Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Salute to TV writers: ‘The White Shadow’

Looks like my union will vote today to end the Hollywood writers’ strike. And soon a grateful nation will get what it has been craving... more episodes of “Two and a Half Men.”

I hope the deal worked out between the Writers Guild and the big studios will prove to be fruitful for the storytellers of today... and of the future.

Meanwhile, I will continue these little “salutes” because there’s more audio I want to share. And more I’d like to say about the art of good television writing.

“The White Shadow” was one of my favorite shows as a teenager. It was the first drama series that took place in a world that resembled my own.

My favorite episode was in the second season. Warren Coolidge (Byron Stewart) becomes an actor on a TV show called “Downtown High,” and he gets a swelled head. The story becomes a satire of show business and of the racial dynamics of Hollywood. It’s quite funny.

“Coolidge Goes Hollywood” was originally broadcast on March 18, 1980. It was written by John Falsey and Marc Rubin. (Falsey went on to co-create “St. Elsewhere” and “Northern Exposure.”)

Click here to stream a 2-minute clip from this episode on my Vox audio stash. On the set of “Downtown High,” Coolidge is asked by the white director (George Wyner... fabulous) to play a scene he’s not comfortable with.

Season Two of “The White Shadow” is available on DVD.


New Black Woman said...

I've never heard of "The White Shadow." Interesting.

Guess that shows my age.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

Dave, another one of my favorite shows.

The most poignant episode for me was the episode where Jackson got killed. That show aired shortly after a friend of mine and his mother died of asphyxiation in the ninth grade.

Speaking of Jackson, he spoke my all-time favorite line from the show. When a white student asked him a question about music, he replied, "You ever heard of Funkadelic?" Not Earth Wind, Michael Jackson, or the Commodores. Not even Parliament. Funkadelic!!!

Kinda like that line you wrote for Homicide "Man, that fool melted my Eddie Hazel records." I'd been a pissed off snitch then, too.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

BTW, on the bottom row, you're talking about three baad ass directors. From the right to left, Timothy Van Patten, Thomas Carter, and Kevin Hooks.

Their names are on a lotta tv show credits of very good series.

Undercover Black Man said...

New Black Woman: Savor every moment of your golden youth! ;^D

I think you would enjoy "White Shadow" on DVD.

DeAngelo: I remember being blown away by the Jackson-got-killed episode when it came on. But when I got the DVDs and saw it... not so much. That particular episode didn't age well, I'm sorry to say.

(Although there's an interesting commentary track by the writer, who says that boss Bruce Paltrow's original concept was to have Jackson robbing the store, then getting shot!)

Don't remember the Funkadelic reference.

And I'm glad you pointed out the directors. That's something that Paltrow deserves a lot of credit for. (I think he launched Eric Laneuville's directing career too.)

Bklyn6 said...

I used to watch this show all the time, but I can't remember many of the episodes. The only one that really comes to mind is the one where the guys form a singing group. They sing a song with the lyrics, "Take it back, doo-dip, doo-doo, take it back."

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I didn't remember that song till you said it. :^)

DeAngelo Starnes said...

Dave, that blows me away a little bit about Paltrow's original instinct. It wouldn't have fit Jackson's character at all. He was street but he wasn't that street. Glad that idea got nixed.

When I saw the re-run on ESPN Classic a few years back (again when I was laid up, I think this time after foot surgery and thru the haze of narcotic pain-killers) I remember thinking the show wasn't as harrowing as when I was young. But then I braced myself, too.

It struck me really hard at the time because it was coupled with my buddy's death, and that was the first time I had dealt with the death of someone I actually knew.

I wish I could recall the episode that Funkadelic line came from. I just remember it was one of the white cats from the team.

And remember that episode they all sang in the shower. That was water fountain/lunchroom/gym/recess discussion for the junior high bruhs at my school.