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Ask 411 Movies for 01.28.13: Clearing the Runway!

January 28, 2013 | Posted by Leonard Hayhurst

Obscure Television Show of the Week
Title: It’s a Living
Air Dates: Oct.30, 1980, to Sept.10, 1982
Network: ABC
Cast: Marian Mercer as Nancy Beebe, Susan Sullivan as Lois Adams, Gail Edwards as Dot Higgins, Wendy Schaal as Vicki Allen, Ann Jillian as Cassie Cranston, Barrie Youngfellow as Jan Hoffmeyer Gray, Paul Kreppel as Sonny Mann, Bert Remsen as Mario, Louise Lasser as Maggie McBurney, Earl Boen as Dennis Hubner, Crystal Bernard as Amy Tompkins, Richard Stahl as Howard Miller and Sheryl Lee Ralph as Ginger St. James
Premise: We move on this week to the failed sitcoms of Ann Jillian. ABC kept It’s a Living, also known as Making a Living, on the air for two seasons despite being a ratings clunker. It then moved to syndication from 1985 to 1989. The show revolved around the waitresses of a posh Los Angeles restaurant high atop a skyscraper. Jillian played the brassy and sassy Cassie. Crystal Bernard, who you might remember from Wings, was added for the syndicated run as the naive farm girl fresh to the big city.

Ask 411 Remembers
Director and food critic Michael Winner died Jan. 21 of heart and liver ailments. He was 77. Winner’s films include Chato’s Land, The Mechanic, Scorpio, The Sentinel and the first three Death Wish movies. Below, Winner defends Death Wish 2 for its graphic rape and violence.

Q: Well, in keeping with crashes, what are some of the top vehicle crashes not involving automobiles? Silverstreak’s probably the top one I can think of off the top of my head.

A: Last week we talked about best car crashes. Many in the comments added their favorites, which was much appreciated. So, this week a few crashes involving other vehicles.

For train crashes you have Silver Streak, which was mentioned. Last week I posted The Fugitive, because it involves a bus rollover leading to a train crash. Another good one is Back to the Future III.

And this one is from Super 8.

I would count subway crashes as a different vehicle than a train crash. I couldn’t find clips of the ones from Diehard with a Vengeance and Speed, but the below from Knowing is good.

There are a ton of plane crashes. To toss up a few:

Die Hard 2 (1990)

Fearless (1993)

Alive (1993)

Con Air (1997)

Castaway (2000)

Another clip from Knowing (2009)

For boat crashes, or sinkings, you’ve got to to Titanic.

Two good ones for animals ripping boats apart are Jaws and Orca.

Q: Some movies/tv shows mention specific universities in them like The Social Network, How high and Legally Blonde (Harvard) and Orange County (Stanford); others refer to a cheap knockoff like on Saved by the Bell College Years and Beverly hills 90210 (California University), law & order (too many) and Fresh prince of Bell Air (university of Los Angeles). They have mentioned USC and Stanford on Saved by the Bell. Now I understand you have to be true to the source like in the Social Network. However how come some colleges are specifically named and others are not? No one is being fooled by California University or University of Los Angeles.

A: It’s about being based on a true story or having cooperation from a university for a fictional work. For The Social Network, it was known the principals went to Harvard and in A Beautiful Mind it was known John Nash taught at Princeton. And since those were both based on books, you’re officially licensing the book and its content for use.

For a fictional film, you need to get cooperation from the college to shoot there or at least use their name. Sometimes that just means paying a fee. When the film deals with drinking, partying, drug use or rape of coeds like on Law & Order, they’re not so keen to participate. However, that doesn’t mean some head scratchers don’t pop up, like How High being set at Harvard, even though it was filmed at UCLA according to IMDB. Looking online, I couldn’t find anything about Harvard consenting to that one. But, my basic guess is that it’s either a college saying no or a project saying no to the cost of having rights to the name or to shoot on campus.

Q: How does BBC decide what to air on BBC America?
-Name Picked

A: BBC America is part of BBC Worldwide and in the United States is under the Discovery Networks umbrella. The channel is not subject to United Kingdom license fees and, therefore, the BBC can’t can’t directly fund the channel which doesn’t air in the U.K. This means they have commercials like other basic channels. This has lead to editing of some shows to allow for commercials, and also to trim adult material not allowed on U.S. basic cable.

BBC America doesn’t just show BBC programs, but other British produced shows and some American series, like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Basically, what is popular viewing in the U.S. winds up on BBC America. This includes niche sci-fi programs like Torchwood and Doctor Who, cop dramas such as Luther and Law & Order: UK, the car series Top Gear and a couple different shows with British bad boy chef Gordon Ramsay. It’s the type of programming you find on other networks, just with a British flavor grouping it all on one channel.

Q: Hello Leonard,

I am a long time reader and I’ve already sent some questions before (thank you for the answers). Now I have more questions for you. Some of them are in regards to previous questions you answered in the last two months. I couldn’t find the time to send the questions until now.

