News From ME - Mark Evanier's blog

Web Name: News From ME - Mark Evanier's blog






Wednesday Morning

One of the many things I don't like about Donald Trump is that he's very hard to ignore. No matter where I roam on the Internet, there are headlines about him…today about how he took the Fifth Amendment at a deposition with the Attorney General for New York, and how he and his team have now decided that anything incriminating that the F.B.I. found at Mar-A-Lago was planted there. Which I guess means something incriminating was found there, right? A lot of his supporters seem very angry about all these horrible, unethical things now being done to Donald Trump…and they're even madder than they weren't done to Hillary Clinton.

I'm going to try hard to get back to ignoring Trump and the politics that surround him. This post is just to restate my working premise that predictions about elections in the future are worthless; that dozens of game-changing things can and will happen. It's like we're playing a videogame with no clues as to what we'll be facing when we get to the next level. Keep your predictions to yourself until you can tell me who'll be indicted, what they'll be indicted for, how strong the cases may be, how long the legal proceedings may drag out, who'll turn on who…

Being Bumped

You're booked on an airline flight and suddenly the airline has more passengers than seats. What do you do? This article might tell you.

Today's Video Link

I'm not paying that much attention to politics these days and a good example of why can be found in the news that Donald Trump announced that the FBI had raided his "beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach" and it was "currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of F.B.I. agents." We've had all sorts of theories about how much legal jeopardy Trump might be in and how it will impact upcoming elections…and now, here's this new twist that none of those theorists saw coming.

And all the same folks are theorizing about what the F.B.I. was looking for and what they might have found and how that will impact upcoming elections…even though — and I think I'll put this is in ALL CAPS and boldface — NO ONE COMMENTING ON THIS HAS ANY IDEA WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT. Here…read this article about what we know and take note of how little we know about it.

That's what politics is like these days to me: Lots of speculation based on things that either haven't happened yet or "facts" we don't yet know.

I don't think it's a contradiction to admit that I have had some interest in the Alex Jones trials, the first of which just concluded with others yet to come. The "Perry Mason Moment" in that case was really amazing and it will doubtlessly impact other trials, probably including some that do not directly involve Alex Jones.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's an explainer from Devin J. Stone, Esq., the "Legal Eagle" of YouTube. You will note how agog he is at how badly things went for Jones and even more agog at what sure looks like stunning incompetence on the part of Jones's attorneys…

ASK me: Final Drafts

From Kevin Segura comes this question…

This might be a question that could be answered on your blog, since I'm guessing more people than just me find the production process to be endlessly fascinating…

While rummaging around a second hand store up here in Portland (of all places!) I recently found an actual production copy of a script for a program that I remembered quite vividly watching during its original run, almost 40 years ago. On a whim, I bought it, since it was only $5.00, and to quote The Bullwinkle Show, "That's not something you see everyday, Chauncey." (at least not up here).

After I'd brought it home, I thought it might be fun to take the script (which was marked as being the "FINAL DRAFT", with a specific date), and read along with it, while the show was playing. Well, I'm sure you won't be at all surprised to hear this, but the "FINAL DRAFT" script that I purchased turned out to be considerably different than what ended up in the final program. So much so, that it took considerable page-flipping to keep up with the final show.

(I hasten to add that the cuts that were made were extremely well done, and admirably quickened the pace of the final product. There was the equivalent of about 20 or so pages (in this case, pretty much an entire sub-plot) that were cut from my 144 page version, before the final program was shot, with other small portions being somewhat re-arranged, to smooth the transitions.)

My (perhaps somewhat naive) question though, is this: By the time a script reaches FINAL DRAFT status, haven't just about all of the censors, note-givers & all of the other big dogs had a chance to lift their leg & make their mark on the script? Given the gauntlet of approvals that have to be secured, when can someone (a writer, actor, producer, director) rely on a "FINAL DRAFT" script actually being the final draft?

Just thought I'd ask a guy who's been on both sides of the production desk…

The answer to your question is that no script is really FINAL until the show or film made from it is being viewed by its intended audience…and even then, there may later be cuts or alterations. A lot of the later changes are for time. Suppose your show — not counting titles, credits or commercials — is supposed to be nineteen minutes and thirty seconds, and you film it and wind up with twenty-two, you have to trim it down, no matter what it says about finality on the cover page. And those cuts may involve rewriting some long speeches to say the same things in fewer words.

