And it did. We were so proud of ourselves... until we had to write new ones for the next 200 plus shows.
Here's a montage of "Normisms" from season one.
And it did. We were so proud of ourselves... until we had to write new ones for the next 200 plus shows.
Here's a montage of "Normisms" from season one.
At the time, Joel was writing pieces for the LA TIMES Sunday magazine and doing commentaries on alternative rock station KMET. Somehow from that he got an on air job at WCBS in New York reviewing movies and theater. The job actually came through while we were in army summer camp together at Ft. Carson, Colorado. I remember saying when he announced it, “How???” and he replied, “I don’t know. Looks?”
But it was clear how – talent. In great abundance. Joel had a gift for writing, an infectious enthusiasm, and a wonderful presence on camera. You just liked and believed him.
And he was just being himself.
I would sometimes get together with Joel when I was in New York. And give him shit for hosting red carpet shows. For years I eagerly awaited his goofy Christmas cards. An example would be a picture of Joel and George Foreman with the caption “From our family to yours”.
Joel was the only movie reviewer infinitely more talented than the artists he reviewed. And if I had to sum up the life of Joel Siegel I would say “Masterpiece. Four stars. The perfect blend of humor and insight. I wanted it to go on forever.”
But then something happened. Was it gradual over time or did she just snap like Reverend Jim? Somehow, some way (Drugs? Alcohol? Fame? Sleep deprivation? Sniffing perfume? Sexually abused by the cartoon cat?) Paula Abdul became daft. The Paula I knew never would have said she was tired “of people not treating me like the gift that I am.”
In a futile attempt to show America that she’s just a normal everyday person like you or me she’s starring in her own alternate-reality show, HEY PAULA (Thursday nights on BRAVO). The point is for us to see her in a new light, to empathize with her plight, to understand that it’s hard to be a rich famous pampered celebrity with no real skills, surrounded by toadies and bootlickers.
Just like every other grounded person, Paula has her best friends. Her stylist, her publicist, her other stylist, and her four little dogs. During the course of the show we see her screaming at “her best friends”.
In episode one, we watch Paula need four hours and a staff of thousands to get her ready for the Grammys. She claims “tonight is crucial” because (and this alone is cause for institutionalization) she actually cares what Joan Rivers thinks.
I now wonder, how many hours did she spend getting ready for that Bar Mitzvah just to sit next to me?
I’m sure another reason for this series is to dispel the rumors that Paula has an alcohol problem and an eating disorder. So who were the sponsors? Bicardi (drink responsibly), NutriSystem, and a doctor offering gastric surgeries.
After the Grammys Paula had to take the redeye to Philadelphia to hock her jewelry on QVC. Paula is also a businesswoman. Besides the bling, she has her own line of perfume, and is a fashion designer. I’m sure these manufacturers came after the “Global Superstar” because of her artistic genius not just to capitalize on her name.
In a further display of how Paula’s life mirrors every average American, she had meltdowns because her assistant didn’t pack sweat pants for her to travel in, and handed her the black tennis shoes instead of the white ones. Your stomach churns because you yourself know what an absolute nightmare that is.
In episode two, Paula was in New York getting an award for something. She didn’t appear too sure she knew what it was for either. Her publicist (one of her best friends… now fired, by the way) hands her the speech, she reads it over but has trouble pronouncing one of the words. That word is “honored”. Guess you can’t add scholar to her list of many "gifts".
We see her in a Starbucks in the middle of the night. Again, just like you or me, she has no idea how to order and only realizes after she’s handed the coffee that she has to pay for it. Who among us doesn’t walk out of the house without a single penny in our pocket?
How many bracelets do you have to sell on QVC to afford a Latte Grande?
We learn that it was sleep deprivation not thirty tequilla shooters that caused Paula to be so loopy last January when she did those morning Fox affiliate interviews to promote AMERICAN IDOL. Next week is the fallout. In the previews we see Paula screaming at her PR people. Yeah, like it was THEIR fault. I hope she didn’t punish the little dogs.
Jerry Lewis once had a short-lived talk show and this was his nightly sign-off: “The greatest thing I could wish for you is that you have show business people as your friends.” Maybe, if you’re really lucky, that could include Paula Abdul. Although, after this show, you won’t think of her as a show business person. You’ll just think of her as the gal next door… who lives in Norma Desmond’s house.
