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1. Heroes: Reborn Gets a Synopsis, Trailer, and Character Portraits!

Swiftly following last week’s debut of the “Where are the Heroes?” teaser trailer, NBC has released a flurry of Heroes: Reborn promotional material to get audiences excited about the return of the show.  First off, here’s our first glimpse of the heroes, some of whom you might recognize, in action:

Then there’s the official plot synopsis:

A year ago, a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas, left the city decimated. Blamed for the tragic event, those with extraordinary abilities are in hiding or on the run from those with nefarious motives.

Two such vigilantes include Luke (Zachary Levi, “Chuck”) and Joanne (Judith Shekoni, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2”), who are seeking to avenge a tragic loss.

Noah Bennet, aka H.R.G. (Jack Coleman, “Heroes”), has gone off the grid but conspiracy theorist Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski, “A to Z”) finds him and opens his eyes to the truth behind the Odessa tragedy.

While in hiding, some are discovering their newfound skills. Awkward teen Tommy (Robbie Kay, “Once Upon a Time”) just wants to be normal and win the girl of his dreams, Emily (Gatlin Green, “Criminal Minds”), but normalcy is virtually impossible after learning of a new ability that terrifies him. Coming from a very sheltered upbringing, a bold and ethereal teenager, Malina (Danika Yarosh, “Shameless”), has been told she is destined for greatness. In Tokyo, a quiet and unique young woman, Miko (Kiki Sukezane, “Death Yankee 3”), is trying to track down her missing father while hiding an extraordinary secret that will make her a force to be reckoned with. Elsewhere, a different type of hero is emerging through former soldier Carlos (Ryan Guzman, “The Boy Next Door”).

Odessa, from the word “Odyssey,” was the home of Claire Bennet and the very first place we ever saw in the Heroes universe.  It will be interesting to see the show return home and hopefully see the series return to form.  In addition to the aforementioned H.R.G. (Jack Coleman), a number of other characters from the original series have signed on to return, including Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), Angela Petrelli (Christine Rose), Rebel/Micah Sanders (Noah Gray-Cabey), Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), and The Haitian/René (Jimmy Jean-Louis).

Finally, we have a set of character portraits which feature old and new cast members:

HeroesCarlos

Ryan Guzman as Carlos, an army veteran who has just discovered his abilities

heroeshrg

Jack Coleman as HRG/Noah Bennet, father figure and government agent

heroesmalina

Danika Yarosh as Malina, a “sheltered” girl who has just discovered that “she is destined for greatness”

heroesmolly

Francesca Eastwood as Molly, a mystery character as of right now.

The 13 episode Heroes: Reborn miniseries will debut this fall.

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2. NBC Reveals First Heroes: Reborn Trailer

As a teenager, Heroes was one of the shows that influenced me most.  I guess you could read into what that says about me, but I always appreciated the show even as it spun off into increasingly strange and non-sequitur directions.  The show’s ability to take itself in a deadly serious manner while actually being incredibly campy was part of its charm, and it seems as though that charm will be preserved in NBC’s new Heroes: Reborn mini-series, whose first trailer was released today.

The trailer features the tagline “Where are the Heroes?” plastered up against buildings, flags, and other places that will surely bring the superpowered people out of the deep hole they escaped into after the end of the final season of the original show.

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3. NBC announces Constantine return date and time-slot

constantine cast NBC announces Constantine return date and time slot

Photo: NBC

 

When NBC’s take on DC/Vertigo’s chain-smoking anti-hero struggled in the ratings, the network halted production on Constantine after 13 episodes. Middling critical response and a terrible time-slot (Friday nights at 10 pm) didn’t help its cause, and the question became when/if NBC would ever air those remaining episodes after its mid-season finale capped out at the 8th episode.

Fans of the series took to social media with the #SaveConstantine hashtag, trying to stave off what seemed like the inevitable cancellation of the new series. Even executive producer Daniel Cerone got in on the grassroots action.

If nothing else, NBC has provided a stay of execution today, as the show’s official Twitter feed has announced Constantine‘s return on January 16th at 8 pm, where the 5 remaining episodes will air.

Will a new time-slot provide a shot in the arm or will it just be a fulfilling of an obligation? Time and viewership will tell.

16 Comments on NBC announces Constantine return date and time-slot, last added: 1/3/2015
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4. Can a fan-led branding campaign save Constantine?

Constantine-101-1 

When people talk about saving John Constantine, usually it’s a hopeless task, as the scouser magician’s soul has long been consigned to hell for his many sins on earth. But another campaign to save Constantine is under way—and this time it’s fans attempting to keep his TV show going past a 13 episode commitment despite middling ratings.

Arrested Development has plans for a fifth season on Netflix, Twin Peaks will see you on Showtime twenty-five years from the 1991 series finale, and Yahoo Screen will bring Community closer to its promise of #sixseasonsandamovie, airing new episodes this spring. It’s a golden age of fan campaigns with the ability to resurrect dead and mostly-dead shows with measurably vocal fan bases. It’s a golden age fans of NBC’s Constantine are counting on, as the last of the series’ 13 episode initial run airs this Friday, February 13 at 10pm. The network has halted any further production on the show, prompting fans to organize on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #saveconstantine in support of its renewal — whether on NBC or another network entirely.

