Saturday, July 28, 2012

How NBC Ruined the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony for Americans

I will admit it. I am not a big fan of the Summer Olympics. There are very few sports that take place at the Summer Olympics that interest me. The few sports that do interest me in the Summer Olympics (football/soccer, archery, fencing) are either broadcast at odd hours of the day or on channels I almost never watch. That having been said, I generally do watch the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games. I have always been drawn to spectacle and I enjoy seeing the different ceremonies countries have to offer. Unfortunately, this year NBC decided to spoil the one Summer Olympics opening ceremony to which I had been most looking forward: the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

The first mistake NBC made was that it did not air the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony live, nor did it offer a choice for live, online streaming. I rather suspect that NBC offered a tape delayed broadcast of the opening ceremony so that they could air it during primetime, that period from 7:00 PM Central to 10:00 PM Central when American television ratings would be their highest. That having been said, I don't see that streaming the event live online would have had an appreciable impact on NBC's primetime ratings. Many, perhaps most people, would elect to watch the tape delayed broadcast on NBC, so that the network would still receive appreciable ratings.

As to NBC's reason for not offering an option of live streaming for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, in an email NBC claimed that Olympics Opening Ceremonies "...are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large prime-time audiences that gather together to watch them." I must most strenuously disagree with this. I think the average person could grasp most of last night's ceremony without NBC's production team putting it in context for them. Contrary to what NBC apparently believes, viewers are not stupid.

Indeed, it seems to me that many in the audience who tuned into watch the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Summer Olympics would have been more than happy had NBC's "award winning production team" not been on hand to provide "context." Early in the ceremony Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira kept their commentary to a minimum. They simply explained what Beefeaters were and what the National Health Service was and so on. As the night went on, however, they began to talk more and more.  They started stating the obvious again and again, and even talked over songs. A low point came during a tribute to Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. As Sir Timothy was on the stage, Meredith Vieira commented, "If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either." Matt Lauer, apparently equally oblivious to Sir Timothy's importance, not simply to Great Britain, but the world, joked, "Google him." Now I realise not everyone probably knows who Sir Timothy Berners-Lee is, but to me for a newscaster not to know who Sir Timothy is would be tantamount to not knowing who William S. Paley or Samuel Morse is. When you are in the communications business, you should know who the innovators in communications history are! While I suppose some might forgive Mr. Lauer and Miss Vieira for not knowing who Sir Timothy was, not many seemed to forgive their banal banter. If you were on Twitter last night you could not escape the tweets last night asking them to be quiet.

Meredith Vieira disappeared in time for the Parade of Nations, at which point Bob Costas took over. Sadly, Matt Lauer would still be present. While Bob Costas offered interesting bits of Olympics trivia and bits of trivia for each country, Matt Lauer continued to utter the most asinine things. Perhaps the worst example was when Matt Lauer mentioned that Madagascar was associated with a well known animated movie. Both Bob Costas and Matt Lauer committed what in my opinion is a nearly unforgivable sin in broadcasting events such as this. They talked over a musical performance. Following the lighting of the flame, The Arctic Monkeys performed The Beatles' "Come Together."  Those of us who had been looking forward to The Arctic Monkeys were to be sorely disappointed. Messrs. Costas and Lauer talked through much of it! Fortunately, they were quiet when Sir Paul McCartney took the stage.

While, at least as far as Twitter was concerned, viewers were obviously unhappy with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira's running commentary, it was not the worst mistake that NBC made in its broadcast of the London 2012 Summer Olympics ceremony. They cut out a performance of "Abide with Me" by Scottish singer Emeli Sandé that has been interpreted as either a tribute to the victims of the 7/7/2005 terrorist attacks on London or to those who have died in war. While the International Olympic Committee's media guide makes no reference to either the victims of the 7/7 attacks or the war dead, it seems to me that it was a big mistake on the part of NBC to omit the performance regardless. I rather suspect most viewers would have enjoyed the performance ("Abide with Me" is a lovely song and Emeli Sandé has a beautiful voice) and would have much preferred to see it rather than the interview Ryan Seacrest (who last time I checked is not a sportscaster) with Michael Phelps. The possibility that it was indeed a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 attacks (as it was so interpreted by the BBC) should have told NBC that it was not a good idea to cut it!

