Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Gwyneth Paltrow ... Cher ... Marianne Faithfull ... NBC TV Stars Party at The New Four Seasons ... The Return of “Murphy Brown.”

It was all good tidings and cheer at a party for the casts of NBC's 2018-2019 season hosted by NBC and The Cinema Society.
by Denis Ferrara

“WHETHER you try too hard to fit in or you try too hard to stand out, it is of equal consequence: you exhaust your significance,” says poet/philosopher/musician Chris Jami.
CONGRATS to Gwyneth Paltrow upon the occasion of her marriage to producer Brad Falchuk.  I mean this sincerely, not because I’m such a big Paltrow fan, but because I think nobody else is going to sincerely wish her well.  She’s marched to her own admittedly off-center, often annoying drummer, engendering wildly nasty negativity. (As well as a great deal of success as a — I’m sure inadvertently — pretentious lifestyle guru.)  My little shout-out can’t make up for that incredibly pointless bitchy New York Times magazine piece on her a couple of months ago, but, still — mazel tov, kids.
... TIME Out London has given Cher’s new ABBA album a rave review, and we are hot to hear the music ourselves.  Critic Alim Kheraj cites “The Winner Takes It All” as “part melodramatic ballad, part Europop banger, and 100 percent Cher belting her best.”  The review concludes noting that Cher “transcends the notions of cool” and “provides unconditional joy at a time when it’s definitely most needed.”  I’ll second that emotion.
... FANS of Marianne Faithful — we are legion, yes? — should be thrilled to know that ABKCO Records will soon release “Marianne Faithfull: Come Stay With Me. The UK 45’s 1964-1969.” This is early Marianne, in her softer, more delicate mode, before her voice got all whisky-ish and, frankly, much better. (Do check out her 1979 masterpiece, “Broken English.”)  But “Come Stay With Me” is a great selection, 22 cuts, from “As Tears Go By,” to “Go Away from My World,” “The Sha La La Song,” “Is This What I Get For Loving You?” and “Sister Morphine.”  The CD contains rare pics, extensive liner notes and interviews with Miss Faithful. 

You can pre-order the album here.
A LITTLE more than a week ago I attended a  crowded, lively gathering at the new Four Seasons restaurant.  Andrew Saffir’s Cinema Society put on the dog for the casts of various NBC series, such as “Blacklist,” “Enemy Within,” “Chicago PD,” “Manifest,” “New Amsterdam,” “I Feel Bad,” “Making It,” “The Village” and “Law & Order: SVU.” 

Mariska Hargitay
The party didn’t take place in the “real” dining area, but rather a smart extra space, perfect for mingling, noshing, etc.  I have no review of the new Four Seasons cuisine or service, therefore.  However, I accidentally found myself in that main room and, while I’m sure it’s all divine, the lighting appeared less than flattering — like 4 a.m. at a delicatessen!  But that’s probably just my own issue. If I’m not dining dimly lit by one flickering candle during a citywide blackout, it’s too graphically revealing for my delicate sensibilities, and my aging face.

I admit I don’t watch most of the NBC series, so a good many of the talented actors were not instantly familiar to me, but most everybody was very pretty.

Mariska Hargitay,
one of the nicest people in the biz, who also could be said to be the queen of NBC nighttime, dominated, along with some of her cast mates: Ice T, Kelli Giddish, Philip  Winchester and Peter Scanavino. I couldn’t help but telling Scanavino, sexy as hell, how happy I was that they shaved off his porn stache from his first few episodes.

