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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Week Tony Randall Completely Lost It, And Then Completely Regained It.

Generally, Tony Randall was a very well-behaved person.
Except when it came to day-players, (supporting actors hired for the week.)
He was usually barely civil to them.  Usually worse than that.
But he knew what side his bread was buttered on, and thus was always nice to Garry Marshall, and all the other writers, of which I was one.
But, there was one script that we had sitting on our shelf, having once been read at the table, that Tony so hated, that nobody wanted to give it another airing.
This all took place before I started working there.
So I saw no reason to even look at it.
It was called "The Frog Show".
And it only became an issue because Garry was convinced that it could be salvaged.
This led to our taking it down off the shelf, and reading it.
It was your typical poorly written first drafts, that needed a lot of work, but had a basically appealing storyline.
Felix's son had a pet frog that he wanted to enter in a Frog Jumping contest.
We thought that all it needed was better dialogue.
We had at it.  And turned it into what we thought was a typically appealing "Odd Couple'" episode.
Garry kind of blindsided us, leaving us unaware of Tony's initial negative reaction to this story.
I always liked the idea of showing Felix as somebody's father.
We did it so infrequently, and I thought it humanized and grounded him.
Tony couldn't give a shit about that.
He was just looking for ways for Tony to be funny.
So "The Frog Story" hit the table, having been extensively re-written, certainly to our satisfaction.
Tony didn't even want to acknowledge its re-existence.
After much arm twisting, Tony at least agreed to read it out loud, in front of everyone.
He still hated it.
Garry made the pronouncement that we'd be shooting it next week.
He believed in it and appreciated the rewriting we had done.
He was not to be talked out of it.
This led to two full weeks of pissing and moaning by Tony.
Cut to:  The Friday dress-rehearsal before the filming.
We finished it and we all thought it went pretty well.
Except for Tony.
He went on an unprecedented rant, to the tune of "Why are we even bothering to give notes?  This
thing is hopeless"
He then singled out every writer for abuse.
He had never done anything like this before, and never did it since.
Then, over dinner, he went around to every single writer he had wretchedly insulted, and delivered the sweetest apology one could ever imagine.
And you couldn't help but love him for it.
He still hated the script, but, pro that he was, he realized that he took it as far as he could, and it was up to him to carry the burden.
So he went out and performed the hell out of it.
Maybe his best performance ever.
I think it was one of our best shows ever.
Maybe it wouldn't have been if Tony didn't hate it so much.

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My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
They are all compilations of blog entries that have since been removed from the blog.
So this is the only way you can find them.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not e-books.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at macchus999@comcast.net
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Attention Must Be Paid.

If you like great live cabaret performers, and are often in the New York or L.A. areas,
I feel like I must call your attention to two outstanding, outrageously talented performers.
One is a fellow named Mark Nadler, a comedian/concert level pianist who works primarily out of New York City.
And the other is Jason Graae, primarily out of L.A., a great singer/dancer who, besides his cabaret act, has done an extensive amount of musical theater.
Both are extremely witty. 
It is impossible to not enjoy and appreciate their work.
Unless you are completely put off by the fact that they are both completely openly gay.
I have mentioned before that I believe that I might be the heterosexual with the most homosexual taste of anyone I've ever met.
I think that just speaks to my good taste.
Gays with a sardonic wit are way funnier than straiights.
Maybe that's a generalization, but I believe it.
And you won't find more sardonic than Nadler and Graae.
I don't know if they ever met each other, or even know each other's work,  but its readily apparent that they are cut from the same piece of cloth.
If Nadler did more theater, he would be interchangeable with Graae.
They could easily do each other's parts.
They are both in their late fifties, and could both easily pass for younger.
You don't have to take my word for it.
There are plenty of wonderful performances of both of them on YouTube.
Let me call your attention to Nadler's rendition of 50 songs from the year 1961 (the year he was born)
which he performs maniacally in about three minutes.
He is like Victor Borge on speed.
There was a Tony-Award winning musical in 1989 called "Grand Hotel".
It has a great score, including a tremendous number called "We'll Take A Glass  Together".
It was staged by Tommy Tune and featured Michael Jeter and David Carroll.
It is joyous, funny, and touching.
Joyous and funny because of the nature of it, and touching because both actors died not long after, of AIDS related illness.
In the case of Carroll, he didn't even survive to record the Original Cast Album.
There is another clip much later of the same number, in a production done in Burbank, with
Jason Graee in the Michael Jeter part. 
Without the emotional baggage of the earlier production, it is only hilarious.
That's a good place to start.
But there is so much more to explore with both of them.
And if the opportunity comes up to see either one of them wherever you are, don't pass it up.
To paraphrase Linda Loman, Mrs. Willy Loman, at Willy's gravesite, from "Death of a Salesman", "Attention must be paid to such men."
I'm just sayin'.
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My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
They are all compilations of blog entries that have since been removed from the blog.
So this is the only way you can find them.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not e-books.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at macchus999@comcast.net
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Binge- Watching "Highway Patrol", Part Two.

Further thoughts about "Highway Patrol".

