As I mentioned yesterday, in 1996 British television did an adaptation of Married with Children, which they called, Married for Life. It only seems to have lasted seven episodes -- which isn't a very long "life," most especially compared to the original American show which ran for 11 seasons.
The show starred Russ Abbot, who's had a long career in British TV, and also playing Fagin on stage in numerous productions of Oliver!, one of which I posted a video of.
Here his in Married for Life. It's a fascinating clip, since you can easily see the similarities to the American show, and also blatantly the differences. The differences are mainly in town, and it just doesn't remotely have the cynical sharpness of the original. It just tends to be pretty standard and falls flat. Now, on the one hand, it's fair to say that that's the differences between the tastes of humor, and why it got changed to fit British sensibilities, so that it would play better in the U.K. On the other hand, it only lasted seven episodes, so maybe those changes weren't for the better. And perhaps British audiences didn't find it all that funny either.
The only actor who appears to have gotten the tone reasonably right is Russ Abbot. It's still not bleak and satirical enough to carry things, but you can see the foundation there.
One other note. There's actually a familiar face in the cast -- the actor playing the wimpy husband next door. It's Hugh Bonneville. His name is probably familiar to many, though I'm sure his appearance will be more so. He's best known for being in Downton Abbey, as Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, as well as the film Notting Hill.
It's time again for another edition of The Writers Workbench. And this month we have another column on, of all things...portable chargers. Amazing, yes, I know. (The last one though earlier in the year was on solar chargers only, so we're back to more standard ones -- though each with a difference.)
I don't quite know why I like portable charging, but I find the technology so fascinating and often elegant and multi-functional. For instance this month, there's a portable charger that you can easily carry with you -- but it comes with cables that let you use the device to jump-start your car.
As always, it's a convoluted process to code the column, so rather than go through all that, I'm just going to link to the already-coded column on the Writers Guild of America website, which you can find here. It's also on the Huffington Post, but because the column is written initially for the WGA Online, this is the slightly-more comprehensive first, with more photos and TWW endnotes.
There's a point to all this -- but it's not the one that it will likely appear to be.
A few days back, I had a couple of videos from the 50th anniversary tribute to the original West End opening of Oliver! The heart of the video was a post-curtain speech from the original Fagin, Ron Moody, who also performed "Pick a Pocket or Two." But that's not the point here, even though I later posted a video of Moody in a Broadway revival of the show.
If you remember back to that anniversary video, there was another Fagin on stage, the fellow who was playing the role in that London production, Russ Abbot. He's had a long career, a lot on television, but he's also played Fagin numerous times on the West End stage, and even toured in other countries with the show. But that's not the point either.
It's that when doing a bit of searching, I came across another video of Russ Abbot. It turns out that back in 1996, he starred in a British series called, Married for Life. But you might know it by another name -- that's because it wasn't a British series originally at all, but rather an adaptation of...Married with Children. And Abbot played the 'Al Bundy' role, called Ted Butler.
I'll post the clip tomorrow, but first I thought it would be best to give you a sense first of who he is, to put some perspective on things. So, here is Russ Abbot performing Fagin, in "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," done on a special honoring producer Cameron Mackintosh, Hey, Mr. Producer.
The other day, Jeb! Bush (R-FL) said that Pope Francis should not get into the issue of Climate Change, because "he is not a scientist," joining the chorus of conservatives who insist and making the same point. First, the Pope actually is a scientist. He's not a climate scientist, but a chemist, and he has a technical degree. But for the sake of accuracy, he is, in fact, a scientist. And has worked as a scientist. He is also the head of state of the Vatican city/state, so he has every right to delve into any issue that any state leader can -- and he has a staff of scientists he can draw upon, as any head of state does. But let's go further, let's even forget the argument, "Don't talk about women's health issues, you're not a woman." And "Don't talk about war, you're not a soldier." And "Don't talk about..." well, you get the idea. And let's forget too that if he Pope's position on Climate Change supported that of conservatives, we'd no doubt be hearing about following his moral leadership.
No, instead, let's accept this line of argument that Mr. Bush and other conservatives are suggesting -- don't talk about Climate Change if you're not a scientist. Only scientists should talk about Climate Change. Indeed, only climate scientists should talk about Climate Change. Fine, okay. That's what you want? Fair enough, let's accept that. Only climate scientists should talk about Climate Change. Well -- 97% of all climate scientists say that Climate Change is largely man made. So, if those are the only people who conservatives say can be listened to on Climate Change...then start listening to them.
