Station Break with Paul Farhi: TV Sitcoms, Beatles Re-Releases, More

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Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 8, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news and topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Today: Is the TV sitcom about to make a comeback? Don't bet on it, even though the networks have scheduled eight new half-hour comedies for the fall season. Whatever happened to this great American art form? Plus: The amazing Beatles re-release machine strikes again. And again..

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Paul Farhi: Greetings, all, and step inside for our post-Labor-Day, official-start-of-Fall-no-matter-what-the-calendar-says chat. So, it says in all the newspapers that situation comedies are about to make a comeback for the new TV season. Really? Not seeing it. Yes, ABC is introducing four new half-hour sitcoms in its all-new Wednesday lineup, but outside of that Hail Mary, the new comedies are actually kinda sparse. I count a total of eight new sitcoms among the five English-language TV networks (okay, 8 1/4 if you count "Glee," which isn't entirely new and isn't entirely a comedy). And worse: There are no sitcoms, new or returning, on any of the networks on two nights of the week (Tuesdays and Saturdays) And only one network at a time is programming sitcoms on four of the five other nights. Plus, the CW network doesn't do any comedies. So, not exactly a comeback.

Since "Seinfeld's" demise (or maybe "Everybody Loves Raymond's"), there's been much yadda yadda about the "death of the sitcom." I don't buy that either (any "death of.." trend story, by the way, is usually overstated and likely cooked up by a magazine editor in New York). The form hasn't really died. It's just kind of...in a funk. The main reason isn't the audience; people still like to look at TV and laugh. The main reason, like everything on TV, is money. Sitcoms are expensive to make, and fail at typically prodigious rates. Not good in today's penny-pinching network world. What's more, the economics behind sitcoms have changed, um, dramatically. Sitcoms used to make boatloads of money if they lasted long enough to be sold into syndication, meaning repeats on secondary stations. But two things have happened there: First, fewer and fewer sitcoms have stayed on the air long enough to reach the magic 100-episode level for syndication in recent years. Second, the secondary stations can buy cheaper, original programs (dating shows, judge shows, Dr. Phil shows, whatever shows) to plug into their schedules. And third, with reality shows the ascendant form on network TV, not as many sitcoms are being put into production in the first place, which runs the cycle down further. Isn't the TV ecosystem fun?

Even so, be skeptical of the sitcom-is-dead mantra. Yes, the most popular sitcom currently on TV is the blandly forgettable (or forgettably bland) "Two and a Half Men." But there are several other bright spots: "The Simpsons," of course (and there must always be "The Simpsons"). And "South Park." For my money (as Larry King would say) the two best sitcoms aren't on broadcast TV. They're on HBO--"Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Entourage," which is having a perfectly fine season (its sixth). And I'm not a major fan of "Family Guy," or "Big Bang Theory" or "30 Roc" or "The Office" but I know you people are out there.

Would love to get your thinking on this, plus your sitcom faves then and now, and the reason they're your faves. As always, hijinks will ensue.

On another note: More Beatles re-releases? I thought we might have seen the end with the release of the interestingly re-mixed "Love" album a few years ago, and of the very fine flick, "Across the Universe." But no. All at once we've got Beatles remasters ("Now, with more sub-woofer!") and the release of the Beatles version of "Rock Band" (and you know that's gonna be a lot of fun). Plus, there are strong vibes around that the Beatles catalogue will finally become available on iTunes (why has it taken so long?). Will this never end? Should it?

Okay, let's go to the phones...

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Washington, D.C.: There is something about the Beatles that transcends time. They blended so many forms in their music: jazz, classical, rock, folk, pop, eastern and even gospel.

I've been into Scriabin [mysticism] lately: and on a few of the Beatles songs, I can hear elements of Scriabin.

Brilliant beyond words. I look forward to the new releases.

Paul Farhi: Scriabin? Was he the Fifth Beatle? Sorry, am not aware of this, nor his/her/its influence on the Beatles. But who knows? Maybe an album of Scriabin-inspired Beatles tunes is kicking around in the vaults...

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Fairfax, Va.: What's happened to 105.9? It went from being soft 60s oldies to hard 80s oldies.

Paul Farhi: Yes, and some hard '70s and '90s oldies, too. You like? I kind of like, but I'm sort at the older range of the target audience (let the record show I didn't say "geezer") for the format, I guess.

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Washington, D.C.: The Tony Kornheiser Show, from 10 a.m. to noon; wouldn't it have been great if the show started somewhat closer to 10 a.m. than 10:06, and moved into commercials earlier?

I'm comfortable with the show being the same as before except I'm tired of Marc Sterne as Nigel. Though, I admit, I like the Nigel role better than when Sterne did his own radio show (Baseball Roundup) and used the alter ego (or maybe it was his real ego), Sterno. I just hope that the show doesn't return to being a shill for American Idol.

