Saturday, April 30, 2016

Louis CK could have been a silent movie star

This is from the very cool folks at AV Club, edited by Dominick Nero. He doctored some footage from Louis CK's LOUIE series and showed how well it could work as a silent movie. Check it out.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Questions

This would have been my mom’s birthday. I miss her everyday. It’s also Friday Question day.

Charles H. Bryan gets us started.

Is there ever concern in a multi'cam about actors' footwear so as not to make noise on the floor of the set? Clomp Clomp Clomp or click click click would be hard to remove from the mix. (I was watching BIG BANG THEORY and noticed Leonard wearing tennis shoes on the hardwood kitchen floor. That's appropriate footwear for that character, but it can't be so for everyone.)

I must say it’s a question that’s never come up. I do know we did a funny episode of CHEERS where Cliff had squeaky shoes, but I can’t recall ever watching a rough cut of an episode and being distracted by the clacking of shoes. Maybe actors wear rubber souls whenever they can, I dunno.

Here's the squeaky shoes scene:

Unkystan has a question about my play, A OR B?:

Any chance for an off-Broadway run in New York?

I would love that. Just need someone to make me an offer. I’m thinking of changing the title from A OR B? to A OR HAMILTON?  Whattaya think?

From Rashad:

I found a two-act play that I had written approximately 13 years ago, when I was a grad student and still believing I would become a professional writer someday. Should I reread the f**ker in order to refresh my memory...or should I just put it away in another drawer and forget all about it (again)? Thanks in advance!

This is not easy to answer since I haven’t read the play and I’m not clairvoyant. But sure, look it over. What the hell? If it’s terrible you can throw in the drawer, chalk it up to your inexperience and age at the time, but who knows? You might be pleasantly surprised. Or you might see a new way to go and be inspired to rewrite it. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like a CAA agent is going to see it lying around and file legal papers to have you banned from show business. (They tried that with me once but it didn't stick.) 

Timothy wraps it up with a CHEERS pilot question.

In reading reviews and the history of "Give Me a Ring Sometime", it seems that there was another patron character that was intended to be in the cast, an older cantankerous woman in a wheelchair. Several places online it is noted that she was played by Elaine Stritch. The interesting part of this is I recall watching a scene with Diane and Coach where there was a woman in purple sitting in a wheelchair that seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to what was being said, and I thought to myself "Well, there's an extra that isn't really doing her job", and funny enough it was this character. Can you confirm that it was Elaine Stritch (it sure doesn't LOOK like her), and why she was editied and written out?

First off, that was not Elaine Stritch. We tried to use Ms. Stritch in an episode seven or eight years and let’s just say it was not a good match.

In the original pilot there was a character named Miss Littlefield who was a cantankerous older woman. Upon seeing a rough cut the producers decided to take her out of the show, which they did with some deft editing. But as you mentioned, she is still visible in the background in a couple of shots, but she has no lines.

Her character also then had to be rewritten out of the next few scripts, as the plan was to make her a regular bar patron.

Happy Birthday, Mom... wherever you are.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Should Sam & Diane have gone off together in the end?

There’s been a lot of great debate lately in my blog about the Sam & Diane ending of the final episode of CHEERS. Check the comments section from last Friday’s post. Even the great Steven Moffat (SHERLOCK, DR. WHO, COUPLING) weighed in with a CHEERS-related opinion.

Quick aside: Steven’s sitcom, COUPLING, is my all-time favorite British sitcom. And you know how much I love FAWLTY TOWERS and BLACK ADDER.

But getting back to Sam & Diane, some readers felt cheated that they ultimately didn’t end up together. Sam & Diane clearly had a huge attraction for each other, and obviously loved each other. Satisfying endings of romantic comedies almost demand that the couple ride off into the sunset together.

Others felt that wasn’t realistic, and that for whatever love and lust Sam & Diane had for each other they still were not a good match.

The final episode was conceived and written by Glen & Les Charles. I remember discussions in the room about how to resolve the Sam & Diane relationship and if memory serves, there was never any intention of getting them together at the end.

