Friday, July 01, 2022

Friday Questions

Happy July 4th Weekend.  They’re going to need a new name for “Independence Day” now that they’ve taken away our independence.   Anyway, here are a few FQ to launch you in the holiday.

Kendall Rivers starts us off:

FQ: Always loved the Bar Wars episodes of Cheers. How did this initially come about?

NBC ordered one additional episode at the end of the 6th season.  They needed the script over the weekend.  So the Charles Brothers asked if we’d tackle it.

We met with them on Friday and worked out this Bar Wars story.  At the time we never thought of it as the start of a “series.”  

The plan was for us to turn in the script on Monday morning, the staff would polish it, and it would go into production that Wednesday.

Meanwhile, there were negotiations for a new WGA contract with producers.  They seemed to be going smoothly.   On Sunday evening we got a call from our agent saying negotiations had broken down and the Guild was going out on strike at midnight.   So we called Les and said have a messenger pick up the script NOW so we’d get it in under the wire.  And that’s what happened.

Indeed, the WGA did go out on strike that night.  Studios were allowed to produce scripts they had already received prior to the strike, BUT…

They could not rewrite them.  So our two-day dashed-off script was filmed word for word.  Needless to say, shooting night was terrifying.  I thought this was the night we’d be discovered as frauds.  Thankfully, the audience loved it and it came out well.  That said, it could have used a little polishing.  At the very least it would have been nice to have three days to write the script instead of two.  

From Theo:

Do you think critics (professional and armchair) have a tendency to be too hyperbolic these days? I wouldn’t mind seeing more objectivity and measuredness myself.

Yes.  I think they like to see their name and quotes in blurbs  for ads.  Makes them seem important, as if their opinion really matters.

However, there are still some great critics.  My favorite is Anthony Lane in the New Yorker.  Great perspective and very funny when he wants to be.

Jeff M. asks:

I entirely agree with you that THE HONEYMOONERS is an all-time classic, but its circumstances were utterly miserable (As a suburban kid I simply didn't believe people lived in apartments that dismal) and Ralph is definitely not a happy guy - at least, not happy with his lot in life. Anyway, what do you think keeps it out of the realm of the "sad-com" (ugh, that term)? Was it just that the jokes came fast and furious? Ralph and Alice's genuine affection?

THE HONEYMOONERS began as a recurring sketch on THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW.   It was very funny and caught on. CBS approached Jackie (who starred in it) about doing a half-hour series based on that sketch.  

They had several things going for it.  One was very good, very funny writing.  And the other was a spectacular cast.  Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, and Audrey Meadows were comedy gold — one of the best casts in any sitcom for the last 70 years.  And Joyce Randolph was fine.  

It was not a show about the hardships of lower middle class America — it was very much a comedy about striving for the American Dream.  And went for genuine laughs. 

And finally, from Adventures in Radio:


I found your blog post from some years back about the time you were a DJ when you got a call from the SLA, who had abducted Patty Hearst. Amazing story. So my Friday question is have you crossed paths with Hearst in the years since and if you did, did you tell her about that night?

Nope.  Never met her.  If I do I will definitely bring up that story.  It’s certainly a good ice breaker.  “Hey, your kidnappers got in touch with me when I was on the air.  Did they always listen to KYA?”

What’s your Friday Question?  Be safe this weekend. 

49 comments :

Andrew said...

"A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic." - Jean Sibelius

Anonymous said...

The Honeymooners, from 1955, is essentially a postwar comedy. In 1955 the suburban boom was just beginning, the move to California was just beginning and many New Yorkers still lived in apartments like the Kramdens. It was by no means unusual and was more the norm for people from Brooklyn. In fact, the pilot of the Dick Van Dyke show five years later had them living in a New York apartment. It was only when they changed characters they also changed format to reflect the burgeoning suburban boom. The Dick Van Dyke series reflected the suburban shift. There were massive local and regional geographic shifts between 1955 and 1965, reflected in the sitcoms (Lucy and Desi moved from Manhattan to Connecticut c.1958).
As for Ralph being unhappy, he was quite happy with Alice. Ralph was Everyman, battling the forces of civiliizaiton around him. The character closest to Ralph Kramden in all of television is Larry David, who is Ralph Kramden in LA with money and who can swear. Larry David is essentially the 21st Century Ralph Kramden.

