Posts Tagged ‘Television’

Israel at 30: When Streisand Sang for Golda

May 28, 2008

Barbra and Golda

I mentioned earlier that I had something up my sleeve for Israel’s 60th birthday celebration. It took more time than I wanted to put together. But here’s a piece for Nextbook that describes how America did it 30 years ago.

It’s hard even to believe now, but ABC put together a prime time variety show capped by an amazing Streisand performance. (This was, after all, the network that gave us “The Battle of the Network Stars.”)

I spoke to two great show business men to get the inside scoop — Buz Kohan and Charlie Fishman. Kohan is a veteran of scores of memorable t.v. shows, such as “Motown 25,” where Michael Jackson unveiled the moonwalk, to “Muhammed Ali’s 50th Birthday Celebration.” He is also the patriarch of a Hollywood family: his son, David, created “Will and Grace;” his daughter, Jenji, “Weeds.” For his part, Fishman is the head of Washington D.C.’s Duke Ellington Jazz Festival and a former manager of Dizzy Gillespie. Here is an excerpt of the piece:

“Fishman had brought Stan Getz to Israel in 1977, a trip filmed for the 1978 documentary Stan Getz: A Musical Odyssey. ‘How do you break away from the late night television?’ Fishman remembers asking himself. ‘I sat back and said, ‘What would be the hippest thing to do? What would be the biggest star-power thing to do?’ ‘

No other Jewish American performer of the time was as big as Streisand. This was little more than a year after the release of A Star Is Born, which had garnered her an Oscar for the song ‘Evergreen.’ Fishman enlisted producer James Lipton, now famous for Inside the Actors Studio, and director Marty Pasetta, another award-show veteran, and set to work getting Streisand. She was interested, but had her own conditions: She wanted to sing accompanied by Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. So that’s exactly what she got. And with the strength of Streisand’s name, Fishman and company sold the show to ABC.

In the days before the show aired, Kohan and Mehta went to Streisand’s home to help her prepare. ‘She wanted to sing ‘Hatikvah,’ only she didn’t know’ the song, Kohan recalls. Kohan picked up the phone, called his wife, Rhea, and asked her to sing the song to Streisand. ‘I hope she’s not intimidated,’ Rhea quipped before launching into it.

Streisand’s preparation worked. For the organizers, the result was transcendent. ‘She was remarkable,’ says Kohan. ‘Everybody was impressed with the last twenty minutes of the show.’ ”

You can watch Streisand here.

Battlestar Galactica Returns for Its Final Season

April 4, 2008

Galactica's Last Supper

It’s a Friday so I’m going to take a break from politics and put the focus on pop culture, specifically a science fiction show called Battlestar Galactica, which I wrote about prior to its finale last year. For those looking for a primer on this groundbreaking show, here is a good write-up in Salon. The program fuses mystery, mysticism, mythology, suspense, and political satire all with an artist’s eye for detail and story-telling. The Salon piece along with this eight minute video should be enough to get newcomers looking to enjoy the final season of this series up to speed.

The story-teller in this case is Ronald D. Moore. It’s true that Moore emanates out of the Star Trek world, but he’s most identified with Deep Space Nine, which is recognized as the thoughtful, character-driven Trek (starring Avery Brooks, formerly Hawk on Spenser) not the technobabble-dominated, ridiculous space opera of later years.

Ever since Galactica went off the air more than one year ago I’ve been thinking about a spoilerific post that somebody placed up on the Sci-Fi channels boards. It may be total fiction. But there is so much detail in explaining the bizarre events of last year’s finale that I feel compelled to reference it here. The post goes so far as to describe a meeting with a tipsy Moore who spills the beans on the final season of his show.

Either this poster has a very elaborate theory on the origin of the “final five cylons” or he actually did run into Moore in a bar. For those of you inclined to delve into it, I’m going to reprint the post here, leaving out some of its most shocking conclusions.

“When the mechanical Cylons rebelled, twelve of the models had been designed by humans for administration, communication, and other higher-level tasks. As a result of their more powerful electronic brains, these were the models that developed sentience and led the other Cylons, which included less sophisticated models that had been designed for labor, or for combat (like the Centurions) against their human masters. Led may not even be the right word in that these other models (again, like the Centurions) never actually developed sentience themselves. They were simply reprogrammed by the self-aware Cylons to serve them instead of serving humans. He didn’t make it clear whether the fact that there were twelve models has anything to do with the fact that there were twelve colonies, but as I said he was pretty drunk and sort of all over the place, and he kind of skipped over some stuff along the way.

Anyway, once the war ended and the Cylons went off on their own, their technology unsurprisingly continued to improve at a much faster rate than that of the humans they’d left behind. Among other things they developed the ability to create biological bodies for themselves and transfer their consciousness into them. However, as Ron explained it, there was an interim period before the technology was perfected when they were able to simulate what it would be like to inhabit a biological body, along the same lines that the current Cylons use “projection” to alter their perceptions of their surroundings.

This new awareness of what it would be like to be “alive,” before that had actually inhabited the physical bodies themselves, caused a major shift in the psychology of the self-aware Cylons. Now, keep in mind that although there were many more than twelve of them, they were all simply copies of the original twelve models that the humans had created and therefore different copies of the same model tended to have similar tendencies and reactions (as they still continue to do on the show). This new awareness affected each set of models slightly differently. The ultimate outcome was that seven of the twelve decided that once they were able to inhabit their new biological bodies they would return to the colonies, destroy the humans and replace them as the residents of their planets.

However, the five other models had the exact opposite reaction. Instead of wanting to wipe out the humans, the experience of being a living biological entity gave them an understanding of what it means to truly be alive that they hadn’t had as strictly mechanical beings. They finally understood, at least on some level, compassion, empathy, etc. As a result, there was a schism among the Cylons before any of them ever actually inhabited an actual biological body. The result of this conflict was that five of the models left or were driven away from the Cylon homeworld, while the other seven remained to plan what would ultimately lead to the annhilation of the Colonies at the beginning of the mini-series.

Since the five models who left had more or less the same technology as the seven who remained, they were still able to create physical bodies for themselves, which they did at around the same time as the remaining seven. However, since they were still in mechanical form when they left, the remaining seven never saw the forms that the five’s physical bodies took once they had left. As a result, they know that there are five more models of Cylons out there, but they don’t know who they are, or what they look like. And of course, at the time they left, the five didn’t know what biological forms the other seven would take either.

While the remaining seven were preparing to infiltrate and destroy Colonial civilization, the five who had left decided that they needed to work to thwart the plans of the remaining seven and protect the human race from them. Having left their homeworld in the control of the remaining seven, they had only a few ships and other resources. As a result, they decided to work as secretively as they could to monitor humanity and attempt to assist them in the event of a Cylon attack. Towards that end, they planted agents among the humans, some of whom were ‘sleepers.’ ”

There you have it, and my foray into geekery ends for this year.