“On the Air”

13 January 1996
[ Betty looks into the studio with wonder ] Written by Rupert Holmes.
Directed by Juan Jose Campanella.

"American Movie Classics brings the Golden Age of Radio to television with its first original live-action series, `Remember WENN'." So began the press release announcing the series. It also explains that Rupert Holmes would be writing the series and its music.

And the show starts with Rupert's theme music playing over interesting graphics that looks like the credits being rolled over by a cohesive liquid displaying tinted scenes from the series. It ends, appropriately, on a vintage radio playing WENN.

A program called "The Hands of Time" featuring a married couple called Brent (Jeffrey Singer (Hugh O'Gorman)) and Elizabeth (Hilary Booth (Melinda Mullins)) is airing. Brent suffered from amnesia in Madrid, Spain, and joined the new Spanish resistance. While suffering the memory loss, he married a woman who looked like an identical twin to Elizabeth. Jeff explains, in an excellent stately vocalization, they were married close to a "lending library." Hilary quickly switches from Elizabeth's aristocratic tones to the unnamed Spanish woman's accents as she plays both roles.

This impressive vocal performance is followed by Mackie Bloom's (Christopher Murney) announcing duties. With less than seven remaining seconds, he manages to say " `The Hands of Time' is brought to you on a continuing basis by the makers of Midas Hand Lotion. Let your hands have the Midas touch. This is W, E, N, N, Pittsburgh. The time is 2 PM."

In a moment that rarely seems duplicated on teevee, the timing matches up. The second hand on the clock synchs up with the action. Sometimes when teevee shows a fifteen second frenzy, it lasts for 50 seconds because they show scenes that were happening simultaneously during the 15 second period. But often, there's only one scene shown continuously that doesn't come close to synching up to the stated time. I suppose some teevee people would explain it as a way to build tension. I would argue it's a destroyer of dramatic tension. When the bomb has ticked down to destruction ten seconds ago and I'm wondering why it hasn't gone off yet, the insert shot showing the bomb has only just ticked down to 7 seconds obliterates my suspension of disbelief. I throw up my hands realizing the makers of the program are idiots or else they believe the audience is satisfied with puerile pabulum.

So with this honest pacing and editing, "Remember WENN" immediately scores a huge checkmark in my plus column.

Mackie's enunciation is great. The audience is listening in on AM radio after all. He manages with no slurring or blending, each word insulated from the other. Trying to duplicate it, I generally end up with "Midas touch" turning to "Midas tuh." At basic training I had taken an audio tape test trying out for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network career field. This caused me to have appreciation for those with real vocal talent.

During the scene, we met the sound effects man, Mr. Foley (Tom Beckett). The job of a Foley artist is to dub in sounds for an existing piece of film. They mimic the squeak of a chair as it's sat in, the pulling of a gun from a holster, sword play, and other sounds matching the rhythm and action of the actor onscreen. They are best known for their footsteps. In this scene, we saw his Foley pit, containing different surfaces to walk on. A Foley who makes walking sounds that are too loud is called a stompy boy. Perhaps the future of Mr. Foley is to contribute heavily to the development of film sound effects dubbing, thus lending his name to the process.

"The Hands of Time," which had started before two (1:30 PM?), gives way to "Colonel Moore" at two o'clock. Eugenia Bremer (Mary Stout) joins in with singing the show's theme, "Hop in the Wagon". She's been providing the excellent organ accompaniment. The Colonel Moore character seems to be your typical man-at-the-general-store view on the news accompanied by rustic humor.

In just the brief time, we've been impressed with the performance of all in the studio.

Out in the lobby, we meet the radio station's receptionist, Gertrude Reece (Margaret Hall). She handles the routing of phone calls through a switchboard. She's munching on peanut brittle while critiquing the show.

At this point in the show, Betty Roberts (Amanda Naughton) enters. Mistaking Betty for someone auditioning for a job, Gertie, as Gertrude is informally called, informs her that WENN holds auditions for new talent on Mondays and Wednesdays. Betty tells Gertie that she's the new intern, having won the position through a writing contest.

"You'll need an intern by the end of the week if you last that long," Gertie warns. Gertie manages to communicate how stressful the job is (suggesting the job will cause Betty to require medical attention) while also implying that previous interns had very short tenures ("if you last [a week]").