Paul Farhi: I enjoyed hearing Mr. Tony again. It's really kind of a throwback show, isn't it? Local, amusing, with a "cast" of characters/sidekicks, talking about what's current (and not just yammering about politics). Radio doesn't do that much, any more, does it?

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Sitcoms are expensive to make, and fail at typically prodigious rates.: But they cancel most of them before they're even given a chance. I can't stand that.

Paul Farhi: I checked this a few years ago, and it still may be true: Not really clear that the pace of cancellations has increased in the last decade or so. In fact, the investment in sitcoms and dramas that the networks make is a good reason NOT to cancel them too quickly.

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Scriabin-ville: A late Russian classical composer, interesting harmonies and spookiness.

Paul Farhi: Thank you. This may explain "I Am the Walrus."

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Alexandria, Va.: If the Weather Channel can cut an album, can the Station Break be far behind?

The Weather Channel/Smooth Jazz (Amazon)

I'm thinking electric blues featuring Farhi on harmonica.

Paul Farhi: Only if that Scriabin guy does the song writing!

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Re: The Beatles: Paul, I've tried to predict the next step in the Beatles' efforts to repackage their material. I did pretty well in predicting the remastering of "Let It Be" (I know you weren't there when I predicted this, just trust me). At some point in the near future, I expect them to compile a live album somehow. I have the "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" LP from decades ago and keep waiting for them to remaster that in some way so the Wall of Sound of screaming girls is cut back enough to hear some music. Feel free to give me full credit if this happens in the next five years.

Paul Farhi: Remastering, ehh. I'm not enough of an audiophile, or a collector, to want to buy them all. I wonder if there's some new material floating around deep in the stacks of wax (as there was, and maybe still is, with Tupac). I'd pay to hear stuff the Beatles thought twice about releasing back in the day. You know even their inferior material will be superior to almost anything else around.

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DWTS fan: How long do you think Tom "The Hammer" DeLay will last on this fall's Dancing With The Stars? I predict he'll be the first off, sort of like Tucker Carlson a few years back.

Paul Farhi: I agree, but it won't be because the man can't dance (well, he might be able to dance, I don't know either way). It's because he is (or was) a politician. People generally don't like politicians except for the ones they voted for. And hardly anyone voted for Tom DeLay when he was running for office. One week and out.

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Alexandria, Va.: In the book "A Devil to Play," it mentions that Paul wanted some French horns for Sgt. Pepper, but he had no music written, so the horn players made it up on the spot. The players were bummed that for the biggest gig of their lives they got no album credit. Of course, if had got a credit, someone would have to pay them royalties, and the Beatles were notoriously stingy.

Paul Farhi: I wonder about the accuracy of all the billions of Beatles stories that are in circulation. There was, and continues to be, an entire sub-industry of Beatles books. Not sure I believe all the stories.

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Southern Maryland: (Can we call you "the other Sir Paul" for the purposes of this chat?)

It sounds like one has to purchase two box sets in order to get the most historically correct Beatles experience. I would prefer a mix-n-match set where each album comes in the format of its original release. Which was the first Beatles album to be originally released in stereo? From the looks of the sets, it would appear to be the White Album.

Paul Farhi: Historically correct? Well, it's ALL historically correct, isn't it? As my esteemed colleague Peter Kaufman pointed out today in the Style section, those albums were released in monoaural for a reason. They sounded a certain way on your crummy record player, and on your crummy transistor radio because they were engineered to sound that way. Stereo comes along and the sound was re-mastered. BOTH ways seem "correct" to me.

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You know even their inferior material will be superior to almost anything else around. : I don't agree. Part of what makes great artists great is the ability to edit their own work and keep back that which is not great. If they didn't release it, there was probably a reason. Not that it wouldn't be interesting or enjoyable to hear it, I just don't count on it being that amazing.

Paul Farhi: Well, yes, it could be disappointing, compared to their best stuff. But a) it has great historical significance (as in, the Beatles created this!), and b) it will still be very, very good because, well, it's the Beatles. Put it this way: If we discovered a "lost" Mozart concerto, you can bet it would be awfully darn good, even if not his "best."

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washingtonpost.com: To Channel the Fab Four, Listen in Mono (Post, Sept. 8)

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From the Land of Training Boredom...: Absolutely cannot wait to rock out to the Beatles on Rock Band. However, I'm wondering when the mighty Zep will ever get a Rock Band/Guitar Hero release? Since the proposed reunion tour has been flatlined, I'm wondering if I'll ever get to experience them in concert (since I'm 26 and far too young to have seen them in their prime). Yes, I've seen The Song Remains the Same but I think a Rock Band/Guitar Hero will go pretty far in giving me the experience I've missed out on.

