"When last we met
on Remember WENN..."
A summary of events since 1998.
In 1997, Remember WENN was riding on a wave of critical acclimation and a small, but loyal fan base. The show had received several Emmy nominations, a Cable ACE award, and had also been nominated for best ensemble group at the Screen Actors Guild awards. AMC upped the roster of third season episodes from thirteen to seventeen, and several established network and Broadway stars appeared on the series, including Malcolm Gets from Caroline in the City and Jason Alexander from Seinfeld, plus Betty Buckley, Donna Murphy, David Canary, and Rue McClanahan.
Before fourth season began, AMC made two requests of series creator and producer Rupert Holmes: third season had its rather dark moments, and they wished him to return to the lighter aspects of seasons one and two. Also, they wanted the usually 28-30 minute episodes tightened up to 22 minutes so that the show could be sold in syndication.
The former was actually less a problem than the latterexcept for the fact that AMC also asked that the continuing storylines be dropped without explanation. When it was argued that the fans would notice, one episode was allowed to tie up the "spy" storyline (the Scott and Betty coda was squirreled into episode two of season four for completion's sake). However, the six to eight minutes missing from each episode meant each story needed to be fairly straightforward, with no amusing subplots or character pieces that usually highlighted the episodes. Still, the cast did good things with the 22 minutes alotted to them, with "If I Die Before I Sleep" being a comic highlight of fourth season.
At this point, things still looked positive for the future. AMC was sponsoring a contest during fourth season, with the prize a guest appearance on a fifth season episode, so that a fifth season was definitely planned. Clues were hidden in four episodes, including "Pratfall," and contest entrants could sent a postcard with the answers to AMC, or enter them online. Noted network television actors John Ratzenberger (Cheers), Daniel Benzali (Murder One), John Henson, and Greg Germann were all fourth season guest stars.
However, there were signs that all was not completely well. The cast and crew of the series had been warned that any fifth season would probably not be a complete thirteen episodes. Carolee Carmello and several other members of the cast were told only eight episodes would be done, and Rupert Holmes was informed that options were between a four episode "wrap up" or a concluding movie. In addition, a fourth season Rupert Holmes movie spoof of The Maltese Falcon was pulled in favor of a script by playwright David Ives parodying Sunset Boulevard that provided some comedic highlights for the cast, but which was thematically wrong for a series taking place in the early 1940s.
But since a fifth season has been stated in some form, and since the contest promised a viewer a small part in a fifth season episode, the decision was made to end fourth season on a cliffhanger, knowing that the "loose threads" would be tied up in that (possibly limited) next season.
In the meantime American Movie Classics had experienced a turnover in management. The new group in charge wanted to attract a "younger, hipper" crowd by showing newer movies, adding commercial breaks, and severing ties with anything that made the channel seemed old-fashioned, including movie host Bob Dorian and a nostalgia little series about radio. In early September, directly after Rupert Holmes left for a tour with the stage play Goosebumps (based on the R.L. Stine children's books), AMC announced the cancellation of Remember WENN, to be replaced by the more sophisticated movie-production based series, The Lot. Ironically, it was the fans who informed Holmes (and some of the cast) of the cancellation, as AMC did not communicate this to them directly.
Pleas for a wrap up fell on the proverbial deaf ears, and even fan rallying for a DVD release has so far been ignored, even though AMC has been approached by several DVD companies offering to do a release of the series, one a well-known outfit that distributes British media.
Any idea what plans were in the works for that fifth season?
The idea was to expand upon the "WENN Entertainment Network" that Victor mentioned in the last episode. The station would provide entertainment to stateside troops and war workers, with opportunities for musical entertainers to appear at the station.
And what about the cliffhangers? Do we have any idea what would have happened in the future?
About a year after the cancellation, a New York-based WENN fan who attended one of Rupert Holmes' plays met him afterwards and asked if there was any info he could share about the cliffhangers. The following was learned:
Mr. Foley and Eugenia would not be married right away.
The Scott/Betty/Victor triangle would not be resolved until the series ended. There was no indication who would "win fair Betty's hand."
The person Hilary was married to was...Scott! The marriage was for sham purposes onlyScott needed a wife for a scam he was pulling and Hilary, to annoy Jeff even further, went along with it. (The cancelled Maltese Falcon episode would have shown a version of a Scott/Hilary relationship.)
So what happened with the contest? Did anyone win?
This is only hearsay, but apparently they picked someone from the contest winners and gave them a part in "All's Noisy on the Pittsburgh Front," presumably in the scene where Captain Amazon is taken away by the staff from the mental hospital. Which of course means the cancellation had been planned from the time that episode was filmed.