Rob Greenberg said...

Kirstie is now apparently happy among the sheep

David Simpson said...

I went back and read that Patty Hearst piece. Worth reading. One of the comments gave a link to the programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03ygwmb The link is still active, so you can still listen to it for free, once you've registered your details.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

And Joyce Randolph was fine.

Ouch (smiley face emoji, or winky one, whichever is appropriate)

I believe Trixie was a retired "burlesque dancer", but I don't think I ever heard that mentioned on the syndicated show. Was it too risqué to say that once the sketch became a series?

I read a bio of Gleason years ago (by James Bacon?) and it said they used to get letters from bus drivers and their wives saying, 'you know, we don't live like that!' I chalk it up to them being unable to buy new curtains and a couple of easy chairs because Ralph is always losing money on get-rich-quick schemes

ScarletNumber said...

> They’re going to need a new name for “Independence Day” now that they’ve taken away our independence.

LOL my independence is doing just fine, db 🙄

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I honestly stopped celebrating Independence Day on November 9, 2016, and I haven't since; you won't find anything red, white, and blue in my house unless they happen to be sets of playing cards.

Somebody mentioned on Twitter not too long ago that Trump and his base have absolutely ruined the American flag for them, because they no longer see a symbol of a free nation, they see a symbol of a cult, and I'm inclined to agree: whenever I see somebody waving an American flag from their front porch, or from the back of their pick-up trucks, I immediately assume that they must be racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Frank Burns-esque nutjobs who worship Trump like they would Jesus.

Speaking of whom, watching Frank Burns has actually become a legit frightening experience in recent years, because even though he's a character on a 70s TV show that was set in the 50s, he very much emcompasses everything about not only Trumpsters, but the American rightwing in general, which goes to show you just how regressive and stuck in their ways they really are: half a century, and nothing about them has changed. Absolutely nothing.

Buttermilk Sky said...

"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house with your review in front of me. Soon it will be in back of me." (Max Reger, German composer)

Best putdown ever.

Jeff Boice said...

Been a while since I've looked at movie ads. Rex Reed used to go way over the top in his praise- I remember the ad quoting him on "Looking for Mr. Goodbar"- if Diane Keaton "doesn't get the Oscar for this THERE IS NO GOD!". She did win for Best Actress that year, but for "Annie Hall", not "Goodbar". Ads that quoted Siskel & Ebert always said "Two Thumbs Up!". I trusted Siskel and Ebert's opinions, not those of Rex Reed.

So UCLA and USC are leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big 10. Hope you're ready for that big conference matchup against Maryland.

Samuel Antix said...

What's "db" mean ?

Craig Gustafson said...

Anonymous Jim, Cheers Fan said...

"I believe Trixie was a retired 'burlesque dancer', but I don't think I ever heard that mentioned on the syndicated show. Was it too risqué to say that once the sketch became a series?"

It was in one of the Lost Episodes; I think, the one where they went halves on a TV. Ralph makes a crack about Trixie's past.
TRIXIE: Are you insinuating that I was a burlesque dancer?
RALPH: If the shoe fits, take it off.

Also, when they go to court over the matter, Trixie takes the stand and is asked her name.
TRIXIE: Thelma Norton.
NORTON: (stunned at this information) *Thelma*?!

When Norton takes the stand, he is asked if he is the husband of Thelma Norton. Before answering, Art Carney does this brilliant, quick, disbelieving head-shake.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Well said. Likewise, it must be dispiriting for Norman Lear to see "Archie Bunker" revered 50 years later by the extreme right.

Joe said...

"hope you're ready for that big conference match-up against Maryland" How is that different from the current historic USC vs Utah match-up?

Adventures in Radio said...

Thanks for the answer! May I suggest you get in touch with her people and invite her onto your podcast?

I said it before but this line from your Hearst post makes me laugh every time I read it:
'Before I could ask if he would say, "Hi, we're the SLA and KYA is our favorite radio station!" he hung up.'