Fan campaigns to save television shows are nothing new, with the late sixties fan campaign to save the Star Trek original series largely credited as the first of its kind. Still, there does seem to be a trend in the growing power of fan campaigns to have an impact on programming, even those who represent much smaller audience shares than the high-profile efforts of yesteryear, prompting fledgling networks to pick up where network and even cable channels have left off.

Constantine - Season 1

So what does all this mean for fans of Constantine, starring Matt Ryan as trench-coated demon hunter John Constantine? Do they feel a campaign to save the show, based on the long-running DC/Vertigo series Hellblazer, has a better chance of being saved now than it would have 10 years ago? “They definitely are more successful — especially with social networking being the way it is,” said Breanna Conklin, who has been active in the campaign to #saveconstatine since NBC confirmed in late November they would stop production on the series. “I am in a few nerd groups on facebook. You’re able to spread the word to like minded folks and your friends within a few seconds. Social media gives awareness that wasn’t available to us ten years ago.”

The #saveconstantine effort began to gain momentum when a slick-looking website, saveconstantine.com, went up in December. In addition to links to the petition and fan communities, saveconstantine.com offers a detailed description of the importance of the recently introduced Twitter TV ratings model from newly-formed group, Nielsen Social. An off-shoot of the more traditional Nielsen ratings, Nielsen Social “identifies, captures and analyzes conversation on Twitter in real time for every program aired across over 250 of the most popular U.S. television networks, including Spanish language networks, as well as over 1,500 brands” according to the company website.

The challenge for Constantine fans is to ensure that their awareness of the need to campaign for the continued life of the series is leveraged in a way that speaks both to NBC and their advertisers. It’s not enough to simply prove there’s interest in Constantine from the hallowed 18-49 age demographic; advertisers need to ensure that ad placements can actually have an impact on that demographic. As television consumption proliferates on an increasingly diverse group of content platforms, strong same-day viewing ratings don’t necessarily show advertisers that their ads will be seen instead of fast-forwarded on a DVR viewing post-broadcast.

It’s a challenge the organizers of the #saveconstantine effort hope to meet by being better educated on the increasingly complex world of network tv ad buys. “It’s a big group effort,” said Allison Gennaro, one of the campaigns many organizers. A fan of the Hellblazer comics, Gennaro became involved in the campaign upon hearing “NBC had capped the airing to just 13 [episodes],” which she took to mean the show was “in trouble” but also that the “ratings might not be meeting the NBC demo of choice.” Hoping to convince NBC not to cancel the series, the #saveconstantine organizers publicized a petition for the show to get a second season across social media platforms in late November. The petition cites a “38% bump in the ratings and an 87% viewer retention rating (after Grimm) with the introduction of The Spectre” as evidence of the viability of the series which currently boasts over 20,000 signatures.

The description on saveconstantine.com explains the impact live tweeting Constantine episodes can have on the Twitter TV ratings. The site believes the live tweets “denote that a show has a consistent and loyal audience,” and may show advertisers they “are being rewarded for their investment in the network…so if you want to save Constantine, please watch, tell your friends, and tweet.” Gennaro cultivated a group of Constantine fans through a mailing list to help push the #saveconstantine hashtag and live tweet campaign. “We even threw Friday night twitter parties before the show to trend and gain attention,” she said.

Fan campaigns of the past relied on letter writing, placing ads in trade magazines like Variety, even buying billboards to plead for their respective shows. While Constantine fans have also employed letter writing and email to NBC executives in this campaign, their informed approach in targeting advertisers and leveraging their consumer power is in step with more recently successful ‘save our show’ campaigns. In 2009, Wendy Farrington began a campaign to save another NBC series with supernatural overtones: Chuck. Her game-changing approach acknowledged the fact that the show enjoyed better ratings on off-network viewing platforms and galvanized fans of the series to support a major advertiser of the show, Subway.

According to a 2014 article by Christina Savage for Transformative Works and Cultures, which examined fan-run ‘save our show’ campaigns, on the day of Chuck’s season finale hundreds of fans went to their local Subway and bought a $5 foot-long sandwich featured on the series via product placement. They then left behind comment cards explaining their purchase was in support of Chuck. Savage explained that by “focusing on Chuck as a business transaction, fans used their knowledge of the industry” to support their effort. Shortly thereafter, NBC ordered 13 more episodes of the series. Savage wrote: “co-chairman of NBC Ben Silverman said that this campaign was one of the most creative he had seen, and as a result, Subway would increase its presence within the show.”

John Constantine may not eat at Subway, but fans of the demon exorcist are invoking similar brand marketing powers with their #saveconstantine efforts. Only this time, the fans themselves are the product. By targeting Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings specifically, Constantine fans “become valuable social ambassadors for programmers and advertisers alike as they amplify content and messaging through their social spheres,” Nielsen Social wrote in a an article posted in September. But will it be enough to push NBC to order another season of Constantine? Could it make the show attractive enough to warrant a rumored move to sister-network Syfy, which has released several high-profile interviews with network executives seeking to return the channel to it’s Sci-fi/fantasy genre roots? NBC president Jennifer Salke told IGN in January that “we wish the show [Constantine] had done better live. It has a big viewership after [it airs] in all kinds of ways and it has a younger audience, but the live number is challenging.”

We spoke with Dr. Balaka Basu, a professor specializing in pop culture and fan studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte about the viability of the type of campaign #saveconstantine is waging. “Campaigns helped to save Chuck and Roswell, and gave Firefly fans closure in the less-than-successful Serenity,” she said. “ I think the key was demonstrating an understanding of how television economy works. With Chuck, for instance, fans literally gave their monetary support to the chain sandwich shop Subway…this demonstrates a comprehension of the relationship between advertisers and television producers.”

Fans like Miguel Gonzalez Cabañas, who lives in Madrid, show the global reach of the #saveconstantine fan efforts. He calls Constantine “the best series with a paranormal plot” on television. He, along with Allison, Breanna and the thousands of other fans who make up the campaign to #saveconstantine will be redoubling their efforts tonight: tweeting their support for the show before, during and after the season finale. But beyond the comic book fanbase, beyond charismatic lead Matt Ryan or the show’s arcane mythology: what is it about Constantine, or any other fan-campaigned series, that produces this kind of fan advocacy? “Whether it’s a show like Constantine, where many fans came into the show already in love with the character,” says Dr. Basu, “or shows like Buffy and Angel, where they were allowed to fall in love over the duration of the show, it’s really when the characters feel like real people that you don’t want your relationship with them to end, ever. And that’s been true since the days of Star Trek.”

 

3 Comments on Can a fan-led branding campaign save Constantine?, last added: 2/16/2015
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5. Daniel Cerone confirms that Constantine is 100% officially and totally kaput

constantine-22

After NBC failed to pick up its DC Comics adaptation Constantine for a second season, fans (dubbed “Hellblazers” by the cast and crew) were rallying in support of another network potentially bringing the show back to life elsewhere. The CW was considered the biggest wish-list target after rumors of a SyFy channel pickup were debunked.

Today, showrunner Daniel Cerone put all those hopes to rest, as he posted the following statement on his twitter account:

I promised I’d share news when I had it — sadly, that news is not good. The cast and writers of Constantine are being released from their contracts. The studio tried to find a new home for the show, for which we’re forever grateful, but those efforts didn’t pan out. I’m sorry, I wasn’t provided any information on the attempts to sell the show elsewhere. All I can report is that the show is over.

Many ingredients went into this TV series. From the dedicated cast that breathed these characters to life, led by Matt Ryan as the comic-made-flesh embodiment of John Constantine, to the exceptionality talented crew that put unreal images on screen, to the original Hellblazer writers and artists who gifted us a universe.

As a general principle, writers don’t choose a writing career to achieve stardom. Whatever demons or insecurities drove them to find freedom of expression through written words generally keeps writers comfortably obscure behind their words. Nor do people choose writing as a means to financial freedom. I’d venture to guess that most who set out to write professionally never receive a paycheck for their hopeful scribbles or key strokes.

In fact, nobody I know ever chose a writing career — it chose them. You write because that’s what you do. Like breathing, it just happens and you have to do it and you just hope that someday somebody out there notices what you’re trying to say.

If that’s the dream of writers, than the writers of Constantine lived the dream, because we’re leaving behind wild and passionate fans who believe in and were moved by what we tried to do. To leave such a significant, dedicated and active fan base on the table — that’s the real sadness. You all deserve many years of the series we set out to make, and we’re disappointed that we couldn’t deliver that to you. The good news is that Constantine will live on for years in many more forms. But our time as caretakers has ended.

If nothing else, I thought Matt Ryan was a pretty great John Constantine. Season 2 was reportedly going to have more delving into the mystic corners of the DC Universe as well, so if the Justice League Dark movie never takes off, it may be a while before we get another shot at seeing characters like Doctor Fate and The Spectre on screen.

11 Comments on Daniel Cerone confirms that Constantine is 100% officially and totally kaput, last added: 6/9/2015
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6. Universal Television to bring Heroes Reborn to Hall H

heroes

I gave up on Heroes long before the final episode of its fourth and concluding season aired, but I’ll always hold some level of goodwill for the initial spark of fun that its first year provided. NBC’s relaunch of the series with creator Tim Kring, Heroes Reborn, has some curious if the series may have a chance of recapturing the zeitgeist that it did in its inception.

Universal Television is going all in, bringing the new and returning cast members of Heroes Reborn to San Diego Comic Con’s Hall H for what’s sure to be a heavily discussed panel. Here’s their description of it:

Heroes Reborn
Sunday, July 12, 1:45-2:45 p.m., Hall H

From Tim Kring, who imagined NBC’s original critically-acclaimed “Heroes” series, comes “Heroes Reborn,” an epic 13-episode event series that chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities. Watch an exclusive extended trailer. Moderated by returning cast member Greg Grunberg, participate in a Q&A session with Tim Kring and the cast: Jack Coleman, Zachary Levi, Robbie Kay, Kiki Sukezane, Ryan Guzman, Gatlin Green, Henry Zebrowski, Judith Shekoni, Danika Yarosh and Rya Kihlstedt. (All subject to production availability.) Also learn about the digital prequel series and the video and mobile games.

Sundays are generally when SDCC is a good deal quieter after the strum and drang of Friday and Saturday’s onslaught of news and clips, so Universal may very well be in a good position to capture a few end of Con headlines.

1 Comments on Universal Television to bring Heroes Reborn to Hall H, last added: 6/18/2015
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7. Vroman’s Bookstore to Appear on Parks and Recreation TV Show

Vroman’s Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Pasadena, will be appearing on season four of the NBC series, Parks and Recreation. According to Jacket Copy, the bookseller will host an author event headlined by Leslie Knope, a parks department bureaucrat played by Amy Poehler.

