Scenes That I Love: The Opening Of The Very First Televised Oscar Ceremony

Today, we take it for granted that the Oscars will always be on television in February or March of every year.  We know that they will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday night.  We also know that there’s a good chance that, every year, some clueless TV exec will try to do something to ruin our annual tradition.  Whether it’s the idea of introducing an award for Best Popular Film or maybe suggesting that some awards should be given off camera, we know better than to trust ABC.

However, for the first 25 years of the Academy’s existence, the Oscars were not televised.  In fact, for a while, they weren’t even broadcast on the radio because it was assumed that no one outside of Hollywood cared about them.  It really wasn’t until the mid-30s that the Oscars became an annual ritual for so many Americans.  At first, people listened to the ceremony on the radio and then eventually, the ceremony came to television.

The first Oscar telecast was on March 19th, 1953.  The ceremony was split between two locations, Hollywood and New York.  Bob Hope hosted in Hollywood while Conrad Nagel and Fredric March hosted in New York.  The ceremony didn’t start until 10:30 pm and it ran for two hours and 20 minutes.  Why the late start?  Several of the nominees were also appearing in Broadway shows and they had to finish their nightly performances before they could attend the ceremony.

As for why this ceremony was telecast — well, as always, it all comes down to money.  The Academy needed the money that came from selling the broadcast rights to NBC.  (NBC, to their credit, did not demand an award for Best Popular Film.)  The show was such a ratings success that it led to the annual tradition that we all know and love today.

What won at the first televised ceremony?  The Greatest Show On Earth won Best Picture while John Ford took home Best Director (for The Quiet Man) and Gary Cooper was named Best Actor for High Noon.  Shirley Booth was named Best Actress for Come Back, Little Sheba.  The supporting awards went to Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata! and Gloria Grahame for The Bad and the Beautiful.

Here is the opening of the very first televised Oscar ceremony.  As you can tell, it was quite a bit different from what we’re used to today!


Let’s Talk About Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert (dir by David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski)

On Sunday night, my family and I ended our Easter Sunday by watching Jesus Christ Superstar Live.  Now, before I say anything else about NBC’s latest live musical production, there are a few things that I should make clear:

In college, there was this girl in my dorm who started the semester as a pagan, spent a month as an evangelical, and then ended the semester as a pagan again.  When she was going through her evangelical phase, she would listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack constantly, with the volume turned up so loud that you could hear it up and down the hallway.  Seriously.  24 hours a day.  7 days a week.  After three days, I was sick of hearing it.  I found myself wondering if anyone had ever been driven to murder over having to listen to Heaven On Their Minds one too many times.  Fortunately, something happened to cause her to once again lose her faith and she went back to listening to Fall Out Boy.

For quite some time afterward, I would instinctively cringe whenever I heard any of the songs from Jesus Christ Superstar.  In fact, it wasn’t until I first came across the 1973 film version that I was able to once again appreciate it as a musical and overlook its association with that annoying pagan.  From the first time I watched it, I really liked that movie and, every time I rewatch it, I like it even more.  When I started watching Sunday’s production, I was seriously wondering if I’d be able to set aside my feelings about both the pagan and the movie and judge the television version on its own merits.

Well, I shouldn’t have worried.  While I still prefer the original film version, Sunday’s television production was wonderfully conceived and executed.  From the first note of music to the final curtain call, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert captured my attention and refused to let it go, keeping me watching even through the lengthy commercial interruptions.  The musicians and the singers sounded great, or at least they did once the audience mics were turned down.  (At the start of the show, the audience was so loud that they threatened to drown out Heaven On Their Minds.)  The production design was simply amazing, combining downtown New York with ancient Judea in a way that reminded us just how timeless the musical’s story truly is.  (The 1973 film opened with a bunch of hippies driving through the desert.  The 2018 production opened with Jesus’s name being spray painted on a wall.  Both openings felt perfect for the story that was being told.)

