Quick! Read This and Keep Moving!

by James A. Bartlett (Daily Iowan)

July 11, 1996—If you're sick of reruns, you can find the best new program on TV this summer in an unusual place: on cable's American Movie Classics. Remember WENN is set in 1939 at a radio station. It's wonderfully written and acted and it looks great, with vintage costumes and authentic set designs. There's nothing cutting edge about it. It lacks the kind of snappy pop-culture references that get big laughs on other shows. But every installment contains one or more moments that linger in memory long after the show is over, and that's a sign of quality TV. The show's biggest surprise is the identity of its creator: Rupert Holmes, who gave the world "Escape (the Piña Colada Song)" in the late '70s. Catch it Saturdays at 8#160;p.m. or Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on AMC.

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Britain's Simon Jones Guest Stars on AMC's Remember WENN

by Len P. Feldman (Detroit News)

July 12, 1996—He's been to Brazil, played with 12 Monkeys and hitchhiked across the galaxy. On July 13, acclaimed British actor Simon Jones goes back to the golden age of radio as a guest star on the charmingly funny AMC series, Remember WENN.

Created by multiple Tony award-winning writer Rupert Holmes, Remember WENN is a quality program with first-rate writing.

"The scripts are just streaks ahead of your average 'stand in a row and repeat a few wisecracks' sitcoms," agrees Jones.

Like many actors who have appeared on the show, Jones noticed a real-life parallel between the fictional radio station struggling under on-air pressure and the shooting of the show itself.

"(Such as) cramming the filming into four or three days. A major motion picture is happy to get away with two and a half minutes of finished footage (in that time)."

Jones has appeared in many major Hollywood films, but the role for which he will always be remember by fans around the world is that of Arthur Dent, the bathrobe-wearing, intergalactic hitchhiker in Douglas Adams' cult science fiction comedy saga, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Hitchhiker's Guide was immediately recognized for its witty satire, which is just as relevant today.

"It's interesting," notes Jones. "The passage of time and the fact that technology has moved on, (makes) it seem clearer what the piece is about—the torments of bureaucracy and the irritations of everyday life on a cosmic scale."

Having been college "mates" at Cambridge, Douglas wrote the role of Arthur Dent specifically for Jones.

"Arthur Dent is how Douglas sees me," quips Jones, "constantly complaining about the lack of a decent cup of tea."

Most of the television work Jones does is of a high caliber, and his films are done by directors of note (Terry Gilliam, Peter Weir and Barry Sonnenfeld, to name a few).

"I think there's a lot of luck in that actually. Terry Gilliam, I know, of course; he came to my wedding. My wife was Monty Python's American manager for years." (Gilliam was part of the Monty Python Troupe.)

Jones recalls his experience working with the visionary director: "Well, fun is not the word that leaps into my mind."

Jones was fairly uncomfortable playing a scientist in Gilliam's 12 Monkeys.

"We spent hours in a freezing, deserted power plant, wearing these huge, red, three-inch, foam-rubber-soled shoes. We finally came to the conclusion that it was actually to stop us from running away. Because in the final film you don't see our feet at all."

As far as comedy scripts go, Jones has just one standard by which he decides whether or not to do a project: "If it makes me laugh. The great thing about the Remember WENN script was that it made me laugh from start to finish."

And viewers should laugh, too, as Jones runs rampant in the role of the ousted Hollywood director who taps the voice talents of the WENN staff to make a "talkie" out of a silent Rudolph Valentino movie.

If he could choose his next role, Jones says it would be a James Bond villain: "A master criminal intent on taking over the earth, that sort of thing; crazed with power lust."

Jones is heading off to Dublin to finish the Alan J. Pakula film The Devil's Own, with Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt. In it he plays a member of the British Intelligence. One scene requires his character to shoot an IRA terrorist.

"Which will make me immensely popular in Dublin," jokes Simon. "I really can't wait."

