Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Asimov, Ellison, Terkel, Trillin & Wolfe

In case your monthly limit of fine reading has been reached, we'll share someone else's memories. (30 yrs. ago no one imagined 1980s telebision would be remembered as quality fare.)
Once upon a time, before A&E had grown into the network that brings us "Hoarders" and "Storage Wars," it was a highbrow cable channel. A&E stood for "arts and entertainment" and showed things like operas and symphonies. In its most nascent form, it was Alpha Repertory Television Service, or ARTS.

An evening of ARTS programming in 1981 included "an organ recital from Notre Dame Cathedral; an essay on the painter Edouard Manet; a ballet tribute to the sculptor Alexander Calder; a profile of Ernest Hemingway, narrated by Anthony Burgess, and a short film starring the mime Marcel Marceau."

Perhaps mime was a little quiet for TV. By 1982 the channel had livened things up by adding a talk show called "Nightcap," hosted by one of the greatest listeners of the 20th century: Studs Terkel. His co-host was Calvin Trillin, who even then had been writing for the New Yorker for decades. In some ways, the show was so stereotypically highbrow -- an oriental rug, subtle classical music introduction and soporific announcer -- that it might be mistaken for a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

Not so when Terkel and Trillin hosted a trio of science fiction writers: Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and Gene Wolfe. That's partly because of Asimov's out-of-this-world sideburns -- or are they mutton chops? But mostly because Ellison is in top rapid-fire, pugilistic form.
Runs (24:51) & is nothing special, but it probably won't kill you.


mikey said...

There were 2 collections that, more than anything else, convinced me I wanted to - NEEDED to - write. They were Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God and Ellison's Paingod and Other Delusions. He had a sense of how the Universe worked under the lid that simply changed the way I looked at everything...

Suzan said...

God, I loved A&E.

Could not figure what had happened to it the last year or so although I admit I let it get away from me that 20 years I quit watching . . . .

Thanks for the memories. I really used to love the Sunday morning shows particularly. All arts/music programming - no inane talking heads.

Pure bliss.