- Chugging through my WATCH assignments.
Category Archives: Television
Dick Tufeld, voice of the Robot in TV’s Lost in Space (the only character who sounded remotely grounded in reality), has passed away.
(News via Leta.)
My maternal grandmother was an insane fan of Ruth Lyons, Ohio television personality of the 50s and 60s. Grandma would no sooner miss a 12 noon episode of The 50/50 Club than she would skip serving her overcooked gray chicken for Sunday dinner. So, come the winter holiday season, we would hear Ruby Wright with Cliff Lash’s band singing “Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Xmas.” A lot.
It’s been, oh, 45, going on 50 years since I heard that song. (Unless I actually saw Female Trouble—I don’t remember.) And I was OK with that.
Along with some perhaps justifiable criticism, Daniel Mendelsohn unpicks one of the secrets to Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men.
This, more than anything, explains why the greatest part of the audience for Mad Men is made up not, as you might have imagined at one point, by people of the generation it depicts—people who were in their twenties and thirties and forties in the 1960s, and are now in their sixties and seventies and eighties—but by viewers in their forties and early fifties today, which is to say of an age with those characters’ children. The point of identification is, in the end, not Don but Sally, not Betty but Glen: the watching, hopeful, and so often disillusioned children who would grow up to be this program’s audience, watching their younger selves watch their parents screw up.
Hence both the show’s serious failings and its strong appeal. If so much of Mad Men is curiously opaque, all inexplicable exteriors and posturing, it occurs to you that this is, after all, how the adult world often looks to children; whatever its blankness, that world, as recreated in the show, feels somehow real to those of us who were kids back then.
(Link via Arts & Letters Daily.)
Kate Gosselin guests on Sarah Palin’s Alaska: Kirkland Hamill has the recap.
“I’m standing in the ‘not rain,’ that’s what I’m doing.”
* * *
Meanwhile, Sarah is becoming perkier the more Kate comes unglued. It has grown increasingly apparent as the show has progressed that her appreciation for Alaska is based partly on how miserable it makes non-Alaskans.
Vincent Kartheiser just got dreamier, IMO. To get to work in Los Angeles where he films Mad Men, he rides public transit. Tricia Romano rides along.
Via Leta: my internship in New York came a little late (1978), but here I am at Sterling Cooper (standing in for W.R. Grace & Co.), ready to set the world on fire. (Actually, John Molloy would have been appalled by the short-sleeved shirt.)
The last time I was in a museum bookstore, I noticed a DVD series called Art:21. This turned out to be a suite of documentaries on practitioners active in the first decade of this century, some of them mature artists like Richard Serra and James Turrell, others in mid-career like Sally Mann, still others that are rising talents and less well-known. It’s been running on PBS stations for a while, but I flat missed it, since I rarely watch broadcast. So I took a break from the line of Perry Mason episodes I’ve been going through and added the discs to my Netflix queue.
The films are selective and to the point. Each hour-long episode deals with four artists, about ten to fifteen minutes apiece. With a few exceptions, there are no voiceovers or interviewer questions: the films (carefully edited) allow the artists to tell their stories in their own words. Title cards superimposed on images of the work provide dates and a bit of context. Each episode carries a thematic title (“place,” “spirituality,” “identity, “consumption” from the first season), but the connection of each artist’s work to the theme is sometimes tenuous. Each episode is introduced by a framing segment, of highly variable quality; Laurie Anderson does a fine job introducing the series premiere, but a collaboration between Steve Martin and William Wegman is fluff.
What I find especially encouraging about the project is its selectivity—the refusal by the producers (Executive Director Susan Sollins and her staff) to pump out material just for the sake of making product. Each season consists of only four hours of programming, and the seasons are produced every other year. So, after eight years, we have sixteen hours of film covering 60-odd artists. I’m looking forward to watching it all.
60s spandex stunner Yvonne Craig—Batgirl, alter ego of Barbara Gordon, daughter to Police Commissioner Gordon—played by Neil Hamilton: Craig and Hamilton appeared as father and stepdaughter in a 1958 episode of Perry Mason titled “The Case of the Lazy Lover.” And according to the IMDB, while Hamiliton played seven different roles in Perry Mason eps across eight seasons, Craig played five characters (Linda Sue, Aphrodite, Myrna, Hazel, and Elspeth) in six installments of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis across four seasons.
OMG, the fourth episode of “Mad Men” opens with three ad execs listening to an LP of Bob Newhart’s “Driving Instructor” routine! There’s also a passing reference to a TV series that I loved in my childhood, a Walter Brennan vehicle called “The Real McCoys,” and a lovely cameo by Robert Morse (resonant with what’s going on in Pete Campbell’s career). Excellent work!
Turner Classic Movies has two really interesting themes for June: films featuring or directed by the sultry Ida Lupino, and Screened Out: Gay Images in Film. Some of the titles, like The Killing of Sister George and The Boys in the Band, I recognize as causing a stir at of the 1970s. They are largely forgotten now, but I remember them as being judged too mature for my adolescent sensibilities at the time.
Via Table of Malcontents and elsewhere, John Cage performs Water Walk for Garry Moore and the audience of I’ve Got a Secret, original air date 1960. The sound engineers picked up most of the sonic goings-on, including the interesting echoes in the bathtub, but the rubber duck thought it had a tacet.
Oh, John, what would you have made of/with YouTube?
One more reason to read a book, a really long one, during pledge week: Claire Dederer explores the phenomenon that is Celtic Woman:
[Their popularity] may have something to do with the fact that they are Irish. Ireland is a country that does a lot of psychological heavy lifting for Americans. We’ve imbued the place with mysticism, greenness, quietude and rootedness. Milky-skinned maidens, singing beautiful music in front of a wall of ivy. It’s the very vision of what we want Ireland to be. Or at least what PBS viewers want Ireland to be.
Dr. Reilling was my first dentist. Now I understand why his advice to me was always “brush-a-brush-a-brush-a.” It’s part of the song that Bucky Beaver sang to promote Ipana toothpaste. (Yes, Dr. Reilling was even older than me; I think Ipana was out of the market even then.) See a sampler of things for an image of Bucky and a link to an audio file (admittedly scratchy) of Bucky jingling.