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Remember WENN Shows Were Morally Tidy and Well-Made?

by Michael McWilliams (Detroit News)

July 19, 1996—If you think they don't make 'em like they used to, check out Remember WENN, a sunny-spirited trip down memory lane on a station where nostalgia doesn't have a dirty name: American Movie Classics.

Finishing up its first season at 9 Saturday nights with all-new episodes through Aug. 17, Remember WENN is a half-hour comedy set in a rinky-dink radio station in a Depression-tattered Pittsburgh on the brink of World War II.

Though shot on film and written like a play—by The Mystery of Edwin Drood's Rupert Holmes—Remember WENN is structured like a sitcom, particularly The Mary Tyler Moore Show, now mint nostalgia itself on Nickelodeon.

At the center is a plucky workaholic (Amanda Naughton) juggling a bunch of basket cases: a hyperkinetic boss (John Bedford Lloyd), an acid-tongued diva (Melina Mullins), her matinee-idol husband (Hugh O'Gorman), a jack-of-all-trades (Christopher Murney), an aspiring ingenue (Dina Spybey), a versatile organist (Mary Stout), a mordant receptionist (Margaret Hall), an ancient vet (George Hall) and a silent sound-effects man (Tom Beckett).

Much of the humor comes from how theatrical personalities respond to crises, like having airtime to fill with nothing to fill it with.

But at heart, Remember WENN is a skillful salute to an America that perhaps never existed—one suffused with a can-do spirit and a relentless ingenuity.

Though it touches on what are now known as hot-button issues—racism, feminism and in Saturday night's episode, commercialism—Remember WENN is unyieldingly polite, esthetically and morally tidy, even when it's acerbic. It's what used to be called "well-made," like that old radio you had forever.

In more ways than one, Remember WENN is a remembrance of things past.

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Channel Surfing

by Steve Johnson (Chicago Tribune)

July 20, 1996—Remember WENN: This original series for the American Movie Classics channel looks at first blush like an exercise in nostalgia. It's an ensemble comedy set in an old-time radio station, with its assortment of actors, technical people and executives. But it turns out to be more than pre-War costume design. Remember WENN (8 p.m. Saturday) is a smart, funny comedy that vividly takes advantage of the setting, and isn't it a pleasure to see on TV a scenario that's fresh. This episode sees Betty (Amanda Naughton), who's been running the station, pushed aside when management sends someone else in. But the new guy's idea is to load up on commercialism, and a staff revolt ensues. One magnificent thing you'll soon notice about the show: You'll laugh when you are moved to, not when a tape recording suggests it. There's no laugh track.

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This article is included here in the interest of completeness. However, it's an absurd review of an episode Remember WENN fans consider as one of the top ten, if not top five, episodes of the series. Jean Prescott missed the ball on this one...

Remember WENN Begins Second Season Saturday Night on AMC

by Jean Prescott (The Biloxi Sun Herald)

November 14, 1996—Rupert Holmes may have let sentimentality get the better of him in the second-season opener of Remember WENN (9 p.m. ET Saturday), American Movie Classics' otherwise excellent prime-time comedy series.

The episode, "Radio Silence," plays more like soap opera or melodrama than comedy.

Holmes, whose fertile imagination and fascination with the Golden Age of radio concocted the fictitious 1930s Pittsburgh radio station and the array of characters who populate it, had to kill off one of them in last season's cliffhanger finale.

Regular viewers will remember that station managing director Victor Comstock (John Bedford Lloyd) and WENN's debonair leading man Jeffrey Singer (Hugh O'Gorman) were TDY in London to report the German blitz to American listeners. In the last moments of the season-ender, we heard the whine of falling bombs and then static.

Saturday night we learn that one of the men perished in the bombing and the other, though wounded, is on his way home to Pittsburgh.

To be sure, death is never funny, which makes mourning the death of a comedy character all the more challenging. Holmes falls short.

A little bit of sentiment goes a long way and almost always goes down more easily with a bite or two of dark humor. But "Radio Silence" plays it strictly straight.

