Category Archives: Television

A Robert Fuller Banner

I’m still a member of Robert Fuller’s official fan group, even though I’m busy with other interests these days. A recent contest to create a new banner for the Fandom Facebook page presented a fun challenge. I got to use some newly-learned Photoshop tools, and I teamed up with my friend Jan. She provided some photos and some lively debate. We submitted several banners, none of which were chosen. That’s okay, because I get to share the best one here. A big thank you to my friend Pam for allowing me to use her recent photo of Fuller.

The biggest challenge was finding the best color photos with the different heads at just the right angle, and I wasn’t completely successful. At least one important role is not represented—I didn’t realize before that Fuller never once takes his hat off in Return of the Magnificent Seven, and the brim is almost always cut off at the top. The ears in the center photos of the banner were also a problem, and the end result is not as satisfying as I’d hoped.

Today is Robert Fuller’s 84th birthday, and he’s still going strong! Wishing him a happy birthday, with many more to come.

(l to r) Wagon Train, Emergency, Wagon Train again, Incident at Phantom Hill, Laramie, The Hard Ride, and Fuller now

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Matthew James Thomas

A gallery of screen captures from TV shows and films with British actor Matthew James Thomas. They didn’t really fit in the Pippin post that came before. Comments are appreciated!

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Life Lessons from Pippin

How to separate the drama nerds from the fantasy geeks: mention Pippin. A drama nerd will start singing Corner of the Sky.

Pippin is a Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote Godspell. It’s about a young prince’s search for something meaningful to do with his life. Pippin was the son of Charlemagne, but the musical is not a faithful historical narrative. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the original 1972 Broadway production, which starred John Rubinstein (Pippin) and Ben Vereen (Leading Player). Pippin’s grandmother Berthe was played by Irene Ryan, best known as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. I grew up believing the story that she died onstage during a performance of her song No Time At All. Not true, but it still makes a good “what a way to go!” story.

 

As a teen in the late 1970s, I was a little bit obsessed with Pippin. I knew the music and lyrics from the cast album long before I saw it onstage. A friend took me to a student production at UC Irvine in 1982, with the musical re-imagined as a futuristic space opera with loads of silver lamé. Then, in 1985, I worked with John Rubinstein at the La Jolla Playhouse (described here) which got me listening to the Pippin original cast album all over again. William Katt and Ben Vereen appeared in a filmed stage version in the early 80s, which I saw on videotape many years later.

Fast forward to 2013, and Pippin is back on Broadway. I watched the Tony Awards that year, so I was aware of the production and saw the musical number performed during the ceremony. I was also vaguely aware when the touring version came to San Francisco in fall 2014, but my budget was tight and my mind was on other things. Mostly I was busy pouting because I had to stay home while friends were at a festival in Utah.

Last summer, I finally listened to the Pippin Broadway revival cast album. My first impression was that Matthew James Thomas has a pretty voice, but it’s very different from John Rubinstein’s. I went to YouTube to see if there were any Pippin videos. And here we go, down the rabbit hole again!

 

I’ve now watched everything I can find with Matthew James Thomas, going back to The Bill in 1999. I was sad that he deleted his twitter account before I had the chance to follow him. I purchased his UK series Britannia High on DVD, watching it once through before my region-free DVD player packed up and died (boo). Then I actually cried when I found out that the San Francisco Pippin tour brought both Matthew James Thomas AND John Rubinstein to my doorstep, and I missed them. Thomas had given his last performance on Broadway, but he came back and filled in for the touring Pippin when that actor was put on vocal rest. John Rubinstein toured with the show as Charlemagne. Even if the tickets were beyond my budget, I could have gone to the stage door to meet the cast and see Rubinstein again. Heartbreak!

The biggest lesson learned from Pippin? Pay attention to what’s happening around me. Instead of wishing to be somewhere else, make the most of what’s right here. San Francisco isn’t perfect, and it’s way too expensive, but a lot of events are free or cheap.

