Wednesday, March 30, 2022

EP268: Cartooning and Comedy

Part two with New Yorker cartoonist, David Sipress. This week is focused on the art of combining comedy writing and drawings. It’s a fun look at the process of creativity. Along with a good Cliff Clavin story.

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And the final irony...

Okay, I was going to move on, but I just had to share this.   Thanks to Facebook friend and great KHJ 20/20 Newsman, Roger Aldi for alerting me to this -- here is Will Smith on Arsenio Hall's show.  

The band member had alopecia, by the way.  "Aw, these are jokes! C'mon."  

I guess it's a good thing for Will the bass player's wife wasn't in the audience.  

UPDATE: There's some conjecture that the bass player didn't have alopecia.  If so, the joke was merely a gratuitous  shot at someone else's expense.  The key is Smith trying to justify it by saying "Aw, these are jokes!" Bottom line is if you're going to dish it out you have to be willing to take it.   That's certainly the rule of the writing room. 

Ironically, Will Smith tried his hand at stand-up comedy a couple of years ago. Here's his tweet:

I did Stand Up last night... FIRST TIME EVER! I opened for Dave Chappelle. I AM HOOKED.
Dave Chappelle?  If you think Chris Rock is rough... 
Look, none of this brouhaha would have happened if Rock didn't make an uncalled for joke and Smith didn't over-react on a world stage.  Both come off looking like assholes.  I don't want to seem like I'm playing favorites, but I can't find any clips on the internet of Chris Rock hitting anybody.


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Follow-up to yesterday...

 Was I right?  People were talking about the Oscars all day yesterday.  

My post on Monday was on the impact of the incident to the Oscarcast and purposely not a discussion of the merits of the slap.

But today, let me weigh in like everyone else.  (And thanks for all the comments yesterday.)

I agree with those who said Will Smith should have been removed from the building.

Violence should not be condoned.  And just because you’re a celebrity doesn’t give you license to not play by society’s rules.  Same goes for sexual assault or throwing a full can of Coca Cola at a producer’s head because you didn’t like a joke (Yes, Bret Butler, I’m talking about you).  

In watching the clip again (and again and again), Smith laughed originally and then saw that his wife was pissed.  But his initial response was telling. 

I love how some people are outraged at this violence but seem to be okay with the January 6 insurrection.  

Some are saying they should take away Smith’s award.  I don’t think that’s necessary.  It’s already tainted.  And might as well let him have it since he will never win another thing ever.   Just throw him out of the Academy if they want to be punitive.   He’s probably destroyed his career, so that's sort of a punishment. 

The Academy came out with a statement that they “condemn” his action.  Oooh, they’re really sticking their necks out.  They will “formally review” the incident.  So the bullshit continues.  They maintain there was talk of removing Smith but that the decision makers were all in different parts of the audience and couldn’t mobilize in time.  What a crock of shit that is.  You don’t need a committee.  You need the president of the Academy saying “Have security escort him out of the building.  Now!”  

SAG/ AFTRA also condemned him.  If SAG/AFTRA wants to right any wrongs they should fix their own health insurance plan that screws over its members.  Work on that awhile.  

Enough people now hate Smith that he’s Hollywood’s next Mel Gibson.  

I agree that Chris Rock’s joke was a cheap shot.  

If you’re a celebrity — especially now with social media where everyone with a Twitter account can become an Oscar host — you better develop a thick skin.  

The reality is the only real laughs award show hosts get these days is from cheap shots.  It’s encouraged.  That Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes more than once, that’s all you need to know.

(What if Will Smith hit Ricky Gervais?  Would the reaction be different???)

So where do you draw the line?   When half the audience is offended by anything and the other half is angry and offended by nothing?  

Of all the truly despicable people in the world — people who want to destroy the world, destroy Democracy, all for their own personal gain and quest for power — you’re going to hit a comedian?  

Now comedians are worried this is going to become a thing.  No, I don’t think comedy club audiences are going to start beating up on the stand-ups.  Unless you’re Will Smith you go to jail and it costs you a lot of money you can't afford.  As a general note — you can’t just start smacking people.  

Ratings were up marginally.  15 million instead of 10 — the second lowest rated Oscarcast ever.  Compare that to 1998 when TITANIC won.  55.3 million viewers.  

To me, an even sadder moment was seeing Liza Minelli and the horrible shape she’s in.  Truly heartbreaking.  Kudos to Lady Gaga for handling the situation with class and compassion. 

Let's see... anything else?  I can't think of... oh wait.  Yes.  Congratulations to the winners.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The slap that saved the Oscars

What’s exciting about the Oscars is that it’s live and there’s the occasional unexpected crazy incident.   That’s what people remember.  That’s what people talk about the next day.  Usually, it’s a major fuck up — like the year they announced the wrong Best Picture.   That was an unexpected moment I'm sure the Academy wishes to forget.  

But it seems to me that years ago there were more of these happy unplanned incidents.  The streaker, Sacheen Littlefeather, Jack Palance doing a push-up, etc.  What made the Oscar hosts great wasn’t their opening monologue but their ability to ad lib and comment on the memorable moment.  Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal all had that gift.  

Incidents like that would electrify the ceremony.  Now the audience is waiting to see the ramifications, reactions, and whether more craziness ensues.  

Will Smith revitalized all that with one slap.  By slapping Chris Rock for telling a joke at the expense of his wife, Will Smith suddenly made the Oscars interesting.  Whether you agree with whether he should have done it or not, the result and subsequent Smith tirade to Rock — “Keep my wife’s name out of your FUCKING MOUTH!”  — was great live theatre.  It was a shared event.  People are talking about it today, aren’t they?  We have so few shared events anymore that aren't insurrections.

And then Smith finally wins an Oscar and has this insane pompous endless speech filled with pauses and suddenly we’re now hanging on every word. (By the way, what bullshit!  He’s a “protector.”  He’s a self-absorbed talented actor — not a protector, not chosen by God to spread love.)  At any moment he could say the most bizarre thing.  When he began by launching into how much love he was put on this earth to spread and then got teary, I don’t know about you, but I was thinking “this guy is going to have a complete breakdown on worldwide television”  — I’m not switching over to Netflix.  

