Emotions, Space & Revolution: The 2009 TCA PBS Summer Press Tour – Feature – Part II

PBS’ consistency is initiated in its relevance to the volume of life. Like the aspect of nostalgia, music also takes an exceptional approach yet the essence of the stars, both above and on Earth, draw us in.

Executive Session – Paula Kerger The President/CEO of PBS revitalized that they are pushing more towards internet and cross program pollination with shows such as “Front Line”. In terms of “American Masters”, they are working on Johnny Carson for the Fall 2010 scheduled to coincide with a new book on him. They will also be airing the Broadway version of Cyrano De Bergerac starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. PBS is also moving further in merchandising through their Discover/Hasbro connection though Kerger says that she is concerned about “the distinction between learning and advertising”.

This Emotional Life PBS is premiering “This Emotional Life” in early 2010 which includes such interviews as Richard Gere, Alanis Morissette and John Leguizamo raised around distinct themes within three two-hour programs, two of which are “negative emotions” and “happiness”. Some of the distinction are made by Dr. Daniel Gilbery who is a Harvard psychologist. He discusses that the single best progression of happiness is social contact and encourages the public discussion of therapy. He believes in shows and media that normalize the aspect of this kind of changing but admits that the film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” severely hurt the profession while “Good Will Hunting” and “Ordinary People” had a positive effect.

Latin Music USA The essence of the evolution of music within the Latino vision is peppered with spice and rhythm. Narrated by Jimmy Smits, the doc series, Smits believes, will be “a big revelation for the PBS American audience”. In terms of his own love for the music, he says it permeated throughout his career especially involving his move from New York to Puerto Rico. He grew up listing to Three Ocho Pansos which indicated an eclectic musical background which contributed he says to “my all inclusive angle to genres of music”. He says his mom met his dad in NY in one of the clubs playing this music doing the mambo. He says the series “reinforces how we are interconnected” citing that when they talked to Dizzy Gillespie you realize “how latin music inspires you on what jazz could be”.

Musician Bobby Sanabria then got up and started playing the bongos with aplomb running with beats and changing the essences from latin to rock to hip-hop before refracting into a simple African beat. Sanabria relates that every heavy metal guy uses a Latin beat on the heavy drums before referencing that “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones is based on the cha-cha-cha. Every rock club, he continues, was based on The Palladium in NYC which started with mambo. Sanabria explains in his own exceptional way that “alot of Latin music comes from the influence of Arabia since Spain was part of that empire for 800 years”. At this point Sanabria actually demonstrates how Muslim chanting can be based or integrated off the Latin beat.

Adriana Bosch, the series producer, adds that the interrelation of Latin music is all about the intersection of cultures. Emilio Estefan is of Lebanese descent, she explains. Shakira shows up at his studio and she has Lebanese descent as well but with Colombia roots. The influence of this is that, after World War I, a lot of Turks came over to Central America which allowed the ability of Latin music to blend and evolve eventually making its way to the United States.

NOVA: A Last Mission To Hubble This PBS documentary which reflects the Hubble 3D IMAX movie to be released next spring relates the intense work incumbent in repairing this massive telescope in orbit. Astronaut John Grunseld, who related his intense love of digital cameras and electronics, says that all Hubble Missions are difficult. He explains that back in 2002, the director of NASA thought the mission was too risky. However it is a story that has to be told. Grunsfeld says that initially there was a very big possibility that they might not complete the repairs on the gigantic piece adding that “sometimes you spend 12 hours in the pool and you don’t get it done”. He also explained the aspect of having the IMAX camera on the shuttle with them. He said he just flipped a switched to get it rolling inside its compartment but the mystery of how much film rolled still remains elusive. Speaking to him informally after the presentation, the question was when we will see some handheld HD footage from outside the shuttle looking past someone’s feet 100 miles below to earth. Grunsfeld relates that he is a tech head and brings his digital cameras up there with him but that all the liquid has to be removed from the gears in order to blast off in the shuttle. In that perspective, cameras (of a more personal nature) don’t seem to be taken outside the shuttle into the vacuum of space. This would be killer footage but their possibility again remains a mystery clouded under a classified wire. Space tourism will however perceive why in a few years despite Grunsfeld’s obvious enthusiasm despite his NDA.

