Monday, September 27, 2010

My Latest Passion

Just what I didn't need--a new television show to watch.

If you have cable-TV, you must check out the BBC's newest sensation, The Choir. This is the reality TV version of Glee, but it has a lot more heart (and a lot less nastiness).

Young Gareth Malone is a man with a mission. He'd like to teach the world to sing in more or less perfect harmony.

I heard about this show on Facebook and, knowing that I'd missed most of it already, I checked out ComCast's On Demand menu and lo and behold, it was there on the BBC section. Apparently there have been five episodes aired so far.

In the first show I watched, Malone visits the Lancaster School in Leicester, a boys' school long on sports but with no music program. The boys all think it's silly to sing, but he manages to get a few involved and in working with them, more joined until he had a large choir that was good enough to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

I've also seen two episodes from South Oxney, a town which was established in the 50s for victims of the blitz in London to resettle. South Oxney has a bad reputation and everybody else in the area avoids it, fearful of violence and drugs. The town itself has no sense of "community," as witnessed in the first scene by the empty town center, which in many small British towns would be teeming with people, friends meeting friends.

As with the boys' school, Malone finds resistance to...ewww...singing, but he manages to get a few key people who are interested and ends up with a large choir which performs for other South Oxney folks and ultimately (in a different episode) at the nearby Watford Colisseum, where they perform Hallelujah, one of my favorite songs. South Oxney has been reborn. People talk to each other now. The town square is coming back to life.

I asked my friend Steve if he was watching this show and he dismissed it, saying "It's like watching someone work, for me. I always hated rehearsing. So, watching other people rehearse just bores the shit out of me." Never ask the opinion of a professional musician.

For me, the value of this show is the change that music is making in the lives of the people with whom Malone works, the self esteem it is boosting by the simple act of getting groups of people together to sing -- The lonely new widower, mourning the loss of his wife, making new friends for the first time. The young guy who had dreams of being a singer, but found them crushed by economic woes, now finding his voice again as soloist for the choir. The single mother with no friends in town showing an incredible voice when she is asked to take the solo...and earning the respect of a community which had previously rejected her. The special needs girl who gets a solo at the children's choir's first big concert. I cried along with her mother, watching the little girl shine and give a great performance.

I watch this show with tissues at hand, because I find things that move me to tears. But the best thing about this reality show is that while it's long on "reality," you won't find any snarkiness about it. It's a real feel-good show...and if you enjoy choral music, as I do, you'll love it.

Unless, of course, you're Steve.

This afternoon I was working on the review of Suds, the Cabaret show we saw on Friday night. When I do a project like this, I "watch at" things on TV. Sunday is a bleak day for TV to accompany a project, at least for me--there is a lot of sports, a lot of cooking but you need to actually LOOK at the screen to watch those. I do best with a marathon of some show I watch all the time (tonight there is an SVU "killer clergy" marathon, but I needed something earlier in the afternoon).

TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is frequently a good bet, unless they are running moster movies or westerns, neither of which I will watch, or huge historic dramas, which you really want to watch, not listen to. But I came on a showing of the 1955 movie, The Last Time I Saw Paris, with Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor at her most lovely. (Walt wanted to know if there was ever a movie with Van Johnson where he wasn't in some branch of the military! I did tell him that In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland had him as a clerk in a music store at the turn of the century...but I got his point. Johnson was a tall, handsome man during the time when war movies predominated, so it's not surprising that he spent so much time in uniform.)

As this movie progressed I began to pay more attention to the plot. Essentially Johnson and Taylor meet on the Champs Elysee on VE day, when she grabs him out of the crowd during the frenzy of the moment and kisses him. Later, her sister, Donna Reed introduces the two formally. Needless to say they are smitten and eventually marry.

Near as I can figure out, the two spend their marriage cheating on each other, in zipper fashion--first him, then her, then him, then her. The one being cheated on gets his/her feelings hurt and the cheater feels guilty and stops his/her cheating ways until the other one finds a pretty boy/girl with whom to dally. (He with Zsa Zsa Gabor, she with a pretty teeny bopper Roger Moore one year after Ian Flemming wrote the very first James Bond book.)

At some point, Taylor's ne'er do well father (Walter Pidgeon) discovers that oil has been found on his land back in the U.S. of A. and they are now all fabulously wealthy. Taylor utters the classic line "It's that thing that keeps us safe in the Middle East." Yeah. Right.

Anyway, the affairs continue to rock back and forth with some lovely scenery in Paris and around Monte Carlo (which I was pleased to have recognized as some of the roads we had been on).

I kind of missed the last big blow up, when he, frustrated at rejection of his latest novel, has become a drunk. She tries to make up with him and takes a cab to his house. Now it's the dead of winter, snow is all around and she is in this snazzy red dress (with about a 16" waist), open toed high heels, and no coat. He is passed out, having fallen down the stairs, and she just leaves and walks to her sister's house. In the cold. In the high heeled open toed shoes.

Naturally she develops pneumonia and ends up in the hospital where they wheel in scary looking equipment for her, which they don't seem to set up because that would mean she wouldn't look beautiful for the tearful reunion with Johnson and her dramatic death scene.

Without looking at the screen, I knew she was dying because she whispers 'I will always love you' and the music playing is "The Last Time I Saw Paris," in a minor key.

There is a custody battle, with Donna Reed refusing to give his daughter to Johnson because she has loved him all of these years and he never even noticed. But this is a 50s movie so you know that it all ends happily, with Reed turning over the child--no suitcase full of clothes accompanying her--and Dad and daughter walk off, hand in hand, presumably to live happily ever after. Well, after he buys her new clothes, of course.

Made me remember how totally silly those 50s movies were and how I loved them at the time.

Oh. Sorry if this is a plot spoiler for anybody!

1 comment:

Empress68 said...

We all did it, I think. We bought into those fairy tales and found the films so romantic. I watch them now and usually turn them off because they seem so sappy.

Even the ones that I absolutely loved (all the Esther Williams movies, for example) have embarrassingly stupid scenes that I had forgotten.