As for the cast, Brandon Victor Dixon was compellingly intense as Judas and Norm Lewis was properly intimidating as Caiaphas.  The big marquee name was Alice Cooper, who obviously enjoyed playing the production’s burlesque version of Herod.  That said, the entire show was stolen by Ben Daniels, who was wonderfully conflicted as Pilate.  I wasn’t as impressed by Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, or I should say that I apparently wasn’t as impressed with her performance as everyone else on twitter.  (To me, she seemed a bit too peppy, especially in the early numbers.  I know I’m in the minority as far as that goes.)  Finally, in the role of Jesus, John Legend grew on me.  Of course, in the show, Jesus doesn’t really become an interesting character until he sings “Poor Jerusalem” and that was the moment that Legend himself seemed to truly feel comfortable with the role.

It’s probably pointless to compare the 1973 film to the 2018 version but still, I did find it interesting how the live version reimagined the relationship between Jesus and Judas.  In the 1973 version, Jesus is largely aloof for almost the entire film.  Judas seems to be frustrated because he can’t figure out what Jesus is planning to do and Jesus himself never seems to feel that he can allow himself to get truly close to anyone.  In the film, Judas’s anger is the anger of someone who has spent the last few years of his life following a leader and who is now wondering if he’s been wasting his time.  He’s like a Democrat who has just realized that his party is even less interested in reigning in Wall Street than the Republicans.

In the live version, the Jesus/Judas relationship came across as being a bromance gone wrong.  In this version, Judas’s disatisfaction is less political and more jealousy over Jesus being closer to the Magdalene than to him.  When Judas snaps at Jesus in the 2018 version, Jesus actually seems to get personally offended.  The dynamic between Dixon and Legend is definitely different from the one between Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson in the original version.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.  That’s one of the wonderful things about theater.  When successfully done, each subsequent production brings something new to an old story.

Jesus Christ Superstar definitely worked.  As far as the current wave of live television musicals is concerned, this was the best one yet.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #98: The 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

Last night, I watched NBC’s tape-delayed pretend-live coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Why Was I Watching It?

I loved the London opening ceremonies and I wanted to see how Sochi would compare.  Plus, there was always the chance that the ceremony might somehow involve curling…

What Was It About?

It was the opening of the Sochi Olympics.  It was a chance for Russia to celebrate its own history.  It was a ceremony specifically designed for people, like me, who appreciate spectacle for the sake of spectacle.

It was also a chance for NBC to screw everything up and be generally annoying.

What Worked?

As I said, I appreciate spectacle for the sake of spectacle and that’s what the Opening Ceremonies were.  They were a great spectacle, which managed to be thrilling, impressive, ludicrous, and silly at the same time.

There was no way not to be impressed and moved by sight of the teams of athletes marching into the stadium.  My favorite teams: Team Canada, Team Ireland, Team Spain, Team Italy, Team Andorra, and Team Australia.  (No, I’m not rooting for Team USA this time around.  After all, an American team just won the Super Bowl.  It’s time to spread the wealth around.  Go Canada!)

Glowering old Vladimer Putin would make a great villain in the next Bond film, wouldn’t he?

What Did Not Work?

The ceremony was amazing but, unfortunately for those of us in the States, it was broadcast on NBC.  NBC declined to live stream the Opening Ceremonies (which were held around 11:00 am EST) but instead decided to show us an edited version in the evening, with the notoriously vapid Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on-hand to provide commentary and “context.”

And what context!  Matt was apparently under the assumption that he’s the only American who knows who has read a novel by Nabokov or appreciated a painting by Kandinsky.  Meredith said things like, “And now Imperialist Russia will be swept away by the revolution and this commercial break…”  Both Matt and Meredith talked through the performance of Swan Lake, which is unforgivable.

NBC declined to show us four of the most-discussed moments from the opening ceremonies.  We did not get to see t.a.T.u perform, which also means we didn’t get to consider the irony of fake lesbians performing at an official ceremony in a county known for its anti-LGBT laws.    We did not get to hear the portion of the IOC President’s speech where he called for tolerance.  (It’s almost as if NBC was going out of their way not to upset Putin…)  We did not get to see the end of the ceremony’s recreation of Russian history.  And, most tragically, we did not get to see the Russian police singing Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, a moment that would have brought some humanity to the ceremony.

Though the show started at 6:30, NBC still made everyone sit through an hour of filler before it actually started to show the Opening Ceremony.  Among that filler was watching Bob Costas interview the President.  Bob started out by assuring the President that he would only be asking him about the Olympics.  When I heard that, I thought, “Yay!  This will be over quickly!”  However, it turns out that our President is just as long-winded when he’s talking about the Olympics as when he’s talking about anything else.  Again, let’s consider that NBC declined to show us the Russian police singing Daft Punk so that we could sit through yet another interview with someone who we see every single day.

