Television Q&A

by Norma Cavazos, TV/Radio writer (Dallas Morning News)

January 21, 1997—

Q.   I saw the holiday episode of Remember WENN on the cable channel American Movie Classics. Betty Buckley appeared as the station's owner and she sang two Christmas songs. Who really sang those two songs? Her voice is the most beautiful I have heard in a long time. Please tell me who she is and where I can find her music. - B.S., Lynnwood, Wash.

A.   That was the voice of Broadway diva Betty Buckley, first known to TV audiences as Abby Bradford on Eight Is Enough. The Fort Worth native just wrapped up a two-year run in London and New York as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard. In 1982, she won a Tony Award for her role as Grizabella in Cats. In between musical theater roles, Buckley takes TV and movie roles, records and performs. The holiday songs she sang on Remember WENN have not been released, but you can find her latest CD, ``Betty Buckley: An Evening at Carnegie Hall,'' on Sterling Records.

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Watching Television with Steven Lance

Remember WENN
What Network: AMC
When It's On: Wednesdays 8:00-8:30 p.m.; Saturdays 9:00-9:30 p.m. & 1:00-1:30 a.m.
Category: Dramatic Comedy

The review:

January 1997—Preceding WKRP in Cincinnati and way before NewsRadio, was another fictitious little radio station, this one located in Pittsburgh, PA—WENN. This is a particularly appropriate location, as this nation's first federally licensed radio station KDKA, was also situated in Pittsburgh. The initial broadcast of November 2, 1920 consisted of the Harding-Cox election returns.

However, the first public radio transmission took place ten years earlier. On January 13, 1910 (87 years ago this month), Lee De Forest, the inventor of the electron tube, broadcast the voice of Enrico Caruso and stars of the Metropolitan opera.

It is therefore quite fitting that we take a few moments to sit back in our easy chairs, turn off the color television and home computers with Real Audio to remember when.

Different than the two previous radio sitcoms mentioned, is the fact that AMC's Remember WENN is a period piece set in the late 1930s just prior to World War II. And like our other two favorite radio-based sitcoms, WENN is run by its own unique group of eccentrics.

Heading up the operation is the handsome Baldwinesque station manager, Scott Sherwood (Kevin O'Rourke); his very attractive right hand, producer and program director, Betty Roberts (Amanda Naughton); and secretary, receptionist and chief cook and bottle-washer, Gertrude "Gertie" Reiss [sic] (Margaret Hall).

This season's talented on-air staff, who make it seem as though the station is employing many more actors, are the short and balding Mackie Bloom, "The Man of a Thousand Voices," played by Christopher Murney from those very class set of Wisk Laundry Detergent commercials; leading man Jeff Singer (Hugh O'Gorman) and the station's erudite radio star, Hilary Booth (Melinda Mullins) who is just as talented as she is self-absorbed and also happens to be married to Singer.

Sound effects are provided by the silent Mr. Foley (Tom Beckett); additional voices by an old-time actor named Eldridge (George Hall); and organ music, additional voices and some vocals by newcomer, Maple LaMarsh (Carolee Carmello).

Each week's half-hour episode shows the workings of a live radio station from the days when radio dramas were king. Not only does it take today's television viewers into the broadcast booth for on-air news, chat, comedies, dramas and science fictions, but also into the relationships and lives of this overworked staff that is every bit as interesting as the station's programming.

Adding to the show's appeal are talented guest stars that have included Roddy McDowall who in Episode 18, "Don't Act Like That," played Giles Aldwych, an over-the-top acting coach and the owner of a failing drama school who has an idea for getting his students real jobs on radio.

The 20th episode of the series, "Behind Every Great Woman," borrows heavily from the cinema's greatest musical, Singing in the Rain when big Broadway singing star, Ruth Geddy (Donna Murphy) visits WENN for a musical duet with her former rival Hilary Booth. Booth, however, must have her part sung by Betty Roberts on an off-stage microphone. It should be noted that it was indeed Ms. aughton who belted out the musical number, "I Gotta Sing." Upcoming guest stars will include Patti LuPone and David Canary and Molly Ringwald.

To borrow a line from AMC's very own classic movie host, Bob Dorian, who has also guested on Remember WENN, let's watch, shall we.

