Do you have a favorite song? Wedding song perhaps? The following nostalgic look at songs ran last year on SERENDIPITY.
The Soundtrack of Your Life, Rich Paschall
You have probably heard that phrase before. Oldies radio stations love to use it. They want you to think they are playing the soundtrack of our lives. You know what they mean. They want you to think that they are playing the songs you remember from when you were younger. That could mean a few years ago or a few decades ago, depending on who they are pitching their playlist to. What is the soundtrack of your life?
After you leave your twenties, your soundtrack is probably set with the most often played and most often heard music. We inevitably love the music of our teens and twenties. It is linked to those big moments that never leave our memory banks. That could be our high school dances and proms. It could be college concerts and parties. They might include weddings and select family events. It certainly includes your record, tape, or CD collections, and maybe even some digital playlists. In future years our soundtracks will all be held in digital form in a cloud that you can download when you feel nostalgic.
It is certain that people from 16 years old to those who saw the beginning of the rock era can tell you the songs that meant the most to them, that held the greatest memories. I feel confident in saying that these songs will come from your early years. This is not just because it holds true for me, but it does for many of my friends as well. It is reflected in the crowds that show up to concerts. In the last dozen years or so, I have seen Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Chicago, and Reo Speedwagon as well as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, and Brian Wilson. These stars could fill concert venues across the country with people who may have seen them generations ago. The reason is not a mystery. They wrote and performed our soundtrack, and the people who connect with that music continue to go to see those who are still around.
Of course, I have gone to see current acts. They included One Republic, Maroon 5, David Archuleta, Hunter Hayes, Lifehouse, Bruno Mars as well as MAX Schneider, fallout boy, and a few others. I like their music, but their songs do not hold the nostalgic connection I feel when I see Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli, or Neil Diamond. When I saw The Monkees, minus Davy Jones, I heard screaming inside the Chicago Theater as I came through the door. It was as if the place was filled with teenagers, and I rushed in to see what was the commotion. Mickey Dolenz was just starting Last Train to Clarksville and the AARP set was reacting as if it was 1966 and they were teenagers. Yes, there were younger people in the crowd. These songs were not on their soundtrack, however, but they were on ours.
While leaving the Davy Jones songs to a couple of music videos from their 1960’s television show, The Monkees delighted a crowd with an evening of hits. The band’s recording of a Neal Diamond composition, I’m a Believer, was the last number 1 song of 1966 and the biggest-selling song of 1967. Since that performance, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith have also passed. I am glad I saw them while we could.
One thing the Rolling Stones do not lack after all these decades is energy. Maroon 5 may want to Move Like Jagger, but only Mick can do that, and he still does. Here I have taken a few moments from the show at the United Center. They were true rock stars of a previous era. They went on an hour late. Since this performance, Charlie Watt passed away.
The opening of Moves Like Jagger is shaky as everyone jumped to their feet, so of course, I had to also. The venue is The Woodlands. I should have known everyone in the crowd would try to move like Jagger too.
Without a doubt, the number 1 song on my soundtrack is Beginnings by Chicago. The 1969 song, written by band member Robert Lamm, failed to chart on its first go around. A re-release in 1971 when the band was red-hot brought success to a song that was featured at dances, proms, graduations, and weddings for many years to come. The album version ran 7 minutes and 55 seconds while the “radio version” ran about 3 minutes. In July 2010 I did not have a camera that could zoom in close or record in HD, but it got decent sound, so I have this piece of nostalgia:
Chicago will be appearing this summer in Chicago (or suburbs). They always return.
The New Year is well underway and do we see anything different than previous years? Has “old acquaintance” been forgotten? I guess it never is. The following ran a year ago on SERENDIPITY and still applies today.
Another year has begun and we can see it is not exactly the same as days gone by. If “old acquaintance be forgot” as one year passes into another, then we would certainly like to forget the past year, not to mention the year before. The global pandemic which blasted forth in early 2020 was carried forward throughout 2021. If there were new divisions over the vaccine, old divisions remained too. Old hatred, old disputes, old ethnic and racial divisions, old border wars, and old religious battles carry on as if they will forever be remembered. Are these disagreements worth fighting over? Dying over?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?
In our neighborhood, just as in many around the world, we conclude our year wishing “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” It is on our greeting cards and in our songs. It appears in Christmas stories and is heard from pulpits and lecterns around the world. The invocations I used to read on Christmas Day, to those assembled at noon mass at a nearby church, included a call for world leaders to truly seek world peace. For this intention, I would say to the congregation, “We pray to the Lord.” They responded to my prayer by rote, since we have the same response to all our intentions, “Lord hear our prayer.”
The Lord may hear our prayer but I think He surely means for usto work at resolving the conflicts that plague the world, not to mention the pandemic which is a plague on the world. I am convinced not many really heard the intention or remembered it by the time they hit the pavement an hour later. Do we want a new beginning or will things continue in the same direction? Our history of this sort of thing suggests the answer.
Sometimes our world leaders do indeed seem to be making strides for peace, but these strides often suffer reversals when conflicts begin anew as they predictably do. While Presidents, prime ministers, and even royalty call for peace, how many are actually plotting retaliation and wars behind the scenes? In fact, we would all think our leaders were careless and irresponsible if they were not prepared to take up old battles at a moment’s notice or begin new ones if need be.
Even the current Pope, revered for his concerns for the poor, has condemned violent groups and urged the world not to be indifferent to the suffering they have caused. If we are not to be indifferent, then what are we to do? Is it a call for those facing conflict to continue the fight? Is it a call for outsiders to join in?
There are no easy answers to what is left of the Taliban, the warlords, and terrorist groups. If there had been, I wish we would have employed them by now. How about closer to home? What about racial profiling, police brutality, gun violence, and large prison populations? What of the street gangs and drug cartels? What of “organized crime” and the violence they are willing to commit? How many marches in the street will it take to rid us of the same old acquaintances we know through these oft-repeated scenes? Will marches alone bring peace to our homeland?