INT. DINER AT THE COUNTER, TARA (A BRITTNEY SPEARS IMPERSONATOR), DAVE (A BLACKJACK DEALER WHO ALSO MARRIES COUPLES) AND JEFF (A BAD COMIC) ARE IN MID-CONVERSATION.
Y’know, I was on stage tonight and it hit me how we could knock over the Bellagio. We break into the surveillance system, then send subliminal messages to the guards. We hypnotize them. And here’s the genius of it – the GUARDS then take out the money. We wait at the side entrance in a Brinks truck and then off we go.
So you need an electronics expert to break into the system, a Brinks truck and a hypnotist?
There’s one at the Stardust who’s great. He can get people down to their underwear.
What about when they’re not drunk?
Come on, you gotta get real. Here’s what we do: We get an impersonator to pose as a rich Arab Sheik. He lands in a helicopter on the roof of the hotel. They put him up in the Presidential suite. We have somebody go through the ventilation system with sleeping gas, knock everybody out. Then we bring the money up and hide it in the room. While everybody’s running around town looking for it, we just check out, carry it into the helicopter and away we go.
Where we gonna get a helicopter?
Maybe we can just talk a pilot into doing us a favor.
Or…you hypnotize him.
ROSIE (AN AFRO BORN AGAIN WAITRESS-BOXER WANNA BE) HAS OVERHEARD.
Every night I listen to these nitwit schemes. As if getting all that money would actually make you happy.
You’ve taken a few blows to the head, haven’t you, Rosie?
I’m just saying, there are more meaningful ways of finding satisfaction and happiness in this world.
Let me guess. Jesus?
Yes, “minister”. Jesus.
(indignant) Hey, don’t use that tone. I’m licensed.
You need to believe in something that’s bigger and more powerful than you that will show you the path to the true meaning of life.
You say “Jesus”. I say “The Bellagio”.
It all started with Steve Martin – the doofas who thought he was really cool. Will Ferrell has since made a career out of that persona (what’s his next venue, the world of cockfighting?). Steve Carell plays this clueless guy to perfection on THE OFFICE. Ben Stiller has also found comic gold in the character. So has Jay from Silent Bob &. The character has even crossed over into real life with George Bush.
I’m always intrigued by what's the latest trend in male comic leads. The gold standard is still Cary Grant but no one has come along who can fill those funny boots. In the 60’s there were the Grant knock-offs. George Segal leading the parade, James Garner right behind.
In the late 70’s Woody Allen’s neurotic Jewish nerd was popular for a minute and a half. The rest of us neurotic Jewish nerds were hoping it would last at least until our second dates. No such luck.
Then Robin Williams with his brilliant ability to take everyone else’s material and make it his own. He was the flavor (flavors?) of the month.
After Robin there was just a hodgepodge of different styles. Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Martin Lawrence, Rob Schnieder (dear God why?), Hugh Grant (at least he shares a name with Cary), Adam Sandler, the cast of FRIENDS, and a few others chased that comedy spotlight. Even Robert De Niro tried (his Fearless Leader in ROCKY & BULLWINKLE was grounds for giving back his Oscar).
Today we have a new comic persona topping the charts – the sloth. The slacker with more body hair than charm. Seth Rogen. As unlikely a leading man as you’ll ever find. No ambition. No money. No style. No looks. But you know what? He makes me laugh. I loved him in KNOCKED UP. Loved that he got the girl. Loved that he wasn’t a doofas who thought he was cool. It was refreshing to see a “regular guy” who was comfortable with who he is…even if who he is is, well…Seth Rogen.
For my money screen comedy is going in the right direction when Seth Rogen is the romantic lead and Paul Rudd is just the boring sidekick. How long will this trend last? I dunno, but if you’re one of those guys – judging by how long the Woody Allen window lasted – get your ass to the club TONIGHT.
SPIDERMAN 3 was bad enough but I made the mistake of sitting through FANTASTIC 4: THE SILVER SURFER. Now I hadn’t seen the first FANTASTIC 4 (opting for the more sophisticated ADVENTURES OF SHARK BOY AND LAVA GIRL instead) so I had no idea how seriously stupid this franchise was. I figured -- Jessica Alba in spandex for 90 minutes, how bad could it be?
