HeldenFiles: The perils of adaptation

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Franco Zeffirelli's during new film "Endless Love," Sept. 24, 1980. (AP Photo/Perez)

Notes on this and that …

DirecTV and Western Reserve Updated. You may recall that last year I wrote about technical issues that were keeping WNEO/WEAO (Channels 45/49) off DirecTV.

Western Reserve Public Media, which oversees the TV operation, said that DirecTV’s downtown Cleveland facility was having problems picking up the public-TV transmissions from Copley because of Cleveland buildings being in the way. Nor was DirecTV in any hurry to resolve the problem, since most PBS programs were available to its subscribers through its carrying of Cleveland’s WVIZ (Channel 25). And Western Reserve was looking at a five-figure price tag on changes it could make to fix the problem.

Still, the satellite-program service and the broadcaster continued to look at solutions and reached a compromise: 45/49 is now available on DirecTV, but only in its high-definition package, which carries a higher fee than the standard service where 45/49 used to be found. Still. Western Reserve says in an online note to viewers, “because of limitations in DirecTV’s receive and uplink facilities for local stations, we were only able to implement a solution … for the subscribers who have high-definition equipment and are able to receive high-definition channels.”

The solution, such as it is, has had some viewers writing in to ask if DirecTV took the Western Reserve broadcasts off entirely. Apparently some of the confusion stemmed from the satellite service’s yanking the Weather Channel in a dispute, and people suspecting the same thing had happened to 45/49.

Instead, the station and DirecTV have tried to work together. But that does not help the people who had the standard-service package and cannot or will not pay for HD programming. And believe me, I have heard from them, too.

So what do you do if you’re in that position? Sure, you still have WVIZ for most PBS shows, but there are some programs on 45/49 that are not on our neighbor to the north. You also could switch to another service provider, but you will not get that for free.

You could also access the 45/49 broadcasts by an over-the-air signal. If you have a digital TV, you may be able to do that with a simple antenna; if you have an older, analog set, you would need an antenna and a signal converter, which would cost you about $60 to $70. And what about keeping your DirecTV? Well, there are relatively simple gadgets you can acquire that let you plug in both a DirecTV and an over-the-air antenna signal and then switch back and forth.

You can call Western Reserve for help. The number is 800-554-4549.

Author, Beware. There are three reboots of previous movies currently on view: RoboCop, About Last Night and Endless Love. The last, you may recall, was previously a 1981 film starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt, and adapted from a novel by Scott Spencer.

Spencer is not pleased that there is a new version. Nor was he delighted with the old one.

In September, Spencer wrote in the Paris Review about selling his novel to the movies, where it was handed to Franco Zeffirelli — who had directed a hit, young-adult version of Romeo and Juliet and so seemed a likely choice for another young-adult film. But on the way to premiere, Zeffirelli warned Spencer that the movie “is going to be like a knife in your heart.”

A knife, it turned out, that stabbed repeatedly with a dull blade. Spencer recalled watching glumly as “the film went on for what felt like an eternity. I was frankly surprised that something so tepid and conventional could have been fashioned from my slightly unhinged novel about the glorious destructive violence of erotic obsession.”

Reviews were often brutal, and the box-office returns were fair but did not match those for the Shields-starring The Blue Lagoon from the year before.

And the new one? Having sold the rights to any remake in his original movie deal in 1980, Spencer had no defense against it. He did read the script, which hugely changed his novel — and which, he said, was dreary when it wasn’t bringing on his old case of sciatica.

So what’s a writer to do when such harm has been done to a book?

As Spencer said in Paris Review: “You cringe, you pretend you don’t care, you laugh when they play the bad movie’s theme song at weddings you attend, and you wait for the whole thing to pass, And when it finally has … someone decides to make an even worse movie out of it.”

Which, let’s hope, does not mean there will be a third version.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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