In a splendid use of the window to the studio, we see Betty watching Mackie doing Colonel Moore as she's approached by Jeff Singer. Jeff lays his come on ("Are you a passionate listener? A lot of our fans who stop by the station identify themselves as a...passionate listener.") as smoothly as Otter's "sensuous" come on to the Dean's wife in "Animal House."

By way of explaining her past, Betty speaks of being in college in Elkhart, Indiana. Whether Betty had any stops between college and WENN is cut off as Jeff realizes she's the girl who won the contest. [Amanda Naughton speculates in her personal back story that Betty "probably worked on a newspaper before coming east to get into radio."]

Any doubts that Betty is hungry (Gertie's peanut brittle put a gleam in her eyes) is vanquished as we learn she hasn't eaten since sometime the day before. Jeff invites her to lunch while continuing to banter with her. However, his flirtation is interrupted by Hilary Booth. Betty recognizes Hilary from a Broadway run of "The Rivals" that Hilary says was "years ago."

This may be Richard Brinsley Sheridan's "The Rivals" from 1775. This comedy is known for its good acting parts and features characters such as Captain Absolute aka Ensign Beverley, Lydia Languish, Lucius O'Trigger and Bob Acres. Another character is Mrs. Malaprop, which one of my two unabridgeds assigns as the origin of the word "malaprop."

Betty was in junior high school at the time when she saw "The Rivals." Assuming that Betty is 22 to 24, this would place her seeing Hilary on Broadway as about 8 to 10 years earlier. When Betty is honest about being in junior high, Hilary dresses her down for being undiplomatic and tactless. Then she repeats, with emphasis, her conscious mispronunciation of Betty's name as "Betsy."

Hilary retreats to the Green Room as Betty observes, "What a shrew." Jeff assents, "A viper." Betty meant "a scolding woman" based on the scolding she was just given and Jeff's follow-up refers to "a treacherous or malignant person." But the words they chose also have another connection: they each describe animals. [For example, say two characters were randomly choosing colors. They could choose brown and blue which have no obvious connection. Or they could chose orange and plum, which are not only colors but fruits.] A very minor thing to notice, but it seems indicative that Rupert's writing my be filled with careful attention to words. While this might go over the head of the bulk of American viewers, I'll appreciate it.

Betty and Jeff continue. Betty exclaims, "My God." Jeff follows, "My wife."

Apparently Jeff Singer and Hilary Booth are man and wife!

"I had no idea." "No, neither did I when I married her." "I mean, I she, I'm terribly sorry." "Oh, I have nothing but regrets myself. Now how `bout that lunch?" Having attempted to distance himself from Hilary, Jeff presses on with determination. "You're married." Ah a different era. "Married people eat lunch." One wonders about the sort of marriage Mr. Singer considers himself in. But not even ravenous hunger can cause Betty to risk the appearance of impropriety. "Thanks. I'll get a bite on my own after I've met Mr. Comstock."

"Ah, if Victor doesn't bite your head off first. He has a tendency to challenge newcomers. He hates cream puffs." [More use of words with different meanings.] Jeff leads Betty to the control where we hear "Colonel Moore" issuing from the speakers. Throughout the Jeff-Betty scene we saw Mackie's "Moore" holding court on the issues of the day through the glass window.

"Victor, this is, ah, Betty Roberts from Elkhart. Newly arrived at the train station and just arrived at our station." Jeff continues to be dexterous with his words.

"And I hope I've found my proper station in life, Mr. Comstock." Betty picks up Jeff's thread and holds out her hand to greet Victor Comstock (John Bedford Lloyd).

Mr. Comstock does not acknowledge her outstretched hand, not even to look at it. He's either looking away or looking straight into her eyes. "Huh. Now that was meant to be, uh, humorous, yes miss? A, uh, merry quip?"

With Jeff's warning (maybe he's not such a cad, after all) having braced her (when she could stop thinking about cream puffs), Betty's able to keep her smile on (though obviously taken aback). "It was, uh, just, um, an icebreaker."

With what looks like little conscious effort (his attention also seems to be focused on the "Colonel Moore" show he's directing, he zings back "Uh-huh. So was the Titanic." Victor clears his throat and continues, "Ah, tell me, did you plan that opening line all the way from Moosehead?"

