Friday, March 30, 2007


Well, what did they expect?! ABC is shocked that its viewership has dropped substantially for their supposed blockbuster, the Emmy-winning LOST, on Wednesday nights.

I must confess, I'm not a viewer of the fading hit--I saw a moment here and a moment there and was neither taken by its so-called charms nor willing to invest in its complicated storylines. But I know there are those who view it (or used to view it) as religiously as I view, say, MEDIUM or HOUSE (or MY FAVORITE MARTIAN re-runs, which are proving delightful!). From what I gather, it's a fairly high-quality enterprise--LOST, that is.

So why is it fading?

Perhaps the same reason that 6 DEGREES, with its fabulous cast of talented actors like Hope Davis and Campbell Scott, can't find an audience. Perhaps the same reason that the infectiously naughty MEN IN TREES keeps losing steam, despite some truly inventive scripts and the best range of characters since NORTHERN EXPOSURE. Maybe the same reason that BROTHERS & SISTERS isn't growing despite a Sally Field, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffiths AND Patricia Wettig--the award-power alone is dizzying!

But let's ask the killer questions: WHEN DID IT EVER MAKE SENSE TO KEEP INTERRUPTING RUNS OF SHOWS?! WHEN DID IT MAKE SENSE TO KEEP SLIDING SHOWS ALL AROUND THE SCHEDULE SO YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN TO CATCH THE PROGRAM, EVEN WITH A VCR/DVR?! Of course, ABC is not the only network to do this--they all do it now. But don't they ever notice that audiences don't want to invest in shows, particularly shows with building storylines, if they don't feel they will get to see all the episodes in sequence. Whatsmore, some of these shows (however worthwhile) then get cancelled because they "couldn't attract an audience"--and those who were into them don't even get the benefit of a satisfactory conclusion.

MEN IN TREES, for example, is rumored to have survived to next season, but who can believe them? They moved the show from Friday evenings to Thursdays immediately after GREY'S ANATOMY, which seemed a sign of faith--but then it was only there for a couple of episodes, then it was interrupted, then put into re-runs, then finally allowed a new episode, and then . . . hiatus, with no promise of return. (But then, remember, this is ABC, who has lazily scheduled re-broadcasts from the previous evening of GREY'S ANATOMY on Fridays at 8pm rather than come up with something new and inventive.)

Folks, whatever school programmers are going to is doing a poor job of educating them! Loyalty comes from viewers when the networks respect the viewers--and give shows a chance to build their following. Need I remind anyone that CHEERS and SEINFELD and ALL IN THE FAMILY were at the bottom of the ratings in their first seasons, and it was only the faith of the programmers--and the gift of time to catch on--that resulted in the creation of long-running television classics.

Frankly, it's not that we'd all rather watch amateurs doing silly, dangerous and occasionally talented things on so-called "reality" shows. It's just that we want to watch something that won't be taken away from us so readily. Otherwise, we just watch something mindless to kill time (and frankly, there's not a lot of time left in the day to kill!).

Finally, consider that shows like SEX AND THE CITY, THE SOPRANOS and SIX FEET UNDER, all HBO shows that were cultural landmarks, were allowed to run because their numbers were good for CABLE; they were allowed to become part of the water cooler discussion world because they were around long enough to evoke a response. Had these same shows posted the exact same numbers on NETWORK television, they would have been long gone after the first season. Isn't it time to realize that with all the options out there, there can be all kinds of programming that is valid for specialized audiences? There's no need to try to find one show that fits all sizes--because it doesn't exist and never will.

Why are viewers going away, Networks? Who wants to enter into a cynical situation willingly? We want to know you'll still respect us in the morning.

Of course, I should talk--this is my first blog in weeks after a lengthy break. Are you still there, readers? Life is getting better--I promise to write more often!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Now through March 11th, Brooklyn's Gallery Players is doing a lovely, simple and affecting production of VIOLET, with book & lyrics by Brian Crawley and music by Jeanine Tesori. (Tesori is the talented composer behind CAROLINE OR CHANGE and THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE). The tale of a young woman's bus journey to get a facial scar healed in the 1960's, it is really about a journey to discover the beauty inside her soul. Along the way, Violet meets two young soldiers who are enthralled by her, as well as many interesting fellow passengers on the bus and strange characters at stopovers along the route. M.R. Goodley has done a lovely and economical job staging the piece on the Gallery's small stage, and musical director Jeffrey Campos makes the most of the vocally gifted cast. It would be wrong to start singling out members of this tightly knit ensemble, but one cannot help but fall for the charming Rhyn McLemore who capably carries the show as Violet. (As her two soldier suitors, Flick & Monty, Collin Howard and Shad Olsen give able support.) This is one of those shows that Gallery does so well--small off-Broadway gems that didn't get the broader exposure one would wish them. See it during its last two weekends--who knows when you'll have the chance again?!

Further information can be found at Individual tickets for each performance are $18 for Adults and $14 for Children 12 and under and Senior Citizens. Individual tickets can be purchased at or by calling (212) 352-3101. Performances take place Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8PM, and Sundays at 3PM.

The author is NOT a professional reviewer, and is indeed friends with many at the Gallery Players. However, this is a blog site, comprised of opinions of the author. If I didn't like the show, I probably just wouldn't write about it. Consider this "review" as a friend passing on the word about other friends' good work.


David Hare is one
of the major playwrights working both sides of the Atlantic, with such hits as PLENTY, THE SECRET RAPTURE, STUFF HAPPENS, VIA DOLOROSA and THE BLUE ROOM, as well as the screenplay for THE HOURS. (Later this season, he'll direct Vanessa Redgrave in Joan Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING.) So one could understandably get excited about the idea of seeing Julianne More and Bill Nighy, two of our more interesting, risk-taking film actors appearing onstage in Hare's THE VERTICAL HOUR. Unfortunately, in performance, you'll be more likely to be thinking about how soon they'll let you rest horizontally. It's not the actors' fault--they give competent, committed performances--and the script is high-minded with some interesting ideas, but it feels like all the action (and passion) has happened in the past and now they all just talk about it. And talk. And talk. Deeply held secrets are ultimately unsurprising, and the dark night of the soul just somehow doesn't dig deep enough. (And if reporters are supposed to stay objective, why is being a war correspondent a profession that "helps people"?) The set and lighting is simple but effective, and the whole evening has a professional sheen, but quite frankly, it's just not all that interesting. (At the Music Box Theatre on Broadway.)