WHEN TV BEGAN ITS YEAR

As this is the Labor Day weekend, this period of the calendar year triggers a lot of milestones that some people tend to encounter. For starters, this three day holiday weekend marks the unofficial end of the Summer season, the moment when folks would complete their usual summer-esque antics, from hanging around a beachfront, going on some trip someplace near or far, wear clothing that one would don when the weather is hot n’ sunny, and other things that speak for those lazy hazy crazy days. For a few, it marks the time that it’s back to school for kids, young adults, or not so young adults to spend the next couple of months in a classroom setting to learn about new ideas, either by chose or through circumstances. Depending on where one lives and/or attends a school-type setting, they may have already began their classroom fellowships. But for those where a school season is part of their domestic life, this is the moment where it all resumes, if not begins!

But for those that take advance of the media landscape, this is (or perhaps was) the time when the TV networks would start their new season with brand new programming. Some shows would be completely new titles never seen before featuring talent that might be as new as the shows they appear on, or perhaps some familiar faces that embed themselves into a series playing a different character or playing themselves in a new(er) surrounding. A number of programs would be returning with brand new episodes that won’t be rerun for a while, if at all! It was a time where summer would turn into autumn, the weather would cool down a bit, and the daylight hours would eventually become less and less. These shorter days and longer nights would be the ideal moment to spend time plopped in front of an idiot box for some great (or not so great)
amusement to enjoy with others, or perhaps with themselves.

For those that need to be reminded, media, either through sound or through visuals, can be obtained through any source in today’s world. With the assistance of an electronic device that can capture and reproduce said media and a method where the same media can be obtained usually through a wireless transmission, one can watch television-type programming wherever and whenever. Some of this media is new to the viewer, while others have been seen before, not necessarily within the same aspect as first seen, no matter how soon or how long ago this vision took place.

And that brings this writer to take the title subject at bay. Once upon a time not too many years ago, the television networks would offer in their prime time viewing times (between 6:00 and 11:00 PM–give or take an hour or two), these new shows whose purpose was to inform and/or entertain. And since viewership was at stake in terms of revenue for the networks since it sold ad space in the form of TV commercials, it was important that those viewers return from their summertime antics to stay home (or anyplace where television was accessible) to watch something never seen before. And what better way for “the big three” i.e. ABC, CBS, and NBC, was to promote their new season with all of the hoopla one could stand stating that this new season would be their “best yet!”

So beginning in late August, the three networks would create a separate program that had the generic term of a “Fall Preview Show”, that would feature short clips of some of the new shows making its start sometime in that September, with an announcer presenting all of the same hype and excitement. These programs, as entertaining as they try to be, were generally half-hour or an hour long commercials for the new programming presented. Many of these titles would become hits where they would return for the next year, (And the next, and the next, etc.), while others would be failures. Not wanting to wast time, energy, and valuable ad space, the programming heads of the networks would pull that little watched program off the air, many never returning ever again and would wind up as either a fuzzy memory, or totally forgotten about!

As a media archivist, I have seen a number of these past fall preview reels that the TV networks created back in the day; in this case, the middle 1970’s, when media penetration for the networks reached its peak. In the year 1976, ABC, CBS, and NBC was made accessible to over 95% of the nation that had access to a TV signal. The remaining less than five percent didn’t have access due to a lack of a decent over the air coverage that wasn’t anyone’s making–for the most part!

For instance, I recently has an opportunity to view the network’s program reels for the 1975-76 TV season. Granted, this period was some 42 years ago, a few years short away from when the first consumer VCRs would ever hit the market. Cable TV as its known today really didn’t exist. What did exist as cable (or CATV) only provided transmission from other over the air stations that could not be gained through a standard TV antenna. So what one wanted to see on TV was at the mercy of the TV networks and the local stations that transmitted the programs.