Regarding the current state of no independence thanks to the loons on the Supreme Court, if, as has been indicated, they remove all the hard fought for rights like same sex relationships/marriage, contraception and even interracial marriage, and the US continues to slide towards far right evangelical christian fascism, you're very welcome to move here to the UK. Yes, we have crappy weather and that dickhead Boris, but most of his own side hate him and he's months away from being removed, and abortion and gay rights etc are protected. Another bonus is that evangelical christians have no influence on national politics, and we don't have school shootings every two weeks.

maxdebryn said...

@Samuel Antix - "db" = dear boy. I think.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Adventures in Radio, we have a joke. "Britain sent its thieves and whores to Australia and its religious fanatics to North America. Australia got the better deal."

Maybe not so funny now.

John in NW Ohio said...

I’m a Democrat Liberal and I still fly the Stars and Stripes on my home proudly. I also celebrate Independence Day. July 4th, 2022 would have been my dad’s 97th birthday. He was a first-generation Irish American who enlisted in the USMC after high school graduation in 1943, weeks prior to his 18th birthday. He fought in the South Pacific, including Iwo Jima. He returned home and worked as a firefighter for 32 years.
He worked tirelessly to elect Democrats and would be appalled that a draft-dodging demagogue, a guy who exemplifies everything he taught his five kids to not be, was elected president. He would certainly not understand how so many, including people he loved, have been brainwashed enough to support the cult.
Don’t allow them to claim the American flag as their own. Fly it proudly and continue to voice your opposition to the Republican lie machine.

Barbara Fox said...

I absolutely love Anthony Lane; his New Yorker review of Mel Gibson’s (overrated) “Braveheart” is one of the single funniest pieces of criticism I’ve ever read. I have his book “Nobody’s Perfect “ and devoutly wish he’d issue another collection.

“He would fain be cool.”

Wayne Neal said...

Anthony Lane reminds me of the late, great Canadian film critic Jay Scott. Apropos of celebrations: Happy Canada Day.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

My Independence Day celebration has for many years consisted of making a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Andrew: Roger Ebert is highly revered in his home town, Urbana-Champagne. He has a street named after him outside the theater where his film festival continues to take place every year. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he got a statue. (His will also provided $3 million to UIUC's film studies program, IIRC.) He was not, however, a typical critic.

I feel sorry for Joyce Randolph, who was "fine". The writing never gave her much to work with..

wg

Mike Bloodworth said...

Re: Critics. I still remember and very much miss your "snarky reviews" of the Oscars°, Emmys, Tonys, etc. (Well, I really don't give a #$*% about the Tonys) Most of those were pretty over the top. Yet, still very enjoyable. What I hate is when someone gives a false positive or overly effusive review just to get quoted in an ad.

It's a shame that they don't teach civics in school any more.

M.B.

P.S. I for one will be flying the "stars and stripes" on the 4th.

DBenson said...

Of possible interest:

In 1942-3 Hal Roach produced three B movies ("Streamliners", running less than an hour) starring William Bendix and Joe Sawyer as owners of a successful taxi company still firmly rooted in their humble cab driver origins. Bendix's character was married to a former burlesque dancer, played by Grace Bradley, bent on social elevation. Essentially it's the Honeymooners by way of Bringing Up Father, except that Sawyer's character is a bachelor forever in hot water with current girlfriends. Despite coming from the Roach studio, they're padded sitcoms at best.

Bendix went on to play a similar but less affluent blue collar family man on the radio show "Life of Riley". When the show was cloned for television Bendix's movie studio contract prevented him from taking the video version, so Jackie Gleason was Riley for one season.

When the first television Riley ended over contract disputes between creator Irving Brecher and the sponsor, Gleason went on to become a star on his own ... with Ralph Kramden, who had a familial resemblance to Chester A. Riley. Bendix eventually played Riley in a second television series.

The Flintstones, of course, is stone age Honeymooners -- although quarry worker Fred and neighbor Barney live in a stone-age suburb. The Jetsons, in contrast, are upper middle class with George a white collar executive/manager. They live in an apartment, but the lifestyle is more suburbanite than urban.

