I have written about the limited number of households that are able to see the Dodgers on television. And I have written about how we could have chosen the provider that offers the Dodgers, but we didn’t, for a variety of reasons.
I have therefore not been able to listen to Dodger broadcaster Joe Davis. Joe did the majority of road games for the Dodgers on television last year. This year he will be doing the majority of games, period on TV. This due, of course, to the retirement of Vin Scully. Charter Communications, operating under the Spectrum brand, broadcasts the Dodger games and owns the distribution rights. They decided to allow KTLA channel 5 to broadcast ten games in April and May, mostly to convince viewers to drop their provider and switch to Spectrum. So I got hear Joe Davis a few times during the past week.
I agree with Los Angeles Times baseball writer Bill Shaikin who stated, “Davis delivers a clean broadcast.” True, as far as it goes. But Shaikin goes on to write:
And yet, we couldn’t help thinking there was something generic about it all. Scully was the last master of the one-man booth. He talked to us, not to a broadcast partner, regaling us with stories of ice skating with Jackie Robinson, and the history of beards, and did you know that Uggla was Swedish for owl?
Absolutely. Davis is not Scully. He shouldn’t and he won’t try to be. As Shaikin pointed out, Davis works will with color commentator and Dodger pitching great Orel Hershiser. But the two have very similar voices, and it was sometimes hard to tell who was talking, although if it was a game call it was obviously Davis.
Shaikin wrote, “The Dodgers broadcast sounded good Monday, and at the same time it sounded just like that of every other team.” Exactly. (Except for the Giants. They have Jon Miller on the radio and Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow on television.)
Terry and I will be fine without the Dodgers on TV. We can listen to Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday on the radio, and I personally think that they are the more enjoyable team to listen to.
That will work.
I recently watched a pair of episodes from Dick Cavett’s PBS series in 1981 in which he interviewed Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. It was a real delight.
One thing Matthau said caught my attention. He said that he refused to do theater where there was sound amplification. He said that he and Lemmon turned down an offer to do a play at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in the Los Angeles Music Center because it had sound amplification. Instead they did the same play at the nearby Mark Taper Forum for one-tenth the money because there was no amplification.
When I was attending Pitzer College in Claremont I would come home to Hemet to see plays performed by the Hemet High theater class. They put on some good shows, and, as I recall there was no amplification. I remember a great performance of Stop the World I want to Get Off. The lack of amplification was also true for the Four College Players in Claremont and the Pomona College theater department.
Theater today is a much different animal. Terry and I have seen Phantom of the Opera in both San Francisco and San Jose. We saw the original Chorus Line on the San Francisco Peninsula and the wonderful revival in San Francisco. We saw Rent and Wicked in San Jose.
All of those shows relied on a complex array of wireless microphone. The theater community has been unhappy because the FCC has been considering changing the regulations around wireless microphones, and they say the changes would require heavier, more unwieldy microphones. I hope that doesn’t happen.
The bottom line is this: I admire Matthau’s integrity in 1981, but Terry and I loved all of the theater experiences I have mentioned.
Live theater is a mode of entertainment to be respected, enjoyed, and savored. Sound amplification does not diminish the experience.
Recently I wrote about how most Food Network cooking shows have to have some kind of plot, which I find annoying.
There is another common thread. Food Network seems to want to coordinate show themes on specific weekends. I can see that for Christmas, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, Halloween and so on, but the coordination goes beyond that. For example, not long ago The Kitchen, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, and Guy’s Big Bite all had shows about tailgating on the same weekend. Valerie’s Home Cooking was right there as well with a football-themed show. Why Pioneer Woman was out of sync with a program on mashups I have no idea.
The following week it was about competition. Trisha cooked as if she were a contestant on Chopped or another of the competition shows, with her sister Beth as judge. On Pioneer Woman Ree competed with herself, asking the cowboys to judge variant versions of the same dish. Valerie’s husband and his brother competed for the best home brew beer.
Show biz. It’s all show biz.
Cooking shows on Food Network generally have a particular convention. There has to be some kind of plot or story. Someone is coming over to visit, or there is some sort of activity, or whatever. For example, on Valerie’s Home Cooking friends and/or relatives are coming over for dinner. Or on Pioneer Woman the boys have a football game or the girls have soccer. On Farmhouse Rules Nancy is organizing a community dinner.
Recently Guy Fieri’s show, Guy’s Big Bites, started its new season. He’s just cooking. He’s just demonstrating recipes. No plot line. He may talk and chatter with a guest, but it’s all about cooking. It’s all about that day’s menu.
That’s the way it should be done.
I can’t let the occasion of Vin Scully’s final game yesterday go by without taking time to think about how much Vin has meant to me.
The Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles in 1958. I was four at the start of the season and five when that first west coast season ended. My dad began listening to games right away, so I learned baseball from the youngest age. Here in Hemet we are about ninety miles from Los Angeles, but the games in those days were broadcast of KFI which was then a “fifty thousand watt clear channel station,” so we had no problems getting the games day or night. Even when we spent three years in Barstow, out in the high desert of San Bernardino county, the games came in clearly.
There were so many intense, exciting games. The one I most remember, however, was Vin’s call of the Sandy Koufax perfect game. That was September 9, 1965. I remember that evening well. The entire family was at home in our living room. The television was off and the radio was on. I remember the tension build as Vin Scully’s play-by-play made clear that something special was happening. I remember Vin noting the time on the scoreboard clock. I remember the excitement when the game ended. I think we were all holding our breath in the living room.
I spent many years away from Southern California and the Dodgers. And in spite having spent a number of years as a Giants fan during my Bay Area days (that’s another story) I migrated back to the Dodgers when we came back here in May of 2015.
Vin had reduced his workload to (mostly) just home games, and a dispute over fees meant that more than half of Southern California television viewers could not see or hear Vin, except for the first three innings which were simulcast on radio. Fortunately an arrangement allowed the local station KTLA channel 5 to carry Vin’s last six games. That was a delight.
We will miss you, Vin. Enjoy your retirement.
photo credit: Floatjon. cropped. Creative Commons License 3.0.
I wrote last week about literary smackdowns, and I mentioned Dick Cavett. That made me think to look to see if he has a presence on Facebook. He does. And he was posting about rebroadcasts of his show airing on a network called Decades. Hadn’t heard of that. Turns out that it is a secondary digital channel broadcast on CBS-owned stations. And my television provider offers it.
What a delight. Programs air Monday through Friday. Decades offers shows from Cavett’s ABC program from the early 1970’s, his PBS program from the late seventies and early eighties, and his short-lived series on the USA Network from 1985. Now I admit that I have three box sets on DVD from the ABC show and I haven’t watched all the programs, but how convenient to have the programs right there on my DVR.
As someone with a permanent 1970’s mentality, this is a real treat.
There is a column each week in the Sunday New York Times Book Review called “By the Book.” Each week a different author is interviewed with a more or less standard set of questions. Here is an exchange from a recent interview with author Daniel Silva:
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, with William F. Buckley to serve as referee. I think I would set the table with paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid any undue bloodshed.
I posted this to Facebook and commented, “Can we somehow involve Dick Cavett in this as well?” After I wrote this I realized that Cavett had both Mailer and Vidal on his weeknight half hour PBS program in the mid and late 1970s. I don’t recall Buckley ever being on the show, but this was when Buckley was ascendant with his own weekend program in which he engaged in an intellectual smackdown with whomever his guest might be.
In fact, if I recall correctly, Cavett once had Mailer and Vidal together on the same episode, and there was something of a smackdown on that show.
There was some marvelous television in the 1970’s.