Posts Tagged ‘1990’

Brooklyn, Baseball, and Broadway

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Jackie Robinson has inspired an abundance of portrayals in popular culture, unsurprisingly.  Examples include Blair Underwood in the 1996 HBO tv-movie Soul of the Game, Chadwick Boseman in the 2013 movie 42, and the man himself in the 1950 movie The Jackie Robinson Story.

In The First, a 1981 Broadway musical, David Alan Grier projected Robinson’s travails in breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947.  Grier, later known for the 1990s sketch comedy television show In Living Color on FOX, received plaudits from theatre critics, along with the other cast members.  Frank Rich of the New York Times noted, “The casting of all the principals is good.  In his Broadway debut, Mr. Grier gives us an impassioned, strong-voiced and tough-minded Jackie Robinson—not an impression, but a real performance.  Though the role of Rachel Robinson hardly exists in the script, the striking Lonette McKee manages to fill her with vitality and warmth.  The sandpaper-voiced David Huddleston captures both the idealism and pragmatism, as well as the humor, of Branch Rickey.”

However, Rich was less laudatory of the play, which covered the same ground that 42 did three decades hence; it débuted on November 17, 1981 and closed less than a month later.  Rich wrote, “While this show offers about five minutes of good baseball and a promising star in David Alan Grier, its back is broken by music, lyrics, book and direction that are the last word in dull.”

A lack of endorsement from the Gray Lady is to a Broadway show what a stake is to a vampire’s heart.  The 1982 movie Author! Author! illustrates this point with bluntness wrapped in humor concerning the opening night of a Broadway play.  Referencing theatre critic Stewart Klein of New York City’s WNEW-TV (later WNYW-TV), a character says, “Let me tell you.  In this town, you don’t get a rave from the New York Times, you close.  I don’t care if Klein was enthralled, enraptured, and reached orgasm.  Without the New York Times, we’re dead.”

In my 2015 book Our Bums:  The Brooklyn Dodgers in History, Memory and Popular Culture, McKee graciously shared her experience.  “[Rachel Robinson] was so very warm, magnanimous and supportive during the entire process,” McKee said.  “And I still believe that the play and any stories about Jackie Robins and other trailblazers are important for all of us.  After all … how can we know who we are and where we’re going until we know where we’ve been and who the heroes were that paved the way for us.  The Robinsons are important civil and human rights leaders.”

Noted baseball author Robert W. Creamer reviewed the play for Sports Illustrated, acknowledging that it “does an admirable job of presenting a momentous occasion in American sport and, for that matter, American history.”

Further, Creamer explained, “I saw The First two nights after it opened, after the derogatory reviews had appeared.  I eavesdropped at intermission and after the final curtain, trying to find out what the audience thought.  Repeatedly, I heard people say, almost with embarrassment, almost apologizing for being so gauche as to disagree with the critics, ‘I like it.’

“So do I.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on January 31, 2016.

The Larry Sanders Show

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

RemingtonWith Stephen Colbert entering the late night talk show wars, audiences have another choice to wind down their day.  Late night, a programming block invented by NBC with Broadway Open House in 1950, spurred a slew of hosts.

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The Life and Times of Vincent Terranova

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

RemingtonWiseguy aired on CBS for four seasons, from 1987 to 1990.  Ken Wahl starred as Vincent “Vinnie” Terranova, a federal government agent in the Organized Crime Bureau.  Terranova went deep undercover to establish viable criminal credentials.

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Chandler Bing, Oscar Madison, et al.

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

RemingtonUndoubtedly, Matthew Perry’s most recognized role is Chandler Bing on Friends, the powerhouse sitcom on NBC’s Must See TV Thursday night lineup in the 1990s.  Perry has a distinguished roster of roles beyond the wisecracking Bing, who used humor as a defense mechanism to guard against his insecurities.

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Beyond Gil Grissom

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

RemingtonCSI, after 15 years, has been canceled.  William Petersen starred in the show about Crime Scene Investigators in Las Vegas from its debut in 2000 until 2008 as Gil Grissom, the lead investigator of the night shift.  Grissom was fascinated by the different aspects of solving a crime.  Without judgment, he took a pure observer’s role in his investigations.

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Lupo, Bernard, Briscoe, Logan, et al.

Monday, May 4th, 2015

RemingtonLaw & Order changed cast members about as often as Mickey Rooney changed wives in its prime time tenure on NBC from 1990 to 2010.  Jeremy Sisto played Cyrus Lupo.  Fans of Six Feet Under know Sisto from his performance as Billy, brother of Brenda and sometimes bane of the existence of Brenda’s significant other, Nate.

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Stern and Stars

Friday, April 10th, 2015

RemingtonThe 1997 movie Private Parts, based on Howard Stern’s autobiography of the same name, has fairly rich television connections.

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Pembleton, Bayliss et. al.

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

RemingtonIn the 1990s, NBC dominated with a powerful lineup of programs, including SeinfeldFriends, and ER.  Homicide:  Life on the Street, while overflowing with quality scripts, story lines, and actors, did not bathe in the glitz factor of NBC’s other shows.  Still, it lasted seven years, airing from 1993 to 1999.

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Springfield’s First Family

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

RemingtonThe Simpsons began as cartoon shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987.  It was the debut year of the FOX network.  FOX expanded The Simpsons to a half-hour show in 1989.  The Simpsons got so popular that FOX moved America’s favorite dysfunctional family from Sunday night to Thursday night in 1990 to take on the Huxtables, America’s favorite functional family.

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American Television

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

America pervades television program titles.  Indeed, examples are plentiful.

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