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She TV (1994)
For all that it meant to highlight the women involved...
Nick Bakay ended up the true star of the show in its short run. Perhaps the most memorable running joke throughout the series for me was the recurring lampoon of NYPD BLUE, then a hot newish show on ABC, but already familiar enough for Bakay, portraying the David Caruso character, and the various other cast members to consistently ask each other, with heads cocked to one side, "You OK?" Since this seemed to happen at least once every ten minutes on NYPD BLUE, it hit home. As a whole, the sketches that made up most of the episodes were less than stellar, but there was usually enough to make any given installment worth watching. Bakay, after his penance on the first shipwreck of a Dennis Miller talk show (syndicated in a time when there were many slots open for late-night syndicated talk shows), went on to shine in another largely female context, doing voiceovers in the teen-oriented but initially clever fantasy sitcom SABRINA, THE TEENAGED WITCH.
The Hidden Room (1991)
Lifetime's horror and suspense anthology...
...which would seem like an oxymoron, when we consider the reputation of the Lifetime cable station (unless each story involves the horror of a cheating husband or the suspense of a stalking ex-boyfriend), but I remember it being rather well-done (if rather obviously on a shoestring), particularly an episode which adapted a short story by the well-regarded horror and science-fiction writer Lisa Tuttle...the first a/v adaptation of her work with which I'm familiar. I would like an opportunity to review these episodes again, but suspect something like the Museum of Television and Radio will be the only hope, since not only the various fantastic-drama cable and satellite stations but everyone else seems to have forgotten about the series.
A remarkably good job of what it was meant to do.
WEEKEND was meant to reach teens and 20-somethings with a 60 MINUTES-style magazine format, and it succeeded admirably with me, as I watched as a kid. Initially, it was on every fourth week in the Saturday at 11:30pm ET slot, to give the Saturday NIGHT LIVE folks a break (similarly, NBC was driven through desperation to schedule professional wrestling in the same timeslot in the early '80s during one of SNL's fallow periods). I remember the show's pace and breadth of subject matter were impressive, and would be nearly as likely to stick with WEEKEND to the end of the show at 1am as I would be SNL in its first seasons. It's a real pity that the attempt to move WEEKEND into primetime was botched so badly...certainly no other newsmagazine show since has quite had its tone or approach (there was a faint echo of it in the first season of CBS's much later, short-live WEST 57TH, but that show lacked the wit and grace of WEEKEND).
A good selection of short films and related material.
Unlike most such anthologies on US public television, this series from syndicator American Public Television (APT) tried to build each episode around a specific theme; it was also aiming at presenting as much cultural diversity among US creators as possible. Daisy Fuentes did a creditable job as host and presenter, in circumstances somewhat more dignified than in her AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME INJURIES gig. (Such other contemporary short-film series as THE SHORT LIST or THROUGH THE LENS were usually less thematic, though THE SHORT LIST particularly was notable for presenting films from around the world.) As of June, 2005, no reports of a second season of COLORVISION have been made.
The Tomorrow Show (1973)
A mixed bag.
Tom Snyder (I) (qv), like eventual NBC NIGHTLY NEWS anchor Tom Brokaw (qv), had been a blow-dried newsreader in LA in the '60s and earliest '70s, but when Snyder came to the NBC network, he didn't continue in a straight-news format; TOMORROW, which followed THE TONIGHT SHOW (qv) when that program still ran 90 minutes, was (usually) a limbo-set interview program with Snyder sometimes chatting with off-camera staff and crew, and sometimes seemingly with himself, before getting around to his guests for a given episode. Dan Ackroyd (qv) did a remarkably good caricature of Snyder from the earliest episodes of "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" (qv). Among Snyder's most famous interviews was a relatively rare out-of-studio interview with Charles Manson (qv), wherein Snyder baited the convicted felon; among the other low points of the series was a disastrous interview with cartoonist and writer Gahan Wilson (qv), wherein Wilson was presumably asked to bring his collection of rare Teddy bears, only to be treated very rudely by Snyder while discussing them. A longer-term low point was the addition, by NBC, of gossip reporter Rona Barrett (qv) to the series, in its penultimate season, as co-host. However, in happier times, the show was unusually free-form and spontaneous for network television in the 1970s; Harlan Ellison (qv) was among the occasional guests to be seen only rarely, if at all, on other network programming. Snyder went on to a radio career and to be the founding host of THE LATE LATE SHOW (qv) on CBS-TV, as an employee of and followup to David Letterman (qv).