Hyperion will release the actual title in paperback format in October. Poehler’s character wrote Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America, a 240-page humor book contains illustrations, photographs and commentary from all of the show’s characters.

Here’s more from NBC.com: “Each chapter will explore a different aspect of the fictional town’s history and expand upon events hinted at in the series, such as: the time the whole town was on fire, its long list of ridiculous town slogans, and the ongoing raccoon infestation. Knope, a resident of Pawnee since her childhood, provides all of the research and comical insights into this Midwestern town that fans have grown to love.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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8. Youth Media Marketing Movers & Shakers

Today we bring you another installment of Youth Media Movers and Shakers. We’ve culled through industry publications looking for the recent executive placements we think you should know about. If you have executive news that you want us to... Read the rest of this post

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9. Over The Moon

 I'm so pleased to say that I was able to contribute, in a small way,
to this great project that is raising funds to help fight breast cancer.  

From the website:
Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project is both a timeless benefit effort and a uniquely compelling, multimedia experience. The ambitious project — which incorporates a 2-CD, 26-song set; a lavishly-illustrated hardcover book of 17 songs from the album; a corresponding e-book encompassing the entire collection; and a documentary film and web series — gathers many of contemporary musical theatre’s greatest composers and vocalists, as well as illustrators, all of whom have donated their talent to deliver an emotionally affecting set of new lullabies, some written specifically for this project.
This collection puts a fresh spin on the classic lullaby form, creating a warmly expressive song cycle that will touch listeners of all ages, while raising funds for respected breast cancer charities, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Young Survival Coalition. The book features 17 songs from the album, with the lyrics illustrated by some of America’s most esteemed theatrical designers and children’s book illustrators, each offering a memorable visual interpretation of a song from the CD bound in the book. The e-book includes illustrations for all 26 songs.


My illustration accompanies the lullaby titled “I’ll Always Be There,” written by Jeff Blumenkrantz and sung by Victoria ClarkPlease check out the Over The Moon website to find out more about this wonderful project, and how you can help! 

XO~Lauren 

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10. Concert & Launch party for The Broadway Lullaby Project

Luckily I live in New York City, which made it very easy to attend the concert and launch party for the release of The Broadway Lullaby Project on May 7th. Over a dozen of the 26 lullabies were performed, accompanied by their illustrations on the large screen behind the performers at the Stephen Sondheim Theater. And Edie Falco was the evening's host! It was a great night of celebration, and fun to be able to rub elbows with some big deal folks in the Broadway biz. Here's a little photo recap of the evening:

Please visit the website, and consider purchasing a CD or a hardcover book (or ebook!) to help fight breast cancer!

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11. Growing up going to bed with The Tonight Show

By Krin Gabbard


If you remember a time when there was no Tonight Show, then you probably remember a time when there was no American television industry. In 1954, NBC took Steve Allen’s local New York TV show, broadcast it nationally five days a week, and called it Tonight. The show did not become an institution until Johnny Carson became its host exactly fifty years ago in October 2012. But it all began with Steve Allen, whose breed is now extinct. He was a true television intellectual, capable of writing pop tunes like “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” and jazz tunes with inimitable titles like “The Gravy Waltz.” He wasn’t a bad jazz pianist either. Lenny Bruce, who made several appearances on Allen’s show, said that Allen was one of the most “hip” comedians as well as one of the most “moral.”

After watching Allen build Tonight for three years, NBC decided to move him to early Sunday evenings in hopes that he could compete with Ed Sullivan. I was too young to watch Allen on Tonight, but I once watched the kinescope of an amazing episode in which Allen took live TV cameras down the steps of the jazz club Birdland, where the Count Basie band was in full cry.

I vividly remember those rare occasions when my parents let me stay up and watch Jack Paar, that great feline of a man who purred Americans through the last minutes of their evenings between 1957 until 1962. If you want to know how far we’ve come since the early 1960s, consider the joke that the NBC censors would not let Paar deliver on air. It was based on the confusion between two meanings of the term WC, “water closet” and “wayside chapel.” That was all there was to it, but Paar, who always seemed so affable, actually walked off the show for several days in protest.

Johnny Carson, who took over in 1962, has always been an enigma. Like many stand-up comedians of his generation, Carson emerged from a vaudeville aesthetic. In spite of a dapper demeanor that suggested refinement and wit, his humor was mostly of the pie-in-the-face variety. Nevertheless, he prided himself on bringing the occasional public intellectual or politician onto the show. Of course, anyone with anything serious to say was confined to the last minutes of the program. As an adolescent, I was extremely impressed one night during the waning moments of the show when the anthropologist Ashley Montagu told Carson that the American family was an institution devoted primarily to fostering the neuroses of its members.

At some point during his second decade as host, Carson became sick of The Tonight Show. He surely would have quit had not NBC kept on raising his salary and giving him more and more time off. He was undoubtedly the first host of any TV program to have “permanent” guest-hosts. One of the reasons Carson spent less and less time actually appearing on his show was his contempt for his audience. (His disdain for second-banana Ed McMahon was palpable.) Carson would tell a joke that he knew wasn’t very good — he surely held his joke-writers in contempt as well — and then take on a look of veiled disappointment when the audience laughed heartily. Perhaps because he imagined himself above it all, Carson was known to many as “The Prince.” And it may have been that edge that made him so intriguing and so watchable for all those years.