The sad news reduces all of the WENN crew - character actor Mackie Bloom (Christopher Murney); diva Hilary Booth (Melinda Mullins); Scott Sherwood (Kevin O'Rourke), the sleazy new station manager—to cream-puff squishiness. Even Eugenia Bremer (Mary Stout), the station's one-woman orchestra, has a fit of weeping at the sight of a phonograph record label.

And the glue that ordinarily holds WENN together, script writer and Comstock's good right arm, Betty Roberts (Amanda Naughton), simply withdraws.

Holmes can be forgiven 30 unfunny minutes provided he keeps the promise Betty makes as she "snaps out of it" in the closing moments of "Radio Silence": to carry on as listeners expect.

Here's hoping that means in a zippy, sometimes silly but always funny fashion.

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Roddy McDowall Remembers When...

by Len P. Feldman for The GIST

November 14, 1996—Born Anthony Jude McDowall on September 17th, 1928 in London, Roddy McDowall was one of the most popular child stars of 1930's England. He moved to Hollywood during World War II, tried his hand in theater and on television, and returned to the cinema in the '50s. He has appeared in well over 100 films, but is perhaps most famous for his role as a simian surgeon in Planet of the Apes. A lover of the visual arts, McDowell has had a successful second career as a photographer beginning with his book Double Exposure in 1966, and is a representative on the National Film Preservation Board. McDowell took some time off the set of Remember WENN [he guest stars on the December 7th episode] to talk to The GIST.

Q: A lot of sci-fi and fantasy fans remember you as the villainous leather suited Book Worm in the 1960's Batman TV series. How was that experience?

A: It was a big status symbol. Everybody wanted to be on that show. That suit—it wasn't leather, it was plastic. It was just unbearable to wear.

Q: You're best known for your role in the Planet of the Apes films. How did it feel to get so much attention for a role in which your features are virtually hidden by makeup?

A: I never thought of it in those terms. That was just such a unique acting assignment. I mean, you don't get to play a chimp every day. Initially, I thought I would die because of the claustrophobic aspect of the makeup. But then I was absolutely fascinated. It really took an immense amount of invention and stamina to play those parts.

Q: And more recently, you've gained a whole new legion of fans with the character of Peter Vincent, Vampire Killer in the Fright Night films.

A: You know the second one (Fright Night Part 2) had a very strange history. You know who controlled its fate? The father of the Menendez brothers. He jettisoned it for some reason. I think he misunderstood its potential. The first one was very, very cleverly done.

Q: How did your guest appearance on Remember WENN come about?

A: I met Howard (Meltzer, producer/director of Remember WENN) about something else and he sent the first half of this script which is just wonderful. I play a sort of a ham theatrical director. He's an anachronism from the 1920s. I come [to the station] and cause immense trouble. It's adorable.

Q: What do you find most pleasing about working on this set?

A: The cohesion between all of the actors. And its special reality which is a suspended truth—perfectly real, but it's a different reality. It's very hard to achieve that. It happens if the writing is good and the intangibles between the people work. Then it rises in the oven. And if it doesn't rise in the oven it can be a terrible disaster. And I've been in a lot of things [where that was the case]. [Laughs].

Q: Do you wish to recall one of those disasters?

A: There was this film Arnold. It was a gothic comedy horror film. I was choked to death by my suit. It had a wonderful cast—Stella Stevens, Farley Granger, Elsa Lanchester—but it didn't gel.

Q: You've said that you enjoy Rupert Holmes's writing on Remember WENN.

A: The situations are so imaginative. He finds such wonderful juicy words to use. It's great fun.

Q: Can you equate this experience with any other in your career?

A: Years ago during the great days of The Carol Burnett ShowI did four of them—and every time I would leave I would get the bends because it was just such a wonderful atmosphere to work in. It was so professional and the level of excellence was just so far away from the norm. There were no egos involved. That's a wonderful atmosphere to work in—like here.

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American Movie Classics' Remember WENN Begins 2nd Season Saturday

by Doug Nye, Knight-Ridder Newspapers

November 15, 1996—One of television's most intoxicating series returns Saturday night at 9:05 p.m.

