Monday, December 24, 2012

Donny & Marie Osmond: Beacons of Light, Shining Bright

Two bright lights illuminated Hollywood's famous Pantages Theatre more so than usual this holiday season: Donny and Marie Osmond.

From December 4 to December 23, 2012, this dynamic duo of the entertainment industry performed at the Pantages with their Donny & Marie Christmas Show, also known as Christmas in Los Angeles with Donny & Marie.

On Friday, December 21, I was privleged to attend a performance of this amazing month-long event.

As a huge fan of the most famous brother and sister performing team in history - stemming of course from the massive and charismatic musical Osmond family, I was very much looking forward to seeing Donny & Marie live for the first time.

I had grown up watching their Friday night variety show on ABC-TV in the 1970s, and here it was a Friday night all these years later; there was a sense of whimsy and the surreal about now being able to see them live on the same night that I had enjoyed them for years on television.

Near-mythical figures, Donny and Marie's talent, humor, humanity, generosity and pure loving-kindness are legendary.  They are entertainment icons in the highest sense of the term, and their astounding show at the Pantages no less than delivered the proof in the pudding of their spectacular capabilities as performers.

Their individual and combined sense of song, style, dance and comic timing - mixed with their pure hearts and intentions - made for a breath-taking show, one for which their half-century of hard-work, raw talent and graceful likablity has fittingly prepared them. 

Whether at the Pantages, in Las Vegas, on TV or anywhere around the world these two vibrant souls glitter their outer and inner glow, we of the fortunate receiving audience members do not merely watch a Donny & Marie show - we experience it.

For example, at one point during the show on Friday, Donny and Marie separated and ran up and down the two main center aisles of the Pantages.  I was seated with two of my dearest friends on the side visited by Donny, who whisked by us with such energy enthusiasm, we were nearly overwhelmed.  Meanwhile, Marie's luminary presence graced the other side of the expansive room, as both of them somehow made certain to "reach" each member of the audience in one way or the other.  It was soon confirmed that those of us in the Pantages were in the presence of angels - the real kind; the kind that employs their gifts for not only the entertainment of the masses; but for the betterment of the global community.

Donny and Marie Osmond have always utilized their God-given talents and public personas to bring more than just a smile to the countless faces of their blessed fans; but they have always brought an immeasurable joy to the world wherever they perform, capping specifically and so very clearly represented last Friday night by their reverent closing rendition of the classic melody known as Peace on Earth.

Upon hearing their harmonic voices sing this tune with their signature grace and elegance, it became immediately and abundantly evident just how good a mood God was in when creating the living legends of light known as Donny and Marie Osmond who, without a doubt, are Heaven's great gift not only to Hollywood - but to the world.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mandy Pantinkin Is Sick of TV Violence, Too!

In his own classy way, Mandy Patinkin protests TV violence!  

You tell 'em, Mandy!  ALRIGHT! 

(see link below for full story)

Friday, September 07, 2012

No Vulgarity. No Violence. How About Using TALENT?!

I want so much to love American television - and films - as much as a I love classic American television and film. But the state of the product out there is just pathetic.

And it's not even a conscious thing.

The powers that be and the consumers are desensitized to the junk that is being placed "out there" and in the theatres.

Unfortunately, all that matters is the almighty dollar.

And look, I love money, makes the world go 'round and I support any and all who seek to make it and spend it.

But at what price?

Let me explain it this way:

I used to teach acting. I was a very tough teacher and I had certain rules for my students, the number one of which was: "No scenes with vulgarity and violence."

For example, I asked them to prove their talent beyond taking the easy way out of using profanity or violent behavior to show anger.

I used to tell them, "Impress me with your TALENT!"

And that's all I'm asking for in today's TV and films; and pop-culture.

To all the writers, producers, directors and actors who make TV shows, movies; appear on stage, music-makers, etc.:

Impress me with your TALENT...and not by taking the easy ways out of speaking vulgar words, showcasing "manic" camera angles and blood-soaked violent images.

Impress me with your TALENT!!!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Classic TV Star Johnny Whitaker Is An Amazing Person

Former child star Johnny Whitaker is best known from his roles on beloved classic TV shows like Family Affair and Sigmund, the Sea Monster.

Below is a link to a profile of him that was published in The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, September 6, 2012.

It blew me.

He is an amazing person - and his extraordinary life is a testament to everything The Classic TV Preservation Society represents and strives to achieve.