Now I realise that I sound a bit angry in this post, but then this is one of the Summer Olympics Games opening ceremonies to which I have been looking forward the most. I have been an Anglophile all of my life. What is more, England is the homeland of the majority of my ancestors. Naturally, then, I was looking forward to this year's opening ceremony more than I had been the 2008 Beijing Summer Gamers or the 2004 Athens Summer Games. What is more, this year's opening ceremony was being directed by film director Danny Boyle. Having directed some of my favourite movies (Trainspotting, Sunshine), I was intrigued by what he would bring to the opening ceremony. And I must say Mr. Boyle did an incredible job in directing the London 2012 Summer Olympics ceremony. I swear he incorporated every bit of British pop culture he possibly could (although he seems to have missed Doctor Who, The Avengers, and Fry & Laurie) in a ceremony that was very entertaining. I loved the film of James Bond escorting Her Royal Majesty the Queen and Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) performing with the London Symphony. Okay, I was bored a bit with the Parade of Nations, but then I have yet to see a Parade of Nations at an Olympics opening ceremony that was not a little dull.

In fact, it is because Danny Boyle did such a fantastic job in directing the Summer 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony that I was so disappointed in NBC's coverage of the event. I do not think NBC could have done a worse job if they had set out to play spoilsport with the opening ceremony. They aired the event on a tape delay so we could not see it as it was happening. Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira talked through much of it. Matt Lauer and Bob Costas talked as The Arctic Monkeys performed. They left out Emeli Sandé's performance.  I honestly hope that there is some means that Americans can watch the opening ceremony without Matt Lauer and Meredith Veiria's running commentary. And if there is not, then I really think it would behoove NBC to make one available. After all, in covering this year's Summer Olympics Ceremony, they let every American who watched it down.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chad Everett R.I.P.

Chad Everett, perhaps best known as Dr. Joe Gannon on the television series Medical Centre, died on 24 July 2012 at the age of 75. The cause was lung cancer.

Chad Everett was Raymond Lee Cramton born on 11 June 1936 in South Bend, Indiana. He grew up in Dearborn, Michigan. It was there while in high school that he became interested in the theatre. He attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from college, he went to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting. It was legendary agent Henry Wilson (whose clients included such notable personalities as Rock Hudson, Robert Wagner, Guy Madison, and others) who gave him the stage name, "Chad Everett." Mr. Everett signed a contract with Warner Brothers. 

Mr. Everett made his television debut on an episode of Maverick in 1961. He went onto guest star on several other television series produced by Warner Brothers, including Lawman, 77 Sunset Strip, CheyenneBronco, Surfside 6, and Hawaiian Eye. It was in 1963 that he played one of the lead characters, Deputy Del Stark, on the short lived series The Dakotas. In the Sixties he went on to guest star on such shows as Route 66, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Branded, Combat, The Lieutenant, and The F.B.I. It was in 1969 that Medical Centre debuted, featuring Chad Everett as Dr. Joe Gannon. The show proved to be a hit and ran seven years. For a time it was the longest running medical drama on television. He also appeared in movies in the Sixties. He made his film debut in Claudette Inglish in 1961. He went onto appear in such films as Red Nightmare (1962), Rome Adventure (1962), The Chapman Report (1962), Get Yourself a College Girl (1964), The Singing Nun (1966), Journey to Midnight  (1968), and The Impossible Years (1968),

In the Seventies, in addition to continuing on Medical Centre, Chad Everett appeared on such shows as The Red Skelton Hour and Police Story. He appeared in the mini-series Centennial and played the lead role in the short lived series Hagen. He also appeared in the films The Firechasers (1971) and Give Me My Money (1977). In the Eighties Mr. Everett played the lead on the short lived series The Rousters. He guest starred on such shows as Hotel, The Highwayman, and Murder She Wrote. He appeared in the films Airplane II: The Sequel (1982),  Fever Pitch (1985), Heroes Stand Alone (1989), and The Jigsaw Murders (1989).

In the Nineties Mr. Everett played lead roles in the short lived series McKenna and Manhattan A-Z. He appeared on such shows as Cyblll, Touched by an Angel, Diagnosis Murder, Melrose Place, and The Nanny. He appeared in such films as Psycho (1998) and Free Fall (1999). In the Naughts Chad Everett appeared in such films as Mulholland Dr. (2001), View from the Top (2003) and Tiptoes (2003). He appeared on such shows as Without a Trace, Cold Case, Supernatural, and Castle. He was a regular on the series Chemistry.

