Since this medium became available to the public at large, television was always known as passive. That is, one could only watch but not necessarily participate. The only thing one can do with watching the boob tube–a phrase that came about in the 1950’s to describe the intelligence factor of television programming that it was for “boobs” only, although some showgirls that were featured on variety programs such as The Jackie Gleason Show did sport large bustlines–was to take what the networks, programmers, and local stations gave the viewers and nothing much more.
Of course, if the viewer did like what they saw, or perhaps didn’t care for the content, the only thing one could do was to write a letter to make their say. Although the stations and networks never overemphasized that one was able to write a letter for commentary, it was only mentioned in a very low key and subtle manor. When TV stations signed off for the broadcast day back in the era when local TV stations were not on the air 24 hours a day, they would present a blurb stating “We welcome your comments and suggestions”, flashing the station’s mailing address on the screen. However, unless one was watching TV minutes before they would play test patterns with the annoying signal tone, (if not playing the national anthem first), one would never see that notice, let alone be remotely encouraged to send those letters of praise or complaint.
The three TV networks never did this notification on the air, although they were supposed to encourage such letter writing commentary as required by the FCC. TV Guide magazine would normally print the big three’s addresses (all based in New York), in case anyone wanted to drop a line or two. But if something needed attention right away, phone calls would be made that depending what the situation, would flood the station’s main switchboards. Such examples include (among others) the infamous “Heidi Bowl” on NBC (just Google “Heidi Bowl” for more details), as well as when local station WFLD in Chicago aired the MGM musical Anchors Away, and cut out the scene where Gene Kelly was dancing with Jerry the cartoon mouse, even when The Chicago Tribune in their local TV program guild highlighted that scene in its description of the movie. Angry viewers called the station to complain. All was forgiven when the station repeated the feature the next week with the scene intact!
When one would call or write a letter, that act of communication was limited between the writer of the letter (or caller on the phone) and the receiver,–some anonymous person at the station/network. This form of communication was rarely made public. Once in a while, a person’s complaint would get to somebody with power to do something about it, such as the case when a film editor living in North Hollywood made a complaint to the FCC over the fact that the networks were repeating their shows too often! He hand wrote a letter, complete with a few typos, to the then chair of the FCC over this matter. This campaign grew when the angry viewer has a few people he knew in the industry to back him up, including the heads of labor unions SAG, AFTRA, and the WGA. The filing was eventually heard between the FCC and the networks, resulting in an effort for the big three to offer counter programming–newer programs that would air in place of repeats. This whole effort took some two years from its start to the results. However, the only reason it became known was the fact that the complain was filed by somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody, etc. etc.
(For the record, this event took place between 1971 and 1973 when reruns on TV were more of a taboo programming subject, outside of the so-called “sex and violence” content that were appearing on TV screens across the land!)
Thanks to social media, the TV viewers has more power to make something out of a show, idea, or even a note of a visual and/or audible effect,–intentional or otherwise. And unlike the two plus years it took a rerun hater to grease the wheels of power, today’s reactions occurs within days, hours, and even minutes after the fact! One of many to point out for instance was a recent TV spot for Nabisco’s Honey Maid graham crackers that showed families enjoying the product in some kind of domestic setting, such as around a kitchen table or in a car traveling somewhere. The ad showcased the many forms of families that exist in today’s post modern society, ranging from the traditional (mom, dad, kids), to the nontraditional (single parent, interracial couple, same sex couple, etc.). Many people went on Twitter to have their say, many of the comments positive in nature with a number of them anything but! The result of this gave the birth to another spot (played over the air as well as on YouTube) where a pair of visual artists printed the negative comments of small slips of paper, rolled them up, and placed the tighten rolls standing upright into a artistic pattern where it would eventually spell “love”. This entire episode occurred within a month’s time and went virtual shortly after. (Get back on ol’ Google and look up “Honey Made TV Spot” or something to that effect, and see the whole thing yourself!)
Things have drastically changed over those many moments. Today, TV reruns are not only tolerated, they are nearly expected! And with millions of tweets going out every hour, it’s no surprise to note that when enough folks have their say on something or another, somebody’s going to notice. Of course, the result may not necessarily be settled where it was expected to be placed, but the notion to do something about it is there for the tweeting.
