Tuesday, May 19, 2015

All Not Quiet On the Oaklyn Front

It was surprisingly chilly and rather gray and dull when I got up this morning. I finished My Sister Eileen as I ate breakfast. Ruth Sherwood (Betty Garrett) and her sister Eileen (Janet Leigh) arrive at Grenwich Village in the Big Apple, ready to become a writer and an actress respectively. Absolutely nothing goes as they planned. The apartment they ultimately end up renting from a shady painter (Kurt Kaznar) is underground, facing a busy street, and is falling apart. Their neighbors, including a football player (Dick York), visit whenever they feel like it. The magazine editor who sent Ruth encouraging letters about her work (Jack Lemmon) thinks she's a loose woman. Eileen is pursued by two young men (Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall), but refuses to take roles from producers who are only interested in her looks. And then there's the time the entire Brazilian Navy ends up doing a conga line through their apartment....

This is one of the cutest musicals I've ever seen. It's surprisingly intimate and sweet for a large-scale 50's musical. Leigh is far more at ease here than she was in Bye, Bye Birdie. I wish Fosse appeared in front of the camera more often. He has two really nifty dance routines, one a show-off duel with Rall, the other a lovely duet with Leigh in the courtyard of their apartment complex. Garrett's a blast as the older sister whose wit covers up a heart that can't believe a guy could be interested in her and not Eileen. And who knew the original Darrin from Bewitched could make such a funny big lug type? If you're a fan of the cast, want to see some early Bob Fosse choreography, or like your musicals on the smaller and more sitcom-y side, this one is on DVD and is a treat to watch.

I headed out for today's errand run around 10:30. My first stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library. Two men were putting in new windows, but otherwise, there wasn't much going on there. I organized DVDs and some books in the kids' area. I was out again around quarter after 11.

I had counseling today. I took my time, going the long way down Hood Avenue to Crystal Lake Road, and then down Park Avenue past the apartment buildings. I had lunch at the Bistro. I came just in time to order off their breakfast menu again. My "New Yorker" egg wrap was delicious - a whole wheat tortilla with scrambled eggs, Swiss cheese, mushrooms, ham, and bacon. It was busier outside than in, maybe because there was still a nice breeze at that point, but I'd just gotten off the bike and was sweating to death. I ate inside, with the older couples and families.

I had a half-hour to kill before counseling, so I explored a few stores. The most surprising find was their temporary library set up in a storefront. I forgot the Haddonfield Library is in the midst of a major remodeling project right now. I briefly explored the children's paperback selection I saw in the window before moving on to Happy Hippo Toys.

Arrived at counseling five minutes early, just enough time to rest my eyes. I told her about my mostly delightful month - my vacation, the Employee of the Month gift card, my writing, my good mood, my visit with Rose and her family on Khai's birthday, the fact that Dad seems to be recovering well from his throat surgery, Mom's raise. Despite the gift card, I feel like I'm at an impasse at work. Like I wrote here, I really don't think they know what to do with someone who is shy and quiet and likes to do her own thing. I want to stock shelves - or at least move on and do something besides stand in a cash register - but I'm very, very afraid. It's hard for me to talk to people in authority. I know I should get over that childhood feeling that being sent to the office of any kind of authority means you're in trouble, but....it's not that easy.

She wants me to practice saying something to my boss with anything at home - my dolls, the stuffed animals, whatever. We'll see.

By the time I got out of counseling, the sun had come out...and the head and humidity came with it. It was hot and muggy, and the breeze was mostly gone. Not to mention, the kids were getting out of school, and the traffic was starting to pick up a bit. I did have an Oreo Dough water ice at Primo's (not pretty, but very sweet, with lots of big, soft Oreo pieces) and took a brief look at Walgreens' for a cloth laundry bag. They didn't have any; settled on a generic Pomegranate-Berry sparkling water for the ride home.

