Ask Jackson: November 2021

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m bumping up our bimonthly Q&A entry so I can have a little more time to prepare November’s other Wildcard efforts. Think of this as an advance copy, and thanks to everyone who sent in something — if you don’t see your “Q” here, I just may “A” it next time! (As always, please submit here.)


Nat asks… What’s going on with the comments? Sometimes they’re open, then sometimes they’re closed. I don’t know if it’s a problem on my end or what. Thanks. 

It’s definitely not on your end — I’ve had some technical issues here. Back in July, I used a plug-in to remove the comment section on new posts that would be published while I was on summer vacation, as I wouldn’t be able to reply to every response and needed a break from this site. With this option closing new posts by default, I was able to manually switch selected articles to “open” through the WordPress editor — perfect for those with items offered to subscribers. As you know, I then kept extending my break until I could finally push out the massive Garry Marshall essay in September — at which point I was ready to come back full-time. However, when I went to open up the comments for all forthcoming entries, I discovered that reversing this option on the plug-in (or disabling it all together) could retroactively make ALL EIGHT YEARS’ worth of posts open to commenting, including ones that I had purposely closed a long time ago. For that reason, I’ve opted to keep that default on “closed” for the time being and manually intervene through the WordPress editor to open up comments for new posts, until I can set aside a chunk of time to switch to the reverse and find every single old post that deserves to be manually closed. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to that — I’ll have to sift through nearly 1,400 entries, and that will be tedious. In the meantime, I am manually trying to ensure that each new post is open for comments — hoping to remember to do so before each one goes live and restraining myself from dorking around too much with the plug-in settings (or WordPress’ own settings, which I just discovered), which have opened and closed certain comment sections as I’ve been troubleshooting (and sometimes erratically — I’ve had readers at the exact same time say a post is closed while others are commenting). So, the short answer is, you should be able to comment on all new posts from October onward — and if you can’t at the moment, just stay tuned, or let me know at


Toby Griffith wants to know… What do you think of the new Aaron Sorkin Lucy-Desi biopic? The trailer just came out this week and I was surprised by how good it looked. 

I’m looking forward to screening the film, Being The Ricardos, when it’s released in December, and I’ll make up my mind about it then. But based on what I’ve seen so far, I share your enthusiasm for the way it looks. I’m just worried about the script, not only the historical inaccuracies — it seems like they’re taking an episode shot in January 1952, and setting it in September, with three events that occurred at other times (May 1952, September 1953, and December 1954) — but also the overly stylized quality of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, which I can sometimes find to be false and grating. So, I’m trying to keep an open mind, but preparing myself for the worst.


Joseph Giannini has submitted several times in search of Nielsen data, saying… I just read in a recent book that “The Monkees” only hit the Top 40 once during the 1967-68 season… Would you happen to know what second season episode that was for…? Also, they did an hour-long NBC-TV special called, “33 and 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee,” that aired on Monday, April 14, 1969 @ 8:00PM, and, although I already know what the audience numbers were, I was very curious about how it ranked in the Nielson ratings on the east coast for that week…Thanks!!!

I’m not sure it’s accurate that The Monkees only made the weekly Top 40 once during the 1967-’68 season, because Variety cites the series as doing so during the week of November 20 and in the “fast nationals” for November 27. Also, while I can’t confirm that it happened more often, this website claims to list every rating for every episode (I’m unsure of its source, but the numbers do agree with Variety’s reporting) — and if true, those would indicate several additional Top 40 finishes. Oh, and no, I have no rating information on the group’s 1969 special.


Robert Crick has a two-part question, which I excerpt here… (1) Do you know the real, true story as to why actor Gregory Sierra left “Barney Miller” after only thirty-five episodes? . . . AND . . . (2) Do you know the real, true reason as to why producer/co-creator Danny Arnold made the decision not to offer any on-screen explanation at all . . .  for the absence of Mr. Sierra and his Det. Sgt. Chano Amengual character at the start in Season Three?

From my understanding and research, Gregory Sierra never wanted to do Barney Miller. He was under contract with ABC and coerced into staying on the series for a few years while Danny Arnold developed a starring vehicle for him — A.E.S. Hudson Street. But the impatient Sierra clashed with Arnold right from the start about both the quantity and quality of his material, and their tension on Barney Miller escalated so much that Sierra decided to quit in 1976. (I suspect that the network’s interest in developing a spin-off for Abe Vigoda’s Fish first was also a factor in his anger.) Over the next year, ABC’s contract with Sierra lapsed and Arnold went forward on A.E.S. Hudson Street, replacing Sierra with F. Murray Abraham. Then, after the Abraham pilot was rejected, Sierra apparently reconciled with both Arnold and ABC, and they decided to revisit their original conception of the series, which was produced and had a short run in early 1978. So, yes, Sierra didn’t leave Barney Miller in 1976 to go directly to 1978’s A.E.S. Hudson Street, and yes, there was bad blood with Arnold at the time that could have colored the way Chano’s departure was handled. But, frankly, I don’t find it out of step with how Arnold wrote other cast exits — outside of Fish, whose spin-off he was promoting, Arnold clearly sought to avoid contrived exposition, preferring realistic casual mentions over made-for-TV platitudes. I think Chano’s leave proves more congruous with the show’s style than not.


Marcus Lindsay asks… What do you think of the planned new revival/revision of “Pal Joey” with other Rodgers and Hart songs interpolated?

I’m not thrilled about the decision to jettison half the original score — which is almost uniformly great — in favor of other Rodgers & Hart standards, as it seems both commercially unnecessary and artistically disrespectful. However, I’m not surprised about the need for big changes, and I understand that having additional songs at the ready gives this creative team more freedom to overhaul the text, tightening up the story and exploring different (more 21st century) themes, which are probably necessary for modern mainstream audiences — and, again, not unexpected, since theatre is a living and breathing form. So, as with Being The Ricardos, I’ll reserve judgment until I see it. But, right now — I admit I’m worried.


Have a question for me? Submit it at the “Ask Jackson (Q&A)” link.



Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned for more Laverne & Shirley!