This seems strange. Betty could not have known that whoever was going to introduce her to Victor would play on the word "station." Even if she and Jeff had planned in the hallway to use those lines it would hardly have been since "Moosehead." Unless he thinks Betty had planned to conspire with someone once she got to the station to use those lines. But that's paranoid. Betty had obviously thought on her feet and followed Jeff's lead on using "station" just as Victor himself had just improvised the Titanic as an example of an icebreaker. (Unless Victors had thought up the line to use at a party and has been planning to use it for years.)

"Elkhart," Betty corrects. That's right. He got her hometown incorrect. That seems rude. At the desecration of her hometown's name, Betty loses her smile. Up until my father's death in 1991, I had strong feelings about my hometown, also. So I can relate to this.

"Moose head, elk heart, deer, bladder. Whatever zoological and anatomical conjunction you prefer." Oh. That was clever...and fast. But still rude.

Betty bucks up and gamely explains, "I thought of the line in Harrisburg. I didn't practice it out loud till Scranton." This is an interesting pair of sentences (check your maps) that I have three possible explanations for. One. Betty is so rattled she can't remember the cities she passed through. Two. She didn't travel straight to Pittsburgh from Elkhart, but instead did some sightseeing on the way. Three. She's decided to buzz Mr. Comstock back and see what he makes of it. I suppose we should also check and see if the train she was on was known as "The Flying Dutchman."

Victor Comstock may not be as ill-tempered as he seems, though. It may be done very consciously. First, I'm inferring from Gertie that most previous interns have not stayed long at all, probably due to the high work tempo. Second, Jeff indicated Victor tested newcomers.

This could simply be a way of saving time by eliminating the chaff quickly. While I would not deny that a lot of show business people are paid too highly, look at what a typical television performer does. They rise at four or five and are in the studio by six or seven (if extensive makeup is required, then much earlier). They work all day until five or six and sometimes quite a bit later. Then it's back home to start learning new lines. Hopefully, they're asleep before midnight. Then up early the next day. They do this for five or six days a week for eight or nine months a year. All during this, they must keep healthy and a healthy appearance; looks being so important to the job. "Life? What life?" If they dare to go out to spend time with their loved ones, well meaning fans will interrupt them. And then there's the not-so-well-meaning fans. While the behind the camera personnel don't generally have the fan situation, they're still putting in the hours. The makeup people, for instance, are there before and after the performers, while being available through the day for touch-ups.

With the high cost of business (just think of the electric bill, for instance), the last thing needed is someone undependable. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If Betty will give up at the first sign of trouble, then Victor would be doing everyone concerned a favor by finding it earlier rather than later. The biggest favor would be to Betty herself.

I remember the first few days of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in the summer of 1978. Those first days were the roughest. And I think there were two or three occasions in the first week where they made the offer for anyone to leave with no repercussions whatsoever. They gave the dollar amounts of how much was going to spent on each recruit by the end of training. When you think of housing, clothing, pay for instructors and all the other personnel needed to train and document us, etc., it added up to a significant amount. The Air Force would be happy to not waste time on someone who would fold under pressure later, but instead spend time on people who were seriously committed.

And I note that Victor's rudeness all seemed to rely on wordplay, seeming to test Betty's ability with words. She was a writing intern, this makes a certain amount of sense. So perhaps what we saw was a very controlled experiment on Victor's part to test Betty's abilities.

Still. Look at what Betty's been through. She's come in half-starved. She's met by a gruff receptionist who probably picked up on Betty's hunger but would not offer her any of her peanut brittle. Next, with no tact or diplomacy, she's chewed out by one of the performers for having no "tact or diplomacy." Then she finds the suave gentleman who has been standing close to her, leaning in towards her, gazing into her eyes while speaking of passion, is no gentleman after all. He's married, to the ex-Broadway idol of Betty's that just chewed her out. This is followed by her first meeting with her new boss who makes no effort to be gentlemanly after all. He refuses to shake her hand and attacks her words. I probably would have decided that this was the time to leave in search of a place with more professional behavior. If Victor's made a habit of testing new writing (and acting?) interns this way, it's no wonder they haven't been lasting a week.

All during this conversation, one of the station's engineers, C. J. (C. J. Byrnes), has continued with keeping the technical aspects of the radio show tune.

Victor's "challenging" behavior is interrupted by Thomas Eldridge (George Hall). "Mr. Comstock! Mr. Gianetti...he's been...you know."

