Friday, May 13, 2022

Friday (the 13th) Questions

Try not to walk under any black cats or let ladders cross in front of you.  It’s Friday the 13th complete with FQ’s.

Brian Phillips gets us going.

Do you prefer writing a script that is straight humor or one that is humorous but has dramatic moments?

It sort of depends on my mood.  Scripts with dramatic moments tend to be more grounded and there is less emphasis on the comedy.  

Other times I just want to write something strictly comedic and make it as funny as it can be from start to finish.

Guess which one is harder to write.  The balls-out comedy by a mile.  

From Manny:

Do you think cellphones hurt modern day comedies? I know there are ways around this (poor service, dead batteries, etc), but often their prevalence seems to stifle a lot of comedic potential. It’s hard to imagine Cheers or Frasier, for instance, being as funny if everyone was constantly looking at their screens. Plus a lot of plots would’ve been rendered moot.

Absolutely.  So many comic misunderstandings come from characters not having access to what the situation really is.   But with cellphones anybody can be contacted (or warned or set straight) at any time and place.  

On the other hand, sometimes that can work in your favor.  Let’s say you need a character to share some information with another.  It’s vital to the story that that character learns the info.  But what if the person transmitting it has no idea where he is?   Or if he’s in a public place like Fenway Park?  Technology to the rescue.  

One thing for sure:  At CHEERS they would start calling Cliff out on his bullshit since they could look anything up.

slgc asks:

This has been an exciting season of Jeopardy, with an unusual number of high win streaks.

Why do you think that so many contestants have won so many consecutive games? Have they deciphered the code to winning?

No, I think it’s sheer luck.  Remember, there was also a pretty long stretch where nobody won more than twice.  Whatever year you put Matt Amoddio and Amy Schneider on JEOPARDY that’s a year you’re going to have a super champion.  I may be making this up, but didn’t one of them say they were rejected a time or two for JEOPARDY?  So it’s not like the producers knew going in that these were superstars.  

But I do think they've deciphered the code to wagering.  These super champions know how to wager better and how to build up their totals so the game is a runaway by Final Jeopardy.  I think the reason Mattea Roach had so many close games was because she was way too conservative in her wagers.  And your chances of losing increase considerably when you’re not a guaranteed winner, and there you have another incisive Levine’s Law.  

And finally, from Kyle Burress:

What moments, if any, in television have made you cry or at least made an impact on you?

Too many to count.  I get choked up easily.  And as a writer I love to make others choke up.  

The end of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, Lady Sybil dying on DOWNTON ABBEY, Adele’s performance a few years ago at the Grammys, Tony Bennett’s recent special on CBS, Vin Scully singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” to the Dodger Stadium crowd on his final home broadcast, the last moment in CHEERS, Whitney Houston’s National Anthem at the Super Bowl, the child ventriloquist on SOME COUNTRY'S GOT TALENT,  Rachel watching the prom home video on FRIENDS, Mrs. Landingham’s death on WEST WING, and I’m sure a hundred more I just can’t think of right now.

The only time I choked up from something David Isaacs and I wrote was the last scene in Goodbye Radar on MASH.  The teddy bear on the bunk killed me even though we came up with it.  

What’s your Friday (the 13th) Question? 


slgc said...

Hi Ken,

I'd like to follow up with another Jeopardy question, if I may. I understand why the contestants don't reveal the results of their shows before the shows air, since they won't receive their money if they break confidentiality. But how does the show convince the audience members not to spill the beans ahead of time? The producers don't have nearly as much leverage with them, I would imagine.

Andrew said...

"He wasn't even a soldier. He was a musician."

N. Zakharenko said...

You can speak from the heart with us Ken - Roseanne's death was your clincher.

Rob Greenberg said...

The pilot for 2 Broke Girls

VincentS said...

"Ah, what does Google know.?" -Clifford Clavin

Roger Owen Green said...

sigc - I think that in the "old" days of JEOPARDY, people had a sense of the code of the game. Think that you don't share the Wordle answer, or spoil the reveal in a movie.

That said when I won some money, a friend of mine who was at the taping blathered it out to a third party, in my presence well before my shows aired. I was forced to shrug and walk away.

Almost every time a string ended, I knew about it before it aired: Jennings, Amodeo, Schneider, e.g.

More than the wager, the key to a streak is to get in FIRST and be CORRECT. I've seen contestants, especially playing against a multi-game winner, ring in first with NO answer.

Brandon in Virginia said...