Outstandingly shallow film, well-mounted, atrociously written
Everything that was wrong with MILLION DOLLAR BABY (and, for that matter, with the otherwise unrelated TRAINING DAY) is thoroughly intensified in this sorry excuse for an adult AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL. Caricatures rage at other caricatures, dramatic events have little valid foreshadowing to give them any real weight, ridiculous and ridiculously frequent coincidences are adorably depended upon, and cheap, lazy writing comes at the audience in almost every scene. The portrayals of East Asians is particularly egregiously racist in that "Ho-ho, aren't we clever for indulging in stereotypes that we all know are stereotypes" way but no one in the film escapes this altogether. If letter-grading, I'd give it an F+: the first sequence between the locksmith and his daughter was well-acted enough to make me forgive its poor writing (and the encounter between the director and the younger cop is almost as not-bad), but too soon we're back to Clash of the Cardboard Cut-Outs, despite solid efforts by the cast and crew to professionalize this drivel.
V.I. Warshawski (1991)
Definitely disappointing, but not awful
It is remarkable to me how much affection and revulsion this watchable, incomplete misfire of a film can inspire, here among the Comments and elsewhere; I haven't seen more than a few minutes of it for several years, but did see it in a theater in its original run. Kathleen Turner as VIW is too much a flirt to conform to Sara Paretsky's portrait of her detective, but otherwise gives a decent performance that, better than the script, gets across Warshawski's toughness, wit and unwillingness to suffer fools any more than she has to. The film, as someone else noted, would've done well to be a more faithful adaptation of one of the early novels, rather than pulling bits from several and then letting the plot go completely slack by the last third. But there are nice touches, here and there; Wayne Knight was born to play the petty thug and childhood schoolmate of Warshawski. But the hastiness and corner-cutting of the production is unfortunately evident. One wonders if a second film, with a better script and crew, might've been quite good.
American Playhouse: City News (1983)
A fine early entry in the American PLAYHOUSE series on PBS
This was part of an early season of PBS's occasional series of longform drama, American PLAYHOUSE, which served as co-producer/funding source for a number of good-to-excellent "indy" films (and some videotape presentations) over the next decade or so. This one, involving a cartoonist who finds something like love with a new womanfriend, is mostly memorable twenty years after seeing it for its fine seduction scene to the Normal's recording of "Warm Leatherette." Otherwise, a very pleasant and witty little drama, and probably more surprising in terms of a 1984 telefilm than it would be to anyone today...imagine something similar to the Wayne Wang-directed SLAMDANCE without an attempt at a crime-drama plot.
TWENTY-SOMETHING...and sadly overlooked.
This was a charming series, and probably from ABC's perspective producers Zwick and Herskowitz's "second strike" after the short run of their MY SO-CALLED LIFE, and before the undersupported but three-season run of ONCE AND AGAIN. THIRTYSOMETHING, their briefly hit series from several seasons previously, had been a trendsetter, if a bit precious to my taste; MY/LIFE, their followup dealing with teens, had been an improvement, and surely has reverberated with its audience in a way few series have; RELATIVITY, dealing primarily with a couple in their twenties and their families, friends, and colleagues, was better yet, and deserved much more support from network and audience alike. (ONCE AND AGAIN, the FORTYSOMETHING show which followed, was even better, as far as I'm concerned, but that doesn't diminish the excellent quality of this neglected series.) Yes, let's have those DVDs!
A remarkable confluence of talent...
This, like entirely too many early PBS shows, not only was underfunded initially (and certainly too willing to mock Nixon's America to be tolerated for long in the immediately pre-Watergate period), but has fallen into a ditch in terms of who owns the rights at this late date (you can't get a legit home copy of, say, the Kurt Vonnegut adaptation BETWEEN TIME AND TIMBUKTU for similar reasons). Those who've seen it, now more than three decades ago, tend to remember bits and pieces; the closest thing it had to a unifying on screen presence was Marshall Efron, who went onto his PAINLESS Sunday SCHOOL program after this one's defunding, but the innovative sketches, animation, and even wry reportage make it even more a predecessor of what was best in the early Saturday NIGHT LIVE than Albert Brooks and Chevy Chase's participation. As a child, I loved it, even when I found it very strange.
(Note to editors--you have an extraneous listing for BETWEEN TIME AND TIMBUKTU--it's listed once as a film, once as a TV series. It was a film for PBS.)