Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Hey, what happened to my favorite line?"

I can’t give you specifics because they would mean nothing out of context, but when I happen to catch reruns on TV of shows I co-wrote or shows I produced invariably they will have cut my favorite line. It’s just uncanny!

Makes no difference where in the episode that line may come. Whether it’s a throwaway line or a punch line to a half-page bit. There is usually one line I particularly like in every episode and it’s gone so you can be told the wonders of some new arthritis drug (that might kill you).

It’s like, how do they know? Whoever edits these things, did they implant a bio-chip in my brain?

I suppose I could go to my DVD’s or whatever streaming service is featuring these series, but that means I'd actively have to seek them out. Ugh.  That takes work.  On the other hand, I’ll be channel surfing and see a CHEERS of mine is coming on that I haven’t seen in years so I’ll stick around and watch it. It’ll be fun to re-live Shelley’s great reading of my favorite line. And sure enough -- no line. (Hell, in half the episodes – no Shelley.) Plus, eczema pills could now cause hearing loss?

I’m thrilled that all of my old shows are still on, still being seen – even if they’re on channels with three digits – and if you don’t know the pithy lines they’ve omitted you don’t realize you’re missing anything. So hopefully you still get enormous enjoyment out of watching the edited re-run. But just know that every show with my name on it is actually 3% better than what you’re seeing.

36 comments :

Jim S said...

One line from Cheers that they cut always amazes me. It's the first time we see Woody. He's explaining how he knows Coach. He said he wrote to bars in Boston and Coach wrote back. They became pen pals. Someone says, oh you exchanged letters. Woody says no, they exchanged pens.

I heard that line once 32 years ago. Whenever I saw that episode I always noticed that great line was missing.

You're right Ken, a great line will stick. It's a shame they're cut.

Marc Horowitz said...

Ken
though not your lines
in MASH when Henry Morgan played crazy general
line about him being promoted always dropped. As well as when Frank left
same thing.
On an All in the family there is an episode where half hour leads up to punch line and it is always cut

Jonny M. said...

I have noticed on some streaming services that movies will have sections cut out of them and I have no idea why. Two examples: When re-watching "The Jerk" on Amazon, the scene where a man comes to Steve Martin asking for money to reupholster his private jet was cut. When rewatching "Ace Ventura Pet Detective" on Hulu a scene where Ace confronts reporters in the guise of a German dolphin trainer was cut. Why? Anyone have any idea? Makes no sense.

therealshell said...

Friday question, two days early: on the Mary Tyler Moore show, there was always a very distinct laugh coming from the studio audience. Any idea who that might have been ?

Cat said...

Off topic, but I watched "Birth, Death, Love and Rice" last night on Netflix and noticed the print had been "cleaned up." For the longest time, it was dark and blurry, not sure why (unless Ken knows!) It was nice to see it in its original form.

David Schwartz said...

Hey Ken. I didn't realize that my favorite Cheers episode was actually the second one that aired. It's the "Coach's Daughter" show which you recently wrote about on your blog. Written by Ken Estin (with you and David on staff), it is really an hysterical episode which holds up great after all these years.

Speaking of favorite lines, when Roy, the potential son-in-law, has the coach's daughter pay for dinner and the coach challenges him on it, Roy says, "They wouldn't take a post-dated 4 party check. If they're gonna be hard-nosed they should put up a sign." That line kills me!

Greg said...

M*A*S*H has been cut to ribbons, to the point where the plots become nonsensical. It helps to think of syndicated episodes as M*A*S*H haiku, conveying story through fragmented images, but relying on audience members to bring their own meaning and interpretations to the table.

There are some M*A*S*H episodes I only ever saw in syndication, some of them many, many times. The DVDs were a revelation, containing scenes I'd never seen before, some of which set up jokes I'd never fully gotten without the correct context.

Howard Hoffman said...

Tonight’s the anniversary of the MTM “Chuckles Bites The Dust” episode. In syndication, they got rid of Ted Baxter’s entire on-air eulogy except for two sentences: The “broken man” and the clown credo lines. Here’s the whole thing, written by David Lloyd.

