Sunday, October 30, 2016

INSULT TO INJURY???


Note from the Web Squad:

No, not quite.  The November 3 issue of Rolling Stone printed a heavily edited version of the response Barney Rosenzweig sent regarding the obvious sin of omission on the part of the magazine in listing the 100 Best TV Shows EVER and not including Cagney & Lacey.  We just thought the omission was so blatant that the least they could have done was to print Barney's letter in its entirety.
If you want to add your views, e-mail the publication at:  letters@rollingstone.com or write to them at Rolling Stone  1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10104-0298.  Whatever you do keep it brief because they have a tendency to edit.  What follows here, in its entirety,  is the letter Barney wrote:
It simply is hard for me to compute: all those years of hard work and effort, all that recognition, the awards, flattery by imitation, unprecedented fan loyalty, all of that... and Rolling Stone cannot manage to come up with the title Cagney & Lacey when putting together a list of the best shows ever on television? Truth to tell, as the fella responsible for that series, I think I am more aggravated over not being in the top 50 than I am about not making the list of 100. It brings me to a real empathic sense of what it must be like to be Hillary Clinton.

My friend Stephen Bochco's two wonderful cop shows are on your list... but no recognition of the fact that the difference between his Hill Street Blues and his follow-up, NYPD Blue, is ... (wait for it)... Cagney & Lacey. My show was about two women who happened to be cops, not two cops who happened to be women. After us, NYPD Blue also took their cops home from the precinct in order to explore their lives as well as their jobs. Hill Street Blues was one of the great police procedurals of all time.  NYPD Blue was Cagney & Lacey in drag.

Without Cagney & Lacey could there have been a thirtysomething... let alone a Thelma and Louise? What show on the Rolling Stone list is, a generation later, still part of the language? How many shows on that list of 100 have had more Emmy Awards, a better title identification, or have had  more impact on our society or, for that matter, the television industry itself? How many inspired not one but four re-union movies for television, and how many stars of shows, on the air 30-plus years ago, still regularly populate television and motion picture screens as do Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless? We do know that for six consecutive years, no other actress, save for Daly or Gless, won the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama--a winning streak that is still unmatched--and we were there in the hall when Helen Mirren, the star of one of your 100 honorees (Prime Suspect) received her Emmy Award by beginning her acceptance speech with "Thank you, Cagney & Lacey."

During my career I produced hundreds of hours of prime time television before and after Cagney & Lacey, (e.g., from Daniel Boone to The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, to Christy and John Steinbeck's East of Eden). When I gave up my Hollywood post office box to move to Florida,  I never dreamed that a geography change would preclude me from being polled with so many of my contemporaries regarding the history of an industry that I have always taken so seriously and served so well. I (sort of) get that one-time competitors might fail to remember someone else's accomplishments, but (frankly) I am disappointed that Rolling Stone didn't do the necessary research to expose this obvious omission of such an iconic television series.

Years ago I was told  a rolling stone gathers no moss. It appears it doesn't do much in the realm of gathering sufficient facts either.



Barney Rosenzweig


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

TV or not TV?

The Rosenzweig/Gless household is awash in unwatched screeners from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Oh, we have seen most of the major award winners but we haven't found time for the rest because Sharon and I have binged our way through yet another fascinating season of television including a new-to-us series by the name of Mr. Robot
The USA drama (already renewed for a second season which I believe is scheduled to  premiere very soon now) has a wonderful cast, a very contemporary, well written concept , and is invariably nicely directed. I am incredulous at how politically prescient show runner Sam Esmail has proven to be and am knocked out by the freedom the USA Cable channel has obviously allowed the show's creative team in every aspect of this incredible production.  I watch and marvel at the fact that I used to spend time arguing with CBS "standards and practices" execs for permission to dub in the sound of a flushing toilet before Christine Cagney exited the commode in the 14th precinct's women's room. Bravo Mr. Esmail, and kudos to every single member of the cast. It is a ground breaking show.