God bless Johnny Whitaker.

"A Former Addict Makes Reparations To Grieving Mexican Mothers",0,354108.column

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Why Are New TV Shows So Obnoxious...ALL THE TIME?!

Seriously, does EVERY character on EVERY new TV show have to be sarcastic, sardonic, obnoxious and mean-spirited...ALL THE TIME?!
Shows like Mad Men succeed not because they're innovative, but because they tell stories with actual characters like shows used to in the old days...minus manic camera-angles and one-dimensional characters. Viewers stop clickining the remote when they see such a show because they actually have a moment to relax and watch TV without having to watch obnoxious, loud and offensive programming.


Monday, July 23, 2012

"Green Acres" You Are There - on Broadway?!

According to Variety magazine, Green Acres, the classic TV sitcom that aired on CBS from 1967 to 1971, and for which Bewitched director/producer William Asher (who just passed away at age 90) directed a 1990 TV reunion, is bound for the live stage as a musical.  Richard L. Bare, the 98-year-old director of nearly every one of Acres' 170 episodes, has drafted the book for what Variety calls a "Broadway-targeted" project.  Cool.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adam West Can Save The World

I have yet to see the new Batman feature film, but not really that crazy about Chris Nolan and Christian Bale's Dark Knight franchise from what I have seen of the previous two films. They're too dark...too dingy....too depressing...too much of a drag. 

I like it better when superheroes are happy people...when action movies are bright and filled with adventure. 

I long for the day when a Batman feature film, in particular, somehow combines the colorful fun of the 1960s Batman TV series and real opposed to clinical technology more or less based on clinical depression, which not only Mr. Nolan and Mr. Bale brought to Batman, but as did Tim Burton with the first Batman movie in 1989. 


Adam West, where are you?!  The world needs you!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Andy Griffith: A Tribute to the Best

Andy Griffith may be gone from this world, but he will never be forgotten.  A performer of stage and film, he is best known of course for his classic television series, The Andy Griffith Show, which originally aired on CBS from 1960-1968.  This show begat a sequel (Mayberry RFD, CBS, 1968-71), may still be seen in reruns (across the board on places like TV Land), and is available on DVD.  The program’s stellar cast shines in any decade: Griffith (as Sheriff Andy Taylor), Don Knotts (Deputy Barney Fife), Frances Bavier (Aunt Bee), Ron Howard (Opie), and a host of regular and semi-regulars that appeared through its superior eight-year run.

The Andy Griffith Show is clearly Andy Griffith’s best legacy.  It stands for everything that a family television show should be:  it delivers superior entertainment, displays warm-hearted sentiment; and showcases the highest caliber of talent, in front of and behind the scenes.  Each element of its production was top-notch, from the writing, to the lighting to the performance of every golden moment scene.

There are four episodes of the series that remain favorites from my personal Griffith observatory:

1] Andy Saves Barney's Moral, in which Knotts' iconic Deputy Fife looks like more than his usual fool self, due to his flighty legalities.

2] The Clubmen, in which Andy and Barney meet with the members of an exclusively private men's association, and only one of them is invited to join.

3] Mr. McBeevee, in which Andy is convinced that his young son Opie's new friend is merely an illusion.

4] Barney and the Cave Rescue, in which Barney leads a rescue attempt to save Andy and his girlfriend (and Opie's teacher) Helen Crump (Anita Corsaut), both of whom are snared in a rock-ridden cavern, after an inner-land-slide.

McBeevee holds several heart-tugging moments, several between Andy and Opie, and in one in which Andy professes to Barney and Aunt Bee that, "I believe in Opie." Meanwhile, Moral and Clubmen display the true bond between Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife, which was the central relationship of the series. In each of these segments, Andy's diplomatic integrity and generous spirit of friendship and/or family shines brightly. Coupled with Cave, these Andy tales showcase high comedy, homespun appeal, and solid interaction between the main characters.

Still, if I must select my ideal segment, I must go into the Cave Rescue. Directed by actor Richard Crenna (who was the original choice for Darrin on Bewitched), and written by Harvey Bullock, Cave caters to several agreeable Andy elements, with style and distinction.

As the episode begins, Barney looks goofy as he inaccurately coins the proprietor of Mayberry's financial institution a pilferer. Chagrin, the Deputy picnics with his gal Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), Andy and Helen, all of whom decide to explore one of boys' childhood stomping grounds: a spooky cave. A rockslide ensues. Andy and Helen are trapped.