Victor responds, "Well unless there's a prize for guessing, I'd like you to tell me." Since "you know" seems very indefinite, Victor's reply doesn't seem out of line. But coming just after his behavior towards Miss Roberts, it comes off as sarcastic.

Turns out the (amazingly) only staff writer is lushing himself up in the writer's room. Further, the show due to air soon, "Valiant Journey," has no script yet. Victor and Betty rush to deal with the situation.

Victor pulls the bottle and glass away from the pickled writer and hands them to Betty, perhaps indicating Betty is to keep the gin away. Betty, picking up on this or using her own initiative, pours the booze into the (hopefully watertight) trash can.

Betty then spots the olives that had been by the bottle of booze and tries to liberate some from the jar for her own dining pleasure. Victor, unaware Betty is ravenous, tries to bring her focus back, "Miss Roberts. I don't care about the olives. I'm not concerned with how many pimentos he's had."

The alcohol was clear in color. And it appears that olives were being used in combination with it. This sounds like a martini, the principal component of which is gin. Is it any wonder that Victor pronounces Mr. Gianetti's name as "gin' net ti."

The teletype stops printing with three rings. Victor has Betty get the message off it and sends her to get some coffee for Gianetti while Victor tries to inspire him, "Just start typing, man!"

On her way out, she runs into Mackie Bloom, WENN's "Man of a Thousand Voices" as Victor explains. He's still speaking as the Colonel so Betty refers to him as a Southern gentleman. In a confusion of identities like Kurt Vonnegut's Harry Nash, Mackie asks Victor, "Victor, who am I now?"

Taking the news item from Betty, he practices saying it on the news demonstrating two more voices. Betty proceeds to the Green Room to get the coffee.

Jeff and Hilary are there. Jeff tells Betty where the appliances are while Hilary says the heavy workload at the station leaves her only time for a diet of Chicklets and Bromo Seltzer.

Jeff leaves to make an announcement about the upcoming "Amazon Andy," leaving the two women alone. Betty immediately apologizes to Hilary in case she had given the appearance of flirting with Jeff earlier.

Hilary, who had already seemed over it when Betty walked into the room, says, "Oh, that's all right, dear. You're not my Jeffrey's type. You're not blond, bubbly and bent on self-promotion." Perish forbid someone matching this description ever works at the station.

Mr. Eldridge walks in with an unwanted egg salad sandwich from a local restaurant called The Buttery. He had ordered a roast beef sandwich and Gertie had ordered a egg salad sandwich. When the order arrived, Mr. Eldridge, for some reason (mislabeling?), believed the egg salad was for him and the roast beef for Gertie. He couldn't conceive of just switching the sandwiches, in spite of Hilary suggesting it. Then, after offering the sandwich and Betty accepting it, he waxes philosophic on egg salads and then takes it with him as he leaves. The elderly Eldridge may have a touch of senility.

Hilary expresses concern that she hasn't been able to preview today's "Valiant Journey" script which reminds Betty of her coffee mission. She delivers the coffee to Gianetti and picks up the two pages of "Valiant Journey" that he's finished. "Wonderful. I'll just egg salad, uh, examine them for any typos or sandwiches." As she leaves, she doesn't see Gianetti retrieve a hidden cache of liquor.

She shows the pages to Mr. Comstock in the station manager's office. Observing Victor eating brings Betty's mind to more basic needs which she'll require money for. "Mr. Comstock, this is awkward. Uh, would you be able to advance me something against my first week's salary?"

"Miss Roberts, your internship is a non paying job." It seems there has been a failure to communicate beforehand. Betty believes a salary was promised for the winner of the writing contest. She believes her script reached a professional level and that should count for something, also.

"Really. Well, let's, um, take a look at that. Um...read a passage from it, shall we?" Victor scans and finds a line, "'It's not the malaria that has me shaking, you adorable fool'." The line is so melodramatically over the top that it may be the best line in the show. And doesn't bode well for the rest of Betty's script.

Victor skips on and finds the section he was looking for. He begins reading. I noticed there was no spoken lines; it was only description. Then I noticed the description was not of anything that would require sound effects, only music. But Betty's description even went so far as to use "silent devotion," "saying what her lips cannot," "quietly," "unspoken" and "wordlessly." This would be a fine thing for film, where images can communicate without the need for sound. But radio is all audio. Betty seems to have known the writing was for radio so I suppose Betty must have got too caught up in her narrative and forgot the medium she was writing for.

