TOP TV DRAMA THEME SONGS – Rich Paschall

Non-Western Division, by Rich Paschall

You have clearly been waiting patiently for the coming of my next top 10 list.  Well, wait no more.  I have diligently gone through the memory banks to produce a list for you.  After compiling a hefty amount of TV theme songs, I find that I had to limit the category.  Out went the novelty songs like The Addams Family and Gilligan’s Island.  Out too were the game show themes.

We could not include your cartoon favorites or even the great pieces written for news broadcasts or special events.  The Olympics theme that NBC gets to overuse with each Olympics is a stand out piece introduced in 1984 and easily recognizable now.  I could make a case for a hundred songs if I did not find a “theme” for this list of themes, so drama shows is the category. Comedy and Western top tens will come in the following weeks.

Now I admit I do not watch a lot of television shows anymore, aside from sports, so most of these will not be of recent vintage.  But it is uniquely my list and may include a few of your favorites.  Please add to the list in the comments below.

Getting an honorable mention is the theme from MASH.  You may say that it is a comedy, but many considered it a serious show with some dark humor tossed in.  Also, the theme song, Suicide Is Painless, was actually written for the movie and wisely used without the words for the television show.  Along with the series, the theme has reached iconic status.

Another honorable mention goes to the Star Trek themes.  Many will tell you that the second series, The Next Generation, improved upon the original song, scripts, and special effects.  I still like the original series with William Shatner chewing up the scenery at every chance.

10. The West Wing theme.  The show gave us a White House that was not chaotic and actually rather “presidential.” President Bartlet was the strong and compassionate leader we could love.  The theme shouted Americana and represents a grandeur of the office.  Composer W.G. “Snuffy” Walden won an Emmy for the work.

9. Twilight Zone theme.  The one you all know was not the original theme.  The first season had a different, more ethereal style theme. The famous one was a couple of short cues CBS had commissioned of Marius Constant as “work made for hire” and spliced together.  Have you ever gone “do do do do, do do do do” to something strange?

8.  Believe It Or Not, The Greatest American Hero. The unlikely hero of this show (William Katt) gets a superhero suit, but no instructions. The recording by singer Joey Scarbury stayed 18 weeks on the Top 40 and made it to number 2 in August of 1981.

7. Hill Street Blues theme, by Mike Post who also co-authored Believe It Or Not. The 1980’s cops drama was a critical success and ran 7 seasons.  Released in 1981, the song spent months on the pop charts.

6. Rockford Files theme, Mike Post teamed up with yet another person to pen this tune. The 1970’s detective drama starred James Garner and ran 6 seasons.  The theme was Post’s first theme to reach the top ten.

5. Hawaii Five-0. The tune was written by Morton Stevens who also added some episode scores for the original series.  A hit version by the Ventures climbed the pop charts in 1969. The iconic tune was reused for the current series.

4. A few notes in and you will immediately know the music for the spy thriller Mission Impossible. The show is pretty dated now, but still fun to watch. Here Lalo Schifrin plays his famous composition:

3. Doctor Who theme. The current theme is an updated version of the original but is still pretty good. Can you imagine the Doctor travelling in the tardis to any other music? Here are all the versions, just in case you need them.

2. Perry Mason theme. For some unknown reason, this did not even make some lists I reviewed. I think it fits the show perfectly. It was reused in a series of Perry Mason movies long after the television series. The movies also starred Raymond Burr as the lawyer who never loses.

1. The best television theme was the classic tune by Henry Mancini for Peter Gunn. The private detective series featured jazz music like any good film noir detective movie of the 1950’s. The music was also recycled in the Blues Brothers movie. Mancini won an Emmy Award for the music and a Grammy for the album.

Sources:

Believe It or Not, Wikipedia
Peter Gunn, Wikipedia

Next week: Top Television Theme Songs, Comedy Division

AVID VERSUS DIVA – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Avid and Diva

First, there was Diva. It was a “big format” video editing tool meant for use in television studios or advertising agencies. I didn’t work there, though I did go for one of those insane interviews where you have to meet everyone in the company from the guy who runs it, to the overnight backup guy.

