Albany Native Now in 1776

author not cited, (Albany Times Union)

February 20, 1998—Carolee Carmello's life is about to get even busier. The Albany native, who plays radio actress Maple LaMarsh on AMC's comedy-drama Remember WENN, goes back to work filming new episodes of the series March 9 in New York. She also begins appearing in the Broadway musical 1776 March 4 at Manhattan's Gershwin Theatre.

"That's going to be the tricky part," Carmello said in a phone interview from her Teaneck, N.J., home. "(The Remember WENN producers) have been great. They said they'll work around my matinees and try to fit my shooting into the Broadway schedule."

Carmello, a 1979Albany High graduate and a 1983 graduate from the University at Albany, will play Abigail Adams in 1776, a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Carmello's husband, actor Gregg Edelman, portrays Edward Rutledge in 1776.

This isn't the first time the two have appeared in the same Broadway show (although they're only on stage together in one scene of 1776). Edelman has had a part in every Broadway show Carmello's done, including City of Angels and Falsettos.

"It's kind of strange that a couple gets to do shows together this often," Carmello said. "It's really coincidental."

In her downtime from "Remember WENN" Carmello worked on a new Hal Prince musical called Parade that she hopes will make it to Broadway this fall. For now, Carmello said she looks forward to the new season of Remember WENN.

"I won't be getting much sleep, but that's OK," Carmello said. "I want to continue on Remember WENN, but I won't do all the episodes this year. I'll be in about half of them, so it won't be quite so crazy."

New episodes of WENN will begin airing this summer.

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American Movie Classics Launches Star-Packed Fourth Season for Its Award-Winning Series Remember Wenn On Friday, June 19

Cheers John Ratzenberger to Star in Upcoming Episode

American Movie Classics' Press Release

June 10, 1998—American Movie Classics' award-winning and critically-acclaimed series Remember WENN kicks off its fourth season on Friday, June 19 at 10:00 p.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT with an outstanding lineup of guests, including John Ratzenberger, Daniel Benzali and Joanna Kerns, it was announced today by Paula Connelly-Skorka, AMC's Vice President of Original Program Development and Series.

John Ratzenberger, Cliff on Cheers, will appear as a guest star in the fourth episode in July as Mr. Abernathy, a homorless man who verifies judging records for Ginlet's Guide to World Records for which the WENN team is competing; Murder One's Daniel Benzali will guest star as Rex Noble in July, a theatrical producer who is courting Hilary Booth for a possible return to Broadway; and additionally, Joanna Kerns (Growing Pains) will return for a second time to guest direct an episode in August.

In the season's opener titled "Some Time, Some Station," Victor (John Bedford Lloyd) and Pruitt (Johnathan Freeman) have their guns drawn on Betty (Amanda Naughton) and Scott (Kevin O'Rourke). The gunshot fired hits a surprising target as we witness the ramifications of Victor's resurrection. Meanwhile, Jeff (Hugh O'Gorman) reconciles with Hilary (Melinda Mullins).

Past guest stars have included Harry Hamlin, Malcolm Gets, Molly Ringwald, Howard Rollins, Rue McClanahan, Roddy McDowall, Daniel Davis and Betty Buckley.

Remember WENN has received a multitude of accolades and awards including one Emmy and three CableACE's. In addition, the series received a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award for "Outstanding Performance in an Ensemble Series," along with NBC's Seinfeld, Mad About You, "3rd Rock from the Sun, and Frasier.

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

Remember WENN stars Melinda Mullins as Hilary Booth, Hugh O'Gorman as Jeff Singer, Amanda Naughton as Betty Roberts and Christopher Murney as Mackie Bloom, Kevin O'Rourke as Scott Sherwood, John Bedford Lloyd as Victor Comstock, Tom Beckett as Mr. Foley, Margaret Hall as Gertie, George Hall as Mr. Eldridge, Mary Stout as Eugenia Bremer and Carolee Carmello as Maple LaMarsh.

Remember WENN is written by Rupert Holmes, the multiple Tony Award-winning author and composer. Remember WENN was conceived and executive produced by Paula Connelly-Skorka, Executive Producing the series is Howard Meltzer of Howard Meltzer Productions Inc.

AMC is the premier 24-hour movie network, featuring award-winning original productions about the world of American film. AMC can be seen in 68 million homes.

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Remember WENN: Hi-tech Meets Low-Tech: Everything Old is New Again

by Nancy Jalasca Randle, (for MSNBC Interactive)

June 15, 1998—When American Movie Classics launched Remember WENN, they anticipated a core audience of viewers over fifty. Set in a small station in Pittsburgh, Pa. at the outset of World War II, the show follows the lives of a valiant band of actors, technicians, and producers during the glory days of radio. It features character actors from the stage instead of stars, omits a laugh track, chooses witty intelligent humor over Beavis-&-Butt-head sledgehammer comedy, moves at a graceful pace, and celebrates honest sentiment.

"I'm trying to go completely against the grain of the times. I embrace what we now think it is cool to turn one's back on," says creator Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

What happened when the comedy/drama aired defied everyone's expectations. Remember WENN attracted viewers of every age ranging from Joanne Spataro, only 12 when she organized a Remember WENN fan club, to teenager Cammy Wisian to Holmes' 80-year-old father.

Most surprising of all, the series spawned a large following of internet activists: a group supposedly obsessed only with the latest and the fastest. There are now 15 websites committed to Remember WENN. Fans gather in chat rooms four times a week to hold lively discussions over plot lines and weigh in on the merits of "yesterday vs. today." AMC offers a series website with e-mail addresses for each cast member.

So why did internet enthusiasts cruising along the information highway create this intersection where the new world meets the old? What is it about this unassuming show that sends them first to the TV screen and then to the computer screen to revel in radio's golden age? Do these fans fit the profile of cyberspeak junkies? The answers to these questions challenge standard perceptions of TV audience taste and contradicts prevailing stereotypes of those who surf the net.

Linda Young, a Georgia resident, created the "Flying Dreams Page", the Rolls Royce of the Remember WENN websites (http:\\\~jlyoung\wenn.htm). It offers an information feast: a well-written personal essay, cast biographies, series awards, a bibliography of articles covering the show, e-mail addresses for fans, a cyberguide to chat rooms and other sites, fanfiction, lost scenes, and WENNdex: a who's who of regular and semi-regular characters on the show.

A 42-year-old employee in the contracts department at the Centers for Disease Control, Young finds the show a respite from current society. "It's like going home, going back to the things you're very comfortable with." She loves the optimism of Remember WENN that runs counter to the chic cynicism of popular culture today. Young grew up with what she calls a "world's fair optimism."

