Saturday, January 1, 2011

Late Night Television

The other night I couldn’t sleep, so I wandered into the TV room for an hour or two. What I saw was noteworthy—more than interesting simply because I don’t normally see these things.

Jimmy Fallon’s guest was Paul McCartney. I don’t remember ever seeing Paul McCartney just chatting. I liked his story about taking a bus in New York City. Most other bus riders that day privately, silently twittered (and probably Tweeted) upon recognizing their famous fellow passenger. But one lady called out, “Hey, aren’t you Paul McCartney?” He answered yes. “What’re you doing on a bus?” He said, “I’m going to the north side, just like you. Now why don’t you come sit next to me and we’ll talk?” And she did. And they chatted all the way to the north side.

Upon Fallon’s mentioning the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, McCartney expressed gratefulness to have spoken of babies and bread-making with his friend before his death. That they had spoken about such simple stuff of life was evidence to him that they had reconciled their differences. McCartney treasures this memory.

And then Fallon and McCartney together sang a “Scrambled Eggs” version of “Yesterday.” I enjoyed seeing Jimmy Fallon’s giddiness at the whole thing—the silly lyrics and as well as the pinch-me-I’m-singing-with-Paul-McCartney reality.

The same night on Oprah, her audience was her staff. She showed behind-the-scenes drama in producing some Oprah episodes, and she praised staff members by name for their sacrifices, inventive ideas, tact, perseverance, skill, loyalty. Viewing this was a most uplifting exercise for me, and I loved that Oprah promised that in her new OWN network’s programming, she will only build people up, never tear them down.

Channel-surfing that night introduced me to someone new, too—Gustavo Dudamel. On a Great Performances show, this wild-haired, animated, smiling man conducted the LA Philharmonic in rousing Latin-flavored pieces. Screen captions gave only song titles, not the name of this goofy guy having so much fun zigzagging a conductor’s baton through the air. Oddly, when I switched channels to the Tavis Smiley show, he and Quincy Jones asked a penetrating question: “What price have we paid as a society to squeeze music education out of our schools?” They talked about one solution, El Sistema, the brilliant vision of Gustavo Dudamel, energetic music director of the LA Philharmonic. Switching back to Great Performances, I was just in time to see conductor Gustavo Dudamel’s name roll through the credits.

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