In spite of it all, the old rule of tolerance still stands. If you don’t like what you see on TV, then don’t watch it! ‘Nuff said!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Performing at the Eclectic Company Theatre in Valley Village is PRAYER: A SONG CYCLE, a showpiece that applies multimedia elements blended in with prose, harmony, and expressive motion that utilizes the basic theme of prayer and its continuations.
The show consists of a trio of performers on stage; taking on character names as Black (Susan Joseph) donned in the named color; White (Evie Ruth) flushed in white motif, and within the center is Dorothy (Beth Ricketson), the sole humanness of the group. As told through music, both transcribed and presented live with Haskel Joseph on guitar as well as vocalized causerie, Dorothy is exposed through the notion of art and prayer in the form of hope, forgiveness, and a sense of peace and the state of happiness, unfolding in a dreamlike surreal setting, as interpreted through the beholder.
This stage presentation is interesting since it speaks for the elements of what prayer is all about. The stage setting is minimal. The backdrop consists of projected visual movement from optical effects extracted through stock footage as designed by Angela Grillo with Ana Rafa, through the influence of a selection of other video artists and creators. It holds an original music score by Sackjo22 that deems fit to the themes it speaks for. Ana Rifa’s design of the Black and White beings are the most artistic. Black resembles a ragged scarecrow, while White dons an oversized wig dressed in a white gown type fitting. Dorothy appears in standard fare, wearing an outfit that adapts as part of a mainstream grouping. Adding to the performance is choreography by Davis Neves that adds to the prospect toward this presentation’s matter.
PRAYER shows its three basic tableaus as supplication, transformation, and gratitude. It holds its spiritual aspects to what prayer is for, and accentuates these elements through the for noted music and visuals. Overall, it’s a extension that holds peerless and plausible notion. It has a prayer, and the quest speaks for itself.
PRAYER: A SONG CYCLE, created by The Reflective Collective, and performs at The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., (between Chandler and Magnolia Blvd., Valley Village, until July 13th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:30 PM, with a matinee performance on Sunday, July 6th at 3:00 PM. No performance on Friday, July 4th.
For more information and for ticketing details, visit the web site http://www.EclecticCompanyTheatre.org
The Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica closes their 2013-14 season with Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS, a merry romp about a down on his luck Broadway producer and his scheme to present the biggest flop ever to appear on the Great White Way.
Silas Benjamin is Max Bialystock. He’s is a one-time successful theater producer, living it up on Broadway. In recent times, he’ has seen his better days pass before him. He’s reduced to get his backing for his shows from little old ladies who have money. But in order to get those checks (all payable to “cash”), he has to sctup them–not an easy task to do as one would expect! His accountant, the nebbish Leo Bloom (Jack Robert Riordan) discovers through his bookkeeping that it’s quite possible to raise money for a show where if it fails, the balance doesn’t have to be accounted for! This gives Max an idea. If he can produce a show that will be a sure fire failure, he can pocket the cash and live the good life. So with Leo on hand–a man whose secret desire is to become a big time Broadway producer, they seek and find what supposedly is most offensive script, a musical called “Springtime for Hitler”, a play written by Franz Liebkind (Matt Harrison), a Nazi wannabe that raises pigeons to bide his time–if not writing plays about his personal “hero”! So taking a Swedish blond bombshell Ulla (Lauren Blare) as thier secretary, adding Roger De Bris (Aric Martin), the Queen of Broadway to direct this showpiece with his assistant and boy-toy Carmen Ghia (Robert Francis) on hand, Max and Leo holds the promise that this show will bomb big time! Or will it..?
This musical, a real hit on the real Broadway written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meecham, with songs by Brooks, (based on the feature film of the same name–minus most of the music score) is just as funny than ever before! Although this show has been previously presented on a bigger stage, this presentation seems to work very well on a much smaller space. Silas Benjamin as Max is as colorful as one would find in a failed Broadway-type producer. His performance is just as heavy as his physical physique! Jack Robert Riordan as Leo Bloom may appear to be a milquetoast, but he’s far beyond his role as he can sing and tap dance pretty well! Lauren Blair as Ulla is just as fun. She keeps that pseudo Swedish accent with her role as the resident sexpot. Robert Francis and Aric Martin as Roger De Bris and Carmen Ghia are the pair of gay blades that steal the show as their caricature of who they portray are indeed fit for a Queen! In addition to the leads, Shaina Ostroff appears as Hold Me-Touch Me, one of the many spinsters that Max must do his manly duty to get those “checkies” for his stage shows. And rounding out the cast are the seventeen(!) ensemble players performing various roles by singing, dancing, and even goose-stepping their way to make this musical a sure hit. (Space doesn’t allow this writer to list them all, but rest assured–they were all great!)