Or say someone comes up with a better joke. Or a better way to phrase things. Often as a writer, you say certain things in your script more than once to make sure the audience hears them or grasps certain concepts. Then when you see the scene played by skilled actors, you realize that the point is crystal-clear the first time and the repeats are unnecessary and boring….so out they go. If you're filming in front of a live audience, their reaction may tell you some joke ain't funny or maybe even that it's so funny, you want to end the scene there and cut the next three lines.

The point is that it's always a work in progress and it's generally understood that "final draft" means "Okay, this is the draft we're going to go with…further changes can and will be made." Because you never know what's going to suddenly need repair work. Neil Simon entitled one of his two autobiographies Rewrites because that's what his plays were. He was rewriting, rewriting, rewriting right until Opening Night and sometimes even after.

Some years ago when I was addressing a roomful of wanna-be writers, I mentioned Mr. Simon and how many different drafts he'd done of some of his most successful plays like The Odd Couple. One of those wanna-bes got up and announced that his scripts — none of which, obviously, had been produced — were perfect when he declared them done and would someday be treated as sacred. Not only would others not rewrite them but neither would he. The sounds of muffled giggles and rolling eyes filled the room.

On TV shows, I sometimes felt bad for the production assistants who had to keep issuing changed pages for that week's script. Each issuance was supposed to be on a different color of paper but the copy room often ran out of hues. They'd hand you the latest batch of changes and say, "Sorry, we had to go back to light green again."

And somewhere near the end of the process, one of those production assistants usually has to make up something called an "As Broadcast" script that incorporates every change and cut. And yes, I have seen "As Broadcast" scripts followed by "Revised As Broadcast" scripts.

Got a question you want me to answer on this blog?
Send it here. No politics, no personal replies...
and tell me if you want me to leave your name out of it.


I always enjoyed Olivia Newton-John's music and I wish I had better stories about her than the measly ones I now offer…

The first occurred on the second day I worked on the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter and my first tape date. I have about eighty stories about things that happened that day including the visit of Groucho Marx to the Kotter set, which I've written about several times. This happened about six hours before that. We taped on a stage over at ABC Studios in a building that housed two studios. The two studios shared make-up and wardrobe rooms and three floors of dressing rooms and a few offices. My partner Dennis and I were housed in an office on the third floor.

So at one point, I get in the elevator (alone) to go downstairs and the car stops at the second floor and two people get on, both of them elegantly dressed sort of like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in one of their movies — but it isn't Fred and Ginger. It's Elliott Gould and Olivia Newton-John. An Olivia Newton-John special is taping in the other studio in the building and Mr. Gould is a guest star on it.

The elevator doors close. The elevator car starts down. The elevator car stops and it takes us a moment to realize we are trapped between the first and second floor. Mr. Gould begins frantically pounding on the doors and pushing buttons. Ms. Newton-John is utterly calm. She just says, "Relax. They'll get us out of here. They can't tape the show without us."

So we all relax and we have a very nice conversation about nothing of consequence that lasts until the elevator starts up again and takes us down to the first floor and lets us out. I think we were in there about eight minutes. Some sort of maintenance man apologizes to us and some stars would have screamed their heads off at the guy and demanded someone's firing but Olivia just says, "It's fine…no big deal" and heads for the stage to tape the dance number. I had a high opinion of her as human being at that moment.

It never went down. Ten or fifteen years later, I briefly worked for an animation company that had an office on Melrose Avenue. The office took up the entire second floor of the building and the first floor was a shop called Koala Blue that sold fashionable clothing, much of it from Australia. Ms. Newton-John owned it or owned part of it…or something. I ran into her a few times when I was coming or going and again, she was gracious and friendly and just very charming.

She was genuinely interested in what we were doing upstairs and at one point when I told her we were producing episodes of the CBS Storybreak series for children, she said, "Well, if you ever need someone to sing a theme song or anything, you know where to find me." I'm not sure why we didn't at least see how serious she was about that — I think maybe our producer figured she'd never do it for the kind of money our budget would have allowed — but I wish we'd at least asked her. She was a wonderful performer.

Today's Video Link

Hey, let's watch another animated commercial starring Hanna-Barbera's first TV stars, Ruff and Reddy, selling Post cereals…

Grubhub Flub

Earlier, I wrote about ordering from food delivery services that don't deliver. A few of you wrote me with similar experiences and I got a call from a lady I know who supplements her income driving for DoorDash. She thinks she knows what the problem occasionally is. If you deliver for one of those meal delivery companies, the amount you make off each delivery doesn't vary much. But if like many of those folks, you're also out there driving for Uber or Lyft, there are moments when those companies' rates go sky-high due to increased demand. So suddenly you bail on delivering a pizza for Postmates.

