Television Q&A

Hemsley’s Jefferson, Deacon cut from the same cloth


Akron Beacon Journal

Q. I have been watching The Jeffersons and Amen back to back on cable and have noticed a lot of similarities between George Jefferson and Deacon Ernest Frye. Did the creators of Amen try to make the Deacon much like George Jefferson knowing Sherman Hemsley was playing the part?

There’s no question that Amen aimed to draw viewers who enjoyed Hemsley on The Jeffersons, and The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows notes that Frye was “a similar character” to George Jefferson.

The Jeffersons, after all, had run of 10 years, ending about a year before Amen premiered in 1986. And even before it arrived, NBC had taken inspiration from the older comedy, premiering 227 with The Jeffersons’ Marla Gibbs.

Hemsley, who died of lung cancer in July at age 74, was laid to rest just last month because of a dispute over his estate.Q. Could you advise where I could write to complain about the annoying background music that so many TV programs subject us to? Sometimes they even have singing to go with it and are so loud that it is difficult to hear the dialogue. I am sure there must be millions of viewers who feel the same way.

A lot of TV broadcasts employ more sophisticated audio than in the past, to sound better on home theater systems and to appeal to viewers, especially younger ones. In addition, some shows mix the music high because they want the songs to be heard to make a dramatic point, or because the show has paid handsomely for the music and wants to showcase it.

Sometimes the sound mixing has to be done quickly to meet TV production deadlines, so it’s not as good as it should be, and the dialogue gets buried. Moreover, an older TV set, even one with stereo, may not be able to handle the elaborate mix. Even home-theater systems can frustrate you if the settings or the arrangement of speakers does not properly balance the sound.

Finally, there’s a generational issue here. Younger viewers are more accustomed to loud music while older viewers find it distracting. And the people making television as a rule care less about older viewers than they do about the young.

You may want to tinker with the audio settings on your TV to see if you can find a better blend. If you have some kind of home-theater sound, switch it from multichannel to stereo. That seems to make the dialogue more audible.

Q. The movie Sophisticated Gents is on VHS. Any chance it will be on DVD soon? And is the movie My Funny Valentine with Alfred Woodard and Loretta Devine on DVD yet?

I do not know of an authorized DVD release of either movie.

Q. What was the Western Clu Gulager used to be in? I believe he played Billy the Kid. He was famous for other shows, too, but this was the one I watched constantly.

Gulager played Billy the Kid on The Tall Man, an NBC Western that aired from 1960 to 1962. It looked at the friendship between Billy and lawman Pat Garrett, played by Barry Sullivan, even though they were at legal odds — and, in real life, Garrett eventually killed Billy. Other viewers may remember Gulager from NBC’s The Virginian, where he played Ryker for several seasons. Born in Oklahoma in 1928, he turned 84 last month.

Send questions to TV Mailbag, Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or Replies cannot be guaranteed.

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