Friday, August 05, 2022

Friday Questions

As we enter the dog days of summer, here are this week’s Friday Questions.

VHS Village (Formerly The Beta Barn) starts us off.

What is the unwritten rule for how writers are expected to interact with the stars of a show or film? What I mean is, when you're meeting the actors for the first time, especially if they're big names, are writers supposed to act deferentially or can you be relaxed and direct? Did you have to say "Mr Danson" or could you call him Ted, for example. 

I can't speak for all writers certainly.  But...

I don’t consider them stars, I consider them colleagues.  As such, I refer to them by their first names.  I expect them to call me Mr. Levine though.  (Just kidding.  These days one has to make that disclaimer.)  

Seriously, though, my first staff job was on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW.  And when introduced to him I called him Mr. Randall.  He quickly said to call him Tony.  

DyHrdMET wonders:

Are there any sitcoms (probably the shortest-lived ones) that you thought would have the basic premise and story arc told better as a play or a movie (wrap it up in about 90 minutes, or about 4 episodes of TV, and move on with your life) than being used as a sitcom?

Okay, just my opinion…

Practically every streaming series (comedy or drama) starts off with a great first season and then flails around after that.   Off the top of my head: DEAD TO ME, KILLING EVE, RUSSIAN DOLL, HOMELAND, and you may disagree but BARRY.   Although I enjoyed the second season of HACKS, it too could have stood alone after season one.  

So to answer your question:  All of them.  

From Jonathan Weiss

Ken, ​​I did a little reading up on Lorenzo Music - in addition to voicing Carlton the Doorman and Garfield, he was quite the writer/producer/creator (especially at MTM). Did you work with/alongside him at any point?​

Sort of.  He had a pilot for MTM that he would have starred in along with his wife, Henrietta.  It was sort of a variety show with sketches of them at home with “their kids.”  I put that in quotes because they hired adults to play the kids.  I remember David L. Lander played one.  Yes, it was weird.

David Isaacs and I wrote back-up sketch material for the pilot.  Had the show gone we would have gone on staff.

This was at the height of MTM’s dominance.  They had THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, RHODA, PHYLLIS, DOC, PAUL SANDS: FRIENDS AND LOVERS.  And for the finale of the pilot all of the cast members from all of these shows came out.  Talk about an All-Star squad.  Wow.  

Meanwhile, the pilot did not get picked up.  So much for our first staff job.  

And finally, from 15-Seconds:

You being a radio guy (among other things) did you ever have any dealings with Stan Freberg?

Not professionally, but I met him several times.  I was a HUGE fan, dating back to when he did voices on a local TV daily puppet show in Los Angeles called BEANIE & CECIL.  So I was a fan since I was like four.  

Stan Freberg had one of the most creative minds of anyone in radio, television, advertising, comedy albums - you name it.  

One time when I was a sports intern at KMPC radio in Los Angeles, he came in to guest-host a show and I got to spend some time chatting with him.  And circling back to the first question, now that I think about it, I referred to him as Mr. Freberg.

What’s your Friday Question?



Craig Gustafson said...

"I referred to him as Mr. Freberg."

Which puts me in mind of:
June Foray: (sweet old lady) Mr. Freberg?
Stan Freberg: Yes?
June Foray: (instant battleax) I'M FROM THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOL...
Stan Freberg: Later.
(Door slam.)

ScarletNumber said...

> Practically every streaming series (comedy or drama) starts off with a great first season and then flails around after that.

That's because the creators have enough ideas for one season, but if it's successful the network/cable-station/streaming-service throws enough money at you for you to give it the ol' college try for another. The prime example of this is Californication. I'm embarrassed to admit how much time I wasted waiting for it to get good again.


> Mr. Randall... He quickly said to call him Tony

Yes, but did anyone call him Aryeh?

Curt Alliaume said...

Lorenzo and Henrietta Music did have a straight talk-variety show for a very short time in 1976. It sounds like it was originally conceived as a weekly show but wound up running daily instead--very short-lived.

VHS Village (Formerly The Beta Barn) said...

Thanks for answering my question, Ken. My third in a month, I feel spoiled!

I don't know if you've seen this before but it's an hilarious video of your friends Kurtwood Smith and the late Miguel Ferrer talking about filming the "bitches leave" scene in Robocop. I thought you'd get a kick out of it, as you worked with them both and you've mentioned before it was seeing Robocop that made you want to work with Smith.

Anonymous said...

Actually the variety show was briefly syndicated but was quickly cancelled

Michael said...

Freberg did a bunch of voices for Warner Bros., including a jazz cartoon called "The Three Little Bops." An incredible talent and mind.