With Jay Leno, now in his twentieth year as host of The Tonight Show, NBC has gone straight down the middle with a dependably safe comedian who carries just the right amount of working-class charm. Leno now regularly wins the ratings war with David Letterman, the only television host to build up a serious, long-term challenge to The Tonight Show’s hegemony. (Remember the shows hosted by David Brenner, Alan Thicke, and Les Crane? I can recall them, but very vaguely.) Nevertheless, I do not know anyone who watches Leno. Conservatives can watch the hysterics on Fox News, lefties have rebroadcasts of The Rachel Maddow Show, and ironists have Steven Colbert. And those are just a few of the choices available to people who do not have DVRs. The Tonight Show will surely go on presenting conventional humor and high-profile guests. But the time when it, or any other television program, could occupy the central role in American life that Carson’s Tonight Show once sustained, has definitively come and gone.

Krin Gabbard is Editor in Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Stony Brook University. In addition to four single-authored books, he has published three edited books and a large collection of articles. He has served on the Executive Council of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and has lectured nationally and internationally on cinema and related subjects.

Developed cooperatively with scholars and librarians worldwide, Oxford Bibliographies offers exclusive, authoritative research guides. Combining the best features of an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia, this cutting-edge resource guides researchers to the best available scholarship across a wide variety of subjects.

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12. The Nat “King” Cole Show: pioneer of music television

By Ron Rodman


In this blog last month, I wrote about Dr. Billy Taylor and his pioneering work on television as an advocate for jazz. To celebrate Black History Month, it is appropriate to mention another African American musician who was a pioneer on American television: Nat King Cole, jazz pianist and vocalist, was the first African American musician to host a nationally-broadcast musical variety show in the history of television.

Publicity photo from the premiere of The Nat King Cole Show.

Nathanial Adams Coles was born in 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. He first learned to play piano around the age of four with help from his mother, a church choir director, and by his early teens, was studying classical piano. He was drawn to the music of jazz pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines, and eventually abandoned classical for jazz, which became his lifelong passion. At 15, he dropped out of school to become a jazz pianist full-time, and developed an act with his brother Eddie for a time, which led to his first professional recordings in 1936. He later joined a national tour for the musical revue Shuffle Along, performing as a pianist.

In 1937, Cole started to put together what would become the “King Cole Trio,” the name being a play on the children’s nursery rhyme. As part of the trio, Cole expanded his own role in the group, both playing jazz piano and singing with his rich, velvety baritone voice. The trio toured extensively and finally landed on the charts in 1943 with Cole’s song, “That Ain’t Right.” His first big hit the following year was “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” a song reportedly inspired by one of his father’s sermons. The trio continued its rise to the top with such pop hits as the holiday classic “The Christmas Song” and the ballad “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.”         

By the 1950s, Nat King Cole emerged as a popular solo performer. He scored numerous hits, with such songs as “Nature Boy,” “Mona Lisa,” “Too Young, ” and “Unforgettable.” He worked with many of the greatest jazz artists in the country, like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, arranger Nelson Riddle, and others.

However, the 1950s was a difficult decade for African American entertainers. In his performances around the country, Cole had encountered racism firsthand, especially while touring in the South. He had been attacked by white supremacists during a mixed race performance in Alabama. Yet, he was also criticized by other African Americans for his less-than-supportive comments about racial integration, and for performances for segregated audiences. Cole considered himself an entertainer and not an activist, and often sought to assimilate with white audiences.

1956 proved to be a pivotal year for Nat King Cole, and he was to become not just an entertainer, but also a pioneer for equal rights. By the mid-1950s, he had achieved status as a mainstream performer and sought to pursue this career as other stars had done — to produce and star in his own television show. His bid for a TV show brought with it a sense of mission. “It could be a turning point,” he realized, “so that Negroes may be featured regularly on television.” Cole realized the stakes were high, and said, “If I try to make a big thing out of being the first and stir up a lot of talk, it might work adversely.” Cole and his agents negotiated with CBS for a show, but his own program never materialized. Cole’s manager then tried NBC, and they successfully reached an agreement for The Nat “King” Cole Show.

The Nat “King” Cole Show debuted on 5 November 1956. The show aired without a sponsor, but NBC agreed to pay for initial production costs; the network assumed that once the show actually aired and advertisers were able to see its sophistication, a national sponsor would emerge. Cole exuded his benign, soft-spoken persona on the set, chatting with the TV audience and singing Broadway and Tin Pan Alley tunes. But the show was innovative in that it also featured Cole in his original role as a jazz pianist, playing and singing with jazz notables such as Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald. Cole also used his connections to bring other high caliber musicians to the show, many of whom voluntarily appeared with minimal compensation. Some of these included Harry Belafonte, Mel Tormé, Frankie Laine, and Peggy Lee (shown below).

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Despite the high musical quality of the show, the race barrier seemed too much for the predominantly white TV audience of the 1950s to overcome. Many national companies balked at sponsorship, as they did not want to upset their white customers in the South who did not want to see a black man on TV shown in anything other than a subservient position. Although NBC agreed to fund the show until a sponsor could be found, Cole decided to cancel the show himself in its second season, disappointed with ratings and lack of sponsorship. Cole was quoted as saying of the doomed series, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.” The last show was aired on 17 December 1957. After he cancelled his show, Nat King Cole continued to appear on other TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, The Garry Moore Show, and others.

Though short lived, The Nat “King” Cole Show paved the way for other black entertainers to find their way to television in the next decade. 1967 witnessed the premier of The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show on NBC, as a mid-season replacement that ran for 15 episodes.