Game of Thrones. What more could possibly be written? A phenomenal show... a herculean task to undertake. I am glad this season is over. I need the rest. Here is one new thing (maybe): Just a personal observation but this is a show that I really don't mind waiting a week to see between installments. It is almost too dense... too rich... to binge. Maybe not. I have done it both ways and either way the show delivers.  And this season... just when (especially during the hour long cameo by Deadwood star Ian McShane) I began to lose faith in this ultra creative team, showrunners Benioff & Weiss bounced back with an epic penultimate episode and then finished off the season in glorious fashion while reminding us of all the joys we have to look forward to next year on HBO when The Game will return.

Brain Dead. I have seen the first three hour-long episodes and find it mildly amusing and leading lady Mary Elizabeth someone I might come to believe can carry this wannabe quirky new  CBS series. Credit the Network brain-trust with the good sense to try this out in the summer instead of watching it flame out in a too competitive fall season. The Kings (Robert & Michelle), who exited my great favorite, The Good Wife, to engage in this (by comparison rather fluffy piece) must be having some remorse over maybe leaving a good thing too soon. At the same time I have to believe... if they are getting any kind of freedom at all in this project (which I suspect they are... given who they are) then they may be having a good time with this too- close-to-the-truth spoof of our US Government. It is just that this is closer to the Network's surprisingly good Supergirl than it is to MR. ROBOT and I am not sure that was anyone's intent.  Since Supergirl was referenced, Melissa Benoist in the title role is magnificent and Calista Flockhart has almost as much fun as the writing staff of this better-than-you-might think CBS series.


I would be remiss not to salute the recently gone-to-hiatus The Americans, which bowled me over every single week of this past season. It is a show that is incredibly bold and seems to get better with each passing year. I love the cast... every single one of them... and am in awe of what has been pulled off by show runner Joe Weisberg. I never imagined a Network (FX in this case) could so quickly follow their own incredible Justified  with another great drama, but they have.  
Scandal on ABC remains my guilty pleasure . It gets more and more over the top each season, but they have me... and a vast audience... hooked. I would guess producing phenom, Shonda Rhimes, thinks she can get away with anything at this point, and maybe she can. I am eager for SHOWTIME to come back with new seasons of The Affair, which got better with each episode over the past couple of years, and (of course) one of my all-time favorites, Homeland. I even found myself smiling at the prospect of the upcoming newly minted Donovan episodes ... but after watching  the first episodes I felt that perhaps I had stayed too long with this particular cast of  largely unsavory characters.

 
Tyne Daly's  brother, Tim, has found something to do on Television that uses his persona and talents well. I like Madam Secretary even though I was sure I would not. Tea Leoni is perfect in the title role and I never woulda thunk it. In fact the only thing that didn't surprise me as to how good this series would be was executive producer  Barbara Hall. I tried for years, without success, to seduce this talented writer into coming to work on Cagney & Lacey and/or The Trials of Rosie O'Neill.  And why, you may ask, didn't I believe in Ms Leoni? She is a wonderful actress and has done a lot of work I have applauded in the past. Frankly I didn't think she would have the gravitas... (or age, for that matter) to play the Secretary of State of the United States of America. That is where Barbara Hall came through big time. When I saw that first episode, the "back-story" created for the Leoni character, coupled with her relationship with a former boss now occupying the White House... made her character's appointment (and flair for the job) something that made total sense. I only wish I liked the political part as well as much as I enjoy the home life and male/female stuff between Daly and Leoni. That is grown up sexy, warm and wise stuff for all of us to see in the comfort of our own living rooms. The actors who play their kids are pretty great as well. 


Manhattan. Have you seen it? You should. It has recently been canceled after two seasons, but I watch it enthusiastically (and happily pay the $2.99 for each episode on Amazon). I understand you can also get it on Hulu. However you access it, it is worth seeing. A largely unfamiliar (to me) cast brings great verisimilitude to this period drama and how could they not... the attention to detail in costuming and sets is extraordinary. This is not your typical Hollywood version of the 1940s where every car is a classic in waiting, every woman is quaffed and clothed perfectly, and every gent has an Errol Flynn hairpiece or a Clark Gable mustache. This is the 40's the way I remember it looking in Montebello. Even the food being consumed on screen has that overcooked monotone look to it. With such attention to detail, the actors get to concentrate on getting their words out and not bumping into furniture. They do that with alacrity and Producer Sam Shaw has a succes d'estime for his resume. Sometimes that is even better than just a plain old success... depends how old you are and your level of patience, I guess. I know I will look forward to the next thing Mr. Shaw brings to television.