Pat Reeder said...

I am a lifelong Freberg fanatic, as is my "Hollywood Hi-Fi" partner George, to the extent that we nabbed some items when Heritage Auctions sold off the contents of his office. I have his 1967 Andy Award for Excellence in Advertising on the bookshelf behind my desk. And I bought a box of unlabeled reel-to-reel tapes in hopes they might contain some undiscovered gems. I did find some little-known comedy commercials, but I don't think anything that's unique to these tapes. However, one tape was of a live speech he gave to a convention of the American Women In Radio and Television in Detroit in either 1965 or '66. He plays his commercials to illustrate various points. It's great, and I haven't found it anywhere else. We digitized it for posterity, but I don't know who to give it to.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Your post sent me straight to YouTube where there's a wealth of Freberg. I listened to "The Banana Boat Song," which is still hilarious. Then YT decided I wanted to hear Glenn Miller. How old do they think I am? Anyway, enjoy the weekend.

Brian Fies said...

There are many series that I've seen commercials for and think "That's a nice idea...for a movie."

I couldn't imagine where B POSITIVE could possibly go after the guy got his kidney transplant. Turns out, it went nowhere.

Going the other direction, Shatner's SHIT MY DAD SAYS found its ideal expression where it began, as a series of Tweets. It never needed to be anything else.

I feel the same about LOST and most of the shows built around some big mystery or conspiracy. I'd watch a two-hour movie to solve the puzzle, sure! But seven years, when you know they're just going to pad and vamp until a disappointing finale? Nope.

Wade said...

I love Stan Freberg. Even his occasional misfires are at least interesting, like "Payola Roll Blues," a two-sided single that starts as an unsubtle anti-rock and roll screed and ends in a fantasy land where "good music" ultimately triumphs over that crap the teenagers are listening to.

blinky said...

Just giving a shout out to one of the best comedies that got killed way too soon: Better Off Ted. The show was so subversively anti-corporate and delightfully funny. Like the time they put in detectors for the lights that only worked on white people so every black person in the company had to have a white person with them so the lights would turn on.
The fake Veridian Dynamics commercials are hilarious. Here's a link to all 12 on the first season

-bee said...

Long Friday Question:

In a discussion forum I frequent, someone brought up the 1965 version of Rogers and Hammerstein “Cinderella” (with Leslie Ann Warren). The whole thing is on youtube so I ended up watching it again.

I remembered having seen it as a child and liking it. It was ‘event TV’ at the time and a big deal with my fellow schoolkids.

What really surprised me on watching as an adult was how EXCELLENT it is (my child self didn’t always have the best judgement). I will say it: Leslie Ann Warren’s Cinderella belongs up there with the great TV performances. She brought such an underlying sense of pain and melancholy that it really gifts the character with a profound substance that raises this production to another level.

Also was really surprised by how good the guy playing the Prince was (Stuart Damon). The camera was constantly being shoved close into his face yet his acting was beautifully modulated in what could have been really over the top. He brought a real sense of gentleness and kindness to what could be a cardboard cutout character.

Why am I bringing this up in your blog Ken? Because after watching I was like, “who is this director who did such a magnificent job directing these actors? I went to IMDB to look at his credits and think you must have known him, as he directed many episodes of MASH over its run.

My question is: can you give us any insights into Charles Dubin? Did he ever bring up Cinderella and working with Rogers and Hammerstein (I know they were very hands on with their productions)? If I am not wrong, this production of Cinderella was a HUGE hit in the 1960’s yet it seems like Dubin did not get any similar directing gigs (not that MASH isn’t great but he was one of many). It seems like a mystery to me that he did not go on to get any similar assignments. If Cinderella never came up, maybe you could speak to his directing in MASH

Anyway, for those reading, please seek out this version of Cinderella. Its easy to find on youtube. Some of the choices to shoot it in the style of a stage play may make it seem dated but the songs are beautiful and the two leads especially are sublime.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Stan Freberg was one of my primary influences for getting into show business, especially radio. My father had his "Face the Funnies" album. It's a collection of sketches from his radio show. I listened to it over and over until I wore it out. Literally. (I've been combing used record shops trying to find a replacement) I was fascinated by the ability of the actors, June Foray, Daws Butler, Peter Leeds and Stan to do multiple characters. Plus, it's a great example of how radio could stimulate one's imagination.
My favorite bit was "Elderly Man River." It was satirizing political correctness even back then. In fact it's still pretty relevant today. I'm sorry I never had the chance to meet him.


kcross said...