Happily, Matthew James Thomas is now back on twitter. He was cast in a pilot called Shelter for NBC, but it wasn’t ordered to series. I wish him the best, look forward to seeing him onscreen again, and hope he comes back to San Francisco. (John Rubinstein, too!)

If I could have one MJT wish granted, since I can’t travel back in time to 2014, it would be to hear his Fenwick solo from the musical Diner.

Matthew James Thomas (Fenwick) in Diner. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media

Photo sources:

San Francisco Pippin tour: Review: A masterful ‘Pippin’ showcases Paulus’ bold vision

http://www.delawaretheatre.org/diner (Fenwick photo)

Screen captures made from YouTube videos, particularly from the official Broadway Pippin channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/pippinmusical/videos

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Stage Door (8): Charles Dance, Conleth Hill, & Game of Thrones

Another in series of stage door encounters with interesting actors.

I just finished binge-watching all six seasons of Game of Thrones. A couple of years ago I tried to watch it, but I only got through two episodes before deciding it was too brutal. I’m tougher now. With so many actors I like, and all that gorgeous Ireland scenery, I wish I’d joined the party sooner.

Over the years I couldn’t avoid plot spoilers, but there were still plenty of shocks and surprises. At this point, there’s not much I can say about Game of Thrones that hasn’t been said already. I love the characters I’m supposed to love (Arya, Tyrion, Brienne, Davos, etc), hate the ones everybody hates (Joffrey, Ramsey), wonder why baby Sam grows slower than any other child in Westeros, and wish I’d counted how many times Casterly Rock is mentioned.

Years ago, I saw two of the Game of Thrones cast members perform in plays in London, and I met them at the stage door with my camera.

In early 2001, I saw Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister in GofT) in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The other cast members were Paul Rudd, Paul Nicholls, and Jessica Lange. My seat was right up close to the stage, which normally is too close but was just right for this one. Lange didn’t come out to meet anybody afterward, but the three men did. This was before gathering at the stage door after a show was popular in the West End, so there were only a few of us waiting. This was also before digital cameras, so I didn’t realize that my photo of Rudd caught him with his eyes shut.  He was very friendly, and Charles Dance was very gracious.

 

Soon after, I went with two friends to see Stones in His Pockets with Conleth Hill (Varys in GofT) and Sean Campion. We laughed so hard, our ribs ached by the end. It was fantastic, with just the two men playing multiple roles, including women. We were the only ones waiting afterward. While we were waiting, Stefanie Powers came out the stage door. She must have been in the audience. I recognized her immediately, but I didn’t want to bother her. Hill and Campion came out together, and they were friendly and fun. I don’t usually pose for photos (I prefer taking them), but my friends grabbed the camera and I got sandwiched between two fantastic actors. Lucky me!

With Conleth Hill & Sean Campion

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When We Rise: The San Francisco Premiere

As a volunteer with GLAAD, I received an invitation to attend the February 20th premiere of When We Rise, Dustin Lance Black’s new ABC miniseries chronicling the LGBTQ rights movement, focusing on the lives of several San Francisco activists. I invited a friend as my plus one and submitted my RSVP, although I wasn’t sure about an 8 hour marathon or the “first come first served” seating. Then my friend got sick, and the day arrived with heavy rain and 60 mph winds expected by the evening. Still, I braved the elements alone and headed to the Castro Theatre.

When I arrived in the Castro at 1pm, the doors to the cinema had just opened. At first I got into the wrong line, where the production folks were checking in. One of the young actors turned around and was very helpful pointing out the right line. I wasn’t sure any of the cast would be there, so this was a happy omen. My line went down the block and just around the corner of 18th Street. After I got there, many more folks arrived behind me. A friendly young woman with an ABC7 cap came by to explain what to expect. She assured us we’d all get in at that point in the line. We’d be checked in and given wristbands, which would allow us to come and go during the breaks. Everyone attending would also get a ticket for a free drink and a bag of popcorn.