And I must say, I agreed with that decision then and still do. (Sorry Diane D.)

Sam & Diane were so different. Their relationship (for comic and dramatic purposes) was fraught with conflict. Most of our time was spent devising new, funny, and fresh complications for them. Projecting forward, I believe they would driven each other insane had they gone off hand-in-hand – each with the best intentions, but ending with restraining orders.

A major research company conducted a survey just before the airing of the final episode. Only 21% felt Sam should marry Diane. (19% said he should marry Rebecca, which is just idiotic.) And 48% said Sam should stay single.  At the time of this survey no one on staff had read it or even heard about it.  Not that that would have made any difference. 

I loved how bittersweet the ending was. Has there ever been someone in your life you long for but deep down in your heart-of-hearts you know they’re wrong for you?

And in this case Sam really had to choose between Diane and moving to Los Angeles or his friends, his bar, and Boston. I believe his true love was the bar and as such it is a happy ending.

But the truth is, in whatever direction the Charles Brothers chose there was going to be a large segment of fans who would be unhappy. The safe move was to just not have Diane return at all. But that really would have been cheating. I applaud Glen & Les for taking a stand (and writing a beautiful script).  

And even though breaking up was heartbreaking for Sam & Diane, I’d like to think that over time they’d each be happier with someone else. But it would piss each other off that they were.

What do you think? Let the debate continue!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


In no particular order...

I love BETTER CALL SAUL.  I hope their next spinoff is  INSTEAD OF HIM, CALL KIM?

Kelly Ripa had a right to be pissed. She should have been told Michael Strahan was leaving her show more than five minutes before the news went public. But this is becoming the norm these days. There is no such thing as courtesy or respect anymore. Suits routinely avoid awkward situations. If they reject something, half the time they don’t even get back to the submitter. And if they do respond, instead of a phone call it’s now maybe a terse email. Taking other peoples’ feelings into account is a complete non-issue for many of them. So props to Kelly Ripa for calling them out. Whether you like her act or not, she makes a shit-ton of money for these suits. It’s not just a matter of courtesy, they OWED her a heads-up on the Strahan situation.

Now who do I see about applying for her co-host role?

Good time to be a baseball fan in Chicago regardless of your team. When was the last time that happened? I think Buchanan was president.

I mentioned this on Twitter (you’re welcome to follow me): All these radio stations playing Prince songs -- how many of them played Prince before he died?

Was not a big fan of Louis CK’s HORACE AND PETE. It was like “what if CHEERS wasn’t funny?” But I did love Alan Alda in it. He played the most bigoted foul-mouthed character on television (or whatever platform that was). All the things we wish we could have written for him as Hawkeye he got to do.

Forget Trevor Noah. Give me Samantha Bee.

Vin Scully, on Monday’s Dodger broadcast, suggested you use the word “INCORRECT” for your computer passwords. That way if you forget it a box will pop up saying: “Your password is INCORRECT.” What are we going to do when he retires?

Huffpost Wednesday Headline: How Women Deal With Periods in Space

Since the Golden State Warriors had the best regular season record in NBA history I think they should get a bye on every playoff series until the Finals. Every other team should battle it out for the right to play them.  And then the Warriors should start with a 2-0 game lead. 

Speaking of basketball, it’s called a “hoop” Ted Cruz, not a “ring.” You’d know that if you watched a game and not spent all your free time at a Brooklyn matzo factory.

New York can no longer lord it over Los Angeles. We now have a Shake Shack. The lines are way too long (it's just a friggin' hamburger), but just knowing we have one is enough. HA!

How’d you like to be a Tony nominee this year up against HAMILTON? Good luck. The only suspense will be whether the many acceptance speeches will be in rhyme.

HuffPost Wednesday headline: Amy Schumer Recounts That Time Jennifer Lawrence Peed In A Bidet

Is Pat Boone the only artist not doing a cover of “Purple Rain?”

