Can We Learn Anything from the Cancelled High School Production of ‘Spamalot?’

Two thumbs way up high to Howard Sherman for his excellent op/ed on Slate. It’s mind-numbing to me that stuff like this still happens in America but, you know what? It happens every single day. There are far more controversial things in the American musical theatre canon than the “gay themes” in Monty Python’s Spamalot. Good grief.

Another example of senior leadership being completely out of touch with young people. And you thought there was a “generation gap” in the 60s and 70s! Ha!

Sherman ends his essay thusly:

Students return to school in South Williamsport today with the false impression that their drama director provoked an unfounded controversy. What they don’t know is that their principal and superintendent assert that LGBTQ life is unsuitable for families to see, that their parents might be “afraid” of “small kids” seeing gay relationships even in a broadly comic setting, and that there are concerns about attendance at such a show because the material is “risqué.” The students also don’t know that their principal believes that LGBTQ representation might force some of them to make decisions about their personal beliefs, which is presumably part of education and maturation. There are important lessons still to be taught in South Williamsport, but only if the school administration and the community learn them first.

via Spamalot: Pennsylvania school cancels production because of “homosexual themes.”.

All My Children Gets the Axe Again

It’s not every television series that can boast (?) of being cancelled more than once, but that’s the case with the once-perennial fixture of early afternoon viewing, All My Children. While there hasn’t been “official” official word from the show’s producers Prospect Park (at least publicly as of this writing), tweets from star Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard) expressing thanks to fans have been widely circulated and quoted by generally reliable sources such as Michael Fairman On Air On Soaps and retweeted by Cady McClain (Dixie Martin).

(Update: Cady McClain [always a class act, BTW] confirms via Michael Fairman.)

The cast of the "new" All My Children included many familiar faces, including original cast member Ray MacDonnell and longtime co-stars Cady McClain, Jill Larson, David Canary, Julia Barr and others. Image: Ferencomm/The Online Network.

The cast of the “new” All My Children included many familiar faces, including original cast member Ray MacDonnell and longtime co-stars Cady McClain, Jill Larson, David Canary, Julia Barr and others. Image: Ferencomm/The Online Network.

There’s going to be a lot of snarky fan reaction on the Innerwebs in the coming days and weeks along the lines of:

  • I knew it wouldn’t last.
  • Why couldn’t it have been every day?
  • I didn’t want to watch on Hulu.
  • I couldn’t figure out how to get it on my computer, so I gave up.
  • They didn’t have Erica Kane.

And here’s what I have to say about that, quoting that wonderful singer-songwriter Phoebe Kreutzboo frickin’ hoo.

Honest to God. I’m just happy to see someone try to do something differently. I was appreciative of the opportunity, as a viewer, to meet these characters on this new canvas for a while. To have produced 43 episodes in this new format is not a loss, it’s a win. Producers are finding more and more ways to interact with audiences through the Web than they ever have before:

  • Cady McClain made a cool short movie;
  • Freddie Smith, Shawn Christian (DOOL) and company are making a web series;
  • Indie phenom Adam Goldman is producing his second brilliant web series;
  • Broadway’s Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead produce, script and star in a smart web comedy
  • Kit Williamson and Van Hansis (ATWT) starred in Williamson’s exceptional web program….

I could go on and on. But to the naysayers, just remember, small, closed minds have never discovered new worlds, written great novels, played great music, developed cures for disease or launched the next life-changing app. They laughed at Edison, too, you know.

Pine Valley
It was terrific to see folks like Cady McClain and Debbie Morgan and Darnell Williams and Jill Larson in old familiar roles — even the never-count-him-amongst-the-dead Matthew Cowles — but it was even better to watch some terrific new talent like Eric Nelsen and Denise Tontz and Rob Scott Wilson emerge and breath new life into characters whose names, but not much else, were familiar to longtime viewers.

So, again, we write the elegy — and eulogy — for Pine Valley, but we move on, figuring out what’s next and where we’ll be tomorrow and what we’ll tune into then. Something new. And different. The world still turns. Well, as it were.


Recent Ramblings on All My Children:

‘The New Normal’ Star Justin Bartha Talks About The Show’s Cancellation

“The NBC executives get a lot of critique from the press but they should be applauded for putting us on the air in the first place, because we still have a long way to go with equality in this country and around the world.”

via ‘The New Normal’ Star Justin Bartha Talks About The Show’s Cancellation.

I’ll agree with that. Good show. Good actor. Sad it’s gone. I certainly wish NBC had more balls.

The New Normal — Done With TV

Last week, leading up to the upfronts — that’s the time when the networks pat themselves on their backs and announce their new series — news about television was all about what shows had gotten the axe.