I was impressed by the product and spent 20 hours interviewing with them. They obviously hired someone else and didn’t so much as send me a postcard to tell me they’d weren’t interested.

I never understood that. It happened a lot of times over the years. They keep you coming for interviews and you figure — after the better part of a week of interviewing everyone — that while you might not get the job, the least they could do was let you know they’d decided on someone else.

But they didn’t and as the years went on, this became common practice. Whatever happened to simply being polite?

Then, I was interviewed by Avid who was producing a nearly identical product. Diva did much better than Avid in the professional market in the beginning, but eventually Avid sold better, even though the products were nearly identical.

Today, both of them are “box” software, though Avid is also available as a subscription, like Adobe. Their “Pro Version” costs $999 if you want to buy it outright, which is a lot less than it used to cost.

Diva went another way and is available free as an open source product for the Gnome operating system.

Avid is a “paid” product sold largely to private users who want to make videos for the internet.

I have no idea who creates the software currently used by television studios, but from my encounters with that software (AVID — admittedly quite a few years ago), it sucked.

If you understand the concept of “look alike, feel alike,” it means that modules in a software “package” feel and look similar. That means a user can slide effortlessly from module to module with minimal training. The people who built that ridiculously expensive software apparently never heard of it.

They needed to hire real developers to produce software that made sense for people who just wanted to get a job done — without memorizing seven separate formats unrelated to each other. As it is, they had software using many modules. Each module was completely different from every other one. Their only connection was the main menu and the only function of that menu was to allow access to a particular area of the software. Which was limited by your job.

Thus a reporter could write scripts, edit film and post-editing (a separate function — I suppose you had to be an official editor to edit a written script), after it was sent back as “approved,” link the script with the digitally edited “news” and forward it to whatever slot to which it was assigned. To say this was confusing doesn’t begin to explain it.

I understood it because that’s what I did for a living. I figured out what the software — any software — did, then explained it (in a book) to people who had to use it. In this case, I had to figure out the software that Channel 7 was using, then teach Garry to use it. In one weekend.

If he didn’t get it, he’d lose his job the new old-fashioned way: inability to understand the computer.

My car had been hit by a truck that Friday and it was (I think) the fourth of July weekend, so we had three days. I told him I’d do it, but he had to never object to the tone of my voice and he had to do exactly what I told him to do no matter how many times I told him to do it. Repetition is the key to using most software and he had to keep doing it until he didn’t need to think about it.

First I asked him what he did. He told me. I looked at the main menu, doped out which parts of the product did the things he needed to do and by the end of those three days, he knew it. Of course, by now he has completely forgotten it — as have I. This is stuff you use or lose. I have dumped more technical data from my head than most people ever learn. At this point, my head is surprisingly empty. I barely remember what I used to do.

I was particularly good at learning very complicated material for a very short time, them emptying my brain and learning something completely different — for a very brief interval. That’s how people like me functioned in those days of tech. Everything was new and everything was a first. You didn’t really need experience, just a knack for computers and an exceptionally good short-term memory. Oh, and the ability to write and teach. Basically, I was teaching — just via a book, not usually in person.

Garry was my singular exception to teaching a real live person how to do something. I wasn’t bad in the classroom for the couple of years I taught, but I didn’t really like it. I like writing better than talking. And yet, I made more friends in the classroom than I made in all my years of office work. Hmm. I never thought about that before. I’ll have to do some pondering.

This is “Nerd History.”

You had no reason to learn it, have gained nothing by learning it, and I’m sure you wonder why I bothered to write about it.

Diva “product”

It’s the words. Avid to me is that “other” video editing company. Diva came first and Avid flipped the name around. Voila!

Diva always felt they should sue Avid for stealing their name — backward. But you couldn’t prove who came first and I don’t think they ever settled it, in or out of court. Eventually, it didn’t matter because other players entered the game and both companies stopped being especially important.

I’m sure this goes to show you that getting an early start in the tech field doesn’t mean you’ll still be a player a few years later. Almost all these early companies that I knew when they were effectively just getting started have gone bankrupt or just faded into the woodwork.

