57 CHANNELS AND SOMETHING’S ON

Not too long ago, Apple, the only tech company that really matters–or at least to the general public at large, recently announced its new line up for its Apple TV service where one can receive channels that are cable/satellite based by way of internet streaming for an affordable monthly price.

For around $30.00 per month, one can receive such popular channels owned and operated by CBS, ABC, Fox Broadcasting, and others that will provide such programming that was until recently, only available through local and regional cable companies and satellite services. This time, one will receive only a limited number of channels that are not only overwhelming, but would be available at a reasonable cost.

The only holdout to Apple’s service (at least as of press time) is NBCUniversal. That media company provides some of cable’s more popular networks, from Bravo to E! Entertainment, to it’s usual fair of standard outlets–NBC as well as its many spinoffs.

Of course, these channels are available in addition to Netflix, Amazon and Hulu where one can watch both movies and TV shows at a moment’s notice based upon “on demand”. This on demand process is a way where one can watch whatever title is available when the viewer fells like it. And since such channels as Netflix are priced at around $9.00 per month for unlimited monthly use, one would receive their money’s worth for what they are receiving in return programing wise.

And Apple isn’t the only player to offer the same content as cable companies provided. Sony is readying a TV service for its PlayStation units that go beyond the video game circus, and Dish Network has just launched its Sling TV service, starting off at $20 per month.

It seems that cable companies are finally losing their ground when it comes to offering TV service, a stronghold they had since cable TV began to make its rounds in the 1980’s, offering more channels than one would get beyond receiving TV signals through an over the air process.

Cable TV has been around since the beginning of television service, mostly available in rural areas that were too far from towns and cities to receive signal through a TV aerial. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s when channels, unique to cable, started to spring up. WTBS, an independent UHF channel in Atlanta, Georgia, started to offer its service in 1976, generally transmitting the same programming folks within a seventy five mile radius of Atlanta would receive via channel 17. WOR in New York (channel 9) and WGN in Chicago (also channel 9) came around two years later, where one can watch a mix of old movies, TV show reruns, occasional sports, as well as a few unique locally based programs that locals tuned in for years. (Joe Franklin’s talk show on WOR, and Bozo’s Circus on WGN).

By the end of the 1970’s, other channels sprang up offing unique and themed programming, such as Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (CSPAN) offering gavel to gavel coverage of congress in session as well as other public service programming without announcers or an on-air staff. Evangelist Pat Robertson expanded his syndicated Christian based talk show The 700 Club into The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) presented news within the worlds or professional and collegiate sports, as well as coverage of sporting events akin to ABC’s Wide World of Sports, as well as the CBS Sports Spectacular, and NBC’s Sportworld. Nickelodeon, dubbed “The first channel for kids” began offering mostly live action shows geared to those aged 14 and under. And Home Box Office (HBO) expanded its service nationwide, where one can see recent movies (at least one year from its theatrical release) uncut and uncensored (All cuss worlds and objectionable material intact!) as well as occasional special programming, such as stand up comics performing on stage. However, if one wanted to get access to HBO, or its rival, Showtime (no acronym), one had to pay an additional fee per month! However, unlike the other channels, there were no commercial interruptions. So if a viewer needed a snack and/or a bathroom break, one either had to wait until the program was over, or just leave the viewing area for the moment!

The start of the 1980’s signals TV’s “second coming” where one can see more programming than one knew what to do with it, most of which was nitch programming based upon a theme or premise. Black Entertainment Television (BET), offered programming catering to a black audience. The Cable News Network (CNN) offered news coverage on a twenty four hour a day basis. Music Television (MTV) would offer bits of concert footage, as well as short programming featuring popular music artists “singing” their songs as if they were actual performing. (These shorts were dubbed “music videos”, long popular in Europe and in much of the western world). And there were “hodgepodge” networks such as the USA Network (“USA” really didn’t stand for anything, only hinting it’s located in the United States) that offered a mix of reruns, old movies, with occasional sporting events as to WOR and WGN, except it wasn’t based in a specific location.

Over time and tide, cable grew from a service where one can receive 30 or so channels a month for less than $20.00 per month (minus any premium channels that was sold separately), to a service that offered over 100+ channels for around $60.00 and up per month. By that time, people were used to paying for TV, even though there were a  number of channels were still available via over the air means offered for the low price of free! (A rooftop antenna or a decent pair of “rabbit ears” connected to a TV device would work fine!)

Those cable companies, knowing that their services are now challenged, are scrambling to provide plans that offer everything from bundles with internet and land line phone service, expanding to home security setups. However, this may be too little too late. Upon dissatisfaction from consumers, cable companies, along with the banking industry, are placed on the bottom of lists for quality, reliability, and getting what one pays for.

As television programming, as well as how one watching content, is going through its phase (the third coming?), CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said it best by recently stating “The floodgate is now open. Clearly the bundle is changing…The days of the 500-channel universe are over.” This is proof that TV as its been known for nearly seventy years, isn’t going away. It would be ideal to bring back amusing test patterns, but that’s another story at that stands!

