Category Archives: Out of the Past

Hello Again Again

A film adaptation of Hello Again, Michael John LaChiusa’s 1994 musical, has begun showing up at festivals and limited screenings.

Here’s where things get delightfully complicated.

Hello Again was itself inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s German-language play, Reigen. In ten scenes, ten pairs of characters are shown before and after having sex. The first scene is about a prostitute and a soldier, the second shows the soldier and a parlor maid, the third features the parlor maid and a young gentleman, and so on, as Schnitzler’s characters move up and down the social scale, ending with a scene between a Count and the prostitute from Scene One. Schnitzler wrote the play in 1897, but it was so controversial that it wasn’t performed publicly until more than 20 years later.

If the plot sounds familiar but you don’t recognize the name of the play, that’s because in 1950, Max Ophüls filmed a French-language version of Reigen under the title La Ronde, and that title is the one that stuck with English-speaking audiences. (And presumably with French-speaking audiences as well.)

Since then, there have been at least four feature films (with four different titles) based on Reigen, and dozens of TV show have stolen the plot and structure paid reverent homage to the play.

Hello Again adds a new twist, by setting each of the scenes in a different decade, with period-appropriate music for each scene.

Should be interesting. Great cast, and the trailer certainly seems intriguing.

L.A. 2017 — A Forecast about the Then-Distant Future, from 1971

In an age of online streaming and 1000-channel cable packages, even mediocre TV comedies can still attract an audience decades after their original broadcast. As you read this, someone, somewhere, is watching a 1953 episode of I Love Lucy. Probably quite a few people are, in fact. On the other hand, TV dramas more than few years old seem to have a very short shelf-life, unless they were created by someone named Roddenberry, Serling, or Hitchcock.

The Name of the Game was an innovative television series that ran from 1968-1971. It’s largely forgotten now, which is unfortunate. The show was centered on a Los Angeles magazine company called Howard Publications, and followed three of the people who worked there: Robert Stack, as the editor of Crime Magazine, Tony Franciosa, as the editor of People Magazine, and Gene Barry, who owned the company. The Name of the Game focused on a different lead actor each week, with continuity supplied by Susan St. James, who played an editorial assistant in all three story lines.

L.A. 2017 was a Gene Barry episode. While driving home from an environmental conference, his character is overcome by pollution and faints. When he’s revived, it’s 46 years later, and he’s in a very different Los Angeles.

The young director of this episode, btw, was 24-year-old Steven Spielberg.

Apologies for the video quality, which looks like a seventh generation copy of a videotape.
The Name of the Game has never been released on Blu-ray or DVD.


Spielberg may have gotten one or two minor details wrong, but his geriatric Rock ‘n Rollers are dead-on accurate.

Star Wars Meet(s) the Beatles

The iconic 60s rock album meets the iconic 70s movie, in the mash-up you never knew you needed.

The album, titled Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans, comes from Palette-Swap Ninja, which is a collaboration between keyboard player and digital drummer Jude Kelley and singer/guitarist Dan Amrich. They describe it as a “geek-culture parody project”.

They’re releasing it just in time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, on 25 May 2017, and the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, on 1 June 2017.

Download the full album, free at Palette-Swap Ninja.

Happy Anniversary, Buffy!

It was 20 years ago today, as the old song goes, that the first episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer was televised on the long-gone and much-missed WB network. The show, based on a moderately successful but mediocre movie, survived an uneven first season (i.e. some of the first season episodes are really, really pathetic) to become one of the great pre-Golden Age television programs.

Or maybe, as Lucy Mangan wrote in The Guardian today,

The Sopranos is generally held up as the inflection point for television-as-art – the moment the medium matured and had to start being taken seriously. But Buffy was there first and doing extraordinary things before the conflicted Mafiosi hit the screen…”

—from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 20: the thrilling, brilliant birth of TV as art”*

The Scooby Gang, and friends.  And foes.

A personal story.

Back in 2002, I became seriously ill with what’s now called COPD. I went to my doctor on the morning of 12 November, and she immediately sent me to the ER at Washington Hospital Center. I didn’t get a room until a few minutes after 8 PM, but there was a silver lining, because once I had access to a TV set, I was able to catch most of that night’s episode of Buffy.**

I was hospitalized for three weeks, and instructed to recuperate at home for more than six weeks after that. During the entire time, my wonderful mother–who had turned 80 on the day I was admitted to the hospital–called me at least twice a day, just to make sure I was all right. The only time that was off-limits for phone calls was Tuesday night, between 8 and 9 PM, when Buffy was on TV.

So, yeah. I guess you could say I’ve always been a fan.


Bonus Feature

In this fan re-mix, Buffy takes on the most horrible vampire of all, with predictable results.


Another Bonus Feature

Here’s the original, never-aired pilot episode for Buffy, with a different Willow and a much sillier tone.


*The entire article, and the related stories on The Guardian site, are worth reading.
**It was a great episode, too! “Conversations with Dead People”.

Not Your Grandfather’s Archie Comics

“America’s Typical Teen-Ager”—even though he never was, isn’t now, and never will be—gets a 21st century makeover on The CW this month. It surprised me to learn that Archie Comics are not only still being published, but that the Archie Comics company is apparently thriving. Is Mad magazine still around?

FWIW, Archie first appeared in a comic book on 22 December 1941. We don’t know his birthdate, but given that he was already a teenager when he made that first appearance, lets assume he was born ~1925. That would make him a spry 92-year-old today.


Archie’s First Appearance

If The CW is to be believed, Archie and the gang have certainly aged well, but their hometown of Riverdale has taken on an ominous, dangerous aspect, as if George Bailey’s Bedford Falls had mutated into Twin Peaks instead of Pottersville.

Here’s a look:


The World’s Hottest Nonagenarians

KJ Apa as “Archie Andrews” and Cole Sprouse as “Jughead Jones”

Camila Mendes as “Veronica Lodge” and Lili Reinhart as “Betty Cooper”


Archie’s parents, btw, are being played by Luke Perry and Molly Ringwald.

Riverdale debuts on 26 January 2017.

Lunch at the Oldest Restaurant in the World

Botin

Botin

“We lunched upstairs at Botín’s. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. I ate a very big meal and drank three bottles of rioja alta.”

–Ernest Hemingway, in The Sun Also Rises

It’s called Botin, and it’s been serving meals since 1725, which, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, makes it the world’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. Among its many claims to fame—OMG, Nancy Reagan Dined Here!—Francisco de Goya worked at Botin as a waiter before being accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

So of course it was on my list.

Sopa de ajo con huevo

Sopa de ajo con huevo

Sopa de ajo con huevo is garlic soup, with egg. The egg was added raw, and cooked by the heat of the stock. The soup had a mild, not terribly garlicky taste.

botin-pork

Cochinillo asado

Botin’s signature dish is Cochinillo asado, aka Suckling Pig, roasted in the restaurant’s original 300-year-old wood-fired oven. With a side of potatoes, it couldn’t get any more basic than this.

Tarta de queso con chocolate blanco

Tarta de queso con chocolate blanco

The best part of the meal:  Cheesecake with white chocolate.


The food was fine, but not terribly memorable, except for that cheesecake with white chocolate. Despite Hemingway’s claim that Botin is “one of the best restaurants in the world”, well, he wrote that almost 100 years ago, and things change. Today, you dine at Botin not for the food, but for the history.