Victor accurately sums it up, "What you have just described is 45 seconds of silence." The point that Betty has a lot to learn is not lost upon her.

A little humbled, "Mr. Comstock, I realize this is a unique opportunity..."

"Unique?! It is inestimable! Do you have any idea what our competition provides their listening public with?" Victor walks over to his office radio, turns it on and tunes in a station. A recording of "Camptown Races" is playing (doo dah...doo dah). "This is what our competition plays from sunup until sundown."

Betty takes Victor far too literally and conceives of a station playing the same song over and over and over. Skeptically she asks, "They play `Camptown Races'?"

"Records," Victor replies somewhat exasperated. "They play records. The same records you could play on your gramophone at home. And this is what we give our audience..."

Kippy: "Captain Amazon, I don't think I can hold off these zombie warriors any longer." Vocalizations of effort and sounds of clashing swords are heard.

Captain Amazon Andy: "You have to, Kippy. The free world is counting on us. Eyahhh!"

"...Tell me, what did Captain Amazon look like?

"Oh, sort of, uh, Flash Gordon. Steely blue eyes. Flowing blond hair."

The camera cuts to the bespectacled, balding Mackie Bloom as Amazon Andy: "Kippy, if we can hold them back until the sun rises they'll be destroyed. They're nothing but a bunch of cowards anyway."

"That's funny. I was listening to the same program and I thought the hero looked a lot like me."

Betty smiles as she recognizes the concept. How could any writer forget when the written word, the recorded sound, the filmed image first took them mentally to another place where they were someone else.

"And therein lies the magic. Tens of thousands of people out there, listening, each envisioning their own motion picture of the mind. And that is what we give our audience, Miss Roberts. We give them dreams. We give them towers and landscapes, secrets and revelations. We give them a warm hearth in the dark...or a cold shiver up their spine. And we do it all here, live, on the sparest of threadbare budgets, with a troupe of actors who, underpaid and underrehearsed and overwhelmed, have yet to learn that this simply...cannot...be done. Miss Roberts, you are standing in the wings of the most unbounded stage in creation. Say you'll join our company."

Betty has just heard Victor describe her writer's dream. To have her words provide other worlds for people to dream in. And he makes it sound like a hero's epic quest against the unbeatable foe, knowing that somehow, the hero will overcome. I feel as moved as Betty is when she says with emotional conviction, "Yes, I will."

"Good. We need those other pages." Like a cold splash of water, this reminds Betty that the dreams don't just happen, they are engineered. Betty walks dreamily out of the office to be insulted some more by Hilary, who continues on to make the very valid point that, with only five minutes to go until air time, they only have the first two pages of the script.

Hilary disappears back into the studio as Betty turns to get more script pages. Mackie Bloom is standing there, having heard everything. "Don't let her get your goat, honey." Mackie gives some insight into Hilary's hostility. "She's just upset because she's not still doing Shakespeare in New York."

Mackie shows some empathy here. We often reach a point in out lives where we ask ourselves, "Have I peaked? Have I already done my greatest deed in my lifetime? Is it all downhill for the rest of my life." Some, like Olympic athletes, experience a mixed blessing. They're early into their life when they can be almost certain that they'll be noted more for their achievements at the Olympic Village than for any other thing in their life. But this allows them the chance to deal with that inner demon early and press on, not having to worry about the question anymore.

Some deal with it better. Mackie goes on to say that" although he knows "every word of Shakespeare," his body type has ruled him out of the opportunities that Hilary's had. But Mackie seems to be at peace with the fact. Mackie is the first to offer informality, "Call me Mackie." Of all the people, Betty has dealt with at the station, Mackie has been the only truly friendly person (Jeff's overtures while married ruled him out.) When Betty shows her knowledge of Shakespeare while trying to cheer Mackie, he tells her, "Remind me to like you a lot, okay?"

Mackie, remind me to like YOU a lot.

Now that it had turned into a source of embarrassment, Betty takes her winning script that Victor had returned to her and puts it in the hallway trash can. The distant sound of what Betty believes is Mr. Gianetti typing reminds her to go get the script pages. Unfortunately, Betty has confused the teletype with the sounds of typing. The unconscious Mr. Gianetti appears to have "been sound...dead."

