Friday, June 17, 2022

Friday Questions

Time for some Friday Questions.  What’s yours?

Someone who calls himself Malcolm Burns asks:

Ken have you ever tried acting in something?

“Tried” is the operative word here.  Yes… sorta.   David Isaacs and I wrote ourselves small parts in two series that will never be seen again — OPEN ALL NIGHT and THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES.  

In one case I had to deliver a joke line while walking.  So you know I had chops.  

But it was so clear that “real” actors are better.  And I never had a burning desire to be on stage or in front of the camera myself.   To be honest, the two weeks I was a “cast member” I was bored most of the time.  You sit around all day waiting to rehearse your scene for ten minutes.  

I like being in the part of the industry I’m actually good at.  And I felt a little guilty both times I “acted” that I was taking the job away from someone who did this for a living and deserved the role way more than me.

JS wonders:

What is the best concert you have been to?

I’ve been lucky enough to see some great ones.  The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, Harry Chapin (an amazing performer), Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler, Bobby Darin, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Manhattan Transfer, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Tina Turner, Ringo Starr’s all-stars, the Beach Boys (with Brian Wilson), Brian Wilson (without the Beach Boys), Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Sedaka, Jerry Lee Lewis, Barbara Cook, Idina Menzel, Diana Ross, Cher, and Linda Eder (a SPECTACULAR singer).  

But if I had to pick one it would be “the Boss.”  Bruce Springsteen was amazing.  I see him every chance I get and am never disappointed.  

Brian Phillips queries:

Were there any sound stages that were/are set up oddly?

Oh God, yes.  I helped out on a pilot in the late '80s that was filmed on the biggest stage in Hollywood.  It was the sound stage where Coppola built the entire Vegas Strip for ONE FROM THE HEART.  It has two area codes. 

In this case it was used for a multi-cam sitcom.  Usually you’ll have bleachers for 200 people.  That’s what they constructed.  But the stage was so big it was literally two rows on 100.  This was also in the days before monitor assists so the audience could only watch the stage.  

There were a bunch of scenes and no more than maybe 35 people at any one time could see what was going on.  

It was an utter disaster.  

You could easily fit three normal sound stages into that one.  It was at the old Zoetrope Studio on Santa Monica Blvd.  

And finally, from Stephen Cudmore:

Are there writers out there that turn in mediocre work, but that work so fast they consistently get work just because the showrunner knows they will hit the deadline? Even good shows seem to have "filler" episodes that aren't up to their usual standards.

To my knowledge no, although there may be some instances where a show runner wants to hire his friend who may not be very good.   

It’s not such a unique skill.  If the goal is simply to write it fast without regard to quality pretty much any seasoned writer can do that.  

The real skill comes when you can write good or even great scripts rapidly.  Larry Gelbart, Aaron Sorkin, David E. Kelley — I tip my hat to you guys.  


Andrew said...

Wow! I envy you your concerts.

There's a video clip on YouTube of Linda Eder appearing on Star Search in the late 80's. That's where her career began. (Thank you, Ed McMahon).

N. Zakharenko said...

For drama, the 2 most prolific writers that I see on 1950's to 1970's movie/TV shows are:

Orville H. Hampton


Daniel B. Ullman

They each solo wrote up to 8 theatrical movies in the same year (greater than 70 mins).
Titles include Friday Foster (1975) for Orville and Mysterious Island (1961) for Dan.

For TV, in the same year Orville wrote for shows as diverse as Lassie and Perry Mason, or Hawaii Five-O, Movin' On and a Hanna Barbera cartoon in another.

Dan's name would be seen on many a diverse selection of one hour drama titles each season.

Their scripts were watchable, dependable, and could be very intriguing.

Mighty Hal said...

Ken, how long did it usually take for you and David to write a television script? Did you ever take weeks or months to write one? What's your record for one written in the least amount of time?

He's bad said...

No Wacko Jacko?

Back when I was still a fan, I went to see Jacko on his History tour, or as I like to call it, his Shitstory tour. I felt ripped off. He lip synced 95% of the setlist. His unhinged fans like to defend him by claiming it was too much for him to sing live and dance at the same time. That's such bullshit. He was only 38 at the time. No one pays to see someone lip sync their concert.

He was just lazy, way past his best, and more preoccupied with little boys than with performing live.

Manic Man said...

Since i'm very surprised I can't find many comments on it here (atleast, my searching didn't find much)..