By the time they free themselves, Barney has arranged a mammoth rescue endeavor, involving two mean-spirited townsmen who had publicly humiliated him. Rather than further embarrass the Deputy, Andy and Helen reenter the cave and feign near-death.

The rescue works, Barney is looked upon with monumental respect, and his character is restored.

The core of The Andy Griffith Show's appeal is held together in Cave with emotional, psychological and yes, even physical strength (Barney and the town's finest work their tails off during the rescue).

Andy's affection for Barney is taken to new heights, as he infringes on the cooperation of his significant other, in the form of Helen. (Mostly before, he saved face for Barney, solo.). Not only does this enforce Andy's bond with his right hand man - and best friend, but solidifies his relationship with Helen, who proves her devotion to her Sheriff/boyfriend by going the distance (albeit, back into the cave).

Yet there are other fine bonding moments to adore within the Cave, specifically, towards the close of the segment, when Thelma Lou shares her pride in Barney What-a-Guy Fife with Helen, who seconds the notion, in reference to Andy. Helen never lets on that she and Andy really did not need to be saved, thus displaying her fondness for Thelma Lou with Andy-like discretion and poise.

Yet my favorite scene in this, my favorite episode, is when Helen and Andy venture to Helen's house in order for her to shift out of her dirty clothes (which she changed back into once she and Andy learned of Barney's massive rescue maneuvers, via the radio airwaves). As Andy initially waits in Helen's living room (which is decorated with doilies and big '60s furniture), a nostalgic, peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, inner-home cozy feeling seeps through the television, and begins to permeate into our real-life parlors.

We actually feel like we've been transported into Helen's abode...back to a simpler time, basking in the tranquil effects of that ol' Mayberry magic. Combined with Barney's pristine lunacy, and subsequently acquired legitimate (though unnecessary) courage, Andy's discretion and his "in-no-real-physical-peril-but-Barney-needs-me-to-be-in-trouble" heroics, Helen and Thelma Lou's prodigious support for the men in their lives (and despite the non-extensive use of the then-billed Ronny Howard's youthful intelligence as Opie and the central exclusion of Frances Bavier's amiable Aunt Bee), in my eyes, Barney and the Cave Rescue beams as The Andy Griffith Show's finest half-hour.

It stands for everything about classic television, and TV in general, that is good and sound and true.

Thank you, Mr. Griffith, for teaching us all about the truly finer things in life, which are always the simplest things in life.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Ten Commandments of Classic TV

I.   Thou shall be like Kwai Chang Caine, and respect the creeds of all good religions and spiritual beliefs.

II.  Thou shall honor thy mother and father as gracefully as John-Boy Walton, and honor thy children with as much loving-kindness as Uncle Bill showers upon Buffy, Jody and Cissy.

III.  Thou shall liken thyself unto Samantha and Darrin, and respect one to the other’s differences and concentrate on what makes all of every nation and diversity the same (our common humanity).

IV.  Thou shall be like that girl Ann Marie and that boy Don Hollinger, and respect one to the other purely, based initially on sincere affection which later transforms into true committed love (at which time noble physical pleasure replaces vacant lust).

V.  Thou shall honor thy physician as long as said physician resembles Dr. Welby (who honors the independent needs of the individual patient’s body temple more than the umbrella contracts with myriad pharmaceutical companies).

VI.  Thou shall respect the laws of humanity, as valiantly as Perry Mason.

VII.  Thou shall have as strong a work-ethic as Rob Petrie and Mary Richards.

VIII.  Thou shall understand the power of true inner strength, as does Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers.

IV.  Thou shall be like the Bradys, and gather consistently at the dinner table with whomever thou namest thy family, and appreciate every morsel of food that passes through thy lips.

V.  Thou shall make one to the other laugh as much as Lucy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Burton and Depp's "Dark Shadows": I Won't Ask For My Money Back...BUT...

I enjoyed director Tim Burton's feature film edition of Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp as the iconic Barnabas Collins, originally portrayed by the equally iconic actor Jonathan Frid in the original ABC classic 1960s gothic soap opera. (Ironically, Frid passed away only weeks before the new Shadowspremiered.)  But I enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons.

It was said that the original Shadows series was campy. This is not true. The show-runners simply did not have the extended funds to produce the show the way they really wanted to produce it, so it was perceived as campy.

            But the original production always played it straight, and took itself seriously. As a result, the audience respected the show's intentions.