What was interesting for me was watching them come, get really big, become very important, then vanish as if they’d never existed. It’s a reminder that “big” in this world is temporary. Just because you used to be someone doesn’t mean you will be someone next year.

Just a little thought to keep in mind as you “bigly” your way through life.

A TALE OF TWO TREKS: TO BRAVELY GO – BY TOM CURLEY


“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”


Well, that’s not really true. More like: “It was the best of times. It was not so bad, at times.”

Also, I hear they are bringing back Patrick Stewart — at 78 — to reprise Jean-Luc Picard. I have no idea how the show will go, but you have to hand it to Stewart! At 78, a weekly show? So there will be yet one more Star Trek. Not sure when they are planning to start this one, but that’s the word.

Talk about a concept that has survived through many long years!

Does this mean I’m finally going to have to pay CBS because they put all their good shows on the “pay to view” network?

Once more, we are bravely going where no Star Trek series has gone before. This is not our universe, of course.  Real life would be more like “It was the worst of times. It was the ‘what the fuck is going on? This can’t possibly be real! Would somebody please wake me up’?” … of times.

This is the current run of the Star Trek universe.

Our world has been without a Star Trek series for a few years. I think we are always supposed to have at least one original on the air. I’m pretty sure it’s a law, but, for some reason, we have been forced into reruns. But times, they are a’changin’ …

Now, we have two and both are bravely going wherever they are sent.


STAR TREK DISCOVERY: CBS All Access, Streaming


Star Trek Discovery takes place 10 years before Kirk, Spock and the gang started their five-year mission to boldly go wherever the hell they were told to boldly go.

In this variation, the main character is not the captain, but the first officer. She’s a human raised on Vulcan by Spock’s parents. Its main storyline is about the First Federation vs. Klingon war. It was shot using a huge budget. The actors are all pretty good. The show is … okay.  I mean, it’s not bad. It’s good-ish.

But it has a few problems.

First, the Klingons only sort of look like Klingons. As a start, they are bald.

Klingons are usually pretty hairy.

They’re also incredibly racist. They believe in racial purity. Everyone else in the universe is inferior. And they are all victims of every other species in the galaxy.

You know, like Trump supporters. 

ALL the Klingon’s dialog is in Klingon. Actual Klingon. With subtitles in English!

Really?

Now, I’m as big a Star Trek nerd as anybody out there. I know there are Klingon camps you can go to learn the Klingon language. The bible has been translated into Klingon. People have Klingon weddings.

Yeah. That’s real.

But even for me, this is one nerd-step over the line.

Second, the ship has developed some kind of biologic warp drive that takes you instantly anywhere. Basically, it’s folding space. But what happened to it later?

In all the other Star Trek shows? Where did it go?

Voyager sure as hell could have used something like that. They were stuck in the other half of the galaxy for seven years — not including syndication.

Maybe someone will explain it in later episodes. Also, the ship can do weird things. Like the outer ring of the ship can spin around for no discernible reason.

The captain is sensitive to light, so instead of red alerts, they have black alerts!

Black Alerts?

WTF? The show’s creators say “they are taking liberties with the show.”

Liberties? Did any of them actually watch the other shows? The final, really big problem is that it only airs online through CBS All Access. You have pay for it. Like Netflix or Hulu.

The show is very dark, but still … it’s okay. Maybe the problem is that none of, or at least, very few of the people involved in all the other Star Trek series are working on the show.

That’s because they are working the other show.


THE ORVILLE – FOX Network


The Orville takes place in a very Star “Trek-ish” universe. It’s not exactly Star Trek, but really, it is.

Seth McFarland is Captain of the Planetary Union science ship, The Orville. He wasn’t the first choice for command, but the Planetary Union has over 3000 ships to man, so he got the job anyway. The show is funny. Very funny.

It’s also serious. Actually, it’s brilliant. Oh, and the Captain’s first officer is his ex-wife. Only a little minor stress there. 

The helm officer’s main concern is whether or not he can drink soda when he’s on duty.

Here’s a line of dialogue from one of the shows. They find a giant ship where the people on board don’t know they are on a giant ship. When they try to contact one of them, he shoots at them and they shoot him.