Click here to view the embedded video.

In 1969, singer Leslie Uggams, hosted The Leslie Uggams Show, a musical comedy variety series that aired on CBS for one season in 1969.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Unfortunately, American audiences still seemed uncomfortable with TV shows hosted by sophisticated black musicians, and it finally took a comedian — Flip Wilson — to host a successful show, The Flip Wilson Show, which ran for four seasons on NBC from 1970-1974.

Ron Rodman is Dye Family Professor of Music at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He is the author of Tuning In: American Television Music, published by Oxford University Press in 2010. Read his previous blog posts on music and television. 

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Image credit: Publicity photo from the premiere of The Nat King Cole Show. NBC Television. Via Wikimedia Commons.

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13. How 'bout we all pan NBC's PETER PAN and Warner Bros PAN, too.

Over the weekend, Heather (a reader of AICL) wrote to ask if I'd seen a Salon article about changes made to music and lyrics in the version of Peter Pan that NBC is going to air in December. Though I knew about the production, I didn't know about these changes. Thanks, Heather, for letting me know.

In a nutshell, NBC hired Jerod Tate, artistic director of the Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival. He's Chickasaw but I don't know anything else about him other than what his bio (linked with his name) says.

With his assistance, the song "Ugg-a-Wugg" was changed.

Ugg-a-Wugg is a duet sung by Peter Pan and Tiger Lily. If either one is in trouble, they'll call on the other for help. The code word they'll use as a signal is ugg-a-wugg. If Tiger Lily needs help, she'll use that code word and Peter will come to save "the brave noble redskin." And if Peter Pan needs help, Tiger Lily will help him. They will be "blood brothers to the end." I think it was/is ludicrous but people love it. Do you remember it? Here. Take a look:



Enter Jerod Tate. Here's what he said, in the Salon article, about that song: 
And then the really big thing that we worked on was the replacement of [the lyrics] “ugg-a-wugg.” Just a little background: In general, what we all know is that the Indian tribe that’s represented in Peter Pan was influenced by knowledge of Northeast Indians of the United States. So we’re talking Iroquois, Huron, Wyandotte, Algonquin, these kinds of cultural regions. So what I did was I set out to find a replacement word for “ugg-a-wugg” that was literally a Wyandotte word.
Tate won't say what the word is, but he does say it means "come here." The interviewer asked him if he also worked on the costumes, but he said he only worked on the music and lyrics for the songs. He thinks the change is great, because the phrase is accurate. I disagree. The show and story will always be one in which the point of view is of Indians as exotic and detribalized. In chapter ten of Barrie's book, the Indians prostrate themselves in front of Peter Pan, calling him "the Great White Father." That point of view is the foundation for Barrie's story.

Now let's look at the new film from Warner Brothers.

The trailer for the new movie due out next year has a scene where Pan is on the floor, spears aimed at him. It looks like he's about to be killed, but an older man (which I imagine the script says is an elder or maybe Tiger Lily's dad) stops them. In his hand is a necklace of some sort that Peter was wearing. The man says:
"The little one. He wears the pan."
Here's a screen capture of that scene in the trailer:



The trailer cuts to Tiger Lily, played by Rooney Mara, who says:
"The Pan is our tribe's bravest warrior." 
Here she is in that moment: 


Her line (Pan is our tribe's greatest warrior) points right at the foundation for Barrie's film. Indians who worship whites. That's not ok. It was't ok then, and it isn't ok to give that racist garbage to kids today. Right?

Some of you know that there was a lot of discussion when Rooney was selected as the actress for the part. Many people said that a Native actress ought to be cast instead of Rooney. I disagree with that idea, too. 

Fixing the words in the song, and/or casting a Native person in that role does not change the point of view(s) on which the story rests. These are, through and through, "the white man's Indian." There is no fixing this story or any production of it so that the Native content is authentic. 

Attempts to do so remind me of the many schools that sought/seek to make their Indian mascots more "authentic" so that they could keep objectifying Native people, using their ideas of who Native people are for their own purposes. 

Can we just let that stuff go? 

Wouldn't we all be better off with a major studio production of a story written by a Native person? One that shows us as-we-are (or were if it is in the past), as human beings who do not say things about how we worship a "great white father" or a white guy who is our "greatest warrior"?  

By remaking this story, and/or by staging it in schools and theaters, we're just recycling problematic, stereotypic, racist images. Why do it?! 

Here's an irony. NBC released a promo featuring Allison Williams talking about the production. There's a part near the end where Williams is singing "it never never ends" as Tiger Lily drops to the stage:  



I want it to end. Don't you?

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14. Fusenews: I’m Cuckoo for Cuckoo Song

  • SeparateEqual1 300x300 Fusenews: Im Cuckoo for Cuckoo SongThere was a time, oh children of mine, when the ALA Media Awards would be announced and the morning after the announcement the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Awards would be whisked away to New York City to speak on NBC.  Then Snooki came and ruined everything (this is the abbreviated version, but it’s not too far off).  So we’re none too pleased with NBC these days.  Al Roker’s Book Club aside (and it looks like it hasn’t updated since Halloween) there’s not a lot going on at that channel.  But then they go and post the Latinas for Latino Lit: “Remarkable” Children’s Books of 2014 piece (selected by Viviana Hurtado and Monica Olivera) and much is forgiven.  Just one question about the list, though . . . no Viva Frida?
  • What is the state of children’s nonfiction in the UK today?  For our answer we turn to my favorite British blog Playing By the Book which reveals revelation after revelation in the piece Do We Care About Children’s Non-Fiction?  Apparently informational books don’t get reviewed all that often in the U.K.  Do the British value nonfiction then?  Definitely fascinating reading.
  • “I mean, seriously, can you think of one popular show/movie that actually tries to portray Muslims accurately instead of as a confining stereotype?”  The excellent Summer writes on her blog Miss Fictional’s World of YA the piece I Am Not Oppressed.  In particular she’s not particularly pleased with how Muslim women are depicted on the bulk of our book jackets (to say nothing of the content inside).
  • Hm.  So Entertainment Weekly just released a list of 50 Books Every Kid Should Read.  Interesting, yes?  And the choices are fascinating.  They made an effort to do the classics and then work in some contemporary titles.  What they chose is telling.  Little Willow presents the list and leads the discussion as well.
  • Um . . .

EvangelineLilly Fusenews: Im Cuckoo for Cuckoo Song

Okaaaaay. So that’s what Evangeline Lilly wore to her children’s book signing at Barnes & Noble.  Clearly this is the outfit children’s authors should all be wearing now.  Those of you hankering to wear your picnic blanket as a skirt now finally have an excuse to do so.  Thanks to Jules for the link.

  • And now, the best news of the week.  My love for the author Frances Hardinge knows no bounds.  Honestly, I do believe that The Lost Conspiracy may be my favorite children’s book published in the last 10 years.  It’s a serious contender in any case.  So you can imagine how distraught I was when it became clear that Harper Collins would no longer be publishing her books in the U.S.  I watched miserably as the U.K. published A Face Like Glass and Cuckoo Song (read the Book Smugglers review of the latter) overseas.  Heck, I actually shelled out money and bought the darn books myself (and you know how I feel about spending money).  Then, yesterday, a miracle.  I was paging through the Spring 2015 Abrams catalog and there she was.  Frances.  And Cuckoo Song, it said, would be published in May with what may well be the creepiest cover . . . um, ever?  Yeah.  Ever.  It’s not even online yet, so just stay tuned because when it is you know I’ll be blogging it.  So excited. (pssst! Abrams! Let me do the cover reveal!)
  • If you missed the whole Barbie, Computer Programmer children’s book debacle, now’s your time to catch up.  This was the inciting incident.  This was the follow-up.
  • The nice thing about working for NYPL is that they give me an awful lot of leeway when it comes to programming.  I want to do a monthly series of Children’s Literary Salons on a host of different topics?  Go to it!  Any topic I like.  The best ones, however, are often suggested by other people.  For example, when editors Cheryl Klein and Stacy Whitman suggested we have a panel on Native American YA literature where authors Eric Gansworth and Joseph Bruchac could talk about the cross-cultural pleasures and challenges of working with their editors, I was all for it.  Sadly, most of my Lit Salons are not recorded . . . but this one was!  Cheryl, you see, is married to James Monohan and together they run the blog The Narrative Breakdown.  My Salon?  It became one of the episodes and you can listen to it here.  As for those of you interested in attending a Salon (they’re free after all) there’s one this coming Saturday and you can see the full roster of them here.
  • This thing.  More libraries should do this thing. Yes.
  • Speaking of Ms. Woodson, did you see the list of books President Obama purchased at Politics and Prose last Saturday?  If we just pull out the children’s book fare it included:
  1. “Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business” by Barbara Park
  2. “A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More” by Doreen Cronin
  3. “I Spy Sticker Book and Picture Riddles” by Jean Marzollo
  4. “Nuts to You” by Lynn Rae Perkins
  5. “Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus” by Barbara Park
  6. “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
  7. “Redwall” by Brian Jacques
  8. “Mossflower” by Brian Jacques
  9. “Mattimeo” by Brian Jacques
  10. “Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms” by Katherine Rundell
  • Daily Image:

I consider this my early Christmas present.  Years ago when I did the Top 100 Children’s Novels poll, I did a post on All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor that included every book cover I could find of the title.  All but one.  The book jacket I grew up with appeared to be lost to the sands of time.  And now, all thanks to Sadie Salome, it’s been returned to me.  Behold the only work of historical fiction I read independently and for fun as a kid from cover to cover:

AllofaKindFamily Fusenews: Im Cuckoo for Cuckoo Song

Still the best, so far as I’m concerned.  Thanks, Sadie.

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15. 346. Monumental interest

NBC is here filming a special about the Marianas Trench Marine Monument for the news.

We said that creating a Monument would bring us press, visitors, attention. And it's started! I've posted a few photos on the Monument blog from our welcome picnic at the beach for our guests. It was very low key. Anna Rose brought her camera and took most of the photos, except for the ones she's in. She wanted pictures with the NBC team, so that's what we've got.

While NBC is here for a news story, National Science Foundation is sponsoring a trip of scientists to the underwater volcano near Rota. You can read more about that trip, going on this month, also, here. Of interest to students and teachers (and some of the rest of us who enjoy the learning process) is a blog that details their daily forays into the ocean to chart the underwater volcanic activity.

It's a very exciting time in the CNMI!

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16. 347. When you're busy...

...you repost someone else's great photo.


I'm swamped at work. I am also trying to write a 100-page musical stage play during April as part of Script Frenzy. And there are lots of other interesting things going on here, from politics to daily life.


