Friday, May 20, 2022

Friday Questions

Let’s jump into some Friday Questions, shall we?

Jim Susky starts us off:

What are the worst National Anthem performance in your experience?

My worst-songs-of-all-time podcast wasn’t enough for you?  Well, the answer is easy.  My dear old friend, Roseanne, at a 1990 San Diego Padres game.  See for yourself.  Click on the above video.

maxdebryn asks:

On MASH, we would often see a picture of Potter's wife Mildred on his desk - was that just a prop, or a picture of his (Harry Morgan's) actual wife ?

That was his real wife, Eileen.  And when Harry was on DRAGNET, his character, Bill Gannon’s wife was named Eileen.

Further trivia note: the drawing of the horse that was seen in Potter’s office was drawn by his grandson.   The things you learn by reading this blog!

From Michael:

A common thread I have read on articles on which shows are being renewed or cancelled is that licensing costs seem to be as much or more of a deciding factor than ratings. Even some of the highest rated FOX shows' renewals are being delayed pending negotiations between network and studios. In this era of shrinking audiences, has this taken on increased importance or was this just not discussed as openly in renewal/cancellation articles in the past?

Absolutely.  Especially for the FOX network because they no longer own a studio (sold it to Disney).  So they can’t make money on the shows they air in other ways.  My podcast guest next week is Preston Beckman who was the chief scheduler for NBC and FOX for 35 years.  We discuss this very issue.  It’s a great interview on the state and future of the television business.  I invite you to check it out. 

And finally, from Brian:

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.

Are you kidding?  I’ve NEVER taken the JEOPARDY test.  I’m certain I’d fail it badly.  I’d hit an opera category, or the Bible, or Mythology, or Rivers of Africa, or Films of Nancy Meyers and be completely lost.

Who needs to be reminded of how dense they are?  

I think you have to get 80% right or something like that.  Most people flunk it.  

Even if you pass you then have to go through an interview process and lots of those candidates are weeded out.  So just to actually get on the show is a huge achievement.  

When contestants don’t do well it’s usually due to nerves.  Through their rigorous screening policy you gotta have the smarts to even play the game.    No chance Sean Connery makes the cut.

What’s your Friday Question? 


Mike Chimeri said...

My favorite bad national anthem performance was by Carl Lewis, only because of Charley Steiner's reaction after showing excerpts on SportsCenter.

Brandon in Virginia said...

That Jeopardy! test is brutal. Like Ken said, 80% pass rate just to get an audition and I think you’re in the contestant pool for two years. So passing is hardly a guarantee.

Thing is, most of the clues feel like $2000 level so you really gotta be on top of your game (no pun intended). And of course that’s by design; the contestant pool is already pretty saturated with people who passed. Imagine if the test consisted of super easy clues.

Andrew said...

The most depressing thing about watching Jeopardy these days is the younger contestants, who are clearly intelligent and well-educated, having no idea who a famous person or event was from the 80's or earlier. But then, they know the answers about contemporary people and events that I have never even heard of. Growing old isn't fun.

Brian Phillips said...

While Roseanne's version was heard nationwide(to which she responded in her stand-up act by singing a LOT). I have heard at least as bad a version from the lead singer of Theolonius Monster. Roseanne's rendition was bad, one woman interviewed about it "...felt sorry for her children", but at least she remembered the words:

Bill said...

Jeopardy is not meant to confound the average viewer at home. If the right answers are things the average viewer at home has never heard of, the game feels out of their reach. That makes guessing a pretty reasonable strategy. In the category Shows Ken Levine Wrote For, none of the answers are going to be Big Wave Dave's, so it's probably going to be MASH, Cheers, or Frasier. Similarly, if you get Rivers of Africa, it's not going to be the Chambeshi, so just guess the Nile and you're probably 50/50 (if it's not the Nile, it's the Congo).

ventucky said...

My late brother lived in SD. He was at the Roseanne Anthem game. He said it was the funniest thing he ever witnessed at a game, everyone around him thought it was hilarious. He has a brick dedicated to him in a prominent placing at Petco Park, which he never lived to see.

