Weekend News Chum to Fill your Loving Cup

Observation Stew’tis the weekend, and that means it is time to clear out the accumulated links that didn’t them… well, at least those I remembered to send back home from work. In the spirit of the day, feel free to share these stories with your sweetie.



The Word Is… 📺 “Grease Live!” on Fox

Grease Liveuserpic=televisionLast night, I watched Fox’s attempt at doing a live musical, Grease Live!. I’m not going to attempt a full review with synopsis and notes on all the cast and crew. Rather, here are some jumbled observations on the show. I thought about dividing them into the good, bad, and ugly, but I couldn’t separate the bad from the ugly.

  • I don’t think the director knew what this show wanted to be when it grew up. At times, it seemed like a stage show and the theatrical production. At times, it seemed slavishly devoted to the movie version. At other times, it veered off into its own direction without explanation. In doing so, it didn’t quite satisfy the fans of the stage version, but also didn’t satisfy fans of the movie version. The failure, I believe, is one of managing of expectations. Promotion of the show before airing should have made clear the goal: a live version of the classic movie; a live version of the original stage show; a refreshed version of the movie; or something else. This would have greatly helped the audience who were either expecting a live version of the stage show (based on what NBC had done), or were expecting the movie.
  • I thought the performances were universally strong: the actors could sing and dance, and there were no significant gaffes. I think, for the leads, it showed off their talents well and may lead to more consideration for stage roles. The only exception was when the leads attempted to ape the performances of their movie equivalents too closely.
  • The interpretation of some of the songs made me wonder if the director understood the show at all. In particular, “Freddie My Love”, while performed flawlessly, made no sense as done. This was a song about a teen girl leading servicemen on, getting them to send her presents with no intent of having a real relationship. So incorporating it into a USO show was just … wrong, so wrong. Similarly, “These Magic Changes” … which a really a song about a fellow learning guitar, became this weird relationship song in the show. They completely cut the words to the “Mooning” number.
  • I can understand the desire to give Frenchie a song in the show, especially when you have cast a good singer. But the song you gave her was from the wrong period and didn’t fit the style of a show. Much better might have been an “I want” song earlier on, because this is a character who really doesn’t know what she wants.
  • I wasn’t sure about the opening. I did appreciate the singer and showing the extensiveness of the sets. But I think the show could have equally gone with the traditional stage opening (at a reunion of the class) and have had equal impact.
  • I found the interstitials with Mario Lopez interesting, and a great way to emphasize the live nature of the show.
  • I did, however, appreciate the closing. NBC has done away with the curtain calls, but I think for a live show you need them there. I would have superimposed the names of the actors and characters, however, as there wasn’t a program.
  • As you know, Saturday we saw A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. One person commented over on Facebook that they didn’t like the show because of its dated attitudes towards women. Although the script to this show attempted to do a little updating in that regard, the basic show Grease does demonstrate — and almost promote — a number of bad traits: expecting women to put out, belittling nerds, cultures of violence and hazing, and such. Some (such as I) can just put them into the historical context; however, it is something to think about when making the choice about what to highlight. I’m not sure whether Grease is even correctable, but it is a reflection of its times.
  • One area they did attempt to update the show is by making the school integrated. Given that this is a show in a particular historical context, I found it jarring — especially in that the integration they were showing for the time wouldn’t have happened back then. If you’re going to update race integration, you need to update the rest of the attitudes. I’ll note that other shows can bring in diversity without problem, because they are of an unspecified time and place, or are clearly imaginary. [Further, if you are going to integrate the cast, what does it say when all your leads are white. Look at the poster, folks.]
  • Despite the story problems, the technical craft was excellent, especially the quick changes such as between the slumber party and the USO show. This clearly demonstrated that complex productions can be done live; further, if you do them live, you’ll draw in the audience (especially when you do it against other new run shows). NBC, the gauntlet has been thrown.
  • For the most part, I appreciated the cameos, especially Didi Cohn and Eve Plumb. However, using Boyz II Men for Teen Angel was just wrong: they didn’t get the style right, and they made many of the words hard to hear.
  • They cleaned up quite a bit of language: not only did the pull the “pussy wagon” line from “Greased Lightening”, but the line about being an athletic supporter was gone, the Sal Mineo line was gone from Sandra Dee, and they pulled the Fangool!. This is Fox, folks. One expects a bit of raunch. You hear worse on the Simpsons.
  • Another odd change, seemingly for no reason: They moved where Sandy and Danny met to Salt Lake City, and changed Sandy’s name to Young from Dubrowski. Why? It destroyed the double entendre in “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, and had no fathomable reason other than to imply she was Mormon, and thus couldn’t drink, smoke, etc. It was unnecessary. Note that the movie did the name change as well, changing the name to Olsson. I also noticed they changed the year to 1959, for no reason other than to include the rocket jokes.
  • Kudos to Vanessa Hudgens for her great performance, especially considering that her dad passed away that morning.
  • They coped quite well with the unexpected SoCal rainstorm. Good thing they had those umbrellas handy.
  • While watching the show, I’ll admit I was mostly hate watching. C’mon, it was on Fox. But looking back, I don’t think it was as bad as all that: the performances were good, and the technical craft was excellent. For someone who knows Grease, the story changes were jarring; for much of the audience, they probably enjoyed it.
  • I haven’t decided yet on whether to get the cast album: I liked the new orchestrations and the vocal performances, although I didn’t like the new song for Frenchie or Boyz to Men. I also have at least 4 versions of Grease in my music library: the original Broadway cast, the revival with Rosie O’Donnell, the revival with Laura Osnes, and the movie soundtrack. Do I need a fifth? Then again, I have at least 6 versions of Gypsy: Merman, Lansbury, Midler, Daly, Peters, and LuPone.