Friday Question: I love Becker, watching it in the UK. Not totatlly original or unique as we have had shows with lead unlikables and being popular LONG before the USA it seams (it always makes me chuckle when some USA writer or someone would wax on about how fantastic and new some USA show was, and they were just a remake of an older UK show with the 'revolationary bits' still there..) but that's kinda beside the point.. I think it was well acted and written and stuff.. However, the last two series suffer... the last series even more to a point it can be a bit painful to watch (While i must admit to being someone that can get very annoied with what i see as Major continuary issues which I felt kinda go against characters (like how in the last series, Jake was SOO dead against selling porn and naked mags and lectured on how his newstand was a 'clean part of america', despite having no problem and opennly selling them in the past without so much as a comment) but the problems seam that some of the new characters didn't really gel right with me and were just 'weak' versions of older ones.. mostly due to two cast members leaving.. Terri Farrell and Saverio Guerra. From what i know, Ms Farrell claims she was fired and it came as a shock to her (some claim it's due to the series 3 pay strike) and Mr Guerra just decided not to renew his contract for the new series but.. Do you happen to know any reasons? Any idea why Ms Farrell was fired? Nancy Travis isn't a bad actor but.. they introduce her character as a opposite of Reggie, as she is happy-go-lucky and everything, but then the moment she becomes a main cast member, all that goes and she becomes sucked into the 'depression' of the rest of them and... the less said about Hector the better... gee, Hope that actor did something better cause.. really didn't work.. really, firing Farrell could be part of the 'We want to destroy the show' but then, why do that and not just cancelled.. unless some hirer ups wanted it over yet didn't really have the ability to kill it.. so just tried in more.. subtle ways

SueK2001 said...

I'd love to hear more about that Bobby Darrin concert. He was before my time but I've been intrigued by his short life and amazing talent. I tried to understand his life through "Beyond the Sea" but didn't get much out of that except my loathing of Kevin Spacey.

I did have a FQ that relates to MASH. I recently watched the episode where Houlihan loses her voice and can't speak. Is there a certain skill to playing "sick"? Was she sick during the shoot? Does acting hoarse hurt your voice in the long run?

Anonymous said...

I didn't think anyone could sing "I Am I, Don Quixote" better than Richard Kiley, but boy, Linda Eder is right there.

Stanley Williams said...

My wife and I saw Simon and Garfunkel with the Everley Brothers. That was a great show. Springsteen we've seen a lot, and his shows are always incredible. The best show that I ever saw was City Boy in Toronto in 1978.

Peter Aparicio said...

Don't know when you saw them, but I got to see S & G in 2004. Great show with classic songs and they weren't even arguing then!

Gary said...

I'm surprised Paul McCartney wasn't on your list. I've seen him a few times in concert and it was always an incredible show. Not sure about his current tour, but when I saw him he played and sang for over three hours straight without so much as a break or even a drink of water.

ScarletNumber said...

@Stanley Williams

I, too, saw Simon & Garfunkel with the Everly Brothers back in 2003 on their Old Friends tour. When Simon and Garfunkel first started, they were known as Tom & Jerry and their big hit was Hey, Schoolgirl, which sounded like an Everly Brothers single.


As for Bob Dylan, I have heard he is awful live. His 1986 True Confessions tour with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers showed he didn't belong on the same stage with them.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

I agree that the series lagged when Terri Farrell left, she was so good and I loved the loser vibe of the core characters, there was great chemistry there. I'm not sure which episodes Ken wrote but I noticed he was credited on the detective episode with flashbacks that I watched recently, it was very funny.

The reboot of Hawaii Five O is a guilty pleasure for me. I like the local characters, the bickering with Danno and McGarrett, and the great cinematography. It's campy enough to be fun in spite of the cheesy spy stuff and explosions. Jorge Garcia (Hector on Becker) joined the show in season 4. He's goofy and eccentric but adds a lot to the show. He was also very funny as a drug dealer in an episode of Curb.

Stanley Williams said...

We saw Dylan at some place in Sun City, Arizona. It was tricky trying to figure out what song he was playing, most of the show. He clearly was on autopilot.

Pat Reeder said...

I'm a huge Bobby Darin fan. I love that at a time when rock was killing big band, he left rock, went to Vegas, and revitalized the swinging, big band lounge sound. He was driven to accomplish so much in so many fields because he knew from a young age that he wouldn't have much time on Earth. There are a few good published biographies. Also check out his albums that have been remastered for CD. My favorite is "In a Broadway Bag." It makes you appreciate what a great voice he had.

bruce said...

Worst concert: Bob Dylan in Oakland in 1979 conveyed the attitude "So you want to hear the old songs? I'll sing them with such weird arrangements that you never want to hear them again"

Best concert: Four for McGovern in Spring 1972 in the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood with: Carole King, James Taylor and Barbra Streisand with the Quincy Jones Orchestra.

Close second: Stevie Wonder in Champaign in the 80s.

powers said...