Peter Aparicio said...

Tried the online Jeopardy test once. Never felt more stupid in my life.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I'm glad Harry Morgan didn't insist (request?) that Col. Potter's wife be named Eileen. We would have been deprived of one of my favorite jokes.

Hawkeye: If you don't marry that woman, I will.

BJ: No! Then she'd be Mildred Pierce.

Leighton said...

I REALLY doubt that everyone at the stadium was laughing uproariously at Roseanne's anthem "joke."

. said...

Today’s post led to two unrelated enlightenments of which I was pandemically unaware: Sean Connery is dead, and Henry Kissinger is not.

Not sure why you noted Connery has no shot of passing the Jeopardy! test, other than his deceased state or maybe Darryl Hammond.

chuckcd said...

Is it cheaper to produce a show for a streaming service than it is for a network or cable channel?

Cedricstudio said...

MASH FQ: Why was it decided Colonel Potter would be an artist in his spare time? I would assume that writing an art session into the script would be time consuming and expensive since it required the prop department to paint an entire portrait each time. Also, wouldn't there be very limited story points you can build around sitting for a portrait? (Although the writers did knock out some good scripts around that premise). Why turn this military man into an artist, and did it ever create production problems to paint all those portraits?

Anonymous said...

The worst National Anthem had to be Bleeding Gums Murphy in "Dancin' Homer." But I suppose you wrote it that way.

Speaking of writing the anthem, this may not be applicable, but one of my all time favorite comedy bits is Albert Brooks' "Rewriting the National Anthem. " Man, he used to be funny!

As for Roseanne, I got it. It was supposed to be bad. It was intended as parody. I thought it was brilliant. She also used to be very funny.


Roger Owen Green said...

In the old days (1998), the JEOPARDY folks came to Albany, NY. 3000 people took a 10-question test. 150 did well enough to go to Boston to take the ACTUAL test. The actual test was 50 questions, which you had 5 seconds to answer on a sheet (they didn't need to actually write them in the form of a question.
I don't remember the questions, but I do remember someone else asking about the last question which was in the Before And After category. They had put down Woodrow Wilson, but the correct answer was Woodrow Wilson Phillips. Didn't this person watch JEOPARDY? Or at least Wheel of Fortune?

Michael said...

One time, in Cincinnati, someone sang the anthem and Russ Hodges on the Giants broadcast said, "That must be a great song, because it just survived another battle." It turned out the guy was from the Bay Area and told everyone to listen, and poor Russ had to apologize.

As for Roseanne, the next night, I was out and realized, I have to get home for Carson. As I remember it, he came out and did the usual shtick with Ed and Doc, and then just stared at the audience, which got hysterical. They knew what the subject would be, and he didn't have to say anything. My recollection is that when they settled down, he said, "I haven't heard a noise like that since my cat was neutered." And they went crazy again.

JessyS said...

@ Jim

It is because of Darryl Hammond's portrayal of Sean Connery on the Celebrity Jeopardy SNL skits. Those skits were top notch fantastic as they featured Hammond's Connery against Will Ferrell's Alex Trebek. Here is one of many examples:

Barry Rubinowitz said...

I was on Jeopardy 27 years ago, so things might have changed, but they gave the test to the people who were waiting to go on the show at the studio, to test its difficulty. Then the contestant wrangler asked us whether it was harder or easier than the test we took to get on.
It took me three tries to get on - the first try I passed the test but didn't get called. The second time was weird - the stage they gave us the test on was the sound stage where we shot a TV series I wrote for and I was completely distracted by being there, so I didn't pass. The third time I got on.

Gary said...

Not sure why any professional comedian like Roseanne would think singing an entire song badly would be all that funny. Even if people laughed during the first few lines, by the time you get to the end of the song, the off-key singing has got to be just annoying and nothing more.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Technical Glitch:
The above comments came from me. I accidentally hit the "Anonymous" button when I hit send.
I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Bryan S. said...

Although Ms. Barr claimed afterwards that she botched it on purpose as a joke, my gut feeling is that she started with the intent to do it right, realized fairly quickly that she actually can’t sing at all, then pivoted quickly to try and salvage it as a comic performance.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Ken wrote:

just to actually get on (Jepoardy) is a huge achievement.