"The 1964 World's Fair is indelibly imprinted in my memory. It held the promise that the world of tomorrow is going to be wonderful: we're going into space; we're going to cure cancer. Now nobody believes the future holds anything good." The life-affirming philosophy underpinning Holmes' rendition of radioland keeps Young coming back for more.

While networks strain for success by cloning mainstream hits like Friends, Remember WENN strives to be one of a kind. To fans this is its most endearing quality. "There's nothing else like it on television," says 18-year-old Wisian, a reporter for her high school paper. "The writing's so good. You can tell there's some thought put into it. Six people didn't get together, find a string of jokes, and try to put a plot line through it."

A large part of the show's uniqueness stems from Holmes' artfully-drawn characters. "It's great getting to know these characters really well and watching them change," says Young. "Almost no one changes on network comedies."

The show's creator deliberately strives to make his people accessible, showing the chinks in their armor. It is their vulnerability that binds them to contemporary society. "All these people are what we are," says Holmes, "with one layer of armor removed." That emotional accessibility captivates 31-year-old Michele Savage. "My emotional identification allows me to leap the boundaries of time. I could be friends with these people."

Savage, a graphic artist for a cable TV advertising channel, appreciates Remember WENN's treatment of viewers as intelligent human beings rather than mindless wonders.

"I like television that talks to me, not at me. It respects my intelligence enough not to explain every single joke. And there's no laugh track - blessedly so. If they've got to tell you when to laugh, that's really pathetic."

The World War II espionage theme also encourages viewers to exercise their minds. "Rupert laces the episodes with clues," says associate producer Vlad Wolynetz. "Fans are fishing for them everywhere; it adds a whole new dimension to the show." Savage searches for "Guns on the wall. Something that is so obvious that you don't catch it until after it happens. It's fun to look for a line that screams, 'I am foreshadowing.' Then try to figure out what it refers to."

Speculation on the espionage plot is a favorite topic of internet summits. One fan went as far as to research magazine articles from the 1940s to find events that might explain the show's subtext. There are on-going debates over Betty Roberts' love life: should she choose Scott or Victor? There are heady philosophical exchanges comparing the-way-we-were with the-way-we-are. All of the fans interviewed spend a significant amount of their free time on the internet. They're quick to point out that the level of discourse is unusually high in WENN chat rooms, reflecting the show's intellectual savvy and stifling the perception of chat room conversations as trivial.

In its heyday, radio served as a common link across the country. Today the internet fulfills the same purpose: bonding people of like-minds into a national community. Young describes her tight-knit chat room group as a "family". Savage believes the magic touch of the show is the glue that holds that family together. "It's one of those shows that captures lightning in a bottle."

Holmes always planned it that way. "I felt if I plotted it the right way, it would be a place that people would want to go to. It really works best in a continuing series when there is a family there, and you feel you are a member of it. For that half-hour you feel you are in a place that protects you a little bit."

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The WENN and Where of New Season

by Bob Sokolsky (The Press-Enterprise)

June 16, 1998—Things were looking pretty grim the last time most of us checked in on the life of Betty Roberts. Victor Comstock had returned, but decidedly worse for wear. Jeff Singer and Hilary Booth appeared headed for split city. Several people were waving guns about and the workplace seemed infested with suspected spies. In short, it was the perfect way to end a season and it left a loyal cadre of Remember WENN fans wondering what could possibly happen next.

But now they can stop wondering. At least they can Friday when this often intriguing series about a struggling 1940s Pittsburgh radio station returns to AMC at 7 and 10:30 p.m.—and if you thought things were hectic before, wait until you see what happens once Season No. 5 gets under way. Hint: It evolves bullets, blood, fainting, reconciliation and America on the verge of entering World War II. Or, as Amanda Naughton, the actress who plays Betty puts it, "Things are going to get a little wild."

She also says there will be "more hilarity" and, not surprisingly, much of it will revolve about Betty, the lady who writes the scripts, supervises the help, holds the hands and basically keeps everything going.

That's been enough to get chat rooms on the Internet interacting excitedly while wondering what could happen next. But Naughton says she can't help them that much right now because new plot developments will "open an unbelievable number of story lines."

However, she always knew things would be unbelievable at WENN. That was brought home to her the first day she walked on the set and found it to be the same one she left during one of her few earlier ventures into television, a small role in the ABC soap opera All My Children. "I played an actress on stage in a theater production of a kind of Gaslight play," Naughton says. "They hadn't changed a thing. It was the same furniture."

On the other hand, she concedes, it was perfect for this show that has remained remarkably faithful to its era. Naughton says she knows that because she's been told—by co-worker George Hall (Mr. Eldridge on the series), who worked in radio during the depicted period. Also by her father, actor Jack Naughton, an NBC page during the transition period from radio to TV.

Her own role seems to match the era too, fitting the image of so many of the unheralded women workers who really ran the stations while the male executives postured and posed. "But she's not just a gal Friday," Naughton says. "She's got more responsibility than that. I sort of think of her as a Rosalind Russell-type character, but not as glamorous.

"And I definitely have a back story for her. I see her as from a small town. I think her father was a newspaperman. She was probably the only girl in the family and cleaned up after her brothers. She went to high school and college and probably worked on a newspaper before coming east to get into radio."

But is Betty anything like Amanda? "No, not really," Naughton says. "I mean I eat sushi, own motorcycle boots and listen to rock music. But then, when we had our office party I was the one who ran the contests and put up people's baby pictures. I guess that would be a Betty thing to do."

Things will change, though, when she gets to San Diego this fall for a Sept. 26-Oct. 31 gig at the Old Globe. "I'm doing a musical called Paramour, "Naughton says. "It's an adaptation of Waltz of the Toreadors and it's definitely corsets and bodice. I'm going to play the mistress of a well-established general."

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Poetry in Prime Time / WENN: Adjectives Abound, Dialogue Dances

by Diane Werts (Newsday)

June 16, 1998—When Rupert Holmes says over the phone "I'm a unique shade of green at the moment," he isn't talking about envy.

Why would he? Holmes has nothing to be jealous of, since he's the creative force behind TV's top unsung treasure, Remember WENN. And as his tasty souffle about the wackies inhabiting a 1940 radio station starts its fourth season on American Movie Classics this Friday at 10 p.m., it's threatening to break big: TV Guide devoted its review page this week to critic Matt Roush's major-league rave. And Viewers for Quality Television has included WENN among the few (four) cable series the group supports.