As to the behind the scenes staff, Anne Gesling directs this piece with Justin Yu as assistant director that keeps up with the fast pacing that this comic farce desires. (Anne also provides the transcribed musical direction as well!) Lauren Blair delivers the choreography that is Broadway worthy, even at an off-Broadway size and scope. Tom Brown’s set design is simple on some ways and complex in others! And the costuming as provided by The Theatre Company, is just as imaginative as the comedy it speaks for. Meredith Wright and W. Joseph Anderson (the real producers of this Morgan-Wixson Theater show) has churned out another hit all over again that just gets better no matter how one takes to it!
The Morgan-Wixon Theater has been part of the Santa Monica landscape for over 65 years, and performing in the same playhouse for almost fifty. Only a handful of playhouses that exist in the Los Angeles area can boast for being around for that long, let alone in the same space for multiple generations! It’s no surprise that this intimate community theater still maintains its supportive power. For the MWT here and now, it’s springtime indeed!
THE PRODUCERS, presented by the Morgan-Wixson Theatre Guild, and performs at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, until August 2nd. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. Special audience talk back sessions where the cast and crew discuss their roles to the audience with a Q & A, takes place following the performances of Friday, July 11th, and Sunday, July 20th.
For reservations or for more information, call (310) 828-7519, or online at http://www.Morgan-Wixson.org. The MWT is also present on the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus makes its annual return back to the Los Angeles area with LEGENDS, a three ring spectacular that will thrill and amaze children of all ages.
The theme of this performance has a running story line where Paulo The Legend Seeker is on an inquest to encounter the troupers that make the circus just what its been for generations. With the assistance of master Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson (a modern circus legion himself), Paulo witnesses acrobats, high wire walkers, animal trainers, motorcycle daredevils, and three unique creatures; a Pegasus (winged horse), a Unicorn, and a Wooly Mammoth. Are those beasts for real, or are they the legions as they appear to be?
The story line itself isn’t what makes this circus matchless. It’s the sheer atmosphere that brings marvel and awe to this form of showmanship that earns the Ringling Bros. circus as the zenith to all circuses both past and present. The selection of acts that will appear are the China National Acrobatic Troupe, where one can witness among other feats, nearly two dozen people balanced on a pair of bicycles; the Cossack Riders showcasing their challenging equestrian skills, the tours de force of Alexander Lacey as he tames those big kitties, and for those that do wonder, there will be elephants on parade and lots and lots of clowns to amuse all!
Outside of the show itself, those attending will be considered for a selection of pre show events. VIP ticket holders are treated to the Ringmaster Zone (new this season), an event that hosts a backstage visit with Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, a close up view the motorcycle stunt show’s Globe of Steel, a chance to climb upon the Ringmaster’s float, and to get near-at-hand with the pachyderms. Everyone in attendance can visit the All Access Pre-Show where kids of all ages can step onto the performance floor to meet and greet the performing stars, learn a few simple circus skills, try on a costume or two, and to snap photos for the world to see and admire! (Selfies and then some!) For those attending the shows appearing in Ontario & Anaheim (details below), one can also visit the Animal Open House, where one can up close and personal with many of the performers that may not be human, but human in their own right!
This year marks the 144th edition to the Ringling Bros. circus, making this version as an all new program. If one has attended a show by this circus in previous seasons, one hasn’t seen this lineup! It’s called the Greatest Show On Earth for a good reason!
Performances of Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ Legends take place at The Staples Center, downtown Los Angeles, from July 9th through the 15th, the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA July 18th-22nd, and the Honda Center-Aniheim, July 25th through August 3rd
For more information on all Los Angeles area shows, including dates and showtimes, ticket prices and selections, as well as other circus related details, visit http://www.Ringling.com. Ringling Bros. is also present on social media platforms. (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube)
LIFE ITSELF (Magnolia Pictures) is a documentary directed by Steve James that takes a look at one of moviedom’s best known and most respected film critics; Roger Ebert.