So is "beating yourself" for an Emmy award.

Matt Weiner and his "room" knows how that goes:

Nominations - Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

2008 - 2 for 5 - Weiner's Pilot won

2009 - 4 for 5 - Gordon and Weiner won

2010 - 2 for 5 - Levy and Weiner won

2011 - 2 for 5

2012 - 3 for 5

2013 - NONE

2014 - NONE

2015 - 2 for 5

In all, Weiner and various co-writers got 15 of 40 nominations. In three seasons - they beat themselves - with 7 of 15 nominations those screenplays "stole votes" from the others.

Brian said...

Ken, I don't think you give yourself enough credit. I think you would do OK on the show. Look at it this way, couldn't be worse than Wolf Blitzer
although, he was on the celebrity version. I do think the online test is harder than most of the some of the questions on the show, especially the lower value Jeopardy round questions.

Jahn Ghalt said...

For about 30 years I've posed (to the willing) the Standard American Trivia Question:

"Name, in reverse order, American Presidents"

Between about 1990 and 2000 folks got to Eisenhower/JFK plus/minus a couple presidents.

The actual list and "getting it right" is not so interesting. What IS interesting is the process - watching the cultural and historical associations spoken aloud. One nice lady recalled three generations of her male relatives in various wars - and the Presidents who put them there. That got her back to FDR.

Do You Do Any Wings? said...

I don’t know if you’re aware of the UK sitcom ‘Porridge’ - and I’d be delighted to hear what you think of this seminal work if you are - but it is set in a prison, and one of the character’s wives was immortalised on screen as a snapshot of their fictional girlfriend.
One of the best scenes was reimagined as a ‘fix’ in a major movie - “Could you fill that bottle?” “From here?”. Ever spotted a clear cut n’ paste from a script doctor’s previous work in a film punch up? Ever used one?
All the best.

sanford said...

Andrew said he it depressed him that younger contestants know older celebs. I am kind of amazed when they do. Not too long a ago a youngish contestant knew who Satchel Paige. He was a final jeopardy question. the clue for final Jeopardy was “Taking the mound for Cleveland in 1948, he was the first African American to pitch in a World Series.” I knew it right away. Not to disparage women, but she knew the answer. As I recall she wasn't that old. I don't know that if you polled hundred people that 25 would know that answer unless they were of a certain age and were fans of baseball.

DBenson said...

Apropos of nothing, another piece of MASH merchandise (third item in this article). Already sold.

Joe Johnson said...


Do you think the Internet has ruined, or at least hurt, season finale cliffhangers? Obviously, this is more relevant for established shows that are regularly renewed, not the ones fighting to continue. Nowadays, I might watch a season finale and they could present some sort of cliffhanger, like will this character survive? Except, it's already been announced online that the actor signed to stay on the show another year, so obviously they will live. But before the Internet, for viewers at home, none of us normally knew who signed what deal. It seems like they can still have "will they or won't they get together?" type cliffhangers, but not the ones where the character's future on the show is in the balance.

Kosmo13 said...

The image at the top of this blog post makes me think of the expression "pig in a blanket."

Mike Doran said...

I have to say that we in Chicago have gotten spoiled all these years, listening to Wayne Messmer, the BEST National Anthem singer of them all.
- And when he's joined by his wife Kathleen (in incredible harmony), the two of them are even better.
Check the Messmers out on YouTube: they not only know the words - they know what the words mean.

Mike B. said...

Not as well known of a botched anthem, but it is awful. Bonus Bob Costas bon mot at the end.

Anonymous said...

And the best - Whitney Houston. I'm also partial to Hendrix! Janice B.

D. McEwan said...

I took the Jeopardy test over 30 years ago, when you took it in person (No such thing as the internet), at the KTLA studio lot on Sunset. (At the time, I lived directly across the street from the soundstage it was shot on back then, and I'd often see the audience members standing in line down the sidewalk directly opposite my home.)

