and David, other Hollywood comedy screenwriting partnerships have been duos like Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel and Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski. Is there a sense of comradeship among comedy writing duos and do you guys all know each other?

whynot said...

I can't remember what I had for breakfast today but for some reason I remember a time Baranski was on David Letterman. She was telling a story about how she absolutely HAD to get a flight somewhere for something important when all the flights were booked completely. As she said in her own words, "I told my agent that I had to get a flight; I'll do anything - I'll even fly in coach if I have to". Haven't liked her or her privileged attitude since. Classy? Not the word I would use.

Phil said...

I'm currently reading the late TV director Alan Rafkin's out-of-print 1998 memoir, "Cue the Bunny on the Rainbow." It's a dishy, fun and really interesting -- much like your blog. What behind-the-scenes books in a similar vein you would recommend?

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

So sorry to learn that. Scolari and Julia Duffy were wonderful together. Such a sad year with the losses of so many actors from the MTM company--Cloris Leachman, Gavin MacLeod, Ed Asner, Frank Bonner, and now Peter Scolari.

Mike Bloodworth said...

MALCOLM BURNS: From what I understand a "Kraken" is a sea monster that resembles an octopus or squid that pulls down ships to their demise. However, the Seattle symbol appears to be some sort of sea bird reminiscent of the Seattle Seahawks logo.

Mike Doran said...

In re partnerships writing:

Before he joined up with Babaloo Mandel, Lowell Ganz worked for years with Mark Rothman - until they split up, quite acrimoniously.
That's the example I know about; insiders amongst the readership can possibly come up with more.

They weren't comedy writers, but Richard Levinson and William Link were famous for the harmoniousness of their collaboration (which yielded Columbo, Murder She Wrote and quite a lot else over the years).
I've just ordered a new collection of L&L's early magazine stories from Crippen & Landru, which sight unseen I'd recommend to all who read this.

And in music, composer Mike Post said of his long-time collaborator Pete Carpenter: "If Pete hadn't died, I'd still have a partner."

It's all about people and how they interact - no firm rules.

Call Me Mike said...


If this first interview is anything to go by, Scolari took Hanks' success with good humor.

Jon Weisman said...

It’s getting dark earlier. I don’t know anyone who likes that.

I like it.

Liggie said...

I've already mentioned my favorite one-season wonder, "The Famous Teddy Z", so I'll hedge and list a two-season wonder, "Herman's Head". It was a three-camera "Inside Out" a quarter-century before "Inside Out", and included Yeardley Smith and Hank Azaria, later of "The Simpsons" and Jane Sibbett, later Ross' ex-wife Carol on "Friends".

The details of what happened on the New Mexico movie set are still coming out, but what I've read so far is gut-wrenching.

Elf said...

Ken, a Friday question somewhat influenced by the Rust tragedy: Have you ever had a significant accident or incident on set directly caused by negligence and how did you handle the fallout?

Bob Paris said...

You have written about 'vanity" titles, such as when a star is listed as a producer, even though they did not actually "produce." In the event of an on-set accident, such as a prop gun incident, could you imagine actors shying away from such practice so they are not roped into a lawsuit due to a bogus title?

JessyS said...

I am surprised that "I Love Lucy hasn't been cancelled yet. If you look at many of the episodes, you will realize the ways Lucy Ricardo has been treated. Some of the things that happened to her include getting frozen solid, having to fight a dog for meat (dog appeared only once in the series), getting spanked, and having Ricky use her head for a conga drum.

Mark said...

Darwin’s Ghost - you should check out Baldwin’s past tweets where he commented on other accidental shootings. He hasn’t been particularly classy. This is a horrible tragedy for all those involved. But I’m having a difficult time coming up with a lot of outrage about the jokes about Alec Baldwin when he’s been so uncompassionate himself in the past. Being compassionate involves the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and I don’t see that Baldwin has displayed that, certainly not when it comes to police officers.

Darwin's Ghost said...


Oh you mean when he tweeted about police killing unarmed black people? Yeah, totally the same thing.

No wonder Republicans view Derek Chauvin as a hero.

DyHrdMET said...

It's not so much that it's getting dark earlier - that will dramatically shift after daylight savings time ends in a couple weeks - it's that it's getting light later. The day we change the clocks back (which is now in November) is the latest sunrise of the year in places where the clocks are changed. It's very hard to get up and get moving to go to work when it's not even light out yet.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

Those examples seem a little off without context of the storylines. Lucy was a trickster always pushing boundaries, and Ricky, Ethel, and Fred were tricksters too. In the first aired episode, The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub, the boys and girls were out to trick each other and it set the tone for the series.

Actually I Love Lucy was an unconventional, even Bohemian show for the 50s. In the "lost" pilot, which wasn't used for the show's debut, Ricky and Lucy are introduced getting up about noon (since Ricky works late at the club) and lolling around in their jammies. No kids for several seasons and when Lucy gives birth to her son Ricky shows up at the hospital in witch doctor makeup because he was performing a "voodoo number" at the club. There were lots of stories with cross-dressing, disguises, and revenge plots, with loads of physical comedy. Writer Madeline Pugh said Lucy was "fearless" and up for anything as long as it was funny. During down time when she was still making studio films she hung out with Buster Keaton and he was sort of an unofficial mentor teaching her about props and comedy.

Lucy was a force of nature and so was Vivian Vance who was usually up for a new scheme. Vance had a nervous breakdown in the 40s due perhaps to stress when she was on tour in Europe entertaining the troops. She became a strong advocate for mental health after she became a TV star and visited hospitals to talk with and support patients. During one visit a very despondent woman confided to Viv that all her family had put her there and thought she was a hopeless loser. Viv's advice? "Tell them all to go f*** themselves!" Everyone in the ward burst into laughter.

PolyWogg said...

Interesting interview with Larry Thomas, the Soup Nazi guy from Seinfeld, how his $2600 guest star fee has been supplemented since. At one point he made $20K from Seinfeld x 2 EPs + a movie for residuals. But I found it interesting that when they aired the EP, he got $3500 for the finale; and then $3500 again when they aired it in PrimeTime; and $3500 again when they RE-AIRED it in PrimeTime. I always assumed once it went past first showing, everything was residuals.

In the good old days, when shows ran 25-26 EPs per year, and then ran them as a rerun until the next season, did the actors get paid the same again? Do main stars get their cheque again? If they're making $800K an EP, and it airs twice, before syndication?

The rest of the interview is interesting too just for the other $$ he's made from those two EPs.


PolyWogg said...

An extra Q about guest stars and the roles they played...any fun stories where you brought in an actor who normally plays a devil but who surprised you by nailing the ability to play a saint? Or a saint that played a devil?

Not so much for their personality, so much as like serious actors doing comedy turns or comedic actors doing serious turns, but with the focus on the personality of the roles they normally play vs. what you cast them as?


Kyle Burress said...

What are your top 5 or 10 favorite tv shows that you haven't been involved with? What are the top favorite tv shows that you have been involved in? Are there any shows that you just keep watching over and over?

sanford said...

The Pentagon might not have been too interested in what Hollywood was doing back when Mash was on but if they were I wonder if they had an advisor that looked at your scripts. I don't think Mash ever made soldiers look real bad. An interview with the author. Much more in this podcast.

ScarletNumber said...

If the picture of The Practice looks familiar, it was produced by Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, who would reuse the family picture motif in Soap. Also, they recycled Didi Conn for Benson.

When Conn did this show she wasn't famous yet, as it was pre-Grease. Also, Tony Thomas is Danny's son.