To The Producers:

Producing this unusual outstanding series for a network known for showing classic uncut motion pictures, are Howard Meltzer and Frank Doelger, founders of The Entertainment Group/Turtleback Productions. The team has won both Emmy and Cable Ace awards for their television work that includes Life Stories: Families in Crisis, which they produced for HBO.

But, were it not for a singer/songwriter/musician, who is best known for his marvelously romantic hit song, "Escape," better known as "The Piña Colada Song," this series would not exist in the form in which we now know it.

Rupert Holmes, who has received Tony Awards for Best Book, Best Music, Best Lyrics for the Tony Award-winning musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, not only developed Remember WENN for television, but writes most of the episodes, the show's theme song, background music and the catchy musical numbers that will have you believing they were big hits in the 1930's. The series was actually conceived by Paula Connelly-Skorka, who is the Director of Original Program Development for AMC.

Remember WENN is produced on film, instead of videotape, which gives it a rich look and the warm feel of the old radio studios when everything was made out of hand-crafted wood and metal instead of plastic.

Presently, Remember WENN is on hiatus. Beginning on May 4th AMC will run the first of four previously seen episodes, in an effort to reacquaint viewers with the series and introduce new viewers to the characters and storylines, which in this writer's opinion is a very good idea.

Brand-new episodes will begin airing in June and are scheduled to run when the other networks will presumably be in reruns.

This series deserves an audience, but AMC is not doing enough, or spending enough money to promote the program outside the confines of their channel.

You have already voiced your concern about programming the series with some consistency to build an audience. You may also want to consider expanding the thirty-minute series to an hour where it will fit better into your regular program schedule.

But, programming alone cannot build an audience. You have got to let television viewers your show exists. So, to the folks at AMC who hold the purse strings, I strongly suggest you open your pockets and give the marketing department a decent budget to promote Remember WENN in publications such as TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, and People magazines. You should also bite the bullet and spend some bigger bucks on local and/or network television with spots placed adjacent to, say...NewsRadio?

To attract the 18-34 demographic, I suggest the addition of a character, or characters that will appeal to younger audiences who were brought up with remote control clickers, 35-inch color screens and stereo sound. Need I remind you that this is why the Jimmy Olsen character was originally introduced into the Superman storyline? Add someone like this to your cast and the ratings of Remember WENN should soar, "Up, up and awayyyyyyyyy!"

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Wireless Flash News Service: Happy Birthday to...

February 24, 1997—RUPERT HOLMES, 50, (musician and writer). Holmes says he wants to be known for more than his 1979 hit, "The Piña Colada Song". Rupert says he can't stand piña coladas and says the drink was slipped into the lyrics as a last minute replacement for the original line: "If you like Humphrey Bogart." He also says "The Piña Colada Song" has been misunderstood as a "Me Generation" love song when it's really a song about a clueless jerk who goes to an Irish bar to buy a piña colada. Since recording "The Piña Colada Song" Rupert has won awards and critical raves for his plays including The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He also writes the scripts and music for the American Movie Channel's comedy series Remember WENN. He also recorded the 1971 hit "Timothy" with the group the Buoys.

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Who am I Now?

by Bob Andelman, Mr. Media column

March 3, 1997—Here's how long it's been since radio was the predominant form of entertainment in the world: Rupert Holmes turned 50 on Feb. 24 and he missed the heyday of that era altogether.

The significance of this? Holmes is the creator of Remember WENN, an American Movie Classics sitcom that harkens back to a time he never knew, when everyone listened to programs such as The Shadow, Fibber McGee and Molly and Suspense!

Remember WENN is the story of a fictional Pittsburgh radio station and its employees circa 1939. WENN—those are the station's call letters—is the home of radio shows such as Valiant Journey, Amazon Andy, It's Your Nickel and Bedside Manor. The TV show operates on a higher budget than the station it portrays, but just barely.

It recalls a time when an audience met entertainers halfway. "But the lack of a picture was not a weakness," Holmes insists. "It became the most muscular part of the concept. Everyone listening had to add some of the ingredients themselves and personalize every detail. And your mental cinematography, the shots that you framed in your mind of what was going on in a scene—yours was completely different from mine. That was really a magnificent thing."

Looking back from 1997, radio's golden age seems an ever shrinking wistful vista on modern media. It began in the late 1920s, seized the nation in the '30s and '40s and was almost a memory by the time TV took hold in the '50s.