I always assumed that folks who scored on the test in the top 33% went into the Jeopardy contestant pool. Folks who scored in the middle-third (Me) were sent home, and the folks who bottomed out in the lowest third went into the Wheel of Fortune contestant pool.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

My favorite National Anthem singer is Roy Biggins (David Schramm) in the hilarious season 4 episode of Wings.

Mike Chimeri said...

Brian, I forgot about most of Wolf's Celebrity Jeopardy disaster, but will never forget his "what is a crash?" response.

YEKIMI said...

Thanks for the Roseanne clip. You have now violated the 8th amendment to the Constitution regarding subjecting people to Cruel & Unusual punishment. Expect a visit from the FBI.

Dixon said...

I don't know if it was *the* worst, but the National Anthem at the CPAC conference a few years ago (which I wouldn't have paid attention to if it weren't for that performance) was pretty bad.

In fact, when I heard it, I immediately said, "Worst rendition since Enrico Palazzo."

David G. said...

Follow-up to the "Who was in the Mildred Potter photo?" question: During "AfterMASH", the framed Mildred photo was switched to a younger picture of Barbara Townsend, who played Mildred during the first season of that show. Kind of seems like it switched again in the 2nd season when the b/w photo was seen on Potter's office desk, after the Mildred role was switched for goodness-knows-whatever-reason to Anne Pitoniak for that final year of the sequel series.

Tom Galloway said...

Here's what's definitely known about the J! test. In the pre-online days, they'd oscillate between telling you what was a passing score on the 50 clue test or not. But every single time they gave a score, it was 35 (or 70%). When they went to the once yearly online test (three different tests over three consecutive days, you could only take one), they made a point of *never* giving a number or what method was used to determine passing.

Which to me meant it could still be a fixed number such as 35. Or it could've been top 10% or similar on each evening's test. Or top 1000 or similar on each evening's test. No one knew. At a 2019 trivia convention (yes, such exist), I asked the then main contestant coordinator during a panel if she could say what method they were using. She couldn't say.

Now, if you look at the fine print for the current "Anytime Test" (meaning you can take it whenever you want, but only once a year), it still doesn't say anything about how they determine passing. But, while I just checked and it's not there, I'd swear I remember seeing a few months ago a note that if brought in for a Zoom audition, you'd have to score at least 35 on a "live" 50 clue test.

So all we do know for sure is that you probably need to get at least 35/50 or 70%. If you score below 35, it's very unlikely you'll get to the next round. If you score over 35, it's still not a sure thing. The problem is they have ~400 new contestant slots per year for the number of non-tournament/event shows they do. It's probably at least 10-1 odds of getting the call even if you do pass the initial test.

In my own case, my first test was literally the week before the first Trebek show aired. During the in-person testing years and the times I've gotten past the online test to an audition, I've passed the test at least 15 times...and never gotten on. I'm not the only person in this range; while I've never met or heard of anyone who has passed as many times as I have, there are several other folk in the trivia community who have passed it many times but never gotten the call...even though others in the community who have been on the show say they can't see any reason why they're not getting invited.

Finally, IMO, there are three or four reasons why someone might not do well on J! despite getting through the multiple tests and audition. In order of what I think are the reasons 1) You don't get the hang of the buzzer or lose it during the game. For the latter, see Matt in the DJ! round of his last game. Getting in sync with the person activating the buzzers at the end of the clue reading is critical. 2) Nerves, which usually factor into 1). 3) IMO, J! players can be divided into two categories; people just happy to be on who maybe do a bit of reading in the month between getting the call and filming and people who buy the book available on buzzer strategy and training (no joke; written by a ToC winning friend of mine and used by James), write adaptive AI systems that scrape the J! Archive of past games and serve up questions in your weak areas (see Roger Craig), memorize betting strategies, and in general go into extreme training during that pre-filming month. The first category can get steamrollered if they go against 1-2 in the latter. And finally, you have the bad luck to play against Ken, James, Amy, or Matt who are really good with the buzzer.

Mike Barer said...

If I remember right, Ozzie Osbourn also did a pretty bad version of the anthem, many years ago.

Mike Barer said...

