Let’s begin this “Random Stuff” post by singing the praises of another public radio show. I devoted the entirety of my previous post to that Saturday-morning-in-Wisconsin mainstay, Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? The first segment of this post will be devoted to what has been a Saturday afternoon public radio mainstay on the other side of the 49th parallel. I’m referring to Canada, of course, and the show in question is Definitely Not the Opera. No, really, that’s the name of the show (hence the italics), which has been a part of CBC Radio One’s Saturday afternoon schedule since 1994. Sure, it’s not as long as Whad’Ya Know‘s 31 years (and other radio shows dwarf both for longevity), but it’s still an incredible amount of years for such a radio program.
So, what’s Definitely Not the Opera, you ask? Well, for one, it’s… uh, definitely not the opera. The show got its title from the fact that it airs opposite opera music programming carried by CBC Radio One’s music-oriented sister network. DNTO, as the show is much commonly known, started out as a hodgepodge of magazine-style stories, essays, commentaries, contests, and interviews focusing on entertainment and pop culture and geared towards a youth and young-adult audience. Oh, and it had music, too. Quite a bit of music on some weeks, either interspersed between the features or in recorded concert segments.
But around 2007, five years after current host Sook-Yin Lee (that’s her in the above photo) took the hosting reins, DNTO would evolve. The show’s length would be reduced from four to two hours (and down further to one hour since last fall), and its focus would shift from being a pop culture and music magazine show to a mostly lighthearted documentary and storytelling program. Sure, music would still be included in the interstitials between segments, but DNTO would be devoted to a different topic each week. The topics could be as simple as traveling or sweaters, as meaningful as gratitude or romance, or as powerful as Indigenous life or redemption. But the interviews, music, first-person accounts (a real DNTO hallmark, in my opinion) and Sook-Yin’s own personal stories and anecdotes all had a laser-sharp focus on the topic at hand.
DNTO wasn’t above getting out of the radio studio. A memorable example off the top of my head was an enchanting February 2015 show devoted to a trip to a remote community in northern Manitoba, a place so remote you’d have to look up on Google Maps in order to know where it was. (The place is Pukatawagan, and here is a brief video promo of DNTO‘s visit there.) The show definitely wasn’t above interacting with its audience either. In fact, listeners were invited to share their own stories and experiences, some of which were included in a follow-up companion show, Your DNTO, that aired on Tuesday afternoons.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. It’s about to be that way for Whad’Ya Know, and it’s also about to be that way for DNTO. The CBC announced on May 2 that DNTO would air its final original broadcast on May 14. That means that… holy crap! That’s this Saturday?! Wow, the end is arriving pretty fast! (Or is that just me?) Sure, it’s sad news for DNTO‘s faithful audience as well as its staff (“Team DNTO”), but leave it to Sook-Yin Lee herself to take the high road. “Radio, like everything, is ephemeral,” as she says in this message, in which she expresses gratitude to the staff, guests, audiences, and “all the strangers I’ve met on street corners, who opened the deepest parts of their lives and shared them with us. That profound generosity is what humbles me. It is what I am grateful for.”
While Sook-Yin Lee expresses some nervousness about the uncertainty of the future (which is natural), she is at peace with it. But unlike Wisconsin Public Radio basically telling Michael Feldman to hit the road, Sook-Yin and her crew still have a future with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: She will eventually begin work on a new project for the public broadcaster, while the Winnipeg-based “Team DNTO” will move on to another radio project with a new host. Whatever their futures may hold, here’s hoping their new projects will be as wonderful and compelling — and as fun to listen to — as DNTO has been the past 22 years. Perhaps it will be not just “Beautiful” but more than okay. I’m also kind of hoping that their new projects will air on a Saturday, because Saturdays without listening to DNTO or Whad’Ya Know? are really going to be the pits. Having the chance to listen to both shows each Saturday was something I really looked forward to.
If you’re interested in listening to DNTO… well, you better hurry, because as noted above, the last episode airs this Saturday (May 14). But at least there’s the show’s vast archives of prior episodes, which can be found through its website. You can listen to the show live as it airs on the CBC.ca website (it airs at 3PM in each time zone). Or if you have SiriusXM satellite radio, as I do, you can listen at 2PM (Central Time) on channel 169.
** (5/13/2016 UPDATE) ** … or, since it’s the age of the internet, you can listen to DNTO‘s final episode right now. Yep, they’ve already recorded the finale, a retrospective on the series’ 22 years and its more notable moments that was taped before a live audience in Winnipeg, complete with Sook-Yin Lee driving some heavy machinery.
Since DNTO in its later years was all about storytelling, I’ll honor the show by telling you a true story of my own that would’ve fit in nicely with a recent DNTO episode about telephone stories. And I swear to you this story is true:
Many, many moons ago, when I first got my very own apartment and set up telephone service in my name, I was assigned a phone number that obviously belonged to someone else before me. Yeah, it’s common for landline phone numbers to be assigned from one customer to another over time. But it was so obvious for me in this case because in the just under 3 years that I lived in my own first apartment and was in possession of this phone number, I would keep getting calls for an “ABC Refrigeration.” And these were not the “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” type of calls. These were actual adults who were looking for an actual ABC Refrigeration. When I politely told them they had the wrong number, they would respond with “Well, this the number they have in the phone book” or “Well, that’s the number on their label on the back of my freezer.” But they were always courteous and offered a “Well, thanks anyway” before ending the call.
