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January 11, 2008



Attitude is everything, and the, "It's been done," line is hereby forever retired after it was last used, quite perfectly, by George Burns...


I was surprised to see that Mr. Idelson wrote only 2 episodes of MASH...."The Korean Surgeon" (one of my favorites) and "Tea and Empathy". When I heard of his passing I immediately thought of MASH....I guess those 2 episodes really made an impression on me.Rest in Peace, Mr. Idelson.


Is recognizing a problem at the table without an immediate fix never worthwhile in and of itself? Can it never be a two-step process. Recognizing the problem... And then fixing it? Also, the more times you ignore the anal-retentive stuff like grammar, the more likely it is that the bad grammar, etc., becomes the new norm & the bar lowers. Not to imply there isn't a point where you can go overboard wasting too much time.

Ben K.

I'm really sorry to hear that. I took Bill's workshop a few years ago, and it seemed like a real labor of love for him. And while I liked some aspects of his teaching style more than others, I really appreciated the fact that he charged so little for the sessions. (I think it was something like $15.) As a result, he drew a great group of young aspiring writers and improv comedians who probably couldn't have afforded it otherwise.

D. McEwan

Grammar is less important when writing dialogue than writing prose. A character must speak as the character would. Frasier Crane's (Kelsey) grammar must be impeccable, and he must point out when others have split their infinitives, but if you corrected the grammar of any character ever played by Slim Pickens, he wouldn't have been able to speak at all.And obviously there is value in saying, "We have a problem here with Bill's motavation for opening the door. Any ideas how to fix that?" If you think of identifying a problem point before you have a fix for it as simply criticizing, you're being too sensitive. Leave it at the door.As for "It's been done before", I'm of two minds. Using "It's been done before" to close a door on an idea may well prevent you from finding a very fresh take on it that will lead somewhere new. On the other hand:Two persons share an apartment. A local election is happening. Person A begins publically supporting and working for a candidate person B finds odious. Person B responds by working personally for Candidate B. Only when Person B utterly, publically comitted to Candidate B, does Person B find that Candidate B is a complete loon. Embaressment ensues.CAVEMEN recently did this plot. Watching it (NOTHING else was on!) I could only think WILL & GRACE did this story better. Then, a week or two later, I saw a FRASIER repeat with this storyline. FRASIER handled it best of course, but still, someone somewhere needed to say, "It's been done - to death."


brian: I've never worked on a sitcom, but surely you'd rather have a problem pointed out than NOT, right? Even if the "pointer" doesn't have a solution immediately worked out? Of course, if the problem isn't TRULY a problem, but just some lame writer's misguided effort to "contribute," then yeah, call 'em on it. But if I were in that room, and I thought I'd found a real problem, would you really want me to sit there biting my lip about it just because I hadn't worked out a solution yet? Maybe I've just read too much into your comment though. Your credits suggest you know what you're talking about, and you've won an Emmy, which is more than I've won (to the tune of one). :)

Bob Sassone

Nice post Ken. Glad to see people like this aren't forgotten.

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    Ken Levine is an Emmy winning writer/director/producer/major league baseball announcer. In a career that has spanned over 30 years Ken has worked on MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS, WINGS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, BECKER, DHARMA & GREG, and has co-created his own series including ALMOST PERFECT starring Nancy Travis. He and his partner wrote the feature VOLUNTEERS. Ken has also been the radio/TV play-by-play voice of the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres.
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