That's when American Movie Classics' original production Remember WENN begins its second season.

The brainchild of writer/singer and Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes, the series excellently recreates the golden era of radio. Set in Pittsburgh just prior to America's entry into World War II, the show follows a small band of actors, technicians and producers who create dozens of magical moments for the listeners of radio station WENN.

The appearance and "feel" of Remember WENN evoke a nostalgic mood even for viewers who did not actually live during that era. It's one of the few television shows that can actually make you forget where you are.

Emmy voters demonstrated their appreciation for the series, too. Carolyn Grief, whose efforts play a big part in creating the period look of the show, won for Costume Design. And Irene Worth picked up an Emmy for her guest appearance on the show's third episode.

Although officially a light comedy, the series manages to effectively touch on some serious issues and events.

In Saturday's show, "Radio Silence," we join the cast of WENN just as they finish listening to a BBC broadcast which ends in a bomb blast. It is 1940 and war rages in Europe. Speculation begins that the conflict eventually will involve Americans.

WENN tackled racial prejudice in one episode during its first season. When one of the station's performers hds a voice problem, guest star Howard Rollins filled in on the air. It was a romantic role and Rollins' character became an immediate hit with audiences.

Listeners wanted to know the identity of this mystery man. It was 1939, though, and the station had to attempt to hide the fact that its new star was African American.

Other guests during the first season included Patti Lupone and Molly Ringwald.

Among the regular characters on the series are Betty Roberts (played by Amanda Naughton), who landed a job as an intern at the station on the series' first episode. There is also Hilary Booth (Melina Mullins), a former Broadway performer who is less than thrilled about having to stoop to radio drama. Her husband, Jeffrey Singer (Hugh O'Gorman), also is one of the station's actors.

Then there's Mackie Bloom (Chris Murney). He's "Mr. Everything" at the station. Bllom might be the "Vagabond Lover" during one hour and the lovable host of a kids' show the next, while also changing voices to do commercials and station breaks.

Fans of the series will be happy to know that 11 new episodes already are completed.

Viewers can look forward to such guest stars as Roddy McDowell, Rue McLanahan, Donna Murphy and David Canary. AMC's long-time prime time host Bob Dorian also will make another guest appearance on one episode.

A special one-hour show—"Christmas in the Airwaves"—is scheduled for Dec. 21 with Betty Buckley as the guest. She'll sing two original holiday tunes written by Holmes. Also expected to make an appearance on that special is legendary singer Rosemary Clooney, sister of AMC host Nick Clooney.

If you have yet to get hooked on Remember WENN, Saturday is a good time to start.

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Remember WENN Is Well Worth Returning To, Tonight

by Michael McWilliams (Detroit News)

November 16, 1996—Remember WENN, AMC's old-fashioned dramedy about a radio station in late '30s Pittsburgh, starts a second season at 9 tonight with a somber resolution to last season's cliffhanger: the death of a major character.

Betty (Amanda Naughton) is so grief-stricken she works almost constantly, turning out murder mysteries where nobody dies and dialogue that ought to: "My husband's amnesia is gone and forgotten."

Meanwhile, Scott (Kevin O'Rourke) tries to run the station without Betty's help, including getting tough with a tough guy, and Hilary (Melinda Mullins) worries to Gertie (Margaret Hall) about her appeal.

Hilary: "Would a man see me and think, 'Now there's a warm person'?"

Gertie: "Yeah. If he's a mortician."

Full of theatrical brio and cozy sentiment, sometimes bordering on the hokey, Remember WENN is original for being so retro. The average age of the cast alone makes Friends look like Romper Room, and upcoming guest stars haven't exactly dated Leonardo DiCaprio: Betty Buckley, Roddy McDowall, Rue McClanahan. No wonder tonight's episode faces mortality so sensibly.