I love his story of how Freburg got his first job (which I hope is true). I’m paraphrasing from memory, here, but he took a bus into LA, and told the driver he was looking for voice work. The driver stopped in the middle of the street in front of an agent’s office, saying this is as good as any. Stan went in, auditioned, and the agent said “you’re pretty good. Let me see what they think of you at the studio”. At the studio he fit right in and was hired. One of the other voice artists said “You’re really good. Why haven’t I heard of you before?”. When Stan stuttered for an answer, the guy quickly continued with “oh, I don’t think that you just got off the bus or anything.”

Anonymous said...

Blackadder, which had to be reconceived as a lower budget production from season one to season two (BBC seasons being all of six episodes) significantly improved. The first season is hard to watch. Seasons two and even three and four are superb. The last full episode is classic.

Trevor said...

So, was the Lorenzo Music pilot ever filmed? Seeing the casts of the MTM shows together sounds amazing!

Larry Hart said...

bee8/05/2022 10:32 AM
“Long Friday Question:....”

Hammerstein was dead by the 2nd Cinderella

Check out the first version with Julie Andrews

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Mr. Freberg hosted a syndicated radio respective series called "When Radio Was" for 11 years, ending in 2006. He replaced the original host, Art Fleming of "Jeopardy!" fame, after Fleming's death in 1995.

Among the aforementioned clips of Freberg on YouTube is a 1969 appearance on "The Tonight Show." Johnny Carson introduces Freberg at the 46:48 mark. (Google Tonight Show Stan Freberg 6/13/69.)

Freberg died at 88 in 2015.

Jahn Ghalt said...

So much for our first staff job.

This story looks like about 500 words minimum for VOL TWO of your memoir (1970s-80s).

OR - for a joint "professional memoir" by Levine and Isaacs.

I take it Stan Freberg DID NOT SAY:

Mr. Freberg is MY FATHER - call me Stan???

"Mr. Randall" said "call me Tony" because you were both grownups by them.

Beany and Cecil - I vaguely remember a cartoon by that name - didn't know it was a puppet show.

Apparently Matt Weiner and staff picked up on Freberg's "John and Marsha" (a hit single - 1951) - mentioned in his wiki entry. It sounds pretty funny - with only "two words" of dialog. Peggy and free-lancer Joey "used it" fifteen years later.

Leighton said...

I have no memory of "Doc" in 1975/76. Apparently after the first season, they drastically rebooted, and it lasted only seven more episodes. I remember that "The Doris Day Show" changed just about every year, with both of her kids eventually disappearing...and it lasted five seasons with fairly stable ratings.

pls said...

Fleabag season 2 hit it hard.

Tom Galloway said...

I had the pleasure of helping out Mr. Freberg (he was fine with "Stan", but out of respect this is how I choose to refer to him) and his wife when they made a few appearances at San Diego Comic-Con and Wondercon, both helping out at their table in the Dealers' Area and getting him from their hotel room to his program spotlight items. This was courtesy of our (including myself, Mr. Freberg, and Ken) mutual friend Mark Evanier. It was fun talking to him and hearing about the old days as they were, and I consider it a personal highlight that he laughed at some off the cuff minor jokes that I made. (It also had the later dividends of 1) getting to attend a tribute to him in LA shortly before his passing and 2) again courtesy of Mark, who was one of the organizers, when I asked if there was anything I could do to help out, asked if I'd like to be Weird Al Yankovic's wrangler. Also a complete pleasure to work with).

YEKIMI said...

My disdain of Roseanne went down a few notches when Stan was on her show three times in 1996. Enjoyed seeing him on the tube again back then and not just hearing his voice work on all the cartoons.

-bee said...

@Larry Hart

The Julie Andrews Cinderella is on youtube too. It definitely has its virtues but I brought up the later version because I think Ken may have known the director, Charles Dubin who I think did a wonderful job, and I'm curious to know more about him.

I remember now, yes, Hammerstein was dead by the time the Leslie Ann Warren show was made but Richard Rogers was very actively involved.

JessyS said...


I hate to bust your bubble, but having the MTM all stars on at the end of Lorenzo Music's variety show pilot was the kiss of death for that show. As a viewer, I would have to say that a cameo by everybody in the company, during a stand-alone pilot, is a form of desperation. It is like SNL bringing in the cast of Cheers, Family Ties, or The Cosby Show every week just for the short goodnight segment at the end of every show where the guest host thanks the cast and the music guest for a great week. I feel that a pilot should stand on its own without any special guest stars. On that note, who is your mentor as far as the world of directing is concerned?

Don Kemp said...

Pat Reeder- you might ask the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago if they're interested in your Freberg recordings.

Wm. Adams said...