Last season I watched a half dozen or so shows on the networks. Here’s what I enjoyed, in rank order:

the-new-normal-utah-new-home__oPt1. The New Normal
Ryan Murphy’s smartly written comedy about a gay couple who want to start a family. This show got some unfavorable reviews from gay outlets, but I found it simply lovely. Truth be told, this surprised me because I find Murphy’s Glee the most inconsistent show on TV. However, this one was a love note to the celebration of difference. Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha were wonderful. NeNe Leakes was hilarious and I found the whole thing refreshing. I particularly liked the way Ellen Barkin’s strident conservative grandmother was allowed to change and still hold to her own truth. It was smart. Very smart. No, it was not everyone’s gay experience — we’re not all wealthy Californians with a perfect house and perfect teeth — and maybe you couldn’t quite relate to it, but hey, at least it WAS a gay experience on network television.

The quirky, oddball non-linear new take on Friends full of fast dialogue and underplayed pop culture references to keep you on your toes. The show grew over its time on the air, but it never gelled the way I think it should have. I think Adam Pally was poised on the brink of being a breakout star, but no one seemed to know how to write for his character, which is a shame because I think there was a lot there to be mined. There’s talk that this may end up on some cable network or another. I hope so. It deserves a second time around. Zero bad apples in this gang of six.

New-Girl-Jess3. New Girl
Three guys and a girl share a loft apartment. Zany antics, deftly drawn characters and a healthy dose of heart. And this is on Fox? Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson have really shined this season. Max Greenfield is insanely funny and a fearless performer. The show is smart, has grounded itself in a unique worldview and is starting to emerge as more than “just a sitcom.” It’s a delight AND one of the few sitcoms that understands how to maximize its (terrific) guest stars. Two words: Julius Pepperwood.

Smash season 24. Smash
NBC’s paean to Broadway. Shot in New York and chock-a-block with actual theatre performers. Theresa Rebeck created the show, adapting Garson Kanin’s novel. A writer, Rebeck was also the showrunner and by all accounts the first season was a train wreck backstage and the novel show became nearly unwatchable at the end of season one. Brought back for a second season with a seasoned showrunner who severely retooled it, the storylines got tighter and more interesting to watch, but the network buried it and ratings fell through the floor. A shame, really, because there was some great stuff going on here. Andy Mientus, Jeremy Jordan and Megan Hilty showed great range, Christian Borle made the jump from stage acting to screen acting look utterly effortless and Debra Messing showed a fantastic grounded, dramatic side that we never got to see on Will & Grace.

images5. Whitney
An odd little nut of a show featuring interesting comedic performances from some not-so-stereotypical performers. Comedienne Whitney Cummings had her hand in two shows that debuted in 2011: her self-titled one and the CBS diner sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Whitney was a lovely little show with interesting performers while 2 Broke Girls was one extended dick joke. Guess which one is still on the air? Chris D’Elia and Rhea Seehorn were refreshing additions to the landscape.

Because it’s consistently funny when you least expect it to be. There’s a lot of talk about the over-the-top performers on this show — like Eric Stonestreet and Ty Burrell — but the real heart of this show is Ed O’Neill who delivers a consistent, grounded, underplayed performance week after week. He’s not recognized for this anti-Al Bundy turn, but he should. Critics who know better should realize that he’s the glue that’s holding the whole damn thing together. Every time I think that MF is close to jumping the shark, it pulls itself back from the edge. Also, as the children have grown, all of them have gotten better and better, particularly Nolan Gould, who plays Luke Dunphy.

Cougar TownAnd not on the network any longer:
Cougar Town
Courteney Cox leads Bill Lawrence’s band of wine-swilling crazies through an odd Florida town. Axed as an underperformer after two seasons on ABC, it’s found new life on TBS with two 13-episode seasons — one just concluded and one upcoming. If you understand Penny Can, Dime Eyes and Big Carl, you’re onto the shenanigans in the cul de sac. It’s devilishly clever in a truly oddball sort of way. It’s to group-of-friends comedies what Scrubs was to hospital comedies. Makes sense, because they were created by the same warped mind.

Last week, the networks axed numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5. So, I’m done with TV now. The cable company gets a call on Monday and the hundreds of channels with nothing on them but five-year-old reruns of Paula Deen deep-frying bacon-wrapped lard balls in butter and Housewives of (fill in a place) and Kardashians and hoarders and Honey Boo Boo and rednecks in swamps can all go away and I’ll save thousands of dollars over the next year and it will make me ecstatic not to have to pay that money to hellish Comcast!

Besides, most of the stuff that I watch comes from abroad. I watch A LOT of stuff from the U.K. on the computer. I watch a number of excellent independent Web series and even the back-from-the-dead All My Children. With the possible exception of losing out on new episodes of The Big Bang Theory and NCIS (because sometimes you just don’t want to have to think), why do I need cable if I have Hulu and Netflix and Amazon and YouTube and enough minor technical knowledge to sneak behind the occasional poorly built firewall?

And that’s my new normal.

Besides, NBC, any network that pays Matt Lauer millions of dollars to stay ON television certainly does not want me watching.