Few people (if any) can remember anything about the last few years of the ceremony.  Yeah, there were incoherent speeches (Frances McDormand) and actors mispronouncing names, but big whoop.  Will Smith slapping Chris Rock will be remembered for years.  And I guarantee you, as a result, next year’s Oscars will go up in the ratings.   If for no other reason, Smith will probably be a presenter.  We’ll all tune in to see who he slugs next. 

UPDATE:  My follow-up tomorrow.  And no, I don't condone the violence.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Weekend Post

Hey, the Oscars are this Sunday night.  I wonder how many of you read that and said, “Oh, that’s right” or “They are?”   Oh for the days when the Oscars meant something.  

As hard as it may be to believe today, at one time the Academy Awards were like the Super Bowl.  The country stopped to watch.  Ratings were astronomical.  Most people attended Oscars parties.  There were Oscar pools, which were easy to fill out because everyone saw every picture.  We all knew the five songs under consideration because they were all hits on the radio.   The actors and directors were Hollywood royalty (writers were Hollywood well-to-do’s).  

The hosts were entertaining.  Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal enhanced the ceremony with their irreverence and off-the-cuff quips.  

There was a level of glamour.  It was the ultimate “ball.”  

You rooted for your favorite picture or actor (or you were one of ten people who rooted for writers).  There was suspense.  There was drama.  There was cleavage.  

And let’s be honest, a favorite thing to do at these in-home Oscar parties was to rip on everyone and everything.  You made fun of the dresses, the foreign actors who were presenters but couldn't speak clear English, the pretentious speeches, Price-Waterhouse, the production numbers, etc.  

Now of course you can’t do any of that.  You can’t body shame, God forbid you make a joke at the expense of someone less white than Nicole Kidman.  You’re a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe.  Actually, you’re all of those things if you laugh at those jokes.  So best to say nothing.  

And what are you left with — a quiet room with people who have seen none or few of the movies, are unfamiliar with the actors and directors, and wonder why they’re there in the first place.  

This year they’re streamlining the show, giving awards during commercials and just playing back highlights of winners’ speeches.  All that has done has angered the community.   For the last few years there’s been no host.  This year there are three.  I will say that this was cool — one of them was in my house recently.  Wanda Sykes attended my daughter’s baby shower.  Bob Hope never swung by my house.  

Every year they try a new format.  A new producer has “the answer.”  And it never works.  No one has seen the movies so no one cares, you can’t feel superior and make fun of anything, and let’s be frank — there have been a glut of award shows.  Award shows aren’t special.  They used to be.  But not anymore.  Alas, my Peoples’ Choice Award is no longer the standard of excellence.  

Still, I’ll probably watch it… unless there’s a Spring Training game on.  Forget Hollywood Royals, I wonder how the Kansas City Royals are doing.   

Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday Questions

Let’s “Spring” into some Friday Questions.

scottmc has left a new comment on your post "How to boycott Russia":

When directing an episode for television have you ever used a take that you knew contained a mistake, or goof? (The reason I ask is that I just saw the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW episode 'Bupkis'. Rob opens the phone book looking for a number after having already dialed the number. Both the studio audience and Van Dyke seemed to notice the mistake but nonetheless they used that take.)

I never leave mistakes in consciously, but sometimes in editing you notice things you missed on the stage.  Usually these are matching issues — his collar is up in one take and down in the other, the cover is on the tray in one take and not in the other, etc.  

You’re left with two choices.  Either go with the take where everything matches perfectly even though it may not be the best performance, or go with the best performance and hope the audience doesn’t really notice the mistake.

That’s the camp I’m in.  Unless the mistake is glaringly obvious I opt for the best performance.  

In an ALMOST PERFECT episode I directed, there was a big pie fight with several pages of dialogue after.  We shot it Monday night after camera blocking, then cleaned everything up and re-shot Tuesday night in front of the audience.  Needless to say the two takes didn’t match.   Watch Matthew Letscher (Rob).  The glob on his face doesn’t match from shot to shot.  I guarantee you wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t tell you.  Here, watch the scene:

404 asks:

Friday question about your writing/thought process: I've noticed that most of your posts end with some sort of call-back zinger, where you reference something mentioned earlier in the piece. I know this is a pretty standard bit of comedy writing, and in general a good way to end a piece no matter the genre.

My question is how do you, Ken Levine, typically go about setting those up?

Callbacks (as they are called) are a great way to button a scene.  I rarely have a final callback in mind when I’m writing a post, but as I get towards the end I start to look back at what might be worth calling back.  

In fairness, sometimes it works better than others and I’m left with pie on my face.  

And finally, from Brian:

Are show titles hard to come up with? Have they fallen out of favor? I recall seeing a title in the opening credits recently. I was reminded of show titles since on a recent airing of Jeopardy, contestants had to name the shows from the titles of the final episodes. The clues included "Farewell, Goodbye and Amen" and "One for the Road”.

Episode titles are a pain-in-the-ass.  You need them for production schedules.  At one time it wasn’t worth spending a lot of time on them because they’d never be made public.  But now episode titles are available as are descriptions of each episode.

In some cases, the titles give away major plot points.  It didn’t matter when no one but the production staff saw it, but now it matters a lot.  

I always liked what FRIENDS did.  Every episode title began with “The one where…” You didn’t have to wrack your brain.  You could just say “The one where Phoebe gets hit with a pie” and be done with it.

What is your Friday Question? 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

EP267: Meet New Yorker cartoonist David Sipress

Now one of the best and funniest New Yorker cartoonists, David was rejected for 25 years before finally landing a sale there. It’s an inspiring story of perseverance and belief. Learn how to get through the tough times and know that good times are ahead.

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What is the benefit of doing a sitcom in a mockumentary format?  

At one time it was very fresh.  Rob Reiner’s THIS IS SPINAL TAP used the device as a novel and fun way to tell a movie story.  

Ricky Gervais’ British version of THE OFFICE also used it to good effect.  But it made sense there.  There were only a few episodes shot.  So you can understand that a documentary crew filmed them for a few months and distilled all the footage into just a few episodes.  

The American version of THE OFFICE strained credibility.  Why was this crew shooting for years and years?  Still, you overlooked that because, at the time, THE OFFICE was a fresh way to mount a sitcom.

Not sure why a documentary crew would follow around the folks at PARKS & REC but the show developed into such a funny and charming sitcom you didn’t mind.  At least I didn’t mind.

By the time MODERN FAMILY hit the airwaves the device seemed tired.  It reached a point when the mockumentary style detracted from the series.  