The sad truth of starting each year with a call for peace on earth is we end each year needing to renew the call again. Perhaps it would be best if old acquaintances could be forgotten, so we could start with a new and clean slate. There are, however, those who can not let go of the hate. They perpetuate the cultural divide. They do not wish to give up the fight or extend a hand across the aisle, the border, or the battlefield. Is this what we were taught? Did we say “Peace on Earth” when we really meant “Don’t let our enemies get any peace?” What messages are we really sending when we learn that the greeting card verses are more fiction than fact?
“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never be brought to mind?” Perhaps. And perhaps we need to start believing in the simple verses of seasonal songs and bring peace to the earth. The answers to our problems are actually there in many of those simple holiday songs. They have always been there. It is contained in a four-letter word we are afraid to use, especially when it comes to those we perceive as our enemies. Do you know that word? Love, as in Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself. They know on the streets we can not continue to live with the past wrongs, some streets anyway.
Auld Lang Syne, or “old long since” is a Scottish poem by Robert Burns. It was subsequently set to traditional folk music. The modern question for us is, “Will we ever ‘take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne’?”
And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.
Not long ago we reviewed Paris, Je t’aime, about the neighborhoods of Paris. The following originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.
Paris, je t’aime, by Rich Paschall
Paris is divided into 20 neighborhoods or arrondissements. They are numbered with the 1st Arrondissement being in the center of old Paris. From there, they spiral out in an ever-widening circle until we get to number 20. The 1st Arrondissement is also known as Louvre. I guess we do not have to tell you what famous museum is located there.
When we would arrive in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we would take the train to Gare du Nord. The location is convenient and not far from the center of the city. You can find hotels here at a much more reasonable rate than Paris Centre. Gare du Nord is near Gare de l’Est if you should be headed toward the East of France or even out of the country.
It has been my good fortune to travel to Paris four times. I do not like the long plane ride from O’Hare International airport to Paris, but I always found the visit to the city to be worth it. Over several trips, we managed to see the major tourist stops.
With an excellent metro system, it is easy to find your way around Paris. Each of the neighborhoods is well served by public transit so there is no need to hail a cab or use your rideshare app.
Most movies set in Paris will stick to the most romantic areas. You will see locations along the River Seine. You will find the Eiffel Tour or Arc de Triomphe in the background. You may see the Jardins des Tuileries or Jardin du Luxembourg. Moves prior to 2019 may include Notre Dame Cathedral.
Imagine a movie that would include all of the neighborhoods of Paris. What if you get get a postcard from each? That is the ambitious idea behind the 2006 film, Paris, Je t’aime. Some of the world’s biggest stars and best-known directors came together for this anthology. There was to be a short film set in each of the neighborhoods. They were to have different directors, writers, and stars. This may sound like a bit of a crazy idea. Anthologies of this type often do not work.
These vignettes are strung together by scenes of the Paris neighborhoods. Most of the episodes are of course in French. A few are in English. You will also hear some Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic in the stories.
First, we find French director and actor Bruno Podalydes looking for a place to park on the Paris streets in the 18th Arrondissement, Montmartre. He notices that the women passing by all seem to be taken, then…OK, I decided on no spoilers.
Steve Buscemi is featured in a bit of a comedy sequence directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It plays out at a metro stop in the 1st Arrondissement. The episode is titled Tuileries.
Bob Hoskins, Nick Nolte, Elijah Wood, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Magie Gyllenhaal, and a long list of European and American stars appear. Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, and Gerard Depardieu are in a scene together in the 6th Arrondissement, aka the Latin Quarter. It is directed by Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin.
Gus Van Sant directs a scene in the 4th Arrondissement, La Marais. A young man tries to strike up a conversation with another young man who does not seem to know what he is saying. You will know what everyone is saying thanks to subtitles.
The film is available to buy or rent online. A few of the scenes are posted on YouTube in their entirety. The film runs for two hours and is only 18 stories. Alas, the 11th and 15th Arrondissements ended up on the cutting room floor.
Travel gives us the opportunity to visit new places and cultures. On my last European trip, we actually found a couple of stops that featured bread. Seriously! The following travel news appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.
On my past trips to Alsace, a region in northeast France, we have always found time to visit some of the interesting buildings and unique attractions the area has to offer. The most recent trip this year was no exception. As always, I stopped into ancient churches. I always marvel at how they built such structures without modern equipment. On the other hand, some of these buildings took hundreds of years to complete and have undergone frequent restorations. In one of the churches, we sought permission to go down to the crypt. A caretaker opened the gate and we visited someone who may have been important in a previous century.
Being in wine country meant we found our way to some wine cellars. With a local vineyard owner as my escort, I am certain to get to taste the wine producer’s product. Despite my many trips to the wine-producing region, we never seem to run out of winemakers to visit. After this year I can cross off a few more.
I was staying in the historic section of Selestat. Just walking around the area is a trip back in time. It was hard to lose track of time with church bells ringing throughout the day. Sainte Foy and Sainte Georges are literally one short block apart and can be heard throughout the old section of town.
Just a short walk from where I was staying was a museum I had passed on previous trips but never found time to stop in. It was expanded in 2018 with additional exhibits and videos and we definitely had to stop this time.
La Maison du Pain d’Alsace
Yes, it is the House of Bread. Of course, it is more than that. It seems the history of bread making and French bakeries go together. You can find out more about the bread-making process than you thought was possible. From the earliest times, people have been making bread. Here you can see the various utensils used over the centuries in the fine art of making something we all eat.
Located in a building that was the Bakers’ Corporation in 1522 are various levels of exhibits you can wander through at your own pace. The woman at the front door checked our health certificates and made sure we were wearing masks before allowing us to enter. A small fee sent us forward to learn about bread. There was an elevator if you did not care for the winding staircase that would lead you up to the next level.