No, poor Holmes is green with some sort of flu bug, housebound at his Scarsdale homestead. It's no wonder he's plumb tuckered out, as his period characters might remark. Not only does he write nearly every eloquent word of the show's loquacious scripts, he also composes nearly every note of the magical music that wends its way through each half-hour episode, sinuously underscoring all the suspense, humor, romance, mystery and joie de vivre.

Yikes, forgive my sudden bursts of addled adjectives and rampant alliteration! Watching Remember WENN does that. Its dextrously dancing dialogue transports one to an era where love of language conquers all. Why, just watch how staff heroine Betty Roberts (Amanda Naughton) escapes a bullet meant for her heart in Friday's cliffhanger resolution! She deflects it with words. Another staffer, who does get shot, finds time to utter, "This suit is pure Sumatran silk. I'll never get the blood out," before collapsing to the floor.

An angry lover doesn't say "I hate him" here. She hisses her desire that "the gods of justice pluck him from the earth and hurl him into eternally seething vats of molten sulphur and spewing lava" (in the previous season's finale, repeated on AMC tomorrow at 10 p.m.).


"You notice sleep is an issue that comes up a lot in the scripts," Holmes says. "That's mainly because sleep has become the one commodity I don't get." His July 10 episode has Cheers know-it-all John Ratzenberger playing timekeeper for the WENN staff's bleary-eyed attempt to stay on the air continuously for as many days as possible.

But Holmes is willing to forgo a little shut-eye to keep this gig going.

Holmes has always worked through immersion. For his previous claim to fame, the Broadway musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, he wrote the book, music and lyrics, winning Tony awards for all three. And if that New York smash didn't nationally top his notoriety for the '70s ditty "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," the 51-year-old Westchester native knows Remember WENN is aiding the cause with each succeeding season. This AMC gem just keeps sparkling, as Holmes perpetually uncovers new tricks among the expert ensemble he adores.

"You know, every season, I think to myself by the end that there is no way —I just can't do this anymore," says Holmes, who's so eager to talk about WENN that he constantly interrupts himself. "But you know, I've been in show business long enough to know that when things are wonderful, you have to remember it doesn't happen all the time, or every time. And maybe this is the last time it'll happen. When you're younger and you hit it big or find yourself in a great circumstance, you think you're always gonna run into that."

Holmes knows better, since the you-know-what song didn't lead to more hits. Even Drood was a hard act to follow, though his comedy-thriller Accomplice did win the Mystery Writers' Edgar award. (He's now adapting the Goosebumps youth chillers for the stage.)

Turned out Holmes' future lay in the past —the 1939-1941 era that Remember WENN celebrates. "I think when I was 8, I was nostalgic for my lost youth," Holmes muses. "I always empathized with other decades more. I grew up in the '50s, and though there's a lot to be said for things that happened in the '50s, that was the time where Patti Page was about as sophisticated as music got. The '30s had Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin, the '40s had Glenn Miller, and the '50s had 'Shrimp Boats Are Comin' and 'How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?' "

Because his father was a big-band sax player, little Rupert "grew up on a steady diet of other eras," playing vintage 78 rpm records, watching wordy old movies on TV, and studying memorabilia from the futuristic 1939 World's Fair. "There was this strange, austere, pristine quality that was their vision of what we would be. And we ended up getting it wrong!"

Which is probably why no one gets anything wrong in Remember WENN. Every element of the series falls consummately into place, echoing Hollywood's sleek craftsmanship in its time period. Bickering lovers Jeff (Hugh O'Gorman) and Hilary (Melinda Mullins), for example, "went to Nick and Nora Charles 101," says Holmes, basing their sexy sparring skills on the Thin Man couple. Young writer Betty Roberts has evolved from a gee-whiz ingenue —"In the early episodes she was Betty in Wonderland, and the others were the Mad Hatter and the March Hare" —into one of those dizzyingly efficient working dames that old flicks were filled with. "She recently realized she has twenty minutes to write a thirty-minute script, so she knows how fast she has to type."

Holmes imagines he's closest in spirit to Betty. "I wish I were Scott, but I don't think I am. He's that rogue who can just get away with anything. And I wish I were as clever as Hilary Booth. I wish I could think of the things that she says."

But he does! He writes them all! Or types them, anyway. He says, "I no longer sit and think of jokes for these characters": for Mackie the amazing voice man (Christopher Murney), flustered organist Eugenia (Mary Stout), malapropping Maple (Carolee Carmello), go-getter Scott Sherwood (Kevin O'Rourke) or earnest Victor Comstock (deliciously dry John Bedford Lloyd, returning to the cast at last). "Now I get them into situations and it never occurs to me they're not going to think of something funny to say. I've sort of become a stenographer for them. They just say these things, and it's usually all I can do to keep up with the typing."

Right now, he says, he's writing —uh, typing —"an episode where by the end, everyone has cross-dressed. It all starts very innocently, but slowly as the lies being told get deeper and deeper, all the women end up dressed as men and all the men as women. The challenge is to make that logical, to make that stretch."

Leave it to the man in green.

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Remember WENN: Don't Forget to Watch This Tender, Funny Show

by Frasier Moore (Associated Press)

June 18, 1998—Remember WENN isn't just a comedy about radio, set in a radio station. This is a show that also dearly loves radio.

So do the talent and staff who keep Pittsburgh's struggling WENN on the air with its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink schedule of live programs. For this is 1941, and WENN's tiny staff swells with wonder exploring what radio can do.

Viewers watching Remember WENN—however jaded they may be about cell phones and Web sites and, most of all, TV—will likely succumb to wonder, too. This is a show that casts a sweet, funny spell.

Remember WENN returns to American Movie Classics for a new season of 13 weekly half-hours Friday at 10 p.m. EDT, plugged into the lineup of vintage melodramas and comedies as if it came from a film vault sealed 50 years ago.

Explains producer Howard Meltzer, "AMC wanted to create a show where viewers tuning in couldn't immediately tell if it was one of the network's classic movies, or original programming."

Accordingly, Remember WENN takes its cue from those flicks, replicating the exuberance and ideals in which Hollywood once costumed American life.

But the series inhabits other levels of fancy.

In WENN's studio, of course, make-believe thrives dramatically. And beyond WENN's cozy biosphere, a larger world we never glimpse (or need to) sweeps staffers into wartime intrigue and other global misadventures.

It's a pretty exciting vantage point for Betty Roberts, WENN's pip of a writer and the viewer's surrogate. Played by Amanda Naughton, she's the girl next door (if next door happens to be in Elkhart, Ind.) and first among equals in the band of daffy but endearing regulars.