Friday Question:
How do writers feel about holiday episodes? Are they a great story telling device, or something the networks insist on for marketing purposes?

msdemos said...


Friday Question

If Stan Freberg "had one of the most creative minds of anyone", who are some of the women you've met or worked with who are exceptionally talented or creative people?


msdemos said...


Friday Question

What were some moments in productions you were involved with where the direction, acting, or a combination of both of those two elements elevated your written words to another level?

As an example, I often think of how touching that moment was when Diane Chambers leaves Cheers with her departing words to Sam being, "I'll see you in six months".........and then, as we see her walking up the stairs outside of the bar, the camera cuts back to Sam as he watches her go before he finally says, "Have a good life...."

I find it VERY hard to believe that seeing those words on the written page could EVER have had quite the same power they eventually had when acted out and shot SO PERFECTLY in the beautiful way that it was......


Mark said...

Oh, that parting scene with Sam and Diane is just beautiful. Especially when Sam explains that things might change in the ensuing six months and Diane says, “None of those things will happen.” The look of dismay on Diane’s face, and how Sam raises his eyebrow as if to say “really?” are examples of how these two performers just elevated that scene.

msdemos said...


To The Previous Commenter, "Mike Bloodworth":

Maybe you're aware of it, and maybe not, but doing just a cursory check, I was able to find a number of used copies of Stan Freberg's album "Face The Funnies" currently available on Discogs, Amazon and on eBay:


whynot said...

"That would be the day" - that I am told I have to address an ACTOR and "Mr." or appropriate. POTUS, absolutely. Mr. Spielberg? Without a doubt. Sitcom staff? Never happen.

Freida said...

Friday Question: Which scenario would you prefer? A great show with a dream cast but one which doesn’t pay as much, or a great payday on a mediocre show?

Harry McCracken said...

In 2001, I attended a memorial service for my friend Maurice Noble, Chuck Jones’ wonderful animation designer, on the Warner Bros. lot. As I mingled with the crowd before the official ceremony began, I saw that Stan Freberg was also among the attendees. He was chatting with his friend and colleague June Foray, and I was feeling a bit shy. So I didn’t approach him, even though I’m sure I could have found a moment when I wouldn’t be intruding.

In subsequent years, I was at least mildly haunted by my failure to meet Freberg, whom (I need hardly mention) was one of my idols. Until 2009. That’s when I attended San Diego Comic-Con, where Freberg was a guest. I was roaming the “Artist’s Alley” section of the show floor when I saw that Freberg had a table there…and was sitting by himself. No handlers, no wife, and no fans. I approached him and told him about how I’d had a chance to meet him at Maurice Noble’s memorial and screwed it up. His eyes lit up at the mention of Maurice’s name, we went on to have a delightful chat, and he autographed a copy of the CD set of his United States of America albums. I departed no longer haunted.

I have a similar story about failing to say hello to Garry Marshall in the lobby of his theater in Toluca Lake. Sadly, that one doesn’t involve me getting the chance to rectify my mistake.

Neumann said...

This may basically be trivia, but since you brought it up, Ken: How did Paul Sands get his name into the title of Paul Sands in Friends and Lovers? I've wondered since hearing it on Penny Marshall's appearance on Match Game.

Kendall Rivers said...

FQ: I recently watched the classic Cheers two parter "An Old Fashioned Wedding" written by the incomparable David Lloyd and I forgot just how brilliant and hilarious a farce it was, on par with any of the classic Frasier farces imo. I know it was a Lloyd piece but did you and David have any specific input into that episode?

Dave H said...

I have seen different TV appearances of Paul Sand in the 70's and 80's and do not understand why anyone found him entertaining. Was he a 70s thing? He seemed to get a lot of work then. i saw him on a episode of taxi recently and it might be the only episode of taxi i did not like. The show was centered around him. Not funny. It seems i am picking on him nut I don't get the appeal. You mentioned him Ken and it reminded me of it.

tvfats said...

I saw Stan THREE times in LA...First he was in a booth at the Vine Street Brown Derby when my Dad took me out for my high school graduation lunch back in '66...I was fascinated that they came and plugged in telephones when the celebs and big shots were devouring their three martini lunch...Round two was when he gave us a lecture in a marketing class at USC and played his wonderful commercials from TV and radio...including that classic Radio Advertising Bureau spot...Finally years later I was in Nate and Al's in Beverly Hills and he was eating a sandwich all by himself (looked like it was a pastrami piled high) and he seemed so elderly and tired...But what a comedic and creative genius...Plus he was a good pro when it came to working with puppets...Like you, I wish I had stopped in the deli and thanked him for all the audio AND video joy he gave us over all those decades...Stan WAS the man!