Revolution #73, December 17, 2006
Cheers & Jeers
Studio 60's Holiday Tribute for New Orleans
I want to send a “Cheers” to the television show Studio 60 for the episode that aired on December 5. The premise of this new show is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a Saturday Night Live type show and I have found it entertaining, funny and interesting. For example there's an on-again-off-again romance between Matt, a liberal writer/producer (played by Matthew Perry) and a Christian fundamentalist (played by Sarah Paulson); a skit called “Crazy Christians” (another bit features “Cheeses of Nazareth”); a writer blacklisted by the 1950s McCarthy hearings shows up one night; and there's a constant battle with the FCC over rules like one that says you can’t take “god’s name in vain.”
In the last show for this year (it won’t air again until January 8), they are getting ready for the pre-Christmas show and the house band is rehearsing. We learn that musicians in the city have been calling in sick and sending others to take their places. The trumpet player sitting in for the regular Studio 60 guy is really good and one of the producers, Danny (played by Bradley Whitfield), takes notice and asks who he is. Danny learns that like others subbing around town, he is an out of work musician from New Orleans who lost his home and is now trying to work in LA. Danny comes up with an idea and tells people to save him time at the end of the show.
We don’t find out what this is until at the end when we see a very moving segment in the show-within-a-show: With a darkened stage D.L. Hughley, one of the cast members, steps into a spotlight and says: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the City of New Orleans.” The stage lights come up, but only to shadowy dims, and we see an ensemble of New Orleans musicians: two trumpeters, a saxophonist, a sousaphonist, and a trombonist. Looking almost silhouette, they begin playing a beautiful, kind of jazzy but somber version of “O Holy Night.” Behind them there's a slide show of black and white images of New Orleans. We see an aerial view of the flooded city, rooftops and treetops, water covering what you can’t see but know is a grid of neighborhood streets; people trying to rebuild amidst wreckage, a sign that says, “All I want for Christmas is my city back”– you can't help thinking about the criminal government neglect that abandoned people after Katrina and persists today with thousands unable to return and rebuild their homes.
Up on the NBC Studio 60 website you learn that the musicians featured in this episode were in fact musicians from New Orleans and there is a link to Tipitina’s Foundation, which was set up after Katrina to help musicians carry on with their lives and work. Today Tipitina uses the legendary music club, Tipitina’s Uptown, to host a new Music Co-op Office, helping musicians with business and legal questions, housing and providing music lessons for students.
Executive producers of Studio 60, Tommy Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin, worked with Tipitina to assemble the musicians for the show: Troy Andrews, Trumpet; Kirk Joseph, Sousaphone; Roderick Paulin, Saxophone; Frederick Shepherd, Saxophone; Stephen Walker, Trombone; Mervin "Kid Merv" Campbell, Trumpet; and Bob French, Drums. And Schlamme and Sorkin personally paid for the cost of gathering the musicians (some who remain displaced in other cities) and their travel expenses to L.A.
This was a moving tribute not only to all the musicians displaced by Katrina but the many thousands of other New Orleans residents who lost their homes in the hurricane and remain abandoned by the government. And this is an example of the widespread and deeply felt sentiment among people all over the country and the world, who are outraged at what happened and whose hearts have gone out to the people of New Orleans.
p.s. You can watch the whole show on the internet (http://www.nbc.com/Studio_60_on_the_Sunset_Strip/) and there will be a special encore presentation of this episode on NBC, December 18, 10/9c.
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