Wednesday, September 28, 2022

EP294: Hanging with King Charles and other royal notables

Since the royal family has been front page news these days, Ken discusses his various brushes with royalty and other distinguished world leaders. If there’s a theme it might be irreverence.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

EP293: Casting Director, John Levey Part 2

More advice for actors on just what it takes to get that job, and the process of casting several iconic television series. Learn what the business is really like in this fun and informative episode.  

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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

EP292: Meet Casting Director John Levey

John Levey is an award-winning casting director of such iconic shows as THE WEST WING and ER. With great insight and candor he discusses the state of casting today — what producers are looking for, what actors can do to maximize their chances. If you’re an actor this is the episode you can not miss.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2022

EP291: Documentary Filmmaker, John Scheinfeld Part 2

More on the making of documentary films. Getting music clearances, enlisting celebrities, and other assorted stories and tips from award winning filmmaker, John Scheinfeld.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Last Post

I have decided to finally end the blog.  This will be my last post.  After doing this almost daily for close to 16 years it is not a decision I made lightly.  To be honest, I had been contemplating it for about a year.  

There have been 6,850 posts, 188, 330 comments, more than 3,000 Friday Questions answered, and over 42,000,000 visitors over that stretch (of course it could just be 42 people who came back a million times).  

Why am I stepping away?  Well, first of all, I’ve outlived blogs. Mine may be the last one on the internet.  When I started and blogs were the thing, I figured this would be fun to do for a couple of years.  Other bloggers advised I post something new every day as a way to build an audience.  That was a little more work than I had planned but okay.  Eventually the blog took on a life of its own and I found myself posting daily for well over ten years.  I can’t believe I didn’t run out of things to write by 2010.  

But what was once fun has become a chore.  I think I have run out of things to write about, or at least they’re getting much harder to come up with.  I began reducing my schedule hoping that would help, but it hasn’t.  I just feel it’s time.

I’m also involved in a number of other creative pursuits and really want to focus more on those.  The podcast will continue.  I’ve been doing that for six years and nearing 300 weekly episodes.  I thought initially a lot of my blog readers would subscribe to the podcast, but that hasn’t been the case.  I seem to have a largely separate audience for the podcast.  But it’s still out there if you wish to follow me.   I’m also on Twitter (@KenLevine), Instagram (Hollywood and Levine), and from time to time my cartoons will pop up in The New Yorker.  So I’m not David Letterman growing a ZZ Top beard and disappearing into the Ozarks somewhere.  

What I will miss most is you.  I’ve made a number of good friends and have really enjoyed the little community that has formed via the comments section.  Often times I found the comments more interesting than my posts.  So I will miss the daily interaction and your contribution.  

Beyond that, I sincerely hope you got some value out of this sixteen-year labor of love.  You were entertained, maybe learned a writing tip, enjoyed the assorted adventures of my various careers, and looked forward to the occasional photo of Natalie Wood.  

It’s certainly been a fun and rewarding ride; a much longer ride than expected.  

The blog will remain up.  I’ll still post weekly links to new podcast episodes.  And you’re welcome to dive into the archives.  Among the 6,850 posts there are at least 20 that are really good.  

Some people to thank: Howard Hoffman, Lee Goldberg, Cynthia Furey, Mark Evanier, Dan O’Day, Doug McEwan, Larry Gelbart, and all my guest bloggers (that ranged from Aaron Sorkin to Babe Ruth).  

Thank you for your support.  Thank you for allowing some old guy TV writer to be a part of your life.  I wish you all much success, good health, happiness, and projects that bring you as much joy and satisfaction as this blog has provided me.

As hard as it’s been to write this, ending it is even harder.  So I’ve decided to just leave a teddy bear on the bunk and move on, hoping we meet again.  

Thanks again.


Monday, September 05, 2022

Labor Day reflections...

I’ve always hated Labor Day.

It meant the end of summer.  School was starting.  Somehow you never get over that low-grade dread.  (Now a lot of schools begin in August.  That’s nuts!)

But the toughest Labor Days I had were the three years I announced minor league baseball.  Minor league seasons end around Labor Day.  Major League rosters expand and some players are called up to the big leagues.  

I was always depressed because even after 144 games with maybe 2 days off in five months I was sorry to see it end.  That’s when I knew I was a real baseball lover or needed serious help.  

Trying to will myself a positive attitude while looking ahead, at least for twenty years or so we had the Jerry Lewis telethon.  This schmaltz-fest was always good for a few laughs.  Ooooh, the dripping sincerity.  But now that’s gone.

September also once meant the beginning of the new fall TV season.  That’s sort of a joke now since no one watches the networks anymore and shows on various platforms premiere every week.  

Oh well, at least this year I have more January 6 hearings to look forward to.  And the World Series, although now that’s almost a winter event.  

But in any event, Labor Day signals changes.  More on that tomorrow. 

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Weekend Post

Among the many things we learned on MASH was the value of research. Gene Reynolds, the showrunner, loaded us down with transcripts, articles, books, and even maps. The more authentic, the more real you can make your world, the richer and more interesting it will be. During our time on MASH we conducted numerous interviews with doctors, corpsmen, nurses, and soldiers who had served in Korea. And there were five years of interviews before us. Gene and series creator, Larry Gelbart, even took a trip to Korea. Many of the stories we used came right out of the research.  In some cases we had to tone them down.  The real stories were too absurd to be believed. 