Peter, Paul, and Mary gave a wonderful concert at the outdoor shell in Canandaigua, N.Y. years ago. They engaged with the audience, were fun and funny, told interesting stories, and gave an outstanding performance. Legends.

YEKIMI said...

I saw Simon & Garfunkel [think it was 1982] on their ill-fated tour that lasted about 3 dates before Paul had a hissy fit and called the whole thing off. Me and my friend had seats about halfway up the stadium seats and it was basically bullshit. Not a huge crowd so we decided to try and wander down to the field to see if we could get closer. Since I had been there and on the field a few times before for soccer games, I knew the ins and outs of the place. Lo and behold, we got on the field and made our way all the way to the edge of the stage and stood there for rest of the concert. No one said a thing, security didn't even bother us. Paul looked at us a couple of times and that was about it. Great concert! Saw Everly Brothers in 1985, they were the only group I was interested in seeing so even if I were tortured today I'd be unable to tell you who else was on the bill.
Back in 1988 Was going to see Roy Orbison in what would turn out to be his final concert. Something came up and couldn't goand figured well, he'll be around again someday and then he ups and dies, kick myself to this day that I didn't get to go.
Saw "Herman's Hermits"....well, really Peter Noone backed by local musicians....a few times and he puts on an incredibly entertaining show.
Saw former Beatles drummer Pete Best. Not much to say, he was OK.
Gotta go back to 1976 when I was first introduced to The Alan Parsons Project by an English Lit teacher and was bummed when he said a number of years later that he wouldn't go on tour. Then he changed his mind and I have seen him several times and he puts on a hell of a show usually 2 hours or longer.
Many more I would have liked to gone to but they were always on days I have to work. Retiring in about 3 months so I'm gonna hit the ones I want to see [and can afford].

Would like to see Elton John but even the tickets in the nose bleed seats are astronomical. Even passing by the place when he's playing, you get stopped and charged $20 just in case you hear a stray note or two escaping from the confines of the building.

DwWashburn said...

Best concert - Don McLean. I'm a huge McLean fan and when I heard he was coming to a small bar in Vegas in '90 I bought my ticket fast. He was going to perform twice that night. The local radio station was giving away tickets and I won one so I went to both shows that night. McLean did not repeat a single song.

Worst concert - James Brown. Once again I won tickets here in Vegas. He was to take the stage at 9PM but he went to the boxing match and didn't start his show until 11:15. He cut his show to 40 minutes not including the ten minutes that one of his entourage yelling into the microphone "JAMES BROWN". News flash. We ticket holders know it's James Brown.

Unusual concert -- I lived in Memphis in 1977. The tradition was that if Elvis was to perform in Memphis an announcement would be made on local station WMPS and the tickets usually sold out within hours (pre internet). My sister and cousin are huge Elvis fans and had never seen him in person so I bought three tickets. Good seats. Date of the concert August 27, 1977. And you know the rest.

msdemos said...


What is the best concert you have been to?

I’ve been lucky enough to see some great ones. The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, Harry Chapin (an amazing performer)....

Your comment about Harry Chapin, Mr. Levine, reminds me of his "Greatest Stories Live" cd.........listening to that one I SWEAR I can feel his spirit coming through the speakers, and can almost imagine seeing him up on stage the night that performance was recorded.....especially on the song, "Circle", where he has different members of his band take a turn at singing a round of the song, before culminating with the entire audience JOYFULLY joining in with the band to sing the final chorus :

All my life's a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life's a circle;
But I can't tell you why;
Season's spinning round again;
The years keep rollin' by.

And the years....AND THE YEARS.....keep on rollin'......KEEP ON ROLLIN'...... BY-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y !!!!!

Just feeling the palpable sense of joy from that audience flooding out of my speakers EVERY time I listen to it, NEVER fails to bring a tear to my eye !!

I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been lucky enough to experience it live !!

R.I.P. Mr. inspiring musician, activist, and human being !!


alan0825 said...

Ken, I follow the blog religiously. My Friday question (which may become an expanded answer) is have you read Jim Burrows' memoir yet? I'm on the Taxi chapter so far and can't wait to read the rest. Thanks.

Brandon in Virginia said...

Friday Question: I’m watching the Equalizer reboot and counted at least 6-7 “Executive Producer” credits plus 1 or 2 “Co-EP”s. I‘ve noticed this on a few primetime game shows as well (the hosts often get an EP title too); do any of these producers have any real duties or is it just a vanity thing?

Poochie said...

Just attended a Netflix comedy special, one of several I've attended. Curious why they don't charge for the tickets? It'd be a pack house either way and they'd definitely make a nice sum for the day. Never known these $treamers to leave a dollar lying around.