Uber and Lyft can double or triple the rate to get you from here to there when they're short on drivers and that causes more drivers to hit the streets. But if many of their drivers are answering Lyft or Uber calls, Grubhub or DoorDash can't double the price of the Chinese Chicken Salad they need delivered. They take the order but they can't find a driver to transport it.

That sounds like what happened to us during Comic-Con. We had a lot of trouble getting a cab too.

Way Too Early in the A.M.

People are still asking me how Comic-Con was and if I'm happy I attended. The answer to the second part is yes, though I might not feel that way if soon after, I'd tested positive for COVID. Though my friends who've had it recently have not suffered much, I've managed to get this far through the epidemic without joining them in that experience and it would be so nice to keep it that way.

Comic-Con was Comic-Con. Everything people complain about was still there to be complained about. Just about everything people love about it was there to be loved except for the non-presence of my amigo Sergio…who, by the way, is in fine health. I had some problems with the hotel though they made everything right before we checked out.

Photo by Bruce Guthrie

I also had some problem with restaurants. One could sense with them and with some hotels, the slight presence of the following thought: "We have so many customers, we don't have to treat any of them particularly well." A friend of mine who used to go to Las Vegas every month says that that mindset is why he'd stopped going to Las Vegas every month.

My lady friend and I had the following problem twice during our stay in San Diego: When we checked into the hotel, I asked if it was any sort of hassle or problem to order food delivered from DoorDash or Grubhub. The desk clerk assured me that it's done all the time with no hitch…and we tried it two times. Each time, the order was placed and accepted. The usual "hold" was put on my credit card, to be charged when the meal was delivered and I was told the restaurant was preparing our order and we got updates on the promised delivery time…

…and then, five or ten minutes before that delivery time, I got a message that our order was canceled. No explanation. Just canceled. I guess they were just too busy to bother…but if you're that busy, why accept the order in the first place?

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I did not spend a lot of my convention time in the main hall. For obvious reasons, being in crowds was less comfortable this time. So was something I usually like about cons: Recognizing people I know and visiting with them. I also got real tired of all the walking. I walk a lot in my neighborhood at home but I think I need to train more before I attend another convention.

I enjoyed most of it and the parts I didn't enjoy weren't the convention's fault…so yes, I'm glad I went. That's my answer but I wasn't sure of it until I tested a few times after the con.

Today's Video Link

Nineteen seconds of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck singing about Post cereals. I always liked Mel Blanc singing with himself…

Recommended Reading

Jeremy Stahl makes the argument that Donald Trump will not be the Republican candidate in the next election. And what he says would be a very strong, convincing argument if it was about anyone except Donald Trump…a man who rarely does the logical/sane thing. An awful lot of past rules of political conduct do not seem to apply to Trump. His followers are willing to forgive deeds and words that would send them fleeing from some other candidate.

If you forced me to wager, I'd bet Stahl is right but I think it's way too soon to place a bet on this one. Since Trump got involved in national politics, things have become stunningly unpredictable. Something could well happen tomorrow which no one could have imagined today. With all the different investigations and leakers and former aides turning against the guy, every day feels like "Anything Can Happen Day," which was a weekly feature of the old Mickey Mouse Club show. In fact, I think one of the strongest arguments for Republicans to not re-nominate the guy is that they can't possibly know what scathing detail revelation or conviction was in his future.

One of the reasons a lot of Republicans deserted Richard Nixon during Watergate was the steady drip-drip-drip of damning disclosures from the investigations and especially those presidential tapes. So many of them were afraid to support him wholeheartedly today for fear of what would come out tomorrow.

My Latest Tweet

Today is looking like another really good day to be glad you're not Alex Jones.

ASK me: Missing Characters

Joshua Rosenkranz recently sent me a question I get often in my e-mail. I usually give those who so inquire a brief, probably insufficient reply but I've now decided to write a long answer to which I can link when others ask. Here's Joshua…

I am writing once again so I could find out more about Arlene's absence from the Garfield and Friends cartoon. I read once that there was alleged information that during the production of Garfield and Friends, Arlene was omitted because the character had a specific portrayal envisioned by Jim Davis himself, and since the criteria wasn't met, she was never used and replaced with an original character named Penelope.

If possible, is there a way I could find out why Arlene was not present/denied usage for the Garfield and Friends cartoon?

I am willing to receive an answer anytime, since I asked about Arlene in my last writing along with the cut characters from U.S. Acres, Cody and Blue, and never got an answer specifically about Garfield's pink-furred love interest.