Meanwhile, the air is thick with artful bickering from thespian-lovers Jeff (Hugh O'Gorman) and Hilary (Melinda Mullins), with the many voices of announcer Mackie Bloom (Christopher Murney), with sound-effects wizardry by mute Mr. Foley (Tom Beckett).

Like any radio station, isolated yet always reaching out, WENN lives by its words and ideas. Dreaming these up is Rupert Holmes, the Tony Award winner who authors every script, as well as composing the series' score and songs for the occasional musical episode.

"One thing I always loved about his writing was how it was so layered," says Meltzer, who sought out Holmes for the project. "I also happened to know that he's a complete nut for the '30s and '40s."

When Remember WENN premiered four seasons ago, the year was 1939.

"It was an era where America was still young and naive, while Europe had started going through the war," Meltzer says. "We wanted to capture the feel of what was going on in the country at that time, and in the world, and in entertainment. A radio station lends itself to all that perfectly."

Thanks to Meltzer, Holmes and fellow WENN-ers, the tone never strays, never hits a false note. Shot with a single camera on a Queens sound stage, the look is an art deco feast. The period wardrobe is a treat. And names like Mackie Bloom and Maple LaMarsh ring as true to their time as the 1939 Life magazine in the station's waiting room.

With no laugh track to slow its crackling pace, the dialogue is snappy and the wordplay delicious. Hear the irate diva Hilary giving Mackie what-for on the air (never mind why):

"I've been reciting the `Missive of Farewell'," he tries to explain.

"You'll be missing your legs and saying farewell to arms when I'm done with you! You'll be a coloratura soprano with the Eunuch Tabernacle Choir!"

Who could fail to love this safehold of smart threads and clever banter, of scrappy resolve and goodhearted teamwork? WENN is a tender place, where any harshness from the outside is admitted only in selective, mannered doses, just to spice things up.

But Remember WENN also captures the wistfulness of an era broadcasting on borrowed time. Even station manager Scott Sherwood (Kevin O'Rourke) imagines a gadget that would be like movies in your living room, like radio with pictures. In an episode last season, he dubbed it "visio." On the other hand, who could ever build such a thing?

Watching from the '90s, we know someone will, and soon. And we know TV will spell WENN's demise. But the charm of Remember WENN is, the characters don't know and aren't worried. In truth, they don't worry about much. Just about each other, and what's next on the air.

That's worth remembering.

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Remember WENN Holds Present-Day Dreams for Rupert Holmes

by Doug Nye (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

June 18, 1998—When he created Remember WENN three years ago, writer Rupert Holmes thought he had something special.

His only hope was that those who tuned in would share his enthusiasm.

"There's no way to fully anticipate how people will react," said Holmes, who some may remember best as the singer/writer of "Escape," or "The Pina Colada Song."

Any concerns he had quickly vanished. Viewers and critics alike eagerly embraced the show almost from the very beginning. At 9 tonight [CDT] Remember WENN begins its fourth season on American Movie Classics.

The series is an ode to the golden age of radio. It follows the lives of a small band of actors, technicians and producers who create dozens of memorable "images" for the listeners of Pittsburgh station WENN.

"The warmth that has been generated toward the series has really made me feel wonderful," Holmes said during a phone conversation earlier this week. "There's a tremendous amount of stuff on the Internet—several Web sites.

"There's one that has indexed the entire series. When I'm writing a script and can't remember a particular detail that happened earlier, I use that index as a reference."

Holmes, who has won numerous awards—including several Tonys for his work on Broadway—knows it takes more than good writing to make a hit. Words fall flat if the performers can't bring them to life. That's something Holmes hasn't had to be concerned about on Remember WENN.

"I am writing for as good a repertory company that has ever appeared on television. When I am writing, I can hear the characters' voices in my head. What really made me feel great was when our cast was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble right up there with four killer NBC series such as Seinfeld and Frasier."

Another plus of doing Remember WENN is there are no commercials.

"I don't have to worry about inserting some kind of cliffhanger every nine minutes or so," Holmes said. "That makes for a nice, flowing pace on our show. Plus, I'm not limited to say 22 or 24 minutes. The episodes vary in length. We had one that ran 35 minutes."

Set in 1939 during its first season, the series has now moved into 1941. Although Holmes says this will be the "funniest season yet," it also will have its serious moments. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is not far down the line.

"I'm going to try to make that day of infamy happen when you don't expect it. I'm revising that particular script now."

Holmes has great admiration for the people who lived through that period of our country's history.

"As I research the time, I'm astounded to think what it must have been like to live through that. People didn't know what the world would be like and who would win the war. There were people leaving to go overseas in huge numbers who didn't know if they'd be back.

"It's amazing what those people went through—the Crash of '29 and a depression and then a war that was truly a world war."

Holmes doesn't actually remember any of that because he came in as network radio's heyday was winding down. He became interested in the medium in the 1950s when he had the chicken pox and started listening to the few shows that were still on the air.

His interest in radio became something of an obsession (he has more than 1,500 old radio broadcasts) and Holmes continues to marvel at the effect it on the country.

"Radios were in many ways in homes, the second hearth. There had never been a medium, even the movies, which you gathered around and knew you were sharing the experience at the same time with my most other Americans."

Holmes isn't spending all of his time on Remember WENN these days.

"I'm writing a stage adaptation of the incredibly successful Goosebumps," he said. "It's not a musical, but it will a lot of magical effects."

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AMC Asks Viewers to Remember WENN

by Kate O'Hare (Tribune Media Services)

June 18, 1998—Come back with me now, to those golden days of yesteryear ...

Video may have killed the radio star, at least the kind heard during radio's golden age, but it only takes a flick of the dial to return to the time when families huddled around the radio to hear live drama, comedy, commercials and music. And apparently a lot of people are flicking, because AMC's radio-themed comedy, Remember WENN, is returning for a fourth season.

"The whole thing's been a surprise from the beginning for me," says series star Amanda Naughton. "Every time it continues, I say, 'Well, how about that?'"

Set in an underfunded and understaffed Pittsburgh radio station in 1941, the new season of Remember WENN launches on the show's new day and time, Friday, June 19, at 10 p.m. (Eastern).

Picking up after last December's third-season cliffhanger, the supposedly dead Victor Comstock (John Bedford Lloyd), WENN's station manager — who was not actually killed in the London Blitz but has been working undercover and may have been brainwashed by the Nazis — is wearing a policeman's uniform and holding a gun on writer Betty (Naughton) and actor Scott Sherwood (Kevin O'Rourke), as is smarmy station owner Mr. Pruitt (Jonathan Freeman), but without the uniform.