But as far as the characters in Remember WENN know, radio is still the center of the universe. They're a hard-working bunch, with the same three actors playing virtually every part on every show for hours on end. Of course, it helps that Mackie Bloom (Christopher Murney), the "Man of 1,000 Voices," is one of them.

Fun comes in the multitude of things that go wrong at the radio station, from pranks such as lighting someone's script on fire while they're reading it, to an accused murderer taking control of the station and insisting the staff of Remember WENN prove him innocent. There's sudsy romance, too, although it's usually inconvenient, meaning Jeffrey Singer (Hugh O'Gorman) and any woman his wife, Hilary Booth (Melinda Mullins), catches him with.

Everybody on the show cracks wise and the scripts are littered with sarcastic repartee, vitriolic innuendo and asides.

Yet this is a hit show with everything going against it: it appears on a little-known cable network that never produced a sitcom before; it features no stars or breakout performers; no catch phrases; no commercials; and no laugh track. Holmes still thought it would work.

"I always had a feeling that people could adopt this show," he says. "The thing people love about continuing series or sitcoms is not just the high of one particular episode. It's not a guest star. Rather, it's this family of people that, thank God, you're not related to, but you can join every week and be a part of it. Radio is, by its nature, a cozy medium. I purposely picked a window of time when things were about as good as they were going to get before all hell broke loose with Pearl Harbor.

"It's a cozy time in America," he says, "that perhaps I recall more fondly because I didn't have to be there."

Holmes writes the stories, scripts and music for virtually every episode. "That's usually me playing the music as well," he says. "I'm the clarinetist you hear in the opening theme. And when the organist plays stuff, I add that in post-production. I tell her to mime whatever she feels works and I'll match that."

Beside its setting, Remember WENN is unusual for its length—anywhere from 28 to 34 minutes per episode versus 20 for the average network sitcom—and the atmospheric gains made by being recorded on film and not videotape. Better still, there is no prerecorded laugh track guffawing at every punchline, real or imagined. If you think something's funny, you laugh at it.

"I don't know that there will be a marketing breakthrough where you'll buy Remember WENN freeze pops," Holmes jokes. "I don't know that there is a music video to be made. Maybe there is no spin-out; maybe this is what it is. And maybe that's its appeal. The things that are financial handicaps are also the charm of the show. These are personal friends of yours and not of all America. Doesn't there come a point where maybe you feel the friends on 'Friends' aren't your friends anymore?

"We would never be able to do this show on a network," he says. "I would have so many memos from so many vice presidents saying we need to introduce someone to appeal to 12- to 16-year-olds. But if we get much more successful, rest assured there will be a Remember Then on ABC."

What is success these days? There are several World Wide Web sites already devoted to the show. "When I need to remember some trivia," Holmes says, "like who was our mythical sponsor in episode three, it's all cross-referenced online. It's fabulous. There's an episode titled 'Klondike 9366' and somebody realized the numbers spelled 'W-E-N-N' on the telephone dial."

As for Holmes, while not a household name, most people know his work. He was the singer and songwriter of the 1979 hit "Escape," better known as "The Piņa Colada Song." A tonier crowd may recognize him for his work on Broadway, as the creator of the 1986 Tony Award-winning musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Holmes is that rare creative talent who jumps from one medium to another and is known for hits, not misses. What song did he sing after "Escape"? What play did he write after Drood? And don't expect another sitcom, either. Even as Remember WENN revs up for a third season, Holmes has written a backstage murder mystery/comedy movie for NBC called Trapped, starring Bette Midler. He's also finishing up a musical version of The Picture of Dorian Gray for the stage and a novel for Random House.

"I've always wanted to do lots of different things using the same building blocks—words and music," he says. "I've gotta be the only guy who has two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America and who has sung on American Bandstand."

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For Almost Three Years, Remember WENN Has Defied TV Formulas

by Susan King (Los Angeles Times)

March 28, 1997—American Movie Classics' Remember WENN might be described best as the little series that could.

Everything about the show defies current television conventions. It's a half-hour comedy—airing Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.—on a channel that otherwise shows old movies. It's a period piece, set in the 1940s. Its ensemble cast doesn't feature any stars. It goes for whimsical humor rather than for guffaws. It doesn't have a laugh track or a cynical bone in its body.

"We're really a small tadpole in a big sea," says executive producer Paula Connelly-Skorka.