This bad: I was rooting for the destruction of the planet.
So the FANTASTIC 4 is a team of superheroes. Aren’t the X-MEN and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA the same thing? And what about HEROES? Or when Casper and Wendy the good little witch paired up? Hollywood originality in action again.
Jessica Alba’s power is that she can create force fields (big deal. Elisabeth Hasselbeck can do that just by opening her mouth.) and can become invisible. That’s really bright. Take the most beautiful girl on the planet and hide her.
She’s engaged to an ubernerd scientist, which seemed utterly absurd until I saw what his superpower was. Hey, if I could stretch my limb five feet I could get Jessica Alba too.
Michael Chiklis is Rock Man or Bad Acme Man, I dunno what. The kid from MASK with a tan the color of Robert Evan’s skin. And they’ve got him talking like Mongo in BLAZING SADDLES. “Me want to wallop him!” This is how he parlays his Emmy for THE SHIELD?
Finally there’s hunkalicious, Chris Evans who can fly when he says “Torch on!” Same as with Jessica, you hire this piece of eye candy and half the movie he’s just an exhaust flume.
To insure that the audience knew who the villain was, they hired Julian McMahon (the villain in everything he’s ever done) dyed his hair even blacker than it is, gave him arched eyebrows, had him screw his face into a permanent sneer, and gave him the subtle name Victor Von Doom. All that was missing was a “Cheney for President” button.
As for the Silver Surfer, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen his whole act. His mission is to fly around wreaking havoc and it’s only at the end we learn he’s really John from Cincinnati.
Andre Braugher was also featured. You could almost see his price tag taped to his forehead.
Screenwriters bust their asses to create interesting characters, explore the human condition, make their audiences feel something. And most of their efforts remain unproduced or unsold while dreck like FANTASTIC 4 gets made. And I imagine FANTASTIC 4 MEETS THE LAWNMOWER MAN is already greenlit.
So that’s it for me. No more idiotic stories. No more infantile dialogue. No more cartoons. No more toys. TRANSFORMERS? Not a chance. DIE HARD? Not a cartoon per se but that's because Bruce Willis can no longer fit into a body suit. Pass.
I used to enjoy comic book movies. SUPERMAN, BATMAN, even the first X-MEN. But like every other successful genre, Hollywood has run it into the ground.
They can't kill Superman but they can kill the Golden Goose.
For the rest of the summer I’ll just sit home, download Jessica Alba photos from the internet and catch up on THE WIRE.
So we pitched it the CHEERS producers a few months later when we were about to write a script. They looked at us like we were nuts. I said, “Trust me. This will work. This will become one of those classic CHEERS teasers.”
The producers shrugged, and I guess out of respect to our then-prestigious career said, okay, try it.
When they saw the finished draft they still had reservations. It seemed kind of stupid and pointless but so convinced was I that we had struck comedy gold that I made this offer: David and I would perform it at the table reading. We would show all these skeptics. Again, they said go for it.
Everyone assembled for the table reading. The cast, writing staff, some crew members, the studio, and the network. We took our cue and launched into “Hot Rod Lincoln”. And we were great. Having practiced diligently for a week we kicked some serious ass. Truly awesome! And when we were done….
Nothing. Nada. Dead silence. A vacuum. You could hear crickets from a field a mile away.
Just fifty faces staring at us with a mixture of bewilderment and sheer pity.
The embarrassment of that table reading was of course, just the beginning. Back in the writing room, David Lloyd got it started by saying, “So the ‘Hot Rod Lincoln bit – that worked.” Others said they were still not convinced, would we do it again for them? Next week could we perform “Stairway to Heaven”? These jokes continued…for four years. I’m hoping to out live them all because if not I just know they’ll reprise it at my funeral.
Note to young writers: NEVER guarantee a bit will be a classic. And second note to young writers: NEVER EVER make it worse by trying to prove it.
Here are the lyrics (written by Charlie Ryan). It was funny when Gary and Dan did it. REALLY.
My pappy said, 'Son, you're gonna drive me t' drinkin' ...
If you don't quit drivin' that - Hot ... Rod ... Lincoln!'
Well, you've heard the story of the hot rod race,
When the Ford and the Mercury were settin' the pace.
That story's true I'm here to say,
Cause I was a'drivin' that Model A.