I am told Better Call Saul is even better than Breaking Bad, from which it "spun." I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I mention it lest you think it was forgotten by this blogger. You should see Mozart in the Jungle.... the second season is even better than the very good first season... and the gal who plays the lady with all those tattoos on Blindspot (Jaime Alexander) just about makes this ordinary series worth watching despite a less than interesting stable of actors in the other parts.
For a few young friends who missed it when it first ran, I have been rescreening J.J. Abrams' fabulous Alias with Jennifer Garner and former Rosenzweig alumni Ron Rifkin (The Trials of Rosie O'Neill) and Carl Lumbly (Cagney & Lacey). If you, too, are one of those who missed this... or, like me, loves a show with a strong female lead, then this is still terrific television. And, if you are going to research what you missed from any of the above then a visit to ON DEMAND for Justified is not only justified, but essential. HBOGO will deliver you Deadwood, which is still (arguably) overall, the best series ever made for television. There are many more great shows... VEEP, True Detective (both seasons... I don't agree with the naysayers regarding season two), The West Wing, Downton Abbey. Modesty might preclude most from mentioning their own shows, but not me and Cagney & Lacey is out there (at least on DVDs) and The Trials of Rosie O'Neill will become available before year's end. I just wouldn't feel right not mentioning them.

Barney Rosenzweig
July 13, 2016



Thursday, June 9, 2016

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary (part 2)

Sharon and I had married 25 years ago while working together on The Trials of Rosie O'Neill. We had begun our romance  on that show's predecessor, Cagney & Lacey. If you are one of those readers who always skips ahead to the sexy parts, I commend you to Chapter 40 in my book, Cagney & Lacey... and Me. The chapter is entitled "If you can paint, I can walk" and if you don't get that reference then you are not nearly as romantic as you may think.

As referenced in the previous blog, Sharon and I had decided to share our 25th anniversary with friends in England. Why not? We hadn't seen most of them since Sharon was over there for her third time on the West End boards with A Round-Heeled Woman and blowing a whole bunch of money at the beautiful Connaught Hotel (plus all those frequent flyer miles for airfare) seemed like a proper way to acknowledge the accomplishment of actually remaining together for a quarter century. Who woulda thunk it? Certainly very few back in tinsel town, USA.

During the week we were in England, Sharon had tea with some of her UK fans (now friends), breakfasted with cagneyandlacey.com's Jacqueline Danson, and dined with playwright Dan Thurman and his American partner Adriann.  Dan had worked with Sharon when she was starring in A Round-Heeled Woman at the Aldwych Theatre and was a great help to me as well during my many visits during that time. 


Sharon and some of her UK fans at afternoon tea in London, May 2016 - L to R Angie, Rosie, Helen, Sharon, Ann and Linda
Photo credit:  Daniel Thurman
© cagneyandlacey.com 2016  - please do not reproduce without written permission


Playwright Daniel Thurman with Barney and Sharon, London, May 2016
Photo credit:  Adriann Ramirez
© cagneyandlacey.com 2016  - please do not reproduce without written permission

Next was a lovely lunch, complete with many laughs with Jane Prowse over the pretentious French menu we were presented at the Connaught.  Jane, who wrote and directed Round-Heeled, could do the same for a comedy based on that lunch. We later dined with Bill Paterson, Sharon's co-star from her West End debut in Stephen King's Misery. Bill's fabulous wife, Hildegard complimented the evening beautifully as always.  Tom and Kara Conti  are another fantastic couple with whom we dined.  Tom Conti starred with Sharon (again in the West End) in Neil Simon's Chapter Two.  

Long time pal, Maureen Lipman regaled us at dinner following her performance in the four generation play My Mother Said I Never Should by giving us our own private  performance of the play's final act which, unfortunately, could not be performed on stage the night we went to the play as an audience member had fallen and could not be moved until an ambulance arrived. Since that took approximately an hour, the remainder of the play was canceled for the night.

This cancelation thing was becoming a pattern for us since the night before, Sharon and I were in the audience of the revival of Funny Girl when, less than 15 minutes in, the fire curtain was rung down with an announcement made that "due to technical difficulties" the show was being terminated for the rest of the performance. 