This week's contestant is from just down the road -- Chris Willis from Santa Monica, California. I didn't have a clue on the composer style -- and I think most people won't either. Mr. Willis , it should be pointed out, is introduced as a film composer, so it is to his great credit that he got it, on his first guess. As for the hidden song, I thought it was a film theme -- and sounds a lot like much of it -- but it's not that. It's guessable, and easy enough to hear when you know it, but I didn't get it. The contestant didn't at first, but on second performance he did.
By the way, though host Fred Child doesn't ask about any of Chris Willis's film credits, so I checked them out. It makes even more clear why he was able to guess the composer style. Here's what written on the iMDB --
Christopher Willis composes the music to Disney's Mickey Mouse (2013), and co-writes the music to the Emmy Award-winning show Veep (2012). He has also (as an "additional music" composer) contributed to a number of major Hollywood movies, including The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (2012), X-Men: First Class (2011), Winnie the Pooh (2011), Shrek Forever After (2010) and Bedtime Stories (2008). He grew up in England and was a concert pianist, musicologist and concert composer before moving to California to pursue a film music career. He read music at the University of Cambridge and studied the piano at the Royal Academy of Music. Later he returned to Cambridge to write a PhD on the music of Domenico Scarlatti. His music has been played in the BBC Proms and on BBC Radio, and he has contributed a number of articles to scholarly journals and a chapter in the book Domenico Scarlatti Adventures.
During the current Republican campaign, the candidates have said many outlandish things, some occasionally reprehensible. Not just Donald Trump on women or Mexicans, or Carly Fiorina on seeing a gruesome abortion video that doesn't actually exist, or Dr. Ben Carson comparing the Affordable Care Act to slavery, or Mike Huckabee raining praises on a public official breaking the law to deny U.S. citizens their legal civil rights, or more.
But on Saturday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Canada/TX) topped them all, and he'll be hard to beat. It wasn't just grossly irresponsible, it was potentially dangerous. One of the most dangerous things I've heard from a presidential candidate. Right up there with John McCain's "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" song joke, if not more so. That's not hyperbole.
Speaking before religious conservatives at the Value Voters conference on Friday, he told the crowd how it might be a necessary to kill the Ayatollah in Iran.
Seriously, he said that.
Sen. Cruz was talking about how he would "rip to shreds" the nuclear arms deal with Iran on the first day in office if he was elected president, and then added, "If the Ayatollah doesn’t understand that, we may have to help introduce him to the 72 virgins” -- referring to the apparent belief of some some Muslims of what they'll receive if they die as a martyr.
And the clueless, bloodthirsty value conservatives in the audience cheered.
In fairness, as much as the audience should know better, I don't always expect "knowing better" to be a quality of zealots. But I do expect a United States senator who is running for president of the United States to grasp the enormity of the office and the concept that suggesting the assassination of any nation -- even one he no doubt considers a terrorist country -- is as pathetic a thing as he could have done.
Ted Cruz, of course, was not just talking to a room of adoring religious conservatives. He knew he was standing on a high, visible platform where his words as a candidate for the U.S. presidency are followed pretty much throughout the world, on the off-chance that he gets nominated by the Republican Party and then wins. So, what in God's name was he thinking????????
For one thing, he knows full-well -- and has vocally supported -- that the United States started an unprovoked "preventative" war with Iraq, under the guise of getting our attack in before America's enemy attacked us first. Given that he just suggested the possibility of killing the Ayatollah, why wouldn't he think that any other country would want to operate on the same attack-first "preventative" principle, and get the first shot in before America had its chance to get him??????
And second, as much as many/most Americans have an idea of who Ted Cruz is -- and people either love him for his pugnacious bombast, or detest him as a dangerous, divisive, egomaniacal clown -- it's likely that all foreign powers don't have the same sense of nuance to grasp his outlandishness. They no doubt see him as indeed he is: a United States senator running for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States. And so they probably take his words seriously, and at face value.
And what on earth has the Republican Party come to that its audiences not only cheer this, but that its leaders and those also running for president didn't immediately squash his words like a bug? The silence has been deafening. For that matter, Democrats have themselves been inappropriately too quiet. What Ted Cruz said demands a loud, vocal rebuke.
