TV…TOO MUCH OR NOT ENOUGH?

Back in the day not too long ago, there were so many new television programs that were on the air. Starting in the late summer, the three TV networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC respectively) would create a schedule where the “new” shows would make their debut starting in the month of September, usually after the Labor Day weekend. Then, throughout that month and sometimes bleeding into early October, a belly of new shows would be ready to view on the small screen. It was usually the same staple of programs and genres. (Comedy, Drama, Variety, News/Documentary, etc.) that would run through the end of December.

In January, the “big three” would get rid of programs that “nobody” was turning in to. And that “nobody” consisted of a few millions of viewers that were not right about those tuning in, or at least having their sets turned on to the proper TV channels for the program directors to be pleased about!

So the shows that were seen by “nobody” were dumped only to be replaced by mid-season shows. These programs were set aside from the big Fall rush to make its debut in the second phase of the traditional TV season that ran from September of one year to about April or May of the next year. Although some of these programs may have been depicted as “second runs”, many became big hits. Sitcoms such as All In The Family and Happy Days premiered in their mid seasons, and the syndicated run of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, began in early January. There were other programs that got a late start only to bloom later or, but this gives one an idea on how the domestic run of television programming was all about.

Cable TV started to change that pattern in the 1980’s when the big three started to get competition from other sources of viewing and the eyeballs that went along with it. Many of these programs were well done, but didn’t have the same impact as what the big three would offer. Since those channels were not necessarily competing with those three networks, they began their programs and ended them off during the entire season no matter what month it was. They did this just because they could!

Before long, the three networks introduced shows outside of the September/January window. This was due to the notion that they followed the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” method of doing business, as well as pleasing the advertisers that paid for it all!

Cable TV soon received its competition that made its program available to its viewers. It was through the ‘net, and those channels (or in this case, content providers) were streaming their programming. The streamers didn’t follow a season per se, or at least not of one that looked like a traditional TV season. Their content came and went whenever the cause called for. And since there was no racing against a clock, they can have their programs or episodes run far from the tradition 24 minutes for a “half hour” program, or 52 minutes for an “hour” long program. Each installment can run as little as 18 minutes or as long as 75 minutes. And since many of these type of shows had no commercial breaks within their middles, the flow became more fluid.

One streaming service (a channel that didn’t add a “plus” to its name) offered ten different shows all within the same week! Another one, this time using a “plus” to its name, offered more programming in a calendar month than what ABC, CBS, and NBC would once offer in a September!

And this tally is for a series of programs, rather than a single installment of a tile. Those installments usually consist of a “TV movie”, or some other element where its first episode would be its last, or at least last for the moment. Theatrical movies are not counted as part of this mix.

So as of this writing (March of ’22), there are so many programs to take advantage of, there may be too many programs to watch! This writer has an opportunity to take a peek at many of these titles. Sadly, one has so many hours in the day just to watch television. In spite of what one may imagine what a journalist writing for some medium spends their day, these same writers and reporters (yours truly included) have a life to live, as well as taking care of other responsibilities that may be boring to comment about, but are important in their own right!

And what are those dull-yet-crucial tasks? Such things as walking the dog, paying the electric bill, taking out the garbage, cooking dinner to the hungry crew dwelling inside of the home space, and other assignments that wouldn’t make fodder to carry a TV series to its audience. Then again, with so many ideas that are thrown out in the media landscape, perhaps a series (Comedy? Drama? Fantasy?) consisting of bland domestic life may be made available. And if that does occur, this writer demands to be placed as an “Executive Producer” for that series. This way, if the program is nominated for some kind of award, yours truly wants to attend the awards show (available for streaming perhaps), and when it gets its win, I want to climb up on the stage along with the others that are part of the “executive producer” army, thanking those that made it all possible. I’ll scratch a laundry list of names to read aloud that consist of my agent, my management company, the head of programming at the streaming service, my dog walker, the head of collectors for the electric company, the person in charge with the local department of streets and sanitation, and the folks living at my dwelling space that were forced to order take out because I wasn’t cooking dinner at home. I would thank ‘em all for whatever is there to be thankful for.

Hey! That last paragraph sounds like a great pitch for yet another TV series to clog up the video landscape! So I better get busy with my executive producer duties and start slapping something together. Expect to see it soon on “….+” available for streaming on your electronic device that’s connected to the ‘net!

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Theater 40 of Beverly Hills presents Lauren Gunderson’s SILENT SKY, the inspired true story of Henrietta Leavett, a woman whose interest in astrology was able to create a discovering in the pattern of charting stars, in spite of the challenges she had to face in order to become renowned within her feats.

Abigale Steward portrays Henrietta Levitt. At around the turn of the 20th century, she begin to become involved at the observatory at Harvard University as what was called a “computer”, a person that charts the movement of stars through etched graphs photographed upon glass plates. These chartings were part of the research projects as orchestrated by the research scientists lead by Dr. Charles Pickering that would receive the credit for their work but not for the “harem” that underscores this research, including Henrietta and the rest of the female computing staff. But Henrietta becomes profound in her measurable calculations. This was enough to her desire to utilizes the telescope known as the Great Refractor, but she isn’t allowed to operate let alone even look into the Refractor because of her gender. Besides, it’s really part of the work of the important men that make up the body of the science departments based at the university. In spite of what the department restricts her in these studies, Henrietta proceed within the process of transcribing the changes in Cepheid stars. This charting becomes an important process into charting the entire body of stars as seen within the scope of earth’s boundaries within the known universe. Her work ethic is noted by Dr. Pickering’s head apprentice, Peter Shaw. (Dalern Carlson), who later becomes somewhat of a romantic interest with Henrietta. But this doesn’t stop into the progress that Henrietta is finding within what lies far into the skies. Her skills and abilities later become a first in what the other male scientists has yet to discover at Harvard, and through the other astronomical portals outside of the campus halls of ivy.