Paul Farhi: True confession: In college, a friend on the school newspaper snagged extremely hard-to-get review tickets to the L.A. show of the Zep tour (I forget the name o' the tour, but this would be the late 1970s). She invited me. I was greatly excited, as I (like every kid who breathed the air in the 1970s) loved Zep. Long story short: I've never been so bored at a rock concert. Long, involved, stoner-ish solos by each of the band members filled the evening. I nearly walked out but the girl I was with was driving and she HAD to stay.

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Takoma Park, Md.: My understanding is that the Beatles albums up through "Yellow Submarine" were originally released in mono and stereo, but that mono was originally more important because that's what most people bought and played.

Paul Farhi: I think that's approximately right. I don't know when everything became stereo, but mono was king for decades. And as I said, it therefore has historical importance to hear the music in the form it was engineered for.

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Central and Mountain Time: This has bugged me for years. Since all technology is digital and satellite provided, why is there any justification for TV shows being broadcast an hour earlier in the Central and Mountain time zones? Jay Leno, for example, "at 10, 9 Central" goes back to a time in the 1950s when telephone lines and pony express riders delivered programming. We live in the future now! There is no reason that the same show is not seen at the same clock time in New York, Chicago, Denver and L.A.

Paul Farhi: Fair question, I think. I've always thought that the Mountain/Central thing also had something to do with early-rising farmers who didn't want to stay up late the night before (quaint but probably untrue). Now it's just tradition, I guess. Incidentally, every time I've been in those time zones, it's always been kind of neat to watch "late night" shows at earlier hours. It leaves a lot of time for the rest of the night. Ditto watching live sports on the West Coast--the 1 pm game comes on at 10 am; better yet, the 4:15 pm game is on a civilized hour (1:15 pm PST).

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Houston, Tex.: Re: Zeppelin -- sounds like the same tour I saw at the Capital Centre -- I had exactly the same experience -- very few people that I talked to enjoyed the show -- one of the best kept secrets in rock -- after their initial first or second tours, Zeppelin was horrible in concert -- "The Song Remains the Same" just reinforces that.

Paul Farhi: Ah, thanks, Houston. I thought I was crazy for feeling the way I did back then.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Hey P-Far- part of the shell game behind sitcoms (and dramas, to an extent) is that it really is like "The Producers" in real life: it's more expedient for networks to cut deals with production companies for pilots that either never see the light of day, or are canceled after a few eps, than to continue to try to develop a show. It's gone into hoary history tomes by now, but "Seinfeld" didn't set the world on fire -- ratings were dismal (granted, it was essentially a summer-replacement show that was picked up for the fall), and it took a lot of time and patience from Ebersole, et al, to get the show where it is (was?). The most recent example of this was when the Office debuted with a limited run in Spring '05 -- the numbers helped push it to a Fall pickup -- and that is even rarer nowadays than in the late '80s.

With networks trying to compete with online (and usually free) content, there just isn't the honcho patience for a show to grow. I'm not a big fan of his shows, but I give Chuck Lorre a ton of credit for maintaining a couple of shows that have grown in viewership -- it means there are a couple fewer slots inflict a "Big Brother" ep. upon us.

Paul Farhi: Yes, true. Part of the ecosystem of TV is that producers of it shows get to saddle their networks with another, lousier show as a reward/pre-condition for continuing to produce the big hit that the network really wants. This may explain the failure rate--lots of dogs see air in the name of keeping something else on.

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Pepper!: There's an interesting documentary rotating on one of the high-number VH1 channels about the making of Sgt. Pepper...looks like it was shot in the 90's. George Martin plays with the mixing board, to bring up different elements of the sound...good for music geeks like us.

BTW, Tom Delay was in Congress for 22 years before that grandstanding DA fabricated those quickly-dismissed allegations...so some people voted for him.

Paul Farhi: Thanks for mentioning the Pepper documentary; George Martin is an interesting dude. I'd really like to hear/see/read more about how he did what he did...As for DeLay: Yes, SOME people voted for him. In his district. Most Americans did not.

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Time zones: I have disagree regarding sports. I once was on a business trip to the west coast over the weekend of a big college football game. I was able to watch at the house of a fellow alum. But it was a noon game, so it started at 9 a.m. Pacific, which just seemed so... uncivilized. (And the snacks were just wrong -- chips and salsa are great game food, but not meant to be breakfast.)

Paul Farhi: Yeah, and beer at 10:30 in the morning ain't right, either. I say switch to mimosas and bloody Mary's....