I took the practice Jeopardy! test, very difficult. I think that I got about 60 per cent right.

Michael said...

Robert Merrill did the anthem at Yankee Stadium (, complete with introduction by the legendary Bob Shepard), and he could bring it.

The story is that he wound up on the elevator with the great sportswriter Red Smith one night and neither knew what to say to the other. Finally, Red said something like, "Lovely rendition of the national anthem." Merrill said, "Sang the shit out of it, didn't I?"

When Red died, Merrill sang "Ave Maria" at his funeral.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Always enjoyable is Rick Moranis as Mel Tormé on SCTV:

"Oh-oh say, can you see-ba-dee-ba-dee-ba-dee-ba-dee
By the dawn's early
Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, I've got my share,
and just a trifle to spare, ohhhh
Once I built a railroad, made it run,
Made it run, made it run, kept it runnin' on time, runnin' on time,
Once I built a railroad, now it's done,
Brother can you spare a, brother can you spare a
Rocket's red glare, the bombs burstin' in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still
Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she's walkin' our flag was still there
Oh say, does that star-spangled babba-dabba banner still wave
O'er the land of the free and the lah-and of the
Freepers creepers, where'd ya get those peepers,
Freepers creepers, where'd ya get that home of the
Most beautiful girl in the world picks my tie out
She eats my candy, she drinks my brandy
In the home of the... BRAAAAAAVE!"

Don P. said...

I am currently in the J! pool, until the end of 2022. I got in by taking the Anytime test last spring; when I got "good enough" on that, I had to sit for a monitored Zoom test so they could see I wasn't cheating. After that, it being mid-2021, it was Zoom "in-person" auditions. At the end of that, the producer in charge said that we'd all made the cut, which suggests that they were just taking everybody from that level (or that they were lying). He said we'd be in the pool for 18 months, which in my case runs until, as I said, end of this year. Based on how many people they need, I had guessed I had a 1/4 chance of being called; the later it gets the less my chances, of course.

Thomas Mossman said...

I took the Jeopardy test last spring, and did a Zoom audition last July; I made it into the contestant pool and will be there until January 2023. We played a mock version of the game where the tester would randomly pick people to answer questions in various categories. If you were incorrect, she would pick someone else to answer. As I recall, there was maybe seven or eight people in the chat, all being interviewed at once. They also took the time to ask question about ourselves, mostly I think to find people who had something interesting going on.

This was probably the third or fourth time I'd taken the test. Pre-COVID, my brother took the test and made it as far as an in-person test and playing a mock version of the game. He didn't make it into the contestant pool however.

Douglas Trapasso said...

Possible Friday Q:

One common Rabbit Hole on Le Net de Inter is the revisionist take on films most have assumed via negative reviews and dismal box office, are complete disasters. I've seen several posts recently defending "Ishtar" (1987); is this a neglected gem or is the conventional wisdom correct?

maxdebryn said...

Not that my opinion is worth a bucket of owl spit, but "Ishtar," as I recall, was terrible. Beatty and Hoffman were no Hope and Crosby.

Barry Traylor said...

Roseanne's voice made my ears bleed. Yikes!!

ScarletNumber said...

There was a late 80s/early 90s sitcom that would use Ishtar as its default punchline, but I can't remember what it was. Maybe Growing Pains but if I definitely remember, I will post it here.

Craig Gustafson said...

Friday Question:

Have you read David Steinberg's "Inside Comedy"? If so, how much of it (if any) resonates with you as a comedy writer/director?

Daz said...

Hi Ken!

Baz Luhrmann's 'Elvis' movie has the following screenplay credit (according to the trailer)

Baz Luhrmann & Sam Bromell and Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner.

I assume Luhrmann-Bromell and Luhrmann-Pearce are both partnerships and the credit is split three ways between them and Doner. But it's unusual to have one writer billed twice like this, isn't it? What are the rules for this kind of thing?


bmfc1 said...

The latest two episodes of "Hacks" had guest stars that I immediately recognized from Frazier (Jane Adams and Harriet Sansom Harris). Is it possible that there is a connection between the shows?