Week End News Chum: Threading a Connection

Observation StewFor some, this is the start of a 3 day weekend; for others, just the normal weekend craziness. Whichever it is, it’s been a busy week. I’ve been accumulating a lot of articles of interest, but none of them have themed into groups of three, or proved to be the start of a single-subject rant. So let’s toss them into the crock-pot of discussion, and see if we can at least come up with a thread to connect each to the next:

Lastly, I’m sure you think I’m crazy in the head for trying to thread all these disparate articles together. Speaking of crazy in the head: how’s this for a headline: “Doctors dismissed his pain as migraines. Then they said he had 24 hours to live.” Did that get your attention? It got mine. The connected article was about something I mentioned last week: undetected subdural hematomas. Scary.


Media NewsChum: 6 Passings, 3 Arrivals

userpic=masters-voiceHere is the second bunch of themed news chum for the weekend — consider this your mixed salad before the stew. Articles in this group cover multiple media types: stage, TV, and radio.

  • Passings No. 1: Elizabeth Swados. Broadway composer Elizabeth Swados has passed away. The headlines all cite her show Runaways (which I’ve heard but never seen), but I recall her for her show Doonsebury. The show has a number of great songs, including “Just a House”, “It’s the Right Time to be Rich”, and “Another Memorable Meal”. I doubt it will ever be revived, as kids today don’t remember the early days of the strip.
  • Passings No. 2: Wayne Rodgers. Just before the end of the year, original M*A*S*H TV star Wayne Rodgers passed away. Here’s a remembrance from his co-star, Alan Alda.
  • Passings No. 3: Sheldon Epps. No, Sheldon hasn’t died. However, he is stepping down as Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse. For a long time, we were subscribers at the Playhouse. Were there there in the Susan Dietz era; we were there when Sheldon came in; and we left during the bankruptcy. I didn’t always like Sheldon’s programming — especially his habit of TBA shows in a season. But he had more hits than misses, and he did a great job of raising the visibility of the playhouse during his tenure. Even more importantly, he did try and bring diversity to the traditionally mono-cultured Pasadena.
  • Passings No. 4: KFWB 980. “Give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.” Hasn’t been that way for a while, since KFWB gave up the news baton to KNX and went talk… and then sports talk. KFWB has been sold, and will be becoming an ethnic station.  While this is bad news for the Clippers, it is also a significant passing in the LA Radio community.
  • Passings No. 5: Allegiance. Sad to say, the new George Takei musical Allegiance has posted its closing notice. This is after 113 performances, which is definitely not hit territory, or even recap-costs territory. However, the musical did make a significant political statement (which is good), and is going on tour (even better).
  • Passings No. 6/Arrival No. 1: Beatles Music. This is, in a sense, a coming and going. The going relates to a very interesting article about the convoluted path of how the Beatles lost control of their music catalog to Michael Jackson. As usual, some wrong decisions early on in their career from which they could never recover. It shows the importance for artists to pay attention to what you sign. On the other side, the Beatles have just arrived on streaming music services. For me, that’s a big “Whoops” (as in “Don’t Care”). I’ve got *all* their music on my iPod, of which 95% was recorded from the original vinyl.
  • Arrival No. 2: Hamilton. It has been announced that the hit musical Hamilton will be going on tour. There will be longer tour engagements in Chi-town, LA, and SF. The big question in LA is where? Given the Ahmanson’s schedule and size, I don’t see a long sit-down show going there (although it is the best venue). The likely place is the Pantages, but I’m not sure they would want a *long* sit down (but they’ve done it for Wicked).  It would be great if it could go into the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion — the hall was partially built for the LACLO, but theatre hasn’t been there in ages. Another possibility is a theatre on Broadway — I recall hearing that they want to get back into the show-biz.
  • Arrival No. 3: Galavant. The mini-TV musical Galavant has returned. If you watched the first two episodes last week, you’ve discovered they’ve gone very meta. They probably won’t survive, but they sure are fun to have around.