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New Sitcom Fave: It's also from the cableverse: "Party Down" on Starz, from the creators of late critics' darling "Veronica Mars." Really, REALLY funny to this fan of "The Office," "30 Rock," and "Arrested Development," and I think that if it were on HBO or Showtime, it'd be getting tons of press and praise.

Paul Farhi: I'll take your word for it because I haven't seen it. But I'll make a general observation: Cable's track record with sitcoms, for some reason, isn't that great. It has done much, much better with reality shows and dramas. I wonder why.

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Arlingtion, Va.: I had a similar type of experience when I saw the Grateful Dead in concert. It was combo show with Tom Petty, Bob Dylan (and yes, they mumbled together some), and the Dead came out last. It was at RFK stadium in August and was, conservatively, about 180 degrees in the sun. Dylan wore a leather coat and I still don't want to know what he smelled like afterwards.

The Dead came out and I tried to enjoy it, but man were they mediocre. I noticed that the people really grooving to it were dancing to some rhythm that was different that what was being played. I guess if you take enough drugs, you can provide your own soundtrack.

I know that they put on great shows, but I sure didn't see it. And I was amazed at how a good bit of the audience didn't seem to care. The rest of us left.

Paul Farhi: Sounds like a dreadful experience, but, man, what a good bill--Dylan, Petty AND the Dead? Sounds like one of those bills for shows way, way back in the day that you see on vintage posters. It will list 12 acts, all of them fantastic--Sinatra! Elvis! Jimi Hendrix! The Stones! All on One Stage!--and then it will say, in little type at the bottom, "Tickets, $1.50."

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Over the Edge: I quickly grew tired of 105.9's new format, even though I like many of the songs. The playlist is too short, and most of the songs have already been played to death on other stations. Like oldies radio, classic rock radio has become musical wallpaper, programmed by people who don't seem to care about the music.

Paul Farhi: Well, yeah, I certainly don't need to hear "Hotel California" for the 12,000th time (by the way, when I went to Italy this summer, the buskers and street musicians all seemed to be playing The Eagles; they were everywhere. Maybe those tunes just got over there). But I'm hoping 105.9 gets a little more creative and throws out a couple of lesser-heard chestnuts from time to time. Anyone like "The Tubes"?

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"The Song Remains the Same" : Netflix accused me of stealing this movie from them and they canceled my account. They sent to disc out of my queue, but I never received it. After hearing the comments about seeing them live I'm glad I didn't watch it. Now that my account has been reinstated, I won't bother putting it back in queue.

Paul Farhi: Keep it, if you ever do find it. You may be doing your fellow Netflixers a favor.

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Houston, Tex.: "You know even their inferior material will be superior to almost anything else around."

Well, it may be so that they hold their worst material back -- But look at Bruce Springsteen's Tracks -- they were just songs that wouldn't fit into the context of the albums that were released, but they are great songs in their own right.

Paul Farhi: Exactly! What Springsteen fan doesn't want to hear even bad Springsteen (is there such a thing)? And the "bad" stuff can be very interesting in its own right. Shows you another side of the artist. If nothing else, you'll admire him/her/them for their good taste in not letting the bad stuff out.

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Old Blue in Exile: Looks like the Terrapins got a little payback Saturday for last year's game in Maryland starting so early in the day (the equivalent of 9 a.m. PDT), which put Cal at a disadvantage in terms of jet-lag. This time in Berkeley the rematch started at the equivalent of 10 p.m. EDT for the Terps, and the Golden Bears positively whomped the turtles. How sweet it is!

Paul Farhi: The jet lag question has actually been studied, and it's for real (travelling teams tend to perform very poorly on cross-country trips). The Terps needed to arrive in the Bay Area about three weeks before that game to have had a chance.

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the buskers and street musicians all seemed to be playing The Eagles; they were everywhere: Paul, it's Eagles. Those guys hate it when you had "the."

Paul Farhi: Seriously? But wouldn't you sound really dorky saying, "Are you going to see Eagles at Verizon this weekend?" or "Eagles are my favorite group"?

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Washington, D.C.: Another quality cableverse sitcom is "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" on FX. Absolutely hilarious.

Paul Farhi: Ah, yes. Big cult following on that one. Thanks, Washington.

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Arlington, Va.: I remember going to see "The Song Remains The Same" as a midnight show at a theater when I was in college in Chapel Hill, N.C. Afterwards, I realized that for the title they should have stolen a line from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and called it "Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends."

Love the albums though.

Paul Farhi: Midnight college show = stoned. So did it really matter?

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The Dead: What did one Dead-Head say to the other Dead-Head at the Grateful Dead concert when they ran out of pot?

"Man, this music sucks."

Paul Farhi: I think we've used up our pot-reference quota for the week...

