The Summer of ’17 was utterly unforgettable. I went on a cross-country journey with four stand-up comedians – a black & white Jewish mom, an Aussie billionaire with a hangup about hookups, a maximum-security prisoner just released after aiding & abetting a robbery and attempted murder, and a psychotic psychologist with a hernia issue and a slew of other pre-existing conditions. I was shooting their adventures for a reality show – Sunda’s Straightjacket Comedy Tour – about how the owner of the LA School Of Comedy take a select group of students on a cross-country comedy tour. Only now am I finally able to show you what went down in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Reno, Vegas and god-knows-where-else. When you’re on tour, your cast & crew become your family. I love these guys.
This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the (original) KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning program in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! A few years ago, I wrote a book about my phenomenal experiences starting up the KTLA Morning News – …Like No One’s Watching – Transform Your Local Newscast Into A Hit TV Show! On the off-chance that you haven’t read it, I’m posting the first chapter here – all about the little show that became a monster hit – completely by accident! Continue reading THE KTLA MORNING NEWS JULY 8, 1991→
NBC’s Today has improved by leaps and bounds since the last time I watched – during the ousting of Matt Lauer more than a year ago. The new directing style the show has adopted dramatically boosts the connection between the talent and the viewers. Hoda, Savannah and Al are alive, in-the-moment, and occasionally engaging, but the show has some work ahead of it – especially with Carson and Craig. But first, an obvious editorial error. Continue reading “TODAY” TURNS A CORNER→
If you’ve ever met her, you know MarieOsmond is pretty in person. Stunning even. And she is just as beautiful on TV. Marie, a TV veteran of her own prime-time variety series and a daytime talk show, knows how crucial lighting is on a TV set. Good lighting can make a talent “glow” on screen. Bad lighting is the kiss of death. Many years ago, Marie was a guest on The KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles. Coincidentally, we shot our show on the very same stage she and her brother had shot all 78-episodes of Donnie & Marie on ABC twenty years earlier. I remember very clearly, when she arrived, before going to makeup, Marie asked me if she could go out on set for a moment during a commercial break. I led the way. Once there, she looked at where she would be sitting for the interview and then examined the lighting grid above her, determining whether or not she had a key light, a fill light, and a rim light (a back light). She was happy when our three-point lighting met her standards.
It’s absolutely essential that I point out to you moments on “live” TV that totally “nailed it” – when all the pieces come together to make an amazing TV moment. The clip I’m presenting today, which I would have given anything to have produced, I’ve watched dozens of times, examining every nuance that makes it so powerful. And I urge you to watch every frame again and again. This is how a director, a producer (to a lesser extend here), and the on-air players come together to create an amazing, incredible, emotional moment. Watch first, then I’ll dissect.Continue reading THIS IS HOW YOU DIRECT “LIVE” TV!→
One of the most infamous scenes in all of filmdom – about a close-up – and it wasn’t shot on a close-up...not even close. I am no film director. I don’t pretend to be. And who am I to second guess the great director Billy Wilder? Well, nobody, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m assuming he had his reasons for not shooting Gloria Swanson’s scene about Norma Desmond wanting a close-up on a close-up. Might have been some artistic choice. What he essentially did was have her “walk into” her close-up. Then the music and the visual effects turn dark and grim revealing the monster she is as the scene fades to black. I think it would have been much more powerful to shoot Swanson on a close-up leading up to the line to clearly illustrate that she is deranged. We could have seen the whites of her eyes and the psychopathy of the moment. Yes, in the waist shot, which Wilder chose, we got that impression with her hands dancing and twisting in the air. But the power of the moment is what is revealed in any close-up, and we were denied that moment. The scene faded before the real close-up came. Maybe Wilder deliberately denied us of that moment. Or was he just denying Norma her close-up? Like I said, I’m no film director. Continue reading IS NEWS READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP?→
Several months ago, a producer came to me quite concerned that I appeared to be “unconcerned” about a few technical glitches that showed up on-air recently in one or two of our shows. He said, “I’m a perfectionist and these kind of technical errors can’t be allowed to continue”. He wore the word “perfectionist” as a badge of honor. Almost like I should reward him for being so conscientious. I felt two things immediately, neither of which I expressed. The first was, “Boy, are you in the wrong business”. Television is an art – especially the right-brained lighter newscasts we’re producing. No piece of art is ever perfect. Secondly, I felt sad for him. Sad that he will never be truly happy with any show he’ll ever produce. Continue reading CLEAN SHOWS ARE FAILURES→