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Roddy McDowall Guest Stars On Remember WENN

Entertainment Wire

December 4, 1996—Emmy and Tony award-winning actor Roddy McDowall guest-stars on an all-new episode of AMC's Emmy and CableACE award-winning series Remember WENN, on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 9 p.m. ET.

With so many roles to play and only a handful of actors, Scott Sherwood strikes a deal with a local acting school to expand the number of parts in the scripts. The school is run by Hilary's old mentor (McDowall), the one man she admires and fears the most.

But when the Great Teacher starts to express his disdain for the WENN company's acting style, they grow increasingly insecure about their skills. The result is a nightmare for the station, whose programming is now full of angst, bitterness, bravura acting and the never-ending search for motivation.

McDowall, who won immense popularity as a child star in the 1940s, has starred in numerous feature films and in network television movies-of-the-week, miniseries and specials, including his Emmy Award-winning performance in Not With Honor. McDowall has also starred in several Broadway productions, including The Fighting Cock, for which he received a Tony Award.

Set in Pittsburgh just prior to World War II, Remember WENN focuses on a valiant band of actors, actresses, technicians and producers at the radio station WENN. Understaffed and overwhelmed, they bravely attempt to supply their listeners with a daily lineup of live programming.

Their "on-air" comedy and drama spills out of their broadcast booth and into their "off-air" lives, as their crises and personal relationships ricochet as dramatically as the radio plays they enact.

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Betty Buckley Guests on Holiday Episode of AMC's Remember WENN

by Jean Prescott (Biloxi Sun Herald)

December 20, 1996—Rupert Holmes has written a story of redemption—a bit of George Bailey, a bit of Ebenezer Scrooge personified by the stylish but ever-so-sad Gloria Redmond—for the holiday episode of Holmes' delightful Remember WENN series on American Movie Classics (airs Saturday at 8 p.m. ET).

Remember WENN is the continuing saga of a late-'30s early-'40s Pittsburgh radio station and the cast of unique characters that make it go on a shoestring budget.

And in the holiday episode, titled "Christmas in the Airwaves," the award-winning musical theater/film/concert/television artist Betty Buckley (Grizabella in Cats) plays the downhearted Redmond.

"Rupert wrote the part for me," Buckley says by phone between bites of lunch and pauses to scold Blue, an African Gray parrot, part of the menagerie that travels with her. "How could you turn down a part written just for you?"

Buckley is on the road with The Music of the Night, a concert show of Andrew Lloyd Webber music. The critters—including three dogs—and her "dream team" help her do what she does best, which is sing herself into exhaustion every night.

"Rupert (a Broadway institution himself) is really one of the nicest people. And he does it all himself."

She refers to Remember WENN scripts, casting, costumes and set decoration, even the two original holiday tunes she sings on Saturday night's show.

The gist of the story is this: Betty, Hillary, Jeffrey, Gertie, Mr. Eldridge, Mackie, all of the WENN staff are high on the holiday season, and the episode opens with a charming rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with Mr. Foley, the sound effects man, providing appropriate quacks, jingles, thumps and hisses.

But "firings are in the air," and everyone gives "the big boss," Mr. Prewitt [sic] (Jonathan Freeman) a wide berth.

Out of the blue, Redmond, who hasn't sung publicly in years, telephones from Penn Station to notify the staff that she wants to appear at WENN. It's a Christmas miracle, not to mention a ratings booster for the struggling station.

But Mr. Eldridge has gotten the phone message muddled.

Redmond not only doesn't want to perform on the air, she wants to eliminate any mention of Christmas from WENN programming. Why?

You'll have to watch to find out, though we will tell you that she experiences an epiphany and the ending is a happy one.

"I love Gloria," Buckley says of the character she plays. "She wears great costumes, the real thing from antique and second-hand shops.

"And the people with the show, they're all really young ... very dedicated," she adds.

Meanwhile, she's enjoying success with The Music of the Night.

"Standing ovations every night, great reviews," she says, "and one of the perks for being a survivor is I get to wear beautiful gowns and sing all this great music on stage."