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Takoma Park, Md.: Sports on the West Coast are great. Night games end so early that they actually show dopey movies afterwards, or in the case of San Francisco's ABC affiliate, amusing basketball commentary shows with former ESPN anchor Larry Biel and Warrior great Nate Thurmond.

Paul Farhi: There's a great scramble to fill the leftover hours, isn't there? Sometimes, they'd time shift the network shows that you didn't see because the game pre-empted them on the West Coast (but which people on the East Coast DID see because they aired before the game). But often (maybe still) the stations tended to compete for the absolute worst time-filler stuff they could find.

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Boring Training Again: I think it's unfair to be so negative about the Song Remains the Same. It's not a horrible film. If you aren't really a fan, then you'll hate it. The point is visually enjoying the music. It's just another dimension. However, the worst atrocity ever devoted to film has to be Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. My family got suckered into that and watched it on a projector at home. Not even the theater experience overcame that dreck. On the same note, I also felt the same about Monty Python's The Origin of Life. It just kept going lower and lower and eventually I had to turn it off. But I did enjoy Search for the Holy Grail.

Paul Farhi: "Visually enjoying the music." Didn't I warn you about the pot references?

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Grew up in Mountain Time: but I didn't benefit from shows being on earlier. I'm from western Canada, and we get our U.S. stations from Spokane. Because Spokane is on Pacific time, the 8 p.m. shows are on at 9 p.m., etc. Letterman and Conan appear at 12:35. But I do miss Monday Night Football and other late-starting sporting events ending at 10 or 10:30 instead of having 10 or 10:30 be halftime.

Paul Farhi: Wow, the time-space TV continuum really gets funky when you go across the border. Sounds like you're kind of western and kind of eastern. Yes, very Canadian...

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Call Beatles Experts!: On any of the standard commercially produced Beatles CDs: can Stu Sutcliffe or Pete Best be heard?

Paul Farhi: I'll throw this out to the vast Beatles geek nation. Folks?

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Midnight college show = stoned.: Hmmm, seems like it would make it seem longer, thus more unbearable. I went to Eraser Head stoned and it was just an awful experience. It was like the movie lasted for 8 hours.

Paul Farhi: I saw "Eraserhead" straight up at a midnight show back in the day. I still remember it fondly. Maybe if I had been stoned, I wouldn't have. Remembered it, that is.

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Alexandria, Va.: What is 94.7's definition of "fresh"? I love when they do their little tagline about "today's fresh music" then play a hit from the mid-90s. How is that "fresh"? Because we haven't heard it in a while?

Paul Farhi: It's some kind of female thing, I think. It's a language I'm still learning, but haven't really mastered.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Young blue in exile here -- Maryland's quarterback, from California, is apparently the son of the original drummer for Ratt.

Paul Farhi: Haha! Fabulous Fact o' the day...

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Cable's track record with sitcoms, for some reason, isn't that great: I saw a few episodes of Flight of the Conchords when I was traveling and I thought it was hilarious. But I don't have HBO so I can't watch regularly.

Paul Farhi: HBO, sure (and "Conchords," sure; totally loveable). But I almost put HBO in a different category from the rest of cable. It's not cable. It's, um, PREMIUM cable. Very different...

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Washington, D.C.: Are the Beatles going to send a copy of "Let It Be" to Phil Spector so he can listen to it while in the pokey?

I thought George Martin's line about that record was great. He said the production credit should read:

Produced by George Martin Overproduced by Phil Spector

Paul Farhi: Go back and re-read Tom Wolfe's profile of Spector. Martin was very charitable...

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Baltimore, Md.: Funniest Beatles-related joke ever made:

Homer Simpson: Yoko Ono?! She ruined the Plastic Ono Band!!

Paul Farhi: Great thread-weaving, Bal'more! Sitcoms plus Beatles. You win a big, big prize...

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The Airless Cubicle: Paul,

There's no reason why TV comedies can't make a comeback provided that production costs are kept under control. As long as a network and a production studio make enough revenue to cover production costs, any type of TV program is acceptable. There's always a demand for comedy; people want to laugh, even in tough times. Aristophanes, the Greek playwright, wrote his funniest comedies, including The Birds and Lysistrata, during the twenty-years plus of the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta.

John DeLancie, the "Q" of Star Trek fame; noted that television dramas produced the equivalent of a full-length movie every two weeks. Using his rule of thumb, half-hour comedies produce a movie equivalent in four to six weeks -- a pace that Roger Corman would envy. Obviously a 4 x 3 TV with 525 line resolution didn't require the same production values as a movie. However, they required actors, cameras, scripts and directors, and they had to be done under budget.

'Friends' was the show that showed that production costs were way out of control when costs hit $7 million per episode and the leads all held out for additional money. This and the success of 'Survivor' showed networks unscripted shows could keep costs under control. Comedies can compete. They don't need to be as expensive or cast-heavy as they have grown to be.