Stay tuned!

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

     Opening at the Little Victory Theatre in Burbank is Stephen Adly Guirgis’ OUR LADY OF 121st STREET, a dramity of a gathering of a recently deceased nun and the people whose lives she touched, although those folks are now living their unique lives.

The setting is the neighborhood of Spanish Harlem, a location that holds character with its own selection of rough spots. Sister Rose, a beloved person of the parish has died. A group of people that knew her from not so long ago are there at the funeral parlor to pay their final respects. The late sister was rather tough, just like the people in the ‘hood were. And in the current day, that toughness continues as her corpse was found missing from her casket. Det. Balthazar (Alex Alpharaoh) of the NYPD is on the case. He knew of Sister Rose, and eventually encounters some people that he hasn’t seen for quite a while, as well as those that are seen for only that moment of mourning. Tee Williams is Rooftop, a local boy that made good as a morning drive radio personality in LA., Pinky and Edwin, (Peter Pasco and Christopher Salazer), are two brothers that resemble the neighborhood’s answer to George and Lennie! (One’s the man and the other the mouse.) Norca and Inez (Trista Robinson and Dele Ogundiran) are two best buds whose friendship were tarnished when Norca slept with Inez’s husband years before with the bitterness still lingering, Father Lux (Mark Del Castillo-Morante), is an elderly Catholic Priest bound in a wheelchair from his war wound. Others present are Flip (Napoleon Tavale), Marcia (Ashley Platz), Sonia (Jessica Borne, alternatively played by Alexandra Bayless), and Victor (John Del Regno). This assembly of the masses pay their homage to the late nun, as well as finding that redemption they seem to desire.

This play by playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis is very hip, street savvy, and is funny when the comedy kicks in (mostly in its first act), while it becomes rather sober when the progression arises in its second act. The play itself is presented as an ensemble piece, meaning that there is no leads per se–only characters that bounce off of each another for reasons positive or otherwise. The cast as appearing on the Little Victory stage work well with one another. And being the fact that it’s appearing on the smaller space that this theater complex has to offer, that intimacy is ideal. The sets as designed by Kim Cahoon is rather simple yet drab with the wall painted in shades of dark brown (the color of s#it) with touches of graffiti found in the back doorway walls. The setting shows itself as a location that is “famous” for what it is, even if that fame reeks of blight and perhaps neighborhood poverty. It’s a hint to the notion that the poor are to be blessed–but not for the crowd that gathers! Ruman Kazi directs this stage piece that holds humor and drama that mixes rather well.

OUR LADY OF 121st STREET is a play for those that may know (or know of) the Manhattan barrio just north of Central Park and not so far away from Columbia University and Grant’s Tomb. But this isn’t anything that resembles a “best of New York” saga, even through that this stage work could be part of one of those eight million stories in the naked city. It’s just a play that has more naked content while being fully clothed!

OUR LADY OF 121st STREET, presented by Victory Bare Bones/Zubber Dust Players, and performs at the Little Victory Theatre, 3326 West Victory Blvd. (off Hollywood Way), Burbank, until June 7th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 4:00 PM. 

     For ticket reservations and for more information, call (818) 841-5422, or online at http://www.TheVictoryTheatreCenter.org, or http://www.Zubberdust.com

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The Morgan-Wixson Theater in Santa Monica presents a pair of one act plays that are refreshingly different from one another, yet they do have a rather slight connected theme to each.

The first play is George S. Kaufman’s THE STILL ALARM, where two businessmen Ed and Bob (Steve Weber and Scott Gerard) are meeting in a hotel room where they are notified that the hotel is on fire. And everyone, from the bellboy (Rick Galiher) to the firemen (Josh Fingerhut) and Daniel Koh) including Ed and Bob, take the situation in a nonchalant way, even having one of the firefighters practice his violin as the flames get closer!

The second play, Peter Shaffer’s BLACK COMEDY, takes place late one evening in England at the flat of Brinsdley Miller (Tristan Wright), an sculptor looking for his mark in the art world. He has his fiancee Carol Melkett (Angela Bray) along with him. Trying to impress Carol’s father, Colonel Melkett (Josh Fingerhut) as well as a wealthy art collector George Bamberger (Rick Galiher) who may be interested in some of Brinsdley’s art pieces, he took some liberties to borrow some upscale furnishings and artwork from his neighbor Harold Gorringe (Michael Silva) who is away. Biindsley never got around to ask Harold for his goods, so he just helped himself! However, a fuse blows, leaving the two in the dark. Things begins to progress deeper when other people start slowing up to visit in spite of the darkness, from an elderly spinster neighbor Miss Furnival (Susan Hardie), Clea (Samantha Barrios), Brinsley’s ex-girlfriend, Franz Schuppanzigh (David Narloch), an electrician sporting a thick German accent there to fix(?) the lights–and Harold himself, arriving back earlier than expected! Now Brindsley has to get the stuff returned before Harold finds it missing, as well as dealing with all of the people that arrived while in the dark!