And yet it's swimming with the larger fish. AMC's first original series has become one of the vintage movie channel's most popular attractions since premiering in January 1996. Remember WENN also has won an Emmy for costume design and CableAces for cinematography and editing.

Last month, the show found itself competing with such high-profile network series as Seinfeld, 3rd Rock From the Sun and Mad About You for the Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble cast in a comedy series.

Set just before America's entry into World War II, Remember WENN focuses on the hard-working actors, actresses, technicians and producers at a small Pittsburgh radio station, WENN. It stars Christopher Murney, Melinda Mullins, Hugh O'Gorman, Amanda Naughton, George Hall, Tom Beckett, Kevin O'Rourke, Carolee Carmello and CJ Byrnes.

The series also has featured an array of guest stars such as Molly Ringwald, Donna Murphy, Roddy McDowall, Betty Buckley, Howard Rollins, Rue McClanahan and Irene Worth, who received an Emmy nomination for her performance.

AMC is currently repeating the first 26 episodes of the series and is gearing up for its third season premiere in June.

Connelly-Skorka acknowledges that producing an original weekly series was something AMC undertook cautiously. "We wanted to do it," she says. "But you are taking such a gamble when you go into a series game."

So Remember WENN was designed to have "the sensibility of our movies and create the same feeling for our viewing audience that our movies create," Connelly-Skorka says. "I think when you watch Remember WENN, you always walk away with the sense of feeling good. It lingers with our audience."

AMC viewers have responded with warm enthusiasm expressed in letters and e-mail. There are three Remember WENN fan clubs.

Surprisingly, the nostalgic series is appealing to all age groups, not just older folks who remember radio's heyday before television. Mullins, who plays the prima donna radio star Hilary Booth, receives letters from 11-year-old girls who want to be just like her. And some young male fans have developed crushes on Amanda Naughton, who stars as WENN's enthusiastic and often fearless writer, Betty Roberts.

"I often get (from women), 'How do you get your hair that way?,'" Naughton says, laughing. 'Is it layered?' It's layers, curls and it's having a man doing it for me while I sit there! I thought, 'Last year, Jennifer Aniston; this year, everybody's going to be wearing Betty's hair.'"

Not that the actors have that much time to read their fan mail. Each 30-minute episode of Remember WENN is shot in just four days. "It's hard work, but everyone really likes each other," says producer-director Howard Meltzer. "We are going into our third season, and everyone works really hard and likes what they are doing."

The series' guiding force is writer-singer-composer Rupert Holmes, who scored a huge pop hit in the '70s with his "The Pina Colada Song" and also won a Tony in 1986 for his Broadway musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

An unabashed fan of old-time radio (especially Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar), not only has Holmes written 23 of the first 26 shows, he also composes and orchestrates all the music for the series.

"Not many people know this, but Rupert Holmes is god," Mullins says, laughing. "I have never seen anything like it. He created every bit of it and keeps it going episode after episode."

Holmes says he always thought the series had a chance to click with audiences because it goes against the grain of what's currently on television. "If people could just latch on to an episode or two, they would find it appealing because it's really doing a kind of comedy and tone of comedy that no one else is doing right now."

The comedy, he says, is character-driven. "The comedy comes out of this wonderful motley crew," Holmes says. "I feel as a comedy writer I no longer write the comedy. I sit down and figure out what is going to happen to these people, and they come up with all the good lines."

With Hilary, Mullins says, "I get to play everything that any actor could possibly desire - would possibly desire. I feel spoiled."

Holmes says he writes the show in the machine-gun patter style of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's The Front Page.

"It's the kind of comedy that used to be the mainstay of the Broadway stage," he says. "A lot of the really high-speed, frenetic Broadway stage farces of the '30s, '40s and '50s are now seeking refuge in shows like Remember WENN. I write it as if I was writing a half-hour stage comedy of that period."

Holmes is thrilled that younger audiences are finding the bygone era depicted in the series "a very admirable world that would have been fun to live in. I don't know if that world ever existed. I wasn't around for it either, but it sure seems like a nice place to be."

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WENN Squib

by Bill Morrison (Raleigh News and Observer)

May 2, 1997—Don't touch that dial. If you grew up with radio as I did, you have to have a special place in your heart for Remember WENN, the AMC cable television series about a struggling radio station in the depression. In those days, all it took was a voice and some sound effects to spark our imagination. We were the dreamers then. Now the dreaming is done for us on stage and screen, and that's a shame.