Who is Victor's espionage contact? Who will get shot for saying the codephrase? What's up with Mr. Pruitt? What will Betty do when Scott professes his love?

These and other burning questions will be answered by the end of the half-hour, but not before almost all the women at the station faint upon seeing Victor, on-air actors and on-and-off couple Jeff and Hilary (Hugh O'Gorman, Melinda Mullins) endure revelations and a good dousing (for Hilary), and announcer Mackie (Christopher Murney) must improvise a morning show at 8 in the evening.

"You should see what we have in store," says Howard Meltzer, the show's producer and sometime director. Even though he and writer Rupert Holmes — who writes 90 percent of the episodes and all of the series' original music — did not know how long the show would last, they started out with a four-year plan, much of which comes to fruition this season.

"This season," says Meltzer, "we planted a little thing that (sound man) Foley and (organist) Eugenia are going to be a couple. And (organist) Maple LaMarsh and Victor—something might be going on there. Just wait till you see this season. After the first episode, which is just to wrap up everything from last season, we're off and running on a whole new thing."

In homes across America, and particularly on the Internet, Remember WENN has a devoted—and vocal—following. Says Meltzer, "You should have seen the mail when we had Victor killed in London in the Blitz. Not hate mail, but people couldn't believe that I did that to him.

"I wrote back saying, 'Listen, it wasn't my fault, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,' knowing that I was going to bring him back next season."

One storyline heating up cyberspace is the debate over which man Betty should choose: stalwart Victor or fast-talking Scott.

"When you look at what Betty's been through," says Naughton, "falling in love with Victor, first of all, which was never fully said out loud. God knows, our Internet friends were all abuzz about, who would Betty choose? Oh my god, they go on and on.

"I don't have a computer, but other people do, and they'll say, 'The Internet was on fire last night about you guys.' They're saying, 'Let me tell you why I think Scott is a better choice...' or 'Don't you understand Victor's a hero, a perfect man...' or 'Oh, no, he's a father figure...' They are so into it."

Of course, all this Internet attention is quite flattering, but it also has a practical upside for Meltzer and Holmes. Since Holmes likes to write in the middle of the night, and Meltzer often joins him, there's no one around to answer a factual question about a past plotline. Rather than panic, the two log onto the Internet and check some of the sites where dedicated fans have recorded every tiny detail of every episode.

"It's embarrassing at three in the morning," says Meltzer, "when you can't remember what you did in another episode, and there's no one to call. That's when you get on the Internet. It's a huge help to us."

Meltzer describes this season as one last, wacky free-for-all before America enters World War II. Upcoming guest stars include John Henson (Talk Soup), Daniel Benzali (Murder One) and John Ratzenberger (Cheers). They join such past guests as Harry Hamlin, Malcolm Gets, Molly Ringwald, Howard Rollins, Rue McClanahan, Roddy McDowall, Daniel Davis, Donna Murphy and Betty Buckley. Also, Joanna Kerns stops in to direct an episode this season.

"The biggest surprise," says Meltzer, "is that we get an enormous amount of calls from actors and actresses wanting to be on the show, big names. They say, 'We know it's low-budget; we know it's really fast shooting; we know it's even filmed in New York City; but we've never seen a show that's so well-written. The words are wonderful. Can I come in and do a guest shot?'"

Of course, the best scripts in the world can't help when the perfect prop is needed, and nothing but the real thing will satisfy Remember WENN's discriminating fans.

Recalls Meltzer, "We had a hard time finding a water cooler from the late '30s that worked. If we had a lot of money, we could just throw it at things. But when you don't have that much money, you really have to get creative."

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Radio Memories: Nostalgic Cable Comedy Series Braces for Dark Times

by Lon Grahnke, (Chicago Sun Times)

Radio actor [sic] Victor Comstock returns to Pittsburgh when the nostalgic, lighthearted Remember WENN series begins its fourth cable season on American Movie Classics.

June 18, 1998—Missing-in-action Victor, played by John Bedford Lloyd as a deadpan secret agent with memory loss, resolves last season's cliffhanger and sets up slapstick antics, screwball situations and rampant misunderstandings among the confused radio employees of WENN. Victor also foils a Nazi plot.

Friday's farcical season opener, "Some Time, Some Station," is set on Sept. 1, 1941. Series creator Rupert Holmes, a Tony Award-winning author and composer, says he plans to emphasize a "giddy rush" of comedy in the early episodes of Season 4.

"I've always viewed Remember WENN as taking place in a very golden time in American history," Holmes says in an AMC interview. "The Great War is over; there's no need for another war; we're out of the Depression.

"But now we've come to the fall of 1941, and there's this thing lurking out there called World War II. The 7th of December will change everyone's lives for good."

Victor's surprise comeback is another foreshadowing of World War II. He left WENN in 1940 and infiltrated Nazi Germany's propaganda operations, sending coded messages to the Allies. Caught in the act, Victor fell victim to Nazi mind control.

His sudden return to WENN triggers the capture of a Nazi saboteur in the radio station and prompts the restoration of his previously mangled memory.

Gunshots and mass confusion throw WENN's broadcast day into chaos. Women scream and faint. Staffers are overwhelmed. Announcer Mackie Bloom (Christopher Murney) tells listeners that the radio station has launched a new game show: What's Wrong With This Program?

"In virtually every program," Holmes says, "we've had that chocolate center in the heart of the Tootsie Pop. For us, that chocolate center is farce."

In Remember WENN, the silly stuff is easier to accept because Holmes' show on the commercial-free AMC channel doesn't annoy viewers with a laugh track.

Returning WENN regulars include Amanda Naughton as the formerly naive Betty Roberts, who has retained her generous spirit while becoming a take-charge character; Melinda Mullins as haughty Hilary Booth; Hugh O'Gorman as idealist Jeff Singer; Kevin O'Rourke as complex rogue Scott Sherwood; Carolee Carmello as brassy Maple LaMarsh; Margaret Hall as Gertie; Mary Stout as Eugenia Bremer; George Hall as Mr. Aldridge [sic], and Tom Beckett as speechless Mr. Foley.

Among the guests appearing in upcoming episodes will be John Ratzenberger from Cheers and Daniel Benzali (Murder One) as Broadway producer Rex Noble, who offers a New York comeback to Hilary. Actress Joanna Kerns will return to direct an August episode.

With its period costumes, cheerful optimism, lively ensemble and family-friendly stories, Remember WENN is a pleasant summer refresher.

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WENN Crackles with Fun

by Steve Hall (Indianapolis Star)

June 19, 1998—Come closer to the TV to watch the radio.