Ladies and gentlemen, sad news. One of our most beloved entertainers, and close personal friend of mine, is dead. Chuckles the Clown died today from - from uh - he died a broken man. Chuckles, uh, leaves a wife. At least I assume he was married, he didn't seem like the other kind. I don't know his age, but I guess he was probably in his early sixties; it's kind of hard to judge a guy's face especially when he's wearing big lips and a light bulb for a nose. But he had his whole life in front of him, except for the sixty some odd years he already lived. I remember, Chuckles used to recite a poem at the end of each program. It was called "The Credo of the Clown," and I'd like to offer it now in his memory - "A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants." That's what it's all about, folks, that's what he stood for, that's what gave his life meaning. Chuckles liked to make people laugh. You know what I'd like to think, I'd like to think that somewhere, up there tonight, in his honor, a choir of angels is sitting on whoopee cushions.

Cowboy Surfer said...

MASH was my comfort TV last year. This year I'm making my way thru Cheers and Frasier. In other words, I'm getting way too much Levine.

I swear if I run into Ken at Dan's Subs on Ventura, I'm going to pitch a re-boot of Big Wave Dave's...Maybe we could cast Steven Weber, you know, if he's not too busy.

Brian said...

This may be counter to what you're saying, but I saw a broadcast version of the Frasier episode, "The Show Where Diane Comes Back". That version ends with the last two lines cut and it actually made the end more poignant. Frasier doesn't leave via the "Cheers" door.

However, yes, the pruning shears have been out for years. Listen to this:

"Well, here we are"

That is the ONLY line from a Night Gallery segment called "Make Me Laugh". The whole segment was cut for time.

Paul said...

Your post reminded me of the one Cheers filming I attended -- it was the episode where Nancy Marchand played Frasier's mother, and she was not at all impressed by Diane. My favorite line of the show was a throwaway that Nancy witheringly delivered as she was exiting behind Diane up the stairs to Melville's: "Cute shoes." Two simple words that perfectly encapsulated the character and how she felt about Diane, expertly delivered by a great actress. When I watched the original broadcast, I waited for that exit, up the stairs they went, but no "cute shoes." I guess TPTB didn't think the line was as funny as I did.

John H said...

What's worse is the Cheers DVD's are edited. When Norm is stuck in the window, the bit with Carla singing Winnie the Pooh is gone. The Monster Mash gag during the Halloween Bar Wars has been altered (no Monster Mash) the final episode has been completely butchered, etc. I wish Paramount would give thus series a proper blu-ray release, but unless there's a Transformer involved, that hideous studio isn't interested.

Jason Roberts said...

Blogger therealshell said...
Friday question, two days early: on the Mary Tyler Moore show, there was always a very distinct laugh coming from the studio audience. Any idea who that might have been ?

10/25/2017 7:36 AM

It's probably James L. Brooks . Ken wrote about it: http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2009/08/who-is-that-guy-with-weird-laugh.html

I did the Tracey Ullman Show and heard it live all the time. It's very infectious!

Mibbitmaker said...

It's bad enough when they cut a great Ken Levine line, but editing out Larry Gelbart wit from a M*A*S*H episode should be considered a criminal act.

I was always unhappy about most of the staff meeting scene from season 2's "Dear Dad.... Three" being cut. It was definitely a favorite part of the episode, and it was so much better getting it back on the DVD set.

John Hammes said...

@therealshell: a Friday answer, two days early. Mary Tyler Moore show producer James L. Brooks is the one sitting in with the audience, providing that distinctive laugh.

"Night Court" also had a distinct laugh coming from the studio audience. That laughter would also be played at episode's end, over the "Starry Night Productions" logo following the end credits. During the show's run, producer Reinhold Weege was identified as the chortler in question. Weege left "Night Court" after season seven, apparently taking that laughter with him, it was never heard again on that show's remaining two seasons.

VP81955 said...

Now that "Mom" is in syndication, I wonder what lines have been trimmed. Unfortunately, only its first season has been issued on DVD.

John Hammes said...

In syndication, depending on the station, "The Odd Couple" could be very confusing. Why were Dick Clark or Wally Cox credited on an episode, and yet not to be seen? What did Oscar do that Felix, Miriam, and guest Edward Villella had to allow to "slide"? What was Myrna talking about with a stockbroker, when Oscar signed up with a computer dating service?

Who even knew there would always be an opening scene, a prologue, before "The Odd Couple" theme credits? If you were lucky, you did. If not, the local station would start with the opening theme credits, ditch the prologue completely, and the viewer left scratching their head over a reference or two not possible to understand without said prologue (at least, after all these years, I know it wasn't just me not getting it). More time for commercials. Nothing new under the sun.