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1940 on Your Dial: AMC Cable Series Remember WENN Takes Fond Look at Radio's Golden Era

by Rob Owen, TV/Radio writer (The Albany Times Union)

June 22, 1997—"I'm eight seconds early for being fashionably late," crowed Hilary Booth as she strolled through the door of Pittsburgh radio station WENN.

As Hilary, actress Melinda Mullins filmed a scene for an upcoming episode of Remember WENN, but she could have been speaking for the majority of television viewers, who have yet to discover the American Movie Classics series.

This 1940s period comedy, which has no laugh track or commercials, features the behind-the-scenes antics at a cash-strapped radio station.

Without big name stars or a high profile network, Remember WENN (9 p.m. Saturday, with a repeat Wednesday night at 8) has received glowing notices from television critics who revel in the show's tone, which mixes screwball comedy and moments of genuine drama without a hint of irony or cynicism.

"This show is about an America where people behave differently than they do on contemporary TV shows and maybe in real life today," said Rupert Holmes, the show's creator/writer. "It's a period show, but it feels very new because it goes against what's on all the other networks.

"The people here have a level of courtesy between each other. Yes, they have feuds and fights, but it's not about being in each other's faces. And if someone says 'hell,' that's like the walls of Jericho tumbling down. The word has power again, because most of the time they don't say that."

Actress Amanda Naughton plays the station's head writer, Betty Roberts, whose resourceful innocence is the heart of the station and the show. Naughton, who is in her late 20s, said she likes playing a character who says, "Gee, that's swell," and really means it.

"My father and I always talk about the language in older movies, like where Fred Astaire approaches one of his co-stars and says, `Say, I was thinking, why don't you and I take a spin around the dance floor,' Naughton said on a break from filming the second episode of the show's third season. "Nobody starts a sentence with 'Say, I was thinking . . .' Nobody says 'swell,' but it was a word back then, like saying 'cool' is to us today."

Since its debut on AMC in early 1996, Remember WENN has valiantly clawed its way up the Hollywood buzz-meter, even scoring a Screen Actors Guild nomination for outstanding performance in an ensemble series (Seinfeld won).

As production began last month on a Long Island City soundstage (the show is currently in reruns, and new episodes begin airing Aug. 16), cast members expressed frustration that their hard work is seen by so few people. AMC doesn't release ratings for its programming, but network sources said the show does well, although as a low-budget series on a cable network, attracting an audience is an uphill battle.

A cast of relatively unknown Broadway actors works wonders when it comes to creating original, believable characters, but it doesn't generate the attention the show would get if, say, Jenny McCarthy had been cast as Betty.

Fortunately for the show's producers, big name celebrities have been lining up to make guest appearances as they would for spot on Frasier or a voice-over The Simpsons. In previous seasons, Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone, Molly Ringwald and the late Howard Rollins dropped in. In the upcoming third season, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander and Harry Hamlin make cameos.

Guest stars come into the radio station (the show's only set) and frequently get the ball rolling on some misunderstanding or high jinks.

"Hilary, you can't keep cutting it so close," said WENN head writer Betty Roberts as Hilary casually strolled down the hall of the station. "Your show goes on the air in one minute.

"Not if I stand here listening to you it won't," Hilary haughtily replied.

WENN is run by penny-pinching, borderline unethical general manager Scott Sherwood (Kevin O'Rourke), whose staff includes Gertie the receptionist (Margaret Hall), handyman Mr. Eldridge (George Hall), sound effects artist Mr. Foley (Tom Beckett) and C.J. the engineeer (C.J. Byrnes).

On-air talent includes man of a thousand voices Mackie Bloom (Christopher Murney), Hilary's husband and leading man Jeffrey Singer (Hugh O'Gorman), organist Eugenia Bremer (Mary Stout) and former burlesque showgirl Maple LaMarsh (Albany native Carolee Carmello).

In the world of Remember WENN authenticity is key. The set's muted colors fit the period (mustard and olive walls dominate the set) and even Radio & Television Mirror magazines scattered on tables and the 1943 calendar hanging on the wall of the "Green Room" are from the era.

Series regulars and guest stars alike must dress in period costumes, frequently plucked out of thrift shops by costume designer Carolyn Grifel.

"This is a particularly glamorous period, because it's before the war, but after the Depression," Grifel said. "It was this little window of time that's never been duplicated, because women just sort of got out of the habit of caring that much (about fashion) because they entered the work force."