Anyway, all three of these networks did their best to show to those in TV land that they has everything and anything they wanted to view, from comedy, drama, musical variety, sports, and even shows geared toward kids! On the CBS reel for instance, Ted Knight, performing as his character Ted Baxter, the anchorman from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, would introduce clips from the new titles in all of his comical buffoonery. NBC took another approach where their reel was hosted by Lloyd Bridges, who was soon to be appearing in his new series Joe Forrester where he played a beat cop in an unnamed urban city (i.e. Los Angeles!!) ABC was more generic, where a staff announcer voiced over a selection of clips of program titles that were on their roster. However, the type wasn’t limited to these half hour long anthologies! On ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment, an umbrella title of special programs that aired in a ninety minute time slot opposite NBC’s The Tonight Show, a special program was aired featuring stand-up comic Alan King presenting a series of sit-down interviews with some of the stars that would be appearing in the network’s new shows, from the likes of Dick Gautier, who was staring in When Things Were Rotten, a sitcom created by Mel Brooks, Paul Michael Glasser and David Soul appearing in the cop show Starsky And Hutch, film producer Iwrin Allen who created another retelling of Swiss Family Roberson, rising star Gabe Kaplan in James Komack’s latest program, Welcome Back Kotter, among other guests and show titles.

In today’s TV landscape, the new fall season isn’t as important as it used to be since the networks (via over the air, cable, satellite, or streaming) that are known as short names or as a set of letters, present new programs whenever and wherever they feel like it! New programs come and go any time of the year, not just limited to September. However, for the sake of scheduling and perhaps through bookkeeping, the TV season dose still run between September through the next May, although the starting and ending months may vary! (The Television Academy recognizes the TV season to run from June 1st through May 30th, but this is besides the point!)

No matter through! TV is anywhere and everywhere, from screen sizes ranging from 2” through 200” wide. But leave it up to this time where one’s viewing is for the first time or its last! Of course, one can read a book or its equivalent!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

Theatre Palisades presents THE FANTASTICKS, the Harvey Schmidt/Tom Jones musical that speaks for a young couple in love, feuding and fussing fathers, and a roving theatre troupe to set is all straight and then some!

The plot, taking place in a world that is here and there, finds a young boy and girl, neighbors Luisa (Giane Morris) and Matt (Jeremiah Lussier) in love. Their fathers Hucklebee (Greg Abbott) and Bellomy (Darin Greenblat) are in a stage of a transparent feud with one another and tends to stand on their sides of the wall separating themselves and their children. Although the boy-meets-girl episode hints of a happy ending, their romance is brought to a reality, as arranged by the narrator of this tale, El Gallo (Drew Fitsimmons) and a character known as The Mute (Jeff DeWitt) whose title describes his speech patterns. With the aid of Henry (Michael-Anthony Nozzi) and Mortimer (Mark Davidson), a ragtag duo of thespian troubadours, these characters shows on hand the harsh realities of being a couple in love. But with such settings, there is always a method and a way, depending on what one pays!

This musical is historic for many reasons. For starters, it became the longest running stage musical ever to play domestically, running at the same theatre space located in New York’s Greenwich Village for over forty years–back in the days when “The Village” was a place for those living a bohemian lifestyle to live and work since that location was far more affordable than living in midtown or uptown Manhattan. It’s also known for the creation of the “less-is-more” rule of musical theatre productions where one can generate an entertaining stage show on a thin monetary budget. And perhaps the best reason for this show’s overall existence is the fact that it’s made for the intimate stage. Here at Theatre Palisades, a community theatre located in the heart of Pacific Palisades, that notion of less-is-more theatre really rings itself as true! The performers that appear in this program brings this musical to life thanks to their ever present talents. The “orchestra” playing those memorable tunes composed by Schmidt and Jones (including the signature song “Try To Remember”) are performed and conducted by Brian Murphy on the piano, with Emma Rostykus and Liza Wallace on duo harps. Sherman Wayne, TP’s residential set and lighting designer who once again formed the noted set and lighting, directs this show with utmost care! He himself was once part of the original production (as the theatre manager) at the Sullivan Street Theatre around the time the show was starting to gain attention in the early 1960’s. Taking this knowledge and experience, he creates a show that still charms theatre audiences that enjoy their musical theatre works to be as simple and pure!