This is not a short tour if you want to see all the exhibits and video presentations along the way. We stopped to watch a video on harvesting wheat and making bread. It was in French so I could not follow much of it. I did not care because it was a large museum and we had a chance to sit.
On the way out, you will of course have to go through the bakery where you will find up to 18 different types of bread and plenty of French pastries. I resisted all temptation on this stop since we would have plenty of opportunities to gather sweet treats elsewhere.
Le Palais du Pain d’Espices.
“What is better than a House of Bread?” you may ask. The Palace of Gingerbread, of course. Fortwenger has been making gingerbread creations in Alsace since 1768 and has six locations throughout the region. We went to the location in Gertwiller where the store is really a palace and museum. Due to its small house-like facade, we were surprised at the overall size of the store and museum.
Again we were greeted with a surprising array of interactive displays. A history of bread making was on display again, and we saw the many devices used throughout time to cut the spiced bread into various shapes.
As we walked through the various rooms, we found plenty of gingerbread men and gingerbread houses. In fact, we found a whole village populated by Santa and his ginger elves. It was a delightful tour that took us past the kitchen where bakers were hard at work. Since it was nearing the end of November when we visited, we noticed a lot of St. Nicholas gingerbread being prepared for the holiday. Other forms were being artfully decorated for the Fortwenger stores and outlets.
This time it was necessary to take some gingerbread with us. Aside from Christmas, it is a good treat, especially with coffee I think. In the Middles Ages, people believed that gingerbread would scare away demons. I can’t say I found any of the gingerbread men to be very scary, but if you think that works, go for it.
Each year we enjoy music from Christmas Past. My following top ten list has been shared on SERENDIPITY on several Christmases Past. We felt we could share it every few years because each time we look at it, we discover that these dead artists are still dead.
Whenever I listen to holiday songs on the local Christmas music radio station, one fact becomes apparent to me. Almost all of the songs I hear are performed by artists who have gone on to that great holiday party in the sky. This is, of course, a nice way of saying they are dead. Nevertheless, we continue to listen to their songs year in and year out. In fact, some of these have been flying across the airwaves for many decades and there is no sign they will ever stop being played.
It is safe to say that all of these songs have been covered many times over. Any singer with staying power in the industry has a Christmas album. It is true that a few of these songs received great success from other artists, but there are certain versions of these holiday hits with the ability to live on long after the artist has gone. It is these well-remembered and honored songs that fill my playlist.
Your 8-track and cassette tape versions of these may have become tangled and broken, and your records and CDs may have become scratched and broken, but you can still download and stream these hits because they are not going away. First I will offer up an honorable mention.
In 1977, David Bowie (1947-2016) was to appear on the Bing Crosby Christmas television special recorded in London. He was asked to sing Little Drummer Boy, but did not like the song and asked for something else. As a result, a counterpoint to the song called Peace on Earth was written for Bowie and Crosby sang Little Drummer Boy. We could simply say the rest is duet history, but that would not exactly be true. The now well-beloved version may have died away if not for the popularity of a bootleg recording. As a result, RCA released the song as a single in 1982. Sadly Crosby died after the show was recorded and before it was ever played for the public.
Now if you will put the yule log on the fire, get a glass of eggnog, and some Christmas cookies, we will present my top Christmas tunes from artists whose songs continue to echo down your decked halls.
10. Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The song was first recorded in 1948, but the 1957 recording by Elvis remains the most popular.
6. Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) The 1957 “Rockabilly” sound was an immediate hit and eventually went gold for Helms.
5. Christmas Time Is Here, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) The jazz musician is best known for composing the score to 17 Peanuts animated television specials and a feature-length film. The first of these was A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965. Words to this jazz tune were provided by the Charlie Brown television producer, Lee Mendelson (1933-2008). The network, as well as the producers, thought the show was too depressing and predicted a failure with the public. It won an Emmy, a Peabody, and the love of generations of kids.
4. The Christmas Song, Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965) The tune was written by Bob Wells (1922-1998) and another will known singer, Mel Torme (1925-1999), in 1945. In June 1946 Cole recorded the song, then recorded it again in August with more instruments. The second version was released. There was a third recording, then a fourth in stereo in 1961. It is that last version you hear so much today. Torme also recorded The Christmas Song some years later, but it is the Nat King Cole version that is best remembered.
3. (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, Perry Como (1912-2001) The popular crooner recorded the song in 1954 and sang it for the next 40 years. “Mr. C” recorded it in stereo in 1959 and it is this version you probably hear today. Like many popular television variety stars of his era, Como continued holiday shows after his weekly TV shows ended. This video is from his 1969 Christmas special.
2. It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams (1927-2012). Williams was another popular television crooner. The song was written in 1963 and recorded by Williams for his first Christmas album. It was used on his television show the same year and became a Christmas standard over time. It is one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time. In this video, Williams appears to be singing along with the popular recording.
1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby (1903-1977) The Irving Berlin hit was apparently written for the movie Holiday Inn (no-telling with the prolific Mr. Berlin). Crosby first sang it on his radio show in 1941 but recorded it in 1942 for the Holiday Inn movie. It was recorded again in 1947 as the original master wore out from frequent use. The song appeared in two other movies and Crosby sang it for the rest of his life. This video is the final performance. He died soon after, doing what he liked best, playing golf.
Click on any song title above to hear the song or click here for the entire Christmas past playlist.
Last year on SERENDIPITY we brought you this faux review of a fictional series. We are happy to say it has not been renewed for another season, but like many other tired series, it could always be brought back for another run. Let’s hope we do not see it on the schedule again.
Last year at this time we were hoping this depressing story would not be renewed for a second season. By mid-July, it looked like there would be no new episodes. But one of the networks actually worked hard to have it continue and by Fall there were all-new episodes on the schedule. These not only had elements of the previous season to contend with, but also variants the viewing public did not expect. Here we are again, with the same heroes and villains bringing new plot twists.
