Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mourning Bravo

The most depressing aspect of the morning commute is seeing the large advertisements for the latest tacky “reality” show the Bravo network is currently peddling. Why has the bastardization of a once rich source of programming gone relatively unremarked upon?

While in school, I saw some of the greatest films ever made on Bravo, including Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night, Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, and Louis Malle’s Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud (featuring an original soundtrack by Miles Davis). Now Bravo is more likely to show celebrity dog fighting than anything from the Janus Collection.

Another casualty of Bravo’s programming switch to the life styles of the vapid rich was the South Bank Show. Hosted by Melvyn Bragg, the British show profiles a wide array of cultural figures and events. Most notable in my memory is John Jeremy’s Boogie Woogie Music, a short documentary on boogie woogie piano largely focusing on Meade Lux Lewis. I do not remember the entire show, but I will never forget Lewis’s final gig was at a place called the Circus Snack Bar. In retrospect, this episode may have helped acclimate my ears to more syncopated forms of music.

Most likely it was also on Bravo that I saw Claude Sautet’s Un Coeur en Hiver. The film and its use of the trios and sonatas of Ravel are undeniably powerful. Un Couer and Georges Delerue’s memorable themes for Day for Night and The Last Metro probably started me thinking about the relationship between film and music. Years later, I would teach a class on jazz and film at SCPS.

What kind of seeds is Bravo now sowing with shows about Paula Abdul, whose life bears no resemblance to reality? Ever since it became part of the NBC Universal fold, Bravo has been on a steep (but probably profitable) decline, and with few complaints from self appointed culture advocates. Truffaut fans can take their business to Netflix, but the absence of a program like The South Bank Show, which could unexpectedly turn random viewers on to Meade Lux Lewis, is a dead loss.