Mel Cooley said...

Definition of DB
DB
a mess, from "dog's breakfast."
He's looking like DB.

douche bag.


acronym for "drink bleach". A way to tell a person to kill themselves. Currently not well-known, leading to it being used to tell a person to kill themselves without getting banned in chat rooms for bullying.

E. Yarber said...

It's interesting to note that Alan Reed and Henry Corden, the first two voices of Fred Flintstone, appeared in guest spots with Gleason on THE LIFE OF RILEY well before Ralph Kramden existed. Reed was a regular cast member of the radio version.

The Radio RILEY sometimes indulged in meta-elements to promote outer projects. When the show was made into a feature film, somehow working-class Riley was aware of the movie's release. Likewise, Gleason stepped in as Chester for an episode of the audio program to alert listeners to the video version. Listening to the two actors on common ground like that (or comparing radio episodes retooled for TV) always left me impressed with Gleason's subtler work with the character. Not quite a dry run for THE HONEYMOONERS, but a display of Jackie's developing talent.

Adventures in Radio said...

Buttermilk Sky
A great joke I saw online.

A Republican and a Democrat found a magic lamp. The genie said "I will grant one wish per person." The Republican immediately jumped forward and said "I wish all Republicans and conservatives had their own planet, separate from all these libs." The genie nodded and the Republican vanished.

The Democrat asked "Are they all on their own planet?" "Yes" said the genie. "Are you sure? All of them?" The genie again said "Yes." Then the Democrat said "I guess I'll just have a glass of water then."

Joseph Scarbrough said...

One other thing I forgot to note about Frank Burns and today's GOP is that they possess something that I like to call Toxic Patriotism; much like Toxic Masculinity (which the right felt emasculated to have called out in recent years), Frank has shown time and again that he will blindly worship the stars and stripes, the red, white, and blue, the hunk of land, the song about the rockets' red glare, and all other similar items that he feels is what the country is all about, which is exactly what the GOP is all about . . . they clearly feel that a piece of cloth that waves in the air, or a song that's sung at the beginning of a football game are far more precious and irreplaceable that human lives that are taken away from an AR-15 or a racist police officer.

I'm also reminded of a clip I found on YouTube from a 1950s series that featured an articulate and coherent John "Sergeant Schultz" Banner arguing with his son about what life in America is like because the son was embracing Communism. You can see the clip for yourself, but this exchange is what stands out the most to me:

DAD: No matter how big our problems are, there's still the most important thing of all . . . we have freedom here; freedom to make what we can of our lives.
SON: Freedom to conform. Freedom to make the proper responses when someone pushes a propaganda button.

Communism aside, the son pretty much hits the nail on the head; the GOP is always going off about how they want to protect rights and freedoms, but clearly, their party is all about conformity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZTGHCK1MF4

Micah Brooks said...

I look at the flag and my country in a similar fashion to my family name. Others have it. Others may use it, abuse it, cheapen it, and make it look bad. But I'm not disowning it. It only matters what it means to me and how I can make it better.

Have a Happy 4th.

Mike Doran said...

For The Record:
There's a DVD out there which contains the original TV pilot film for The Life Of Riley, from 1948 - starring Lon Chaney Jr.!
This one you really gotta see for yourself ...

(Television's Lost Classics: Volume Two, featuring Four Rare Pilots, from VCI Entertainment.)
(The other three pilots are lotsa fun too!)

Anonymous said...

DAD: No matter how big our problems are, there's still the most important thing of all . . . we have freedom here; freedom to make what we can of our lives.
SON: Freedom to conform. Freedom to make the proper responses when someone pushes a propaganda button.

Because Communist countries are models of nonconformity, free thinking, and no propaganda.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

I cut my teeth cinema-wise reading Dave Kehr in the Chicago Reader. His capsule reviews were marvels of insight in very few words, like little movie haikus. He brought a lot of films and directors to my attention (and often the films were playing in Chicago arthouse theaters). A list of his favorite movies includes The Big Trail, Contempt, The Docks of New York, Intolerance, Journey to Italy, Make Way for Tomorrow, Playtime, Sansho the Bailiff, The Searchers, and Vertigo.