The Grinch has nothing on the evildoers of this storyline. They have worked to keep the pandemic going much to the chagrin of the other characters, and of course, the audience too. No one can miss the element of irony introduced this year, as the work of the villains is actually killing off many of their supporters. Nevertheless, they persist in the actions that add more episodes to the second season.
Everywhere from the Small Village to the large metropolis, theaters were closed. Many restaurants were closed too. Some schools were forced to return to remote learning. Live events had to once again limit the audiences. Sports saw cancellations and delays. This is the “freedom” the antagonists had convinced the people they all wanted. Many of the characters in the show cheered these developments.
This leads to some sad story arcs that do not seem appropriate for holiday-themed shows. Hospitals were overwhelmed which introduced us to the characters of overworked doctors and nurses. Courtroom dramas became a new element as the guys in black hats took their battles to the conservative courts. With the programs going off in so many directions, it would only seem right that the Neilsen ratings begin to turn against this show.
Despite the convincing roles played by the villains of this drama, we give this series just one star. There is nothing redeeming about the presentation and we are hoping that this is the final season. Unfortunately, the FAUX network has pledged to bring it back until they have enough episodes for a syndication run.
Last season the holiday episode brought just one bright moment, as one of the heroes looks back on the crazy year. It was the closing number of the show.
The fictional review above is just a bit of satire running around in my brain. However, David Archuleta really did drop the above song on us right before Christmas last year. It seems like it fits the holiday season again this year.
Once again it is that time of year in the northern states. The cold weather is here and that means snow will be falling all too soon. To help you weather the season, so to speak, we present our top Cold Weather songs. The following article previously appeared on SERENDIPITY in past winters.
If you live in the northern half of the nation you have probably brought out your sweaters and sweatshirts. You may even have located your winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. So, it seems like a good time to bring on the winter tunes. Songs by any band with “Cold” in their name are not what we mean here. Nor shall we include songs about lovers who are as “Cold As Ice” or running “Against The Wind.” Our tunes are really songs about winter, cold, and snow. Some are a bit more symbolic than others, but they will do nicely for my purposes.
Let’s be clear, they are not holiday songs, although some of them only get played in the holiday season. Since the Christmas holiday season seems to start around Halloween and go until New Year’s Day, I guess there is already ample opportunity to hear some of them. You will discover that there is no holiday greeting included in the cold and snowy lyrics. In fact, we will give you some instrumental music just because you can already place it in your winter memory.
Let me start you off with an honorable mention from the movie White Christmas. No, I am not sneaking in a Christmas song. This is strictly two minutes of wishing for snow by four big-name performers:
There are a number of other songs about snow that may not be classics but are good nonetheless. Track down “Snow” by Harry Nilsson, for example. Type in “Snow” in a YouTube search and you will certainly see “Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. On second thought, you better type in “snow songs” so you can avoid all those homemade videos of people stuck in a snowdrift.
Here’s our bottom 5 with everything from a Classical sound to rock and a traditional pop wonderland. There are winter birds of all kinds if you just let it snow: 10. Wizards of Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra 9. Winter – Rolling Stones 8. Winter Wonderland – Alexander Rybak 7. Snowbird – Anne Murray 6. Let It Snow– Frank Sinatra, but there are probably a thousand versions of this by now
The next one earns a place here as much for the back story as anything. This symbolic “A Winter’s Tale” was written by Freddie Mercury from his hospital room overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The visions he describes are what he could see from his room. He laid down the keyboard tracks and vocals in a Swiss studio two weeks before his death. Queen later finished the song with their parts. It was released as the second song on a posthumous album four years later. 5. A Winter’s Tale– Queen
Winter imagery can be found in a lot of songs by Paul Simon, especially from the Simon and Garfunkel years. A Hazy Shade of Winter was certainly one of their biggest hits and earns a spot on my songs of Arctic Weather. You will find an intriguing version by the Bangles from years later, but let’s stick with the original. 4. Hazy Shade of Winter– Simon and Garfunkel
One of the most popular songs of the Christmas season is Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Although often played only as an instrumental, the lyrics say nothing of the holidays. There is, however, “a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray.” They are rather seasonal as they “pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie,” but the song really is about a sleigh ride through the snow. Find a version with someone singing, if you must. Nothing says “Sleigh Ride” like the Boston Pops Orchestra: 3. Sleigh Rideby Leroy Anderson – John Williams & The Boston Pops
Some songs just have the right feel for the theme. That is the case with this tune by singer-songwriter David Archuleta. Can you feel the winter in the air? 2. Winter In The Air– David Archuleta
When I think of cold and snow outside, this is the song. There is nothing that will inspire me to go out in a storm. While I enjoyed seeing Joseph Gordon-Leavitt do this with Lady Gaga, and nothing compares to Ricardo Montalban’s crooning at Esther Williams or Red Skelton at Betty Garrett in the movies, the best version is Dean Martin and anyone. He recorded the song with a number of people over the years. Here’s the original. 1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin
This Frank Loesser-penned tune won the Academy Award for the 1949 romantic comedy musical Neptune’s Daughter.
Click on any title to get the song, or hear them all on my playlist here.
At the emotional ending of Ohm-Nanon 1st Fan Meeting in Thailand, the two friends shared a deeply personal moment as if they were the only ones in the large convention hall. Many friends would find it hard to open up in this manner in private. The following appeared earlier this year on SERENDIPITY.
Perhaps it is different now, or different in some places at least, but when I was growing up some decades ago, we were expected to be a certain type of person. I guess it did not matter to our parents and elders what we wanted to be. We were to be who they expected us to be. Many communities are still like that.
To this day some toddlers and young children are told to “Be a man,” or “Act like a young lady,” It is as if many adults do not want children to be children. I heard it a lot. So did my brother, I am sure. He may have heard it a little less since he was more serious and studious than I, but I digress. We knew we lived with a certain set of expectations, which certainly influenced our paths.