Chad Everett was one of a number of handsome, generally dark haired, leading man types to emerge in the late Fifties and early Sixties (Robert Conrad and William Shatner were other examples). He would play many roles besides the action TV series in which such types were generally cast. Indeed, he played the villain in Airplane II: The Sequel and would later play a closeted gay police officer on Cold Case. Although best known as Dr. Joe Gannon, Mr. Everett was versatile enough to play many other sorts of roles.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mary Tamm Passes On

Mary Tamm, perhaps best known for playing the first incarnation of the Time Lady Romana on Doctor Who, died today at the age of 62. The cause was cancer.

Mary Tamm was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire on 22 March 1950. She attended Bradford Girls Grammar School and later studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. It was in 1971 that she joined the Birmingham Repertory Company. While with the Birmingham Repertory Company Miss Tamm appeared in Good Time Johnny and in Harold Pinter's The Lover. She would appear the following year in the rock musical Mother Earth in London.

It was in 1973 that Mary Tamm made her television debut in an episode of the TV show Hunter's Walk. That same year she appeared in the mini-series The Donati Conspiracy. Over the next few years she appeared on such television programmes as Coronation Street, A Raging Calm, The Inheritors, Warship, Public Eye, and Return of The Saint. She made her film debut in Tales That Witness Madness (1973), and went onto appear in the films The Odessa File (1974), The Likely Lads (1976), and Rampage (1978).

It was in 1978 that Mary Tamm was cast in what may be her best known role, Romanadvoratrelundar ("Romana," for short), in Doctor Who. At first Miss Tamm was hesitant to accept the role, with concern that she would simply being playing a damsel in distress in what was then widely regarded as a children's show. Romana would be very different from most of The Doctor's previous companions. Like Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elisabeth Sladen), Romana would be independent, intelligent, and resourceful. Unlike Sarah Jane or any other companion before or since, Romana was explicitly said to be a member of The Doctor's own race, a Time Lord (or in her instance, a Time Lady). Mary Tamm remained with Doctor Who for one series, after which the part of Romana was taken over by Lalla Ward (like The Doctor, Romana regenerated into a new form).

Following Doctor Who Mary Tamm appeared in several series and mini-series. In 1980 she appeared in The Assassination Run. In the Eighties she appeared in The Treachery Game, Only When I Laugh, Jane Eyre, Bergerac, The Hello Goodbye Man, Worlds Beyond, Agatha Christie's Poirot, and Casualty. She appeared in the film Three Kinds of Heat (1987). In the Nineties she was a regular on the series Brookside and Headless. She appeared on such shows as Perfect Scoundrels, The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Crime Traveller, Heartbeat, Loved by You, and CI5: The New Professionals. She appeared in the films Pressing Engagement (1992), Melody's Her 2nd Name (2000), and Sorted (2000).

In the Naughts Mary Tamm was a regular on Paradise Heights. She appeared on such shows as The Bill, Jonathan Creek, Rose and Maloney, Holby City, Diamond GeezerDoctors, and EastEnders.

Mary Tamm was a very talented actress capable of a number of roles. Her incarnation of Romana on Doctor Who was aristocratic and arrogant, initially looking down on The Doctor. More recently on EastEnders she played Orlenda, a Russian con artist about as far as Romana as one could get. She also played Blanche Ingram, the beautiful, but hard hearted and greedy socialite courted for a time by Mr. Rochester. Miss Tamm was capable of playing nearly any role to which she set her mind and play it well.

Mary Tamm's Romana was among the first of The Doctor's companions I encountered when I began watching Doctor Who and she remains my favourite. The first incarnation of Romana was different from nearly every other companion in that her distinct awareness of her aristocratic heritage and as a result she tended to be a bit haughty as well. As a Time Lady she was certainly different from the various humans with whom The Doctor has travelled. While I felt Lalla Ward did quite well as the second incarnation of Romana, her character never quite appealed to me as much as Mary Tamm's Romana. Regardless, I must say that I am saddened by the passing of Mary Tamm, a great actress who played one of my favourite of The Doctor's various companions.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sherman Hemsley Moves On Up

Sherman Hemsley, best known as George Jefferson on The Jeffersons, died today at the age of 74.