Grifel, who won an Emmy award for her work on Remember WENN last year, said some of the actresses wear vintage lingerie. Even the pantyhose have a seam on the back.

"Nobody sees that, but the actors know and it helps them get into character," she said.

"All the things you demonstrate on the air for listeners: pruning, marinating, gluing, grouting... Today you'll actually have to do them," Betty said as Hilary prepared for her live domestic how-to show, Home Sweet Home. Unexpectedly, the show's sponsor showed up at WENN to watch the live broadcast. The sponsor thinks you really do all these household things you talk about on the air. We have to preserve the illusion for them."

"Preserving the illusion is perfectly all right. It's preserving the peaches where I draw the line," Hilary replied.

Part of the Remember WENN illusion is that characters in 1941 get involved in scenarios that have become common in the 1990s. In the episode being filmed, it's clear that Hilary is playing the Martha Stewart of her day. Last season Scott Sherwood came up with the concept of interns ("We'll have them working here, and pay them nothing!"). As a cost-cutting measure, he also invented the rerun.

"What I love is giving backdating, making these people geniuses," Holmes said in a phone interview.

As the show's only staff writer, Holmes, 50, is too busy churning out episodes in the office of his Scarsdale home to visit the set frequently. He also writes all the music and songs featured on Remember WENN, but is probably best known as the singer-songwriter responsible for 1979's "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)."

Later, he won three Tony awards for creating the story, music and songs for Broadway's The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which itself won a Tony for best musical in 1986.

While he wasn't looking to oversee a weekly TV series, Holmes said Remember WENN fits with his love of writing farce and his interest in the golden age of radio.

"I love to have people putting on a show and then show what's going on behind the scenes," Holmes said. "And I love mistaken identities and farce, you know, here's my wife, hide under the bed where my boss is already hiding. You don't get that His Girl Friday kind of writing anymore."

Writing is the key to the success of Remember WENN. From the show's costume designer to the lead actors, the quality of the scripts is the first thing everyone mentions as the key to its appeal.

"I really think it's Rupert's creative brain and the way he weaves a story," said Carmello. "He has a real handle on this period and this style, and he certainly didn't live through it. When something is well-written it makes it much easier for the actors to get a good laugh or to play the poignancy."

Holmes is also a fan of cliffhangers. At the end of the first season, WENN's original station manager, Victor Comstock (John Bedford Lloyd), was presumed dead in a German bombing of London. In the second season finale, Victor turned up in his old office, where he was reunited with Betty (who always carried a torch for him) and caught her when she fainted upon seeing him back from the dead.

"You've got to have cliffhangers," Holmes said. "The first episode of the new season will have a cliffhanger at the end of it, too."

For some viewers, Remember WENN is a trip down memory lane. For others it's the closest they'll get to time travel. Either way, the show is a refreshing change of pace, a throwback to a time when audiences appreciated wholesome entertainment that prompted cheers rather than jeers, and a good review was as simple as, "Gee, that's swell."

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WENN Audience Small But Diverse

by Rob Owen, TV/Radio writer (The Albany Times Union)

June 22, 1997—It's a TV show set in the 1940s on a network that regularly runs black-and-white movies. Who would you expect to be watching? Certainly not kids and teens, yet Remember WENN has a loyal following among viewers of all ages, including children.

"I get fan mail from 12- and 14-year-olds, from college students," said actress Melinda Mullins. "Even a guy with a ponytail in Times Square came up to me, and he was the last person on Earth I would think watched the show. There are not that many people who watch, but the people who do are really diverse."

Among those tuning in for the series is 11-year-old Joanne Spataro of Matthews, N.C., who has created a World Wide Web site for Remember WENN ( She started an e-mail correspondence with WENN star Hugh O'Gorman, and when he performed The Tempest in Charlotte, her family invited him over for dinner.

Spataro said Remember WENN is a show the entire family can watch.

"It's got clean jokes and the cast works together really well," Spataro said in a phone interview. "The jokes are funny for all ages."

Spataro also writes a Remember WENN newsletter and hosts weekly online chats about the series. Her father, Joe Spataro, is an emergency room doctor (and a 1981 grad of Albany Medical College) who designs Web pages on the side, including a site for O'Gorman.

A separate Internet newsgroup for discussion of Remember WENN,, has also been created.

