Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 1, 2019
by Noreen Wise
Two great experiences combined into one unique series is sure to net an exciting result. MGM Television is joining Universal Music Publishing Group to breath dramatic life into Billy Joel’s deep music catalog and create a TV anthology series based on Mr. Joel’s extensive repertoire of stories told through his lyrics. How brilliant!
It’s the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups concept, “two great tastes that taste great together.” I’m so in the mood for something original, especially when it’s rooted in something extremely successful — Billy Joel’s incredibly deep catalog. Nearly every single series streaming service is bloated with way too much dark horror, which I personally find depressing at the end of a dark day of current events. Isn’t entertainment supposed to be fun and uplifting, a vehicle through which the public can “forget about life for awhile?”
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is landing at an ideal time, providing a unique entertainment experience for viewers. Billy Joel’s music appeals to all generations, evidenced through his Madison Square Garden monthly residency. More than 70 consecutive sold out shows, beginning January 27, 2014 and running to the present. I’ve attended several — most recently this past Friday night September 27, 2019 — and was in awe that one packed event could contain multiple generations of die hard fans. In fact, a 14 year old boy explained that his high school band plays 4 – 5 Billy Joel songs. According to this young piano player, the school’s band members love Billy Joel’s music because his songs contain so many instruments.
Kevin Fox is writing the Scenes from an Italian Restaurant series. Mr. Fox is a heavy hitter, the creator of Law & Order: SVU, so very familiar with New York City, Mr. Joel’s home turf. Mr. Joel & Mr. Fox will be the Executive Producers along with Joel’s producing partner, Steve Cohen. Mr. Cohen is Billy Joel’s co-created Billy Joel — New York State of Mind together.
The “arc-thology” — what is an arc-thology anyway, I googled and couldn’t find an answer (it appears to be a new word invented just for this series) — will be based on Billy Joel lyrics “reimagined and rearranged by Joel’s music team — with his input — and take his tunes in new directions.” I speculate that this means transformed to the present. Many of Joel’s greatest hits were released in the mid to late 70’s, before computers and smart phones were invented. Joel also mentions brands and hairstyles in his songs, some of which are now extinct. As well as years — “summer of ’75” for one — which are so last century. It’s a whole new world out there. It would make sense if we could see Joel’s universal themes that run through his songs, themes that have remained true across the centuries just like Aesop’s Fables, as well as the different generations in modern times, brought into the present. Disney does this with it’s classics. But please don’t hold me to this, I’m merely speculating absent any specific details.
What I consider the most exciting part about a unique series like Scenes from an Italian Restaurant is that so many Billy Joel songs have become the soundtracks of our lives. Listening to these faves, brings back waves of nostalgia, reminding us of “good times,” but also about American ideals, as well as our country’s history. I’ve enjoyed seeing this at the MSG concerts. Thousands of people collectively enjoying awesome memories.
Through this series, it seems like we’ll be able to create new memories too, with a whole new collection of mental images to match up to the lyrics, broadening and deepening the song’s imprint on our lives. I love it!
And most impressively, there’s also the positive health impact of Billy Joel’s broad eclectic collection of genres. The actual melodies and beats and the instruments themselves. I began noticing this a while ago and took a deep dive into researching how music impacts health, as well as music’s connection to our body chemistry, and was astounded. I was very aware of it personally I guess, when I discovered I could run twice as far (four miles) listening to Scenes From An Italian Restaurant over and over, versus any other song. This was so consistent that I determined there must be a scientific explanation. I’ve noticed the same type of phenomenon when driving long distances. No matter what music I used to listened to, I would eventually become groggy and terrified I’d fall asleep. The only exception was a Billy Joel soundtrack. How bizarre is that? Researching, I discovered Pythagoras’ “quantum harmonies” and how these harmonies connect humankind to the cosmos. I’m convinced that many, if not all, of Billy Joel’s compositions are quantum harmonies.
I wish it was more clear what “coming soon” means. Once an exciting series like this is hinted at, it’s must more difficult to scroll through Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime offerings and not feel disappointed. Six of Billy Joel’s thirteen albums were released in October & November, so my fingers are crossed that “soon” means real soon.
News of the Scenes from an Italian Restaurant series broke on September 25, 2019, so I’ll speculate that the pilot is complete and ready to air. (Is that wishful thinking?) And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that there’s a wise risk-taker at one of these networks that has enjoyed a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and can recognize brilliance when she/he sees it.
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