Many are afraid to be themselves or to be themselves around family and certain community members. Most do not want to “embarrass” family and friends by not being the man or woman their parents expected them to be. Men were to be stoic and unemotional. Women were to be “ladylike,” whatever that meant. I saw how my parents, aunt and uncles, and grandparents acted. We knew what they said about our behavior, so we instinctively knew what to say and how to act in front of the family. Even as young adults we understood there were times when we were just expected to sit quietly, the same as when we were children.
Outside the home, as young adults, we were reluctant to share feelings with members of the same sex. I had some close friends who I would never think to tell how I felt about our friendship. One day my best friend surprised me by telling me that he loved me, but would never feel exactly the same way about me as I thought about him. We spent so much time together for perhaps a decade at that point, that we likely knew very well how the other felt, but I could not think to ever say it, even in private.
Imagine saying in front of a large crowd “I am sorry” to your friend of the same sex for a moment of immaturity. Or express your feelings of love and friendship. What if thousands or millions were watching? Could you do it??
We have mentioned the international television hit drama series, Bad Buddy, a few times this year. If you add up the number of times each of the twelve episodes has been streamed, the number would be over 200 million (total, not per episode). Add to that the television broadcast, syndication, and worldwide DVD sales, and you would find that the series achieved success beyond anything the creators could have imagined. They clearly had the right young actors for the lead characters, Ohm Pawat and Nanon Korapat. Their fierce friendship in real life no doubt added to the performances.
With the popularity continuing for many months after the series ended, GMM TV decided to mount a live show depicting scenes from Bad Buddy through song and dance. That would be followed by additional musical numbers. This was billed as Ohm-Nanon 1st Fan Meeting in Thailand. Instead of a theater, GMM TV, acquired the convention center in Bangkok to build a massive, multi-media spectacle featuring Ohm, Nanon, and many of the Bad Buddy actors. Unlike Nanon, Ohm was not a singer or dancer. He worked very hard to perfect his parts. He had a reason hidden in his heart for that.
The show played to many thousands of fans in the convention hall and apparently a rather large worldwide audience streaming it live. By all accounts, it was a huge success. The show was a three and half hour production. It was captioned in English since all but the ending was scripted.
There was a tribute video before the final number was to take place featuring interaction between Ohm and Nanon over the past year. How would you like to have your friendship, public and private, presented to the world? If Nanon was not crying hard enough when that was done, the tears were just beginning, After sitting at the edge of the stage for the video, the boys turned around to face the audience. Ohm began by thanking everyone as expected, but then he went off script, so to speak, providing a moment only live television can offer.
Ohm looked at Nanon and said, “I’m sorry.” He was apologizing for an immature moment that came after the Maya Awards. Everyone in the audience knew about the episode. Ohm had publicly apologized to fans and Nanon previously. He told Nanon he loved him and said, “I worked hard on this as a way to apologize to you.” It was not a secret that Ohm had been working hard for months, taking dance lessons, and practicing singing and various instruments so that he could hold up his own in a long, live show. It was his gift to Nanon.
Through a steady stream of tears, Nanon also thanked everyone. He told Ohm he was never mad at him, just concerned. “I felt like friends can fight, but we’re stuck together.” He reminded Ohm that they achieved this successful day together and told him that he loved him too.
The live-stream translator was running behind and may have been cleaning up some of the comments as he went along. What Nanon may have really said in response to Ohm was “I love you so damn much, dumbass.”
So there it was for thousands on hand to see and millions more later. Two young men had an intensely personal (and usually private) and vulnerable moment at the edge of the stage on live television. They bared their souls and said, “I love you” to the other. Does this mean they are gay? Are they Lovers? Does it matter?
There will be plenty of social media speculation, but that would be missing the point. Two men could express their feelings to one another even though they knew the world would be watching. That would never have happened when I was young.
See also: “Bad Buddy” Series Review, rjptalk, Sunday Night Blog, September 4, 2022. “So How Does It End?” Bad Buddy Series, rjptalk, Sunday Night Blog, February 3, 2022. “Top LGBT Series and Mini-Series,” SERENDIPITY, June 26, 2022. “The Art of Bad Buddy,” Clues, Hints, Irony, and Chemistry, rjptalk, Sunday Night Blog, November 27, 2022. “The Bad Buddy Phenomenon,” rjptalk, Sunday Night Blog, November 19, 2022.
When GMM TV recently held its annual event to announce new series and projects for next year, fans hoped for a Bad Buddy Season 2. This anticipation was fed by the fact that the leads, Ohm Pawat and Nanon Korapat, were scheduled to attend. Each was announced as leads to separate dramatic series. There was no season 2. However, when stories for the anthology series Our Sky were announced, there were Ohm and Nanon, front and center. Ohm commented that Bad Buddy already had its happy ending, but we still miss Pat and Pran. There will be a single Bad Buddy episode. What made Bad Buddy so beloved by fans around the world? The following thoughts were shared earlier this year on SERENDIPITY.
There is a lot to watch for in Bad Buddy. If you have not seen the series yet, what are you waiting for? We definitely have some clues for you to watch for but maybe a few spoilers too. (GMM TV 25, YouTube, WeTV)
“This guy with the fierce eyes is Pat.” – Pran, Ep. 1 and 12 “This guy with the dimples is Pran.” – Pat, Ep 12
If you are watching the hit Thai mini-series, Bad Buddy, for the second time, or perhaps the third or more, you will notice how artfully constructed the whole project had been. While the acting has been highly praised, the series would not have reached massive international success on that alone. It is a simple story of enemies to lovers in a university setting, after all. You will find quite a number of those if you search through the BL series of recent years (also known as Y-Series to some). It is the attention to detail and the consistent development of the characters at the hands of director Aof Noppharnach Chaiwimol and the crew that put this series a cut above the rest. Does it deserve the masterpiece status some would like to give it?