Well, they actually just stun him. They then run into his son.

CAPTAIN: We mean you no harm.

DOCTOR: Well, you did just shoot his Dad.

CAPTAIN: Other than shooting your Dad, we mean you no harm.

The plots are really, really good. Great science fiction. They do what the original Star Trek did. Take current events and put a spin on them. In this case usually a funny spin. This is the Star Trek that needed to be made. The one about the ship with a crew of screw-ups, who smoke pot, drink a lot, love to gossip, and yet, always get the job done.

I like this show so much I usually watch each episode twice. I never do that. Maybe because it reminds me of a series I did years ago (that Marilyn created) called Sterling Bronson, Space Engineer! 

Why that name?

Mostly because we knew if we called it any variation of Star Trek, we’d get sued. And it was an inside joke.

So, if you’re a tried and true Trekkie …

Excuse me, Trekker. Trekkers hate being called Trekkies. NOTE: You know how you can tell if someone is a Trekkie? They insist on being called Trekkers. But I digress.

If you’re a serious fan check out Discovery, but if you really want to see a great Star Trek series, it’s “The Orville.”

Boldly going wherever they’re told to boldly go!

THE GLORIOUS OLD-FASHIONED MUSICAL by ELLIN CURLEY

I normally wouldn’t write a blog about a Broadway show since most blog readers would not have the opportunity to ever see the show themselves. However, I recently saw “She Loves Me”, a delightful and thoroughly enjoyable musical that most of you will be able to see because the show is being filmed, live. It will be streamed starting on June 30. So you too can revel in this charming piece, with the added benefits of close-ups, which I didn’t get in my viewing from the nosebleed seats high in the Mezzanine.

“She Loves Me” was nominated for a Tony Award for best revival of a musical. It also got glowing reviews, all well deserved. It was often referred to as “old-fashioned” and “a jewel of a musical”. Those phrases aptly describe it’s character and ambiance.

It is definitely an old-style romance set in a Parfumerie in 1934 Budapest. The story is based on the book that also provided the plots for two movies, “The Shop Around The Corner” and “You’ve Got Mail”. The latter is the more modern, computer age version. In all three, the main characters work together and don’t get along. However, unbeknownst to them, they are falling in love as anonymous “pen pals” through a lonely hearts club (an online dating service in “You’ve Got Mail”).

Ice Cream Scene

In the show, there are seven main characters who work in the Parfumerie. Each has his own plot line and solo number. The delivery boy who dreams of being a sales clerk; the brown-nosing employee who will do anything to keep his job; the young woman who is “used” by the womanizing co-worker she is having an affair with. You get to know and like all these people as well as the verbally sparring leads.

split dance

The dialogue is well written and quite funny. The sets are sophisticated and beautiful, as are the costumes. The lead actors are perfect. The music is melodic and the lyrics artfully develop character and move the plot along. The staging and choreography are brilliant, intricate and fast-paced. The full cast, including eleven subsidiary characters, work together like a well-oiled machine.

The show creates a sense of intimacy that you don’t get often anymore in the musical theater. I prefer like this kind of “small,” character-driven show. It’s the thing theater can do better than movies or TV. Seeing this kind of show gives you an experience you won’t readily get from any other entertainment medium.

final kiss

You can see a video montage from the show at http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/She-Loves-Me.aspx. Scroll down to Videos / Montage

But I urge you to sit back and enjoy 2 ¼ hours of pure entertainment and simple joy. You’ll be smiling and tapping your foot through most of it.

Here’s how you can watch it:

“She Loves Me” will be streamed by a new company called Broadway HD. Their goal is to stream as many theater performances as possible so theater will reach a wider audience. The show will be filmed using nine or ten cameras, so I expect the watching experience will be somewhere between live theater, and movies or TV. It will cost $9.99 to watch it on the Broadway HD website. It will also be available via Roku and Apple TV ( I don’t know about costs on those).

ENJOY!

BROADCASTING – LIFE IN THE FAST LANE! – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday: Broadcast


More than 40-years in professional broadcasting and Garry still can’t post for a still portrait. He is so used to being shot on videotape or film, he feels he has to move and while that may look good on television, it doesn’t look great on a still camera.