And then there are the logistics.  Where are all these cameramen?  In MODERN FAMILY there’s the episode where the kids catch their parents having sex.  We see them bring up breakfast in bed and open the bedroom door.  We see their point of view suggesting the parents are busily engaged.  The kids are horrified, slam the door closed, and leave.  Then we cut inside the bedroom where the parents are discussing what just happened.  So wait a minute — for a camera to be in the bedroom to capture that exchange it already had to be there — when they were having sex.  I brought that up to one of the show’s producers and he said, “Hmmmm.  Never thought of that.”  

The mockumentary formal causes limitations.  How intimate can characters’ conversations be when they know they’re being filmed?  And when you watch these shows, sometimes the characters know and react to being filmed and other times they act as if they’re oblivious to it.  

This year we have ABBOTT ELEMENTARY, a well-written well-received new sitcom.  But they too utilize the mockumentary device.  And I ask the question: why?  What added value does it serve?  It’s certainly no longer fresh. And a lot of the jokes revolve around people squirming knowing they did something embarrassing that now is being seen by the world.  They’re the same jokes THE OFFICE did a thousand times twenty years ago.

If there’s an organic reason why a series needs to tell stories through this device, that’s fine.  Or if the characters are hoping this “documentary” will result in more funding or change in any way then I say great.  But to do it just to do it — to me it’s the new laughtrack.  

What do you guys think? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The statuesque Marilyn Monroe

Was in Palm Springs over the weekend for the unveiling of FRASEIR co-creator, David Lee’s Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame.  Its in front of the art museum and down the block from the Marilyn Monroe statue.  Apparently there has been much controversy over this magnificent sculpture.  Understandable cries of misogyny and protests have sprouted.   On the other hand, some have countered by saying that when Marilyn’s husband, Joe Dimaggio, learned of that scene he forbid her from doing it and she said she would do whatever the fuck she wanted.  (Apparently, tension over this issue contributed to their divorce.)  So the statue could be perceived as a monument to women’s empowerment.   You decide.

There are also those who resent walking out of the museum and seeing Marilyn’s crotch.   Okay, it’s hard to counter that one.  

I will say this, when the star ceremony was over we were invited to a nearby restaurant for drinks.  The instructions were “Go through Marilyn’s legs and turn right.” 

Monday, March 21, 2022

A Monday rant

WARNING:  This is cranky Ken today.

I will on occasion repost a story from years gone by on the weekend.  I figure enough time has passed that most of the people reading it are new to the blog.  I used to say they were reposts but figured if the subject matter hadn’t dated then why announce it’s a rerun?  Someone might say “Oh, then I probably read it” and skip it when in fact they hadn’t and miss out.  And often times I will revise the stories so they’re not dated or new information will be added.  Again, someone sees rerun and doesn’t bother.  

Once a month I try to repost a Friday Questions entry from ten years ago or more.  And for  those I specifically say when they first appeared.  Context is important in that regard I believe. I’ve answered well over 3,000 questions and at least six of them deserve to not just be buried in the archives.  

Okay, so that’s my policy.

Lately, I’ve received some angry comments from readers ripping me because I don’t post that certain weekend entries are reruns.  (Here comes the cranky part.). To those people and anyone else who has major issues with this humble blog:

How much are you paying for this?   Or, put another way, how much am I making for this?  Sixteen years of posting mostly every day and my compensation is what again?   How many blogs are even still going after sixteen years?  

You’ll also notice I don’t clutter my blog with ads.  I’ve been approached numerous times to do that. I’ve also been approached to move my blog to a subscription site behind a paywall.  I’ve declined.   

The bottom line is after sixteen years it’s getting harder and harder to maintain this blog. The reruns are necessary.  And how I choose to frame them is my call.  The alternative is ending the blog altogether.  And when that day finally comes, I fully expect these same people to angrily write in demanding refunds.  

Hopefully I never have to rerun THIS post again.

UPDATE:  Thank you all for the wonderful comments yesterday.  I'm not cranky anymore. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Weekend Post


It’s not uncommon for writers to get fired off of film projects. You turn in a draft, the phone stops ringing, and then you learn that someone else has been hired to rewrite you. Larry Gelbart, at a WGA membership meeting debating one of our many contracts, spoke to the crowd of about a thousand and said, “At one time everyone in this room will rewrite everyone else in this room”.  He's right. 

But how many writers have been fired even before they wrote a single word? Not many. The only two I can think of are me and my partner, David Isaacs.  What a dubious distinction!

It’s 1980. Director Randal Kleiser is hot based on an unlikely hit movie he megged (I love that bullshit Hollywood term) called BLUE LAGOON. A young nubile Brooke Shields (before becoming the toast of Broadway) and pretty boy, Christopher Atkins are trapped on a tropical island together. They frolic for two hours and this audiences wanted to see.

So Kleiser gets a big development deal at Columbia. He has an idea for a coming-of-age movie set in an amusement park. David and I are hired to write it. We do. He loves it. The studio loves it. Everybody loves it. No one makes it but everyone loves it.

While we are writing the screenplay, Kleiser is busy writing and preparing the next movie he was going to direct, SUMMER LOVERS. This classic starring nubile Darryl Hannah and pretty boy, Peter Gallagher, is about a gorgeous young couple who fall in love one idyllic summer in picturesque Greece. BLUE LAGOON with Lachanodolmades.

We turn in our screenplay to much praise and get a call from Randal. He’s going off to Greece in a week to begin principal photography of SUMMER LOVERS. But he’s getting a little nervous about the script. Would we be interested in doing a fast rewrite? Nothing major. No story or structure changes. Just round out the characters and maybe add a little humor and dimension. A messenger drops off copies of the script. We read it overnight, meet in the morning to discuss what we’d like to do, and then drive over to Burbank to confab (another favorite bullshit Hollywood word) with him in his office on the WB/Columbia lot.

The meeting goes swimingly. He loves our suggestions. He laughs at the jokes we propose. He couldn’t be more effusive and enthusiastic. What we pitch is just what the script needs he says. So he sends us off to write it, complete with his blessing and thanks.

We drive back over the hill to my condo on the Westside. Takes about a half hour. We walk in my place and immediately the phone rings. It’s our agent. No pleasantries. She starts out with, “Just what happened in that meeting?” I was sort of thrown by the question. “It went great. Why?” I asked. “Well, it couldn’t have gone that great,” she said, “Columbia just called. They fired you.”