There is no truth to the rumor that Sharon and I were in the theatre only nights before when Glenn Close had to leave that West End production of Sunset Boulevard in order to be hospitalized for the better part of a week. Too bad, though. We might have set a record... or at least started some serious gossip to the effect that either someone had better quickly cast Sharon in something... anything... before she single-handedly wrecked the entire West End theatrical season.

Back to Funny Girl. I have never been more relieved to prematurely leave a theatre in my life. As stated, it was about 15 minutes into the show when it was brought to a stop. Twelve minutes earlier I leaned over to Sharon and said "this is going to be a very long night." My comment was based on the performance by the "actress" in the lead role of Fanny Brice... one of America's great stars who was made even more famous by an even greater star, Barbra Streisand.  50 years ago, in what I believe was the second or third night after the opening, I sat in a fourth row aisle seat to witness one of the great theatrical events of my lifetime. Did I write "sat"? Mostly I was on my feet, cheering an unbelievable performance by a contemporary of mine who would go on to become one of the great icons of her time.

Half a century later I was now watching, on one of London's most venerable stages, a veritable plethora of bad acting choices, all being made by one individual, whose only connection to Fanny Brice or Barbra Streisand, other than gender, would have to be chutzpah. There have been rumors that "star" (Sheridan Smith) was in one way or another incapacitated by emotional exhaustion, or drink, or ???? I know nothing about that. Drunk or sober, overwrought or just plain tired... none of that was the issue for me. This kewpie doll cutie was making choices... acting choices... that were so off-base, so far from what the Funny Girl complexities call for, that I found it offensive.  Sharon and I were both happy to get out of that theatre early.

For a "relief" we were off to see People, Places and Things with an Olivier winner, Denise Gough in the lead. A pal of ours calls it "People, Places and Shouting" and that is what it basically is. The thing starts out  at a rehab center on such a high intensity note that there is no place to go... nothing to build toward... modulation is not attempted,  nor is it achieved. Broadway... particularly Hamilton... has nothing to fear from these West Enders.

Now, back in the States there is some news of a positive nature... The Trials of Rosie O'Neill is going to be reissued as sort of the caboose being pulled by the very powerful train known as The Good Wife.  In the not so old days, we used to say "Before Thelma & Louise there was Cagney & Lacey and before The Good Wife there was The Trials of Rosie O'Neill." Now the four C&L movies we call The Menopause Years are coming out again along with... for the very first time since the initial exposure in 1990/'91... the highest rated and best reviewed series of that Freshman season... The Trials of Rosie O'Neill

It has been too long coming and, if you can stand to watch a show where the lead doesn't grab for a cell phone every few minutes, I promise you will be entertained and happily surprised at just how current it all is. Besides that... my wife looks (and is) brilliant in it.

No apologies.

Barney Rosenzweig


Monday, June 6, 2016

Hillary Clinton fundraiser | Our 25th Wedding Anniversary (part 1)

Never open with an apology. That dictum was pounded into me and my fellow students, both in the public school system of my youth and later, in courses I took at the University of Southern California. Having now begun this treatise with a statement, followed by attendant references,  I feel comfortable with this segue into an apology.

It has been too long since my last blog... you, dear reader, might remember... the one where I promised to blog more frequently? Well, maybe you don't remember. Maybe you are not even out there or maybe you just don't give a damn. It was that sort of thinking that brought me to making  the apology, but then there is the part about an apology which attempts to excuse why you did (or didn't) do the thing that precipitated the apology in the first place ... sort of negating the apology ( a non-apology apology). Have you now re-read this paragraph three times? It may be the only way to even partially understand it. Do not feel poorly about this. It is the fault of the author, and for that I also... you guessed it... apologize.

I am back at the blog thing now mostly because at a recent event... a fund raiser for Hillary Clinton (of which more, later)... I met a woman who told me she enjoyed my blogs. It doesn't take much to encourage me.  This all too singular "blog fan" even complimented me on my book, Cagney & Lacey... and Me.  (For those of you who have somehow let the purchase of this tome slip from the top of your to-do list, we still have some available via the Cagney & Lacey website, complete with a personalized autograph by the author).... I know, I know. Shameless.

