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.


Anonymous said...

The most fun broadcast team ever was, by far, Jimmy Piersall and Harry Caray for the White Sox.
They were also among the most knowledgeable and proficient. No one is close in combination. You couldn't put them on today for some of the stuff they said.

Harry Caray, especially when he was with the Cardinals, was among the most knowledgeable broadcasters there was.
Most people didn't notice that when he moved to Chicago because he got a new shtick as Mayor of Rush Street.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard the radio play by play team for the Philles? Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen. Theyre great, very natural, easy and funny chemistry and rapport.

Sean R. said...

Having moved from my home area and watched baseball games called by other broadcast teams, I now fully appreciate how spoiled I am as a Giants fan. Even though Kruk and Kuip don't travel with the team away from the West Coast anymore, I get to hear Jon Miller and Dave Flemming a lot more on the TV broadcasts. I live in the Central Time Zone and am old(er), so it's hard to catch weekday games that start at 9:15. But former Giants pitcher Javi Lopez does the analysis on road games and is pretty good.

John said...

I’ve always been fascinated with how terrible so many comedy pilots are.

I mean, you read about the intense competition for very few sitcom slots, and you know that a whole bunch of comedy and programming minds have helped shape (micromanage?) the final product.

And then, more often than not, the pilot is not just no great, it’s abysmal. To the point where I’m pretty sure many of us could write something such funnier and more compelling without trying very hard.

I always assume that no way was the original pitch and script that bad… that the network, through their notes and casting control, managed to destroy it.

And I see the names associated with some of these projects, and it’s often names I see over and over and yet they always seem to churn out crap. Again, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that their good ideas are being ruined by committee.

Anthony said...

Hi Ken. I always loved the Cheers crossover episodes, and thought they were done at the ideal pace and frequency. But I've always wondered why Kirstie Alley was the only surviving cast member who never made a single appearance. I've read online in multiple places that she turned down the opportunity because her scientology beliefs conflicted with a series about psychiatry, but Kirstie herself has countered that by saying she was never even asked to appear. What's the real story behind her complete absence?

Glenn said...

How was Lilith's return kept secret from the audience if the show was called "The show where Lilith comes back"? Did it go by another name at first?

ventucky said...

Jon Miller is the only one who has a style that actually reminds me of Vin Scully. Not a clone, but a poetic flow, with possibly a better voice. Not quite as articulate, but pretty darn good. Orsillo and Grant are my choice for the top team I have now, but I will admit I am an ardent Padre fan. Orsillo is incredible and extremely silly about 10% of the time, without interfering with top tier play by play. I was a big fan of Rex when he did the Angels. His over the top color calling was hated by many Angel fans, but it seemed to be so much from the heart. Now he is similar while doing the Royals, so I guess it is all an act, which I really can not fault.

Lemuel said...

Did any network execs have an opinion about the big 3 not covering a presidential speech? YOUNG SHELDON doesn't do it for me.

Astroboy said...

No mention of John Smoltz as an analyst? I don't watch baseball anymore, and I don't even know if he still works games, but he was my favorite.

Michael said...

As for fun broadcasters, this is actually an issue. I'm a fan of Joe Davis, and I think he's done a great job as Vin's successor (which he technically isn't--first, because he doesn't work alone; second, because Vin's first successor was Ross Porter, who really was co-lead broadcaster for a few years when Vin was full-time at CBS). He can be fun and silly on the local broadcasts but is a lot more careful on national ones, and I get that--it's a different audience.

But Curt Smith mentioned in his history of baseball broadcasting how important teaming is. Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek were both fine broadcasters, but Kubek was a lot better with Joe Garagiola and then Bob Costas because they were funnier and created more of a contrast. Uke is great, but it can be valuable for him to have a straight man to work with.

And it's important to know WHEN to be silly. Bob Prince with the Pirates would do all kinds of crazy things, but in a tight or crucial game, he played it a lot straighter. Vin did more storytelling on TV because he didn't need to stay with the action quite so closely, but he did a lot more on radio when the game was dull or a blowout. Some don't know the difference.

Another note on fun: Rick Monday has a great sense of humor, but doesn't really show it much on broadcasts. I wish he would.

For years, Jon Miller has had a routine of imitating Vin saying, "Jon Miller is the best broadcaster in baseball ... IN HIS PAY GRADE." Jack Nicholson once was asked who was the greatest actor and he replied, "When Marlon dies, we all move up one." Miller is now the best, no question in my mind.

ScarletNumber said...

