Monthly Archives: January 2011

TV Today

When did the world decide that a cheap Walmart camcorder can take the place of real television or movie cameras? This is reaching nigh epidemic levels.

I submit to you “Ghost Hunters” and its many incarnations (and other similarly styled shows). Don’t even get me started on how horrible these shows are, how stupid, how poorly executed. The entire concept of the show is a bunch of people going around in nightvision, asking, “Did you hear that?” when there was absolutely no sound, and telling the client that “We can’t confirm paranormal activity, but we certainly can’t rule it out, either.” I mean, seriously. And the quality of filming is subpar by even the lowest standards.

And it’s not limited to television, either. Nowadays, anyone with a Flip or some similar camera thinks they can make a documentary. If you want to see good-quality documentaries, watch something on the Discovery Channel or, even better, Science Channel, featuring talking-head style interviews. They actually use good HD cameras and have these things called microphones, so you can even hear the people. Crazy, right?

I have a Flip. I’m not making broadcast movies or TV shows with it.

I’m not saying that all well-filmed shows are good. Far from it. In fact, I think the aforementioned Discovery Channel (and its many subsidiaries, especially TLC) are really scraping bottom on their concepts. We don’t need a show following every single job in existence, let alone multiple shows about the same subject. How many people really care about loggers or a trillion auction and pawnshop shows and a trillion hoarding shows and exterminators and nature-survival shows and four or five versions of Police Women and a hundred shows following little people? The problem is that there are too many channels now and not enough material to fill them.

There are libraries of quality old programs that could fill these networks. Seasons and seasons of shows that are so good but no one has them on the air right now. If all we’re going to do is create imitations of imitations, why not bring these old shows out of retirement? That would be even cheaper, I’d assume, than even the next reality show would be. Because if we keep this up, soon, we’ll be seeing shows about pool-maintenance companies or people who make screwdrivers or basket weavers for the stars or jewelry makers for the stars’ dogs. Assuming these shows don’t already exist.

And, dear God, I hope that doesn’t give people any ideas.

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In July of 2009, I traveled (by limo – go, me!) to Cleveland to see “Mary Poppins,” the musical. I’d seen quite a few musicals by this time, including ”Wicked” several times. Until then, “Wicked” had been my favorite.

“Mary Poppins” definitely gave it a run for its money.

This afternoon, I traveled (by a very good friend’s car – but still go, me!) to the city nearest me – Pittsburgh – to see “Mary Poppins” again.

Once again, it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it may have been even better the second time around.

It was the first time I’d ever sat in balcony seats. I always managed to get orchestra tickets in the past, but this time I wasn’t really willing to spend that much money, especially when I wasn’t entirely sure who would be my “date.” I also was aware of how the show ended, and I knew I wanted to be up high the second time around. And I was pleasantly surprised with the seats. Though cramped, the view was spectacular, and I highly doubt I’ll ever get orchestra seats again (though I may get slightly closer balcony seats).

Caroline Sheen absolutely shines as the title character, and well she should, having first played the role in the UK tour.

Equally talented is Nicolas Dromard, who has also played Fiyero in “Wicked,” so I obviously wasn’t surprised to see him excel here, as well.

The rest of the cast also delivers in every way, but I’d like to take a moment to mention the children in the production. I’m not entirely certain which cast members played the roles today (two boys and two girls alternate playing Michael and Jane Banks). Whichever young actors were featured this afternoon – and perhaps someone from the show will read this and fill me in – they were outstanding. I often wish I had gotten involved, in some capacity, with my school’s theatrical productions, not that they did many back then, and I think it’s excellent to see these children reaching for their dreams and having the talent to back their dreams up. I recall thinking something similar a couple of years ago, watching the young cast of “Peter Pan.”

This show takes me back to my childhood – which tends to be a theme among my favorite musicals, and, for me, outdoes the film, as live theater often does. It often takes every ounce of willpower I have not to start belting out the songs with them, which I’m certain the rest of the audience would not appreciate. I’d be hard-pressed to note my favorites, from the poignant “Feed the Birds” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” to the lively “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time.” Each has an uncanny ability to make me laugh or tap my toes or even move me to tears. (Side note: Microsoft Word’s dictionary apparently includes “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” because spell check doesn’t flag it.)

The end of the show left me with some of those tears, as it did the first time, but, fortunately, the curtain call just brings you right back to excitement.

And I couldn’t help but smile as the young girl behind me cried out, “I love you!” as Caroline Sheen took her bow. I love you, too, Ms. Sheen, for taking me back to an easier time, for owning such an iconic role, and for making me believe in magic.

I love you, too.

Update: The spectacular and beautiful Caroline Sheen and the fantastic Nicolas Dromard have informed me via Twitter that the two young stars were Talon Ackerman and Camille Mancuso. You can, if you like, follow Ms. Sheen, Mr. Dromard, and the show’s official Twitter.

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