All tagged Maude

Beatrice Arthur: The Greatest of the Vera Charles

I happen to be an enormous fan of the musical Mame. I find it so incredibly joyous and tuneful, full of bright humor and characters that are so much fun. My love affair with Mame, believe it or not, started with a high school production I saw back in the 1980s. I knew nothing about the show at all (I was 16 at the time and just starting on my journey into the world of Broadway musicals). When I left the theatre, I knew I had to own the original cast album as soon as possible (unaware that I was that it starred the incomparable Angela Lansbury and my favorite TV actress (Maude AND The Golden Girls) Beatrice Arthur in a scene-stealing supporting role. A few days later, I went with my stepfather to a used record store (he was a D.J. at a local radio station and always looking for old records). I, as I usually did, wandered off to the “Movies and Shows” section of shop. There I found, not one, but two records of Mame: the original Broadway cast album and the Lucille Ball movie soundtrack. We won’t get into the latter (perhaps a discussion for another day), but the former soon became my most played album for at least a year. 

TV Tidbit: The Closing Credits of Good Times

TV theme songs seem to go in and out of fashion, but I have always found them to be the soul of a TV show and I am ecstatically glad nowadays when shows have one. The melody and the tone of its lyrics of a TV theme song set up the viewer each week, reminding them of their favorite programs, evoking an emotional memory that draws them back into the characters and their predicaments. Recently, I was re-watching the 1970s sitcom Good Times. For those who do not know it, it tells the story of Florida and James Evans, an African-American family living in near-poverty, trying to make ends meet, in the projects of Chicago. The theme song, by Dave Grusin (music) and Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman (lyrics), is a bold and ironic statement, musing at the how everyone is “scratchin’ and survivin’”. What I never absorbed until recently is the reworking of the song for the show’s closing credits. Three lines of new lyrics sung to a more contemplative version of the melody are shear poetry, summing up the world of Good Times with economy and impact. I suddenly found myself emotional and achingly connected to show in a way I hadn’t before

The Television Sitcom: Social Change Through Laughter

So many of us take television for granted, relegating it to the lowest echelons of entertainment without giving it the due for the creative and cultural force that it is. TV holds a great deal of power, being the most-accessible of all entertainment forms, besting theatre and television for price and instant gratification. With this in mind, we have to concede that television has the greatest influence on our individual and collective social psyches, shaping how we see and greet the world. TV offers opportunities for us to see how other people live, people who may not be like ourselves. Laughter is something that is also universally understood. People like to laugh, by themselves and even more so with others. It is no surprise that one of the most beloved forms of television storytelling is the situation comedy, a device for creating humor by putting characters in relatable (if often extreme) situations where they learn and grow. The greatest leaps and bounds of social change in our country have occurred when a television audience was presented with topical and challenging material though the refreshing catharsis of laughter provided by the sitcom?  

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TV Theme Songs: The Soul of a TV Show

Television theme songs (and the opening credits sequences designed to accompany them) are an art form that is seldom given the careful study it deserves. In fact, theme songs are not as prevalent as they once were, producers opting to jump right into the story with the credits playing over the opening scene.  Something is lost in this abrupt start of a television show, a bit of magic that may not be essential, but that certainly transports us with its melody and lyrics.

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