It shouldn't matter if anyone thinks Ted Cruz has a chance to get the GOP nomination -- he does have a chance, however unlikely -- or if they think he's a joke. His words as a serious candidate for president have meaning. And those words should be squashed viscerally.
Lest anyone think otherwise, how wrong was this?
I'm currently reading 500 Days by Kurt Eichenwald, about "secrets and lies" by the government in the aftermath of 9/11. On page 79, he writes about President Bush being asked by the press just days later about Osama bin Laden and Mr. Bush responding by saying he remembers an old TV show, Wanted: Dead or Alive. When hearing those words, John Bellinger, senior associate counsel of the National Security Council "almost fell out of his chair" and feared "the president may have gone too far." He sent an email to the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales. Eichenwald writes --
"The lawyer needed to warn Bush not to say things like 'dead or alive.' Such a reckless remark could be interpreted as an instigation for assassination, and that would cross the legal line. Bellinger finished composing his e-mail and hit the send button."
Now, again, remember, that "dead or alive" off-handed remark by the president came just days after 9/11 and was about no less than Osama Bin Laden. And even that, under those conditions, about someone who wasn't even the head of country, but a terrorist who had just overseen the killing of 3,000 people on American soil, a national security counsel lawyer was concerned enough to warn the president about the dangers of such a statement.
And there is Ted Cruz on the campaign trail quipping about killing a foreign leader. Just because Mr. Cruz didn't like a deal that had been signed to not build nuclear weapons.
It was reprehensible.
Perhaps the only thing I've ever heard more dangerous from a presidential candidate running for the White House is when John McCain said, "My choice for my vice-presidential running mate is Sarah Palin."
It's been a quiet week. The host recalls a notable childhood moviegoing experience, Lyle Janke's 10th grade biology class learns about bears, and a few thoughts on the power of memory.
Four top executive of Volkswagen, including its CEO, have lost their jobs in the wake of the emissions-fixing scandal. Volkswagen diesel vehicles were found to have had software installed that turned on when the cars would be tested for emissions, and then turned off afterwards to allow them to have better acceleration and mileage. Up to 11 million vehicles are affected, and in the U.S. alone the cost of the company is said to be $8 billion. In the last five days, the price of the company's stock has dropped from $162 down to $112. And none of this takes into consideration how angry customer are who bought that vehicles -- even when Volkswagen fixes the software, as they've promised, these customers are still stuck with cars that will now get worse mileage and worse acceleration than promised when they bought the car.
Now comes a report that internal documents show that the company new about the deceptive software as early as 2007.
This is clearly an overwhelming problem for Volkwagen -- but also for Germany, for whom the company is one of the foundations of the economy. I feel very bad for the employees of any company who had nothing to do with causing the problem, but whose jobs could be affected. I do't feel bad for the company because a scandal of this proportion didn't happen by accident, and there had to be a lot of people who knew what they were doing. But mainly, though I know 80 years have passed and society has changed, and Germany is very open and admirable today about dealing with its past, and the company has changed, completely --but as unfair as one's memory may be to the present, I still can't get out of my mind that Volkswagen came to its initial success because of Adolf Hitler. So, whatever happens to the company...you're on your own here, guys.
This was a story that absolutely fascinated me in the current issue of Written By, the in-house magazine of the Writers Guild of America. Every once in a while, the magazine edited by Richard Stayton devotes an issue to a single theme, and this was dedicated to the Blacklist, likely timed for the upcoming movie Trumbo (which I wrote about here) with the film's screenwriter John McNamara on the cover.
But it was another article inside that leaped out to me, "A Noble Band of Outlaws," written by David Gritten. The story dealt with a very popular TV series in the late 1950s, The Adventures of Robin Hood. It ran for four seasons and 143 episodes. (Yes, that many in just four years. Back then, a full year was...a full year. Its third season they produced a remarkable 41 episodes.) You may have found childhood memories of the show, or perhaps caught up with it on DVD.
It turns out that there was a reason such an early show in TVs Golden Age stood out for many in the audience as so lively and fun --
It was often written by some of the greatest movie screenwriters in Hollywood history! You just didn't know it because they were blacklisted, some on the famous Hollywood 10, and writing under pseudonyms.
