artsjounal.com neighbor Terry Teachout suggests that I pass along an item from his About Last Night. As a followup to recent Rifftides discussions about the quality of television music programming, here it is—a public service:
If you missed last night’s PBS American Masters documentary on Nat King Cole, don’t even think about catching a replay. Not only was the script a dumbed-down, once-over-lightly account of one of the most significant careers in the history of American popular music, but the show contained next to no uninterrupted footage of Cole in performance. In between the snippets was a numbing succession of talking-head interviews with such irrelevant celebrity interlopers as Whoopi Goldberg and Carlos Santana. Rarely have I endured so witless a piece of junk. Avoid it at all costs.
He didn’t llike it.
Ken Dryden says
While I didn’t see the Nat King Cole program that Terry Teachout trashed on PBS, I can suggest one reason that he didn’t see many complete performances. According to the producer of a recent PBS documentary on Willie the Lion Smith, the cost of obtaining the rights to include complete jazz performances has exploded since Ken Burns’ Jazz arrived in 2001 (even though he didn’t use complete songs himself).
As for the inclusion of irrelevant talking heads like Whoopi Goldberg and Carlos Santana, I am in full agreement with Teachout’s comments.
One only had to read Anita Gates’ review of the show in the 5/17 NY Times to know it was going to be lousy. For that reason alone, I didn’t watch it, and am glad TT vindicated my decision.
Jon Foley says
I haven’t seen this show yet, and Terry Teachout may be right about it. However, we must remember his opinions are just that, opinions. The New York Times TV critic liked it, and called it “understated but compelling.” See her piece here:
html. It’s always good to get at least two views, I think.