Whatever happened to Remember WENN: The Musical?
This was a plan of Rupert Holmes' to continue the story via a stage play, to appear at the Helen Hayes Theatre in Nyack, New York, to feature as much of the original cast as possible. The theatre even went as far as announcing the production for the 2003 season and selling advance tickets, but the project fell through.
However, Rupert Holmes did compile several episodes of the original series, including "On the Air" and "Armchair Detective," for a production at the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 2008, in which the series came full circle: it was presented as a radio drama! Amy Walker played Betty Roberts, and the role of Victor Comstock was played by Gary Sandy, from WKRP in Cincinnati. The production ended on a bittersweet note with a small future hint: that television would eventually appear and overwhelm radio, and that Hilary would become Beaver's grandmother on Leave It to Beaver and that Mackie would end up being a clown on a kids' birthday show. It was stated in the brochure that he was interested in doing more of these compilations for any future festivals.
A CD of this play was offered for sale soon after the performance. It may be still available here, although the page appears to be out of date.
What are the cast members doing now?
"Oh, so many things!" as Betty would say. Sadly, we lost George Hall (Mr. Eldridge) several years ago. Margaret Hall (no relation) has retired. Kevin O'Rourke shows up frequently in One Life to Live and other soap operas, and both he and John Bedford Lloyd have done audio books. Both Kevin and John recently appeared together in an episode of CBS's police series Blue Bloods (Kevin has appeared on the series at least twice). Amanda Naughton has continued her stage career with appearances in The Women and other California-based plays. Hugh O'Gorman was also living in California at last word. Christopher Murney continues to do voice work including several videogames. Tom Beckett has done theatre and film, and was Elbridge Gerry in the critically acclaimed miniseries John Adams (which also featured Hugh O'Gorman and John Bedford Lloyd in small roles). Mary Stout is doing stage work: you can friend her on Facebook. Melinda Mullins remarried and, at last report, was living in France. More info about any of the cast can be found by searching online!
What's Rupert Holmes doing now?
Just about everything, as always. "Multifaceted" is the only word for the perpetual motion machine that is Holmes. Check out http://www.rupertholmes.com for the latest.
Incidentally, Holmes has stated that he's always considered Ray Sherwood, the protagonist of his mystery novel Swing, to be Scott Sherwood's "white sheep" brother. So if you want more of the Sherwood family, you might consider picking up a copy of Swing!
Didn't TurtleBack Enterprises/Howard Meltzer Productions (the producers of Remember WENN) do other series? What happened to them?
Two known miniseries were made by Turtleback: The Royale (1996) and Paramour (1999). The three-part Royale was aired in movie format on AMC and won an Emmy Award for actress Pat Carroll. It was the postwar story of a latchkey kid named Billy, who whiled away the time his widowed mother was at work going to the movies at a theatre called The Royale and making mischief, running afoul of the movie theatre's martinet manager and also its head usher. To pay for breaking some dishes that were a theatre giveaway, Billy is apprenticed to Carl, the projectionist, until he works off his debt, and develops a father-son relationship with him. This was a promising nostalgic series that unfortunately included at least one preposterous subplot (Billy dubbing an art film himself). No further episodes were commissioned. Paramour was a four-episode story in the vein of Remember WENN, about a horseracing magazine that is abruptly changed over by its management to be a movie gossip rag. The story featured WENN semi-regular Audrie Neenan (Miss Cosgrave), WENN guest star Simon Jones, and a very young Kristin Chenoweth as employees. Not sure if it was ever aired, as the characters bore a very strong resemblance to "mash-ups" of Remember WENN charactersthe new "lady editor" was a cross between Betty and Hilary, the boss' nephew who runs afoul of her was an unsympathetic version of Scott/Jeff, and Neenan's secretary character was a meld of Gertie and Maple.
Am I misremembering, or did Molly Ringwald ("Sight Unseen's" Angela) also appear in something about early TV that bore a resemblance to Remember WENN?
It was from another team of producers altogether, and broadcast on TNT in 2002, but yes, Ringwald was one of the main characters in a television film called The Big Time, about the early days of television. Pretty cool film with a similar nostalgic feel, but TNT allowed the idea to lapse. Ironically, the "Betty"-like character, Audrey Drummond, was played by Christina Hendricks, who now plays Joan Holloway on the series Mad Menon AMC.
Did you miss this movie? Check out the information on The Big Time.