Playing For Change This series follows the inception of music crossing boundaries in very specific ways in the essence of recording sounds to conceptualize symbiotic and natural similarities in rhythm around the globe. When filmmaker Mark Johnson first approached TV mogul/philanthropist Norman Lear with the idea, Lear said “I was creative enough to recognize a great idea and great execution”. Lear showed the aspect of the music to his friend Bono of U2 who helped bring it together. Using his Concord Music blanket which is compromised of a bunch of different labels, Lear was able to steer the project. He admits that “music is partly what my life is all about now” although he admits that “being an exec producer is how one gets names connected”. Creatively, he says, Johnson is getting the job done and he is just “fanning the embers”. The key he has found in recent years is that “music and laughter are not mutually exclusive” but that “one feeds the other”. He had the company which could help Mark and controlled a relationship with Starbucks which allowed for the music release extension. Lear continues that “the best conversations are all about questions”. This idea, he says, encourages discusssion “beyond the stained glass rhetoric you only hear on Sundays”. The music performers themselves gathered from all over the world, will tour. He sees their tonal creations as “a combination of feelings and melody” because “they have so much talent and so much soul that express a message”.

Lear, when asked to reflect on the incumbent impact of different mediums, says he wonders “if TV reflects or does it lead?” which is the same question he says can be asked of the mass media. He admits that he might never know the answer. One interrogative he states is if Obama caught a wave of a need for effectiveness across the globe as a vessel for change? The further question becomes, within his character, does Obama become that symbol?

Patti Smith: Dream Of Life (P.O.V.) This doc gives a vision of another musical intensive from a quintessential basis of American folklore which has been contained a mystery. Smith, full of smiles, says that she withdrew from the limelight in 1979 to raise her family. When her husband died in 1994, she realized she had to start a new life. She relates about when Bob Dylan asked her to tour with him which was a reflection of a conversation he had shared with Allen Ginsberg who spoke with Dylan about Smith’s faith. She admits that the film, directed by Steven Sebring, is a very accurate portrayal of her between the ages of 50 and 60 including her kids, her peers and her protests of the Bush Administration. She loves rock n’ roll but her close friends know that her favorites are Glenn Gould and Maria Callas. In terms of the subjects covered in the doc, Smith says she never told Sebring what parts of her life to focus on. He simply became part of what they did. He could have gone straight to the rock roots but she explains that “he had no design to which he gravitated towards”. In returning to her lost years, Smith explains that she and her husband moved to Detroit in 79 and lived in its heart at the Book Cadillac Hotel which was still cleaning up from the 68 riots. She loved her husband and considered him a great man. However she couldn’t walk in Detroit like she did in NY so she had to learn to be behind the wheel. She relates that she is in the middle of recording a new album which will have guests like Flea and Lenny Kaye which will be out in February 2010.

When asked about the current state of rock music, Smith relates two angles. She admits that the music “business” is in shambles despite the fact that the state of the talent is fine. However this era is not one of the rock gods. There is no Jim Morrison…Jimi Hendrix…Bob Dylan…or Grace Slick. She says that “rock n’ roll is the people’s cultural voice” which can be “revolutionary”. In terms of technology, she uses You Tube to watch Glenn Gould which is something her kids taught her. She admits to having a taste for Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine as well. In terms of her love of Maria Callas, she likes to study her as a performer in that “the way she delivers an aria” motivates “an inner narrative” that distinctifies “an emotional interpretation”. She says watching Callas build to an emotional peak is like “pissing in a river” because “you have to release at a certain time.” She admits that her voice, like Callas, “is not always perfect”. However she follows this by saying that her voice is much stronger than when it was when she was younger. She cites that Joan Baez, whom we talked to earlier, was “a real singer” with “a voice that was flexible with perfect pitch” while she herself was more a performer. She says that her time in the 60s was “more like a bridge between traditional music in the most revolutionary sense and the punk movement”. Her clan wanted to “remind people of the innate power of it all” and that “it belonged to the people”. She admits that they lost some of the great artists in the 70s and that they thought that “celebrity and drugs would engulf it all”. They wanted “to break through it”. She also says she always thought “they” were like Moses. They could see the ground but relishes that the “next wave of kids made it”. The one progression she admits to being proud of is that she is as loud as some of the major guitar players. She also addresses her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe saying that their relationship as artist and muse was “based on trust…never thought”.