The real doozy in this story — and I swear this happened as well — came one early evening when a lady, whom I’d guess was in her early-to-mid 60s judging from her speaking voice, called me up and… well, here’s how the call went:
Her: “Yes, is this ABC Refrigeration?”
Me: “No, I’m sorry.”
Her: “Is this, 555-4142 [or whatever my number was back then]?”
Me (knowing I’ve done this routine before): “Uh, yes.”
Her: “Well then this must be ABC Refrigeration!”
Me (somewhat taken aback by how certain she seemed about it): “No, I’m truly sorry, this isn’t. You must have the wrong number.”
Her (sounding really snotty): “Well, then, could you please look up their number for me in your phone book?”
Me (thrown for a loop and not knowing what to do other than being courteous): “Uh… well, okay, hold on.”
And that’s when I reached for my phone book… which would be a moot point, for I could hear on the other end an exasperated sigh and a “click” that ended the call. I still don’t think it was a “Prince Albert in a can” moment, but I also couldn’t help but think… just who is this ABC Refrigeration anyway? Is it even in business anymore? And what’s more, why couldn’t she have looked up the number for ABC Refrigeration her own damn self? Whatever the case, it’s a true story (and, again, it was true) that I can’t help but laugh about when looking back on it.
For a crossdresser like me, it’s always a thrill when thinking about wearing an awesome wig or a cool costume of any style. And over the past decade and a half, when one thinks about seeing wigs or cool costumes on television, the mind usually turns to [cue the pulse-pounding theme] Alias, the ABC spy drama that made Jennifer Garner a star. For those who don’t remember, Alias, whose 5-season run ended 10 years ago this month (gosh, has it been that long?), featured Garner as superspy Sydney Bristow, who would venture everywhere from London to Berlin to Paris or even Kajagoogoo (this is what I’m referring to there) to thwart some nefarious evildoer’s sinister plans… and look damn good when doing so. While it didn’t mean a thing without Garner’s effective acting (she was incredible in the role), a spy has gotta have the perfect look that befits their, uh, alias. And Alias relied on costume designer Laura Goldsmith and wig designer/hairstylist Michael Reitz to give Sydney her killer (figuratively and literally) looks. The TVLine.com website has, through this link, a photo gallery highlighting some of Sydney’s better looks over Alias‘ 105-episode run, including comments from Goldsmith and Reitz as well as a few from Garner and a couple of her fellow castmates.
About Sydney’s wigs… I once read a TV Guide feature about “Favorite TV Guilty Pleasures,” and the writer listed among them watching Alias for Sydney’s extravagant costumes, adding in jest that “the wigs alone could bankrupt a small country.” I had to chuckle a little bit at that until I read one comment in the above-linked gallery from Reitz stating they tried to get as much mileage as possible from each wig since, well, “They are about $20 grand apiece.” Wow! I guess those wigs really could bankrupt a small country. One thing’s for sure: They do not skimp on wigs and costumes at the American Broadcasting Company. Another thing’s for sure: Whatever the wig or the costume, Jennifer Garner could really rock it.
The above feature on Alias came at the right time, for had it not, I probably would’ve had to feature this last story on one of my “clear out the bookmarks” posts (update: this is now part of that category). While Alias and Person of Interest are set in separate worlds (the former in the world of international espionage, the latter in the world of technology and crime), they do share a couple of common links: They both have J.J. Abrams as an executive producer, and they both have featured Amy Acker in their cast. Acker had a minor recurring role on Alias, but on Person of Interest, she has had a more prominent role as Samantha Groves, aka “Root,” a lethal assassin and expert computer hacker who is obsessed with the “Machine” that has been the centerpiece of the series since its 2011 debut. Root is not above doing anything in the killer-for-hire business, up to and including donning a disguise or two (or several) and impersonating several figures from a psychiatrist to a psych-ward patient.
With Person of Interest about to end its own 5-season run in the coming weeks, now is as good a time as ever to highlight this photo feature from last September on the TV Insider website (consider it TV Guide‘s more upscale sister site). The spread features some of the looks Amy Acker has sported in portraying Root. And while the spread is not as expansive as the Alias feature (there’s only a handful of pics), the looks featured are unique, and they’re all accompanied by comments from Acker herself. Included are the “femme fatale” (hey, wait a minute…) style featured in the above photo; a “runaway bride” look; a simple lab coat and hair style (Acker’s own locks, I presume?) for posing as a doctor; and even a bear costume (a bear costume?!). They’re pretty awesome looks, and kudos to Acker for the versatility, as well as to Person of Interest‘s hair and wardrobe people for helping her pull them off.