Friday, October 08, 2021

Friday Questions

Glad that so many of you like Friday Questions.  Here are a few more.

Brian Phillips is first.

I just watched a Cheers episode in which the running gag was that Sam's Plymouth Volarè was keeping Sam from scoring with women.

Since the episode made the airwaves, it seems that the Chrysler Corporation was OK with this. What have been some surprising corporate responses to script references?

One in particular.  David Isaacs and I wrote the CHEERS episode killing off Eddie LeBec.  Our idea was that he’d get run over by a Zamboni Machine while skating in an ice show.   

Our legal department said we couldn't use the name Zamboni since the episode shows them in a less than glowing light.  We took a shot and contacted Zamboni ourselves.  Not only did they okay our use, their president flew out to watch the filming and brought t-shirts.   

The episode is called DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY ON ICE if you’re interested in seeing it.

Another instance, our use of Coca Cola in VOLUNTEERS but I’ve told that story many times.  Easy to look up if you’re curious.

McTom asks:

Barney Miller told great stories while being 99% anchored to the primary squad room set, Barney's office included. The Honeymooners is the prime example, but what other great sitcoms made do with such limited settings?


Feel free to chime in with others I missed.

slgc has a FQ regarding my podcast interview with Joe Buck.  

Buck was discussing the concept of in-game interviews, and he seemed to like them. Personally, I cannot stand them - they distract from the game to the extent that the action isn't even shown, or if it is then it's relegated to a tiny box in the corner. If I'm tuning in to watch a game, I want to watch the game! It's one thing to have a special guest in the booth, but not when the focus on the guest prevents fans from actually seeing what's happening on the field.

What are your thoughts about them?

If it’s an exhibition game like an All-Star Game, I don’t mind it all.  The game means nothing anyway and it’s fun to hear players interact with Joe.  

But now we’re in the playoffs.  During any game that counts I say no interviews or anything to distract the players.  That includes the in-game managers chats that they do now.  I’d eliminate those.  The managers are just spouting bullshit anyway.  They’re not going to divulge their strategy or rip the other team.  They just put a positive spin on their players no matter how good or badly they’re playing.  Lose it.

Exhibition games are “television shows.”  Playoffs are competition.  TV should stand back and let the boys play.  

And finally, from Bob Waldman:

What causes you, if ever, to give up or put aside a script or story idea that you originally thought was good?

First off, it has happened.

For me, it’s usually in the outline stage.  I realize the story has some major flaw I don’t feel is worth wrestling.   Or I finish the outline, look it over, and decide it just isn’t interesting enough.  

Sometimes I’ll just set the project aside and sometime later an idea will occur to me or I’ll come across some other idea and think, “Hey, I can use this to solve that.”  

Research can also point out flaws.  Early in our career we had a pilot idea about the White House Press Corps.  We  thought there was a fascinating dynamic — these people were all in completion with each other but also all colleagues.  

We were lucky enough to get temporary WH press passes and spent several days with them.  Our assumption was they could roam the White House, hang out with the staff, etc.   No.  They’re only allowed out of the press room as a group.  On THE WEST WING when you saw reporters go to the Press Secretary’s office — that doesn’t happen.  Not without prior permission and a pass.   

So for our purposes, that took the legs right out of the series.  No one could sneak around.  No one could have secret sources.   No one could bump into the president in the Rose Garden.  

We did the pilot anyway, but we were thrilled when it didn’t get picked up.  

What’s your Friday Question? 


FFS said...

As a boomer living in Toronto I love the photo at the top. A memory from my younger days.

Jeff said...

"Exhibition games are “television shows.” Playoffs are competition. TV should stand back and let the boys play."

Exactly. Is there anyone out there who says "I really don't like baseball but I am watching this game because of all the fascinating extras, like putting a mic on the 1st baseman so I can hear his thoughts! And I love when they ask the manager for his thoughts. They are so revealing!"

Chuck said...

Recently, ABC Sunday Night Baseball aired a Cubs/White Sox game. During play, the broadcasters thought it was a great time for a very extensive interview with Al Michaels. They plastered Al's face over the game and actually ignored the game completely. This included not showing a home run. When they bothered to show the score, an extra run was just suddenly there. The announcers never acknowledged the home run. As a baseball viewer, I want to see baseball. I don't give a rat's a-- about Al Michaels. Not during gameplay, I don't. At that point, the channel was changed. These useless interviews, as Ken pointed out himself in his response, need to stop. Of course, they won't. They will just get worse as numbskull TV producers and team owners, continue to destroy the game of baseball.