I was also thrilled to run into Connor Paolo, a young actor who memorably appeared several times on “SVU,” deeply disturbed, both victim and predatory victimizer.  He’s also well known for “Gossip Girl” and “Revenge.”  He looks exactly the same as his old “SVU” days — now 28, but easily passing for 18 except for a bit of stubble — and he said he’ll soon be on stage. (Connor was with a wonderfully pretty, vivacious girl who seemed as cuddly with him as I might hope to be if I was a wonderfully pretty girl.) 
Dick Wolf, Peter Hermann, and Mariska Hargitay
I chatted raucously with Brenda Vaccaro (that’s the only way one chats with Brenda) and had a lovely time with the great actor Paul Sorvino.  He showed me a lot of his artwork on his cellphone.
Brenda Vaccaro
Paul Sorvino and Dee Dee Sorvino
Others packed in included Chuck Scarborough, Fern Mallis, Carson Kressley, Eve Plumb, Dan Abrams, Debbie Bancroft, etc.  And Seth Meyers.
Robert Verdi and Fern Mallis
Carson Kressley Eve Plumb
Mary Snow and Debbie Bancroft
Dan Abrams and Marina Rust Connor
Ellen Ward Scarborough and Chuck Scarborough
I have separated Seth because I owe him an apology. As we know there are unsettling events happening every day in the news, and Seth’s innocent arrival compelled me for some reason to introduce myself and then launch into why he should stop trashing the commander in chief in his monologue every night — I don’t admire the president, I made sure to note, but endless snarky criticism wasn’t helpful, I insisted. “Just tell people to vote every night. Put a big sign over your desk, ‘VOTE.’ That’s our only hope!”  Meyers took this hotly conveyed, totally unsolicited advice with extraordinary good grace and patience, although all the poor guy wanted to do was have a drink, a little bite to eat and mingle with friends.  I realized my rudeness and did apologize to him then and there, but I felt bad — who needs all that crap from a stranger?

So, I apologize again, Seth.  I meant what I said, but that was not the place to say it.  In fact, unless we’d been formally introduced at a far quieter event, it was something I shouldn’t have said at all.  Oh, you’re very attractive.  I forgot to tell you.
Seth Meyers
EVERYTHING Old is New Again. Maybe it shouldn’t be.

Last Thursday I totally forgot that “Murphy Brown” was back, re-booted as so many shows are.

I was unfortunately riveted to my TV watching the Ford/Kavanaugh hearings.  Then, although I didn’t want to, I stayed with the news all night long, as one thing turned into another — like sands through an hourglass, so go the days of the apocalypse.

It was not until the next day, I saw some minor mention of it, re the show’s “surprise” guest, Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton making a surprise appearance in “Murphy Brown.”
Now, I didn’t think the return of “Roseanne” was particularly funny, but it was wildly popular and other than the fact that we knew that Roseanne Connor (dead in the returning season) didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, the show was not political — just poorly acted.  “Will & Grace” was my own particular problem during its first run.  I was glad it existed, even as I found it a minstrel show.  I admired the talent of all concerned. It’s back. It’s still mistrel-ly. I don’t think of it. Everybody’s still extremely talented and nicely preserved.

Just about the only reboot I’ve liked is “One Day at a Time” — more than the original in fact.
Which brings me back to “Murphy.” The series was always topical and sometimes a bit heavy-handed, but in those pre-internet, pre-cable news days, other than “Saturday Night Live,” one wasn’t likely to get hit over the head with too much politics in entertainment.  

Times have changed. The season opening of “Murphy” was rife with references to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — none especially witty — and of course, there was Hillary, who came on to interview as Murphy’s secretary (revitalizing the old running gag about Brown’s endless succession of assistants. She didn’t get the job.)  I’m sure some people found it amusing.
Candice Bergen and the rest of the surviving cast — Faith Ford, Grant Shaud, Joe Regalbuto — look fine and all fell back into their respective roles easily, charmingly. (Robert Pastorelli, who played Murphy’s ever-present contractor, died in 2004.)  But in watching the show, I was reminded why, if I remember to watch late-night talk at all, I deliberately avoid the monologue. (Sorry again, Seth!)  I was reminded also why I have been repeatedly advised to “keep it light” here!

Naturally, “Murphy Brown” would betray its original loyal audience by a total avoidance of topicality. But, too much topicality breeds ... ennui, at the very least. 

I hope future episodes find a balance.  Miss Bergen, in the character of Ms. Brown, remains admirably, righteously, snarky, a national treasure, an iconic figure.  She and her new/old show must not be kicked around, not even for the “greater good.”

Photographs by Paul Bruinooge/© Patrick McMullan (NBC)

Contact Denis here.