THE FANTASTICKS is a show that is considered as an “evergreen” musical that will continue to be performed on small stages somewhere on the earth. And it’s pleasant to experience such a show that takes pride on its simplicity as very few (if any) musicals of its kind can ever muster. Then again, when this stage work was first presented c.1960, the only way to spread the word of the show’s charm and grace from the theatre itself was to tell others through a phone call from a nearby pay phone at ten cents a call. (Long distance rates did apply!) And as the song brings to mind, try to remember…….

THE FANTASTICKS, resented by Theater Palisades, performs at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road (off Sunset Blvd.), Pacific Palisades, until October 8th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For more information, call (310) 454-1970, or visit online at http://www.TheatrePalisades.com
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The Glendale Centre Theatre continues its run with FOOTLOOSE, a musical about a young man from the big city and his encounter with some small town attitudes that bar one of life’s expressive pleasures–dancing!

Chaz Feuersine is Ren McCormick, a teen from Chicago, He along with his mother Ethel (Christa Hamilton) move from their home town after Ren’s father abandoned the family. Now chosen to start anew, Ren and Ethel move to the small town of Bomont to live with their aunt and uncle. Ren at first finds it difficult to fit in. He encounters Vi Moore (Tracy Rey Reynolds) the daughter of the Reverend Shaw Moore. (George Champion). Besides being a man of the cloth, Reverend Shaw holds some clout in what goes on in this town where everybody knows everything, including keeping a close watch to Ren. This young man eventually discovers that the town banned dancing in any public place based upon a tragic episode that happened many years before. With a little bit of skill, trust, and faith, Ren shows the townfolk on what they are missing out through the experience of the art and joy of dance!

Based upon the 1984 feature film release written by Dean Pitchford (that was loosely based upon an actual episode where a small town in central Oklahoma once banned dancing) and created for the stage by Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, with an added musical score by Tom Snow and Pitchford with others contributing to the song roster, holds true to the film of the same name. The GCT’s production is high energy and full of characters that add to the mood and skill that this show presents. With a musical whose premise speaks for a banned subject (dance), there is plenty of this form of expression witnessed on the stage! Leigh Wakfield’s choreography makes these players really cut loose as a song lyric suggests! Steven Applegate & Martin Lang’s transcribed musical direction contributes to the flavor as presented by a very robust cast of players. There are so many of these performers, time and space won’t allow this reviewer to name ‘em all! However, each one does their own part of keep the spirt of what this musical calls for; The notion of youth that want to articulate themselves through the glee and sprit of dancing!

One notion to mention. The movie of the same name took place in the 1980’s. The GCT’s production is also set in this period with minimal reference. (Angela Manke’s costume design is more small town conservative than “totally 80’s” gear!) Of course, kids in the 80’s had to use their own wits to brings themselves to and for the world. In these post-modern times, it’s another story. But never mind the lack of high tech! FOOTLOOSE is very animated in tone that even the kids of today’s space will still enjoy, as well as the kids from not-so-long-ago i.e. “the adults”! And what better way to experience a great musical is to view it at this theatre’s 360 stage ratio aka theatre-in-the-round! That’s a real treat in its own right!

FOOTLOOSE, presented by and performs at the Glendale Centre Theatre. 324 North Orange Street, Glendale, until October 7th. Showtimes are Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, and Saturday matinees at 3:00 PM. Additional performances take place on Thursday, September 7th at 8:00 PM, with Sunday matinees performing on September 10th, 17th, and 24th at 3:00 PM.
For more information and for ticket reservations, call (818) 244-8481, or visit the GCT’s web site at http://www.GlendaleCentreTheatre.com

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2017 Linear Cycle Productions. 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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