I know he is an acquired taste, to put it mildly, but I find it tough to listen to a Yankee game unless John Sterling is calling it. He no longer makes all the road trips, so on those days I skip it. His sub is competent, but not appointment listening. His sub last year was Rickie Ricardo (yes, that’s really his stage name, but not his birth name) who is more famous for broadcasting the Philadelphia Eagles in Spanish.

If I’m in the car while the Brewers are playing, I will make a point of listening to Bob Uecker.


Smoltz is still the national broadcaster for FOX. As such, he will be providing color for this year’s NLCS and World Series. However, this will be the first year that Joe Buck will not be calling the games for FOX, as he now works for ESPN.

Andrew said...

I love that scene, when Lilith calls the show. You can tell that the laughter and applause from the audience is sincere and genuine. So much different from a laugh track. Congrats on writing such a golden episode. You are much greater than the anonymous execs who write you.

slgc said...

I hate being one of THOSE people, but I think you meant to list Ron Darling as one of your favorite analysts rather than former umpire Gary Darling (unless Gary is doing some broadcasting I'm not aware of, in which case I apologize).

As a semi-related FQ, which voices of the game do you miss the most? Obviously Vin Scully. My personal list includes Harry Kalas (a class act with a wonderful voice) and Jerry Remy (the thickest Boston accent ever, and very goofy at times, but also an incredibly knowledgeable presence).

VincentP said...

Caray is most identified for his years with the Cards and Cubs, but his most important work came with the White Sox. He arrived on the South Side in 1971 after one year in Oakland(!), when the Sox were at their nadir (56-106 in 1970) and nearly everyone expected they would soon call Seattle home. (Just before the start of the '70 season, the Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee - where the Sox had played some home games in '68 and '69 - and became the Brewers.) Caray's colorful style played well in Chi-town, and was only amplified with the addition of the equally irreverent Piersall. You could effectively argue that had it not been for Caray and Dick Allen (1972 AL MVP), the Sox would have followed the expansion-era Washington Senators in fleeing town, and Chicago would never have seen the end of the 88-year South Side "curse" in 2005.

My favorite broadcast team? Harry Kalas and Rich Ashburn of the Phillies. They took the game seriously, but never themselves (a good quality to have, considering the lackluster state of the Phils in the late '80s). I enjoyed their chemistry.

jlhpisces said...

As a lifelong Giants fan, I agree with your choices .

Herbert Jack Rotfeld said...

As long as the topic is baseball and Ken's rants about the game, you MUST see today's Speed Bump" by the eclectic mind of Dave Coverly.
Which is why I lost interest in the game ages ago

Matt in Westwood said...

Agree the first Lilith episode is special…with many huge favorites to follow over time (HAM RADIO, THE SKI LODGE, THE MATCHMAKER among them), nothing ever displaced this as my all-time series favorite. To this day, I still laugh out loud at her line about Frasier “doling out his worthless little advice pellets from his psychiatric Pez dispenser.” Ken, congrats on a major classic among the many classics you and David have written.

Bob K said...

Some years ago, I was listening to a Mets game on the radio while in my car. I think it was Gary Thorne on pxp, but definitely Howie Rose on color.
GT: “It’s an old and storied situation. The Mets defense has allowed the tying run to get in scoring position.”
HR: “And speaking of old and storied, Ichiro Suzuki steps up to the plate.”
I nearly drove off the road laughing.

YEKIMI said...

If The Guardians announcers had a "swear" jar for everytime one of them slipped up and called them The Indians or Tribe someone could retire as a millionaire.....well, thousandaire maybe. I just like that they poke fun at each other if one of them does goof up.

msdemos said...


SO glad to hear that you appreciate our Brewers very own Bob Uecker !!

Sad though, that it seems he won't be doing this too much longer (though I would LOVE to be proven completely wrong on that!)

Interested in moving to Milwaukee Mr. Levine, when "Mr. Baseball" finally decides to hang it up ?? ;-)


Brother Herbert said...

Bob Costas deserves mention as a terrific announcer with his encyclopedic knowledge of sports and quick wit. When calling an Astros game in which their closer Ryan Pressly blew the save, Costas shot off with "And Pressly is All Shook Up!" I only got it a couple beats after his booth partner did.

While I tend to agree that mic'ing up players during games is annoying and distracting, it can also be interesting with the right player. The Reds' Joey Votto was mic'd up during the Field of Dreams game, and he was quite articulate, had good insights and handled multitasking well. I think he'd make an excellent booth partner when he decides to hang up his cleats.