He admits it, too. Point a moving picture machine at him and he lights up like a 100-watt bulb.

But a still camera? Nervous. Tense. Eyes darting side to side. A portrait? It’s like pulling teeth. Yesterday, to get one good show I had to move him physically into position and tell him to put his lips together and smile. Also, keep his eyes open and stop moving.

Isn’t that funny? The man who has stood before cameras for his entire career twitches in front of a still camera.

As for me? I just hate getting photographed. That’s why I keep the camera in MY hands!

SOMEWHERE, SOMETHING IS BEEPING – Marilyn Armstrong

For years, I never knew what was beeping. I’d sit here in the living room and I’d hear something beeping. I could only guess where it was coming from and it drove me nuts.

Today, there was some very serious beeping. It seemed to be coming from the television.

I think that’s because everything Bluetooth in this house that wasn’t connected somehow got found by the TV speaker, so everything comes through that speaker. This includes our regular telephone, all the cameras, the cell phone (when it’s on). The dehumidifier, which beeps when it’s full. The microwave. The big and mini ovens, although they do not play through the TV speaker, having no Bluetooth capability.

And of course, all of our computers or tablets love beeping to tell you they are full, they needs uploading, downloading, charging, some other part needs charging or changing. Maybe the battery is failing to charge because the plug is out — and just sometimes, they beep to annoy you. It’s part of their software.

Everything beeps.

Until recently, only the dogs and I could hear the beeping. The dogs never appeared to care, but it drove me nuts. It wasn’t just that something was beeping. It was WHERE it was beeping. Upstairs? In the basement? It could be the hot water heater or the boiler or the dehumidifier or anything else. Maybe an old alarm clock someone left behind.

Tonight was different. Garry said: “What’s that noise?”

And I said: “You mean the beeping?”

“Is that what that is? It’s really annoying. And loud.

“I know. That’s why I wander around asking the house asking it ‘why are you beeping?’ The house never answers. Welcome to my world where things beep.”

We went searching for the beep. The dehumidifier was full, so Garry emptied it.  But the beeping continued.

Back upstairs, I finally realized it was the stair-climber. It was beeping, although why it was beeping, I had no idea. It had never beeped before.

After Garry gave up the hunt and went to bed removing his hearing gear on the way, I continued to try to figure it out. I finally followed the long wire to its outlet on the wall. Realized it was slightly loose, so I plugged it back in, more firmly, then straightened the wire and untangled the whole thing.

It hasn’t beeped again, so I guess I got it. Usually, things beep, then eventually stop beeping and I never figure out what beeped or why.

For all the aggravation of searching the house for whatever is making that noise, it was deeply gratifying that Garry’s cochlear implant has allowed him to share my world. To start to hear all those annoying little sounds that fill up our world. To have him equally annoyed by that noise was heartwarming.

At last, I am not the only one who hears the noise. This is huge! I am not alone!

REAL REPORTERS – Garry Armstrong

Word Prompt: Credibility

It’s never been a one-man show.

I logged more than 40-years in TV and radio news,  including 31 years at one Boston TV Station.  I’m always flattered when people say they remember me and my work. The body of work is considerable. Usually 3 or 4 daily newscasts, 5 to 6 days a week,  48 or so weeks a year times 40.  That’s a lot of news, good, bad and ugly.

A reporter,  the face in front of the camera,  gets the credit for everything. The images of life, death and the furies of Mother Nature.  Wars and Peace. Happiness and sorrow. You see the reporter, center screen with a name graphic, proof that he or she saw everything in the visuals that tell the story.

It’s a false premise.  It’s impractical. The reporter couldn’t possibly be in all the places seen in the story that has you riveted to the screen.

We’re called “talent” in business lexicon.  That should be a dead giveaway. We’re the human, face connection, to all those images on your screen.

The real reporters are the people behind the cameras.  The men and women who frequently put their lives on the line to bring you the pictures, the video seared into your sense memory.

I’m proud of all the awards I’ve received over the years. I’d be a liar if I said the hardware didn’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the stories covered across four decades – on the local, state, national and international stages.  The awards have my name clearly etched, front and center. But I can see all the faces of those responsible for bringing the stories to life.