Chuck said...

FAQ possible follow-up: Ken, as to your White House pilot, was it a comedy? If so, why not just take liberties with the set-up? While Barney Miller was "true to life", shows like NewsRadio certainly wasn't, or Green Acres for that matter. Go ahead and have a reporter wander the White House hallways and run into the President. Why not? If it's a comedy, that is.

Darwin's Ghost said...

"No one could bump into the president in the Rose Garden."

The only place anyone could have bumped into the previous resident of the White House would have been the dining room, stuffing his face with burgers while sending tweets and getting blown by his mail order wife.

Kendall Rivers said...

As far as sitcoms with one set\limited settings primarily there's also I Love Lucy, Night Court, Becker, The Jeffersons and WKRP.

Vincent said...

Chuck: Al was interviewed in the middle innings, by which time the Sox had a substantial lead (it was not a good summer for the North Siders). IIRC, Michaels won the Ford Frick award for broadcasting this year, so I have no complaint with what ABC did.

The other day, someone mentioned Yankees broadcaster John Sterling's gaffe on Giancarlo Stanton's "home run" in Tuesday's AL wild-card game in Boston. Sterling -- a hack, the Ted Baxter/Kenny Bania of play-by-play -- has been known for these goofs for years. In contrast, the late Harry Kalas (who, unlike Sterling, is a Ford Frick winner) never went into his famed "outta here!" home run call until after the ball had cleared the fence. Moreover, Kalas never shoehorned his spiel; on arguably his most famous call, Mike Schmidt's 500th home run in Pittsburgh in 1987, he doesn't say "outta here" (the hit was a line drive that quickly left the yard).

Powerhouse Salter said...

Friday question: What are some instances where you've written the body of a script to build toward a particular closing line or closing gag more so than a plot resolution?

Wallis Lane said...

Another Friday question: I recently saw an episode of Friends in which Lisa Kudrow played both Phoebe and her her twin sister Ursula, and I admired how seamlessly it was done. Have you ever directed an episode where a single actor plays twins, or two simultaneously appearing characters, in a multi-cam sitcom, and if so, what are the mechanics of the thing and what does the audience see?

Ted. said...

If you count shows that make do with one basic home set and one basic workplace set (or else a bar or coffeehouse where everyone hangs out), the majority of sitcoms would probably apply. Then there's "Caroline in the City," in which Lea Thompson played a cartoonist who worked out of her apartment -- so the living room doubled as her workplace. (Who would have thought that would turn out to have been the most prescient show of the '90s?)

DBenson said...

Years ago, read a piece where somebody talked about producers who'd splurge on a pilot (locations, crowd scenes, expensive guest stars, etc.) so a network would pay expecting those production values, then go cheap on the series itself. I know start-up costs are high, but did you ever run into a project that felt like a bait and switch?

Also: Since it never left the bar set in the first season or so, was "Cheers" less expensive than multi-set shows? When they finally did begin taking the action to other locales, was there a shakeup in how the show was budgeted?

Chuck said...

Vincent: It's nice for you that you like to watch interviews instead of baseball during a baseball game. I myself, regardless of what inning it is, prefer to watch baseball during a baseball game. At that time, I don't give a Frick who won what award. Let Oprah interview Al Michaels over on the "O" network and let baseball fans watch baseball during a baseball game. (But hey, thanks for reading my comment. I appreciate the acknowledgement.)

Chuck said...

Kendall: WKRP used numerous sets; Carlson's office, reception, the bullpen, Andy's office and the radio booth. They often traveled out of the Flimm Building as well. Ever notice that the hall leaving reception to the bullpen led to the left which led directly to behind Carlson's office's windows? I always thought that was rather strange.

JessyS said...

Long story short on "Volunteers." The Coke product placement was unintentional as Tom Hanks character was to offer Rita Wilson's character a taste of home given that they were playing missionaries on a faraway island. As it turned out, Ken and David caught flack for the unintentional product placement.