"You're no longer on the project."

"Even if we were never on the project."

"Yep.  Your services are no longer needed."

"What services?  We never started service."

"You're fired!"

So that was that.  We never found out why. My guess is Randal didn’t like our suggestions but was just too much of a wimp (an expression I shall use in place of the one I really want to use but am taking the high road – although you know the word I mean) to tell us face-to-face. Randal went off to the make the movie. I never saw it. It bombed. I don’t think our rewrite would have made a damn bit of difference.

By the time he had returned, our amusement park project was dead. We learned later that Columbia had no intention of ever making it. They wanted another BLUE LAGOON, not a teen comedy out of Randal Kleiser. They were just indulging him.  We didn’t know it at the time but we were always just spinning our wheels (back in the days when studios still paid for the spinning).

There’s no real moral to this story. The only advice I could give writers so that this never happens to you is, I guess, don’t ever come home taking Laurel Canyon.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Friday Questions

Spring Training finally begins and here are some Friday Questions during pitching changes.  

Elf starts us off:

Given everything you said about discarding jokes if they're too obvious or common, have you ever had a joke or even just a punchline you liked so much you kept it in your back pocket then tried to reverse engineer a scene around it? I think of the Aristocrats joke or Norm MacDonald's moth joke where there are very simple punchlines but they only work with the proper setup.

I can honestly say no.  At ALL times I serve the story and the characters, not a joke (no matter how great I think it is).  

To create or twist a scene to shoehorn in a joke is a sign of a bad writer.  

And similarly, if a joke, even a great joke, gets in the way of a scene, you must take it out.  

It’s not that good jokes are so easy to come by, but you have to preserve the integrity of your show (or script) above all, and to compromise that for the sake of a laugh is, to me, a cardinal sin.  

cd1515 queries:

You mentioned you’re looking for the sitcom that makes you laugh. Is it possible because of what you do and have done, and the thousands of jokes I’m guessing you have pitched and heard pitched, that you would always see it coming and nothing would make you truly laugh at this point, just because of your history?

That’s a fair question and the answer is no.  Nothing pleases me more than to see a form of entertainment that makes me genuinely laugh.  In terms of sitcoms, it may be harder because I have seen so many but fresh ones stand out.   

I’ll occasionally laugh at something from Weekend Update.  I participate in those one-day play festivals at the Ruskin Theatre and a number of fellow playwrights produce work that makes me laugh out loud.  John Mullaney always makes me laugh, so do a few other stand-ups.  CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM occasionally makes me laugh (I find it inconsistent but when they hit it — bullseye!).  Certain cartoonists in the New Yorker totally delight me.  

But rarely does a current sitcom make me laugh.  Sorry, they just don’t.  

From Todd Long:

My son is taking an "America in the 1970s" class in college, and this question was on the midterm: "What can a viewer expect to take away from an episode of MASH?" I was curious as to how you would answer that.

A reader responded in the comments section and answered it as well or better than I could.  So I’m posting that, with thanks to reader  JessyS.

Here is how I would answer the M*A*S*H question.

Though MASH is an anti-war series at its heart, it captures the heroics of a group of medical soldiers as they save lives on a daily basis. Like many sitcoms of that era, this show captures the era of life perfectly. Both the movie and series are based on real life experiences of the Korean War but also reflect the realities of Vietnam and the pictures shown on American TV screens as people were injured or died in battle.

Thanks, JessyS.

And finally, from DBenson:

What dictates how a character is written out or replaced, once an actor wants out or a suit decrees it? Do you try to keep (or make) a departing character sympathetic out of regard for the actor? Were you ever tempted to give an unpleasant actor a parting kick by making his/her character a jerk, or even by including physically uncomfortable action ("And then we dump the simulated bat guano ..."). Is there a case for or against making a character's departure a big event?

Just speaking for myself, the nature of the story dictates the reason for killing off a character.   

I’m sure some producers are vindictive, but we’re not.  We also haven’t killed too many.   (How many regulars on 24 got offed?  A dozen? 24?)  

David Isaacs and I had to kill off the Eddie LeBec character in CHEERS.  In that case, we had to make him unsympathetic so the audience would be glad Carla was rid of him.  That’s why we made him a bigamist.   But that was a tricky dance — making a previously lovable character unsympathetic while finding a funny way to do that.  I think we pulled it off and it’s one of my proudest episodes.  Sorry Eddie.

What’s your Friday Question? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

EP266: Do you believe in Hollywood miracles? YES!

Dan Erickson was working for Postmates and writing a spec pilot.  That spec became SEVERANCE on Apple + with Dan as the showrunner.  How did this Hollywood Dream come true?  Dan Erickson shares his inspirational story on this week’s episode.

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The CHEERS St. Patrick's Day episode

I thought I'd get you in the mood for St. Patty's Day early.  This is a scene from a CHEERS David Isaacs and I wrote. One of the many Bar Wars episodes. In this one, it’s St. Patrick's Day. Woody had been guarding the bar all night in anticipation that Gary might try to pull something.



Oh my God. Gary.

He topped it.

Walled off from the keg. I want him dead. His family… dead. His friends… dead. His pets…DEAD.

That rat! I’ll kill him!

I thought you were going to have Woody stand guard so this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

I’m sorry, Sam. I fell asleep.

They bricked Woody up inside the bar.

First he marries a rich girl and now this. I tell you, that guy was born lucky.


Boy, Sam. This thing is sealed up tight.

How you doing in there, Woody? You okay?

I’m feeling a little light headed.

Thank God, he’s okay.


Hey, Norm, where’d you get that beer?

I’ve got a couple cans squirreled around the bar for emergencies. I always thought it would be a nuclear thing, but this qualifies.


Where do you want us to set up, Mr. Malone?

How about right there? (POINTS UPSTAGE; THEN, TO THE GANG) See, guys? We can still win this thing. The band’s here, we’ve got the green beer… all we need to do is take down this wall and hustle like there’s no tomorrow. Okay? Now I want to see a winning attitude here. A little positivity.


(singing) “They broke into our Dublin home, the dirty English dogs. They took away my sister and they beat my dad with logs.”


(singing) “Along the ring of Kerry you can hear the bleat of gulls, I’ll sip the blood of the English from their bleached and hollowed skulls.” (TO THE BAR) Everybody!!

Boy, if they look as good as they sound, Gary’s doesn’t stand a chance.