In terms of her sacrifice leaving the public eye, she says that “I am ‘Mom’ first”. She set aside time each day when she retreated from public life to write poetry and songs with her husband but states that she was never bored. She liked to study with a creative impulse saying “it was a nice life”. When she examined her vision of music, she saw some structure through John Coltrane and Roland Kirk’s music. She likes the “idea of improvising and having a base root” but “talking to the stratosphere” while “returning to your root consciousness”. In continuing with an almost psychological base, Smith relates that, in her childhood, her mother was a waitress and her father was a factory worker. She says that they didn’t have alot but they were well loved. Her sense of rebellion in later life had nothing to do with her parents at all. She felt confined by the government, not by her home life. The questions were spiritual but reflected more culturally. They lived in South New Jersey where there was no cultural base. She just felt the need to break out of it,

As Patti sings “The Blackian Years” in essence of her husband followed by “One Common Wire”, the reflection of hope and a wisp of Dylan reflect in the fading of the afternoon.

Puppets, Nature & Trains: The 2009 TCA PBS Summer Press Tour – Feature – Part I

Public broadcasting is always based within the aspect of education but the key of all is to essentially make learning fun. The key is structure and a fresh new face.

Sesame Street The stalwart of years is reaching its 40th anniversary which was marked in the inset of the meeting with a taped introduction from President Obama endorsing the importance this program has had over the years. The initial perception was in making the elements modern without sacrificing imagination. Mr. Snufalpagus as pointed out was created with the inception of never being real until people started believing. The reality is that nature is age appropriate although modeling science is challenging. The angle of parody is also of essential relevance with the new season taking intrinsic looks at “Mad Men” focusing on “being mad”. They also did a piece called “Desperate Houseplants”. The anniversary show will follow Big Bird changing his habitat following the psychology that imbues this character.

Electric Company The yin to Sesame’s yang has always balanced on the vision of the Company. Even from its sizzle reel, the show seems a little more up to date incorporating some elements of hip-hop directly. This integration of more urban culture is reflected in Shock, one of the hosts, who raps his way into the presentation with a beat box straight up like Michael Winslow from “Police Academy”. The key with upping the freshness of EC was how to keep it in the now. The online component which focuses them in a very specific world, they said, was key to incorporating 10 new learning games which uses Shock’s phonetics and beat boxes to help kids learn. Building on this component, Shock is going on a 20-city outreach program aimed at optimizing literacy viability. In this structure there will be less parody and more direction within the process since Shock admits that the new learning has “to key at the You Tube generation”.

Inventing LA: The Chandlers & Their Times The Chandlers had an undeniable impact on Los Angeles culture especially within the publishing industry with their leadership of The Los Angeles Times. This documentary, which premiered at last year’s Santa Barbara Film Festival, offers an insight within the dynasty. Harry Brant Chandler, son of the former LA Times publisher, speaks of his father’s intent in that bringing less-than-optimal people into the fold was like bring in pilots that had no flight training. Harry relates that his father was so focused that he literally didn’t care about his son until he went back to the LA Times to help start the internet division. At a certain point, the reality had to settle in where he had to let himself be pushed aside. The key angle was strengthening the news content of the paper. Gaping holes could be too easily spotted. Recently, the LA Times in his mind, as a result, has abandoned almost all its suburban coverage so now there is very little perception within a print context of what is going on in Pasadena or the San Fernando Valley. At one time, Harry Brant explains, his father was on over 26 directors boards which encompassed a reach much further than the newspaper. In perception, Los Angeles might still be a desert town without the Chandlers. The questions that show perception is the discussion decades ago which included the need for an intrinsic mass transit system which still has not been accomplished.

The Human Spark Alan Alda has always had a soothing presence about him especially where the art of learning is concerned because he seems genuinely respective of the avenues he is exploring. Alda jokes that within his point of learning on “Spark”  he realizes that he “is not human yet” but still admits “I use a knife and fork myself”. Graham [Chedd, the series producer at “Nova”] puts him in the middle of this discussion and creates the basis with the scientists. Alda says he is just in it to have fun but the angle is figuring how that will turn out on screen. The challenge is making it so the scientists can explain to him what they are seeing in a functional form. One example is the human socialization concept and being able to read people’s faces. Alda explains that he was trained in improvisation and you “were taught to relate”. The reality, he says, is that we have found no other animals that relate to each other the way humans do. In addition, the traits of working together as a group towards a common goal and being able to cooperate are also quite rare. Certain emotions like spite and envy are also quite visceral to explore. John Shey, an associate at Stonybrook University who collaborated on the series, relates that “evolution is a conservative process”. He says that Alda is like “a very difficult student”. He admits though that one of the nice benefits within the process is that you have to work alot harder to make your points clearer. He says that “chimps don’t have the same sense of getting pissed off” continuing that it would be different if they put Alan in a cage since he would share his raisins (if he were given some). Chimps, he says, just take what they can get.