I chatted with the guys around me, and there was some confusion about how much of the miniseries would be shown. Dustin Lance Black tweeted that we’d watch the whole 8 hours, but the numbering of the episodes is confusing. IMDb says there are 8 episodes, Wikipedia says 7 parts, but it’s being shown on 4 nights. Anyway, the ABC7 woman assured us we’d be seeing the entire miniseries, in four segments, with two 15 minute breaks and one 2 hour dinner break. The program would start at 2pm and end around 11:30pm.

There were still plenty of seats on the ground floor when I got in, but I headed to the balcony for a front row seat above. You don’t get a crick in your neck looking up at the screen there. Since we’d be spending a lot of time together, I introduced myself to several of the folks in my section. The young guy behind me worked as an extra in several scenes, so it was fun to hear to his stories.

Dustin Lance Black went up onstage with a microphone to introduce the first segment, saying that many of the activists depicted in the series were in the audience. He also pointed out that without the commercials, each segment was shorter than two hours. Zeke Stokes of GLAAD also spoke, and later in the day Roma Guy, Cecilia Chung, and Cleve Jones got up onstage to address the audience. We also had a song performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

During the screening, the audience cheered a lot—when familiar names were said, when well-known landmarks were shown, and when serious truths were spoken. The SF Chronicle says we booed the villains, but I only heard hissing.

Because When We Rise doesn’t air on ABC until next week (February 27th, then March 1st-3rd), I can’t share much about it yet. I never give plot spoilers anyway. I will say that the lesser-known young actors are terrific. These include Jonathan Majors, Adam DiMarco, Rafael De La Fuente, Fiona Dourif, Nick Eversman, Kevin McHale (familiar from Glee) and so many more. Austin P. McKenzie as the younger Cleve Jones had my heart from his first moments onscreen. I also really connected emotionally with Emily Skeggs as the younger Roma Guy. This kind of connection is crucial if the viewer is going to stick with these characters through a miniseries. I can’t count the number of shows I’ve seen where I appreciated the quality but didn’t care enough about any one character to keep watching.

During our first break, I met Emily Skeggs. It’s great to watch someone onscreen for the first time (whether it’s their first time or just yours), and then be able to tell them right away how much their performance has touched you. This is one of the reasons Twitter is so addictive, but doing it in person is so much more satisfying. I’m certain that many more viewers like me will be looking up these young actors and following them on social media. I was already doing that at the dinner break.

A tip for those folks looking at the cast lists online—at this point, the IMDb page is incomplete. Kevin McHale and Rafael de la Fuente, for example, are not yet listed. Wikipedia includes them and several other actors not listed on IMDb, but it’s not complete either.

At the end of the screening, all the folks involved with the production went up onstage. I left the balcony and came down to the front in time to video a bit of the song Oh Happy Day, and then it was done. I said hello to Dustin Lance Black and Tom Daley, then met Austin P. McKenzie and Kevin McHale (such a charmer, that one!).

I came out of the theatre to find that the rain had stopped, but the wind was blowing hard. I rode the bus home with a couple of fellow viewers, and we talked about our impressions of the miniseries. I got home tired but still wired from the experience.

I’m looking forward to watching When We Rise again next week. It will be interesting to compare the difference seeing it on a small screen, without an audience, and with the ad breaks.

This miniseries will hopefully inspire viewers to read more about the activists and the history of this struggle for equality, understanding, and respect. There’s so much more to learn. The book When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones is a good place to start.