It's got a Lincoln motor and it's really souped up;
That Model A body makes it look like a pup.
It's got 12 cylinders and uses them all;
And an overdrive that just won't stall.
It's got a 4-barrel carb and dual exhausts,
4:11 gears that really get lost -
Safety tubes and I'm not scared,
The brakes are good and the tires are fair.
We left San Pedro late one night;
The moon and the stars were shinin' bright.
We were drivin' up Grapevine Hill,
Passin' cars like they were standin' still.
Then, all of a sudden, in the wink of an eye,
a Cadillac sedan passed us by.
The remark was made, "That's the car for me."
But, by then, the taillights wuz all you could see.
Well, the fellers ribbed me for bein' behind,
So I started to make that Lincoln unwind.
Took my foot off the gas and, man alive,
I shoved it down into overdrive.
Well, I wound it up to 110;
Twisted the speedometer cable right off the end.
Had my foot glued right to the floor;
I said, "That's all there is - there ain't no more."
Now the fellas thought I'd lost all sense;
The telephone poles looked like a picket fence.
They said, "Slow down, I see spots."
The lines on the road just looked like dots.
Went around a corner and passed a truck;
I crossed my fingers just for luck -
The fenders clickin' the guard rail post;
The guy beside me was white as a ghost.
Smoke was rollin' outta the back
When I started to gain on that Cadillac
I knew I could catch him and hoped I could pass
But when I did I'd be short on gas.
There were flames comin' from out of the side;
You could feel the tension; man, what a ride.
I said, "Look out, boys, I've got a license to fly"
And the Cadillac pulled over and let me by.
All of a sudden a rod started knockin';
Down in the depths she started a rockin'.
I looked in the mirror and a red light was blinkin';
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln.
Well they arrested me and put me in jail.
I called my pop to make my bail.
He said, "Son, you're gonna drive me t' drinkin',
If you don't quit drivin' that - Hot ... Rod ... Lincoln!"
Networks today, so deathly afraid of tune out, have all but eliminated theme songs and opening credits. They go by so fast you can’t tell the difference between opening titles and vanity production cards. And I think it does a disservice to the shows and the viewers. A good opening title sequence can really set the tone for the show. CHEERS wasn’t just a bar, it was the place where everyone knows your name. If it premiered today you’d see the logo, an animated glass of beer being filled, and ten seconds of “Sweet Caroline”.
It would be a little hard to sell that the Monkees were this goofy playful rock band if the extent of their theme was “Hey hey, we’re the Monkees!” America would be saying “Hey hey, so what?”
Networks complain that sitcoms are all the same then take away their signature feature.
And here’s what they don’t understand -- a good theme and opening title sequence ATTRACTS viewers. Some people tune in specifically because they LIKE the title sequence. That was me with the Drew Carey “Cleveland Rocks” opening. If only the show was that good.
An added benefit in this day of synergy and cross promotion is that they can become hit records on their own. (HAWAII 5-0, WELCOME BACK KOTTER, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) Think of all the free three minute plugs your show will get when KIIS-FM is playing the shit out of your theme. (I’m not being local here. Every city in America, Canada, Australia, and Yemen has a KIIS-FM).
These themes can become part of pop culture. I bet more Americans know the words to GILLIGAN’S ISLAND than the Star Spangled Banner. Hell, more people can sing the lyrics to CHARLES IN CHARGE. These ditties are burned into our brains. When we’re 90 and can’t remember if we put our pants on we’ll still be able to sing the MASH theme and the JEFFERSONS.
And ultimately here’s what we’re talking about – twenty more seconds. That’s all. Twenty more seconds. Maybe thirty. God forbid thirty-five. The same amount of time it takes to run a promo for PIRATE MASTER. What would YOU rather watch?
Okay, so in no particular order – my ten favorite TV themes.
One final thought, if you have opening titles then maybe the credits won’t extend so far into the show. Considering how large some of these casts and staffs are it’s not inconceivable that someday on a comedy credits will roll all the way through the tag.