It was the year of the Edsel, as brief as it was.
You never saw an Edsel on" Highway Patrol".
You would have thought that the Edsel people would have loved to have their vehicles as cop cars or even the villains cars on  "Highway Patrol".
Just to give the cars some character. 
But it was such a joke right off the bat, that It would make the show look foolish.
And the producers knew it.
There were no blacks on "Highway Patrol"
No cops, no criminals
I have a feeing that they used mostly blacklisted writers.
I'd read the credits, and most of their writers had very few other credits than "Highway Patrol" 
They must have been the most.cheaply-made  script-writers particularly by the word.
It was primarily a fast paced action show but thy still managed to give Broderick Crawford at least 50 pages of dialogue a week.  And he always signed off on his microphone with 10-4.
The producers sure got their money's worth from the "Highway Patrol" writers. 
Just about everybody on camera wore a hat.
Giants of the industry, like Quinn Martin and Gene Roddenberry, began their careers as lowly producton assistants on "Highway Patrol". 
The cars were very well cast.  Plymouths, Dodges, Desotos and Mercuries were the cars of choice for the villains.  Usually a little more upscale.
With huge tail-fins.
It was the age of the tail-fins.
This was somewhat ironic.
The cars back then were so distinguishable from any other make.
Today, all cars look the same.
But in 1957, they'd get the call to be on the lookout for a '56 sedan.
Never identifying the car by brand.
And in those days, that information would be so helpful.
I never understood this.
Bare-boned Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Chevies were used for the cop cars.
Most of the supporting actors had no other career to speak of.
Sometimes their one-shot appearance was their only TV appearance.   
There were exceptions:  Leonard Nimoy did three episodes.
Paul Richards did a great episode as a mental patient.
Ted Knight played a crusading newspaper reporter.  He tried playing it intelligently.  I didn't buy it.
Joe Flynn played a sleazy con-man.  He was quite believable.
Ed Nelson did like six different guest shots.  He was a great villain every time.
Stuart Whitman rode shotgun along with Dan Mathews about seven or eight times.
Paul Burke showed up once.
They even found room for a couple of the original Dead End Kids: Bobby Jordan and Billy Halop.
Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, both pushing fifty, were still attempting to milk what was left of  the Bowery boys franchise, so we never saw them.
One of my hobbies when binge-watching "Highway Patrol" was to watch an episode, then check the IMDB to see if the women were still alive. Particularly if they were babes. Usually they were long gone.
There were a preponderance of episodes that featured close-up shots of money: kidnapping ransom,
bank robberies.
They never went to the trouble of using money that looked like real money.
It was all Funny Money.
It could have been used to play Monopoly.
My wife got into binge-watching "Highway Patrol" with me.
Just like with "Columbo" there was always a moment where we turned to each other  when we both realized when Peter Falk was going to nail Dick Van Dyke , and we'd say and we'd simultaneously "He's got him."
Same thing with "Highway Patrol"--that moment when Crawford would know that he's got his man,
we'd say he's got him. 
And he always did, in 24 minutes.
Imagine how fast he'd get 'em if they had cell phones back then.

When "Highway Patrol" went off in 1960, the same production company almost immediately threw Crawford into another series. "King of Diamonds"
He played Johnny King, a globe-hopping  Diamond insurance investigator.
It was an attempt to turn Crawford into a romantic figure, something they never did on "Highway Patrol".
There was a lyric to the theme song:  It contained the immortal line----
"When...Johnny King breaks a door down, he's not saying 10-4 now, he's romancing a Queen"

I'm not kidding.

------------------------------------------------------------------

My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
They are all compilations of blog entries that have since been removed from the blog.
So this is the only way you can find them.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not e-books.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at macchus999@comcast.net
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Binge-Watching "Highway Patrol". Part One.

"Whenever the laws of any state are broken, a duly authorized organization swings into action it may be called the state police, state troopers, militia the rangers or the highway patrol.  These are the  stories of the men whose training skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws."

This was the opening narration to one of the great series of the 1950's, by one of its greatest voice-over narrators, Art Gilmore.
And he provided running narration throughout the show.
That only made it better.
I used to watch "Highway Patrol" when I was a kid in the fifties, but wasn't blown away by it as I am now.
I rediscovered it because the  "Decades" channel started running episodes of it.
This led me to seek it out on YouTube, where all 154 episodes reside.
I could put them up on my big 60" screen and watch them the way they were always meant to be seen.
Why was it so great?
It certainly wasn't the production values.
I understand that the entire budget for an episode was about $20,000.
Actors must have gotten paid in the dark.
What it had was a great star.
Broderick Crawford.
He was magnificent and compelling..
Probably the toughest cop ever portrayed on television.
If there was trouble anywhere near a highway, that's who you wanted to handle the case.
And he never let you down.
He always got his man.
In 22 minutes.
I am given to understand that he was also a raging alcoholic, and the only way they could stay on schedule was to shoot all his scenes in the morning
I don't think they ever did any night shooting.
That would have involved paying for lights.
And what they had was very tight storytelling.
And great cars.
The police cars were generally '55 through '59 Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Chevys.
The villains cars were usually 57 Plymouths, or 58 Mercurys.
Lots o' tail fins.
What's better than that?
In it's way, it was the exact opposite of "Dragnet", which was soft-spoken and deliberate.
And "Dragnet" had little or no violence.
"Highway Patrol" was always high energy and extremely violent.
Crawford's character, Dan Mathews, was never gun shy.
He must have shot and or killed at least one criminal at least every other week.
The shootings were all justified, but you had a sense that Mathews almost reveled in it.
And nobody ever talked as fast.
I'm given to understand that the later in the day, and the drunker he was, the faster he talked.
He and Joe Friday had virtually nothing in common.
Much more about this show next time.

------------------------------------------------------------------

My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
They are all compilations of blog entries that have since been removed from the blog.
So this is the only way you can find them.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not e-books.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at macchus999@comcast.net
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at macchus999@aol.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."