Thursday, January 24, 2008

Remember "Remember WENN"

In yesterday's review of AMC's new original series "Breaking Bad," I said that "Mad Men" was AMC's first original series.

Not technically true.

Although "Mad Men" is the first original series aired by the current incarnation of AMC, back in 1996 when the channel was relatively young and ran actual American movie classics (kinda like TCM, but with a worse film library), they began airing a wonderful show created by Rupert Holmes called "Remember WENN."

Set at the rinky dink mythical Pittsburgh radio station WENN in the late 30s and early 40s, it concerned the days when radio was the only broadcast medium around. With zero budget and limited staff, stations like this one produced an entire broadcast day's worth of original programming for their small local audiences. It might all sound primitive to modern iPod-attuned ears, but it was remarkable, pioneering work.

Amanda Naughton played Betty Roberts who was a Mary Richards type; fresh-faced and idealistic, she took over the writing chores at the station in the first episode and anchored the ensemble throughout the show's four season run. "Remember WENN" was her only major acting credit which is a real shame (for me) because she was rather terrific, perky and energetic with a lightning-fast tongue.

For the dialogue! Shame on you.

Character actor Christopher Murney played Mackie Bloom, the station's jack-of-all-trades. He appeared to have been modeled on Mel Blanc, with a voice for every occasion. Kevin O'Rourke, recently seen in the "Cashmere Mafia" pilot (but don't hold that against him) was station manager Scott Sherwood and Melinda Mullins and Hugh O'Gorman were bickering married stars Hilary Booth and Jeff Singer.

"Remember Wenn" featured some of the cleverest, fastest, tongue-twistingest dialogue ever spoken on the small screen, primarily courtesy of writer/creator Holmes. Pop Culture Americans probably know his name best from his wildly overplayed 70s hit "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" (but don't hold that against him).

The show never gets replayed. I'm willing to bet it got shuffled aside with the changing of the guard at AMC. It has never appeared on DVD. And considering some of the shows that are on DVD, that is nothing short of a crying shame.

Over at Gord Lacey's tvshowsondvd.com site, you can make a little noise to rectify that injustice. But I doubt this is one that anybody (other than me) is clamoring for. Too bad. it's been a decade and I still remember "Remember WENN."

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