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|Television trends have come and gone over the years...witness the current rash of “reality” television productions that feature the participation of few if any professional performers on-camera, and utilize musical scoring done with synthesizers instead of a room full of live musicians. The budget advantages of reality television seem to rule the day and the public is certainly responding positively.
Looking back a few decades, in a nostalgic view of the television of the “sixties” one finds a great number of Musical Variety shows offered to the public - “THE RED SKELTON SHOW”, “DANNY KAYE”, “CAROL BURNETT”, “SMOTHERS BROTHERS”, and “JUDY GARLAND”. These shows offered a wonderful opportunity for young singers and dancers a training ground, in which to hone their skills and enter into the business. Rehearsing and performing new “special material” each week kept us on their toes.
The chorus performers were often used in on-camera sketches, and there was always a number prepared which involved both singing and dancing, with varying levels of expertise. These “chorus” jobs were an entry into the whole world of “session singing” because the busier, more established singers didn’t want to work on them, as the long rehearsal hours took them out of availability for the more lucrative “jingle market”. So variety shows were how many of us got started. Because of these longer hours of being together rehearsing, there developed too, a real sense of family among the performers.
The only “variety” shows left on the air now, other than “specials”, are the numerous awards shows - The Academy Awards, the Country Music Awards, The Grammys, The SAG Awards, etc.. These shows still often employ live singers. Also of course " American Idol" and "Dancing With The Stars" are now employing union singers for both solo and back-up work, and are employing live musicians every week as well.
During the sixties the half-hour “sit-coms” such as “HAPPY DAYS”, “THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY” and “THE MONKEYS” found tremendous public acceptance. They utilized the popular music of the day as their centerpiece and there was a tremendous amount of “sound alike” recording done, which involved duplicating the vocal performances of the hit records of the time. Sit-coms have remained a successful part of the entertainment television landscape and there is still some work in that area, primarily on-camera situations where a church choir is seen, or a group is performing as part of the story line, but this source of employment certainly is far less plentiful today.
In the seventies and eighties the development of “cop” shows, “lawyer” shows, heavier dramatic content, etc. increased. These shows like “MIAMI VICE”, and eventualy “NYPD”, “L.A. LAW”, and “LAW & ORDER” evolved out of the earlier, softer approach to detective and/or episodic dramatic shows, like “MATLOCK”, “DIAGNOSIS MURDER”, “CHINA BEACH”, “HOME FRONT”, etc. The composers who scored these shows often used voices or solo voice as a color in their underscores.
Television production expanded more recently to include the innovative, edgier content of the premium cable shows of today, - “SEX & THE CITY”, “OZ”, “THE SOPRANOS”, “SIX FEET UNDER”, etc. There is not so much use of voices as a color in the instrumental underscores of these shows, but often records are used as “source cues” or simply as voice-over to create an atmosphere, a mood, or to make a comment on the action.
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