(finishing a dirge) “…And everywhere I looked was death, death, death.”


And now for a sad song. (STRUMS A CHORD, SINGS) “Twas a baby’s crib…”

(interrupting) That’s it! You’re finished. Here’s your money. Get out.

Go to hell.


Well, it’s over. I guess we should add up the receipts and see how we did.

What’s the total, Woody?

(figuring on a calculator) One million five hundred thousand dollars.

Decimal point, Woody.

Hold everything. A hundred and fifty even.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

How to boycott Russia

There is a very fine iconic restaurant in Manhattan called the Russian Tea Room.   It’s where you’d go back in the day to see Sophie Tucker, Hermione Gingold, and Tallulah Bankhead split an order of pickled vegetables and compare notes on sleeping with the doorman at the San Remo Towers.  It was the height of pretending to be sophisticated.  The Russian Tea Room serves caviar and Chicken Kiev and it’s more of a throwback to when Czars and cossacks roamed and terrified the land — you know, a more gentler time.  

Currently, the Russian Tea Room is being boycotted because of Russia’s current unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  And although boycotting is a (sometimes… occasionally… maybe once) effective American way of protesting I have my doubts it will force Putin into declaring a ceasefire.   My guess is the subject of the Russian Tea Room has not once entered the Situation Room during this crisis, except for maybe take-out.  

Also, it should be noted — the Russian Tea Room is not owned by Russians.  

I’m sure, if it weren’t a Central Park South institution they’d just rename it “Ted’s Baltic Diner” and boycotters would happily return for “Mama’s Famous Beet Soup” formerly “borscht.”

Although it has been made quite public that Russians do not own the Russian Tea Room, some boycotting still persists.  Why let facts get in the way, am I right?  

So for those still hell-bent on bringing Russia to its knees by withholding our American dollars (Official measurement: One U.S. dollar is now worth enough rubles to fill the Guggenheim), here are some other related targets for your withholding pleasure:

Russian Dolls — Children love these wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other.  But don’t be fooled!  These dolls are making a statement. Each larger doll consumes the smaller ones. What six-year-old girl is going to play with these dolls and not see the parallel to world domination?  Barbie may have accessories that get lost under the bed, but at least she’s not trying to dominate Ken or Skipper.  

“Russian Dolls” — The Netflix limited series.  Okay, follow me on this one.  It was co-created by Amy Poehler who also directed the recent documentary “Lucy and Desi,” which touched upon Lucy maybe being a Communist.  Also, it was hard to follow the “Russian Dolls” time loop narrative. I mean, was she really dead or not dead? How did this happen? Better to watch “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“War & Peace” — Classic Russian novel.  This one is easy.   You’ve avoided it your whole life.  

Russian Dressing — They’ve meddled with our elections, they’ve hacked into our computers, and now they’re infiltrating our sacred condiments.  Do you know how many calories are in Russian Dressing?   You think you’re eating a healthy salad, but no, you’re chugging a ShackBurger.  Way healthier is Thousand Island Dressing or Louie Dressing.

Russian Roulette — This might be a tough one because who doesn’t love to play this fun game of chance?  I’d say think of the overall consequences except people who do play Russian Roulette give little thought to consequences.  So just trust me.  There’s a five-in-six chance I’m right.  

Or… you could donate money, time, or supplies to this heartbreaking cause.  There are many ways we all can really help.  Let’s focus on those. Hey, how about a fundraiser at the Russian Tea Room? 

Monday, March 14, 2022

REACHER: My review

I’m really enjoying REACHER on Amazon Prime Video.  Maybe it’s because I so identify with the main character, Jack Reacher.  He’s a mountain of a man, built like the Incredible Hulk, can beat the shit out of anyone, is very reserved, an expert in military ops, and rivals Sherlock Holmes in detective skills and powers of observation.   

I might as well be describing myself.

In some ways this series reminds me of JUSTIFIED, one of my all-time favorite shows.  Colorful characters (a nice way of saying backwater rednecks), and a larger-than-life leading man (the parallels to me are so obvious) who kicks serious ass.  May season two please be that he goes to Russia.  

Like JUSTIFIED, REACHER is from a series of crime novels.  Lee Child is the author.  The adaptation was developed for TV by Nick Santora, whose background includes creating SCORPION, and writing on LAW & ORDER and THE SOPRANOS.  I’ve never met Nick, but obviously he’s been following me around taking notes.  

The show stars my doppelgänger, Alan Ritchson.  From what I understand it’s Amazon Prime Video’s most watched series.  I'm not surprised.  A second season has already been ordered.  

When you read that description of Reacher, as laid out by Lee Child, one person you definitely can’t picture is Tom Cruise.  A mountain of a man?  Tom Cruise?  I don’t think so.  The 2012 movie was loudly criticized by fans of the novels since Cruise was so unlike the description of the character.  Welcome to Hollywood where they’ll happily trash any project just to get “stars.”  Marvel fans better hope Tom Cruise doesn’t want to play the Black Panther.  

REACHER streams on Amazon Prime Video.  Full disclosure:  You may not love it as much as me, but then again when you watch the show it’s not like you’re looking into a mirror.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Weekend Post

If only this could get me membership in the Magic Castle.

I have this astounding ability to watch a lot of sitcoms and pitch the jokes mere seconds before the actors say them, almost verbatim. It’s an amazing skill. Houdini never could do that. Audiences are mystified.  Talk about magic. 

Of course, the truth is that after years of writing comedy I just can identify the most obvious punchlines. And there are shockingly way too many sitcoms that are guilty of this.

You might think this is a byproduct of multi-camera shows where rhythms have become stale and predictable, but single-camera shows are sometimes worse. They often resort to irony so it’s not even jokes. It’s catch-phrases or “Gee, THAT went well.”

If I can predict a joke it’s just lazy writing. Either that or the staff is just not very good. So I choose to believe it’s laziness.

What’s keeping me out of the Magic Castle is that by now you’ve seen so many sitcoms that you too can probably perform this psychic skill.

I blame the showrunners. Someone has to approve these clams. Someone has to say, “Yeah, that’s good enough.” Someone has to say, "Fine.  I've got Laker tickets." 

On CHEERS we had the rule of 2’s. If the writing staff was working on a joke and any two writers pitched essentially the same punchline we automatically discarded it. Didn’t even matter if it was funny.  Our feeling was that if two writers could come up with the same joke so could some audience members. And so it was quickly jettisoned. There was no debate. Ever.