Right from the outset, the crew is dropping clues and subtle hints at us. The parents’ lies, as repeated by the boys at the very beginning, are meant to keep the boys apart but it never really worked that way. Except for the opening sequence, does it look like these guys are really enemies, or just trying to play the parts expected of them by their parents?
In Episode 1 there is a certain irony to Pat’s sister, Pa, telling Pat that his meeting Pran again after three years means they are “Soulmates.” She follows by telling Pat he is not to hurt Pran in the fights between Architecture and Engineering students. When he asks why, she says, “You know why.” We won’t find out until later, but you can see it written on Pat’s face. He knows. If you missed that, you certainly noticed the surprised look on Pat’s face when he looked across the way to see a shirtless Pran walking past his bedroom window.
Next door in Pran’s room he takes out a “treasure box” that holds an old wristwatch. This is a significant clue and the watch will get dropped into every episode along the way. When Pran thinks back to Pat returning the watch when they are children, we are only getting a part of the memory. Do we see a slight smile for that memory? The rest of that story will be revealed later. Pran will take that watch back to his dorm room with him. After the scene where Pat and Pran exchange Line IDs so they can chat to avoid running into one another, you will find Pran in his room winding the watch and putting it on. His time together with Pat has now started over. Notice not only that Pran wears it throughout, but that he looks at it at important moments. He looks at it before he goes out on the rooftop the first time. He looks at it again after Pat returns the guitar and goes back to his room. He even wakes up with it on in Episode 11 and has it across the years of Episode 12.
There was more in the box than a watch. If you looked closely you would have seen a cassette player and a couple of pictures of a very small boy. In one picture the boy is holding a microphone. The box held the memories that Pran also held close to his heart for years. When he tells Wai in Episode 1 that he quit playing music a long time ago, don’t believe him. You can see that it does not take much convincing to get Pran to join the “Freshy Day” music contest. Of course, Pat will follow him and join the contest too.
It is not just Pran who is keeping Pran’s dream of being a musician alive, Pat is too. After all Pat safeguarded Pran’s guitar for years after Pran’s mother transferred him to another school. When Pat returns the guitar to Pran (Episode 3) he jokes that he tried to sell it online, but we should not believe it. Moments later Pat will also claim that he does not know how they got reinstated in the music contest (after being kicked out for fighting), but it was Pat who went to the professor to plead their case. In Episode 4 when he is explaining his good qualities, Pat tells Pran “I kept the guitar for you.” In Episode 10 Pat will admit that when Pran got transferred out of their high school Pat ran after him with the guitar but did not catch him. In episodes 10 (at the high school) and 11 (at the “green village”) Pat encourages Pran to play. When Pat asks Pran what he wants to be after graduation (Ep. 11) Pran names an Interior designer and a musician. All through his life, he wanted to play and sing. When Pran asks Pat the same question, Pat says he will take on a family business AND “I want to listen to your music.” Soulmates, perhaps?
The guys may not be friends at the end of Episode one but they don’t exactly look like enemies either. They share their Line IDs (contact information) so they can work together to keep their school groups apart. Pran changes the ID name to “Just a Friend,” but is that all? It’s the major question of the series, of course. They will use the chat function often in the coming episodes. When Pran is walking down the hall at the end of the Episode and looking at his phone, is he smiling because he got Pat’s Line ID? You will notice the smiley face door hanger at the end of the episode. Pat will not notice it until Episode 2.
Pran’s room is full of smiley face images. This image will be important to Pat as well as Pran throughout the series. When Pa brings Pat’s laundry in Episode 1 she leaves him the basket to put away the items himself. When he looks down at it he sees a t-shirt with a smiley face on top of the pile. This triggers the memory of just why Pa makes Pat promise not to hurt Pran. If you remember this shirt, you might notice when Pat actually wears it (Episode 12).
The smiley face door hanger will become a symbol of when Pran is happy, sad, or upset. When Pat learns the meaning, he will be ready to act accordingly. It is a happy face at the end of Episodes 1 and 3. Pat sees a sad face after their fight in Episode 5 and before he goes up onto the roof. Did you notice the door hanger at the very end of the series?
Some of the hints are given to us through what will prove to be rather ironic statements later on. In episode 2 when Pat uses the Line ID to check where Pran is, Pran replies “What are you, my boyfriend?” The “boyfriend joke” will get tossed around a few times before the competition begins (end of Ep. 6) for each to try to win over the other. Pat replies, “The only thing left to do is we sleep in the same bed.” Pran sends him “yuck” (puking emoticon). This exchange is the same scene as the food delivery mix-up. Each does not know the identity of the one across the hall but Pat starts courting who he thinks is a girl. Pran is receiving the gifts and Wai jokingly says, “You like him don’t you?” At that moment Pran glances out the window and who does he see?
The food mix-up and Pat inviting the unknown person across the hall to meet him to see the moon at night leads to the first of 4 rooftop scenes (Episode 2). When the mix-up is revealed, the boys take the opportunity to trade some insults rather than immediately leave. They discovered they are “next door” neighbors, just like at home. The other rooftop scenes will be even more important to the storyline. Reviewers have noted the climactic moment of the rooftop scene at the end of Episode 5 in terms of “iconic” and “legendary.” It came unexpectedly early in the series and may have been one of the longest kiss scenes in GMM TV BL history. I likely do not have to sell you on the idea that everything about that scene came off perfectly. Would any two others on the list of regular GMM actors have been able to pull this off so effectively? By the way, there is a fifth rooftop scene where the guys are eating on top of a different roof because they are afraid of being seen at a restaurant.