Fictional WENN in Pittsburgh, that is. AMC's delightful Remember WENN begins its fourth season at 9 p.m. [CDT] today on the cable channel with a madcap episode (***1/2) that resolves last season's cliffhanger.

The show opens in 1942 in the green room at WENN Radio, where, at the close of last season, Victor Comstock and Mr. Pruitt had guns trained on Betty Roberts, scriptwriter and Girl Friday.

A gunshot rings out.

Comstock, you may remember, supposedly "died" in the London blitz during World War II but then surfaced, mysteriously, at the station. Why is he acting traitorous? Who takes the bullet?

All will be explained as the story becomes even stranger—and funnier.

Meanwhile, haughty radio diva Hilary Booth wants a divorce from her husband and fellow WENN star Jeff Singer because of Jeff's London "marriage" to a Czech expatriate. But wait. Where the nuptials naughty or nice?

Remember WENN has a sweet innocence to it, but the writing is as innovative as Mr. Foley's ability to create sound effects.

This episode is hectic hilarity in the vein of the best '30s farce. Expect nutty double-talk about daylight-saving time, amnesia and fainting spells precipitated by Victor's "return from the grave."

Preston Sturges would be proud.

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Remember WENN Squib

Detroit Free Press

June 19, 1998—Remember WENN (10 tonight, AMC).
Season premiere. The smart, charming farce about life at a Pittsburgh radio station during the 1940s returns for a fourth year. Though often overlooked, the American Movie Classics comedy series is a consistently witty, gentle-spirited treat.

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Remember WENN Begins Its Fourth Season Tonight

by Mike Hughes (Gannett News Service)

June 19, 1998—One day, WENN creator Rupert Holmes asked a question that's rarely heard.

As actor John Bedford Lloyd recalls it: "He asked 'how would you feel about not being dead?" Lloyd felt just fine about it. THat leads to the fourth season opener for this low key delight.

Holmes is an American original. Her wrote the music for the Edwin Drood musical stage play and what's sometimes called the "Pina Colada song."

He writes this series, set in a 1940s radio station.

This is a show that's filmed in New York, drawing talented theatre types. Lloyd, a Yale Drama School grad, is a prime example.

"I would be on the set from 6 in the moring to 6 at night." he said. "The I'd race off to the theater."

"For one role, I had to get into the cab in my '40s clothes. Then I would change into work boots and overalls and cover my face and hands with dirt."

Two years ago, he left WENN to do Aliens in the Family.

Holmes' reaction? "Rupert is smart enough to never get rid of a person permanently."

So his character (station manager Victor Comstock) was the apparent victim of a London bombing. At the end of last season, he quietly returned, telling sweet Betty it was a spy ruse.

Tonight, the others meet him. There are more bizarre twists, perfectly played. On its new night, WENN is worth remembering.

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Smart TV Series Enters Fourth Season

by John Keenan (Omaha World-Herald)

June 19, 1998—Job security is rarely an actor's lot in life.

But for New York City resident Kevin O'Rourke, the new television season beginning Friday on AMC marks the fourth year for the series Remember WENN.

O'Rourke plays Scott Sherwood in the show, which airs at 9 p.m. CDT.

"None of us really knew whether this program would have legs, we really didn't," the actor said from his home. "I loved the scripts, I loved the show, but because of the situation, they never gave us any indication of where it was going to go. Consequently, we just went about our business, which included taking other jobs."

"The situation" to which O'Rourke refers is that Remember WENN is a series on a cable channel known primarily for showing films. American Movie Classics is not the kind of network you'd expect to nurture a cerebral, witty show into its fourth year.

"I'm kind of pleasantly surprised," O'Rourke said. "I figured it would maybe last two seasons. But AMC has been really supportive."

So have critics. WENN, which is set in a radio station in the 1940s, has received critical acclaim and awards since its inception.

For O'Rourke, it's his first taste of small-screen success.

"I've never done an ongoing series before. I've done two pilots, but neither got picked up."

Not that the actor hasn't had plenty of work. His last show on Broadway was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Kathleen Turner and Charles Durning.

"It was a blast," O'Rourke said. "Durning was a doll, and Kathleen and I are still friends."

Like stage work, WENN is an ensemble piece, O'Rourke said. The large cast — including O'Rourke's Williams College classmate, John Bedford Lloyd, who recently returned to the show - shares the spotlight.

"We're all on equal footing," O'Rourke said.

That equal footing becomes obvious in the season premiere. In last year's cliffhanger, Sherwood confesses his love for Betty Roberts (played by Amanda Naughton) while both characters are being held at gunpoint. Friday's season premiere hardly touches on that provocative moment at all, focusing primarily on the return of Lloyd, who plays the believed-to-be-dead Victor Comstock.

"We just got the final cuts of the first four episodes," O'Rourke said. "I think in the next two episodes after that, we start to deal with (the Scott-Betty relationship) a little bit. There's a wonderful kind of Pat and Mike-type scene where we sort of dance around it a bit."

The upcoming shows are very "wonderful," O'Rourke said.

"One of the things that was mentioned early on when WENN was first reviewed was that this is the kind of show cable always promised we would get. It's a specific show with a specific appeal that doesn't try to appeal to the general masses.

"The closest thing on network television, I think, would be Brooklyn Bridge," he said. "That was a great show, wonderfully written, but the network could not tolerate the fact that it had such a small, specific audience."

With only two more WENN episodes left to shoot for the season, O'Rourke is looking ahead.

"I'd like to take a little time off," he said. "There's a possibility I'll be doing a play over the summer, and I'm trying to line up a play for the fall.

"That's what the plans are right now. The thing that's crazy about my job is that I could get a call tomorrow, and everything changes.

"It drives my wife crazy, I have to say," O'Rourke said.

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Fictional '40s Radio Station Gathers Fans

by Walt Belcher (Tampa Tribune)

June 19, 1998—Everything old is new again. And the 1940s are cool again.

So return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when radio was the theater of the mind.

The year: 1941. The place: a struggling Pittsburgh radio station. The mood: whimsical and romantic.

It is a world without television - a kinder, gentler time when men looked dashing in broad-brimmed hats and women looked smart in dresses with padded shoulders.

Enter our heroine, Betty Roberts. She's a wide-eyed innocent from Elkhart, Ind., who is the heart and soul of "Remember WENN.

This stylish TV program about radio's golden era has quietly built a loyal fan base since it debuted on American Movie Classics in January 1996.

Tonight at 10, a new season begins. The 44th episode finds the daffy, fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants staff at WENN trying to get through another broadcast day.