When you’re trying to come up with a joke sometimes your first punchline might be the obvious one. Especially if you came up with it quickly. Learn to dig deeper. Is there a better joke? Is there a fresher joke? Is there something more unexpected? Maybe even something from out in leftfield?

Because sitcom audiences are more sitcom savvy your job is much harder now than it was back when we were writing CHEERS. And yet, I bet if you watch a CHEERS today there will still be jokes that surprise you and make you laugh.

Now I realize that not every show is CHEERS or is even going for the type of humor we went for. But you can strive to be the best in your genre, whatever it is.

I know it sounds like a real contradiction. Comedy writing is a highly competitive business and yet high-priced comedy writers often get away with being lazy. I suppose it’s a matter of personal pride. Just consider this:  The last thing you want is for me to thank you for getting into the Magic Castle.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Friday Questions

And here are this week’s Friday Questions:

danny woodhead has a question all in lower case:

friday question: on the cheers anniversary show, why'd you guys go with john mclaughlin to host? and... was the seating arrangement a big discussion? i can't imagine shelley long was psyched about being seated next to robin colcord and a charles brother.

NBC asked them to a do a clip show (highlight clips from previous episodes) for November sweeps and the Charles Brothers were looking for a novel way to do that.  John McLaughlin was a popular PBS host so he provided a little culture to the event.  It was also an out-of-the-box choice.

I don’t know how the seating arrangements were set.  I was not there the night they shot this.  But I would be honored to be seated between Glen Charles and Roger Rees.   Plus, she's sitting near the center.  I don't see where that's a bad position in any way shape or form. 

JS asks:

My Friday Question -MeTV just ran the last episode of Henry Blake. Why is it considered funny that he forcibly kissed Hoolihan. That has always bugged me. It's not funny - at all. Different times, I don't know. And they had to make it like she love it.

You said it yourself — different times.  It’s supposed to be 1951.  To do a period piece and inject today’s woke sensibilities to behavior is not being authentic or real.   

And many people did find it funny. They still do.  Hot Lips, at the time, was a rather bawdy character.  I believe Henry assumed she wouldn’t mind.  

And it’s one joke.  

Kendall Rivers wonders:

Have you had the chance to check out Abbott Elementary yet? If not I highly recommend it! Definitely has the traditional classic sitcom feel yet still feels fresh. In my opinion it's the best comedy I've seen on television period since The Middle. It definitely has Middle quality vibes to me.

I have seen a number of episodes.  I admire it, I like the characters (especially Sheryl Lee Roth), it’s well constructed, it makes me smile, but it doesn’t make me laugh.  I’m still looking for that sitcom that makes me laugh.   

And finally, from Janet:

You mentioned sweeps in your answer about FRASIER.

My question is: Are sweeps still a "thing," and how have they changed over the years?

Yes… sorta.  But not really.  Ratings now are less important.  Time shifting, streaming, shows on multiple platforms make it hard to really determine just how many eyeballs will see your commercial.  

Networks no longer try to make a big splash for sweeps.  Personally, I think advertisers are happy about that.  Sweeps always inflated the ratings.  How many final episodes of MASH can you run?

What’s your Friday Question? 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

EP265: Meet radio star, John Records Landecker

The golden days of music radio are discussed with John Records Landecker, one of the premiere disc jockeys of the era. For years he ruled the nighttime airways on WLS, Chicago — heard in 38 states. Venture back to the halcyon days when radio was fun.

Get Honey for FREE at

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Eight years ago today

Once a month I like to go back and repost Friday Questions from many years ago since very few people read the archives and there's some good advice buried in there somewhere.  These are Friday Questions from eight years ago.  Re-enjoy.

Bill starts us off:

What are the responsibilities of the creative consultants and how does it differ from being the writer and were you the creative consultants on the shows you are credited with writing?

Generally, creative consultants are writers who come in once or twice a week to help out on rewrites for whatever episode is being produced that week. They're not on staff full-time.  Their day usually begins with the afternoon runthrough and they stay through the rewrite. They provide another set of eyes, can offer story suggestions, but primarily they’re there to help pump in jokes.

It’s a position that has pretty much been phased out because studios don’t want to pay, but good creative consultants can be invaluable. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best. David Lloyd and Jerry Belson were amazing, but the best of all-time was (and is) Bob Ellison (pictured right). Bob is a joke machine and tireless. It could be 4 in the morning, everyone on the staff is totally gassed, and Bob is still firing in great jokes like an AK-47.   During the '80s and '90s Bob would sometime work on four different series a week.  Whenever we got a show picked up, our first call was to see if Bob Ellison was available. 

At some point I was a creative consultant on CHEERS, FRASIER, WINGS, BECKER, and about six other shows that came and quickly went. (We wrote episodes for most of those shows.)

This is a practice that dates well back into the American theater. Plays would tryout out of town and playwrights would enlist the help of “script doctors” like Abe Burrows who would help fix troubled projects. At least we didn't have to go to New Haven every week.

From Steve:

A couple days ago, you mentioned that you gave overuse of names a pass in the case of pilots, where the writer needs to establish who everyone is. It occurred to me that most of your viewers aren't going to start with the pilot; they'll get into the show after it been on the air for weeks or years, or even in syndication. How much do sitcom writers think about the fact that every episode is someone's first? Is any attempt made to make sure each episode works without prior knowledge?

The second episode is in many ways harder to write than the pilot. Because you have to re-tell the pilot for all those who are coming to the show for the first time, and you have to provide a new story for those who saw the pilot.  And you have two weeks to write it, not six months. 

Over the first four shows we try to keep rebooting the premise, but after that we feel viewers can either pick up on what’s going on, or go back to find the previous episodes online or On-Demand. Why should we do all the work?

Michael wonders:

Other than THE SIMPSONS, I am not aware of any shows you wrote for that included kids. Did you and David ever try to develop family-oriented sitcoms or was this something that didn't interest you?

We’ve written other shows that have had kids and we’ve done a few family pilots that didn’t get picked up. Earlier in our career we got asked to write a family pilot, but we were committed to another show so we had to pass. That family show was COSBY.  Not that I'm still bitter.

Update:  looking back from today — phew!  We dodged a bullet.  