On staff we had a medical adviser, a technical adviser, and a military adviser. We had no fashion consultant for Klinger however. The budget was only so large.

But my partner, David Isaacs and I continued to do our homework on future projects. Hey, Paddy Chayefsky used to do extensive research and so does James L. Brooks (although Brooks got it from Gene Reynolds as did we) so you know there's value in it. 

Over the last 15 ½ years of this blog I might have mentioned once, twice at the most, that we wrote the Tom Hanks/John Candy movie VOLUNTEERS. If I didn’t mention it, now you know. The bulk of the film was set in Thailand in 1962. Tom’s character joins the Peace Corps to avoid a gambling debt. So we wanted to know about the Thai culture – what their lives were like, their food, their homes, customs, religion, concerns, etc.

Our producer, Walter, said he knew someone from Thailand who was living out here now. We arranged a dinner with him.

The gentleman, whose name was At (that’s a name we used in the movie) selected the meeting place – the most expensive Thai restaurant in Los Angeles if not the world.

At apparently was a relative of the royal family. He ordered for us. Every dish was scrumptious, but hugely rich. Lobster sauce, and filet mignon, and exotic noodle dishes. We asked what the common folks ate. “This,” At answered. “Really?” I said, “Jungle Curry Pork Ribs, Ginger Whole Seabass, and Crab Meat Noodles?” Yep, he insisted. That’s how the peasants ate.

Except, according to At, there were no peasants. Everyone in Thailand lived in nice homes. I guess the real unfortunate ones didn’t have a view.

We asked how the general population in outlying areas filled their days. Working in rice fields? Taking shelter from the monsoons?   Oh no. They played a lot of sports.

We of course used none of this nonsense in the film but stayed late into the evening asking more questions because we were highly entertained.  Had we used his stuff our movie would have become REAL HOUSEWIVES OF THAILAND.
I’d like to think he was bullshitting us and didn’t actually believe any of the balloon juice he expounded. According to At -- there were no communists or warlords. Many huts had TV (in 1962). Recreational opium was the perfect nightcap after a feast of Lamb with Spicy Lime or Roast Duck with Mint Leaves.

Research is great… as long as its valid. I don’t know whatever happened to At. I do hope he wrote the Thailand page on Wikipedia.


Friday, September 02, 2022

Friday Questions

Propelling you into Labor Day, here are some Friday Questions.

Chad Holmes leads off:

Have you gotten feedback on your critiques of what has gone wrong with the networks and sit-coms in your blog from the top levels that are the targets of those postings over the years and what have they said?

Yes.  I’ve heard from a number of network executives.  Sometimes they disagree with me and lay out their case.  In those instances I usually do a follow-up sharing their position.  

One time I ripped a network’s development slate.  They didn’t pick up a single comedy pilot although they made ten.  I got an email from a high-up executive at that network saying he didn’t want to reveal his identity, but said I was right.  There was something about every pilot that kept them from getting picked up.

I said, “Then you’re hiring the wrong development people, writers, or actors.”  He said, “You’re right.”  

He’s not with that network but he still is a major player today.  I, meanwhile, am still blogging.  

From Brian:

For the Frasier episode “The Show Where Lilith Comes Back”, which you and David wrote, Bebe Neuwirth received hearty laughter and applause when her voice is first heard calling into Frasier’s show. Was Bebe’s appearance kept secret from the studio audience to prompt a genuine reaction of surprise?

Yes.  What’s nice is that her character is so well-known and her voice is so recognizable that the audience picked up on it right away.  

She was also the first character to crossover from CHEERS and I think the audience was particularly delighted about that.  It signaled right away that this was a special episode.  

Bronson Turnquist asks:

What do you think of the recent rise in fast paced joke comedies like Rick and Morty and Archer?

Any comedy that makes a concerted effort to make people really laugh is good in my book. And rare. So I’m all for it.  

And finally, from msdemos:

As a baseball man yourself, who were/are some of the play-by-play and/or color analysts you consider the most "fun" (as opposed to most technically proficient) to listen to ??

Jon Miller of the Giants.  Jason Benetti of the White Sox.  Also Len Kasper of the White Sox.  Howie Rose and Gary Cohen of the Mets.  Andy Freed and Dave Wills of the Rays.  Eric Nadel of the Rangers.  Steve Physioc of the Royals.  Dave O’Brien of the Red Sox.  Dan Schulman of the Blue Jays.  Tom Hamilton of the Guardians (still the Indians as far as I’m concerned).  Bob Uecker of the Brewers.  Dan Orsillo of the Padres, Duane Kuiper of the Giants.  

For analysts:  Mark Grant, Dennis Eckersly, Keith Hernandez, Steve Stone, Darrin Jackson, Mike Krukow, Tommy Hutton, Ron Darling, and then there’s always crazy Rex Hudler.

I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.  But Jon Miller and Jason Benetti my top two.  

For local TV broadcasts:  White Sox, Giants, Mets.

For local radio broadcasts: Giants, Mets, Rays.