Thank you to Dustin Lance Black and everyone involved for making this miniseries. Thank you to GLAAD and ABC for the privilege of attending this amazing event.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/tv/article/LGBT-community-sees-its-story-told-in-When-We-10948675.php

https://ripplenews.com/watch/san-francisco/when-we-rise-shows-emotional-powerful-san-francisco-lgbt-movement-1s7r0o5h (This is a video of the premiere from local ABC7 news.)

http://www.sfchronicle.com/tv/article/When-We-Rise-a-story-of-past-struggle-and-a-10954771.php

Tom Daley’s video of the premiere:

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Happy Birthday, Chad Lowe

A week before Thanksgiving I had to go to the emergency room. The nurse practitioner resembled Chad Lowe, bringing back memories of  Life Goes On and the encounter I had with Lowe here in San Francisco. Once I felt better, I checked IMDb to see what Lowe has been doing lately, and now I follow him on twitter and Instagram. Since January 15th is his birthday, I’m sharing some wallpapers of his many roles—and looks—through the years.

The 80s

I remember watching Chad Lowe first in April Morning (1988), which aired a few days before I moved to England. It’s a TV movie about the first day of the American Revolutionary War. I was already a Rob Lowe fan, so I was curious about younger brother Chad. I remember being impressed by his performance. I wish I’d seen more of his early work, because some of it is now impossible to find.

1984-1989

The roles above are from Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac, Silence of the Heart, Spencer, There Must Be A Pony, Apprentice to Murder, April Morning, True Blood, the 1989 Oscar broadcast, and Highway to Hell. This last movie was released in the early 90s, but according to IMDb it was filmed in 1989. The watermarks are a necessary evil.

The 90s

Chad Lowe joined the cast of Life Goes On (1989-93) during the 3rd season as a love interest for teenage daughter Becca (Kellie Martin). I watched the series off and on during its four seasons, busy those years with moving to San Francisco and doing photography for a local band. I didn’t see all of Chad Lowe’s episodes when they first aired, but the ones I did see made a lasting impression. He played Jesse McKenna, a teen whose hook up with a college girl at a frat party led to HIV. When he transferred to Becca’s school, he was cool, mysterious, tortured, and irresistible. Becca fell for him, then learned that they could never truly be together. Their relationship struggle was interwoven with Jesse’s fight for survival and acceptance. The series didn’t shy away from the physical and emotional effects of AIDS. It was bravely depicted, beautifully written, and devastating to watch. Chad Lowe gave one of the best performances of his career. He was recognized for it with a well-deserved Emmy. I spent a recent weekend binge-watching all the Jesse/Becca episodes, transferred from old degraded video tapes. I was emotionally drained by the end. It’s a sin these two seasons are not available on DVD or streaming, apparently because of legal issues over the music used in the soundtrack.

1990-1999

The roles above are: Nobody’s Perfect, Life Goes On, Candles in the Dark, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, Floating, In The Presence of Mine Enemies, Quiet Days in Hollywood, The Hunger, Melrose Place, Touched by an Angel, ER, and Popular.

2000-2005

Chad Lowe played a lot of dark characters during the next decade of his career. I was grateful to have Take Me Home: The John Denver Story to lighten my mood while assembling this set.

2000-2005

The roles above: Now and Again, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, Acceptable Risk, Law & Order: SVU, Unfaithful, Hack, CSI Miami, Without a Trace, Medium, and Fielder’s Choice.

2007-2016

Finally, arriving at the present!

2007-2016

The roles above: 24, Bones, Ghost Whisperer, Drop Dead Diva, Pretty Little Liars, California Scheming, Entourage, Rizzoli and Isles, and finally, Comedy Central’s Roast of Rob Lowe.

So, happy birthday to Chad Lowe, with my thanks for all the years of entertainment (and good cries). I hope there are many more to come!

I also hope fellow fans will leave a comment below—be sure to share your favorite role!

Chad Lowe as Spencer (1985)

Spencer pilot (1985)

Notes

A special thanks to my friend Amy for sharing the hard-to-find movies with me.