I was tired when I got in. All I wanted to do was spend the rest of the afternoon writing my story. The night before Elizabeth's epic play is to go on, she receives a visit from The Crimson Blade. He tells her about Crawley's treachery and that someone will be trying to sabotage the play and make sure that the Monongahela Inn doesn't get that publicity. She wonders why he won't let her know who he is; he explains that he's worried about her getting hurt and wants to protect her.

I got up for a stretch and dinner around 5. Finished out New Moon while I ate leftover salmon and the last of the bok choy sauteed with onions and mushrooms for dinner. The second of two Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy vehicles with a colonial New Orleans setting makes him a disgraced duke who has fled France as a bond servant. She's the aristocrat who buys him. They seem to have feelings for each other, until she discovers his deception and that he plans to free his fellow bondsmen and capture a boat with arms. She leaves on a ship filled with brides intended for farmers. The bondsmen raid the ship. A storm finally strands the entire group on a deserted island, forcing them to reconsider their feelings for each other after they agree to a marriage of convenience

This was the last MacDonald/Eddy vehicle to make any kind of money at the box office. While it does come off as an imitation Naughty Marietta at times, it has enough of its own twists and turns - including the hilarious wedding ceremony - to make it worth seeing. All the heroics must have put some spirit into Eddy's blood. This is one of his few movies where he looks like he's having a good time.

I'd been putting off watching the final two episodes of Remember WENN for weeks now. Not because "At Cross Purposes" and "All Noisy On the Pittsburgh Front" are bad episodes. Far from it. They're two of the best episodes of the fourth season. I just can't stand to see the show end at all, especially the way it did. "Cross Purposes," as you can guess from the title, is the show's cross-dressing episode. It starts with Jeff in costume for Charley's Aunt, but ends up with most of the cast in drag as they try to avoid a particularly pesky process server who wants to give Jeff his papers from Pavla and may have ties to Scott and Maple, too.

"All Noisy" starts a few days after Pearl Harbor. Most of the men in the cast try to enlist...but the only one who really can is Scott. He and Victor finally get Betty against the wall about which of them she loves more. Eugenia asks Mr. Foley to marry her. Jeff spends the episode proposing to Hilary, only to have her claim she's married to someone else!

And that's...it. AMC canceled the show a few weeks after "All Noisy" premiered. Though WENN's writer and creator Rupert Holmes did later admit how he would have ended it, we never got any official resolution. AMC turned deaf ears on all entreaties to return it to the air (including mine), and they steadfastly refuse to release it on DVD or even acknowledge its existence to this day. For them, their first real show was Mad Men. No, just their first major success. Never mind the irony that they supposedly canceled WENN because it didn't fit the hipper, more ironic image the new regime wanted for AMC. And of course, what's their first huge hit? A historic drama set 20 years after WENN.

The entire fiasco really broke my heart. I'd never had a show pulled out from under me like that before. It's one of the big reasons I steadfastly refuse to get involved in fandoms for any recent TV shows. I don't think I could handle another show I adore taken away the way WENN was. It's also one of the big reasons I gave up any ideas I had of working in TV. I don't want to work around people who can't appreciate good shows like WENN, or even Mad Men, not to mention pull scams Scott Sherwood wouldn't approve of to get them off the air in the name of some silly "image."

Something I've really been thinking of lately - I can't help but wonder if WENN would have done much better in today's TV world than in the late 90's. Audiences are generally more appreciative today of good writing and interesting characters in historical settings than they were in 1996. Friends and Seinfeld were the most popular comedy shows then, and while critical favorites like Fraiser and Newsradio had their fans, most sitcoms tended to be imitations of the above two shows or the same stale family formulas that had been turning up since my childhood.

The Internet was only just becoming a threat when WENN's cancellation was announced. Fans did discuss various cable channels that might be persuaded to finish the show, but nothing came of it. Nowadays, social media has proved a far more effective way for fans to get their opinions across than e-mail and letter-writing campaigns, and many internet outlets have taken over niche shows that had enough fans to be at least somewhat popular...but not with the networks, or even cable.

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