It's kinda true that Jim Davis had some other plans for Arlene but the main reason she only appeared fleetingly in the Garfield and Friends show is that I didn't come up with any ideas I really liked that involved her.

Much of the time when you create a TV series with a whole buncha characters, you find out along the way that you don't need all of them. When Happy Days started, Ron Howard's character had an older brother who was later quietly discarded by the producers. They didn't know what to do with him.

Shows change. When Larry Gelbart wrote the pilot for the TV series of M*A*S*H, he intended Hawkeye to be much more of a womanizer…and some have suggested that was Larry projecting a certain amount of himself into the character. I have a mimeographed, ready-to-shoot copy of a script that would have been Show #2 or #3 before it was decided (reportedly demanded by Alan Alda) to temper that aspect of the character and that script was tossed.

As a result, there were a couple of nurse characters who had been planned as recurring — Nurse Dish and Nurse Cutler, I believe — who didn't appear on the show as often as had been expected and were soon dropped altogether. Nurse Cutler was played by Marcia Strassman and when I worked with her on Welcome Back, Kotter, she was often complaining she'd been led to believe she'd have a much bigger role on M*A*S*H. That was when she wasn't complaining that she'd been led to believe she'd have a much bigger role on Welcome Back, Kotter.

That happens with cartoon shows, too. When I was writing a lot of 'em for Saturday morning, I was sometimes called in to rewrite the development (the pilot script and the "bible" overview) of a proposed series. Much of the time, I decided that one problem was that the writers before me had included a lot of extra characters that were unnecessary. I cut several out of the format for Dungeons & Dragons on CBS that had been developed before I was hired. On one series I worked on for another studio — one of several shows from which I removed my name — I threw out a dozen characters. (And, as the studio head later admonished me, "…killed a dozen potential toy deals!")

It's just a thing writers often do. You look at the script you're working on and ask of each character, "Is this character necessary?" Once in a while, you decide one isn't.

It even happens with newspaper strips. When Jim Davis launched Garfield on the funnies page, Odie the dog was owned by a friend of Jon's named Lyman. As Jim produced the script day after day, he came to the feeling that Lyman was extraneous…so Lyman went away and Odie became Jon's dog. (Lyman popped up every so often as a kind of in-joke. In one of the Garfield video games, you — as Garfield — eventually come upon Lyman locked up in a dungeon, which is where he'd been all those years. On The Garfield Show, I wrote an episode where we learned a different fate that took poor Lyman away.)

Anyway, when I started writing the Garfield and Friends TV show, we were doing cartoons that averaged about 6.5 minutes in length. That ain't a lot of room. In most, we saw a good deal of Garfield, Jon and Odie…and unless the main plot needed a certain character, I was better off not trying to also service that certain character. I just didn't have many ideas that would have needed Arlene.

But it is true that Jim had some plans for her so we decided I wouldn't try to put her into any episode and when I did need a female friend for Garfield, I created one for the occasion. One named Penelope, voiced by friend Victoria Jackson, wound up appearing in seven episodes.

Later, I decided the series had been a bit too male and when we did a new series called The Garfield Show, I told Jim I wanted to have Arlene appear and by then, whatever project he'd wanted to save her for had come and gone or perhaps never happened. Neither of us remembered what it was. So we made a special effort to get her into the new show…and that's really all there was to it.

The same thing happened back when we started doing the U.S. Acres segments for Garfield and Friends. I was adapting a newspaper strip that had about a dozen characters in it and I decided that was too many for a 6.5 minute cartoon, at least at first. I decided to focus on Orson, Wade, Roy, Bo, Booker, Sheldon and Lanolin…and then we'd add in the others when we had a place for them. And I just plain forgot about Blue and Cody and a few others. There just never seemed to be a need for them especially after the strip was discontinued.

I'm sorry I don't have a spicy, full-of-secrets explanation for these decisions. Sometimes, it's like how I decided to have roast chicken for lunch today. I just decided and there's no interesting story behind that decision.

Got a question you want me to answer on this blog?
Send it here. No politics, no personal replies...
and tell me if you want me to leave your name out of it.

Today's Video Link

Randy Rainbow's back with one of his best…

My Latest Tweet

Ah, another day when we can all be glad we're not Alex Jones.

My Latest Tweet

Considering how furious Alex Jones gets when someone votes Democratic, how livid must he have been at his lawyers who accidentally gave the prosecution evidence that he'd committed perjury? Older posts HomeArchivesVideosArticles & SuchAbout MEContact ME


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