This is not hyperbole. Among the people who wrote for The Adventures of Robin Hood were --
Ring Lardner, Jr., who wrote the classic Tracy-Hepburn film, Woman of the Year and later, after the Blacklist ended, M*A*S*H. (The article says that he co-wrote the Robin Hood series' first episode, but in checking credits there's a lot of inconsistency. Another source shows that Lardner wrote the premiere episode all his own, as 'Eric Heath' and co-wrote the second episode. And wrote the third and fourth. At the very least, though, he did write for that first show.)
Waldo Salt, who was an uncredited contributing writer on the Jimmy Stewart-Katharine Hepburn classic, The Philadelphia Story, and later won Oscars for writing Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, and also wrote Serpico, The Day of the Locust, The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight and the epic Taras Bulba.
Howard Koch, who had won an Academy Award for co-writing Casablanca, as well as writing the Oscar-winning (for Gary Cooper as best actor) Sergeant York and the Errol Flynn classic, The Sea Hawk, as well as after the Blacklist the wonderful TV movie, The Night That Panicked America about the Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast.
Robert Lees wrote many of Abbott and Costello's most-popular movies, including Buck Privates Come Home, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Hold That Ghost and The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap.
And other Blacklisted writers include Adrian Scott, whose credits include Mr. Lucky with Cary Grant, and Ian McLellan Hunter who wrote A Woman of Distinction with Rosalind Russell and Ray Milland; Mr. District Attorney and Eye Witness.
In all, research shows that as many as 22 blacklisted writers wrote episodes for The Adventures of Robin Hood. This largely came about because the show was made in England, financed by Lew Grade (who later became Lord Grade, and whose great-many credits include executive producer of The Muppet Movie and was the inspiration for the studio head played in the film by Orson Welles, as 'Lew Lord.') And overseeing it all was Hannah Weinstein, an American producer who had relocated in London.
As the article notes there was logic in her plan to use blacklisted American writers. First, she already knew many of them through her previous political work. Second, the level of talent available was significant. Third, because of their situation, the blacklisted writers were willing to work cheap. And also, many of the blacklisted writers has themselves moved to England and therefore were accessible.
You can read the whole article here. The intricate tale and subterfuge is fascinating. It's well-worth checking out the full story.
Here's the first episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Oddly, the one on-screen credit missing here is the one for (you guessed it) the writer. But writers names do start showing up on the second episode.
Well, it's official -- after some pretty dismal seasons recently, including going 73-89 last year, the Chicago Cubs last night made the post-season as a Wild Card team. But believe it or not, this isn't especially about baseball, but music. Still, the Cubs getting into the post-season can't go without at least mention and some perspective first. After all, they currently have already won 89 games with nine games left to play...and have the third best record in the National League. Quite a turnaround in one season! Yes, they've only qualified for a one-game playoff, so the post-season can be over in just one game, but hey, when you haven't won a World Series in 106 years, simply one game in the post-season is a cause for joy -- and optimism.
So, we'll celebrate with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." It's a song that's ubiquitous in baseball, of course. Every major league team, and even minor league team -- and probably most if not all college teams -- pause their games in the middle of the seventh inning to sing it. But the Cubs have ratcheted things up with the song and for years have made it a special tradition -- beginning with announcer Harry Caray leading the crowd with the song and then, after he passed away, starting in 1999 bringing in celebrity "guest conductors" to lead the crowd for the past 17 years.
Okay, pretty much everyone knows the song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," though they don't know the full song, with its two verses that surround its famous chorus. Or know much about its history. That's where we come in...
The song was written 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, who did the music. An oddity of the song is that when they wrote it, neither had seen a professional baseball game. (And wouldn't for another 20 years -- or 32 years in Von Tilzer's case.) This wasn't their only hit song though -- among other things, they also wrote the classic "Shine On, Harvest Moon."
The first recording was sung by Edward Meeker, which the Library of Congress added to the National Recording Registry in 2010, something they do annually for recordings that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." (Why it took 102 years, I have no idea. Though given that the song was written the same year that the Chicago Cubs won a World Series, having a long wait is not surprising. At least it got its honor before the Cubs have...)
Here's Meeker's recording, along with the words displayed along the bottom of the screen -- and with wonderful photos of old, classic ballparks.
By the way, this recording should resolve on long-standing issue -- what the words actually are. As you'll hear, it is not, "take me out to the crowd", but "with the crowd." And also, it's not, "I don't care if I ever get back", rather it's "never get back."
So, now you know.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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