Gettin’ The News You Need

userpic=televisionIt’s Saturday morning. Time to put your feet up and read what laughingly passes for a newspaper these days — which, of course, means we have some media news chum for you:

  • The Dress. The Dress. No, not that dress. Rather, this is a situation where dozens of female meteorologists (what used to be called “weather girls” or even derogatory terms) all have been observed wearing the same dress. The dress, a “Stretch Tunic Pencil Sheath Dress” sold on Amazon for $23, has been seen on at least 50 weather reports across the country. Jennifer Myers, a meteorologist from Dallas, Texas, posted a collage to Reddit showing several of the women sporting the ensemble.  Dress of female meteorologists is restricted: they aren’t allowed to wear “distracting prints,” lace, anything green, short skirts, or cleavage-bearing shirts. Other than the humor of the inadvertent common uniform, a few observations. First, while looking into this story, I happened to click on the Amazon page. Big mistake. Now all the little Amazon ads that pop up everywhere are trying to sell me a dress. Second, with respect to local TV, I do find the dress of the weathercritters to be interesting. I often catch the weather on KTLA at 10pm, and their weathercaster, Vera Jimenez, often picks an unflattering outfit (the problem, by the way, is more the choice of color and the shortness of the skirt). Doesn’t affect the quality of her presentation any, but for some reason it is one of the few times where I comment to my wife on fashion (and it now has me wondering why I’m so petty in this one area). It sounds like TV newscritters are responsible for their on-air wardrobe, as opposed to the studio providing it.
  • This is National Public Radio. Two articles related to NPR and NPR news.  The first relates to demographics: it appears that the NPR audience is significantly aging, and NPR doesn’t know how to turn it around. This is a problem in a number of ways. First, the station funding model is one of subscribers, and subscribers come from pledge breaks, and pledge breaks come from listeners, and if the listeners are greying and dying off — what happens to your funding? Younger audiences do listen to a number of NPR programs, but they do so via direct streaming or podcasts, and thus support the podcast directly, not the station. They are exploring ways to turn this around (including the NPR One app), but so far it hasn’t made a dent. The second article relates to breaking news. Those of us who grew up with newsradio (cough, KNX, cough, KFWB) knew that entire programming days could go out the window when there was breaking news. NPR, on the other hand, doesn’t always take that approach for breaking news. They have a complicated approach to when they can go live, depending on staff, where they are in the “clock”, what they would be interrupting, etc.
  • Los Angeles Times in the News. In yesterday’s news chum, I wrote about the buyouts that have occurred at the LA Times. I fretted about how they are decimating the reporting, and the once great paper was but a shadows of its former self. Yesterday a rumor surfaced about the possible sale of Tribune Publishing and the LA Times. The rumor, from Rupert Murdoch, has been subject to intense analysis and may or may not be true. I, for one, hope that it is. Los Angeles used to be a great newspaper community, from the LA Times to the Herald Examiner to the Valley Green Sheet to the Orange County Register to the VC Star to the San Diego Union Tribune. Now they are all gone, merged together, or otherwise diminished.  It would be nice to see it come back, even a little.