One of Jackie Gleason's early roles is playing a soda jerk in my favorite Edward G. Robinson movie Larceny Inc. Gleason is in a scene with Jack Carson and Jane Wyman and his reactions and timing are cute and add a lot to the scene.

Andrew said...

Wendy: I would certainly agree that Ebert deserves a statue. He was such a pleasure to read (or watch). The wisdom, kindness, and generosity he exuded in his later years as he coped with his medical issues were an inspiration. Definitely a man who transcended his genre.

Jeff Boice said...

For starters, it's an additional 4000 mile round trip.

Kristen Foster said...

Are you aware that four episodes of BIG WAVE DAVE'S can be found on archive.org?
https://archive.org/details/big-wave-daves-1.5

Gary said...

I've been watching The Honeymooners "Classic 39" episodes for over 60 years, and they still make me laugh. Of course Gleason, Carney and Meadows are spectacular. But compared with those three, Joyce Randolph always sounded to me like a high school girl acting in her first play. I feel very guilty criticizing anything about The Honeymooners, but it feels good to finally get this off my chest.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Gary I mean, I hate to say this, but as much as I love Klinger, Jamie Farr had that sort of high school drama student feeling in her performances at times as well, particularly the more comedic moments, like the Section-8 schemes.

Breadbaker said...

@John in NW Ohio: My dad was exactly a year younger than yours. He too was a patriotic lifelong Democrat and also fought in the Pacific (joining up when still 17), although "fought" is a bit of hyperbole as he was a radio operator on an ocean-going tug. They pulled the battleships up to the line of battle and left before the firing started. Not a bad gig for a teenager.

sophomorecritic said...

I recently watched a few episodes of Frasier. How can Frasier be likeable and such an upper class snob? Also, how did the writers reconcile Frasier/Niles and Marty coming from the same universe, let alone Marty having raised those two. The show might have made more sense if he was at least somewhat of an absentee dad?

tavm said...

The song "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood has been so connected with conservatism and especially Trump that I now think that song is highly overrated and almost want nothing to do with it. Give me Ray Charles' "America the Beautiful" instead whose video I always put on my Facebook page every July 4th!

Cowboy Surfer said...

You're hanging on too tight Maverick...

- Goose

BGVA said...

Same. We went to the beach recently and the only trunks I could find at the store had an American flag pattern. My fiancĂ©e rags on me about my “Trump” shorts so I might have to retire them once and for all.

Anonymous said...

https://time.com/76577/roger-ebert-statue-illinois/

ScarletNumber said...

@sophomorecritic

You should watch the entirety of Frasier, as the writers handle the dichotomy between Martin Crane and his sons adroitly.

@tavm

How sad for you that you suffer from TDS to such a degree that you can't enjoy the same music you used to enjoy. God Bless the U.S.A. remains a great song despite being over-played 20 years ago. Enjoy it for what it is.

Adventures in Radio said...

ScarletNumber

As you're a supporter of Trump, would you say people are overreacting to the revelation he told his advisers that his supporters had the right idea about wanting to hang Mike Pence on the steps of the Capitol and that he'd "deserve it"? Is it yet another example of TDS for people to be shocked by this?

What do you think should happen to people who don't support Trump? Do you have any solutions in mind?

Ed said...

Friday Question: You’ve shared your thoughts on many female TV stars from the 50s (Lucy, Eve Arden, Audrey Meadows, et al). But what’s your opinion of Vivian Vance, commonly cited as one of the greatest second bananas and “reactors” in all of showbiz?

ScarletNumber said...

@Adventures in Radio

You are assuming facts not in evidence

Ed Pepper said...

I think it's time for all of us to reset the term "Trump Derangement Syndrome" to its proper place among the far right.

By Ken Levine said...

Time to put an end to the Trump thread.

Ed Pepper said...

BTW, The Life of Riley was originally created as a radio vehicle for Groucho Marx. Obviously things changed.

Kyle said...

Thank you for speaking up, Ken. I appreciate it. I hope you had a great weekend and holiday.