We also receive an important clue to the question of who liked whom first when Wai tried to assist Pran to write his new song. “Have you not had a secret crush on anyone before?” At that suggestion, Pran immediately thinks back to the music room in high school with Pat and the guitar pick Pat made for Pran from his student ID. Despite us seeing a couple more attempts by Pran to write the song, it will not be possible for him to finish it for the Freshy Day contest. After all, the song is “Our Song” (Pran and Pat). Pran will not find the right words to complete it until after the “honeymoon” night with Pat. That song will lead us to the emotional ending of Episode 11.
“Just Friend?” is also Pran and Pat’s song. That is why Pat is hurt and jealous that Pran would choose to play it with others, especially Wai. Despite the harsh comments they exchange at the fight and on the rooftop, the playing of the song in the Freshy Day contest was not “a little thing” to Pat or “insignificant.” It is their song, just like the one that will come later in the series.
The music used throughout the series perfectly matches the scenes. Notice when the themes of “Just Friend?” and “Secret” are used along the way. The repeating background music is carefully chosen to tell you the type of mood displayed. The selections used for the rooftop scenes to close episodes 5 and 10 are a perfect match for the intensity of the moments. At no point was the music a distraction from the story.
There are a lot more clues, hints, and symbols along the way, but none of it would have worked so well without the chemistry on display, especially between the two principal performers. Ohm Pawat (Pat) and Nanon Korapat (Pran) were at the right point in their careers for this series. They are both experienced actors. They were both university students at the time. They are real-life best friends. The combination of all these things was pure magic. Notice in the second half of Episode 11 when Pat asks Pran if he wants to join the performer at the seaside cafe and Pran says “No. He’s great.” For the next 30 seconds, Pran looks longingly at the performer as Pat looks at Pran. Without saying a word, these two can speak volumes. That is just one reason why people have watched these 12 episodes over and over.
Some feared that such established stars as Ohm and Nanon would overpower the material, but you do not watch it and think, “There’s Ohm and Nanon acting out their parts.” They became Pat and Pran and you loved each of the characters equally. From the beginning, you hoped the two students would overcome the family hate and become more than “Just Friends” and that is exactly what happened. Now go watch it again.
See Also: “Giving It Your All,” ON Friend City review, Sunday Night Blog, “rjptalk,” October 2, 2022. “Who We Are Now,” ON Friend City finale, SERENDIPITY, August 15, 2022. “The Bad Buddy Phenomenon,” Sunday Night Blog, “rjptalk,” November 19, 2022. “So How Does It End?” Bad Buddy Review, Sunday Night Blog, “rjptalk,” February 3, 2022.
The 12-episode Thai series started out with a tiny broadcast audience and grew into an international hit. How did that happen? The following appeared earlier this year on SERENDIPITY.
“From two people who can’t be friends, without knowing it, we become two people who can’t be just friends.” Pran, Episode 11
It’s a simple story, really. It has some of the common elements of other BL series. It is an enemies-to-lovers story. It features rival groups of college students, one of them being engineering students. It begins with what seems like a Romeo and Romeo story about to happen. Then it takes all the expectations of the usual romantic BL comedy-drama and throws them away. They go for a straightforward story of enemies who have to overcome a lot to renew a friendship that had at one time existed. There were no fake moments, no cringe-worthy dialogue, and no painful stereotypes.
The Thai mini-series Bad Buddy began on GMM TV 25 in Bangkok on October 29, 2021, and ran for 12 episodes. It played to a tiny broadcast audience on Friday nights at 8:30 and picked up some more viewers when it was rerun online later at night. Some thought GMM could have hyped the series more than it did. The episodes featured a crew of GMM regulars and the stars of the series were relatively well-known in Thailand.
The series did have a distribution plan, however. It was picked up for streaming in the Philippines on iWantTFC going out as a simulcast with GMM and including English subtitles. Before the second episode dropped it had been dubbed in Filippino. In Japan TV Ashai and mobile provider “au” acquired the series and it appeared with Japanese subtitles starting November 11.
Even as it was being released at 8:30 pm on Fridays in Bangkok, GMM was preparing to release it with English subtitles on its YouTube channel. Because of the time difference, I could also watch it at 8:30 pm on Friday in the US. With each new episode, the streaming demand on the WeTV website grew. After the release of Episode 7, it was the most streamed title on the platform.
Social media helped drive its popularity. Fans quickly spread the word of a comedy-drama that was not like any other. After Episode 5, the Bad Buddy followers were flooding the internet with news of an epic conclusion to the episode. By Episode 7 the show was trending online with each new episode.
The total number of views of the Bad Buddy series on YouTube passed 200 million in July. That is not per episode but rather of all the segments combined. Each episode had 4 segments. Some segments, like the last part of Episode 5, for example, had millions more views than other segments. The TV run, the syndication to other countries, the streaming sites, and the DVD sales made the show an international hit.
You would think that after all that, everyone in Thailand who would want to see the series already has. Perhaps they have seen it multiple times. Yet GMM TV recently surprised everyone by putting the Bad Buddy series on the Fall Schedule. Starting Sunday night it will begin running again. It will surely pick up a larger broadcast audience this time around.
The show stars Nanon Korapat as Pran, a very neat and organized student, and Ohm Pawat as Pat, a brutish but likable sort of guy. Nanon had said the reason he did a BL series is that Ohm was also going to do it. Ohm had turned down Bad Buddy but changed his mind when he learned Nanon would be the other lead. At the recent concert ON Friend City, Ohm made a surprising statement to Nanon toward the end of that show. He admitted that he did not think Bad Buddy would work because he and Nanon were too much like Pat and Pran. Perhaps that is exactly the reason it did work.
In many BL series, one of the players is meant to be a smaller softer sort of character. It goes with the very formulaic idea that one member of a husband/wife type of team needs to be won over by the other. There will be no “wifey” sort of character in this story. At the very opening, we see Pat leading the Engineering students in a fight against the Architecture students. Pran is called out of the library to help his friend Wai and lead the Architecture students in the fight. It’s a street brawl and neither knew the other was attending the same university or the president of his faculty (subject major).