If you check out some of the older, successful comedies of the 1960s and early 1970s, you will see smaller casts and fewer extra characters. The plots were too often conventional, but they worked for the time. They kept people amused. They weren't writing Shakespeare, or even Aristophanes. Get a laugh and move on!

We don't have any music from Aristophanes' day. The earliest piece of music that has been preserved was a hymn to the Greek god Dionysus circa 160 C.E. Since then, we've been overwhelmed by music, from Gregorian chant to the latest Lady GaGa single. How much of it is instantaneously recognizable as good music, let alone immortal. That is why I am looking forward to getting the remastered Beatles collections, because the Beatles have an impact on music that few people have ever reached. Coming back to hear them with a fresh ear makes you realize how professional they were -- all those months as the Quarrymen and in the Cavern Club made all four of them know what was good and what was not. You rarely hear mistakes in the Beatles song selection, except a few album fillers like "Flying" or "Don't' Let Me Down.".

Will we listen to the Beatles in the year 4500, as we read and see Aristophanes now? I don't think so -- but there might yet be musical quotations of "Eight Days a Week" and "She Loves You" in the musical art of the future, unatrributed and yet familiar to us. I do know that we won't be watching 'Friends'.

Paul Farhi: Thanks for classing up this joint, Airless. We don't get many Aristophanes references here (and by the way, I loved his first album)...But one correction: "Friends" wasn't an out-of-control comedy until its seventh or eighth season (I forget). That's when the cast banded together and bargained collectively, knowing that NBC was reaping bushels from their work in syndication. Most sitcoms, in fact, tend to feature unknowns. And they're STILL expensive to make. Hence, the gun-shyness/risk averseness of the networks to make them like they once did.

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Washington, D.C.: Neither Stu nor Pete appear on any of the remasters.

Paul Farhi: Thanks, D.C....And a question: Do we really want to hear Pete Best playing with the Beatles? Apart from the curiosity factor (huge, I'll admit), he apparently wasn't very good. Which is why he became an ex-Beatle.

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Knows way too much about the Beatles: The only way to hear Stu Sutcliffe (original bassist) and Pete Best (original drummer) on a Beatles recording is if you

a) have one of the concert bootlegs from shows they played in Hamburg in 1960,

or b) have bought a couple of very rare 45s by Tony Sheridan, in which the Beatles were the backing band. The most famous of these songs (I kid you not) is "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean".

Paul Farhi: Thanks to you, too...In a way, I'm not surprised by the "Bonnie" thing. Didn't the Beatles put out "Till There Was You" (a song from a Broadway play, for crissakes) on one of their early albums in order to make themselves seem unthreatening to mum and dad?

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Those Wacky Canadians: "Wow, the time-space TV continuum really gets funky when you go across the border"

Don't forget Newfoundland time -- 8:00 Eastern, 9:30 Newfoundland.

Paul Farhi: So if they're watching "Monday Night Football" live in Newfoundland, it's, what, a week from Thursday? That's pretty confusing...

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Rock vanity films: That's all it is, really. Rock stars make films to stroke their own egos; sometimes it's highbrow (Scorsese and The Band), and sometimes it's just another way to sell more lunchboxes (KISS). "The Song" was disappointing to me because I really love Zep (though I'm younger and didn't grow up with them -- missed out on the chemical enhancements that probably went with the movie); Jane's Addiction put out a couple of films that not only were awful, but made me knock my esteem of the band down a few pegs (and I loved "Nothing's Shocking" and "XXX").

Paul Farhi: I dunno. Are rock-band films any more or less terrible than documentaries as a whole? Maybe, but I'm not really sure...Of course, if we didn't have rock-band documentaries, we wouldn't have "Spinal Tap." So, all in all, I guess they've been worth it.

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Albany, N.Y.: Re the "re-release machine": Cut 'em some slack, Paul; there hasn't been a new re-release of the Beatles catalog in 22 years. Even Shostakovich has had more rereleases.

Paul Farhi: But there have been lots of albums of Beatles material in that time. I guess the distinction is "re-release." And, yes, people DO like to hear the old music in new ways, so maybe we should encourage more of this...

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"Till There Was You": When I was young, I thought it was a Beatles song and then I saw "The Music Man."

Paul Farhi: Me, too. I was shocked.

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Wheeling, W.Va.: Can you really trust the opinion of someone who got the names of both Monty Python's "The Origin of Life" AND "Search for the Holy Grail" wrong?

No wonder he/she didn't like "The Song Remains Similar."

Paul Farhi: "The Song is a Reasonable Facsimile of an Earlier Version."