Incidentally, Team America’s sweaters were just as hideous as everyone thought they would be.  When they were introduced, they all looked like they had been given the same crappy Christmas present.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Watching all of the ballet made me so nostalgic and a little sad.

Lessons Learned

Matt Lauer is an annoying schmuck. 

My 2012 Emmy Nominations

So, for the past few days, I’ve been happily hopping around my section of the Shattered Lens Bunker and do you know why? 

Because it’s awards season, that’s why!  With the conclusion of the 2011-2012 TV season, Emmy ballots have been mailed and votes are being cast and, come July, we’ll know which shows and performers have been nominated for the 2012 Emmys. 

Before that happens, however, I would like to play a little game called “What if Lisa Was Solely Responsible For Picking the Nominees.”  Here’s how it works — I looked over and studied the complete list of the shows and performances that have been submitted this year for Emmy consideration.  And then, from that list, I picked my personal nominees.

(A complete list of every show and performer that’s been submitted for Emmy consideration can be found here.)

Below are my personal nominations in the major Emmy categories.  Again, note that these are not necessarily the shows and performers that I believe will be nominated.  Instead, these are the shows and performers that I would nominate if I was solely responsible for picking the nominees.

A complete list of my nominations in every single Emmy category can be found here.  (And yes, there’s a lot of Lifetime on the list.  There’s also a lot of Community.)

Best Comedy Series

Bored to Death (HBO)

Community (NBC)

Girls (HBO)

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Raising Hope (Fox)

Veep (HBO)

Best Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Breaking Bad (AMC)

The Client List (Lifetime)

Downton Abbey (PBS)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Homeland (Showtime)

Pan Am (ABC)

Ringer (The CW)

True Blood (HBO)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie

Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Five (Lifetime)

Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Hatfields & McCoys (History Channel)

The Hour (BBC America)

Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Outstanding Variety Series

Conan (TBS)

Fashion Police (E)

Key and Peele (Comedy Central)

The Soup (E)

Tosh .O (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Variety Special

Betty White’s 90th Birthday Party (NBC)

Celtic Women: Believe (PBS)

The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen (Comedy Central)

TV Land Awards (TV Land)

Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV (Showtime)

Outstanding Nonfiction Special

Bobby Fischer Against The World (HBO)

Catholicism: Amazed and Afraid (PBS)

Crime After Crime (OWN)

God Is The Bigger Elvis (HBO)

6 Days To Air: The Making of South Park (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Nonfiction Series

America in Primetime (PBS)

American Masters (PBS)

America’s Most Wanted (Lifetime)

Beyond Scared Straight (A&E)

Inside Story (Biography)

Outstanding Reality Program

Antiques Roadshow (PBS)

Dance Moms (Lifetime)

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox)

Scouted (E)

Storage Wars (A&E)

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

The Amazing Race (CBS)

The Bachelor (ABC)

Big Brother (CBS)

The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC)

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox)

Project Runway (Lifetime)

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)

Survivor (CBS)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Johnny Galecki in The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Danny McBride in Eastbound and Down (HBO)

Joel McHale in Community (NBC)

Lucas Neff in Raising Hope (Fox)

Jason Schwartzman in Bored To Death (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama

Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Jeffrey Donavon in Burn Notice (USA)

Damian Lewis in Homeland (Showtime)

Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead (AMC)

Timothy Olyphant in Justified (FX)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Idris Elba in Luther (BBC America)

Rob Lowe in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Steven Weber in Duke (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Dominic West in The Hour (BBC America)

Ben Whishaw in The Hour (BBC America)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (Fox)

Lena Dunham in Girls (HBO)

Tina Fey in 30 Rock  (NBC)

Julia Louis Dreyfuss in Veep (HBO)

Mary-Louis Parker in Weeds (Showtime)

Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope (Fox)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama

Claire Danes in Homeland (Showtime)

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer (The CW)

Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Client List (Lifetime)

Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife (CBS)

Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey (PBS)

