DIGGING UP THE NEWS

One advantage of shooting a television sitcom in front of an audience is being able to immediately tell what works and what doesn't.  If a joke isn't funny the audience won't react and the awkward silence is more than adequate at getting this point across.  On the other hand, when something is working the laughter is greatly encouraging and can even push the actors farther than they might have gone otherwise.  When a show is well-scripted and incorporates physical comedy there can be no doubt that the audience will react the way the producers and writers hope they will.  And the night is magic . . . . 

It seemed strange to be at the studios on a Saturday.  The weekend is a very unusual time for programs other than game shows to be filming.  But because Bronson had been suffering from an ear infection that week, the show had been postponed and would be filmed on March 10th, 1990 instead of during the week.

Starting quickly, the actors were introduced and prepared for the first scene.  Bronson, seated at Balki's worktable, proceeded to pull out a pitch pipe to cue his first note and the filming began with the wonderful and now classic Put On Your Sunday Clothes musical segment.  The entire scene, including the dance number, was done in one take!

The second scene took place on the Uncle Shaggy set.  During one take Bronson entered, then turned to the director and asked, "Was that right to come in?"  "Yes!" the director confirmed.  Realizing the shot was ruined, Bronson smiled at the camera with a friendly, "Hi Mom!"

The entire scene was filmed once with the audience reacting a little sluggishly.  The ten minute film magazines ran out during this time as well.  But during the second take things picked up, the pace went a lot smoother and the audience reacted much better.  The original Frenchie and Hot Dog were put through their acrobatic routine one more time to film Balki and Larry's reaction shots.

The audience was fully involved in the story by the third scene.  When Uncle Shaggy entered the boys' apartment to tell them he'd been fired, the cameras moved to reset and the audience reacted with a heartfelt, "Oooooooooohhh!!!", to which Bronson and Mark looked up into the stands as if to say "What in the heck . . . ?"  As the scene continued to shoot, Mark flubbed his one line by saying "They can't put you in jail for that!"  Bronson was quick to correct him.  "No, they can't fire you because of that."  "I knew that," Mark replied jokingly.

There was a slight change in the scene where the cousins try to talk with the Uncle Shaggy Show's producer.  The first time they did it, Bronson went through the routine of "Uncle Shaggy is more than just the floppy ears, the tail, etc. . . . " and indicated the ears and tail as if they were on himself.  When they retook the scene they had changed it so Bronson indicated the ears and tail on the producer and it worked out to be much funnier that way.  They used the second take in the final show.

The insane acrobatics Mark and Bronson performed on The Uncle Shaggy Show were retaken several times, to the point that the boys had to be getting terribly tired, but the audience went absolutely crazy over their jumping around and take after take the laughter stayed just as strong!  The part where they jump over the couch was filmed several times and the best take by far (the one they eventually used) was when they leapt over the couch and Mark proceeded to slide off the couch onto the floor on his face (something which only happened that one time).  One time Mark flew over the couch and just landed on his face on the couch and when they went to pick up the scene from that spot the director asked "Mark?  Aren't you still on your face?"  Mark just gave him an unbelieving expression then slowly and methodically lied back down on the couch, awkwardly, on his face, much to the amusement of the audience who felt sorry for him having to lie back down that way!  The audience really strongly booed the woman playing the part of the producer when she insisted the kids would get over Uncle Shaggy being fired and every time she walked off camera to the booing and hissing she would look into the audience with a shrug, as if to say "I can't help it!  That's just my part!"  After the Frenchie and Hot Dog antics by Balki and Larry were filmed they took time to get a few pick ups of the Uncle Shaggy director and producer before moving on.

The last short scene with Uncle Shaggy in the apartment was filmed straight through without much mishap.  One thing cut from the final show was at the end of the scene Balki and Larry put on the dog noses and howl.  However if you watch the final credits of the show they included a still from that edited scene!

Climbing into the audience bleachers to do answers and questions, they responded to one man's question of "Where's Jennifer?" with "Waiting at your house!"  They mentioned they had once briefly met each other during the auditions for Risky Business and Bronson explained that he'd been suffering from an inner ear infection.  Taking that into consideration it's amazing how much energy they spent on this episode but it sure shows in the final product which is probably why the show is enjoyed so much by the fans!

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