What makes the latter play amusing that it’s lit “backwards” where the first few moments into the play are played out without any stage lighting. When the power goes out, the stage is fully lit, meaning that one will see the fully lit characters attempt to fumble in the dark with the expected comical results. If any characters attempts to light a match or candle, the stage lighting is dimmed. When the match/candle goes out, the stage is fully lit again. (If the reader doesn’t get the above description, one will have to see this play in person to fully know just what is going on!) And the first play The Silent Alarm, although it isn’t as frantic as the first, the characters also sport British accents. (The play’s American based, but never mind!) Paul Guay directs these pair of plays that take its humor into different aspects, from droll (and black) comedy, to high active wit with plenty of farce thrown in!

What also makes these two plays as an interest is its authors. George S. Kaufman co-wrote such theater classics as You Can’t Take it With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner, among many other titles, while Peter Shaffer went on to write such serious dramas as Amadeus, Equus, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, etc.; A full turnaround to this “black” comedy!

It isn’t often to see a pair of one act plays being performed in a single presentation. This gives the audience members a mini anthology. Think it this as a meal; The first play acts as an appetizer with a ten minute running time, while the second play is the main course. (This title runs for a little over an hour!) Although its humor may be “black” in nature, both are very funny! It’s two for the price of one! (What a concept!)

THE STILL ALARM & BLACK COMEDY, presented by the Morgan-Wixson Theatre Guild, and performs at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, until May 24th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM.

     For ticket reservations or for more information, call (310) 828-7519, or visit online at http://www.Morgan-Wixson.org. 

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MY CHILD: MOTHERS OF WAR, a stage presentation that speaks for the mothers of sons that fought battle in the Iraq war, makes its world premier at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Hollywood.

This stage piece addresses upon the men who, upon witnessing the plight of 9/11, enrolled in the Marines to fight in the raging war taking place in Iraq. Six mothers, as portrayed by Laura Ceron, Monique Edwards, Frances Fisher, Melina Kanakaredes, Mimi Rogers, and Jean Smart, speak in monologues about their feelings of their sons–a few as sole children even although they are all of adult age, fighting in a contest that has been seen as uneven and unfair, yet they are doing their part to serve the nation they live in with an honest and unselfish attitude. The bonding these mothers hold toward their kids are strong. Although they try to keep in contact with their offspring, the tension of them being away and the dangers they face are always present. They do not know if their kids will return as a hero, or in a pine box! In spite of what others may say about the war and the conflicts that arise, they hold strong pride in what they do, no matter the cost.

This stage play written and directed by Angeliki Giannakopolous, is based on her documentary of the same name that focuses upon the relationship these mothers hold toward their sons who are servicing their nation and taking their own lives in stake for the cause. What is seen in this showcase is the six mothers in a staged reading prose, speaking in terms about their sons. The sons themselves are presented in stage play mode, acting out as their beings when they communicate with their mothers, before they are shipped out, when they talk with mom via long-distance phone connections, as well as when they are within their platoon. It show both sides of their battle and the sprit that this unique mother son relationship holds.

This presentation uses a blend of such emotions as pride and happiness–sons going into battle to service their nation, and the feelings these mothers have toward their kids. There’s the uncertainty; Will the fighting Marines complete their tours of duty as a whole, and will their moms ever see their kids again? And there is sadness as some of these sons won’t ever return!  A rotating cast of supporting players portray the sons and the platoon leader, consisting of Bredan Connor, Juan De La Cruz, Rydell Danzie, Michael J. Knowles, Nick Marini, Randy Mulkey, Anthony Rey Perez, Ozzy Ramirez, and Jah Shams. A secondary cast of the mothers playing the moms consist of Laura Lee Botsacos, Amy Garis, Anna Giannotis, Maria Nicolaca, and Tanayi Seabrook. Although it does feature a large ensemble, only a limited few appear in selected performances.

The real focus in their production is the bond between mother and son. It doesn’t take take sides toward any political opinion, nor does it take any commentary about war, the military, and if the conflict was necessary to begin with! The real issue is a personal one, and these mothers and sons handle the issues that arise for the good or otherwise!

Much of what takes place occurred in the early period of the Iraq War. Although the conflicted occurring in that part of the world isn’t settled yet (if at all), the notion still remains. However, just as long as the mothers of this nation still hold their true feelings toward their sons (and even daughters) serving in the armed forces, there will always be the boding that exists no matter what may be. This play hits this issue home with true emotion that runs deep.

MY CHILD: MOTHERS OF WAR is recommended for any parent of an offspring who had served in the military service, or for those that respect the mothers and their sons/daughters that did the correct move for freedom. It touches the heart, mind, and soul with an sincere and genuine attitude.

MY CHILD: MOTHERS OF WAR, presented by Human Revolution Entertainment, and performs at the Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., (off Wilcox), Hollywood, until May 31st. Showtimes are Sunday evening at 7:00 PM. For tickets or for more information, call (818) 963-8219, or via online at http://www.Plays411.com/MyChild

     To obtain a listing of stage performers appearing, visit the show’s Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/MyChildPlay, or at http://www.MyChildTheMovie.com

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All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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