Ken, you'll be happy to know that The Simpsons parodied "Volunteers" with the episode "Missionary Impossible." The plot starts with Homer and Bart watching a crude British sitcom on PBS. It is interrupted by a PBS pledge drive where Homer pledges a huge amount of money he doesn't have. However, PBS characters such as Mr. Rogers, Oscar the Grouch, and Big Bird descend on Springfield and send Homer into the protection of Rev. Lovejoy who puts him on a plane headed to a faraway island where he becomes a missionary and befriends a little girl he calls Little Lisa due to Yardley Smith voicing that character.

Lemuel said...

@ Wallis Lane: But they're cousins! identical cousins...!

Liggie said...

"Zamboni": It's one of those words that's supposed to be a trademark, but has since morphed into a common word, like "Kleenex" or "escalator". Zambonis were invented in 1949 by Frank Zamboni and his namesake company, and because that brand dominates the market so much -- the only outfit I know of that uses the competing Olympia machine is the Detroit Red Wings -- hockey, figure- and speed-skating fans have adopted the term "Zamboni" for any ice-resurfacing vehicle. (Fun trivia fact: Frank Zamboni never learned how to skate.)

In-game coach interviews: I've gotten used to them, so they don't bother me. NHL coaches are pretty cooperative during their mid-period interviews with the rinkside reporters, and I only saw one coach spur his scheduled interview because he was screaming at his underachieving players during the commercial break. MLS and rugby coaches even put on the headset and talk with the announcers during action, and they even explain the strategies of the play that's going on. I've even seen Twenty-20 cricket players in the outfield conduct earpiece interviews with the commentators during games, as they understand it helps promote the sport.

Matt said...

Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite writers. I have seen you laud him and also make fun of him.

Where do you put him on the list of great TV writers.

BTW, my other favorite writers are whoever wrote for cheers. I was in high school when Cheers was around. I had friends who discussed Cheers with me, but we were trying to keep from getting our ass kicked.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

I love Caroline in the City (well the first two seasons anyway before the terrible Richard/Julia relationship kicked in). Remo's restaurant was a great secondary setting for the storylines. Adored Candice Azzara as Richard's mom, what a brilliant actress, she should have had her own show! She was also very sweet and touching in Fatso with Dom DeLuise.

Jahn Ghalt said...

I like the sport culture commentary and stories here.

Isn't it great and unusual that Zamboni embraced the very-funny happy hor$e$#!t that an NHL player could meet his end that way??

Of course no manager would take those "interviews" seriously. What's more - NO ONE ever says anything of substance - beyond the most obvious and cliched statements in a sports "interview".

(watching Mike Nichols extemporaneously "speak in paragraphs" in his real interviews makes a huge contrast)

In Bull Durham, Crash Costner Davis has one of the more real moments in sports films when he counsels Nuke Robbins LaLoosh on the expected "answers" to sportswriters "questions".

For some time the "two-question interview" at NBA games (start of 2nd and 4th quarters) has marred national television broadcasts. Mile Popovich barely tolerates them (and all the announcers smile at thaat). Two exceptions - Pop was kind to the dying-of-cancer Craig Sager and he was once nominally respectful to the top-notch Doris Burke.

Charles Barkley was (still is) one of the few to refuse to "play that game" and speak his mind. Not living in a "big market" in the 70s, I'm unsure how much Reggie Jackson also refused - but he was one of the few to not indulge in false-modesty - in his day, anyway.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

Oops I meant Candice Azzara was Annie's mom. Amy Pietz recently guest-starred in the Season 7 finale of Mom.

Leo said...

Friday Question: In the Frasier episode where Niles sinks the basketball shot at half-time, did David Hyde Pierce actually make the shot himself, or was it achieved through editing?

Philly Cinephile said...

Friday question: how far in advance do you write your blog posts? Is every post "written to order" or do you have a cache of essays that you can pull from if you're short on time?

Kendall Rivers said...

FQ: Thoughts on Dave Chappelle's latest special The Closer and the reaction by certain humorless idiots online?

Chris said...

Why on earth did you show a picture of a Zamboni from the effing Toronto Maple Leafs?

slgc said...

FQ - How is Angel Hernandez permitted to umpire postseason games? He shouldn't even be allowed to purchase tickets to the games!

JS said...

My Friday Question - 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.