The series is artfully crafted. The dialogue is smart. The pacing is perfect. They don’t shy away from the serious topics of student and family rivalries. They deal head-on with the issue of parents teaching their children to hate their neighbors. Pran’s mother even says at the dinner table she would be OK with whomever Pran dates (while Pran and Pat are messaging each other), as long as it is not one of those kids from next door.
Whether they are fighting or bickering, teasing, or flirting, the actions of Pat and Pran are in capable hands with Ohm and Nanon. The chemistry is undeniable. For every minute of Bad Buddy, you believe they are exactly the characters they are portraying. You will not take sides with one character over the other. You will love them both and hope they find their way back to the friendship they deserved all along.
Carefully woven throughout the story are moments that will repeat later. It is not important that you pick up all the little clues the first time around, you will get more of them when you watch it a second time, and you will watch it a second time. Without giving away too much, I will give you an obvious and a less obvious one.
It becomes clear that the Friend/Unfriend t-shirt is a significant symbol in the story. They both have worn that shirt in the first part of the story. When Pat spends the night in Pran’s room, having been locked out of his own room, Pran gives it to Pat rather than letting him sleep shirtless. The scent of that t-shirt will always remind Pat of Pran. This is why the Nong doll that Pat hugs at night wears it. When Pat receives another one late in the series, it is not just right until Pran wipes it on his neck. Friend and Unfriend messages are also important.
Less obvious are the toothbrushes. When Pat is spending nights in Pran’s dorm room you will notice the cluttered washroom counter and two toothbrushes. Later in the series when a sad-looking Pat is replacing a single toothbrush in a holder on a counter without clutter you will be screaming at your television, “What the hell happened?” even if you did not notice the toothbrushes earlier.
Important LGBTQ+ themes are worked into the story, but you will find no preaching or obvious attempts to instruct the audience. They are much too artful for that. If you miss them as you go along, they will sink in later.
Of course, when Wai is explaining the Architecture students’ school play to Pran he might as well be explaining the issues that face Pat and Pran themselves. That slight smile on Pran’s face is the giveaway that he sees the parallel between the two.
After an emotional Episode Five, culminating in the scene everyone could not stop talking about, Pran pulls away from Pat. Fear of having a relationship found out by family or friends weighs on Pran all the way to Episode 10. Even after the guys finally become friends, Pran wants to keep it a secret and does not like Pat dropping clues on Instagram with the #JustFriend? Fear of being “outed” is a common one among LGBTQ couples.
Pran never claims to be straight, but he can not declare who he is. Pat thought he might want to date Ink (female) until he realized it is Pran he really likes. Sitting on the beach in Episode 6, and still not yet really friends, the guys engage in a discussion of what they have gone through and who they are. “What can we do? We’re just born this way.” Pran says. This is a message the LGBTQ+ audience members will immediately understand.
Bad Buddy destroys the terrible idea that one of the partners in a relationship is the “wife.” When Pat is about to go out and celebrate a rugby victory (Episode 9) he tells Korn he better hurry to get dressed before his housewife changes his mind. At that Pran appears in the doorway and says, “Housewife, my ass.” Later in the episode when Pat refers to Pran as a wife, Pran responds, “Does calling me a wife make you feel superior?” It is not said with malice and when Pran says he will call Pat a wife instead, the stupidity of the role comes out.
In Episode 10, after the boys have been outed at school, and then outed at home with ugly confrontations, it is all too much for Pran to take. Everything he feared has come true. In a second epic rooftop scene, Pat will be there to comfort Pran. He is now a better man because of Pran. He is not going to turn out like his own father, despite the pressure. He will take Pran away from all the sadness, at least for a while.
There is so much more we could say about the clever elements of the story. There’s the importance of Pran’s guitar itself, the finishing of “Our Song” in Episode 11, the tin cans and string, and the act of being uncomfortable holding hands in public. The Episode 11 cliffhanger shows us the lengths the pair will go to for their love. If you thought the ending was just cute when the usual closing banner comes up in Episode 12, just hold on a moment.
The writing, acting, and directing were all solid and led to an award-winning effort. At the end of 2021, the show picked up WeTV awards for Best of Thai Series and Best of Y-Series. “Y” after the Japanese term “yaoi” meaning a romance between men, or a “Boys Love” story (BL).
This year at the 18th Kom Chad Luek Awards they picked up Most Popular Laskorn/Series (primetime drama). At the Maya Awards, they Won for Best Series. The song Just Friend? by Nanon was nominated for Song of the Year.
At the Kazz Awards 2022, they collected a basketful of awards. Ohm and Nanon both won “Attractive Young Man of the Year.” Yes, they had such a category. Both Ohm and Nanon were nominated for Best Actor. That usually means a split vote, but Nanon picked up the award. Fans will say they both deserved it.
The winner of Best Scene went to Ohm and Nanon (from Episode 8). Every scene together was well done and they could have picked a number of different scenes to nominate. Their win in this category was no surprise.
In what looked like it completely surprised Ohm and Nanon, the pair picked up Best Couple of the year. To top it off, their close friends Perth Thanapon and Chimon Wachirawit were presenters. Search “Kazz Awards” to find these two almost falling over themselves in joy to get to the stage.
This past week at Content Asia Awards 2022, which was held in Thailand this year, Bad Buddy won Best LGBTQ+ Program Made In Asia. The guys were in Japan for two arena shows with other GMM performers.
There are days the series still trends on Social Media. Ohm and Nanon together and separately are always trending. Of course, they are always working. Bad Buddy has raised the bar for this sort of drama. There are plenty of college-based stories with cute actors. Some are entertaining enough to gain a good following. This simple story of two boys who could not be Just Friends will remain a fan favorite for years. It is so good, you could watch it time and again.
Note: The series trailer above will have English subtitles but the episode previews will have Spanish subtitles if captions are turned on. You can change them to English or other languages.