American Playhouse

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PBS (ended 1994)

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  • Television Anthology of American Dramatic Literature.

    10
    Wildly uneven anthology series which ran for 12 years in the 80's & 90's. Work ranged from special productions of dramatic literature to filmed performances of stage productions to, basically, short films, feature films and miniseries. Early efforts showcased some of the best (then) young actors in America, such as Who Am I This Time? with Chris Walken and Susan Sarandon. This was a great outlet for dramatic literature that otherwise may never have been filmed, such as Arthur Kopit's Wings, Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, The Fifth of July and Working. Because this was aired on PBS, it had no real regular time-slot and what should have become appointment television never did. Other early highlights included Miss Lonelyhearts (Conchatta Ferrell), The Steppenwolf production of Sam Shepard's True West with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise in career launching performances, Jessica Tandy preserving her Tony Award winning performance in The Gin Game, Heartland with Rip Torn and Conchatta Ferrell, Eugene O'Neill's Hughie with Jason Robards and Testament (which earned Jane Alexander an Oscar Nomination).

    In later years, they produced less and acquired more material - the quality began to vary, though there were still worthy entries.

    Production values depended on the source material - Sunday in the Park with George was a filmic adaptation of the original staging of this Pulitzer Prize winning musical. Thus, the original design and performances were preserved in permanent fashion. Similarly, The House of Blue Leaves preserves John Mahoney and Swoozie Kurtze's Tony winning performances. The Grapes of Wrath demonstrates the theatrical magic created with Frank Galati's adaptation of the Steinbeck novel.

    We could use an outlet like this again.
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