Sherman Hemsley was born on 1 February 1938 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He dropped out of school to enlist in the United States Air Force. After four years of service, he returned to Philadelphia where he worked for the United States Postal Service for eight years. While working at the post office he studied acting. He trained at the Philadelphia Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Sherman Hemsley appeared in various productions in Philadelphia, then moved to New York City to pursue acting there. He studied with Lloyd Richards at the Negro Ensemble Company. Afterwards he joined Vinnette Carroll's Urban Arts Company. There he appeared in such plays as But Never Jam TodayCroesus, The Lottery, and Old Judge Mose is Dead. Mr.Hemsley made his debut on Broadway in the role of Gitlow in Purlie in 1970. He played the same role in a revival on Broadway in 1973.

It was in 1971, while Sherman Hemsley was still appearing in Purlie, Norman Lear contacted him about playing George Jefferson in All in the Family. At the time Mr. Hemsley did not want to leave Purlie, but Norman Lear told him he would hold the role open for him. It was then in 1973 that Sherman Hemsley made his first appearance on All in the Family as George Jefferson. George and his wife Louise were next door neighbours to main characters Archie and Edith Bunker on All in the Family. George and Louise proved so popular that they were spun off into their own series, The Jeffersons.

The Jeffersons would prove to be a hit series, running for eleven years. In fact, the show was so beloved that CBS found itself in the midst of a controversy when it cancelled the show in 1985 without allowing them to make a proper series finale episode. Regardless, it went onto a highly successful run in syndication. The Jeffersons was not just popular, it was also ground breaking. It was the first show to centre on an upscale, African American family, as well as the first to feature an interracial married couple.

While The Jeffersons was on, Mr. Hemsley appeared elsewhere on television and on the big screen as well. He guest starred on The Incredible Hulk, Fantasy Island, and The Twilight Zone, and appeared in TV productions of Purlie and Alice in Wonderland. He also appeared in the film Love at First Bite (1979).  Following The Jeffersons Sherman Hemsley appeared in the films Stewardess School (1985), Ghost Fever (1987), and Club Fed (1990). In 1986 Mr. Hemsley played the lead character, Deacon Ernest Frye, on the series Amen. Deacon Frye was a similar character to George Jefferson, except not quite as loud and a bit more unscrupulous. The show proved to be a hit and ran for five years.

In the Nineties Mr. Hemsley would be part of another popular sitcom. He provided the voice of J. P. Richfield, the overbearing boss of main character Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs. The series ran for three years. He also played the main character, Willie Goode, on the short lived Goode Behaviour. He guest starred on such shows as Designing Women, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Burke's Law, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (as Toyman), Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (twice reprising his role as George Jefferson on the role). Clueless, and The Hughleys. He appeared in the films Mr. Nanny (1993), Home of Angels (1994), The Misery Brothers (1995), Sprung (1997), Jane Austen's Mafia! (1998--once more as George Jefferson), and Screwed (2000).

In the Naughts Mr. Hemsley appeared in the films For the Love of a Dog (2008) and Hanging in Hedo (2008). He guest starred on The Family Guy and The House of Payne (as George Jefferson). He was a regular on the short lived series Clunkers.

The Jeffersons formed a large part of my childhood and it was one of those shows I watched regularly. I rather expect the reason many people liked the show as the same reason I did:  the chemistry between stars Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsley as Louise and George Jefferson. The two complimented each other perfectly. It is understandable why Norman Lear held the role of George Jefferson for Sherman Hemsley, as it is hard seeing anyone else in the role. Sherman Hemsley played George perfectly. George was loud, opinionated, stubborn, and at times unscrupulous. Isabel Sanford's Louise, who was patient, understanding, and stubborn in her own way (she really had to be to be married to George), was a perfect match for him. Along with a great supporting cast, Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsley was much of the reason The Jeffersons was a hit.

Indeed, Sherman Hemsley was a uniquely gifted actor when it came to comedy. He had perfect timing and could generate laughs with just a look. While best known for George Jefferson, Mr. Hemsley could take any character and make him funny. The character of J. P. Richfield on Dinosaurs was in many ways very different from George, yet through his voice Mr. Hemsley was able to endow him with a personality all his own. He truly was a great comic actor.