At Last, The Stew: Tasty Links in a Simmering Sauce

Observation StewAnd finally, some tasty news chum stew, which has been simmering in the bookmarks for a couple of weeks:



Unintended Consequences

userpic=im-with-stupidThe process of clearing out the accumulated links continues, although I’m getting close to caught up. This groupa-three deals with some unintended consequences:

  • Unintended Consequences of High Definition. Bloomberg has an interesting article about how the growth of high-definition video has made the prop master’s job harder. Simply put: the detail now visible means that props have to be stunningly believable, although that can create problems with things like realistic fake money. Wood has to look like wood, not plastic. Words on printed items need to be sensical. Logos of products need to be believable. What used to be visibility to a 2″ circle is now down to a ⅛” circle. Dust, dirt, and paint chips are visible.
  • Unintended Consequences of Answering Your Phone. Have you ever gotten a phone call, answered it, and … nothing. NPR explains how this simple act of answering your phone can be the start of phone fraud. This is how fraudsters determine there is a human on the other end and the number is a valid number. From there, it escalates…
  • Unintended Consequences of Conserving Water. The LA Times has an article about how all the water saving during the drought is creating a big problem. Sanitation districts are yanking tree roots out of manholes and stepping up maintenance on their pipes to prevent corrosion and the spread of odors. And when people use less potable water, officials say, there’s less wastewater available to recycle. Water suppliers, meanwhile, say the dramatic decrease in consumption has created multimillion-dollar revenue shortfalls. Shorter showers, more efficient toilets and other reductions in indoor water usage have meant less wastewater flowing through sewer pipes, sanitation officials say. With less flow to flush the solids down the system, those solids are collecting and can eventually damage pipes. [I’ll note there are similar problems with power districts as people move to self-generated solar: suddenly, they don’t have the revenue to pay for all their power plants.]



One Man’s Trash

userpic=televisionIt has been a while since lunchtime reading of the news has prompted me to set down my salad and pick up my keyboard. It happened today when I read an article about David Letterman. Now, I’ve mostly been ignoring Letterman — I never quite got into him or his humor, being more of the Carson / Leno / Fallon mold. But this time the problem isn’t specifically Letterman — more, it is his production company or CBS. Why? Well, with the exception of one or two pieces, the rest of David Letterman’s set has gone to the dumpster.

What a waste.

Letterman should have taken a lesson from Survivor, which for years has put props from the season just closed up for auction, with proceeds going to charity. I think that’s a wonderful thing, but most shows don’t bother to do it. Letterman certainly should have — he could have really helped charities, and cleaned out a bunch of stuff that wasn’t wanted. Hell, even Stephen Colbert (who is replacing Dave) auctioned off his desk for charity. For me, it just centers my impression of Letterman as self-centered.

It also highlights one of the few problems I have with the entertainment industry as a whole: they are incredibly wasteful. For example, think of all those car crashes and car stunts in a movie. What do you think happens to the cars? They fill up junkyards. Loads of industrial effort… that is just trashed for entertainment. Think about all the water scenes filmed and the water wasted. Think of all the fictional house and office sets for TVs and movies. Most are used once and trashed. Waste of wood. Waste of plastic. I’ll note its not just movies and TVs — the same is true for ballet, opera, and stage, although often there sets are warehoused and leased out for use to future productions.

Then there is intimate theatre, which often does reuse props and sets. However, that’s more due to the fact they need to save money than any ecological desire. In fact, in smaller theatres, that sofa you are sitting on today was probably in a previous production (and before that, rescued from a thrift store). Don’t believe me? Ask the REP where the piano in the Hydeaway Lounge came from, or the Colony where the Egyptian Coffin came from.

That’s better. Rant is out and lunch is done.