Here it goes.

1) First question is in regards to TV shows, mostly sitcoms. I have noticed that often, when a stand-up comic gets a sitcom they use their actual name (Drew Carey, Jerry Seinfeld, etc) or some just use their first name (Tim Allen, Roseanne) and some change their name completely (none comes to mind right now). Is there any reason behind that? Are the studios afraid people won’t tune in if they don’t recognize the name?

2) With the controversy regarding Kevin Clash/Elmo, Sesame Street has changed the puppeteer for Elmo. Do you think it will have a huge impact on the show (positively or negatively)? Will people be annoyed by the change?

3) Previously you answered my question regarding TV ratings (I understood most of it, thank you for that). I have another question in the same area. I look at the TV ratings often to see how my favorite shows are doing, but I still don’t understand the thinking behind certain moves from the studios. Whitney does really bad and is panned by everyone, but they keep the show on air, while Community has no pushing behind it, but is loved by critics and audience. Same goes for Fox on Tuesdays, all their sitcoms have bad ratings, but they thankfully (I like them) keep the shows on air.

4) About Community, it is well known that NBC has mishandled that show for a while. NBC makes it look like they don’t care about that show. Why not sell the show to another network who would take better care of it?

5) How or where can we find out if our TV shows are going to be on DVD? I have bought season 1 of Raising Hope, but I cannot find any information about season 2.

A: Christophe had so many questions, I’m splitting his email up over two weeks. First time I’ve done that in the history of the column.

1) Familiarity is a part of it. Especially when you’re dealing with a standup comic who might not have a lot of acting experience, it’s more comfortable for them to be called by their own name. It’s also name identification for the viewer. You’re most likely tuning in because you’re a fan of Jerry Seinfeld’s or Tim Allen’s standup, so it helps to build that connection with the audience. However, I know Tony Danza has quipped his characters are usually named Tony, because producers didn’t think he was smart enough to answer to another name.

2) In Nov. 2012, Sheldon Stephens, 23, alleged a sexual relationship with Elmo Muppeteer Kevin Clash starting when Stephens was just 16. Clash said the relationship was between two consenting adults and did confirm he was gay in the media. Stephens later recanted his statements, but other men stepped forward as well. Clash resigned from Sesame Workshop. Both released statements basically saying the scandal was taking away from the work and mission of the workshop and it was best for Clash to step down in order to deal with his personal matters. Sesame Workshop said understudies had been training under Clash and they would take over the Elmo voice and acting role. To date, there hasn’t been any major backlashes from kids or parents over the switch. Elmo appeals to very young children, who are not really going to notice a slight voice or body language change.

3) A show with bad ratings can stay on the air for three main reasons. One is that the network has already agreed to produce and air so many episodes. Sometimes episodes of a series remain unaired, but it’s usually more cost efficient to just burn off the episodes in a big chunk over the summer or something like that than not to air them at all.

The second reason would be because the series brings in a certain demographic that certain advertisers covet. The most famous example here is St. Elsewhere, which never rose above 49th in the Nielsen ratings over six seasons. However, it did have a strong viewer share among those 18-49 and who made more than $100,000 a year. So, it brought in advertisers like Rolex and BMW who were looking to sell big ticket items to the young and wealthy. This is also partly the case with Whitney, which is strong among women 18-49, which marketers covet.

The third reason, which seems to be the main case with Whitney, is that producers and executives have faith in the basic concept of the series and want to give it a chance. Many critics who first panned Whitney said it did improve as the first season progressed. Producers started taking the focus off of Whitney Cummings herself and tried to make the show more of an ensemble comedy, like Friends, while also focusing on the natural chemistry Cummings has with her onscreen boyfriend, played by Chris D’Elia.

4) NBC’s relationship with Community is a lot like the relationship it had with Scrubs, which eventually went to ABC for a couple lackluster final seasons. Both are really quirky shows that fall out of NBC’s wheelhouse. They don’t know what to do with Community. Do to that, they don’t devote a lot of time to promoting or caring for the show. They switch time slots, they pull it from the schedule. The thinking seems to be that Community is a really niche show with a small fan base and that fan base will go with it no matter what, but the series doesn’t have potential to grow the fan base. The ratings are low, but critical praise and the strong, but small, fan base has kept it around. The show has been retooled for its fourth season to start in February. Showrunner Dan Harmon has left along with some other writers, directors and producers. Chevy Chase also parted ways with the show, but after most of the fourth season was filmed. He’ll only be missing from two episodes.

5) The best website I’ve found for television series DVD releases is The second season of Raising Hope came out on DVD Nov. 2012 and you can buy it through Amazon.

Next week we look at the best fart and poop gags, why superhero movies start with origin stories, why scenes show up in trailers that aren’t in the movie and much more. The much more would be you the readers sending in more questions for me to answer. Get on that.

Don’t die.

“Define irony. Bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.”


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Leonard Hayhurst

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