MikeN said...

Otto likes Milhouse.

LouOCNY said...

The MASH episodes on the Sundance Channel late Sunday nights/early Monday mornings SEEM to be uncut - Sundance runs them in a 40 minute time slot...

Same seems to be true for Barney Miller, AITF also....

Jerod Butt said...

Seasons 2-4 are also available. I purchased them on Amazon.

Joe said...

I know what you mean about "The Odd Couple," John. I don't remember it in first-run, I only saw it in syndication. A couple of years ago, I watched the episode with Oscar and the princess on Hulu and realized there was a whole SCENE I'd never seen before, with Felix instructing Oscar how to greet all the dignitaries at the ball.

thevidiot said...

When I started in TV in the Midwest, my job was to format a block of sitcom reruns from 4-6 pm. One day I was watching the results of my work (the station had an early automation system so we built spot reels in the morning to free equipment for news production) when the episode of "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C." aired where Gomer borrows Sgt. Carter's new convertible for a date, parks it by a construction site and comedy is supposed to ensue.

Coming back from the break, I saw that our film editing department had edited out the part where the construction company drops a steel wrecking ball on Sgt. Carter's car. As we fade up, Gomer is holding his face and saying "What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do??" It made no sense because the next cut shows a destroyed car but we never saw how that happened.

When I commented on it in a discrepancy report, the Film Editing Department head said: "You win some, you lose some."

That was 40 years ago and I still recall it!

Anonymous said...

In the M*A*S*H episode where BJ is playing practical jokes on everyone, there's a scene with Colonel Potter using binoculars, which promptly give him two black eyes. Radar sees this and tries to control himself, but soon gives in to hysterical laughter. It's a great scene, very funny and real -- and it's always cut from the syndication prints. Worse yet, a still from this scene appears in the closing credits, which would be very confusing to a first-time viewer.

Gary said...

Another interesting example is the All in the Family episode with Sammy Davis Jr., perhaps the most famous episode of the series. In syndication, the story ends with Sammy planting a kiss on Archie's cheek, then walking out the door. But in the original version the scene continues, with Archie recalling that Sammy mentioned (in jest) that blacks and whites were required to kiss on TV. Ironically the shorter version is actually better, but that was certainly not the goal of the editors doing all the chopping.

Sean MacDonald said...

Here's a variation on this phenomenon:

When they adapted The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into a movie with a huge budget, they apparently thought the appeal of the story was the science fiction elements and not the humor. They left out 90% of the jokes, but they kept the setups for the jokes.

For example, in the books, Ford tells Arthur to eat some peanuts to help out with a side effect of the aliens' teleport system, mentioning that "It's unpleasantly like being drunk". Arthur replies, "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?" Ford answers, "You ask a glass of water."

Great joke.

Well, the movie dropped everything except the setup. Ford tells Arthur to eat peanuts. And I think Ford may even mention that it's unpleasantly like being drunk. And then it stops there. The joke is missing. All the setup is there, but there's no joke. And the whole movie is like that.

Sigh.

At least the made-for-TV adaptation was much better (though with dirt cheap special effects).

Breadbaker said...

@John H:

I presume that those particular cuts were rights issues. When they licensed the use of the Winnie the Pooh and Monster Mash, they may not have had the foresight to allow it in all media from now to the end of time (or may have been told no by the licensor).

Andy Rose said...

@John Hammes: A commenter in Ken's obit to Reinhold Weege wrote that the Night Court laugher was Reinhold's father Chuck, not Reinhold himself.

http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2012/12/rip-reinhold-weege.html


@Breadbaker: I'm certain you're correct. On WKRP, they infamously cut out most of the records played in the episodes, but they also dropped a few times when characters sang copyrighted songs in passing. One of the worst-looking syndication cuts was a scene in which Johnny Fever leaves a conversation by half-singing a song as he wheels his chair out the door. (I think he was singing "I'll Be Seeing You," but it's been a long time since I've seen the episode.) Since they couldn't cut the line out and have Johnny disappear from the scene without explanation, they just cut away the moment he opened his mouth, and the next thing you see, he was halfway out the door.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

On MeTV, I've watched moments from "MASH" and "Mary Tyler Moore" that I haven't seen since the original network broadcasts, including, I think, Ted Baxter's extended eulogy for Chuckles.