There are quite a few roles not shown here, but every year with an acting credit on Chad Lowe’s IMDb page is represented. I only used my sharpest images. YouTube has Dare To Love, Fighting for My Daughter, and Captive (at the moment) but they’re in poor shape. Several titles that I own are the same (example below); I had to use publicity shots for Life Goes On and Silence of the Heart. Some movies didn’t arrive in time to use here. Some I just couldn’t locate. The hardest-to-find category include these: the after-school specials, Red Betsy, So Proudly We Hail, Siringo, The Others, Target Earth, Driven, and Suicide the Comedy. I’m listing them here in case other Lowe fans can help me locate them.

As Kippie Petworth (such a great name!) in An Inconvenient Woman (1991)

I’ve focused here on his acting, but Lowe is also a director. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work behind the camera.

Life in Pieces episode

Life in Pieces episode “Musical Motel Property Bingo” with guest star Andy Richter

The credits on IMDb overall seem pretty accurate, although he’s not in some of the season three episodes listed for Life Goes On.

I have to give a bemused shout-out to the girl at Lowe’s Wikipedia page who, despite various efforts to correct her, keeps “fixing” his TV credits.  All but two of them are so wrong they’re inspired. The edit history reveals that they’ve been far worse. I saved the December version:

Chad Lowe's wacky TV Credits from Wikipedia (circa December 2016)

Chad Lowe’s inaccurate TV Credits on Wikipedia (from December 2016). Only the first and last credits are correct.

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I’m Back!

After a 3+ year break, I’ve decided to start posting again.

Why?

The same reason I started this blog in 2010. Instead of driving friends crazy with my obsessions, I can share them here and find other fans with the same interests. Even when I’m the only one here, the blog keeps me open and searching for new things to post.

Why did I stop?

When I first began this site, I was doing lots of writing, which doesn’t come easy. I got better at it, but it’s less effort to play in Photoshop—enhancing screen captures, making memes, restoring old photos, etc. Unfortunately, when you share those online, you end up providing free content for Pinterest and Tumblr, not to mention the folks who think “google search” is some kind of a public domain free-for-all. (“I didn’t steal your photo. I got it on google!”) I also learned to edit videos, which sucked up all my free time. Finally, I became too singularly focused on one actor who already had websites devoted to him, so he didn’t need another one.

And now?

I’m trying to keep the focus wide. No more singular obsessions! (Until the next one.) I also want to focus more on local entertainment. I’ve missed some great stuff here in San Francisco, just because I was too busy moaning about where I’m not. The plan is to write more, Photoshop less, and watermark everything!

What’s new?

These days, I’m watching four different foreign soaps: EastEnders from the UK, Neighbours and Home and Away from Australia, and Shortland Street from New Zealand. That’s 19 episodes each week, but thankfully they’re only 20-30 minutes long. I love A Place To Call Home, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Janet King, Please Like Me, and Jack Irish (all Australian TV series). I’m also watching Poldark, Victoria, Outlander, Quarry, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, Code Black, Lucifer, and Mercy Street.

I’ve added some new actors to my “favorites watch list,” and they include Marta Dusseldorp, Anna McGahan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Tveit, Jesse Lee Soffer, Christian Kane, Michael Fassbender, George MacKay, Ben Schnetzer, Nick Robinson, Alden Ehrenreich, and Matthew James Thomas.

I recently got a 7″ Kindle Fire, so that’s been a small revolution. Before now I resisted touch screens, tablets, and electronic readers. I’ve played a few games on the Kindle, watched a few videos, sampled all the features, and hey, I’m even reading books.

So, I’m finding my way around the blog again, trying to learn all the changes that WordPress has made to the platform since 2013. Let’s see how this goes.

One more thing.

If you’re a subscriber and you’ve forgotten why you’re getting this in your inbox, well, who can blame you?! If what entertains me now no longer entertains you, don’t feel bad about unsubscribing. Otherwise, thanks for sticking around, and be sure to let me know what’s new with you. We have a lot of catching up to do!

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