This play by Lauren Gunderson is an inspiring drama that speaks for a lesser known person that made new and useful discoveries within the story of the stars when it was all drawn up through human nad based “computers” rather than the electronic type that would not be used for a number of years far into the future. Abigale Steward as Henrietta play her role as a strong lead that knows as much as the male staff she works for. Within her character, she is firm in what she can prove, but is not bossy. The other female characters that are part of her story, colleagues Annie Cannon as played by Marie Broderrick and Willamina Fleming (Amy Tolsky) are within that same level, although Willamina is more “fun” and shows that her Scottish roots brings out her engineering abilities that the Scotts are most famous for. And Henrietta’s sister Margaret (Tammy Mora) is more of the traditional type that such females were categorized during the early 20th century.

The stage setting by Theater 40’s residential set decorator Jeff Rack is at its minimum. The sets consists of a few pieces of basic period furnishings are laid out on the stage depicting many of the aspects that Henrietta finds herself in, from the Harvard Observatory spaces to the universe starred skies itself. The latter is projected upon its back stage wall through moving and still imagery as designed by Fritz Davis and imagery directed by Jean Franzblau. Ann Hearn Tobolowsky is the stage director of the characters showing of the feats as lead by the play’s protagonist.

SILENT SKY takes its title to the audio quality of the stars as seen within the heavens itself (physical silence), and the work that the women did that were a challenge into its own right. (Woman’s rights that had to be fought for.) The play hold both drama and inspiring heart into the work that Henrietta mastered in an honest method that still is acknowledged. As to women taking the lead in such fields of astrological studies? It continues today, but with similar consequences that Henrietta faced thought over one hundred years before. It’s rendered as one step forward, and one (or more) steps in the other direction.

SILENT SKY, presented by Theatre 40 and performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, located within the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off little Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until April 17th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights @ 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM.

For ticket reservations, call (310) 364-0535, or via online at http://www.Theatre40.org

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Continuing its run at The Two Roads Theater in Studio City is Sarah Hunter’s ESCAPE FROM THE GARDEN a.k.a TRACY IN THE KITCHEN, a comedy about a fading actress that attempts to find her comeback by writing and starring in a production about the life and times of Marie Antionette.  

Sandra Cruze stars as actress Tracy Greene. When she was at her prime, Tracy held a starring role in a soap opera airing on daytime TV, and became rather successful at that. But that was a few daytimes ago. Now that she’s aged, the roles were too far in between. After her agent screwed her over a few times, she’s been reduced to living within a small flat found in a dingbat apartment complex in Van Nuys. She shares her living space with her daughter Diane (Juls Hoover), who is following her mom’s footsteps as being an actress herself, yet holds a day job. Her husband Karl (Michael Green) is a school teacher living on a school teacher’s wages. Tracy and Karl do live in their own separate states of being. Tracy feels that in order to receive a comeback she’s seeking, she decided to write her own play about the 18th century-era queen of France. Her writing of this play eventually turns into desperation. She calls on anyone that comes to her place to feed lines to her so she can get the feel of her character, such as Ned (Aurelio Miguel Bocanegra), the apartment’s maintenance man, as well as the various delivery men/boys (Victor Bill) that come around. As time progresses, her household begins to fall apart. But before long, the play is completed. When it’s time to become a star once again, Tracy learns the real truth in being the one time queen famous for her powdered wigs and the dimple on her cheek.

This play, making its world premier at The Two Roads Theater shows how hard it is to not only be an actress in an industry town, but to be an aging actress in an industry town along with a family that could support her but only to a point. The comedy that is depicted is a bit subtle. The laughs are there, but it’s nothing that’s labeled as wacky or goofy. It’s far from becoming a farce where people are running in and out of doors. Then again, it’s a comedy with hints of dramatic moodiness. This is depicted in its second act where Tracy is finally allowed to “eat her cake”-so to speak!

Sandra Cruze as Tracy is very appealing. She’s an actress that would do almost anything to perform once again and be respected in the process. Juls Hoover as Diana is more of an “real” actress that still has a day job that does pay the rent. Michael Green as Karl is a man busting his rear as a teacher yet has plans on his own holding on to an idea to live in Washington State to get away from it all. Aurelio Miguel Bocanegra as Ned is the guy that comes around to Tracy’s joint but is not there to unclog the drains. (Are they having an affair?) And Victor Bill plays a variety of characters that all give their amount of spark to Tracy’s life.

Marianne Davis directs this production that could be just a tad tighter. But with a historical caricature as Marie Antionette as its center of attention, then this method of comic pacing can be looked the other way. But we’ll raise a glass of champagne and say “Viva la France” to this show.

ESCAPE FROM THE GARDEN a.k.a TRACY IN THE KITCHEN is presented by Two Heads are Better Productions and performs at The Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, until March 27th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 PM, with Sunday matinees at 3:00 PM.

Tickets can be ordered online via EventBrite.com https://www.eventbrite.com/e/escape-from-the-garden-tickets-243218161067?ref=eiosor

Visit the Two Heads are Better Productions website at http://www.TwoHeadsAreBetterProductions.com

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is a presentation of Linear Cycle Productions

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2022 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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