"Betty has grown so much since the show started," says Naughton, who is in her late 20s and too young to have lived during radio's golden era (1925 to 1949).

Betty came to WENN 44 episodes ago with big dreams and romantic notions about show business, Naughton said in a recent telephone interview.

Betty still lives at Pittsburgh's Barbican Hotel for Women and she still says "gee whiz" and "swell."

"But she does the station's books, writes all the serials and helps solve everyone's problems," says Naughton, who comes from five generations of performers.

Naughton's late mother, Patience Jarvis, was a stage actor. Her father, Jack Naughton, is an actor who appeared in many of the live New York-based TV dramas of the 1950s.

"Dad is a great source for us because he worked as a page at NBC in New York in the 1940s," she says.

Remember WENN was created by actor, playwright and composer Rupert Holmes, who had a pop chart hit in the 1980s with "Escape" (a k a "The Pina Colada Song").

Holmes, 52, has collected more than 1,500 vintage radio shows on tape. He writes all the episodes and composes the stylish jazz theme music.

"The series is unlike anything on television," says co-producer Howard Meltzer. "All the action in each episode takes place at the radio station in one broadcast day."

The series is filmed in New York at a studio on Long Island. The actors and crew are from the theater. There is no laugh track.

They take great pains to be accurate, Meltzer says. The show has won Emmys for costume design. The set is warm and cozy, with polished wood trim and muted colors of mustard and olive.

"We sometimes slip up and have references that are incorrect for the period, and we're nailed immediately by the fans," Meltzer says.

Although designed as a period piece to complement AMC's vintage films that appeal to a core audience age 55-plus, Remember WENN has been discovered by younger viewers.

"I get fan mail from 8-year-old girls and 17-year-old boys who are watching with their families," says Naughton. "I'm not sure if many people between 20 and 30 are watching, but I think younger people would enjoy it even if they had never been exposed to the golden age of radio."

Naughton says fans are often shocked to learn that she is a native New Yorker.

"They say I'm too nice and too relaxed," she jokes. "I used to think that there was no way I was like Betty because I've worn jeans and motorcycle boots. And I went through a punk stage. And I'm a single, independent career woman of the '90s.

"But the more I think about it, I guess we share the desire to take care of everybody, to come up with a solution when people are floundering."

There is much floundering at WENN, where 11 characters are cavorting.

Two of them have eyes for Betty: Victor Comstock (John Bedford Lloyd), the former station manager who has been on and off the show, and his shady replacement, Scott Sherwood (Kevin O'Rourke).

"We have a nice triangle going that will heat up this season," Naughton says.

Victor was written out of the show after the first season because actor Lloyd had landed an ABC series.

When that series failed, Lloyd wanted to return, so Holmes cooked up a plot in which Victor had faked his death to go undercover as a counterspy who has infiltrated the Nazis.

In the season opener tonight, Victor is back for a zany shootout that resolves a cliffhanger. "We're going to be as funny and farcical as possible this season," Meltzer says. "Victor will continue to drop in and out of the story."

The pending World War II will be a backdrop for the daily struggle of getting through live commercials, newscasts, soap operas, game shows, call-ins and children's programming.

"Part of the fun for the cast and the viewers are the shows within the show and our creative commercials," says Meltzer.

WENN has a lineup of fictional programs that allude to real radio shows of a bygone era. Among them: Pittsburgh Library Theater, The Hands of Time, Wee Mary McGregor, Veterinarian, Rance Shiloh, U.S. Marshal, Our Fleeting Passion and Sam Dane, Private Detective.

Equally amusing are WENN's sponsors such as Cup O' Comfort Coffee, Mother Martin's Yankee Bean Soup and Midas Hand Cream.

"It's amazing that Betty supposedly writes everything," Naughton says. "We seldom see her at the typewriter anymore, but I imagine her slaving away in her room each morning and night. I think she sees herself as the next Dorothy Parker."

WENN's staff also includes "the man of a thousand voices" - announcer-actor Mackie Bloom (Christopher Murney). Playing many roles are a bickering couple, Hilary Booth (Melinda Mullins) and her younger husband, Jeffrey Singer (Hugh O'Gorman).

There's a Remember WENN fan club that regularly chats on the Internet after every episode (, and a history of the series can be found at

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Fans Watch Show But Not All Remember WENN

Compiled by Walt Belcher (Tampa Tribune)

June 19, 1998—The golden days of radio live on for many Tampa Bay area fans of Remember WENN.

Dozens of readers responded to our request for comments.

- - -

Audrey Mallory, 35, of Valrico, says she watches the series faithfully with her 13-year-old daughter, Danielle.

"And I don't even remember anything from that kind of radio," she says. "I love the characters and the writing is exquisite."

Mallory is the youngest person who called.

- - -

Leonard Adey, of Tampa, likes the visual look of the series and the little touches such as the hairstyles and the announcer cupping his ear with his hand.

"I worked in radio as an announcer off and on back in the 1950s," says Adey. He says he worked with radio comedy legends Bob and Ray in Boston before they became NBC network stars.

- - -

For Katie Robinson, 69, of Holiday, "Remember WENN" brings back memories of her college days in Fairmont, Va. A speech and drama major, she wrote and produced radio plays for WMMN.

"We did our own sound effects and, like on Remember WENN, we played many parts," she says. "In one week, I was a 60-year-old grandmother and a 9-year-old boy. The great thing about radio is that you have to use your imagination."

Robinson says she loved Gunsmoke on the radio and thought Matt Dillon (voiced by William Conrad) was the most handsome man in the world. "Imagine my disappointment when I finally saw him on TV," she says.

- - -

For Robert Goren, 76, of Brandon, the series brings back childhood memories of radio such as the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast on Halloween in 1939.

Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater players staged a radio drama that fooled many people into believing Earth was being invaded by Martians.

"I was listening and I shut it off about halfway through," Goren says. "I didn't think it was that good. I was disappointed in Welles because he was an icon to me. The next day I read about people going into a panic and I couldn't believe it. But that was the power of radio in those days."

- - -

Eleanor Pitts, 62, of Tampa still listens to vintage radio shows at 11 every night on WHNZ, 570 AM. About five years ago, she started collecting recordings of old radio dramas such as The Whistler, The Shadow and Grand Central Station. She says Remember WENN is a reminder that radio drama is a lost art. "I don't watch much TV," she says. "I'd rather listen to one of my tapes. Your imagination can be more frightening than anything they can do on TV."

- - -

For Grace Franks, 60, of Tampa, Remember WENN takes her back to her youth in Ambler, Pa., and the blackouts during air raid practices of the 1940s.