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Albany, N.Y.: Seems as though they've been proclaiming the Death of the Sitcom every few years for generations. It happened after "Seinfeld" and "Cheers," it happened after "Cosby," it happened after... well, whatever came before "Cosby," "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley" I guess. (Wasn't "The Beverly Hillbillies" the first fin-de-siecle sitcom?)

Despite what they tell you on TV Land, there was never a golden age with great wall-to-wall sitcoms. Great sitcoms are hard to make, no matter how expensive; they are much harder to make than dramas. For every "Dick Van Dyke Show", there is also a "Good Morning, World" and "Enter Laughing," all from the mind of Carl Reiner.

(Don't remember those last two? Neither did I; I looked up Reiner on IMDb and found them.)

The next great sitcom will come along and we will say it saved the sitcom, until it goes off the air and we mourn the death of the sitcom.

Paul Farhi: All true. But it has been a long dry spell, at least for the broadcast networks. "Seinfeld" wrapped in 1998. "Everybody Loves Raymond"--the last huge, longrunning hit--wrapped in 2005. We're due.

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Bowie, Md.: Does this generation have a celebrity who they made a connection with and will mourn the way we have done with Michael Jackson? He crossed so many boundaries -- race, age, geography. I have had this debate and the only people we have reached a consensus on regarding major names who has make that kind of emotional connection with people around the world are: Oprah and Obama. Quite a few mentioned Prince and Beyonce but not with the same level of agreement. My firstborn will have a name that begins with the letter O.

Paul Farhi: Springsteen. Bono. Maybe McCartney. Though all three appeal to an older audience, and maybe aren't all that cross-racial. But Beyonce? Most people over 45 don't really know her.

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Falls Church, Va.: The Beatles did release "the other stuff" on the "Anthology" releases, some of which featured Pete Best:

In 1995, the surviving Beatles released Anthology, which featured a number of tracks with Best as drummer, and Best received a substantial windfall-between 1 pounds million and 4 million -- from the sales, although he was not interviewed for the book or the documentaries.

Paul Farhi: See? I told you someone (or maybe many someones) would know. Because just about everything is known about the Beatles.

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We're due. : Not only are we due, but they OWE us a great sitcom. I can only watch so much "reality."

Paul Farhi: This could be a movement! The headlines would read, "Angry Mobs Demand Great Sitcom" (subhead: "NBC chief Jeff Zucker Burned in Effigy")...Believe me, they're trying. But maybe it will never happen. Hard to achieve mass popularity on TV anymore because the audience is so fragmented. Too many channels, not enough DVR time.

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MNF, Newfoundland: If the game starts at 8:30 p.m. eastern, it's 10:00 p.m. in Newfoundland.

For another perspective, that's 2:30 p.m. in Hawaii.

Paul Farhi: I always like being "out west." It makes me feel like I have a few extra hours in my day. I went to Hawaii once and it felt like I had an extra week and a half.

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"Friends": NBC wanted to play "divide and conquer" with the 6 stars by giving them different salaries, in hopes of making them more manipulatable (if there's such a word). But under the leadership of Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer they stood together on the issue -- sort of like a mini-labor union! It's not as though NBC was losing any money on them by paying each $1 million per epi, just not making quite as a huge a profit.

Paul Farhi: Yes, oddly enough (or not), I thought they had a pretty good point. Without a salary boost, they would NEVER reap a reasonable reward for their work, while NBC would be living off the syndication revenues till after Doomsday. Seemed only "fair," though fair in this case was well beyond the comprehension of most mortals.

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Enter Laughing from Carl Reiner: It was the name of his novel, turned into a Broadway play, turned into a 1964 movie which is perhaps the funniest movie no one has ever seen: starring Jose Ferrer, Jack Gilford, Shelley Winters, Michael J Pollard, Elaine May. I never knew Carl Reiner did a sitcom version

Paul Farhi: I gotta check that one out, novel, movie and TV series. Reiner is a comic genius...

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Most people over 45 don't really know her: Exactly. I think he's talking about the younger generation. As they grow up. Who will they mourn with great public outpourings of emotion?

Paul Farhi: Ah. Paris Hilton? Lindsay Lohan? Tila Tequila?

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Please, no more.: Oh, gag, enough with the Beatles and Woodstock and 70s retro. Baby Boomers need to move on and realize the world extends beyond their own navels. Ugh.

Paul Farhi: Fair enough. Frankly, I couldn't stand the Woodstock nostalgia this summer. But the Beatles? C'mon, even you young whippersnappers love the Beatles...

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The Airless Cubicle: Talking about time shifting -- try recording an opera being played in Australia at 7 p.m. Sunday Melbourne time. That's 5 a.m. Sunday Eastern Daylight Time; 3 a.m. in our winter.