Who should Donald Trump’s running mate be? Hulk Hogan? Ted Nugent? Scot Baio? Gary Busey? Mike Tyson (yeah, he’ll get the women’s vote)? Or Dennis Rodman? Suddenly Sarah Palin starts lookin’ pretty good, huh?

Tomorrow I tackle the controversial issue you’ve been debating hot n’ heavy in the comments section – whether Sam & Diane should have ended up together?  Fireworks ensue.  See you then. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Is Jennifer Aniston the most beautiful woman of 2016?

I’m sure whenever a group of people sit down for a lovely dinner these days the conversation naturally gets around to Jennifer Aniston being named PEOPLE Magazine’s most beautiful woman of 2016. And that’s usually followed by “Huh?”

Nothing against Jennifer Aniston, and attractive she is – adorable even – but THE most beautiful woman of 2016?

Of course there’s the larger question – why even have such a competition?

But PEOPLE does and people care. Or at least buy the magazine. Or at the very least discuss it over dessert. (Note: if Jennifer Aniston is the FIRST topic at your group dinner that’s a cry for help.)

The conversation naturally drifts to “If not Jennifer then who?” For the next ten minutes candidates are suggested and there’s rarely any consensus. Jessica Alba? Guys- yes, girls-no. Keira Knightley got some votes. J-Lo?  Meh.  I mentioned Katy Perry and was roundly shot down. Margot Robbie got some love. So did Scarlett Johansson. A couple of Olivia’s received honorable mention – Wilde & Munn. There was also some thought that Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek were the same person. At our table, Charlize Theron got the ultimate nod.

Now yes, this is all very objectifying, but the alternative is politics. Plus, within nano-seconds, the topic extends to who’s the sexiest guy? This leads to a ten minute very heated debate over Bradley Cooper. In my group, Ryan Gosling collected the most super delegates. I, meanwhile, received zero votes.

I’m sure these conversations have been going on since the beginning of time. ("Mona Lisa?  Really?  She's built like a tank.")  Certainly since the start of movie fan magazines. I think the only difference now is that we’re more enlightened and feel a pang a guilt. But not to where we drop the subject and go on to something else.

Congratulations Charlize & Ryan.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My best radio practical joke

People seem to like my radio stories so here's another one. 

Back in the days when one company didn’t own ten stations in the same market there was such a thing as “competition”. Especially in the ‘60s and ‘70s there were usually two rock stations going head-to-head in every town. This could lead to radio wars. Stations would try to sabotage each others contests and promotions. It was all in good fun.

Best of all was if you could somehow get on the air on the competing station and embarrass them live.

You didn’t have to be employees of the competing station to participate. You could be a diabolical listener just out for a few laughs.

I have been known to be one such diabolical listener (little wonder I became co-writer of all the CHEERS practical joke Bar Wars episodes).  

The irony is that I have since become good friends with the disc jockey I punked – Charlie Van Dyke.  We even went out to lunch recently (along with KHJ Boss Jock Mark Elliott).  Charlie's in the middle.

But in 1973 I had some issues. Not with him.  Charlie's a great guy. He's the voice-of-God on at least one TV station in every market.  "NOW!  It's time for Eyewitness News at 11!"  He's that guy.  Him I love, but I had problems with the station at the time.

Charlie was the morning man on KHJ, Los Angeles. Once a great radio station, the guiding forces had recently been replaced by a martinet program director, Paul Drew, who sapped all the imagination and creativity out of the station.

They were running an on-air contest called Columbo, based on the popular TV character of the time. Charlie announced it was time to play the game and he would take the tenth call. I phoned in and what do you know, I was caller number ten. Using a pseudonym, I played the game. Here’s the result, recorded right off the air.

What I said, for those who couldn't hear clearly was: "Paul Drew for killing KHJ."

And now... Charlie's side of the story.