At nearly the same time, the cast runs out of script. They begin improvising while Victor tries to revive Mr. Gianetti. In the confusion, Betty manages to eat the olives.

The cast receives the pages Gianetti had managed to complete, but they're mixed up with other pages, such as one with helpful household hints. Eventually they go with stalling tactics as they expect Mr. Foley to have a river sound handy. Mr. Foley thinks for a moment and then rushes to a source of running water...the men's lounge, i.e. restroom. He takes a microphone with a very long cord indeed.

Mr. Eldridge is contacting the hospital, Victor is still trying to revive Gianetti and he convinces Betty to go help in the studio. Under pressure, Betty improvises using the knowledge Mackie has passed on about his memorization of Shakespeare.

The ambulance personnel have arrived and revived Gianetti. Betty sees him being taken away on a stretcher as she retrieves the only available script she's aware of, the script she discarded in the bin.

Victor has returned to the control room and watches with interest as Betty truly does start to help out in the studio.

Hilary in her role of Daphne, has been moved by Philip's (Mackie's) recitation of the Shakespearean sonnet. "Oh that's beautiful, Philip. How many sonnets are there?"

"A hundred, fifty-four."

"Well, let's have them all."

Betty had noted Mr. Foley's use of sound and, inspired, has seized on a way to make her script work. As the cast begins with "malaria" line, Betty rushes about in the studio urging Foley and Bremer into action. The work is too much for Foley and he passes a sound effect to Betty who gives it to Jeff. Everyone in the studio is now involved in making Betty's "wordless" scene work. Betty continues directing, cueing Hilary for the last line and Mackie for the finish " `Valiant Journey' is brought to you on a continuing basis by the makers of Hampton's Vegetable Soup. Stay tuned for a half hour of organ music by Eugenia Bremer. This is WENN. The time is 5 PM."

Later, in the hallway, Hilary has slipped out of the Daphne role and begun to consider the effects of the improvised scene has done to her character and the show. For instance, regardless of anything prior, Philip suddenly has malaria. "It's dramatic sabotage."

Victor has been updated on Gianetti's (now pronounced correctly by Victor) status. He's fine and will be in a rest home for a while.

While Hilary continues to make her case against "Betsy," Gertie is fielding calls from listeners very supportive of the unusual broadcast. "Well, sir, when the sponsor himself calls..."

Hilary, listening in as Gertie speaks to the people calling in, concludes her tirade against Betty by welcoming her aboard.

As Hilary walks away, Mackie approaches and repeats the Shakespearean words of support he and Betty shared earlier in the hallway, "I think on thee and then my state sings hymns at Heaven's gate."

Jeff moves in, very closely, "Well that was fun, Betty. We'll see you tomorrow, same time, same, uh, station." Jeff emphasizes the "station," recalling their earlier use of the station motif when he introduced her to Victor.

As Hilary leaves, she instructs Betty that lines of Shakespeare are her domain, not Mackie's. After all, she's performed some of the world's "great love scenes with John Barrymore, himself."

"You've acted with John Barrymore?"

"I don't believe I said anything about acting," Hilary replies with a wink. Then, after staring to call her Betsy, corrects herself and calls her Betty.

Victor praises Betty, "For the record. I think your 45 seconds of silence was one of the most romantic moments I've ever heard on the radio.

Betty notices how massive phone calls have stopped on a dime. Victor realizes what Gertie has done. "Gertie, were any of those phone calls real?"

Gertie confesses that only one phone call had actually came in and it was negative. But Gertie liked it enough to give Betty her remaining peanut brittle.

Later, in the Green Room, "You know, in all the years I've run this station, I don't believe Gertie has ever offered me any of her peanut brittle." So, in terms of backstory, Victor and Gertie have been working at WENN together for at least two years, but probably many more. And I further infer that Gertie was at the station before Victor arrived.

Betty has apparently set up home temporarily at the Young Women's Christian Association. Now she plans to go looking for a waitress job to provide an income. (I wonder if her overwhelming hunger had anything to do with her choice of part time job to look for.)