Now more than ever, showrunners are implored to KEEP THE BUDGET DOWN! Like that'sever been easy in Hollywood. This town is notorious for huge mark ups, studios charging their own shows outrageous rent for their stages and facilities, etc. And if God forbid you need a special effect look out. In writing rooms whenever we propose even the smallest stunt we turn to my partner, David Isaacs, who has created a great character – Mr. Special Effects. He will then describe what is required to pull the stunt off and how much it will cost. Here is an example, in the form of a memo.
And believe me when I say this is TYPICAL.
Report from TV Special Effects Department:
Situation: In a dream sequence, Frasier is on the air and his board explodes.
Proposal---If I'm to understand correctly from our conversation you all want the entire radio board to explode in Frasier's (Mr. Gramner's) face. filling the studio room with smoke. It's quite a coincidence since my dad created the same effect for Mr. Al Ruddy for an episode of 'The Monkee's. (For your reference it's the one where the Monkees try to outfox a Russian agent played by Mr. Lloyd Bochner). The good news is that with all the advancements in explosive delivery it's a much easier effect. (The real reason you never saw Mr. Mike Nesmith at any Monkees reunion is that he had four fingers of his left hand blown off. It's certainly not true that he was sick of being a part of a third rate Beatles knockoff. That and feeling responsible for Yakima Canutt losing a testicle on "How the West was Won" haunted my father till he fell to his death rigging Mr. Demetrious 'George' Savalas for a jump off the Brooklyn Bridge in 'Kojack.)
Anyway, the effect is fairly simple, but of course we want it foolproof and safe. (within reason) First of all we will rig a series of explosive charges across the board. That will control the blast as oppossed to one big blast which is harder to control. I will set off the charges in sequence from a specially designed phaser. That should supply our explosion and still create the effect. We also set a charge inside the board so that in the case of a fire breaking out from the initial explosion (small possibility) I'll blow that charge which in turn would smother the flames. That, of course, would also preclude a second take.
Now I'm to understand that Mr. Gramner would like to do the stunt himself (concurrent with an 'Entertainment Tonight' segment profiling sitcom actors who do their own stunts.) That's fine but we will take the precaution of covering his body in an inch to an inch and a half of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly under a flame retardant herringbone suit. (It's uncomfortable but the guy works, what, twelve hours a week?) That will protect him vis a vis a mistake in explosion deployment. (Just to warn you in spite of caution it can happen---Sometimes to a serendipitous result. My dad worked for Mr. George Roy Hill on 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KId." Liitle known fact, the boxcar being blown to smithereens was not in the script. It was what we call in the S.E. business a happy accident. Thankfully the only injury was a prosthetic arm that was mangaled up pretty good. It belonged to my dad's assistant 'Spider' who had lost his real arm and half a foot working with my dad on 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. Long story)
So we will protect Mr. Gramner. Safety for the cameramen and crew are at your discretion. Should be a do it every day, piece of cake effect. Still it's S.O.P. for me to ask you one question that's in the order of a final safeguard. Was there originally an actor you really felt could have played Frasier in the event that Mr. Gramner was unavailable or... "a handful"? Have to ask. It many times makes a tougher call but I will remind you of 'happy accidents'.
I'm going to ball park a cost for you then come up with a final tally later. I know you have budget concerns but it's a heck of a stunt. Figuring explosives , equipment rented from the studio electrical dept., special costuming from the studio costume dept., crew, overtime, dummy board and console from studio props, studio fire chief standing by, and I figure you'll want to throw in pizza for a hard working S.E. bunch, I think I can bring the whole thing off for you, on the cheap, for about 110 thousand dollars. Again that's if we're not figuring on another take.
Loved the script by the way.
There was no more versatile performer in radio. The two biggest rock stations in America in the mid 60’s could not have sounded more different. KHJ Los Angeles was ultra streamlined, WABC New York was all bells and whistles (chimes actually) – organized chaos. Only one disc jockey ever worked both formats. Frank Terry at KHJ and later at WABC’s sister station and clone in San Francisco, KSFX. You just gave him the charts and he could play.
Later Frank moved into country radio at KNEW and KSAN in the Bay Area. He could bang on washboards as well as snares.
Wherever he went, two things were certain. He made every station he ever worked for sound the very best they ever did, and he dented every console, cart machine, and music stand in the studio with his drum sticks.
Radio has lost a giant. Terrence Franklin Crilly. Better known as Frank Terry. For those of us who knew and loved him, he will always remain in our heart… beating and beating and beating.