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WENN Staff is in for a Special Christmas

by Kate O'Hare, Tribune Media Services

December 20, 1996—"You gotta do Christmas," says Rupert Holmes, writer of AMC's Remember WENN, which airs a one-hour holiday episode, "Christmas in the Airwaves," at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The half-hour comedy series, filmed in New York, is set in an understaffed Pittsburgh radio station during the Golden Age of Radio. When the show premiered in January, 1996, it was set in 1939. Now in its second season, the storyline has progressed to the Christmas of 1940.

"Christmas is a lethal period," says Holmes. "I try to raise the point in the episode. It's brutal; it's just brutal. The suicide rate skyrockets. When I originally started to conceive of what I would do, I thought, I have to work in some concept that there are some people who think, `Gee, wouldn't it be easier if we just pretended it wasn't going to happen this year?'

"So I incorporated a storyline of someone who, for good and honest reasons, really didn't want to think about Christmas or be singing a great Christmas song. And then there's a Grinch-like villain who would facilitate that by banning Christmas from the station."

But there had to be a great song, because Holmes is far more than the show's screenwriter. He is the multiple Tony Award-winning author and composer of the Broadway musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and is best known to the public as the singer-songwriter of the hit single "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)." Part of his duties at Remember WENN is to create the period music for the station's live broadcasts.

And for "Christmas in the Airwaves," that also meant composing two new songs — "Christmas Is Waiting" and "You Make It Christmas"— to be sung by one of the episode's guest-stars, Betty Buckley.

"Wouldn't it be great if the songs sort of worked their way into the Christmas-standard repertory?" asks Holmes. "We've had a lot of different record labels who want to do a `WENN' CD."

This could happen, because to recreate live radio, the show's cast frequently performs songs and commercial jingles. "We draw upon the most embarrassingly talented pool of actors in New York. We draw upon a lot of the Broadway people. Certainly our guest people or semi-recurring people are people who are currently in shows on Broadway."

Among those who have appeared in the show are Patti LuPone, Irene Worth, Molly Ringwald, John Glover, Roddy McDowall and Rue McClanahan. Upcoming guest stars include Donna Murphy (Passion, Murder One) and David Canary.

In the hourlong holiday special, head writer Betty Roberts (Amanda Naughton) is desperately trying to get home to the Midwest when she hears a rumor that a famous but reclusive singer, Gloria Redmond (Buckley), is visiting WENN. Thrilled, the staff starts promoting the special guest appearance, until Betty meets Miss Redmond and discovers that she has misunderstood the purpose of the visit.

Nevertheless, the singer relents and agrees to perform one of her hits, "Christmas Is Waiting," on the air, but ends in tears. Later the staff is shocked to learn that financier Pruitt (Jonathan Freeman), who wants the station shut down, has banned any mention of Christmas on air and even orders all the decorations taken down.

Even more surprising is the identity of the person who is really behind this strange order, and the reason why.

Also making an appearance is Peter Noone, former lead singer of Herman's Hermits. Noone plays a British broadcaster who stops by as a sort of exchange program with the BBC and performs a jazzy rendition of "Winter Wonderland."

Because of the show's time frame, several Christmas standards—such as "The Christmas Song" or "White Christmas"—had yet to be written and couldn't be used. But along with Noone's rendition of "Winter Wonderland," the cold-hearted Pruitt delivers a rather ominous version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," which dates from the mid-1930s.

With a little creative finagling, Holmes managed to include one beloved wartime holiday song, sung by Noone. " `I'll Be Home for Christmas' was just being written, so we have a little reference in there saying, `An unpublished song . . .' It would still have been another month. In our mind, it was written, and he had it with him. Then when he went back to England, he recorded it and it became the hit that it became."

This Christmas season of 1940 is a special one for the WENN staff, even if the staff doesn't realize it. After Dec. 7, 1941, nothing will ever be the same. Says Holmes: "I'm sure Christmases in World War II were very conflicted at times. This year is a precious year, before Pearl Harbor, because a lot of people will be going away after Pearl Harbor."

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