Ken Burns’ The National Parks The ultimate documentarian takes his vision into a singular perception of the preservation of beauty from a nature standpoint. Ken Burns begins saying that we have reached a level of existentialism in the United States where the “nature deficit”, he says in reference to Dr. Phil, is a real thing. The worst result you want to have at a national park is no one coming. He hopes in a way, like with his Civil War films, that there will be a renewal of interest. People from all over the world come to see the national parks here in the US because we, as a culture, created the model. For him personally concerning this subject matter, he says that “my nerves are so close to the surface”. He first started shooting this new film in the spring of 2003. A moment of clarity for him though dates back to 1959. His mother at that time was dying of cancer and his father was not really around for him. His dad never played catch with him. However during that time this father took his son on a drive through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and sang a song which he remembers to this day. Burns quotes John Mayer in saying that he “surrendered myself to this beauty”.

Dinosaur Train This new perception from Henson Studios spearheaded by Lisa Henson works on the auspice of combining elements of biology with sociology. Lisa admits that it is a changing subject emphasized by the challenge of not using superlatives. She reminisces about when she was a child and “Sesame Street” launched. The selling point quality of The Muppets was encompassed in their creation. Letters today within the structure, she explains, are sold with a gotcha quality. She explains that her father (Jim Henson) always stayed away from the “birthday party mentality”. She also proudly states that Henson never gave up, citing his groundbreaking progression in learning stop motion animation and incorporating the Moog synthesizer to make certain sounds for The Muppets and other productions.

The new form currently coming into play on the market is currently 3D. “Dinosaur Train” is envisioned through 3D animation. Jim Henson himself was working at it up until 1990 and the R&D angle has been in play for close to 20 years. As a company, they have just started their first steps into this world. When she was growing up, their family had no limit on the TV they were allowed to watch. She used to memorize alot of the “Looney Tunes” she would see but her parents weren’t so much into animation at that time. Her perception was of their necessity in putting together TV pieces and getting them up live. Her parents had 5 children and they were all drawn into the business since much of their childhood involved being around The Workshop. One of the earliest pictures of Lisa is her in a basket while her parents’ backs are to her performing their puppets.

Masterpiece Contemporary: Hamlet David Tennant, presently leaving BBC’s “Doctor Who” takes on the perception of the Bard with the irrefutable Sir Patrick Stewart playing his father. Tennant says that it is difficult to be objective about such an iconic figure. There is a weight, he says, where every line is in quotations and you try not to be weighed down by it. However, he says, it is an iconic role he has always fantasized about. He says that the challenge is trying to keep things behind you.

Endgame This production takes the real life drama of Michael Young who broached African politics in a corporate strategy which angled into the dangerous elements of apartheid. Jonny Lee Miller who plays Young says that the main angle of the talks back in those days is that no one knew they were going on as they were held in secret in the English countryside. The visceral attraction to the piece, he says, is that one remembers the events but with no conception of how they came about. The real Michael Young, sitting right beside him, says with genuine sarcasm that “you realize how easy it would be to do if you had templates to follow” in terms of the talks. Now the format is being used in Northern Ireland and the Middle East in peace talks indicating those certain conceptions of time.

American Masters: Joan Baez The key of representing this woman is her interrelation of the events she was witness to. Baez relates the first time she went to the Newport Music Festival. She says she “felt like dying and scared” but admits that it was very well received which motivated her to come back for a number of years. She remembers flying over Woodstock with her mother and Janis Joplin as the storms were looming but explains she was not aware of the impact it would have later. In terms of her politics in relation to the day, Baez says they have not changed especially in regards to her mentality to non-violent acts for social change. She knew early enough with politics not to expect too much but admits that “we didn’t give ourselves enough credit for what got done” which also applied to Vietnam. She says that “Nixon did not make that decision…we forced him to”. She does says that she has made a familial change in an attempt to spend more time with her family then she did in the 70s and 80s despite the fact that she still does 60 to 80 dates a year. The key to this longetivity she says is “honest reinventing” and “doing it with integrity”. In regards to her singing voice, she admits “I became mortal!” adding “What a nuisance!” She says that her voice is now lower in pitch and states that she will never have that high vibrato voice again that she enjoyed for so many years. As far as current voices that move her, Jonas Kaufman, a tenor, was the last person she truly listened to and remember liking.

And the melody continues…