Anna Paquin in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Kristin Davis in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Anne Heche in Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Rose McGowan in The Pastor’s Wife (Lifetime)

Emily Osment in Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Sara Paxton in Blue Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

Danny DeVito in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Donald Glover in Community (NBC)

Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Danny Pudi in Community (NBC)

Matt Walsh in Veep (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama

Bruce Campbell in Burn Notice (USA)

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Giancarlo Espositto in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Michael Shannon in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Powers Boothe in Hatfields and McCoys (History Channel)

Justin Bruening in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Hide (TNT)

Sir Roger Moore in A Princess For Christmas (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Tony Shalhoub in Five (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy

Alison Brie in Community (NBC)

Kristen Chenoweth in GCB (ABC)

Anna Chlumsky in Veep (HBO)

Gillian Jacobs in Community (NBC)

Cloris Leachman in Raising Hope (Fox)

Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in Drama

Christine Baranski in The Good Wife (CBS)

Kristen Bauer Von Straten in True Blood (HBO)

Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Christina Ricci in Pan Am (ABC)

Sophia Turner in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Deborah Ann Woll in True Blood (HBO)

Supporting Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Tammy Blanchard in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Kaley Cuoco in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Lisa Edelstein in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Jessica Lange in American Horror Story (FX)

Jena Malone in Hatfields and McCoy (History Channel)

NBC Still Doesn’t Understand The Internet

A few days ago, an old clip from the Today Show showed up on YouTube.  That clip was from 1994 and it featured Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel trying to figure out what the Internet is.  Apparently, the clip was posted by an employee of NBC.  If you’ve seen the clip, you already know that while it’s mildly amusing, it’s also pretty tame. 

Well, NBC didn’t see it that way because they’ve responded by 1) firing the guy who posted it and 2) pulling the clip off of YouTube so quickly that you’d think the NBC offices are located in either Egypt or Iran.

Well — joke’s on you, NBC.  As my friend Ron always reminds me whenever I post a picture on plixi during Thong Thursday, the Internet is forever and now, so is that clip.

So, here’s one of the many copies of that clip that can be found on YouTube.  See it now before NBC demands that it be pulled down.

(Incidentally, my mom always hated Bryant Gumbel and I can still remember, when I was 13 or maybe 14, laughing so hard when my mom turned on the TV and was greeted by his image.  “Pendejo,” she said as she changed the channel.) 

Conan O’Brien Memo to NBC: WTF?!

It looks like Conan O’Brien doesn’t want to make it easy for NBC’s plan to try and salvage it’s late-night line-up. With the Jay Leno Show now being removed from it’s primetime 10pm time slot NBC trying to compound it’s multimillion-dollar mistake with a plan to move it to 11:35pm with Conan’s The Tonight Show pushed back an extra half hour to12:05am. Jimmy Fallon’s show gets pushed back the same amount of time. This is like someone living in an apartment complex where their room is on fire and instead of calling the fire department they decide the solution it to move to the room next door.

I don’t seem to be the only who thinks this way as Conan O’Brien has decided this is a plan that’s retarded on so many levels no matter how one looked at it. He’s pretty much giving the plan two thumbs down. Will he resign and bolt from The Tonight Show in protest to how he has been treated? As the article below states he has 60 million reasons to stay one and force NBC’s hand. NBC should either just scap any plan to prop up Jay Leno on any show and support O’Brien’s show 100 percent while at the same time uncuffing him to actually do things his way. Or they could remove O’Brien from his hosting duties, put Leno back in there and give O’Brien the penalty fee and wave bye-bye to him as he bolts with those many reasons mentioned above to another network.

I think it’s unfair that O’Brien has been treated the way he has been. He’s not getting the chance to prove he can do The Tonight Show. Leno wasn’t such a big hit when he first took over as host from Johnny Carson, but in time he got into his groove and succeeded. I’m really hoping O’Brien sticks to his guns no matter what happens. If he gets let go then I am sure he’ll get calls from many networks thinking of doing it’s own late-night talk show and giving him free reign. I say HBO should pick him up and just let him go crazy on his own late-night show. O’Brien may not get the same sort of contract from HBO he got from NBC, but by then he’d have gotten a 60million severance check from the Dodo Network so money won’t be an issue. Who knows, I may even get HBO again if that happened.