In the 60’s,  I was a green rookie, assigned to the national and international news,  landscapes that ranged from Vietnam, civilian dissent against the war, Civil Rights marches and violent opposition,  assassinations of national leaders,  a historic walk on the moon and a music-culture changer called Woodstock. I was a 20-something, agape at all these events I was covering for Network News.  It truly was baptism under fire.  I survived because of veterans whose careers began with the birth of radio and television news,  The great depression and World War Two.

The 20 something was handed the keys to the news kingdom.  Right place, right time. I may have often been driving the big car but those veterans always rode shotgun,  guiding me through some very difficult mazes of network news closed-door battles with the Pentagon,  the DOD and the White House.  I had a grizzled news manager who always counseled me, “Just tell the truth…make sure you’ve corroborated 2 or 3 times at least.

Don’t let the Pols or Generals faze you…make sure the stories are short, punchy…dump the adjectives”.

All that was behind me when I landed in Boston in 1970. If I thought I knew it all, I was dead wrong.  Boston was just edging its way into a golden era of TV Journalism.  The technology was rapidly changing and changing the way things were done.  TV news was still viewed with skepticism and contempt by many old-school journalists who believed the word was stronger than the picture.

Boston is a highly regarded news market. It can be tricky for a newcomer not versed in the proper pronunciation of towns and cities or the political landmines in seemingly benevolent Norman Rockwell like settings.

I was thrust into local celebrity by being a general assignment reporter covering blue-plate special stories of murders, fires, prison riots,  sexual predators, bad weather, and quirky politics.

I quickly learned to lean on the experience of the people shooting the stories.  They knew the players, the back stories,  the dos and the don’ts.

A news director (one of nearly 3 dozen I survived) told me to keep the camera crews under my thumb.  He said they were just ‘picture takers’, ‘lumpers’ and ‘complainers’.  That news director was history before I figured out how wrong he was.

Those picture takers really were reporters who saw everything around them. They knew when someone was just using his “face time” to dance around the truth and delay legal consequences. They warned me about the “frauds” and “fakers,” political and community leaders who could clean your pockets while shaking your hand.

I am especially thankful for the photojournalists who covered “the mean streets.”   They’re the ones I always saw at 3 o’clock in the morning at a devastating fire,  a triple homicide or drive-by shooting.  They always knew more than the eye-witnesses or law enforcement people just catching the case. I apologize to those whose names are omitted.  It’s impossible to do justice to all of you who were there for me and other reporters over all those years.

Boston is a unique TV news market because the competition is benevolent.  Everyone wants to be FIRST with the story, especially with the advent of electronic newsgathering.  Everything is “Now”.  It happens and,  in a few minutes,  you’re expected to be “live with breaking news”.  Truth and facts often become victims in the quest to be fast and first.

Reporters feel the pressure.  They often feel their jobs are on the line if they are not first.  The folks behind the cameras become a calming force.  They’ve observed the scene, the people, possible evidence.  Often, cameramen and women can figure out the story while fielding frantic and demanding calls from newsrooms.  Over the years,  I’ve leaned on camera and tech crews, not only from my station but also competitors.

I’ve been slipped pieces of paper with key information during live shots and looked like the best damn reporter in town.  In truth,  I was saved by a competing cameraman who saw me struggling and threw the lifeline.

I’ve been praised for memorable “standups” — those on-camera appearances where we look you in the eye and deliver riveting reports. The truth is those words often came from the people behind the camera.  Their words, repeated with sincere conviction by me.

The camera folks also correct information that we, seasoned reporters,  are sure is true.  I was often interrupted with,  “Garry, I don’t want to tell you what to say.  You always know what you’re doing…”   The bulb in my brain flashes — “Listen, know-it-all breath”.

So,  this is a thank you to Richie, Andy, Nat, Jack, Premack, Warren, Eddie,  Susan, Leslie, Noot,  Messrs. Richard Chase, “Fast Al”,  Stan The Man and all the other REAL — behind the camera reporters.

These were the journalists who enabled me to have such a long and satisfying career. Thank you!