Paul Farhi: My head is spinning! Worst I can remember is watching the Olympic basketball gold-medal game live from Beijing last summer. It was on at about 3:45 a.m. East Coast, or something.

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Florida Chick: I did my best to stand up for you on the Temple talk blog; John Temple was trashing you big time. whatever. just sayin...

Paul Farhi: Thanks, Florida Chick. Kind of you!

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But under the leadership of Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer they stood together on the issue : I always thought it was Jennifer Aniston, who saw her future in terrible romantic comedies and realized that this was it, she had to make the money now.

Paul Farhi: Yes, that did seem a little oddly phrased. Exactly how much "leadership" does it take to lead four other people, all of whom had the exact same self-interest as the "leaders"?

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Sitcoms: I love Big Bang Theory and I think it has the makings of a great sitcom.

Paul Farhi: I think it has the makings of an above-average sitcom.

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Beatles question: The question as to the Beatles "intended" that people hear their music in mono or stereo is not black and white. Mono was a default format in the early 60s because radios had only one speaker, and that was the main market for records then. Based on my experience, mono was the first mixing job and stereo an afterthought through Sgt. Pepper (I bought the latter at a K-mart and there was no stero option in their record bins). When I heard that album in stereo years later, some of my favorite transitional sounds between songs wre missing or strangely altered.

Paul Farhi: Yes, exactly. It's sort of like saying, "Why didn't they make more silent films in color?" Silent films are their own art form, as are monoaural albums.

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Liverpool: The only Beatles albums I own are the "red" and "blue" greatest hits things. The remastering here gives me an excuse to finally go out and get (at least some of) the original albums, which I usually prefer for most bands (and I'm 27; the "death of the album" thing that supposedly happened among people my age is highly exaggerated. Sure, when some newer bands half-a-- it, maybe the whole album won't be worthwhile, but if a band puts in a bit of effort, listening to the whole album is a better experience).

If I already had all the albums, I don't know if I'd care enough about the remastering... while I can usually tell a difference, I'm not sure it would be a $13 X 14 = $182 difference.

Paul Farhi: My first reaction to this was like listening to wine people talk about wine. I appreciated their passion, but it's not really my bag. But I did think the "Love" album made me hear the Beatles in some new ways; the recording sounded "brighter" than I remembered the originals and the mixing of songs/song intros was interesting. So, I can see why people would get geeked out about these re-releases.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Re: The Beatles I expect the Beatles portfolio to start to dry up after the last of the baby boomers (born 1962) hits the age of 70 or approximately 2032. Have we seen the Blue-Ray version of every bit of Beatles video yet? Can I get them on iTunes? I think we have a way to go.

Of course, this only fits because the Beatles were at the forefront of multimedia mega exposure: 45s, albums, posters, magazines, movies, Christmas albums, pre-Internet buzz (Paul is Dead), solo projects, 24-7 coverage of their personal lives, etc. The music is pretty good, too.

Paul Farhi: I think you may be right about the fading out/aging out of a lot of artists who have been huge in our time (Michael Jackson, maybe), but I don't think the Beatles will ever really disappear. They were our Mozart and Brahms and Beethoven. Classic. They'll endure and be appreciated by new generations. That's kind of what all this re-release and video game stuff is all about, too--not just pleasing the old fans, but recruiting the new ones...

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Seriously...: Seriously tired of having my moniker stolen. Original Florida Chick here. Grates my nerves everytime I see that someone else is using it. I know it is petty and stupid but I feel like my little sister is wearing all my clothes and cutting her hair to match my style.

Paul Farhi: You too crazy kids sort this one out and get back to us...

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Albany, N.Y.: ... and "Two and a Half Men" just received some sort of "Future Classic" award from TV Land, who ought to know better. Their "Classic" is my "kinda funny, sometimes."

Paul Farhi: Their "classic" might also be "classic because we have a deal in place to promote this show as 'classic'." But who's to decide, anyway?

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Missing Sterno: I miss Marc Sterne's Saturday AM baseball show -- not because it was great -- but because it was the only hour of baseball radio in this town. Phil Wood's show was pretty good too. And now, no baseball at all, and we have two competing Redskins stations which ultimately (I think) will both fail.

Paul Farhi: All the Redskins blabber does get tiresome. I think Mike Wise is doing something smart. Like the Junkies, he's developing a radio personality that transcends the sport, or any sport. You listen to him because you like him, not because he can talk about the Skins' backup O line.

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Paul Farhi: And I see we've gone way into injury time on today's chat, so I'd better scoot. Thanks for tuning in today, gang. We'll do this again next week, and we'll try to transcend the Baby Boomer obsession. Next week: The Gen X Hour. See you all then. And in the meantime, as always...regards to all! --Paul.

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