As much as I respect James Brooks the producer, I cringe whenever I hear his "laugh" on "Mary Tyler Moore" or "Taxi."

It seems to come at moments when the studio audience was not responding as much as Brooks would like. In any case, forty years later, it's still highly annoying.

Matt said...

Hi Sean Macdonald,

If you like Hitchhiker’s, I would recommend getting the original radio version. That is how it was meant to be consumed.

Cap'n Bob said...

In El Dorado, with John Wayne and James Caan, there's a scene where Caan improvises a trick to jump a sentry by imitating a Chinaman. Sensitive feelings being what they are today, you see Caan say, "I have an idea," and the next think you know the sentry is lying on the ground unconscious.

Barry Traylor said...

Ken, what puzzles me is all the drug ads on tv these days. The one I got a laugh out of was the one with, among the side affects diarrhea and constipation. Both at the same time I wondered.

Mel Agar said...

There's an episode of Will & Grace where Bernadette Peters plays Karen's sister Gin. There's a whole B-plot in the episode about Jack getting a job on a cop show with Josh Lucas (who appears in the episode). In syndication, that Jack plot is almost entirely removed until the very end when there's a premiere party at Karen's house. His subplot dealt with his inability to sound like a tough cop during filming, and when the show airs, Jack's voice has been dubbed. We see the dubbed version but none of the stuff leading up to it in syndication, so the joke just falls completely flat. And I'm not sure Josh Lucas appears at all. (He might be at the party.... so then it becomes confusing because why is Josh Lucas at Karen's party??)

Y. Knott said...

Kevin FitzMaurice wrote: "James L. Brooks' laughter....seems to come at moments when the studio audience was not responding as much as Brooks would like."

It was, by all accounts, genuine. Martin Short, who guested on Taxi, avers that Brooks was focused on the performance, and genuinely laughed at performance choices that delighted him. Short recalled about Brooks' laugh, "It was never for the jokes. He *knew* the jokes. It was for the attitude."

RobW said...

40 years later I still remember when a new. multicultural station went on the air here in Toronto that featured non-English programming during much of the day and in primetime to serve the various communities in the city. The rest of the time they ran reruns and movies to help pay the bills. Not long after they went on the air they showed Funny Girl, which at 155 minutes is just a little too long to squeeze into a 3-hour slot with the maximum number of commercials allowed.

So they cut the song "People".

True story.

Cheapfeet said...

Ken, as someone mentioned above, the CHEERS DVDs are brutally butchered, I actually don't enjoy the sets so much, there is SO MUCH that has been cut.
The music edits are endless. Anywhere a real song was used has been erased! Even things like Lilith finds out that someone has died at Woody & Kelly's wedding. She expresses appropriate concern and then as she's walking out the kitchen door she slips into entertainer mode and wails "Make em laugh! [make 'em sing] . . . not on the DVDs.

Also, senseless edits. One of my fav eps is when John Hill becomes Cheers's neighbour and drives Sam crazy. As Frasier and Cliff are looking at a brick wall Hill has erected between the bar and the pool room and bathrooms, Frasier quips, admiringly, "His mason did exquisite work!" ha ha aha. . . but GONE from the DVDs.

One of the worst is the ep where the Cheers gang mistakenly revenges the Gary's Old Town tavern for a prank they didn't even do. As the Cheers gang are discussing how to fix the sitch, Cliff hilariously relates the synopsis of a Henry Fonda movie, "Fail-Safe". his whole description of the movie, as well as his lines about Russians and loud-mouthed New Yorkers deserving to be bombed, are GONE from the DVD!! I expect they were deemed post-911 insensitive but come on!

There are MANY more unfortunate edits . . . I accidently trashed my original-air VHS versions!

Ken, I'm a long-time follower and this is my first question:

WHO is the attractive, middle-aged actress, always in biz attire skirts in every CHEERS season . . . she's in a few scenes but never spoke. EVERY SEASON she appeared, I believe.
Thank you

bryon said...

I sat through a rerun of a Family Ties episode recently, realizing it was the one with a funny line I had (mostly) remembered for many years. Naturally, the line was cut. I managed to find it online once I saw that the guest star was Peter Scolari (pre-Bosom Buddies) and could track down the episode. Comedy really is hard work.

(In the episode, Scolari's character admits he's in love with Steven's wife, Elyse. Steven says, "You're in love with my wife? I really don't know what to say. I know 'good luck' is wrong.")