OrangeTom asks:

When a show is on air as long as Frasier do the network executives start paying less attention; i.e., is there more the writers can get away with which might be considered too offensive or "out there" in the first couple years of a show's run? "Tonight on Frasier Daphne's true identity as a KGB operative is revealed after she's caught trying to blow up the Space Needle"

Yes, once a show has established itself as a hit networks tend to back off. But not entirely. Networks still want to know what stories you have planned and if you want to do something very different or jarring you still might have a fight on your hands. You may win that fight but it won’t just be rubber stamped because you have millions of Twitter followers.

Still, it’s quite a contrast from when we were doing MASH. CBS wanted us to submit loglines of the stories we were doing. We would send in six or seven at a time. Of course, by the time we got around to submitting them the episodes had already been filmed.  That's a great way of getting around notes, by the way. 

What’s your Friday Question?

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Lucy and Desi - the new documentary

If you love Lucy and even like Desi, the new documentary on Amazon Prime, LUCY AND DESI is for you.  Way better than a certain "fictional" version recently released.  Directed by Amy Poehler, it’s a fascinating portrait chock-full of home movies, never-before-seen footage and photos, and interviews with the likes of Carol Burnett, Bette Midler, and yes, even Charo.  

And here’s the best part: It’s narrated by Nicole Kidman!  No, just kidding.  It’s narrated by Lucy and Desi.  They had made quite a few audio recordings and cassettes.  Many of the tapes were on reel-to-reel so kudos to whoever restored them because if not properly treated they would turn to dust.   Hearing them talk about themselves and each other in their own voices was wonderful.  Filling in the holes was their daughter Lucie.  

The film really celebrates both Lucy and Desi and what made them both so great.  And yet it’s not a puff piece.  Greatness came with a price. They deal with Lucy’s controlling nature, Desi’s drinking and womanizing and why their marriage was hardly a fairy tale despite having a really nice pool.  What I found amusing is the issues that the "fictional" account made such a big deal of — CBS not wanting to hire Desi, CBS not wanting them to do a pregnancy storyline, Lucy’s bout with the House on Un-American Activities Committee — were all touched upon but very briefly.  Probably because those were all aspects of their lives WE KNEW ABOUT.  This documentary sought to tell us things we didn’t.  And for the most part it succeeded.   There were still some minor factual errors, but overall after you’ve seen this film you will have a pretty good sense of who they both were and the impact they both had.  

LUCY AND DESI is streaming on Amazon Prime.  Ironically, so is the "fictional" movie.   If you’re going to watch only one of the two, I recommend the one with Charo in it. 

Monday, March 07, 2022

The ABC's of bad programming

I suffered through something I haven’t done in years — watching an ABC primetime show live — with commercials and all.  I don’t recommend it.  I don’t know how anyone does it.  With so many ways to record content and fast-forward through the commercials, watching live makes absolutely no sense.

The show was SHARK TANK.  We were looking for some mind-numbing thing to watch to distract us from all the news channels (for the obvious reason).   

It was an ordeal.

And again, it demonstrated to me just how totally clueless broadcast networks are today.  Now, I should say I haven’t watched any of the other networks live during primetime so I can’t say that all networks do this.  But ABC did.  

The avalanche of commercials — that I expected.  Any sponsor who pays big money to be the fifth straight commercial is insane.  Everyone is in the kitchen, bathroom, their room to get the computer — anywhere but the TV screen.  Take the tiny audience you have for the show itself and figure more people bail after every commercial.  So if you have the fourth or fifth spot, the only one watching is the family dog.  Hope you didn’t pay $100K for that privilege.  

But here’s what I wasn’t expecting.  A slew of ABC promos — in some cases the same promo.  That’s fucking crazy!  You could have five or six more minutes of program content.  You could have made the commercial breaks somewhat more tolerable.  Sure, networks need to promote their upcoming shows, but Jesus, how many times do I have to see THE ROOKIE?  And the promos are usually buried in the commercial breaks.  So even the family dog has left the living room.  

Networks claim they’re working hard to enhance the “viewer experience.”  That’s their excuse for cutting credits.  Time is too precious to acknowledge the people who made the show, but not too precious to show the same damn ROOKIE promo over and over.

Are networks short-sighted?  Or worse, do they just not give a shit?  Do they know the end is coming and they’re trying to squeeze every dollar they can?   Is their focus so on the future and streaming that the broadcast networks are now just a foster child?  

I’m sure only us Boomers care.  ABC used to mean something.  All the networks used to mean something. To someone born in this century they mean nothing.  So I’m one of the few who is still pained by the way broadcast networks are hastening their own demise.   I wonder if anyone inside ABC feels that way?  I’m guessing no.  

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Weekend Post -- Farrah Forke

So sorry to hear of the passing of Farrah Forke.  She was in 35 episodes of WINGS when I was consulting.  Always pleasant, always professional, always delivered.  An absolute pleasure.  

I didn’t know her that well.  But do have one Farrah Forke story.  

After she left WINGS she had a recurring part on LOIS & CLARK.  I would watch that show with my kids.  Annie was about 8 or 9.  In one episode they kill off Farrah’s character — a car bomb I believe.  It seemed uncharacteristically harsh and violent for a show that billed itself as a comic book/romantic comedy.  

Anyway, Annie was very very upset.  So much so that I called Farrah and asked her to speak to my daughter.  She did.  She got on the phone and was super nice and consoling, assuring Annie that she was fine and it was only make believe.  I’m sure that on an intellectual level Annie knew that it was not real, but actually hearing Farrah’s voice reassured her considerably.  

And that was Farrah.  Always happy to help.

She had moved to Texas to raise her twins, which is why you haven’t seen her lately.  I always thought she had the look and presence that would allow her to age gracefully and keep getting good parts.  One day she would come back and Hollywood would welcome her with open arms.  54 is way too young.  And she was just so talented.  And nice.  

Now I’m the one upset.  Oh, how I wish that phone would ring. 

Friday, March 04, 2022

Friday Questions

Spring Training should be starting now, but no — because of the ridiculous lockout and both sides being assholes.  How do you sanction “stupid?”  Oh well, onto real Friday Questions.

David P starts us off.

Of all the comic actors you've worked with, who do you think would be best as a President rallying their nation under attack?

That’s easy.   Alan Alda.  

When Alan was running for president on THE WEST WING I would’ve voted for him.  And his character was a Republican.  (Of course that was when the Republican Party believed in Democracy and not destroying the country.) 

