TV Night at the Bowl II

Dan Showbiz

Tonight I went with Michael to the Hollywood Bowl, where in association with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performed “Television Night at the Hollywood Bowl II”. The evening was a festive celebration of music from the small screen, and did a rather nice job at avoiding any major repeats from the last time they had a Television Night at the Bowl, three years ago.

Conducted by John Mauceri, the evening began as all Bowl concerts do, with the “Star Spangled Banner”. From there, a Detective-Show Medley was performed, starting with “Dragnet”, and moving on through such classics as “Peter Gunn”, “Hawaii Five-O”. “Mission: Impossible” and others. I found the performance to be a bit slow to start, but it picked up as the piece progressed. A nice montage of slapstick clips were shown set to “Curb Your Enthusiasm”‘s bouncy Italian theme by Luciano Michelini. We were then introduced to our host for the evening, actor Joe Mantegna. He brought us up to speed with a look at Westerns, and many classic themes were played, including “Bonanza”, “Wagon Train”, “Maverick”, “The Big Valley” and others. This was followed up with the theme from “Deadwood”, which is a Western of the modern breed.

In honor of his 85th birthday, the orchestra played a lengthy medley of the music of Earl Hagen. He had written so many classic television themes that it’s hard to name them all – but some of the ones that stood out were “Make Room For Daddy”, “That Girl”, “The Mod Squad”, and “I Spy”. A tribute to “Captain Kangaroo” and “Mr. Rogers” was (in the words of my guest) “the whitest thing I’ve ever seen”. Children in solid colored shirts sat on stage and listened to – and joined in singing – songs from the shows (“It’s You I Like”, “You Can Never Go Down The Drain”). It was terribly cheesy, and at the end, actor David Newell who played the original Mr. McFeely mailman showed up.

After a nice orchestral rendition of “The Simpsons”, we were treated to a special event as the Dick and Tommy Smothers came out on stage to do a bit. They sang a variation on “Those Were the Days” by Gene Raskin, with new lyrics to fit their experience working at CBS back in the day. It was funny and clever, and was a nice followup to a hysterical bit of sibling banter. Bruce Broughton came on stage to conduct an extended theme from “JAG”, and then we had a nice tribute to Broadway with Scott Bakula, Peter Gallagher, and Sheryl Lee Ralph performing – all of whom are not only respected television actors, but Tony nominated (and winning) actors as well. Gallagher sung “Luck Be a Lady” from his Tony-winning role from Guys and Dolls, and the audience was laughing a lot during the quite funny performance of “Like a Young Man”. We were then surprised by none other than Broadway legend Carol Channing, singing “Hello, Dolly” with the rest of the group. The audience really seemed to enjoy that treat.

During the intermission, I had a chance to briefly chat with composer Stu Phillips (“Battlestar Galactica”) and X-Men 2 executive producer Tom DeSanto, who were seated nearby. Phillips said that a newly arranged suite would be concluding the concert, so that was certainly something to look forward to. After the break, Steve Allen’s “This Could Be The Start of Something” was performed in a very unique manner – a grand piano had been outfitted digitally as a player piano, and it Allen’s performance had been digitally recreated – and it played along with the orchestra. It was touching and tender. Unfortunately, as I found out during the intermission, composer W.G. “Snuffy” Walden told me that they were running a bit late – and had given the axe to his 7-minute “West Wing” suite. In retrospect, I would have cut the Allen piece instead – I was quite looking forward to the Walden suite!

We were privvy to a very special moment that night, when John Mauceri called Jerry Goldsmith on the phone (he couldn’t attend, although his wife and children were in the audience), and allowed him to listen to the “Goldsmith Television Suite”. It’s a great suite that features “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, “Dr. Kildare”, “Room 222”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “The Waltons” and “Barnaby Jones”, all in great sequencing. Afterwards, a Salute to Television Choreographers culminated in most of them showing up on stage to perform “One” from A Chorus Line. It was quite entertaining, but not as much as what followed: the highly anticipated “Theme Song Sing-Along”!

On stage to lead us were composer/songwriter Vic Mizzy (“Green Acres” / “The Addams Family”), Sally Struthers (“All in the Family”), Ja’net Dubois (“The Jeffersons”), Shelly Long (“Cheers”), Morgan Fairchild and The Rembrandts (“Friends”), and of course, Barry Williams (“The Brady Bunch”). It was creepy, kookie, and all-together-ookie… but a lot of fun. For the big finale was, as expected, the new suite from “Battlestar Galactica” – with fireworks! It was a great way to end the concert which celebrated different aspects of television music. As an encore, Mauceri and the Bowl Orchestra played “I Love Lucy”, and then called it a night.

The Hollywood Bowl has been recently renovated – gone are the signature spheres that were added a few decades ago, and now there’s a big donut ring above the orchestra. Does it help the sound? I couldn’t really tell – I had great seats, and it still sounded kinda small to me. But still, a concert at the Bowl is an experience everyone should have, so come on out and get your tickets for the John Williams and Lord of the Rings concerts, coming later this summer!

This blog entry will be adapted into my Hollywood Bowl article on SoundtrackNet, which is why it’s so wordy!