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Remember WAMC Didn't Please Local Radio Station

by Rob Owen, TV/Radio writer (The Albany Times Union)

June 22, 1997—Carolee Carmello isn't the only Remember WENN connection to the Capital Region. When the AMC cable network series was first announced in early 1995, it was titled WAMC. But that didn't sit too well with the folks at the Albany's real-life public radio station that uses those call letters.

WAMC executive director Alan Chartock said he was concerned that the TV show would use the station's call letters without permission. Lawyers for WAMC and AMC exchanged letters. Eventually the cable network changed the title for "creative reasons," according to a letter WAMC lawyers received from the network.

"I think what was on our mind was the idea that it might have belittled what we do here," Chartock said. "It might have caused a certain amount of confusion, as names often do."

Now Remember WENN shares call letters with a real-life station in Birmingham, Ala., said creator Rupert Holmes. He said the real WENN is happy with the publicity generated by the show.

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Albany Native Leaves Stage for TV Show About Radio

by Rob Owen, TV/Radio writer (The Albany Times Union)

June 22, 1997—She has a syrupy name and a voice that suggests trouble, but as Maple LaMarsh, Albany native Carolee Carmello has found her place on Remember WENN playing a worldly woman with a mysterious background.

"When I read for the part there was this description that said she had this checkered past, that she's lower-middle-class trying to be more sophisticated," said Carmello while sitting in full Maple costume in one of the studio's makeup rooms. "I don't know what a middle-class Pittsburgh accent sounds like, so I did a lower-end New York accent and figured if I got the job, they could teach me what the Pittsburgh equivalent would be."

After Carmello got the part, the accent remained.

"I think they decided it was OK if she's from New York," Carmello said. "She's the kind of person who would probably travel. Wherever they'll pay her the best, she'll go there."

Carmello graduated from Albany High School in 1979 with no plans for a life on stage or in front of the camera. She studied business administration at the University at Albany, graduating in 1983.

"I had no intentions of making a career of theater or television or anything like that," Carmello said. "It all sort of came in through the back door."

Carmello, 34, appeared in a few shows at the University at Albany and did The Sound of Music'' at the Four Seasons Dinner Theater on Washington Avenue (now a Howard Johnson's motel) across from the UAlbany campus. When it came time to graduate, Carmello was thinking about going to law school, but then she was offered a job working at the Lake George Dinner Theatre.

"They said I'd have to join the actors union if I wanted to pursue acting professionally, but that by joining I couldn't do community theater anymore," Carmello said. "In that moment I had to think, 'Do I ever want to do this as a career?' I figured I should try it while I was young enough to make mistakes and start over."

Although she has made a few brief appearances on daytime soaps, the bulk of Carmello's career has been on stage in musicals. She starred in the two-person off-Broadway show John & Jen in 1995 until she was six months pregnant and left the show. Two months after her daughter Zoe was born, Carmello's husband, Tony-nominated actor Gregg Edelman, accompanied her to the daylong recording of the show's cast album.

Carmello said she gets back to the Capital Region every other month to see her parents, Bill and Judy Carmello. Two of her three brothers and their families also live in the area.

"It's really nice that it's so close," she said. "That's part of why I'm hoping I never have to move to L.A. I'd never see my family again, and I love for my daughter to see her grandparents."

When Carmello began on Remember WENN during its second season last fall, her role was predominantly that of station organist. But Carmello doesn't know how to play a keyboard.

"During the Christmas episode, Betty Buckley was singing and I was supposed to accompany her on piano, so she was lip-synching and I was finger-synching," she recalled. "They put cotton under the keys of the piano so I wouldn't make any noise. I'm sure in the final edit it looks OK, but that was one of those times I was wishing I'd taken piano lessons as a kid.

Now that the show's original organist, Eugenia Bremer (Mary Stout), has returned for season three, Maple will spend more time in front of the microphone giving voice to radio show characters. According to Carmello, Maple's shadowy past will also be explored in an episode where burlesque comes to the radio station, and she may romance one of the show's leading men.

Carmello said she feels like she's starting her acting career again, now that she's on a TV series.

"It's really fun because television is so different," she said. "I learn so much being in front of the camera. It's a whole different experience for me."

Not only is being on TV a change of pace, so is the job security.

"Filming for this season will run until the middle of August, so for an actor it's the closest thing you have to steady work," Carmello said. "It's practically a civil service job."

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