Sunday, January 27, 2013

My 3-Channel Weekend Starred Lawrence Welk. Thank You, Comcast. What Next: Test Patterns?

An enduring delight: dancer Bobby Burgess and his remarkable choreography

Lawrence Welk never looked better than he did last night, in a Hi-Def landscape superior to what I have so far enjoyed, to the extent that I enjoy television these days.

Thanks to Comcast, I am weening myself away from tooooo much TV.

Gradually, they are giving me fewer channels.  Each time I call to report reception problems, that's what happens.  On Friday night, I decided to take a chance on their "live chat" on line with somebody who sounded like she lived on another planet, which made me wonder if Rod Serling had scripted that episode.  She said things like "You're doing great, David!" and she kept putting me on hold, probably to continue texting her boyfriend.  Finally ...

" I want you to take out your cable card, David, and put it back in after 15 seconds."  "Are you sure it won't make things worse?" I asked.  "No, no." After we had ended out date, and after I waited for 45 minutes, I noticed that I now was down to three channels -- CBS, Fox, and a local PBS. But what great reception!  I can see so many unflattering things on the faces of people.  My reward from Comcast, I guess, for its otherwise non-existent "customer service."

I could have watched, at the same time, Seinfeld, but I always have to work very hard at finding him funny, always giving up.   On CBS, some dreary looking romance, maybe with a recovered terrorist, down in a gloomy bunker, maybe where Comcast rents space for its call center.

As for Mr. Welk, its'  kind of embarrassing putting out a post on his show, but he can be very good, in between a lot of cheesy mediocre singers from the band. 

In his own class, an intriguing depth below the surface:  Ken Delo gave the show a rare cabaret ambiance

They do some great music.   Sometimes, the arrangements really impress, as when the band played "As Long As He Needs Me" (From the musical Oliver), making it far less dreary and depressing than it usually sounds.  It's a song that has kept my brother from liking Oliver.  Last night, they were doing a toast to the songs made popular by Nat King Cole.  Overall, a good job.

The Welk irritants, big time:  Topping the list is Joe Feeeeeeeeeny, who drives me to the mute button, hoping to escape his high pitched voice.  When I can't, I hear a terribly up tight barbershop quarter, I smell that old shaving lotion, Old Vic?, that seemed like the only brand available when I started to shave many centuries ago.  Squeaky clean Tom Nethertton reeks of  "I  am Pat Boone, and don't you just love my sweet Sunday morning face."

And then, the fake married couple Guy and Ralna (I learned this later and I wish  hadn't), for now I cringe watching them ooze artificial adoration, their faces in closeups looking practically glued together.  And I wonder, did anyone on that show ever go out on anybody? 

There are real stars:  Topping the list, Bobby Burgess and his dance partners are fab.  Ken Delo is a most interesting presence, a great vocalist who might have been bigger in another life.  He almost looks subversive, maybe because he once sang a song from Phantom of the Opera. And there's the C&W woman, a soloist who delivers finely. On balance, the female troubadours, like Anna, are quite fine and much better than their male counterparts from the band.

Maestro Welk himself is a charming curiosity, the way he dances, the way he gets into directing the band.  His enthusiasm is, indeed, infectious.  You gotta give him credit.  He reached a wide populist audience by giving them a wide spectrum of music. Sometimes, they hit the heights.  Other times, well, enough about those.

When I would visit her periodically,  I  had  devious fun watching it with my late Aunt Ginny when it was on network TV. . She would gauge my reactions, as if to be both warning me not to be critical while at the same time egging me on (that was her).  Whenever I made subtle little digs, I waited for something that I really liked, and went overboard in my praise.  Even then, she might look at me skeptically, as if to say, "did you really mean that, or are you pulling my leg."  And she would nearly laugh. We had a great time sharing the show.

The perfect host:  The gracious Mary Lou Metzger today hosts many of the PBS reruns, making us believe all over again.

Now with this dazzling new reception, while it lasts,  the show may become, by blessed default, one of the highlights of my suddenly truncated TV-watching week. Three channels forces you to reduce your expectations and value more what remains.

So many things about the show invite wicked satire.  For the stage musical I am working on with composer Carl Danielsen, a subplot concerns an actress desperate to get cast in a NY show, trying out for a part in a new musical that spoofs Lawerence Welk.   We've written a song called "Bubbles."  It will be sung, with the other songs, in a first reading of the work, at Carl's New York townhouse in the Village next month.  Maybe one day the show will play Branson. 

And someday, perhaps, "Bubbles" will be sung on a Lawrence Welk special on PBS.  Maybe by then, I will be down to one channel.  Please, Comcast, make it local 22.  On a sinking ship, I think I'd prefer, for company, going down with the Welk Family.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

David, I remember when the Lawrence Welk show first was seen on TV. Our mom loved it, and I loved watching it with her. Some of it was really good to watch, some maybe not so great, however, it brought back wonderful memories for me many years ago. All we are left with are our memories, and, whether great or small, how thankful I am for wonderful, warm memories with loved ones. That's the best there is....."THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE"