Open Your Act To Me
This has been nagging at me for a while, and I figure if anybody could address this, it'd be you. Call me blasphemous, but I can't be the only person who wouldn't be sad if the whole "opening act" charade just disappeared from the concert-going experience. Even if it's an act I like (my history includes Wilco, PJ Harvey, The Long Winters, Luscious Jackson, The Dandy Warhols, and Sonic Youth), it's a truncated set before an audience that's largely indifferent. The rest of the time, it's like watching commercials at the movies: just a distraction I have to sit through before getting to see what I came to see. Either way, it's rarely satisfying; out of my dozens of shows, I can only think of two or three where I was happy I saw the opener.
So what do you think? Would concert-goers revolt if a 9 p.m. show actually started with the headliner coming on stage at 9 p.m.? Do people have a Price Club mentality where it's best to buy music in bulk? Imagine how you'd feel if you had to read a mediocre short story before sitting down with a novel!
Kyle Ryan needs no introduction:
Kris, there's no lonelier place than opening slot. Nothing says "no one cares" like playing to the sound man and bartenders. As a musician, I've spent my fair share of time performing these "glorified practices."
But I'm not going to proselytize about the importance of arriving early. For the most part, I'm with you. A show with one to two opening bands is tolerable. Three gets annoying. And if there are four or more, you're at a hardcore show at 5 in the afternoon, and you've just been dropped off by your parents. No one does that after getting a driver's license.
Still, the quality of opening bands varies wildly depending on the show. At an arena or theater concert, at least one of the support bands is probably touring with the headliner. They're usually worth your time. Smaller gigs with random bills arranged by a promoter looking to fill slots? Those tend to suck. But a well-chosen opening band can enhance a show. It sounds kind of stupid, but I think there's something to be said for warming up the crowd. Promoters simply shouldn't overdo it: Put four bands on a club show, and you're just testing people's patience and begging to run behind schedule.
The bad news for you, Kris: Opening bands aren't going away. The good news: It's never been easier to hear them ahead of time. If you don't like what you hear, arrive later. Besides, you never know whom you may see: Just ask Keith about that time he skipped the opener for Sleater-Kinney. It was some no-name band called The White Stripes or something.
Chicago band Lynyrd's Innards best captured the life of an opening band with "We're The Opening Band," from 2002's Untitled No. 3. Check it out:
Take Me To The Pilot
What was The Jackie Bison Show? I remember being 9 in 1990 and badly wanting to watch this new show thinking it had something to do with The Simpsons, probably because it was a cartoon that came on at night. A (depressingly) exhaustive Internet search returned the barest of production details. Nothing on Google Image, nothing on YouTube. Plus no one I know has ever remembered this.
With the recent, sad passing of Doug Marlette, I've been thinking again lately about a live-action version of Kudzu that I remember airing on television back in the mid-'80s. I remember it being a half-hour special, airing in a back-to-back block with another animated special. The plot was essentially a rehash of the early Kudzu comic strips; I even remember clearly the preacher delivering his line about cleaning the moss out of the baptismal pool. I can't believe I imagined the whole thing. Could it have been a pilot for an unbought series?
Noel "finder of lost TV" Murray replies:
Yes, both of these are pilots. The Jackie Bison Show—featuring the legendary Stan Freberg as the voice of the title character, apparently an animated talk-show host—aired once in July 1990. The live-action Kudzu sitcom aired once in August 1983.
I can't remember the last time a major network burned off a pilot in the summer, but it used to be standard practice. Sometimes the shows were called "specials." Sometimes the networks didn't try to disguise what these shows were, and more or less made it plain that they'd bought pilots for shows that didn't go to series, and they were trying to recoup some of their money by getting advertisers to buy spots for a one-off airing. And if the ratings were high enough, some of those pilots would return for another tryout. This happened most famously in the case of Seinfeld, which aired once in the summer of '89 as The Seinfeld Chronicles, then returned for four episodes in the summer of '90, before becoming an official mid-season replacement in 1991.
Now that networks are learning that summer can be a viable season all its own, the pilot-burnoff has become a thing of the past. Though some of them still show up online and become word-of-mouth successes, like Aquaman last year. And so another cultural tradition for couch potatoes fades into memory.
Rainbows Have Nothing To Hide
When I was a kid, I watched this movie that was very Metropolis/Tron in nature. It was about this futuristic world where people belonged to one of three groups of people: red, blue, or yellow. (So basically it was about the primary colours.) The story involves a Yellow girl falling in love with a Blue boy, but they could not be together because you couldn't mix races. So yeah, long story short, they all go to war with each other and the Yellow girl falls off a cliff or something and dies, and they all decide to stop fighting. The background was mostly black, I think. This is driving me nuts. Also, they showed it to us when we were in kindergarten, which is weird because a woman falls to her death in it. Thanks muchly.
Donna Bowman responds:
I deduce from your spelling of "colour" that you hail from the Great White North, Mr. Mayor. That probably explains why your teachers were showing you "Rainbow War," a 20-minute film that played at the Canadian Pacific Pavilion during the 1986 World's Fair in Vancouver. Visitors to Expo '86 were treated to an eye-popping 70mm lesson in tolerance, culminating in the creation of the first rainbow. Produced by BRC Imagination Arts, a creator of museum displays and immersive exhibits, the short was nominated for an Academy Award—the only World's Fair attraction ever to be so honored.
You've mixed up the plot just a bit, but yeah, there's death. In this mythical world of primary colors, each race proclaims its own superiority and seeks to eliminate all other colors from their respective domains. One day a Yellow boy creates a magical golden ring that lets him fly to the other lands, and during his journey he falls in love with a Red princess. But upon his return, he's forced to create rings for the army so the Yellow queen can invade the Red and Blue lands and vanquish them (by painting over their substandard pigmentation) once and for all. Although the mixture of colors created by their clash teaches everyone about the beauty that can come from diversity, it's too late for Princess Red, who falls into the river swollen with paint-weaponry and is lost. A sobering message for kindergarteners, indeed.
You can download a five-minute preview of the film from Pyramid Media, which distributes it for the educational market. Fair warning: It's anti-anti-miscegenationariffic!
Come Back, Shame
Are there any movies that an A.V. Club staffer is ashamed to say they've never seen? How about any movies most would expect you to have seen, but you just haven't?
Tasha Robinson is feeling no shame:
Of course there are important, canonical, culturally crucial movies we haven't seen, Logan. We were all born at least 70 years behind the film curve, and given that it's impossible for anyone to keep up with all the movies currently being put out in a year, particularly with more and more countries reaching the international market with vital, expressive, crucial films, it's even harder to catch up with all the required viewing for a critic—all the quality classics, all the culturally and historically significant films, all the movies that started trends and sparked movements, all the minor works that help explain and shape the careers of major filmmakers in ways that just their highlights don't. Getting caught up is a lifelong job.
But there isn't much point in feeling shame about it. I mean, I personally feel guilty that I'm not better versed in the French New Wave. I'm still working my way through Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. There are still Hitchcock films I haven't gotten to. Scanning down my Netflix queue, I'm reminded that I still haven't gotten to Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. I haven't seen Mildred Pierce or The French Connection or Ali: Fear Eats The Soul or Inherit The Wind. In less weighty areas, right now I actually feel bad that I haven't seen Knocked Up or Superbad, two current films my fellow Clubbers enthusiastically recommended, and that I feel like I need to see for end-of-year list-making purposes. But at some point, you have to concentrate on what you have seen instead of what you haven't, because listing all the films you haven't had time for yet will drive you crazy. After all, there are only so many hours in the day.
Besides, thanks to home video (and especially DVD-by-mail services, which take the travel and store-scouring out of finding classics in markets that might have one dusty copy of Citizen Kane on a back shelf somewhere for every 50 copies of Bad Boys II) it's never been easier for a cinephile to work through the canon. Even a few decades ago, we would have had to haunt our local arthouse cinemas and universities, and hope for retrospective festivals. These days, a sufficiently determined critic can burn through the highlights of a filmmaker's career in a week at home.
And again speaking for myself, my job is an excellent excuse to get caught up on the embarrassing gaps in my personal filmography. I'd never seen The Searchers or High Noon until last month, when I watched them to prepare for reviewing 3:10 To Yuma. (I watched the original 1957 version, too, though while it's a quality film, and important for understanding the remake, I wouldn't call it critic-crucial.) Billy Wilder's Ace In The Hole finally hitting DVD made it a good time to finally watch his Avanti and The Fortune Cookie, which have both been on my shelf for a couple of years. And so forth. There's no shame in lack of experience, Logan. Everyone starts out that way. The only shame is in not working to rectify it.
Next week: Comedy DVD pre-show skits, a song about trash, and more. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.