Roger Owen Green said...

My first concert was Seals and Crofts with Boz Scaggs opening on Nov 12, 1971, in NYC. Since then in no order: Pete Seeger; Alison Krauss; Janet Jackson; Talking Heads; the Temptations with and without the Four Tops; Paul McCartney; Joe Jackson; Bob Dylan with Amos Lee and Elvis Costello; Tony Bennett with Diana Krall; Lucinda Williams; Pete Droge; the Neville Brothers; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Joan Armatrading; Sheila E.; Sean Ono Lennon; Joni Mitchell; Bruce Springsteen; Elton John; Billy Joel; Rebecca Jade and the Cold Fact; Sheila E.; No Doubt with MxPx and The Specials; John Hiatt; the Saratoga Folk Festival, with among many others, Joan Baez and Lyle Lovett; and a few jazz festivals in Saratoga. My most recent: Cheap Trick, a month before the pandemic.

msdemos said...


My First Concert:

Summerfest in Milwaukee, late 1960's at about 8 or 9 years of age with my parents to see Sammy Davis, Jr. on the Main Stage.......flash forward to my GREATEST concert moment, getting to sit in the best seats I've EVER had for ANY show, second row at Soldier Field (Chicago) on July 29, 1990 for Sir Paul McCartney......during his first World Tour in over 10 years, following a decade lost in the wake of John Lennon's 1980 murder.....


D. McEwan said...

I had a "private" concert from Harry Chapin. When I was producing The "Sweet Dick" Whittington radio Show back in 1974, I booked Chapin on to do an hour interview on our show. He wasn't available to do the interview live, as that was 9 - 10 am, so he came in in the afternoon and we taped an interview in a small conference room. In that room were three people only, Chapin, Dick Whittington and me, as I was running the tech-end of recording the interview.

During the interview Chapin told us he'd just recorded a new song earlier that week, that would be coming out in a few weeks. So he picked up his guitar and sang solo his song "Cat's in the Cradle." So I first heard that song, which of course went on to be a huge hit, in that room, with Harry Chapin singing it to just the two of us.

He also told the story behind the song, about how he missed his child's birth because he was on the road, a lonely family man, who just wants to be with his wife and kid. How sweet. How touching.

Fifteen minutes later, I witnessed him trying his best to hit on and pick up the pretty 22 year old receptionist at our radio station. (It was not unusual for hornier guests to hit on her, and she, who was engaged at the time, was very good at shutting them down.) I thought, "Oh yes, 'Family Man,' hitting on the receptionist." The hypocrisy was amusing to see up close and in person. Ever since, when I hear "Cat's in the Cradle," I think about the un-written, more honest, lyric:

"And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
"When you coming home, dad?" "When I finish fucking this waitress,
And we'll get together then, son,
You know we'll have a good time then,
Unless I meet some other bimbo. Hey, hot nurse. Wanna fuck a rock star?
You know we'll have a good time then."

msdemos said...


Thanks VERY much for that, "D. McEwan" !!

I recently watched an interesting documentary on Chapin's life entitled, "When In Doubt, Do Something" (2020), and at one point they talk about trouble he and his wife were experiencing in their marriage before he died, but unfortunately went into VERY little detail about just what, exactly, that "trouble" may have been.

Your little story helps confirm that my immediate suspicions about what may have been involved with their problems, could have been right on the money......


Frank T. said...

Hi Ken! I've been a reader of yours for as long as I can remember, but this is my first time sending in a Friday question (I hope this is the right place for it. You'd think I should know by now!)

So here's my query, followed by two comments:

--I notice when you talk about your favorite sitcoms, you don't mention Seinfeld much. Maybe you've discussed this before and I've somehow forgotten, but how would you classify this type of sitcom? I mean, it definitely had its funny bits, but the characters weren't people you could care about (at least, I never did). Plus, they never seemed to grow as characters, which I suppose was the big joke of their last episode. On Cheers, you somehow made a character like Norm someone that didn't change at his core, but we did care about him. How would you explain the difference?

--COMMENT ONE: You may have seen this, but if not, here is an excellent send-up of how Peacock might reimagine Frasier for today's audience (a la Fresh Prince) -

--COMMENT TWO: If you feel the need to see a different kind of comedy, I wanted to humbly offer my indie film "Win a Trip to Browntown!" distributed by Gravitas Ventures. It's a raunchy family comedy made on a microbudget with no nudity, a bit of swearing, and a lot of innuendos. After all the free advice you've given me over the years, I'm happy to send you a private link to a screener. I don't want to post my email in the comments, but I can be reached through the film's website on the Contact page at

Please excuse my self-promotion, and thank you so much for all the great reads over the years!