But...


Here's a photo from Angelo of the picnic at the beach when then NBC crew was here for a story on the Marianas Trench Monument.

It's iconic--Agnes McPhetres, Jacinta Kaipat, Angelo Villagomez and Ike Cabrera--the working heart of the pro-Monument movement, still at work, grilling at the barbecue! In the background, you can see me and Stacie (Ruth Tighe's daughter) talking with Ian Williams of NBC; Anna Rose talking with Won Chomchuen of NBC, Mike Tripp with the photographer Ian, Ruth Tighe (serious) and Ken Kramer (smiling), and kids in orange tee-shirts playing at the beach.


For me, this photo sums up the Friends of the Monument experience!

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17. Drawing Lesson: “Snow Scene by Jon Gnagy”


Jon Gnagy was the first artist to draw pictures on television, and I was there! I mean, in front of the TV screen. I may not have been in school yet.
“We would both watch him and be spellbound,” my mother tells me.

Shadows and shading, the cube, the ball, the cylinder and the cone…
The lessons were simple, though dazzling as magic tricks for the millions of children who watched him.

Andy Warhol learned to draw from him, or so he said.

Mr. Gnagy, who was self-taught, was an advertising art director in New York before offering weekly art courses on television in 1946. His NBC-TV program was called ”You Are An Artist.” He switched to CBS-TV in 1950,” reported the New York Times in his obituary.

He passed away on March 7, 1981 at the age of 74.

A plain-talking midwesterner, the son of Hungarian – Swiss Mennonites, Gnagy did attend some evening classes at the Kansas City Art Institute as a young man. He became a company art director who won prizes for his paintings and poster designs.

There’s a wonderful (2006) article about him at the Dali House blog by crackerjack  arts writer and journalist Paul Dorsey.

Gnagy was not paid anything for the 700 telecasts he did over 14 years at the CBS and NBC networks, Dorsey says.  His revenue came from royalties on the sales of millions of  his art sets, “The John Gnagy Learn to Draw Outfit.”

I finally became the proud owner of one of these, at the age of six or seven. The kit had gray pastels to go with the black (and white) pastels and charcoal. The gray pastels were for stuff  like shadows. That seemed terribly interesting and sophisticated to me.

Alas, I lacked the concentration to stay with most of his exercises. His subjects — barns in the woods and vegetable-filled baskets on toolshed tables — seemed a little overwhelming and hard.  (I’d never be as good as him.) But, oh, how the thought of those lessons tantalized.

Maybe I should find another Learn to Draw set.  (You can still buy them!)
Really buckle down this time.

Because it’s never too late to ponder the cube, the ball,  the cylinder and the cone –  ahh, and those marvelous snow shadows.

* * * * *

Mark Mitchell, the host of “How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator” is blogging tonight because he’s so behind in writing Session #12 of his course.

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18. Today’s Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!

First Book is proud to announce that select meteorologists across the country from Boston to Los Angeles participated in The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Challenge issued by Today meteorologist Al Roker.

The challenge, in celebration of today’s release of the animated movie CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, generated more than 20,000 assorted new books to First Book organizations serving children in need. NBC-affiliate meteorologists had the opportunity to deliver new books and lead a special story time with the children.

First Book would like to thank Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia Pictures, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and television stations across the country for their generosity and commitment to spreading the joy of reading.

And be sure to check out this video of highlighting books provided to kids in Phoenix as part of the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Challenge (video opens in Windows Media Player).

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19. Whither Conan?

As every media outlet across the country tries to wrap their heads around what the future holds for "the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting," at least one certainty has become clear: the public loves them some Conan. Put an ear to... Read the rest of this post

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20. Ypulse Essentials: 'Glee' Returns, Inside Forever 21, 'The New Black'

'Glee' returns (and critics are still singing its praises. Hurrah. Also MTV shows Green Day dude-sical "American Idiot" promotional love, boosting the show's profile before its Broadway debut. MTV launches jerseyshorecasting.com, (a site dedicated... Read the rest of this post

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21. Ypulse Essentials: Middle Eastern Teens, Greyson Michael Chance, Totally Wired Teacher Award

'Napoleon Dynamite' gets animated (for a new series in development for FOX. Also media buyers want less repeats, more original programming on The CW during primetime. And the new MTV docudrama "Hired" is reviewed as "helpful, but slightly... Read the rest of this post

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22. Ypulse Youth Media Movers & Shakers

Today we bring you another installment of Youth Media Movers and Shakers. We've culled through industry publications looking for the recent executive placements we think you should know about. If you have executive news that you want us to highlight... Read the rest of this post

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23. Ypulse Youth Media Movers & Shakers

Today we bring you another installment of Youth Media Movers and Shakers. We've culled through industry publications looking for the recent executive placements we think you should know about. If you have executive news that you want us to highlight... Read the rest of this post

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24. Mindy Kaling Has A Mantra To Share

Remember those "kick-ass" girls Anastasia and I were going on about not too long ago? Good news — they've found another champion for the cause in writer-actress Mindy Kaling. Just check out this notable quote from a recent interview with New... Read the rest of this post

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25. Teen TV: What Will They Be Watching This Fall

This week, the major TV networks got all dressed up to court advertisers at their upfront presentations. They casually announced several show cancellations — “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” “Hellcats,” “$#*! My Dad Says,” and many,... Read the rest of this post

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