I chalk up the superchamps to coincidence because as you said, the producers don't know they have a future 20-game winner on their hands. However, I notice the contestants this season are much quirkier than in the past. Very chatty, and not just Mattea Roach. There was another young lady recently who made little interjections after Ken or Mayim acknowledged her responses as right or wrong.

Slightly annoying at times and yet somewhat charming. IMO too many game shows these days have manufactured contestants that seem like aspiring actors in-between gigs, so it's refreshing to see authentic humans occasionally.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Everybody talks about how HOME ALONE would be an implausible movie today simply because of the introduction of cellphones . . . and to think, John Hughes and Chris Columbus worked so hard to ensure the movie had a timeless feel to it.

Anthony said...

So much has been written and shared about the final weeks of Cheers, overall. But what was the mood like for the final episode(s), leading up to Shelley’s departure? It seems like her decision was publicly announced during the middle of season 5, so was there there a sense of anything towards the end, particularly during the filming of “I do, Adieu”?

Chuck said...

It wasn't the cellphone but just the good old fashioned telephone that Jackie Gleason thought hurt comedy. And we're talking 1956 The Honeymooners, here. In the episode, "The Babysitter", wife Alice has a phone installed. Gleason's Ralph Kramden wants none of it, resulting in arguement and comedy. In the end, Ralph gives in. However, the phone is gone from the next episode on. Gleason said the presence of the phone solved too many problems, potentially killing the comedy.

Bob Paris said...

The announcement of Col. Henry Blake's death on M*A*S*H

Mitch said...

When Magnum walked off into the clouds

Michael said...

I think I cried at each one Ken mentioned, and multiple times in the final episode (including the Winchester line cited above). A few times at NYPD Blue, which had moments of brilliant drama and comedy (especially an episode where Andy is taken hostage).

Brian said...

How about in CODA when she sang "Both Sides Now"?

Friday question: How many times have you taken the Jeopardy online test? How did you felt you did? I imagine you have to score 100% on that to even have a chance at advancing to the next level.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

A sign of the times, perhaps: Chuck Lorre has had *two* shows canceled. I think B POSITIVE deserved it - the 2nd season, which required a lot of reengineering because the first was such a self-contained story, reminded me a lot of THE COOL KIDS, which also didn't last. But I really liked UNITED STATES OF AL and liked its timeliness.

Of course, Lorre still has two left on the air...


Kevin FitzMaurice said...

One of the most poignant moments I've ever watched was from the Christmas 1976 episode of "All In the Family" when Eugene Roche, playing the father of a son killed in Vietnam, offers a welcoming hand to a draft dodger friend of Mike after Archie, a WWII vet, throws a fit at the war protester's presence at the dinner table.

Jahn Ghalt said...

(with cell phones) At CHEERS they would start calling Cliff out on his bullshit

In 2006 I supervised a construction crew that had 'a Cliff' - except that our "Cliff" had A LOT more lines.

One day we were all "in training" and had time on our hands. The topic of Wilt scoring one-hundred came up and "Cliff" stated that "the other team won that game". I immediately bet him lunch that Wilt's team won. We had access to a internet-connected computer and established that the Warriors won that game by 25 (more or less). THAT shut him up for awhile. Later we had a nice lunch.

Jahn Ghalt said...


All the writers undoubtedly had a great time coming up with Clavin "little known facts" - YET, the writers had him in a runaway Jepoardy win. Of course this was an elaborate set up for his flameout. His "tendency to improvise" at the bar, does not preclude him from actually "knowing stuff" and preparing long hours to get picked and to win - but was there any "arguing" about the seeming "contradiction"?

Anonymous said...

Kevin FitzMaurice, I couldn't agree more. And that episode never has gotten the recognition it deserves. But the whole run of All in the Family, at least up to the departure of Mike and Gloria and Joey, is still astonishing to watch, both as a period piece and as great dramatic comedy. O'Connor and Stapleton and the writers at the top of their game? The best.

iamr4man said...

The end of the Futurama episode “Jurassic Bark” make me tear up just thinking about it. I’m doing that now!

maxdebryn said...

I got teared-up and then angry watching the final episode of "Rich Man, Poor Man," when the vile villain "Falconetti" (William Smith) had "Tom Jordache" (Nick Nolte) killed. I also punched the screen of the tiny B & W television set that I was watching.

71dude said...

The recent Miguel episode of This Is Us choked me up - Jon Huertas should get an Emmy nomination.

Madame Smock said...

Your 10-minute play, "Dating Through The Decades" had a very funny scene with cellphones. My Mom only watched Brian's Song one time. When it aired in reruns she would change the channel or leave the room.

ScarletNumber said...