I asked him if he wouldn't mind sharing his remembrance of the incident.  Here's what he more-than-graciously had to say:

Ken, I remember it well! The format script said I was supposed to say, "Would you repeat that, please!" The small pause you heard before I spoke again was me looking down the contest script for the next line! Think about it, the odds of being the correct caller in a market the size of LA are incredible! You pulled off a one of a kind prank! Classic!

Thanks, Charlie. Oh, I miss those days.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The most fun I ever had in radio

A sort of follow-up to my post earlier this week on radio people getting together.  Here’s another look back at my disc jockey career – when radio was great and I was passable. One thing that the industry was back then was FUN. Not so today certainly. And it’s a shame – both for the talent and the listeners.

Everything was live and local. You were encouraged to show some personality. Most radio markets had two competing stations playing the exact some music. So the only way to really distinguish yourself was in the presentation. Who had the crazier DJ’s? Who had the wildest contests? Who staged the best concerts? Who had the sluttiest girls call the request line? (Oh wait, that was just for the jocks, not the listeners)

You don’t have that competition today when the same company owns both competing stations (and seven others in the market) and to save money, one guy voice-tracks shows for all of them, they air some syndicated service out of Saugus, California, and the slutty girls are just emailing rock bands.

But the 70s were sweet. The pay was crap, there was zero job security, you had to play “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” six times a night, you usually needed a penicillin shot, and half your annual salary was lost to apartment security deposits because you skipped town so often – but we made up for it in fun.

And if I had to select the single MOST fun experience it would be the launch of KFMB-FM (B100) in March 1975.

Bobby Rich was hired to create an exciting FM Top 40 station for San Diego. SD was a tough market. There already was a juggernaut AM station – KCBQ, and FM rock had already failed once before with KSEA (a station I was on and helped kill).

But Bobby was a showman. He understood that you hire really talented people, give them all the support elements they need to succeed, and then just let them do their thing. The result was a cooking radio station that sounded like pure adrenaline mixed with laughing gas.

And to set the tone right off the bat, Bobby devised the B100 Hours to kick off the format. Here’s Bobby himself, explaining the concept:

Getting the station started I was looking for ways to promote the "100" with slogans, contests and other image branding. So having a 100 hour "Boogie-a-thon" with no commercials and giving away "B-100 Dollar Bills" every 100 minutes just worked.

The real magic came when we started bringing in guest dj's from all over the country for the party. It was a reunion of something that hadn't even happened yet. All of our talent was encouraged to invite jock buddies (like you did with Billy Pearl) who would want to "play radio" with our gang of wacko and wild Boogiemasters.

Oh, doing the math it turns out that is FOUR DAYS and FOUR HOURS. So that required much complicated back timing. To say nothing of the jocks being required to start each hour with the countup "and this is hour 78 of 100 hours of Better Boogie", etc.

Tapes of that insane weekend went viral in the radio industry. I still encounter people who say they have airchecks of me and Billy Pearl (at the time a jock for KHJ Los Angeles) on the air together, doing a limerick competition while we kept re-starting the record over and over.

You never knew who was going to be on the air at any hour, and often disc jockeys were paired off. I got to do an hour with the legendary Chuck Browning – maybe the most caustic human being that ever lived. Great jocks from all over the country would come in, sit down, and just blast. One or two were even sober.

The line-up was crazy. I was there all weekend. I’d work 8-9 PM, then come back and do 4-5 AM, 11-noon, 7-8 PM, etc. No one got any sleep.

I recall doing a morning show with Rich Brother Robbin, and at the time there was a syndicated program going around that basically was a fantasy Woodstock. All these live performances from various albums were woven together as if this amazing rock festival actually took place. We did a mock version. Doing my Ed Sullivan impression, we hosted the Concert for Rock n’ Roll Heaven and played all these dead artists. What we lacked in taste we made up for in audacity.

The launch was a huge success. The entire town was talking about it. And within months B100 dethroned longtime stalwart, KCBQ.

Would something like that work today? I bet it would. Just don’t ask me to work that 4-5 AM shift though, please.

This is a re-post from five years ago.