Sunday, 24 September 2017

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: FRENCH KISSIN


44. “Lips are in motion – ocean to ocean”



24/09/2017



“French Kissin,” more often remembered as “French Kissin in the USA,” was the main single from Debbie Harry’s 1986 album “Rockbird,” made while the band Blondie was on hold. It was a success in the US, and Harry’s only top ten single in the UK.

However, while the song is good, it is not the main reason it is likely to be remembered these days, because the person that wrote it has become very successful in his own right: he had been a touring singer-songwriter for years before Harry recorded one of his songs, and he had since said his songs made sure he was kept out of the limelight, before he turned to writing scripts for television.


Chuck Lorre’s first scripts were for animated shows, meaning that, as I grew up, I would have seen episodes he wrote of “Heathcliff & The Catillac Cats,” “Muppet Babies,” ”Fraggle Rock,” and “Beany and Cecil” – there are other shows, but I don’t think they reached the UK, or I don’t remember them at all. As these shows date from 1984 onwards, either Lorre continued with songwriting without much success, or “French Kissin” was a few years old before Harry recorded it.

This then led to live-action sitcoms, with Lorre on the writing teams for “My Two Dads” and “Roseanne,” before he created his own, “Frannie’s Turn,” which only lasted for 6 episodes in 1992. However, this led to “Cybill,” “Grace Under Fire,” “Dharma & Greg,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Mike & Molly” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

These are all shows that have their charms but, especially when Channel 4 or ITV 2 screen episodes of them two or more in a row, they start to feel too much like stereotypical American sitcoms: with at least twenty-two episodes to be made each year, and with ten minutes in every half-hour swallowed by commercials, the plots, characters and jokes can become forced: forced to fit the time left, and forced to make their points quickly, with no breathing space. Chuck Lorre clearly knows the formula to producing a successful TV show, but successful TV show must also hide its workings. Also, I have never found the character or Sheldon Cooper funny, or relatable, and I never will.


“French Kissin” is the only Chuck Lorre composition to have scored in the charts, but it is not his only successful effort in music. With Dennis Challen Brown, Lorre wrote the incidental music, and the horrendously catchy theme song, for the original animated series of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” – “heroes in a half shell,” and so on. And, yes, the spoken parts were by Lorre, which include, “We’re really hip!” and “That's a fact, Jack!” When you also know that the co-writer of the music for “The Real Ghostbusters” and “Inspector Gadget” was Haim Saban, he of the “Power Rangers” franchise, it does appear that the way to make billions of dollars is to start writing music for children’s TV shows.

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