This feature unfolds with the story of Ebert, an only child to a middle class family living in Urbana, Illinois, who had the desire to become a journalist getting his start while attending the University of Illinois, becoming part of the staff of the school’s paper The Daily Illini. Although he did have a love of movies attending screenings of older films held on campus, it was his first real job as a cub reporter for The Chicago Sun-Times (one of four daily papers published in the city) that he started writing film reviews when the resident film critic retired. From that humble beginning, he stayed with the paper for the rest of his career and life.
This documentary not only reviews much of his career, but about his life itself. (The title of this documentary is based upon his published memoir released a year before his death.) Director Steve James wanted to document this man in his then current state. Losing his lower jaw to cancer, he was no longer able to speak nor take solid food. When James started to capture Roger in his “new normal” routine of using his writings as his voice (as well as speaking through a voice synthesizer device), he fractured his hip and thus, was hospitalized in late 2012. Much of the footage used in this documentary shows Ebert on his hospital bed, going through physical therapy, being fed through an IV tube, as well as having many of his family and friends at his bedside, including his spouse Chaz and her nearly grown kids. (The two met while Roger, a one time heavy drinker, attended an AA meeting.)
Along with the expected elements of a documentary that pays tribute to the history of someone or something, there is plenty of stock footage used, mostly in the form of showing off his career teamed up with fellow firm critic Gene Siskel who wrote about the subject matter for the rival paper The Chicago Tribune on their weekly program featuring the two speaking about current films, first airing as a locally produced show on the PBS affiliate WTTW, later moving on to syndication. And there are talking head commentary bits with a selection of the people that worked with Roger throughout his life, such as the producing individuals of Siskel & Ebert (Nancy De Los Santos, Bruce Elliot, Thea Flaum, and Donna LaPietra), film critics Richard Corliss, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and A.O. Scott, film makers Ava DuVernay, Ramin Bahrani, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Gregory Nava, and Martin Scorsese, spouses Chaz Ebert, and Marlene Iglitzen-widow of Gene Siskel, along with many of his friends and one time fellow journalists who recall the days of Roger when he held court at a tavern near the Sun-Times building that lead him to his excessive drinking. (He eventually did quit drinking and remained sober for the rest of his days.)
The documentary itself is informative and entertaining, and shows how a humble journalist that got his “big break” in the movies by not appearing or making them, but writing about the flicks. (He did write the screenplay the cult favorite Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls with producer/director Russ Meyer, but that’s beside the point!) Thanks to the post modern world of electronic journalism, film critics has sprouted up like weeds where there are endless sources to read and write reviews. (Roger himself embraced this world, writing regular blogs from 2006 through 2013-the final entry “published” the day before he passed on, as well as being a regular on Twitter.) But he is one of the few that will be forever known as a man that loved movies for what they were, writing those reviews with honest respect. With dozen of places to see movies, be it in a theater or on a video screen, as well as to read about those same movies written by folks that are self proclaimed “critics”, the simple notion is that all of these roads lead to Roger Ebert, the forever popcorn favorite!
This documentary hasn’t been officially rated by the MPAA, but performs akin to “PG-13” for some of the hospital scenes depicted and for mild cussing. Currently playing in select theaters.
Next issue: Accessibiy Live Off-Line’s annual “State of the Union” address, available the week of July 7th. Don’t miss it!
TIFFI’S FRIENDS SAY…
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Getting ready to go meet Kathleen Margaret and Vickie for lunch. Does an author good to get out of the house every so often.
Movies with Abby, Allyson and Jeffrey…love having all of my favorites under one roof. Feeling blessed!
Omg, Desiree just saw Chupacabra vs. The Alamo on the Syfy channel. Lmaooooo
I feel so bad for my daughter. While my other two daughters and I were at the movies, and her dad ran to a neighbors, she discovered her rat had died. The vet gave her about a week, and Saturday was a week. So sad. she wasn’t even a year old, and her favorite. I felt bad that I wasn’t here for her when she discovered it. Not sure why this seems to keep happening to her – her pets dying way too young. She was our favorite.
Florida here we come tomorrow …watch out !!!!
As of June 30th, Tiffi has 2,100 Facebook “friends” and counting!
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