And so Friday is upon us again. No, that’s not right. Monday is upon us. Friday is like a spatula under a hash-brown patty. I tote up what I wanted to do this week, and found myself coming up short as usual, so I’d best redouble my efforts this weekend. (Spoiler: won’t) The week had all the fine things and some time in the trough, a consistent entertainment in the evenings to end of the day - the Netflix series Narcos, which is virtually the same show every episode.
VO of wary, seasoned, almost-burnt-out DEA Agent Murphy: The Cali boys knew if they hit Carlos, they’d have to hit hard. And they did. But Escobar had a few tricks left, and before the day was done there’d be bodies piling up in the barrios. But hey, as long as business was good, he didn’t care. And business was good.
I mean, that’s every voice-over. And I don’t care. The second series is all about the diminution of Escobar, moving from house to house to smaller house, barking out murder orders while wearing a golf-themed sweatshirt and dad jeans. It’s mostly in Spanish, so I have to pay attention.
Column night, for a change. I wrote next Monday’s column earlier this week, but it’s an evergreen, and I think I’ll bank it.
One of the many reasons I love my new job - it still feels that way, even though it's been a while - is where I sit. Before, I was in Metro. I didn't belong in Metro. I was honored to be there, but I didn't belong. Now I am in Variety, but a backwater four-cubicle pod on the other side of the main Variety newsroom, as I would prefer. My pod is next to the galley and a big bright room with a curved window that looks down on the 333's lawn and south to the highway - a grand view of the city, as open and engrossing and spectacular as the old building was small and close and remote. My cubicle shares a low wall with our TV critic, Neil Justin. So: I love TV, TV history, movies, movie history, pop culture, and having a cynical take grounded in childhood affection for the fictions of the box, and right next door is a guy who has the exact same enthusiasms. Bonus: he's what you would call a liberal, and I'm what you would call a conservative. So it's Vidal / Buckley, except he has more respect for Buckley than I have for Vidal, but nevermind that. We rarely discuss politics. We talk about what we saw over the weekend - the old, the new, the unseen; he gets the screeners, so he knows what's coming, and what's good. For the last two days last week we had incredibly detailed and intense conversations about Carson.
They're based on a series of complete Carson shows Time-Life is releasing, and if there's anything that sums up the 70s and 80s it's "Time-Life is releasing the Carson shows." They're not compilations or greatest-hits, but the whole show, including commercials. Many familiar faces. For example: 3 seconds in a Beautyrest mattress ad. For some people, she's instantly recognizable:
If you were there, anyway. And then there are the mysteries:
That mug. Why does he have a picture of Eddie Albert on his mug? Or Buddy Ebson?
Anyway, Neil is younger than I am, but was old enough to catch the trailing edge of the Tonight Show under Johnny, and is incredibly knowledgable about the players who populated 70s TV. He got a copy of the Time Life "Carson Vault" set, which has full shows, WITH COMMERCIALS. It was a revelation about the art of the talk show, the surprisingly low-energy pace, the lousy monologues, the ginned-up gimmicks, the strengths of Ed McMahon, the way Johnny tried to do accents if his guest was doing accents (and he didn't do them very well,) the brightly-lit machinery of the show. I made the point that you could learn more about the 70s from ten ordinary banal Carson eps than a six-hour documentary on the era, and I think I'm right. It's not what they say so much as what you can infer.
"Streaking," Neil said. "I had forgotten how big a thing that was." Because they had a streaker on the Carson show. Total set-up. Carson said there was a rumor they'd be streaked. And they were! Double, triple-takes! Questions to the guests: Carl Reiner, you were in England recently, do they have streakers in England?
"It was probably Pat McCormick." I have no idea why I thought that. But it was.
So after two days of talking about the shows, he hands me the disks. I knew I would have to extract the ads and put them on YouTube. I think this sums up 1974 perfectly - the old holdovers, the up-and-coming faces.
The voice was someone who'd star had dimmed but had secured recognition and hence authority; the face would be quite famous in a few years.
Back to music cues for "The Little Things in Life," Peg Lynch's last continuously running sitcom. The cues run from substandard 60s cues to cringingly 70s, and I'm surprised at how few there were. I think I'm already repeating what I previously played. In fact I know I'm already repeating the fact that I think I'm repeating myself, but on we go: this is the sound of narrative radio in its strange last gasp.
Tension music . . .
. . . without much tension.
A return of the old style, with less orchestration, ending in the Chord of Domestic Unease:
Something needs resolving.
I'm curious how they thought all these different styles would work from day to day. They don't give the show a consistent feel; they make it seem hodge-podge. I'm not sure they cared.
Stereo! It's new! Let's make you want one . . .
. . . with the dullest ad we can make.
Back to the down-cellar lab of Mr. Science.
Nowadays this would be highly problamatic.
The liner notes:
The whole thing is like . . . "Cringe Along with Mitch." Lines like "An awesome capacity for joy was also an integral part of the AmericanNnegro approach to life . . .
. . "and irrepressible good spirits abound on David, Play On Yo' Harp."
I'm not one of those people who smugly points out how white something is, but this is mighty white.
That'll do! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed this week's entertainment. More to come, as they said on some show.