Victor Comstock has a better idea for part time income. He invites her to accept a full time staff job as WENN's writer. Victor rationally points out that with Mr. Gianetti gone, Tom Eldridge would probably be cranking out the scripts. (AMC's early promotional material explained that Victor employs Tom as titular Editorial Supervisor at WENN, for sentimental reasons.) Judging from the sandwich mix-up, this is best to be avoided.

Victor is obviously a writer/creator himself, but seems to have come to terms with the fact that if he wants any real measure of control, he has to accept managerial duties. (Much as J. Michael Straczynski "Babylon 5" dream would only be given form if he was the producer.) So that rules him out.

Betty accepts eagerly.

Tom Eldridge has returned from the hospital (where he had been with Gianetti) and the camera fades out on the radio the episode opened up on as he does the WENN daily signoff.

It's rather difficult to place when this show occurs. Several historical events are referred to. In the opening show, "The Hands of Time," Brent has been stateside for many months, his secret second wife also in the States. Before that, he had married the second woman in Madrid, Spain after joining the "new Spanish resistance." This may refer to the Popular Front, a leftist coalition whose goal was to gain control (an earlier, Socialist led revolt had failed) which they did by a narrow margin in the elections of February, 1936. [Not that it helped them much. They were revolted against and civil war ensued.] If this was the "new Spanish resistance," it would have been "new" in 1935. Giving about about 8 months for Brent to have fought, married, and to have been back in the States for months would place "The Hands of Time" in 1936, maybe. (Since I'm sure "The Hands of Time" didn't spend years with Brent in Spain.) Or it may refer to a resistance movement started after the Nationalists won the Civil War (when Madrid fell on 28 March, 1939) and took power. That would put "Hands of Time" in late 1939 or 1940.

Then there's the news. Colonel Moore says that Orson Welle's famous broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" has just occurred. The date of that broadcast was the 30th of October, 1938. That would seem to be a definitive date to go by.

However, "Moore" goes on to speak of the King of England marrying a "Baltimore beauty." This would refer to the marriage of King Edward VIII to the twice-divorced former "Mrs. Wallis Simpson" of Baltimore, which eventually lead to his abdication. This marriage, however, did not take place in October, 1938. The nuptials occurred June 3rd, 1937.

The teletype brings news of the "French premier" commenting on Hitler's "interest" in Poland. Hitler renounced the 1934 non-aggression pact with Poland on the 28th of April, 1939. Any such comments would probably be made between that date and the 1st of September, the day Germany invaded Poland.

So the three different definite dates, or spread of dates, are all mutually exclusive. They're all over the map.

And speaking of maps, what about that bizarre route Betty took by train. Could there be a fourth explanation? Is "Remember WENN" using different geography?

Even the clock seems off. The progression seems to be...

      1:30 PM? - "The Hands of Time"
2 PM - "Colonel Moore"
"Amazon Andy"
"Valiant Journey"
Organ music

Yet with only "Colonel Moore," news, "Amazon Andy" and "Valiant Journey," we somehow end up going from two o'clock to five o'clock in the afternoon! There's no place where a large time gap seems likely. It's all fast-paced and continous.

I think for this first episode, Rupert was just trying to give the flavor of the time as the Great Depression was slowly ending and the threat of war began to darken on the horizon. Scuttlebutt has it that this episode takes place on Friday, September 29, 1939. King Edward's romantic desertion of his crown is ancient history. The Mercury Theater's infamous broadcast is nearly a year done. And it's been over a month since Hitler's relation to Poland could have been described as "interest."

Since it all seems out of kilter, I'm considering "Remember WENN" as taking place in the "WENNiverse," a universe similar to ours, but not the same as ours.

This show is not afraid to offer witty, intelligent dialog. It seems to make intelligence as something good to have, as opposed to most other shows on television that holds it up to ridicule.

I remember John Bedford Lloyd from the cherished "Hometown" of the mid-eighties. I say cherished, but I should also say cherished by about 572 of us. The network ran it against strong shows and moved it about. It was really starting to come together when they axed it, with episodes unaired. Someday, I hope to do a "Hometown" web page.

I've seen both Tom Beckett and George Hall on "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles." Tom had portrayed George Gershwin in one of the later telefilms. In the show's early days, George had starred as Henry Jones II in his nineties. His segments were bookends to the main part of the show. He would trap some unfortunate, modern day person and regale them with a tale.

The rest of the cast are unfamiliar to me, but they all seemed great to me. I look forward to what the rest of this team can do.

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