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Posted on Jul 07 2010 by Greg

One of our favorite TV sitcoms when I was a kid was The Mothers in Law starring the wondrous Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks, The Strongest Man in the World, Grease) and the wondrous Kaye Ballard (Freaky Friday, The Muppet Show, Alice in Wonderland). The entire two-year run in finally on DVD and it's  now on amazon, probably for a limited time.

Desi Arnaz produced the series, which was very much an I Love Lucy with kids and grandkids just as Laverne & Shirley was an I Love Lucy with single ladies. It's broad and brassy comedy in front of a live audience, served up to perfection by the skilled cast, whicj includes Herbert Rudley, Roger C. "Harry Mudd" Carmel (replaced by Richard "Mel Cooley" Deacon and Deborah Walley (Summer Magic, Beach Blanket Bingo).

I have a particular soft spot for the legendary Ms. Ballard, having grown up and fully memorized Columbia Records' "Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Peanuts album she recorded with longtime creative partner Arthur Siegel. (If you've heard this album, you might chuckle at the reference above to "LIT-tle tiny points.") It was the very first time the Peanuts characters were performed (directly from comic strips) and it inspired the musical, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, five years later.

The music on this 1962 album, which has not yet been released on CD, was created by Fred Karlin (sadly, Mr. Siegel's songs were not used by renowned jazz producer John Hammond). Karlin, an Oscar winner, put together a very odd orchestra of real toys, a concept much imitated afterward. The tune on the first cut was used for a cat food commercial in 1972.

Kaye Ballard talks at length about this album, The Mothers in Law and her amazing career in one of the most entertaining audio versions of an autobiography I have ever heard, My Life in My Own Words, with My Own Mouth.

It can only be purchased here on her website and is well worth having. This is one very resilient and highly talented lady.

Posted on Jun 30 2010 by Greg

Went to the first return showing of Captain EO this morning amid much excitement at Epcot with veeps and press there. The crowd was exuberant throughout the 17-minute film, laughing and cheering in all the right places, especially during the moonwalk and at the entrance in the film of of Michael Jackson, which is reminiscent of the entrance of Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Captain EO, which was produced by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola (his only musical beside Finian's Rainbow, unless you count One from the Heart), is a blend of Thriller, Star Wars and Far Out Space Nuts (in a good way), with lots of action, fun characters and lots of "So You Think You Can" Dancing. And it still works, knowingly camp when it wants to be (the doofy guy with the mullet used to get an audience chuckle back in 1986 too) and pop music that is now considered classic to the contemporary public.

Seeing it now, I realize how few instances there were in which the world got to see Michael Jackson as an actor. Though Captain EO is the ultimate action playset, he's nonetheless playing a role and, had things been different, it would have been interesting to see how he might have directed his talent more in that direction.

Posted on Jun 23 2010 by Greg
BBC Radio is running a comedy called 15 Minute Musical, actual full-scale musical satires with original music and lyrics. It was made a few years ago, so the targets are dated but the humor and scale still hold up.

This week, "Brothers in Arms" tells the peppy rock opera story of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's rise to power in the British government, in a medieval style.

There are six episodes in this series. Next up, it's "Jeffrey! The Musical," about convicted criminal Jeffrey Archer. I don't even get all the references because I have a hard enough time with American politics, but this is fun stuff.

Posted on Jun 21 2010 by Greg
When Walt Disney was having trouble negotiating with Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (you can hear what the Sherman Brothers experienced with her on the most recent Poppins soundtrack CD), he had the movie rights to Mary Norton's Bed-knob and Broomstick as a back up.

Poppins was released in 1964, of course, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (with plurals added to the title) premiered in 1971. The latter film was produced post-Walt and won an Academy Award for Visual Effects (from five nominations including Best Song, "The Age of Not Believing").

This week and next, in ten 15-minute episodes, you can hear Patricia Hodge read an adaptation of dramatization of the original book on BBC Radio 7 (actually, it was two books, The Magic Bedknob and Bonfires and Broomsticks, combined in one volume).

The first episode is here and each will be available for 7 days after their initial airing. There are quite a few differences between the Norton and Disney versions. Enjoy!

Posted on Jun 16 2010 by Greg
There's another fascinating and fiery thread on Cartoon Brew about the new designs for the upcoming Looney Tunes series. You can read the latest comments here (parental discretion advised, some naughty words).

One of the people, who seems like a nice person and just wants us to get along and be nice, just the same made a bit of a narrow generalization about the naysayers being "old people" and I thought I might share my latest earnest comment here:

Seriously, I hear where you're coming from and, as someone who is also "legit" -- resume and references available on request -- in the industry a long time (but not long enough to necessarily make me "old," mind you), I understand that, if you find yourself among groups of people who get you down, there's a very human tendency to assume that all people of that age/race/gender/corporation/rank/religion/politics/planet/dimension/shoe size are "like that." But they're not.

I also agree that, in the words of Sybil Fawlty, "There's no excuse for rudeness, Basil." And I must repeat, not everyone on this remarkably long thread who criticize the designs, whether rudely or not, are all like those old people you have to deal with. And not all old people are, either. Many embrace change and innovate right up until they're buried.

This is just my little way to prevent hasty generalizations and stereotyping because that sort of thinking can not only hurt people personally, it can cost them their livelihood and can cost organizations the resources of great people who bring them great work and perhaps big profit shares, too.

People of all ages can be resistant to change. Here's some more recent examples: how many people thought "Monk" jumped the shark since Sharona left the show? How about Ellen joining "American Idol?" Or Simon Cowell leaving? Are the complainers all old people?

It's clear that you really don't like folks to be cruel and hurtful. I appreciate your revision to the phrase "change haters," however it was pretty much followed by a "but" and a reiteration of pretty much the same generalization.

Trust me -- annoying people of all ages will cross your path throughout your life and career, especially as you continue and widen your experience in the industry. (My theory has always been that there's an Annoying People Factory somewhere that continually replaces them as they proceed on their annoying way.)

But at that point, you might become old, so what then? You may still continue to appreciate new ideas and embrace change.

What will the next comments be? Will the boy leave the chair? And...what about Naomi?

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