@Wendy M. Grossman

I think B Positive was ultimately sunk by Thomas Middleditch being such a creep. I thought he was unlikable even before the latest allegations came out, and Silicon Valley worked in spite of him, not because of him. Annaleigh Ashford tried her best, but the hole was too deep. She will work again sooner rather than later.

As for United States of Al, I couldn't even figure out the title, so how could I even watch it?


>The only time I choked up from something David Isaacs and I wrote was the last scene in Goodbye Radar on MASH. The teddy bear on the bunk killed me even though we came up with it.

Well one can put words on a page, but the director has to make the scene work. Did you and David talk to Charles S. Dubin before it was shot or was his judgement trusted?

It also reminds me that Sylvester Stallone said he was surprised that when Mickey died in Rocky III, he ended up being Jewish. While Mickey was nominally Catholic in Rocky and Rocky II, Stallone wrote all three movies and directed the latter two in the series. He's the last one who should have been surprised, but perhaps he winked at Franz Lidz when he said it and Franz missed it.

Anonymous said...

The episode of Boardwalk Empire when the guy with the missing face fantasized about returning to his loved ones (with said face intact) only to die under the boardwalk. 😢 Janice B.

Brian said...

Jerry to George: "You cried for Home Alone"?
George: "The old man got to me"

Cowboy Surfer said...

Well done VincentS!

I always somehow blabber at THIS IS US. Could be just that it's the last network show I'm watching. Kim Wexler has nothing on Beth...

Goodbye Radar: Hawkeye salutes Radar, it's all in his eyes.

Dude, I gotta get out of here, fuck I'm gonna miss you.

Radar looks back with a salute, I know Hawkeye.

YEKIMI said...

It's been said that "TV is just radio with pictures" So, if said TV had turned out to be a passing fad and radio comedy/drama was still king would you have continued on to become a comedy writer and think you could have just written for radio? Or would you have just become a baseball announcer and left it at that?

Mike Bloodworth said...

WENDY M. GROSSMAN & SCARLET NUMBER, I was going to bring up those sitcoms, but you each beat me to it. Bottom line: neither of the shows was the least bit funny. They might have benefited from a live audience, but I doubt it. "B-POSITIVE" and "The United States of Al" are great examples of how Chuck Lorre peaked with the "Big Bang Theory" and has been on the decline ever since.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

@ScarletNumber: Agreed, re Annaleigh Ashford.


Mibbitmaker said...

I can be a real sap (esp. in my old age) at lots of things. YouTube vids of scenes from Jim & Pam's storyline from THE OFFICE (plus them in context), same with Michael and Holly - and even Dwight & Angela. Sad and happy moments.

Besides all that... Of course, the Col. Blake announcement, but also Radar and Henry salute/embrace on the launchpad. ALL IN THE FAMILY's "Archie is Branded" - the shock ending, but also Mike's philosophical homerun, "because this... will only get you this". CHEERS Diane sendoff, from the final "Have a good life" through the fadeout.

Of course, the "Jurassic Bark" ending on FUTURAMA, but also the revelation in "Luck of the Fryish" as well. And Linus's Bible quote in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. The crack in his voice when he goes back to Charlie Brown is perfect.

Then there's the penultimate TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON show when Bette Midler sings Johnny's favorite song and they show him looking on. She was stealing the show her whole time on (with Robin Williams being there no less!), but that was the tear-jerking part.

maxdebryn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David G. said...

"Some Country's Got Talent." Now THAT was funny!

Purely from the standpoint of what the title of the show is, I've not understood why that program has been flying in people from other countries -- including past contestants who have already been on other international versions of Simon Cowell's program -- for the past few years. During the earlier years of the show, it was interesting when each contestant's home town was mentioned or shown during their audition, just to see the different parts of America that were being represented on that talent show.

Chris Thomson said...

Hey Ken

Kind of a bit of a late in the week one, but guessing you know kiwis. We can tend to be a bit lackadaisical in the old getting around to doing things that aren't a major priority department,

If you do happen to see this question. I was watching a Cheers re-run where they all grew beards and had a best beard comp.

Was just wondering if a) You wrote it, b) They were all real, and c) Was it just an actual joke competition the cast came up with the fitted into an episode, which I can kind of get as would be quite funny.



Stephen Cudmore said...

Returning champions have a huge advantage because they have so much more expirience with the buzzers than the new players-- and every game they play they get a bigger advantage. I miss the days of retiring champs after 5 days.

Kendall Rivers said...

FQ: In terms of favorite television dramas, that can be from the 1950s all the way to now, what are your top 5 of all time?

Anonymous said...

Adele? Yeesh.