"We'd cut the lights out but my father would throw a towel over the big Philco radio in our living room," she said. "He'd give up light, but he wouldn't give up radio, so we'd sit in the dark and listen."

- - -

Lawyer Rosemary McGuire of Tampa, who doesn't want to reveal her age, loves the nifty look of the 1940s - the movies, the clothes, the hairstyles, even the furniture - so Remember WENN is a hoot for her.

- - -

Jane Pittman, 55, of Beach Park loves Mackie Bloom, the "short, round little guy who does all the voices."

Pittman recalls how "the whole family would sit around the big console radio at night like we sit around TV today."

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Tune into New Season of Remember WENN

By Harvey Solomon (Boston Herald)

June 19, 1998—One of cable's little pleasures is back. As the broadcast networks rev into rerun mode, American Movie Classics begins the fourth season of its nostalgic sitcom Remember WENN. Set in an understaffed, overworked Pittsburgh radio station in the early '40s, the series was created by Rupert Holmes, best known for his hit song, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." "I've always been a fanatical fan of the Golden Age of radio," said Holmes, "but when I was growing up, radio was being scuttled by the networks. People didn't talk about what Fred Allen said on the radio last night, they talked about what Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle) wore on TV last night."

So in a neat everything-old-is-new-again twist, cable television hearkens back to the days when families gathered around the radio, not the TV set and certainly not the personal computer. Many critics have praised its quiet appeal, with one USA Today reviewer calling it "a nostalgic World War II era charmer."

Remember WENN closed last season with pistols drawn at several characters' heads, and resolves the cliffhanger in its opening episode. Fans will understand, but newcomers may be a bit befuddled by the mix of Nazi propagandists revealed, love lost and found, and a longtime series regular's resurrection.

The dozen new episodes that follow and run into September are stand-alone shows that require no prior knowledge. It's a weekly dose of whimsical goings-on at the little radio station featuring guest stars like John Ratzenberger from Cheers (July 10), Daniel Benzali from Murder One (July 17), John Henson of E!'s Talk Soup (Aug. 7), and Greg Germann of Ally McBeal and Peter Gerety of Homicide (Aug. 14).

Shot in Astoria, Queens, Remember WENN often attracts guest actors appearing in Big Apple stage productions.

"They can be in our show and still make their matinees," Holmes said. "Then there's the fun of dressing up in a period role they might not normally do. Plus on cable there's exposure to a lot of people — on an average day of AMC, more people will see this show than saw the entire run of my Tony Award-winning musical (The Mystery of Edwin Drood). "

Holmes not only gets to write episodes but also composes the accompanying music. The period setting is surprisingly liberating.

"I can write things that I wouldn't dare write as a contemporary piece of music," he said. "What's fun about writing these shows in particular is at no time does anyone suggest that it should be played by electric guitar. And no one ever says, `That'll sound great on a synthesizer.' Basically it's a Hammond organ, an upright bass and a Benny Goodman clarinet."

The new season of Remember WENN premieres tonight at 10 on AMC.

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Dance With WENN Stars Thursday in Logan

in the Deseret News

June 30, 1998—Alternative music's splinter trend toward retro-'40s music has a cable television counterpart in AMC's Remember WENN, and fans of the show as well as fans of the new swing-craze can jitterbug with Jeff and boogie with Betty.

Hugh O'Gordon and Amanda Naughton, stars of the comedy-series that focuses on a struggling radio-station in the 1940s, will be in Logan Thursday, July 2, for "The Swingin' Stars and Stripes Dance."

Sponsored by the American Movie Classics and Charter Communications, the free event will feature the 17-piece Crestmark Orchestra. The dance begins at 8 p.m. at the Evan Stevenson Ballroom on the Utah State University campus, and tickets are available at the Charter Communications office at 1350 N., 200 West, Logan.

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The TV Column: Remember AMC's WENN

By Michael Storey (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

June 30, 1998—Oops. In the rush to get organized for the annual Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in California, I neglected to remind you of the arrival of one of the true oases of summer viewing.

Fortunately, reader Britt Graves of Fayetteville dropped me an e-mail reminder and I'll pass it along:

"I enjoy reading your column in the paper and I was wondering if you have seen the show Remember WENN on AMC?" Graves writes. "You mentioned in a recent article that the summer programs that the networks were offering were very bad (writing- and comedywise), and I wondered if you caught a glimpse of this little gem, because I happen to think it is the best thing on TV. It has been praised by many critics and there is an extremely loyal fan base (check out the Internet!) that watches almost religiously.

"If you have seen it, I hope you will encourage others to tune in as well. If you haven't watched before, please tune in this week, as well as watch past episodes. They are fabulous. I guarantee that you will love them."

Graves is 100 percent correct. I have seen Remember WENN and it's a wonderfully entertaining show and well worthy of viewer support. The half-hour series airs at 9 p.m. Central Fridays on cable's American Movie Classics channel. The show has already nailed down one Emmy and three CableACE Awards.

Set in Pittsburgh in 1941 (it was 1939 when the series began), the commercial-free series focuses on an intrepid band of actors, technicians and producers at radio station WENN. Understaffed but spunky, they bravely attempt to supply their listeners with a daily lineup of live programming.

The talented ensemble includes Melinda Mullins as Hilary Booth, Hugh O'Gorman as Jeff Singer, Amanda Naughton as Betty Roberts, John Bedford Lloyd as Victor Comstock and Christopher Murney as Mackie Bloom.

A couple of episodes of the new season have already slipped past. Don't worry, you'll quickly catch up.

Remember WENN was created by Rupert Holmes, the multiple Tony Award-winning author and composer. Holmes says the series is "a very sweet world with lovely characters, and it's lovely to write for them."

Don't let "sweet" and "lovely" turn you off. This homage to the golden days of radio is razor sharp and witty and written for intelligent viewers who appreciate dialogue. It also boasts perhaps the slickest ensemble cast in the business.

"I am writing for as good a repertory company that has ever appeared on television," Holmes says. "When I am writing, I can hear the characters' voices in my head. What really made me feel great was when our cast was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble right up there with killer NBC series such as Seinfeld and Frasier."

Viewers should mark their calendars for the July 10 episode, "And If I Die Before I Sleep." John Ratzenberger (Cliff on Cheers) guest stars as the man who verifies record attempts for "Ginlet's Guide to World Records." It seems the WENN staff is attempting to set a record for staying awake and on the air.

Future guest stars include Daniel Benzali (Murder One), John Henson (Talk Soup), Peter Gerety (Homicide: Life on the Street) and Greg Germann (Ally McBeal).

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