Jeff wonders:

How uncomfortable is it to have to hire an actor to play a person the script describes as homely, unattractive, etc. I am thinking of Coach's daughter for one.

It is a little awkward, but you try in the casting breakdown to be somewhat delicate in your description.  “Large” not “Obese,”  etc.

Also, there is the understanding that hair, make-up, and wardrobe can make you less attractive than you are.  (In features that’s how beautiful actors get their Oscar nominations.)   

So the actress knows that she’s not unattractive but the character she is playing is.  

And then there are actors who don’t care.  Jackie Gleason encouraged fat jokes.  He knew he was fat and he knew he could get laughs out of that.  

Of course, nowadays everyone is so sensitive that in casting breakdowns you also can’t say someone IS attractive.

From Rhonda Aghamalian:

What do you think would have happened to Sam and Diane if Shelley had stayed on the show?

I think they would have killed each other.  

But seriously, I don’t know.  We pretty much exhausted the Sam-Diane relationship by the end of season 5.   

During that fifth season, when David and I wrote episodes of CHEERS we asked for Carla stories.  We had done numerous Sam & Diane episodes by that point and were happy to explore the other characters.

And finally, a longer question than an answer from Frank Adkisson:

I took a long weekend and had time to binge "Inventing Anna" on Netflix.

The main character is in the midst of a pregnancy at the beginning so there is a bit of a timeline for the 9 episodes.  Early portion is probably second trimester.  Then comes the birth.  And later episodes, it is revealed the baby is now 3+ months old.

The series is set in NYC.

I'm no meteorologist but I'm fairly certain NYC has an actual SUMMER!  And a pretty hideous one at that Jun/Jul/Aug.

Yet people are wearing lengthy overcoats and gloves in pretty much every scene.  Even in episode 9 where two characters are on a park bench and the grass surrounding them is lush ballpark-groundskeeper-aided-green and there is no snow on the ground whatsoever.  Overcoats.

Is it for continuity reasons like where Hoss and Little Joe always wore the same clothes?  Is it because everyone expects a lawyer or Wall Street businessman to always be wearing a heavy overcoat?

As the months progressed, from episode to episode, I was (mentally) screaming, is it NYC or is it the North Pole?  (Which coincidentally now is also having summer temps due to climate change.)

The short answer is that certain productions are lazy and others are cheap.  

Good wardrobe people at the production meeting are always asking what time of year and what time of day and how dressy should they be?  They take great pride in having the right clothes.  If the director says the scene is in the fall they’ll ask when in the fall?  In September the weather is much different than November.  

Shooting New York in the winter doesn’t require snow — just winter wear.  And maybe the Naked Cowboy stays out of the shot.  

As for characters always wearing the same thing that’s so they could use the same stock shots over and over. DRAGNET did that.  Webb & Morgan wore the same suits in every episode so whenever they got out of the car, or they entered the precinct their wardrobe always matched.    Producer Jack Webb was just flat out cheap.

Maybe that was the case too with BONANZA.  To be honest, I haven’t seen an episode of BONANZA since it left NBC.  And at the time I didn’t notice the wardrobe.   I was too busy wondering whether Lorne Greene wore a toupee.  

What’s your Friday Question? 

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

EP264: Lisa Edelstein Part Two

Journey through Lisa’s excellent career with stops along the way for THE WEST WING, HOUSE, THE KOMINSKY METHOD, ALI MCBEAL, and various voice over gigs.  We also discuss the difference between acting in a single-camera sitcom vs. a multi-camera sitcom. 

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Rupee? Really?

Okay, I know I got mad because in the midst of all the shit that’s currently going on  in the world, people were outraged over Mayim Bialik referring to the Jeopardy round as the “Single Jeopardy” round.  Who cares in light of these horrific current events?

But that was before yesterday.  The Wordle word yesterday was RUPEE, which is currency in India or somewhere like that.  It took me forever!  

I think it’s time to set everything else aside and form a million-man march in Manhattan to get the New York Times (new owner of Wordle) to only use English words.  This is a travesty against humanity and it can’t continue!  

So who’s with me?  I want to see at least a million of you.  We’ll meet at the Angelina Bakery at W.38th and 8th Ave. and march over to the New York Times.  I'll be right there with you.  And I want solidarity people!  I don’t want anyone peeling off to the GNC Vitamin Supplies store or Upside Pizza.   This will be peaceful.  Signs are encouraged but only words that are 5-letters.  And don’t end in E.

Thank you.  I mean  DANKE.  Together we can make a difference. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Remembering TAXI

Here's a shocker: One of the greatest sitcoms in the history of television is 44 years old. 

But that's not the shocker.

The shocker is most people have never heard of it. 

Time really does march on.   It won the Emmy for Best Comedy three years in a row.   You think it'd be famous.  

TAXI was created and run by James L. Brooks and the fine folks that brought you THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.  Among the writers were the Charles Brothers (CHEERS), David Lloyd, and Sam Simon (THE SIMPSONS).  The director was the incomparable James Burrows.  What a staff!

The all-star cast included Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Randall Carver, Carol Kane, and Andy Kaufman.   It was set in the garage of a Manhattan cab company.  Most had dreams and were biding their time.  The stories were hilarious, smart, and deeply human.  One or two of the streaming services are featuring it.  Treat yourself.  

One of the reasons it has sunk under the radar is that only 114 episodes were made.  The show lasted a mere five seasons.  The first four were on ABC.  They gave it bad time slots and canceled it after three years (despite winning Emmys every year -- now they'd KILL for a prestigious show like that) and NBC picked it up for a fourth season.  Unfortunately, that was the period when NBC was in the toilet.  TAXI was paired with a brand new show called CHEERS.  Between the two the ratings were awful.  CHEERS won the Best Comedy Emmy that year and survived.  TAXI didn't.  

When my son Matt was a teenager we took a trip to Hawaii.  Early in the morning one of the local stations was showing TAXI.  He had never seen it.  So I put it on.  He loved it, was laughing out loud.  Every morning we watched TAXI.   If you're not familiar with it, I invite you to discover it as Matt did.  I bet you'll have the same reaction.

The Hollywood Reporter did an article a few years ago interviewing a lot of the principals.  You can find it here.  

People always ask me what shows I wish I had written for.  Tops on my list is always TAXI.  I've been saying it for 44 years.