The aforementioned Hillary fund raiser was at the spectacular midtown Manhattan penthouse apartment of Paul Boskind, one of Hillary's major supporters who (among other accomplishments) is a Tony Award winning producer  for The Normal Heart.  For this Hillary Do, in the heart of the Broadway theatrical district, Mr. Boskind hosted about 50 folk who came to support the candidacy of the former First Lady/ Senator/ Secretary of State.  

Sharon Gless, Tyne Daly and I were the there-in-person "draw." We sold autographed-on-the-spot Cagney & Lacey box sets for a thousand dollars apiece, dinners with Sharon and Tyne for over triple that amount, and auctioned off some other stuff, making the evening very worthwhile for the campaign, entertaining (I thought) for those gathered, and gratifying to our troika. We took pride in what we did that night and were warmed by the fact that after all these years, there were still people out there whose lives we have touched and who enjoyed spending time in our company. Win-win.


(left to right) Barney, Tyne and Sharon at the Hillary Clinton fund raiser in New York
Photo credit: John V Fahey 
© cagneyandlacey.com 2016  - please do not reproduce without written permission

While on the subject of politics.... yet another apology. In an earlier blog I underestimated Donald Trump's staying power in the race for the Presidency of the United States by forgetting one of the basic beliefs I have about the American electorate. Simply stated... I have often said that "American voters may not be very well informed, or even particularly bright, but they do know how to watch television." Donald Trump is good Television, and I should have given him plenty of points for that. I didn't, and that was "my bad."

Just before the Hillary event in New York, Sharon and I celebrated the 25th anniversary of our marriage by taking a week-long trip to London to visit with old friends. 

Sharon especially wanted to get to England in time to attend the opening night of a new musical based on Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene. The book for the show was written by pals Ron Cowen & Daniel Lipman, the very same award winning gentlemen who wrote and produced the American version of Queer as Folk, in which Sharon was featured for five years on SHOWTIME.  

The new musical was opening at the theatrical festival in Chichester, some 80 plus miles from London. Heathrow was the nearest airport and there was not a hotel room or even a tiny Inn with a vacancy in the entire community. The Chicester festival, it seems, is a very big deal. Who knew? Our flight from Miami was delayed so we were five hours at the Miami airport before taking off, then the eight hour flight itself, only to be informed that the train to the English countryside was inoperative due to a labor strike.  

To this news we easily adjusted. A cab ride to our London hotel to dump the luggage, a quick shower and we were back in a cab... at rush hour... to travel the (hopefully) two hour slog to Chichester. We arrived seven minutes before curtain time. Settled into our seats and enjoyed the production. At the post party we reveled a bit with Ron and Dan, who seemed delighted that we made the trek, not only from America to England, but also to Chichester. We met all the cast members of the show, and then taxied our way back to London, arriving at our hotel a little over 20 hours from the time we had left our Miami home. We slept well the next day. 

More from England in the very next blog, which will be right along. 

Cheerio.

Barney Rosenzweig

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Sharon's Burn Notice colleague, Gabrielle Anwar, and our friend Shareef Malnik tied the knot last week and, since the event was all in costume and all on a gorgeous ranch in Montana, I suppose you could call it tying the lasso. 

We arrived at the Rock Creek Ranch on the Friday before Labor Day to meet up with the other over a hundred plus guests at a welcome to Montana party and then the first of 8 excellent meals over the extended weekend. 

Horseback riding, archery, fly fishing, rifle, pistol and skeet shooting were offered daily to guests after each morning's spectacular breakfast. Sharon took a whirl at the fishing thing while I opted for napping on our cabin's couch in front of a roaring fire. That, and always appearing in some pretty good looking costumes (courtesy of our Trials of Rosie O'Neill costumer, Ms. Leena Dunn), was my big contribution. Three years as producer of the Daniel Boone series and I bow to no one in the fire building category.


The two of us 

Gabrielle hosted a ladies' tea, Sharif had his last wild horseback ride (I passed), the couple was blessed by a Shaman from an American Indian tribe and a rabbi from Holland whose service concluded with the release of 70 stallions corralled by six wranglers. I have to tell you, it really tops sending doves skyward. The bride arrived at the ceremony by stage coach and that provided the transportation for the couple to exit when the vows were completed. My view: the most romantic and beautiful wedding I have ever witnessed.