            As to the big-screen Shadows, it was kind of like a Carol Burnett Show satire on the original series, instead of a feature film adaptation. And in the big picture scheme of things, that is not high praise...on many levels.

First of all, as wonderful as it was to see Michelle Pfeiffer back in theatres (and looking beautiful), she was one of too-many-blondes in this production.

Pfeiffer's Elizabeth Collins character was originally a brunette (as played by Joan Bennett in the original series, and by Jean Simmons in the 1991 NBC TV remake); but Pfeiffer was allowed to retain her fair-hair while playing Elizabeth.

            Not good; and inconsistent with the Shadows mythology.

            And that white make-up of Depp's? I realize he wanted to present a "realistic vampire," but did he have to look like that throughout the entire film? Couldn't he just have gone "all-white" whenever he went on the attack for blood, and retained his "regular" human form look at all other times?

            That was one of the things about Frid's original Barnabas: he was "every-vampire"...relatable. He was accessible to the viewers, who could, strangely enough, identify with him...because he made Barnabas human.

            Such is not the case with Depp's Barnabas. Depp, under Burton's guidance, made Barnabas a joke.

And although he script (by Seth Graham-Smith; story by John August) is compelling; the production design and cinematography is Executive Level A; the casting, pitch-perfect; and the original mythology is intact (thanks, in part, I'm sure to consultant Jim Pierson, right-hand man for years to Shadows creator, the late Dan Curtis), where the heck is the iconic opening theme sequences and music?

            And why in heaven's name couldn't they have upgraded the cameos of original Shadowsactors Frid, Lara Parker (the original witch Angelique; played in the film by Eva Green), Kathryn Leigh Scott (the original Josette DuPres/Maggie Evans-Victoria Winters, played in the new film by Bella Heathcote), and David Selby (seen on the original series as man/zombie Quentin Collins)? To have these legendary performers down-graded to glorified "extras" in a party scene is, well, purely insulting to the integrity of these beloved performers and their millions of fans.

Again, the big-screen Dark Shadows film is a fine production, but it could have been great - and it could have easily out-distanced at the box-office the Twilight franchise (which was inspired by it in the first place) if it just would have taken a step back and thought more productively about the main objective:

            To have a hit film.

            Burton/Depp would have met this objective if they would have just played it straight all the way through, been more respectful of the original Shadows actors, and had just a little bit more respect for the material all the way around - while still retaining nods to pop-culture and a sense of humor throughout the script.

            For example: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the TV series created by Joss Whedon, the new king of Hollywood (due to his super-performing superhero feature film, The Avengers). Buffy's scripts were top-notch and the performers were stellar. There were constant references to pop-culture and subtle winks to the audience, but the actors played it straight throughout.

            Second example: Whedon's The Avengers: The script is sprinkled with humor, and again, winks to the audience, but the actors play it straight throughout the entire production.

            This is not the case with Burton's Dark Shadows. Instead, he directs his actors to chew the scenery a little bit too much, and his pop-culture references (Depp's heart-brokenBarnabas reading Eric Segal's Love Story) are just a little bit too over the top.

            And the ending? I'm gonna spoil it here for those who don't like spoilers:

            Josette turned into a vampire?!

            Too bittersweet.

            Barnabas and everyone Angeliquecursed remains cursed even after her death??!!

            Doesn't make sense. No logic within the illogic. No consistency.

            Each and every one of Angelique's curses should have died with her.

            And then Barnabas burns a little bit when the sun touches him just a tad inside the Collinwood mansion…but he can still walk completely outside in the broad daylight and not even be tinged?

            Again, doesn't make sense.

            And would it have been such a terrible thing if Dark Shadows had a happy ending? Where Barnabas, finally vampire-free from Angelique's curse, just walked into the sunset with Josette, his dear-beloved for centuries?

            Doesn't anyone, much less Tim Burton, know how to end a movie anymore?

            Didn't he want his movie to be a hit? To have the audience walk out of the theatre with tears of joy, spreading the word, saying to everyone they know (Shadow-ites, and Dark novices, alike), "You HAVE to see this movie!"

            Wouldn't that have been great? For Dark Shadows have been able to become everything that a director like Burton and a star like Depp are capable of making it become?

            Instead, the movie has now become a passing fancy, ironically, campy, leaving the Dark Shadows franchise, like Barnabas Collins, to remain dead for another two hundred years.