Sharon as the madam

We are now out of the mountains and visiting LA for the USC football season and catching up with family stuff here on the West Coast. We will be here a while. My youngest daughter, Torrie, (assistant camera on The Trials of Rosie O'Neill and Associate Producer on the Cagney & Lacey reunion movies) has selected year end (actually January 1) as her wedding date here in Southern California. 

I hope to get a little business done while here. There is some renewed interest in a film I made many years ago called Who Fears the Devil (researchers feel free to read the 1972 Playboy article by William Murray Chasing the Bucks: Or Where Were You, oh ye of little faith, When Barney Rosenzweig Needed You?), there are rumblings from MGM regarding Cagney & Lacey and my hope of finalizing the deal to fully recapture the rights to The Trials of Rosie O'Neill. More on all of that as the fall progresses, but be patient. All this stuff can be a little like watching paint dry.

Monday, August 10, 2015

BIG WEEK ON AMERICAN TV

It was a huge week on American Television and I feel a blog coming on. Cagney & Lacey got a very nice ... if not totally accurate... break in the Huffington Post, Fox News and its founder Roger Ailes have proven themselves to be even bigger (and more important) than anyone really thought they were, and Jon Stewart exited the stage at Comedy Central.
I totally get Stewart's desire to get out while on top. But I now also better empathize with all those fans of Cagney & Lacey and The Trials of Rosie O'Neill who were disappointed at my decision to leave town at 58 years of age. Even so, "disappointed" doesn't nearly describe my sense of loss at Stewart's leaving The Daily Show. What an icon he is. What a fabulous career he has had. He literally redefined on-air genius in the performance category and was (perhaps) even greater as a producer of the show that has forever made its imprimatur on America and most of those who watched it over the past 16 years. Ave, Caesar, Morituri te Salutant.
Ailes and Fox News may take a little more time to explain. First of all, they totally obliterated the primary function of a major political party, which is to select the candidate to be its standard bearer. The Republican National Committee surrendered that prerogative (some might say duty) to a cable news channel and stepped aside while Roger Ailes and his minions all but arbitrarily set up rules of just who might be one of the two major candidates for the office of President of the United States and then didn't even adhere to those. That is only part of the tale. They then went on to produce a pretty good show(s) in the form of two separate (and unequal) debates, fed the candidates plenty of red meat for the right wing base of the party, and then (post show) proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's standard bearers (namely Megyn Kelly) have more support than any that were on that Fox Stage, including the acknowledged front runner-by far, none other than Donald Trump. Trump had gotten away with insulting a war hero in John McCain, the Governor of Texas and the US Senator from South Carolina ("Got away" did I say? It made him even more popular... Give 'em hell, Donald, seemed to be the cry). But then The Donald went a bridge too far. Insult Obama? No one cared... in fact they loved it. Hillary? They loved that even more. But Trump misplayed a hot hand. He thought he could trump Roger Ailes, Fox News and Ms Kelly and get away with it. Mistake. Megyn Kelly has been feeding the far right the Ailes substitute for sustenance for years. She is to the far right what Mother Teresa was to Catholics.... only prettier. Ailes set the stage by having his minions ask for a show of hands. Who would NOT pledge to support whomever was the official Republican nominee and assure the rest that he would not start a third party run for the White House? No one asked that question at the lesser debate that took place on the same Fox Network two hours earlier and why should they? No one cared about those folks and why tip off The Donald as to what he was in for? Right off the bat, that was question number one and the right wingers in the audience at the auditorium squirmed when it was asked, but booed when Trump gave his answer by being the only one to raise his hand. The We Shall Over Comb candidate never fully recovered, but some might say more or less held his own for the remainder of the two hours... almost. Not good enough for Donald Trump. He started tweeting in the wee hours of the morning... something right out of the Cagney & Lacey villains handbook: "Her time of the month or what?" That was the line that got even the CBS censors outraged and that was 1980. Holy smoke... Trump crossed that line of political ineptitude 35 years later and he has yet to fully get the impact of what hit him. Like I said... Big week in American Television.






Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Barney's Back...and better than ever!!!!


It has been a long time since I have written something ... anything... for this website. Too long. Maybe it is because folks refer to it as a "blog." It is such an off-putting noun. I digress. I will not attempt to update since my last effort, but will give out with a sort of current event(s) update in the hope that someone out there will find it interesting. Feedback is what is required, and I'll tell you why.

Several years ago I made a television series for the then-fledgling Paxton Network here in the USA. Jeff Sagansky  was the head of the thing and he asked me to get off the beach at Fisher Island and do him this "favor."  I felt fondly enough about this one time CBS chief (who had ordered The Trials of Rosie O'Neill based on a 45 minute breakfast-pitch session I had with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel) to be willing to break my rule about no more work. I plunged right in.

We made a pretty decent series called Twice in a Lifetime and it featured former Cagney precinct boss Al Waxman. We filmed it in Canada, our budgets were tiny and the crew was all new to me, but... as stated... we made a "pretty decent" show. I remember being asked by a member of the press how it felt to now be making a show that had an audience in the hundreds of thousands instead of the tens of millions who faithfully watched Cagney & Lacey? "It doesn't matter," I said at the time, "I am making the show for me and for Jeff Sagansky." I was wrong. It did matter. It mattered a lot. Paxton had no outlet in Palm Springs where I spent that winter. I couldn't watch it on my own TV. My mother had recently died and so there was no call from her after each show, plus the station was not altogether ready for prime time in LA either, meaning my kids never saw it.

That statement of bravado was wrong  because I quickly came to learn I missed the feedback from an audience. It is probably why I have not been all that constant a (God help me) blogger. The C&L website is small by my standards, but not, I have been told, too tiny for what it is. I have trouble making the adjustment to the tinier audience. I don't Link, Tweet, or Face. Sometimes, something I write gets tossed over to some Facebook page by either Ms. Danson or the tenacious Carole R. Smith, but I have nothing to do with that. So... point made (I hope). Feedback is essential.

Sharon and I have just returned from a week of theatre in NY and I will give you all some news about that. New York, however, was only part of the story. For nearly three weeks before that Sharon was in Bali... on a sort of spiritual quest... in the company of her niece, Bridget Gless Keller. Bridget does Facebook and would be a better reporter than I on that trip. Sharon, who already possesses more spirituality than her husband ever will, mostly enjoyed the time of re-bonding with her favorite (and let's face it,) only niece. She flew over 25 hours to rendezvous with me in NY so that we could attend the annual Ball celebrating a most erudite publication, The Latham Quarterly. Tyne Daly and Ralph Nader were at our table as well. It was great fun.The rest of the week was filled with theatre. Reviews/commentary follows in the order we saw the shows:

On the 20th Century starring Kristin Chenoweth who very well may be the finest comedienne anywhere near the Broadway stage or in America today. The show is nicely mounted, has a decent supporting cast, but the only reason for seeing this chestnut is Ms. Chenoweth. She sings beautifully, looks great and is simply too funny in this part for me to properly describe. Do not bother to see this show after she leaves.

The Audience starring Helen Mirren. Ms. Mirren is a great actress. No one disputes that, but I would guess there are others who could replicate what was accomplished here by her. What was quite impressive to me was the extraordinary job of staging and direction along with the miracle of costume and wig changes right on stage in full view of the audience into which Ms. Mirren would mold her body into the age of the Queen she was portraying always in sync with the author's concept of presenting Elizabeth, the Queen, out of any sort of chronological order. The end of act one, the coronation of Elizabeth, was stunning and surprisingly (to me) moving. I couldn't wait for act two to begin which brings to mind the cliché of being careful what you wish for. If only I had left the theatre at Intermission and not gone back for that long and repetitive second act, I would have/could have held The Audience in so much higher regard.

It Shoulda Been You stars Tyne Daly and a very good supporting cast. Sharon had seen it once before in rehearsals giving support to her "partner" pre-opening.  I had seen it over a year ago in an out of town tryout somewhere. Was it in New Jersey? Tyne, as the mother of the bride is, as always,  terrific. The show is charming. An old-fashioned solid evening's entertainment in the theatre. Both times I saw the show I have to confess to longing to see Sharon Gless as the mother of the groom, the nemesis to Daly's Mother of the Bride. I easily imagined (as perhaps only I can) how much more fun it would be to see those 30 years of history bouncing off each other, but this time live on stage. I mean no disrespect to the very competent Harriet Harris who plays the part beautifully... there is just noone, anywhere, who could bring more to this dueling duo as written than the re-teaming of Gless and Daly. Oh yes, Chip Zein, who plays Tyne's husband in the piece was our Assistant DA for a time in Cagney & Lacey.

Fun Home won the Tony for best musical. It is very smart and dark, very original, and if you can't make it to Broadway, buy the CD which has it all.... dialogue and songs...with nothing (that I could figure) left out. I am an old guy. This piece merits a lot of praise and a lot of awards, but if it's a musical then... well, I just don't know. It is almost more of an opera... and might actually be one if there were truly an aria rather than just recitative. Of course it could be a musical if there were truly a song... which there is not. I have a good ear for music. As a three year old child I could sing the entire score of The Mikado. I can still hang in there, over the past 50-60 years,  on a battle of the hit tunes from Broadway with Tyne or any number of other musical mavens. I have seen Fun House and I have listened to the CD. It is powerful, it is good, I cannot remember three notes of any of the "songs." I think that is a problem. Obviously the Tony voters disagree.

The King and I at Lincoln Center. Bartlett Sher, the director and the Center leaders and staff deserve the billing right there next to the title. The King and I is (arguably) the best musical ever...EVER... written. Lincoln Center does it proud. Instead of the 10 to 15 piece pit band prevalent all over the Great White Way, the not-for-profit Lincoln Center presents us with a veritable orchestra of over 30 pieces. The curtain is not your standard-use-for-every-show asbestos thing, but rather a massive silk screen in cardinal and gold depicting a Siamese-like scene. The cast, the sets, the costuming are all perfection. Kudos to the Lincoln Center. I did not think they could top what they accomplished (by the same director by the way) on South Pacific, They have, surpassing even themselves. Kelli O'Hara soars as the English tutor and the remainder of the cast hangs in there with her. I am not ashamed to say that I had my handkerchief in hand through the entire show and it was very damp with tears at the final curtain. Bravo to all ... and Brava Ms. O'Hara.

An American in Paris. We saw it the very next afternoon and it is probably most unfair to see anything after The King and I. The matinee was before a packed house at The Palace, the largest theatre on Broadway. The sets were imaginative in design and for the most part in execution, the Gershwin score includes some of the best American music and song ever composed. What then is wrong? Well, you have to begin with the script. The story is certainly solid so to what do I refer? In The King and I, the characters break into song because there is nothing left for them to say. They simply must sing... to evoke their emotions, to explain themselves, for... well, for whatever reason. It is organic. It is necessary, an essential part of the whole. In An American in Paris, people sing because there is a vast library of good Gershwin material that should be presented. It just doesn't come out of any real feeling or anything organic. It is, what they call in the trade, a juke box musical. Doesn't matter how good the juke box is, it is hard to get past this flaw in the play itself... especially when one has just seen perfection at the Lincoln Center. Later,  the same evening, we saw On The Town. Now this is interesting... vintage Leonard Bernstein. Not his best (West Side Story would have to take that bow), but damn good nonetheless. Unlike An American in Paris it is not a collection of song book hits, but rather a musical play with dialogue that leads the actors... oft times compelling them... to sing. And sing they do... and dance.... and act... and they accomplish all of that in a matter superior to what we had seen in the afternoon. I found myself wishing that An American in Paris had waited for On The Town to close so that they could take that cast on the rebound. Better yet... Give it to Bartlett Sher to stage it all at Lincoln Center.

Let me summarize Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. First was Rogers and Hammerstein at their best, next was Gershwin cannibalized by lesser talents and not at his best in any event, for that would have to go to Porgy & Bess, and then there was Bernstein. As stated, very good, but no West Side Story (although some of the rifts in this earlier work sound somewhat West Side familiar).  

Exhausted Sharon and I limped out of town the next morning, catching the Jitney to Bridgehampton and a few days with friends before hightailing it back to Miami and Fisher Island. Home sweet home.

Barney Rosenzweig, June 14, 2015